The October Revolution and the Smolny Institution


Bolshevik troops march to the Smolny Institute, in 1917

In October 1917, the Bolsheviks started their revolution to overthrow the Provisional Government in Petrograd.  With Vladimir Lenin at the front, the Bolsheviks (meaning “majority”Smilie: ;) led peasants and workers in a revolution to establish a socialist society and in the end, establish the Soviet Union.  The main goals of the revolution are summed up by the words, “Peace, Land, and Bread.”

There were many factors that caused the October Revolution.  The Bolsheviks focused their propaganda on the anti-war notions and their distrust of the government.  Therefore non-support for the war played a pivotal role in gaining followers and launching the revolution.  The Kornilov Affair, when General Kornilov attempted to end the dual power system, caused an upsurge in support for the Bolsheviks and the rival of the revolutionary spirit.  The Bolsheviks chose revolution in order to bring about political change and redistribute land and food in a Socialist Russia.


The Smolny Institute

During the October Revolution, Lenin used the Smolny Institute as the Bolsheviks’ headquarters after he came out of hiding.  The institute, established in the early 19th century, served as Russia’s first all-girls (daughters of aristocrats) educational facility.  It was the assembly point for leaders of the revolution, such as Lenin, Leon Trotsky, Anatoly Lunacharsky,  Alexandra Kollontai.

The institute had various political committees operating from it, such as the Petrograd Soviet, Central Executive Committee, Bolshevik committees, and the Military Revolutionary Committee, which led the October uprising.  In December 1917, Louise Bryant described the militaristic security of Smolny, including machine guns, stacks of rifles, canons, and armored cars.  Her description reveals how important the building itself was to the revolutionaries, who seemed to regard it as sacred place due to its role in the October Revolution.

Lenin addressing the Second All-Russia Congress of Soviets, declaring victory

Lenin addressing the Second All-Russia Congress of Soviets, declaring victory

The Smolny was also the location used by Lenin to make the proclaimation of Soviet power during the revolution.  Kollontai wrote that the most memorable moment of her life was when Lenin announced, “All power has passed to the Soviets of Workers’, Soldiers and Workers’ Deputies.”  Thus, the institute became a symbol of the Soviets’ authority and the start of the Soviet Union.

The Smolny Institute was the nerve center of the October Revolution.  Its role as a central location for the Bolshevik leaders allowed them to discuss the course of the revolution and take action.

Here is a link to a news reel on the October Revolution and the Smolny Institute:


Sources:, pages on Kornilov Affair, Formation of the Soviets, and Bolsheviks Seize Power.

Freeze, Gregory L. Russia: A History. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1997. Print.

Six Red Months in Russia (191Smilie: 8) by Louise Bryant (-1936) New York: George H. Doran Company, 1918.

Alexandra Kollontai, Reminiscences of Vladimir Ilyich LeninLenin at Smolny,” glossary for terms, such as Bolshevik and October Revolution.


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