BBC Bitesize - Long-term Causes of the Russian Revolution
Long-term causes of the Russian Revolution
Naturally, the Bolshevik government did all it could to spread the revolution. Red Guards were sent from Petrograd, Moscow and other cities; sailors were sent from the Baltic and, to a lesser extent, the Black Sea fleets. The Baltic sailors from Kronstadt and Helsinki not only played a key role in the October uprising but were an invaluable resource in the early stages of the civil war. Army units were sent when they could be used, but this was increasingly rarely. The only Army units that could be taken over and used as first class troops throughout the civil war were the Latvian riflemen. Latvia was one of the most industrialised regions of the Russian Empire with, consequently, a high proportion of workers. The Latvian Social Democratic Workers’ Party (LSDSP) had sided with the Bolsheviks against the Mensheviks within the All Russian Social Democracy from 1905 onwards. In the course of 1917, a large number of the 40,000 men of the Latvian Riflemen Division came over to the Bolsheviks.
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It was obvious that reaction was building momentum. The SRs, comprising 2 out of 5 of what was supposed to be Russia’s governing directorate, were treated with contempt. Czechoslovak representatives approached the SR leaders, offering to clear out the reactionaries. The SR leaders, blinded by their constitutionalism, even under threat from monarchist reaction, declined. In the late hours of November 17, the inevitable occurred. The SRs were arrested, and the government was reorganised under the new Supreme Ruler of Russia (but only temporarily, of course!) Admiral Kolchak. Eventually, the SRs were set free and allowed to leave and none of them was shot, probably in an effort to look good in front of the Allied representatives who were bankrolling the counterrevolution.