Political Parties: Revolutionary Russia

Parties in Revolutionary Russia (1905-1917)

Party: date founded Founder/leader Supporters



Influence in revolution

“Russia’s Duma was created in a wave of violent attacks against imperial officials and public upheaval, which culminated in a national strike in October 1905 known as Russian Revolution of 1905, paving the way for Russia’s first parliament. With the nation’s infrastructure all but paralyzed, Emperor Nicholas II signed a historic manifesto of October 17, 1905, promising civil rights to the population and creating the Russia’s first parliament.” (Wikipedia. “Duma.”)

Union of Liberation (Russian: Союз Освобождения, English transliteration: Soyuz Osvobozhdeniya) liberal political group founded in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1903 Zemstvo, professionals (professors, lawyers, writers, doctors, engineers), industrial and commercial class & moderate radicals

Program (OCT 1904: end autocracy; establish constitutional government; economic & social reform)

goal Þthe replacement of the absolutism of the Tsar with a constitutional monarchy. Its other goals included an equal, secret and direct vote for all Russian citizens and the self-determination of different nationalities (such as the Poles) that lived in the Russian State.

Party: date founded Founder/leader Supporters



Influence in revolution
Octobrist Party (Union of October 17) Guchov = Muscovite industrialist Conservative liberalism

Opposed to arbitrariness of the autocracy; generally content with the October Manifesto.  Hopes would lead to political system with ‘rule of law’

Strong supporters of monarchy, as a symbol of national unity and as center of political authority.

Oppose constituent assembly, which they believed would be a break with tradition.

For rights of workers to form unions and to strike for economic issues.

Kadets (Constitutional Democratic Party)

October 12-18, 1905 at the height of the Russian Revolution of 1905.

Historian Pavel Miliukov was the party’s leader throughout its existence.

Konstantin Kavelin‘s and Boris Chicherin‘s writings formed the theoretical basis of the party’s platform.

Prominent members:

·  Prince Georgy Lvov

·  Pavel Miliukov

·  Pyotr Struve

  • Professionals – university professors and lawyers
  • Members of the zemstvo, incl. liberal landlords
  • Industrialists.


Left of the “Octobrists”

Demand universal suffrage (even women’s suffrage) and a Constituent Assembly that would determine the country’s form of government.

  • Cadets were one of the parties invited by Prime Minister Sergei Witte to join his cabinet in October-November 1905
  • Negotiations broke down over the Cadets’ radical demands
  • Participate in 1st State Duma in February 1906; Kadets received 37% of the urban vote and won over 30% of the seats in the Duma.
  • On July 9, the government announced that the Duma was dysfunctional and dissolved it. In response, 120 Cadet and 80 Trudovik and Social Democrat deputies went to Vyborg (then a part of the autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland and thus beyond the reach of Russian police) and responded with the Vyborg Manifesto written by Miliukov. In the manifesto, they called for passive resistance, non-payment of taxes and draft avoidance. Leading to a ban on its authors’, including the entire Kadet leadership, participation in future Dumas.
  • Later in 1906, with the revolution in retreat, that the Kadets abandoned revolutionary and republican aspirations and declared their support for a constitutional monarchy
  • During the February Revolution of 1917, Kadet deputies in the Duma and other prominent Kadets formed the core of the newly formed Russian Provisional Government
  • One of the Kadet leaders, Prince Lvov, became Prime Minister and Miliukov became Russia’s Foreign Minister.
  • A radical party just 11 years earlier, after the February revolution the Kadets occupied the rightmost end of the political spectrum since all monarchist parties had been dissolved and the Kadets were the only openly functioning non-socialist party remaining.
  • The Kadets’ position in the Provisional Government was compromised when Miliukov’s promise to the Entente allies to continue the war (April 18) was made public on April 26, 1917. The resulting government crisis led to Miliukov’s resignation and a powersharing agreement with moderate socialist parties on May 4-5. The Kadets’ position was further eroded during the July crisis when they resigned from the government in protest against concessions to the Ukrainian independence movement.
  • Although the coalition was reformed later in July under Alexander Kerensky and survived yet another government crisis in early September.
  • With the Bolshevik seizure of power on October 25-26, 1917, Kadet and other anti-Bolshevik newspapers were closed down and the party was suppressed by the new regime.
Party: date founded Founder/leader Supporters



Influence in revolution
Trudoviks (Laborers) Moderate Labor party The Trudoviks = breakaway Party of Socialist Revolutionaries (SR) faction they defied the SR’s stance by standing in the 1st Duma. This agrarian socialist party was one of hundreds of small workers circles that sprang up around Russia in the aftermath of the 1905 Revolution.

While the 1905 revolution did not remove the Tsar, it certainly curtailed his power — but not to the extent of the democratic, liberal society for which the Russian masses longed for. As a result, the party survived but remained small.

The Trudoviks are best known for winning seats in the State Duma, a national assembly created by Tsar Nicholas II in the aftermath of the 1905 Revolution . The seats they won were mainly in the 1st and 2nd assemblies, in 1906 and 1907 where they gained over 100 seats.

Alexander Kerensky, later prime minister of Russia under the Provisional Government in 1917, was elected to the Fourth Duma as a Trudovik in 1912.

Socialist-Revolutionary Party (SRs): 1901

Grew directly out of the narodnik or Russian populist movement.

Victor Chernov, the editor of the first party organ=primary party theorist. Rural peasantry

Supported program of land-socialization (divide land among peasants) as opposed to the Bolshevik program of land-nationalisation (collectivization in state management).

Believed Þpeasantry, not the industrial proletariat, would be the revolutionary class in Russia. (not Marxist)

Terrorism, both political and agrarian, was central to the SR’s strategy for revolution. SR agents assassinated two Ministers of the Interior, Dmitry Sipyagin and V. K. von Plehve, Grand Duke Sergei Aleksandrovich,

SR played an active role in the Russian Revolution of 1905, and in the Moscow and St. Petersburg Soviets. Although the party officially boycotted the first State Duma in 1906, 34 SRs were elected, while 37 were elected to the second Duma in 1907; the party boycotted both the third and fourth Dumas in 1907–1917.

The Russian Revolution – February 1917ÞSRs play a greater political role, with one of their members Alexander Kerensky joining the Provisional Government in March 1917, and eventually becoming the head of a coalition socialist-liberal government in July 1917.

In mid-late 1917 the SRs split between those who supported the Provisional Government and those who supported the Bolsheviks and favoured a communist revolution.

Those who supported the Bolsheviks became known as Left Socialist-Revolutionaries (Left SRs) and in effect split from the main party, which retained the name “SR” [1]. The primary issues motivating the split were the war and the redistribution of land.

At the Second Congress of Soviets on October 25, 1917, when the Bolsheviks proclaimed the deposition of the Provisional government, the split within the SR party became final. The Left SR stayed at the Congress and were elected to the permanent VTsIK executive (although at first they refused to join the Bolshevik government) while the mainstream SR and their Menshevik allies walked out of the Congress. In late November, the Left SR joined the Bolshevik government.

The SRs faded after the BolsheviksOctober Revolution. However, in the election to the Russian Constituent Assembly they proved to be the most popular party across the country, gaining 57% of the popular vote as opposed to the Bolsheviks’ 25%.

However, the Bolsheviks disbanded the Assembly and thereafter the SRs became of less political significance. The Left SR party became the coalition partner of the Bolsheviks in the Soviet Government, although they resigned their positions after the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was signed. A few Left-SRs like Yakov Grigorevich Blumkin joined the Communist Party.

Dissatisfied with the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, some left-SRs assassinated the German ambassador to Russia, Count Wilhelm Mirbach. In 1918 they attempted a Third Russian Revolution, which failed, leading to the arrest, imprisonment, exile, and execution of party leaders and members. In response, some SRs turned once again to violence. A former SR, Fanya Kaplan, tried to assassinate Lenin on August 30, 1918. Many SRs fought for the Whites and Greens in the Russian Civil War alongside some Mensheviks and other banned moderate socialist elements. The largest rebellion against the Bolsheviks was led by an SR, Alexander Antonov. Some left-SRs however, became full members of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

Party: date founded Founder/leader Supporters



Influence in revolution
Russian Social-Democratic Labor Party (1898) Formed to unite the various revolutionary organizations into one party. The RSDLP later split into Bolshevik and Menshevik factions, with the Bolsheviks eventually becoming the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
  • The RSDLP was created to oppose narodnichestvo revolutionary populism, which was later represented by the Socialist-Revolutionary Party
  • Based on the theories of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels – that, despite Russia’s agrarian nature, the true revolutionary potential lay with the industrial working class.
  • RSDLP was illegal for most of its existence
  • At the end of the first party congress in March 1898, all nine delegates were arrested by the Imperial Russian Police.
  • 1903ÞSecond Congress of the party met in exile in Belgium to attempt to create a united force. Þmoved to London
  • At the congress, the party split into two irreconcilable factions on November 17: the Bolsheviks, headed by Lenin, and the Mensheviks , headed by Julius Martov.
  • Lenin’s faction later ended up in the minority and remained smaller than the Mensheviks until the Russian Revolution of 1917.
  • Lenin’s position on democratic centralism and on restricting party membership Þcaused split. Lenin argued that creating a successful revolution required that party membership be limited only to professional full-time revolutionaries; whereas the Mensheviks favored a more open membership policy.
  • As time passed, more ideological differences emerged. According to many historians, the Bolsheviks pushed for an almost immediate “proletarian” revolution, while the Mensheviks believed that Russia was still at too early a stage in history for an immediate working-class revolution, and believed a “bourgeois” revolution must precede the subsequent “proletarian” revolution.
  • After the defeat of the Russian revolution of 1905, they also tended to prefer legal activities such as trade-union work.
  • The Social Democrats (SDs) boycotted elections to the First Duma (April-July 1906)
  • Represented in the Second Duma (February-June 1907). With the SRs, they held 83 seats. The Second Duma was dissolved on the pretext of the discovery of an SD conspiracy to subvert the army.
  • Under new electoral laws, the SD presence in the Third Duma (1907–12) was reduced to 19. From the Fourth Duma (1912–17), the SDs were finally and fully split. The Mensheviks had five members in the Duma and the Bolsheviks had seven, including Roman Malinovsky, who was later uncovered as an Okhrana agent.
  • From 1912 onwards, the Bolshevik faction was officially a separate party, known as the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (bolshevik). The Bolsheviks seized power during the October Revolution in 1917 and, in 1918, changed their name to the Communist Party. They banned the Mensheviks after the Kronstadt Uprising of 1921.

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