Put together by top rights group Memorial, the exhibition called “The First Ones” documents the arrest of 50 people between October 25, 1917, and January 4, 1918.
“The Soviet version of 1917 that Bolsheviks took power peacefully still exists in the public conscience. But repressions started from day one,” said the exhibition’s curator Boris Belenkin.
“We wanted to show that Russia was engulfed in repression from the very beginning of Bolshevik rule.”
The first victims range from members of the aristocracy to professors, cultural figures, political leaders and everyday Russians, all taken to prisons in Petrograd, now Saint Petersburg, controlled by the Bolsheviks.
The writer Vladimir Burtsev, who had long criticised Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin, was one of the people arrested in the first hours of the revolution on October 25, 1917.
Memorial was able to find most of the information on the arrested from excerpts of 1917 newspapers and historical archives.
Russia marks the centenary of the Bolshevik revolution this year, which led to the end of Tsarism, the execution of Nicholas II and his family and the creation of the USSR.
In the Soviet era, revolution anniversaries were marked with great pomp and ceremony.
But the Kremlin does not appear to have elaborate plans to mark the centenary.
Critics say any talk of revolution has become virtually taboo as President Vladimir Putin enters his 18th year in power and is widely expected to extend his rule to 2024 in March elections.
“The entire world is talking about the centenary, even a Brazilian journalist asked me to comment on it, but we are not,” said historian and liberal opposition activist Vladimir Ryzhkov at the opening of the exhibition.
“But thankfully we have civil society to talk about 1917 when the state refuses to do so,” Ryzhkov said.
Founded in 1989, Memorial has documented Soviet repression — especially Stalin’s terror in the 1930s — as well as rights abuses in modern Russia.
The exhibition runs until January 25.