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Russian Revolution

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 This article is part of the
History of Russia series.
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The Russian Revolution was a political movement in Russia that climaxed in 1917 with the overthrow of the provisional government that had replaced the Russian Tsar system and led to the establishment of the Soviet Union, which lasted until its collapse in 1991. The Revolution can be viewed in two distinct phases, the first instigated by the February Revolution of 1917, which sought to put in place a democratic liberal regime. The second phase was the October Revolution, in which the Soviets, inspired and increasingly controlled by the Bolsheviks seized power from the Provisional Government that had been put in place by the liberals.

The February Revolution came about almost sporadically when people protested against the Tsarist regime as they lacked enough food to eat. There was also great dissatisfaction with Russia's continued involvement in the First World War. As the protests grew various political reformists (both liberal and radical left) started to co-ordinate some activity. In early February the protests turned violent as large numbers of city residents rioted and clashed with police and soldiers. When the bulk of the soldiers garrisoned in the Russian capital Petrograd joined the protests they turned to revolution ultimately leading to the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II.

Between February and October numerous anarchist and Bolshevik revolutionists attempted to foment further revolution. In July the St. Petersburg Military section of the Bolshevik Party in combination with a major working class Bolshevik Party branch and the Petrograd anarchists fomented a civil revolt which the Bolshevik Party was forced to support. This revolt failed.

The October Revolution was led by Lenin based upon the ideas of Karl Marx and marked the beginning of the spread of communism in the twentieth century. It was far less sporadic than the revolution of February and came about as the result of deliberate planning and co-ordinated activity to that end. On November 7, 1917, Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin led his leftist revolutionaries in a nearly bloodless coup d'état against the ineffective Kerensky Provisional Government (Russia was still using the Julian Calendar at the time, so period references show an October 25 date). The October Revolution ended the phase of the revolution instigated in February and moved the Russian Revolution from being largely a liberal-democratic to a communist one.

1918 Bolshevik propaganda poster depicting Trotsky slaying the reactionary dragonEnlarge

1918 Bolshevik propaganda poster depicting Trotsky slaying the reactionary dragon

During the Civil War Nestor Makhno lead a Ukrainian anarchist movement which generally cooperated with the Bolsheviks. A Bolshevik force under Mikhail Frunze destroyed the Makhnovist movement, when the Makhnovists refused to merge into the Red Army.

After October 1917 many esers and Russian Anarchists opposed the Bolsheviks through the Soviets. When this failed, they revolted in a series of events calling for "a third revolution." The most notable instances were Tambov rebellion, 1919 - 1921 and Kronstadt rebellion in March 1921. These movements, which called for increased democracy of soviets, an end to the single-party Bolshevik control, and economic liberalisation, were crushed.

The Russian Civil War, that broke out in 1918 shortly after the revolution, brought deaths and suffering to millions of people regardless their political orientation.

Table of contents
1 Brief Chronology leading to Revolution of 1917
2 Bibliography

Brief Chronology leading to Revolution of 1917

Dates are correct for the Julian calendar, which was used in Russia until 1918. It was twelve days behind the Gregorian calendar during the 19th century and thirteen days behind during the 20th century.

*1881 - Alexander II assassinated; start of reign of Alexander III January - Bloody Sunday in St Petersburg.
June - Battleship Potemkin uprising at Odessa on the Black Sea (see movie The Battleship Potemkin)
October - general strike, St Petersburg Soviet formed
- Imperial agreement on elections to the State Duma - October Manifesto

More detailed but still brief chronology of Revolution of 1917

Vladimir Lenin
Vladimir Lenin, leader of the October Bolshevik Revolution


Strikes and unrest in Petrograd


February Revolution
26th -- 50 demonstrators killed in Znamenskaya Square
27th -- Troops refuse to fire on demonstrators, desertions. Prison, court and
Okhranka buildings set on fire. Garrison joins revolutionaries.
Petrograd Soviet formed.


1st -- Order No.1 of the Petrograd Soviet
2nd -- Nicholas II abdicates. Provisional Government formed under Prime Minister Prince Lvov

3rd -- Return of Lenin to Russia. He publishes his April Theses.
20th -- Miliukov's note published. Provisional Government falls


5th -- New Provisional Government formed. Kerensky minister of war and navy


3rd -- First All-Russian Congress of Soviets in Petrograd. Closed on 24th
16th -- Kerensky orders offensive against Austro-Hungarian forces. Initial success


2nd -- Russian offensive ends. Trotsky joins Bolsheviks
4th -- Anti-government demonstrations in Petrograd
6th -- German and Austro-Hungarian counter-attack. Russians retreat in panic, sacking the town of Tarnopol. Arrest of Bolshevik leaders ordered
7th -- Lvov resigns. Kerensky is new PM
22nd -- Trotsky and Lunacharskii arrested


26th -- Second coalition government ends
27th -- General Lavr Kornilov failed coup. Kornilov arrested and imprisoned


1st -- Russia declared a republic
4th -- Trotsky and others freed. Trotsky becomes head of Petrograd Soviet
25th -- Third coalition government formed


10th -- Bolshevik Central Committee meeting approves armed uprising
11th -- Congress of Soviets of the Northern Region, until 13th
20th -- First meeting of the Military Revolutionary Committee of Petrograd
25th -- MRC directs armed workers and soldiers to capture key buildings in Petrograd. Winter Palace attacked at 9.40pm. Kerensky flees Petrograd
26th -- Second Congress of Soviets. Mensheviks and right SR delegates walk-out in protest at coup. Decrees on peace and land reform. Soviet government declared - the Council of People's Commissars; Bolshevik dominated with Lenin as chairman