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Modern Russian History Timeline Close

Sarah Grochala and Adam Rush | May 16, 2013

Russian Timeline

Michael I of Russia, the first tsar of the Romanov-Dynasty (1613 - 1645), Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.


1613 – The first Tsar of the Romanov dynasty, Tsar Michael Romanov, is elected to throne.

1648-1659 – Laws passed that transform the majority of the Russian peasantry into serfs. Serfs are effectively owned by the landowners on whose land they live. A serf could be transferred from one landowner to another. The landowner did not have to transfer the serf’s property or family at the same time. A landowner had the right to do almost anything to a serf, except kill them.

1689-1725 – The reign of Peter the Great. He introduces military conscription and brings the church in Russia under state control.

Oil on canvas portrait of Empress Catherine the Great by Russian painter Fyodor Rokotov, Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.


1762-1796 – Catherine the Great takes over the Russian throne. Her reign is considered to be a golden age. She expands the Russian empire through conquest and diplomacy, improves state administration, revises and simplifies the Russian legal system, expands the education system and promotes the Westernisation of the country.

1772-1814 – Russia expands its empire to include the Crimea and parts of Poland, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova and Georgia.

1798-1814 – Russia becomes involved in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars.

1812 - Napoleon attempts to invade Russia with an army of approximately 650,000 men. He captures Moscow on 14 September 1812, only to be defeated by the onset of the harsh Russian winter. By the time, he crosses the Berezina River in modern day Belarus on his way out of Russia, 480,000 of his men have died, gone missing or been captured by the Russians.

A portrait of Karl Marx.


1818 – Karl Marx is born in Trier in Germany.

1848 – Karl Marx and Freidrich Engels publish a pamphlet entitled The Communist Manifesto. They argue that all history is the history of class struggle. The final words of the manifesto urge: "Workers of the world, unite!"

1853-56 – The Crimean War. Britain and France become concerned by Russia’s ambitions to further expand its empire into the territories of the declining Ottoman Empire. In September 1854, they lay siege to the port of Sevastopol in order to destroy the Russian fleet anchored there. They finally capture the city, a year later in September 1855.

1855 – Tsar Alexander II succeeds to the Russian throne.

1860s – The Nihilist movement is formed in Russia. Nihilists are the opposite of rationalists. They believe that life is without objective meaning, purpose or intrinsic value. They argue that freed serfs are being moved from one type of slavery to another, being transformed from the slaves of landowners into the slaves of factory owners under the process of industrialisation. They advocate the use of violence to bring about political change.

Anton Chekhov 1889, Chekhov Museum, Badenweiler.


1860 – Anton Pavlovich Chekhov is born in Taganrog, Russia.

1861 – The Emancipation Edict ends serfdom. It is passed in response to the Tsar’s fears of a peasant uprising.

1867 – Karl Marx publishes Das Kapital, in which he argues that capitalism is founded on the exploitation of the working classes.

Photograph of Lenin by Soyuzfoto.


1870 - Vladimir Ilyich Lenin is born in Simbirsk, Russia.

1876 – Chekhov’s father’s business goes bankrupt. The family moves to Moscow to find work. Chekhov stays in Taganrog.

1877-78 – The Russian-Turkish war.

1879 – Chekhov joins his family in Moscow. He starts medical school.

1880 – Chekhov’s first short story is published in the magazine Dragonfly.

1881 - Alexander II is assassinated by a political organisation called 'The People’s Will'. They are campaigning for social reforms including universal suffrage, freedom of speech, and the transfer of land and factories to public ownership.

1881 – Tsar Alexander III succeeds to the throne. He believes that Russia has been weakened by foreign influences. He promotes the idea that the vast Russian empire is a single nation united by its language and religion.

1883 – Karl Marx dies.

1884 – Chekhov graduates from medical school. In December, he is diagnosed with tuberculosis.

1886 – Chekhov publishes his first book, Motley Stories.

1887 – Lenin’s brother Sacha is executed for planning to assassinate the Tsar. Lenin is expelled from university for political activism.

1887 – Premiere of Ivanov.

1888 – Chekhov wins the prestigious Pushkin Prize.

1888 – Lenin reads Karl Marx’s Das Kapital.

1889 – Premiere of The Wood Demon.

1889 – Lenin translates The Communist Manifesto into Russian.

1892 – Chekhov buys a country estate near Moscow called Melikhovo.

1893 – Lenin moves to St. Petersburg. He joins a revolutionary group call the ‘Social Democrats’.

Photo taken by A. A. Pasetti of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, near age 30, at St. Petersburg, Russia, 1898.


1894 – Tsar Nicholas II succeeds to the throne.

1895 - Lenin is arrested and charged with sedition.

1896 – Premiere of the The Seagull in St. Petersburg.

1897 - Social Democratic Party is founded. Their manifesto is inspired by the theories of Karl Marx and Freidrich Engels.

1897-1900 – Lenin is sentenced and sent into exile in Siberia.

1898 – Moscow Art Theatre production of The Seagull. Chekhov meets and falls in love with the actress Olga Knipper.

1899 – Premiere of Uncle Vanya at the Moscow Art Theatre.

1900-1905 – Lenin in exile in Europe.

1901 – Premiere of Three Sisters at the Moscow Art Theatre. Anton Chekhov marries Olga Kipper.

1902 – Lenin publishes What Is to Be Done? in which he argues that Marxists must form a political party to actively spread their ideas amongst uneducated workers.

1903 – The Social Democratic Party splits into two factions: the Bolsheviks (led by Lenin and Alexander Bogdanov) and the Mensheviks.

1904 – Premiere of The Cherry Orchard at the Moscow Art Theatre. Anton Chekhov dies in July in the German spa town of Badenweiler.

1904-05 – The Russian-Japanese war. Russia expansion in Manchuria sparks conflict with Japan.

1905 - Bloody Sunday. Striking workers protest peacefully outside the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg. The Imperial Guard open fire on the crowd, killing hundreds. Tsar Nicholas II issues the October Manifesto. In it, he pledges to grant basic civil liberties such as freedom of assembly, association, press, religion and speech. The Russian State Duma (parliament) is established. The right to vote is extended to all men and no law can offically come into force without being approved by the Duma. Lenin returns to Russia and agitates for revolution.

1907-1917 – Lenin in exile in Europe.

1913 – Tsar Nicholas II celebrates three hundred years of Romanov rule in Russia.

1914 – World War I: Russian-Austrian rivalry in Balkans contributes to the outbreak of the war. Russia enters World War I, fighting alongside Britain and France.

1917 - The February Revolution. Workers in St. Petersburg organise strikes to protest a shortage of bread. The protests turn into riots. The army refuse to obey Tsar Nicholas II’s order to suppress the riots by force. The Tsar’s authority collapses and the army force him to abdicate. The country is now officially run by a provisional government formed of liberals and moderate socialists. Real power in Russia, however, now lies with the Petrograd, formed in March 1917 to represent workers and soldiers. Lenin, now the leader of the Bolsheviks, returns to Russia in April 1917. He publishes The State and Revolution in which he argues that a workers’ revolution is the only means by which a communist state can be established. The Petrograd and the Bolsheviks combine forces and overthrow the provisional government in October 1917. An all Bolshevik government is formed with Lenin as its leader.