Russia Timeline

Peter the Great - WW2


Peter the Great's Reign

1682 - 1725
  • didn't take control of the government until 1689
  • in 1697 he learned about Western ways and he recruited groups of well educated people back to Russia
  • became the most autocratic of Europe's absolute monarchs
  • main goals were to strengthen military, expand Russian borders, and centralize royal power
  • brought all Russian institutions under his power
  • pushed social and economic reforms
    • imported Western technology, improved education, and set up academies to study math, science, and engineering
  • desperately wanted a warm-water port but was unable to defeat the Ottomans
  • Won the Great Northern War ending in 1709
  • Peter built a new city capitol, St. Petersburg, seeking an opening to the West
  • Russia signed a treaty with Qing China that defined their common border in the east
  • Also recognized Russia's right to lands north of Manchuria

Peter the Great Video:

The Great Northern War

1700 - 1709
  • Peter the Great began a long war against the kingdom of Sweden which dominated the Baltic region
  • Russia suffered humiliating defeats
  • A Swedish force of only 8,000 men defeated a Russian army five times its size
  • Undaunted, Peter rebuilt his army, modeling it after European armies
  • 1709: defeated the Swedes and won territory along the Baltic Sea

Peter Hired Danish Navigator for Exploration

1703 - 1710
  • Danish navigator Vitus Bering explored what became known as the Bering Strait between Siberia and Alaska
  • After Peter's death, Russia traders built outposts in Alaska and Northern California
  • Few Russians moved east of Ural Mountains at the time, but the expansion made Russia the largest country in the world
  • Nearly 300 years later, it still is

St. Petersburg is founded


Catherine the Great Ascended the Throne

1762 - 1796
  • German princess by birth but married the Russian heir to the throne so she embraced the Russian religion and culture in turn gaining the people's trust
  • in 1762, her husband was assassinated
  • efficient and energetic empress
  • reorganized the provincial government, codified laws, and began state-sponsored education for boys and girls
  • although she was also a ruthless absolute monarch
  • granted a charter to the boyars outlining important rights and allowed them to increase their stranglehold on peasants
  • under Catherine, more peasants were forced into serfdom
  • took steps to seize territory from neighboring Poland

Partition of Poland

1772 - 1795
  • to avoid fighting, Catherine, King Frederick II of Prussia, and Emperor Joseph II of Austria agreed to partition Poland
  • Catherine took part of eastern Europe where many Russians and Ukrainians lived
  • Frederick and Joseph took control of Polish territory in the west
  • Poland was further partitioned in 1793
  • in 1795, Austria, Prussia, and Russia each took their final slices and the independent country of Poland vanished from the map until 1919

The Crimean War

1853 - 1856
  • conflict between the Russian and French as well as British Empire
  • fight over controlling territories in the declining Ottoman Empire
  • took place on Crimean peninsula


Russo-Japanese War

1904 - 1905
  • "first great war of the 20th century"
  • due to rival imperial ambitions of the Russian Empire and the Empire of Japan over Manchuria and Korea
  • major theatres of operations were Southern Manchuria, specifically the area around the Liaodong Peninsula and Mukden; and the seas around Korea, Japan, and the Yellow Sea.
  • Russians sought a warm water port on the Pacific Ocean, for their navy as well as for maritime trade VIDEO:

Revolution of 1905

1905 - June 1907
  • a strike and wave of mass political and social unrest that spread through vast areas of the Russian Empire
  • it was mostly directed against the government
  • It included worker strikes, peasant unrest, and military mutinies
  • led to the establishment of limited constitutional monarchy VIDEO:

300th Anniversary of the Romanov Dynasty

  • Russians honored the tsar and his family
  • Tsarina Alexandra felt confident that the people loved Nicholas too much to ever threaten him
  • March 1917, the first of two revolutions would topple the dynasty and pave the way for radical changes

The March Revolution Ends Tsarism

1914 - 1917
  • In 1914, the huge Russian empire stretched from Eastern Europe east to the Pacific Ocean
  • Russia was slow to industrialize despite its huge potential
  • Much of the majority peasant population endured stark poverty
  • As Russia began to industrialize, a small middle class and urban working class emerged
  • After the Revolution of 1905, Nicholas had failed to solve Russia's basic political, economic, and social problems
  • Marxists tried to ignite revolution among the proletariat
  • this outbreak fueled nationalism
  • March 1917, the Tsar steps down

Germany Declares War on Russia

August 1, 1914


1917 Revolution: Lenin on the Rise

1917 - 1924
  • March 1917, Lenin was still in exile in Switzerland
  • As Russia stumbled into Revolution, Germany saw a chance to weaken its enemy by helping Lenin return home
  • Lenin threw himself into the work of furthering the revolution
  • Leon Trotsky, Marxist revolutionary, helped lead the fight
  • promised "Peace, Land, and Bread"
  • the provisional government, led by Alexander Kerensky, continued the war effort and failed to deal with land reform and those decisions proved fatal
  • Most Russians were tired of war and deserted their post
  • Peasants wanted land and demanded an end to shortages

Lenin's Speech:

Government Launches Kerensky Offensive

July 1917
  • disastrous
  • by November, according to one official report, the army was "a huge crowd of tired, poorly clad, poorly fed, embittered men."
  • growing numbers of troops mutinied
  • peasants seized land and drove off fearful landlords

The Bolshevik Takeover

November 1917 - March 1918
  • squads of Red Guards (armed factory workers) joined mutinous sailors from the Russian fleet in attacking the provisional government
  • Lenin's forces overthrew them with no struggle in a matter of days
  • the Bolshevik's quickly seized power in other cities; Moscow became their capitol and the Kremlin their headquarters
  • they ended private ownership of land and distributed land to peasants
  • workers were given control of the factories and mines
  • a new red flag with an entwined hammer and sickle symbolized union between workers and peasants
  • the Bolsheviks, renamed Communists, became their new masters

Civil War

1918 - 1921
  • civil war raged between the "Reds," as the Communists were known, and the counterrevolutionary "Whites"
  • The "White armies were made up of tsarist imperial officers, Mensheviks, democrats, and others, all of who were united only by their desire to defeat the Bolsheviks
  • Nationalist groups from many of the former empire's non-Russian regions joined them in their fight
  • Poland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania broke free, but nationalist in Ukraine, the Caucasus, and Central Asia were eventually subdued
  • The Allies intervened in the civil war
  • They hoped that the Whites might overthrow the Communists and support the fight against Germany
  • Britain, France, and the US sent forces to help the Whites
  • Japan seized land in East Asia that tsarist Russia had once claimed
  • The Allied presence did little to help the Whites
  • The Reds appealed to nationalism and urged Russians to drive out the foreigners
  • Essentially, the Allied invasion fed Communist distrust of the West
  • Brutality was common in the war
  • Counterrevolutionary forces slaughtered and captured Communists and tried to assassinate Lenin -the Communists used terror not only against the Whites but also to control their own people
  • the Cheka: secret police force much like the tsar's that executed ordinary citizens even if they were only suspected of taking action against the revolution
  • they also set up a network of forced labor camps in 1919; which grew under Stalin into the dreaded Gulag
  • adopted the policy known as "war communism" - took over banks, mines, factories, and railroads
  • peasants in the countryside were forced to deliver almost all of their crops to feed the army and hungry people in the cities
  • peasant laborers were drafted into the military or forced to work in factories
  • Trotsky turned the Red Army into an effective fighting force and used former tsarist officers under the close watch of commissars (Communist party officials assigned to the army to teach party principles and ensure party loyalty)


Treaty of Brest-Litovsk

March 1918
  • after the Bolshevik Revolution, Lenin quickly sought peace with Germany
  • Russia signed the Treaty of Brest-Litsovsk in March 1918, giving up a huge chunk of its territory and its population
  • the cost of peace was extremely high but the Communist leaders knew that they needed all their energy to defeat a collection of enemies at home
  • Russia's withdrawal affect the hopes of both the Allies and the Central Powers

Communists Shot Former Tsar and Tsarina

July 1918
  • purpose was to keep them from becoming a rallying symbol for counter-revolutionary forces

Lenin Adopted the New Economic Policy (NEP)

1921 - 1928
  • NEP allowed some capitalist ventures
  • although the state kept control of banks, foreign trade, and large industries, small businesses were allowed to reopen for private profit
  • the government also stopped squeezing peasants for grain
  • under the NEP, peasants held on to small plots of land and freely sold their surplus crops
  • Lenin's compromise with capitalism helped the Soviet economy recover and ended armed resistance to the new government
  • by 1928, food and industrial production climbed back to prewar levels
  • the standard of living improved, too
  • Lenin saw the NEP as a temporary retreat from communsim and his successor would soon return the Soviet Union to "pure" communsim

Russia became the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR)

  • Lenin faced the enormous problem of rebuilding a shattered state and economy
  • in 1922, Lenin's Communist government united much of the old Russian empire in the Soviet Union
  • produced a constitution that seemed both democratic and socialist
  • set up an elected legislature, the Supreme Soviet, and gave all citizens over 18 the right to vote
  • all political power, resources, and means of production would belong to workers and peasants
  • the Soviet Union was a multinational state made up of European and Asian people
  • in theory, all the member republics shared certain equal rights
  • the Communist party, not the people, in reality reigned supreme
  • Lenin retreated from his policy of "war communism" which brought the economy to a near collapse

Death of Lenin

  • age of 54
  • his death set off a power struggle among Communist leaders
  • the chief contenders were Trostsky and Joseph Stalin
  • Trotsky was a brilliant Marxist thinker, a skillful speaker, and an architect of the Bolshevik Revolution
  • Stalin was neither a scholar nor an orator but a shrewd political operator and behind the scenes organizer
  • They differed on the future of communism
  • Trotsky urged support for a world wide revolution against capitalism
  • Stalin, more cautious, wanted to concentrate on building socialism at home first
  • Stalin isolated Trotsky within the party and stripped him of party membership
  • Trotsky fled the country in 1929 but continued to criticize Stalin
  • in 1940, a Stalinist agent murdered Trotsky in Mexico


Stalin's Five-Year Plans

1928 - 1939
  • Stalin imposed government control over the Soviet Union's economy
  • 1928: he proposed the first of several "five-year plans" aimed at building heavy industry, improving transportation, and increasing farm output
  • the Soviet Union developed a command economy, in which government officials made all basic economic decisions
  • Stalin's plan set high production goals, especially for heavy industry and transportation
  • the government pushed workers to meet these goals by giving bonuses and punishing those who did not
  • despite the impressive progress in some areas, Soviet workers had little to show for their efforts
  • central planning was inefficient which caused shortages in some areas and surplus and others
  • Stalin also brought agriculture under gov. control but at a horrendous cost
  • Stalin saw the NEP as inefficient and a threat to state power
  • he wanted all peasants to farm on either state-owned farms or collectives, large farms owned and operated by peasants as a group
  • some peasants resisted this by killing farm animals and destroying tools; Stalin was furious and he believed that kulaks, or wealthy farmers, were behind the resistance
  • after "de-kulakization," angry peasants resisted by growing just enough to feed themselves and in response the government seized all of their grain to meet industrial goals, purposely leaving the peasants to starve
  • in 1932, this ruthless policy, combined with poor harvests, led to a terrible famine
  • caused between five and eight million people to die of starvation in the Ukraine alone

Stalin's Terror Tactics - the Great Purge

1934 - 1941
  • Stalin's Communist party used secret police, torture, and violent purges to ensure obedience
  • He perpetrated crimes against humanity and systematically violated his people's individual rights
  • there was no free press, and no safe method of voicing protest
  • Grumblers were rounded up and sent to the Gulag, a system of brutal labor camps where many died
  • The Great Purge: during his reign of terror, Stalin and his secret police cracked down on Old Bolsheviks (party activists from the beginnings of the revolution)
  • his net soon widened to target army heroes, industrial managers, writers, and ordinary citizens
  • between 1936 and 1938, Stain staged a series of spectacular public "show trials" in Moscow
  • the purges increased Stalin's power

the USSR was 11 Soviet Socialist Republics

  • Russification: making a nationality's culture more Russia
  • The Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic consisted of the old Russian heartland and was the largest and dominate republic
  • other SSRs, Uzbek and Ukraine, were the homelands of other nationalities and had their own languages, historical traditions, ect.
  • At first, Stalin encouraged independence but in the 1920s, Stalin turned this policy and tried to make the cultures of the non-Russian SSRs more Russian
  • atheism also became an official state policy

Death of Stalin

  • Soviet Union had become a military superpower and a world leader in heavy industry
  • Stalin's efforts exacted a brutal toll
  • the Soviet people were dominated by a totalitarian system based on terror
  • Communism fell short of Lenin's promises
  • Soviet Union people lived meager lives compared with people in the West