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The bolsheviks seize power, 1917–21 Section 5: The Bolsheviks seize power, 1917–21 Lenin’s return and the April Theses Lenin

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Section 5: The Bolsheviks seize power, 1917–21
Lenin’s return and the April Theses
Lenin was the leader of a group of revolutionaries called the Bolsheviks. The Bolsheviks wanted the working class to take over power as soon as possible. Lenin was in Switzerland during the February Revolution. The Germans helped Lenin and his followers to get back to Russia because Lenin wanted Russia to leave the First World War. Lenin returned to Russia in April 1917.

  • He said that the Provisional Government was only for the upper class, not for the working class and peasants.

  • Lenin wanted the Bolsheviks to take control of the Petrograd Soviet.

  • He wanted the Soviet to become the government and run the country for the working class. Therefore Lenin wanted another revolution to get rid of the Provisional Government.

Most people had no idea who Lenin was so they did not listen to him. Even so, Lenin wrote down his instructions in a document called the April Thesis.

Source A is from Lenin’s April Theses
We must not support the Provisional Government.

The Petrograd Soviet is the real government of Russia.

The Bolsheviks must gain control of the Soviet.

All land must belong to the government.

There must be food for the workers in the cities.

Russia must leave the war.
Neatly score out the wrong sentences below OR shade in the correct ones with a marker pen:

  1. Lenin was the leader of the Bolsheviks.

  1. Lenin was the leader of the working class.

  1. The Bolsheviks wanted the working class to take over in Russia.

  1. The Germans helped Lenin get back to Russia.

  1. Lenin wanted Russia to stay in the First World War.

  1. Lenin did not like the Provisional Government.

  1. Lenin called for another revolution.

  1. Lenin wanted himself and the Bolsheviks to rule Russia.

  1. Lenin was well known in Russia.

  1. The April Thesis was a set of instructions to the Bolsheviks.

In the April Theses Lenin said:

  1. the Provisional Government is the real government.

  1. the Petrograd Soviet must take over.

  1. the Bolsheviks must take over the Soviet.

  1. All land must belong to the peasants.

The July Days
Lenin and the Bolsheviks set about persuading the workers, peasants and soldiers to support them. They wanted the people to vote for them in the Soviet. Lenin promised the people what they wanted. Soon Bolshevik banners and posters with these slogans began to appear:

Peace, Bread, Land

All Power to the Soviets

  1. Match the correct beginning with the correct ending.

Lenin and the Bolsheviks wanted food for the workers.

Lenin promised the people what they wanted.
‘Peace’ in the banner meant land to the peasants.
‘Land’ in the banner meant an end to the war.
‘Bread’ in the banner meant the people to support them.
Power was to go to the Soviet.
Kerensky, leader of the Provisional Government, continued in the First World War but most Russians wanted the war to end. By July 1917 it was clear that the Russian army had failed and people started to listen to Lenin.

    • The Bolsheviks became more popular so they decided it was time to get rid of the Provisional Government.

    • In July there was fighting in the streets of Petrograd as the Bolsheviks tried to take over the government. But they had no clear plan.

    • Soldiers loyal to the government crushed the Bolsheviks. Many Bolsheviks were put in prison and Lenin had to flee to Finland.

This attempt to overthrow the Provisional Government came to be known as the July Days.

  1. K___________ kept Russia in the w___ but most Russians wanted it to e___. By July 1917 people started to listen to L_______. Because of this the B________ tried to take over the government. But they failed and many Bolsheviks ended up in prison. Lenin had to f___ to F_________.

Source B shows women soldiers who were loyal to the Provisional Government.

© Getty Images

The Kornilov Revolt
General Kornilov was made Commander-in-Chief of the army. He wanted to make sure Russia stayed in the First World War.
Kornilov said the Provisional Government was weak and that the Petrograd Soviet needed to be shut down. He wanted to bring the tsar back to power.
Kornilov wanted to bring his army to Petrograd to take over and he even threatened to hang Lenin who kept calling for Russia to pull out of the war. Kornilov disliked Lenin and the Bolsheviks and said they were working for the Germans.
The Provisional Government ordered that Petrograd was to be defended against Kornilov. Some soldiers stayed loyal to the Provisional Government and the railway workers stopped Kornilov’s trains from getting to Petrograd. Kerensky ordered that the Bolsheviks who had been put in prison in July were to be released and given rifles to

fight Kornilov. The Bolsheviks now formed their supporters into their own army called the Red Guard.
The Red Guard never had to fight because Kornilov’s soldiers did not get to Petrograd. But many people thought that the Bolsheviks should be thanked for saving the city and so support for Lenin increased.

  1. G_________ K_________ was the new C____________ in C______ of the army. He wanted Russia to keep fighting in the F______ W______ W____.

  1. Kornilov said the Provisional Government was w____ and he wanted to s____ d_____ the Petrograd Soviet. He even said he would h_____ Lenin because he and the B__________ were working for the G_________.

  1. So that P________ could be defended K_________ ordered that the Bolsheviks should be released from p________ and given r_______. The Bolsheviks now formed their own army called the R_____ G________.

The Bolshevik Revolution
In October 1917 Lenin thought that the time was right to overthrow the Provisional Government. He wanted to put Russia under the control of the Bolshevik Party. He had wanted to do this since he returned to Russia in April.
Why did Lenin think he could take power in October 1917?

    • More and more Russians were fed up with the Provisional Government. Their lives were hardly better than under the tsar and Russia was still at war.

    • Many were grateful to the Bolsheviks. The Bolsheviks got the credit for saving Petrograd from General Kornilov.

    • Because of this, the working class in the cities began to support the Bolsheviks. More voted for them in the soviets (the councils).

    • The Bolsheviks had their own army, 10,000 Red Guards with rifles. The Provisional Government had very few soldiers left to protect them.

  1. Why did very few Russians support the Provisional Government in October 1917?

  1. Why did more people support Lenin and the Bolsheviks?

  1. Why were the Bolsheviks stronger than the Provisional Government?

Lenin ordered a top Bolshevik, Leon Trotsky, to make up a plan to take over Petrograd as soon as possible.

  • On the night of 24 October the Red Guard seized control of the railway stations, the banks, the telephone offices. They had control of transport and telephones. Nothing could move without their permission.

  • The ministers of the Provisional Government were in the Winter Palace but they refused to surrender. Kerensky had already left Petrograd. When the Red Guard walked into the Winter Palace to arrest the Provisional Government there were hardly any soldiers left to fight against them.

  1. Who planned the Bolshevik revolution of October 1917?

  1. What buildings did the Red Guard take over in Petrograd?

  1. Taking over these buildings gave the Bolsheviks control over which two things?

  1. Why was it easy to arrest the members of the Provisional Government?

Source C is what Lenin announced on the morning of 25 October 1917.
The Provisional Government is gone. All power belongs to the Soviet. The people have fought for an end to the war, to take land away from the landlords and for workers to control the factories. All these things will now come true.

There will be elections for a new parliament.

Long live the revolution of Workers, Soldiers and Peasants!
Many people were not happy with the Bolshevik take-over. The Socialist Revolutionaries (the SRs for short) had much more support among the peasants but they did not have their own army. The SRs did not like what the Bolsheviks had done and spoke out against them.

Source D is from the Socialist Revolutionary declaration of 26 October 1917.
Lenin is determined to start a bloody civil war. The Bolsheviks seized power with the use of guns. They know that they can only hold on to power by using force.

Neatly score out the five wrong sentences below OR shade in the six correct ones with a marker pen:

  1. Lenin said that the Provisional Government was still in power.

  1. Lenin said that the Soviet was now in power.

  1. Lenin said that Russia must stay in the war.

  1. Lenin said that the people wanted the war to end.

  1. Lenin said that the people would get everything they wanted.

  1. Lenin said that the people would have to wait to get what they wanted.

  1. The SRs were friends of Lenin and the Bolsheviks.

  1. The SRs were enemies of Lenin and the Bolsheviks.

  1. The SRs said that Lenin wanted to start a civil war in Russia.

  1. The SRs said that Lenin wanted everyone to live in peace.

  1. The SRs said that the Bolsheviks will rule by using force.

The Bolshevik Government
Lenin, the leader of the Bolsheviks, was now the leader of Russia as well.
The Bolsheviks changed their name to the Communist Party. Lenin was going to make sure that no one would oppose him. The first thing Lenin wanted to do was to get Russia out of the First World War. He hoped this would make him more popular.

  • The Russians made a peace agreement with the Germans. This was the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk – Russia gave Germany huge areas of land and the Germans gave Russia peace. Most Russians were happy with this.

  • Lenin had promised elections for a new parliament called the Constituent Assembly. In December 1917 over 30 million Russians voted for the Constituent Assembly:

– 25% voted for the Communists

– 58% voted for the Socialist Revolutionaries
– 17% voted for other parties.

  1. The T_______ of B________-____________ was made between Russia and G____________. The treaty gave Russia p_______.

  1. The new parliament was to be called the C________________ A______________. Over _____ million Russians v_______ for this.

  1. ____% voted for the S______________ R_______________ . Only _____ % voted for the Communists.

  1. Why did Lenin and the Communists not like the new parliament?

Most Russians did not support the Communist Party.

  • Lenin ordered the Red Guard to close down the Constituent Assembly. The members whom the people had voted for were sent home.

  • Lenin declared that only the Communist Party would run Russia. There was to be a dictatorship instead of democracy. This was the end of democracy.

  • Many newspapers wrote articles against the Communists. Lenin ordered that most newspapers were to be closed down. Only the Communist newspaper was allowed.

  1. Lenin did not like the Constituent Assembly. What did he do about it?

  1. Under Lenin there would be d__________________ instead of d_____________.

  1. Lenin did not like the newspapers. What did he do about them?

Growing violence
In December 1917 a new police force was created. It was called the CHEKA and its job was to find and arrest people who spoke out against Lenin.

  • Anyone who did not support the Communists was called an ‘enemy of the people’. If you were called this you would be shot.

  • In July 1918 the CHEKA murdered the tsar, his wife and five children.

  • In August 1918 a young female Socialist Revolutionary to kill Lenin but only wounded him. In revenge the CHEKA killed 800 Socialist Revolutionaries.

  • This began a period called the ‘Red Terror’ and 50,000 people had been killed without a trial by 1921.

  1. The Communists created a new police force called the C_____.

  1. The CHEKA a_____________ anyone who spoke against L_______.

  1. In July 1918 the CHEKA murdered the t______ and his wife and c_____________.

  1. The period when many people were killed is known as the ‘R____ T___________.’

Trotsky, who had organised the October Revolution, was told to create an army. The Red Guard was turned into a much bigger army known as the Red Army. Trotsky was in command of the Red Army.
Lenin knew that he had many enemies. He had taken power by force and was using a great deal of violence to stay in control. Lenin knew that there would be a civil war in Russia between the Communists (the ‘Reds’) and their enemies. A civil war is where two sides fight each other in the same country.
The enemies of the Communists were called the ‘Whites’. The Whites were all those who did not like the Lenin and the Communists. The Whites included Socialist Revolutionaries, soldiers of the tsar’s army and some national minorities.
The Whites were helped by Britain, the USA and Japan. These countries sent troops and weapons to help defeat the Communists. Britain, USA and Japan wanted to get rid of the Communist government so that Russia could re-join the war against Germany.

  1. Trotsky created a large army known as the R____ A________.

  1. The Red Army was commanded by T__________.

  1. Lenin had many e_____________. He knew there would be a c_______ war.

  1. The Communists were also known as the ‘R_____’.

  1. The enemies of the Communists were known as the ‘W__________’.

  1. The Whites got help from countries such as B___________, the ______ and J__________.

The Civil War 1918–21
The Russian civil war lasted from 1918 to 1921. The fighting was bitter and millions of people died. The Whites got help from Britain, the USA and Japan.
Source E shows White soldiers being trained by the British army

© Getty Images

The Reds won the Civil War even though help was given to the Whites.

  • The Reds controlled the central parts of Russia. They controlled the main cities. The Reds had trains to move troops from one battlefield to another.

  • The Red Army was well organised by Trotsky. He used 27,000 officers who used to fight for the Tsar to run the Red Army. Communist officials kept an eye on them to make sure that they did as they were told.

  • The Red Army had plenty of food. Many men joined the Red Army because they got three meals a day. This food was mostly taken from the peasants by the Communist government.

  1. Refer to Source E – what are the White soldiers learning to do?

  1. How did Trotsky get enough officers to run the Red Army?

  1. Why did many men join the Red Army?

ource F
shows the Red area and the White armies. It helps explain why the Reds won.
Many factory workers were willing to fight for the Reds. Many workers and peasants did not wish a return to the Tsarist days. The peasants did not like the Reds because they stole their food. But they liked the Whites even less because many Whites were landlords who wanted the land back from the peasants.

Many people were forced to fight for the Reds. The CHEKA threatened to shoot them and their families if they did not.
After the First World War ended in November 1918, most foreign troops left Russia. The Whites lost some of their military strength. By 1921 they had lost the war.

  1. Look at Source E – which two important cities were in the Red Area?

P__________________ and M___________________

  1. Look at Source E – How many White armies were there?

  1. Look at Source E – Remember, Russia is a very big country. What problems would the White armies have if they wanted to help each other?

  1. Why did the peasants dislike the Reds?

  1. Why did the Peasants dislike the Whites?

War Communism
Because of the war, food was short. During the civil war, Lenin’s government came up with a policy called ‘War Communism’. This meant that the Communist government could control people’s lives even more.

  • Workers left the cities in search of food. To stop them the government gave them special identity books. Without these identity books they could not get food, fuel or a place to live.

Source F shows what War Communism meant to the peasants.

  1. What does the top row of pictures show us about War Communism?

  1. What does the bottom picture tell us about what happened to the peasants?

Source G is about War Communism. It is from orders to the CHEKA in August 1918.
Every food-gathering squad should have at least 75 men and two machine guns.

All weapons must be taken from the peasants.

Any crops that are hidden must be taken without payment and given to the workers and the poorest peasants.

  1. Give two reasons why the peasants hated War Communism.

The peasants were not allowed to keep their crops and animals. But they refused to hand them over to the government. Many peasants destroyed their crops and killed their animals. What was left was taken away from them by force. War Communism caused a terrible famine in Russia. Five million people starved to death.

Source H is a picture taken in a peasant village in 1920. It shows carts taking away dead bodies.

© Getty Images

  1. What killed these people?

Source I shows peasant children during the civil war

© Getty Images

5. Enter the letters of the six correct statements in the boxes below.
A War Communism gave the government more control of people’s lives.
B Workers were given identity cards to get food and fuel.
C Workers were given identity cards to get work.
D Peasants could sell their food for any price they wanted.
E Peasants had to give their food to the government.
F The CHEKA took the peasants’ crops by force.
G The CHEKA paid the peasants a fair price for their crops.
H The peasants were happy to give their food to the CHEKA.
I The peasants destroyed their food so that the CHEKA could not get it.
K Sources D and E show that peasant villages were good places to live.
L Sources D and E show that many people suffered during the famine.

The New Economic Policy
By 1921 Lenin and the Communist government had complete control of Russia. They had won the civil war against the Whites. Millions had died.
The Communist government kept a firm grip on the country. No one was allowed to oppose them and the CHEKA could kill or imprison anyone they did not like.
The peasants were unhappy and still starving in large numbers. Lenin knew that this was a dangerous situation and that it was time to make a change.
In 1921 Lenin announced the end of War Communism. It was to be replaced with the New Economic Policy.

  1. Give three reasons why the peasants liked the New Economic Policy.

The years 1894 to 1921 had been a hard period for Russia. Of all people, the peasants had suffered most. Yet many Russians believed that they had built a new society. They believed that they had made a better world. But the ordinary people had no more power under Lenin’s rule than under the tsar. They still had to do as they were told.

Democracy in Russia had to wait until 1991, when the system of Communism collapsed.
Lenin’s red flag had flown over Russia for over 70 years.

To prepare for the Access 3 assessment, you should study the short history on pages 5–20.

To prepare for Intermediate 1 assessments (NABs, the Prelim and the SQA Exam), you should study all of these notes.

© Learning and Teaching Scotland 2007

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