Bolsheviks Seize Control of the Russian Government

Social Revolutionary Army General Kornilov, Commander-in-Chief Bolshevik Army Leon Trotsky, Commander-in-Chief Through the June elections throughout continued to struggle for the mastery.

Under Russia had returned the moderate the skilful urging of pro-German agents. Socialists to power by overwhelming more especially Lenin, anarchy began to majorities, still the more radical Bolshevists raise its hydra-head. The Bolshevists seemed bent upon inaugurating a reign of terror. Everywhere the country was the scene of riotous disturbances.

All-Russians Congress Meets

In June the All-Russian Congress of Workmen's and Soldiers' Delegates convened at Petrograd (Saint Petersburg). It was completely controlled by the Moderates. Though Lenin and his Bolshevist minority were also present, they received but scant consideration. The radical Minister of Labor, Skobelev, excited the cupidity of the artisans by urging them to seize all the industries of Russia and manage them for their own profit. The Minister of Agriculture, Chernoff, loudly advised the peasants to confiscate the great estates of Russia, but secretly he dispatched troops to his own estates to guard them against seizure.

Responsive to this counsel, peasants everywhere lost no time in pillaging manor-houses, destroying farms, maiming cattle and butchering their tyrannical landlords. The zemstvos were no more, having been superseded by "republics" or "soviets." Meanwhile, the dictator, Kerensky, had taken possession of the Winter Palace, where he drank royal champagne out of golden goblets and was served his elaborate dinners on the Czar's gold plate. For his personal use this friend of the serfs commandeered the Czar's carriages and motor cars, and in general he affected the airs of the old aristocrats.

Army and Navy are Bolshevised

In July, the Russian armies in Galicia began to disintegrate as a result of Bolshevist propaganda. Mutiny was almost universal. Whole regiments deserted in the midst of battle, laying down their arms and running away. Hoping to shame the mutinous soldiers into fighting, loyal officers formed themselves into infantry battalions and advanced to certain death, but the Bolshevist soldiers only laughed at the sacrificial efforts of their former commanders and made no move to assist or save them.

Women's "Battalion of Death"

Patriotic women and girls then endeavored to instill in the Bolshevist soldiers a sense of shame, by forming a "Battalion of Death," and taking the place of the deserters on the firing line. All these emulative efforts proved unavailing; the soldiers continued to swarm out of their trenches and head for home, allured by the Bolshevist slogan, "Land and Freedom."

Mutiny in Russian Fleet

The mutiny spread among the sailors of the Fleets. At Helsingfors and Kronstadt, the marines for a time contented themselves with disobeying orders, but later, being deceived into believing that their officers were plotting to restore the monarchy, they shot some of their officers down in cold blood and thrust others alive under the ice. Those among the naval officers who accepted the tenets of Bolshevism were spared and treated on an equality as "comrades." A few of the commanders escaped, among the fortunate ones being Admiral Kolchak, destined later to become the ruler of Siberia and lead an army against the Bolsheviks. Premier Kerensky, who was now practically the Dictator of Russia, acted with vigor. Orders were issued to arrest all revolutionary agitators and shoot all deserters from the Army.

Soldiers Denounced by Workmen

The All-Russia Council of Workmen's and Peasants' organizations united in an address to the Army on July 23, 1917, denouncing its mutinous spirit. The Provisional Government, too, issued a proclamation, declaring the disorders only the first step in an effort to inaugurate a counter-revolution. The Soviet passed a resolution censuring Lenin and demanding his arrest as a traitor in the pay of Germany. With the appointment of General Kornilov as Commander-in- Chief of the Russian Army, on August 2, 1917, conditions began to improve.

National Council Meets at Moscow

A National Conference, called by Premier Kerensky at Moscow, on August 26, 1917, was attended by 2,500 delegates representing every social body in Russia, including the Duma, the Soviets, the Zemstvos, the Red Cross, the labor unions, the co-operative societies, the professional leagues and the Army itself. The keynote of the conference was expressed in the speech of General Kornilov, Commander-in-Chief of the Army, who demanded the enforcement of the death penalty for mutiny and desertion in the Army, saying: "We are implacably fighting anarchy in the Army. We have already lost the whole of Galicia, the whole of Bukowina and all the fruits of our recent victories. Traitors are handing the country over to the foe. If Russia wishes to be saved, the Army must be regenerated at any cost."

General Kaledin, Hetman of the Don Cossacks, presented a resolution passed by the Cossacks, demanding the prosecution of the War to a successful end. He warned the Provisional Government to remove themselves from the places which they had "neither the ability nor the courage to fill," and to "let better men than yourselves step in, or take the consequences of your folly."

General Alexeieff also spoke in rebuke of the miscreants who had conspired to wreck the Army. He urged the restoration of discipline by the resumption of the death penalty for desertion. Kerensky, his head completely turned by his elevation to power, and jealous of his prerogatives, saw in General Kornilov a possible rival as Dictator. In a long and violent speech, he warned Kornilov that if he attempted to "wrest the scepter from our grasp," he would be crushed. All attempts against "our power" would be ruthlessly suppressed by "blood and iron." Only he, Kerensky, could save Russia. General Kornilov retorted that, with the foe thundering at the gates, it was an imperative duty to restore discipline in the Army be saved. Kerensky's will prevailed and the conference adjourned without agreeing upon the restoration of the death penalty.

Bolshevists in the Saddle

The popular resentment against the Provisional Government was intensified early in September when it became known that the Germans had seized the Baltic port of Riga. The Government was charged with responsibility for the collapse of the Russian Army. The press and the leading citizens and put all traitors to death if Russia was to generally urged General Kornilov to become Dictator and save Russia from the enemy. It being reported that a plot was under way to re-establish the monarchy in power, Grand Duke Michael, Grand Duke Paul and their families were arrested on a charge of conspiracy. At the same time, General Gurko was banished from Russia.

The Bolsheviks, nevertheless, were gaining many recruits under the subtle contrivance of the German agents. In a municipal election, held in Petrograd (Saint Petersburg), the Bolshevists polled 174,000 votes as against 182,000 by the moderate Socialists and 101,000 by the Constitutional Democrats.

General Kornilov Deposed by Kerensky At the head of an Army Corps, General Kornilov, on September 10, 1917, entered Pskov, announcing himself dictator and demanding that the Provisional Government surrender to him all its powers. A committee of Bolshevists went to Pskov and persuaded Kornilov s troops to desert him. Kerensky at once denounced Kornilov as a traitor, deposing him from his rank as Commander-in-Chief and appointing General Kembovsky in his stead. Kornilov was imprisoned, but while awaiting trial he escaped.

A strong reaction now set in, favorable to the Bolshevist and other extreme forms of radicalism. On September 13th, at a meeting of the Petrograd (Saint Petersburg) council, the Bolsheviks, by a vote of 279 against 150, carried a resolution demanding that all representatives of the propertied classes be thereafter excluded from participation in the Government, and inviting all the nations then at war to send delegates to a general peace conference.
Kerensky, in order to forestall another Revolution, declared Russia a Republic on September 15, 1917.

The "Democratic Congress"

A so-called "Democratic Congress" convened at Petrograd (Saint Petersburg) on September 28, 1917, attended by 1,200 delegates representing all the social bodies in Russia. A resolution was adopted providing for a "Temporary Council of the Russian Republic," to consist of 231 members, of whom 110 should represent the zemstvos and towns, and 121 the non-democratic elements. The Congress undertook to assert its authority over the Cabinet, but Kerensky, dissenting, a compromise was effected by which the Congress and the Cabinet agreed to work together in an advisory capacity, each being invested with certain initiatory powers. The Congress announced three principal aims: First, to strengthen the Army and Navy; secondly, to restore order by quelling all manifestations of anarchy; and thirdly, to call the Constituent Assembly in December. This Assembly was to consist of 732 delegates elected by popular vote.

Trotsky is Given Power

The Bolsheviks, meanwhile, had gained the ascendancy in the Soldiers' and Workmen's Council. At an election held to fill the vacancies caused by the resignation of most of its officers and executive committee, Leon Trotsky, whose real name is Leber Braunstein, was elected to the chairmanship. Trotsky was the right-hand man of Lenin and Bolshevik to the core. He had spent some months on the East Side of New York, as editor of a Jewish weekly, just prior to the other Jewish Socialists of extreme views, he had hastened to Russia upon invitation of had hastened to Russia upon invitation of Lenin, whose pockets were then filled with German gold. It was widely believed in Russia that Trotsky was a German agent. Trotsky and several of the radical Socialists had also been elected members of the "Preliminary Assembly." At the first session of that body he made a passionate speech, denouncing the Assembly as being subservient to the "bourgeoisie," and declaring that the radicals would have no further affiliation with it.

Bolshevist Revolution Begins

The Bolshevists were now prepared to launch their counter-revolution. No sooner had Trotsky been made chairman of the Petrograd (Saint Petersburg) Soviet, than a "Military Revolutionary Committee" was formed and on November 4, 1917 a delegation appeared at the Staff Offices of the Government, demanding the right of entry, control and veto. This demand being refused, the delegates threatened to take by force that which was not voluntarily conceded.

Kerensky, meanwhile, had appealed to the Allied Governments to assist in restoring civil law in Russia, urging that since Russia was worn out by the strain of war, it was the duty of the Allies whom Russia had aided to shoulder the burden. The Bolshevist threat was quickly made good. On November 7, 1917, an armed body of sailors, under orders from Trotsky's Revolutionary Committee, took possession of the Petrograd (Saint Petersburg) and Central Telegraph offices, the State Bank and the Marie Palace, where the Preliminary Assembly was in session. At the same time, Trotsky assured the Duma that it was not the intention of the Soviet to seize full power, but only to assume control over Petrograd (Saint Petersburg).

Kerensky's Last Effort to Retain Power

Trotsky's next act was to declare the Preliminary Assembly dissolved. On the next evening, the Revolutionary Committee issued a proclamation, declaring that the government of Kerensky had been deposed because it had risen against the Revolution and the people. The Bolshevist soldiers were ordered to watch closely the conduct of their officers and to arrest all who did not join the Revolution immediately and openly.

They also announced the program of the Revolution, as follows: First, the offer of an immediate "democratic peace." Second, the immediate handing over of large proprietarial lands to the peasants. Third, the transmission of all authority to the Council of Workmen's and Soldiers' Delegates. Fourth, the convocation of an honest Constituent Assembly. In addition it was decreed that the National Revolutionary Army must not permit certain military units to leave the front and return to Petrograd (Saint Petersburg). They were to oppose any such action on the part of such detachments by force exercised without mercy.

Kerensky in Flight

Kerensky found safety in flight. A few days later he organized a force of 4,000 Cossacks, and with General Krasnov in command, advanced toward Petrograd (Saint Petersburg). A Bolshevik Army, out of Petrograd (Saint Petersburg), met the Kerensky forces at Gatchina on Saturday, November 10, 1917, and after a listless engagement, Kerensky's Cossacks went over to the Bolsheviks, General Krasnov himself urging Kerensky to surrender to the Revolutionary Committee. Kerensky at first pretended compliance, but a half hour later, when a squad appeared to escort him to the committee's headquarters, it was found he had disappeared.

Women's Battalion Defends Winter Palace

To return to the situation in Petrograd (Saint Petersburg). After the Reds had seized the Telegraph and Telephone Offices, and the State Bank, they marched to the Winter Palace, where they encountered stiff resistance. The Palace was defended chiefly by the Women's Battalion, the famous "Battalion of Death." They fought with a courage bordering upon desperation, assisted by the Military Cadets. It was not until after the Bolsheviks had brought up armored cars and the cruiser Aurora, and begun to shell the Palace, that its brave defenders surrendered.

Petrograd (Saint Petersburg) being now in possession of the Bolsheviks, a meeting of the Revolutionary Council was held. "Nikolai Lenin" (or Vladimir Illitch Ylyanov, to give him his true name), was welcomed vociferously as an old comrade. Lenin, in a prophetic vein, declared that this Russian Revolution was only a preliminary step toward similar revolutions everywhere. Proclamations were issued ceaselessly. One of these denounced Kerensky as a fugitive and ordered his arrest. All complicity with Kerensky was to be dealt with as high treason.

Bolsheviks Cabinet Named

The Ministers of the Kerensky Cabinet were arrested and thrown into the dungeons of the grim prison of St. Peter and St. Paul, together with the heroic women defenders of the Winter Palace. They were held in prison on a charge of "complicity in the Kornilov revolution." A Bolshevik Cabinet was then chosen. "Nikolai Lenin," or Ylyanov, was chosen for Premier; "Trotsky," or Braunstein, was named Minister of War and Marine; and Shilapnikov, a Jewish laborer, became Minister of Labor.

Secession of Russians from Bolshevist Rule

Following the collapse of the Kerensky Government, all hopes of Russian unity were quickly dispelled. Instead of a great Republic being established upon the ruins of the old monarchy, the Empire seemed suddenly to break into fragments. The Ukraine declared its independence, and Finland also professed its right to independent action. Siberia, Bessarabia, Lithuania, the Caucasus and other districts also declared their complete independence. General Kaledin, declaring against the Bolsheviks, organized an army and proposed to save Russia, probably in the role of military dictator.

Bolsheviks "Peace Move"

Lenin was now engrossed in his plot to betray Russia into the hands of Germany under the pretence of arranging for a "democratic peace." On November 20, 1917, the Bolshevist leaders announced that a "Council of the People's Commissaries" had been vested with power, and obligated to offer all the belligerent nations an immediate armistice on all fronts, with the purpose of opening parleys for the conclusion of a "democratic peace."

On the same day instructions were sent to General Dukhonin, the newest Commander-in- Chief of the Armies at the front, to propose a cessation of hostilities to the commanders of the enemy armies during the peace parley and to keep the Council constantly informed by direct wire of all such transactions. To this General Dukhonin made no reply. Three days later, Lenin and Ensign Krylenko, the "Commissary of War," got into direct telephone communication with General Dukhonin, asking him whether he intended to obey the instructions. General Dukhonin, before replying, asked point blank whether the Bolsheviks Council had received an answer from the Powers, also whether it was intended to open negotiations for a general truce, or only with the Germans and Turks.

General Dukhonin Murdered by Bolshevists

"These are questions not to be decided by you," retorted Lenin, adding, "all that remains for you is to obey instructions." General Dukhonin protested that the peace necessary for Russia could only be concluded by the Central Government, supported by the Army and Navy. Lenin at once deposed General Dukhonin from his command and appointed the Jewish student, Krylenko, as Commander-in-Chief. Dukhonin was subsequently thrown from a train and killed by Bolshevist assassins.

Reopening the Peace Parleys

A Proclamation was issued to the Army and Navy, authorizing them to elect delegates to open negotiations with the enemy, while reserving to the Bolshevik Council the power to sign an agreement for an armistice. The soldiers were warned not to permit their generals to interfere with their peace arrangements in any way. Trotsky notified the Ambassadors of the Allied nations of the efforts being made to open negotiations with the Germanic Allies and also notified the representatives of neutral powers of his proposal for an armistice, adding: "The consummation of an immediate peace is demanded in all countries, both belligerent and neutral. The Russian Government counts on the firm support of workmen in all countries in this struggle for peace." Lenin asserted that Russia had not contemplated making a separate peace with Germany, and promised that, before agreeing to an armistice, the Russian Government should communicate with the Allies and make certain proposals to the Governments of France and England.

Bolsheviks Win the General Election

At last the general election was held in Russia for the Constituent Assembly. Many conflicting reports have been published of the actual vote cast, but these figures are alleged to be near the truth : Bolsheviks, 272,000 votes; Constitutional Democrats, 211,000 votes; Social Revolutionists, 116,000 votes. The Bolsheviks gained six seats, the Constitutional Democrats four and Social Revolutionists two.

The October Revolution (Russian: Октябрьская революция, Oktyabr'skaya revolyutsiya), also known as the Soviet Revolution or Bolshevik Revolution, was a political revolution and a part of the Russian Revolution. It began with an armed insurrection in Petrograd traditionally dated to 25 October 1917 Julian calendar (7 November 1917 Gregorian calendar). It was the second phase of the Russian Revolution of 1917, after the February Revolution of the same year. The October Revolution overthrew the Russian Provisional Government and gave the power to the Soviets dominated by Bolsheviks. It was followed by the Russian Civil War (1917–1922) and the creation of the Soviet Union in 1922.