Timeline of Soviet Union (1917-1991)

As part of the Visual Timeline series

1917: (Nov) Bolshevik Revolution

1918: (Mar) Brest-Litovsk treaty: Amidst Civil War (1918-1922), Bolshevik Russia gives up vast amounts of Eastern European territory

Brest-Litovsk Treaty Mar1918. Source

1919: (Jun) Treaty of Versailles

1921: Poland wins Polish-Soviet War (Feb19-Mar21)

1922: (Dec) Soviet Union established; as Bolsheviks win civil war against Britain-France-Japan-US supported White Russians.

1924: (Jan) Lenin dies of stroke; Stalin emerges

1928: 1st Five Year Plan

1933: Terror Famine (1932-1933): Millions die in Ukraine and central Asia due to Stalin’s failed collectivized agriculture experiments since 1929.

1934: Stalin’s Great Purge

USSR in 1938, just before WW2. Source

(Aug) Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact; Molotov-Ribbentrop
(Nov) Soviet Union invades Finland

(Mar) Soviet Union wins Winter War against Finland but at great cost
(Jun) Nazis capture Paris
(Jul) Soviet Union captures baltic states

(Jun) Operation Barbarossa begins: Germany invades Soviet Union
Battle of Leningrad (Sep41-Jan44) begins.


– German Sixth Army defeated at Battle of Stalingrad (Sep42-Feb43)
(Jul) Soviets repel major German offensive at Battle of Kursk; largest tank battle in history

1944: Soviet Union pushes into Eastern Europe
(Jun) D-Day: Allies land in Normandy

(Apr) Soviets reach Berlin
(May) Germany surrenders
(Aug) Soviet Union declares war on Japan and begins invasion of Manchuria and Korea; 2 days after Hiroshima
(Sep) WW2 ends with Japanese unconditional surrender

(Mar) Churchill delivers “iron curtain” speech.
Soviet Union leaves Iran.

1947: AK-47 goes into production

1948: Communist coup in Czechoslovakia

1949: Soviet Union becomes nuclear armed. Berlin blockade abandoned after Berlin Airlift (1948-1949).
(Oct) Mao establishes People’s Republic of China

(Feb) Mao and Stalin sign Treaty
(Jun) Soviet-backed North Korea starts Korean War (Jun50-Jul53)

(Mar) Stalin dies; succeeded by Khruschev
(Jul) Armistice ends Korean War (1950-1953)
East German uprising suppressed

1954: Communist Vietnamese defeat French at Dien Bien Phu

– West Germany regains sovereignty from Allies and joins NATO
Warsaw Pact (May1955-July1991) between Soviet Union and Central Eastern Europe in reaction
– CENTO/MENTO/Baghdad pact (Feb1955-Mar1979) est between Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Turkey, UK to contain Soviet Union

1956: Khruschev begins de-Stalinization.
– Revolts in Hungary and Poznan protests suppressed
(Jun) Nasser becomes Egyptian president; bringing Egypt away from West and closer to Soviet Union. Suez Crisis (Nov56-May57).

1957: (Oct) Soviet Union launches first artificial satellite Sputnik; onboard is dog Laika, (Nov) first animal to orbit Earth

1959: Castro leads Cuban Revolution

1960: Soviet Union shifts from being ally to enemy of China

USSR in 1961. Source

1961: East Germany erects Berlin Wall. Bay of Pigs failed landings in Cuba.

(Oct) Cuban Missile Crisis: Kennedy US and Khrushchev Soviet Union almost go to nuclear war.
Sino-Indian War over Himalayan border disputes; China breaks off diplomatic relations with Soviet Union for supporting India

1963: Khruschev replaced by Brezhnev. Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.
(Nov) US president JFK assassinated.

(Mar) First US combat troops land in Danang, Vietnam
(Aug) Second Indo-Pak Kashmir War is stalemate; India drifts closer to Soviet Union, Pakistan closer to China. 

1967: Israel wins Six Day War. Soviet Union supports Arab nations while West backs Israel.

(Jan) Tet Offensive in Vietnam
(Aug) Prague Spring movement in Czechoslovakia suppressed

(Aug) US president Nixon announces USD no longer convertible to gold

(Feb) Nixon visits China spooking Soviet Union and Vietnam.
(Aug) Sadat expels Soviet advisers; aligning Egypt closer to West.

1973: OPEC oil embargo on West.

(Apr) Fall of Saigon / Vietnam reunification. Pol Pot communist Khmer Rouge regime est in Cambodia (ends in 1979 with Vietnam invasion)

1976: Mao dies.

1978: Soviet-backed coup in Afghanistan

(Dec) Soviet Union invades Afghanistan; establishes communist puppet government; US-UK-Pakistan-Iran-SaudiArabia-China back mujahideen in guerilla war (Soviet-Afghan War, Dec79 – Feb89)

1985: Gorabachev takes office; perestroika and glasnost reforms

1986: Chernobyl disaster

1987: (Dec) US and Soviet Union sign Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

(Feb) Soviet Union withdraws from Afghanistan
Hungary democratic elections
(Jun) Poland democratic elections
(Sep) Hungary opens borders to Austria; many Eastern Bloc citizens flee to West
(Nov 9th) fall of Berlin wall; East Germans cross over to West
(Nov-Dec) Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia; non-violent transition from communism
Romania dictator Nicole Casseu ousted after 29 years in power


(Feb) Marxist Sandinistas lose power in Nicaraguan elections
(Jul) West German chancellor meets Gorbachev, offering financial aid to tolerate German reunification under NATO
(Aug) Iraq invades Kuwait, with condemnation from the world inc from Soviet Union
(Oct) Germany reunified. Lithuania independence.
Bosnian War; Slovenia, Crotia, Bosnia-Herzegovina break away from Yugoslavia
Poland elects first president; Lech Walesa

(Jan-Feb) Gulf War
(Aug) failed military coup accelerates Gorbachev resignation
(Dec 25th) Gorbachev resigns and announces dissolution of Soviet Union into 15 states.
(Dec 26th) Soviet Union dissolved; Russian federation established
Putin leaves KGB, becomes deputy mayor of St Petersburg, gains oligarch and mafia support

Additional reference:

Faces of political leadership

Ethnic diversity in the empire

Sketches used by the Soviet police to identify suspects based on ethnicity, 1960s. Source

Cold War nuclear stockpile 1950-2020


See also:

Visual Timeline of Imperial Russia (to 1917)

Visual Timeline of Modern Russia (1991-present)

Visual Timeline Series