October Revolution — causes, events, effects

October Revolution — causes, events, effects

Background to the October Revolution

  • By October 1917, the Provisional Government had failed to solve Russia’s political and social issues. The continuation of the war, the failure to carry out land reforms, and the inability to give people the “Peace, Bread, and Land” they desired made the government unpopular.
  • With Lenin’s arrival in April 1917, and his April Theses advocating for the transfer of power to the soviets, the Bolsheviks gained significant influence among the workers, soldiers, and peasants, setting the stage for the October Revolution.

Causes of the October Revolution

  • The Provisional Government’s continued association with the war, despite massive popular opposition to it, led to discontentment among the masses.
  • The failure to solve land issues and the constant food shortages exacerbated the dislike for the Provisional Government.
  • The increasing popularity of the Bolsheviks and Lenin’s slogan “Peace, Bread, Land” appealed to many, especially the disgruntled soldiers, land-hungry peasants, and frustrated urban workers.
  • The Kornilov Affair in August, where General Kornilov attempted a failed coup against the Provisional Government, further weakened the government’s authority, whilst demonstrating the growing power of the Bolsheviks who mobilised to help defend Petrograd.

Events of the October Revolution

  • On 24th October 1917 (7 November New Style), the Bolshevik Red Guards began seizing key sites in Petrograd including bridges, railways, and post offices. The Provisional Government was unable to resist effectively due to their low popularity and lack of military support.
  • The next day, Bolshevik forces stormed the Winter Palace, the seat of the Provisional Government, with little resistance. They arrested the Provisional Government members, marking the end of the Provisional Government.
  • Lenin announced to the congress of Soviets that the Bolsheviks had seized power and aimed to create a government of the people’s commissars.

Effects of the October Revolution

  • The Bolsheviks had effectively taken control of Russia. Lenin became the leader, and the era of communist rule, often known as the Bolshevik or Soviet era, began.
  • Lenin signed the Decree on Peace aiming to end Russia’s involvement in the war, and the Decree on Land redistributing land to the peasants. His actions were consistent with his slogans, thus increasing his mass support.
  • The October Revolution also triggered a brutal three-year Civil War (1918-1921) as diverse political factions sought to control Russia’s future.
  • The Gregorian Calendar was introduced in 1918. Because of the 13-day difference between the two calendars, the event that took place in October according to the old style (Julian calendar) is often referred to as the “November Revolution”.

Understanding the October Revolution is crucial for grasping the shift in power from eternal monarchial rule to communist governance in Russia. It is also significant for understanding the global political orientation, as this event marked the profound establishment of Socialism as a political force in world history.