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The October Revolution
November 07, 2007 17:57 GMT
All photos from ITAR-TASS, except for page 9 in the slideshow, from AFP.
Government troops fire on demonstrators in Petrograd (St. Petersburg) in July 1917 - The Bolshevik Revolution of October 1917 was a milestone in a period of social, economic, and political upheaval of staggering dimensions that began around the turn of the century and lasted, arguably, until after World War II. Its consequences continue to shape Russia and the other countries of the former Soviet Union.
Tsar Nicholas II and his family, 1913 - The stern and aloof monarch Nicholas II was deeply unpopular, particularly after his disastrous decision to enter World War I. The masses of disillusioned veterans returning from the front exacerbated the volatility already caused by the country's rapid industrialization and urbanization. Soaring inflation and food shortages led to demonstrations in major cities, many of which were violently suppressed.
Socialist lawyer Aleksandr Kerensky, who headed the Provisional Government, in the summer of 1917 - In February 1917, a spontaneous uprising culminated in the March 2 abdication of the tsar and the eventual formation of the Provisional Government. The legalization of formerly banned political parties was seen as an opportunity by Vladimir Lenin, who had been leading his Bolshevik party from exile in Switzerland. He returned to Petrograd, with the help of the German government, in April.
The cruiser "Aurora" in 1917. This ship's ineffective firing on the Winter Palace in Petrograd has come to be seen as the signal for the beginning of the Russian Revolution - The Provisional Government's failure to end the war or effect land reform increased the calls for more radical change. The Bolsheviks failed to take advantage of an opportunity to seize power during a revolt by sailors in July. On October 25, however, the Bolsheviks and their allies captured the Provisional Government and declared a government based on local soviets, or councils.
Military cadets guard the Winter Palace shortly before the Bolsheviks captured it - Initially, membership in the soviets was open to all. However, the Bolsheviks had only weak support outside of the industrial centers of Moscow and Petrograd, and they very soon restricted the activity of other parties, leading to calls for a third revolution. At the same time, royalists and other so-called White forces were preparing to resist the Bolshevik takeover, plunging the country into civil war.
Feliks Dzerzhinsky, founder of the first Soviet secret police, pictured in 1925 - Lenin's new government on December 20 ordered the creation of the Extraordinary Commission to Combat Counterrevolution and Sabotage (VChK), led by Feliks Dzerzhinsky. Dzerzhinsky said his role was "the terrorization...and extermination" of enemies of the revolution. Under his authority, tens of thousands of Russians were summarily executed, including many of the country's elites.
Petrograd residents read decrees posted by the new Soviet government in 1917 - In short order, the Bolsheviks issued decrees nationalizing banks, factories, and agricultural land. They negotiated a withdrawal from World War I in March 1918. They seized the property of the Russian Orthodox Church and cancelled the country's foreign debt.
The house in Yekaterinburg where the royal family was killed in July 1918 - As the civil war intensified, the calls for the restoration of the monarchy increased. The Provisional Government had moved the tsar and his family to Siberia in August to protect them. In April 1918, the Bolsheviks transferred them to Yekaterinburg, a stronghold in the Urals. Local Bolsheviks, either acting under orders from Moscow or on their own initiative, killed them on July 16.
Residents of Petrograd line up at a soup kitchen in 1918 - In addition to the Whites, the Soviet government had to contend with military interventions from nine foreign states, including Japan, the United States, and Great Britain. By the end of the civil war in 1923, an estimated 20 million people had died from all causes, including fighting, famine, and disease. The economy was devastated and agricultural production was about one-third its pre-World War I level.
Soviet leaders Leon Trotsky (left), Vladimir Lenin (center), and Lev Kamenev in Moscow in 1920 - Lenin died in 1924, shortly after the civil war's end. But he had built a centralized authoritarian state system with Byzantine power structures and no democratic institutions. The revolutionaries began to turn on one another, leading to the dictatorship of Josef Stalin. Just 20 years after the October Revolution, the Soviet Union experienced the nightmare of Stalin's Great Terror.
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