The major events of the RUSSIAN REVOLUTION, a series of two revolutions in RUSSIA in 1917. The first revolution in March (O.S. February) deposed TSAR NICHOLAS II. The second revolution in November (O.S. October) toppled the Provisional Government and handed power to the Bolsheviks, giving way to the rise of the SOVIET UNION (U.S.S.R.), the world's first communist state.
What was the Russian
Revolution of 1917?
• The Russian Revolution was a series of two revolutions in Russia in 1917 that
toppled the Tsarist autocracy and gave way to the rise of the Soviet Union.
• The first revolution in February 1917 (March in the Gregorian calendar; Russia
still used the older Julian calendar at the time) led to Tsar Nicholas II’s abdication
from power and a provisional government.
• Along with it evolved grassroots community gatherings, known as soviets, which
struggled for power.
• In the second revolution in October, the Provisional Government was deposed; all
power was handed to the soviets and Vladimir Lenin’s Bolsheviks.
• By 1917, the promise between the tsar and most of the Russian people
had been shattered.
• Governmental corruption and disorganization were widespread.
• The tsar’s unreasonable and repressive policies, including the occasional
dissolution of the Duma, or Russian parliament–the main cause of the
1905 revolution–had provoked disappointment even to moderate
• The Russian Empire’s numerous ethnic minorities became gradually
restless under Russian rule.
Background – cont.
• It was the government’s ineffective action during World War I that
ultimately delivered the trial the old régime could not fulfill.
• Badly armed and poorly led, Russian armies underwent disastrous
fatalities in campaign after campaign against German armies.
• The war made revolution certain in two ways: it showed Russia was no
longer a military match for the nations of Central and Western Europe,
and it despairingly distorted the economy.
First Revolution (February 1917)
• Demonstrations resulting from shortage of food broke out in the capital,
Petrograd (formerly Saint Petersburg), on February 24 (N.S. March 8);
when most of the Petrograd battalion joined the uprising, Tsar Nicholas II
was forced to step down on March 2 (N.S. March 15).
• When his brother, Grand Duke Michael, turned down the throne, more than
300 years of the Romanov dynasty’s rule ended.
March 16, 1917 publication of the New-York
Tribune the day after Nicholas II’s abdication
Wives of soldiers demand increased allocations in a demonstration
beside the Nevsky Prospect, Petrograd, on International Women’s Day,
• A commission of the Duma assigned a Provisional Government to succeed the
autocracy, but it dealt with an opponent in the Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and
• The 2,500 delegates to this soviet were chosen from factories and military units in and
• The Soviet momentarily proved that it had superior authority over the Provisional
Government, which preferred to continue Russia’s involvement in World War I.
• On March 1 (N.S. March 14), the Soviet delivered its famous Order No. 1, which
commanded the military to obey only the orders of the Soviet and not those of the
• The Provisional Government unsuccessfully revoked the order.
• All that now stopped the Petrograd Soviet from explicitly declaring itself the real
government of Russia was concern of inciting a conservative coup.
(July–October 1917) – cont.
• Between March and October, the
Provisional Government was restructured
• The first government (right) consisted
wholly of liberal ministers; the sole
exception was the Socialist Revolutionary
Aleksandr Kerensky (front row, no.1).
• The successive governments were
• Nevertheless, none of them could
sufficiently handle the major problems
affecting the country: confiscation of
peasant land, nationalist independence
activities in non-Russian regions, and the
failure of army confidence at the front.
(July–October 1917) – cont.
• Meanwhile, soviets on the Petrograd model,
in much closer contact with the views of the
people than the Provisional Government
was, had been planned in cities and major
towns and in the army.
• In these soviets, “defeatist” attitude
(supporting pulling out of the war on
practically any conditions) was increasing.
• One cause was the radical socialists’
growing authority over the soviet
• At the First All-Russian Congress of
Soviets (right), assembled on June 3 (N.S.
June 16), the Socialist Revolutionaries were
the leading single coalition, followed by the
Mensheviks and Bolsheviks.
(July–October 1917) – cont.
• Kerensky became leader of the Provisional Government in July and put down a
coup attempted by army commander in chief Lavr Georgiyevich
Kornilov (some historians have claimed that Kerensky may have originally
conspired with Kornilov in the aspiration of winning control over the Petrograd
• However, he was gradually unable to prevent Russia from falling into political,
economic, and military turmoil; his party thus suffered a considerable split as the
left wing broke from the Socialist Revolutionary Party.
• While the Provisional Government’s power diminished, that of the soviets was
growing, as was the Bolsheviks’ power within them.
• By September, the Bolsheviks and their associates, the Left Socialist
Revolutionaries, had surpassed the Socialist Revolutionaries and Mensheviks,
and acquired majorities in both the Petrograd and Moscow soviets.
Second Revolution (October
• By autumn, the Bolshevik program of “peace,
land, and bread” had won the party significant
support among the hungry city workers and the
soldiers, who were by now leaving from the
lines in substantial numbers.
• Despite the failure of a previous coup attempt
(the July Days, opposite), the time now seemed
• On October 24–25 (N.S. November 6–7), the
Bolsheviks and Left Socialist Revolutionaries
staged an almost nonviolent coup, capturing and
taking control of government buildings,
telegraph stations, and other strategic points.
• Kerensky’s attempt to prepare resistance
proved ineffective; he fled Russia immediately.
• The Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets,
which assembled in Petrograd concurrently with
the coup, permitted the formation of a new
government consisting primarily of Bolshevik
Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin
speaking to his followers, October, 1917
Second All-Russian Congress
of Soviets, November, 1917