Bolshevik triumph, 1917

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  • Created by: Ellie
  • Created on: 23-04-14 18:41

immediate problems facing prov gov


  • prov gov made up of mostly kadets and octobrists - didn't have popular support
  • didn't inc. mensheviks or bolsheviks - they rivalled power in pet sov - dual government
  • dual gov - difficult to make decisions and create effective gov
  • allowed more political freedoms - people freely criticised gov
  • pet sov became all-russia sov and issued 'order no.1' - stated that military orders of prov gov should only be followed if agreed by pet sov


  • food and fuel shortages carried on as they were due to war
  • soviet would only support defensive war, prov gov wanted offensive war to regain lost territory and expand borders
  • demonstrations against war became more frequent in 1917


  • peasants seized land by force from large landowners - prov gov received complaints of 700 illegal attacks 
  • while controlling cities they had little control over countryside - couldn't restore law&order unless sorted land
  • wanted to redistribute land but couldn't as peasant soldiers would return from war 
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return of Lenin - april 1917

Lenin's political ideas:

  • supported marxism - marxist ideas suggested that history would follow a pre-determined path - the proletariat who were exploited by the bourgeousie would lead a rev - from which a socialist society would develop based on equality, which would evolve into communism
  • however the peasantry were far larger than working class so lenin decided that the rev would need to be led by a small group of revolutionaries - the bolsheviks

return from exile:

  • hadn't expected abdication of Tsar - he had been living in exile in switzerland
  • he needed to cross german territory to return to russiagerman gov supported his return because he opposed WW1
  • on his return he made a speech that condemned the prov gov and demanded immediate social revolution, his ideas were later printed in the bolshevik newspaper 'pravda' as the 'april theses
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april theses

  • in the april theses he made a promise of 'peace, land, bread' - popular due to opposition of war and food shortages - and declared 'all power to the soviets'
  • this ran counter to the views of bolshevik leadership in petrograd - e.g. both kamenev and stalin had supported the prov gov
  • he also emphasised failings of prov gov to redistribute land to the peasants
  • he argued that prov gov were too influenced by middle class and wealthy landsowners and therefore the soviets should govern russia and the prov gov be removed

Lenins impact:

  • lenin sent bolsheviks to factories to gain support for strikes to remove prov gov from power
  • bolsheviks had limited impact - no mass strikes
  • many marxists believed russia wasn't ready for a communist revolution
  • lenin's successful leadership skills remained a threat to prov gov
  • when prov gov supported ill-fated June Offensive (led by Kerensky) - bolsheviks tried to exploit this and although the soviet still didn't support them, popularity amongst workers grew
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July Days - 3rd to 6th july

  • demonstrations in petrograd and across russia due to failings of June Offensive (led by Kerensky), food shortages and economic chaos
  • soldiers and sailors from the Kronstadt Naval Base organised an armed demonstration with the aim of collapsing the prov gov - they protested outside of the prov gov headquarters
  • at height of protest - 50,000 people surrounded Tauride Palace (headquarters of soviet) demanding 'all power to the soviets' - Chernov tried to calm them down but was attacked and had to be rescued by Trotsky, still the soviet didn't claim power
  • they looked to Lenin for clear leadership but even he thought the moment wasn't right and premature action could be catastrophic

end of the bolshevik threat?

  • prov gov and soviet appealed to workers to stop demonstrations and brought in troops to restore order
  • soldiers surrounded bolshevik HQ and 500 bolsheviks inside surrenedered - Lenin was accused of being a German spy and fled to Finland
  • he thought that he had missed the opportunity to seize power
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the Kornilov Affair - august 1917

  • after mass desertions that were a result of the failed June Offensive - Kerensky replaced Prince Lvov as Prime Minister and brought back the death penalty
  • General Kornilov became the new commander-in-chief - replacing Brusilov
  • Kornilov and troops marched on pet to restore order on behalf of prov gov
  • Kerensky thought that Kornilov was going to remove him from power so he provided the Red Guard with weapons and released bolsheviks from prisons - also supplying them with weapons
  • Kornilov realised he had been betrayed by Kerensky and continued to march on pet but lost support of his troops and was arrested

consequences of the revolt:

  • the Kornilov Affair weakened the prov gov
  • support for all-russia soviet was increased
  • Kerensky lost support of both right and left wing political parties
  • discipline within armed forces deteriorised further
  • provided lenin and bolsheviks who now had weapons, the opportunity to seize power
  • bolsheviks won a majority of support in the pet soviet
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key steps before oct rev

  • Lenin placed more emphasis on 'peace, land, bread' - peace = opposition to war, land = support of peasants seizing land and bread = need to end food shortages
  • Kornilov Revolt convinced many workers that the military were planning a military dictatorship
  • Lenin encouraged establishment of 41 newspapers to spread message
  • bolsheviks established Red Guard and gained weapons from Kerensky during revolt
  • prov gov announced that elections would take place for Constituent Assembly in November - Lenin knew that bolsheviks wouldn't do as well in elections as SR's so was determined to seize power before then
  • bolsheviks dominated the Petrograd Soviet and still demanded 'all power to the soviets'
  • Lenin secretly returned on the 10th oct and persuaded the Bolshevik Central Committee to support an armed seizure, zin and kam opposed the seizure of power and advocated a coalition gov

Trotsky's involvement:

  • Lenin gave responsibility for the coup (using violence to gain political power) to Trotsky. Lenin wanted to hide bolshevik involvement by handing over planning to the Military Revolutionary Committee led by Trotsky - he was a leading member of the SD's but only joined the bolshevik party in May (used to be menshevik)
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key events in the october revolution

The Military Revolutionary Committee

  • 24th oct - prov gov tried to close down 2 bolshevik newspapers in Pet - after this Lenin authorised Trotsky to begin to take over power - he intended to use the MRC and claim he had acted on behalf of the pet soviet

Storming the Winter Palace

  • 24th oct - red guard occupied important buildings within pet inc. Winter Palace. Soldiers who had previously worked for prov gov offered little resistance. Trotsky and Red Guard successfully arrested the majority of prov gov who were based in Winter Palace - which was guarded by female troops and trainee officer cadets which is why there was little resistance. 25th oct - MRC announced prov gov had been 'deposed' - Kerensky fled pet with support from American Embassy and hoped for support from loyal troops

The All-Russia Soviet

  • 25th oct - they met at Smolny Institute - Lenin knew that bolsheviks had majority with 390 seats compared to mensheviks 80 seats and socialist rev's 180. Now that soviet supported prov gov removal he needed to consolidate their power across Russia
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Bolshevik support growing

major cities

  • prov gov failed to improve working conditions in factories
  • as economy declined, workers increased demands
  • rising prices and food shortages = frequent strikes
  • would support any party that sorted out their problems - bolshevik support grew
  • feb 1917 bolshevik party members = 10,000, sept 1917 = 300,000
  • however still doesn't mean that the majority of russian population supported bolsheviks


  • increasing number of peasants using violence against landlords and forcably seizing land
  • prov gov losing support
  • most popular amongst peasants was SR Party 
  • however by oct 1917 peasants were becoming more disillusioned with SR and mensheviks who were more closely linked with prov gov than bolsheviks


  • after Kornilov affair support for prov gov deteriorated - many soldiers refused to take orders but didn't necessarily turn straight to bolsheviks until after they seized power
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why did bolsheviks succeed?

role of Lenin

  • Lenin seized the opportunity in oct 1917
  • took him until 18th oct to convince Central Committee to seize power by force - even then zin and kam opposed 
  • risky move getting trotsky to organise take-over because he was former menshevik and involved in pet soviet but he did it efficiently and with minimum force 
  • soviets were only other good option and lenin made it seem like they were taking power instead of him

weaknesses of other parties

  • Kadets dominated prov gov but had limited support from workers - peasants and workers thought they but interest of propertied class before theirs
  • mensheviks popular among workers and SRs amongst peasants but neither had clear strategy
  • mensheviks and SR's more closely linked to prov gov after July Days = lack of support
  • mensheviks didn't support creation of soviet gov after july days - support deteriorated rapidly

Fall of prov gov kornilov affair, giving red guards weapons and release bolshevik prisoners = gave lenin opportunity - made bolsheviks appear politically stronger - prov gov failed to redistribute land, food shortages, war, high inflation etc, also couldn't be trusted after June Offensive

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