November 1917 Nationwide elections for the Constituent Assembly held throughout the month December 15 Russia signs armistice with the Central Powers December 20 Cheka established with Dzerzhinsky as its leader January 5, 1918 Constituent Assembly meets for first and last time March 3 Russia and Germany sign peace treaty at Brest-Litovsk May Bolsheviks institute military conscription June–July Russian Civil War begins August 30 Lenin shot in assassination attempt but survives September 5 Red Terror begins
Vladimir Lenin - Leader of Russia after the October Revolution; suppressed dissent by disbanding Constituent Assembly, declaring opposing political parties illegal Felix Dzerzhinsky - Polish revolutionary whom Lenin appointed head of Cheka secret police Joseph Stalin - Commissar of nationalities in Lenin’s government; succeeded Lenin as leader of Russia in 1924
An End to the War
After Lenin’s government secured power, one of its first major goals was to get Russia out of World War I. Following his Decree on Peace, Lenin sent out diplomatic notes to all participants in the war, calling for everyone to cease hostilities immediately if they did not want Russia to seek a separate peace. The effort was ignored. Therefore, in November 1917, the new government ordered Russian troops to cease all hostilities on the front. On December 15, Russia signed an armistice with Germany and Austria, pending a formal peace treaty (the treaty was not completed until March1918).
Russia’s exit from the war was very costly, but Lenin was desperate to end the war at any cost, as the Germans were threatening to invade Petrograd. In the peace, Lenin consented to give up most of Russia’s territorial gains since the time of Peter the Great. The lost territories included Finland, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Ukraine, Belarus, Bessarabia, and the Caucasus region, along with some of the coal-mining lands of southern Russia. The Soviets would not regain these territories until the end of World War II.
The SPC and the November Elections
Following the revolution and the Second Congress of Soviets, Lenin’s new government, the SPC, faced the overwhelming task of governing a country in chaos. Communication was poor, and large chunks of the country, including the Ukraine, were still occupied by foreign armies. Outside of Petrograd and Moscow, especially in more distant regions such as Siberia and Central Asia, it was hard even to define what was happening politically, much less to take control of it.
At least in theory, the SPC was a democratic institution. They had been voted into power (after they had taken it) and were supposed to answer to the Executive Committee and in turn to the future Constituent Assembly. Indeed, Lenin, expecting the Bolsheviks to do well, allowed elections for members of the Constituent Assembly to proceed as scheduled throughout the month of November. When the final tally was in, however, Bolshevik candidates received less than 25 percent of the vote. The highest percentage, 40percent, went to the Socialist Revolutionary (SR)…