Evolution of The Soviet State Time-Line
1613-1917: The Romanov dynast builds upon the old Muscovite empire, extending its rule to the Black Sea and Pacific Ocean. Weak and ineffectual, Nicholas II presides over the monarchy's final 23 years
1825-1881: The Decembrist officers' revolt of 1825 marks the first stirring of democratic passions. After Alexander II frees the serfs in 1861, a revolutionary movement led by the gentry gathers strength, leading the tsar's assassination in 1881.
1904-1906: Russian defeats in the Russo-Japanese War shake confidence in the monarchy, which relinquishes some authority after a series of strikes and protests in 1905. The first democratic pariliement, or Duma, meets in 1906.
1917: Supported by parties of right and left, the February Revolution topples the monarchy. Lenin returns from exile to lead the leftist Bolsheviks in their struggle for control of the revolution and seizes powe in a coup on October 25.
1918: A treaty with Germany releases the Bolsheviks from an unwanted role in World War I; In the process they lose control over Ukraine, the Baltics, and their capital from Petrograd to Moscow and rename themselves Communists.
1918-1921: Lenin dissolves the poppularly elected Constituent Assemble on January 6, 1918, killing in one stroke the democratic movement begun in 1906. Nicholas II and his family are murdered in July 1918 as a three-year civil war begins between Red and White Armies-- the latter a lose coalition of anticommunist factions. Lenin uses charisma and inflammatory prpaganda to rally support for the Bolsheviks and the highly centralized war economy known as War Communism.
1924-1928: Lenin's aspiring successors, Joseph Stalin and Leon Trotsky, debate the future of communism. Stalin, with his policy of "solcialism in one country," triumphs over his rival, the global revolutionary. In 1927 Trotsky is expelled from the party, later to be exiled and murdered. With his Five-Year Plan of 1928, Stalin takes iron fisted control of the economy.
1928-1932: With the Five-Year Plan, Stalin begins a total transformation of Soviet society by regimenting every aspect of public life. Heavy industry is emphasized, along with massive public works projects. But the peasants, Russia's largest class, remain the major obstacle to the "dictatorship of the proleriat. "To transform them from traditional farmers into rural workers, collective and state farms are instituted; the peasants, however, resist fiercly.
1929-1938: Reigns of terror begin in 1929 as Stalin invades the countryside to crush the resistance -- better-off farmers whom he villfies as "kulaks," or rich peasents. Confiscated crops lead to famine, and millions starve. In the Communist Party of half its members -- some 1.2 million people. Millions more are slain or exiled.
1939-1945: Hitler reneges on his nonaggression pact with Stalin and launches his blitzkrieg against Russia in 1941. The Red Army, crippled by purger, suffers huge defeats. With Allied aid Soviets turn the tide and dribe the Germans all the way to Berlin by 1945. Victory's cost: 20 million Soviet lives. Its reward: huge German reparations in money and appropriated industrial plants--and hegemony over eastern Europe.
1945-1953: Dashing hopes of postwar harmony, Stalin pursues a hard line until his death in 1953. The new Cold War chills dramatically on August 29, 1949, when the Soviets explode their first nuclear device. With Mao Zedong's victory over China's Nationalists the same year, the U.S.S.R. gains a formidable communist ally.
1953-1957: With Nikita Khrushchev comes a humanizing de-Stalinization at home but not abroad, aas Soviet brutally crush the Hungarian revolt in 1956. Flush with success at rebuilding their economy, Soviets laungh the Sputnik I satellite in 1957, sending tremors of technologica angst through the U.S.
1960-1962: A Sino-Soviet right in 1960 is followed a year later by the raising of the Berlin Watt--and another technologicle coup, as Soviets put the first man in space. The 1962 Cuban missile crisis gives the superpowers a close brush with mutal annihlation.
1963: Despite Khrushchev's earilier boasts of Soviet economic superiority ("We will bury you!" he taunted the West), huge crop shortages forve him to buy wheat from abroad.
1964-1970: Khrushchev is ousted and replaced by hard-liner Leonid Brezhnev. Suppression of Czechoslovakia's brief reform movement in 1968 marks the end of the "big thaw" and the start of the Brezhnev Doctrine. By 1970 dissidents are speaking up at home.
1972-1975: A visit by president Richard Nixon and treaties stemming from the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks launch a period of détente. The Helsinki Accords of 1975 cap this thaw.
1977-1978: Détente falters as President Jo,,y Caryer challenges Brezhnev on human rights. Economic stagnation sets in. Production by both farms and factories slackens, while soaring oil revenues cover losses and the bureaucracy swells. In agriculture three million apparatchiks reign-- more than all U.S. farmers.
1979-1980: The Soviets invade Afghanistan following a massive arms buildup, and the Cold War intensities. Developing a third of their GNP to defense, Soviets achieve parity with the West in nuclear missiles and clear dominance in conventional weapons. At home the crackdown on dissidents turns ugly: Soviet jails, mental hospitals, and forced labor camps fill with political prisoners, earning the U.S.S.R. international censure.
1982-1983: Brezhnev dies and is replaced by former KGB head Yuri Andropov. Relations with the United States reach a new low over U.S. deployment of intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Europe
1984: Andropov dies after 15 months in power. For new party chief, the leadership bypasses his protégé, Mikhail Gorbachev, for Konstantin Chernenko.
1985: Chermenko dies, and 54 year-old Gorbachev ascends to power. His meeting with President Ronald Reagan in Geneva is the first in a series of summits.
1986: The Chernobyl nuclear plant explosion delivers disaster to the environment and extra hardship to the Soviet economy.
1987: Two words-- glasnost and perestroika -- symbolize Gorbachev's radical agenda openness and economic restructuring. A gas pipeling to Western Europe becomes fully operational, as low oil prices pinch revenues.
1988-1989: After completing the withdrawl of Soviet troops from Afghanistan, Gobachev visits China in May 1989. This first Sino-Soviet summit in 30 years touches off and ill-fated student protest. The Berlin wall falls in November.
1990: The Soviet constitution is amended in February, ending the Communist Party monopoly on power. As Gorbachev seeks party reform, radical reformer Boris Yeltsin breaks ranks in July, opening floodgates of defection. 1991: A coup attempt on August 19 by communist hard-liners is thwarted as Russians rally behind their new president, Boris Yeltsin. In December, by an act of the Congress of People's Deputies, the Soviet Union is dissolved. Discredited, Soviet communism expires after 75 years.