Extent of Oct Revolution and Historiography

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  • The extent of the Oct/Nov Revolution
    • The Oct/Nov revolution in Petrograd was actually relatively small scale affair. Trotsky claimed that 25,000 to 30,000 "at the most" were actively involved and this included the Red Guards
      • There may have been 10,000 to 15,000 in the square in front of the winter palace on 25 October, but many would have just been bystanders and not active in the revolt.
      • Most photographs suggest the forces were quite small
      • Most Bolsheviks would deny this as they wanted it to be viewed as a "popular" revolution".
    • In the three days of the Bolsheviks trying to assume power there was actually little fighting- and records say no more than 5 deaths
      • Largely because the provisional government had hardly any military resources left with which to combat the assault.
      • Most of Petrograd remained unaffected by the disturbances- trams and taxis ran as normal so did restaurants
        • Even Trotsky admitted that the revolution was essentially a series of "small operations, calculated and prepared in advance".
    • Historiography of revolution
      • In the aftermath of the communist seize on power, it suited soviet historians to idealize Lenin's role and treat him as a heroic leader
        • Another difficult issue concerns whether the revolution was a popular rising or whether it was a classic coup d'etat.- capture of government by a small minority. Western historians tend to favour the latter however there was some spontaneous rebellion which Bolsheviks managed to exploit
      • British Historians such as E.H Carr writing in the 60s accepted Lenin as the central force of the revolution
        • However, it was Trotsky who organised the Red Guards and directed the actual seziure on the 25TH OCTOBER
        • Historian Robert Service argued Russia was heading for a socialist takeover however Lenin ensured this was a solely Bolshevik takeover.
          • If this view is adopted we can observe that the Government's failure was more crucial than Lenin's leadership in the rising of the Bolshevik party.


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