October Revolution in Russia

The Great War

Europe 1917.1107

October Revolution in Russia

World War I in Europe and the Russian Revolution (7 November 1917)

Historical Map of Europe & the Mediterranean

Following the failure of the Kerensky Offensive in July 1917, both left- and right-wing factions vied for power in the weakened Russian state. On November 7 (October 25 in the Russian calendar of the time), Vladimir Lenin and his revolutionary Bolshevik party seized power in Petrograd, the capital, and overthrew the government. Simultaneously the Bolsheviks launched armed insurrections across Russia.

Main Events

July Days

Soldiers, sailors, and industrial workers rose up in Petrograd, capital of Russia, in a week of spontaneous armed demonstrations against the Russian Provisional Government. Blaming the Bolsheviks for the events, the Provisional Government cracked down on the Bolshevik Party, arresting many of its members and causing the party to disperse. In the wake of this suppression, prominent Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin fled to Finland, while Leon Trotsky was among those arrested.

Battle of Passchendaele

Fifty British and six French divisions launched an attack on the German-occupied ridges south and east of Ypres, Belgium. After a long and bloody campaign in which both sides lost several hundred thousand men, the Allies succeeded in taking Passchendaele - not even 10 km east of original front - in early November.

Battle of Jugla

Troops of the Russian 12th Army holding positions along the river Mazā Jugla attempted to halt the advance of the German 8th Army on Riga. After a three-day battle, helped by superior artillery and aviation, the Germans forced the position , capturing Riga as the Russians withdrew to Vidzeme.

Kornilov Affair

When Aleksander Kerensky, head of the Russian Provisional Government, requested the support of Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Army, General Lavr Kornilov, against the radical Petrograd army garrison (it was under the control of the Bolshevik-influenced Petrograd Soviet of Soldiers' and Workers' Deputies), Kornilov marched on Petrograd. Concerned that Kornilov intended to overthrow his government and establish a military dictatorship, Kerensky provided weapons to the Soviet forces to defeat him. Kornilov's mutiny soon collapsed as his soldiers deserted him, leading to his arrest and imprisonment. However, his failure left the Bolsheviks armed and empowered.

Russian Republic

On 14 September (1 September Old Style) 1917, with the suppression of Kornilov's coup attempt, Russian Minister-President Alexander Kerensky and Minister of Justice Alexander Zarudny signed a decree proclaiming the Russian Republic. This act formally ended both the monarchy and the Russian Provisional Government, although the latter continued to operate while the form of the future government was resolved. However, the new republic would last less than two months before being overthrown by the Bolsheviks, who Kerensky had armed to defeat Kornilov.

Operation Albion

After its navy cleared mines and subdued coastal batteries, Germany landed troops at the Tagalaht, a bay on Saaremaa in the Russian-ruled Estonian islands, on 12 October 1917. Additional forces landed on the northern island of Hiiumaa two days later. From 16-19 October the German navy defeated the Russian Baltic Fleet in the Battle of Moon Sound, after which the Russians withdrew their remaining land and naval forces from the islands.

Battle of Caporetto

The Austro-Hungarians, supported for the first time by German troops, broke through Italian lines along the northern Isonzo near the town of Kobarid (then in Austria but now in Slovenia and called Caporetto in Italian). The attackers used a combination of new stormtrooper tactics and poison gas to rout the Italians, forcing them to retreat more than 100 km in the direction of Venice. In all, the Italians suffered about 300,000 casualties - of which 250,000 were as prisoners - and lost virtually all their artillery.

October Revolution

On 7 November (25 October Old Style) 1917, Bolshevik Red Guards, led by Leon Trotsky, mounted an armed insurrection in Petrograd, capital of the Russian Republic, capturing several government buildings. The following day they seized the Winter Palace, the seat of Alexander Kerensky's Provisional Government. The Bolsheviks declared a new government, the Council of People's Commissars, with Vladimir Lenin as its head. Simultaneously and over the following days, other Bolshevik uprisings took place in towns and cities across Russia.

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