End of the Russo-Japanese War.

Bloody Sunday: Under orders of Tsar Nicholas II, the military fires on a peaceful demonstration of workers.  

1914 Russia enters World War I on the side of the Allied Powers.  
1917 Tsar Nicholas II abdicates. Aleksandr Kerensky is appointed by the Duma as prime minister of the provisional government. The Bolsheviks overthrow the Kerensky government and install Lenin as leader of Russia.  

Tsar Nicholas II and his family are executed.

Russia signs the Brest-Litovsk Peace Treaty ending its involvement in World War I.  As a result, Russia loses more than one quarter of its population, land, and railways, a third of its textile industry, and three quarters of its iron and coal industries.

Russia is declared a Soviet republic, and the first Soviet constitution is adopted.

The Civil War between Reds (Bolsheviks, Communists) and Whites (Tsarists, anti-Communists) begins, and continues until 1921.

January 1918: Lenin issues a decree depriving the Russian Orthodox Church of the right to own property or participate in education. When Patriarch Tikon, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, rebukes the Communists for their actions, dozens of bishops, and thousands of lower clergy, monastics, and lay believers are arrested and/or murdered.

The Communist government lends recognition and active support to the Renovationists, a splinter group within the Russian Orthodox Church.

1919 The Treaty of Versailles is signed, officially ending World War I.   

Plans for electrification of Russia are approved.

A mass famine across the Soviet republics begins and continues through 1922.


The New Economic Policy (NEP) is instituted.  This policy allowed a limited and temporary reintroduction of privately-owned businesses, as an attempt to bolster the economy.

A Communist coup in Mongolia expels the occupying Chinese.


The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is founded at the first All-Union Congress of Soviets.  (Until this point, the organization of Soviet states was known as the Russian Socialist Federation of Soviet Republics or RSFSR.)

The Soviet Antireligious Commission is created.

In the industrial town of Shiu, four civilians are killed and ten wounded after armed soldiers fire upon a peaceful religious demonstration. The subsequent trial results in the execution of 8 priests and 3 lay people, and the imprisonment of 25 congregants.


The first censorship committee, Glavrepertkom, is created.

The antireligious journal Bezbozhnik (The Godless) is founded and published until 1931. 

The Society of Friends of the Godless is founded.

The Twelfth Party Congress is held and is exclusively concerned with the question of antireligious propaganda.


Lenin dies and is replaced by the triumvirate of Stalin, Kamenev, and Zinoviev. Stalin assumes power.

Great Britain, France, and Italy give diplomatic recognition to the U.S.S.R.

The Second Soviet Constitution is adopted.


First Soviet Census is conducted. The total population is revealed to be 147 million, with only 18% of residents living in the cities.

Although public debates between atheists and defenders of religion are allowed, the most effective and popular proreligious speakers are often arrested, imprisoned, or harassed by the government.


Adoption of the first Five-Year Plan (1928-1932), which sets growth and production rates for industry, agriculture, and the economy.

Establishment of the first Antireligious Five-Year Plan, outlining strategies of propaganda and goals for the undermining of religion.


All proreligious propaganda is banned, and all public, social, and communal religious activities are outlawed.

Triggered by a grain shortage in the cities in 1927-1928, mandatory collectivization begins. Peasants are forced to contribute their land and livestock to collective farms (kolkhozi). All active churches fall under the definition of kulak (a derogatory term for a rich or land-owning peasant, but also used to indicate that income is obtained not through direct labor) and are heavily taxed.

Fifteen million peasants, branded kulaks, are deported to Siberia; 6.5 million die.


Collectivization is temporarily lifted, and peasants flee collective farms. When the collectivization is reinstated in the autumn, the peasants protest by slaughtering their livestock.

Pope Pius XI condemns religious persecution in the U.S.S.R.


Mass famine sets in, partly as a result of collectivization and the peasant protests. 

The second Antireligious Five-Year Plan is adopted for 1932-1936.


The second Five-Year Plan is adopted for the years 1933-1937.

Hitler becomes the Chancellor of Germany.

The United States gives diplomatic recognition to  the U.S.S.R.


At the first All-Union Congress of Soviet Writers, Socialist Realism is proclaimed the
official style in the arts.

The U.S.S.R. joins the League of Nations.

After Sergei Kirov, Stalin's main advisor, is assassinated, Stalin begins a purge of the Communist Party, in which thousands of party members are deported to gulags (forced labor camps). Many die as a result.

1936 The Third Constitution of the U.S.S.R. is adopted.  
1937 The celebration of Christmas and display of Christmas trees are decriminalized.
Two and one-half million Soviet citizens are arrested and 700,000 are executed during a mass purge of the Communist party known as “The Terror.”

The Third Five-Year Plan is adopted for the years 1938-1941.

The Communist regime in Mongolia destroys 900 temples and kills thousands of Buddhists.

World War II begins.

Stalin and Hitler sign a non-aggression pact.

Stalin is named Man of the Year by TIME magazine.

The Second Soviet Census reveals an increase in population to 190 million.

1941 The Soviet Union is invaded by Germany and joins the war on the side of the Allied Powers. On the radio, Stalin proclaims World War II to be the “Great Patriotic War” and asks the Soviet people to put their energy towards defending their fatherland. As a result, the Five-Year Plan is abandoned. Antireligious propaganda declines sharply.  
1945 World War II ends and the Cold War begins when Churchill uses the term “Iron Curtain” to describe the ideological boundary that divided Europe.  
1947 President Truman vows to fight communism, and issues the Truman Doctrine.  
1949 The areas of Germany occupied by the Soviet Union after World War II become the German Democratic Republic (GDR).   
1953 Stalin dies.