This year marks the 100-year mark of the October Revolution in Russia, a revolution which changed the course of history in Russia. It is arguably one of the most explosive and important political events in Russian history. This revolution marked the end of centuries of Russian imperial rule. During the Russian Revolution, Lenin led the Bolsheviks to seize power and destroy Tsarist rule, with the Bolsheviks later becoming the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. This week I will give a very brief overview on the Revolution, its causes and results in its commemoration.
The political climate of the time was particularly important for the revolution, especially the state of the Provisional Government. It was only meant to be temporary affair following the fall of the Tsar and meant to tide the country over until the elections could be held. However, the Provisional Government made major decisions such as remaining in WW1 and postponing the proposed land reforms which made the government increasingly unpopular. Lenin therefore criticised these decisions and also the fact it had never been properly elected to power. Economic difficulties also played a major role in the conditions for the Revolution – particularly as it also contributed to Nicholas II’s fall from power. The Provisional government subsequently had very little success dealing with this meaning that prices rose, food was not available, and this would discredit the Provisional Government.
These criticisms of the Provisional Government were contrasted with the policies of the Bolsheviks which were supported by the public. The slogan ‘peace, bread, and land’ caught on quickly and summed up their policies. Peace symbolized the fact that Russian people wanted an end to the war, Bread was to show that the Bolsheviks could solve the food shortages, and Land was a promise that peasants would be granted land. This was a particularly good move as the Bolsheviks largely attracted city support instead of peasants, due to the communist nature of their politics.
During the late August, the Bolsheviks saw a surge in their popularity resulting in a majority in the Petrograd Soviet and in the Moscow Soviet. (Soviets being councils that were elected (unlike the Provisional Government) and had power in their regions). The Provisional Government was coming close to organizing the Constituent Assembly by November 12th so Lenin scheduled the Revolution in order to seize power before the process started, in order to appear more legitimate. By October 23rd, the Provisional Government began to shut down all Bolshevik newspapers. The next day, Bolshevik troops retaliate by taking over government buildings in the city. October 25th however was when the Bolsheviks struggled all day long to capture the Winter Palace so that the Provisional Government would be arrested. By the dawn of October 26th, Lenin approved the Soviet of the People’s Commissars with an all-Bolshevik membership. The first policy approved was the Decree on Peace which declared Russia’s wish for WWI to end. The next was the Decree on Land, which officially socialized all land in the country for redistribution to the peasant communes, which was seen to many as initially fulfilling their promises.
The success of the Revolution can be attributed to several factors, one of which was Leon Trotsky. Trotsky was key in organizing the Red Guards (a Bolshevik militia formed from factory workers, soldiers and sailors). He planned the actual takeover in exact detail in order to ensure all the important areas of Petrograd were in Bolshevik control.
However, whilst the Revolution was successful as the Communist Party (which is what the Bolshevik party began) had a lasting rule but civil war broke out in Russia after the Revolution. The factions included the Red and White Armies. The Red Army fought for the Bolshevik’s and the White Army represented a large group of monarchists, capitalists, and supporters of democratic socialism. The Civil War ended in 1923 with the Red Army victorious and established the Soviet Union.
Overall, the Russian Revolution of 1917 saw a great change in the course of history for Russia by introducing the Communist Party and ending centuries of Imperial Rule. However, on the day the October Revolution was actually a mundane and anticlimactic event – there was very little bloodshed and little resistance. But despite how bloodless it may have seen on the day it would ultimately cause the death of millions of Russian lives in the years to follow.