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  • Cited by 3
  • Print publication year: 2006
  • Online publication date: March 2008

4 - The revolutions of 1917–1918

from Part I - Russia and the Soviet Union: The Story through Time


On 23 February 1917 thousands of female textile workers and housewives took to the streets of Petrograd to protest against the bread shortage and to mark International Women's Day. Their protest occurred against a background of industrial unrest and their demonstration quickly drew in workers. The leaders of the revolutionary parties were taken by surprise at the speed with which the protests gathered momentum, but experienced activists, who included Bolsheviks, anti-war Socialist Revolutionaries and non-aligned Social Democrats, gave direction to the movement in the working class districts. The two forces that brought down the monarchy, the movement of workers and soldiers and the middle-class parliamentary opposition, became institutionalised in the post-revolutionary political order. Liberty and democracy were the watchwords of the February Revolution. The political awareness of the peasantry was low, but historians often exaggerate the cultural and political isolation of the village. The Bolshevik seizure of power is often presented as a conspiratorial coup against a democratic government.
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