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In the meaning prominently used in English, a soviet (Russian: сове́т, Russian pronunciation: [sɐˈvʲɛt], "council"[trans 1]) was a workers' local council in late Imperial Russia. According to the official historiography of the Soviet Union, the first such soviet was organized in May 1905 in Ivanovo during the 1905 Russian Revolution. However, in his memoirs Volin claims that he witnessed the creation of the St Petersburg Soviet in January 1905. The Russian workers were largely organized at the turn of the century, leading to a government-sponsored Union leadership. In 1905, the Russo-Japanese War increased the strain on Russian industrial production, the workers began to strike and rebel. They represented an autonomous workers movement, one that broke free from the government's oversight of workers unions. Soviets sprang up throughout the industrial centers of Russia, usually organized on the factory level. The Soviets disappeared after the Revolution of 1905, but re-emerged under Socialist leadership during the Revolution of 1917. At the beginning of the Revolution of 1917 the Soviets were under control of the Socialist-Revolutionaries and even the Mensheviks had a larger share of the elected representatives than the Bolsheviks. But as the WWI continued and the Russians met defeat after defeat, and the Provisional Government proved inadequate at establishing industrial peace, the Bolsheviks began to grow in support. With the slogan "All power to the Soviets" the Bolsheviks promised the workers a government run by industrial unions and promised to overthrow the aristocracy's main government body - the Duma. In October 1917 the Bolsheviks secured a majority in the Soviet, and Lenin, staying true to his word, overthrew the Provisional Government, giving all power to the Soviets and the Bolsheviks who governed in their name.[citation needed]

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Originally, the soviets were a grassroots effort to practice direct democracy. Russian Marxists made them a medium for organizing against the state, and between the February and October Revolutions, the Petrograd Soviet was a powerful force. The slogan "All power to the soviets!" (Vsya vlast sovyetam!; Вся власть советам!) was used by the Bolsheviks to oppose the Provisional Government led by Kerensky.

Based on the Bolshevik's view of the state, the word soviet extended its meaning to any supreme body that obtained the authority of a group of soviets. In this sense, soviets turned into a hierarchical structure - Communist government bodies at local level and republic level[note 1] were called "soviets", and at the top of the hierarchy, the Congress of Soviets was the nominal core of the Union government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), officially formed in December 1922. However, the Communist Party officially played the "leading role" in society by that time; the soviets were in practice subordinate to it.

Later, in the USSR, local governmental bodies were named "soviet" (sovet: "council") with the adjective indicating of the administrative level, customarily abbreviated : gorsovet (gorodskoy sovet: city council), raysovet/raisovet (rayonny sovet: raion council), selsovet: rural council, possovet (poselkovy sovet: settlement council).

The term also came to be used outside the Soviet Union by some Marxist-Leninist movements, for example, the Communist Party of China's efforts in the "Chinese Soviet Republic" immediately prior to the Long March.

Translations

  1. ^ Ukrainian: рада (rada); Belarusian: савет; Uzbek: совет; Kazakh: совет/кеңес; Azerbaijani: совет; Lithuanian: taryba; Moldovan: совиет; Latvian: padome; Kyrgyz: совет; Estonian: nõukogu

Notes

  1. ^ Earlier, in the Russian SFSR, there were three levels of soviet hierarchy: local, republic, and federal-republic.

Further reading

  • Edward Acton Rethinking the Russian Revolution 1990 Oxford University Press ISBN 0713165308
  • Tony Cliff Lenin: All Power to the Soviets 1976 Pluto Press
  • Voline The Unknown Revolution Black Rose Books
  • Rex A. Wade The Russian Revolution, 1917 2005 Cambridge University Press ISBN 0521841550

See also

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