The Russian Revolution

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
Русская революция
(The Russian Revolution)

Царя Николая II и цесаревича Алексея на фронт 1917
Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarevich Alexei at the front 1917
The Russian Revolution is the collective term for a series of revolutions in Russia in 1917, which dismantled the Tsarist autocracy and led to the creation of the Russian SFSR - (Российская Советская Федеративная Социалистическая Республика).
The Tsar was forced to abdicate, and the old regime was replaced by a provisional government during the first revolution of February 1917 (March in the Gregorian calendar; the older Julian calendar was in use in Russia at the time).
In the second revolution, during October, the Provisional Government was removed and replaced with a Bolshevik (Communist) government.

The Bolsheviks, большевики, (derived from bol'shinstvo, "majority") were a faction of the Marxist Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP), which split apart from the Menshevik faction at the Second Party Congress in 1903.
The Bolsheviks were the majority faction in a crucial vote, hence their name.
They ultimately became the 'Communist Party of the Soviet Union'.
The Bolsheviks came to power in Russia during the October Revolution phase of the Russian Revolution of 1917, and founded the 'Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic' which would later in 1922 become the chief constituent of the 'Soviet Union'.
The Bolsheviks, founded by Vladimir Lenin and Alexander Bogdanov, were by 1905 a mass organization consisting primarily of workers under a democratic internal hierarchy governed by the principle of democratic centralism, who considered themselves the leaders of the revolutionary working class of Russia.
Their beliefs and practices were often referred to as Bolshevism.
Bolshevik revolutionary leader Leon Trotsky commonly used the terms "Bolshevism" and "Bolshevist" after his exile from the Soviet Union to differentiate between what he saw as true Leninism, and the state and party as they existed under Joseph Stalin's leadership.

The February Revolution (March 1917) was a revolution focused around Petrograd (now St. Petersburg).

 -'Storming the Winter Palace'
Vasili Vasilevich Sokolov
Storming of the Winter Palace
The Revolution of 1905 began in Saint Petersburg and spread rapidly into the provinces.
During World War I, the city was renamed 'Petrograd', meaning "Peter's City", to remove the German words Sankt and Burg.
In March 1917, during the February Revolution Nicholas II abdicated both for himself and on behalf of his son, ending the Russian monarchy and over three hundred years of Romanov dynastic rule.
On November 7, 1917 (O.S. October 25), the Bolsheviks, led by Vladimir Lenin, stormed the Winter Palace in an event known thereafter as the Great October Socialist Revolution, which led to the end of the post-Tsarist provisional government, the transfer of all political power to the Soviets, and the rise of the Communist Party. After that the city acquired a new descriptive name, "the city of three revolutions", referring to the three major developments in the political history of Russia of the early 20th century.

In the chaos, members of the Imperial parliament or Duma assumed control of the country, forming the Russian Provisional Government.
The army leadership felt they did not have the means to suppress the revolution and Nicholas II, the last Emperor of Russia, abdicated.
The Soviets (workers' councils), which were led by more radical socialist factions, initially permitted the Provisional Government to rule, but insisted on a prerogative to influence the government and control various militias.

Русские солдаты - 1917
Russian Soldiers Surender - 1917
The February Revolution took place in the context of heavy military setbacks during the First World War (1914–18), which left much of the Russian army in a state of mutiny.
A period of dual power ensued, during which the Provisional Government held state power while the national network of Soviets, led by socialists, had the allegiance of the lower classes and the political left.
During this chaotic period there were frequent mutinies, protests and many strikes.
When the Provisional Government chose to continue fighting the war with Germany, the Bolsheviks and other socialist factions campaigned for stopping the conflict.
The Bolsheviks turned workers militias under their control into the Red Guards (later the Red Army) over which they exerted substantial control.
In the October Revolution (November in the Gregorian calendar), the Bolshevik party, led by Vladimir Lenin, and the workers' Soviets, overthrew the Provisional Government in Petrograd.
The Bolsheviks appointed themselves as leaders of various government ministries and seized control of the countryside, establishing the Cheka to quash dissent.

Брест-Литовск - 1918
Treaty of Brest-Litovsk - 1918
Treaty of Brest-Litovsk - 1918
To end Russia’s participation in the First World War, the Bolshevik leaders signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with Germany in March 1918.

The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was a peace treaty signed on March 3, 1918, at Brest-Litovsk (now Brest, Belarus) between Russia (the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic) and the Central Powers marking Russia's exit from World War I. While the treaty was practically obsolete before the end of the year, it did provide some relief to the Bolsheviks, who were tied up in fighting the Russian Civil War, and it affirmed the independence of Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Belarus, Ukraine, and Lithuania. Also Poland got a piece of new territory (which included Warsaw), but by no means covered all the areas where Polish speaking people were in the majority. A territorial dispute between Poland, Belarus and Lithuania concerning Wilno (Vilnius today) also occurred. (In the end Poland won this struggle and Lithuania had to use Kaunas as their capital city during the independency 1918–1939.)

Civil war erupted between the "Red" (Bolshevik), and "White" (anti-Bolshevik) factions, which was to continue for several years, with the Bolsheviks ultimately victorious.
In this way, the Revolution paved the way for the creation of the Союз Советских Социалистических Республик - (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) - (USSR) in 1922.
While many notable historical events occurred in Moscow and St. Petersburg, there was also a visible movement in cities throughout the state, among national minorities throughout the empire and in the rural areas, where peasants took over and redistributed land.

History of the Revolution

During World War I, Tsarist Russia experienced famine and economic collapse.
The demoralized Russian Army suffered severe military setbacks, and many soldiers deserted the front lines.
Dissatisfaction with the monarchy and its policy of continuing the war grew among the Russian people.

Алекса́ндр Фёдорович Ке́ренский
Aleksandr Kerensky
Царь Николай II - Отречение
Tsar Nicholas II - Abdication
Tsar Nicholas II abdicated the throne following the February Revolution of 1917 (or March, depending on Calendar Dating Styles), causing widespread rioting in Petrograd and other major Russian cities.
The Russian Provisional Government was installed immediately following the fall of the Tsar by the Provisional Committee of the State Duma in early March 1917 and received conditional support of the Mensheviks.
Led first by Prince Georgy Yevgenyevich Lvov, then Aleksandr Kerensky the Provisional Government consisted mainly of the parliamentarians most recently elected to the State Duma of the Russian Empire, which had been overthrown alongside Tsar Nicholas II.

Алекса́ндр Фёдорович Ке́ренский - (Alexander Fyodorovich Kerensky - 4 May  [O.S. 22 April] 1881 – 11 June 1970) was a major political leader before and during the Russian Revolutions of 1917.
Kerensky served as the second Prime Minister of the Russian Provisional Government until overthrown in the October Revolution. He died in exile.

Born: May 4, 1881, Ulyanovsk - Died: June 11, 1970, New York City - Education: Saint Petersburg State University - Children: Oleg Kerensky

The new Provisional Government maintained its commitment to the war joining the Entente which the Bolsheviks opposed.
The Provisional Government also postponed the land reforms demanded by the Bolsheviks.
Lenin, embodying the Bolshevik ideology, viewed alliance with the capitalist countries of Western Europe and the United States as involuntary servitude of the proletariat, who was forced to fight the imperialists' war. As seen by Lenin, Russia was reverting to the rule of the Tsar, and it was the job of Marxist revolutionaries, who truly represented socialism and the proletariat, to oppose such counter-socialistic ideas and support socialist revolutions in other countries.
Within the military, mutiny and desertion were pervasive among conscripts, though being 'Absent Without Leave' was not uncommon throughout all ranks.
The intelligentsia was dissatisfied over the slow pace of social reforms; poverty was worsening, income disparities and inequality were becoming out of control while the Provisional Government grew increasingly autocratic and inefficient.
The government appeared to be on the verge of succumbing to a military junta.
Deserting soldiers returned to the cities and gave their weapons to angry, and extremely hostile, socialist factory workers.
The deplorable and inhumane poverty and starvation of major Russian centres produced optimum conditions for revolutionaries.
During the months of February and October 1917, the power of the Provisional Government was consistently questioned by nearly all political parties.
A system of 'dual power' emerged, in which the Provisional Government held nominal power, though increasingly opposed by the Petrograd Soviet, their chief adversary, controlled by the Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries (both democratic socialist parties politically to the right of the Bolsheviks).
The Soviet chose not to force further changes in government due to the belief that the February Revolution was Russia's "crowing" overthrow of the bourgeois.
The Soviet also believed that the new Provisional Government would be tasked with implementing democratic reforms and pave the way for a proletarian revolution.
Though the creation of a government not based on the dictatorship of the proletariat in any form, was viewed as a "retrograde step" in Vladmir Lenin's April Theses, however, the Provisional Government still remained an overwhelmingly powerful governing body.
Failed military offensives in summer 1917 and large scale protesting and riots in major Russian cities (as advocated by Lenin in his Theses, known as the July Days) led to the deployment of troops in late August to restore order.
The July Days were suppressed and blamed on the Bolsheviks, forcing Lenin into hiding.
Still, rather than use force, many of the deployed soldiers and military personnel joined the rioters, disgracing the government and military at-large.
It was during this time that support for the Bolsheviks grew and another of its' leading figures, Leon Trotsky, was elected chair of the Petrograd Soviet, which had complete control over the defences of the city, mainly, the city's military force.
On October 24, in early days of the October Revolution, the Provisional Government moved against the Bolsheviks, arresting activists and destroying pro-Communist propaganda.
The Bolsheviks were able to portray this as an attack against the People's Soviet and garnered support for the Red Guard of Petrograd to take over the Provisional Government.
The adminstative offices and government buildings were taken with little opposition or bloodshed.
The generally accepted end of this transitional revolutionary period, which will lead to the creation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) lies with the assault and capture of the poorly defended Winter Palace (the traditional home and symbol of power of the Tsar) on the evening of October 26, 1917.
The Mensheviks and the right-wing of the Socialist Revolutionaries, outraged by the abusive and coercive acts carried out by the Red Guard and Bolsheviks, fled Petrograd, leaving control in the hands of the Bolsheviks and remaining Left Socialist Revolutionaries.
On October 25, 1917 the 'Sovnarkom' was established by the Russian Constitution of 1918 as the administrative arm of the 'All-Russian Congress of Soviets'.
By January 6, 1918 the VTsIK, supported by the Bolsheviks, ratified the dissolution of the Russian Constituent Assembly, which intended to establish the non-Bolshevik Russian Democratic Federative Republic as the permanent form of government established at its Petrograd session held January 5 and January 6, 1918.