Timeline of the Russian Revolution

Timeline of the Russian Revolution

From the final years of the last tsars of Russia to the establishment of the Communist Party, learn more about the key events of the Russian Revolution.

In February 1918 Soviet Russia adopted the Gregorian calendar which was already being used across Western Europe. This replaced the Julian calendar, which was 13 days behind. Where both dates before February 1918 are given in the timeline, the Gregorian (Western) date is first, with the Julian (Russian) date in brackets.

Key events:

1860s–1890s: The Khodynka Tragedy

1900–1916: 1905 Revolution and Bloody Sunday | Outbreak of First World War

1917: February Revolution | June Offensive | July Days | October Revolution | Kornilov affair

1918–1924: Brest-Litovsk Treaty

1860s–1890s

3 March (19 February) 1861

Tsar Alexander II passes the Emancipation Edict, ending serfdom in Russia (but keeps peasants tied to the land through continuing labour obligations).

17 (5) February 1880

Failed attempt (no. 5) to assassinate Tsar Alexander II by blowing up his palace dining room kills 11 and wounds 56. The Tsar survives through being late to dinner.

13 (1) March 1881 

Tsar Alexander II is assassinated by a member of the radical group People’s Will. He is succeeded by his son, Alexander III, who enacts anti-terrorism measures that curb civil rights and freedom of the press.

1882

Pogroms against Jews spread across the Russian Empire, leading to mass emigration of the Jewish population.

1891–1892

Famine in Russia kills between 375,000 and 400,000 and affects millions more.

1 November (20 October) 1894   

Tsar Alexander III dies after a sudden illness; his son Nicholas (Nicholas II) assumes the throne.

20 (8) December 1895

Lenin, future leader of the Bolsheviks, is arrested to be kept in solitary confinement for 13 months and then exiled to Siberia.

The Khodynka Tragedy: 30 (18) May 1896

A stampede in Moscow occurs during festivities following Nicholas II’s coronation, as crowds, worried that the supplies of free souvenirs would run out, rushed for the stalls to get them. This results in the deaths of over 1,300 people.

1900–1916

1905 Revolution and Bloody Sunday: 22 (9) January 1905 – 16 (3) June 1907

The two year period starting with Bloody Sunday and subsequent civil unrest, and ending with the Coup of June 1907.

22 (9) January 1905: Bloody Sunday – Troops and police open fire on a peaceful demonstration outside the Winter Palace and elsewhere in St Petersburg, killing and injuring around 1,000 people. The liberal press blames Nicholas II.

June 1905: Sailors mutiny on the battleship Potemkin, part of the Black Sea Fleet. The mutiny triggers riots in Odessa, which are quashed by troops on the Tsar’s orders.

30 (17) October 1905: October Manifesto – Tsar Nicholas II issues the October Manifesto, promising civil liberties (such as freedom of speech) and an elected parliament (Duma). As a result, restrictions are implemented on the absolute power of the Russian monarch, and a de facto constitution (the Fundamental Laws of 1906) is issued.

16 June (3 June) 1907: Coup of June 1907, which led to the dissolution of the Second State Durma of the Russian Empire, the arrest of some its members and a fundamental change in the Russian electoral law.

Outbreak of First World War: 1914

1 August (19 July) 1914: Germany declares war on Russia, with Russia entering the First World War.

18 (31) August 1914: St Petersburg is renamed Petrograd to make it sound less German.

30 (17) December 1916

Grigorii Rasputin, the controversial ‘holy man’ and close friend of Tsar Nicholas II’s family, is murdered after several failed attempts.

1917

February Revolution: 8–16 March (23 February – 3 March) 1917

A series of public protests begin in Petrograd, which last for eight days and eventually result in abolition of the monarchy in Russia. The total number of killed and injured in clashes with the police and government troops in Petrograd is estimated around 1,300 people.

8 March (23 February) 1917: On International Women’s Day, demonstrators and striking workers – many of whom are women – take to the streets to protest against food shortages and the war. Two days later, the strikes spread across Petrograd.

15 (2) March 1917: Tsar Nicholas II abdicates and also removes his son from the succession. The following day Nicholas’ brother Mikhail announces his refusal to accept the throne. A Provisional Government is formed to replace the tsarist government, with Prince Lvov becoming the leader.

April 1917

Lenin returns from exile, travelling to Petrograd in a sealed train from Switzerland via Germany and Finland.

1 May (18 April) 1917

The Milyukov note: A telegram sent to the Allied Powers by Foreign Minister Pavel Milyukov states the Provisional Government’s intention to continue the war. The note is leaked, resulting in protests and increased support for the Bolsheviks.

Following this, Milyukov resigns and members of the Socialist Revolutionaries and Mensheviks join the Provisional Government.

June Offensive: 1 July (18 June) 1917

Russian minister of war Alexander Karensky launches an offensive against Austria-Hungary forces in Galicia.

Although the Russian effort is initially successful, the soldiers soon refuse to leave their trenches and fight due to low morale caused by the Revolution. Soldiers’ committees debate orders and encourage soldiers to disobey officers. Many soldiers return home to take part in redistribution of land.

The offensive collapses four days later and Russian troops have to respond to the Austrians’ and Germans’ counteroffensive.

July Days: 16–20 (3–7) July 1917

The July Days, a series of spontaneous armed anti-government demonstrations of industrial workers and soldiers, begin in Petrograd. Lvov resigns as leader of the Provisional Government, with Alexander Kerensky taking over and crushing the demonstrations. In the same month, the death penalty is reintroduced and women are granted the right to vote and hold office. 

Kerensky issues the arrest of Lenin, who goes into hiding. The printing offices of the Bolshevik newspaper Pravda – the headquarters of the Bolshevik Central Committee – are raided, with many Bolshevik leaders arrested.

The aborted uprising results in Soviets losing their control over the Provisional Government, signifying the end of the ‘Dual Power’ situation. This is seen by many as the point of no return for the peaceful development of the Revolution.

Kornilov affair: 9 September (22–27 August) 1917

The Kornilov affair: A failed coup by General Kornilov, commander of the Russian army, takes place, when he orders troops towards Petrograd to counter the threat of the Bolsheviks.

Prime Minister Kerensky presents Kornilov’s actions as an attempted right wing coup.

While the affair is short lived, it secures power for the Bolsheviks among Petrograd’s working classes, workers and soldiers, and crushes the credibility of a coalition Provisional Government between socialists and liberals due to the Kadets (Constitutional Democrats) and even Kerensky himself being implicated in the affair.

14 (1) September 1917

Russia is officially declared a republic.

October Revolution: 7–8 November (25–26 October) 1917

7 November (25) 1917: The Bolsheviks seize control of Petrograd.

8 November (26 October) 1917: The Bolsheviks take control of the Winter Palace, the last remaining holdout of the Provisional Government.

8 November (26 October) 1917: The Decrees on Land (proclaiming abolition of private property and the redistribution of the land amongst the peasantry), and Peace (proposing an immediate withdrawal of Russia from the First World War), are issued by the new Bolshevik government. Subsequent workers’ decrees outline measures for an eight-hour working day, minimum wage and the running of factories. The death penalty is abolished once again.

9 November (27 October) 1917

The Decree on the Press, the first Bolshevik censorship decree, abolishes the ‘bourgeois’ press.

25 (12) November 1917

Elections to the Constituent Assembly take place. The Socialist Revolutionaries win the largest number of seats, while the Bolsheviks win less than one-quarter of the vote.

December 1917

Each person receives 1/4 pound of bread per day. Bread and flour are still being sold openly, but for extortionate prices.

15 (2) December 1917

An armistice between Russia and the Central Powers is signed, and fighting stops.

1918–1924

18–19 (5–6) January 1918

The Constituent Assembly meets but is dissolved by the Bolsheviks.

28 (15) January 1918

The Council of People’s Commissars (Sovnarkom) issues a decree forming the Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army.

14 February 1918

Russia adopts the Western (Gregorian) calendar.

Brest-Litovsk Treaty: 3 March 1918

Russia ends its participation in the First World War. Bolshevik Russia loses 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.

8 March 1918

At the 7th Congress of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party, the Bolsheviks change the name of their party to the Russian Communist Party. The Russian capital is also moved from Petrograd to Moscow this year.

10 July 1918

The first constitution of the Russian Socialist Federated Soviet Republic grants equal rights to men and women.

16–17 July 1918

Tsar Nicholas II and his family are executed by the Bolsheviks in Yekaterinburg.

11 August 1918

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).

30 August 1918

Beginning of ‘Red Terror’: An assassination attempt on Lenin by the Socialist Revolutionary Fanny Kaplan leaves him seriously wounded. The attempt, together with the murder of Uritskii, sparks a period of mass arrests and executions known as the ‘Red Terror’.

March 1919

The Comintern (or Third International) is formed in Moscow, with the aim of spreading revolution all over the world.

1920

Communist parties form across the world.

November 1920

The Red Army invades and occupies Crimea and the White Army is forced to withdraw.

1921

By the beginning of 1921 the rouble has lost 96% of its pre-war value; industrial production has fallen to 10% of its 1913 level. The population of Petrograd has fallen from 2.5 million in 1917 to 600,000 in 1920.

March 1921

The Kronstadt mutiny, an unsuccessful uprising against the Bolsheviks, takes place.

March 1921

End of ‘War Communism’ and the introduction of the ‘New Economic Policy’ (NEP).

3 April 1922

Stalin is appointed General Secretary of the Communist Party.

December 1922

Creation of the Soviet Union.

21 January 1924

Lenin dies, leading to a power struggle within the party. Stalin emerges as Party leader. His rival Leon Leon Trotsky is dismissed, then exiled and finally murdered in 1940.