The Women Who Jump-Started the Russian Revolution in 1917

In 1917, a Russian Revolution was ignited not by heroes, but by spirited women celebrating Women's Day. Amidst World War I chaos and a comically dysfunctional monarchy, the Bolsheviks seized power in a rather unheroic uprising, culminating in the fall of the Provisional Government.

The Women Who Jump-Started the Russian Revolution in 1917
Women march for their rights on Women's Day, setting the stage for the Russian Revolution of 1917 in Petrograd.

In the land of vodka, bears, and endless winters, something extraordinary unfolded on the crisp morning of March 8, 1917 (or February 23 in the old calendar used back then). It wasn't the kind of spectacle you'd expect from a revolution; no dramatic battles, no grand speeches, just a group of fed-up women causing quite a ruckus. Yes, you read that right, dear history buffs, the Russian Revolution was kindled not by some swashbuckling hero but by a troop of fiery, resolute women celebrating Women's Day. Move over, Lenin, it's time to meet the real heroes – the ladies who kick-started the revelry!

Picture it: Russia, the early 20th century. The country was in turmoil, caught up in the throes of World War I. Millions had perished on the front lines, Austro-German forces were making themselves comfy from Warsaw to the outskirts of Riga. The train tracks and trade routes were about as sturdy as a house of cards in a hurricane. The Russian Empire was on the brink of collapse, and the good people of Petrograd weren't thrilled about it.

Enter Women's Day. The women of Petrograd, who had a knack for seeing through the haze of political nonsense, decided it was time someone did something about it. So, they took to the streets in droves, demanding change and equality. This fiery protest set the stage for what would become a seismic shift in Russian history.

But it wasn't just the war and discontent that led to the downfall of the monarchy; it was also a series of bizarre and ludicrous events. A ministerial “game of chairs” that made musical chairs look like child's play, an illiterate peasant healer at the royal court, and the dramatic saga of Grigory Rasputin, who seemingly defied death with every poison, bullet, and drowning attempt. It was like a soap opera set in the 19th century, complete with melodramatic nobles and Rasputin's resilience, which could rival any superhero.

As if that weren't enough, Russia had institutions like the Duma, political parties, zemstvos (an institution of local government), and a committee of industrialists who were all itching for change. They were like the eager understudies, just waiting for their moment in the spotlight as the old regime stumbled and bumbled through the 20th century's realities.

This “February Revolution” – so named to distinguish it from the later “October Revolution” – gave birth to a peculiar dual power structure in Petrograd. On one side, you had the Provisional Government, a colorful mix of parliament deputies trying to hold the fort. On the other, there was the capital Soviet – a Council of workers, peasants, and soldiers that emerged from the Russian social landscape, but had its roots in the 1905 Revolution. According to Lenin, who had a way with words, the Soviet held the real power while the Provisional Government twiddled their parliamentary thumbs.

The Bolsheviks seize power in Petrograd with minimal resistance, entering the Winter Palace through a side door.
The Bolsheviks seize power in Petrograd with minimal resistance, entering the Winter Palace through a side door.

By November 1917, the Provisional Government led by Alexander Kérensky was running on fumes. It didn't help that they decided to keep the war effort going, leading to a colossal failure on the Austrian front and massive anti-war protests in Petrograd. The government's response? A good ol' dose of repression, which only distanced them further from the very people they were meant to represent. Talk about a revolutionary embarrassing error.

Then there was General Lavr Kornilov's misguided attempt to seize power in August, claiming he wanted to “bring order.” The Bolsheviks swooped in to save the day, and Kérensky even gave them some handy weapons. Little did he know he was arming his downfall.

With the majority of the Soviet delegates firmly in Bolshevik hands, the stage was set for a grand finale. The Bolsheviks saw their chance to take the Revolution to the next level and secure their position in the upcoming Congress of Soviets and Constituent Assembly elections. It was time to make a move.

On October 25 (November 7 in the calendar you actually use), the Bolsheviks launched their uprising. But this wasn't some epic battle; it was more like a heist in the making. The Winter Palace, where the Provisional Government was huddled, was about as fortified as a cardboard box, and the rebels waltzed right in through a side door. They had their priorities straight, too, targeting telegraph stations, railroad stations, and the State Bank, all while snipping telephone cables and blocking bridges. It was a heist movie waiting to happen.

And there you have it – the dramatic, and downright bizarre origins of the Russian Revolution. It may not have been a Hollywood blockbuster, but it sure was one heck of a show. Who knew that Women's Day could kick off a revolution that would change the course of history? Cheers to the unsung heroines and the absurdity of it all!

In-Text Citation: Franco, Rainer Matos. ‘A 100 Años de La Revolución de Octubre En Rusia | Rainer Matos Franco’. Revista de La Universidad de México, Accessed 25 Sept. 2023.