The Stage Is Set
The Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in 1917 was initiated by millions of people who would change the history of the world as we know it. When Czar Nicholas II dragged 11 million peasants into World War I, the Russian people became discouraged with their injuries and the loss of life they sustained. The country of Russia was in ruins, ripe for revolution.
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Provisional Government Established
During a mass demonstration of women workers in February of 1917, the czar's officials called out the army to squelch the protesters. The women convinced the soldiers to put their guns away and help them in their cause. Czar Nicholas II was dethroned in Russia during this, the "February Revolution." The Provisional Government was formed to replace the void left by the deposed czar. This provisional government was made up of bankers, lawyers, industrialists, and capitalists. The provisional government was very weak and failed to live up to its promise of ending Russia's involvement in the war. They kept Russia in the war and just made things worse for themselves and for Russia.
The Rise of the Bolshevik Party
The Provisional Government was opposed right away by the soviets, or councils of workers and peasants, who wanted the right to make their own decisions. When V. I. Lenin arrived from exile in the spring of 1917, he joined the Bolshevik Party in Russia whose goal was to overthrow the Provisional Government and set up a government for the proletariat. The soldiers began to ask for land, just as their fellow peasants were. When the Provisional Government refused to distribute the land fairly, the peasants took matters into their own hands by taking the land themselves. The Bolshevik party went on the offensive and tried to educate the workers and soldiers, convincing them to seize power and land for themselves. In July 1917, the workers challenged the Provisional Government and ended up defeated, with their leader jailed and Lenin going into hiding. At the point when everything looked very bad for the Bolsheviks, two very good things happened. First, the Provisional Government ordered a big war offensive that ended up in ruin, with thousands being either killed or injured. Late in August, the soldiers of the Provisional Government began to fall away from their support of the Provisional Government and began to support the workers. They were becoming closer and closer to being Bolsheviks themselves. Secondly, in September, during the so-called Kornilov Affair, a pro-czar section of the military threatened Petrograd, which was the city occupied by the Bolsheviks and the Provisional Government. The Bolsheviks had established themselves as the only party which stood in opposition to continuing the war effort. The Bolshevik workers had to unite and fight as one against the military. Now that the Bolsheviks had the support of the workers, they were able to win the important elections in early September in important Russian industrial centers. By the middle of September, the Bolsheviks had formally acquired a majority in the St. Petersburg Soviet.
In early October, Lenin convinced the Bolshevik Party to form an immediate insurrection against the Provisional Government. The Bolshevik leaders felt it was of the utmost importance to act quickly while they had the momentum to do so. The armed workers known as Red Guards and the other revolutionary groups moved on the night of Nov. 6-7 under the orders of the Soviet's Military Revolutionary Committee. These forces seized post and telegraph offices, electric works, railroad stations, and the state bank. Once the shot rang out from the Battleship Aurora, the thousands of people in the Red Guard stormed the Winter Palace. The Provisional Government had officially fallen to the Bolshevik regime. Once the word came to the rest of the people that the Winter Palace had been taken, people from all over rose and filled it. V. I. Lenin, the leader of the Bolsheviks, announced his attempt to construct the socialist order in Russia. This new government made up of Soviets, and led by the Bolsheviks. By early November, there was little doubt that the proletariats backed the Bolshevik motto: "All power to the soviets!"
Bunyan, James and H. H. Fisher. The Bolshevik Revolution. (Stanford University, California. Stanford University Press, 1934)
Grey, Ian. The First Fifty Years. (New York, New York. Coward-McCann, Inc., 1967)
Matthews, Roy T. and F. DeWitt Platt. The Western Humanities, Third Edition. (Mountain View, CA. Mayfield Publishing Co., 1997)
McNeal, Robert H. The Bolshevik Tradition. (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1975)