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Soviet Russia

Governing institutions from February till October of 1917.

Central and local administration from February till October of 1917.

The major factor that influenced the succession of events in Russia from February 1917 was the activity of the first members of the Provisional Government, led by prince G.E.Lvov. In compliance with its Declaration and relying on gains of February revolution, it carried out a number of democratic reforms. The law on freedom of assembly and unions was passed, censorship and other repressive bodies of imperial regime (police, gendarmerie, penal servitude etc.) were abolished. Central administrative board on affairs of militia was created instead of department of police. Structure and administrative personnel of other public bodies were reorganized. Political amnesty was declared. Arrest of Nikolai II, his ministers and members of former administration was authorized at the same time.

According to the law of March 8, 1917 the Council of Ministers and its chancellery were renamed into the Provisional Government and its chancellery. The ministries of imperial court and appanages were abolished. Department on affairs of local management for supervision of activity of the Provisional Government's commissioners was formed in the second half of March under the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Legal council, whose duty was to give 'preliminary legal conclusions' on actions of the government, was created under the Provisional Government.

Cabinet crisis emerged in April 1917, in May the first coalition government, which was still headed by prince G. E. Lvov, was formed. The new government carried out reorganization of state authorities. Ministry of labour and Ministry of mails and telegraphs were established on the basis of Ministry of trade and industry. Ministry of public care was created with the purpose of helping the families of killed and crippled during the war. Economic council for development of "the general plan of organization of national economy and labour" and Main economic council "for realization of all actions for regulation of economic life in the country by separate departments and institutions " was established under the Provisional Government at the end of June. Special council on preparation of the law on elections to the Constituent Assembly was formed at the end of March.

The second coalition government, led by A.F.Kerensky, was formed in July of 1917. He and the deputy minister-chairman, Minister of Finance Constitutional Democrat N.V.Nekrasov, Minister of Internal Affairs socialist-revolutionary N.D.Avksentiev, Minister of Foreign Affairs M.I.Tereshenko and foodstaff minister people's socialist A.V.Peshekhon went into the Committee of defense. At the beginning of August the post of the chief public prosecutor of the Synod was replaced by the Ministry of confessions. All-Russian commission (Vsebybory) on affairs of elections to the Constituent Assembly started its activity from August 7. At the end of August the Cabinet of Minister for War was transformed into the War Cabinet of the chairman minister - the Supreme Commander-in-Chief. After liquidation of general L.G.Kornilov's revolt the Directory of five members - A.F.Kerensky, M.I.Tereshenko, A.M.Nikitin, general A.I.Verkhovsky and admiral D.N.Verderevsky was created instead of the government "till final formation of the cabinet".

Democratic conference started its work on September 14, it elected Preparliament, a standing Provisional council of the republic for solution of the question on structure of the government in Petrograd on September 21. In three days Kerensky formed the third coalition government.

Authority and institutions of local governing at the local level.

Provincial, city and district commissioners of the Provisional Government replaced local State institutions of czarism during the first weeks after the February revolution. At first their rights were not regulated, and only on September 25, 1917 'The temporary provisions about provincial (regional) and uyezd commissioners" was promulgated. Elective temporary committees of public organizations comprised of councilors of regional and city institutions of local governing autonomous bodies appeared alongside with Soviets. Zemstvoes (local governing bodies) were also created in a number of remote regions of Russia. General supervision of the whole system of Zemstvo institutions was assigned to All-Russian Zemstvo union. By law of April 15 regional autonomous bodies (dumas and boards) the activity of which was directed by Council of dumas were founded in cities with the population more than 150 thousand people.

Bodies of Soviet authority

Soviets, among which prevailed Soviets of workers and soldiers deputies, got a wide spread at various levels. From March till October 1917 the number of local Soviets increased from 600 up to 1429. Socialist-revolutionaries and Mensheviks, whose programs complied with the mood of Russian population, had majority in Soviets.

All-Russian conference of Councils of workers and soldiers deputies, which made the decision on necessity of convocation of the first All-Russian congress of Soviets was carried out on March 27 - April 3 on the initiative of Petrograd Soviet. It was held from June 3 till June 24, 822 delegates with casting votes and 266 - with advisory votes took part in the congress. From 777 delegates who declared their party membership, there were 285 socialist-revolutionaries, 248 Mensheviks, 105 Bolsheviks, 32 Menshevik-internationalists and 10 Menshevik-unionists. Congress approved internal and foreign policy of the Provisional Government, made a decision on preparation of the Constituent Assembly, about convocation of the All-Russian congresses of Soviets at least once in three months, elected All-Russian Central Executive Committee (VTSIK), led by Menshevik N.S.Chkheidze.

The first All-Russian congress of peasants deputies was held in May 1917. 1167 people, including 537 socialist-revolutionaries, 103 social democrats, 9 Bolsheviks took part at the congress. The policy of the Provisional Government and the course on continuation of war were approved, also the Executive committee of the All-Russian congress (the chairman - right-wing socialist-revolutionary N.D.Avksentiev) was elected.

Factory committees (fabzavcoms) appeared in Russia after February revolution. They were elected by workers of plants and factories and dealt with questions concerning normalization of working day and salary, acceptance and dismissal of workers, 8-hour working day was introduced without preliminary permission, they created workers' militia etc. The 1st city conference of fabzavcoms, at which the Central Committee of Factory committees of Petrograd was elected, took place on May 30, 1917. Bolshevik M.N.Zhivotov became the head of the Central Committee.

The system of political parties

After February 1917 the political system of Russian society (there were over 50 parties) moved from the right-wing and centrist organizations to the left. Black-Hundred unions, which stopped their activity after demise of Nikolai II, never revived. The Union of October 17 practically disappeared from the political arena too, despite the fact that a number of its members (M.V.Rodzyanko, A.I.Guchkov, I.V.Godnev) once were members of the Provisional Government.

In contrast to monarchists and Octoberists, the Party of National Freedom (Constitutional Democrats) increased its membership after February 1917 approximately 5 times, reached 70 thousand members, and occupied a strong positions in the first staff of the Provisional Government (Minister of Foreign Affairs P.N.Milyukov, minister of agriculture A.I.Shingarev, Minister of Railway N.V.Nekrasov etc.). The VIIth congress of the party, which took place in March, made a decision to define more exactly the program, in which it was written that Russia should be democratic and parliamentary republic. However no changes were made in the agrarian part of the program.

Decision on governmental cooperation with socialists was made at the VIIIth congress. A.A.Manuilov, D.I.Shakhovskoy and A.I.Shingarev were the members of the first coalition government.

After the February revolution of 1917 socialists-revolutionaries became extremely popular. The number of socialist-revolutionary party grew up to 400-600 thousand people (by different estimations). Left-wing socialist-revolutionary P.A.Aleksandrovich, the former Party of Labour member and later socialist-revolutionary A.F.Kerensky were among the first staff of Petrograd Soviet of workers' and soldiers' deputies. Socialist-revolutionaries occupied important posts in new governing bodies in Moscow, Novonikolaayevsk, Ufa and other cities. Organizational legal structures of this party were simultaneously being quickly restored, and by the end of May 1917 the socialist-revolutionary party had up to 800 thousand members.

At the III congress of the party, held on May 25 - June 4, 1917, the Central Committee was elected, the decision on formation of coalition Provisional Government and preparation of elections to the Constituent Assembly was adopted. The final state system of Russia was to be determined by the Constituent Assembly, which, in opinion social-revolutionaries would establish democratic republic. At the local level the authority should be handed over to bodies of local government (dumas and zemstvoes), which were elected in the democratic way. At elections to city dumas, held in August 1917, socialist-revolutionaries in most cases formed alliance with Mensheviks and won the majority of places.

The socialist-revolutionaries supported the cessation of war, struggle against imperialism of the warring countries, restoration of internationalism, protection and all possible strengthening of gains of the revolution. At the same time the left wing of the party was against defensive position, demanded to expand revolutionary movement to other countries to light the fire of global revolution. The right wing declared their support of war, loyalty to allies and necessity to break off with Bolshevism. They too, counter to the policy of the Provisional Government, spoke in favour of state regulation of production, control over foreign commerce and domestic trade. The socialist-revolutionary party was against authority usurpation and thought, that bourgeois parties must be deposed from the power in a gradual and democratic way.

Anarchists made an attempt to unite their isolated groups after the February revolution. In Moscow members of seven organizations on March 13, 1917 formed the Federation of anarchical groups. Anarcho-syndicalists managed to take control over unions of metal-workers, port workers, bakers, separate factory committees. In their beliefs anarcho-syndicalists gradually got rid of aspiration of immediate transformation of society into an anarchical one, while anarcho-communists were loyal to the idea of ungoverned, communistic society. Anarchists, except for anarchists-individualist, recognized the idea of joining the structure of Soviets, but only with the informational purpose. Dissociation of anarchical organizations did not allow them to make any serious influence on the political life of the country.

Mensheviks, who had not played any special roles in revolutionary events in February - March of 1917, managed to take a leading place in Petrograd Soviet, and also in a number of other Soviets. Originally they did not pretend to authority, but then under pressure of democratic public opinion and socialist-revolutionary party made the decision on joining the coalition government. However, Mensheviks could not render much influence on its policy.

The final delimitation with Bolsheviks took place at the unifying congress of Mensheviks, held on August 19-25, 1917 in Petrograd. At the same time struggle at the congress between different wings of Mensheviks led by A.A.Potresov, I.G.Tsereteli, F.I.Dan, Y..Martov, supporters of the Petrograd newspaper "Novaya zhizn (New life)" (N.N.Sukhanov etc.) brought to nothing all efforts to unite Menshevist forces. Group of Y.Larin and some other Mensheviks defected to the camp of Bolsheviks, Mensheviks-internationalists started publishing their own newspaper "Iskra (Spark)", and right-wing Mensheviks - magazine "Rabochaya mysl (Concept of workmen)".

Group of G.V.Plekhanov from May changed its name for All-Russia social democratic organization "Edinstvo (Unity)". Mensheviks, led by Tsereteli and Dan, continued their participation in the coalition government, protection of the country and struggle for global democratic peace. As a result, by the time of opening of the IInd congress of Soviets on October 25, 1917, Mensheviks were splintered and failed to resist Bolsheviks and their supporters.

The leadership of Bolsheviks's party after the February revolution could not right away develop a new strategy and tactics. At the beginning of March the Russian bureau of the Central Committee declared about counter-revolutionary character of the Provisional Government and necessity of formation of revolutionary-democratic government, but these ideas found no support in the majority of political organizations. Under influence of the moderate position of Petrograd committee and especially L.B. Kamenev, who returned from exile on March, 12, and also I.V. Stalin and M.K.Muranov Russian Bolsheviks actually supported Mensheviks and socialist-revolutionary party on many questions: relative support of the Provisional Government, pressure on it with the purpose of conclusion of the peace treaty and advancing of revolution. The tendency to organizational merge with Mensheviks found its expression in mass creation of united (Bolshevistic -Menshevist) party organizations and negotiations about integration.

However after the VII April All-Russian conference of Russian Social-Democratic Party of Workers (Bolsheviks) the order of things radically changed. V.I.Lenin supported an establishment in Russia of dictatorship of proletariat and poor peasantry as a prologue of the future global revolution, peaceful transition to the second stage of revolution and a handover of authority to Soviets, and also for the resolute breakup with the international and Russian Social Democracy. All this was not at first supported by Bolsheviks party leadership (V.P.Nogin, L.B.Kamenev etc.), but delegates of the April conference, after long discussions, basically approved the majority of items of Lenin's program. In July 1917 Lenin and his supporters, taking into account current conditions, skilfully corrected their policy.

In September Lenin demanded that the preparation for armed revolt be started, he considered, that Europe was "on the threshold of global proletarian revolution", and correlation of forces in the country is extremely favourable for armed seizure of authority by Bolsheviks. Lenin rejected all accusations of incitement of civil war, proving, that any "streams of blood" during it could not be compared to "seas of blood", shed by Russian army during the June offensive, which was led by Russian imperialists.

Bodies of Soviet authority

Soviets, among which prevailed Soviets of workers and soldiers deputies, got a wide spread at various levels. From March till October 1917 the number of local Soviets increased from 600 up to 1429. Socialist-revolutionaries and Mensheviks, whose programs complied with the mood of Russian population, had majority in Soviets.

All-Russian conference of Councils of workers and soldiers deputies, which made the decision on necessity of convocation of the first All-Russian congress of Soviets was carried out on March 27 - April 3 on the initiative of Petrograd Soviet. It was held from June 3 till June 24, 822 delegates with casting votes and 266 - with advisory votes took part in the congress. From 777 delegates who declared their party membership, there were 285 socialist-revolutionaries, 248 Mensheviks, 105 Bolsheviks, 32 Menshevik-internationalists and 10 Menshevik-unionists. Congress approved internal and foreign policy of the Provisional Government, made a decision on preparation of the Constituent Assembly, about convocation of the All-Russian congresses of Soviets at least once in three months, elected All-Russian Central Executive Committee (VTSIK), led by Menshevik N.S.Chkheidze.

The first All-Russian congress of peasants deputies was held in May 1917. 1167 people, including 537 socialist-revolutionaries, 103 social democrats, 9 Bolsheviks took part at the congress. The policy of the Provisional Government and the course on continuation of war were approved, also the Executive committee of the All-Russian congress (the chairman - right-wing socialist-revolutionary N.D.Avksentiev) was elected.

Factory committees (fabzavcoms) appeared in Russia after February revolution. They were elected by workers of plants and factories and dealt with questions concerning normalization of working day and salary, acceptance and dismissal of workers, 8-hour working day was introduced without preliminary permission, they created workers' militia etc. The 1st city conference of fabzavcoms, at which the Central Committee of Factory committees of Petrograd was elected, took place on May 30, 1917. Bolshevik M.N.Zhivotov became the head of the Central Committee.

The policy of the Provisional Government

In the Declaration of the Provisional Government of March 3, 1917 civil liberties extended both on military men, amnesty for people condemned on political cases, cancellation of national and religious restrictions etc. were proclaimed. Arrest of Nikolai II and some of supreme officials and generals was simultaneously authorized. Special committee of inquiry for investigation of their actions was established on March 4.

Radical democratization of army was carried out on agreement with Petrograd Soviet. Soldiers were required in line and when "discharging official duties" to observe strict military discipline, out of duty and out of line they could not be "belittled in rights, which all citizens enjoy". Command N 1 cancelled calling officers by their titles. They were not authorized to give out weapon, which was at the disposal and under control of company and battalion committees.

Despite the fact that the effect of the command was extended only to armies of the Petrograd garrison, it received universal circulation in front-line forces and at the rear, causing disintegration and non-effectiveness of forces. Court-martials were abolished in army, institution of commissioners for the control of activity of officers was introduced, about 150 supreme military officials, including 70 commanders of divisions, were transferred to the reserve. The governmental decree of March, 12 cancelled death penalty, and set up revolutionary-military courts.

The Provisional Government considered, that realization of cardinal reforms in all fields of life of the country was possible only on the basis of decisions of the Constituent Assembly. That is why it restricted itself to passing of temporary laws, adhering to the idea of not predetermining of the will of the Constituent Assembly.

However the Provisional Government was very active in questions of national self-determination. The Declaration of the Government was published on March 17, it declared the governmental consent to creation, in the future, of independent Poland with inclusion to its territory of German and Austro-Hungarian Polish grounds, provided that Poland were "in free military union" with Russia. On March 7 the Provisional Government restored the autonomy of Finland, but was against its full independence. However on July 5 the Seym of Finland passed "the Law on authority" which limited the competence of the Provisional Government to questions of military and foreign policy.

From February till October 1917 the social and economic problems, especially the question of land, were solved rather cautiously. The majority of parties and public associations agreed that land should be in hands of peasants, and the Constituent Assembly was to solve the question of land rearrangement. However there were irreconcilable contradictions when defining the essence of land reform: the liberal circles stood for land private ownership while radicals demanded transfer of all land to public ownership for usage without any buy-out.

In March the Provisional Government handed over to the state all Cabinet and appanage lands, and in April it set up a committees for realization of agrarian reform. Besides, acts, directed against popular in the country illegal seizure of landowners' lands, were published.

Condition of the industry was very difficult too. The First World War became a heavy burden for economy since the army devoured 40-50% of all material assets produced in Russia. The decline of industry became even more aggravated after the February revolution.

Transportation industry was in a difficult position too, as it was governed by elective councils and committees. The Ministry of Railways' Directive of May 27 gave them powers of public control, supervision and giving instructions to railway bodies, which disorganized management of railways. The All-Russian executive committee of railway trade union (Vikzhel) set up at the Ist All-Russian executive committee of railwaymen (July 15 - August 25, 1917), insisted that "the railway trade union should be quite independent".

The First World War resulted in a huge growth of government spending - from 5 billion roubles in the second half of 1914 up to 18 billion in 1916. After the February revolution only military expenditure for seven months of 1917 reached 14,5 billion roubles. This growth was caused by many reasons, including reduction of national produce by 32 %, excessive increase of wages, subsidizing of unprofitable enterprises, reduction of land-tax and real estate tax funds. All this led to reduction of rouble exchange rate (the growth of prices amounted to 500 % in 1917). Direct taxation of propertied classes was introduced with the purpose of reorganizing of the financial system on democratic principles. Indirect taxation intensified in August and monopoly on tea, sugar, matches was introduced. Credit operations brought 9,5 billion roubles in first half of 1917 and common incomes were supposed to be at the level no more than 5,8 billion, which did not cover expenses. Therefore the government increased release of bank notes. Bank notes were issued for the sum of almost 3,5 billion roubles in 1916, and for ten months of 1917 monetary issue was already 16,5 billion roubles.

The main problem of foreign policy after the February revolution was the question of participation of Russia in World War I. On March 14, 1917 Petrograd Soviet passed manifest "To peoples of the whole world" which refused aggressive purposes in war, annexations and contributions, but revolutionary war with Germany was admitted. In the address on March 27 to the citizens of Russia, the Provisional Government said that it would completely observe obligations to allies, defend against invading enemy and achieve lasting peace on the basis of self-determination of peoples.

April crisis

On April 18, 1917 P.N.Milyukov, the Minister on Foreign Affairs, sent a diplomatic note to allies about national aspiration "to finish the World War by a convincing victory", in this connection the next task was "to repulse attacks of enemy, which invaded the limits of our native land". On April 20 the information about this note got into newspapers, this caused 100-thousand anti-war demonstration in Petrograd.

There were demonstrations and meetings in Moscow, Kharkov, Nizhny Novgorod and other cities. General L.G.Kornilov, the commander-in-chief of Petrograd command, ordered to send the army against demonstrators, but officers and soldiers refused to execute this order. The executive committee of Petrograd Soviet, trying to take the strain off, asked the Provisional Government to interpret P.N. Milyukov's note. The Government explained, that under "convincing victory" exceptionally achievement of tasks, which were laid down in the address of March 27, was meant. Executive committee of Petrograd Soviet was satisfied with these explanations.

The April crisis and requirement of G.B.Lvov, A.F.Kerensky and M.I.Tereshchenko to create the coalition government resulted in P.N.Milyukov's and A.I.Guchkov's resignation, who rejected the idea of a coalition. 6 socialists were in the first coalition government, it started its work on May 5, 1917. Among them were A.F.Kerensky (military and sea minister), representative of workers P.N.Pereverzev (minister of justice), socialist-revolutionary V.M.Chernov (minister of agriculture), Menshevik I.G.Tsereteli (minister of post and telegraphs), peoples' socialist A.V.Peshekhonov (minister of food). The next day the new government came up with the declaration in which it set tasks of promptest achievement of peace without annexations and contributions, establishment of state control over economy and preparations of agrarian reform. Despite all efforts they failed to stabilize situation in the country.

In this conditions Bolsheviks began to get increasing influence on fabzavcoms, trade unions and Soviets. Socialist-revolutionaries and Mensheviks, trying to relieve the situation, secured the adoption of resolution at the Ist All-Russian congress of Soviets on confidence to the Provisional Government and prohibition of demonstration on June 10, which was being prepared by Bolsheviks as a sign of protest against the decision on continuation of war. The Central Committee of Russian Social-Democratic Party of Workers (Bolsheviks) was compelled to cancel the demonstration, but V.I.Lenin at the meeting of Petrograd committee of the Bolsheviks' party declared that " workers shouldn't even think of a peaceful demonstration".

The Ist All-Russian congress of Soviets fixed the date of demonstration in support of the government on June 18.

Failure of Russian army's offensive

Failure of Russian army's offensive (June - July of 1917)

The Provisional Government tried to make its position more stable but without refusing from the idea of starting the offensive at the battle-front, planned in accordance with decisions of interallied conferences in Shantilya (France) in November, 1916 and in Petrograd in January - February, 1917.

The instruction on preparation of the advance was given by the Supreme Commander-in-Chief general M.V.Alekseyev as early as March 30, 1917. The main blow was to be delivered by forces of Southwest front in the direction of Lvov city and auxiliary thrust in Kaluga city direction. The front was to assume the offensive on June 12, which on June 22 was to be supported by armies of Western and on July 1 by Northern and Romanian fronts. The Russian armed forces outnumbered the German armies and its allies in one and a half time. However, morally, soldiers were not ready act on the offensive. A.F.Kerensky, who inspected the forces of the Western front, recognized: "I do not believe in any success of the offensive".

Despite everything, armies of the Southwest front passed to the offensive on June 18. By noon Russian divisions seized the first, and somewhere the second lines of enemies' trenches. But the further advance became slower. Success was achieved only by the 8th army (under command of general L.G.Kornilov) that assumed the offensive on June 23. In three days it occupied Galich city and advanced further to the valley of Lomnitsy river, made a forced crossing, and on June 28 occupied Kalush. However other armies of the Southwest front, because of refusal of soldiers to battle, did not support the advance of the 8th army. All this, as well as the strong overflows of Lomnitsy, which complicated the supply of armies, made the 8th army leave Kalush on July 3.

The German headquarters, taking advantage of lull in the West, sent 9 infantry divisions against Russian army. In July, after using of chemical weapons, German armies delivered a strike on the 11th, and later on 7th and 8th armies of the Southwest front. By July 17 the enemy approached the Zbruch river and was stopped. During offensive and defensive operations the Russians lost 132,5 thousand soldier and officers.

The offensive of the Romanian front began too late: on July 9 instead of July 1. Battle formations, together with Romanian armies, reached Putna river on July 17 where they were stopped because of threatening situation in Galitsia and Bukovina. Forces of the Western front assumed the offensive simultaneously with armies of the Romanian front. But reluctance of soldier to fight, growth of desertion and strengthening of resistance of enemy compelled A.I.Denikin, the commander-in-chief, to stop the advance of the Western front on July 10. Forces of the Northern front for the same reasons carried out active actions only from July 8 till July 10. Russian forces, having lost 200 thousand people, failed to achieve the purpose of operation, which had been prepared for half a year.

July crisis

The decision of the Provisional Government on assuming of the offensive at the battle-front, its compromise agreement with the Central Rada, which demanded wide autonomy for Ukraine, deterioration of economic situation caused a new political crisis.

Ministers - Constitutional Democrats obeying the decision of their Central Committee on July 2 send in their resignation as a sign of protest against the agreement with Central Rada. Central Committee of Russian Social-Democratic Party of workers (Bolsheviks), taking advantage of the situation, proclaimed the slogan "All authority to Soviets!" and started preparation for mass action to force the Provisional Government to hand over the authority to Soviets. Demonstrations and meetings began in Petrograd on July 3. Bolsheviks called on the 1stmachine-gun regiment and other formations to rise in rebellion. 0,5 million people went into the street of Petrograd on July 4. A part of armed demonstrators rushed into the Tavrichesky palace and demanded of All-Russian Central Committee's members to take authority immediately.

There were armed conflicts between demonstrators and supporters of the Provisional Government. More than 700 persons died and were wounded during disorders. Under these conditions the party leadership of Bolsheviks took a contradictory position. The majority, seeing, that the parity of forces was not in favour of Bolsheviks, on July 3-4 acted as supporters of peaceful character of the demonstration. At the same time the other part of Bolsheviks, including members of the Military organization (I.T.Smilga, M.I.Latsis, V.I.Nevsky, N.I.Podvoysky etc.), relying on the mood of people, insisted on armed revolt. Only after sharp discussions in the evening of July 4 the majority of leaders, among them V.I.Lenin (later he recognized, that it was an attempt to seize power by peace), decided to stop demonstration.

After this the Provisional Government passed to the offensive. Bolsheviks leaders were accused of high treason. The order about V.I.Lenin's arrest was issued on July 7. Editorial office of "Pravda" newspaper was smashed up, and L.D.Trotsky, F.F.Raskolnikov, L.B.Kamenev and other heads of Bolsheviks were arrested. On July 8 Kerensky became the head of the Provisional Government. Under pressure of Constitutional Democrats on July 12 he restored the death penalty at the battle-front. Popular in Russia general L.G.Kornilov was appointed the Supreme Commander-in-Chief instead of general A.A.Brusilov on July 19. After long negotiations with representatives of some parties the second coalition government was formed on July 24, 1917

Revolt of general L.G.Kornilov

Revolt of general L.G.Kornilov and national crisis.

General L.G.Kornilov, being the supporter of tough course, together with B.V.Savinkov and M.M.Filonenko, commissioners of the Provisional Government under the Headquarters, developed a special note (report) for the government. In the note he required restoration of full discipline, prohibition of meetings in army, spread of the death penalty onto rear, creation of concentration camp for disobedient armed forces, declaration of martial law at railways, most of plants and mines.

But Kerensky, not rejecting as a whole the basic theses of this document, considered, that their realization would cause disorders, which would even more aggravate position of the government.The press learnt about disagreement between Kerensky and Kornilov. Mensheviks, social revolutionaries and Bolsheviks started campaign for displacement of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief. Monarchists, Constitutional Democrats and Octoberists, on their part, supported him.

State conference was held on August 12 in Moscow. About 2,5 thousand people, including 488 deputies of the State Duma took part at the conference.

Kerensky, speaking at the conference, called for unity and reconciliation of all public and political forces, threatening by "iron and blood" to crush all attempts of opposition to the government. General L.G.Kornilov warned, that if drastic measures at the battle-front were not taken, the armed forces would get into a very difficult position in the nearest future.

General A.M.Kaledin, P.N.Milyukov, V.V.Shulgin proposed to liquidate Soviets, public organizations in army, to carry out war till final victory. N.S.Chkheidze on behalf of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee offered the program of recovery of the country, which combined a complex of measures of state control in economy with preservation of bases of capitalist production.

After the State conference A.F.Kerensky, aware of obvious consolidation of right-wing forces, which supported general Kornilov, informed him about his consent in kind with contents of his report and entrusted him with preparation of necessary bills. The agreement on detaching of Petrograd and its suburbs from limits of Petrograd command, which was subordinated to the Headquarters, was achieved through the mediation of Savinkov. On August 19 the German forces defeated the 12th army of Northern front and seized Riga city the following day, this implied the threat of advance to Petrograd. The situation strengthened accusations of the Headquarters and Kornilov in "treachery" and "terrorizing' of the Provisional Government", with the purpose, as "Novosti" newspaper wrote, to force the Government to take measures "against revolutionary democracy". At the same time nearly all armed forces showed sharp criticism of the Government and firm support of Kornilov.

Bolsheviks adopted the decision on the armed revolt at the VI congress (July 26 - August, 3). It was planned not later than September - October. Savinkov at a meeting with Kornilov declared, that a serious actions by Bolsheviks was expected on August 28-29 in Petrograd. Therefore he asked to give the order to bring up forces to Petrograd. On August 26 Savinkov tried to convince Kerensky to sign the bill prepared on the basis of Kornilov's offers, and the latter - to obey the Government.

Supreme Commander-in-Chief informed B.V.Savinkov, that the asked for regiment would have concentrated in suburbs of Petrograd by August 28, and asked to declare martial law in the city on August 29.

V.N.Lvov, the former chief-public prosecutor of Synod, mediating between the head of the Government and the Supreme Commander-in-Chief, conveyed Kornilovs' request to A.F.Kerensky in the following way: to declare martial law in Petrograd, to transfer all authority to Supreme Commander-in-Chief, to retire all ministers. In response Kerensky stopped any further negotiations, and in the morning on August 27 sent a telegram to the Headquarters with instruction for Kornilov to hand over his post to general A.S.Lukomsky and arrive to Petrograd. Kornilov did not obey. In the morning on August 28 Kornilov broadcasted by the radio his address in which he accused the Provisional Government of actions "in complete concordance with plans of the German General Staff" and urged all Russian people "to rescue the dying Native land", swore, that he would 'defeat enemies" and call election to the Constituent Assembly.

When the Provisional Government learned about all this, it declared the general a rebel. Army committees of the Western front blocked the Headquarters, and the Southwest front arrested supreme military officials. Central Committee of Russian Social-Democratic party of workers (Bolsheviks) urged workers and soldiers of Petrograd to protect revolution. In the way of regiment's movement different barriers were built. On September 1 the Provisional Government arrested Kornilov. A.F.Kerensky was appointed Supreme Commander-in-Chief, simultaneously he headed Council of five (Directory), to which the Provisional Government handed over authority. On September 1 Russia was proclaimed the Russian Republic.

Formation of new authority

October revolution and formation of new authority.

Formation of a new government coincided in time with activity of new staff of Executive Committee and Presidium (13 Bolsheviks, 6 socialist-revolutionaries and 7 Mensheviks) of Executive Committee of Petrosoviet led by L.D.Trotsky. At this time Lenin persistently demanded from members of the Central Committee of Russian Social-Democratic party of workers (Bolsheviks), Moscow and Petrograd committees of Bolsheviks' party not to wait for convocation on October 20 of a new congress of Soviets, but immediately take authority. These appeals provoked actions of the Government. Trying to take the lead over Bolsheviks, Kerensky began to draw up to Petrograd loyal to him but few in number armed forces. In response Bolsheviks on September 20 made a decision to dispatch commissioners to all military formation. The orders, which had not been signed by them, were declared invalid. On October 5 the Central Committee of Russian Social-Democratic party of workers (Bolsheviks) adopted the decision on leaving the Preparliament. In a day the Moscow committee of Bolsheviks adopt a resolution on support of Lenin's armed revolt course.

The Provisional Government, aspiring to disrupt preparation for the revolution, sent for military elements of cadets from Petrograd and Oranienbaum, strengthened protection of major objects, including the palace, garrison of which made more than 2,7 thousand people.

On October 24, at behest of the Government, cadets made a raid on the printing house of the Bolsheviks' newspaper "Trudovoy put (Way of workers)". The order on arrest and bringing to trial of members of Petrograd Revolutionary-military committee was given at this time. Bolsheviks took retaliatory measures.

Storm of the Winter palace began on October 25. At 3.30 in the morning the battle-cruiser "Aurora" took position at the Nikolayevsky bridge, about 6 a.m. the State Bank was occupied, and then the Central telephone exchange. At 10 a.m. on October 25 V.I.Lenin wrote address "To the citizens of Russia" in which the deposition of the Provisional Government and a handover of authority to Revolutionary-military committee was declared. At 1 p.m. conspirators seized Mariyinsky palace where they dissolved Preparliament. Then the military port and the Main admiralty were seized. About 3 p.m. at Petrosoviet's special session Lenin declared, that "workers' and peasants' revolution" occurred.

In the evening loyal to the Military-revolutionary committee forces drew up to the Winter palace. They occupied the Ministry of Defence and all approaches to the Palace square. The surrender ultimatum was delivered to the Provisional Government at 19 p.m. After the rejection the first artillery shots were made at 9.40 p.m. Bombardment of the palace from rifles and machine guns began and lasted for 10-15 minutes. Actually there wasn't organized resistance. Groups of Military-revolutionary committee penetrated into the palace and at about two o'clock in the morning arrested ministers of the Provisional Government.

Meanwhile F.Dan, on behalf of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee, opened at 10.40 p.m. the II All-Russian congress of Soviets of workers' and soldiers' deputies. He supported Y.Martov's offer on settlement of political crisis by peace and beginning of negotiations with the purpose of creation of a coalition democratic government.

After the announcement of the seizure of the Winter palace and arrest of ministers of the Provisional Government the hesitating delegates finally took the Bolsheviks' side.

Towards morning the congress listened to and passed the address written by V.I.Lenin" To workers, soldiers and peasants" about handover of authority to the IInd congress of Soviets, and at the local level - to Soviets of workers', soldiers' and peasants' deputies.

In the evening on October 26 the congress passed the Decree on Peace and the Decree on Land.

At the congress the Provisional Bolsheviks', till convocation of the Constituent Assembly, workers' and peasants' government - Soviet of People's Commissars was constituted.

Congress elected a new staff of All-Russian Central Executive Committee. Of its 101 members 62 were Bolsheviks, 29 - left-wing socialist-revolutionaries, 6 - Mensheviks-internationalists. L.B.Kamenev became the chairman but from November 8, after his resignation, Y.M.Sverdlov headed the Committee.

At the beginning of November 1917 the first crisis in the new government broke out. V.I.Lenin, trying to preserve monopoly on authority, delivered an ultimatum to rebellious L.B.Kamenev, G.E.Zinovyev and others by refusing from an agreement with the All-Russian executive committee of railwayman. As a sign of protest Kamenev, Rykov, Milyutin, Nogin left the Central Committee. A number of peoples' commissioners and highest officials sent in their resignation.

The after-February democracy suffered defeat due to a number of factors. Among them - relative weakness of liberal political forces. The social base of the Russian liberalism was narrowed because of absence of a wide layer of private proprietors in the village, remnants of traditional "communal" consciousness, illiteracy up to 70% of grown-up population of the country, which promoted popularity of socialist ideas. The other destabilizing factors were continuing World War, uncertainty with land question, difficult economic situation and, at last, the sharpest crisis of authority was caused by fall of autocracy - the pillar of Russian statehood.

As a result of radicalism of masses and absence of firm political authority the just being formed democracy quickly turned into anarchy and ochlocracy. Bolsheviks under those conditions managed to use their advantages: firm political will, yearning for authority, powerful and flexible party organization and broadest superpopulist propaganda. They resolutely headed revolutionary-anarchist uncontrolled situation, in every possible way encouraged it, used weakness of the Provisional Government, social hatred, impatience, thirst of people for social leveling. Bolsheviks seized authority and realized their ideas in practice.

Soviet Russia
Revolutions of 1917
Civil War
Russia in NEP
Industrialization. USSR in 30s
USSR in Second World War (1939-1945)
First Post-war Decade
XX CPSU Congress. "Thaw" (1956-1964)
Epoch of "Developed Socialism" (1964-1985)
"Perestroika" (1985-1991)

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