Timeline. Through history.

If we don’t understand the past, how can we understand our present and future? To truly absorb, appreciate, and reflect on the country we are visiting, we need to look at pivotal moments in history. Begin your journey through the ages now.

  • Jewish timeline
  • General timeline


  • 100 East Slavs, ancestors of the Russians, begin to settle in area.
  • 600 Jews from Greece and elsewhere emigrate to the Caucasus.
    700 The Khazar kingdom, based around Black Sea, apparently converts to Judaism.
  • 862 A proto-Russian state: Kievan Rus’ federation established. Kiev capital.
    980 Christianity takes holds in Kievan Rus’.
  • A Jewish quarter established in Kiev. Small Jewish population in other areas.
  • 1236 Mongols invade, killing many. Over time, Russian princes gain more control.
  • 1471 First evidence of Jewish presence in Moscow.


  • 1547 Centralized Russian state begins. Ivan IV (Ivan the Terrible) crowned first Tsar.
  • Jewish population remains small and based in Russian and Ukrainian towns.
  • 1721 Peter the Great establishes Russian Empire and makes Russia world power.
    Saint Petersburg capital of Russian Empire and a cultural center of Europe.
  • 1742 Many Jews expelled from Russia under Elizabeth I.
  • 1762 Russian Empire expands greatly under Catherine the Great.
    1795 Empire now includes east Poland, Lithuania, Belarus and west Ukraine.
  • 900,000 new Jews in Russian borders. Pale of Settlement established.
    This restricts most Jews to living in shtetls in western regions of Russian Empire.
    Jewish communities predominantly religious, Yiddish-speaking, self-governing.
    1812 The French, under Napoleon, invade Russia with massive military force.
    Six months later, the French are defeated. Over 900,000 Russian and French casualties.
  • 1825 Attempt to overthrow Tsar Nicholas I fails. Repression and stagnation follow.
  • Persecution of Jews, including forced conscription into army.
    1850 Jewish population 2.35 million and growing fast due to high birth rates.
  • 1861 Alexander II abolishes serfdom in Russia, eases persecution of Jews.
    1869 Tolstoy writes War and Peace.
    1881 Opposition to tsarist rule growing. Alexander II assassinated.
  • Jews blamed, starting a wave of pogroms and state discrimination.
    1897 Majority of world’s Jews live in Russian Empire.
    5.2 million Jews in Russia; 94% live in Pale of Settlement.
    Increasing secular education and use of Russian language.
    Jews involved in social democratic, radical, Zionist, and Bundist movements.
  • 1905 Russian defeat in war with Japan weakens Tsarist rule.


  • 1914 Russia fights World War I against Germany and Austro-Hungary Empire.
    Loses millions of troops and control over Poland and much of its western empire.
  • A people on the move. Two million Jews leave Russia, mainly for US, 1880-1920.
    Pale of Settlement restrictions end as Jews flee east to Russian towns & cities.
  • 1917 February Revolution. Tsar abdicates. Provisional govt. calls for elections.
    Lenin and Bolshevik revolutionaries return from exile.
    October Revolution: Bolsheviks (renamed the Communist Party) seize control.
    1918 The Red Army and secret police established. Capital moves to Moscow.
    Russia quits WWI. Communists execute last Tsar, Nicholas II and his family.
    Civil war begins between red Communist rulers and “white” opponents.
  • 31,000 Jews killed in pogroms 1917-1922.
    1919 Lenin condemns anti-Semitism. Civil restrictions on Jews loosened.
    Jewish involvement in Communist Party increases.
  • 1922 Communists win civil war. Strict Communist control over politics and economy.
    Many class enemies killed or exiled. Famines kill millions more.
  • Anti-religious laws and policies, including against Judaism.


  • 1924 Lenin dies. Stalin takes control and will bring dictatorship to new levels.
  • 1926 State pushes Yiddish and socialist culture for Jews, hostile to Judaism & Zionism.
    Jewish population drops to 2.7 million due to border changes, emigration.
    1929 Birobidzhan in far east promoted as Jewish “homeland.” Few Jews move there.
    Instead, Russian Jews increasingly urban and educated.
  • 1932 Collectivization of farms leads to starvation, killing 5-7 million.
    1936 Peak of Stalin’s Great Purge of “opponents.” Around 1 million executions.
    The Gulags: Huge numbers sent to prison labor camps.
  • Many Jews including writers, Bundists, and communists killed in purges.
    Russification: Govt. push Russian language, not Yiddish, for Jews.


  • 1939 Soviet-German nonaggression pact.
    Secret agreement divides Eastern Europe between Soviets and Germans.
  • 1941 4.85 million Jews in Soviet Union, about 30% of world Jewish population.
  • Nazis invade Soviet Union. Conquer much of Ukraine, Belarus, the Baltic states.
  • Three million Soviet Jews under Nazi-occupation. Mass killings begin.
  • 1942 The Battle of Stalingrad turns tide of WWII against Germany.
    1945 Red Army pushes through Eastern Europe to Berlin. Germany surrenders.
    Total Soviet losses during WWII estimated at 25-27 million.
  • Two million Soviet Jews killed in Holocaust.
    Over 142,000 Jews killed while fighting for the Red Army.
    USSR downplays Holocaust and presents it as part of anti-Soviet aggression.


  • 1946 Soviet Union occupies and control much of Eastern Europe. Cold War begins.
    Mass executions and imprisonment against Stalin’s “opponents” resume.
  • Many Jews killed, including prominent writers and intellectuals.
    1947 USSR supports UN Palestine partition plan. Allows arms sales to State of Israel.
    1948 Soviet hostility to Israel and any form of Jewish culture in USSR grows.
    1952 Doctors’ Plot: Jewish doctors accused of trying to assassinate Soviet leaders.
    Stalin apparently preparing for mass Jewish deportation and purge.
  • 1953 Stalin dies. New leadership halt purge and execute head of secret police Beria.


  • 1956 Khrushchev in control. Stalin’s excesses denounced. End of mass executions.
  • 1957 USSR support for Arab states in conflict with Israel deepens.
    1959 Following Holocaust, Jewish population has declined to 2.79 million.
  • 1961 Soviets put the first human into space. Dancer Rudolf Nureyev defects to US.
    1962 The Cuban Missile Crisis brings USSR and US to the brink of nuclear war.
    1964 Khrushchev deposed. Brezhnev ushers in long period of stagnation.
  • 1965 Only about 60 synagogues still active in all Soviet Union.
    1967 Soviets strengthen refusal to allow Jewish emigration after Six Day War.
  • 1968 Russia invades Czechslovakia to stamp out reform efforts in its Eastern bloc.
  • 1970 9 Soviet Jews hijack plane to protest persecution.
    Some Jewish emigration to US and Israel allowed following Western pressure.
  • 1979 Soviets begin disastrous war in Afghanistan. Economic decline deepens.
  • Jewish population dropping with low birth rates, emigration, and assimilation.
  • 1985 A reformer in the Kremlin: Gorbachev launches glasnost (openness).
    1986 Economic and political reforms, improved relations with West.
  • “Refusenik” Natan Sharansky released from prison.
    Migration restrictions end. Mass migration to Israel and elsewhere.
  • 1989 The Berlin Wall falls. Cold War and Soviet control of Eastern Europe ends.
  • Last Soviet census finds 1.48 million Jews.
  • 1990 The USSR coming apart: Soviet republics declare independence.
    1991 Failed coup against Gorbachev by Communist hardliners.
    Boris Yeltsin assumes control of new Russian state. The USSR dissolved.


  • 1991 Shock therapy: Economic deregulation and social instability.
    A Wild West of Capitalism: Cheap sale of state assets creates oligarchs.
    Rise in crime, poverty, and sense of Russian powerlessness.
    Resurgent Russian militarism indicated by war in Chenya.
    2000 Former KGB operative Vladimir Putin wins presidential elections.
    Re-establishes greater control over media and regions.
    Natural gas and oil sales boosts economy and growth in consumerism.
  • Increased efforts to revitalize Russian Jewish life.
    Despite growth of Chabad movement, most Jews are secular.
    Great majority of children born to a Jewish parent are from mixed marriages.
    2002 Jewish population in Russia estimated at 265,000.
  • 2012 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
    2010 Russian population: 143,097,209. Ninth most populous country, largest by area.
  • Jewish population, estimated at 265,000 in 2002 declines to 160,000.
    2012 The Moscow Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center opens.
  • 2014 Russian troops and supporters take over part of Ukraine.
    2016 Russia accused of interfering with US elections.
  • Moscow and Saint Petersburg remain main centers of Jewish life.






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