Russia was torn apart by revolutionary disturbances throughout the 1800s, it faced continuing problems in the early 1900s. Russians had long been denied democratic rights and civil liberties, but the revolution of 1905 had brought about no real changes. The elected legislative body, the Duma, had little power. The czar, Nicholas I, did not trust the Duma and remained a nearly absolute ruler. Some Russians , especially university students, joined secret societies that committed assassinations of government officials.
Grave economic problems also confronted the country. Although Russia had been industrializing rapidly in recent decades, it still was the most backward of major European powers. Debts, taxes, and rents still kept most Russian peasants in poverty even though serfdom had been abolished in 1861.
World war 1 exposed Russia’s weaknesses. The country lacked enough railroads and good roads, and its industry could not adequately equip or supply its army. The ottoman empire’s entrance into the war on the side of the central powers helped cut Russia off from outside supplies.
The allies had counted on the great number of soldiers in the Russian army. When war came, however, Russian troops proved to be poorly equipped and badly led. The inefficient and corrupt government was unfit to deal with the problems of modern warfare. Russian losses in the war were enormous. 1.7 million soldiers were killed, nearly 5 million were wounded or disabled, and some 2 million civilians died.
The spring of 1917 found the Russian people weary of hardships and disheartened by the appalling casualties their army suffered in the war. They had lost faith in their government and in Czar Nicholas II. Strikes and street demonstrations broke out in Petrograd, as St. Petersburg had been called since 1914. when the Duma demanded reforms in the government, Nicholas dissolved it.
In the past, the government had always been able to use the army against disturbances such as those in Petrograd. Now however, the soldiers joined the rioters. The Duma, encouraged by the army’s disobedience, refused the Czar’s order to disband.
In march 1917, unable to control either his subjects or his army, Nicholas II abdicated. He and his family were arrested and the next year they were murdered by the Bolsheviks, who were ruling Russia at that time. The monarchy and the Romanov dynasty hat had maintained Russian autocracy for 3000 years were both ended.
A liberal provisional government was set up to rule Russia until a constitutional assembly could be elected to establish a new permanent system of government. While the provisional government tried to restore order, however, another body worked for more radical change in Russia.
This body known as the Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, had been quickly organized when disorders began in Russia. The Petrograd soviet’s leaders modeled it on similar organizations that had participated in the revolution of 1905. some members of the Petrograd soviet were socialists called Mensheviks. The organization also contained a group of more radical socialists, known as Bolsheviks.
Other soviets similar to the one in Petrograd sprang up elsewhere in Russia. Many people throughout the country supported their program. The soviets called for immediate peace, the land reforms, and the turning over of factories to the workers. The provisional government, in contrast, pledged to continue the war and was much more cautious about reforms.
the leader of the Bolsheviks was V.I. Lenin. He was born Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov in 1870., but after becoming a revolutionary he assumed the name Lenin. Lenin was an intelligent and forceful man. He came from the middle class and had studied law. After his older brother was executed by the Czarist police as a revolutionary terrorist, Lenin became a revolutionary himself.
On April 16, 1917, Lenin, with German help, returned to Russia from Switzerland, where he had been living, and urged that all governing power be turned over to the soviets. He called for peace, land and bread, a slogan with great popular appeal.
Lenin was a Marxist. Partly because of the conditions existing in Russia, however, he developed his own version of Marxism. Lenin that because Russia had comparatively little industry and only a small working class, , the forces of history in the country might not move precisely as Marx had predicted. Therefore, he said, it was necessary for a small group of devoted Marxists to train the workers to become a revolutionary force. Lenin’s adaptation of Marxism formed the basis of what became communism.
On November 7, 1917, the Bolsheviks overthrew the provisional government under Alexander Kerensky and seized control of Russia. This revolution is sometimes called the October revolution , or the Bolshevik revolution, to differentiate it from the march revolution that ousted Nicholas. In the 1918, the Bolsheviks renamed themselves the communist Party.