|Date ||Soviet Union and Modern Russia |
| ||Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels publish the Communist Manifesto. |
| ||1904 |
Japan defeats Russia in Russo-Japanese War. First victory of an Asian state over a European one in modern era.
WWI breaks out in Europe when Germany declares war on Russia.
Vladimir Lenin’s Bolshevik Party seizes power during the October Revolution of 1917, overthrowing Czar Nicholas II. Russia withdraws from WWI.
Bloody Russian Civil War consolidates power in Lenin’s new Soviet government.
Union of Soviet Socialist Republics officially created.
Lenin dies; power struggle between Leon Trotsky and Joseph Stalin ends with Trotsky in exile and Stalin firmly in control of the Soviet government.
First Soviet Five-Year Plan. Agriculture collectivized in USSR.
| ||1937-1938 |
Stalin orchestrates campaign to eliminate enemies, dissenters, dissidents, and anyone challenging his authority, including members of the Red Army and security services, the Communist Party and most former Bolsheviks, as well as peasants, artists, minorities and other ‘saboteurs.’ By some estimates, more than one million people were killed during ‘The Great Purge,’ and millions more were sentenced to prison or work camps.
WWII officially begins with Nazi Germany’s invasion of Poland on September 1.
Following Germany’s lead, the Soviet Union also invades Poland, annexing the Eastern-most provinces. A non-aggression pact with Germany allows the Soviet Union to remain on the sidelines of WWII for the next two years, while at the same time pursuing an aggressive campaign of expansion along its Western border.
| ||1941 |
Germany invades the Soviet Union.
Soviet Union allies itself with the US and the Allied Powers, and creates an Eastern Front in the fight against Germany. Known as the ‘Great Patriotic War’ to Soviets, it is the largest theater of combat in WWII, as well as the most destructive.
WWII ends; total Soviet deaths are estimated at 20 million, or 13.7% of the Soviet population. Of those, 11.4 million were civilians and one million died as a result of the Jewish Holocaust. Despite this large number of casualties and extensive damage to its infrastructure, the Soviet Union emerges as a super power.
In Yalta, Stalin outlines his plans for a Soviet sphere of influence in Eastern Europe to Roosevelt and Churchill. Following WWII, Europe is divided by the ‘Iron Curtain;’ the Western Allies control Western Europe and the Soviet Union controls Eastern Europe. Germany is partitioned. Berlin is an open city within Soviet-controlled East Germany.
Marshall Plan is established to re-build European economies. Soviets decline Marshall Plan aid, but economic aid flows to Western Europe, and reconstruction begins, countering Soviet influence in Western European economies.
Soviet Union blockades Berlin, forcing the Allies to airlift food and fuel supplies to Berlin. The Berlin Airlift eventually flies in more than 2.3 million tons of supplies, prompting the Soviets to abandon their efforts to control all of Berlin.
North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) signed; the treaty creates an official alliance between Allied nations in Europe and North America. Its stated goal is “to safeguard the freedom and security of its member countries by political and military means.” Initial member nations include Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, United Kingdom, United States.
Russia perceives NATO as a threat directed against its control of its Eastern European ‘allies.’
Soviet Union detonates its first atomic device.
| ||1950 |
United Nations Charter ratified; includes five permanent members of UN Security Council: US, Russia, Great Britain, France, and the Republic of China.
The Korean War brings the Soviet Union and US face-to-face. After WWII, the Korean peninsula, a former colony of Japan, was divided along the 38th parallel, with the Northern half administered by the Soviet Union, and the Southern half under the control of the US. The war ends in a stalemate.
Stalin dies; Nikita Khrushchev comes into power and institutes de-Stalinization policies.
Warsaw Pact adopted, formalizing the alliance of Communist bloc nations. Member nations include Albania, Bulgaria, Hungary, East Germany, Poland, Romania, Czechoslovakia, and the USSR.
Germany is admitted to NATO as West Germany.
Soviets use military force to crush a popular uprising against the Soviet-installed government in Hungary.
Sputnik, the first artificial earth satellite, orbits Earth.
Boris Pasternak declines to accept Nobel Prize for Literature.
| ||Sino-Soviet Split |
Beginning in the late 1950’s, relations between the Soviet Union and Mao’s People’s Republic of China began to deteriorate, leading to border disputes, severed diplomatic relations and broad disagreement about the proper course of global communism. By 1969, many observers predicted war between the two nations, but tensions gradually eased, especially following Mao’s death in 1976.
U.S. U-2 spy plane shot down inside Soviet Union; pilot Francis Gary Powers captured alive.
Yuri Gagarin becomes the first human to travel in space.
Construction of the Berlin Wall begins.
Cuban missile crisis brings the world to the brink of nuclear war. After Soviet missiles are discovered being delivered to Cuba, a fourteen-day standoff begins between Khrushchev and John F. Kennedy, ending with a compromise in which Kennedy agrees not to invade Cuba and Khrushchev agrees to remove the missiles.
So called ‘Red Phone’ installed, establishing a direct connection between the White House and the Kremlin.
Leonid Brezhnev takes power from Khrushchev.
Svetlana Stalin, daughter of the former Soviet dictator, requests asylum at the United States Embassy in India.
Liberalizing reforms instituted in Czechoslovakia; this movement toward liberalization, which became known as the ‘Prague Spring,’ was crushed by a subsequent Soviet invasion, and the ensuing ‘Brezhnev Doctrine’ outlined the right of communist countries to intervene in the affairs of other communist nations whose policies were perceived to threaten the general communist movement.
| ||Détente |
From the late 1960’s to the early 1980’s, a gradual thawing of the Cold War and a significant easing of tensions between the NATO powers and the Warsaw Pact. Détente was marked by a series of summit meetings between the leaders of the United States and the Soviet Union, and ultimately led to the signing of treaties such as SALT-1, the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, a Biological Weapons Convention, and the beginnings of talks on SALT-II.
SALT-1 arms control agreement signed by the US and Soviet Union; this treaty signaled movement toward détente.
Alexander Solzhenitsyn expelled from the Soviet Union.
Soviet Union invades Afghanistan in support of communist leaders in that country; period of détente effectively ended.
| ||1980 |
U.S. and others boycott Summer Olympic Games in Moscow to protest Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.The Solidarity movement, led by Lech Walesa, gains power in communist Poland, leading to greater worker rights.
Soviet Air Force jet mistakenly shoots down Korean Airlines flight 007.
USSR boycotts the Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles. China does not.
Mikhail Gorbachev becomes general secretary of the Communist Party and institutes policies of Glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring), designed to increase political freedom and bring about economic reform.
Presidents Reagan and Gorbachev meet in Geneva for the first of four summits (followed by Reykjavik, 1996; Washington, DC, 1987; Moscow, 1988) designed to improve cooperation and foster better relations between the two countries.
Chernobyl nuclear power station melts down.
Space station Mir, launched in 1986, would be continuously inhabited (and eventually host American astronauts) until 2001.
President Reagan, standing in West Berlin, challenges Gorbachev to “tear down this wall.”
Mathias Rust, a 19-year-old German, illegally lands his private Cessna airplane in Red Square.
Gorbachev renounces the Brezhnev Doctrine.
The Berlin Wall falls on November 9, and East Germans flood into West Germany.
Soviets leave Afghanistan.Nationalist riots put down in Georgia.
Lithuania Communist Party declares its independence.
| ||1990 |
Gorbachev elected President of the Soviet Union.
Soviet Communist Party votes to end one-party rule, and Boris Yeltsin is elected president of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic.
East and West Germany reunified.
Yeltsin bans the Soviet Communist Party, seizing its assets.
Attempted coup against Gorbachev by hard-line Communists fails, but tips the balance of power in favor of Yeltsin.
Yeltsin recognizes the independence of the Baltic republics.
Congress of People’s Deputies votes to dissolve the Soviet Union, and in December, Gorbachev resigns as Soviet president, ceding those powers to Yeltsin; the Russian government officially takes over from the USSR.
Chechnya declares independence.
Following disagreements with parliament, Yeltsin suspends it and calls for new elections; after members of parliament barricade themselves in the parliament building, Yeltsin orders the army to attack the building, and it is subsequently recaptured.
In December, a new constitution is approved, consolidating power with the President.
Russia joins the NATO Partnership for Peace program. Last Russian forces leave Berlin.
Russia invades Chechnya.
Peace treaty signed with Chechnya.
October 11, ‘Black Tuesday,’ the ruble loses nearly 25% of its value.
Russian chess champion Gary Kasparov loses first game against IBM supercomputer ‘Deep Blue,’ but Kasparov ultimately wins the match by 4 games to 2; he would later lose a rematch.
Russia formally admitted to G-7 (group of industrialized nations), which becomes the G-8.
Russian ruble collapses and Russia announces it will default on foreign debts. $22.6 billion loan package from the IMF and World Bank pledged to help stabilize economy.
Chechen rebels invade Dagestan, a neighboring republic within Russia; Russian troops respond by once again invading Chechnya.
Yeltsin resigns; Vladimir Putin becomes President of Russia.
| ||2001 |
Russia signs a friendship treaty with China.
Russia and NATO establish NATO-Russia council, giving Russia an equal role in decision-making concerning counter-terrorism and security threats.
Tensions with Chechnya increase. 800 people are held hostage in a Moscow theater and suicide bombings by Chechen rebels ensue in and around Chechnya.
Billionaire Mikhail Khodorkovsky is arrested on charges of tax evasion and fraud; many believe Khodorkovsky’s support of liberal opposition to Putin played a role in his arrest.
Putin consolidates his control of parliament.
Vladimir Putin easily reelected to second term as President of Russia.
NATO expands to include former Soviet Republics Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.
330 people, many of them children, are held hostage in a North Ossetian school; the perpetrators are believed to be sympathetic to Chechen rebels.
Chechen President Akhmad Kadyrov is killed in a bombing in Grozny.
Chechen separatist leader Aslan Maskhadov calls for a ceasefire; official Chechen leadership rejects these appeals and one month later Russian forces kill Maskhadov.
Russia signs agreement with Iran in which Russia will supply fuel for Iran’s Bushehr nuclear reactor and Iran will return used fuel rods to Russia.
Russia and Germany sign agreement to build a gas pipeline linking the two nations by way of a line built under the Baltic Sea.
Russia cuts off the gas supply to Ukraine for three days in January; Russia claims its motives are economic while Ukraine asserts Russia acted in retaliation of Ukrainian ties to the EU and NATO.
Russia and China sign range of economic agreements that include provisions for Russia supplying gas to China.
Russian ruble becomes a convertible currency, lessening the Russian government’s ability to influence exchange rates.
Tensions with Georgia increase; four Russian army officers detained on charges of spying and Russia responds by imposing sanctions and expelling hundreds of Georgians.
Former Russian security service officer Alexander Litvinenko, a critic of the Russian government living in London, is poisoned by a radioactive substance and dies.
Anna Politkovskaya, a prominent Russian journalist often critical of the Russian government and known for her reports of human rights abuses in Chechnya, is found murdered; many believe the murder to be politically motivated.
Russia doubles price of the oil that flows through Belarus to Europe; subsequent disagreements lead Russia to temporarily cut oil supplies through this pipeline.
Protest and opposition activities put down by Putin.
US proposes placing a Ballistic Missile Defense shield in Poland and the Czech Republic. Russia interprets this as a hostile move.
Russia tests its long-distance missile amid increasing tension concerning the proposed US missile defense shield.
Tension between the UK and Russia over the extradition of ex-KGB agent who is accused of Litvinenko’s murder.
Putin suspends Russia’s participation in the 1990 Conventional Armed Forces in Europe treaty, which limited the deployment of heavy military equipment across Europe.
Dimitry Medvedev becomes President; Putin becomes Prime Minister.
After Georgia attacks South Ossetian separatists, the Russian military engages Georgian troops in South Ossetia and elsewhere in Georgia; after one week of combat, a ceasefire is signed.
Russia officially recognizes Georgian breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
Next: Inside Modern Russia: The Russian System of Government: Centralization of Power in Modern Russia