Artboard Created with Sketch. Close Search Dialog
! Error Created with Sketch.

The Russian Revolution (1917–1918)


The October Revolution

Summary The October Revolution

The Congress resumed once more late the next evening, and several important decisions were made during this session. The first motion approved was Lenin’s Decree on Peace, which declared Russia’s wish for World War I to end but did not go so far as to declare a cease-fire. The next matter to be passed was the Decree on Land, which officially socialized all land in the country for redistribution to peasant communes. Finally, a new provisional government was formed to replace the old one until the Constituent Assembly met in November as scheduled. The new government was called the Soviet of the People’s Commissars(SPC). Lenin was its chairman, and all of its members were Bolsheviks. As defined by the Congress, the SPC had to answer to a newly elected Executive Committee, chaired by Lev Kamenev, which in turn would answer to the Constituent Assembly.

Life After the Revolution

Life in Russia after October 25, 1917, changed very little at first. There was no widespread panic among the upper classes, and the people of Petrograd were generally indifferent. Few expected the new government to last for long, and few understood what it would mean if it did. In Moscow, there was a power struggle that lasted for nearly a week. In other regions, local politicians (of various party loyalties) simply took power for themselves. In the countryside, anarchy ruled for a time, and peasants boldly seized land as they pleased, with little interference from anyone. The new Bolshevik-led government, meanwhile, improvised policy quite literally on the fly, with no long-term plan or structure in place other than vague intentions.

Assessing the October Revolution

Although the Soviet government went to great lengths for decades to make the “Great October Socialist Revolution” appear colorful and heroic, it was in many ways a mundane and anticlimactic event. There was little if any bloodshed, the provisional government barely tried to resist, and afterward, few Russians seemed to care about or even notice the change in governments. However, this very indifference on the part of the Russian people enabled the new leadership to extend its power quite far, and the October Revolution would soon prove to be a cataclysmic event once its earthshaking effect on Russia and the rest of the world became clear. However bloodless the Russian Revolution initially may have been, it would ultimately cost tens of millions of Russian lives and shock the nation so deeply that it has not yet come to terms with what happened.

As far as historians have been able to determine, Lenin and most of the other major revolutionary figures at his side believed sincerely in their cause and were not motivated purely by a thirst for power. In all likelihood, they seized power believing that they were doing so for the greater good. Ironically, their faith in the socioeconomic models of Marx was on the level of an extreme religious devotion—the very same blind devotion that they often denounced in others. Unfortunately, this steadfast belief in Marxism would come to be implemented through brutal and repressive means.

Popular pages: The Russian Revolution (1917–1918)