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The creation of the USSR


Soviet flag
Soviet flag

Chronologically, Soviet history may be said to have begun October 25 (or November 7, in the Western, or New Style, calendar), 1917. That was the day the Russian Revolution, the first phase of which overthrew Emperor Nicholas II the previous February (or March, New Style), culminated in the assumption of state power by the Congress of Soviets, made up of deputies from local soviets across Russia and led by the Bolsheviks. The militant wing of the Russian socialist movement, the Bolsheviks had been headed since their inception in 1903 by Vladimir Lenin, a career revolutionary who spent much of his adult life in exile in Siberia and Western Europe.

The congress formed a Council of People’s Commissars to act as its executive branch. The council was chaired by Lenin and had mostly Bolshevik members, but several other socialist parties were also seated. The Congress of Soviets, following Lenin’s lead, immediately resolved to withdraw Russia from World War I (1914-1918), in which it had suffered grievous losses to Germany and Austria-Hungary, and to seek “peace without annexations.”

(The wavering Provisional Government, which ruled between the two phases of the 1917 revolution, had kept Russia in the war and even mounted a calamitous offensive.) The congress also issued decrees calling for the transfer of land from landlords to the peasants, the separation of church and state, and self-determination for all national groups in the former empire. Most Bolsheviks saw the last move as a temporary concession that would be superseded by the formation of a world proletarian state.

The Bolsheviks permitted elections to the Constituent Assembly, which was to draft a democratic constitution, only to dissolve the assembly in January 1918 when they did not win a majority of seats.

A constitution favoring Bolshevik control was then drafted, and in July 1918 the Congress of Soviets approved the first constitution of the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic (RSFSR).

Peace Treaty


Lenin was convinced that a speedy exit from the war was unavoidable, given the war-weariness of the population and the fragmentation of the imperial armed forces. Germany and the other Central Powers, eager to take Russia out of the conflict, agreed to open negotiations in December 1917 at Brest-Litovsk, Poland (now Brest, Belarus). The peace terms proved unacceptable to the Bolsheviks, and the talks broke down in January 1918. A German military advance on Petrograd (later Leningrad, then Saint Petersburg) helped persuade the Bolshevik leaders to create the Red Army, move their capital from Petrograd to Moscow, and reopen the talks. In the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, concluded on March 3, 1918, the Bolsheviks agreed to relinquish control over certain areas formerly annexed by the Russian Empire (including Ukraine, Poland, and the Baltic lands) and pay heavy indemnities to Germany.

The treaty led to a schism within the infant government. The Left Social Revolutionary Party, which had been collaborating with the Bolsheviks, declared it a betrayal of the revolution and walked out of the Council of People’s Commissars. Activists in the party assassinated the German ambassador to Moscow, in the vain hope of stirring the Germans to renew hostilities, and made attempts on the lives of several Bolshevik leaders. Lenin was critically wounded by one of the terrorists, receiving an injury that contributed to his early death. The Bolsheviks, in return, launched the so-called Red Terror, suppressing the Left Social Revolutionaries and executing many political opponents. As other minority parties and factions were eliminated one by one, the Soviet system emerged as a one-party state. "USSR" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.

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