Causes and Consequences of the Russian Revolution of 1917

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The Russian Revolution of 1917

Causes of the Revolution

At the beginning of the 20th century, Russia's empire extended from the Baltic to the Black Sea and from Poland to the Pacific Ocean. It was ruled by the Tsars of the Romanov dynasty and was in a state of turmoil. Dissatisfaction at the political level was due to the autocratic government of the tsars and led to political opposition made up of liberal bourgeois parties and Marxist revolutionary parties, such as the Bolsheviks.

Economic and Social Discontent

Dissatisfaction at the economic and social levels was due to the contrast between the rich minority, who owned land and factories, and the extremely poor peasants and industrial proletariat.

The Revolutions of 1905 and 1917

  • In 1905, general discontent combined with the fact that Russia had been defeated by Japan in the Russo-Japanese war set off a revolution that forced the Tsar to create a parliament, or Duma, and implement certain reforms. However, the autocracy remained.
  • In 1917, the Russian army's losses in the First World War and the mass suffering that was caused sparked two revolutions:

The February Revolution of 1917

The bourgeois February Revolution of 1917 deposed Tsar Nicholas II and established a republic. The liberal and bourgeois provisional government promised reforms, but their decision to remain in the world war led to their downfall.

The October Revolution of 1917

The Bolshevik October Revolution of 1917, organized by radical Marxists, overthrew the provisional government and placed their leader Lenin in power, who was supported by the soviets, or councils of workers, peasants, and soldiers. In 1918, the Bolsheviks began to call themselves the Communist Party and took Russia out of the war by signing the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with Germany. They then drafted a Constitution, which transferred large estates to the peasants, gave workers control of factories, and nationalized banks and transport. Lenin's actions were met with the opposition of armed counter-revolutionary groups. These groups formed what was known as the White Army, supported by the United Kingdom, France, and Japan, which battled the Bolshevik Red Army, led by Leon Trotsky. The result was a bloody civil war (1918 to 1921) in which eight million people lost their lives. The Red Army's victory consolidated the revolution.

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