History sheet: The wave of revolutions in Europe 1917-1923

The Russian Revolution in February 1917

1. Russia: a weakened country
– august 1914: 170 million inhabitants, fragile industry, national income
national income is 1/3 of that of the USA
– the “land hunger” leads to revolts of misery
– czar Nicolas II put an autocracy back in place
2. The price of war in Russia
– the defeats during the 1st World War aggravated the fragility of Russia
– industry broke down, transportation was disorganized
– inert administration gave birth to spontaneous organizations to
to administer the regions
– because of the not readjusted salaries, unemployment, the strikes multiply
3. Abdication of the tsar after the February revolution
– unrest in Petrograd caused by hunger and misery from March 8 to 12
– the tsar has no more authority
– two powers are organized, one from the Duma, the other from the

The Bolshevik revolution in February-October 1917

1. Two organs of power
– the provisional government from the Duma is dominated by the bourgeois parties
bourgeois parties
– the Petrograd Soviet , born from the popular movement, gathers three
revolutionary branches
– in reality these two powers have no more authority; a conflict in March-April 1917
conflict in March-April 1917 between the Soviet and the provisional government
is dismissed
– the Soviet and Mensheviks enter a coalition government
2. The Bolshevik October Revolution
– the revolution of February 1917 breaks out when Lenin is in Switzerland, which
considers it as the necessary step for his revolution towards communism
– Lenin defends his ideas to the Bolsheviks in April 1917: “April Theses
– the militias led by the Bolsheviks take the strategic points
of the capital from October 24th to 25th for the Russian calendar, then the Winter Palace
where the government sits
– the Congress of Soviets approves the “October Revolution” and deposits the
provisional government

The Bolshevik power and its difficult maintenance from 1917 to 1921

1. The establishment of the new regime
– the new government chaired by Lenin on Nov 8, 1917 and composed of
bolsheviks including Trotsky and Stalin
– reforms taken despite an atmosphere of hostility to the Bolsheviks
– the revolution and the civil war aggravate the disorganization of
the economy and the shortages of transport
– the Bolsheviks were only a minority (25%) against the SRs of the
Soviet (58%) in the elections for the Constituent Assembly of 1918
– Lenin imposes the signature of a peace treaty in Brest-Litovsk in March
1918: Russia lost 800,000 km²
2. Russia as a “besieged citadel
– political crisis of the Bolsheviks opposing the other parties, which
– territorial splintering: the nationalities want independent states
– foreign war and civil war: the former allies of Russia
reproach it for having betrayed its commitment by signing the peace
3. War communism
– political terror: the Bolsheviks created a political police in 1917,
suppress the freedom of the press
– economic terror: “committees of poor peasants” had to monitor those who refused to
those who refuse to give their surplus grain; nationalization decrees in 1918 and
nationalizations in 1918 and 1920
– the Red Army created by Trotsky in January 1918 reached 5.5 million men
because of compulsory service; it crushed the Whites:
the Allies evacuated Russia in 1919

The extension of the revolution in Europe from 1917 to 1921

1. The Comintern
– Lenin wants to regroup all revolutionaries
– international conference on March 2, 1919 which becomes the Third International,
or Comintern
2. The wave of revolutions in Europe from 1917 to 1921
– important revolution in Germany of the “spartakists” in particular
– in Hungary the power is weakened in 1919: new government led by
by Bela Kun
– the rise in the cost of living favors the development of unions
and strikes in Western Europe: in Italy in 1920 they were accompanied by factory
with factory occupations in the Milan region
3. The failures of the revolution
– the governments of Western Europe put an end to the strikes
– in Hungary Bela Kun is defeated by famine, the disaffection of the peasants
and the intervention of Romanian troops. Another authoritarian regime
is established
– in Germany the government makes an agreement with the army and crushes
the Berlin insurrection: “Bloody Week” from January 6 to 13, 1919.
– Lenin learns from these failures: he becomes more radical and imposes strict
strict conditions for joining the Comintern

I.C. Truman Doctrine versus Jdanov Doctrine
I.B. From the Yalta conference to the Nuremberg trials