Arise, awake working class!The second Russian Revolution of 1917 and the consequent Civil War of 1917-21 between the communist 'Reds', broadly social-democratic and anti-communist 'Whites', village-communitariannote /nationalist 'Greens', Poland, and don't forget the anarchist Blacks, the Central Powers (chiefly Germany), the Entente, the Baltic and Caucasian separatists, etc - that resulted in c.2 million military and c.8 million civilian dead (contrast the Russian Empire's WWI death-count of 2 million military dead and 3 million captured as POW). Resulted in Bolshevik-Soviet victory. Not to be confused with a fictional submarine, or a hunt for said submarine, which is named after it. OK, who runs this place? When Nicholas II abdicated the thronenote in March 1917 (the 'February Revolution'; by the Julian Calender the Empire still used it was late February), the post of 'Emperor' remained empty, the government being taken over by an unconstitutional government formed of representatives from the Parliament or 'Duma' (which had been an advisory body without any real power). This was the Provisional Government, which was only supposed to stick around until a Constituent Assembly could be elected. Meanwhile, at the same time, all of Russia's unions and left-wing parties had teamed up to revolt en-masse and form democratic 'communes' or 'Soviets' in Russia's towns and cities. One of the minor, more radical parties that took part in this was the 'Bolshevik' faction of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party (they soon changed the name to the Russian Communist Party), which had about 10,000 members. For comparison, the population of the Russian Empire (minus Poland, which was under German/Austro-Hungarian occupation) was some 150+ million people, of whom about 15% lived in urban centers of more than 10,000 people. There were actually several complete turnovers and an attempt at finishing the war by the Provisional Government, but they eventually bowed to pressure from the Socialist Revolutionary Party and agreed to hold elections for the Constituent Assembly. As expected, the Socialist Revolutionaries won a majority (some 60% of the vote) to the (Bolshevik-led) Communist Party's 24%, with most of the SR Party's support coming from the countryside and the Communists' from the cities. However, when the Constituent Assembly actually met for the first time in Petrograd the Bolsheviks of the Petrograd Soviet ordered groups of armed soldiers, sailors, and workers loyal to them to arrest all the delegates and imprison the Provisional Government. That done, the Petrograd Soviet then sent word to all the Soviets in Russia that they, the Soviets, were now Russia's new form of government. At the same time, they sent word to the Army that it could stop fighting now, thanks, and in fact it was disbanded so everyone should just go home now because the war was over. Just a little matter of the First World War It was a big mistake for Emperor Nicholas II to enter WWI. The administration of the Empire was corrupt, the army badly equipped, the people angry and several revolutionary parties (not only the Dirty Communists) spouting anti-Tsarist rhetoric while organizing against the government. Instead of trying to heal the Empire, the Emperor aggravated the problems by throwing his country into the Great War. The corrupt intendants were making money by stealing from army shipments, the soldiers were freezing in trenches, dying, and becoming even angrier at the Emperor and his government while the dissipated nobles and the unscrupulous merchants were still living luxurious lives-this all angered people further. Finally, they had enough and began to actually listen to the revolutionaries. And the shit hit the fan. Strikes, mutinies, mass fraggings of officers and peasant revolts broke out. Several high-ranking generals and public officials forced the Tsar to abdicate. That is how the Provisional Government came into power. They were going to elect the Constituent Assembly that was intended to decide the fate of post-Imperial Russia. But there were guys that had some other ideas. You guessed right, the Bolsheviks... A Sealed Train Meanwhile the First World War was still going on and the provisional government couldn't decide how to end it. On the one hand it was extremely unpopular, on the other Germany was demanding extremely onerous terms since the Russians had no bargaining power. When Germany saw that the provisional government wasn't pulling Russia out of the war, they made a deal with Lenin, currently in exile in Switzerland. The Germans would let him pass through their territory in a sealed train (so he wouldn't try to foment revolution in Germany)-in exchange he would get Russia out of the war. The Germans probably didn't expect him to actually succeed in consolidating power and were just hoping he would cause enough trouble that they could transfer troops to the Western Front. Not a Korny Love story Actually, there were several revolutionary parties: the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party (a hardline revolutionary communist Bolshevik one and a parliamentary reformist Menshevik one, RSDLP (b) and RSDLP (m) respectively, thanks to a split in 1905), the Socialist Revolutionaries, and many other smaller parties. The left Socialist Revolutionaries (Left SRs) were allies of the Bolsheviks, but the other revolutionary parties were satisfied with the February revolution (except for the anarchists, but they were not really a party of course) and well represented in the Provisional Government. They, and the right-wing parties, formed a loose alliance that later became the White movement. The first White general was Kornilov, who tried to call dibs on power shortly before the Bolsheviks did it. Fearing a military coup, Kerensky, the moderate socialist Prime Minister and head of the Provisional Government, allowed Lenin to arm the Bolshevik Red Guards to help prevent this (previously anyone carrying arms without permission in Petrograd was a capital offense-the brief abolition of the death penalty didn't last long). He should have known better, since the Bolsheviks, and Lenin in the lead, had risen up earlier that same year (1917) with the July Days, which troops of the Provisional Government put down. This, naturally, made the Bolsheviks and other revolutionary parties more popular while the Provisional Government became much less, particularly with the war still going on, people starving, the promised elections nowhere in sight, etc. The Bolsheviks, in alliance with the anarchists and Left Socialist Revolutionaries, launched another revolution in October (November according to the West, since Russia still went by the Julian Calendar, before the Bolsheviks changed it). The Provisional Government fell almost without firing a shot, and Kerensky fled. Incidentally, the Bolsheviks took, on Lenin's insistence, popular slogans used by anarchists like "All power to the Soviets (elected workers' councils)", which led to Lenin himself being denounced by fellow Bolsheviks as an anarchist. The Bolsheviks had actually opposed the February Revolution, as they did the Revolution and Soviets of 1905, seeking to control both. Lenin had learned after these experiences. He and the Bolsheviks quickly set about seizing total power in Russia and the other parts of the former empire. They set up the Sovnarkom (Council of People's Commissars) elected by the All-Russian Congress of Soviets, which they delegated to a secondary role, meeting once a year while they made most decisions, with full legislative powers, their acts simply ratified by the Congress (this was a model for later legislatures such as the Supreme Soviet with no real power, acting merely as rubber-stamp parliaments, also typical of socialist states in general.) The Revolution grew into the Russian Civil War. After Kornilov's rebellion was suppressed, other White generals appeared: Admiral Kolchak, generals Denikin, Yudenich and Wrangel, who were gathering armies to stop Bolshevism. Among the Sovnarkom's first acts was to create a secret police with the acronym CHEKA and start imprisoning everyone opposing them. Old Imperial prisons were soon filled up with political prisoners once again. The factory committee movement, which began when the striking workers seized their workplaces or forced owners into allowing them a say in management, was sidelined and destroyed slowly by the Bolshevik leadership, who appointed managers with dictatorial powers, often the same ones from before. An All-Russian Congress of Factory Committees, which aimed to federate the entire network to democratically control the national economy, was closed down when it tried to meet. The Sovnarkom nationalized all land and industry, along with other sweeping decrees giving the Bolshevik government control over the whole of life. Elections for the Constituent Assembly occurred that December, with the Socialist Revolutionaries winning most seats, the Bolsheviks only a much smaller second. When it attempted to meet in January 1918, the Red Guards closed down the Constituent Assembly with force. The Bolsheviks rationalized this as the Soviets were more democratic, representative bodies (as the SRs were popular in the peasantry, still the majority of population, and so won the election, while the Bolsheviks as Marxists believed the industrial proletariat in the cities would spearhead revolution, which of course they would lead). Coincidentally, they had a majority with most Soviets. Even this grew into a problem, so Bolshevik secret police increasingly overthrew results of elections that went against them, shut down presses, closed opposition meeting places, jailed opponents, etc. The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with the Central Powers was signed in March 1918, giving up the Baltic States (Lithuania, Lativa, Estonia) along with Ukraine (none of these not-yet-countries were consulted). This outraged not only nationalists there but also other socialists and former Tsarist officers who had sacrificed much in the war fighting Germany. The German ambassador was assassinated by Left SRs in hopes of preventing the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk from coming to fruition, but it went ahead despite this. In April CHEKA gunmen raided numerous anarchist centers in Moscow and Petrograd, with dozens killed, hundreds arrested. Increasingly the Bolsheviks squelched all opposition by force. Even dissidents within the Bolsheviks, such as Nikolai Bukharin, denounced such acts. The other factions banded together in the White movement, issuing a manifesto which denounced the Bolsheviks, calling them German agents, in July of 1918 and starting a revolt against them. It is a popular misconception that the White movement was about monarchism: actual monarchists were a minority among the Whites, the majority were of democratic and or socialist persuasion, but on the practical side, they were creating naught more than military dictatorship in the territories they held, because they did not have time to run elections or even to decide on their political course, which would have been difficult given the diverse viewpoints anyway. That's why the Whites never created a common political ideology or a single confederacy of states, and it was their undoing. They DID acknowledge a single provisional head-of-state and a single commander-in-chief (Kolchak, later Denikin, after that, Wrangel), but in practice, every major White leader was his own man. Finland had already broken away, as had Poland. While the Bolsheviks supported national autonomy in theory, they had set up puppet Bolshevik governments in the countries controlled by the former Russian Empire, regardless of what people desired. In August Lenin was nearly assassinated by a young Left SR woman, Fanny Kaplan, while touring Moscow factories. His health never completely recovered. She was later shot by the CHEKA in the autumn of that year. The Bolsheviks became even more despotic, openly saying a party dictatorship was good and increasing dictatorial measures they already began before the war, that now had this as a greater excuse (Leon Trotsky, for instance, while People's Commissar for Army and Navy Affairs in early 1918 had abolished election of officers in the Army, something that occurred after soldiers mutinied,-often shooting their commanders-reinstituting old privileges of rank, such as separate quarters, special forms of address, saluting, along with the death penalty for desertion under fire, etc). The Bolsheviks banned all other parties, the free press, freedom of speech, assembly, etc. sometimes "temporarily" for the war. Freedom of speech, press, assembly and street processions were reinstated eventually (Article 125 of the 1936 Union constitution), but they were dead letters, with dissent prohibited in practice (in 1921 the last free assembly was allowed-a march at the funeral of the anarchist thinker Pyotr Kropotkin. The next one would come in 1987, with Glasnost). Enter the Entente! At the same time, between 1917 and 1922, the Entente nation-states—France, Greece, Italy, Japan, Romania, Serbia, the United Kingdom, the United States and new nation-states like Finland and Poland, which had both just gained independence from Russia— scrounged up a few thousand troops to 'intervene' in the civil war, resulting in a fairly unpopular technically-an-invasion of what came to be known as the RSFSR (Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic), kind of but not officially on behalf of the White Army. This was ostensibly done to secure lost matériel at Russian ports, the Russian ports themselves, rescue separated Entente forces and citizens, and hopefully sort out the whole mess in such a way that the Eastern Front could be re-opened against Germany (Germany, incidentally, even after the treaty of Brest-Litovsk still kept a couple of hundred thousand troops camped right across their shiny new border from Soviet Russia). Their actual effect upon the war was nil, but it ended messily for everyone and much more importantly raised suspicions of the Western and Eastern capitalist states (such as Japan) among the Reds and the uncomfortably-frequently-invaded-feeling Russian peasantry as a whole, the latter actually cutting back slightly on their bad habit of shooting Reds on sight. This only made the Bolsheviks popular as they fought the foreigners. However it has been obscured to an extent by the next 'western' invasion, Operation Barbarossa. The army the Bolsheviks had raised to defend themselves against Germany - the Bolsheviks' disorganized citizen-militias having proven themselves totally useless against the German Army - earned them victory in the protracted conflict that followed, a victory assured by the Bolsheviks' control of the most economically important areas of inner Russia. The unified, fanatical Reds eventually smashed the loose White military states, at first with the help of the Left SRs and the Revolutionary Insurrection Army from Ukraine (or the Maknovist movement, after its leader Nestor Makhno). It was also known as the Black Army since they were anarchist, in contrast to the Red and White Armies. Local groups attempted to fight off all sides, dubbed the "Green" Army, although they were never unified. Additionally was the Blue Army, peasants who fought the Reds in the Tambov Rebellion. Some historians have determined that the Black Army saved the entire war from the Whites at several points, such as stopping Deniken from taking Petrograd. However, they were betrayed three separate times by the Bolsheviks and defeated finally when they could turn their full force onto them. Makhno fled to exile in France. After the Whites were defeated in the fall of 1921, one last revolt occurred at Kronstadt, with mutinous sailors (the same ones who rose up in February 1917, not, as the Bolsheviks claimed, reactionary replacements) calling for free soviets, civil liberties and worker self-management again, as with the factory committees the Bolsheviks smashed. They were massacred by the Red Army under Trotsky. At the same time strikes were occurring in Moscow and Petrograd, also brutally put down. By 1924, all Russia along with most shards of the Empire (with the exception of Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Finland, who managed to stay independent) were under Bolshevik control. Not everything went quiet; Greens, Separatists and White stragglers continued to fight guerrilla wars in remote areas of the country and along borders. Turkestan (modern post-Soviet Central Asia) was one particular hotbed of guerrilla warfare that resisted pacification well into the Stalinist years; the borders with China and the Baltic States were another, used by the White Emigre remnant unions to sneak terrorists into Soviet Russia. The Ostern The Civil War-era Russia was a popular setting for later Soviet action movies - just as the Chinese Civil War has become the most popular setting for Chinese action movies. These movies were very similar to American Westerns: just take a Western, replace the Injuns or Mexicans with Basmaches (Muslim anti-Bolshevik fighters in Central Asia), the Blue with the Red and the Gray with the White, the prairies with the deserts of Turkestan or steppes of Ukraine, the Peacemakers with Nagant Gas-Seals and Mauser Broomhandles, the Winchesters with Mosin-Nagant rifles, the Gatlings with Maxims, the horses... well, let the horses be horses, and you'll get an Ostern (or "Eastern", as they are known in Russia proper). The most popular Osterns were White Sun of the Desert, about a former Red Army Soldier turned gunslinger who travelled homewards through Basmach-infested Turkestan deserts, At Home Amongst The Strangers, A Stranger Amongst Friends in which a framed CHEKA agent must infiltrate a band of marauders and retrieve several millions in gold, and The Elusive Avengers, about four young guns opposing the anarchist bandit ataman Burnash and his gang. The concept itself became popular enough to be recognized in a parody where Winchester and Colt as they are coexists with a kolkhoz note .
Charge the enemy, hungry folk!
Cry out the vengeance of the people!
"Forward forward forward forward forward!"
-Refrain of "The Worker's Marseillaise"
Tropes of the Great October Socialist Revolution (its official name in the USSR) and Russian Civil War
Depictions in Fiction