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King John of England 1167-1216


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Online History Dictionary A - Z

Online History Dictionary A - Z


All-Time Records in History
What was the bloodiest battle, the battle with the least casualties, who was the greatest military leader?

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Wars, Battles & Revolutions in History



Russian Civil Wars in a Nutshell

The Russian Revolution of 1905

The Russian Revolution of 1917

The Russian Civil War 1917-1920

Related Timelines

Timeline of World War I - 1914

Timeline of World War I - 1915

Timeline of World War I - 1916

Timeline of World War I - 1917

Timeline of World War I - 1918

Timeline of the Russian Revolution of 1905

Timeline of the Russian Revolution of 1917

Timeline of the Russian Revolution and
Major Wars between 1800 and 2000

Timeline of the Russian Civil War 1917

Timeline of the Russian Civil War 1918

Timeline of the Russian Civil War 1919

Timeline of the Russian Civil War 1920

Faces of the Russian Revolution

Catherine Breshkovsky

Georgy Gapon

Aleksandr Fyodorovich Kerensky

Aleksandr V. Kolchak

Lavr G. Kornilov

Vladimir Ilyich Lenin

Anatoly Vasilyevich Lunacharsky

Georgy Lvov

Aleksey I. Rykov

Joseph Stalin

Leon Trotsky


The Former Russia

Czar Nicholas II


The Romanov Dynasty

About St. Petersburg


The Last Tsars of the Russian Empire

1762-1796 Catherine II the Great

Paul I (Son of Catherine II the Great)

1801-1825 Alexander I
(Son of Paul I)

1825-1855  Nicholas I
(Son of Paul I)

1855-1881 Alexander II
(Son of Nicholas I)

1881-1894  Alexander III
(Son of Alexander II)

Nicholas II (Son of Alexander III)


About Communism

What is Communism?

What is the difference between Marxism and Leninism?

What is the difference between Marxism,
Leninism, and Stalinism?

What is Anarchism?

What is the difference between Communism and Socialism?

About Karl Marx

About Friedrich Engels

About Rosa Luxemburg

About Fidel Castro

About Mao Zedong


Related Documents

Manifesto of the Communist Party, 1848

August Manifesto, 1905

October Manifesto, 1905

Vyborg Manifesto, 1906

Order No. 1, 1917


Related Events

Russo-Japanese War 1904-1905

World War I

World War II



All-Russian Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies

Black Army





Communist Party of the Soviet Union


Dictatorship of the Proletariat

Dual Power


Green Army



New Economic Policy (NEP)


Old Style / New Style Dates


Petrograd Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies



Provisional Government

Red Terror

Russian Communist Party

Russian Social-Democratic Workers' Party

Socialist Revolutionary Party


St. Petersburg

The Black Hundreds

The Red Scare

War Communism

Winter Palace

Women in the Russian Revolution



Russian Civil War Maps

World Map 1910
World Map 1910


Europe 1910
Europe 1910


Map of Europe 1914
1914 Europe:
Allied, Central, and Neutral Powers


Russian Civil War 1917-1920
Map of the Russian Civil War 1917-1920


Map of WWI: Baltic Islands - Oct 10-20, 1917
1917, Oct 10-20 - WWI:
Baltic Islands


Map of WWI: Eastern Front 1917-8
 1917-8 WWI: Eastern Front
Treaty of Brest-Litovsk and Kerensky's Offensive


World Map - Population Density 1918
1918 World Map
Population Density


World War One Losses
1919 Europe:
World War One Losses


Map of Europe in 1919: the national boundary realignments resulting from the First World War
1919 Europe: the national boundary realignments resulting from the First World War


Russian Civil War 1919 - Farthest Advance of the Anti-Bolsheviks Forces
Russian Civil War 1919:
Farthest Advance of the Anti-Bolshevik Armies


Map of the World in 1919: Political Realignment Following the First World War
1919 World Map:
Political Realignment
Following the First World War




The Russian Revolution of 1917

Fighting for a Classless Society

The Russian Revolution of 1917 is also called the Second Russian Revolution, the First Russian Revolution being the Russian Revolution of 1905.

The Russian Revolution in a Nutshell

The Russian Revolution of 1917 ended the country’s monarchy. This monarchy had ruled Russia since 1547, when
Ivan the Terrible was officially crowned Czar of all Russia.

From 1613 until 1917, the ruling scepter was in the hands of the  Romanovs.

By the way, is it  Czar, Tsar, or Tzar?

The revolution of 1917 also marked the beginning of a new governmental system founded on
 Communism. Within the borders of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) at its greatest extent, over one-sixth of the Earth was ruled by this new type of government.

Top Picture

The photograph at the top of the page shows the streets of
Petrograd (now Saint Petersburg) on July 4, 1917. We witness a street demonstration at the Nevsky Prospekt / Sadovay Street intersection just after troops of the  Provisional Government have opened fire with machine guns.

It follows a brief summary of the Russian Revolution:


The Russian Revolution of 1917 — Events Unfold

Riots and strikes erupted in March 1917. Soldiers ceased to obey Czar  Nicholas II. The Czar was forced to abdicate on March 15, 1917, and the  Provisional Government came to power, led by Prince Georgy Lvov and later by Aleksandr F. Kerensky as Prime Minister.

The new government, however, failed to take decisive action on two main issues: the distribution of land and the country’s participation in
World War I. At the same time, the general population became increasingly radical in their demands.

Furthermore, the Provisional Government had trouble within their ranks. On September 1, 1917, commander-in-chief Lavr G. Kornilov was arrested for plotting against the Provisional Government and attempting to establish a military regime in its place.

 Bolsheviks competed with the Provisional Government for power. By September their program of Peace, Land, and Bread had made them popular. The Bolsheviks recognized the time was right to take power.

Without any noteworthy resistance, the Bolsheviks captured the government buildings and other strategically important points in
Petrograd (St. Petersburg). Moscow and most other cities were taken soon afterward. Members of the Provisional Government were either arrested or fled the country.

A new government, the Council of People’s Commissars, was set up with
 Vladimir I. Lenin as Chairman, Leon Trotsky as foreign commissar,  Aleksey Ivanovich Rykov as interior commissar, and Joseph Stalin as commissar of nationalities.


And here is the
Timeline of the Russian Revolution

The Russian Revolution - When Did It Start? When Did It End?

The Russian Revolution of 1917 comprises two revolutions.

February Revolution - March 8–12 (February 23–27, old style)
The revolution started when unrest emerged because of food shortages and Russian's poor performance in
World War I.

The first stage of the revolution of 1917 overthrew the monarchy and replaced it by the Provisional Government, which was to remain in office until a democratic parliament was arranged.

Check this event in the WWI timeline.

Check this event in the Russian Revolution timeline.

October Revolution - November 6–7 (October 24–25,
old style)
Led by the Military Revolutionary Committee, the Bolsheviks took over administrative buildings of the Provisional Government, and the Winter Palace in
Petrograd (St. Petersburg,) which had been the primary residence of the Russian tsars since 1761.

Also called the Bolshevik Revolution, the second stage of the revolution of 1917 brought the Bolshevik Party to power and established the Soviet Communist government in Russia.

Check this event in the WWI timeline.

Check this event in the Russian Revolution timeline.

When Did the Russian Revolution End? - Controversy

Strictly speaking, the duration of a revolution is timed from the complete overthrow of the established government by those who were previously subject to it, to the successful formation of a new form of government and a general return to a structured life.

For historians this last part, the general return to a structured life after the Bolshevik Revolution, is a head scratcher. Therefore, it is a matter of debate when exactly the Russian Revolution ended.

Some treat the subsequent Civil War 1918-1920, the time of the New Economic Policy (NEP) 1921-1928, and Stalin's first Five-Year Plan 1928-1932 as part of the Russian Revolution.

If you prefer the big picture you probably favor this view, and the skeleton of your Russian Revolution study notes might look like this.



Overthrown Government

Nicholas' imperial autocracy


Revolutionary Period

a) Provisional Government

b) Bolshevik Government



New Government

Stalin's dictatorship


Old Style - New Style Dates

Russia didn’t make the change from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar until 1918. Therefore, the October Revolution actually took place in November.

In the Russian calendar January 31, 1918 was followed by February 14, 1918.

By the way, if you get excited about calendars have a look at Claus Tøndering's  Frequently Asked Questions about Calendars.


The Battles of the Russian Revolution of 1917

How many battles were fought in the Russian Revolution of 1917? None. The Russian Revolution of 1917 saw many armed encounters, uprisings, and riots, but no official battles.

The Russian Civil War, on the other hand, saw quite a few.

Check the Battles of the Russian Civil War.


What were the background issues of the Russian Revolution of 1917?

Causes of the Russian Revolution of 1917
Much simplified, people were frustrated with Russia's social, economic, and political situation. More importantly, people were distressed by the fact that there was no competent leader who could get them out of this mess.

  • The  Revolution of 1905 did not bring any lasting changes, but it sure whetted the citizens' appetite for civil rights.

  • World War I fueled public discontent when the Russian army, led by an incompetent Czar, lost battle after battle.

  • Meanwhile at home, Tsarina Alexandra, who grew up as a German princess, added insult to injury. In Nicholas' absence, she fired qualified personnel, replaced it by knuckleheads, and declared controversial character  Rasputin a saint.

    Consequently, her subjects spread the word that she was a German spy and a nymphomaniac in liaison with Rasputin, who had his own sinister agenda and who had made Nicholas his puppet on a string.

  • In addition, food shortages became even more severe and the inflation rate went up.

  • The tsar seemed unable to improve conditions and was stubbornly unwilling to explore other options.

Emperor Nicholas II and his family - Empress Alexandra Fyodorovna and their children (left to right) Maria, Alexis, Tatiana, Olga, Anastasia
Society of Orthodoxy, St Petersburg


What Is the Number of Casualties of the Russian Revolution of 1917?
William Edward Eckhardt gave an estimate of 1,000 civilian and 1,000 military deaths, making it 2,000 deaths total for the Russian Revolution of 1917. ( Source)

Who Fought the Russian Revolution of 1917?
A short Who's Who of the Russian Revolution. Here are the main forces, fractions, groups, organizations, and participants of the Russian Revolution 1917.

Go here for the military leaders from March until November 1917.

Military Forces - The Imperial Army
Emperor Nicholas II lost his imperial army and navy when things went down the drain in early 1917 and his soldiers joined the revolutionaries. Nicholas abdicated on March 15, 1917.

Check this event in the Russian Revolution Timeline

Individual soldiers of the Imperial Army later fought against each other. How so? During the subsequent
Russian Civil War 1917 until 1920, some ex-imperials sided with the Bolsheviks and fought in the  Red Army against those who sided against the Bolsheviks and fought in the White Army.


Military Forces - The Red Guards
The Red Guards were armed workers and the Bolshevik's private militia. These guys became the core of the Red Army.


The Provisional Government
Who gave birth to the Provisional Government?

The Duma ( What is the Duma?) shaped the Provisional Government and set it in motion. The Provisional Government accepted Nicholas' abdication and took it from there.

The Provisional Government was in effect from March 1917 until October 1917. During this short time period the Provisional Government was several times reorganized and restructured.

The first prime minister of the Provisional Government was Georgy Yevgenyevich Lvov. Georgy was a prince and had previously done a lot of good for his country.

Initially, all members of the Provisional Government were liberal ministers, except Alexander Kerensky, who was a revolutionary. Kerensky became Minister of Justice and later Prime Minister himself.

The Provisional Government wanted to keep Russia in World War One.


The Petrograd Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies
This Soviet ( What is a Soviet?) had 2,500 deputies. One deputy represented 1,000 workers.

Most deputies were members of the  Socialist Revolutionary Party and Mensheviks. Some were  Bolsheviks but they were the minority.

The Petrograd Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies was established on March 12, 1917. This Soviet replaced an older soviet that had been founded in Petrograd (then Saint Petersburg) during the  Revolution of 1905.

Check this event in the Russian Revolution Timeline.

The Petrograd Soviet wanted to Russia out of World War One. Seeing that their demands stood in exact opposition to the  Provisional Government, the Soviet ordered the military to disobey the Provisional Government.

Check this event in the Russian Revolution Timeline.

In the summer of 1917, Soviets from all across the country united as the All-Russian Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies. This Soviet made it their job to monitor the Provisional Government and to keep it in line, which, in effect, made it a second government.

This strenuous coexistence is called the dual power.

Political Parties - The Socialist Revolutionary Party
The SR was founded in 1901. The party closed their doors for good when the Bolsheviks unleashed their Red Terror in September 1918.

See also The SRP in the Russian Civil War.


Political Parties - The Bolsheviks
Before the Bolsheviks became Bolsheviks, they were just wing members of the Russian Social-Democratic Workers' Party, also called the Russian Social-Democratic Labor Party. This party was founded in 1898 in Minsk. And here is Minsk, the capital of Belarus, on a Google map.

Minsk, Belarus - Map
Google Maps

This wing of the RSDWP was headed by
Vladimir I. Lenin. Lenin and his comrades demanded that their party should award membership only to qualified revolutionaries.

Vladimir Ilyich Lenin 1870 - 1924
Library of Congress
Click to enlarge

In 1903, at the party's Second Congress with sessions in Brussels and London, this dispute was the number one topic. Lenin's group gained the majority of the debate and henceforth they called themselves the Bolsheviks. Bolshevik is a Russian word and means One of the Majority.

You have one Bolshevik and two Bolsheviks or Bolsheviki.

The opposite right wing was headed by L. Martov, who was really Yuly Osipovich Tsederbaum. Other prominent leaders were Georgy Valentinovich Plekhanov and Leon Trotsky. And while on the roll with the name-giving, the Bolsheviks called a member of the opposite right wing Menshevik, another Russian word meaning One of the Minority.

You have one Menshevik and two Mensheviks or Mensheviki.

The Bolsheviks went down in popularity but gained momentum again, thanks to Lenin who came back into the country, in October 1917. Eventually, they became the victors of the Russian October (November) Revolution in 1917, which is hence also called the
 Bolshevik Revolution.

What happened to the Mensheviks after 1917?
It went downhill from there for the Mensheviks. And by 1922 the Mensheviks, alongside the
Socialist Revolutionary Party, the  Kadets, and others, were completely off the radar, victims of the Bolshevik Red Terror.

The Red Terror, by the way, was an official campaign of the Bolshevik government, starting in September 1918. The new rulers were proud to be tough and violent and they broadcasted their new policy as far as their voices, and weapons, could carry the message.

The principal tool applying the Red Terror was the All-Russian Extraordinary Commission for Struggle against Counter-Revolution, Sabotage and Speculation, aka the Cheka. The Cheka had been created in December 1917 and functioned as the secret police. Thousands were shot without a trial.

What happened to the Bolshevik party after 1917?
In March 1918, they became the Russian Communist Party and the Bolsheviks ruled Russia. In 1925, their organization was renamed the All-Union Communist Party, and in 1952, it became the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, which was dissolved in 1991 only because the Soviet Union ceased to exist.

Back to the Russian Revolution of 1917.


Political Parties - The Mensheviks
See above. The Mensheviks were democratic socialists.


Political Parties - The Kadets
Kadets, also spelled Cadets, was the name of the members of the Constitutional Democratic Party, also called the Party of People's Freedom. This party was founded in October 1905.

The Kadets wanted a constitutional monarchy.

What is constitutional monarchy?
According to the experts at Buckingham Palace, constitutional monarchy means that a monarch acts as Head of State but the ability to make and pass legislation resides with an elected Parliament. Furthermore, the monarch is bound by the constitution and can't act according to his or her own free will. On almost all matters the monarch acts on the advice of ministers.

Women in the Russian Revolution

Among others, there was Catherine Breshkovsky (Catherine Breshkovskaya, Breshka Brashkoski, Yekaterina Breshko-Breshkovskaya, whatever), who is nicknamed the Little Grandmother of the Russian Revolution, or бабушка Русской революции if you speak Russian.

This lady was co-founder and co-leader of the Russian Socialist Revolutionary Party. Like all decent Russian revolutionaries, Catherine spent many years in Siberian exile. After 1917, she left the country and moved to Prague because she couldn't agree with the Bolsheviks.

Catherine Breshkovsky 1844 - 1934
Source Unknown

Many other women fought in the Revolution as well, some as visionary revolutionaries, some as protesters in the streets, some as armed rebels. Here are more girls with guns.

St Petersburg Encyclopaedia

A Udarnik, also called Shock Worker, was the term for an enthusiastic worker assigned to a special task of urgency.


Non-Russian States and the Russian Revolution of 1917
The vast Russian empire of
Nicholas II included many non-Russian nations, e.g. the people of Poland, Finland, Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan.

When chaos ensued at the Russian political top, these nations jumped at the opportunity and fought for their independence, some more successfully than others. And here is a map of the world in 1910.

World Map 1910
1910 World Map
Click to enlarge

Russian Revolution and Communist Lingo

What is the bourgeoisie?
The bourgeoisie is the capitalist middle class.

What is the proletariat?
The proletariat is the lowest class in society, the workers' class.

What is the dictatorship of the proletariat?
The dictatorship of the proletariat is
Step 2 in
Karl Marx' book of the ideal world. Step one: Capitalism. Step two: The workers are taking over. Step three: a classless society.

What is a comrade?
Socialists and communists use the word comrade as a replacement for such titles as Mr. or Mrs.

Should someone address you in such a fashion, chances are that you are a fellow socialist or communist. The term comrade has its etymology roots in the Spanish word camarada, originally chamber-mate. Feel cozy already?


Russian Revolution - Cultural Impact
The unstable conditions in Russia after 1917 prompted many people, at least those who could afford it, to leave their country for good, among them Sergey Rachmaninoff and Marc Chagall. Or, as in Igor Stravinsky's case, it destroyed all hopes of ever coming back home.


What Happened After the Revolution of 1917?
The next chapter in Russian history, after the Russian Revolution of 1917, was the Russian Civil War, which was fought from 1917 until 1920.


Russian Revolution Trivia
Here is the link to the Harvard University Russian Research Center with currently over 700 digitized transcripts of interviews. Knock yourselves out.






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