Russian Revolution of 1917: Causes and Results

  • The Russian Revolution of 1917 was a very important political event of the 20th Century.

  • For the first time, Karl Marx’s idea of socialism and Working class revolution became a reality.

  • Even Napoleon Bonaparte could not conquer Russia in 1812. During the beginning of the 20th Century Russia was no longer a powerful country. 

  • Tsar Nicholas II was the ruler of Russia at the time of the Revolution. 

  • During his rule Russia faced serious domestic and international problems. Eventually, a series of political events led to the overthrow of the Tsarist rule by October Revolution of 1917. 

  • Bolshevik Party headed by Lenin led the revolution. Thus, Russia became USSR [Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, which lasted until its disintegration in 1991.

Causes of the Russian Revolution

1. Political

  • Small Asian Country Japan defeated the mighty European country Russia in the Russo-Japanese war.

  • This lowered the international and domestic prestige of Russia. The Tsars believed in the divine right theory of kingship.

  • Tsar Nicholas II was autocratic in his administration and the members of zemstoves and Dumas wanted liberal reforms from the Tsar.

  • The working class of St. Petersburg went on strike n a procession to Tsar’s place to present a petition to redress their grievances.

  • They were led by father Gapon. When the workers reached Tsar’s palace the guards fired on the unarmed crowed.

  • This event is known as “Bloody Sunday” as it took place on a Sunday, 22nd January 1905. This is also known as 1905 Revolution.

  • This event was indeed a serve to the Oct Revolution of 1917. The Tsarist court was under the evil influence of Rusputin.

  • The Tsarina was strongly under his influence and at times the administration was affected by his influence. Hence, the nobles poisoned Rusputin to death.

2. Economic

  • Russia’s agriculture was largely based on independent peasants and they did not own modern machinery.

  • The famine of 1891 had left many peasants in poverty. The rapid industrialization of Russia also resulted in urban overcrowding and poor conditions for urban industrial workers.

  • Between 1890 and 1910, the population of the capital of St Petersburg increased from 1,033,600 to 1,905,600, with Moscow experiencing similar growth.

  • In one 1904 survey, it was found that an average of 16 people shared each apartment in St Petersburg, with 6 people per room.

  • There was also no running water, and piles of human waste were a threat to the health of the workers.

3. Rise of Socialist Party

  • Formation of the International Working Men’s Association or the First International in 1864.

  • To unite the socialist parties in various countries into an international organisation, a Congress was held in Paris on 14th July 1889, the centenary of the French Revolution of 1789.

  • The result of this Congress was come to be known as the Second International, a new stage in the history of socialism.

  • On the first of May 1890, millions of workers all over Europe and America struck work and held massive demonstrations.

  • Since then the first of May is observed as the international working class day all over the world.

  • In Russia when the workers’ organizations were set up they were dominated by Marx’s ideas on socialism.

  • In 1883, the Russian Social Democratic Party was formed by George Plekhanov, a follower of Marx.

  • This party along with many other socialist groups was united into the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party in 1898.

  • Later, the party was soon split over questions of organization and policies. One group which was in a minority called the Mensheviks (means minority) under Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov Lenin.The majority party was called as the Bolsheviks.

  • Lenin is regarded as one of the greatest leaders of the socialist movement after Marx and Engels.

  • He devoted himself to the task of organizing the Bolshevik Party as an instrument for bringing about revolution.

  • His name has become inseparable from the revolution of 1917. The Russian socialists, including Plekhanov and Lenin, had played an important part in the Second International.Lenin during Russian Revolution of 1917

4. World War I

  • In 1915, Nicholas had taken direct command of the army. The superior German army – better led, better trained, better supplied – was effective against the ill-equipped Russian forces.

  • By the end of Oct 1916, Russia had lost between 1.6 and 1.8 million soldiers, with an additional 2 million prisoners of war and 1 million missing.

  • Mutinies began to occur in the Russian army. Soldiers went hungry and lacked shoes, munitions, and even weapons.

  • Nicholas was blamed for all these crises. As this discontent grew, the State Duma issued a warning to Nicholas to grant constitutional form of government.

  • Nicholas ignored them. As a result, Russia’s Tsarist regime collapsed a few months later during the Feb Revolution of 1917.

  • On 12th March, 1917 the capital city of Petersburg (renamed Petrograd and now Leningrad) fell into the hands of the revolutionaries.

  • Soon the revolutionaries took Moscow, the Tsar Nicholas II gave up his throne and the first provisional Government was formed on 15 March.

  • The fall of the Tszar is known as the February Revolution because, according to the old Russian calendar, it occurred on 27 February 1917.

Kerensky’s Provisional Government

  • The most important demands of the people were fourfold: peace, land to the tiller, control of industry by workers, and equal status for the non-Russian nationalities.

  • The Provisional Government under the leadership of Kerensky did not implement any of these demands and lost the support of the people.

  • Lenin, who was in exile in Switzerland at the time of the Feb Revolution, returned to Russia in April and gave his “April Theses”.

  • Under his leadership the Bolshevik Party put forward clear policies to end the war, transfer land to the peasants and advance the slogan “All power to the Soviets”.

  • Lenin and his trusted associate Leon Trotsky led the Oct Revolution.

October Revolution of 1917

  • The unpopularity of the Kerensky’s government led to its collapse on 7th Nov 1917, when a group of soldiers occupied the Winter Palace, the seat of the Kerensky Government.

  • An All- Russian Congress of Soviets met on the same day and assumed full political power.

  • This event which took place on 7 Nov is known as the Oct Revolution because of the corresponding date of the old Russian calendar, 25 Oct.

Results of the Russian Revolution
  • Russia withdrew from the First World War and formal peace was signed with Germany.

  • The estates of the landlords, the Church and the Tsar were confiscated and transferred to peasants’ societies to be allotted to peasant families to be cultivated without hired labour.

  • The control of industries was transferred to committees of workers.

  • By the middle of 1918, banks and insurance companies, large industries, mines, water transport and railways were nationalised.

  • Foreign debts were refused and foreign investments were confiscated.

  • A Declaration of the Rights of Peoples was issued conferring the right of self-determination upon all nationalities.

  • A new government, called the Council of People’s Commissars, headed by Lenin was founded.

  • The first Soviet constitution was adopted on July 10, 1918. It created the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic.

  • Later, on December 30, 1922, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics came into being.

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