Which of the two 1917 Russian revolutions had more popular support?

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In some ways, this is a difficult question to answer. Very soon after the Bolshevik Revolution, the Communist propaganda machine painted it as a movement with a large amount of popular support. Determining just how much support it and the February Revolution actually had requires making some inferences.

One clue...

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In some ways, this is a difficult question to answer. Very soon after the Bolshevik Revolution, the Communist propaganda machine painted it as a movement with a large amount of popular support. Determining just how much support it and the February Revolution actually had requires making some inferences.

One clue we can examine is the Russian Constituent Assembly elections of November 25. This was as close as Russia ever got to a large and free election until after the fall of the Soviet Union. In this election, the Bolsheviks received massive support from the military as well as from urban Russians. However, they received less than twenty-five percent of the total vote with Russia's huge rural peasantry siding with the Socialist-Revolutionary Party in favor of land reform. The Mensheviks also received a large degree of support. This would indicate that, while the Bolsheviks were supported by urban Russians, they had less overall popular support than the other revolutionaries in the country.

When viewed in another way, we can also see that the February Revolution may have had more support than the October Revolution. This first revolution was aimed at toppling the monarchy and the older power structures of the country. The Czarist government had certainly come to be seen as ineffective by many Russians at this point. The revolution was not so much focussed on establishing a particular type of government to replace the one it dismantled. By 1917, many Russians were dissatisfied with the leadership in their country. Large swaths of the population wanted to expel the monarchy as well as most other members of the government, land-owners, military officers, priests, local leaders, business owners, and even teachers. Understanding that the old system was rotten was something that most could agree on. Dismantling this old system was the focus of the first revolution.

The Bolshevik Revolution occurred after the success of the February Revolution. It was less about dismantling the old system and more focused on creating a new one. At the time, there was less agreement in Russia about how to move forward as a country. With all the various factions competing for dominance, there was less popular support for the Bolshevik movement than there was for revolution overall. Therefore, although it was often depicted as a popular revolution, the Bolshevik Revolution did not have as much overall support and enthusiasm as the February Revolution.

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