Czar Nicholas II

Introduction, Contents, a Note on Dates, and Sources

“All Russia is one vast madhouse...”  -  Count Witte, 1906

Before 1905, Russia was an autocracy with no limitations on the authority of the Czar.  But the Czarist establishment was oppressive, inept, and inadequate - especially under a feeble ruler like Nicholas II - and the allegiance of the Russian people had been quietly eroding for years.  Disaffection had long been widespread among intellectuals, some of whom had become revolutionaries, but urban workers, peasants, and ethnic minorities all had their own serious grievances.

In 1904, Russia blundered into a war with Japan and suffered a series of humiliating defeats.  Then on Jan.22.1905, a peaceful workers’ march in St. Petersburg was brutally fired on by troops, electrifying the nation and setting off full-scale revolution.  For months after Bloody Sunday, a series of ever-stronger waves of turmoil rocked the state: liberals forcefully demanded immediate reform, workers became radicalized and organized, the army and navy grew mutinous, peasants and ethnic minorities occupied estates and in some cases declared independence, and for the first time the revolutionary parties attracted a mass following.  The real crisis came in October, when one of the most effective general strikes in history completely shut down the Russian Empire; only then, with the regime on the verge of collapse, was the reluctant Czar persuaded to issue the October Manifesto.  Russia had become a constitutional monarchy… sort of.

But instead of trying to reach accommodation with its opposition, the government took a very tough line, undercutting liberals and the Duma, cracking down hard on radicals, sending bloody punitive expeditions against unruly peasants, and encouraging right-wing mobs to attack dissidents, while the revolutionary left responded with assassinations, terrorism, and open revolt.  By about 1909 the state had restored order, though at the cost of permanently alienating its subjects.  Attempts were made at agrarian reform, but for the most part the regime squandered this temporary reprieve, and by 1914 new troubles were beginning to brew.  At that point, Russia was sucked into World War I and the Czarist system began to move towards its terminal crisis.


(1)  1904: Prelude to Revolution

(2)  Jan-Sep.1905: Russia in Chaos

(3)  Oct-Dec.1905: The Crisis of the Revolution

(4)  1906: Repression and Terror

(5)  1907-1908: The Defeat of the Liberals and the Decline of the Left

(6)  1909-1911: Order Restored

(7)  1912-Jul.1914: Renewed Unrest

Biographies and Glossary

A Note on Dates, etc:

Before 1918, Russia still used the Julian Calendar (the Old Style), which in the Twentieth Century was thirteen days behind the more widely used Gregorian Calendar (the New Style).  For example, Bloody Sunday occurred on Jan.22.1905 in the New Style, and on Jan.09 in the Old Style.  All dates in this chronology are in New Style, unless marked ‘OS’.

Trotsky and some other socialists are listed under the heading ‘Bolsheviks’ although they did not join the Bolshevik faction until later.

Although they were under Russian rule, events in Poland and Finland are listed in separate timelines.  Timelines for the Russo-Japanese War and for diplomatic events are also listed separately.

Sources for this section include:
Richard Abraham.  Alexander Kerensky: The First Love of the Revolution.  1987
Abraham Ascher.  The Revolution of 1905; 2 volumes.  1988
Edward Hallett Carr.  The Bolshevik Revolution; 3 volumes.  1950/1978
Richard Charques.  The Twilight of Imperial Russia.  1965
Ronald W. Clark.  Lenin: A Biography.  1988
Alex de Jonge.  The Life and Times of Gregory Rasputin.  1982  
Isaac Deutscher.  The Prophet Armed: Trotsky  1879-1921.  1954/1965
Orlando Figes.  A People’s Tragedy: A History of the Russian Revolution.  1996
Anna Geifman.  Thou Shalt Kill: Revolutionary Terrorism in Russia, 1894-1917.  1993
David G. Herrmann.  The Arming of Europe and the Making of the First World War.  1996
Ronald Hingley.  The Russian Secret Police.  1970
Richard Hough.  The Potemkin Mutiny.  1960
Edward H. Judge.  Plehve: Repression and Reform in Imperial Russia, 1902-1904.  1983 
Dominic Lieven.  Nicholas II: Emperor of all the Russias.  1993
W. Bruce Lincoln.  In War's Dark Shadow: The Russians Before the Great War.  1983 
Robert K. Massie.  Nicholas and Alexandra.  1967
Bernard Pares.  The Fall of the Russian Monarchy.  1939  
Richard Pipes.  The Russian Revolution.  1990  
Cathy Porter.  Alexandra Kollontai.  1980
Richard Rubenstein.  Comrade Valentine.  1994   (biography of Yevno Azef)
Walter Sablinsky.  The Road To Bloody Sunday.  1976  
Harrison E. Salisbury.  Black Night, White Snow: Russia’s Revolutions, 1905-1917.  1977
Leonard Schapiro.  The Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Second Edition.  1960/1971
Hugh Seton-Watson. The Decline of Imperial Russia, 1855-1914.  1952
Hugh Seton-Watson. The Russian Empire  1801-1917.  1967
Harold Shukman (ed).  The Blackwell Encyclopedia of the Russian Revolution.  1988  
Norman Stone.  The Eastern Front, 1914-1917.  1975
Leon Trotsky.  Stalin, New Edition.  1941/1967
Robert C. Tucker.  Stalin as Revolutionary, 1879-1929.  1973  
Adam B. Ulam.  The Bolsheviks.  1965
Adam B. Ulam.  Russia’s Failed Revolutions: From the Decembrists to the Dissidents.  1981
Dmitri Volkogonov.  Lenin: a New Biography.  1994
Bertram D. Wolfe.  Three Who Made a Revolution: A Biographical History.  1948,1964