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Lenin Leads an "October" Revolution in Russia (1917)

**Discussion Topic**

The "Bolshevik" Revolution

Abstract: November 7, 1917 the Bolshevik government is officially formed after overthrowing the provisional government that had had been established after the Revolution of 1905. Vladimir Ilich Ulyanov becomes chairman and ushers in the new Russian political movement of Communism (Leninism - a reformed version of Marxist philosphy geared towards the special interest of Russia and her people.)

The following abstract was written by Carol Hepburn, 2005. Source: What Everyone Should Know About the 20th Century: 200 Events that Shaped the World by Dr. Alan Axelrod and Charles Phillips, published by Adams Media Corporation, 1995; 1998.

Background Information

Vladimir Ilich Ulyanov (Lenin) was born April 22, 1870. The son of middle-class, well-educated parents (both were teachers), Lenin was taught compassion for the impoverished plight of the Russian people. Lenin's older brother, Aleksandr, was a revolutionary activist who was hanged for plotting against the tsar. Lenin was shaken by his brother's death and turned to the works of Karl Marx and other radical political philosophers. He didn't immediately embrace radicalism and instead pursued his education at the University of Kazan. His growing interest however became more pronounced and he was expelled from school for his anti-csarist political sentiments. He continued his education and obtained a law degree from the University of St. Petersburg in 1891. He practiced law for a short period of time before he turned full-time to political revolutionary activity. Lenin was highly intelligent and set about to reshaped Marxist theory into a movement that would fit the needs of the Russian people. Lenin's major obstacle was in spreading his newly devised movement to the masses. The Russian people, long held under the rule of the tsars, considered themselves to be peasants. Lenin needed the people to see themselves as something more, a powerful collective group, able to shape and determine Russia's future. But how would he disseminate this radical new theory to the masses? He recognized that he would need to create a reorganized politcal party to take the message to the people. His efforts returned exile, for in 1895 he was arrested and sent to Siberia. In 1900, Lenin left Russia and spent the next five years publishing an underground newspaper called The Spark (Iskra). In it, he urged extreme radicalism among the 'bourgeoisie' (middle class). Lenin formulated that the basis for individual liberty was not found in political democracy but rather in the social democracy of a truly classless society. Lenin returned to Russia in 1905 and began to revolutionize the Bolshevik wing of the Democratic Labor Party. The Social Democratic Revolutionaries didn't share in his radical ideas.

Meanwhile, the Russian people were suffering from defeat, humiliation, and massive loss due to the revolutionary uprisings of 1905. Severe food shortages provoked anger among the peasants and demonstrations in the cities began to crop up. The Csar ordered the military to suppress the demonstrations and they in turn mutinied. The Duma (leaders of the provisional government setup after the 1905 revolution) demanded that Csar Nicholas II transfer power to a parlimentary government. Nicholas refused and instead abdicated and tried to give the crown to his brother, Michael. Michael refused and the result was the end of the 300 year reign of the Romanov dynasty in Russia. In October 1917, a provisional government was created and Lenin's party came to power. Splinter groups and civil war broke out and for four years Russia sufffered through devasting and bitter war. By the end of the Russian Civil War, Lenin was installed as absolute dictator of the Soviet Union. In 1918 he was wounded by a bullet and his health deteriorated. He suffered a stroke on May 25, 1922 and later died in 1924. Josef Stalin took over control of the party and crushed all dissent within the party.

Major Events

1870 - Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov is born (Lenin)

1887 - Aleksandr Ulyanov is hanged, Lenin turns to radical philosophy

1891 - Graduates from University of St. Petersburg with degree in law

1893 - Lenin turns to full-time radicalism

1895 - Arrested and sent to Siberia

1900 - Publishes The Spark, a radical newspaper where he urges the bourgeoisie to assert dominance over the peasants

1902 - Writes "What is to be Done", a pamphet where he outlines his ideas and distributes it to the radical wing of the Democratic Labor Party

1905 - Russo-Japanese War (aka Revolution of 1905) defeat stirs dissension which will lead to the Revolution of 1917

1905 - The Duma, or pariliament established after the 1905 revolution

1917 - Csar orders troops to put down demonstrations in the streets

1917 - Military refuses

1917 - Csar Nicholas II abdicates, provisional government established, Lenin's Bolshevik Party takes control

1917-1921 - Russian Civil War

1918 - Lenin wounded by bullet

1921 - Civil War ends, Lenin installed as absolute dictator of the Soviet Union

1922 - Lenin suffers severe stroke

1924 - Lenin dies; Josef Stalin takes control

Political Outcome

The Bolshevik Revolution was spurred on by the radical branch of the Democratic Labor Party. Fueled by the socialist idealism of Marx and reshaped into a uniquely Russian classless society by Lenin, the middle class or bourgeoisie begin to take control of the unstable and totalitarian rule of the tsar. The war ravaged masses desparately wanted an end to the ongoing strife, war and famine. The radical elite sought to gain control of the deteriorating political system that had survived for 300 hundred years under the Csarist Romanov reign. Lenin desire for a purely classless social system stretched far beyond the borders of Russia. His reach into other parts of Europe, especially with the onset of World War I, led many in the West to take aggressive measures to stop the spread of Communism (an idealogical battle which was waged until the 1980s and the Fall of the Berlin Wall).

Key Words and Definitions

Communism : A system of government in which the state plans and controls the economy and a single, often authoritarian party holds power, claiming to make progress toward a higher social order in which all goods are equally shared by the people.

Bolshevik : A member of the left-wing majority group of the Russian Social Democratic Workers' Party that adopted Lenin's theses on party organization in 1903.

Csar or Tsar : A male monarch or emperor, especially one of the emperors who ruled Russia until the revolution of 1917. A person having great power; an autocrat

Vladimir Ilich Ulyanov n : Russian founder of the Bolsheviks and leader of the Russian Revolution and first head of the USSR (1870-1924)

Key People (for further research)

Websites with more information on this topic

Reference (Encyclopedias and Dictionaries)

Other Resources

  • Dr. Zhivago by Boris Pasternak (reference here as it is considered a masterpiece and deals specifically with this subject. It is however an adult book as is the Academy Award winning movie based on the novel).

If you know of any other books, videos, websites or articles that cover this topic and you think they would be appropriate for a Year 5 student, please contact the webmaster with details!

 

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Copyright 2005. Carol Hepburn. All rights reserved.