Lenin and Trotsky in the Russian Revolution

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Lenin and Trotsky in the Russian Revolution

APlan of Investigation

To What Extent Was Vladimir Lenin Responsible for the Downfall of the Tsarist Regime, and Subsequently the Provisional Government?

The aim of this investigation is to determine the reasons that Vladimir “Lenin” Ulyanov was responsible for the downfall of the Tsarist Regime, and subsequently the provisional government in 1917. The investigation focuses on Lenin’s newspaper, The Pravda, Lenin’s eloquent speaking in St. Petersburg, and his leadership during the “November Revolution”[1] in 1917 in St. Petersburg (known as Petrograd at the time of the aforementioned revolution). Additionally, in the section entitled Evaluation of Sources, two of the sources used for this investigation, Lenin and the Russian Revolutions, and Lenin: The Man who made a Revolution, are evaluated with regards to their origins, purposes, values, and limitations.

BSummary of Evidence

On October 25th, 1917 (Old Julian Style Calendar, equates to November 7th 1917 on the Gregorian Calendar), Vladimir “Antonov-Oseenko burst into a small room where the ministers [of the provisional government] were sitting,”[2] and “declared that in the name of the ‘Military Revolutionary Committee of the Petrograd Soviet’ he was placing them all under arrest.”[3] This decisive action officially ended the “November Revolution”[4] of the Communist uprising in Russia, in which Vladimir Lenin played a large, important role, and which would lead to the creation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.).

In October of 1908, the first edition of Lenin’s newspaper, Pravda, was published.[5] This newspaper contributed to the spreading of Bolshevik idealisms, especially after “the offices of the newspaper were transferred to Moscow on March 3rd, 1918.”[6] Lenin “exercised broad editorial control over the paper”[7] which provided articles on contemporary society, economics, and cultural topics, “in addition to materials meant to indoctrinate and inform readers of Communist theories and programs.”[8] Throughout the 1900’s, as the influence of the Pravda grew in Russia, it “began to convince many of the validity of Communism,”[9] and as Lenin was its editor, (and a contributor to many of the philosophical articles[10]) he was directly responsible for its growth, which in turn increased the appeal of Communism to the masses (in Russia).

Ever since the start of his career in public speaking, Vladimir Lenin was always recognized as having a natural talent for it. An example of this was his speech at the Petrograd Soviet, just prior to the arrest of the council members of the provisional government, in which he assuaged the fears of the Soviet members, and reassured them that the future was indeed theirs for the taking.[11] In addition to his eloquent public speaking, Lenin’s writing was extremely persuasive as well, as is demonstrated in various letters and articles which he wrote during his life to help further the Bolshevik cause. Lenin’s writing has been described as “eloquent, and clearly written…convincing, even to one not well-versed in Communist literature.”[12] His persuasive writing was a large contribution to the Bolshevik party, as it helped convert many to their views. This in turn contributed to the downfall of the Tsarists (and later, the provisional government) by turning the populace against them.

During the November Revolution of 1917, Lenin provided the Bolsheviks with “an appealing vision of a socialist utopia,”[13] called The State and Revolution. In this “primitive, simplistic picture of the future,”[14] Lenin states that

We are being confronted by problems that cannot be solved by conferences or congresses, even Congresses of Soviets, but exclusively by the people, by the masses, by the struggle of the armed masses!…We must not wait! History will not forgive the revolutionaries for procrastinating when they can be victorious today![15]

This extract from the aforementioned pamphlet demonstrates Lenin’s persuasive writing, as well as the leadership that he lent to the Bolshevik movement during this critical time in the Communist uprising. Also, the “problems” which he is referring to are the poor governing choices made by the provisional government (led by Alexander Kerensky).[16]

After extensive planning with Leon Trotsky and Joseph Stalin (as well as several other key members of the Bolshevik party), Lenin decided “that the precise moment to strike at the provisional government had come.”[17] As described by a Russian newspaper reporter named Sukhanov, “The stations, bridges, installations, and telegraphs were gradually occupied by small forces brought from the barracks…Not one casualty was recorded.”[18] After this, the provisional government was forced to hide in the former Tsar’s Winter Palace, and the Bolsheviks took control of the government. “Communism had finally taken over Petrograd.”[19]

CEvaluation of Sources

Lenin: The Man Who Made A Revolution is an objective biography of Vladimir Lenin, and was written in 1969 by Israel Levine. Its purpose is to provide the reader with a detailed account of Vladimir Lenin’s life (from birth to death) as well as his revolutionary activities with the Bolsheviks. These revolutionary activities obviously include his part in the downfall of the Tsarist regime, as well as that of the provisional government, which makes this biography valuable to a reader who is searching for information in that area. In addition to this value, the novel is also written by a respected minister of public relations in the U.S. government, and as such, is a reputable source of information for any researcher. This document is limited however, in that it was published in 1969, which was before the release of many Soviet documents which relate to Lenin, and the Communist Revolution.[20]

The second document, Lenin and the Russian Revolutions, is a collection of primary documents compiled by F.W. Stacey, and published in 1972. The purpose of this document is to provide readers with a look at many interesting and informative primary documents written by a diverse range of people from Russia in the early 20th century. This group includes Lenin, Stalin, Trotsky, and Kerensky. This document is valuable to a researcher due to it being a primary document, and containing many personal letters and documents written by key leaders and oppositional leaders of the Communist Revolution. Unfortunately, this document is limited because it is essentially a series of disjointed documents linked only by a brief introduction at the start of each of the 8 chapters. As such, the reader might not be able to properly grasp the context in which the documents were written.


Vladimir Lenin is often portrayed as a hero of the Soviet Union, with his trademark goatee, and his slightly flattened nose.[21] This makes it imperative to remember that there must be objectivity in a biographical account, wherein The Man Who Made a Revolution is somewhat lacking in comparison to Lenin and the Russian Revolutions. Levine (The Man…) displays Vladimir Lenin as a hero, with little or no vices or faults, whereas Stacey (The Russian Revolutions) takes a completely objective view; simply stating the facts in her introduction paragraphs.

Lenin’s newspaper can be looked at in two ways, which are perfectly demonstrated by Levine’s and Stacey’s conflicting views, as a normal (albeit slightly biased) publication, or as propaganda (Levine’s and Stacey’s views respectively). While both viewpoints have valid reasoning, but it seems that the more prevalent of the two theories currently is the latter. It is well known that the Tsarists, and later the provisional government officials saw the Pravda as nothing but “Communist garbage, poisoning the minds of innocent civilians,”[22] which is appropriate, when one considers the fact that the newspaper played a major role in bringing about the end to both of their regimes.

Lenin’s moving speeches and persuasive writing are often given credit for a large portion of the bolstering of the Bolsheviks’ ranks with new converts during the late 1910’s.[23] This is supported by numerous sources, including firsthand accounts written by some of the people in his audience at the speech that he gave upon his arrival in Petrograd in 1917.[24] On This occasion, he says

Dear comrades, soldiers, sailors and workers! I greet you as the vanguard of the world proletarian army…Any day we shall see the collapse of European imperialism. The Russian revolution you have made has prepared the way and opened a new epoch. Long live the world socialist revolution!

In making this speech, Lenin “[turned] contemptuously away from the officials of the Petrograd Soviet’s pleas for support towards the provisional government”[25] and “had managed to hypnotize the crowd, so that they were willing to do his bidding.”[26] His bidding of course, consisted of dismantling the provisional government, which would indeed happen in the following months.

During the fateful November Revolution in Petrograd, Lenin worked with other leading members of the Bolshevik party to oust the provisional government from their position, laying plans which later culminated in the arrest of the government officials by Antonov-Oseenko on October 25th (November 7th on the Gregorian calendar). Lenin’s return “signaled a mass influx of exiles back to Russia,”[27] among them Trotsky, and Stalin. The plans also pivoted on Trotsky, the newly elected Chairman of the Petrograd Soviet,[28] and on his influence with other members of the Soviet. Essentially, Lenin was a behind-the-scenes director, staying hidden from the public eye for the most part, but when necessary, inspiring his comrades with speeches and readings from his literature.[29]

All three of these factors led to Lenin’s responsibility for the downfall of the Tsarist regime, and provisional government, and freely admitted it, saying, “We, the Bolshevik Party snatched Russia from the rich for the poor, from the exploiters for the toilers. We must now govern it.” This quotation shows that Lenin’s plan from the very beginning was never to support the provisional government, but to overthrow them.


Though there were other major ‘players’ in the Communist Revolution in Russia in 1917, Vladimir Lenin was undoubtedly the most recognized, and some would say, the most important. Through his newspaper, the Pravda, his eloquent speaking, and persuasive writing, and his infallible leadership during the November Revolution, he did indeed cause the downfall of both the Tsarist regime, and the provisional government. The Tsarists never tried to reason with the Bolsheviks, and even though the provisional government did, it did not grant them Lenin’s goodwill, and they fell just the same. This is “Lenin’s most recognized achievement, the one for which his name is known, and that is how he would want it to be.”[30]


  • Subject:

  • University/College: University of Chicago

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 13 October 2016

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