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Russian Revolution & USSR

1904–1905: Japan defeats Russia in Russo-Japanese War

  • First modern victory of Asian country over European power

  • Major Japanese naval victory at Tsushima Straits

1905 Revolution: Promises to reform absolutist government but makes no lasting changes

  • Russians upset at loss to Japan

  • Workers and peasants hungry, paid low wages

  • Bloody Sunday: Soldiers shoot peaceful demonstrators

  • Strikes, protests threaten revolution

  • Tsar Nicholas II agrees to reforms in October Manifesto, but new legislative assembly (Duma) proves powerless

  • Attempts at agricultural reform are slow

February Revolution (1917): Overthrows tsar, installs moderate provisional government under Aleksandr Kerensky

  • World War I going poorly for Russia; food shortages rampant

  • Nicholas II seen as inept, swayed by fraud Grigory Rasputin

  • Provisional government stays in war

October Revolution (1917): Sees Communist Bolsheviks overthrow provisional government

  • Bolsheviks (“majority”) actually minority party

  • Bolsheviks promote Marxist revolution led by a small vanguard party; state control of property; peasants, not workers, key to success

  • Germany sends exiled Bolshevik leader V. I. Lenin to Russia

  • Russian workers form organizations called soviets (councils), who initiate October Revolution

  • 1918:Treaty of Brest-Litovsk: Bolshevik peace with Germany

Civil War (1918–1920): Pits Reds (Bolshevik Communists) against Whites (tsar’s supporters)

  • U.S., Britain, France, Canada send soldiers against Reds

  • Bolshevik Leon Trotsky organizes Red victory

1921: New Economic Policy (NEP) allows some private property

1922: Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) founded

1924:Lenin dies with no clear successor

1927:Joseph Stalin emerges as brutal new Bolshevik leader

  • End of NEP; Five-Year Plans focus on building heavy industry

  • Forced farm collectivization creates famine, targets kulaks (wealthy peasants)

  • Stalin’s rivals exiled, put through rigged show trials, imprisoned, killed; millions suspected of opposition killed or sent to Siberia

  • Women allowed to become political, economic leaders, but bear family responsibilities