What was the Russian Revolution?

We explain what the Russian revolution was, its history, causes, consequences and other characteristics. In addition, main characters.

What was the Russian Revolution?

The Russian Revolution is understood as the set of historical events that occurred in Russia at the beginning of the 20th century (1917). It consisted of the overthrow of the Tsarist monarchist regime and the construction of a new model of the Republican Leninist state.

This later became the Soviet Federal Socialist Republic of Russia. Also known as Soviet Russia or communist Russia, the latter would be the heart of the subsequent Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).

Commonly, the Russian Revolution comprises two different moments of this historical process, both in 1917:

  • The February Revolution : It ended the government of Tsar Nicholas II and formed a provisional government.
  • The October Revolution : Vladimir Lenin and his colleagues from the Bolshevik Party, overthrew the provisional government and established a Soviet-type government (the Sovnarkom or Soviet of People’s Commissaries), thus restructuring the country to lay the foundations of the coming Soviet Union.

The Russian Revolution was a decisive event in the history of the twentieth century and is one of the most studied by historians of this period. It aroused enormous sympathies in the progressive and revolutionary sectors of the entire world, as well as enormous fears and antagonisms once their political and social dynamics were at stake.

In fact, many speak of a “short twentieth century” to refer to the cycle initiated by the Russian Revolution of 1917 and closed by the Fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Background of the Russian Revolution

For centuries, the Russian Empire was an essentially rural nation (85% of the population lived outside the cities ). There was a high percentage of landless peasants, impoverished and receptive to revolutionary ideas . In fact, at the beginning of the 20th century, the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905), with a Japanese victory, unleashed a favorable moment for the demand for changes.

But Tsar Nicholas II did not heed the requests of the so-called Revolution of 1905 , proceeded to suppress it with fire and blood, resulting in the sadly celebrated Bloody Sunday in which the Russian Imperial Guard riddled the protesters. This means that the critical moment for the Revolution and the fall of the aristocracy had been brewing for some time.

Causes of the Russian Revolution

russian revolution history causes defeat world war one
Russia had suffered numerous defeats in World War I.

The causes of the Russian Revolution are several, and we can expose them separately as follows:

  • The situation of oppression and poverty to which the Russian peasantry had been sentenced for a long time, holding with their lives the absolutist command of the Tsarist monarchy.
  • The successive defeats of the First World War that Russia suffered, coupled with the fact that, at the time of entering the conflict, all parties were in favor except the Social Democratic Workers Party.
  • In addition, the failure in the attempt to keep pace with Russian production during the war unleashed an economic and social crisis which resulted in famine, shortages of goods, and collapse of the structures of the State , which led to some early organizational levels Autonomous popular .
  • The arrival of the winter of 1917, one of the cruelest of those times, in the worst possible conditions for the Russian people.

Stages of the Russian Revolution

russian revolution history stages february
During the February Revolution, hundreds of people died.

The Russian Revolution of 1917 includes, as we have said, two other revolutions, in February and October of that year, respectively.

The February Revolution

  • It began with a spontaneous strike among workers in the Petrograd factories , which were quickly joined by other sectors, such as women who went out to the street to ask for bread. When the police became insufficient to contain the demonstrations, the army assumed the repressive role and killed numerous protesters, but eventually ended up also joining the insurgents.
  • Pressed by the General Staff, before the uprising of all the regiments of the Petrograd garrison, Tsar Nicholas II abdicated on March 2 , and his brother, Duke Miguel Aleksándrovich, rejected the crown the next day.
  • A Provisional Government , consisting of coalitions of moderate liberal and socialist politicians, was erected throughout five different cabinets that failed to contain the disastrous situation of the Russian people and continue the war efforts at the same time. Its mission was to govern until the democratic election of a Pan-Russian Constituent Assembly at the end of 1917.
  • Before the delay in the implementation of the reforms that the Russian people demanded, the most radical wing of the revolutionaries, the Bolshevik Party, gained supporters at an accelerated pace towards the autumn of 1917, laying the foundations for the October Revolution.

The October Revolution

  • The plan devised by the Bolsheviks was to take power from the country during the Second Congress of the Soviets , cataloging any attempt against a counterrevolutionary act.
  • The Petrograd Revolutionary Military Committee (CMR), controlled by the Bolsheviks, was established, granting them full control of the force and thus cornering the provisional Government, which was formally seized power in a few weeks. However, clashes continued throughout Russia at various stages.
  • With the power under the command of the Bolsheviks, the votes of the Panrusa Constituent Assembly were held, in which the Revolutionary Socialists were victors by a wide margin (380 seats), followed by the Bolsheviks (168 seats) and then the rest of the matches
  • Reluctant to hand over power to the Constituent Assembly, which Lenin considered less democratic than the Soviets, the Bolsheviks began a campaign claiming that theirs was “a superior democracy” and through a series of clashes lit the wick of the coming Civil War. Thus , the legitimately elected Constituent Assembly was dissolved in January 1918 and the soviets were expelled to the socialist parties the following spring.

Characteristics of the Russian Revolution

The Russian Revolution shook the foundations of the European and Western world, because in a very short time it laid down a long-standing monarchy and transformed the State violently and significantly in a span of just one year. There are those who compare this revolution with the one in France in 1789, given the profound impact it had on the powers of the moment.

Not for nothing Adolf Hitler himself, in his most desperate moments of World War II , had the hope that the other Western powers would stand by his side, realizing that the Third Reich was the only force capable of stop the advance of communism from Russia.

Consequences of the Russian Revolution

history consequences fallen tsarism
The Russian Revolution meant the end of the Tsarist government.

The consequences of the Russian Revolution can be listed in:

  • The fall of the Tsarist monarchy and the beginning of the communist history of Russia , which would last until the fall of the USSR in 1991.
  • The beginning of the Russian Civil War , which faced the Bolshevik (red) side against the anti-Bolshevik movement (white) between 1918 and 1921, with the victory of the red side.
  • There were significant cultural changes in Russia, especially in regard to the role of the traditional bourgeois family , allowing legal abortion , divorce and decriminalization of homosexuality (although it was banned again in 1934). This also translated into social improvements for women. The triple principle of secularism, gratuity and compulsory formal education was also approved .
  • Transformation of the old feudal structures inherited from Tsarist Russia, which led to a slow process of modernization that initially subjected entire populations to famine , resulting in millions of deaths, especially in the years of 1932-1933, when produced the Ukrainian Holodomor.
  • Emergence of the Leninist police state , which would inspire the coming Soviet Union.

Important characters of the Russian Revolution

story characters lenin
Lenin contributed to Marxist thought and was one of the greatest revolutionaries.

The most significant characters of this historical period were:

  • Tsar Nicholas II (1868-1918) . Named Nikolai Aleksándrovich Románov, he was the ruling monarch of Russia during the Russian Revolution. He had ascended to the throne after the death of his father in 1894, and ruled until his deposition in 1917, being nicknamed by his critics as “Nicholas the Bloody”, due to the brutal repression experienced during his rule. Taken together with his family by the Bolsheviks, they were all executed in the basement of his home in Yekaterinburg in July 1918.
  • Mikhail Rodzianko (1859-1924) . One of the key politicians of the February Revolution of 1917, tried to negotiate a peaceful transition between the parties without success. He was elected deputy in the Third State Duma of Russia, and represented in the events following the Russian political right, favorable to the politics of the Soviets and a government of socialist-bourgeois transition. In 1920 he emigrated to Yugoslavia, where he died four years later.
  • Vladimir Ilich Ulyanov – Lenin (1870-1924) . He is one of the great thinkers and speakers of the revolutionary Left of all time. He was a politician, philosopher and theorist of importance, appointed president of the Sovnarkomen 1917, and therefore leader of the Bolshevik faction. In 1922 he became the first and maximum leader of the USSR, and his contribution to Marxist thought is such that there is a slope that bears his name: Leninism. After his death, his legacy was a source of struggle among his followers, especially between Leon Trotsky and Joseph Stalin. He is considered one of the greatest revolutionaries of the twentieth century.
  • Leon Trotsky (1879-1940) . Politician and Russian revolutionary of Jewish origin, was one of the key pieces of the October Revolution, and during the Civil War he held the position of Commissioner of military affairs in the communist government. It was he who negotiated Russia’s withdrawal from the First World War and subsequently led the leftist opposition in the Soviet Union, having to go into exile in Mexico, where he was killed by Soviet spies in the service of Stalin.

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