Civil unrest throughout the year, called the First Russian Revolution.
General strike in St. Petersburg and Bloody Sunday.
Crew of the Battleship Potemkin mutinies.
General strike in Moscow.
300th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty.
Germany declares war on Russia. All foreign nationals must return to their native
Rasputin is assassinated.
February 7 / 12 March, the February Revolution.
General strike declared in St. Petersburg.
Czar Nicholas II abdicates, ending the Russian monarchy. He changes the name of St.
Petersburg to Petrograd. A Provisional Government is formed under Prince G. Lvov.
First All-Russian Congress of Soviets meets in Petrograd.
Coalition Government formed under Alexander Kerensky.
2nd All-Russian Congress of Soviets meets in Petrograd and grants total power to the
October 25-26 (7-8 November, Julian calendar)
October Revolution by the Bolsheviks establishes the Soviet regime.
Lenin signs armistice ending Russian participation in the World War.
Anatoli Lunacharsky is appointed Commissar of the Peoples Commissariat of Enlightenment / Narodnyi komissariat prosveshcheniia, or Narkompros, which replaces the former Ministry of Culture.
Department of Visual (or Plastic) Arts, Otdel izobrazitelnykh iskusstv, IZO, established within Narkompros, headed by David Shterenberg. Artists are given official posts for the reorganisation of the arts institutions. Vladimr Tatlin, Vasily Kandinsky, Aleksandr Rodchenko, Kazimir Malevich, Liubov Popova, Ivan Kliun, Aleksei Morgunov, et al. elected to the Moscow section.
Uprising of the White Army on the Don River and in the Northern Caucasus, starting the Civil War. It lasts until November 1920.
Change from the Gregorian calendar to the Julian calendar, making it 14 February.
Government moves from Petrograd to Moscow, which becomes the capital city of Russia.
The Imperial family is executed.
Communist Youth organisation, Komsomol, founded.
The reorganised art schools State Free Art Studios, SVOMAS open. In Moscow it is housed in the former School of Painting, Sculpture and Drawing and the Stroganov School. In Petrograd it is housed in the Imperial Academy of Art.
Nationalisation of all private collections. That of Sergei Shchukin becomes the First Museum of New Western Painting, and that of Ivan Morosov becomes the Second Museum of New Western Painting. In 1923 these collections were divided up between the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow and the Hermitage in Petrograd.
The Civil War continues across Russia; it causes great penury and food shortages.
The Communist International, the Comintern, established in Petrograd.
Museum of Artistic Culture, Moscow, opens with holdings of 80 paintings which had been acquired by the Purchasing Committee, of which Vasily Kandinsky was the head.
The Civil War ends in European Russia when Red Army occupies the Crimea.
New Economic Policy, NEP, set up by Lenin. It makes partial concessions to the free enterprise system, a liberalisation of the Bolshevik regime.
Museum of Artistic Culture in Petrograd opens, with holdings of 257 works by 69 artists of Russian painting from c. 1905 to the present (1921). It includes a small collection of icons and folk art. The Museum had three sections: Painting-Cultural, Drawings, and Production Art. By 1925 it would house 1,473 works of art.
Sailors at Kronstadt mutiny.
First exhibition of the Association of Artists of Revolutionary Russia, AKhRR, who champion "heroic Realism", paintings and sculptures glorifying the Soviet leaders, peasants, and proletariat.
June 22–12 July
Third Congress of the Comintern, Moscow and Petrograd.
Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) established.
First issue of LEF / Left Front of the Arts, published; Vladimir Mayakovky is the Editor.
State Institute of Artistic Culture, GINKhUK, established in Petrograd within the Museum of Artistic Culture. It is formally ratified in 1924.
First Agricultural and Handcraft-Industrial Exhbition, Moscow.
Lenin dies. Petrograd is renamed Leningrad.
During the year, Stalin and Trotsky compete for power, with Stalin gaining increasing control.
International Exhibition of Modern Industrial and Decorative Art, Paris. The Committee for the Soviet Pavilion includes David Shterenberg, Alexandra Exter, Aleksandr Rodchenko, et al.
"On Party Policy in Literature", published by the Central Committee of the Communist Party.
VKhUTEMAS replaced by VKhUTEIN, Higher State Artistic and Technical Institute.
New LEF, New Left Front of the Arts, begins publication in Moscow under Vladimir Mayakovsky. Until 1928.
Stalin expels Trotsky from the Communist Party.
Alfred H. Barr Jr., Director of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, visits Moscow.
The First Five-Year Plan adopted at the 16th Party Congress.
The First Five-Year Plan begins, with a drive towards rapid industrialisation and collectivization. It causes great food shortages throughout 1929.
During the year, the Museums of Artistic Culture are ordered to take down all hangings of the new art – Cubism, Futurism, Suprematism, Non-Objectivity, Constructivism, etc. – and to put the works into the reserves. This was the official end of the Russian Avant-Garde.
Trotsky is deported from the USSR.
Lunacharsky is forced to resign as Commissar for Enlightenment.
Stalin takes full control of the Party and the country.
Early to Spring
Purge of IZO Narkompros with accusations of personnel lacking Marxist ideology.
Vladimir Mayakovsky commits suicide In Moscow.
Kazimir Malevich is arrested by the OGPU and detained in a Leningrad prision and questioned about "formalism" – i.e., abstract art.
RAPKh, Russian Association of Proletarian Artists, is founded and declares art as "ideology, as a revolutionary weapon in the class struggle".
The Party publishes the decree, On Poster and Picture Production. It criticises anti-Soviet posters and paintings.
– The First Five-Year Plan is completed and the Second is inaugurated.
– On the Reconstruction of Literary and Artistic Organisations published by the Party. All the artists' unions are officially dissolved and they are replaced by the Union of Soviet
The White Sea Canal is completed.
Decision taken by First All-Union Congress of Soviet Writers that "Truth and historical concreteness of the artistic depiction of reality must be combined with the task of the ideological transformation and education of the workers in the spirit of Socialism.". Following the Congress, the State laid down four rules for what became known as "Socialist Realism":
1. Proletarian – Art must be relevant to the workers and understandable to them.
2. Typical – Scenes of every day life of the people.
3. Realistic – In the representational sense.
4. Partisan – Supportive of the aims of the State and the Party.
Socialist Realism was now the exclusive and only admissable style for painters, writers, composers, and so on, with art officially an instrument of the State. As Stalin put it, socialist realist painters are the "engineers of souls".
1936 to 1938
Nikolai Punin, Alexander Drevin, et al., were arrested, detained for questioning about their views on Cézanne, Picasso, and abstract art (formalism), and eventually died in the gulag. The same thing happened to a number of writers including Benedikt Livshits, Sergei Tretiakov. Dmitri Shostakovich was severely reprimanded.
Compiled by Patricia Railing
John E. Bowlt, "Chronology" in Russian Avant-Garde The Geroge Costakis Collection. General Editor: Angelika Zander Rubenstine. New York: Harry S. Abrams, 1981.
Russian and Soviet Views of Modern Western Art, 1890s to Mid-1930s. Edited by Ilia Dorontchenkov. Translated by Charles Rougle. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009.