Russian (October) Revolution, 1917

Russia experienced a long series of political unrest in 1917, including a revolution in February; the documents here focus on the events surrounding the October Revolution, also known as Red October. Earlier in the year, the ineffectual tzar Nicholas II had abdicated and turned control of the government over to a provisional government made up of center-left liberals and socialists who had organized themselves under the banner of the Petrograd Soviet. The revolution which had dismantled the Romanov dynasty in February had been prompted by a combination of economic stagnation, military failures during the First World War, and widespread dissatisfaction with the outdated agricultural system dominated by aristocratic control over serf labor. Political factionalism within the Provisional Government prevented economic and social reforms from taking place and led to widespread dissatisfaction. By the summer of 1917, industrial workers in Moscow and Petrograd were on strike, and peasant uprisings against landowners spread across the country. The Bolshevik, or majority, party had long advocated a working class revolution and the weaknesses of the Provisional Government gave them the opportunity to take power. On October 25, the Red Guard of the Bolsheviks stormed the seat of the Provisional Government at the Winter Palace in Petrograd, setting up what would become the United Soviet Socialist Republic that would remain in power until 1991.

octrevThe Red Guard storms the Winter Palace, October 25, 1917

Proclamation of General Kornilov, 28 August 1917 Top

Source: The White Guard: Policy Paper of the White Movement. Historical Documents. Speeches White Army generals and the Declaration. http://www.ruguard.ru

The Russian people! Our Great Motherland is dying. This is the hour of her death. Forced to speak openly – I, General Kornilov, declare that the interim government under pressure from the majority of councils acting in full accord with the plans of the German General Staff and in conjunction with the upcoming landing of enemy forces in Riga coast, are killing the army and the country shaking inside.

Heavy consciousness of impending doom the country commands me in those terrible moments to appeal to all Russian people to save a dying country. Anyone in whose chest beats a Russian heart, all who believe in God – in churches, pray to God about the phenomenon of the greatest miracle of saving their native land.

I, General Kornilov, – the son of a Cossack peasant, declare to everyone that I personally do not need anything other than saving the Great of Russia, and I swear to lead the nation by the road of victory over the foe to a constituent assembly, through which the nation will decide its own fate and choose the organization of its own political life. And I prefer to die on the field of battle and honor than to see the shame of the Russian land. The Russian people, in your hands is the life of your country.


Menshevik appeal to the Petrograd Workers, 28 October 1917 Top

Source: Michael C. Hickey, ed. 2011. Competing Voices from the Russian Revolution. Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood.

To the Petrograd Workers!

Comrades! Petrograd, and the entire country with it, is living through a terrible moment. A new blow has been struck against the revolution – not a blow to the back by General Kornilov, but a blow to the chest by Lenin and Trotsky.

On the eve of the Constituent Assembly, when everyone should have been discussing the elections to secure liberty, the Bolshevik Party led by Lenin and Trotsky hatched a plot to seize power. Without even waiting for the Congress of Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies to open, this party initiated a military conspiracy, kept secret from the other socialist parties and revolutionary organizations, and used bayonets and rifles to carry out an insurrection against the state.

They began by using rifles to disperse the Provisional Council of the Russian Republic [ the Pre-Parliament], which had been created at the will of the All-Russian Democratic Conference. When it was made clear that a gathering of socialist parties was in progress, they did not stop. They sent soldiers – who they’ve made into fools – to threaten the Winter Palace, where the Provisional Government was gathering. They committed violence against the government’s members, which included the socialists, and imprisoned them in the Peter-Paul Fortress. Not embarrassed by protests from the majority of workers’, soldiers’, and peasants’ organizations, who abandoned the soviet congress, the Bolshevik Party declared themselves the government, and now they seek to subordinate the entire country. We had predicted exactly this. We have always warned about the Bolsheviks.

Bolshevik rule will not lead to the things they have promised the masses. There will not be peace, bread, or freedom, but the opposite. Peace, bread, and freedom can be obtained only by rallying all the democracy’s forces, through their organizational efforts, by consolidating revolutionary order in the country.

The country has been ruined by three years of War. Kaiser Wilhelm’s troops have penetrated deep into our territory and already threaten Petrograd. Great caution is needed. Every step must be measured. All the people’s strength must be rallied so that the country does not fall into a deadly abyss. It is against this ruined country, where the working class is still an insignificant minority, where the people have only just been liberated from centuries of autocratic slavery – it is against this country and at this critical moment that the Bolsheviks planned and carried out their mad experiment at seizing power, which they allege to be a socialist revolution.

Only adventurers or traitors to the revolution would do this. The working class did not have a direct role in this mad undertaking. At the moment the Bolsheviks seized power, they revealed their powerlessness, because they could only do it by bayonet. A government that depends on bayonets alone is guaranteed to fail. A government that depends on bayonets is doomed to employ the tsarist autrocracy’s methods.

[If the government is to last], it must follow the only correct path – the path our party has walked, the the Soviet Central Executive Committee has walked. That is the path of unifying the entire democracy to defend the country and the revolution’s accomplishments. That is the path toward the quickest possible universal peace, in alliance with the entire international proletariat. We need not deceive ourselves. We still support the persistent and systematic struggle for socialism. But first we must save the revolution’s achievements; we must save the country from destruction and ruin.

At present what is most necessary is to guarantee the Constituent Assembly’s convocation on the designated date. It alone can create a lasting revolutionary government and satisfy the people’s dreams. We now must concentrate all our thought and effort on this task.

The Bolsheviks are resurrecting the very worst features of the tsarist autocracy: they are silencing the press, destroying free assembly, and violating personal security. They have threatened to disband and repress democratic city governments that were elected on the basis of universal suffrage.

Such a government elicits only hatred and revulsion. The Bolsheviks allegedly act in the name of socialism, but they have only soiled the Socialist banner and turned the popular masses away from socialism. TO prevent this – so that the people do not hold the working class and socialism responsible for all the Bolsheviks’ crimes – conscious workers must decisively fence themselves off from the Bolshevist undertaking. They must reveal to the worker masses all the falsehoods and demagogy of the Bolsheviks, who have bedazzles the worker masses with flattery and promises that cannot be fulfilled.

The Bolsheviks’ defeat is inevitable. But we cannot let it become the working class’ defeat. Were the working class ruined and not defeated, it would mean counterrevolution’s triumph. This must not happen.

For this reason, it is necessary to stop the rising and worsening civil war that will trample the revolution and lead it inevitable to the proletariat’s defeat and the victory of German imperialism and Russian counterrevolution. It is necessary to rally around democratic self-government institutions and the All-Russian Committee for the Salvation of the Motherland and Revolution, and by those means prevent a bloody confrontation.

Comrades, this hour may decide the revolution’s fate, the fate of your freedom, which was purchased by several generations’ struggles, and the fate of the working class in years to come. We appeal to your conscience and self-control. Do not give in to provocations. Exert all of your effort to prevent a bloody confrontation and civil war. Remember that we need to guarantee the Constituent Assembly’s convocation. In the name of that cause, rally around the Committee for the Salvation of the Revolution and Motherland.


The Moscow Mensheviks Appeal to Comrade Citizens, 30 October 1917 Top

Source: Michael C. Hickey, ed. 2011. Competing Voices from the Russian Revolution. Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood.

Comrade Citizens!

The irreconcilable positions taken by supporters of both belligerents – the Duma Committee of Public Safety and the Bolshevist Revolutionary Committee – have already borne bitter fruit. Fraternal blood has been spilled needlessly. Moscow has added to the dead and wounded.

Comrade Workers! Comrade Soldiers! You who follow the Bolshevist Revolutionary Committee! Understand that it cannot achieve victory because it is isolated from the rest of the democracy, from the workers and soldiers. Even should it win – at the cost of blood and corpses – it cannot hold power and will be replaced by organized counterrevolutionaries.

Citizens who hope for the Committee of Public Safety’s victory, the armed suppression of the mad Bolsheviks, and the revolution’s salvation! Understand that bloody massacres will open the gates wide for the counterrevolution! There is a reason Kornilov’s evil specter has appeared again on the horizon!

Comrades and Citizens! The revolution will perish in the flames of civil war! We cannot let that happen – it must be brought to an end!

Enough blood! Enough victims!

A cease-fire has been formally declared, but in fact is being violated – let this be transformed into an actual peace agreement!

Comrades and citizens! All who are for conciliation, all who want to end this bloody internecine fighting – pressure the faction that you follow, and demand that it bring an end to the civil war.

All democratic organizations – focus all your efforts on creating a general-democratic government that can maintain revolutionary order!

The Committee of the Moscow Organization of the RSDLP (Mensheviks)


Polkovnikov’s Order to the Military District of Petrograd, 30 October 1917 Top

Source: Source: James Bunyan and H.H. Fisher. 1934. The Bolshevik Revolution 1917-1918: Documents and Materials. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press

Again armed uprisings of irresponsible persons are being prepared in the streets of Petrograd.

These uprisings are a symptom of anarchy; they will lead certainly to useless suffering and bring the fatherland to the edge of ruin.

He who is capable, at this time, of calling the masses to a civil war is either insane or a conscious tool of the Emperor William.

I order all units under my command, all officers and soldiers, not to allow themselves to become involved in uprisings.

Soldiers and officers, bear in mind the great responsibility which you carry before the entire democracy and free Russia.

Col. Polkovnikov
Commander-in-Chief of the Military District


Circular of the Ministry of the Interior, 3 November 1917 Top

Source: James Bunyan and H.H. Fisher. 1934. The Bolshevik Revolution 1917-1918: Documents and Materials. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press

To all Gubernia, Regional and City Commissars:

The uninterrupted growth of anarchy threatening to disrupt the internal life of the country, and the necessity of handling in a decisive and effective manner every disorder that infringes upon the safety of social life makes it imperative for the gubernia commissars, as the local representatives of the Provisional Government, to call for military assistance.

Orders have accordingly been issued by the Minister of War to all army commanders to place cavalry units from reserve cavalry regiments at the disposal of the gubernia commissars.

In bringing the above to the notice of the gubernia commissars the Ministry of the Interior considers it its duty to point out that every precaution must be taken in the exercise of that duty, that local conditions be taken into consideration, and, above all, that the need to act promptly and decisively in the suppression of disorders be kept in mind.

Placing at the disposal of the gubernia commissars this extraordinary measures called forth by the grave internal conditions of the Republic, the Ministry of the Interior expresses its hope that with the cooperation of all healthy elements of the population, especially the organs of local self-government, the gubernia commissars will make every effort in the struggle against anarchy.

A.M. Niktin
Minister of the Interior


Lenin Urges the Immediate Seizure of Power, 6 November 1917 Top

Source: James Bunyan and H.H. Fisher. 1934. The Bolshevik Revolution 1917-1918: Documents and Materials. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press

Comrades:

I am writing these lines on the evening of the 6th. The situation is extremely critical. it is as clear as can be that delaying the uprising now really means death.

With all my power I wish to persuade the comrades that now everything hangs on a hair, that on the order of the day are questions that are not solved by conferences, but congresses (even by Congresses of Soviets), but only by the people, by the masses, by the struggle of armed masses.

The bourgeois onslaught of the Kornilovists, the removal of Verkhovsky show that we must not wait. We must at any price, this evening, tonight, arrest the Ministers, having disarmed (defeated if they offer resistance) the military cadets, etc.

We must not wait! We may lose everything!

The immediate gain from the seizure of power at present is defence of the people (not the congress, but the people, in the first place, the army and the peasants) against the Kornilovist government which has driven out Vekhovsky and has hatched a second Kornilov plot.

Who should seize power?

At present this is not important. Let the Military Revolutionary committee seize it, or “some other institution” which declares that it will relinquish the power only to the real representatives of the interests of the people, the interests of the army (immediate offer of peace), the interests of the peasants (take the land immediately, abolish private property), the interests of the hungry.

It is necessary that all the boroughs, all regiments, all forces should be mobilised and should immediately send the delegations to the Military Revolutionary Committee, to the Central Committee of the Bolsheviks, insistently demanding that under no circumstances is power to be left in the hands of Kerensky and Co. until the 7th, by no means! – but that the matter must absolutely be decided this evening or tonight.

History will not forgive delay by revolutionists who could be victorious today (and will surely be victorious today) while they risk losing much tomorrow, they risk losing all.

If we seize power today, we seize it not against the Soviets but for them.

Seizure of power is the point of the uprising; its political task will be clarified after the seizure.

It would be a disaster or formalism to wait for the uncertain voting of November 7. The people have a right and a duty to decide such questions not by voting but by force; the people have a right and duty in critical moments of a revolution to give directions to their representatives, even their best representatives, and not to wait for them.

This has been proven by the history of all revolutions and the crime of revolutionists would be limitless if they let go the proper moment, knowing that upon them depends the saving of the revolution, the offer of peace, the saving of Petrograd, the saving from starvation, the transfer of the land to the peasants.

The government is tottering. We must deal it the deathblow at any cost.

To delay action is the same as death.


Kerensky’s speech in the Pre-Parliament, 6 November 1917 Top

Source: James Bunyan and H.H. Fisher. 1934. The Bolshevik Revolution 1917-1918: Documents and Materials. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press

The Provisional Government has authorized me to make the following statement:

Of late, the nearer we come to the day for the convening of the Constituent Assembly, which will establish forever a free democratic regime in Russia,….the more persistent and insolent become the attempts of the two extreme wings of political opinion to block the convening of this assembly. At the same time we are witnessing a persistent and growing endeavor to disorganize our country’s defense and to betray the liberty and independence of Russia into the hands of a cruel and relentless enemy who is advancing on our capital.

Hitherto the Provisional Government…has considered it its duty to safeguard the freedom of every citizen in the exercise of his political and civil rights and has remained indifferent to the violent criticism and abuse to which it has been subjected in the press and at public meetings….Throughout Russia, especially in the capital, an irresponsible section of the revolutionary democracy is instigating open insurrection,….while another section….[to the Right] is urging the immediate supplanting of the Provisional Government by a dictatorship….

That you may not think my statement unfounded and that the Provisional Government may not be reproached from wrongly accusing or maliciously libeling any party, I …. shall cite here a few passages from a number of proclamations published in the paper Rabochii Put by the much-wanted offender against the state, Ulianov-Lenin, who is now in hiding. [Then follow quotations from “Letters to Comrades.”]

Simultaneously with these appeals other Bolshevik leaders at public meetings….advocated an immediate armed uprising. Especially noteworthy is the speech made by the President of the Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies in Petersburg, Bronstein-Trotsky, and the public declarations of other organizers of the uprising. Similar proclamations and appeals inciting the soldiers to disobey the military authorities appeared in Soldar, another Bolshevik publication intended especially for the soldiers,….I am not going to cite the newspapers of the opposite camp which also were suppressed by my order last night. I merely wish to stress….the very definite….connection between the attacks and preparations of the two wings….

To the Provisional Government it is quite immaterial whether these are being made deliberately or inadvertently. Fully aware of my responsibility I proclaim, from this platform, that such actions of a Russian political party are treason and betrayal of the Russian State….

And, now, after these open preparations…for the uprising, the groups which call themselves Bolsheviks have come to the point of carrying their propaganda into action. For instance, three days ago the troops of the Petrograd district received orders not to obey their commanders or any military authorities unless the orders were countersigned by the commissars of the Petrograd Revolutionary Staff….

Although there was every reason for immediate, decisive, and energetic action, the military authorities, following my suggestion, believed it necessary first to give these people the opportunity of acknowledging their…errors and to allow them time to retract,…especially since their order had to appreciable results during the first few days after it was issued. Generally I prefer that the authorities should act more slowly but more surely, and, when necessary, more resolutely….

Thus I am obliged to inform the Provisional Council that a state of open insurrection exists among a certain part of the population of Petersburg. From a legal point of view it can be so termed, and I have proposed an immediate judicial investigation and ordered arrests to be made….because when the state is imperiled by deliberate or undesigned treachery and is at the brink of ruin, the Provisional Government, myself included, prefers to go down to destruction rather than to betray the life, the honor, and the independence of the state….

The Provisional Government may be reproached for its weakness and excessive patience, but no one has the right to say that the…government, which I have been at its head or even before, has had recourse to any measures of coercion unless some immediate menace threatened the state….I think that our aim, which is the strengthening of the cause of freedom…gives us the right…to demand that the country shall support our decisive measures, since no one can suggest that these measures are being undertaken for reasons other than the safety of the state. I Must tell you that he attitude of the front to the events taking place in the rear, and especially in Petersburg, is a definite one. The front clearly perceives that the activities of certain political groups are nothing but attempts to play on the darkness and ignorance of the masses, and their unwillingness to fulfil their duty on the front.

I shall not burden you with all the telegrams, appeals, and resolutions which the Provisional Government and the Central Committee of the Soviets have received from army committees at the front. I deem it my duty, however, to make known to you the resolution of the All-Army Committee at the Stavka: “The army…calls upon every citizen of the Russian Republic to endure every possible sacrifice in the cause of peace which will bring justice to the toilers of the world and well-being to all nations. [The army] insists…on a steadfast adherence to the will of the organized majority of the people. It calls upon the Provisional Government together with the Provisional Council of the Republic and the All-Russian Central [Executive ] Committee [of the Soviets] to put a stop to the mad military pogroms in the cities and in the villages, and to suppress resolutely and energetically every form of excess and license. In exercising pressure upon these conspirators against the integrity of the country the authorities may rely upon the support of the army as though they were fighting the enemies of the people.”….

You see, now, that at present a situation exists in the capital which in the language of the law…is called a state of insurrection….It is an attempt to incite the rabble against the existing order, to prevent the convening of the Constituent Assembly, …and to expose the front to the serried ranks of Wilhelm’s mailed fist. I say deliberately – “rabble” – because the intelligent part of the democracy, the Central Executive Committee [of the Soviets], all army organizations and all that free Russia is justly proud of – the reason, conscience, and honor of the great Russian democracy – all protest against it,…realizing that the real danger of the demonstration lies not at all in the possibility of the local garrison seizing the government but in the fact that the insurrection will be a signal to the Germans, as in the month of the July, to deliver a new blow on our borders which will call forth a new [counter-revolutionary] attempt, even more serious than the attempt of General Kornilov….

I believe that at this moment everyone should place himself either on the side of the Republic, of Freedom and of Democracy, or against them. And if there are those who believe that truth is on the other side, let them courageously and actively support that cause and not be mere obstructionists.

I have come to plead with you, members of the Provisional Council…not with the intention of disturbing your peace of mind…I have come to ask you to be vigilant, to come out for the defense of the liberty won by the blood and lives of many generations of Russian people. I have come here not to make requests of you, but with the conviction that the Provisional government, which is now defending this newly acquired liberty, the new Russian state born for a glorious future, will win the unanimous support of every except those who have not the courage of their convictions – to tell the truth openly….

I was authorized by the Provisional Government to declare from this platform: The Provisional Government has never violated the right of Russian citizens to exercise their political privileges. Because of this point of view on the general state of affairs, the Provisional Government considered itself bound,a s far as possible, not to create any disturbance until the Constituent Assembly is convened. Now, however, fully realising its responsibility to the state and to the future of the country, the Provisional Government makes the following declaration: All the elements of Russian society, those groups and those parties which have dared to raise a hand against the free will of the Russian people, threatening at the same time open the front to Germany, should be immediately, decisively, and forever liquidated. Let the populace of Petrograd know that they will meet a resolute power, and, it may be, that at the last hour or even the last minute reason, conscience, and honor will conquer in the hearts of those to whom these things still have meaning….I request, and, may the Provisional Council of the Republic forgive me, I demand that this very day, …. the Provisional Government receive your answer as to whether or not it has the assurance of the support of this high gathering in the fulfillment of its duty.


Proclamation of the Military Revolutionary Committee, 7 November 1917 Top

Source: James Bunyan and H.H. Fisher. 1934. The Bolshevik Revolution 1917-1918: Documents and Materials. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press

The Provisional Government is deposed. All state authority has passed into the hands of the Military Revolutionary Committee, the organ of the Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies acting in the name of the Petrograd proletariat and the garrison.

The causes for which the people were struggling – immediate democratic peace, abolition of the pomeshick’s [landlord] right to the land, labor control of industry, and a Soviet form of government – are now all guaranteed.

Long live the revolution of Workers, Soldiers, and Peasants!


Appeals of the Provisional Government, 7 November 1917 Top

Source: James Bunyan and H.H. Fisher. 1934. The Bolshevik Revolution 1917-1918: Documents and Materials. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press

Citizens! Save the fatherland, the republic, and freedom! Maniacs have raised a revolt against the only governmental power chosen by the people – the Provisional Government.

The members of the Provisional Government, faithful to duty, will remain at their posts and continue to work for the good of the fatherland, the re-establishment of order, and the convocation of the Constituent Assembly, the future sovereign of Russia and of the peoples inhabiting it.

Citizens, you must help the Provisional Government. You must strengthen its authority. You must oppose these maniacs, with whom are joined all enemies of liberty and order including the followers of the old regime whose purpose is to destroy all conquests of the revolution and the future of our dear fatherland.

Citizens, rally around the Provisional government for the defense of its provisional authority in the name of order and the welfare of every people in our great fatherland….


Order of the Military Revolutionary Committee to the Army, 7 November 1917 Top

Source: James Bunyan and H.H. Fisher. 1934. The Bolshevik Revolution 1917-1918: Documents and Materials. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press

To All Army Committees in the Active Army. To All Soviets of Soldiers’ Deputies:

The Petrograd garrison and proletariat have overthrown Kerensky’s government, which had come out against the revolution and the people. The overthrow of the Provisional Government was bloodless. The Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies hailed the overthrow and recognized the authority of the Military Revolutionary Committee until the formation of a government of Soviets. In announcing this to the army at the front and rear, the Military Revolutionary Committee calls on the revolutionary soldiers to watch carefully the behavior of their officers. Those who refuse to come out openly for the revolution that has just taken place should be arrested immediately as enemies.

The program of the new government of the Petrograd Soviet consists in offering immediately a democratic peace, in transferring immediately the land of the large landowners to the peasants, in handing over all power to the Soviets, and in having an honest summoning of the Constituent Assembly.

The people’s revolutionary army should not permit the sending of unreliable military units from the front to Petrograd. Use persuasion and, if that fails, do not hesitate to use force. This order should be read to all soldiers. Any attempt to conceal it from the soldier masses will be regarded as a revolutionary crime and punished with all the severity of the revolutionary law. Soldiers! Fight for peace, bread, land, and popular government!


Formation of the Committee to save the Country and the Revolution, 8 November 1917 Top

Source: James Bunyan and H.H. Fisher. 1934. The Bolshevik Revolution 1917-1918: Documents and Materials. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press

Appeal to the citizens of the Russian Republic:

On November 7 the Petrograd Bolsheviks, defying the will of the Russian people, arrested some of the members of the Provisional Government, dispersed the Council of the Russian Republic, and proclaimed an illegal government.

The use of force against the government of revolutionary Russia at a moment when we are threatened by one of the greatest dangers from the foreign enemy is an unheard-of crime against the country.

The conspiracy of the Bolsheviks deals a mortal blow to the cause of the country’s defense and puts the desired peace a long way off.

The civil war begun by the Bolsheviks threatens to drag the country into indescribable horrors of anarchy and counter-revolution, to prevent the convening of the Constituent Assembly, whose purpose is to consolidate the republican form of government, and to transfer the land to the people.

Endeavoring to preserve the continuity of the only legal authority, the All-Russian Committee to save the Country and the Revolution has taken upon itself the task of re-establishing the Provisional Government, which, resting upon the strength of the democracy, will lead the country to the Constituent Assembly and save it from counter-revolution and anarchy.

The All-Russian Committee to Save the Country and the Revolution calls on you as citizens: Do not recognize the authority of violence! Do not carry out the orders of such an authority. Stand up on defense of the country and the revolution! Give your support of the All-Russian Committee to Save the Country and the Revolution!


Proclamation of the Congress on the Assumption of Power, 8 November 1917 Top

Source: James Bunyan and H.H. Fisher. 1934. The Bolshevik Revolution 1917-1918: Documents and Materials. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press

TO WORKERS, SOLDIERS AND PEASANTS!

The Second All-Russia Congress of Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies has opened. It represents the great majority of the Soviets, including a number of deputies of peasant Soviets. The prerogatives of the Central Executive Committee of the compromisers has ended.

Supported by an overwhelming majority of the workers, soldiers and peasants, and basing itself on the victorious insurrection of the workers and the garrison which has taken place in Petrograd, the Congress hereby resolves to take governmental power into its own hands.

The Provisional Government is deposed and most of its members are under arrest.

The Soviet authority will at once propose a democratic peace to all the nations and an immediate armistice on all fronts. It will safeguard the transfer without compensation of all land – landlord, udel, and monastery – to the peasant committees; it will defend the soldiers’ rights, introducing a complete democratization of the army; it will establish workers’ control over production; it will ensure the convocation of the Constituent Assembly on the date set, it supply the cities with bread and the villages with articles of first necessity; and it will guarantee all the nations inhabiting Russia the genuine right to self determination.

The Congress resolves that all local authority shall be transferred to the Soviets of Workers’, Soldiers’ and Peasants’ Deputies, which are charged with the task of enforcing revolutionary order.

The Congress calls upon the soldiers in the trenches to be watchful and steadfast. The Congress of Soviets is confident that the revolutionary army will know how to defend the revolution against all imperialistic attempts until the new government has concluded a democratic peace which it is proposing directly to all nations.

The new government will take every measure to provide the revolutionary army with all necessities, by means of a determined policy of requisition from and taxation of the propertied classes. Care will also be taken to improve the condition of soldiers’ families.

The Kornilovists- Kerensky, Kaledin and others – are endeavouring to lead troops against Petrograd. Several regiments, deceived by Kerennsky, have already joined the insurgents.

Soldiers! Resist Kerensky, who is a Kornilovist! Be on guard!

Railwaymen! Stop all echelons sent by Kerensky against Petrograd!

Soldiers, Workers, Employees! The fate of the Revolution and democratic peace is in your hands!

Long live the Revolution!

The All-Russian Congress of Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies.
The Delegates from the Peasants’ Soviets.


Lenin’s Speech on the Land Decree, 8 November 1917 Top

Source: James Bunyan and H.H. Fisher. 1934. The Bolshevik Revolution 1917-1918: Documents and Materials. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press

The revolution conclusively demonstrated how important it is to formulate the land question. The armed insurrection of the Second (November) Revolution has clearly shown us that the land must be turned over to the peasants. A crime was committed by the government that has just been overthrown and by the parties of compromisers, the Mensheviks and the Socialist-Revolutionists, who, under various pretexts, postponed the solution of the land question and brought the country to the verge of ruin and peasant uprising. How false and basely deceitful their words sounded when they talked about pogroms and anarchy in the village! Where and when did intelligent policies produce pogroms and anarchy? If the government had proceeded intelligently and if its measures had aimed to meet the needs of the poorest peasants, would there have been any uprising of the peasant masses? But all the measures of the government, approved by the soviets led by men like Avxentiev and Dan, have been opposed to the interests of the peasants and have forced them to rebel.

Having provoked the insurrection, they [supporters of the Provisional Government] began to howl about pogroms and anarchy which they themselves had brought about. They wanted to quell [anarchy] with blood and iron, but instead they themselves were overthrown by the armed insurrection of the revolutionary soldiers, sailors, and workers. The government of the workers’ and peasants revolution must first of all solve the question of land – the solution of which will pacify and make content immense masses of poor peasants. I shall read to you the points of the decree which your Soviet Government is about to proclaim. One of the sections of that decree includes the Land Mandate to the land committees based on two hundred and forty-two petitions of local Soviets of Peasants’ Deputies.


Program of the Committee to Save the Country and the Revolution, 12 November 1917 Top

Source: James Bunyan and H.H. Fisher. 1934. The Bolshevik Revolution 1917-1918: Documents and Materials. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press

In order to bring about revolutionary order and to prevent the fratricidal civil war, the All-Russian Committee to Save the Country and the Revolution has resolved:

1) To start conversations with the Provisional Council of the Russian Republic and the central committees of the Socialist parties…on the subject of forming a democratic government with the following program: (a) To liquidate quickly the Bolshevik adventure in such a way as will safeguard the interests of the democracy. (b) To crush energetically all counter-revolutionary attempts and pogroms. (c) To do every possible to have the Constituent Assembly meet on time. (d) To pursue a vigorous foreign policy by informing the Allies of the government’s readiness to commence at once conversations leading to the kind of peace that will not fasten economic or political chains on any kind of the belligerent countries, and to defend the country as long as the foreign foe threatens it. (e) To put into force a law that will hand over the landlords’ estates to the land committees.

2. To demand that the Military Revolutionary Committee should immediately lay down its arms, give up the power seized, and call on the troops under its command to submit to the authority of the Committee to Save the Country and the Revolution.


Declaration of the Rights of the Peoples of Russia, 15 November, 1917 Top

Source: James Bunyan and H.H. Fisher. 1934. The Bolshevik Revolution 1917-1918: Documents and Materials. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press

The October revolution of the workmen and peasants began under the common banner of emancipation.

The peasants are being emancipated from the power of the landowners, for there is no longer the landowner’s property right in the land — it has been abolished. The soldiers and sailors are being emancipated from the power of autocratic generals, for generals will henceforth be elective and subject to recall. The workers are being emancipated from the whims and arbitrary will of the capitalists, for henceforth there will be established the control of the workers over mills and factories. Everything living and capable of life is being emancipated from the hateful shackles.

There remain only the peoples of Russia, who have suffered and are suffering oppression and arbitrariness, and whose emancipation must immediately be begun, whose liberation must be effected resolutely and definitely.

During the period of tsarism the peoples of Russia were systematically incited against one another. The results of such a policy are known; massacres and pogroms on the one hand, slavery of peoples on the other.

There can be and there must be no return to this disgraceful policy of instigation. Henceforth the policy of a voluntary and honest union of the peoples of Russia must be substituted.

In the period of imperialism, after the February revolution, when the power was transferred to the hands of the Cadet bourgeoisie, the naked policy of instigation gave way to one of cowardly distrust of the peoples of Russia, to a policy of fault-finding and provocation, of “freedom” and “equality” of peoples. The results of such a policy are known; the growth of national enmity, the impairment of mutual trust.

An end must be put to this unworthy policy of falsehood and distrust, of fault-finding and provocation. Henceforth it must be replaced by an open and honest policy which leads to complete mutual trust of the people of Russia. Only as the result of such a trust can there be formed an honest and lasting union of the peoples of Russia. Only as the result of such a union can the workmen and peasants of the peoples of Russia be cemented into one revolutionary force able to resist all attempts on the part of the imperialist-annexationist bourgeoisie.

Starting with these assumptions, the first Congress of Soviets, in June of this year, proclaimed the right of the peoples of Russia to free self-determination.

The second Congress of Soviets, in October of this year, reaffirmed this inalienable right of the peoples of Russia more decisively and definitely.

The united will of this Congresses, The Councils of the People’s Commissars, resolved to base of their activity upon the question of the nationalities of Russia, as expressed in the following principles:

1. The equality and sovereignty of the peoples of Russia.
2. The right of the peoples of Russia to free self-determination, even to the point of separation and the formation of an independent state.
3. The abolition of any and all national and national-religious privileges and disabilities.
4. The free development of national minorities and ethnographic groups inhabiting the territory of Russia.

The concrete decrees that follow from these principles will be immediately elaborated after the setting up of a Commission of Nationality Affairs.
In the name of the Russian Republic,


Trotsky’s Reply to the Menshevik-Internationalists Resolution, 24 November 1917 Top

Source: James Bunyan and H.H. Fisher. 1934. The Bolshevik Revolution 1917-1918: Documents and Materials. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press

The insurrection of the masses stands in no need of justification. What is taking place is not a conspiracy but an insurrection. We molded the revolutionary will of the Petrograd workers and soldiers….The masses gathered under our banner, and our insurrection was victorious. But what do they [the other socialists] offer us? ….To give up our victory, to compromise, and to negotiate – with whom? With whom shall we negotiate? With those miserable cliques which have left the Congress or with those who still remain? But we saw how strong those lions of workers and peasants are asked to negotiate with them on equal terms. No, an agreement will not do now. To those who have left us and to those proposing negotiations we must say: You are a mere handful, miserable, bankrupt; your role is finished, and you may go where you belong – to the garbage heap of history!

[In conclusion, Trotsky read the following resolution:]
The Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets is bound to state that the departure of the Mensheviks and the Socialist-Revolutionists is a hopeless and criminal attempt to break up the representative assembly of the workers and soldiers at a moment when the advance guard of the masses is attempting to defend the revolution against the attacks of counter-revolution. The parties who stand for agreement [with the bourgeoisie] have in the past lowered the prestige of the revolution and have hopelessly compromised themselves in the eyes of workers, soldiers, and peasants.

The compromisers have initiated and sanctioned the disastrous July offensive which brought the army and the country to the verge of ruin.

The compromisers supported a government which introduced the death penalty and betrayed the people…which broke up revolutionary organizations…and helped the bourgeoisie to starve millions of toilers.

Having lost the confidence of the masses, as a result of their previous policies…the compromisers have been making every effort to prevent the [meeting of the] Congress of Soviets. Having failed in this…they are now resorting to their last measure and are breaking with the Soviets….Their departure, however, does not weaken the Soviets. On the contrary, it gives the latter additional strength by removing from…revolution the counter-revolutionary admixture….The Second All-Russian Congress, therefore, resolves to continue its work the object of which was predetermined by the will of working people and its insurrection of November 6-7….