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Rex A. Wade, The Russian Revolution, 1917 (Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press, 2000) Study Questions

Week 3

Pages 53-231

Navigation Links for this page:

Chapter 3        Chapter 4        Chapter 5        Chapter 6        Chapter 7        Chapter 8


Chapter 3.  Political realignment and the new political system

According to Wade....

What will be the main point of this chapter?

What three aspects of political realignment are critical to understanding politics in 1917?

What political groupings constituted the dominant political coalitions in February-September 1917?  What was the February System?

How did Provisional government members understand the new government's functions?  How did they distinguish between "state" and "government" and why is that important?

Why was the idea of the Constituent Assembly so important to the Provisional Government and the February System?  what were the consequences?

Why didn't the Provisional government create a strong administration?

What forces/factors limited the Provisional government's ability to enforce its policies?

What popular institutions in particular challenged the government's authority?  Explain.

What was the actual power relationship between the government and the Petrograd Soviet?

Was the Provisional government really a single government?  Explain.

Realignment on the right

In what sense (and why) did the February Revolution turn liberals into conservatives?

What eight shared beliefs united the "old liberals/new conservatives" (see pp. 58-59)?

What two issues divided the liberals?  Explain the difference between the positions taken by Miliukov and the "rightists" and those taken by Lvov and the "center-right" on the issue of the war and the issue of cooperation with the soviets.

Which bloc dominated the Provisional government--the rightist (Miliukov) group, or the center-right (Lvov) group?  What about the world-view of Lvov and co. made cooperation with the moderate socialists possible?

What became of the traditional conservatives after the February revolution and why did the socialists continue to fear the "bourgeois right"?


What did the word "soviet" actually mean (see p. 64, note)?

Why was there initially no clear leadership in the Petrograd Soviet?

What two basic viewpoints existed among socialists regarding the role of the soviets in "power" or "authority" (the Russian term is vlast')?  In particular, what role did most Mensheviks see for the soviets and why?

Realignment on the left: the moderate socialists

Were the "old" divisions between Mensheviks, Bolsheviks, and SRs the crucial dividing lines in left politics in 1917?  Explain.

What personal role did Tsereteli play in the rise of the moderate socialist bloc?

What was Tsereteli's position on war and peace?  What was Revolutionary Defensism?

What were some of the common characteristics of the moderate socialist/revolutionary defensist leaders?

Explain the nine (9) key positions that characterized the moderate socialist position in 1917 (see pp. 71-72).

Was moderate socialist influence confined to Petrograd?  Explain.

Realignment on the left: the radical socialists

What were the five main points of Lenin's "April Thesis"?  Why did Lenin's positions outrage the moderate socialists, and did all Bolsheviks initially agree with Lenin?

What nine (9) positions of Lenin's were adopted by the Bolsheviks at their April party conference that defined Bolshevism in 1917 (see pp. 74-75)?

Was Lenin's program widely popular in Spring 1917?  Why was it strategically so important?

Were the Bolsheviks the only party on the radical left?  What factors limited the success of other radical left parties?

Kerensky and the centrist coalition

What characterized Kerensky's personality and politics?  What suited him to be "the essential man," the leader of the political "center"?

What role did Kerensky play in the Provisional government?  Why was he so popular?

What factors made possible a "working alliance" of the center-left and center-right blocs?  On what issues did they agree on principle?  What did the leaders of these blocs have in common (especially regarding their views on the war and on the importance of the revolution)?

What is meant by the term "dual authority" (in Russian, dvoevastie), and what aspects of socialist ideology and politics made the center-left/center-right coalition inherently unstable?

Explain the controversy over the "Miliukov Note" and why it led to creation of a coalition government. 

    What was Miliukov's position on the war and what was the Soviet's position?

    What was Tsereteli's strategy for peace and what did Miliukov think of the Soviet peace platform?

    What position regarding the war did the Soviet leadership adopt and "push" on the government in late March?

    What was the substance of Miliukov's 18 April note to the Allies and why did it trigger mass demonstrations?

    What was the result of the April Crisis?  What elements of the relationship between the government and the Soviet was revealed to be highly unstable as a result?

    Why was there support for a coalition government that included Soviet leaders at the end of April, whereas the socialists had opposed this in March?

    Who joined the coalition government in May 1917, and what "intractable dilemma" did joining the government create for the moderate socialist leadership?

    What is the thesis of this chapter?


Chapter 4.  The aspirations of Russian society

Did the initial enthusiasm for the revolution really mean that all social problems could be solved and all social tensions resolved?  Explain.

What is Wade's aim in this chapter?  What social groups will be examined?

The urban workers

What percentage of the population did workers constitute?  Why were their goals and actions so important during the revolution?

What general aspirations did workers share regarding A) the economy and the workplace (e.g., regarding the 8-hour day, wages, and work conditions); and B) broad social and political issues (e.g., the war, the authority of the Provisional government)?

What role did the soviets have in fostering workers' sense of class and political consciousness?

Explain the differences between the roles and functions of the following workers' institutions and demands:  factory committees, workers' supervision, trade unions, district soviets, Red Guards and workers' militias, and zemliachestva

What did workers mean by workers' supervision (in Russian, kontrol'), why did the moderate socialists oppose this demand, and what were the political consequences?

What factors radicalized workers' institutions like factory committees and Red Guards?

What other kinds of organizations did workers form and why?

In what sense did the working class "broaden" in 1917 and why?

What were differences between the common characteristics and roles/functions in the workers' movement of  worker-leaders and socialist intellectuals?

What issues and factors pushed workers toward the radical socialists in summer and fall 1917?

Were workers politically passive?  Politically completely autonomous?  Explain?

What did workers expect out of the revolution and how does this help us understand their movement toward the radical (left) socialists in summer and fall 1917?

Soldiers and sailors

Why were soldiers and sailors so important to the fate of the revolution?

What three sets of soldiers' aspirations does Wade discuss?

What changes in the nature of military service did soldiers demand in 1917?

What was Order Number One and why was it so important?  What three major changes did it produce?  Was it applied only in Petrograd?  Explain.

Why did front line soldiers come to support revolutionary defensism?  Did they want to lose the war  To desert?  To fight to win?  Explain.

Did front soldiers trust their senior officers? Explain.  What about their junior officers?

What did soldiers want the government to do for their families and why?

What kinds of organizations did soldiers form?  What were the roles and functions of the soldiers' committees?

Who led the soldiers' committees?  Was the "lower" committee leadership the same as the "higher" committee leadership?  Explain.

What social tensions existed between soldiers and officers and how did the revolution affect these tensions?

Could officers really enforce discipline in 1917?  Explain.

What groups of soldiers and sailors had reputations as extremely radical and why?

Why was support from the soldiers' committees so important to the political parties?

The Middle Classes

What percentage of the urban population did the middle classes account for?  Were they strongly unified?  What three sub-groups of the middle classes does Wade discuss?

What about the revolution frightened the upper-middle class?  How did the business elite respond to the radicalization of workers in 1917, and what was the effect?

What did the business elite contribute to the revolution?

What did the professional strata contribute tot he revolution?  What in general characterized their politics?

What were the basic aspirations of the lower-middle class?  What factors radicalized these elements, and why did so many members of the lower middle class come to identify themselves with the working class?  Why was that politically important?


What new opportunities did the war create for women?  What new burdens?  How about the revolution--what opportunities and burdens did it create?

What was the feminist "agenda" in 1917, and what political gains did women make during the revolution?

Were most socialist women feminists?  Explain.  What was the general socialist approach to gender issues?

Did the Bolsheviks shy away from mobilizing women?  Were they "pro-feminist"?  Explain.

What roles did women play in the political party organizations?

Did peasant women and women workers organize around "women's issues"?  Explain.

Why were women workers tend to be more "defensive" in their strike activity?

How and for what did soldiers' wives organize in 1917?

Did women serve in the army in 1917?  Explain.

What is Wade's main point regarding women's issues in 1917?

Did youth organize in 1917?  Explain.

Did the Russian Orthodox (Christian) Church organize politically in 1917?  Explain.

What is the thesis of this chapter?


Chapter 5

What were the two main aspirations of the peasantry in 1917?

What will be the main point of this chapter?

What kinds of measures did peasants take to assert "control over their lives and affairs"?  What forms of institutions and organizations did they create for this purpose?

Explain how the village committees generally worked.

Explain the nature of peasant committees formed "above" the village level.  How did they differ from the village committees?

What did the Provisional government think about the grass-roots peasant organizations and why?

What was the main aim of the government's food supply programs in regard to peasants?  What  were peasants main aims in regard to food supply?  How and why did these two sets of interests clash, and how did the peasantry respond to government programs for requisition and price controls?

Explain the difference between the approaches of the Provisional government and the peasantry in regard to land redistribution.

Did all political parties agree on the questions of land redistribution?  Explain.  Even within individual political parties, was there agreement on this matter?  Explain.

What were the Land Committees, from what groups were they composed (at first, at least), and did they "solve" the land problem?  

How did peasants respond to government foot-dragging on the issue of land reform?

What different types of peasant direct action does Wade discuss?

How did peasants usually organize land seizures?  Was peasant violence during these actions necessarily "irrational"?

Did the dynamics of violent peasant direct action change as the year 1917 progressed?  Explain.

How did the government respond to peasant actions?  What hampered the government's ability to respond?

Explain what Wade means by the "moral and cultural dimensions" of peasant aspirations in 1917.

In what ways did peasants assert or reassert communalism in 1917?  Results?

In what ways were peasants "connected" to the political events and developments taking place in the cities and at the front?

What political party was most active in organizing the peasantry, what means did they use to try to mobilize peasants into a coherent political force, and what factors limited these efforts?

What factors in general radicalized peasant politics in 1917?

What is the thesis of this chapter?


Chapter 6 

What 3 basic opportunities did the revolution create for the non-Russian nationality groups?

What will be the main focus of this chapter?

Did all ethnic groups and "ethnic" individuals share a strong sense of national (or ethnic) identity?  Explain.  Why was this of such political importance? Was ethnic identity always primary in shaping someone's political choices in 1917?  Explain.

What was the relationship between nationality based politics and socialist politics in 1917?

What was the main aim of most nationality movements in 1917?  Did most want independence?  Explain.

Was the Provisional government enthusiastic about the idea of granting national autonomy to various minorities?  What was the position of the Kadets on this issue?  Of the SRs?  Of the Mensheviks?

When and why did the Provisional government begin taking the nationalities question seriously?

What position did the Bolsheviks take on the nationalities question. and what was the political significance of this position?  Were the Bolsheviks alone in talking this position?  Explain.

Did growing nationalism strengthen or weaken the Provisional government?  Explain.


What made the fate of Ukraine so important to the revolution?

What was the Rada?  What parties dominated it?  What were its main demands in 1917?

How did the Petrograd Soviet and the Provisional Government respond to the Rada's requests, and what were the results?  What was the First Universal and how did the government respond to it?

Why did relations between the Rada and the Provisional government worsen in summer 1917?

In what sense did demographic factors in Ukraine limit Ukrainian nationalism?  Who in Ukraine opposed the Rada and why?

Could Ukrainian nationalists really mobilize mass nationalist sentiment?  Explain.

The Baltic region

How did the basic political dynamic of the nationality issue in the Baltic differ from that in Ukraine?

How did class conflict come to play in Finland's path toward independence?

In what sense did the Provisional government treat Estonia and Latvia differently from other nationality regions?

What was the Maapäev?  What position did it take on the nationalities question?  Who supported the Maapäev and who did not support it?  Explain.

Why was Bolshevism so popular in Latvia in 1917?

Muslim areas and Transcaucasia

Was there a common Muslim identity in 1917?  Explain.

Why did Muslims initially support the Provisional government?

Explain the difference between Muslim Nationalism and Pan-Islamism in 1917.  Which was more popular in Central Asia?  Which was more popular among the Tatars?  Why?

What was the Jadid movement?  Who were the Ulãma?  Why did the two clash politically in 1917?

In what sense was Islamic politics influence by class conflicts?

Why was there no unified Muslim political movement?

Why did Muslims and Turkic peoples grow hostile toward the Provisional government in summer 1917?

Why did Armenians face a "double threat" in 1917?

What party dominated Georgian politics and why?

What distinguished the moderate socialist bloc in Georgia from that in the Russian territories?


How did Jews greet the fall of Tsarism?

What "special" issues confronted Jews in 1917?

What was the difference between national-cultural autonomy and national-territorial autonomy?

How was the rush of Jewish political activity and self-organization in 1917 paradoxical?  Did all Jews support one specific political party?  Explain.  How did this limit Jewish political influence?

Did Jews as individuals have influence in 1917?  Explain.

Did Trotsky and other Jewish Bolsheviks consider themselves members of a Jewish nationality?  Explain.


What are Wade's main conclusions (his thesis) in this chapter?


Chapter 7 

What will be the main point of this chapter?

Peace offensive, war offensive

Explain the strategy and methods of the Revolutionary Defensists' "peace offensive" of Spring 1917.  What steps did the Provisional government take?  What step did the Soviet leadership take?

Did the Allies respond to Russia's peace initiative?  Explain.

When and why did the Revolutionary Defensists turn to the idea of using a military offensive to push for peace? 

Who were the key supporters of the plan for a  military offensive and why?  WHy did both the Right and the moderate socialists support the offensive?

How did the socialists' view of history support their position on the offensive?

Who (what parties) opposed the offensive, and why?

Were soldiers enthusiastic about the offensive?  Explain.

What effect did the moderate socialist/revolutionary defensist army committee leaders' support for the offensive have on grass-roots soldiers' politics?

What political parties emerged as more influential among soldiers as a result of the offensive, and why?

What did "Bolshevism" mean to soldiers in June 1917?  Were all "Bolshevik" soldiers really members (or even supporters) of the Bolshevik Party?  Explain.

Did sending reserve troops to the Front in June improve military discipline?  Explain.

Were soldiers radicalized because of Bolshevik and other left socialist propaganda?  Did such propaganda have no influence on them at all?  Explain.

Why did the Revolutionary Defensists blame the Bolsheviks for undermining military morale?

Were soldiers alone in opposing the offensive?  What did most industrial workers seem to think of the idea?  Explain.

What were the June Demonstrations?  

        What were the Bolsheviks calling for in June 1917?  

        Why did the Soviet leadership ban the Bolshevik demonstrations of 10 June, and what was the result?

        What was the point of the Soviet-endorsed 18 June demonstrations supposed to be, and what actually happened at the 18 June demonstrations?  

        What particular slogan were the left socialists pushing on 18 June and why was it popular?

Was the June offensive a military success?  Explain.

What impact did the failed offensive have on the Revolutionary Defensists' peace program, and how did it shape soldiers' politics?

The July Days...

What did the slogan "All Power to the Soviets" mean in July 1917?

What does Wade point to as the causes of the "July Uprising"?

Did the left socialists plan an uprising for 3 July?  What actually happened in Petrograd on that day?

Does the "July Uprising" reinforce the idea that the Bolsheviks in 1917 were highly disciplined and that the Central Committee did what Lenin ordered and the party members did what the Central Committee ordered?  Explain.

When did Lenin and the Bolshevik Central Committee "authorize" the 4 July demonstrations?  Were they now planning an uprising?  Explain.

What were demonstrators demanding on 4 July?  How did the Soviet leadership respond, and how did the Provisional government end the unrest?

In what ways did the leaders of the Soviet and the Provisional government misinterpret the causes of the July Days and why was this error of political significance?

How did the July days "save" Kerensky?  

Did the brief period of popular anti-Bolshevism that followed the July Days really mean that the position of the Provisional government and the Revolutionary Defensists had strengthened?  Explain.

The economic crisis...

Was there really an economic crisis in summer 1917?  Explain.

What demands were workers making in summer and why?  How did their employers respond tot hese demands and why?

Explain the difference between the ways that workers and employers understood the "industrial situation" in summer 1917.  Why did this lead to conflict, and does Wade seem to think that any real solution to avoid conflict was possible?  Explain.

Why did factory closings in summer increase workers' political radicalism?

What did workers want the government to do about labor conflict, what did management want the government to do, and why would any step by the government weaken its position?

How, then, was labor conflict undermining the "February System"?

What evidence does Wade present that there was a supply crisis in 1917 and that it complicated politics?

What steps did the Provisional government take to "solve" the supply crisis and regulate the economy?  

How did Provisional government leaders understand the role of the state in the economy?  How did the moderate socialist Soviet leadership understand the state's role in the economy?

Why did state economic intervention actually exacerbate class tensions?

What examples/ evidence does Wade present to illustrate accelerated "social breakdown" in summer 1917?  For instance, could the authorities control crime?  Explain.  And what impact did the perception of out-of-control-crime have on politics?  Explain.

What kinds of conspiracy theories circulated in 1917 and why?  Did any one party have a monopoly on conspiracy theories?  Explain.

[Side point--does Wade endorse the idea that Lenin was a German agent?  Explain.]

Why were conspiracy theories so powerful in 1917, especially for the left socialists?

Why and in what ways did large numbers of workers and soldiers believe that an all-Soviet government would bring justice?

Political crisis...the Kornilov Affair

How and why did the composition of the Provisional government change in July?

Was it easy for Kerensky to form a new government in July?  Explain.

On 3 July, did the moderate socialists take power when the crowds "offered" it to them?  On 21 July, did the moderate socialists take power when the liberals "offered" it to them?  Explain!

Why does Wade call Kerensky's formation of a new coalition government on 23 July an act of desperation?

Why did the Right have a resurgence in Summer 1917 and how did they hope to solve Russia's problems?

If the Right considered the government to be too soft on the Left, how did the Left understand the relationship between Kerensky's government and the Right?  What steps did the government take in July that seemed to indicate that it had moved to the Right?

What evidence is there that the Kadets really did move to the Right in July and August?

Did the rightward drift in elite politics reflect a similar drift in mass popular  politics?  Explain.

What do the results of soviet and committee reelections in July and August tell us about the shift in popular politics? 

What does it mean to say that politics was polarized, and in what way was politics (and society) polaraized in summer 1917?

How did the Revolutionary Defensists (stuck in the ever-shrinking "center") respond to the process of political polaraization, and did their response improve their position?

Wade says that political polarization set the stage for the Kornilov Affair--who was Kornilov and what were his politics in 1917?  What did he think of the Provisional government and of the Soviet leadership?

Why did the Right consider Kornilov a savior?  What did the Left think of him?

Kerensky had hoped to use the August Moscow State Conference to mobilize unity behind his government--what in fact happened at the conference and why was this important?

On what issues did Kerensky and Kornilov agree, and why was their agreement based upon a "fuzzy" understanding of the meaning of "order"?

Why did Kornilov begin moving "reliable" troops toward Petrograd in late August?

Why did Kerensky order Kornilov removed from his post on 27 August and how did Kornilov respond?

Who "rescued" Kerensky from the Kornilov Revolt and how?

What were the repercussions of Kornilov's failed revolt?  What did it do to Kerensky's reputation, to the standing of the moderate socialists, and to relations between soldiers and officers?

Who were the "winners" in the Kornilov Affair?

What is the thesis of this chapter?


Chapter 8

The rise of the Bolsheviks

What negative appeal boosted the Bolsheviks’ mass popularity in fall 1917?

Was the Bolsheviks’ appeal only negative?  What did they promise that resonated with lower-class aspirations?  In what ways was their program attuned to lower class concerns?

In what sense was the Bolshevik Party’s organizational structure a strength in fall 1917? 

Did the party have internal divisions?  Explain.  Who was more radical, the leadership or the rank and file?  Were their divisions among the leadership?

What is Wade’s conclusion regarding the party’s organization?

Why was Lenin’s leadership important to the Bolsheviks’ success?  By summer 1917, what position had Lenin evolved on the question of power?

Were the Bolsheviks the only party calling for Soviet power in fall 1917?  Were they the only Left party to gain support in Fall? Explain.

On what issues did the Left SRs differ from the SR leadership and why didn’t they break from the party completely?  What was the cost of their remaining within the SR Party?

On what issues did the Menshevik Internationalists differ from the Menshevik Party leadership and why didn’t they break from the party completely?  What were the costs of remaining within the Menshevik Party?

In what ways were the anarchists important political players n 1917?

What evidence is there of growing popular support for the Left in August 1917?  In September 1917?

Why were the elections of August and September 1917 so important to enabling the October Revolution to take place?

Did Soviet power have only one meaning in fall 1917?  Explain.

The crisis of the coalition government

What happened to the 2nd coalition government after the Kornilov Affair?  What was the Directory?

What issue complicated the creation of a new government in September?

What parties belonged to the 3rd coalition government and did it have much authority?  Explain.

As of 25 September 1917, what had become of the February System?  Did the Petrograd soviet endorse the new coalition government? Explain.

The popular mood...

What fundamental unsolved problems fed popular radicalism in Fall 1917?  For instance:

                How did government efforts to move the Petrograd garrison shape politics?

                How did food shortages shape politics?

                How did escalating labor conflict and the crisis in the factories shape politics?

How did workers understand the meaning of Soviet power in fall 1917?  Why did they support an immediate socialist takeover (instead of more moderation)?

What evidence seemed to demonstrate that Russian society was coming completely unraveled in fall 1917?

 The Bolshevik debate...

 Did the Bolsheviks have a clear plan for taking power in September 1917?

What was Lenin’s position on the question of power in September?  Why by October did he consider it imperative that the Bolsheviks seize power as soon as possible?

Did all Bolshevik leaders agree with Lenin’s position?  What position did Zinoviev and Kamenev take?  What position did Trotsky take?  Which of these positions was probably most popular in the party ad which did the party’s actions support in September and early October?

Why were all of the left socialists so worried about convening the Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets?

When did Lenin finally win over the Bolshevik Central Committee to his position?

Did the Bolshevik Central Committee’s 10 October resolution set a plan or a timetable for a revolt?  Explain.

Did all Bolsheviks think that their would be popular support for an uprising before the Soviet Congress?

Why did Kamenev and Zinoviev resign from the Central Committee on 16 October?

What position did the Left SRS and the Menshevik Internationalists take on the question of power in October 1917?

One the eve....

Why was the moderate socialist leadership’s decision to delay the opening of the Soviet Congress “wonderfully fortuitous for the Bolsheviks”?

Why and how did the Bolsheviks and Left SRs mobilize their supporters on 21-24 October?

What was the MRC and how did the Left use it to undermine the government’s authority in the Petrograd garrison?

Why did Red Guard units mobilize on 22 October and then stay mobilized?

What did the MRC and the left Soviet leadership do on 23 October to increase pressure on the government?

How had the Kerensky government prepared for a potential uprising before 21 October?

When Kerensky finally realized that an uprising was a real danger, how did his government respond?  What were the results?

What is the thesis of this chapter?


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