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Study guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiversity

This course is on the Russian Revolutions which culminated with the October revolution in 1917. It is our goal to have a course on each of the revolutions, so please edit and add when needed. To find Wikipedia pages on specific Russian Revolutions, please go to the bottom of the page.


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Course Syllabus

Course Syllabus



Links to the specific week’s questions are found here and in the Material for each week. Questions

Important People

Please see a summary of important people here.

Terms to Know

Please see the glossary of Terms here.

Short History of Russian Revolutions leading to the October Revolution in 1917

Dates are correct for the Julian calendar, which was used in Russia until 1918. It was twelve days behind the Gregorian calendar during the 19th century and thirteen days behind it during the 20th century.

Date(s) Event(s)
1855 Start of reign of Tsar Alexander II
1861 Emancipation of the serfs
1866-74 The White Terror
1881 Alexander II assassinated; succeeded by Alexander III
1883 First Russian Marxist group formed
1894 Start of reign of Nicholas II
1898 First Congress of Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP)
1900 Foundation of Socialist Revolutionary Party (SR)
1903 Second Congress of Russian Social Democratic Labour Party. Beginning of split between Bolsheviks and Mensheviks.
1904-5 Russo-Japanese War; Russia loses war
1905 Russian Revolution of 1905.
  • January - Bloody Sunday in St. Petersburg.
  • June - Battleship Potemkin uprising at Odessa on the Black Sea (see movie The Battleship Potemkin)
  • October - general strike, St. Petersburg Soviet formed; October Manifesto: Imperial agreement on elections to the State Duma
1906 First State Duma. Prime Minister - Petr Stolypin. Agrarian reforms begin
1907 Second State Duma, February - June
1907 Third State Duma, until 1912
1911 Stolypin assassinated
1912 Fourth State Duma, until 1917. Bolshevik/Menshevik split final
1914 Germany declares war on Russia
1915 Serious defeats, Nicholas II declares himself Commander in Chief. Progressive Bloc formed.
1916 Food and fuel shortages and high prices
1917 Strikes and riots; troops summoned to Petrograd

Extra Pages

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See also

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Simple English

The word Russian Revolution refers mainly to the Russian Revolution of 1917, which included the February Revolution resulting in the abdication (quitting) of Czar Nicholas II and the later Bolshevik revolt of Communism, the October Revolution, that had the royal family shot.



During the 1890s, improvements in Russian industry meant that the number of people living in cities grew a lot, because there were more jobs there. The workers in the cities began to create political parties in order to try and change the horrible conditions that they lived and worked in. Poor people from other parts of the Russian Empire, like Poland and the Ukraine, also created their own parties to try and stop the Russians oppressing them.

In 1905, Russia lost a war with Japan. This added to the people's anger, and after a peaceful protest of workers was shot at by the Emperor's guards, a rebellion began. It did not really change anything, but it meant that Nicholas promised to create an elected Parliament, or Duma.

The Duma was elected for the first time in March 1906. However, there were both left-wing and right-wing opponents to it, including socialists and fanatical believers in the Emperor. There were also arguments over whether or not to take power from the Emperor and give it to more ordinary people. Nicholas eventually stopped the Duma three times, and because that meant they could not say anything against Nicholas, people became angry.

In 1914, Russia joined World War I. At first, people thought this was a good decision, and the country was united by patriotism. But there were huge problems with supplies, and by 1915 many soldiers were being sent to fight without any guns. Communication was bad, and Army officers argued a lot, which meant that they did not make plans well. The soldiers became unhappy, and over 3,000,000 Russians died.

In 1915, the Emperor took personal control of the Russian Army, and moved to the Army headquarters. This was a mistake. Not only did he not improve the situation, he began to be blamed for it. The fact that he was not near the government also meant that his wife Queen Alexandra was left in charge. Whenever the Duma tried to warn him that the people were angry, she would say they were lying, so he would ignore them. He even ignored a report by his secret police, the Okhrana, which said that a revolution might happen if things did not get better for ordinary people.

February Revolution

The first revolution began with a series of strikes in early February. People in food queues in St. Petersburg, the capital of Russia, began a demonstration. They were joined by thousands of women, who left the fabric factories where they worked. The strike spread through the capital, and by February 25th most of St. Petersburg's factories had had to close.

On the evening of the 25th, Nicholas II sent the chief of the army in St. Petersburg a telegram, telling him to use his soldiers to stop the strikes. The army chief did that, but the soldiers joined the workers instead of stopping them. The police also joined them, and the government's power collapsed.

On March 13th, Nicholas abdicated (gave up his throne) and control of Russia was given to a Provisional (temporary) Government.

February to October

After the February Revolution, the Provisional Government was challenged by a large group of workers in St. Petersburg- the Petrograd Soviet. While the Government's leader, Alexander Kerensky, tried to improve things by allowing freedom of speech and letting political prisoners go, there was growing discontent. The lack of food became worse, wages went down and the national debt grew to 10 million roubles.

Vladimir Lenin arrived in St. Petersburg in April 1917. He was a Communist and had been exiled to Switzerland by the Emperor, but the Provisional Government had allowed him to come back. He began to lead a Communist group called the Bolsheviks.

In July, the Bolsheviks spent four days demonstrating against the Government. The military attacked them, and Lenin was forced to escape to Finland until August, when the Bolsheviks were asked to help defend the government against a takeover by the army. The result of this was that their reputation improved, and they were given weapons by the Government.

The Provisional Government's reputation continued to get worse as time went on, while the Bolsheviks' got better because they refused to work with them again.

The October Revolution

On October 10th, the Bolshevik's Central Committee voted to start a revolution. One began in Estonia on October 23rd, and another started in St. Petersburg two days later. This time the revolution was mostly peaceful, and the Bolsheviks' Red Army took over many government buildings without a fight- only two people were killed in total. It ended with the takeover of the Emperor's old Winter Palace on the morning of the 26th, when the Provisional Government was arrested.

The Soviets took power and formed a Congress (a new Government) which began on the 25th October. Some members who were not Bolsheviks walked out during its first few meetings, but this made little difference to its decisions. The people who left were even taunted by Leon Trotsky on their way out; he told them to go "where you belong... the dustbin of history!" All parties who opposed the Bolsheviks were eventually broken up, and their leaders were arrested.

The Congress then began to get rid of private property. This meant that all land and money was to be owned by the people, and control of factories was given to their workers.

The Aftermath

Several countries that had been in the Russian Empire before the Revolution, such as Estonia and the Ukraine, had been asking for independence since February. As the new government formed they declared independence, and were allowed it.

In Russia, the revolution was severely challenged by countries that were not Communist and the invading White Armies. In July 1918, countries such as America, the United Kingdom and France sent more than 15 armies to fight the Bolsheviks. The ex-Emperor and his family were shot to stop them from being freed by the White Armies, and in order to win the war, Lenin began a scheme to divert food and supplies to the Communist Army. The plan worked and the Bolsheviks won the war, but the lack of food meant that between 3 and 10 million people died of hunger.

Some European countries recognised the Soviet Union as a proper country in the early 1920s, while America refused to until 1933.


The term Red October has also been used to describe the events of the month

The term Russian Revolution can also mean the Russian Revolution of 1905.

When talking about time, if the comment does not say the year, the term usually refers to the October Revolution of 1917. If someone is talking about the 1905 Revolution, they will say the year, and if it's the February Revolution, they will say the month.

The Third Russian Revolution was an Anarchist revolution against the Bolsheviks and the White Army that lasted from 1918 to 1922.


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