1894 Czar Nicholas II becomes the ruler of Russia. He believes that the absolute power of the czars should be preserved.
1900 By 1900, Russia had become the fourth-largest producer of steel. With industrialization came factories, an industrial working class, and pitiful working and living conditions.
1904-1905 The Russo-Japanese war began in 1904. In this war, Russia and Japan fought over territories in Korea and China. Russia had sent its naval fleet half way around the world to East Asia, only to be defeated by the new Japanese navy off the coast of Japan. After their defeat, the Russians agreed to a humiliating peace in 1905.
January 22, 1905 “Bloody Sunday” A massive procession of workers went to the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg to present a petition of grievances to the czar. Troops opened fire on the peaceful demonstration, killing hundreds. This “Bloody Sunday” caused workers throughout Russia to strike.
1905-07 In order to keep his position, Nicholas had been forced to accept a Duma (parliament) but nothing really changed, Nicholas kept power and if members of the Duma disagreed with him they were “sent away.”
1914-17 Germany declared war on Russia in 1914. Over the next two years the Russians will experience a series of defeats resulting in 2 million killed and 4 to 6 million wounded. Nicholas will be blamed for this mess. By 1917, the Russian will to fight had vanished.
1916 While Nicholas was at the front fighting the war his wife Alexandra was left in charge of the country. She was very influenced by the holy man Rasputin. People resented the influence of Rasputin and he was murdered in 1916. While his influence and role may have been exaggerated, historians agree that his presence played a significant part in the increasing unpopularity of the Czar and his wife, and the downfall of the Russian Monarchy.
Feb. 1917 With the shortage and rising price of bread, working-class women marched through the streets of Petrograd demanding “Peace and Bread” and “Down with Autocracy.” Other workers joined the women. Nicholas ordered troops to break up the crowds by shooting them if necessary. Soon, however, the soldiers joined the demonstrators and refused to fire on the crowds.
March 15, 1917 The Duma meets to establish a provisional government. It urges Nicholas to abdicate his throne. Because he no longer had the support of the army or even the aristocrats, Czar Nicholas II reluctantly agreed to step down ending 300 years of Romanov rule.
March 1917 The provisional government, headed by Alexandr Kerensky, decided to carry on the war to preserve Russia’s honor. This decision to remain in World War I was a major blunder. It satisfied neither the workers nor the peasants, who were tired and angry from years of suffering and wanted an end to the war.
Communism Karl Marx (1818-1883) had said that industrialization had made the middle classes rich and powerful but had made the workers slaves. He said that the workers should rebel and take power away from the rich. He believed that nothing should be privately owned and that everything should be commonly owned. This theory is called Communism. A group of people called the Bolsheviks believed that the royal family should be overthrown and communism introduced. The leader of the Bolsheviks was Vladimir Lenin but he had been forced to leave Russia to avoid being imprisoned. Lenin continued to be leader of the Bolsheviks while in exile—publishing communist leaflets and raising money for their cause. He also spoke against the war.
April 1917 Lenin returns from exile. He is angry that Russia is still fighting in the war and that many Bolsheviks support the provisional government. Joseph Stalin, another prominent Bolshevik, has to decide whether to oppose Lenin or whether to abandon his support for the provisional government.
Nov. 1917 Stalin chose to support Lenin and on Nov. 6 the Bolsheviks seized the Winter Palace, the headquarters of the provisional government.
March 1918 On March 3, Lenin signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with Germany. As a result of this treaty, Russia lost a lot of territory to Germany. Russian peace would be brief because the country will soon sink into civil war.
1918-21 Many Russians did not support the Bolshevik government and tried to oppose the Bolsheviks. The Bolsheviks were known as the ‘reds’, those that opposed them were known as the ‘whites’. There was civil war between the reds and whites. Armies from Britain, France, and America supported the whites but the Bolsheviks were more powerful and by 1922 were in charge of Russia.
July 1918 The Royal family was another victim of the civil war. After the Czar abdicated, he and his family were murdered by the Bolsheviks.