REVOLUTIONARY RUSSIA

By the 1890s, many European nations were bringing in democratic reforms, but not Russia. Angry about social injustice, many Russians looked to socialism, anarchism, or COMMUNISM for an answer.

WHEN WAS BLOODY SUNDAY IN ST. PETERSBURG?

In 1905, troops in St. Petersburg gunned down workers who wished to present a petition to the czar. This action resulted in strikes, mutinies, and uprisings all over Russia. As a result, a Duma, or parliament, was set up. However, the reforms it demanded were rejected by the czar.

WHO OVERTHREW THE CZAR?

In March 1917, strikes, mutinies, and protests brought Russia to a standstill. Russian troops fighting in World War I deserted the Eastern Front. The czar was forced from power and Russia became a republic. This became known as the February Revolution (Russia followed a different calendar than Western countries).

WHEN WAS THE OCTOBER REVOLUTION?

The republican Duma failed to bring the chaos in Russia under control. A communist group known as the “Bolsheviks” rejected attempts at liberal reform. They appealed directly to workers to rise up in a communist revolution. The Bolsheviks seized power in “October” (that is, November) 1917.

LENIN’S CALL

Vladimir Ilyich Lenin (1870–1924) returned from exile in 1917. He called for power to be handed over to soviets (councils of revolutionary workers). After the October Revolution, he led the governing Communist Party.

COMMUNISM

Communists around the world were inspired by the writings of Karl Marx (1818–1883). Marx believed history was driven by economic forces and that a just and progressive society could only be created if the workers took control of the economic system.

WHEN WAS THE SOVIET UNION FOUNDED?

In 1918–1920, civil war raged through Russia as the communist Red Army fought opponents of the revolution (“the Whites”). The communists won, and a Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (“Soviet Union”) was founded in 1922. Only the Communist Party held power. Most industries came under state ownership, and the economy was centrally controlled.

WHO WAS STALIN?

Lenin’s successor was Joseph Stalin (1879–1953). His secret police murdered many of his opponents and millions were sent to forced labor camps. Stalin was criticized after his death, but the Soviet system failed to reform and collapsed in 1991.

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Copyright © 2007 Dorling Kindersley