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There are many reasons for which the Bolsheviks were able to take
control 1917, amongst them being precise organisation and planning,
exceptional timing and a fair amount of good luck. In this essay I
wish to discuss these issues in more depth and explain why the
Bolshevik revolution was able to take place.
In September 1917 the Bolshevik party became the largest in the
Petrograd Soviet and they controlled the Military Committee, which was
under chairman Leon Trotsky, a leading member of the Bolshevik
movement. He used the Military Committee to organise the revolution.
The Bolshevik leader Vladimir Ilich Lenin returned from exile around
this time and this prompted action; he had been pushing the Bolsheviks
towards revolution for years and now things were finally in motion.
To launch the revolution, the Bolsheviks and the Red Guards seized the
key communicational areas of Petrograd and Moscow such as the
Telegraph Agency, the Telephone Exchange and the State Bank as well as
railway stations and bridges. This was a tactical move ordered by
Lenin and organised by Trotsky in order to make apparent that the
Bolsheviks had the cities completely under their power.
The Red Guards then stormed the Winter Palace and arrested the
ministers of the Provisional Government. Here they were supported by
the battleship Aurora, which was said to have been carrying heavy
artillery and ample fire power.
Their leader, Kerensky, fled Petrograd and attended the front line in
an attempt to rally troops to form an opposition to the revolution.
This failed badly as there were not enough loyal troops to follow him
and he was therefore forced into exile.
While all this was in motion, the All-Russian Congress of Soviets was
in meeting. The Mensheviks and most of the Social Revolutionaries
walked out, leaving Lenin and the Bolsheviks in power.
Following this, Lenin proclaimed a new government of Russia and one
week later the Bolshevik party seized control of Moscow. They now had
control over the two largest cities in Russia, but little else.
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The Bolsheviks turned out to be the ultimate spin-doctors of the early
1900s; it was claimed that they had been leading a most popular
revolution and that the Red Guards
had triumphed over masses of opposition to bring them victory. This
was of course contrary to the truth:
The Bolsheviks had little support, which was evident from the rest of
the Russian Congress off Soviets walking out on them. The Red Guards
faced a minute opposition; Kerensky was unable to form any kind of
opposition towards them and in reality it took little more than 30
people to take the Winter Palace. The whole revolution consisted of no
more than 300 people.
The battleship Aurora was actually ashore at the palace by pure
coincidence and the ministers of the Provisional Government were being
fired at with blank shells.
In fact, the vast majority of the Russian population was oblivious to
the fact that any revolution had taken place and in some secluded
regions it was still assumed that the Tsar was still in power!
The actual reasons of success for the Bolsheviks were firstly that the
Provisional Government was extremely unpopular and that Lenin offered
everything they didn’t; ‘Peace, bread and land’ was his slogan. The
people of Russia were inclined to fair pay and food for all and the
promise that they would be pulled out of the war. He prominently
advertised these promises in key areas such as Petrograd and
especially the Russian army, which brought him extra support.
Secondly, the meticulous and brilliantly clever planning of Trotsky
only made the whole operation easier. It is noticeably evident that
such a small amount of people could not have accomplished such an
achievement without huge organisation and rigorous preparation. The
seizure of key sites in both Petrograd and Moscow gave an air of
authority, which was a key factor in the revolution. This was also
down to Trotsky.
So in conclusion we can see that the Bolsheviks were in fact masters
of propaganda and led a campaign that would almost certainly have
collapsed if it were known how minor a force they possessed.
They overthrew the Provisional Government through careful planning and
were hugely aided by circumstantial conditions without which they may
not have achieved their goals.
In the end they billed the whole affair as a huge act of revolution
and heroism to a people who would not have known the difference for
want of their severe isolation and general illiteracy.