Lenin at the Finland-Station (1970)

Lenin at the Finland-Station (1970)

         The importance of the months of February and October in the Russian Revolution of 1917 cannot be denied. With the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II and the subsequent shifting of power to the Provisional Government occurring in the former, and the seizure of power by the Bolshevik party occurring in the latter, these months massively influenced the course of Russian history. The month of April, however, also played a momentous role during that year. This is discussed in Gregory L. Freeze’s Russia: A History, “Seventeen Moments in Russian History“, and Module Three of the Digital History Reader.

          On the site “Seventeen Moments in Russian History“, the “April Crisis” is described as the period after the excitement of the February Revolution wore off in the hearts of the Russian people. According to the subject essay written by Lewis Siegelbaum on the matter, the April Crisis stemmed largely from dissatisfaction toward both the state of the economy and Russia’s continuing involvement in the first World War. This dissatisfaction proved detrimental for the Provisional Government and those leading it. Both Russian peasants and workers looked to the new government to deliver them from the economic woes they faced during the times of autocratic rule. When it did not act in their favor in a timely manner, both groups turned to resistance and vigilantism to meet their needs. This unrest was worsened when it was made clear that the leaders of the Provisional Government planned to continue the war until its end and to uphold any treaties made under the Tsar’s rule before they came to power. Siegelbaum writes of the aftermath of this revelation, saying “Mass demonstrations and clashes on the streets of Petrograd forced both Miliukov and the War Minister, Aleksandr Guchkov, to resign.” After this concession of power, Siegelbaum states that a coalition government was then tentatively formed containing socialist and non-socialist leaders from both the Provisional Government and the Petrograd Soviet. He writes, “This had two critical consequences: the lines of dual power became considerably blurred, and the two main socialist rivals of the Bolsheviks now were inextricably associated with the policies of the Provisional Government and above all, its continued prosecution of the war.” According to Siegelbaum, the April Crisis was important to the diminishing of power of the Bolshevik’s opposition on the road to the October Revolution.

          Freeze also discusses the place of April 1917 in Russian history, which he refers to as “The All-Russian Crisis”. His view coincides with that of Siegelbaum. He writes, “The first coalition quickly exposed the gulf between liberalism and socialism—and the government’s inability to bridge that chasm. The conflicts in the coalition correlated directly with the declining authority of the Provisional Government (and, by contrast, to the surge in Bolshevik influence)” (281). Although these separate parties came together to rid the Tsar of power, they were ultimately unable to bridge the gaps between their ideologies. The parties in control of the Provisional Government, who had to choose between appeasing the people of Russia by backing out of the war or downplaying the notion that Russia was unstable in new hands by maintaining its involvement in the war, were effectually caught between a rock and a hard place. Their choice to continue in World War I against the wishes of the people solidified their decline and the Bolshevik’s rise to power.

          Finally, the historical relevance of the April Crisis can be seen in the speech issued by Vladimir Lenin at the Finland-Station (pictured above). This speech is known as Lenin’s “April Theses”. The third point of these theses directly calls for “No support for the Provisional Government”. Instead, Lenin outlines his plan for transforming Russia into a socialist society. Siegelbaum purports that Lenin’s theses “clearly set the Bolsheviks apart from the other socialist parties” and thereby add to the overall importance of the April Crisis as an aspect of the Russian revolution.