What is the Russian Revolution?
A Brief Summary
By “Russian revolution” scholars refer to two separate events that took place in 1917 which brought to the demise of the Romanovs’ tsarist regime and would shape the course of World History for the following seventy years (until 1991, date of the dissolution of the Soviet Union). The first event is the February revolution, which was largely due to spontaneous uprisings of the Saint-Petersburg population and part of the Army, after a mass protest originated by food rationing. The mid to long term causes, however spawned back in time to include a general discontent with the emperor Nicholas II and defeats inflicted to the army during the First World War.
The tragic February events, almost exclusively confined to Saint-Petersburg, resulted nevertheless in the abdication of the Tsar and the end of the Romanov dynasty.
The Provisional Government
Initially the power was taken by a liberal government, composed of noble or rich capitalist, led by prince Lvov. The Moscow Soviet did take part to the coalition, but it still didn’t have the influence that would grow of the following months: only after Vladimir Lenin’s return from the exile (a fiery come-back – at Saint Petersburg Finland Station – immediately marked by the proclamation of the need of a world-wide revolution) would the Bolshevik strength increase and reach the critical mass needed to force the course of the events in the direction of a socialist revolution. In the meantime prince Lvov was replaced by Alexander Kerensky, member of the Socialist Revolutionary Party, but his failed attack against Germany enraged the population in general and soldiers in particular, fueling the radicalization of the debate, and likely tipping the scale in favor of the Reds. It was indeed after the failed restoration coup attempted by general Kornilov that Kerensky was forced to seek for help from the Soviet, which indeed managed to stop Kornilov thus increasing the popularity and ultimately resulting in Kerensky’s downfall.
When is the October Revolution?
It is on 25 October 1917 that the Petrograd Soviet voted the resolution that would lead to the final uprising and the assault to the Winter Palace in Petrograd. However, that historical date refers to the Julian calendar, which was still followed in the Russian Empire and will be abandoned only four month after the October revolution. In the new style (that is, Gregorian calendar) the starting day of the Bolshevik revolution is November 7. Craftily engineered by Lev Trotsky, the assault was in fact almost bloodless, the Bolsheviks being more organized that the 3000 left to defend the Winter Palace, and was over in less than 24 hours.
The First Centenary
November 7, 2017 marks the first centenary of this epochal event. A number of “celebrations” have been organized, such as the British Library Russian Revolution exhibition in London and of course, in Russia, more than a hundred events have been organized by the Russian Historical Society.