The plot of Commissar starts in the summer of 1918. As Anna begins her service in the newly-formed CHEKA state security agency, Russia is a powder keg of political and cultural tensions. In the prior year, the country was rocked by a series of major changes: the popular revolution by the starving people impoverished by Russia’s drawn-out involvement in WWI; the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II from his throne; the formation of a provisional government; and a second revolution — against the new government, orchestrated by the Bolshevik party.
In the summer of 1918, the Bolshevik government is less than a year old, and is facing numerous threats both from within and from the outside. Although the Bolsheviks pulled Russia out of WWI, a civil war is now brewing, with several factions organizing across Russia to oppose the Reds. In the cities, supplies are running out, and organized crime is taking hold. The Bolsheviks’ enemies use terrorism and sabotage to destabilize the government, and the Western powers threaten an intervention, hoping to force Russia to re-join the war against Germany and to regain control of the foreign investments nationalized by the Soviets.
It is in this environment in 1918 that the Bolsheviks form the CHEKA agency and charge it with defending the revolution from enemies both external and domestic.