|Great October Socialist Revolution|
|Part of the Russian Revolution, Revolutions of 1917–23 and the Russian Civil War|
Red Guards at Vulkan factory in 1917.
23x15px All-Russian Central Executive Committee|
23x15px Red Guards
23x15px Petrograd Soviet
23x15px Russian Soviet Republic (from November 7)
23x15px Russian Republic (to November 7)|
23x15px Russian Provisional Government (to November 8)
|Commanders and leaders|
23x15px Vladimir Lenin|
23x15px Leon Trotsky
23x15px Pavel Dybenko
|23x15px Alexander Kerensky|
|10,000 red sailors, 20,000–30,000 red guard soldiers||500–1,000 volunteer soldiers, 1,000 soldiers of women's battalion|
|Casualties and losses|
|Few wounded red guard soldiers||All deserted|
The October Revolution (Russian: Октя́брьская револю́ция, tr. Oktyabr'skaya revolyutsiya; IPA: [ɐkˈtʲabrʲskəjə rʲɪvɐˈlʲutsɨjə]), officially known as the Great October Socialist Revolution (Russian: Вели́кая Октя́брьская социалисти́ческая револю́ция, tr. Velikaya Oktyabr'skaya sotsialisticheskaya revolyutsiya), and commonly referred to as Red October, the October Uprising or the Bolshevik Revolution, was a seizure of state power instrumental in the larger Russian Revolution of 1917. It took place with an armed insurrection in Petrograd traditionally dated to 25 October 1917 (by the Julian or Old Style calendar, which corresponds to 7 November 1917 in the Gregorian or New Style calendar).
It followed and capitalized on the February Revolution of the same year, which overthrew the Tsarist autocracy and established a provisional government composed predominantly of former nobles and aristocrats. During this time, urban workers began to organize into councils (Russian: Soviet) wherein revolutionaries criticized the provisional government and its actions. The October Revolution in Petrograd overthrew the provisional government and gave the power to the local soviets. The Bolshevik party was heavily supported by the soviets. After the Congress of Soviets, now the governing body, had its second session, it elected members of the Bolsheviks and other leftist groups such as the Left Socialist Revolutionaries to key positions within the new state of affairs. This immediately initiated the establishment of the Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic, the world's first self-proclaimed socialist state.
The revolution was led by the Bolsheviks, who used their influence in the Petrograd Soviet to organize the armed forces. Bolshevik Red Guards forces under the Military Revolutionary Committee began the takeover of government buildings on 24 October 1917 (O.S.). The following day, the Winter Palace (the seat of the Provisional government located in Petrograd, then capital of Russia), was captured.
The long-awaited Constituent Assembly elections were held on 12 November 1917. The Bolsheviks only won 175 seats in the 715 seat legislative body, coming in second behind the Socialist Revolutionary party, which won 370 seats. The Constituent Assembly was to first meet on 28 November 1917, but its convocation was delayed until January 5, 1918 by the Bolsheviks. On its first and only day in session, the body rejected Soviet decrees on peace and land, and was dissolved the next day by order of the Congress of Soviets.
- 1 Etymology
- 2 Background
- 3 Events
- 4 Timeline of the spread of Soviet power (Gregorian calendar dates)
- 5 Outcomes
- 6 Historiography
- 7 Legacy
- 8 See also
- 9 Notes
- 10 References
- 11 External links
Initially, the event was referred as the October coup (Октябрьский переворот) or the Uprising of 25th, as seen in contemporary documents (for example, in the first editions of Lenin's complete works). In Russian, however, "переворот" has a similar meaning to "revolution" and also means "upheaval" or "overturn", so "coup" is not necessarily the right translation. With time, the term October Revolution (Октябрьская революция) came into use. It is also known as the "November Revolution" having occurred in November according to the Gregorian Calendar.
The Great October Socialist Revolution (Russian: Вели́кая Октя́брьская Социалисти́ческая Революция, Velikaya Oktyabr'skaya sotsialisticheskaya revolyutsiya) was the official name for the October Revolution in the Soviet Union after the 10th anniversary of the Revolution in 1927.
The February Revolution had toppled Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, and replaced his government with the Russian Provisional Government. However, the provisional government was weak and riven by internal dissension. It continued to wage World War I, which became increasingly unpopular. A nationwide crisis developed in Russia, affecting social, economic, and political relations. Disorder in industry and transport had intensified, and difficulties in obtaining provisions had increased. Gross industrial production in 1917 had decreased by over 36 percent from what it had been in 1916. In the autumn, as much as 50 percent of all enterprises were closed down in the Urals, the Donbas, and other industrial centers, leading to mass unemployment. At the same time, the cost of living increased sharply. The real wages of the workers fell about 50 percent from what they had been in 1913. Russia's national debt in October 1917 had risen to 50 billion rubles. Of this, debts to foreign governments constituted more than 11 billion rubles. The country faced the threat of financial bankruptcy.
In September and October 1917, there were strikes by the Moscow and Petrograd workers, the miners of the Donbas, the metalworkers of the Urals, the oil workers of Baku, the textile workers of the Central Industrial Region, and the railroad workers on 44 different railway lines. In these months alone more than a million workers took part in mass strike action. Workers established control over production and distribution in many factories and plants in a social revolution.
By October 1917 there had been over four thousand peasant uprisings against landowners. When the Provisional Government sent out punitive detachments it only enraged the peasants. The garrisons in Petrograd, Moscow, and other cities, the Northern and Western fronts, and the sailors of the Baltic Fleet in September openly declared through their elected representative body Tsentrobalt that they did not recognize the authority of the Provisional Government and would not carry out any of its commands.
In a diplomatic note of 1 May, the minister of foreign affairs, Pavel Milyukov, expressed the Provisional Government's desire to carry the war against the Central Powers through "to a victorious conclusion", arousing broad indignation. On 1–4 May about 100,000 workers and soldiers of Petrograd, and after them the workers and soldiers of other cities, led by the Bolsheviks, demonstrated under banners reading "Down with the war!" and "all power to the soviets!" The mass demonstrations resulted in a crisis for the Provisional Government. 1 July saw more demonstrations, as about 500,000 workers and soldiers in Petrograd demonstrated, again demanding "all power to the soviets", "down with the war", and "down with the ten capitalist ministers". The Provisional Government opened an offensive against the Central Powers on 1 July but it soon collapsed. The news of the offensive and its collapse intensified the struggle of the workers and the soldiers. A new crisis in the Provisional Government began on 15 July.
On 16 July spontaneous demonstrations of workers and soldiers began in Petrograd, demanding that power be turned over to the soviets. The Central Committee of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party provided leadership to the spontaneous movements. On 17 July, over 500,000 people participated in a peaceful demonstration in Petrograd, the so-called July Days. The Provisional Government, with the support of the Socialist-Revolutionary Party-Menshevik leaders of the All-Russian Executive Committee of the Soviets, ordered an armed attack against the peaceful demonstrators, murdering hundreds.
A period of repression followed. On 5–6 July attacks were made on the editorial offices and printing presses of Pravda and on the Palace of Kshesinskaya, where the Central Committee and the Petrograd Committee of the Bolsheviks were located. On 7 July a government decree ordering the arrest and trial of Vladimir Lenin was published. He was forced to go underground, just as he had been under the Tsarist regime. Bolsheviks began to be arrested, workers were disarmed, and revolutionary military units in Petrograd were disbanded or sent off to the front. On 12 July the Provisional Government published a law introducing the death penalty at the front. The formation of the second coalition government, with Alexander Kerensky as chairman, was completed on 24 July.
Another problem for the government centered on General Lavr Kornilov, who had been Commander-in-Chief since 18 July. In response to a Bolshevik appeal, Moscow’s working class began a protest strike of 400,000 workers. The Moscow workers were supported by strikes and protest rallies by workers in Kiev, Kharkov, Nizhny Novgorod, Ekaterinburg, and other cities.
In what became known as the Kornilov Affair, Kornilov directed an army under Aleksandr Krymov to march toward Petrograd with Kerensky's agreement. Although the details remain sketchy, Kerensky appeared to become frightened by the possibility of a coup and the order was countermanded (by comparison, historian Richard Pipes has argued that the whole episode was engineered by Kerensky himself). On 27 August, feeling betrayed by the Kerensky government who had previously agreed with his views on how to restore order to Russia, Kornilov pushed on towards Petrograd. With few troops to spare on the front, Kerensky was forced to turn to the Petrograd Soviet for help. Bolsheviks, Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries confronted the army and convinced them to stand down. The Bolsheviks' influence over railroad and telegraph workers also proved vital in stopping the movement of troops. The damage was already done, however. Right-wingers felt betrayed, and the left wing was resurgent.
With Kornilov defeated, the Bolsheviks' popularity with the soviets significantly increased. During and after the defeat of Kornilov, a mass turn of the soviets toward the Bolsheviks began, both in the central and local areas. On 31 August, the Petrograd Soviet of Workers and Soldiers Deputies, and on 5 September, the Moscow Soviet Workers Deputies adopted the Bolshevik resolutions on the question of power. The Bolsheviks won a majority in the Soviets of Briansk, Samara, Saratov, Tsaritsyn, Minsk, Kiev, Tashkent, and other cities.
On 23 October [O.S. 10 October] 1917, the Bolsheviks' Central Committee voted 10-2 for a resolution saying that "an armed uprising is inevitable, and that the time for it is fully ripe".[dubious ]
On 6 November [O.S. 24 October] 1917, Bolsheviks led their forces in the uprising in Petrograd (modern day Saint Petersburg), the capital of Russia, against the Kerensky Provisional Government. Leon Trotsky distributes arms to the Red Guard, which systematically captures major government facilities, key communication, installations and vantage points with little opposition. The Petrograd Garrison rebels against the Provisional Government, claiming that it is a "tool of the enemies of the people". For the most part, the revolt in Petrograd was bloodless, with the Red Guards led by Bolsheviks finally launching an assault on the poorly defended Winter Palace.
The official Soviet version of events follows: An assault led by Vladimir Lenin was launched at 9:45 p.m. signaled by a blank shot from the cruiser Aurora. (The Aurora was placed in Petrograd and still stands there now.) The Winter Palace was guarded by Cossacks, cadets (military students), and a Women's Battalion. It was taken at about 2 a.m. The earlier date was made the official date of the Revolution, when all offices except the Winter Palace had been taken.
More contemporary research with access to government archives significantly corrects accepted Soviet edited and embellished history. The archival version shows that parties of Bolshevik operatives sent out from the Smolny by Lenin took over all critical centers of power in Petrograd in the early hours of the first night without a shot being fired. This was completed so efficiently that the takeover resembled the changing of the guard. The capture of the Winter Palace was more dramatic, with the Red Guard storming the Winter Palace at 2.10 am on 7 November [O.S. 25 October] 1917. The Cossacks deserted when the Red Guard approached, and the Cadets and the 140 volunteers of the Women's Battalion surrendered rather than resist the 40000 strong army. The Aurora was commandeered to then fire blanks at the palace in a symbolic act of rejection of the government. In fact the effectively unoccupied Winter Palace fell not because of acts of courage or a military barrage, but because the back door was left open, allowing the Red Guard to enter. A Red Guard named Adamovich remembered gasping as he burst into the palace, as he had never before seen such luxury and splendour. A small group which broke in, got lost in the cavernous interior, and accidentally happened upon the remnants of Kerensky's provisional government in the imperial family's breakfast room. The illiterate revolutionaries then compelled those arrested to write up their own arrest papers. The Provisional Government was arrested and imprisoned in Peter and Paul Fortress after the ministers resigned to fate and surrendered without a fight, and officially overthrown. The stories of the "defense of the Winter Palace" and the heroic "Storming of the Winter Palace" came later as the creative propaganda product of Bolshevik publicists. Grandiose paintings depicting the "Women's Battalion" and photo stills taken from Sergei Eisenstein's staged film depicting the "politically correct" version of the October events in Petrograd came to be taken as truth. With the Government Petrograd Soviet now in control of government, garrison and proletariat, the Second All Russian Congress of Soviets held its opening session on the day, while Trotsky dismisses the opposing Mensheviks and the Socialist Revolutionaries (SR) from Congress.
Some sources contend that as the leader of Tsentrobalt, Pavlo Dybenko actually played an enormous role in the revolt. It is said that the ten warships that entered the city with ten thousand Baltic fleet mariners was the force that actually took the power in Petrograd and put down the Provisional Government. The same mariners then dispersed by force the elected parliament of Russia, and used machine-gun fire against protesting demonstrators in Petrograd. About a hundred demonstrators were killed, and several hundreds were wounded. Dybenko in his memoirs mentioned this event as "several shots in the air". Later, during the first hours after the taking the Winter Palace, Dybenko personally entered the Ministry of Justice and destroyed there the documents concerning the financing of the Bolshevik party by Germany. These are disputed by various sources such as Louise Bryant, who claims that news outlets in the west at the time reported that the unfortunate loss of life occurred in Moscow not Petrograd and the number was much less than is suggested above. As for the "several shots in the air", there is little evidence suggesting otherwise. The alleged action of Dybenko entering the Ministry of Justice to destroy documents as recalled by Savchenko can also be challenged. According to reports, Pavel Dybenko was in Helsingfors organizing the sailors' departures for Petrograd. From the book Radio October...On the “Krechet” in Helsingfors, radio operator Makarov hands a telegram to Pavel Dybenko with the report of the “Samson” commissar, Grigoriy Borisov: “To Tsentrobalt. Everything is calm in Petrograd. The power is in the hands of the revolutionary committee. You have to immediately get in touch with the front committee of the Northern Army in order to preserve unity of forces and stability."
Later official accounts of the revolution from the Soviet Union would depict the events in October as being far more dramatic than they actually had been. (See firsthand account by British General Knox.) This was helped by the historical reenactment, entitled The Storming of the Winter Palace, which was staged in 1920. This reenactment, watched by 100,000 spectators, provided the model for official films made much later, which showed a huge storming of the Winter Palace and fierce fighting (See Sergei Eisenstein's October: Ten Days That Shook the World). In reality the Bolshevik insurgents faced little or no opposition. The insurrection was timed and organized to hand state power to the Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies, which began on 25 October. After a single day of revolution eighteen people had been arrested and two had been killed.
Timeline of the spread of Soviet power (Gregorian calendar dates)
- 5 November 1917: Tallinn.
- 7 November 1917: Petrograd, Minsk, Novgorod, Ivanovo-Voznesensk and Tartu
- 8 November 1917: Ufa, Kazan, Yekaterinburg and Narva;(failed in Kiev)
- 9 November 1917: Vitebsk, Yaroslavl, Saratov, Samara and Izhevsk
- 10 November 1917: Rostov, Tver and Nizhny Novgorod
- 12 November 1917: Voronezh, Smolensk and Gomel
- 13 November 1917: Tambov
- 14 November 1917: Orel and Perm
- 15 November 1917: Pskov, Moscow and Baku
- 27 November 1917: Tsaritsyn
- 1 December 1917: Mogilev
- 8 December 1917: Vyatka
- 10 December 1917: Kishinev
- 11 December 1917: Kaluga
- 14 December 1917: Novorossisk
- 15 December 1917: Kostroma
- 20 December 1917: Tula
- 24 December 1917: Kharkov (invasion of Ukraine by the Muravyov Red Guard forces, establishment of the Soviet Ukraine and hostilities in the region)
- 29 December 1917: Sevastopol (invasion of Crimea by the Red Guard forces, establishment of the Taurida Soviet republic)
- 4 January 1918: Penza
- 11 January 1918: Yekaterinoslav
- 17 January 1918: Petrozavodsk
- 19 January 1918: Poltava
- 22 January 1918: Zhitomir
- 26 January 1918: Simferopol
- 27 January 1918: Nikolayev
- 28 January 1918: Helsinki (the Reds overthrow the White Senate, the Finnish Civil War begins)
- 29 January 1918: (failed again in Kiev)
- 31 January 1918: Odessa and Orenburg (establishment of the Odessa Soviet Republic)
- 7 February 1918: Astrakhan
- 8 February 1918: Kiev and Vologda (defeat of the Ukrainian government)
- 17 February 1918: Arkhangelsk
- 25 February 1918: Novocherkassk
The Second Congress of Soviets consisted of 670 elected delegates; 300 were Bolshevik and nearly a hundred were Left Socialist-Revolutionaries, who also supported the overthrow of the Alexander Kerensky Government. When the fall of the Winter Palace was announced, the Congress adopted a decree transferring power to the Soviets of Workers', Soldiers' and Peasants' Deputies, thus ratifying the Revolution.
The transfer of power was not without disagreement. The center and Right wings of the Socialist Revolutionaries as well as the Mensheviks believed that Lenin and the Bolsheviks had illegally seized power and they walked out before the resolution was passed. As they exited, they were taunted by Leon Trotsky who told them "You are pitiful isolated individuals; you are bankrupts; your role is played out. Go where you belong from now on — into the dustbin of history!"
The following day, 8 November [O.S. 26 October] 1917, the Congress elected a Council of People's Commissars (Sovnarkom) with Lenin as leader as the basis of a new Soviet Government, pending the convocation of a Constituent Assembly, and passed the Decree on Peace and the Decree on Land. This new government was also officially called "provisional" until the Assembly was dissolved. The Council of People's Commissars now began to arrest the leaders of opposition parties. Dozens of Constitutional Democratic Party (Kadet) leaders and members of the Constituent Assembly were imprisoned in The Peter and Paul Fortress. These were to be followed by the arrests of Socialist Revolutionary Party and Menshevik leaders.. Posters were pinned on walls and fences by the SRs describing the takeover as a "crime against the motherland and revolution". The is also strong anti-Bolshevik opposition within Petrograd.
On 9 November [O.S. 27 October] 1917, the Mensheviks seize power of Georgia and declare it an independent republic. The Don Cossacks also claim control of their own government. There is strong anti-Bolshevik opposition outside of Petrograd, with Bolshevik control of country still very weak. There are also reports that the Provisional Government has not conceded defeat and are meeting with the army at the Front.
On 10 November [O.S. 28 October] 1917, posters and newspapers start criticizing the actions of the Bolsheviks and refutes their authority. The Executive Committee of Peasants Soviets "refutes with indignation all participation of the organised peasantry in this criminal violation of the will of the working class". Strong opposition to the Bolsheviks still continues from several important proletariat sources.
On 11 November [O.S. 29 October] 1917, opposition to the Bolsheviks develops into major counter-revolutionary action. Cossacks enter Tsarskoye Selo on outskirts of Petrograd with Kerensky riding on a white horse welcomed by church bells. Kerensky gave an ultimatum to the rifle garrison to lay down weapons, which was promptly refused. They were then fired upon by Kerensky’s Cossacks, which resulted in 8 deaths. This turned soldiers in Petrograd against Kerensky because he was just like the Tsarist regime. Kerensky’s failure to assume authority over troops described by John Reed as a ‘fatal blunder’ that signalled the final death of the government.
On 12 November [O.S. 30 October] 1917, the battle against the anti-Bolsheviks continues. The Red Guard fights against Cossacks at Tsarskoye Selo, with the Cossacks breaking rank and fleeing, leaving their artillery behind.
On 13 November [O.S. 31 October] 1917, the Bolsheviks gain control of Moscow after a week of bitter street-fighting. Artillery had been freely used with an estimated 700 casualties. However, there is still continued support for Kerensky in the provinces.
On 14 November [O.S. 1 November] 1917, there is an appeal to anti-Bolsheviks throughout Russia to join new government of the people, with the Bolsheviks gradually winning the support of the Russian people.
On 15 November [O.S. 2 November] 1917, there is only minor public anti-Bolshevik sentiment; for example, the newspaper Novaya Zhizn criticises the lack of manpower and organisation of the Bolsheviks to run a party, let alone a government. Lenin confidently claims that there is "not a shadow of hesitation in the masses of Petrograd, Moscow and the rest of Russia" towards Bolshevik rule.
The Decree on Land ratified the actions of the peasants who throughout Russia seized private land and redistributed it among themselves. The Bolsheviks viewed themselves as representing an alliance of workers and peasants and memorialized that understanding with the Hammer and Sickle on the flag and coat of arms of the Soviet Union.
- All Russian banks were nationalized.
- Private bank accounts were confiscated.
- The Church's properties (including bank accounts) were seized.
- All foreign debts were repudiated.
- Control of the factories was given to the soviets.
- Wages were fixed at higher rates than during the war, and a shorter, eight-hour working day was introduced.
Bolshevik-led attempts to seize power in other parts of the Russian Empire were largely successful in Russia proper — although the fighting in Moscow lasted for two weeks — but they were less successful in ethnically non-Russian parts of the Empire, which had been clamoring for independence since the February Revolution. For example, the Ukrainian Rada, which had declared autonomy on 23 June 1917, created the Ukrainian People's Republic on 20 November, which was supported by the Ukrainian Congress of Soviets. This led to an armed conflict with the Bolshevik government in Petrograd and, eventually, a Ukrainian declaration of independence from Russia on 25 January 1918. In Estonia, two rival governments emerged: the Estonian Provincial Assembly proclaimed itself the supreme legal authority of Estonia on 28 November 1917 and issued the Declaration of Independence on 24 February 1918, while an Estonian Bolshevik sympathizer, Jaan Anvelt, was recognized by Lenin's government as Estonia's leader on 8 December, although forces loyal to Anvelt controlled only the capital.
The success of the October Revolution transformed the Russian state into a soviet republic. A coalition of anti-Bolshevik groups attempted to unseat the new government in the Russian Civil War from 1918 to 1922.
In an attempt to intervene in the civil war after the Bolsheviks' separate peace with the Central Powers, the Allied powers (United Kingdom, France, United States and Japan) occupied parts of the Soviet Union for over two years before finally withdrawing. The United States did not recognize the new Russian government until 1933. The European powers recognized the Soviet Union in the early 1920s and began to engage in business with it after the New Economic Policy (NEP) was implemented.