Unit 2: The Revolution and Civil War (1917-1921). The February Revolution. Causes : 1. Food, coal shortages - led to strikes, riots 2. War effort - suffered 7 million casualties - poorly equipped soldiers
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1. Food, coal shortages
- led to strikes, riots
2. War effort
- suffered 7 million casualties
- poorly equipped soldiers
- did well on the Caucasus Front vs. Turks and the Austrians on the Western Front but poorly against the Germans
3. Influence of Rasputin
4. Czarina Alexandra - German
- Troops refused to fire on demonstrators. Many joined the protesters.
- Nicholas II was at the front. When he tried to return to Petrograd, his trained was blocked by railway workers.
- Soviet of Workers and Soldiers formed.
- “Dual Power”
1. Provisional Government established a “bourgeois republic” – March 1917
* all citizens equal under the law
* freedom of speech, religion, press, assembly and legalized unions
* secret police, Siberian exile, death penalty abolished
* ethnic minorities received autonomy / Poland & Finland declared independence
* promised nationwide elections for a “Constituent Assembly”
2. Allies welcomed Russia’s “democracy.” Needed Russia in the war.
3. Provisional Government honored its military commitment to the Allies.
* As a result, conditions in the country worsened.
* Failed to address workers demands for better wages, less hours, protection against unemployment
* Failed to enact land reforms – peasants began seizing land in the spring 1917.
* Soldiers began mutinying and deserting their ranks
* Elections for the Constituent Assembly took place Nov. 12, after Provisional Govt. was overthrown
4. April, 1917: Lenin returns to Russia / issues the “April Theses”:
* bourgeois revolution achieved – socialist rev. next step
* “Land, Bread and Peace.”
* “All power to the soviets!”
5. “The July Days” (July 16-18)
* radicals, with some Bolshevik participation, tried to sieze power in Petrograd.
* Although Lenin opposed the attempt, he was blamed and fled to Finland.
* Provisional Government failed to eliminate its opponents.
6. The “Kornilov Affair” (September 1917)
* General Lev Kornilov wanted to restore law and order in the country, discipline in the military and abolish the soviets.
* Did not want to reestablish the monarchy.
* He sent troops loyal to Petrograd to defend the
* Radicals mobilized against “counterrevolution”
* Bolsheviks freed from the jails and given weapons to defend Petrograd. They gain upper hand in the Petrograd Soviet.
* Kornilov arrested. Will lead an anti-Bolshevik force in the Civil War. Will be killed in battle.
7. Growing popularity of the Bolsheviks
* Party membership in February 1917: 24,000 / 100,000 by May / 350,000 by October 1917
* Bolsheviks captured a majority in the Petrograd Soviet on September 13 and in the Moscow Soviet a week later.
* While the First All-Russian Congress of Soviets, convened in the summer, had a majority of moderate socialists, by the time of the storming of the Winter Palace, the Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets found the Bolsheviks in the majority.
* November 7 / October 25, 1917 – Bolshevik-led soldiers stormed the Winter Palace defended by young cadets from a military academy and a women’s battalion. The Bolsheviks were in power.
Lenin and the Bolsheviks ultimate goal was to create a communist society in the former Russian empire. But they came to power without a clear blueprint for ruling the country and building socialism or even a clear strategy for governing.
Lenin’s first two decrees as head of the country:
1. negotiate a “just and democratic peace” without annexations and indemnities that would end WWI
2. abolish all landlord property immediately and without compensation to distribute to peasants.
21 million – Socialist Revolutionaries – 61% / 370 members
40 Left SR’s
9 million - Bolsheviks - 25% / 170 members
6 million - all other parties - 14% / 34 Mensheviks
about 100 other
- Lenin wanted out of the war at all costs.
- Germans proposed Draconian conditions for peace.
- Leon Trotsky, Soviet representative at the peace talks, opposed harsh German ultimatums.
- During the talks, German army advanced deeper into Ukraine.
- Ukraine, Poland, Finland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia gained independence. Soviet Russia lost:
- 26% of its total population.
- 27% of its arable land
- 32% of its average crop production
- 26% of its railway system
- 73% of its iron industries
- 75% of its coal fields
- forced to pay Germany a large indemnity.
* As a result of Brest-Litovsk, Trotsky resigned as Commissar for Foreign Affairs. He was named Commander of the newly formed Red Army almost immediately.
* As a result of Brest-Litovsk, the Left SR’s resigned from the government, turning Soviet Russia into a one party-dictatorship until 1991.
1. Peasant were given complete local control over the use of land through local peasant Soviets.
2. Workers control was introduced in all industrial, commercial and agricultural enterprises. Control would be exercised through factory committees and workers Soviets.
- Banks and large factories were nationalized.
- Foreign trade was monopolized by the state.
3. Judicial system was abolished – replaced by elected revolutionary tribunals and “people’s courts.”
- December 1917 – CHEKA was founded and headed by Felix Dzerzhinsky. Precursor to the KGB.
4. National minorities were told they had the right to independence from Russia.
5. Titles and ranks were abolished.
6. Upper and middle classes had their property confiscated or divided.
7. Russian Orthodox Church property was confiscated and religious instruction in schools terminated.
- Marx: “religion is the opiate of the masses.”
Born in Poland.
Founder of the CHEKA.
it is estimated that at least half a million people were executed by Dzerzhinsky's agents between 1917-1926.
Dzerzhinsky also set up the first Soviet labour camps, later to become known as the gulags, on the remote Solovetsky Islands south of the Arctic Circle
Members of the secret police "should have a cool head, a warm heart and clean hands".
He was also known for helping a huge number of orphans and homeless people who appeared after the Bolshevik Revolution and Russian Civil War.
“Proletarian coercion in all its forms, beginning with executions, is a method of delivering a communist man out of the material of a capitalist epoch.” - Dzerzhinsky
- the far Right (Monarchists, Russian nationalists, Cossacks, army officers)
- centrists and liberals (bourgeois CADETS, Octobrists
- Socialists (Mensheviks, SR’s)
- Foreign Intervention (14 foreign armies intervened and supported the Whites vs. the Reds including 7,000 U.S. troops
- Execution of the Romanov family in Ekaterinburg July, 1918.
1. Bolshevik authoritarianism
2. Worsening condition of working class
3. Forced grain requisitioning / violence against the peasants
4. lack of freedom for other left-wing socialist forces.
- Some joined the rebels.
Forced Lenin to retreat from War Communism and implement the more moderate New Economic Policy (NEP)
- Bolsheviks denounced partitions of Poland and allowed Polish independence / White Russians wanted Poland back in Russian Empire
- Let Bolsheviks off the hook when they were fighting against Whites in east and Poles in West.