World War I
February Revolution
The Peace of Brest-Litovsk

The October Revolution

A.) Lenin's Return

When the February Revolution broke out, VLADIMIR ILYICH ULYANOV, called LENIN resided in exile in Switzerland. He immediately knew that he would be needed in St. Petersburg. However, he could not travel through Entente country (France, Italy), for the Czarist secret police has issued arrests for him, and the Entente would not be interested in the head of the BOLSHEVIK PARTY reaching St. Petersburg. The only other option was to travel through Central Powers' country, i.e. Germany. To do that was another problem, for Lenin might be branded as a traitor if he travelled through Germany while Russia was still at war with this country. And Germany was not interested in advertising that it was supporting a radical revolutionary.
Lenin had realized that he had to end the war for the revolution to succeed; the war was the main source of suffering, the main reason the population was willing to accept, to participate in a revolution. Thus Germany and Lenin were NATURAL ALLIES. An agreement was made that Lenin would travel incognito through Germany in a SEALED WAGGON, avoiding any contact with outsiders. In addition, he was given a CREDIT OVER 40 MILLION GOLDMARKS by Germany's government with the understanding that he would use it to work toward a quick ending of the war. Via Stockholm and Finland he arrived in St. Petersburg, to find that the MENSHEVIKS held power in the DUMA, and that Kerensky still believed in the cause of the Entente.

B.) In Preparation of the October Revolution

Lenin was welcomed by the BOLSHEVIKS and became their unquestioned intellectual leader. TROTSKY, who had returned from exile in London, joined the party and became instrumental in the organization of the second stage of the revolution, which Lenin believed to be inevitable. Lenin utilized the credit to print THE PRAVDA (the truth), a cheap newspaper printing Bolshevik propaganda, to prepare the masses for the next stage of the revolution. Soon, there was a warrant on his head again, and he went into hiding. Trotsky meanwhile began to organize armed workers' units.
By July 1917 it was evident that Kerensky's offensive had failed and things had turned from bad to worse.

C.) The October Revolution

On April 17th, Lenin had proclaimed the slogan ALL POWER TO THE SOVIETS, in order to deprive the Mensheviks of their base of power, the Duma. It did not work then.
A Bolshevik coup failed on July 16th/17th, Lenin had to flee to Finland. The Bolshevik party established a POLITBUREAU. On Nov. 6th-7th the signal for armed workers' groups to occupy strategic places within the city of St. Petersburg was given. Trotsky personally visited army garrisons in and around St. Petersburg, where he held speeches, convincing the soldiers to join the revolution. The only garrison holding out for a while was held by a unit made up of women recruits. The Duma was declared dissolved (most of the Mensheviki had fled); the PETROGRAD SOVIET had taken control of Russia's capital.

The Russian Revolution of 1917, from The Corner
DOCUMENTS The Bolzhevik Coup d'Etat, Nov. 7th, 1917, from Avalon Project at Yale Law School, reports on the October Revolution addressed to the Secretary of State
Images of the Russian Revolution, from Youth for International Socialism : Image Gallery
Lenin Image Archive, from Lenin Internet Archive
Images from Chronik 2000 Bilddatenbank : Leo Trotsky in Oct. 1917, ditto, Lenin, Oct. 1917, Lenin holding a speech, Oct. 1918, Petrograd, storm on the Winter Palais
REFERENCE Arthur Ransome, The Crisis in Russia, NY : B.W. Huebsch 1921, online book posted by authorama

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2000, last revised on May 18th 2006

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