Russian SFSR (TheodoresTomfooleries)
Russian Soviet Federative
Российская Советская Федеративная
Rossiyskaya Sovetskaya Federativnaya Sotsialisticheskaya Respublika
Motto: "Пролетарии всех стран, соединяйтесь!"
Anthem: State Anthem of the Soviet Union
and largest city
|Recognised languages||see Languages of Russia|
|Ethnic groups |
State atheism (de-facto)
|Government||Federal Marxist-Leninist one-party parliamentary socialist soviet directorial republic|
|Union Republic of the Soviet Union (1922 - )|
|17,125,200 km2 (6,612,100 sq mi)|
• 2019 census
|10.63/km2 (27.5/sq mi)|
|GDP (PPP)||2022 estimate|
• Per capita
|GDP (nominal)||2022 estimate|
• Per capita
|Currency||Soviet Ruble (SUR)|
|Date format||CE, mm dd yyyy|
Russia (Russian: Россия; tr. Rossiya), officially the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, is the largest union republics of the Soviet Union. By area, it is the largest first-level subdivision in the world with an area of 17.12 million km2. Russia stretches over eleven time zones, the most in the world, and has a continuous border stretching 22,407 kilometres in total. With a population of 182.13 million as of the 2019 census, Russia is the most populous country in both Europe and the Soviet Union. Moscow is Russia's capital as well as the capital of the Soviet Union, other major cities include Leningrad, which previously served as the capital from 1712 to 1918, Gorky, and Novosibirsk.
The Rus' emerged as a distinct people in the East European Plain in the Early Middle Ages. The Rus' people, generally regarded to be of Norse origin, settled across the trade routes between the Varangians and the Byzantines, resulting in the adoption of Eastern Orthodoxy. The Rurikids created the Kyivan Rus', regarded to be the first East Slavic state, collapsed in 1240~ with the Mongol invasion. Afterwards, the Grand Duchy of Moscow became the dominant faction in Russian politics, eventually coming to conquer all of Rus' by the time Ivan IV was crowned Tsar of Russia. After the Tsardom of Russia was proclaimed in 1547, Russia rapidly expanded, growing by an average of 35,000 km2 a year between the years of 1551 and 1700. Russia became the dominant northern power after the Treaty of Nystad which ended the Swedish Empire, shortly before Peter the Great proclaimed the Russian Empire, styling himself Emperor. Under Catherine the Great, Russia became a great power, partioning the territories of both Poland-Lithuania and the Ottoman Empire. Russia participated in the Napoleonic Wars, culminating in the French invasion of Russia which resulted in a Russian victory. A century later, the Russian Empire had become the world's largest country and the third largest empire in history. Russia's military incompetence showed itself at the Russo-Japanese War in 1905, which unmasked the weakness of the Russian military.The situation against the Tsar, Nicholas II worsened after disastrous defeats in the First World War, which resulted in the end of the monarchy in 1917 and the establishment of a republic later in the year. The Russian Republic ended up being short lived, however, as the Bolsheviks took power of many of Russia's major cities in the October Revolution. Vladimir Lenin personally led the Bolsheviks from 1917 until his death in 1924, in which he led the Red Army to victory in the Russian Civil War, establishing the world's first constitutionally socialist nation. The RSFSR later became a founding member of the Soviet Union in 1922.
Russia is the country's largest and most populated republic, and makes up a significant portion of the nation's economy, energy output, and more. As a result of this, the Soviet Union is oftenly (and incorrectly) referred to as Russia, despite Russia only being one of 15 Soviet Republics. Russia is the most diverse union republic with 193 distinct ethnic groups, with Russians being the largest ethnic group. Russia is also home to numerous ASSRs as well, the most in the nation.
- 1 Etymology and Names
- 2 History
- 2.1 Kievan Rus'
- 2.2 Tsardom of Russia
- 2.3 Russian Empire
- 2.4 Revolution
- 2.5 Civil War
Etymology and Names
"Russia" is derived from the term Rus', the term given to the area mainly populated by the East Slavs. This term became more popular in later history, and the country was referred to as "Rus' land" by its inhabitants. Rus' itself originates from the Norse Rus' people, a group of merchants and warriors who established a state centered on Novgorod that later expanded to become the Kievan Rus'. The modern spelling of Russia, Rossija, originates from the Medieval Greek term for the Rus', "Ρωσσία" or Rossía.
The Bolshevik-run state did not have an official name until the adoption of its constitution in January 1918, when "Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic" was designated as the official full name. Before this, it was referred to as the Russian Republic (identical to its rival government, the Russian Soviet Republic, and the derogatory Sovdepia, after the Soviets of Workers' and Peasants' Deputies. With the adoption of the 1936 constitution, Russia gained its present name by swapping "socialist" and "soviet", thus maintaining consistency with the name of the Soviet Union, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
The Russian SFSR is referred to with numerous colloquial names, the most common simply being Russia. Soviet Russia and Russian Federation are also popular everyday names, with the latter being used as a more "formal" yet still colloquial form of the RSFSR's full name.
Russia, in particular its predecessor states the Russian Empire and the Tsardom of Russia have their roots in the Kievan Rus' and the Grand Duchy of Moscow. The Rus' people, who are believed to be Norsemen, settled along the trade routes between the Baltic and Black Seas, gradually assimilating into the local East Slavic population. In the 9th century, Rurik, a Rus' Varangian chieftain, was invited to rule in the city of Novgorod. He subsequently founded the Rurikid dynasty, which would continue to rule in Russia until the 17th century. His successor, Oleg, conquered the city of Kiev, whilst also expanding Novgorod southward along the Dnieper river. Following his conquest of Kiev, he proclaimed the city as the new capital of his realm, establishing the Kievan Rus'. Olga, who ruled from 945-960, is venerated as a Saint in the Eastern Orthodox Church due to her promotion and efforts to spread Christianity in the largely pagan Kievan Rus'. Her grandson, Vladimir, originally continued to uphold the native Slavic pagan faith, but after sending envoys across the world to assess the major religions at the time later converted to Christianity. In 988, he negotiated for a marriage between him and Byzantine Emperor Basil II's sister Anna. He was baptized in Chersonesos (now in modern day Sevastopol, and after returning to Kiev began mass-baptisms of the people there, destroying pagan idols and statues that he had erected just a few years prior. Mstislav III, ruling in the earlier half of the 13th century, ruled the Kievan Rus' during the Mongol Invasion. The Battle of the Kalka River was a devastating military defeat for Mstislav, resulting in his execution by the Mongols. Kiev was razed by the Mongols in 1240 during the reign of Yaroslav II, ending the Kievan Rus'. The collapse of authority resulted in a power vacuum that let states such as Vladimir-Suzdal to compete with one-another over the throne of Kiev. Vladimir-Suzdal, the Grand Duchy of Vladimir, broke off its vassalage to the Golden Horde in the late 14th century and gradually evolved into the Grand Duchy of Moscow, or Muscovy, which would go on to re-establish authority in the former Kievan Rus'. Authority shifted northwards towards the city of Moscow, a formerly unimportant city in Vladimir-Suzdal. Ivan III was the first to style himself as tsar (although not officially), and through his marriage to Sophia Palaiologina established the double-headed eagle as Russia's coat of arms and the idea of Moscow being the Third Rome (in reference to Constantinople being the second). His grandson, Ivan IV was proclaimed Tsar of All Rus' in 1547, subsequently establishing the Tsardom of Russia.
Tsardom of Russia
The position of Tsar eclipsed the position of Knyaz of the Kievan Rus', as the Tsardom of Russia established itself as an absolute monarchy with emphasis on the unity of the Rus' people and the state's connection to the Byzantine Empire. Ivan IV, known as Ivan the Terrible, was the first ruler of the Tsardom, expanding southward through conquests of the Khanates of Kazan and Astrakhan. He later rid himself of advisors- the "Chosen Council"- who had crowned him Tsar and started the Livonian War, which resulted in a Russian defeat but allowed Ivan to establish autocratic control over the Russian nobility. The Oprichnina resulted in the violent purge of Russia's nobility, Ivan's authoritarianism has granted him the nickname Грозный (grozny), synonymous with the old English usage of terrible meaning "inspiring fear or terror, dangerous or powerful". His son and successor, Feodor I died childless in 1598, ending the Rurikid dynasty and beginning the Time of Troubles. While having legal successors, they carried virtually no legal authority.
Time of Troubles
The Tsarevich, Dmitry, died aged 8 after reportedly having a seizure while playing with a knife and slitting his throat. His status as the "last RUrikid" resulted in his impersonation by many pretenders, known as False Dmitrys. The first, False Dmitry I, reigned as Tsar momentarily from 1605-1606, but was killed in a coup. He was succeeded by Vasili IV, a member of the Shuysky branch of the Rurikids, but his reign was short-lived and lasted only 4 years- he held no authority and was not recognized as Tsar until after his death. The Seven Boyars, a group of nobles who were responsible for deposing Vasily, elected and invited King and Grand Duke Vladislav II of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth to serve as Tsar. His reign, like his predecessor, was short-lived and had little legal recognition. In 1613, the Zemskiy Sobor, the parliament of Russia's noble estates, elected Michael, a Romanov, as Tsar. The Romanovs were a noble house of significance before Michael's accession, his great-aunt Anastasia Romanovna was the first Russian Tsaritsa and spouse of Ivan the Terrible. Michael's accession ended the Time of Troubles and resulted in authority returning to Russia, though in large part it was his father that ruled.
Rule under the Romanovs
Under the Romanovs, Russia expanded its territory significantly through the conquest of Siberia. Michael's successor, Aleksey sided with the reformist Patriach Nikon in the Schism of the Russian Church, resulting in the splitting of Russian orthodoxy between those which followed the reforms brought on by Nikon and sponsored by the state, or those who retained Russian Orthodoxy's pre-reform customs, known as Old Believers. By the time of Aleksey's death in 1676, Russia was among the largest polities in the world, stretching over an area of nearly 8.1 million km2. Russia would continue to rapidly expand, conquering more of Siberia and territories of Poland-Lithuania. When Feodor III- Aleksey's son - died, authority was passed down into a coregency between his sons Ivan and Peter, the former of which ruled only in name due to his physical and mental disabilities. When Ivan died in 1696, Peter ruled as the sole Tsar of Russia. Peter introduced rapid and grand reforms aiming at the modernization and westernization of Russia. He established Russia's first proper navy in 1696, mandating courtiers, state officials and the military to shave their beards and wear western-style clothing (the former of which was enforced through a beard tax), and for his family members to marry into European royalty. Peter I's wishes for Russia to become a maritime power conflicted with the Swedish Empire's dominance over much of the Baltic- in 1700 a coalition led by Russia against Sweden resulted in a Russian victory and the end of Sweden's status as a great power. Notably, the Swedish fort of Nyenskans- located in the confluence of the Neva and Okhta was captured by Russia in 1703. Peter demolished the fort in favor of creating another one close by, and in Zayachy Island he laid down the Peter and Paul Fortress, which would be the first citadel of the newly founded Saint Petersburg. Peter referred to Saint Petersburg as being the capital or seat of government of Russia from 1704, but it was not until 1712 that the capital was formally moved from Moscow to Saint Petersburg. In 1721, the Great Northern War ended, with Russia receiving a significant amount of territory from Sweden- this included the Baltic provinces and Ingria. Shortly after the Treaty of Nystad was signed in September, he was officially proclaimed with the title Emperor of All Russia, replacing the old title of Tsar.
Russia's accession to an empire cemented itself as a great power in European affairs. Russia's established dominance over the Baltic sea put it at odds with the weakening Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Peter died in 1724 and was succeeded by his consort Catherine I her reign was short lived however and she was succeeded by Peter I's grandson Peter II, who had Russia's capital moved back to Moscow in 1728. His reign was short, much like that of his predecessors. His successor, Anna, continued Russia's transition into a European power, but her reign is considered a dark era within Russian historiography. She was momentarily succeeded by her grand-nephew Ivan, who was not even a year old when he was proclaimed Emperor in 1740. He was deposed by his cousin Elizabeth in 1741, who is considered highly due to her refusal to execute anyone during her reign, her construction projects and her opposition to Prussia. Continuing the policies of her father Peter I, she brought the Enlightenment to Russia, sponsored the creation of Moscow State University, the Imperial Academy of Arts and the modernization of Russia's roads. Her financing of Baroque projects resulted notably in the construction of the modern Winter Palace and the Smolny Cathedral in Saint Petersburg. Elizabeth's death in 1762 ended the agnatic line of the House of Romanov, she was succeeded by her nephew Peter III.
Reign of Catherine the Great
Peter III, born in Kiel and serving as the Duke of Holstein-Gottorp could barely speak Russian and pursued a strongly pro-Prussian policy, notably when at his succession despite threatening the Prussian capital of Berlin in the 7 Years' War he withdrew his troops and switched sides, reversing hard-earned gains. His wife, Sophie of Anhalt-Zerbst, overthrew him along with troops loyal to her. Despite also being of German origin and born in Prussia, she was significantly more well-educated than her husband and made a significant effort to integrate herself with the Russian people. Following her conversion to Russian Orthodoxy, she was given the name Catherine, and she made a significant effort to learn the Russian language. She eventually mastered it, but spoke with an accent. Catherine ruled during the Russo-Turkish War, which resulted in the conquest of the Crimean Khanate and much of modern day southern Ukraine, known as Novorossiya. Many of Ukraine's major cities were founded on her orders, including Odessa, Yekaterinoslav, Kherson, Nikolayev and Sevastopol. Catherine personally admired her predecessor Peter, and continued to modernize Russia. In the later years of her reign, Poland-Lithuania was partitioned between Russia, Prussia, and the Hapsburg Monarchy in the late 1700s, with Russia getting the largest share of territory. Catherine was a patron of the arts and is considered along with her predecessor Elizabeth as an enlightened despot. She was succeeded by her son Paul in 1796 upon her death.
The Napoleonic Wars
Catherine's successor, Paul, was a controversial and disliked Emperor as he carried on his father's Germanophile attitude, adding fuel to the potential fire of a coup was Paul's status as the de-facto Grand Master of the Catholic Knights Hospitaller as the ruler of an Orthodox nation. His unpredictable behavior along with the former mentioned resulted in his assassination in 1801 at the age of 46. His son, Alexander, succeeded him when the events of the French Revolution were still ongoing. A year prior, a Corsican-born Frenchman- Napoleon - had taken power over the largely chaotic French Republic as the First Consul. Napoleon had become a national hero of the French after scoring major victories over the First Coalition and expanding the French Republic's influence and borders into the Austrian Netherlands and up to the Rhine. By 1801, when Alexander ascended to the throne, Napoleon had firmly established himself as France's military dictator and France as a European military power. Alexander notably echoed some of Napoleon's liberal ideals- passing minor social reforms and significant educational reforms, but he retained the tsarist absolutism that would remain in place until 1917.
Russia had previously fought against Napoleon in the War of the Second Coalition, but Paul I quickly withdrew after only a year. In 1804, after a largely staged referendum, Napoleon was crowned Emperor of the French- much to the concern of the other monarchs of Europe. Alexander I once again fought against Napoleon's French Empire in the War of the Third Coalition but was soundly defeated, the same result occurred when he joined the Fourth Coalition. In Russia's defeat, Alexander I joined the Continental System and allied his country with the French Empire. A war fought against Sweden resulted in the annexation of Finland into the Russian Empire and its establishment as an autonomous grand duchy. Though officially an ally of the French Empire, political differences between the two states led to tensions between them, and in 1812- at the zenith of his power- Napoleon invaded Russia with an army of upwards of 600,000 men. The invasion, despite managing to capture Moscow, was a failure and a disaster which greatly weakened Napoleon's grip over Europe owing to its large death toll. The following War of the Sixth Coalition was a military victory for the coalition and resulted in the Congress of Vienna, which restored peace to Europe after a series of wars and coalitions spanning over a period of 23 years. Alexander I was granted a significant portion of the former Kingdom of Poland, known as Congress Poland in the congress. The kingdom was nominally independent and a constitutional monarchy under a personal union with the Russian Empire, but in reality it was soon turned into another integral part of the Russian Empire.
Despite espousing a liberal attitude, Alexander maintained a reactionary and conservative political attitude, helping to found the Holy Alliance and assisting Metternich in the suppression of national and liberal movements. In the later years of his reign, he became paranoid of plots against him and reversed or ended many of his previous reforms. Alexander's death in 1825 from typhus was of great concern, as he had no legitimate heirs of his own. His brothers both refused to take the throne, and thus for a period of 12 days Russia was without an Emperor. The throne legally would have went to Alexander's younger brother Grand Duke Konstantin, but he had secretly renounced his claim to the throne in 1823. In the end, one of Paul I's youngest sons- Nicholas, was coronated on 1 December, 1825. As it was not known that Konstantin had renounced his claim, on the 26th of December a force of 3,000 troops in favor of Konstantin launched a failed military coup, known as the Decembrist Revolt. Nicholas I was recognized as the legitimate Emperor after the revolt was put down, and he was coronated in September of 1826.
Nicholas was a reactionary much like that of his brother, reigning during a time of great territorial expansion, economic growth and industrialization for the empire. He assisted in the Greek War of Independence and helped to establish an independent Greek state, and expanded Russia into the Caucasus through war with Qajar Iran, securing modern-day Armenia and Azerbaijan. The Russo-Turkish War of 1828-1829 was yet another military victory for the Russian Empire which resulted in the Ottoman Empire losing much of its sphere of influence in the Caucasus and the de-facto aligning of the Danubian principalities of Wallachia and Romania with Russia. In stark contrast to his brother, Nicholas was a determined man with "an iron will, along with a powerful sense of duty and a dedication to hard work". His military victories however would cease with the Crimean War, which was a devastating defeat for the Russian Empire and showed it in need of drastic reforms. Upon his death in 1855, the Russian Empire reached its geographic zenith with an area of 20 million km2.
Aftermath of the Crimean War
The Crimean War, while only resulting in minor territorial losses for Russia, resulted in Russia accumulating a ginormous debt equivalent to over 20 trillion USD today. Russia's defeat in the war caused Russia to lose a significant portion of its influence in Europe and its status as a European power. The humiliation brought on by the war forced Russia's educated elite to identify Russia's problems and recognise the need for drastic reforms. Upon Nicholas I's death in 1855, he was succeeded by his son Alexander II, who began a period of great political reform in the empire. He enacted major liberal reforms, including the emancipation of serfs in 1861, the reorganization of the judicial system, setting up local elected judges, abolishing corporal punishment, promoting local self-governance and promoting university education. The January Uprising in Congress Poland resulted in the Kingdom losing even its nominal autonomy and its direct integration into the Russian Empire as the Vistula Land. Following an attempt on his life in 1866, Alexander became more conservative-minded. He sold Alaska to the United States in 1867 and retained for the most part a pacifistic attitude throughout his reign. He broke with France after the fall of the second empire and aligned himself with the newly unified German Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1872 in the League of the Three Emperors. Russia reversed its territorial losses and confirmed its dominance over the Black Sea in the Russo-Turkish War of 1878-1879, which also resulted in the independence of Romania, Serbia, Montenegro and Bulgaria. Alexander had been proposing further constitutional reforms to counter-revolutionary and anarchist movements, but he was assassinated in 1881.
Late 19th century, Alexander III and Nicholas II
Alexander III succeeded his father upon his death, and was unlike both his father and his great-uncle, lacking the liberal-minded attitude of his father and the sentimental and philosophical cunningness of his great-uncle Alexander I. Alexander was a gruff and straightforward man, expressing himself without adornment. Alexander's height of 190.5 cm was extraordinary for the time, and he was noted for his great strength. He reversed some of his father's liberal reforms and firmly established himself as an absolutist autocrat, opposing any reform that limited his power. Due to the lack of any significant wars fought by Russia during his reign, he is referred to as the Peacemaker- he also established a military alliance between Russia and France in 1892, as Wilhelm II's Germany broke with Russia and largely became the black sheep of Europe. Despite his reputation as a strong yet peaceful leader, his rejection of any reforms resulted in a militarily and politically weakened Russia. His heir and son Nicholas lacked both his father's strong and conservative attitude and his grandfather's liberalism. As Alexander was only in his 40s (his predecessors after Alexander I often lived near or to their 60s) it was considered unnecessary for Alexander to educate and prepare Nicholas for the role of Emperor. Concerningly, in 1894 Alexander became ill with nephritis, he increasingly became exceedingly weak though insisted on receiving his son's fiancee, Princess Alix of Hesse in full dress uniform. The event led him exhausted and he died in the afternoon of 1 November 1894. His son Nicholas ascended to the throne as Nicholas II- his coronation was postponed for over a year and despite initially showing interest in constitutional monarchism turned his back on the idea. He was an absolutist much like his father, but lacked his strong and gruff attitude, and despite being more open to reform was not a liberal nor a reformer like his grandfather.
Nicholas's reign started with an ill omen due to the Khodynka Tragedy, when a festival held in honor of his coronation promising free food and beer and rumours of a lack of food for everyone resulted in a crowd crush that killed 1,389 people and injured 1,300. Nicholas intended to stay in his room and pray for those who lost their lives, but the French ambassador's gala was scheduled for the night and Nicholas's uncles believed that his absence would strain relations and potentially jeopardize the Franco-Russian alliance. Nicholas attended the party, much to the dismay of his subjects who saw the Emperor as uncaring. He continued, for the most part, his father's conservative and reactionary policies- under his reign financial reforms that had started 15 years prior were completed and in 1902 the Trans-Siberian Railway neared completion, allowing for greater Russian control and trade with the Far East. Nicholas however in large part was an incompetent ruler, his erratic decisions concerned his officials and tensions between Nicholas and the Russian Orthodox Church greatly conflicted with his base of support. He strengthened the Franco-Russian alliance and pursued a policy of European peace. The Hague Conventions, suggested and promoted by Nicholas, would set up among the first formal statements regarding the law of war. He was nominated, along with his diplomat Friedrich Martens for the Nobel Peace Prize due to this.
Tensions between the Russian Empire and the Empire of Japan over influence in the Far East and in Manchuria resulted in an inevitable conflict between the two powers. He had personally visited the country in 1890 during the reign of Emperor Meiji and had witnessed first-hand Japan's rapid modernization, but it was unexpected by many European powers that Japan would be able to defeat such a military power like Russia. In 1894, months before he was coronated, Japan and Qing China entered into a war which resulted in the further weakening of the Manchu-led dynasty and the accession of Japan as the dominant power in East Asia. Notably, the secession of Chinese territory and the alignment of Korea with Japan was of concern to Nicholas, particularly over the secession of the Liandong Peninsula- the peninsula was given back to China in the Triple Intervention, but 3 years later Russia secured the city of Dalian through a lease with Qing China. Port-Artur further expanded Russia's already large sphere of influence in Manchuria and gave them a warm water port in the Yellow Sea, allowing for them to directly project naval power and influence in East Asia. Russia and Japan saw each-other as a threat to their sphere of influence in Korea and China- while Nicholas did not covet Russian control or annexation of Korea, he stated that "under no circumstances can I allow Japan to become firmly established there". A proposed compromise that would see Japan recognise Russian dominance over Manchuria in exchange for recognition of Korea in Japan's sphere of influence was rejected, and on 9 February 1904 the Japanese Navy launched a surprise attack on the Russian Eastern Fleet. The Siege of Port Arthur resulted in the annihilation of the Eastern Fleet. The Russian Baltic Fleet was redeployed to reinforce their Eastern fleet, but their departure was postponed and their arrival took 224 days. The Battle of Mukden confirmed Japan's status as a military power on land, and the Battle of Tsuhima resulted in the annihilation of the Baltic Fleet and a humiliating loss for the Russians, who beared 5,000 casualties and over 140,000 tons sunk as opposed to the Japanese 117 dead and 255 tons sunk. The war eventually concluded in September 1905, with Russia ceding control of South Sakhalin and Dalian to Japan.
Russia's unbelievably decisive defeat at the hands of an asiatic power was crippling to its reputation as a military and great power. On 22 January 1905, a crowd of unarmed demonstrators led by Orthodox priest Georgy Gapon wishing to present Nicholas with a series of reforms were fired upon by the Imperial Guard. The event, known as Bloody Sunday tarnished Nicholas's already unfavorable image.
Revolution of 1905
The results of Bloody Sunday resulted in a wave of mass political and social unrest that spread throughout Russia, including worker strikes, peasant unrest and military mutinies. Soviets were set up in Saint Petersburg and Moscow, with revolutionary socialist Leon Trotsky leading the former. The Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP), under influence of Vladimir Lenin's radical Bolsheviks saw the revolution as an opportunity to overthrow the tsardom and establish a socialist state, but the revolutionaries were eventually crushed much to the dismay of Lenin. The October Manifesto resulted in the adoption of the Russian Constitution of 1906, which nominally ended the Emperor's absolute control over the empire. The State Duma was set up as a democratically-elected parliament and nominally Nicholas shared power with the Duma, but in reality the Duma was often dissolved by Nicholas if he considered its political makeup unsavory.
Powderkeg of Europe & World War I
Otto von Bismarck commented that "the great European War will come out of some damned foolish thing in the Balkans". Indeed, disputes over territorial claims and spheres of influence made war in the region inevitable, as Russian and Austrian claims to spheres of influence overlapped. In 1908, following Bulgaria's declaration of independence, Austria-Hungary announced the annexation of the territory of Bosnia, which was legally considered part of the Ottoman Empire but under occupation by Austria since 1878. The unilateral annexation soured already poor relations between Russia, Austria, and Germany and led to the already unstable Balkan powderkeg being at increased threat of ignition. In 1912, just 10 days before the end of the Italo-Turkish War, a coalition consisting of Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece and Montenegro declared war on the ailing Ottoman Empire and soundly defeated them, costing the Ottomans nearly all of their European territories which were partitioned between the victors. Serbian and Bulgarian territorial disputes, in particular in the region of Macedonia resulted in hostilities between Bulgaria and its two former allies to resume in 1913. The war resulted in a Bulgarian defeat and they were forced to concede many of their territorial gains from the previous war. Victory over Bulgaria sparked nationalism in the Balkans, particularly in Serbia who was influenced by the nascent Yugoslav movement along with tensions over the annexation of Bosnia resulted in great European tension coming out of the Balkans, as Serbia- supported by Russia, sought to unify all Serbs outside of its territory at the expense of the Austrians.
On 28 June 1914, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife were assassinated by Bosnian Serb nationalist Gavrilo Princip. The loss of yet another one of his heirs resulted in Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph declaring war on Serbia a month after Ferdinand's assassination. Austria-Hungary was supported by Germany, who declared war on Russia and France 6 days after the Austrian declaration of war on Serbia. A day after the mutual Franko-German declaration of war, Germany declared war on the neutral state of Belgium- guaranteed by the United Kingdom. As a result, the United Kingdom and the British Empire declared war on Germany.
In the initial parts of the war, stalemates were often common, seeing Germany or Russia making significant gains into the other's territory before the other reversed their gains. Russia launched an offensive on East Prussia and in Galicia, but the former was repelled. In the Black Sea, the Ottoman fleet launched a series of surprise attacks on major port cities throughout the Black Sea coast, sparking a declaration of war from Russia on the Ottomans. The war continued on in a stalemate between Russia and the central powers, with Germany launching an offensive into the Baltics. In May 1915, Italy joined the entente against the Central Powers, opening up a new front to the war. This however would prove to be not of much use to the Russians, as they would lose Lemberg in late June. Beginning in July, the stalemate that had gone on between Russia and Germany would stop as the central powers would finally gain the upper hand- capturing the city of Warsaw and almost entirely kicking the Russians out from Galicia-Lodomeria. By September, most of modern day Lithuania and the lands of Congress Poland were under German occupation. German forces were able to directly threaten Minsk in September of 1915, and though they were repelled they made stunning progress as opposed to what they had achieved in the first months of the war. The eastern front stabilized un October, with very little progress being made by either side. Russia held better luck in the Ottoman front, as their invasions into Western Armenia and the Pontics went considerably well compared to up north. When Romania joined the war in September 1916, it looked as if though they could be a game-changer- Romanian forces were able to occupy much of Transylvania before these gains were promptly reversed by the German and Austro-Hungarian armies, with Wallachia and Dobruja falling under enemy occupation. The unpopularity of the war, the ongoing famines, and the economic collapse of Russia resulted in a hotbed of revolutionary activity that was merely waiting to explode.
Dissatisfaction and contempt with the Russian war effort were greatly intertwined and almost entirely synonymous with the Russian monarchy. Nicholas II had announced in the summer of 1915 that he would personally be taking command of the army, a move which would result in the blame for the failures of war being placed directly on Nicholas, and due to his inability to govern, his wife- who was an ethnic German- had taken his place of authority. Her consistent political blunders, as well as the inability for any stable and long-lasting governments to survive under her rule, resulted in a lack of any political authority in the country. The Russian Empire's penultimate prime minister, Alexander Trepov, was dismissed after only a little over a month in office. The Emperor appointed Nikolai Golitsyn in his place, however Golitsyn was staunchly opposed to his appointment, citing by his lack of preparation for the role. Despite Golitsyn's begging, Nicholas did not relent, and as a result an incredibly weak Prime Minister was added to an already tall pile of ineffective leaders. Golitsyn would often not show up to the meetings of the Duma, always finding new excuses not to attend, and when he did attend he often did not listen to his subordinates. At the same time, on the 8th of February (O.S.), under personal orders of the Tsar, Nikolay Maklakov and Interior Minister Alexander Protopotov drafted a manifesto on the closing of the Duma before it even began sessions, this effectively gave Protopotov dictatorial powers. Riots broke out as a result, and the army officers sent to dispel the protests were reported as mingling with the crowds. The first major series of protests in the capital came 4 days after the new Duma was supposed to open- workers of the Putilov Factory, Petrograd's largest industrial plant announced their intentions to strike and demonstrate against the government. On 23 February (O.S.), they were joined by celebrators of International Woman's Day, who were also protesting against food rationing policies. A crowd of both men and women would eventually come to fill the streets of Petrograd, swelling to a size of 200,000 people. The strikes would result in the shutdown of nearly every industrial enterprise within the capital city, authorities within the city were powerless to stop the protests due to their sheer size in numbers. Nicholas ordered that rifle fire be used to disperse the crowds, but this ended up failing as soldiers and army officers began to openly mutiny. Nicholas's decision to prevent the Duma from meeting outright resulted in it being impossible for any peaceful means to be used to stop the protests. In response, some members of the duma formed a provisional committee, while the Petrograd Soviet was re-established after 12 years of inactivity. The Tsar was incapable of returning to the capital as railway stations were controlled by revolutionaries, and he only ever reached Pskov before it was suggested to him by Army Chief Nikolai Ruzky and deputies Vasily Shulgin and Alexander Guchkov to abdicate the throne. He abdicated on the 2nd of March (O.S.) in favor of his brother, the Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich, but he did not believe that he would hold any popular support, and his insistence on his ascension being confirmed by a democratically elected assembly resulted in the end of Romanov and, de-facto, monarchist rule over Russia. The following day, a provisional government was announced by the Provisional Committee of the State Duma.
Provisional Government and the July Days
The Provisional Government was intended to see through and set up elections to the Russian Constitutional Assembly while maintaining essential government services. Almost immediately however, the authority of the Petrograd Soviet proved to be a problem as de-facto the Provisional Government shared dual power with the Petrograd Soviet. The Petrograd Soviet had generally more authority and support by the population than the Provisional Government- while the former was set up as a representative body of the workers and soldiers (proletariat), the Provisional Government was a temporary authority representing the bourgeoisie that served no other purpose other than to continue the functions of government. As a result, the Provisional Government from the very beginning faced very little support from the population. The elections to the Constitutional Assembly, which were the primary reason for the establishment of the provisional government in the first place, were not held until the Bolshevist revolution in November 1917. Georgy Lvov, a Kadet of aristocratic origin, was appointed as the Prime Minister and Interior Minister, in the following days the provisional government would begin the formation of the cabinet. The composition of the cabinet was a multi-polar and unstable one. The two most powerful parties would come to be the Constitutional Democratic Party and the Socialist-Revolutionary Party. The Socialist-Revolutionaries (commonly and simply the "SRs") represented the third primary branch of the socialist movement, along with the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks. Alexander Kerensky, a Trudovik-aligned SR, would be appointed as Minister of Justice soon after the establishment of the Provisional Government. Despite the war's unpopularity, the provisional government made their intent on continuing the war clear. Riots and demonstrations of workers and soldiers broke out over the continuation of the unpopular war, calling for the resignation of unpopular government officials and the end to the war. The protests were not suppressed with violence as was usual in the Tsarist era, with the Provisional Government accepting the demands of the protestors peacefully: that being the resignation of Foreign Minister Pavel Milyukov and Minister of War and Navy Alexander Guchkov. A coalition government would be established between the Petrograd Soviet and the Provisional Government, making the system of dual power official. The demands for an end to the war however were not met, and in June 1917 Kerensky launched a large offensive on the eastern front, known now as the Kerensky Offensive. As a result of abysmal morale on the front, the offensive fell apart immediately and further tarnished the reputation of the government. Riots broke out in Petrograd once again, as workers demanded for all power to be delegated to the Soviets. The riots became violent in nature and were subsequently met with force. The Bolsheviks, who had significant support in the movement and whose leaders were called upon to lead the riots, were accused by the Provisional Government of treason and of being backed with German financial support. The Petrograd Soviet was forced to move its activities from Tauride Palace to the Smolny Institute, while Trotsky, Lenin and Grigory Zinoviev were either imprisoned or forced to go into hiding. With popular support for his government gone, Lvov would resign his position and give power to Kerensky, who would re-organize the coalition cabinet soon after, with a majority socialist composition. This government would still remain widely unpopular and incapable of enacting authority.
Kornilov putsch and the declaration of the Republic
Lavr Kornilov, the commander-in-chief of the Russian army, made it an immediate goal to march on Petrograd to put an end to the authority of the Petrograd Soviet, primarily over its authority over the workers and soldiers of the army. The exact details of why the march began in the first place, whether as a means of establishing a military dictatorship or solely acting on Kerensky's orders is unclear, but regardless Kerensky made it clear that he did not want Kornilov's forces near Petrograd out of fear of a coup. A telegram was wired to Kornilov notifying him of his dismissal and ordering him to return to Petrograd by himself. As his army continued unimpeded, Kerensky labeled Kornilov and his army as "counter-revolutionary", which tarnished his already abysmal support with the Russian army. This led Kerensky to be incapable of defending himself of the incoming coup attempt, and in desperation he began the armament of the Petrograd Soviet. Most of the weapons would go to Bolshevik-affiliated members, and prominent Bolsheviks- such as Leon Trotsky- would be allowed to return to Russia. Fearing a potential return to autocracy or even a return to the Tsardom (as at the time the status of the monarchy was still constitutionally ambiguous), Kerensky declared the establishment of the Russian Republic and the establishment of a provisional legislature. Extensive preparations were made in the event of Kornilov reaching Petrograd, such as the sabotage of railway lines- but the putsch lost steam and eventually collapsed entirely after support for the movement ended. With support for Kerensky and the provisional government gone and the Petrograd Soviet and its most radical elements armed, a revolution was inevitable as the political climate in Russia continued to favor the Bolsheviks more and more, who were seen as heroes in contrast to the ineffectiveness of Kerensky's "bourgeois' government".
After the events of the Kornilov affair revealed the weakness of Kerensky's government, the Bolsheviks suspicions that armed rebellion was inevitable were confirmed true. In a meeting by their central committee on 10 October (O.S. 23 October), they voted 10-2 on a resolution which stated that revolution in Russia was not only inevitable, but that the conditions for it were fully ripe and ready to be acted on. The Bolsheviks- particularly their leader Lenin, voiced confidence in their ability to successfully carry out and lead the revolution. In the preceding months, the Bolsheviks had gained a reputation as heroes among the Russian working class and to a lesser degree, the Russian peasantry. They had also been elected to several of Russia's major city councils and committees, giving them wide-spread influence over the urban working class. Setting up a military committee within the Petrograd Soviet, the revolution's military aspects would be led by Trotsky. The committee, consisting of anything from armed workers to sailors and soldiers, managed to gain passive support from the city's garrison by ensuring its neutrality when they did launch their revolution. Their planning was, at face-value, not secret whatsoever, and most meetings barely even attempted to put up a facade. As a result, Kerensky and most high government officials were aware of Bolshevik plans. They notably did not act however, probably because the republic didn't want to risk itself being torn apart- at the least not until it was prepared to face off against the Bolsheviks.
On 6 November (O.S. 24 October), soldiers loyal to the Kerensky government raided and seized the Bolshevik newspaper's printing house, destroying printing equipment and thousands of newspapers. The government confirmed their involvement when they announced the closure and banning of not only the Bolshevik newspaper, but also several other newspapers on both the left and the right spectrum, who were accused of advocating for insurrection. The Bolshevik military committee issued a denouncement of the government's action, retaking the printing house an hour after. At 3 p.m., the government responded by raising all but one of Petrograd's bridges. Sporadic fighting occurred for control of the bridges, and by 5 p.m. the Bolsheviks had control over the city's communications through capture of the Central Telegraph of Petrograd.
With control over the city's communications as well as its transportation, the Bolsheviks launched a largely bloodless insurrection in the city of Petrograd, taking over key buildings and ministries with little resistance. The city's garrison, as well as most of the soldiers who were supposed to defend the city, defected to the Bolsheviks. The Winter Palace, the seat of government, was taken with minimal resistance. The members of the government present within the building were arrested, save for Kerensky who had fled the city before the palace was taken. The Soviets, having taken full control of the seat of government- as well as most of the ministers working for said government, de-jure gained control over Russia. The revolt coincided with the opening of the Second all-Russian Congress of Soviets, which was to replace the Russian government. Trotsky dismissed the Bolsheviks' rivals, the Mensheviks and the centre and right Social Revolutionaries, from the congress, giving the Bolsheviks total control over the legislature. The congress adopted a decree that transferred its power over to the Soviets of Workers', Soldiers' and Peasants' deputies, giving the revolution legitimacy by ratifying it. The following day, the congress elected a new cabinet, pending the convocation of the constitutional assembly. This provisional cabinet was dubbed the 'Soviet of People's Commissars', of which Lenin himself had a fondness for the name. The cabinet passed the Decree on Peace- which called for an immediate withdrawal of Russia from the Great War, and the Decree on Land, which abolished private property and redistributed landed estates to the peasantry.
As was to be expected, the centre and right-wings of the Socialist Revolutionary party, as well as the Mensheviks and the remnants of the Kerensky government, denounced the Bolshevik revolution and refused to give it legitimacy. As a result, the revolution was not considered legitimate across all of Russia. Despite this however, the Bolsheviks carried support over the proletariat as well as a good portion of the peasantry. Anti-Soviet propaganda was posted and distributed by the SRs and Mensheviks. The Mensheviks seized power in Georgia and declared its independence, while the Don Cossacks claimed control over the Don Host. On 12 November (O.S. 30 October) Kerensky returned with a group of Cossacks to the town of Tsarskoye Selo, on the outskirts of Petrograd. Kerensky, riding on a white horse, issued an ultimatum to the garrison there to surrender, which was refused. The garrison was fired upon by Kerensky's cossacks, leaving 8 dead. This action caused the remainder of the soldiers in Petrograd who were 'on the fence' to voice their full opposition to Kerensky, who was believed to be no better, if not identical, to the Tsarist government. Kerensky's failure to secure control over his troops resulted in any amount of organized and proper opposition to the Bolshevik government being virtually impossible. The following day, the Bolsheviks gained control over Moscow, and at that point anti-Bolshevik sentiment had for the most part gone underground, with only a few public anti-Bolshevik newspapers remaining in circulation.
23 November (O.S. 10 November) saw the nullifications of "all legal designations of civil inequality, such as estates, titles, and ranks". 2 days later, the long awaited elections to the Constituent Assembly was held. While the Bolsheviks placed second, after the Socialist Revolutionary party, the Socialist Revolutionary at that point did not exist, and most party lists had been drawn up by the right-wing of the party, whereas the left SRS, in coalition with the Bolsheviks, carried most of the support of the peasantry. The assembly, initially scheduled to meet on 15 November (O.S. 28 November), but it was postponed until the following year in January. In the meantime, the government eliminated hierarchy in the army by removing all titles, ranks, and uniform decorations on 29 December (O.S. 16 December) and established the Cheka on 2 January 1918 (O.S. 20 December 1917), which would later carry out a series of repressions known as the 'Red Terror'. On 18 January 1918 (O.S. 5 January), the Constituent Assembly finally met, only to refuse the Soviet decrees on Land and Peace, resulting in the assembly being dissolved the following day by the Congress of Soviets.
Treaty of Brest-Litovsk
In line with their wish for withdrawing from the war, the Bolsheviks signed a truth with the central powers on 15 December 1917 (O.S. 2 December), with negotiations beginning on 22 December (O.S. 9 December). In the initial proposed peace treaty, Germany and Austria sought the establishment of a Polish client state in the lands of former Congress Poland and the independence of Lithuania as well as the Baltic governorates, which were both in reality to be turned into German puppet states. As the Bolshevik's guideline for peace was no annexations or indemnities, the peace treaty was considered unacceptable to the government. Not being to continue the war however, Leon Trotsky sought to delay negotiations for as long as possible in hopes the Entente would reprieve Russia and step in, or that potentially a proletarian revolution would cripple the central powers and force them into favorable negotiations. Trotsky's policy- that of "no war- no peace", was achieved by unilaterally withdrawing from the war and demobilizing whilst simultaneously refusing to sign a peace treaty, starting on 10 February 1918 (O.S. 28 January). 6 days later however, German Chief of Staff Max Hoffmann announced that the war would resume in 2 days. Incapable of challenging the German army's further march into Russian territory, the new provisions for the peace treaty were significantly harsher. Whereas before the treaty only asked for Poland, Lithuania, and the Baltics, the new peace-treaty sought to take Ukraine as well as "White Ruthenia", with the Bolsheviks also being forced to give up de-jure control over Finland. Lenin, realizing that refusing to sign the peace treaty now would undoubtedly result in the collapse of the socialist revolution, insisted and threatened the central committee to sign the treaty, lest he resign. The treaty was finally signed on 3 March (O.S. 18 February), resulting in Russia losing a quarter of its population, a quarter of its industry, and nine tenths of its total coal mines. The disastrous peace treaty led many nationalists to detest the Bolsheviks, and while the general population was content that Russia was no longer at war, the resulting peace meant that counter-revolutionary groups were able to plan and act against the Bolsheviks now that the Germans were no longer a threat.
On 7 May (O.S. 24 April), the eighth party council of the Socialist Revolutionary Party put aside political ideology and class for the "purpose of Russia's salvation", deciding that they would start an uprising against the Bolsheviks, seeking to reconvene the dismissed constitutional assembly. Simultaneously, the Czechoslovak Legion captured and overthrew most of Bolshevik rule in Siberia, the Urals, and Volga through control of the Trans-Siberian railway. After the Czechoslovak Legion had captured Samara, 5 constituent assembly members formed the Committee of Members of the Constituent Assembly, while the Socialist Revolutionaries set up the Provisional Siberian Government in Vladivostok.
Those opposed to Bolshevik rule in Russia formed a united front, known as the Whites, to counter and wrestle control of Russia away from the Bolsheviks. However, the White movement faced problems almost immediately when it became apparent that the movement was far too ideologically heterogenous to agree, let alone cooperate. In actuality the "white movement" turned out to be less of an alliance and more of a loosely defined truce between factions ranging from radical socialists (who did not support the Bolsheviks) to proto-fascists and hardline Tsarists. By the time of September 1918 however, the White movement had de-facto been taken over by a class of nationalistic military leaders, and the white movement started to drift away from pure anti-Bolshevism into a hardline anti-communist, statist and authoritarian militarist state. By 18 November (O.S. 5 November) the formerly Socialist Revolutionary dominated Provisional All-Russian Government was couped by former Imperial admiral Alexander Kolchak, who established an authoritarian military dictatorship with him at the helm as the Supreme Ruler of Russia, in contrast with Lenin who was unofficially considered the "Vozhd" of the revolution. After Kolchak's government established the Russian State, the white movement from then on transitioned from an alliance between republicans, monarchists, and proto-fascists into a purely stratocratic movement dominated by former imperial generals, commanders, and admirals, who had no interest in actually restoring the monarchy or reforming the republic.
The first year of the war saw minimal actual fighting, with most conflicts being localized brawls. By 1919 however, fighting picked up rapidly with the White army advancing from the south, east and northwest, in the process shrinking Bolshevik control by a significant margin. Trotsky's reform of the Bolshevik militias into the Red Army turned the tide of war however, and by 1920 most of the white army in the west had been wiped out, with only pockets of support remaining in Siberia with the capture and execution of Kolchak by the Bolsheviks. By this point as well, the Bolsheviks had set up several sister republics within the territory of the Ukraine, Belarus, Caucasus, and Central Asia, who were subservient to Bolshevik interests in Moscow. After Russia had at that point been rid of any White control, save for the former Taurida Governorate and pockets in Outer Manchuria, most fighting was directed towards the Baltic states which sought to gain their independence from Russia, as well as Poland, who had the previous year signed a peace with the Anti-Bolshevik Ukrainian government. The failure of the Bolshevik government to crush Polish resistance resulted in Poland gaining significant territory from Belarus and Ukraine- these borders would serve as the final borders between the Soviet Union and Poland until the joint invasion of Poland by the Germans and Soviets in 1939. Mid and late 1921 to early 1922 saw the Whites make a minor resurgence through the capture of Mongolia and Yakutia, while Makhnovist anarchists captured all of southern Ukraine.
Formation of the Soviet Union
While Bolshevik forces were advancing through Kamchatka to finally put an end to Anatoly Pepelyayev's outpost in Yakutia, the governments of the Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic, the Ukrainian Socialist Soviet Republic, the Byelorussian Socialist Soviet Republic and the Transcaucasian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic signed the Treaty on the Creation of the USSR, which united the governments into a "federation of co-equal socialist republics". The last white remnants were finally crushed in December 1924, 11 months after Lenin died.