ENGLISHEuropean History


Vladimir Lenin addressing the crowd during the Revolution. Source : commons.m.wikimedia.org

The Russian Revolution of 1917 was a series of two socio-political changes in Russia that toppled the Tsarist monarchy and brought about a people republic rule based on socialist system in 1917.

The Russian Revolution of 1917 was divided into two revolutions. The first one which took place in February 1917 toppled the Russian Tsarist monarchy and established a provisional government in Russia. While the second revolution took place in October 1917, by the Russian leftist socialist group called the Bolsheviks led by Vladimir Lenin who toppled the Russian provisional government, and made Russia a socialist state based on communist ideology.

However, all these two revolutions came about as a result of Russians dissatisfaction on their monarchs.


Before 1914 when the World War 1 broke out, the Russian Empire was much bigger than before in terms of territorial land. The Empire have stretched from its border with the central Europe in the west to as far east as the Pacific, which made it the biggest country in the world. In short, Russia have encompassed territories which are today Ukraine, some parts of Poland, Finland, Belarus, Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania, all in Europe. While in Asia, it included today’s countries of Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan.

In terms of economy, Russia was an agrarian country which made it backward in the Industrialization race.

Politically, Russia as a monarchical country, have restricted civil liberties in many aspects. Since the defeats of Russia by Japan in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904 to 1905, the Russian Tsardom government under Tsar (Emperor) Nicholas II restricted some political rights. This change in political system of Russia have started to make people discontented, which brought about civil agitations in many Russian cities. In the cities, the Russian workers embarked on strikes and demonstrations on issues like increasing wages, reduction of working hours, and the improvement in working conditions.

In the countryside, peasants were also discontented with their socio-economic situation, and were agitating over the issue of owning land. Many peasants who wanted lands started revolutionary behaviors by refusing to pay rent of the used land and even in some cases, killed landlords.

Eventually, all these problems sparked unsuccessful revolution in 1905, in which thousands factory workers, trade unions, liberal parties, and students unions came out all over Russia and tried to change the government. However, Tsar Nicholas II in order to weaken the revolution, he seized the opportunity by issuing a decree that would allow a parliament (Duma) to be established, in which people representatives would pass the law for Russia. However, the 1905 unsuccessful Revolution have set the foundation upon which the 1917 Revolution arose. Because, many secrets revolutionary groups were created who later assisted in the 1917 Revolution.

After 1905, Russia continued to be on the wave of political as well as socio-economic agitations. But, by 1914 when the World War I broke out, civil agitations and revolutionary movements were subsided, and the attentions were shifted to the Russian participation in the World War I.


Even though, Russia have fought in the victorious side, the World War I have caused many problems to Russia. Because, initially, the Russian armies were insufficiently equipped. In the War, between 1914 to 1916, Russia have experienced huge defeats in many battles, which in turn caused the death of about 1.5 million Russian soldiers, and about 5 million being wounded. Within the Russian territory, buildings and farm crops were destroyed which caused famine and 3 million Russian refugees scattered everywhere.

The Russian of 1917 Revolution began

Back in the home, the Russians discredited Tsar Nicholas’s management of the War, and blamed his government for the Russian misfortunes. Therefore, around the end of 1916, the wave of revolution began with the riots against Tsar Nicholas II, and his government.


February Revolution was the first successful attempt which toppled the Russian government. It began on 22 February, 1917, in which hundred of demonstrators who were mostly workers rallied Petrograd, the Russian capital, singing songs with a slogan asking betterment of life and democracy. The government on her side imposed curfew which made the demonstrators to dispersed. However, on 26th February, the demonstrators came back to the streets. The government on the other hand sent soldiers to control the situation, but, instead of obeying the government’s order, the soldiers mutinied, and joined the demonstrators, which made the demonstration a formidable one. Later, the joint demonstration went on to the Parliament building of Duma and formed a Provisional Government for Russia.

On the side of the Russian monarchical government, it became apparent that she lost the respect and support from the army. Therefore, the Russian high army ranking officers under the Chief of Army Nikolai Ruzsky , visited Tsar Nicholas II and advised him to abdicate. On 15th March, the Russian Emperor Tsar Nicholas II agreed with the advice and abdicated. Later, in July 1918, Tsar Nicholas II was killed together with his family by the Bolshevik guards.

Tsar Nicholas II. Source : commons.m.wikimedia.org

With the Nicholas abdication, the Provisional Government came into effect on 16th March, 1917. However, the revolutionaries became divided which brought about disagreement on many issues and eventually dual power between the more powerful Provisional Government and the Petrograd Soviet. The Provisional Government was mostly dominated by army officials, industrialists, and the landowners. While the Petrograd Soviet was dominated mostly by the radical socialists.

In July 1917, a young lawyer and moderate socialist called Alexander Kerensky became head of the Provisional Government and the Premier of Russia. Kerensky continued the effort of defending the Russian involvement in the World War I, but, still Russia experienced another defeats. This and other issues made the Russians unsatisfied with the Provisional Government.


Opposition against the Karensky’s Provisional Government have started to alarmed the possibility of another revolution for the second time in Russia. The socialist radical group called Bolsheviks led by Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky were at the front in the agitation and the opposition.

Before the coming back of Vladimir Lenin to Russia in April 1917, he has been in exile in Switzerland since 1907, due to his radical activities. But, when he came back through the help of Germany, Lenin organized a group of soldiers called the ‘Red Army’ who were mostly recruited from the unsatisfied Russian factory workers. By 16 October, 1917, Vladimir Lenin have persuaded the entire Bolshevik members and those of the Petrograd Soviet to agree on the plan of seizing power. On 6 November, 1917, after some uprisings, the Bolshevik recruited armies under led by Leon Trotsky stormed the Winter Palace in Petrograd and overthrew the Provisional Government of Russia and government’s ministers and other officials were arrested.

Aftermath of the Russian Revolution of 1917

After the Bolsheviks have successfully overthrew the government in Russia, they declared Russia as socialist state based on communist ideology with the new name of Soviet Russia, under Vladimir Lenin.

After assuming power, the communist government of Soviet Russia under Vladimir Lenin, started taking measures that change the Russian economy based on agriculture to an industrialized economy. As part of the measures, the government took control of all the industries, and redistributed farmlands among the peasants.

In the part of Russian involvement in the World War I, Vladimir Lenin who considered the War as a war aimed at promoting capitalism and imperialism, he withdrew Russia from the War in March 1918, and negotiated a Brest-Litovsk with the Central Powers led by Germany.


Russian Revolution of 1917 in the first instance was a replica of the French Revolution, in which for the first time, the people fight and overthrew the monarchy, and established a republic government.

On its own, the combination of the two revolutions in Russia have brought about many changes that continued to shape the world. For the first time, people have regained their natural freedom. Also, the Revolution paved the way for the rise of the first communist nation in the world, that eventually emerged as the world superpower.

Ahmad Abdullahi, BA History

My name is Ahmad Abdullahi, I was born on 10th March, 1994 in Garun-Danga Town, Gabasawa L.G., Kano State. I attended FCE Demonstration Primary School from 2002 to 2007, FCE Staff Secondary School from 2007 to 2013, and Northwest University, Kano from 2013 to 2017, where I obtained bachelor degree in History.

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  1. We are happy with site like this where historical articles are written. We are waiting for more, Mr Author.

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