What Was The Bolshevik Revolution?

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The Bolshevik Revolution was the overthrow of the Russian government, which took place in the fall of 1917. The Bolsheviks were an extremist faction within the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party (later renamed the Russian Communist Party) who seized control of the government and ushered in the Soviet age. The Bolshevik Revolution is also known as the October Revolution because, according to the old Russian calendar (in use until 1918), the government overthrow happened on October 25.

The Bolshevik Revolution was the culmination of events in 1917. Russia had entered World War I (1914–18) in 1914, and by 1917 the country was facing hardships, including shortages of food and fuel. The people had lost faith in the war effort; they were no longer willing to send young men into battle only to be killed. In the Russian capital of Petrograd (known as St. Petersburg until 1914), workers had staged a strike and rioting broke out. In the chaos called the March Revolution, Czar (Emperor) Nicholas II (1868–1918) ordered the Duma, the legislative body, to disband. Ignoring his command, the representatives set up a provisional (temporary) government. Now that he had no political power, Nicholas abdicated (voluntarily stepped down from) the throne on March 15. He and his family were imprisoned and are believed to have been killed in July 1918.

Hearing of Nicholas's abdication, longtime political exile (one who has been forced to leave his country) Vladimir Lenin (1870–1924) left Europe for Petrograd, where he led the Bolsheviks in rallying the Russian people. The Bolshevik message was peace, land reform, and worker empowerment, expressed in the slogan "Land, Peace, and Bread." The temporary government headed by revolutionary Alexander Kerensky (1881–1970) tried to curb the influence of the Bolsheviks. Nevertheless, the group continued to grow and became even more radical. Kerensky's government failed to meet the people's demands and could not end Russia's involvement in World War I, which was not supported by the Bolsheviks.

On November 7, the Bolsheviks led workers and disgruntled soldiers and sailors in a takeover of the Winter Palace in Petrograd, now the headquarters of Kerensky's provisional government. By the next day the provisional government had fallen and the Bolsheviks were in power.

Further Information: "Bolshevik Revolution Turns 80, Shows Its Age." CNN.com. [Online] Available http://www.cnn.com/WORLD/9711/07/russia/, October 25, 2000; Carr, Edward Hallett. The Bolshevik Revolution, 1917-1923, Vol. 1. New York: Norton, 1985; The Provisional Government and the Bolshevik Revolution. [Online] Available http://www.historychannel.co.uk/classroom/alevel/revol. htm, October 25, 2000.

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