Russian Timeline 1917-1924

February 23rd (International Women’s Day): Demonstrators and striking workers
– many of whom are women – took to the streets to protest against food shortages
and the war. Two days later, the strikes spread across Petrograd.
February 27th: The troops of the Petrograd army were called out to stop the
uprising. In some encounters, the regiments killed demonstrators, but rather than
attack them, other soldiers joined the protesters, some even firing on their own
officers. The authorities were, by now, almost deprived of military power in the capital.
A workers’ council, known as a soviet, was also elected on this day.
March 1st: A provisional government was formed. The leaders, including young Russian lawyer Alexander
Kerensky and Price Lvov from the Kadets, established a liberal program of rights such as freedom of speech,
equality before the law, and the right of unions to organise and strike. They opposed violent social revolution.
March 2nd: Czar Nicholas abdicated the throne, ending centuries of Russian Romanov rule.
The end of the monarchy was marked by the destruction of monarchical symbols such as emblems,
coats of arms, double-headed eagles, and tsarist statues.
April 3rd: The Germans, hoping to destabilise Russia once more, allow Lenin to return from exile in
Switzerland. Upon arrival he declares “All power to the soviets!” and thus undermines the Provisional
Government. The German’s bet paid off.
‘July Days’ (Also, September)
This period is seen as the end of peaceful revolution. After protests rise up against the Provincial Government,
Lvov resigns and Lenin goes into hiding as many other Bolshevik leaders are arrested. In September
Kerensky then takes control by putting down a coup from General Kornilov, but this actually weaken the
Provincial Government.
October 24-25th: Due to the departure of the Social Revolutionists from
the Provincial Government (they’d believed Kerensky had conspired with
Kornilov), the Bolsheviks were able to perform a successful coup d’état.
They occupied all strategic points and were able to form a new
Government - Lenin became the dictator of the world’s first communist
December: Lenin forms the Cheka (political police) to suppress
opposition. (The Cheka would later become the KGB)
January 5th - 6th: After the Bolshevik’s receiving just under a quarter votes in the November Elections for a
Constituent Assembly, Lenin held the assembly for one day and then shut it down. Democracy. He then
established his dictatorship by dissolving any non-Bolshevik institutions.
The Brest-Litosk Treaty
3rd March: Russia end their participation in the war as Leon Trotsky signs the Brest-Litosk treaty. The
consequences for Lenin are both positive and negative. While he is able to put the war behind him, he also
loses many Soviet lands including Poland and Finland.
8th March: The Bolsheviks change their name to the Russian Communist Party.
June and the Civil War
Russia’s Civil War would last until 1921, would claim millions of lives, and featured two main sides: the ‘Reds’
- the Bolsheviks and Communists commanded by Trotsky- and the ‘Whites
- a mixture of tsarists and nobles, middle-class constitutional democrats,
Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries.
16th-17th July: The Bolsheviks execute the Tsar family
30th August: Socialist Revolutionary Fanny Kaplan attempts to assassinate Lenin and he reacts by beginning
a period of mass arrests known as the ‘Red Terror’ in which the Cheka played a key role.
October 1919: Denikin became the General who came closest to giving the Whites a victory as his army
moved into an area just South of Moscow. However he acted recklessly and his lines were stretched thin allowing the Reds to once again prove their superiority as the White army was crushed in the forthcoming
However the reasons for why the Reds were so successful are debatable - considering at various times nearly
one-half of the Red Army’s soldiers (1.9 million men) were absent from the ranks. Trotsky did have a firm
leadership of the force, but it could also be argued that their geographical location (which gave them access to
most of Russia’s defense industries and arsenals - which were located in the centre of the country) was more
beneficial to the Reds success.
During the Civil War Lenin had effectively slaughtered the economy under what came to be known ‘War
Communism’. The primary measures of this system were:
• Nationalising all the means of production and transportation
• Abolishing money and its replacing it by barter tokens and free goods
• Making labour compulsory
The destruction of money under this system led to hyper-inflation. In just ten years
(1913-1923), prices has increased 100 million times. Private trade and striking against
the system were also destroyed under War Communism.
And… due to the War, Lenin needed to supply the troops with food, but money was worthless. So Lenin
ordered peasants to practically give up their goods, and any that resisted were terrorised by Red Army and
labelled as ‘Kulaks’ (Fists).
February 1921: All this led to a revolution against the Communists at
Kronshtadt Naval Base. Even though the mutiny was suppressed by another
(shocking) military assault, it still shook Lenin enough to bring about the…
New Economic Policy (NEP) in March. Seen as a limited form of capitalism,
peasants could keep and sell produce, and smaller businesses could run as
privately but large industries remained under state control.
From 1922 Lenin suffered a series of strokes. From this emerged a power struggle for leadership. Stalin,
Zinoviev and Kamenev positioned themselves against Trotsky, portraying him as an arrogant Jewish
intellectual who didn’t care about Russia.
And because Stalin had a greater power base, he is
appointed General Secretary of the Communist Party on
the 3 April 1922.
In December 1922 the Soviet Union is created.
And on the 21st January 1924, Lenin dies, and Stalin emerges as Party leader. Trotsky is exiled and finally
murdered in 1940.
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