Browse content similar to Russia 1917: Countdown to Revolution. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!
In October 1917, the world changed forever.
Three men led the takeover of the largest country on Earth.
Russia became the world's first communist state.
It took everyone by surprise, including its own leaders.
Revolution might not happen in our lifetime.
Vladimir Lenin, Leon Trotsky
and Joseph Stalin had to struggle, plot and force their way into power
through the most unlikely series of events.
'Lenin was moving around in secret, being hunted by the police.'
'For me, this is the real turning point of 20th-century history.'
This is the moment when one man makes all the difference.
The insurrection Lenin led still inspires fierce debate.
'Did they want a Bolshevik government led by Vladimir Lenin?'
I don't think so.
The masses are tired of words and resolutions!
How the hell is that a coup d'etat?
'He is motivated by a vision of an alternative world.'
These people should be shot for their incompetence!
His object was not to convince or persuade anyone,
it was to destroy them.
The system Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin created a century ago
shapes the world we live in today.
Putin really understands the October Revolution.
In many ways, he's one of the results of it.
This is the countdown of the 245 days
that brought three men from obscurity to supreme power,
forging a brave and bloody new world.
Russia is ready to explode.
Its royalty, the Tsars, have ruled with an iron fist
for four centuries.
Its men are dying in the millions in World War I.
Its women and children are starving.
But the Tsar rejects any change.
JEERING AND SHOUTING
On February 23rd, Russia erupts.
The masses of Petrograd take over the capital
and force the Tsar to abdicate.
Here, dramatized in October,
Sergei Eisenstein's propaganda film made ten years after the revolution.
Yet the men we most associate with the Russian Revolution
aren't even in the country.
Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin miss the February Revolution.
Lenin is in Zurich, having been exiled for nearly 17 years
as a dangerous revolutionary.
Haven't you heard? There's been a revolution!
I've heard this sort of rumour before.
It's probably German propaganda.
Just days before the February Revolution, Lenin had confessed...
Revolution might not happen in our lifetime.
We must go home.
The one thing Lenin couldn't bear
was that the revolution, now it's come,
is going to happen without him.
He was absolutely tormented about getting back
and seizing control before someone else did.
Lenin's drive for power may have its origins in a family trauma.
Lenin is really a fairly average schoolboy
from a provincial town, Simbirsk.
But his brother, Aleksandr,
has been a activist in the main terrorist revolutionary group,
the People's Will, involved in an attempt to assassinate the Tsar,
arrested and executed.
And I think it's partly in revenge for that family tragedy
that he is so bent on destruction.
Lenin becomes an ardent Marxist.
By 1903, he's head of his own radical party, the Bolsheviks.
Soon after, Leon Trotsky hears about the February Revolution
while avoiding the Russian authorities in New York.
'Trotsky was very much the showman, the orator,'
the real firebrand of the revolution.
He was a very glamorous figure.
He was a terrific speaker, real rabble-rouser, and he knew it.
Born Lev Bronstein, Trotsky has been a Marxist rebel from youth.
He had an interesting background.
He came from the Black Sea coast,
he was the son of a very rich Jewish farmer.
He'd had a wonderful education, he was highly cultured,
he was an internationalist, he'd been all over the world,
he's been in New York and round Europe and Vienna.
He's known to be a difficult man, abrasive, extremely charismatic,
sometimes hard to love but absolutely impossible not to admire.
This independent revolutionary has rivalled Lenin for 20 years.
Soon, they'll have to work together.
Days later, Joseph Stalin learns of the February Revolution
while exiled for robbery 3,500 kilometres away
in Achinsky, Siberia.
'Just look at how attractive Stalin was
'in the time leading up to the revolution.'
'Not only a published poet'
but an anthologised poet, very handsome,
with a marvellous head of hair.
A great one for women.
He's escaped six times from Siberian exile
and wanted what?
Universal equality and justice.
A completely attractive figure.
Until he was in power.
Stalin was the ultimate man of action
and he became Lenin's chosen favourite man of action.
He was the master of assassinations,
protection rackets, heists.
Every revolutionary leader needs a Stalin.
Three comrades in revolution who now have barely 230 days
to change the world.
They return to a country in turmoil.
The overthrow of the Tsar in the February Revolution
has unleashed wild euphoria.
People were partying in the streets,
soldiers were, sort of, driving around in cars,
tooting their horns with, sort of, half undressed girls.
People were having sex in the street.
There were a multitude of political factions and parties
and everyone was having meetings about everything.
So, it was total anarchy.
It was an explosion,
which meant all rules were destroyed and it was a chance to start again.
We're talking about, in aspiration, you know,
a fundamental reconfiguring of the way human beings live in the world.
Lenin arrives at a time when there is an enormous amount of hope
and a sense that this is still a new Russia.
the Bolsheviks' few thousand supporters await Lenin in Petrograd,
now St Petersburg.
It was Easter Monday and so the factories weren't working
so they did manage to get a big crowd in,
partly by the promise of free beer,
which, actually, sadly didn't arrive for any of them.
They've got fantastic arc lighting and it made it look terrific.
The converted, the supporters, the acolytes, the underground,
the revolutionaries were there to meet him.
But the vast majority of people
didn't even really know who Lenin was.
After two decades of studying the theory of revolution,
Lenin arrives with radical ideas on what Russia should do now.
He had an idea of the revolution in his head
before he'd even got back to Russia
to see what the real possibilities were.
Lenin is ready to test his theories on real people.
He has no time for other politicians.
'A delegation greet him rather nervously.
'He doesn't even answer them.'
Instead, he gives a speech to the crowds.
..this is no time for compromise or diplomatic phrases.
This is the time to move towards building a socialist state.
As soon as he arrives back in Russia,
he calls for his party to agitate for a new revolution.
The piratical, imperialist war...
Even Lenin's own party, the Bolsheviks, were shocked.
..and the hour is not far distant when the people will turn their arms
against their capitalist exploiters.
'The political conversation was all about a bourgeois democracy.'
It was all about elections that were going to happen.
'It was all about coalitions of groups.'
Lenin didn't want any of that.
Lenin wants a second revolution to overthrow the provisional government
that has been set up.
He calls instead for the country to be run by Soviets -
committees of workers, soldiers and peasants.
He was suggesting that they should seize power pretty much immediately.
The worldwide revolution has already dawned.
'The party was absolutely confused,'
bewildered and amazed by what Lenin said.
And a lot of them thought he'd gone mad.
The people want peace.
They want bread and land.
They give you war and hunger.
And the landowners still have all the land.
He coins the first big slogan -
land for the peasants,
peace, an end to war
Feed the poor.
Simple words, but behind each lies a whole set of policies.
The same way that the entire...
The crowd love it.
Those in power just laugh.
A lot of liberal politicians were saying, "Forget it, don't worry,
"Lenin is a busted flush, he's lost his mind, basically an anarchist,
"we don't need to worry about him."
Scant months later, this is the most powerful single person in Russia.
we have to fight for a socialist revolution.
Fight to the end!
Long live the worldwide socialist revolution!
'People would recognise Lenin as a very modern political phenomenon.'
He believed totally that the ends justify the means.
That winning is all, that power is all that really matters.
There was still huge disagreement about Lenin's motives.
Power on its own for him was nothing.
He really wasn't interested in that.
It was power to make big changes in society.
'He is motivated by a vision of an alternative world.'
The end of a society dominated by profit.
What motivates Lenin is power.
Power is all that matters in a revolution.
That is how Lenin understands revolution.
You have to have power before you can do anything.
So principle goes out the window in the struggle for power,
as far as Lenin is concerned.
Spring turns to summer, but the provisional government
is unable to solve the country's problems.
Yet most Russians still have faith in this man -
Minister of War Alexander Kerensky.
'Alexander Kerensky was really the first love of the revolution.'
The intelligentsia adored him.
I don't care, General. The men will manage.
'What became known as the Kerensky cult'
becomes absolutely out of control.
So you have pamphlet after pamphlet describing him literally
as a divine figure.
'He is convinced of his own historical mission'
and part of his historical mission is to turn the war around.
Despite the popular opposition to the war,
Kerensky orders a new offensive.
So the offensive is launched on the 16th of June.
It goes forward for a couple of days, the Germans counterattack,
the Russians run back. There's chaos.
They lost hundreds of thousands of men within a week
and this played totally into the hands of Lenin.
Lenin, who'd been saying that war is a bad thing,
that he would provide instant peace, suddenly became incredibly popular.
And so did the Bolshevik Party.
When Kerensky orders more soldiers to leave Petrograd for the front,
they refuse to obey.
Their determined resistance spreads to front-line troops.
By July the 4th,
thousands of deserters join anti-government demonstrations
It looks like Lenin's second revolution has arrived.
But are Lenin and the Bolsheviks ready to take power?
The front-page editorial in the party paper, Pravda,
had meant to tell the crowds to stay home.
You should all be thrashed for this.
'When it becomes clear that this will simply look ridiculous
'with this enormous mass demonstration,
'it is too late for the Bolsheviks to come up with another line.'
They just pull it and they have no time to replace it,
so it comes out with a rather pregnant blank right at its front.
The Bolsheviks look utterly confused.
Lenin had been calling for the provisional government
to be thrown out and replaced by the more radical Soviets.
Now, thousands are ready to do just that...
'They were screaming,
'"Show us leadership. Seize power right now, Lenin."
'And Lenin was hedging.
'He was wondering what the hell to do, how to manage this.'
Because he realised that if this went wrong he could be destroyed.
'When Lenin steps out onto that balcony,'
perhaps he loses his nerve.
He doesn't really know what to say.
We always wanted this to be peaceful.
With no violence.
The Bolshevik call to give power to the Soviets will win one day.
Despite the zigzags of history.
But maybe not today.
Why did Lenin hesitate?
'Perhaps he's slightly intimidated.'
This is a man who lived in books and libraries,
a man who'd been abroad for 15 years,
who'd never really confronted
angry workers like that before.
And perhaps also an element of cowardice creeps in here.
He was not one for mounting the barricades.
He was, often it was remarked, the first to run
when the going got dangerous.
'He was not intimidated at all.'
To be able to say to a whirling mass
of 20,000, to 30,000, to 40,000 workers, no.
There is a time to strike and there is a time to bite our lips.
'That, to me, is a sign of greatness.'
One wrong move on our part could wreck everything.
'He just knew that...'
this would be used as a provocation by the counterrevolution
to crush them.
That the movement wasn't strong enough to take power.
We are still an insignificant minority.
Time is on our side.
It was a little more than a demonstration.
A lot less than a revolution.
Perhaps the fact that he bottles it, essentially, on the 4th of July,
is because in the back of his head he's thinking,
"Crikey, this could fail and then they'll come for me."
For Lenin, timing is everything,
and he proves correct.
The revolt collapses the next day
amidst a hail of bullets from government snipers.
Kerensky then goes after the Bolshevik Party.
He ordered the arrest of 800 party members, including Lenin,
for high treason.
The July days left Lenin isolated.
To stay in Petrograd, he'd face arrest and possibly being shot,
and he knew he had to escape somewhere.
He felt all chance had gone.
With the Bolsheviks in ruins, Lenin goes into hiding.
There is a 200,000 rouble bounty on his head.
He must now rely on his Lieutenant, Joseph Stalin,
to mastermind his escape.
'Now they were going underground again.
'Stalin, the master of the black arts, was essential to Lenin.'
'Stalin was the boy in the back room who watched what was happening'
and made himself useful as and when the moment came.
'There he was, helps Lenin shave off his very distinctive little goatee.
'They give him a dreadful wig and a worker's cap,'
and smuggle him out across into Finland.
With Lenin gone and Trotsky arrested,
Stalin finds himself the unlikely leader
of the shattered Bolshevik Party.
'Lenin trusted Stalin.'
He carried secret messages, he set up by the machinery
whereby Lenin could communicate from a barn out in Finland
with the Bolshevik machine inside Petrograd.
All of these things, Stalin managed.
And it was now that Stalin became the key person
behind Lenin in the revolution.
The interesting thing about Stalin,
he played this incredibly subtle waiting game.
He was very much there in the shadows,
watching, waiting, learning.
While the Bolsheviks rot in jail, flee or go underground,
things are looking up for Alexander Kerensky.
He is now Prime Minister.
After the aborted Bolshevik uprising,
he appoints Siberian General Lavr Kornilov
to restore order in Petrograd.
'Kornilov could see that the Bolsheviks were gearing up
'to try and take over.
'He desperately wanted to round up the belligerent revolutionaries,
'the Bolsheviks, slam them in jail
'and impose almost a military government on the city'
because he saw that as the only way of saving the situation.
'The right-wing, the conservatives,
'are beginning to rally around Kornilov quite explicitly
'as a figure who can bring order to Russia.'
Kerensky worries the General wants to rule Russia
as a military dictator.
'There's no question that Kerensky was quite paranoid,'
but there's also not much question that people were out to get him.
Just days after appointing the General,
Kerensky dismisses him in a telegram.
But the General's troops advance on Petrograd.
Ironically, it takes Bolshevik activists to save the city.
Bolshevik agitators from within the army, soldiers,
went and spoke to the Kornilov soldiers and said,
"Do you know why you're being brought to Petrograd?
"To attack us, to kill your brothers and sisters.
"Is this what you're coming to do?"
And the descriptions of this event are that Kornilov's army
melted away in front of his very eyes.
In an extraordinary reversal of fortune,
the Bolsheviks are now seen as the saviours of Petrograd.
Kerensky's credibility lies in tatters.
He's reduced to keeping himself going with cocaine and morphine.
'So, rather than buttress his power base, in fact,
'the defeat of Kornilov only played into the hands of the left.'
It's hard for me.
I struggle with the left and with the right.
The people demand that I lean on one and then the other.
I want to take a middle road but nobody will help me.
'How could you roll out democracy in a country like that?'
So I think it was always inevitable that this anarchic force
which splintered the country into revolution
was never going to quickly shuffle the pieces and put them back
into a neat jigsaw puzzle which was a proper democracy.
That wasn't going to happen.
The Kornilov coup created the situation
where you had a government with no real power.
With power ebbing away.
A leader with no real prestige.
And the opportunity, the vacuum, into which someone, somewhere,
could seize power.
And that someone, Lenin was determined, would be the Bolsheviks.
The Bolshevik resurgence begins when Kerensky releases them from jail.
While locked up, Leon Trotsky has finally joined Lenin's party.
Crowds flock to hear him speak.
Trotsky was the great celebrity of the revolution.
He was much more famous than Lenin, not to speak of Stalin.
'Trotsky was probably the most brilliant intellectual mind'
produced in tsarist Russia,
'Lenin knew that Stalin and Trotsky were his two chief supporters
'in pushing for the October Revolution,
'so Stalin and Trotsky had actually had a lot in common politically.'
But it was personally that they absolutely loathed each other.
Their animosity only grows when Trotsky replaces Stalin
as interim leader.
Stalin was very valuable behind the scenes.
He did have a knack of convincing the average run of leaders,
especially the provincials.
The time for words has passed.
The country stands on the edge of ruin.
The Army demand peace.
The peasants demand land.
The workers demand work and food.
The coalition government is against the people.
The government is a tool in the hands of the enemies of the people.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
The time for words has passed!
Trotsky's individualism and panache is not always trusted by Lenin.
'Trotsky writes, "Lenin was worried,'
"suspicious of my non-Bolshevik past,'
"wondering, have I got the capacity to do it,
"and I had to constantly reassure him, do not worry, Comrade Lenin,
"it's going to happen. We are doing it."
All power to the Soviets!
Immediate Armistice on all fronts!
Land to the peasants!
He's sort of arrogant and that's his Achilles heel
because people don't like arrogance in the party.
Trotsky felt it should all be delivered to him
because of that brilliance.
And he would read... ostentatiously read French novels
during meetings of the politburo,
to show how, erm, above all this he was.
When Lenin was asked what had kept he and Trotsky apart for so long,
Don't you know?
Now they share an ambition - real power.
While hiding in Finland, Lenin makes the biggest decision of his life.
The time is ripe for his revolution.
'By then, everyone was sick of the war.'
They were sick of the food shortages.
People were openly saying on the streets,
"Do you know what, we don't care who's in power.
"If they like, the Germans can come and take Petrograd."
Lenin bombards the Bolsheviks with letters insisting they seize power.
"The present task must be an armed uprising in Petrograd and Moscow,
"the seizing of power and the overthrow of the government."
'Lenin was a complete monomaniac.'
He's like a boiling pot.
All the time, you can hear the lid rattling.
He gets more and more furious and the bubbles are bubbling up.
"It would be naive to wait for a formal majority for Bolsheviks.
"No, revolution ever waits for that."
He brewed himself up extraordinarily
and twisted himself up into anger
and his flashes of anger were terrifying.
"History will not forgive us if we do not assume power now.
'Lenin is raging that we are about to lose'
the one-off opportunity to seize power, to seize Russia.
"To wait would be utter idiocy."
'The Bolshevik leadership doesn't know what to do with these.
'It thinks that they might be inflammatory
'and provoke an uprising prematurely,'
so they go as far as to destroying these letters if they can.
-traitors to the proletarian cause!
'When you read the letters,'
my God, he could swear like a trooper when he wanted to.
He had a vicious tongue.
Lenin realises that writing these letters from his hiding place
'is not enough. He's going to have to face the central committee
'to argue for this properly and to win the argument.
'And then he's going to have to seize power immediately.'
Suddenly we're in a state of high drama here.
You know, something has got to give.
If the Bolsheviks don't seize power now, somebody else might.
By the beginning of October, Lenin is beside himself with impatience.
On the night of October the 10th, Lenin suddenly reappears,
disguised as a Lutheran minister to avoid capture by the authorities.
The significance of the meeting is world historical.
History isn't always made on battlefields.
They're made in small meeting rooms.
Since the beginning of September, there has been a certain...
..indifference to the idea of seizing power.
We must seize power now
and not wait for the Soviets or any congresses.
The time is right now.
The moment of decision has arrived.
The masses are tired of words and resolutions.
The majority are behind us.
The success of Russian and worldwide revolution
depends on two or three days' struggle.
If I may, Comrade Lenin.
Trotsky wants to wait to launch the uprising
until after the upcoming Congress of Soviets.
This way, socialist delegates from all over the country
can back the insurrection.
But Lenin disagrees.
It's difficult for a large, organised body of men
to take swift, decisive action.
We must act on the 25th, the day that Congress sits,
so that we may say to it, "Here is our power.
"What are you going to do with it?"
'He hammers and hammers and hammers the point
'that if we don't act now we'll lose our moment,'
we'll never have a chance again.
This is the only time we will succeed.
I don't think Lenin was browbeating anyone.
He was just arguing that this is the time.
Of course, they were vigorous arguments.
The argument is essential.
Whether to seize power or to form democratic alliances.
'At this very moment, the top Bolsheviks'
start to say, we should negotiate a coalition
with other parties like the Mensheviks, other rival factions.
'This isn't the time to seize power,
'we might lose everything we have already.'
I say we put it to the vote.
When they began, at least half the central committee
was against armed insurrection.
After ten hours arguing,
the result goes 10-2 in Lenin's favour.
'This is just the moment when you realise'
the absolute paramount power of the individual in history,
because, you know, half the central committee,
or even a majority of the central committee of the Bolshevik Party
doesn't want to seize power in October 1917.
'The fact that Lenin got the vote and won the permission to go ahead
'was entirely decisive.
'This was indeed the cocking of the pistol of revolution.'
By October the 24th, Kerensky is expecting an uprising,
but he's still confident he will prevail.
It'll be like July again.
I'll be prepared to offer prayers to produce this uprising.
I'll have greater forces than necessary.
They will be utterly crushed.
Kerensky's overconfidence plays right into Lenin's hands.
With Stalin in charge of the Bolshevik press,
Kerensky orders two of the newspapers closed.
Within hours, Stalin is free to get the newspapers running again...
..announcing Kerensky's censorship
as the start of a full-blown counterrevolution.
Now, the Bolsheviks can start their uprising
under the pretext of defending freedom.
A lie always has a stronger effect than the truth.
The main thing is to obtain one's objective.
You've come a long way, comrades.
As head of the Petrograd Soviet,
Trotsky plays his part in the deception.
He orders that bridges and key government buildings
be seized to protect the city.
This is defence, comrades,
this is defence.
He goes so far as to say...
An armed conflict, today or tomorrow,
on the eve of the Soviet Congress, is not in our plans.
By that evening, Lenin is convinced the hour,
indeed the moment to seize power, has finally arrived.
Everything now hangs by a thread.
The matter must be decided without fail...
'Lenin has been told very categorically by his comrades'
to stay put and he is crawling the walls.
'He is desperate to be there, to be in the thick of it.
'Lenin's face is notorious
'so what he does is he puts on his disguise.
'He puts on glasses, he puts on a fairly ridiculous wig,
'he puts on a battered worker's cap.
'And finally he, sort of, swathes some bandages around his face
'to, sort of, look injured in some way
'and also simply to obscure those notorious features.'
He is wanted for high treason.
Government troops are searching the city for him.
Now, he must risk capture to get to Bolshevik headquarters.
'On his way, they're stopped by one of the last police patrols'
of the provisional government.
'And they look at this man and think he's some sort of drunk tramp...'
-What do you think?
-He's just drunk.
..and let him go.
Get out of here.
For me, this is the real turning point of 20th century history.
This is the moment when one man makes all the difference.
'If Lenin had been arrested...
'..they probably never would have launched an insurrection.
'But because those policemen failed to recognise Lenin,'
for whom there was a warrant for arrest...
..the insurrection took place.
'Everything is happening in a series of rooms
'in the splendid Smolny Institute.
'Lenin arrived at room 36, which was the key room, the headquarters,'
the engine room, the beating heart of the revolution,
'and there he found all the key players.
'And they're running everything from here.
'There were soldiers playing cards, smoking.
'People drinking vodka. Some people drunk.
'Soldiers rushing in with news'
that this building or that building had fallen.
'At this moment in Russian history, in world history,
'these series of shambolic rooms
'half encampment, half military headquarters, half student bivouac,
'are the centre of the world and Lenin has to be in this room.'
Lenin has always been called the Father of the Revolution.
But the man who ran the October Revolution was not Lenin or Stalin.
'Trotsky wasn't just a handsome face and a great orator,
'he was also an organisational genius.
'He put together the machinery, the personnel, the plan.
'It was Trotsky that gave the orders.'
Trotsky was the man of the hour.
The Bolsheviks take control of Petrograd overnight,
just hours before the Congress of Soviets is to meet.
By the morning of October the 25th,
only the Winter Palace remains in the hands
of the provisional government.
'Kerensky is in cloud cuckoo land, quite frankly.
'And on the morning of the 25th of October,
'thinks, well, it might be time to go and summon troops.
'He can't get any on the telephone.'
Of course, the Bolsheviks are already in control of virtually
'every means of communication in the capital.'
Though the provisional government still occupies the Winter Palace,
that afternoon, Trotsky announces that the government has fallen.
In the name of the military revolutionary committee,
I declare that the provisional government is no more!
Well, talk about fake news. It hasn't happened at all.
It had meant to happen by that point.
The authority of the provisional government,
presided over by Kerensky,
was a corpse
that only awaited the broom of history to sweep it away.
Well, this was the first Bolshevik lie
of...of many of the next, erm, the next 70 years.
The Winter Palace is not yet taken
but its fate will be settled in the course of the next few minutes!
But the minutes drag into hours.
Why haven't they seized power?
'He was promised, he was told by his military'
that it would take just three or four hours.
For heaven's sake,
why aren't shells being fired into the Winter Palace?
Why haven't they stormed it?
'They couldn't find the artillery, the guns didn't work,'
they were blocked, could anyone find anyone to work them?
They needed a lantern to give the signal
but no-one could find a lantern.
'There's a sort of hilarious crisis where the Mayor of Petrograd
'actually marches in front of the troops
'and stops the whole seizure of the Winter Palace.
'An entire group of men in frock coats start waving their umbrellas
'and saying, "You're not going to seize power now."'
They have to be moved out of the way and still nothing has happened.
By this point, Lenin is apoplectic.
What the hell's going on?
These people should be shot for their incompetence!
As long as ministers are in the Palace,
the provisional government still stands.
I think the seizure of the Winter Palace is the key,
'because until then there's a Cabinet
'sitting around a Cabinet table, still running Russia.'
And Lenin himself recognises this.
This is why Lenin doesn't go to the Congress or do anything else.
Trotsky deals with the other socialist parties
at the Congress of Soviets.
Having travelled from all over Russia,
they are shocked to find Petrograd already seized by the Bolsheviks.
But their protests are shouted down by Trotsky's men.
Trotsky has another strategy ready.
'Trotsky's order of the day was that if the people in the Winter Palace'
'the battleship Aurora should fire blanks at them.
'He said that very noise of the battleship,
'which they could all see with its guns pointing,'
would be enough to send them out scurrying like rabbits.
At 10:40pm, the warning shot is fired from the Aurora.
And is heard as far away as the Congress.
The other socialist parties are outraged by the aggression...
..and walk out.
Without realising it, they have just handed power to the Bolsheviks.
'It was a godsend that his chief opponent just walked out,
'leaving the field of battle.'
So many socialist delegates leave that the Bolsheviks are now
in the majority and can do as they please.
'I think we have to agree with the great memoirist,'
Nikolai Sukhanov, who was at the Soviet Congress himself,
when he said, it was just a huge gift to Lenin.
As the delegates leave, Trotsky mocks his one-time allies
in one of the most quoted speeches of the 20th century.
The rising of the masses of the people
requires no justification.
What has happened is an uprising,
not a conspiracy.
Trotsky's the real star of the Petrograd Soviet.
He's a brilliant orator.
The masses of the people moved under our banner
and our uprising
has won victory.
But he's also a brilliant theoretician
who understands how rhetoric and politics are intertwined
and how he can play on an audience to mobilise them.
Trotsky is able to make the Bolshevik view
sound like everyone's view.
..we are told...
to renounce our victory.
With that wretched group who've just left us?
No-one in Russia is with them any more.
No compromise is possible.
The Bolshevik position becomes the Soviet position.
To those who have left
and those who make these proposals,
we say, you are pathetic individuals!
You are bankrupt!
Your role is played out.
Go off to where you belong from now on.
To the dustbin of history!
'His kind of dripping contempt lets them know that power is moving now,'
minute by minute, erm, to the Bolsheviks,
and to the creation of an entirely new world.
At virtually the same moment, Lenin's wish is becoming reality.
The Winter Palace is about to be taken.
Though its capture may not have been quite as spectacular
as Sergei Eisenstein's film, October, portrayed it.
First of all, it wasn't even locked.
Secondly, it was guarded by a group of adolescent boys
who were about 15 years old - cadets,
and by a group of female soldiers
who were getting more and more terrified.
So when they finally did, on that evening, enter the Winter Palace...
..when the doors were open, no-one stopped them.
There was no fighting, there was no storming.
The heroic scale of that film is creating a myth of October,
far from the reality.
'The storming of the Winter Palace creates this foundation myth
'of it being a mass uprising.
'That the thousands who stormed the Winter Palace,'
instead of the few dozen who actually did so,
were representatives of the whole people.
'Revolutions are, by nature, illegitimate.'
So you need to create foundation myths.
The moment that power passes to the Bolsheviks is an epic example.
They walked into the Cabinet meeting.
'And the Cabinet looked up and said, "What do you want us to do?"
'And the Bolsheviks said, "You're under arrest."'
That is the moment the October Revolution happens.
An heroic new world is born.
At least in Eisenstein's version of events.
In reality, Lenin is in room 36 when he gets the news,
far from the action.
It is finally done.
Russia is his.
But did Lenin just grab power in a coup
or did he have popular support?
'I think it was a coup d'etat.'
There were people who wanted bread and land
and all power to the Soviets,
but did they want a Bolshevik government led by Vladimir Lenin?
I don't think so.
Was there an element of conspiracy in it?
Well, of course, because you can't plan an insurrection
by publishing the details the day before.
But everything till then, till the day before,
had been discussed in Lenin's speeches, in his writings,
and those of Trotsky, what he was saying,
they were saying, yes, we are making a revolution.
How the hell is that a coup d'etat?
For sure, the coup d'etat of October, which is what it was,
based itself on the underpinnings of a mass social revolution
which originated in February 1917.
And we see the radicalisation of peasants, workers, soldiers,
across the country, giving a mandate for Soviet power by October.
But Soviet power is not what Lenin makes
of the events of the 25th of October.
Lenin is using the cloak of Soviet power
to establish a Bolshevik dictatorship.
The next day, Lenin appears at the Congress of Soviets to announce...
We shall now proceed
to construct the socialist order.
'This is a man who had spent years working out the theory
'of exactly what he was going to do.'
And so the moment that they took over, he was ready.
Trotsky is named the People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs.
Stalin, the People's Commissar for Nationalities.
And Lenin becomes the leader of the government.
A new era in the history of Russia and of the world begins.
Lenin issues scores of decrees that transform Russia in days.
'You start to see the first stirrings of a different kind
'of social control, for example.
'Workers' control and peasantry having control of their own lives.
'Equal rights of men and women, of divorce law,
To me, there's no question that October represents a moment of hope.
'Just weeks after the October Revolution,'
Lenin created a one-party state, a totalitarian state.
'He also created the Cheka, the secret police,
'with power over life and death, to kill enemies of the revolution.'
He repeatedly ordered mass shootings of thousands of innocent people.
'He specified that, you know,
'annihilation was the only way for the party to keep power.
'So, gradually, he created a dictatorship'
that was inherited by Stalin, and made much more intense by Stalin.
'When the ideologue is confronted with reality,
'that doesn't fit into his scheme,'
he can't defeat reality with argument,
so the fist tightens.
Vladimir Lenin dies of a stroke in 1924.
Joseph Stalin rises to power.
He eliminates his rivals.
Notably, Leon Trotsky,
who was assassinated in 1940.
Joseph Stalin, the quiet backroom fixer,
outlasts both Lenin and Trotsky.
His reign becomes the Great Terror
that lasts for over a quarter of a century.
The Tsars, in their last half century,
were averaging 17 executions a year.
Within a month...
a few months of Lenin taking power,
erm, it was 1,000 a month, executions.
And during the Great Terror, it was more like 1,000 a week.
'Under Stalin, something like 20 million people'
would go through the concentration camps, the Gulag camps.
Somewhere between 20 and 30 million people were killed.
These were on the orders not just of Stalin,
but of Lenin and the Bolshevik Party.
Stalin is not Lenin's heir.
In his last will and testament,
Lenin made it very clear that he should be removed
as General Secretary of the party.
Said he was not the right sort of person to be leading the party.
Stalin's impact on Russia lasts beyond his death in 1953
or even the death of the Soviet Union in 1991.
ANNOUNCED IN RUSSIAN
'Putin really understands the October Revolution.
'In many ways, he's a result of it, one of the results of it.
'When he looks back at history, he's really interested,'
not in Marxism or Bolshevism,
'he's most impressed by the Red Tsar, by Stalin.
'Because Stalin is the successful manager
'of the Russian nation.'
HE SPEAKS RUSSIAN
'Putin's not interested in the chaos caused by Lenin and Trotsky.
'He's interested in the prestige and the victory'
delivered by Joseph Stalin.
So, has history proved Stalin to be more influential
than Lenin or Trotsky?
For so many years, 70 years of the Soviet Union,
it was Lenin who was always invoked as the godlike figure,
the Father of the Revolution.
And now, in the Putin era, he's been sort of left to one side a bit.
The statues are still there,
but somehow he's not talked about as much.
When there was a poll recently about some of the greatest leaders
or figures in Russia, it was Stalin who figured, not Lenin.
But is Lenin's time coming again?
'We live today in a world of rampant populism, of post-factual politics,
'and much of this can be traced back to Lenin.
'That ultimate political manipulator...'
..who, though he was a fanatical Marxist,
was also the master of pragmatism.
'He understood that politics was all about who controls who
'and any means were suitable to achieving his ends.'
The Russian Revolution of 1917 is one of the most controversial events of the 20th century. Three men - Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin - emerged from obscurity to forge an entirely new political system. In the space of six months, they turned the largest country on earth into the first Communist state. Was this a triumph of people power or a political coup d'etat that led to blood-soaked totalitarianism? A hundred years later, the Revolution still sparks ferocious debate. This film dramatizes the 245 days that brought these men to supreme power. As the history unfolds, a stellar cast of writers and historians, including Martin Amis, Orlando Figes, Helen Rappaport, Simon Sebag-Montefiore and China Mieville, battle over the meaning of the Russian Revolution and explore how it shaped the world we live in today.