|Part of World War I and the Revolutions of 1917–23|
Soviets attacking the Czar's police in the early days of the March Revolution
| Imperial Governmenta
| Petrograd Soviet
|Commanders and leaders|
| Nicholas IIa
| Vladimir Lenin
|Russian Army||Red Guards: 200,000|
|a. Until 15 March 1917.|
The Russian Revolution was a series of revolutions in the Russian Empire during 1917. The events destroyed the Tsarist autocracy and helped create the Soviet Union. The first revolution was in February 1917. Tsar Nicholas II was forced to step down and was replaced with a provisional government. The second revolution was in October. Communist Bolsheviks replaced the provisional government, and created the Soviet Union. The royal family were shot and killed. The term Red October has also been used to describe the events of the month.
Background[change | change source]
During the 1890s, improvements in Russian industry put more jobs in cities. This made the cities larger as people moved there. The workers in the cities began to create political parties in order to try and change the horrible conditions that they lived and worked in. Poor people from other parts of the Russian Empire, like Poland and the Ukraine, also created their own parties to try and stop the Russians oppressing them.
In 1905, Russia lost a war with Japan. This added to the people's anger, and after a peaceful protest of workers was shot at by the Emperor's guards, a rebellion began. It did not really change anything, but it meant that Nicholas promised to create an elected Parliament, or Duma.
The Duma was elected for the first time in March 1906. However, there were both left-wing and right-wing opponents to it, including socialists and people who were very loyal to the Emperor. There were also arguments over whether or not to take power from the Emperor and give it to more ordinary people. Nicholas eventually stopped the Duma three times, and because that meant they could not say anything against Nicholas, people became angry.
In 1914, Russia joined World War I. At first, people thought this was a good decision, and the country was united by patriotism. But there were huge problems with supplies, and by 1915 many soldiers were being sent to fight without any guns. Communication was bad, and Army officers argued a lot, which meant that they did not make plans well. The soldiers became unhappy, and over 3,000,000 Russians died.
In 1915, the Emperor took personal control of the Russian Army, and moved to the Army headquarters. This was a mistake. Not only did he not improve the situation, he began to be blamed for it. The fact that he was not near the government also meant that his wife Queen Alexandra was left in charge. Whenever the Duma tried to warn him that the people were angry, she would say they were lying, so he would ignore them. He even ignored a report by his secret police, the Okhrana, which said that a revolution might happen if things did not get better for ordinary people.
February Revolution[change | change source]
The first revolution began with a series of strikes in early February, 1917. People in food queues in St. Petersburg, the capital of Russia, began a demonstration. They were joined by thousands of women, who left the fabric factories where they worked. The strike spread through the capital, and by February 25th most of St. Petersburg's factories had to close.
On the evening of the 25th, Nicholas II sent the chief of the army in St. Petersburg a telegram, telling him to use his soldiers to stop the strikes. The army chief did that, but the soldiers joined the workers instead of stopping them. The police also joined them, and the government's power collapsed.
On March 13th, Nicholas abdicated (gave up his throne) and control of Russia was given to a Provisional (temporary) Government.
February to October[change | change source]
After the February Revolution, the Provisional Government was challenged by a large group of workers in St. Petersburg- the Petrograd Soviet. While the Government's leader, Alexander Kerensky, tried to improve things by allowing freedom of speech and letting political prisoners go, there was growing discontent. The lack of food became worse, wages went down and the national debt grew to 10 million roubles.
Vladimir Lenin arrived in St. Petersburg in April 1917. He was a Communist and had been exiled to Switzerland by the Emperor, but the Provisional Government had allowed him to come back. He began to lead a Communist group called the Bolsheviks.
In July, the Bolsheviks spent four days demonstrating against the Government. The military attacked them, and Lenin was forced to escape to Finland until August, when the Bolsheviks were asked to help defend the government against a takeover by the army. The result of this was that their reputation improved, and they were given weapons by the Government.
The Provisional Government's reputation kept getting worse as time went on, while the Bolsheviks' reputation got better because they refused to work with them until both sides could compromise.
The October Revolution[change | change source]
On October 10th, the Bolshevik's Central Committee voted to start a revolution. One began in Estonia on October 23rd, and another started in St. Petersburg two days later. This time the revolution was mostly peaceful, and the Bolsheviks' Red Army took over many government buildings without a fight- only two people were killed in total. It ended with the takeover of the Emperor's old Winter Palace on the morning of the 26th, when the Provisional Government was arrested.
The Soviets took power and formed a Congress (a new Government) which began on the 25th October. Some members who were not Bolsheviks walked out during its first few meetings, but this made little difference to its decisions. The people who left were even taunted by Leon Trotsky on their way out; he told them to go "where you belong... the dustbin of history!" All parties who opposed the Bolsheviks were eventually broken up, and their leaders were arrested.
The Congress then began to get rid of private property. This meant that all land and money was to be owned by the people, and control of factories was given to their workers.
The Aftermath[change | change source]
Several countries that had been in the Russian Empire before the Revolution, such as Estonia and the Ukraine, had been asking for independence since February. As the new government formed they declared independence, and were allowed it.
In Russia, the revolution was severely challenged by countries that were not Communist and the invading White Armies. In July 1918, countries such as America, the United Kingdom and France sent more than 15 armies to fight the Bolsheviks. The ex-Emperor and his family were shot to stop them from being freed by the White Armies, and in order to win the war, Lenin began a scheme to divert food and supplies to the Communist Army. The plan worked and the Bolsheviks won the war, but the lack of food meant that between 3 and 10 million people died of hunger.
Some European countries recognised the Soviet Union as a proper country in the early 1920s, while America refused to until 1933.