SocialismToday           Socialist Party magazine

Issue 206 March 2017

Russian revolution timeline

March 1917

This is the second in a series of timelines commemorating the centenary. Dates are given in the old style Julian calendar used in Russia at the time. This was 13 days earlier than the Gregorian calendar (adopted in Russia in 1918).

Anger and desperation at poverty, hunger and starvation, and the horrors of the first world war culminated in the February revolution – triggered when women workers took strike action in the capital, Petrograd. Workers’ and soldiers’ soviets (councils) were set up, forming city/province wide bodies in Petrograd and Moscow. Still led by the right-wing socialists, the Mensheviks, and the peasant-based Social Revolutionaries, they initially tried to reach an accommodation with the now powerless tsarist-era Duma (parliament). Real power was within reach of the masses. Vladimir Ulyanov (Lenin) and Leon Trotsky remained in exile, in Switzerland and the USA respectively.

March 1917

1: The Petrograd Soviet passes Order No.1 for the election of officers by rank-and-file soldiers.

3: Tsar Nicholas II abdicates. The Provisional Government is inaugurated.

5: The Bolsheviks’ paper, Pravda (Truth), is published in Russia for the first time since it was banned under the tsar in July 1914.

6: The Petrograd Soviet creates the Contact Commission to liaise with the Provisional Government. The government declares an amnesty for political prisoners.

8: The Provisional Government refuses to allow independence for Finland.

9: The US recognises the Provisional Government, followed two days later by France, Britain and Italy – on assurances that Russia continues the war.

12: Lev Kamenev and Joseph Stalin return to Petrograd from exile in Siberia. They take the reins of the Bolshevik Party, shifting its editorial line to the right. The death penalty is abolished.

14: Leon Trotsky, Natalya Sedova and their sons, Lev and Sergei, leave New York but, on the 17th, British authorities hold their ship in Nova Scotia. The Petrograd Soviet declares for peace in the first world war.

15: Moscow general strike begins for the eight-hour working day.

17: The Provisional Government refuses independence for Poland.

19: The Provisional Government condemns land seizures by peasants.

20: Trotsky is arrested (uncharged) and denied legal rights by the British authorities. He is held in a prison camp for captured Germany sailors. His family is placed under guard. The Provisional Government lifts the tsarist restrictions on (non-Christian Orthodox) religions and on languages.

27: The Provisional Government declares it will continue the war ‘in defence’ of Russia.

29: All-Russia Conference of Soviets is held in Petrograd.

Late March: Alexandra Kollontai arrives in Petrograd. Lenin, Zinoviev and 17 other Bolsheviks leave Switzerland for the Russian capital.

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