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11-08-2015, 17:11

THE BOLSHEVIK REVOLUTION

The collapse of the monarchy had sparked an upheaval among the former empire's non-Russian peoples as well as a rural uprising. The arrival home of genuinely radical leaders like Lenin and Trotsky committed to removing Russia from the war opened the way to a second upheaval, the Bolshevik Revolution of November 1917. In exile in Switzerland, Lenin had been a vocal critic of the war since August 1914, and he had called for Russia's defeat as a positive step toward revolution. Once back in Russia—he arrived on April 16—he condemned the Provisional Government, pledged to remove Russia from the war, and promised land to the peasants and control over the factories for the workers. Bolshevik leaders took advantage of Russia's continuing turmoil and the ineptitude of the Provisional Government to move toward power. In late June the Ukraine broke most of its ties with Petrograd, a sign that the minority peoples of the former Russian state were moving toward outright independence. Early the next month Kerensky, now minister of war and soon to be prime minister as well, conducted a disastrous offensive on the eastern front. Its failure accelerated the collapse of the army. In September Kerensky destroyed the last remnants of his authority by a clumsy effort to bring army units into Petrograd to help him crush the Bolsheviks and establish an authoritarian government. Growing suspicious of the army's commander, General Lavr Komilov, Kerensky reversed himself and turned to the Bolsheviks for help in stopping Komilov. In consequence, Kerensky alienated the army's commanders, boosted the power of the Bolsheviks and the workers' militia they dominated, and set the stage for his own downfall. Lenin saw the opportunity to seize power in Petrograd acting in the name of the Soviet. Using his formidable powers of persuasion, he won over a majority of his fellow Bolshevik leaders. Trotsky demonstrated his tactical brilliance in directing the seizure of key locations in Petrograd on the night of November 6-7. Thus, in a second revolution—the Bolshevik Revolution of November 1917—Lenin and his party took power in Petrograd and, a few days later, in Moscow. Although the Bolsheviks had not yet extended their power to the countryside, control over the industrial and political centers gave them virtual power to command the Russian government. The Bolsheviks' unity, disciphne, and even ruthlessness also gave them a tactical advantage over their rivals, who remained divided in purpose and limited by their own scruples or self-interest. Thus, fully a year before the war ended for the other belligerents, Russia had a radical government that moved rapidly to pull that country out of the war. Even more significantly for Europe's future, the war had opened the way for Marxist radicals to control one of the continent's Great Powers. They now had the opportunity to change the shape of the economy and society of Russia—and, as time would prove, for the next seven decades to promote radical change elsewhere in the world.

 

 

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