A Brief History of Eastern Europe


Source: Wikimedia Commons



Early History

  • In 1547, Ivan IV, grandson of Ivan the Great, was crowned the first czar of all Russia.
  • Ivan the Terrible consolidates power through enslaving peasants through serfdom
  • Catherine the Great brought pure autocratic rule over Russian nobles and serfs were reduced to slaves

The Path to Revolution in Russia (1825-1914)

  • Decembrist revolt in 1825, a group of military officers, in opposition to Nicholas I,  try to force the adoption of a constitutional monarchy in Russia
  • Industrialization of the major western cities
  • Social Democratic party is formed and advocates for constitutional reforms in 1905
  • In 1912, the Social Democrats split into two groups:  radical Bolsheviks and moderate Menshiviks. 
  • The First World War begins in 1914. 

The Soviet Era

  • 1917, the Bolsheviks seize control of most of Russia and a three-year civil war ensues
  • The February Revolution of the same year, which overthrew the Tsarist autocracy and resulted in a provisional government
  • Great October Socialist Revolution followed and capitalized on the February Revolution as the last major phase of the Russian Revolution of 1917, in which the Bolshevik Party seized power in Russia, inaugurating the Soviet regime
  • Vladimir Lenin comes to power in 1917 as the first leader of the newly formed Union of Soviet Socialist Republics
  • In 1921, Lenin introduced the New Economic Policy, or NEP, a nod to the former capitalist system, as a method to rebuild the country’s infrastructure post-civil war.
  • In 1922, the Soviet Union is officially formed and acquires republics, like Ukraine. 
  • 1924, Joseph Stalin ascends to power following Lenin’s death
  • 1928, Stalin introduces agricultural collectivization which requires farmers to join state-owned collective farms. Farmers are expected to pay exorbitant taxes in grain.
  • In 1930, Ukrainians who refused to conform to new policies were evicted from their homes and shipped to Siberia by Russian forces. Many die in the process
  • 1932-1933, “The Holomodor.” the Soviet government increases Ukraine’s production quotas to unreasonable levels. Starvation ensues and becomes a widespread famine referred to as the Holomodor, a supposed intentional genocide of the Ukrainian people at the hand of Stalin.
  • In 1993, the height of the famine is reached. Approximately 4 million total deaths are recorded.
  • 1939-1945, the Second World War in which the Soviets lose millions upon millions of soldiers  
  • 1953, Stalin dies and Nikita Khruschev assumes power
  • 1985, Glasnost is initiated: the policy or practice of more open consultative government and wider dissemination of information, initiated by leader Mikhail Gorbachev
Vladimir Lenin
Source: Wikimedia Commons
Newspaper clipping with article on the Holomodor
Source: Wikimedia Commons










The Fall of Communism

  • 1980-1989, Solidarity. The nationalist opposition to communist rule that led, in 1989, to the fall of communism in Eastern Europe. Solidarity was situated under an umbrella organization for Polish trade unions created in 1980 to protest working conditions and political repression.
  • In 1989, the fall of communism becomes imminent. The governments of the Soviet satellite states in Eastern Europe, subjected to the same rising tide of public criticism, fell one after the other in a rapid series of revolutions culminating in the fall of the Berlin wall.

Modern Conflict

(1991 2001) The Yugoslav Wars were fought upon or catalyzed the separation of the former Yugoslav state. Former territories fought to achieve full sovereignty and independence. The need for independence was fostered by ethnic differences between regions. Tensions were especially high between Serbians and Bosnians.  

Chechen women pray.
Source: Wikimedia Commons

(1994-1996) The First Chechen War (“the War in Chechnya”) was fought between Russia and Chechnya , a federal subject of the Russian state. 

The Second Chechen War was incited by an invasion of Russian forces in 1999. The invasion was prompted by the Invasion of Dagestan by the Islamic International Brigade (IIB). This second war lasted until 2000, but the insurgency phase continued until 2009.