MIA: History: USSR: Revolution

The October Revolution

Red Army marching

In 1917 Russia went through two revolutions: February 24–29 and October 24–25. The first revolution overthrew the tsarist government and replaced it with a Provisional Government of Duma members (mostly members of the Cadet party), who allowed a Contact Commission of the Petrograd Soviet to advise the government. Protests and strikes against the new government quickly grew as Russia's involvement in World War I lingered on, and the Provisional Government responded by establishing a Coalition Government with the Executive Committee of the Petrograd Soviet. This Dual Power however, created a confused bureaucratic quagmire, leading the government to inaction on urgent issues such as the widespread famine and slaughter on the front. Such crisis resulted in opportunities for some to seize autocratic power, as Kerensky and General Kornilov attempted.

On October 24–25 the Bolshevik party led Russian workers and peasants to revolution, under the slogan of: “All power to the Soviets”. On October 25–26, the Second All-Russia Congress of Soviets met and created the Soviet Government through the elections of a new Council of People’s Commissars and Central Executive Committee. The new government resolved to begin construction on a Socialist society, but soon encountered extreme obstacles: while attempting to come to peace with all warring nations, only Germany agreed to peace (see the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk). When World War I ended, fresh off the battlefields of the Western Front, the Entente powers (US, UK, France, Japan, etc.) invaded Russia from all directions, assisted by tsarist generals and provisional government politicians. A four year Civil War ravaged the country with catastrophic famine and casualties, forcing the government to adopt War Communism in order to survive. By the end of the war, a devastated Russia began to slowly rebuild with such programs as the NEP.

Timeline of Events

Eye Witness Reports

Ten Days that Shook the World, by John Reed 1919

Six Red Months in Russia, by Louise Bryant 1918

History of the Russian Revolution to Brest-Litovsk, by Leon Trotsky, 1918

From July to October, from My Life, by Leon Trotsky, 1930

The History of the Russian Revolution, by Leon Trotsky, 1930

The October Revolution, by J.V. Stalin, 1918

The October Days, from Krupskaya’s Reminiscences of Lenin, 1933

The Years of Revolution, from Alexandra Kollontai’s autobiography, 1926

Women Fighters in the Days of the Great October Revolution, Alexandra Kollontai, 1927

Great October in the Ukraine, Nestor Makhno, 1927

Smolny on the Night of the Storm, Anatoly Lunacharsky


Contemporary accounts of the Russian Revolution

The Revolution against Capital, Antonio Gramsci, December 1917

The Russian Revolution, Karl Kautsky, November–December 1917

The Bolsheviki Rising, Karl Kautsky, March 1918

The Russian Revolution, Rosa Luxemburg, 1918

Capitalist Europe and Socialist Russia, Morgan Philips Price, November 1918

The Truth about Russia, Arthur Ransome, 1918

The Russian Revolution and the Soviet Government, Peter Kropotkin, April 1919

Third Anniversary of the Russian Revolution, Georgi Dimitrov, 3 November 1920

The Russian Revolution, William Z. Foster, 1921

Is the Russian Revolution a Bourgeois Revolution?, Karl Radek, 1921

The Paths of the Russian Revolution, Karl Radek, 1922

On the Russian and German Revolutions, Eduard Bernstein, December 1922

My Disillusionment in Russia, Emma Goldman, 1923

Lessons of October, Leon Trotsky, 1924

Year One of the Russian Revolution, Victor Serge, 1925–1928


Documents and decrees, 1917-1918


Glossary of the Russian Revolution

Political Parties
  Social Democrats
        Bolsheviks [Archive]
        (Right) Popular Socialists
        Left SRs

Soviet Government
        Soviet Secret Police

        Nikolai Chkheidze
        Fyodor Dan
        Alexander Kerensky
        Lavr Kornilov
        Vladimir Lenin
        Tsar Nicholas II
        Gregori Plekhanov
        Joseph Stalin
        Yakov Sverdlov
        Leon Trotsky

       A compilation of short biographies and essays:
       Building the Old Bolsheviks 1881–1903, by Dave Harker
       Eight Hours and a Gun 1904–1905, by Dave Harker