February Revolution in 1917 overthrew the Tsarist autocracy and established a provisional government in Russia composed predominantly of former nobles and aristocrats. In April 1917, Lenin and other revolutionaries returned to Russia from exile. Lenin galvanized the small and theretofore cautious Bolshevik party into action. The courses he advocated were simplified into the powerful slogans “end the war,””all land to the peasants,” and “all power to the soviets.”
The provisional government and the Menshevik and Socialist Revolutionary leaders in the soviet lost support from the impatient soldiers and workers, who turned to the Bolsheviks. Although the Bolsheviks were a minority in the first all-Russian congress of soviets (June), they continued to gain influence. Conservative and even some moderate elements, who wished to limit the power of the soviets, rallied around General Kornilov, who attempted to seize Petrograd by force. At Kerensky’s request, the Bolsheviks and other socialists came to the defense of the provisional government and the attempt was put down. From mid-September on the Bolsheviks had a majority in the Petrograd soviet, and Lenin urged the soviet to seize power.
On the night of Nov. 6, the Bolsheviks staged an coup, engineered by Trotsky; aided by the workers’ Red Guard and the sailors of Kronstadt, they captured the government buildings and the Winter Palace in Petrograd. A second all-Russian congress of soviets met and approved the coup after the Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries walked out of the meeting. A cabinet, known as the Council of People’s Commissars, was set up with Lenin as chairman, Trotsky as foreign commissar, Rykov as interior commissar, and Stalin as commissar of nationalities.
The second congress immediately called for cessation of hostilities, gave private and church lands to village soviets, and abolished private property. Old marriage and divorce laws were discarded, the church was attacked, workers’ control was introduced into the factories, the banks were nationalized, and a supreme economic council was formed to run the economy. October revolution was followed by civil war finally leading to the creation of ‘Soviet Union’.