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The Russian Revolution. Overview. 1917: war, collapse, revolution Tsarist government collapsed Provisional government proved unable to govern Lenin’s Bolsheviks overthrew the provisional government Two revolutions:

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  • 1917: war, collapse, revolution

  • Tsarist government collapsed

  • Provisional government proved unable to govern

  • Lenin’s Bolsheviks overthrew the provisional government

  • Two revolutions:

    • Feb/March 1917: more collapse than overthrow, signaled failure of old autocratic system and created vacuum

    • Oct/Nov 1917: Leninist seizure of power in Petrograd

To horse, Proletarian! (1919)

Incompetence of nicholas ii
Incompetence of Nicholas II

  • Autocratic philosophy in an increasingly democratic age

  • Failed promises of 1905 (Duma, Constitutional limits)

  • Decision to enter WW1 and become Commander-in-Chief linked tsar to military failure

  • Dependence upon conservative, aristocratic advisers

  • Family dependence upon Rasputin (killed 1916: poisoned, drowned and shot twice)

Urban economic disaster
Urban Economic Disaster

  • Economic infrastructure minimally developed

    • Massive inflation without wage increases

    • Most workers lived beneath poverty line

    • During war industrial output fell by over 50%

  • WW1 strained economy further: factory closures, strikes, bread riots

  • Urban revolutionary potential: unemployed, riots, deserting soldiers

March revolution
March Revolution

  • Nicholas returned from WW1 front to chaos in Petrograd

  • Faced with strikes, riots, deserting soldiers, and military losses, Nicholas II abdicated 3/17 to his brother, who also abdicated

  • Abdication was final attempt to save monarchy, preferable to revolution

  • Provisional Government created by Prince Lvov

  • Liberals: advocated moderate change and Constitution

  • Executive of P.G. by committee: Kerensky became Prime Minister

Kerensky s provisional government
Kerensky’s Provisional Government

  • Policies

    • Maintain the war effort to support allies

    • Tsarist estates were expropriated by state

    • Amnesty for all political exiles

    • Destruction of secret internal spy system

  • Struggle within PG for power:

    • Socialist Revolutionaries (leftists)

    • Mensheviks (moderate leftists)

    • Bolsheviks (radical leftists)

    • Conservatives (military and bourgeoisie)

  • Inadequacies of PG caused local governments to take power: Soviets

  • Petrograd Soviet vied with PG for national authority

Kerensky (writing) and the PG

Bolshevik policies
Bolshevik Policies

  • April 1917: Germany transported Lenin from Switzerland to Petrograd in “Sealed Train”

  • Lenin's "April Theses"

    • Exit "capitalist" war

    • All power to the proletariat (workers)

    • Overthrow capital in Russia

    • No support to Provisional Government

    • "All power to the soviets!"

    • Abolition of police, army, and bureaucracy

    • Confiscation of all landed estates

    • Soviets to control all production

    • Create international socialism

  • Condensed platform: "Peace, Land, and Bread!"

Leninist seizure of power
Leninist Seizure of Power

  • Use of the Petrograd Soviet: organize military under Trotsky

  • Support from Battleship "Aurora" in Petrograd harbor

  • 6 November 1917: Petrograd Soviet troops seized key points in Petrograd

  • 7 November 1917:

    • Seizure of "Winter Palace," center of P.G.

    • "All Russian Congress of Soviets" assembled

    • "Council of People's Commissars" named as government

    • Announced elections for Constituent Assembly

  • Lenin made two decrees:

    • Begin efforts toward democratic peace

    • Abolished private property: "state" ownership


  • Bolsheviks took power without proof of popular support, but majority did support policies(“Vanguard of the people”)

  • Authoritarian methods were to clear way for democratic ideals

  • Authoritarian methods boded poorly for true of democracy

  • For the allies, Bolshevik seizure implied:

    • closure of the eastern front

    • impending focus of German strength to west

    • seed for revolution in west

    • demonstration of fate of the losing aristocrats

    • suggested that logical direction of democratization was socialism

Nicholas II is considered a martyred saint by some Russian Orthodox Christians.