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The Russian Revolution (1917–1918)

by: History SparkNotes

Key Terms

Terms

April Theses

The ideas for Russia’s future that Vladimir Lenin expressed upon his return to Russia in April 1917. They were published in the newspaper Pravda on April 7. In short, Lenin called for the overthrow of the provisional government and its replacement with a communist form of government led by the working class. He believed that other countries would follow Russia’s example.

Bolsheviks

A radical political party, led by Vladimir Lenin, that split from the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party in 1903. The Bolshevik Party favored a closed party consisting of and run by professional revolutionaries and supported the idea of a dictatorship that would accelerate the transition to socialism. It placed an emphasis on the working class, from which it drew much of its support.

Cadets

A political group (an acronym for Constitutional Democrats) that wanted to see Russia established as a democratic republic governed by a constitution and an elected parliament. This stance put the Cadets at sharp odds with the Bolsheviks, who favored a dictatorship of the proletariat. The Cadets drew support primarily from professional workers and the bourgeois class.

Constituent Assembly

An elected body of representatives from around Russia, created in November 1917, that was meant to decide on the country’s governmental structure. When Nicholas II abdicated in February 1917, the provisional government that took power made plans for the formation of this Constituent Assembly in order to choose a more permanent government for Russia. After Vladimir Lenin and the Bolsheviks took power in the October Revolution, they initially allowed elections for the assembly to go forward as scheduled but changed their minds after receiving less than 25 percent of the vote in those elections.

Dual Power

A term referring to the two governments that Russia had following the February Revolution—the provisional government and the Petrograd Soviet.

Duma

The Russian legislature from 19051917. The term, an ancient Russian word referring to small village councils that existed in early Russia, was resurrected when Tsar Nicholas II agreed to allow the formation of a legislature after the uprising of 1905. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the term has once more come into use, this time specifically referring to today’s lower house of the Russian parliament.

Mensheviks

A political group that, like the Bolsheviks, split from the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party. The Mensheviks, less radical than the Bolsheviks, supported the idea of a socialistic party that was open to all who wished to join and that would be ruled and organized in a democratic manner.

Petrograd Soviet

A body that existed prior to the February Revolution as a sort of underground revolutionary labor union for workers and soldiers in the Petrograd area, containing members of a number of different political parties. During the February Revolution, members of the Petrograd Soviet saw an opportunity and declared themselves to be the government of Russia. However, they quickly found themselves competing with the provisional government.

Provisional Government

A government that members of the Duma formed following the February Revolution. The provisional government was meant to be temporary and would rule Russia only until the Constituent Assembly decided on a permanent government later.

Russian Social Democratic Labor Party (RSDLP)

A party that formed in 1898 and was among Russia’s earliest revolutionary movements, though by no means the first. In 1903, the RSDLP split into two factions, the Mensheviks and the Bolsheviks.

Socialist Revolutionary Party (SRs)

A Russian political party during the revolutionary years that was more moderate than the Bolsheviks but less so than the Mensheviks. The SRs drew their support primarily from the peasantry and thus had a much larger base than the other parties in Russia. Before and during the October Revolution, the SRs were probably the Bolsheviks’ closest allies among Russia’s many political movements. After the revolution, however, the Bolsheviks abandoned the SRs after the SRs enjoyed a major victory over the Bolsheviks in the elections for the Constituent Assembly.

Soviet

A Russian word literally meaning “council.” In the early twentieth century, Soviets were governing bodies, similar to labor unions, that existed primarily on the local/municipal level and collectively made policy decisions for their respective regions. The idea of Soviets was popular among the various socialist parties of the time, including the Bolsheviks, Mensheviks, and Socialist Revolutionaries. When Tsar Nicholas II abdicated in early 1917, the powerful Petrograd Soviet wielded significant political power in Russia.