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The Russian Revolution

The Russian Revolution took place in 1917. Two revolutions were witnessed by Russia, the first one in 1905 to overthrow the autocracy of the Czar led by Alexander Kerensky. The Second Revolution broke out under the leadership of Lenin in 1917; this revolution is popularly known as Bolshevik Revolution. ‘Bolshevik’ means a member of the socialist group supporting the Russian Revolution.

The revolution took place during the time of Czar Nicholas II. He was tyrannical and despotic. The society was divided into privileged and unprivileged classes. The unprivileged class was burdened with heavy taxation. Economically, Russia was poor and underdeveloped and there was chronic hunger of land among the peasants. The growth of factories and industrial centres created a new class of people; they were the proletariat or the working class. The villagers migrated to industrial towns with the hope of improving their lot but their condition became worse due to long hours of work, low wages, lack of housing facilities and disruption of family life. This disappointed the working class and they quickly responded to the revolutionary ideas.

Russian writers and thinkers like Maxim Gorky, Leo Tolstoy, Turgenev and Dostoyevski and many others profoundly stirred the imagination of the Russian Youth by the revolutionary ideas. The ideology of Karl Marx (Marxian ideology) of revolutionary socialism had the greatest influence on the minds of the Russians.

The main cause of the Russian Revolution was defeat of Russia in the First World War by Germany and Austria. During this period, there was shortage of materials, equipment and the army was demoralised. On 8 March 1917, there broke out a strike of 90,000 workers in Petrograd demanding for food due to the acute shortage of food. There were demonstrations against the government. The soldiers refused to fire on the striking workers and they gradually joined the workers. The city of Petrograd fell into the hands of the revolutionaries. The Czar Nicholas II dissolved the Duma (parliament) and abdicated the throne.

With the help of Leo Trotsky, Lenin assumed the control of the Soviets or the worker’s union. He gave the slogan ‘all power to the Soviets’. An army (Red Army) was organised which was equipped with bombs and guns stolen from the ammunition factories. The Bolsheviks forcibly seized the postal, telephone and telegraph offices, railway stations and military quarters. On 7 November 1917, Kerensky’s Government of the middle class was overthrown and the Bolshevik Government of workers was set up. This is also known as the Bolshevik Revolution or October Revolution (according to the Calendar of Russia, the revolution took place on 25 October). A new Russia was born with a government based on socialism and Lenin became the leader of the Bolshevik Government. He continued to lead Soviet Russia till his death in 1924.

The czarist regime came to an end and the power of the church declined. The Russian empire was transformed into a new state called the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic (U.S.S.R.) and became one of the greatest powers of the modern world. Private property was abolished and the motive of private profit was also eliminated. Russia adopted the policy of economic planning, i.e., Five Year Plans were adopted by the State Planning Commission. The Communist International (Comintern) was formed to propagate communism in other countries. In the course of time, Russia became the leader of world communist movement. Soviet Russia became a role model for other countries in the ideology of communism or socialism and Five Year Plans.

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