Pre-Revolutionary Russia

  • Up until 1905, Czar Nicolas II had managed to contain the forces of change
  • The failure of Russia in the Russo-Japanese war increased the general desire for reform
  • Bloody Saturday in 1905 only led to more protests in both the cities and the countryside
  • With the army tied up fighting the Japanese, the state simply did not have the sources to suppress the protests
  • Nicolas II did not know how to respond- did not want to grant concessions nor constitutional monarchy
  • October Manifesto- a period of constitutional rule in Russia and the basis for the 1906 Constitution
  • As Revolutionary agitation died from the October Manifesto and Constitution, the Czar began to reconsider his position on reform.
  • He limited votes to only Land Owners


  • Socialism was the major ideological attraction for many Russians
  • Lenin (1870-1924) became the leader of the second generation of Marxist
  • He came from a middle class home
  • Brother was killed by the Czarist authorities in 1887 for being a member of the Social Revolutionary terrorist group
  • Lenin devoted himself to radical change and was convinced that the existing system was backwards
  • Graduated St. Petersburg University and in 1885 joined the Marxist group
  • After living outside Russia, he returned and was arrested and exiled to Siberia (1897-1900)
  • Life was not difficult, lived in comfort, studied and wrote
  • Upon his release he left Russia and joined fellow members of the Social Democratic Party abroad
  • Realized that a revolution could only be completed by a careful organization
  • Insisted that a tight well disciplined group of people was needed to lead the revolution on behalf of the proletariat
  • A revolution could be made by “vanguard of the proletariat” acting in the name of the whole
  • Supporters of Lenin were called “Bolsheviks”
  • During the war, Lenin was in exile in Switzerland—-things looked hopeless and they had little support nor money.
  • The war went bad for Russia—little support from Britain and France because of geographical restrictions
  • 20th century of warfare-mechanized, supplies, weapons and food had to be moved over great distances quickly
  • Czar failed to do this….mobilization of troops was slow, food shortages were present and soldiers were badly supplied
  • Ravages of war brought home the weaknesses of the Czar
  • Nicolas II in 1915 moved to the front to take control of the army leaving his wife Alexandria in charge


  • Monk who was able to care for their hemophilia son
  • Along with Alexandria they controlled the government
  • December 1916, he was assassinated by a group of Nobles— however, nothing changed after his death
  • In 1917, Czar Nicolas II was fighting for his survival unable to govern the court that was corrupt and isolated
  • His Generals did not have the means to carry out a successful campaign
  • By now the troops on the front were tired of fighting and lacking supplies began to defect


  • March 1917, riots broke out in Petrograd because of food shortages but it quickly spread to the factories and army
  • Questioned whether the Czar could keep order
  • Finding himself with little support (after the Duma asked him to abdicate the throne) he vacated assuming his brother Michael would replace him but he refused
  • Provisional government was set up by the Duma led by Kerensky (1881-1970)
  • Lenin learned of the Revolution and returned to Petrograd
  • Initially the Bolsheviks were supporting Kerensky’s government but Lenin regarded this as a mistake (war should not be continued)


  • Military and internal situation deteriorated
  • Kerensky weathered the storm but only with the help of the Soviets
  • Trotsky and Lenin were gaining favour with the people
  • Bolsheviks carried out a successful coup and thereby gained control of Russia
  • Provisional government collapsed and Kerensky fled into exile
  • It was not a very bloody revolution


  • Held a democratic election in which the Bolsheviks were the minority to the Social Revolutionaries Party—represented the needs of the peasants
  • Lenin would not tolerate another center of power and when the assembly tried to meet, troops under the orders of the Bolsheviks dissolved the meeting
  • Trotsky was sent to negotiate with the Germans
  • March 15, 1917 the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was signed
  • Russia gave up 20 % of its territory, 75% of Coal mines and the Ukraine
  • Lenin moved to Moscow
  • Civil war broke out between the Reds (Bolsheviks) and the Whites (mixed group that hated Lenin)
  • Trotsky organized the army and at one point held off their enemies at 16 different points (BR, CAN, US, JAPAN)
  • Bolsheviks changed to the Communist Party in 1918
  • Main task was to change the lifestyle of the Russian people
  • In 1924, Russia became known as the UNION OF SOVIET SOCIALISTS REPUBLIC
  • Hence the state recognized the language and cultural differences
  • Hoped to maintain Russia by unity by giving each group some autonomy while retaining central control
author avatar
William Anderson (Schoolworkhelper Editorial Team)
William completed his Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts in 2013. He current serves as a lecturer, tutor and freelance writer. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, walking his dog and parasailing. Article last reviewed: 2022 | St. Rosemary Institution © 2010-2024 | Creative Commons 4.0

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