CB27. RUSSIA. TIMELINE 1900 TO THE PRESENT

30 Apr CB27. RUSSIA. TIMELINE 1900 TO THE PRESENT

Russia has 146 million people, and is the largest country in the world – 17,125,191 square kilometres; 1/8th of the Earth’s inhabited land area; and extends across 11 time zones. Communism has its roots in Russia. Vladimir Lenin and then Joseph Stalin held authoritarian, supreme or dictatorial power over the masses. Opposing politicians and bureaucrats were often killed under some pretext and no one could question the despot. Industrialisation of the economy was imposed from top down – the timing seemed right and Russia benefitted somewhat, at the expense of peasants’ rights. People lived in fear of being prosecuted, jailed, sent to the gulags (labour camps) or killed. Upon the demise of Joseph Stalin, the people started to have some freedom but continued to go through difficult times economically when compared to countries who were not communist. In 1991, Russia suddenly ceased being communist. The transition to a capitalist society was difficult – a few people known as oligarchs became ultra-rich taking over formerly state controlled organisations. Vladimir Putin, a former spy, became a powerful politician in the late 1990s. Rather than becoming democratic, Russia has become a single party rule once more with supreme power resting with Vladimir Putin – political power is exercised from top down again. Russia has a lot of mineral and energy resources (oil and gas) so it is a wealthy country. Today, the population has a universal healthcare system and free university education. But Vladimir Putin’s government has been accused of human rights abuses and corruption. Russia assists the governments of Syria and Iran which the West are unhappy about.

  1. In about 2,000 words, I will describe major events that affected Russia from 1900 to the present.
  2. 1903 – At the 2nd congress of The Russian Social Democratic Labour Party, the party split into two factions: the Bolsheviks, led by Vladimir Lenin, and the less radical Mensheviks.
  3. 1904 – Russo-Japanese War. Japan launched a surprise torpedo attack on the Russian navy at Port Arthur in Manchuria.
  4. 1905 – Russo-Japanese War. The Treaty of Portsmouth was signed in which Russia ceded some property and territory to Japan.
  5. 1905 – Russian Revolution 1905. Peaceful demonstrators, led by Georgy Gapon, a priest, arrived at St Petersburg to present a petition to the tsar, but the Imperial Guard of the tsar fired on the crowd, killing around 200 and wounding 800 (Bloody Sunday). At sea, a mutiny occurred aboard a battleship. The Revolution of 1905 was eventually put down by military forces. As a concession, Tsar Nicholas II expanded civil liberties by establishing and empowering a parliament, the Duma.
  6. 1906 – The first free elections to the Duma gave majorities to liberal and socialist parties. Four Dumas were elected in total, of which only the third (1907-1912) ran its course of five years, the first and second were prematurely dissolved by Tsar Nicholas II in 1906 and 1907, whilst the fourth lapsed as a result of the Revolution of February 1917. The Duma’s powers, never huge, were progressively eroded by the sovereign (Tsar Nicholas II).
  7. 1906 – A decree by prime minister Pyotr Stolypin signalled the start of a reform intended to introduce a more capitalist form of agriculture (partly successful) – but the prime minister served at the absolute pleasure of the tsar. Stolypin was assassinated in 1911.
  8. 1912 – The Russian army fired on a crowd of striking miners, killing 150.
  9. 1914 – World War One. Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia – Russia on the side of the Allies mobilized its army to defend Serbia. Germany on the side of the Central Powers declared war on Russia in defence of Austria-Hungary. During the war, Russian soldiers showed courage, but gross deficiencies in the Russian economy meant supplies were inadequate. The war led to bitter conflict between the tsar and the society. Dissatisfaction turned to despair when Tsar Nicholas II personally took charge of the armed forces. In his absence, his wife the empress took control of the government. A Siberian controversial ‘holy man’ Grigori Rasputin assisted the empress in stopping the continuous bleeding of the crown prince Alixes (a haemophiliac). Rumour arose that Grigori Rasputin and the empress became lovers (untrue). The royal adviser Grigori Rasputin was later murdered by a group of conservative nobles, attempting to continue tsar power.
  10. 1917 – Revolution of February 1917. Poor performance in the war and mismanagement of the economy at home prompted mutinies in the armed forces and street disturbances in major cities. A series of demonstrations were held, demanding the end of the Russian autocracy and the end of Russian participation in World War One. Tsar Nicholas II sent a battalion of soldiers to Petrograd (St Petersburg) to end the uprising and ordered the dissolution of the Duma. The Duma ignored his order and decreed the establishment of a Provisional Government with George L’vov as prime minister. The soldiers who were sent to suppress the protestors defected instead and joined the protestors. In the end, Tsar Nicholas II abdicated. A spontaneous pro-soviet demonstration occurred on the streets of Petrograd. The Provisional Government ordered the arrest of Bolshevik leaders, but soldiers directed by Petrograd Soviet instead captured the Winter Palace, ending the Russian Provisional Government, after eight months in power. At the 2nd All Russian Congress, a government with Vladimir Lenin as its first chairman is formed. The Congress also promised an end to Russian participation in World War One, and approved the expropriation of land from the nobility. The Bolsheviks establish ruthless ‘Dictatorship of the Proletariat’ under Communist Party rule that crushes religious and political dissent.
  11. 1918 – The Red Army is established. Mass conscription to the Red Army begins in Moscow and Petrograd.  
  12. 1918 – Treaty of Brest-Litovsk ends World War One with Germany, at the price of major territorial losses by Russia in eastern Europe and Baltic. Russia lost 62 million citizens and 1,300,000 square miles of territory. It is said Bolshevik Russia lost one-third of the old empire’s population, one-third of its railway network, half its industry, three-quarters of its supplies of iron ore, nine-tenths of its coal resources and much of its food supplies. Two million Russians died during World War One. (The Soviets recovered the lost lands slowly over the following 30 years.)
  13. 1918 – (1921) Russian Civil War. An anti-Bolshevik government is established. Bolsheviks win civil war against White Russians. Decree by the Bolshevik government nationalised all industry and food distribution. Due to the civil war, Nicholas II and the rest of the royal family were executed on direct orders from Vladimir Lenin of the Bolshevik government – the object was to deny a possible rallying point to the opponents of the new Soviet government. Vladimir Lenin sends a telegram to communists in Penza, Central Russia, complaining about uprisings in the area and calling for the public execution of 100 kulaks (wealthy peasants). After giving a speech at a Moscow factory, Vladimir Lenin is shot twice by Fanny Kaplan, but survived. In reprisals, 500 of the privileged class were shot in a Red Terror campaign by the Cheka (Soviet political police force). Vladimir Lenin rule is more violent that the tsar rule. Seven to 12 million Russians died during the Civil War.
  14. 1919 – The Comintern (Communist International) is formed in Moscow, with the aim of spreading communist revolution all over the world.
  15. 1921 – Russian famine of 1921. The ruble (money) lost 96% of its pre-war value; and industrial production fell to 10% of its 1913 level. The civil war and bad economic policies caused famine of 5 million, mostly peasantry. The population of Petrograd fell from 2.5 million in 1917 to 600,000 in 1921. Church valuables were seized for famine relief. Disaster was mitigated by foreign aid from USA and Norway.
  16. 1922 – Bolsheviks reorganise remnants of Russian Empire as Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). At the 11th Party Congress, Joseph Stalin becomes General Secretary of the Communist Party.
  17. 1924 – Vladimir Lenin dies of cancer. The 13th Party Congress, led by Joseph Stalin, Grigory Zinoviev and Lev Kamenev denounces Leon Trotsky, a prominent Russian politician.
  18. 1925 – The 14th Party Congress endorsed the leadership of Joseph Stalin and his rightist ally Nikolai Bukharin, defeating the faction of Grigory Zinoviev and Lev Kamenev.
  19. 1927 – Leon Trotsky and Grigory Zinoviev are expelled from the Communist Party.
  20. 1928 – First Five-Year plan. Joseph Stalin announces the beginning of state industrialisation of the Soviet economy.
  21. 1929 – Nikolai Bukharin is expelled from the Politburo.
  22. 1929 – Collectivisation in the USSR. A Central Committee resolution began the collectivisation of Soviet agriculture. Experiments with market mechanisms and private business under New Economic Policy give way to state-run command economy under Joseph Stalin, who becomes dictator.
  23. 1930s – Joseph Stalin carries out a second revolution to consolidate his power, concentrating land ownership in massive state-run holdings, forcing the pace of industrialisation, and killing his enemies – real and imagined – in the Party, economic management, civil service, military and security services.
  24. 1930 – The Gulag (labour camps) is established. Repression leads to deportation of millions of people to work in huge network of forced labour camps, usually in remote and harsh parts of the country. About 18 million people were sent to gulags.
  25. 1932 – Collectivisation in the USSR. The Central Committee issues the decree that any theft of public property is punishable by death.
  26. 1934 – Elections to the Central Committee at the 17th Party Congress revealed Sergey Kirov, the chief of the Leningrad Party, to be the most popular member. Later, Sergey Kirov is murdered possibly at the behest of Joseph Stalin.
  27. 1938 – Great Purge by Joseph Stalin. Order No. 447 established a new judicial method and set nationwide quotas for the execution and enslavement of anti-Soviet elements. Order No. 486 made relatives of accused traitors subject to imprisonment in labour camps.
  28. 1939 – World War Two begins. A pact is signed between Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler, promising mutual non-aggression between Germany and the Soviet Union and agreeing to a division of much of Europe between the two countries.  Russia invades Poland, Romania, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Finland.
  29. 1940 – Leon Trotsky is assassinated in Mexico on Joseph Stalin’s orders.
  30. 1941 – Operation Barbarossa (by Germany). Going against the pact signed in 1939, 3 million German soldiers invade the Soviet Union. Soviet Union is left reeling by the surprise German attack. German advance is only halted on the outskirts of Moscow. Soviet Union forms alliance with Britain and USA, who provide it with military supplies throughout the war.
  31. 1942 – Soviet military steadily pushes back German forces after Battle of Stalingrad.
  32. 1944 – After fierce fighting, the German surrendered to the Soviet Union.
  33. 1945 – Battle of Berlin. The German defenders of Berlin surrendered to the Soviet Union. During World War Two, a massive 27 million Soviet soldiers and civilians died. Allied victory over Nazi Germany is followed by swift establishment of Soviet hegemony in Central and Eastern Europe, and Balkans.
  34. 1946 – Cold War grows as the Soviets promote pro-Soviet revolution in China, Asia and the Middle and Near East.
  35. 1949 –The Soviets explode their first nuclear bomb.
  36. 1950 – (1953) Korean War. Soviet Union helped North Korea to fight South Korea, who were assisted by USA. An armistice is signed, ending the conflict.
  37. 1953 – Joseph Stalin dies following a stroke. He took Russia (Soviet Union) from a peasant society to a military and industrial power. His totalitarian rule resulted in 750,000 people being killed to eliminate opposition. About 20 million Russians died as victims of Joseph Stalin’s government rule. The death of Joseph Stalin ushers in less repressive rule.
  38. 1953 – Nikita Khrushchev is confirmed as head of the Central Committee.
  39. 1956 – At a closed session of the 20th Party Congress, Nikita Khrushchev read the “Secret Speech” that denounces the actions of his predecessor Joseph Stalin.
  40. 1957 – Soviet satellite Sputnik becomes first to orbit Earth.
  41. 1960 – Sino-Soviet Split. A Chinese Communist Party newspaper accused the Soviet leadership of “revisionism.” Moscow recalled thousands of Soviet advisers from China and ended economic and military aid.
  42. 1960 – Joseph Stalin’s remains removed from Lenin Mausoleum.
  43. 1961 – Construction began on the Berlin Wall.
  44. 1961 – Soviet Yuri Gagarin becomes first person to orbit Earth.
  45. 1962 – Cuban Missile Crisis. USA President John Kennedy is shown aerial photos showing missile bases in Cuba. Thirteen days marked the most dangerous period of the Cuban Missile Crisis. John Kennedy announced that any nuclear missile attack from Cuba would be regarded as an attack by the Soviet Union, and that the island would be placed under “quarantine” to prevent further weapons shipments. The Soviet Union offered to withdraw the missiles from Cuba in return for a USA guarantee not to invade Cuba or support any invasion. After Nikita Khrushchev announced that he had ordered the removal of the Soviet missiles in Cuba, nuclear war was averted. Perceived defeat for Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev hastened his ouster two years later.
  46. 1964 – Nikita Khrushchev’s rivals in the party deposed him at a Central Committee meeting. Leonid Brezhnev assumed power as First Secretary.
  47. 1965 – (1970) Profit and bonus elements, and decentralisation of planning were implemented to boost flagging economic output, but thwarted by disappointing results and opposition by Party conservatives.
  48. 1970 – (to 1979) Consolidation of Leonid Brezhnev’s rule sees economic stagnation and widespread corruption, undermining public faith in any superiority of the Soviet model.
  49. 1979 – Soviet-Afghan War. Fearing the collapse of the Amin communist regime, the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan. Soviet troops occupied major governmental, military and media buildings in Kabul, Afghanistan, and later executed prime minister Amin. The Soviets installed Babrak Karmal as Amin’s successor.
  50. 1980 – USA announces its planned boycott of the Moscow Olympics because of the invasion of Afghanistan.
  51. 1982 – Leonid Brezhnev dies of a heart attack. Yuri Andropov is elected General Secretary.
  52. 1984 – Yuri Andropov dies after a lengthy kidney disease and is succeeded as General Secretary by Konstantin Chernenko.
  53. 1984 – Konstantin Chernenko announces a Soviet-bloc boycott of the Los Angeles held Summer Olympics, citing security concerns for its athletes.
  54. 1985 – Konstantin Chernenko dies of emphysema. The Politburo unanimously supported Mikhail Gorbachev as General Secretary of the Communist Party. Mikhail Gorbachev’s reform efforts include perestroika (restructuring the economy), glasnost (openness) and summit talks with USA President Ronald Reagan to end the Cold War.
  55. 1986 – The Chernobyl disaster. The world’s worst nuclear accident takes place at the Chernobyl nuclear plant near Kiev in Ukraine. Resulting in thousands of deaths and 70,000 severe poisoning cases; the 30 kilometre radius surrounding the plant (and no longer home to nearly 150,000 people), will remain unlivable for some 150 years.
  56. 1989 – Soviet-Afghan War. The last Soviet troops left the country.
  57. 1989 – (1991) Gorbachev gradually loses control of reform processes at home and abroad, leading to the collapse of Communist rule in Eastern Europe and the eventual implosion of the Soviet Union itself. Many countries within the Soviet Union voted themselves independent.
  58. 1990 – Mikhail Gorbachev is elected president of the Soviet Union. He wins Nobel Peace Prize for bringing the Cold War to a peaceful end.
  59. 1991 – Russia becomes independent as the Soviet Union collapses. In the Russian presidential election, Boris Yeltsin is elected president.
  60. 1991 – Soviet coup attempt 1991. A group of high-ranking officials calling themselves the State Emergency Committee announced that Gennady Yanayev is to replace Mikhail Gorbachev as President of the Soviet Union. The military refused State Emergency Committee orders to take the capital. The leaders of the coup were arrested. Following the unsuccessful Communist Party coup, the Soviet Union is dissolved and Mikhail Gorbachev resigns.
  61. 1992 – Russia takes up the seat of the former Soviet Union on the United Nations Security Council, and retains control of its nuclear arsenal.
  62. 1992 – Controversial programme of lifting central controls on economy is launched to prevent total collapse. Opponents complain it is poorly managed and directly responsible for hyper-inflation and the rise of the ‘oligarchs’ – businessmen who benefit from crash privatisation of massive state enterprises.
  63. 1993 – President Boris Yeltsin sends in troops to seize parliament from opponents of his rule. Referendum approves new constitution giving president sweeping powers.
  64. 1994 – Russian troops enter the breakaway republic of Chechnya to stop an independence movement. Up to 100,000 people are estimated killed in the 20-month war that ends with compromise agreement on substantial Chechen autonomy. Chechen rebels continue a campaign for independence, sometimes through terrorist acts in Russia.
  65. 1996 – Boris Yeltsin re-elected President despite concerns about his health.
  66. 1999 – President Yeltsin appoints ex-KGB officer Vladimir Putin prime minister with a brief to bring Chechnya back under control. The State Duma confirmed the appointment of Vladimir Putin as Prime Minister of Russia.
  67. 1999 – Boris Yeltsin resigns as President of the Russian Federation in favour of Vladimir Putin who becomes acting president, buoyed by popularity over major military campaign against Chechen rebels.
  68. 2000 – Russian presidential election. Vladimir Putin is elected President of Russia with 53% of the vote.
  69. 2002 – Moscow theatre hostage crisis. Chechen rebels seized the House of Culture theatre in Moscow, taking approximately 700 theatre-goers hostage, and demanded an immediate Russian withdrawal from Chechnya. The police pumped anaesthetic into the building, then stormed it from every entrance, executing all 42 terrorists; 120 hostages also died due to cumulative effects of intoxication, hunger and maltreatment by the terrorists.
  70. 2003 – Russian government axes last remaining nationwide independent TV channel, TVS, citing financial reasons.
  71. 2003 – Yukos oil boss and prominent liberal Mikhail Khodorkovsky is arrested on charges of tax evasion and fraud, an early casualty of President Vladimir Putin’s campaign to drive Yeltsin-era ‘oligarchs’ out of politics; in 2005 he is sentenced to 9 years imprisonment, and in 2013 he is pardoned and goes into exile.
  72. 2004 – Vladimir Putin wins re-election to a second term, earning 71% of the vote, buoyed by economic recovery.
  73. 2004 – Authorities seize Yuganskneftegaz, Yukos’s key production unit, over alleged tax debts, in move widely seen as punishment for Yukos boss Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s opposition to Putin. State formally purchases Yuganskneftegaz.
  74. 2004 – Beland school hostage crisis. A group of Chechen and Islamists terrorists took 1,300 adults and children hostage; following the sound of explosions, Russian police and soldiers stormed the school; the ensuing battle left 344 civilians, 31 of 32 hostage-takers and 10 police dead. This incident prompts boost in state security powers, despite widespread public criticism of handling of the siege. Vladimir Putin scraps direct election of regional governors, who will henceforth be government appointees.
  75. 2005 – Moscow and Tehran sign agreement by which Russia will supply fuel for Iran’s Bushehr nuclear reactor.
  76. 2005 – State gains control of Gazprom gas giant by increasing its stake in the company to over 50%.
  77. 2005 – A large group of Chechen terrorists assaulted and captured buildings throughout the city of Nalchik. By afternoon Russian soldiers surrounded and entered the city, forcing their enemies to retreat. Some 136 people are killed.
  78. 2006 – Putin signs law giving authorities extensive new powers to monitor the activities of non-governmental organisations and suspend them if they are found to pose an alleged threat to national security.
  79. 2006 – Former Russian security service officer Alexander Litvinenko, an outspoken critic of the Kremlin living in exile in London, dies of polonium poisoning. Britain accuses Russian former security officers of murder.
  80. 2007 – Boris Yeltsin dies of congestive heart failure.
  81. 2007 – Dozens detained as riot police break up a protest by demonstrators in St Petersburg (Petrograd / Leningrad) accusing President Putin of stifling democracy.
  82. 2007 – Diplomatic row between London and Moscow over Britain’s bid for the extradition of Andrei Lugovoi, an ex-KGB agent accused of Alexander Litvinenko’s murder.
  83. 2007 – President Putin’s United Russia party wins landslide in parliamentary elections, which critics describe as neither free nor democratic.
  84. 2008 – Because of term limits, Vladimir Putin leaves office. Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev wins the Presidential elections, earning 70.5% of the vote. Vladimir Putin becomes Prime Minister.
  85. 2008 – Tensions with Georgia escalate into a war.
  86. 2008 – Parliament votes overwhelmingly in favour of a bill that would extend the next president’s term of office from 4 to 6 years.
  87. 2009 – Opposition parties accuse the authorities of rigging local elections, as the governing United Russia party wins every poll by a wide margin.
  88. 2012 – Vladimir Putin wins the Presidential elections, earning 63.6% of the vote. Opponents take to the streets of several major cities to protest at the conduct of the election; police arrest hundreds. Vladimir Putin moved to stifle opposition.
  89. 2012 – USA, European Union (EU) and human rights groups condemn jail sentences imposed on 3 members of punk band Pussy Riot over an anti-Putin protest in a Moscow cathedral; the women were sentenced to 2 years in prison for “hooliganism”.
  90. 2013 – Anti-corruption blogger, lawyer and leading opposition activist Alexei Navalny is sentenced to 5 years in prison after being found guilty of embezzlement in a trial he rejects as politically motivated. Alexei Navalny comes 2nd in the Moscow mayoral election after being released pending appeal, coming close to forcing the Kremlin’s candidate into a run-off.
  91. 2014 – Russia annexes Crimea from Ukraine.
  92. 2014 – Russia’s Gazprom sign 30-year deal to supply the China National Petroleum Corp with gas, estimated to be worth over US$400 billion.
  93. 2014 – Following the downing of a Malaysia Airlines MH17 passenger plane over eastern Ukraine in a suspected missile strike, Russia comes in for international criticism for supplying rebels with heavy weaponry.
  94. 2014 – The EU and USA announce new sanctions against Russia. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) says Russian growth is slowing down to zero.
  95. 2015 – Russia carries out first air strikes in Syria, saying it targets the Islamic State group. But West and Syrian opposition say it overwhelmingly targets anti-Assad rebels instead.
  96. 2016 – British public inquiry concludes President Vladimir Putin probably approved murder of Kremlin critic Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006.
  97. 2016 – Parliamentary elections. The ruling United Russia party increases its majority, with the remaining seats won by other pro-Putin parties. Key opposition figures such as Alezei Navalny are barred from standing.
  98. 2017 – A bomb attack on the St Petersburg metro rail system kills 13 people.
  99. 2018 – Diplomatic row with Britain over the poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, which Britain pins firmly on Russia.
  100. 2018 – Vladimir Putin wins the Presidential elections, inaugurated for 4th term as president.
  101.  2020 – (to 2021) COVID-19 pandemic caused more than 106,000 deaths in Russia.
  102. 2021 – Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny is poisoned with a Novichok nerve agent; later jailed by Russian government on embezzlement charge which critics say is trumped up.
  103. 2021 – Law is passed that would keep Vladimir Putin in power until 2036.
  104. 2021 – Russia has 146 million people.
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