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Unit 2: The Revolution and Civil War (1917

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Unit 2: The Revolution and Civil
War (1917-1921)
The February Revolution
1. Food, coal shortages
- led to strikes, riots
2. War effort
- suffered 7 million casualties
- poorly equipped soldiers
- did well on the Caucasus Front vs. Turks
and the Austrians on the Western Front but
poorly against the Germans
3. Influence of Rasputin
4. Czarina Alexandra - German
The February Revolution
March 8, 1917 – Riots broke out in Petrograd
- Troops refused to fire on demonstrators.
Many joined the protesters.
- Nicholas II was at the front. When he
tried to return to Petrograd, his trained
was blocked by railway workers.
The February Revolution
March 17, 1917: Czar Nicholas II tries to pass
the throne to his brother. He refused.
Nicholas II abdicates.
Provisional Government replaces Romanovs
and the Duma.
- Soviet of Workers and Soldiers formed.
- “Dual Power”
The Provisional Government and the
Russia’s allies from
Europe and the United
States welcomed the
Government for its
commitment to the war
effort and its
From February to October: Factors
that Led to the Bolshevik Revolution
1. Provisional Government established a “bourgeois
republic” – March 1917
* all citizens equal under the law
* freedom of speech, religion, press,
assembly and legalized unions
* secret police, Siberian exile, death penalty
* ethnic minorities received autonomy / Poland &
Finland declared independence
* promised nationwide elections for a
“Constituent Assembly”
From February to October: Factors
that Led to the Bolshevik Revolution
2. Allies welcomed Russia’s “democracy.” Needed Russia in the war.
3. Provisional Government honored its military commitment to the Allies.
* As a result, conditions in the country worsened.
* Failed to address workers demands for better wages, less hours,
protection against unemployment
* Failed to enact land reforms – peasants began seizing land in the spring
* Soldiers began mutinying and deserting their ranks
* Elections for the Constituent Assembly took place Nov. 12, after Provisional
Govt. was overthrown
4. April, 1917: Lenin returns to Russia / issues the “April Theses”:
* bourgeois revolution achieved – socialist rev. next step
* “Land, Bread and Peace.”
* “All power to the soviets!”
From February to October: Factors
that Led to the Bolshevik Revolution
5. “The July Days” (July 16-18)
* radicals, with some Bolshevik
participation, tried to sieze power in
* Although Lenin opposed the attempt, he was
blamed and fled to Finland.
* Provisional Government failed to eliminate its
From February to October: Factors
that Led to the Bolshevik Revolution
6. The “Kornilov Affair” (September 1917)
* General Lev Kornilov wanted to restore law and order in the
country, discipline in the military and abolish the soviets.
* Did not want to reestablish the monarchy.
* He sent troops loyal to Petrograd to defend the
Provisional Government.
* Radicals mobilized against “counterrevolution”
* Bolsheviks freed from the jails and given weapons to
defend Petrograd. They gain upper hand in the Petrograd
* Kornilov arrested. Will lead an anti-Bolshevik force in the Civil War.
Will be killed in battle.
From February to October: Factors
that Led to the Bolshevik Revolution
7. Growing popularity of the Bolsheviks
* Party membership in February 1917: 24,000 / 100,000 by May /
350,000 by October 1917
* Bolsheviks captured a majority in the Petrograd Soviet on
September 13 and in the Moscow Soviet a week later.
* While the First All-Russian Congress of Soviets, convened in the
summer, had a majority of moderate socialists, by the time of the
storming of the Winter Palace, the Second All-Russian Congress
of Soviets found the Bolsheviks in the majority.
* November 7 / October 25, 1917 – Bolshevik-led soldiers stormed
the Winter Palace defended by young cadets from a military
academy and a women’s battalion. The Bolsheviks were in power.
Bolsheviks in Power
Lenin and the Bolsheviks ultimate goal
was to create a communist society in
the former Russian empire. But they
came to power without a clear
blueprint for ruling the country and
building socialism or even a clear
strategy for governing.
Lenin’s first two decrees as head of
the country:
1. negotiate a “just and democratic
peace” without annexations and
indemnities that would end WWI
2. abolish all landlord property
immediately and without compensation
to distribute to peasants.
Bolsheviks in Power
Elections for the Constituent Assembly took place on November 12 on the
basis of universal male suffrage. The results:
36 million votes were cast:
707 Total members
21 million – Socialist Revolutionaries – 61% / 370 members
40 Left SR’s
9 million - Bolsheviks
- 25% / 170 members
6 million - all other parties
- 14% / 34 Mensheviks
about 100 other
Constituent Assembly met on January 18, 1918. Lenin denounced it as a
“bourgeois institution” that didn’t accurately represent the working masses
and had it disbanded.
Workers agreed that Soviet power was more representative. No opposition
to Bolshevik disbanding of the Constituent Assembly.
Bolsheviks were joined by the Left SR’s.
Bolsheviks in Power
March, 1918 – Treaty of Brest-Litovsk
- Lenin wanted out of the war at all costs.
- Germans proposed Draconian conditions for peace.
- Leon Trotsky, Soviet representative at the peace talks, opposed harsh German
- During the talks, German army advanced deeper into Ukraine.
The terms:
- Ukraine, Poland, Finland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia gained
independence. Soviet Russia lost:
- 26% of its total population.
- 27% of its arable land
- 32% of its average crop production
- 26% of its railway system
- 73% of its iron industries
- 75% of its coal fields
- forced to pay Germany a large indemnity.
Bolsheviks in Power
* As a result of Brest-Litovsk, Trotsky resigned as Commissar for
Foreign Affairs. He was named Commander of the newly formed
Red Army almost immediately.
Bolsheviks in Power
* As a result of Brest-Litovsk, the
Left SR’s resigned from the
government, turning Soviet
Russia into a one partydictatorship until 1991.
Pre-Civil War Bolshevik Policies
(November 1917 – June 1918)
1. Peasant were given complete local control over the use of land through local peasant Soviets.
2. Workers control was introduced in all industrial, commercial and agricultural enterprises. Control
would be exercised through factory committees and workers Soviets.
- Banks and large factories were nationalized.
- Foreign trade was monopolized by the state.
3. Judicial system was abolished – replaced by elected revolutionary tribunals and “people’s courts.”
- December 1917 – CHEKA was founded and headed by Felix Dzerzhinsky. Precursor to
the KGB.
4. National minorities were told they had the right to independence from Russia.
5. Titles and ranks were abolished.
6. Upper and middle classes had their property confiscated or divided.
7. Russian Orthodox Church property was confiscated and religious instruction in schools terminated.
- Marx: “religion is the opiate of the masses.”
Felix Edmundovich Dzerzhinsky “Iron
Felix” (1877-1926)
Born in Poland.
Founder of the CHEKA.
it is estimated that at least half a million
people were executed by Dzerzhinsky's
agents between 1917-1926.
Dzerzhinsky also set up the first Soviet
labour camps, later to become known as
the gulags, on the remote Solovetsky
Islands south of the Arctic Circle
Members of the secret police "should
have a cool head, a warm heart and
clean hands".
He was also known for helping a huge
number of orphans and homeless people
who appeared after the Bolshevik
Revolution and Russian Civil War.
Dzerzhinsky and the “Red Terror”
“Proletarian coercion in all its forms, beginning with
executions, is a method of delivering a communist man
out of the material of a capitalist epoch.” - Dzerzhinsky
The Civil War and “War Communism”
The Civil War began in the summer of 1918 in response to Bolshevik
The opposition to the Bolsheviks was known as the “White” movement.
Consisted of:
- the far Right (Monarchists, Russian nationalists, Cossacks, army
- centrists and liberals (bourgeois CADETS, Octobrists
- Socialists (Mensheviks, SR’s)
- Anarchists
- Foreign Intervention (14 foreign armies intervened and supported the
Whites vs. the Reds including 7,000 U.S. troops
The White armies did well in the beginning:
- Execution of the Romanov family in Ekaterinburg July, 1918.
Kronstadt Rebellion, March 1921
An unsuccessful uprising of pro-Soviet sailors from Kronstadt against
Bolshevik rule.
Led by Stepan Petrichenko. Included sailors from the ships
Petropavlovsk and Sevastopol.
1. Bolshevik authoritarianism
2. Worsening condition of working class
3. Forced grain requisitioning / violence against the peasants
4. lack of freedom for other left-wing socialist forces.
The sailors of Kronstadt were the most radical and the biggest
supporters of the Bolsheviks during the lead up until the October
Kronstadt Rebellion, 1921
Demands of the Kronstadt Sailors
(part 1)
Immediate new elections to the Soviets. The present Soviets no longer express
the wishes of the workers and peasants. The new elections should be by secret
ballot, and should be preceded by free electoral propaganda.
Freedom of speech and of the press for workers and peasants, for the Anarchists,
and for the Left Socialist parties.
The right of assembly, and freedom for trade union and peasant organisations.
The organisation, at the latest on 10th March 1921, of a Conference of nonParty workers, soldiers and sailors of Petrograd, Kronstadt and the Petrograd
The liberation of all political prisoners of the Socialist parties, and of all
imprisoned workers and peasants, soldiers and sailors belonging to working class
and peasant organisations.
The election of a commission to look into the dossiers of all those detained in
prisons and concentration camps.
Kronstadt Rebellion, March 1921
Lenin ordered 50,000 Red Army troops under the
command of Mikhail Tukhachevsky to crush the
Many Red Army units were forced at gun point to
attack the Kronstadt fortress.
- Some joined the rebels.
10 days after the assault and 10,000 casualties
later, the Red Army entered the fortress.
Tambov Rebellion 1919-1921
Largest peasant rebellion against the Bolsheviks
during the Civil War.
Led by Social Revolutionaries in response to forced
grain requisitioning.
Mikhail Tukhachevsky was commander of Red
Army forces (30,000) sent to crush the rebellion.
Future World War II hero Georgiy Zhukov earned
his first medal fighting for the Red Army.
Impact of the Tambov and Kronstadt
Forced Lenin to retreat from War Communism
and implement the more moderate New
Economic Policy (NEP)
Soviet Russia at War vs. Poland (19191921)
Poles attacked to recuperate territory lost during the 3 partitions in the 18th C.
Soviets tried to spread communist revolution West.
Polish leader Josef Pilsudski felt White Russian Army a bigger threat than the
- Bolsheviks denounced partitions of Poland and
allowed Polish independence / White Russians
wanted Poland back in Russian Empire
- Let Bolsheviks off the hook when they were fighting
against Whites in east and Poles in West.
Red Army forces under Mikhail Tukhachevsky made it all the way to Warsaw.
Polish counteroffensive led to the Poles occupying half of Belarus and Ukraine.
Threat of Riga (1921) officially ended hostilities between the two.
Soviet Russia at War vs. Poland (19191921): Propaganda Posters
Soviet Russia at War vs. Poland (19191921): Propaganda Posters
Soviet Russia at War vs. Poland (19191921): Main Commanders
Mikhail Tukhachevsky
Jozef Pilsudski
Polish – Soviet Border Established by
the Treaty of Riga (1921)
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