The Bolshevik seizure of power

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Rise in Bolshevik support

  • July Days meant Bolshevik support dropped dramatically as the PG gained control
  • October 1917, situation changed 
  • August, Kornilov Affair lead to fears of a right-wing military takeover 
  • Bolsheviks no longer seen as a threat, no defenders of the Revolution
  • The Affair completely undermined the Prime Minister, Kerensky
  • Lenin supported PEACE (Bolsheviks opposed war) LAND (support for land seizures by peasantry) BREAD (end food shortages in cities)
  • Slogans gained Bolsheviks support from industrial workers and poor peasants
  • Bolsheviks recruited 'Red Guards' in Petrograd factories 
  • Red Guards had gathered arms during the Kornilov Affair 
  • Kerensky was preparing to defend the capital against the general
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Timing and seizure of power

  • 9th August, PG proposed timetable for national elections to a Constituent Assembly (for new constitution)
  • 12th November, elections, 8th November, oppening session of Constituent Assembly
  • Lenin knew Social Revolutionaries would win the most votes and elections
  • Bolsheviks realised they would have to seize power before the elections
  • Lenin suggested all power be handed to the All-Russia soviet, where Bolsheviks had large support
  • Sept, Bolsheviks had majority seats in Petrograd Soviet (1st time) as PG became even more unpopular 
  • All-Russia soviet became the national institution which retained the respect of the population
  • 10th October, Lenin stopped hiding & entered Petrograd, met with Central Committee of Bolshevik Party 
  • Persuaded the Committee that armed takeover was neccessarry (Kamenev and Zinoviev opposed)
  • Planning of takeover was given to Trotsky 
  • Lenin hid Bolshevik involvement by handing over planning to the Military Revolutionary Committee 
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Seizure of Power

  • (Started by PG) 24th October, PG attempted to close down 2 Bolshevik newspapers in Petrograd
  • Evening, Lenin put plan into action immediately (feared PG trying to clamp down on Bolshevik activity)
  • Bolsheviks had planned to use MRC of the Petrograd to take over the capital on 26th October
  • MRC under control of Trotsky, when seized power they would announce they did on behalf of the Soviet
  • 24th October, MRC and Red Guards occupied Petrograd and arrested most of the PG within Winter Palace
  • Faced little opposition (women soldiers and some officer cadets) minimal resistance
  • PG members who were not arrested didnt offer resistance, unnoticed by most of the Petrograd population
  • 25th, MRC announced PG was disposed and state power belonged to Military Revolutionary Committee
  • Karensky escaped from Petrograd attempting to get loyal troops to crush the Bolsheviks
  • Russian Parliament dispersed by Red Guards 
  • All-Russia Soviet meeting, Lenin announced to the All-Russia Soviet that the PG had been overthrown
  • Bolshevik representatives (390) within the All-Russia Soviet were keen to accept Lenin's actions
  • Mensheviks had only 80 seats and Socialist Revolutionaries only 180 so approved Bolshevik takeover
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Reasons for Bolshevik success

Changing circumstances

  • Early 1917 Bolshevik most unlikely group to overthrow PG
  • Before Lenin returned, Kamenev and Zinoviev supported PG
  • Until August, all Bolshevik efforts failed
  • Kornilov Affair gave Bolsheviks opportunity to appear as defenders of the PG against the Army
  • Recieved weapons from Government to launch armed uprising, PG looked weak/dependent on Bolsheviks


  • Claimed they were acting on behalf of Soviet who shared political power with PG
  • Kerensky knew Bolsheviks were planning takeover but did not act decisively
  • Organised and executed takeover with great efficiency (due to Trotsky)

Weakness of Provisional Government

  • Little support for PG withing Petrograd and revolution raised major issues 
  • PG failed to sort (food shortages, inflation, land questions and war continuation)
  • October 1917, failures dramatically reduced authority and popularity
  • Kerensky had support from some army units outside the capital
  • His attempts to crush the Bolsheviks (Cossak troops and officer cadets) put down by Red Guards
  • This was the last attempt from the PG to regain control
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