Russia - Bolshevik Take Over and Consolidation 1917-24

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  • Created on: 13-06-16 10:06

The Provisional Government

At first people liked the PG and expected it would make reform and rule efffectively. 4 biggest expectations: Pull out of the war, redistribute land and property, solve shortages, improve conditions for workers.

Problems of the Provisional Government:

  • lacked control - needed the S to pass laws and the PS cont. workers and army
  • wealthy landowners still held most of the land in the country - wouldnt have just agreed to give it away
  • felt new and big changes should be made by the new gov. to be elected in november
  • for this reason and not wanting to desert their allies they didnt pull out of the war

By april the PG had:

  • introduced and 8 hour working day
  • made it legal to form political parties and hold public meetings
  • released political prisoners

these reforms made it easy for people to critisise what the prov. gov, wasnt doing

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Lenin Returns

Lenin returned form exile: Lenin was the leader of the Bolshevik party, an excellent speaker and a clear thinker. He sent ahead his list of aims for the party: The April Thesis.

He said the PG was the result of the Bourgeois revolution and now the party had to work for the workers revolution. It followed then, that the Bolsheviks would not work with the PG but against it. He also stressed the need to get out of the war. 

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Bolshevik support grows

the 1st pg didnt last. the second had members from every party apart from the bolsheviks.

people came to see the bolsheviks as the only party in favour of real change and getting out of the war

the PG introduced bread rationing in march. In june, russian generals launched another offensive that resulted in huge losses. by autumn, over 2 million soldiers had deserted.

the bolsheviks made the most of these problems and made inspiring speeches with simple slogans such as 'peace,land,bread' and 'all power to the soviet' 

by june there were 41 newspapers in major cities critising the PG and urging a revolution.

the bolsheviks set up a red guard - armed workers - by july there were 10,000 in Petrograd.

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The July Days 1917

In July 1917 there was another unplanned rising in Petrograd. People were reacting to:

  • the war
  • bread rationing
  • the PG's lack of reforms

it was smaller than the February Revolution but this time people were chanting bloshevik slogans.

The PG acted like the Tsar - sending troops out to clear the streets and arrested bolshevik leaders. 

Lenin had to go int hiding

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Kornilov's Revolt

  • Kornilov (army leader) was disturbed by the growing unrest in towns and countryside so pushes kerensky (leader of 3rd PG) to impose martial law
  • Kerensky could decide - did he want the support of kornilov and therefore the army or the soviets?
  • he encouraged Kornilov to advance his troops on Petrograd - thinking they were saving the PG from the soviets
  • claiming kornilov was leading a coup, kerensky armed the red guard and sent them to stop him
  • pro-soviet activists managed to persuade kornilov to stop before they reached petrograd so there was no fighting - but kornilow and 7,000 folowers were arrested
  • kerensky presented himself as the saviour of the revolution but it didnt work - people saw the bolsheviks as the saviours instead. They won the most seats in the provisional government election 

People now came to see the Bolsheviks - who had predicted a counter-revolutionary move - as the party of the people

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Lenin in Exile and Trotsky in Petrograd

The Petrograd Soviet wanted to demand that the PG hand over power to the Congress of Soviets when they met on the 25th of October. Lenin knew he must act before this if he wanted a Bolshevik Revolution.

Trotsky became the head of the Petrograd Soviet, now with a bolshevik majority

he also became head of its military revolutionary commitee - a military organ set up by the bolsheviks in preparation for the October Revolution

The PG couldnt keep control as the violence in the cities escalated. They even set the troops that remained in petrograd against their own people.

in october kernesky received a letter from the front saying 'there is nothing to do but give up'

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Bolshevik Take Over

10th October - Lenin Secretly returns from exile. Rumors say he is planning a revolution yet Kerensky does nothing

24th - Kerensky closes all Bolshevik news offices and orders the arrest of the MRC. The MRC take over the offices, army headquaters, telegraph stations and main river

25th - congress of soviets meet. Those who disagree with the takeover walk out leaving those who agree. the MRC take over railway stations, post offices, the state bank, the two other river bridges and the Winter Palace - where the PG meet

26th - Winter Palace is captured and the PG arrested. A new Bolshevik government is annonced.

Lenin annonced the consistuent assembly election would take place on the 12th Nov. Until then a CPC would be set up to rle by decree (allowing them to make quick, unchallenged changes to law)

the congress of soviets elected the CEC to check the CPC, both groups had Bolshevik majorities.

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Why did the Bolsheviks manage to take over Petrogr

  • Lenin had pressed for a revolution in october and had insisted it had to be Bolshevik, not one where multiple parties ended u sharing power
  • The PG failed to disarm and disband the Red Guard
  • The PG didnt react in time - rumours etc
  • It was well organised by Trotsky - timings, congress, they had taken over telegraph/phone offices and railway stations so could get help
  • The PG had little support. - When tried to look for troops to help them, they had either joined the MRC or had been persuaded not to help the PG. The Bolsheviks offered the decisive leadership that people had been looking for since revolution broke out
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Early Decrees

  • Capital Punisment Abolished
  • In towns and contryside power was given the the local soviets
  • The Peace Decree:
    • Called on all nations to negotiate for peace at once. Lenin was determined to get Russia out of the war because:
      • Failiure to do so had undermined the PG
      • It was what the Bolsheviks had promised
      • He feared Civil War would break out and wanted to have troops back in Petrograd to help him fight it
  • The Land Decree:
    • Gave all land belonging to the Tsar, landowners and the church to the peasants. This only made what the peasants were already doing official, but made the Bolsheviks popular with them
  • The Workers Decree:
    • Gave workers control of factories and set an 8 hour working day
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The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk

Trotsky was set the task of negotiating peace with Germany. The Germans knew Lenin wanted troops free to fight a civil war so set a high price:

Russia Lost:

  • 80% of its coal mines
  • 50% of its industry
  • 26% of its railways
  • 26% of its people
  • 27% of its farmland

The traty was signed on the 3rd March 1918

It made people furious, but Lenin knew he couldnt fight a war and civil war

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The Consitiuent Assembly

The Bolsheviks were still in power for the November Elections. The results were a shock. The Socialist Revolutionary Party had won the mahjority of votes and seats (370) while the bolsheviks had less (175 seats)

The Constituent Assembly met once on the 5th January 1918. The socialist Revolutionaries argued against bolshevik decrees an wouldnt pass them into law and were critical of the treaty of brest-litovsk.

lenin bough in the red guard to shut the meeting down

the next day those who turned up hoping to discuss were sent away by the red guard

lenin and the cpc were now running the country

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Red Terror

Lenin began to refer to the need for terror duing war and revolution more and more in his speeches. In September 1918 the CPC issues the decree 'concerning the red terror' which allowed the Cheka - the new secret police - to send class enemies to prison camps and shoot people involved in counter revolutionary activities.

in other words, the cheka could now act against enemies of the Bolsheviks in the same way the Okhrana acted against enemies of the Tsar.

Many people critisied the decree, but Lenin and Trotsky spoke in favour of it

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Break out of Civil War - Sides

Civil War broke out in the winter of 1918. There were two main sides - lenin and the bolsheviks, the reds, and allied groups who were against bolshevik control, the whites.

The whites consisted of:

  • Kerensky and the troops he raised to restore the PG
  • Kornilov, Denekin and the Volunteer Army (mostly officers, some badly trained troops) who fought to restore the Tsar
  • Troops from the Allies who were angry Russia had left the war and were against communism
  • Troops led by Kolchak, an ex-naval commander with a capital at omsk in siberia
  • The Czech Legion, around 40,000 czech soliders, once a part of the Tsars army, who refused to give the Bolsheviks their weapons, caputured the Trans-Siberian rail road and joined the whites
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Main Events of the Civil War

  • March 1918 - moved capital to moscow as better communications, more central, safer from attack
  • Oct 1919 - Denikins and Kolchaks armies closing in
  • 22nd October - White armies on the outskirts of Petrograd
  • Trotsky organised a counter attack and drove them back
  • November 1919 - Allies gave up sending troops and supplies as didnt think Whites could win
  • Troops began to desert to the Red Army and the Czech Legion went home, handing over Kolchak, whom they had captured, on the way
  • In April 1920, the Red Army drove a Polish attack back to Poland
  • By this point the Reds had won. Some groups continued to fight until 1921, but they were no longer a serious threat

Bolsheviks responded to the problems caused by war by:

  • Enlarging the Red Army (5 million by 1920)
  • Continuting the Red Terror against Political Opponents - 6300 excecutions by end of 1918
  • Introduced War Communism - took control of all food and redistributing it (red army 1st) and all factories with +10 workers to control war supplies
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Why the Bolsheviks won the civil war

  • War communism supplied the Red Army as effiecntly as possible under the circumstances
  • the check clamped down on resistance to the state so resistance was difficult and dangerous
  • trotsky was a good leads: he went by train to speak to troops in the most dangerous places, made inspiring speeches, gave out tobacco and other luxuries, and even put on entertainments
  • the political commissar in each unit made sure troops believed in the Bolshevik ideas they were fighting for
  • the red army had the advantage of being in the middle so could move troops around quicker than the whites
  • the whites didnt work well together as their only shared aim was to remove the bolsheviks
  • the whites had many officers but few soldiers - they had to conscript peasants who didnt really want the return of the tsar
  • the whites didnt treat troops well. when they began to lose, troops started deserting
  • the loss of foreign troops and supplies was a huge blow to the whites
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Effects of the Civil War

had all the effects of WW1 (casualties, shortages, loss of workers) but also; damaged land, property, railroad and telegraph lines; civilian casualties; skilled workers and professionals left russia to find somewhere safer to work.

bolsheviks won support - red terror and war communism

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The New System of Government

The constitution of the 10th July 1918 set out a new system of government:

Local Soviets elected members to regional soviets

regional soviets elected members to the congress of soviets

the congress chose the CEC, which chose the CPC; the people who ran the 18 ministries that ran the country

the CPC made the laws, but the CEC and congress had to approve them

in december 1920, the constitution was changed to allow the CPC to pass urgent laws without approval.

All workers could vote, but those who made a living off the work of others e.g. landlands coundn't

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War Communism

War communsim began in May 1918, and was the policy Lenin adopted to bring the economy completely under government control, to help win the civil war and destroy opposition.

the main elements were:

  • Ending the market for food - peasants couldnt sell thier crops and instead the state left them a small amount for their own needs and took the rest to redestribute elsewhere
  • Assuming complete control of industry; which was directed to only make things for the war. strikes were banned
  • Having total control of money and prices
  • cutting back on peoples rights, from banning strikes to using the red terror to destroy opposition
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1921 Hunger Food Thing

By the Winter of 1921, the civil war had been won but lenin continued with communsim. 

Farm production was 37% of what it had been in 1913.

Food shortages became famine.

People were dying of starvation. 

In some areas cannibalism broke out

Industries were producing almost no consumer goods.

Riots broke out in countrysides and there were strikes in the cities.

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The Kronstadt Mutiny March 1921

The sailors at Kronstadt had sided with the revolutions of 1905 and 1917. Horrified at the situation, and pushed over by the way the Red Army crushed a strike in petrograd, they mutinied. There demands were;

  • freedom of sppech for workers, peasants, and political parties
  • ending the red terror
  • freedom for all political prisoners
  • freedom for peasants to farm as they wanted

They saw themselves as true to the revolutions of 1917. The red army crushed the mutiny.

The congress of soviets was meeting at the time and decided the policies of war communism had to change. Lenin's answer was the NEP.

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  • Money was reintroduced
  • State stopped taking crops from peasants and they could sell their extra crops
  • Factories with under 20 workers could be privately owned
  • The state bought in 'experts' to run factories. between 1920-25 20,000 came from the US and Canada. Experts were paid more than workers, which was against communist theory, but got the factories running again
  • anyone could sell or hire goods for a profit
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Did the NEP work?

Agricultural production went up - peasants started sowing more crops. there were 77.7 million hectacres growing in 1922 and 91.8 million in 1924

fatory prouction rose. by june 1921, 99% of all coton mills were not working. by 1926, 90% were working

the return to using money for wages and pricing of goods and allowing small scale profit seems to have built confidence and helped the economy.

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