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The October Revolution of 1917 was a major turning point in Russian, and indeed world history, when in 1917 the Bolshevik Party of Russia overthrew the Russian Provisional Government over one night and established the first Marxist-Socialist state in the world.
The October Revolution is less frequently called the November Revolution, as it was dated 25th October on the Julian Calendar and 7th November on the Gregorian Calendar.
From March 1917 a dual-power system had governed in Russia: the Soviets and the Provisional Government each exercised and shared power. This ongoing constitutional tension
was createdemerged after Tsar Nicholas II abdicated at the beginning of March—a development caused by the February Revolution. While the Provisional Government was liberal, it steadfastly supported Russia's war effort, despite the mass unpopularity for continuing fighting—as well as the fact the country was still losing. Badly.
The weak Provisional Government generally failed in its attempts to address the problems of the Russian people, leading to "July Days" protests in the summer, which, when crushed, temporarily ended the power of the Soviets, and severely weakened the Bolshevik Communists (who were blamed for leading the protests and arrested). However, this too ended poorly for the Provisional Government... long story short, it subsequently accused the commander-in-chief of the military, Lavr Georgiyevich Kornilov, of trying to make himself a dictator, which of course led him to actually attempt a coup d'etat. The Government made a deal with the Bolsheviks, freeing their jailed leaders, and even giving them arms to combat the coup's forces. In defeating the coup, the Provisional Government had successfully alienated its own military while strengthening its most potent opposition.
Lenin had been exiled since 1907 (and had spent 1900 to 1905 in western Europe) only returning in April 1917, with Leon Trotsky being largely responsible for the revolution, as it was he that organised the Red Guard in a largely bloodless takeover. On the night of October 25th, the Soviet Red Guard marched through Petrograd and took power from the Provisional Government at the Winter Palace.
Glorification in the Soviet Union
While the events of October were largely a bloodless revolution, latter-day education and propaganda in the Soviet Union was exacerbated to make the events of October seem more violent, heroic and generally revolutionary than they actually were. Movies later made romanticized the Revolution, such as The Storming of the Winter Palace in 1920 and October in 1928.
During the ensuing Civil War the western powers (and Japan) wanted to make sure that the Reds didn't get their hands on weapons and supplies that they hoped would go to the White (non-Communist) forces. As a result several nations, including the United States, deployed troops to Russia in an attempt to intervene, and some saw military action. While this expedition largely became a footnote in American military history, during the Cold War the Soviets liked to use it to try and make the Americans look like bad imperialists (forgetting the far more recent Soviet ventures into Budapest or Prague). The number of troops sent was actually negligible, most only keeping open the supply lines to the Whites rather than actually fighting alongside them—something the Whites repeatedly complained of.
The Revolution was the beginning of the first Socialist state in the world. Lenin was head of the Party until his death in 1924, two years after the Soviet Union was officially created. After a power struggle, Stalin became leader from 1924 to his death in 1953. After WWII, the agriculturally-based backwards Russia had become a superpower capable of militarily competing with the USA. Ultimately, however, she was incapable of rivaling the domestic economic growth of the United States and the rest of the western world throughout the Cold War.
- See the Wikipedia article on Lavr Kornilov.
- Polar Bear Expedition Digital Collections