October Revolution, Bolshevik Revolution, Russian Revolution

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October Revolution, Bolshevik Revolution, Russian Revolution (Russian: Октябрьская революция/Oktyabrskaya revolyutsiya) or the Great October Socialist Revolution, also known as the October Uprising, was the event in Russia on October 25, 1917 according to the Julian calendar (November 7, 1917 according to the Gregorian calendar) that led to the overthrow of the provisional government in Petrograd and the transfer of power to the Bolsheviks under the leadership of Lenin and the establishment of the Soviet Union.

The October Revolution was one of the most important events of the 20th century that influenced world history by establishing the first and largest communist state in the world and influencing the spread of the communist system throughout the world.

With the overthrow of the tsar in February 1917, provisional governments were formed, first under Prince Lvov, supported by the Kadets, who had a majority in the Russian parliament, the Duma, and in July under Kerensky, supported by the right-wing SRs. With the October Revolution, the provisional government headed by Alexander Kerensky fell and the Bolsheviks and Left SRs came to power. Upon these developments, the anti-Bolshevik White Army started the Russian Civil War and the White Terror. In 1922, the Bolsheviks emerged victorious from the civil war and established the Soviet Union.

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Red guard unit of the Vulkan factory in Petrograd.

Initially, the event was referred to as the October Event or the 25 Uprising. Over time, the October Revolution became common. From 1927, the 10th anniversary of the revolution, it was officially called the Great October Socialist Revolution (Russian: Великая Октябрьская Социалистическая Революция). The anti-Bolsheviks, on the other hand, critically called it the “October Coup” (Russian: Октябрьский переворот).

In general, the aim of the October Revolution was to overthrow the autocratic system, to liberate Russia from the imperialist war, to establish a government representing the workers and peasants, to transfer the land to collective ownership in favor of the poor peasant masses, who constituted the vast majority of the people, against the land aristocracy, and to defend the interests of the working class against the bourgeoisie. The only successful aspect of the February 1917 Revolution was the overthrow of the Tsarist regime. However, despite the success of the people, power remained in the hands of the bourgeoisie, which was in the majority in the parliament due to the electoral rights granted to the elite masses by the monarchy.

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1917 July Days protests

The failure to meet democratic rights and demands, such as a labor law that would bring about a humane and fair labor system and an immediate peaceful environment, led to a contradiction between the intentions of the bourgeois government and the demands of the broad masses of the people who carried out the February Revolution. The current climate of uncertainty brought about by the bourgeois revolution that overthrew the autocracy caused a reaction among the people. The continuation of the war, the economic crisis, hunger and misery, and the new government’s tendency towards violence in the protests against all these, which would not resemble the Tsarist order, made the demands of the people for socialist revolution inevitable.

Development of the Bolshevik Revolution

By the turn of the 20th century, the Russian Empire was being called a prison of nations because of its persistent autocratic regime and the oppression of the different nationalities it harbored. The country had suffered a major military blow with the Russo-Japanese War and a major upheaval in its domestic political life with the 1905 Revolution. The Tsarist regime, with a fragile economy, entered World War I and the effects of the prolonged war had a devastating effect on the entire population, especially the soldiers at the front. In February 1917, revolutionary mobilization began.

On February 23 (March 8 in the Gregorian calendar), Petrograd workers demonstrated against the government and the existing order. The demonstrations, dominated by women, chanted “down with tyranny, we want bread and justice”. The use of force by the army against the demonstrations, which at first were moderate and only a protest against the tsar’s policies, led to the beginning of the anti-government uprising.

The rebellion quickly grew with the participation of most of the workers and war-weary conscripts. The Tsar deployed his army and Cossack soldiers to suppress the demonstrations. However, when the officers ordered to fire on the people, the war-weary soldiers responded by pointing their weapons at the officers. Cossack troops also refused to clash with the people. As the uprising grew, Tsar Nicholas II abdicated in favor of his brother Mikhail.

However, Prince Mikhail, fearing revolutionary mobilization, refused to take over the throne. Thus, the monarchy regime in Russia collapsed. 350 years of Tsarist rule and 300 years of the Romanov dynasty disappeared. However, the pro-Czar deputies, who were in the majority in the Duma due to the voting rights granted by the electoral system to the nobility and elite masses, acted quickly and formed a provisional government headed by Prince Lvov and tried to take over the administration. Of course, the Soviets of workers, peasants and soldiers emerged as an alternative power. There were now two separate governments representing a divided society.

The bourgeois government, which officially took over, represented the aristocrats, the factory owners, the clergy and the pro-Czar officers, while the Soviets represented the poor masses, the workers and peasants. The conflict between the two bodies and their supporters was the main cause of the chaos and turmoil in the uncertainty that lasted until the Bolsheviks came to power. With the Bolshevik Revolution, the bourgeois government would be eliminated and absolute power would be given to the Soviets.

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Red Guards

Lenin, who was in Switzerland, sent a letter to the party’s headquarters in Russia stating that the provisional government should not be supported and that the workers and peasants would triumph only with the full power of the Soviets. In any case, the provisional government was far from responding to the demands of the people. None of the demands such as agrarian reform and shortening the daily working hours were realized. The popular desire for peace, which was one of the reasons for the February Revolution, was ignored and World War I was continued in line with the wishes of the Entente, which feared that the closure of the eastern front would favor Germany. On March 10 (23), the Bolshevik-controlled Petrograd Soviet issued a manifesto entitled “To the Peoples of the World”: “The Russian revolutionaries call on the peoples of Europe for peace against the imperialist policies of the ruling classes”. The popular opposition to the war had reached such a serious level that soldiers, realizing that defeat was inevitable based on the inadequacy of the defense power of the state, which was on the verge of economic bankruptcy, were deserting from the army as the only remedy. In fact, from 1915 until the revolution, the number of deserters reached 1.5 million. Officers, who had completely lost their authority over their subordinates, killed hundreds of soldiers who tried to desert, provoking an even greater reaction. Unable to prevent the revolution, the officers took advantage of the situation to force the bourgeois government into war.

In April, Lenin arrived in Petrograd from Switzerland on an armored train and was greeted by a large crowd at Finland Station. In his speech there, Lenin called for a revolution for socialism in which the Soviets would be in full power. Immediately afterwards he published the famous theses called the “April Theses”. In these theses, Lenin stated that the name Social-Democracy had lost its significance due to the fact that social-democrats across Europe supported the war policies of their governments during the imperialist war of partition, and therefore proposed that the name of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party be changed to the Communist Party.

Although Lenin’s proposal was accepted, the name of the party was officially changed to the Communist Party in March 1918. With Lenin’s April Theses, the Bolsheviks demanded “Peace, bread and justice” and mobilized with the slogan “All Power to the Soviets”.

On April 18 (May 1), Foreign Minister Milyukov pledged to the Allies to continue the war. In response to this statement, the Petrograd Soviet distributed leaflets declaring that the people had been deceived. This decision, taken under pressure from the Entente, which did not want the German armies on the Russian front to be shifted to the western front, caused a public outcry and was protested. Starting on April 21 (May 4) and lasting for two days, the demonstrations chanted “down with the provisional government”, “Milyukov resigns”, “all power to the Soviets”. The demonstrations spread to Moscow and workers went on strike.

Realizing the danger, the government appealed to the Petrograd Soviet and invited the socialist parties to join the government. Right-wing socialists responded positively to this call. In this process, many Menshevik politicians were given ministries. However, the appointment of Alexander Kerensky as minister of war in the newly formed government on May 5 caused controversy in the Petrograd Soviet between the pro-war right-wing socialists and the pro-peace left-wing socialists.

After the failed offensive against the armies of the German Empire in July, 500,000 workers organized demonstrations demanding the resignation of the Provisional Government. On 3 July (16 July), soldiers and workers rallied in favor of the Soviets in protests called by the Soviet-controlled Petrograd Garrison.

On July 4 (July 17), the protests grew as Baltic Fleet sailors and workers’ families joined the demonstrations. However, these rallies led to massacres by the provisional government. During the suppression of the demonstrations, 56 people were killed and nearly 600 were wounded as a result of machine-gun fire from houses on the people. Although the government blamed extreme right-wing organizations for the massacre, the Soviets blamed capitalist ministers as the shooters.

After this period, the Soviets were now subdued by the Provisional Government. Meanwhile, the Russian economy was heading for disaster. Irregularities in agricultural production and industry had led to a drop in output to the level of 1916, and there was massive unemployment due to the closure of enterprises. Workers’ wages had fallen and purchasing power had fallen to the levels of 1913. The country’s debts exceeded 50 billion rubles and the economy was on the brink of bankruptcy.

The July Days were followed by a period of repression, especially against the Bolsheviks. On July 7 (July 20), Aleksandr Kerensky became prime minister in the new Provisional Government formed after the resignation of Prince Lvov.

The new government raided the Bolshevik printing house and banned the publication of the newspaper Pravda. It was forbidden to distribute leaflets and hold rallies without permission from the government. A death sentence was issued against Lenin. Upon this decision, Lenin defected to Finland for safety. However, arrests and extrajudicial executions of Bolsheviks increased. Many Bolsheviks, especially Trotsky, were arrested.

Against the socialist organizations in Petrograd, the Cossack Army under the command of Lavr Kornilov, one of the commanders of the Tsarist Army, decided to march on the city to declare martial law and take over the administration. During what became known as the Kornilov Affair, Kerensky panicked and realized that the coup would also liquidate him and sought help from the Bolsheviks, the strongest and most organized political force at the time. Bolshevik workers and soldiers in Petrograd, Moscow, Kiev, Kharkov and other cities organized anti-Kornilov demonstrations. On August 27, 1917, the Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party issued a statement calling for a halt to Kornilov’s troops advancing on Petrograd to strangle everything gained by the February Revolution. As a result of the obstruction, especially by railroad workers, and the propaganda of Cossack Bolshevik soldiers, Kornilov’s army dispersed and the coup attempt failed. These events tested the power of the Bolsheviks and marked an important stage in the seizure of power.

With the failure of Kornilov’s coup, the Bolsheviks’ prestige and support in the Soviets increased. The Bolsheviks won majorities in Petrograd, Moscow, Briansk, Samara, Saratov, Tasritsyn, Minsk, Donetsk, Lugansk and Kiev Soviets. The All-Russian Central Executive Committee of the Soviets decided to take power.

On September 25, Trotsky was released on bail and took over the leadership of the Petrograd Soviet. Lenin arrived secretly in Petrograd and began organizing the revolution. In September and October, Moscow and Petrograd industrial workers, Donbas miners, Ural metal workers, Baku oil workers, textile workers and railway workers went on numerous strikes to protest against the Provisional Government. In total, 1 million workers participated in strike processes during these two months. Workers took over most factories and workplaces and began to control production and distribution.

By October 1917, a similar situation existed in the countryside. Over 4,000 acts of uprising by poor peasants against the big landowners were recorded. The fact that the Provisional Government acted according to the wishes of the kulaks, the rich peasants who owned large tracts of land, and sent troops to suppress the uprisings caused the poor peasants to support the Bolsheviks, who promised to give them the land.

Soldiers and sailors at the front, in garrisons in the cities and on warships also openly declared that they did not recognize the Provisional Government and sent their elected representatives to the Soviets to argue in favor of taking power.

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The final scene of the movie Lenin in October. Vladimir Lenin proclaims the October Revolution with Stalin and his entourage.

Revolution and Soviet Power

On October 10 the Central Committee of the Social Democratic Workers’ Party of Russia (Bolshevik) convened under the chairmanship of Lenin with the agenda of armed uprising. The meeting decided in favor of the uprising with 10 votes against 2.

Realizing that the revolution was imminent, Prime Minister Alexander Kerensky ordered the Revolutionary Military Committee to be disbanded and all its members arrested. But the few detachments that were willing to carry out the orders of the head of government, who had now completely lost his authority, were easily repulsed by the Red Guards.

The Revolutionary Military Committee issued a proclamation addressed to the people of Russia calling for a democratic peace and a revolution in which the Soviets would take full power for workers’ control over the machinery of production.

On October 24 (November 6) 1917, the Bolsheviks took action against the Provisional Government led by Kerensky in the capital Petrograd. Bolshevik prisoners in jails were released. Troops loyal to the government were easily disposed of. On October 25 (November 7), some 10,000 Red Guards captured all government buildings and strategic positions without meeting strong resistance. Lenin went to the Smolni Institute, from where he gave instructions for the revolution. A detachment of military cadets led by Vladimir Stankevich and the St. Georgiev guards resisted the Bolsheviks, but without success.

On the night of October 25 (November 7), the attack on the Winter Palace, where the government was located, began. Thousands of Red Guards headed for the Winter Palace. The Baltic Fleet led by Vladimir Antonov-Ovseyenko and the Kronstadt Marines joined the attack. Cannon fire was fired at the palace from the cruiser Aurora. By this time Kerensky had managed to escape, but the ministers were still in the palace. The palace, guarded by Cossacks, cadets and guards, fell at 2 a.m. on November 8. Members of the overthrown government were imprisoned.

The official date of the revolution was October 25 (November 7) 1917. After the de facto seizure of power, the II All-Russian Congress of Soviets, which was convened by the Bolsheviks and their allies, the Left SR deputies, declared that power had been ceded to the Bolsheviks under the leadership of Lenin.

Consequences of the October Revolution

Of the 670 delegates at the Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets, 300 were Bolsheviks and about 100 were Left SR members of the Socialist-Revolutionary Party, representing about half of the 670 delegates, so the majority at the congress approved the overthrow of Alexander Kerensky’s government. When news of the capture of the Winter Palace reached the congress, the Soviet of Workers’, Soldiers’ and Peasants’ Deputies was declared in power and the October Revolution was ratified. Bolshevik leader Lenin made a short speech at the congress about the seizure of power:

“Comrades, the workers’ and peasants’ revolution, which the Bolsheviks insisted on, has taken place.”

Representatives of the right wing of the Socialist Revolutionary Party present at the congress protested the decision and left the congress. The Mensheviks, who joined the protest and stated that Lenin and the Bolsheviks had illegally seized power, also left the congress. The congress elected the new Soviet government, the Council of People’s Commissars (Russian: Совет народных коммиссаров, abbreviated in Latin as Sovnarkom), headed by Lenin. The Sovnarkom, which was declared to be in power until the Constituent Assembly was convened, first issued the Peace Decree, declaring their withdrawal from World War I and calling for a peace without annexation and compensation for all belligerent governments. Immediately afterwards, the Land Decree was adopted and the land belonging to a minority of large landowners was distributed to the poor peasants who constituted the majority of the population.


  1. ^ History.com Staff. “Russian Revolution.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 2009, www.history.com/topics/russian-revolution.
  2. ^ Большая Российская энциклопедия. Том 7. стр. 591−598. Москва. Научное издательство «Большая Российская энциклопедия», 2007. — ISBN 978-5-85270-337-8, 5-85270-320-6.
  3. ^ Scientific and Technological Training and Mainpower in the USSR 
  4. ^ “Union of Soviet Socialist Republics > History > Early Years > World War II — Britannica Kids Encyclopædia



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