Russian Revolution

In spite of early and widespread enthusiasm
for the war, Russia saw early defeat which
eroded morale and led to the collapse of
the Tsarist regime and the
rise of the Bolsheviks
• The tsarist regime’s incompetence was blamed for the more
than 2 million casualties early in the war
o Large numbers of soldiers were sent to the front without rifles
o The home front mobilized more efficiently, with the Duma
and the Zemstvos coordinating local defense and
economic life.
• The Tsar took personal charge of the war in order to maintain
supreme power rather than sharing power with or relying on the
o In 1915, a bloc of progressives in the Duma called for a
constitutional government but the Tsar responded by
dismissing the Duma.
• The tsar went to the front to lead the armies, leaving his
German wife and her advisor, Rasputin, in charge at home, to
the disgust of the populace.
o Rasputin was murdered at the end of 1916
• Food shortages in the cites further depressed morale
March Revolution
• March 8, 1917, International Women’s Day, women marched for
bread in Petrograd (St. Petersburg), and the protests quickly
spread throughout the city.
• Military discipline broke when the soldiers refused to fire on the
protesters and joined them instead.
• With a few days, the Duma declared a provisional government
and the Tsar abdicated.
• The Provisional Government enacted sweeping reforms that
transformed Russia from being one of the most oppressed states
in Europe to being one of the freest.
• The Provisional Government, lead by moderate socialist
Alexander Kerensky, kept Russia in the war and refused to allow
land reform
• The Petrograd Soviet challenged the authority of the Provisional
Its Order #1 established democracy in the army
Officers were to be elected by their men
Army disciplined collapsed in the summer of 1917
Huge numbers of soldiers simply walked away from the front and went
home to protect their land and families
Lenin and the Bolsheviks
• Lenin modified Marxian ideology
o Insisted that the revolution could be achieved only through violence
and not evolutionary methods
o Revolution could happen in countries only partially industrialized
o Leadership was necessary to achieve revolution
• The leadership party should be small and under the control of fulltime revolutionaries who would not compromise for short-term goals
• People committed to this version of Marxism took the name
Bolsheviks to distinguish themselves from the Mensheviks who
favored evolutionary socialism
• The Bolsheviks never supported the war, seeing it as an
imperialistic, capitalistic waste of worker’s lives
• Lenin and a band of followers were allowed to travel through
Germany and return to Russia in April 1917, with the Germans
hoping he would pull Russia out of the war. He had previously
been exiled from Tsarist Russia.
• Rejecting cooperation with reformist parties, Lenin immediately
went about wooing the Petrograd Soviet and peasants with his
plan for “Peace, Bread, & Land”
November Revolution
• November 6, 1917, the Bolsheviks, led by Trotsky, seized
government buildings and communication centers in Petrograd
and declared Lenin the head of a new government in which
Soviets would have all the power.
• They took advantage of the peasant revolt that had taken place
in the summer by allowing the peasants to keep the land that
they had seized from aristocrats and the church
• Urban workers were similarly given control of the factories in
which they worked.
• Lenin immediately sued for peace giving the Germans Poland,
Finland, Lithuania with the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk
• New elections were held but when the Bolsheviks lost, Lenin
ordered his soldiers to disband the assembly.
• A one-party state with doctorial powers was born