The October Revolution

The October Revolution

Red Army marching

General Overview: In 1917 Russia went through two revolutions: February 24 – 29 and October 24 – 25. The first revolution overthrew the tsarist government and replaced it with a Provisional Government of Duma members (mostly members of the Cadet party), who allowed a Contact Commission of the Petrograd Soviet to advise the government. Protests and strikes against the new government quickly grew as Russia’s involvement in World War I lingered on, and the Provisional Government responded by establishing a Coalition Government with the Executive Committee of the Petrograd Soviet. This Dual Power however, created a confused bureaucratic quagmire, leading the government to inaction on urgent issues such as the widespread famine and slaughter on the front. Such crisis resulted in opportunities for some to seize autocratic power, as Kerensky and General Kornilov attempted.

On October 24 – 25 the Bolshevik party led Russian workers and peasants to revolution, under the slogan of: “All power to the Soviets“. On October 25 – 26, the Second All-Russia Congress of Soviets met and created the Soviet Government through the elections of a new Council of People’s Commissars and Central Executive Committee. The new government resolved to begin construction on a Socialist society, but soon encountered extreme obstacles: while attempting to come to peace with all warring nations, only Germany agreed to peace (see the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk). When World War I ended, fresh off the battlefields of the Western Front, the Entente powers (US, UK, France, Japan, etc) invaded Russia from all directions, assisted by tsarist generals and provisional government politicians. A four year Civil War ravaged the country with catastrophic famine and casualties, forcing the government to adopt War Communism in order to survive. By the end of the war, a devastated Russia began to slowly rebuild with such programs as the NEP.

Timeline of Events

Eye Witness Reports

Ten Days that Shook the World, by John Reed 1919

Six Red Months in Russia, by Louise Bryant 1918
History of the Russian Revolution to Brest-Litovsk, by Leon Trotsky 1918
From July to October, from “My Life” by Leon Trotsky 1930
The History of the Russian Revolution, by Leon Trotsky 1930
The October Revolution, by J.V. Stalin 1918
The October Days, from Krupskaya’s “Reminiscences of Lenin” 1933
The Years of Revolution, from Alexandra Kollontai’s autobiography 1926
Women Fighters in the Days of the Great October Revolution, Alexandra Kollontai 1927
Great October in the Ukraine, Nestor Makhno 1927
Smolny on the Night of the Storm, Anatoly Lunacharsky

Contemporary accounts of the Russian Revolution

The Revolution against ‘Capital’, Antonio Gramsci December 1917
The Russian Revolution, Karl Kautsky November-December 1917
The Bolsheviki Rising, Karl Kautsky March 1918
The Russian Revolution, Rosa Luxemburg 1918
Capitalist Europe and Socialist Russia, Morgan Philips Price November 1918
The Truth about Russia, Arthur Ransome 1918
The Russian Revolution and the Soviet Government, Peter Kropotkin April 1919
Third Anniversary of the Russian Revolution, Georgi Dimitrov 3 November 1920
Is the Russian Revolution a Bourgeois Revolution?, Karl Radek 1921
The Paths of the Russian Revolution, Karl Radek 1922
On the Russian and German Revolutions, Eduard Bernstein December 1922
My Disillusionment in Russia, Emma Goldman 1923
Lessons of October, Leon Trotsky 1924
Year One of the Russian Revolution, Victor Serge 1925-1928

Documents and materials

Glossary of the Russian Revolution

Political Parties
Social Democrats
Bolsheviks [Archive]
(Right) Popular Socialists
Left SRs

Soviet Government
Soviet Secret Police

Nikolai Chkheidze
Fyodor Dan
Alexander Kerensky
Lavr Kornilov
Vladimir Lenin
Tsar Nicholas II
Gregori Plekhanov
Joseph Stalin
Yakov Sverdlov
Leon Trotsky
A compilation of short biographies and essays:
Building the Old Bolsheviks by Dave Harker
[Sources and Maps for this document]