Revolutions of 1917
The March Revolution
shortages due to the war effort began causing major problems
for the common people of Russia. As starvation claimed the lives
of poor people, the duma began to publicly accuse the Tsar of
destroying the country. Workers began strikes and riots against
the government as a protest to the war and how it was being
fought. Troops were called in to stop the riots and were ordered
to fire upon the workers. Instead of firing upon the workers,
they joined them in the protest against the war and therefore
The Tsar attempted to return to St Petersburg to take control
of the situation, but the duma announced that they did not recognize
the leadership of the Tsar any longer. They also announced the
formation of a Provisional (temporary) Government to run the
country in the absence of the Tsar. Nicholas II was shocked
by the reaction of his people and was crushed by their lack
of support. He abdicated the throne on 15 March 1917.
The Provisional Government
new government of Russia immediately tried to fix the major
problems facing the country. They promised the suffering peasants
that they could own their land, and that all would be free to
enjoy the new prospects of Russia. The new government had good
intentions, but did not have experience in running a large country.
Furthermore, the Provisional Government announced that the
war against Germany and Austria-Hungary must continue. Western
Russia was under the occupation of the advancing German Army
and had to be stopped. All reforms to the Russian system were
to be placed on hold until the enemy was defeated. This decision
was soon to become the downfall of the government, as the people
did not want to wait.
During this time of confusion within Russia, many former exiles
returned to carry out changes to the system. One of the major
players to return from Switzerland was Vladimir Lenin. Lenin
was brought to Russia by the German army in a sealed railcar.
They wanted him to undermine the Russian war effort. They never
believed that he would be able to seize power and change the
history of Europe.
The November (October) Revolution
Under the leadership of Lenin, the Bolshevik
party gained strong support from the workers and soldiers inside
the city of St Petersburg. As Leninís support grew, the Provisional
Government suffered further defeats at the hands of the German
Army. In addition, major plots against the government by socialist
and supporters of the Tsar began to erode its power.
On the night of 7 November 1917, Lenin made his move to seize
power. The Bolsheviks surrounded the Winter Palace where the
Provisional Government was meeting and arrested everyone. As
well, Bolshevik supporters seized the power stations and centers
of communication. Leninís party immediately moved into the government
offices and began to issue orders to run the country. Russian
historians have described this series of events as the October
Revolution. This can cause confusion because Russia used the
Julian calendar, so what the rest of Europe calls November,
they call October.
The job of seizing control of the government was relativity
easy one for Lenin. The difficult task of trying to unite and
run a large country like Russia was to prove to be something
much more difficult.