The Third Congress of Soviets

The assembly was replaced by the Third Congress of Soviets, 94 percent of whose members were required to be Bolshevik and SR delegates. The new group quickly ratified a motion that the term “provisional” be removed from the official description of the SPC, making Lenin and the Bolsheviks the permanent rulers of the country.

Until this point, the Bolsheviks had often used word democracy in a positive sense, but this changed almost instantly. The Bolsheviks began to categorize their critics as counterrevolutionaries and treated them as traitors. The terms revolutionary dictatorship and dictatorship of the proletariat began to pop up frequently in Lenin’s speeches, which began to characterize democracy as an illusionary concept propagated by Western capitalists.

The Bolsheviks’ Consolidation of Power

In March 1918, even as Lenin’s representatives were signing the final treaty taking Russia out of World War I, the Bolsheviks were in the process of moving their seat of power from Petrograd to Moscow. This largely symbolic step was a part of the Bolshevik effort to consolidate power.

Although symbolism of this sort was a major part of the Bolsheviks’ strategy, they knew they also needed military power to force the rest of the country to comply with their vision while discouraging potential foreign invaders from interfering. Therefore, they rebuilt their military force, which now largely consisted of 35,000 Latvian riflemen who had sided with the Bolsheviks when they vowed to remove Russia from World War I. The Latvian soldiers were better trained and more disciplined than the Russian forces upon which the Bolshevik forces had previously relied. These troops effectively suppressed insurrections throughout Russia during the course of 1918 and formed the early core of the newly established Red Army.

The other major instrument of Bolshevik power was the secret police, known by the Russian acronym Cheka (for Extraordinary Commission to Combat Counterrevolution and Sabotage). Officially formed on December 20, 1917, the Cheka was charged with enforcing compliance with Bolshevik rule. At its command, Lenin placed a Polish revolutionary named Felix Dzerzhinsky, who would soon become notorious for the deadly work of his organization. Tens of thousands of people would be murdered at Dzerzhinsky’s behest during the coming years.

The Roots of Civil War

Although the Russian Civil War is a separate topic and not dealt with directly in this text, some introduction is appropriate because the war evolved directly from the circumstances of the Russian Revolution. No specific date can be set forth for the beginning of the war, but it generally began during the summer of 1918. As the Bolsheviks (often termed the Reds) were consolidating power, Lenin’s opponents were also organizing from multiple directions. Groups opposing the Bolsheviks ranged from monarchists to democrats to militant Cossacks to moderate socialists. These highly divergent groups gradually united and came to fight together as the Whites. A smaller group, known as the Greens,was made up of anarchists and opposed both the Whites and the Reds.

Popular pages: The Russian Revolution (1917–1918)