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The Russian Revolution, 1917-1921. From the Russian Empire to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). Imperial Russia, 1815-1915. Russian Krestyanin (Peasant). 19 th Century Russia. 1861 Abolition of Serfdom by Tsar Alexander II

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The Russian Revolution, 1917-1921

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The Russian Revolution, 1917-1921

From the Russian Empire to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR)

Imperial Russia, 1815-1915

Russian Krestyanin (Peasant)

19th Century Russia

  • 1861 Abolition of Serfdom by Tsar Alexander II

  • Rapid industrialization after 1880 but an overwhelming rural society (peasants 90%)

  • Urban working class (2.3 million in 1900) concentrated in large cities.

  • The “intelligentsia”: well educated nobles and middle class who desire reform or revolution

  • The Narodniks:”to the people” populist movement

  • Russian Social Democratic Labor party (Marxist)

Putilov Machine Works

Putilov Machine Works

Russian Steel Workers

The Failed Revolution of 1905

  • Russo-Japanese War (1904-05) fought over imperialist aims in Korea and Manchuria

  • Japan, victorious in land and naval war, emerges as a great world power.

  • . ”Bloody Sunday” massacre. Rioting in St. Petersburg and Moscow; general strike; mutiny on the battleship Potemkin; worker’s soviets.

  • Army puts down uprising

  • Tsar Nicholas II establishes Duma (parliament), but later takes away any real power

1905 Protests

“Bloody Sunday” (9 Jan. 1905)

Potemkin Mutiny, 1905

General Strike (17 October 1905)

Nicholas II opening the Duma

Czar Nicholas II

The February Revolution 1917

  • 1914-1917 Disastrous military defeats

  • Riots and demonstrations in Petrograd (St. Petersburg) caused by shortages of bread and coal.

  • Soldiers join demonstrations

  • Tsarist government collapses; Nicholas II abdicates throne

  • Provisional Government established pending nationwide elections.

  • Rival government: Petrograd Council of Workers and Soldiers Deputies (Petrograd Soviet)

Russian Artillery

Russian Artillery Shelling Galacia

Russian Rout

Russian War Dead (German Photo)

Russian Gas Victims

Russian Imperial Officers

February Bread Riot (Painting)

February (March) 1917

Petrograd, February Revolt of thePavlovsky Guards Regiment

Nicholas II at Tsarskoye Tseloe

Petrograd Demonstration

The Provisional Government

Soviet of Workers and Soldiers Deputies

Alexander Kerensky

Kerensky as Prime Minister

Kerensky at the Front

Kerensky with Socialist Revolutionary KaterinaBreshkovskaia

V. I. Lenin


  • Older brother, Alexander, executed for attempt to assassinate Tsar, 1887

  • Exiled to Siberia, then escapes to Europe in 1896

  • Leader of Bolshevik faction of RSDP in 1903

  • Revises ideas of Karl Marx to fit Russian conditions

  • Since Russians had no political experience, they need disciplined party cadre to educate and lead them

  • Imperialism, the highest Stage of Capitalism

  • Denounces War as imperialist.

  • In Zurich at time of February revolution. Germans arrange for his transport back to Russia in a sealed train car.

  • Lenin denounces Provisional Government and calls for revolution.

Lenin: “What is to be Done”1902

  • The active and widespread participation of the masses will not suffer; on the contrary, it will benefit by the fact that a "dozen" experienced revolutionaries, no less professionally trained than the police, will centralise all the secret side of the work-prepare leaflets, work out approximate plans and appoint bodies of leaders for each urban district, for each factory district and to each educational institution, etc. (I know that exception will be taken to my "undemocratic" views, but I shall reply to this altogether unintelligent objection later on.) The centralisation of the more secret functions in an organisation of revolutionaries will not diminish, but rather increase the extent and the quality of the activity of a large number of other organisations intended for wide membership and which, therefore, can be as loose and as public as possible, for example, trade unions, workers' circles for self-education and the reading of illegal literature, and socialist and also democratic circles for all other sections of the population. etc, etc We must have as large a number as possible of such organisations having the widest possible variety of functions, but it is absurd and dangerous to confuse those with organisations of revolutionaries, to erase the line of demarcation between them, to dim still more the masses already incredibly hazy appreciation of the fact that in order to "serve" the mass movement we must have people who will devote themselves exclusively to Social Democratic activities, and that such people must train themselves patiently and steadfastly to be professional revolutionaries. Aye, this appreciation has become incredibly dim. The most grievous sin we have committed in regard to organisation is that by our primitiveness we have lowered the prestige o revolutionaries in Russia. A man who is weak and vacillating on theoretical questions, who has a narrow outlook who makes excuses for his own slackness on the ground that the masses are awakening spontaneously; who resembles a trade union secretary more than a people's tribune, who is unable to conceive of a broad and bold plan, who is incapable of inspiring even his opponents with respect for himself, and who is inexperienced and clumsy in his own professional art-the art of combating the political police-such a man is not a revolutionary but a wretched amateur! Let no active worker take offense at these frank remarks, for as far as insufficient training is concerned, I apply them first and foremost to myself. I used to work in a circle that set itself great and all­embracing tasks; and every member of that circle suffered to the point of torture from the realisation that we were proving ourselves to be amateurs at a moment in history when we might have been able to say, paraphrasing a well­known epigram: "Give us an organisation of revolutionaries, and we shall overturn the whole of Russia!"From, V.I. Lenin: "What is to Be Done?", Lenin: Collected Works Vol V, pp. 375-76, 451-53, 464-67

The October Revolution

  • Bolsheviks gain majority in Petrograd and Moscow Soviets in September

  • Lenin calls for a seizure of power

  • October: Soldiers from Petrograd garrison, sailors from Kronstadt and Bolshevik Red Guards storm the Winter Palace and arrest members of Provisional Government.

  • November 9, 1917: New government: Council of People’s Commissars: Lenin is chairman; Leon Trotsky, commissar of foreign affairs; Josef Stalin, Commissar of Minorities

Inside the Winter Palace

Women’s Volunteer Detachment

Bolsheviks Storming the Winter Palace

SR Election Poster, November 1917

November 1917 Election Results

American John Reed

Peace, Land, Bread and National Self-Determination!

Long Live World October!

Leon Trotsky

Land Reform

Lenin Rids the Land of “Byvshiie”

“Red Guards”


  • December 1917: Armistice with Germany

  • March 3, 1918 Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. Russia loses one fourth of land and population (Ukraine, Poland, Finland and Baltic states).

  • Peasants allowed to seize landlord’s lands

  • Control of factories given to worker’s committees

  • Church property confiscated

  • Opposition parties suppressed

  • Industry nationalized

  • Secret Police to war on internal enemies: the Cheka

Felix Dzerzhinsky – Head of the Cheka

Reds and Whites

“Red Terror,” Summer 1918

Stages of the Russian Civil War

  • Nov. 1917 – Nov. 1918

    Rising Tensions, Conflict, End of WWI

  • Nov. 1918 – Nov. 1919

    Peak of White Fortunes in South

  • Nov. 1919 – July 1921

    Red Victory by 1920

  • 1921 – Rebellions against the Soviets by peasants, workers, and soldiers suppressed

Did you volunteer for the Red Army?

Foreign Intervention

US soldiers in Murmansk

Murmansk (Northwest Europe)

Japanese and Russian Officers 1922

White Troops and Their Red Opponents

Devastation of War – Ukraine

Trotsky as Commissar of War

Trotsky as Commissar of War

The Red Cossack

Red Army Armored Train

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