Understand the history of Russia and you understand modern Russia. It is a nation that has been plagued for centuries by tyrants, wars, political unrest and social equality. This all came to a head during The Russian Revolution.
The revolution also led to the Russia withdrawing from World War I via the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk.
Peace negotiations, however, were rocky. Russia ended negotiations for a time, before finally signing the treaty in March 1918.
“The Governments of Germany and Austria possess countries and peoples vanquished by force of arms,” revolutionary Leon Trotsky said in February 1918. “To this authority the Russian people, workmen and peasants, could not give its acquiescence. We could not sign a peace which would bring with it sadness, oppression, and suffering to millions of workmen and peasants.
“But we also cannot, will not, and must not continue a war begun by Tsars and capitalists in alliance with Tzars and capitalists. We will not and we must not continue to be at war with the Germans and Austrians – workmen and peasants like ourselves.”
By the time the Russians withdrew, the empire’s casualty rate was more than 1 million, and conflict continued to boil at home.
The Russian Revolution was fought in two parts, both beginning in 1917.
The February Revolution
The February Revolution began March 8 (February 23 on the Julian calendar Russia used at the time) and ended March 15. It began as a demonstration by people waiting in bread lines in Petrograd and quickly spread to a strike among industrial workers.
Troops were dispatched to quell the uprising, but many of them supported the protesters.
The Russian people were upset about the war’s high cost both in human lives and financially. They also were upset that Duma, the parliament, had been dissolved multiple times by the Tzar for no other reason than the Duma disagreed with him. Finally, the army was in mutiny.
The government resigned and was replaced with a provisional government, while Tzar Nicholas II abdicated.
The Bolshevik Revolution
The Bolshevik phrase of the revolution began Nov. 6, 1917, and ended that month. However, the following year the nation became engulfed in a civil war that lasted until 1922 when the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was established.
The communist Bolsheviks, led by Vladimir Lenin, overthrew the provisional government in a bloodless coup.
During the civil war, they were known as the Reds. Those who were fighting against communism were known as the Whites, and they had the support of the Allies.
Meanwhile, the royal family was executed in 1918.
The revolution affected Eastern European politics for decades, started the Cold War and continues to have a ripple affect today.
In 2000, the Russian Orthodox Church canonized the royal family, and in 2008, the Russian government ruled the family were victims of political repression.
Updated: 20 October 2020