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|Part of the Russian Revolution of 1917, Revolutions of 1917-23 and the Russian Civil War|
Map of October uprising conflicts in Petrograd, November 6–7 1917
| Bolshevik Party
2nd All-Russian Congress of Soviets
| Russian Republic (to November 7)
Russian Provisional Government (to November 8)
| Vladimir Lenin
|10,000 red sailors, 20,000 - 30,000 red guard soldiers||500 - 1,000 volunteer soldiers, 1,000 soldier of women battalion|
|Casualties and losses|
|Few wounded red guard soldiers||All deserted|
|Bolshevik captured Winter Palace without any organized armed resistance against them.|
The October Revolution (Russian: žññññññ ñ»ñŽññ, Oktyabr'skaya revolyutsiya), also known as the Great October Socialist Revolution, Red October or the Bolshevik Revolution, was a political revolution and a part of the Russian Revolution of 1917. It took place with an armed insurrection in Petrograd traditionally dated to 25 October 1917 Julian calendar (7 November 1917 Gregorian calendar).
It was the second phase of the Russian Revolution, after the February Revolution of the same year. The October Revolution in Petrograd overthrew the Russian Provisional Government and gave the power to the local soviets dominated by Bolsheviks. As the revolution was not universally recognized outside of Petrograd there followed the struggles of the Russian Civil War (1917–1922) and the creation of the Soviet Union in 1922.
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. On 25 October (JC) the Winter Palace (the seat of the Provisional government located in Petrograd, then capital of Russia), was captured.
Initially, the event was referred to as the October coup (žñññññ ¿ñññ) or the Uprising of 25th, as seen in contemporary documents (for example, in the first editions of Lenin's complete works). With time, the term October Revolution came into use – it is also known as the "November Revolution," having occurred in November according to the Gregorian Calendar – and the event became seen as an event of major importance.
The Great October Socialist Revolution (Russian: »ñ žññññññ ¡ñ»ñññññ »ñŽññ, Velikaya Oktyabr'skaya sotsialisticheskaya revolyutsiya) was the official name for the October Revolution in the Soviet Union [¡ññ ¡ñŽ] after the 10th anniversary of the Revolution in 1927.
A nationwide crisis had developed in Russia affecting social, economic, and political relations. The policies of the Russian Provisional Government had brought the country to the brink of catastrophe. 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 the 1st 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.
On July 1st 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 Germans 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 Provisional Government, with the support of the SR-Menshevik leaders of the All-Russian Executive Committee of the Soviets, ordered an armed attack against the demonstrators. Fifty-six people were killed and 650 were wounded.
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 Kshesinskaia, 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 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 Kerensky as chairman, was completed on 24 July.
A conspiracy against the government began, headed by 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. On 25 August the right-wing General Kornilov began a military revolt and started moving troops toward Petrograd. The Central Committee of the RSDLP appealed on 27 August to the workers, soldiers, and sailors of Petrograd to come to the defense of the revolution.
The Bolshevik Party mobilized and organized the people to defeat the Kornilov revolt. The Red Guard in the capital, which by then numbered about 25,000 fighters, was supported by the garrison of the city, the Baltic sailors, the railroad workers, the workers of Moscow, the Donbas, the Urals, and the soldiers at the front and in the rear. Kornilov–s revolt and its defeat at the hands of the workers disorganized and weakened the Provisional Government, while demonstrating the strength of the Bolsheviks and increasing their authority.
With Kornilov–s failed putsch, 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. In one day alone, 1 September, the All-Russian Central Executive Committee of Soviets received demands from 126 local soviets urging it to take power into its own hands.
On 10 October JC (all dates hereafter are from the Julian calendar unless otherwise noted), 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".
On 23 October 1917 (November 5 by the Gregorian calendar (GC)), Bolshevik leader Jaan Anvelt led his leftist revolutionaries in an uprising in Tallinn, the capital of the Autonomous Governorate of Estonia. On 25 October (7 November GC) 1917, Bolsheviks led their forces in the uprising in Saint Petersburg (then known as Petrograd), the capital of Russia, against the ineffective Kerensky Provisional Government. For the most part, the revolt in Petrograd was bloodless, with the Red Guards led by Bolsheviks taking over major government facilities with little opposition before finally launching an assault on the Winter Palace on the night of 25/26 October.
The official Soviet version of events says an assault led by Vladmir Lenin was launched at 9:45 p.m. signaled by a blank shot from the cruiser Aurora. (The Aurora was placed in Petrograd (modern Saint Petersburg) 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 night without a shot being fired. In actual fact the effectively unoccupied Winter Palace also was taken bloodlessly by 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 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.
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 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.
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 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, the Congress elected a Council of People's Commissars (Sovnarkom) 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 Kadet leaders and members of the Russian 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. On 20 December 1917 the Cheka was created by the decree of Lenin. These were the beginnings of the Bolshevik's consolidation of power over their political opponents.
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.
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 from parliamentarian to socialist in character. A coalition of anti-Bolshevik groups including invading armies from the victorious Allies attempted to unseat the new government in the Russian Civil War from 1918 to 1922. "It was this revolution which caused a chain reaction leading to Communist governance of Russia," claimed historian Edward Skinner (1951).
The United States did not recognize the new Russian government until 1933. In an attempt to reverse the gains of the revolution, the United States and other Western powers attacked and occupied parts of the Soviet Union for over two years before finally withdrawing. 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.
Boris Gudz, the last survivor of the revolution, died in December 2006 at the age of 104.
The term Red October (šñññ žññññ, Krasnyy Oktyabr) has also been used to describe the events of the month. This name has in turn been lent to a steel factory made notable by the Battle of Stalingrad, a Moscow sweets factory that is well-known in Russia, and a fictional Soviet submarine.
Sergei Eisenstein's film October describes and glorifies the revolution and was commissioned to commemorate the event.
7 November, the anniversary of the October Revolution, was an official holiday in the Soviet Union and still is in Belarus and Kyrgyzstan.
The October revolution of 1917 also marks the inception of the first Communist government in Russia. After this Russia became the Russian SFSR and later part of the USSR, which dissolved in 1991. The Russian SFSR still existed, but in 1991–1993 it was transformed from a Soviet republic into the modern semi-presidential Russian Federation.
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