1917 Russian Revolution Causes and Events

1917 Russian Revolution Timeline

This timeline is a chronology of the causes and main events of the 1917 Russian Revolution.

NB. The dates used are those of the Julian Calendar, which was in use in Russia at the time of the Russian Revolution.

See also: Tsarist Russia 1855 – 1922
Vladimir Lenin 1870 – 1924

Causes
1905 (16th January)
The entire workforce of the Putilov Ironworks in St. Petersburg went on strike when the management refused to reinstate four workers who had been dismissed for being members of a workers’ Assembly led by Father Gapon.
1905 (22nd January)
Bloody Sunday
Father Georgy Gapon had organised a peaceful march to present a petition to Tsar Nicholas II to ask for measures to be put in place to treat the Russian people more fairly. The marchers included men, women and children carrying banners of the Tsar singing religious hymns. However, when the marchers reached the Winter Palace they were met by a line of armed Cossacks who opened fire on the demonstrators. More than 200 demonstrators were killed and more than 500 injured. Father Gapon escaped and left Russia. The event, known as Bloody Sunday sparked a series of revolts known as the 1905 Revolution.
1905 (5th September)
Russo-Japanese War
This war, which had begun in 1904, ended in defeat for Russia and the loss of land in the east.
1914 (29th July)
World War One
Ignoring all advice not to involve Russia in the war, Nicholas decided to support Serbia and declared war on Austria-Hungary.
1915 (6th September)
World War One
The war was going badly for Russia so Tsar Nicholas decided to take personal charge of the army and dismissed the Duma. Although a brave move by Nicholas he did not have sufficient military experience to turn the war to Russia’s favour and moreover made him appear wholly responsible for the continuing defeats Russia faced.
1915 (September)
Nicholas II had left his wife, Tsarina Alexandra, in charge of the government of Russia while he was at the front directing the war. Alexandra had become very close to the holy man, Rasputin, who was seen to have too much influence both on the Tsarina and the government of Russia.
1916 (during)
Over the previous 25 years, Russia had seen a period of rapid industrialisation and workers were subject to long working hours in often unsafe conditions. There was insufficient housing for workers and they were forced to live in overcrowded and insanitary conditions. The densely populated cities and general discontent led to rising support for those groups that opposed the autocratic rule of the Tsar.
1917 (January)
150,000 workers took to the streets of Petrograd (Saint Petersburg had been renamed) on the anniversary of Bloody Sunday to protest at the desperate situation many were in – lack of food, poor living conditions and Russia’s continued participation in a war that was going from bad to worse.
February Revolution
1917 (February)
Strikes and unrest continued in Petrograd amid calls for the Tsar to be overthrown.
1917 (February)
Rumours that bread would be rationed from March led to long queues at the bakers’ shops.
1917 (22nd February)
20,000 workers from the Putilov Ironworks went on strike.
1917 (23rd February)
The annual International Women’s Day march from the suburbs to the centre of Petrograd turned increasingly political as they were joined by students, Putilov strikers and other disgruntled factory workers swelling the numbers of protesters to nearly a quarter of a million people.
1917 (24th February)
People continued to demonstrate on the streets. Statues of the Tsar were toppled, people waved the red flags of the revolutionaries and called for an end to the Tsarist system. Many also sang the anthem of the French Revolution, the ‘Marseillaise’, sympathising with its call for Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.
1917 (25th February)
Protests on the streets of Petrograd continued.
1917 (26th February)
Nicholas ordered the Duma to disband but it refused to do so.
1917 (27th February)
Tsar Nicholas ordered troops onto the streets to remove protesters by force. Although some complied killing around 40 protesters, Nicholas’s move worsened the matter by inflaming the mood of the protesters even more. Moreover, around 65,000 of the soldiers ordered onto the streets were new recruits who sympathised with the masses and they simply refused to fire on the demonstrators and joined them instead.
1917 (27th February)
The Petrograd Soviet was formed, comprised mainly of Mensheviks it called for representatives of the workers to attend a meeting on 28th February.
1917 (28th February)
A meeting of the Duma discussed the future of Russia. They established a Provisional Executive Committee of The Duma and demanded that the Tsar abdicate immediately. At the same time the army generals ordered the soldiers off the streets telling them to support the Provisional Committee instead.
1917 (28th February)
Nicholas II, who was currently overseeing army manoeuvres at the front line decided to return to Petrograd. However, his train was diverted by railway workers
1917 (28th February)
The Kronstadt sailors mutinied and put pressure on the Petrograd Soviet to allow army regiments to elect committees which in turn would be able to send representatives to the Petrograd Soviet.
1917 (1st March)
The Chief of Staff, Mikhail Alexeev, put pressure on Nicholas II to resign both as head of the army and also as Tsar.
1917 (2nd March)
Nicholas II reluctantly abdicated as Tsar. He named his younger brother Mikhail as the new Tsar, a position which Mikhail refused. The Royal family were placed under virtual house arrest.
Provisional Government
1917 (2nd March)
The First Provisional government was formed, led by Prince Lvov, a member of the Kadet party.
1917 (March – May)
The new Provisional Government had set about removing all traces of Tsarist Russia amid a mood of optimism. Reforms were put in place, Tsarist sympathisers were removed and soviets were established to represent the workers and peasants. However, Prince Lvov was aware that he led a Provisional Government and that many more drastic reforms should wait to be implemented by a fully elected government. Yet this very delay in implementing reforms undermined support for the Provisional Government.
1917 (April)
Land Committees were set up to collect information regarding land ownership that would be used to implement reforms. However, the peasants did not want to wait they wanted reform now. Many simply seized property that they believed they had a right to.
1917 (3rd April)
Vladimir Lenin returned to Russia from exile.
1917 (7th April)
Lenin’s April Theses was published in the Bolshevik newspaper, Pravda. It stated:
Russia’s involvement in WWI should end immediately
The Revolution needed to move to a second stage where power was given to the proletariat and peasants
Lenin did not support the Provisional Government
The people should be persuaded that the Soviet is the only possible revolutionary government Landed estates should be confiscated
There should be a single national bank
Police, army and bureaucracy should be abolished.
Production of goods should be controlled by the soviet
International organisations should spread the revolution Worldwide
1917 (21st April)
Lenin attempted to effect a new revolution and the overthrow of the Provisional Government but only a small number of people turned out onto the streets in support.
1917 (May)
Leon Trotsky returned to Russia
1917 (May)
The Provisional Government’s failure to take Russia out of the War was an unpopular move. More importantly it led to unrest in the army and and the number of deserters increased to more than 365,000. Army generals called for more power to restore order in the ranks but the Provisional Government fearful of an army coup refused.
1917 (May to June)
The Provisional Government needed to maintain economic output but although committees were established to represent the demands of the workers, the government still allowed factory owners to decided working hours and conditions. This frustrated the workers who had hoped for improvements in their conditions and in June 175,000 workers went on strike.
1917 (9th June)
The Bolsheviks tried to effect revolution by trying to use the June Offensive on the Eastern Front to turn people against the Provisional Government. However, the Bolsheviks failed to gain the support of the Petrograd Soviet and the move failed.
1917 (2nd July)
Leon Trotsky joined the Bolsheviks, convinced that only they had the leadership to overthrow the Provisional Government.
1917 (3rd – 4th July)
July Days
There were demonstrations against the government in Petrograd. Workers were joined on the streets by soldiers and the Kronstadt sailors calling for power to be given to the Soviets.
1917 (4th July)
Prince Lvov resigned, unable to control the liberals and socialists within the Provisional government.
1917 (5th July)
The Government blamed the July Days uprising on Bolshevik leaders and many, including Trotsky, were arrested. Lenin escaped to Finland.
1917 (16th July)
Kornilov was appointed Commander of the Russian troops.
1917 (18th July)
The Socialist Alexander Kerensky became Prime Minister.
1917 (26th – 30th August)
General Kornilov called for tough measures to restore discipline in the army and to increase economic output. However, although these measures would have helped to restore order they went against the spirit of the Provisional Government. With much of Petrograd at a standstill following the July Days, Kornilov called for martial law to be established in the city. Kerensky refused and fearing an attempted takeover by Kornilov called on the Kronstadt sailors to come to his defence. He also agreed to arm the Bolshevik ‘Red Guards’ so that they could defend the city. Kornilov’s troops travelled by train to Petrograd but railway workers stopped the trains and persuaded the soldiers to desert.
1917 (1st September)
Kornilov was arrested.
1917 (September)
Kerensky was persuaded to release those Bolsheviks that had been imprisoned following the July Days.
1917 (September)
Leon Trotsky became leader of the Petrograd Soviet. He worked closely with Vladimir Lenin to plan a Bolshevik takeover.
1917 (September)
Throughout the late Summer and early September support for the Bolsheviks had grown and by the end of September had reached 200,000.
1917 (7th October)
Lenin returned to Petrograd.
October Revolution
1917 (9th October)
The Bolsheviks established a Military Revolutionary Committee led by Trotsky
1917 (10th October)
Lenin attended a meeting of the Bolshevik Central Committee and called for a Bolshevik Revolution
1917 (24th October)
Armed workers, Bolshevik Red Guards and the Kronstadt sailors occupied key buildings around the city of Petrograd.
1917 (25th October)
Alexander Kerensky left Petrograd in disguise bound for the front line. The remaining members of the Provisional Government met in the Winter Palace and were still there when armed Bolshevik supporters entered the Palace. They were all arrested.
1917 (26th October)
A congress of Soviets was held which appointed the first Soviet government and appointed Lenin as Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars. Joseph Stalin was made Commissar for Nationalities and Leon Trotsky was made People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs.
1917 (27th October)
The Bolsheviks continued to gain control of towns and cities.
1917 (28th, 29th October)
Led by Kerensky, the Provisional Government’s Cossacks and officer cadets advanced on Petrograd.
1917 (30th October)
Kerensky’s force were defeated by a large force of Red Guards at Pulkovo Heights on the outskirts of Petrograd.
1917 (31st October)
After a week long battle, the Bolsheviks gained control of Moscow.
1917 (10th November)
The Bolshevik government declared that all people of Russia were now ‘citizens of the Russian Republic’.
1917 (12th November)
The election that had been promised by the Provisional Government after the February Revolution took place. The Socialist Revolutionaries received the most votes but they were not a fully united party. They were split between the left Socialist Revolutionaries who supported Lenin and joined him in forming a coalition government and the moderate Socialist Revolutionaries led by Viktor Chernov.
1917 (November)
Alexander Kerensky rallied those loyal to the Provisional Government and there was fighting between the two factions especially around Moscow. However, Lenin agreed to talk to other party members and Kerensky lost much support. He eventually fled firstly to France and then to the USA.
1917 (2nd December)
Lenin created the Supreme Council of National Economy (Vesenkha). His aim was to bring the economy under central government control.
1917 (6th December)
The Cheka (secret police) was established. Its main purpose was to arrest, imprison and execute opponents to Lenin.
1917 (14th December)
Lenin used the Red Army to take control of all the banks.
1918 (January)
Lenin changed the name of the Bolshevik party to the Russian Communist Party.
1918 (3rd March)
Treaty of Brest-Litovsk
The signing of this treaty ended Russian involvement in World War One. The signing of the treaty also ended the left Socialist Revolutionary’s support of Lenin.
1918 (April)
Lenin’s government was facing opposition from a number of forces collectively known as the ‘White’ forces. Based in the south, they had been led by Kornilov but following his death were led by Deniken. Another ‘White’ force led by General Yudenich were forming near Petrograd.
1918 (17th July)
The Romanov family were executed and buried in shallow graves.
1918 (September)
Lenin introduced the Gulag system of labour camps to contain opponents of his regime.
1919 (during)
Civil War continued in Russia for the next three years.
1922 (29th December)
The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) was created. It comprised the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, the Ukrainian Social Republic, the Belorussian Soviet Socialist Republic and the Transcaucasian Soviet Socialist Republic.

 

Published Apr 3, 2020 @ 1:00 pm – Updated – Aug 14, 2020 @ 1:07 pm

Harvard Reference for this page:

Heather Y Wheeler. (2020). 1917 Russian Revolution Causes and Events. Available: https://www.totallytimelines.com/1917-russian-revolution-causes-and-events. Last accessed October 26th, 2020