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An evaluation of the reasons for the
success of the October Revolution
• Background :
• Tsar forced to abdicate in Feb 1917.
• Provisional (Temporary) Government set up to
run the country until elections could be held.
• Petrograd Soviet (Workers councils) also run
parts of the country
• Oct 1917 – Bolsheviks successfully overthrow
Provisional Government.
• Inherent weakness of PG : Lacking legitimacy & Dual
Control system – Outline what it is (PG and
Soviets)(KU) and how it impacts PG’s rule (A)
• Mistakes of Provisional Government – Describe
mistakes (KU) and explain how they lead to decline in
support for PG/rise in support of Bolsheviks (A)
• Appeal of the Bolsheviks : April Theses, Propaganda,
Leadership of Lenin
• Political Problems - July Days and Kornilov Revolt
Line of argument
• You need to decide this – which factor was the
most important in the success of the October
1917 revolution?
Inherent weakness of the PG
• PG led by Prince Lvov. Consisted of other nobles and
aristocrats. (KU)
• Key aim was to set up democratic elections, however until
such time they would lead the country and had to rely on
the good will of the people to accept them as the ruling
authority. (KU)
• They lacked legitimacy - ie. many people did not accept the
PG as the ruling body of Russia - which meant they lacked
authority and real power (A) – When the names of the
people in the new government were being read out
someone shouted ‘Who appointed you!?’ which illustrates
many peoples’ feelings.
Inherent weakness of the PG
• Orlando Figes argues that the PG should have
called elections earlier than they did. By not
doing so, they allowed the Bolsheviks to
convince people that they were never going to
hold elections and would keep themselves as
the people in charge. (A+)
Weakness of PG - Dual Control System
• Petrograd Soviet (Workers Councils) set itself up after the
Tsar was overthrown. (KU)
• Made up of workers, soldiers and sailors (KU)
• Because these people viewed the Soviet as being the real
authority in Russia, the Soviets had control over the
military and industry (A)
• Soviet Order No 1 – Military would only obey orders of
Government if Soviet approved them. (KU)
• This undermined the power of the Government – some
would argue the Soviets had the real power. (A)
• Michael Lynch – ‘any government that cannot control the
army cannot wield real power’ (A+ - Histriography)
• PG and Soviet worked well together at first. As
time went on, the PG became more right wing
and the Soviets became more left wing
especially after the Bolsheviks gained more
influence in them. This made it extremely
difficult for the PG to effectively rule Russia
and helped make the Bolsheviks successful in
Oct 1917.
Mistakes/Decision of PG
• The PG made several decisions during their time in power.
Some of these were popular but they did not do enough to
get the people of Russia on their side.
• Staying in WW1 – PG knew that by pulling out of the war
they would have to pay back all foreign loans and would
not get anymore in the future. Their economy would
collapse. However, the war was hugely unpopular in Russia
and made a lot of people turn against PG (A)
• Bolsheviks also gained support through propaganda and
exploited this – promised peace, bread and land. (A+ Linking factors)
Mistakes/Decision of PG
• Failure to solve economic problems – Inflation,
lack of wages, high taxes and power cuts caused
misery for many Russians. Lack of help from PG
turned many towards the Bolsheviks. (A)
• The land issue – Peasants also became angry
with PG as they wanted to be given the land they
lived and worked on. PG argued this was a huge
administrative task and should be dealt with by
an elected Government. This angered peasants
and many turned to the Bolsheviks who
supported them. A)
• PG did introduce some positive policies – civil
rights, shorter working day, end of censorship.
• These were well received but were not the
real fundamental issues Russians wanted
• The failure of the PG to deal with the real
issues in Russia, across all classes, turned a
vast number of the population against them
which made the Bolsheviks gain more success.
Appeal of the Bolsheviks
• Lenin was the leader of the Bolsheviks.
• He was a committed revolutionary from a young
age after his brother was executed by the Tsarist
• During the Feb revolution, he had been in exile.
• Once the PG was set up, the German
Government aided Lenin by smuggling him back
into Russia in an armoured train – they hoped he
would cause trouble in Russia, further
destabilizing the country and making them easier
to defeat.
April Theses (Bolshevik Policies)
• Lenin published April Theses when he returned to Russia.
This outlined the Bolshevik policies and plainly told people
what they stood for. (KU)
• ‘Peace, Bread and Land’ and ‘All power to the Soviets’ (KU)
• Through this, it was clear that Lenin had identified the main
things Russians wanted when the PG had not which gained
them support. (A+ - Linking factors)
• Lenin’s Communist ideas also brought the peasants into the
fold which also gained them a great deal of support as
peasants made up huge part of population (A)
• April Theses hit the credibility of the PG hard and turned
many in favour of Bolsheviks
Leadership of Lenin
• Lenin was a skilled politician and leader and it can be argued that
his decision making is a huge factor in the success of the
• Even though he was in exile for years, he returned to Russia and
was able to convince many Bolsheviks to accept him as leader and
accept the April Theses as the main party policy (KU)
• He also insisted that Bolshevik members attended Soviet
meetings. (KU)
• This allowed the Bolsheviks to gain more influence in the Soviets
which was crucial to their success in Oct 1917 (A)
• He also convinced the party that the time was right for an armed
uprising in October even though many were sceptical (KU)
• Figes – ‘Without his decisive personal influence , it is hard to
imagine the Bolshevik seizure of power’ (A+ - Historiography)
Bolshevik Propaganda
• Bolsheviks used pamphlets, leaflets and
newspapers to spread their ideas. (KU)
• This demonised the PG as being an unelected
government ruled by landowners. (A)
• It undermined their policies and made the
Bolsheviks more appealing to many. (A)
Political Problems
• The PG faced several political problems and
attempts to overthrow them which weakened
their position
July Days
• July 1917 – Bolsheviks attempt to seize power in
Petrograd by force.
• Major misjudgement by Lenin – only small
numbers of sailors and soldiers actively support
Bolsheviks and uprising is easily suppressed by
troops loyal to the PG.
• Lenin flees to Finland and Bolshevik leaders
• Bolshevik’s and Lenin’s reputation are hit by this
and they lose support – could have been
disastrous for the party.
Kornilov Revolt
• In August 1917, a Russian General, Lavr Kornilov, made an
attempt to seize power for himself.
• His army advanced on Petrograd, with the Provisional
Government under the leadership of Alexander Kerensky,
seemingly powerless to stop him – They turn to Bolsheviks
for help.
• The Red Guards, under Trotsky's direction, organised the
defence of the city. Bolshevik agents infiltrated Kornilov's
troops and encouraged them to desert. The Bolsheviks also
organised strikes by railway workers which caused chaos to
Kornilov's supplies and communications. Within a few days,
Kornilov's attempt at seizing power was over.
Kornilov Revolt
• Kornilov Revolt redeems Bolshevik reputation
and at the same time weakens PG reputation.
• Their popularity increased as a direct result of
their actions in defeating Kornilov and saving
Petrograd from his troops.
• PG now seen to be weak and unable to defend
against any armed revolution.