TWENTIETH CENTURY HISTORY TIMELINE FOR RUSSIA THE SOVIET UNION

1900s

1903: Russian Social Democratic Labor Party splits into Bolshevik and Menshevik factions.

1904-05: Russo-Japanese War ends with Russian defeat; southern Sakhalin Island ceded to Japan.

1905: Bloody Sunday massacre in January begins Revolution of 1905, a year of labor and ethnic unrest; government issues so-called October Manifesto, calling for parliamentary elections.

The Russian Century by Brian Moynahan (Random House, 1995) is photographic history of Russia in the turbulent 20th century.

1906: First Duma (parliament) elected.

1910s

1911: Petr Stolypin, prime minister since 1906, assassinated.

1914: World War I begins.

1916: Rasputin murdered.

1917 March: February Revolution, in which workers riot in Petrograd; Petrograd Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies formed; Provisional Government formed; Emperor Nicholas II abdicates; Petrograd Soviet issues Order Number One.

April: Demonstrations lead to Aleksandr Kerenskiy's assuming leadership in government; Lenin returns to Petrograd from Switzerland.

July: Bolsheviks outlawed after attempt to topple government fails.

November: Bolsheviks seize power from Provisional Government; Lenin, as leader of Bolsheviks, becomes head of state; Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic (Russian Republic) formed; Constituent Assembly elected.

December: Cheka (secret police) created; Finns and Moldavians declare independence from Russia; Japanese occupy Vladivostok.

1918 January: Constituent Assembly dissolved; Ukraine declares its independence, followed, in subsequent months, by Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belorussia, Estonia, Georgia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

February: Basmachi Rebellion begins in Central Asia; calendar changed from Julian to Gregorian.

March: Treaty of Brest-Litovsk signed with Germany; Russia loses Poland, Finland, Baltic lands, Ukraine, and other areas; Russian Social Democratic Labor Party becomes Russian Communist Party (Bolshevik).

April: Civil War begins.

July: Constitution of Russian Republic promulgated; imperial family murdered.

Summer: War communism established; intervention in Civil War by foreign expeditionary forces--including those of Britain, France, and United States--begins.

August: Attempt to assassinate Lenin fails; Red Terror begins.

November: Treaty of Brest-Litovsk repudiated by Soviet government after Germany defeated by Allied Powers.

1919 January: Belorussia established as theoretically independent Soviet republic.

March: Communist International (Comintern) formally founded at congress in Moscow; Ukrainian Soviet established.

1920s

1920 January: Blockade of Russian Republic lifted by Britain and other Allies.

February: Peace agreement signed with Estonia; agreements with Latvia and Lithuania follow.

April: War with Poland begins; Azerbaijan Soviet republic established.

July: Trade agreement signed with Britain.

October: Truce reached with Poland.

November: Red Army defeats Wrangel's army in Crimea; Armenian Soviet republic established.

1921 March: War with Poland ends with Treaty of Riga; Red Army crushes Kronshtadt naval mutiny; New Economic Policy proclaimed; Georgian Soviet republic established.

Summer: Famine breaks out in Volga region.

August: Aleksandr Blok, foremost poet of Russian Silver Age, dies; large number of intellectuals exiled.

1922 March: Transcaucasian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic formed, uniting Armenian, Azerbaijan, and Georgian republics.

April: Joseph V. Stalin made general secretary of party; Treaty of Rapallo signed with Germany.

May: Lenin suffers his first stroke.

June: Socialist Revolutionary Party members put on trial by State Political Directorate; Glavlit organized with censorship function.

December: Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (Soviet Union) established, comprising Russian, Ukrainian, Belorussian, and Transcaucasian republics.

1924 January: Lenin dies; constitution of Soviet Union put into force.

February: Britain recognizes Soviet Union; other European countries follow suit later in year.

Fall: Regime begins to delimit territories of Central Asian nationalities; Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan elevated to Soviet republic status.

1925 April: Theoretician Nikolay Bukharin calls for peasants to enrich themselves.

November: Poet Sergey Yesenin commits suicide.

December: Russian Communist Party (Bolshevik) becomes All-Union Communist Party (Bolshevik).

1926 April: Grigoriy Zinov'yev ousted from Politburo.

October: Leon Trotsky and Lev Kamenev ousted from Politburo.

1927 Fall: Peasants sell government less grain than demanded because of low prices; peasant discontent increases; grain crisis begins.

December: Fifteenth Party Congress calls for large-scale collectivization of agriculture.

1928 January: Trotsky exiled to Alma-Ata.

May: Shakhty trial begins; first executions for "economic crimes" follow.

July: Sixth Congress of Comintern names socialist parties main enemy of communists.

October: Implementation of First Five-Year Plan begins.

1929 January: Trotsky forced to leave Soviet Union.

April: Law on religious associations requires registration of religious groups, authorizes church closings, and bans religious teaching.

Fall: Red Army skirmishes with Chinese forces in Manchuria.

October: Tajikistan split from Uzbek Republic to form separate Soviet republic.

November: Bukharin ousted from Politburo.

December: Stalin formally declares end of New Economic Policy and calls for elimination of kulaks; forced industrialization intensifies, and collectivization begins.

1930s

1930 March: Collectivization slows temporarily.

April: Poet Vladimir Mayakovskiy commits suicide.

November: "Industrial Party" put on trial.

1931 March: Mensheviks put on trial.

August: School system reformed.

1932 May: Five-year plan against religion declared.

December: Internal passports introduced for domestic travel; peasants not issued passports.

1932-33: Terror and forced famine rage in countryside, primarily in southeastern Ukrainian Republic and northern Caucasus.

1933 November: Diplomatic relations with United States established.

1934 August: Union of Soviet Writers holds its First Congress. September: Soviet Union admitted to League of Nations.

December: Sergey Kirov assassinated in Leningrad; Great Terror begins, causing intense fear among general populace, and peaks in 1937 and 1938 before subsiding in latter year.

1935 February: Party cards exchanged; many members purged from party ranks.

May: Treaties signed with France and Czechoslovakia.

Summer: Seventh Congress of Comintern calls for "united front" of political parties against fascism.

August: Stakhanovite movement to increase worker productivity begins.

September: New system of ranks issued for Red Army.

1936 June: Restrictive laws on family and marriage issued.

August: Zinov'yev, Kamenev, and other high-level officials put on trial for alleged political crimes.

September: Nikolay Yezhov replaces Genrikh Yagoda as head of NKVD (secret police); purge of party deepens.

October: Soviet Union begins support for antifascists in Spanish Civil War.

November: Germany and Japan sign Anti-Comintern Pact.

December: New constitution proclaimed; Kazakstan and Kyrgyzia become Soviet republics; Transcaucasian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic splits into Armenian, Azerbaijan, and Georgian Soviet republics.

1937 January: Trial of "Anti-Soviet Trotskyite Center." June: Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevskiy and other military leaders executed.

1938 March: Russian language required in all schools in Soviet Union.

July: Soviet and Japanese forces fight at Lake Khasan.

December: Lavrenti Beria replaces Yezhov as chief of secret police; Great Terror diminishes.

1939 May: Vyacheslav Molotov replaces Maksim Litvinov as commissar of foreign affairs; armed conflict with Japan at Halhin Gol in Mongolia continues until August.

August: Nazi-Soviet Nonaggression Pact signed; pact includes secret protocol.

September: Stalin joins Adolf Hitler in partitioning Poland.

October: Soviet forces enter Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

November: Remaining (western) portions of Ukraine and Belorussia incorporated into Soviet Union; Soviet forces invade Finland.

December: Soviet Union expelled from League of Nations.

1940s

1940 March: Finland sues for peace with Soviet Union.

April: Polish officers massacred in Katyn Forest by Soviet troops.

June: New strict labor laws enacted; northern Bukovina and Bessarabia seized from Romania and subsequently incorporated into Ukrainian Republic and newly created Moldavian Republic, respectively.

August: Soviet Union annexes Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania; Trotsky murdered in Mexico.

1941 April: Neutrality pact signed with Japan.

May: Stalin becomes chairman of Council of People's Commissars.

June: Nazi Germany attacks Soviet Union in Operation Barbarossa.

August: Soviet and British troops enter Iran.

November: Lend-Lease Law of United States applied to Soviet Union.

December: Soviet counteroffensive against Germany begins.

1942 May: Red Army routed at Khar'kov; Germans halt Soviet offensive; treaty signed with Britain against Germany.

July: Battle of Stalingrad begins.

November: Red Army starts winter offensive.

1943 February: German army units surrender at Stalingrad; 91,000 prisoners taken.

May: Comintern dissolved.

July: Germans defeated in tank battle at Kursk.

September: Stalin allows Russian Orthodox Church to appoint patriarch.

November: Tehran Conference held.

1944 January: Siege of Leningrad ends after 870 days.

May: Crimea liberated from German army.

June: Red Army begins summer offensive.

October: Tuva incorporated into Soviet Union; armed struggle against Soviet rule breaks out in western Ukrainian, western Belorussian, Lithuanian, and Latvian republics and continues for several years.

1945 February: Stalin meets with Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt at Yalta.

May: Red Army captures Berlin.

July-August: Potsdam Conference attended by Stalin, Harry S. Truman, and Churchill, who later is replaced by Clement R. Attlee.

August: Soviet Union declares war on Japan; Soviet forces enter Manchuria and Korea.

1946 March: Regime abolishes Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (Uniate); Council of People's Commissars becomes Council of Ministers.

Summer: Beginning of "Zhdanovshchina," a campaign against Western culture.

1947: Famine in southern and central regions of European part of Soviet Union.

September: Cominform established to replace Comintern.

1948 June: Blockade of Berlin by Soviet forces begins and lasts into May 1949.

Summer: Trofim Lysenko begins his domination of fields of biology and genetics that continues until 1955.

1949 January: Council for Mutual Economic Assistance formed; campaign against "cosmopolitanism" launched.

August: Soviet Union tests its first atomic bomb.

1950s

1952 October: All-Union Communist Party (Bolshevik) becomes Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU); name of Politburo is changed to Presidium.

1953 January: Kremlin "doctors' plot" exposed, signaling political infighting, new wave of purges, and anti-Semitic campaign.

March: Stalin dies; Georgiy Malenkov, Beria, and Molotov form troika (triumvirate); title of party chief changes from general secretary to first secretary.

April: "Doctors' plot" declared a provocation.

July: Beria arrested and shot; Malenkov, Molotov, and Nikita S. Khrushchev form new troika.

August: Soviet Union tests hydrogen bomb.

September: Khrushchev chosen CPSU first secretary; rehabilitation of Stalin's victims begins.

1955 February: Nikolay Bulganin replaces Malenkov as prime minister.

May: Warsaw Pact organized.

1956 February: Khrushchev's "secret speech" at Twentieth Party Congress exposes Stalin's crimes.

September: Minimum wage established.

November: Soviet forces crush Hungarian Revolution.

1957 July: "Antiparty group" excluded from CPSU leadership.

August: First Soviet intercontinental ballistic missile tested successfully.

October: World's first artificial satellite, Sputnik I, launched.

1958 March: Khrushchev named chairman of Council of Ministers.

October: Nobel Prize for Literature awarded to Boris Pasternak; campaign mounted against Pasternak, who is forced to decline award.

1959 September: Khrushchev visits United States.

1960s

1960 May: Soviet air defense downs United States U-2 reconnaissance aircraft over Soviet Union.

1961 April: Cosmonaut Yuriy Gagarin launched in world's first manned orbital space flight.

July: Khrushchev meets with President John F. Kennedy in Vienna.

August: Construction of Berlin Wall begins.

October: Stalin's remains removed from Lenin Mausoleum.

1962 June: Workers' riots break out in Novocherkassk.

October: Cuban missile crisis begins, bringing United States and Soviet Union close to war.

November:Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich published in Soviet journal.

1963 August: Limited Test Ban Treaty signed with United States and Britain.

1964 October: Khrushchev removed from power; Leonid I. Brezhnev becomes CPSU first secretary.

1965 August: Volga Germans rehabilitated.

1966 February: Dissident writers Andrey Sinyavskiy and Yuliy Daniel tried and sentenced.

April: Brezhnev's title changes from first secretary to general secretary; name of Presidium is changed back to Politburo.

1967 April: Stalin's daughter, Svetlana Alliluyeva, defects to West.

September: Crimean Tatars rehabilitated but not allowed to return home.

1968 June: Andrey Sakharov's dissident writings published in samizdat.

July: Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty) signed by Soviet Union.

August: Soviet-led Warsaw Pact armies invade Czechoslovakia.

1969 March: Soviet and Chinese forces skirmish on Ussuri River.

May: Major General Petr Grigorenko, a dissident, arrested and incarcerated in psychiatric hospital.

1970s

1970 October: Jewish emigration begins to increase substantially.

December: Solzhenitsyn awarded Nobel Prize for literature.

1972 May: Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) result in signing of Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM Treaty) and Interim Agreement on the Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms; President Richard M. Nixon visits Moscow.

1973 June: Brezhnev visits Washington.

1974 February: Solzhenitsyn arrested and sent into foreign exile.

1975 July: Apollo/Soyuz space mission held jointly with United States.

August: Helsinki Accords signed, confirming East European borders and calling for enforcement of human rights.

December: Sakharov awarded Nobel Prize for Peace.

1976: Helsinki watch groups formed to monitor human rights safeguards.

1977 June: Brezhnev named chairman of Presidium of Supreme Soviet.

October: New constitution promulgated for Soviet Union.

1979 June: Second SALT agreement signed but not ratified by United States Senate.

December: Soviet armed forces invade Afghanistan.

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, U.S. government, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated May 2016

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