Russia 1917: Countdown to Revolution


Russia 1917: Countdown to Revolution

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In October 1917, the world changed forever.

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Three men led the takeover of the largest country on Earth.

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Russia became the world's first communist state.

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It took everyone by surprise, including its own leaders.

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Revolution might not happen in our lifetime.

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Vladimir Lenin, Leon Trotsky

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and Joseph Stalin had to struggle, plot and force their way into power

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through the most unlikely series of events.

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'Lenin was moving around in secret, being hunted by the police.'

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'For me, this is the real turning point of 20th-century history.'

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This is the moment when one man makes all the difference.

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The insurrection Lenin led still inspires fierce debate.

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'Did they want a Bolshevik government led by Vladimir Lenin?'

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-Miserable

-BLEEP

-traitors!

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I don't think so.

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The masses are tired of words and resolutions!

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How the hell is that a coup d'etat?

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'He is motivated by a vision of an alternative world.'

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These people should be shot for their incompetence!

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His object was not to convince or persuade anyone,

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it was to destroy them.

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The system Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin created a century ago

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shapes the world we live in today.

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Putin really understands the October Revolution.

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In many ways, he's one of the results of it.

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This is the countdown of the 245 days

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that brought three men from obscurity to supreme power,

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forging a brave and bloody new world.

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February 1917.

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Russia is ready to explode.

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Its royalty, the Tsars, have ruled with an iron fist

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for four centuries.

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EXPLOSION

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Its men are dying in the millions in World War I.

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Its women and children are starving.

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But the Tsar rejects any change.

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JEERING AND SHOUTING

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On February 23rd, Russia erupts.

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The masses of Petrograd take over the capital

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and force the Tsar to abdicate.

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Here, dramatized in October,

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Sergei Eisenstein's propaganda film made ten years after the revolution.

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Yet the men we most associate with the Russian Revolution

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aren't even in the country.

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Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin miss the February Revolution.

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Lenin is in Zurich, having been exiled for nearly 17 years

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as a dangerous revolutionary.

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KNOCKING

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Haven't you heard? There's been a revolution!

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I've heard this sort of rumour before.

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It's probably German propaganda.

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Just days before the February Revolution, Lenin had confessed...

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Revolution might not happen in our lifetime.

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We must go home.

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The one thing Lenin couldn't bear

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was that the revolution, now it's come,

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is going to happen without him.

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He was absolutely tormented about getting back

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and seizing control before someone else did.

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Lenin's drive for power may have its origins in a family trauma.

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Until 1889,

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Lenin is really a fairly average schoolboy

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from a provincial town, Simbirsk.

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But his brother, Aleksandr,

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has been a activist in the main terrorist revolutionary group,

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the People's Will, involved in an attempt to assassinate the Tsar,

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arrested and executed.

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And I think it's partly in revenge for that family tragedy

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that he is so bent on destruction.

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Lenin becomes an ardent Marxist.

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By 1903, he's head of his own radical party, the Bolsheviks.

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Soon after, Leon Trotsky hears about the February Revolution

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while avoiding the Russian authorities in New York.

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'Trotsky was very much the showman, the orator,'

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the real firebrand of the revolution.

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He was a very glamorous figure.

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He was a terrific speaker, real rabble-rouser, and he knew it.

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CHEERING

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Born Lev Bronstein, Trotsky has been a Marxist rebel from youth.

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He had an interesting background.

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He came from the Black Sea coast,

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he was the son of a very rich Jewish farmer.

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He'd had a wonderful education, he was highly cultured,

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he was an internationalist, he'd been all over the world,

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he's been in New York and round Europe and Vienna.

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He's known to be a difficult man, abrasive, extremely charismatic,

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sometimes hard to love but absolutely impossible not to admire.

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This independent revolutionary has rivalled Lenin for 20 years.

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Soon, they'll have to work together.

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Days later, Joseph Stalin learns of the February Revolution

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while exiled for robbery 3,500 kilometres away

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in Achinsky, Siberia.

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'Just look at how attractive Stalin was

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'in the time leading up to the revolution.'

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HE LAUGHS

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'Not only a published poet'

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but an anthologised poet, very handsome,

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with a marvellous head of hair.

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A great one for women.

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He's escaped six times from Siberian exile

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and wanted what?

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Universal equality and justice.

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A completely attractive figure.

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Until he was in power.

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Stalin was the ultimate man of action

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and he became Lenin's chosen favourite man of action.

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He was the master of assassinations,

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protection rackets, heists.

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Every revolutionary leader needs a Stalin.

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Stalin...

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..Trotsky

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and Lenin.

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Three comrades in revolution who now have barely 230 days

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to change the world.

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CHEERING

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They return to a country in turmoil.

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The overthrow of the Tsar in the February Revolution

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has unleashed wild euphoria.

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People were partying in the streets,

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soldiers were, sort of, driving around in cars,

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tooting their horns with, sort of, half undressed girls.

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People were having sex in the street.

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There were a multitude of political factions and parties

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and everyone was having meetings about everything.

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So, it was total anarchy.

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It was an explosion,

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which meant all rules were destroyed and it was a chance to start again.

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We're talking about, in aspiration, you know,

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a fundamental reconfiguring of the way human beings live in the world.

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Lenin arrives at a time when there is an enormous amount of hope

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and a sense that this is still a new Russia.

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April 4th,

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the Bolsheviks' few thousand supporters await Lenin in Petrograd,

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now St Petersburg.

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It was Easter Monday and so the factories weren't working

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so they did manage to get a big crowd in,

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partly by the promise of free beer,

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which, actually, sadly didn't arrive for any of them.

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They've got fantastic arc lighting and it made it look terrific.

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The converted, the supporters, the acolytes, the underground,

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the revolutionaries were there to meet him.

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But the vast majority of people

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didn't even really know who Lenin was.

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After two decades of studying the theory of revolution,

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Lenin arrives with radical ideas on what Russia should do now.

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He had an idea of the revolution in his head

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before he'd even got back to Russia

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to see what the real possibilities were.

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Lenin is ready to test his theories on real people.

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He has no time for other politicians.

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'A delegation greet him rather nervously.

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'He doesn't even answer them.'

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Instead, he gives a speech to the crowds.

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Sailors...

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soldiers, comrades...

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..this is no time for compromise or diplomatic phrases.

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This is the time to move towards building a socialist state.

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CHEERING

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As soon as he arrives back in Russia,

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he calls for his party to agitate for a new revolution.

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The piratical, imperialist war...

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Even Lenin's own party, the Bolsheviks, were shocked.

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..and the hour is not far distant when the people will turn their arms

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against their capitalist exploiters.

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'The political conversation was all about a bourgeois democracy.'

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It was all about elections that were going to happen.

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'It was all about coalitions of groups.'

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Lenin didn't want any of that.

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Lenin wants a second revolution to overthrow the provisional government

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that has been set up.

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He calls instead for the country to be run by Soviets -

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committees of workers, soldiers and peasants.

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He was suggesting that they should seize power pretty much immediately.

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The worldwide revolution has already dawned.

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'The party was absolutely confused,'

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bewildered and amazed by what Lenin said.

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And a lot of them thought he'd gone mad.

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The people want peace.

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They want bread and land.

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They give you war and hunger.

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And the landowners still have all the land.

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He coins the first big slogan -

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land for the peasants,

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peace, an end to war

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and bread.

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Feed the poor.

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Simple words, but behind each lies a whole set of policies.

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The same way that the entire...

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The crowd love it.

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Those in power just laugh.

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A lot of liberal politicians were saying, "Forget it, don't worry,

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"Lenin is a busted flush, he's lost his mind, basically an anarchist,

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"we don't need to worry about him."

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Scant months later, this is the most powerful single person in Russia.

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Sailors, comrades...

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we have to fight for a socialist revolution.

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Fight to the end!

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Long live the worldwide socialist revolution!

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CHEERING

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'People would recognise Lenin as a very modern political phenomenon.'

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He believed totally that the ends justify the means.

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That winning is all, that power is all that really matters.

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APPLAUSE

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There was still huge disagreement about Lenin's motives.

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Power on its own for him was nothing.

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He really wasn't interested in that.

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It was power to make big changes in society.

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'He is motivated by a vision of an alternative world.'

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The end of a society dominated by profit.

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What motivates Lenin is power.

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Power is all that matters in a revolution.

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That is how Lenin understands revolution.

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You have to have power before you can do anything.

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So principle goes out the window in the struggle for power,

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as far as Lenin is concerned.

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Spring turns to summer, but the provisional government

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is unable to solve the country's problems.

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Yet most Russians still have faith in this man -

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Minister of War Alexander Kerensky.

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'Alexander Kerensky was really the first love of the revolution.'

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The intelligentsia adored him.

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I don't care, General. The men will manage.

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'What became known as the Kerensky cult'

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becomes absolutely out of control.

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So you have pamphlet after pamphlet describing him literally

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as a divine figure.

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Immediately.

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'He is convinced of his own historical mission'

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and part of his historical mission is to turn the war around.

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Despite the popular opposition to the war,

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Kerensky orders a new offensive.

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So the offensive is launched on the 16th of June.

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It goes forward for a couple of days, the Germans counterattack,

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the Russians run back. There's chaos.

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They lost hundreds of thousands of men within a week

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and this played totally into the hands of Lenin.

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Lenin, who'd been saying that war is a bad thing,

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that he would provide instant peace, suddenly became incredibly popular.

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And so did the Bolshevik Party.

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When Kerensky orders more soldiers to leave Petrograd for the front,

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they refuse to obey.

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Their determined resistance spreads to front-line troops.

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By July the 4th,

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thousands of deserters join anti-government demonstrations

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in Petrograd.

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It looks like Lenin's second revolution has arrived.

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But are Lenin and the Bolsheviks ready to take power?

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The front-page editorial in the party paper, Pravda,

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had meant to tell the crowds to stay home.

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You should all be thrashed for this.

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'When it becomes clear that this will simply look ridiculous

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'with this enormous mass demonstration,

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'it is too late for the Bolsheviks to come up with another line.'

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They just pull it and they have no time to replace it,

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so it comes out with a rather pregnant blank right at its front.

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The Bolsheviks look utterly confused.

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Lenin had been calling for the provisional government

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to be thrown out and replaced by the more radical Soviets.

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Now, thousands are ready to do just that...

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is he?

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'They were screaming,

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'"Show us leadership. Seize power right now, Lenin."

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'And Lenin was hedging.

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'He was wondering what the hell to do, how to manage this.'

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Because he realised that if this went wrong he could be destroyed.

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'When Lenin steps out onto that balcony,'

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perhaps he loses his nerve.

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He doesn't really know what to say.

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We always wanted this to be peaceful.

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With no violence.

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The Bolshevik call to give power to the Soviets will win one day.

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Despite the zigzags of history.

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But maybe not today.

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Why did Lenin hesitate?

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'Perhaps he's slightly intimidated.'

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This is a man who lived in books and libraries,

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a man who'd been abroad for 15 years,

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who'd never really confronted

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angry workers like that before.

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And perhaps also an element of cowardice creeps in here.

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He was not one for mounting the barricades.

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He was, often it was remarked, the first to run

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when the going got dangerous.

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'He was not intimidated at all.'

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To be able to say to a whirling mass

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of 20,000, to 30,000, to 40,000 workers, no.

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There is a time to strike and there is a time to bite our lips.

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'That, to me, is a sign of greatness.'

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One wrong move on our part could wreck everything.

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'He just knew that...'

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this would be used as a provocation by the counterrevolution

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to crush them.

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That the movement wasn't strong enough to take power.

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We are still an insignificant minority.

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Time is on our side.

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It was a little more than a demonstration.

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A lot less than a revolution.

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Perhaps the fact that he bottles it, essentially, on the 4th of July,

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is because in the back of his head he's thinking,

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"Crikey, this could fail and then they'll come for me."

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GUNFIRE

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For Lenin, timing is everything,

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and he proves correct.

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The revolt collapses the next day

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amidst a hail of bullets from government snipers.

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Kerensky then goes after the Bolshevik Party.

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He ordered the arrest of 800 party members, including Lenin,

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for high treason.

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The July days left Lenin isolated.

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To stay in Petrograd, he'd face arrest and possibly being shot,

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and he knew he had to escape somewhere.

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He felt all chance had gone.

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With the Bolsheviks in ruins, Lenin goes into hiding.

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There is a 200,000 rouble bounty on his head.

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He must now rely on his Lieutenant, Joseph Stalin,

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to mastermind his escape.

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'Now they were going underground again.

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'Stalin, the master of the black arts, was essential to Lenin.'

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'Stalin was the boy in the back room who watched what was happening'

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and made himself useful as and when the moment came.

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'There he was, helps Lenin shave off his very distinctive little goatee.

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'They give him a dreadful wig and a worker's cap,'

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and smuggle him out across into Finland.

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With Lenin gone and Trotsky arrested,

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Stalin finds himself the unlikely leader

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of the shattered Bolshevik Party.

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'Lenin trusted Stalin.'

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He carried secret messages, he set up by the machinery

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whereby Lenin could communicate from a barn out in Finland

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with the Bolshevik machine inside Petrograd.

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All of these things, Stalin managed.

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And it was now that Stalin became the key person

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behind Lenin in the revolution.

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The interesting thing about Stalin,

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he played this incredibly subtle waiting game.

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He was very much there in the shadows,

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watching, waiting, learning.

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While the Bolsheviks rot in jail, flee or go underground,

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things are looking up for Alexander Kerensky.

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He is now Prime Minister.

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After the aborted Bolshevik uprising,

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he appoints Siberian General Lavr Kornilov

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to restore order in Petrograd.

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'Kornilov could see that the Bolsheviks were gearing up

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'to try and take over.

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'He desperately wanted to round up the belligerent revolutionaries,

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'the Bolsheviks, slam them in jail

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'and impose almost a military government on the city'

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because he saw that as the only way of saving the situation.

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'The right-wing, the conservatives,

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'are beginning to rally around Kornilov quite explicitly

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'as a figure who can bring order to Russia.'

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Kerensky worries the General wants to rule Russia

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as a military dictator.

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'There's no question that Kerensky was quite paranoid,'

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but there's also not much question that people were out to get him.

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Just days after appointing the General,

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Kerensky dismisses him in a telegram.

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But the General's troops advance on Petrograd.

0:23:160:23:20

Ironically, it takes Bolshevik activists to save the city.

0:23:200:23:25

Bolshevik agitators from within the army, soldiers,

0:23:280:23:32

went and spoke to the Kornilov soldiers and said,

0:23:320:23:35

"Do you know why you're being brought to Petrograd?

0:23:350:23:38

"To attack us, to kill your brothers and sisters.

0:23:380:23:41

"Is this what you're coming to do?"

0:23:410:23:44

And the descriptions of this event are that Kornilov's army

0:23:460:23:51

melted away in front of his very eyes.

0:23:510:23:54

In an extraordinary reversal of fortune,

0:23:590:24:02

the Bolsheviks are now seen as the saviours of Petrograd.

0:24:020:24:06

MUSIC

0:24:060:24:08

Kerensky's credibility lies in tatters.

0:24:160:24:19

He's reduced to keeping himself going with cocaine and morphine.

0:24:190:24:23

'So, rather than buttress his power base, in fact,

0:24:280:24:32

'the defeat of Kornilov only played into the hands of the left.'

0:24:320:24:37

It's hard for me.

0:24:380:24:40

I struggle with the left and with the right.

0:24:410:24:44

The people demand that I lean on one and then the other.

0:24:440:24:47

I want to take a middle road but nobody will help me.

0:24:480:24:51

'How could you roll out democracy in a country like that?'

0:24:530:24:58

So I think it was always inevitable that this anarchic force

0:24:580:25:02

which splintered the country into revolution

0:25:020:25:04

was never going to quickly shuffle the pieces and put them back

0:25:040:25:08

into a neat jigsaw puzzle which was a proper democracy.

0:25:080:25:11

That wasn't going to happen.

0:25:110:25:13

The Kornilov coup created the situation

0:25:130:25:16

where you had a government with no real power.

0:25:160:25:19

With power ebbing away.

0:25:190:25:21

A leader with no real prestige.

0:25:210:25:24

And the opportunity, the vacuum, into which someone, somewhere,

0:25:240:25:30

could seize power.

0:25:300:25:32

And that someone, Lenin was determined, would be the Bolsheviks.

0:25:320:25:36

The Bolshevik resurgence begins when Kerensky releases them from jail.

0:25:460:25:51

While locked up, Leon Trotsky has finally joined Lenin's party.

0:25:510:25:56

Crowds flock to hear him speak.

0:25:570:25:59

Trotsky was the great celebrity of the revolution.

0:26:010:26:04

He was much more famous than Lenin, not to speak of Stalin.

0:26:040:26:07

'Trotsky was probably the most brilliant intellectual mind'

0:26:080:26:13

produced in tsarist Russia,

0:26:130:26:17

including Lenin.

0:26:170:26:19

'Lenin knew that Stalin and Trotsky were his two chief supporters

0:26:200:26:24

'in pushing for the October Revolution,

0:26:240:26:26

'so Stalin and Trotsky had actually had a lot in common politically.'

0:26:260:26:30

But it was personally that they absolutely loathed each other.

0:26:300:26:33

Their animosity only grows when Trotsky replaces Stalin

0:26:350:26:40

as interim leader.

0:26:400:26:42

Stalin was very valuable behind the scenes.

0:26:420:26:45

He did have a knack of convincing the average run of leaders,

0:26:460:26:50

especially the provincials.

0:26:500:26:53

APPLAUSE

0:26:530:26:55

The time for words has passed.

0:26:570:27:00

The country stands on the edge of ruin.

0:27:020:27:05

The Army demand peace.

0:27:060:27:08

The peasants demand land.

0:27:090:27:12

The workers demand work and food.

0:27:130:27:15

The coalition government is against the people.

0:27:160:27:20

The government is a tool in the hands of the enemies of the people.

0:27:210:27:26

CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

0:27:260:27:28

The time for words has passed!

0:27:280:27:31

Trotsky's individualism and panache is not always trusted by Lenin.

0:27:330:27:38

'Trotsky writes, "Lenin was worried,'

0:27:390:27:42

"suspicious of my non-Bolshevik past,'

0:27:420:27:45

"wondering, have I got the capacity to do it,

0:27:450:27:48

"and I had to constantly reassure him, do not worry, Comrade Lenin,

0:27:480:27:52

"it's going to happen. We are doing it."

0:27:520:27:55

All power to the Soviets!

0:27:560:27:59

CHEERING

0:27:590:28:01

Immediate Armistice on all fronts!

0:28:010:28:04

Land to the peasants!

0:28:060:28:08

CHEERING

0:28:080:28:10

He's sort of arrogant and that's his Achilles heel

0:28:140:28:18

because people don't like arrogance in the party.

0:28:180:28:21

Trotsky felt it should all be delivered to him

0:28:210:28:24

because of that brilliance.

0:28:240:28:26

And he would read... ostentatiously read French novels

0:28:260:28:32

during meetings of the politburo,

0:28:320:28:35

to show how, erm, above all this he was.

0:28:350:28:40

When Lenin was asked what had kept he and Trotsky apart for so long,

0:28:420:28:46

he answered...

0:28:460:28:48

Don't you know?

0:28:480:28:50

Ambition.

0:28:500:28:51

Ambition.

0:28:520:28:54

Ambition.

0:28:550:28:57

Now they share an ambition - real power.

0:29:000:29:03

While hiding in Finland, Lenin makes the biggest decision of his life.

0:29:040:29:09

The time is ripe for his revolution.

0:29:090:29:12

'By then, everyone was sick of the war.'

0:29:130:29:16

They were sick of the food shortages.

0:29:160:29:18

People were openly saying on the streets,

0:29:180:29:21

"Do you know what, we don't care who's in power.

0:29:210:29:23

"If they like, the Germans can come and take Petrograd."

0:29:230:29:26

From mid-September,

0:29:290:29:30

Lenin bombards the Bolsheviks with letters insisting they seize power.

0:29:300:29:35

"The present task must be an armed uprising in Petrograd and Moscow,

0:29:350:29:41

"the seizing of power and the overthrow of the government."

0:29:410:29:46

'Lenin was a complete monomaniac.'

0:29:490:29:52

He's like a boiling pot.

0:29:520:29:54

All the time, you can hear the lid rattling.

0:29:540:29:56

He gets more and more furious and the bubbles are bubbling up.

0:29:560:30:00

"It would be naive to wait for a formal majority for Bolsheviks.

0:30:000:30:04

"No, revolution ever waits for that."

0:30:040:30:08

He brewed himself up extraordinarily

0:30:080:30:10

and twisted himself up into anger

0:30:100:30:13

and his flashes of anger were terrifying.

0:30:130:30:17

"History will not forgive us if we do not assume power now.

0:30:170:30:24

'Lenin is raging that we are about to lose'

0:30:240:30:27

the one-off opportunity to seize power, to seize Russia.

0:30:270:30:32

"To wait would be utter idiocy."

0:30:320:30:35

'The Bolshevik leadership doesn't know what to do with these.

0:30:360:30:40

'It thinks that they might be inflammatory

0:30:400:30:43

'and provoke an uprising prematurely,'

0:30:430:30:46

so they go as far as to destroying these letters if they can.

0:30:460:30:49

-BLEEP

-traitors to the proletarian cause!

0:30:570:31:01

'When you read the letters,'

0:31:020:31:04

my God, he could swear like a trooper when he wanted to.

0:31:040:31:07

He had a vicious tongue.

0:31:070:31:09

Lenin realises that writing these letters from his hiding place

0:31:120:31:16

'is not enough. He's going to have to face the central committee

0:31:160:31:20

'to argue for this properly and to win the argument.

0:31:200:31:23

'And then he's going to have to seize power immediately.'

0:31:230:31:26

Suddenly we're in a state of high drama here.

0:31:270:31:30

You know, something has got to give.

0:31:300:31:32

If the Bolsheviks don't seize power now, somebody else might.

0:31:320:31:36

By the beginning of October, Lenin is beside himself with impatience.

0:31:390:31:44

INDISTINCT CHATTER

0:31:450:31:48

Comrade Lenin?

0:31:560:31:58

On the night of October the 10th, Lenin suddenly reappears,

0:32:000:32:05

disguised as a Lutheran minister to avoid capture by the authorities.

0:32:050:32:09

The significance of the meeting is world historical.

0:32:140:32:17

History isn't always made on battlefields.

0:32:170:32:20

They're made in small meeting rooms.

0:32:200:32:22

Since the beginning of September, there has been a certain...

0:32:220:32:26

..indifference to the idea of seizing power.

0:32:270:32:31

We must seize power now

0:32:320:32:35

and not wait for the Soviets or any congresses.

0:32:350:32:38

The time is right now.

0:32:380:32:40

The moment of decision has arrived.

0:32:400:32:43

The masses are tired of words and resolutions.

0:32:460:32:49

The majority are behind us.

0:32:490:32:52

The success of Russian and worldwide revolution

0:32:520:32:54

depends on two or three days' struggle.

0:32:540:32:57

If I may, Comrade Lenin.

0:32:570:32:59

Trotsky wants to wait to launch the uprising

0:32:590:33:02

until after the upcoming Congress of Soviets.

0:33:020:33:06

This way, socialist delegates from all over the country

0:33:060:33:10

can back the insurrection.

0:33:100:33:12

But Lenin disagrees.

0:33:130:33:15

It's difficult for a large, organised body of men

0:33:160:33:19

to take swift, decisive action.

0:33:190:33:21

We must act on the 25th, the day that Congress sits,

0:33:210:33:25

so that we may say to it, "Here is our power.

0:33:250:33:29

"What are you going to do with it?"

0:33:300:33:32

'He hammers and hammers and hammers the point

0:33:340:33:37

'that if we don't act now we'll lose our moment,'

0:33:370:33:40

we'll never have a chance again.

0:33:400:33:43

This is the only time we will succeed.

0:33:430:33:46

I don't think Lenin was browbeating anyone.

0:33:460:33:49

He was just arguing that this is the time.

0:33:490:33:52

Of course, they were vigorous arguments.

0:33:520:33:55

The argument is essential.

0:33:560:33:58

Whether to seize power or to form democratic alliances.

0:33:580:34:04

'At this very moment, the top Bolsheviks'

0:34:040:34:07

start to say, we should negotiate a coalition

0:34:070:34:10

with other parties like the Mensheviks, other rival factions.

0:34:100:34:15

'This isn't the time to seize power,

0:34:150:34:17

'we might lose everything we have already.'

0:34:170:34:20

I say we put it to the vote.

0:34:230:34:25

When they began, at least half the central committee

0:34:300:34:33

was against armed insurrection.

0:34:330:34:35

After ten hours arguing,

0:34:370:34:39

the result goes 10-2 in Lenin's favour.

0:34:390:34:43

'This is just the moment when you realise'

0:34:490:34:52

the absolute paramount power of the individual in history,

0:34:520:34:55

because, you know, half the central committee,

0:34:550:34:57

or even a majority of the central committee of the Bolshevik Party

0:34:570:35:01

doesn't want to seize power in October 1917.

0:35:010:35:04

'The fact that Lenin got the vote and won the permission to go ahead

0:35:050:35:09

'was entirely decisive.

0:35:090:35:11

'This was indeed the cocking of the pistol of revolution.'

0:35:110:35:16

By October the 24th, Kerensky is expecting an uprising,

0:35:190:35:24

but he's still confident he will prevail.

0:35:240:35:27

It'll be like July again.

0:35:270:35:29

I'll be prepared to offer prayers to produce this uprising.

0:35:300:35:33

I'll have greater forces than necessary.

0:35:340:35:37

They will be utterly crushed.

0:35:390:35:41

LOUD THUD

0:35:480:35:50

Kerensky's overconfidence plays right into Lenin's hands.

0:36:030:36:08

With Stalin in charge of the Bolshevik press,

0:36:080:36:11

Kerensky orders two of the newspapers closed.

0:36:110:36:15

Within hours, Stalin is free to get the newspapers running again...

0:36:210:36:25

..announcing Kerensky's censorship

0:36:260:36:28

as the start of a full-blown counterrevolution.

0:36:280:36:31

Now, the Bolsheviks can start their uprising

0:36:320:36:35

under the pretext of defending freedom.

0:36:350:36:39

A lie always has a stronger effect than the truth.

0:36:390:36:43

The main thing is to obtain one's objective.

0:36:440:36:47

You've come a long way, comrades.

0:36:520:36:54

As head of the Petrograd Soviet,

0:36:540:36:56

Trotsky plays his part in the deception.

0:36:560:36:59

He orders that bridges and key government buildings

0:36:590:37:02

be seized to protect the city.

0:37:020:37:05

He claims...

0:37:050:37:06

This is defence, comrades,

0:37:060:37:09

this is defence.

0:37:090:37:11

He goes so far as to say...

0:37:120:37:14

An armed conflict, today or tomorrow,

0:37:140:37:17

on the eve of the Soviet Congress, is not in our plans.

0:37:170:37:21

By that evening, Lenin is convinced the hour,

0:37:310:37:34

indeed the moment to seize power, has finally arrived.

0:37:340:37:39

Everything now hangs by a thread.

0:37:400:37:43

The matter must be decided without fail...

0:37:450:37:49

..this evening.

0:37:500:37:52

'Lenin has been told very categorically by his comrades'

0:37:540:37:57

to stay put and he is crawling the walls.

0:37:570:38:01

'He is desperate to be there, to be in the thick of it.

0:38:010:38:04

'Lenin's face is notorious

0:38:060:38:08

'so what he does is he puts on his disguise.

0:38:080:38:11

'He puts on glasses, he puts on a fairly ridiculous wig,

0:38:110:38:16

'he puts on a battered worker's cap.

0:38:160:38:19

'And finally he, sort of, swathes some bandages around his face

0:38:230:38:27

'to, sort of, look injured in some way

0:38:270:38:29

'and also simply to obscure those notorious features.'

0:38:290:38:33

He is wanted for high treason.

0:38:360:38:38

Government troops are searching the city for him.

0:38:400:38:43

Now, he must risk capture to get to Bolshevik headquarters.

0:38:450:38:50

DOG BARKS

0:38:500:38:52

'On his way, they're stopped by one of the last police patrols'

0:39:000:39:05

of the provisional government.

0:39:050:39:06

HE MUMBLES

0:39:060:39:09

'And they look at this man and think he's some sort of drunk tramp...'

0:39:120:39:16

-What do you think?

-He's just drunk.

0:39:160:39:20

..and let him go.

0:39:200:39:22

Get out of here.

0:39:220:39:24

For me, this is the real turning point of 20th century history.

0:39:290:39:34

This is the moment when one man makes all the difference.

0:39:340:39:37

'If Lenin had been arrested...

0:39:390:39:42

'..they probably never would have launched an insurrection.

0:39:430:39:47

'But because those policemen failed to recognise Lenin,'

0:39:480:39:51

for whom there was a warrant for arrest...

0:39:510:39:54

..the insurrection took place.

0:39:550:39:57

'Everything is happening in a series of rooms

0:40:080:40:11

'in the splendid Smolny Institute.

0:40:110:40:14

'Lenin arrived at room 36, which was the key room, the headquarters,'

0:40:150:40:19

the engine room, the beating heart of the revolution,

0:40:190:40:22

'and there he found all the key players.

0:40:220:40:26

'There's Trotsky.

0:40:260:40:28

'There's Stalin.

0:40:290:40:31

'And they're running everything from here.

0:40:320:40:34

'There were soldiers playing cards, smoking.

0:40:380:40:41

'People sleeping.

0:40:420:40:44

'People drinking vodka. Some people drunk.

0:40:440:40:47

'Soldiers rushing in with news'

0:40:470:40:49

that this building or that building had fallen.

0:40:490:40:52

'At this moment in Russian history, in world history,

0:40:520:40:56

'these series of shambolic rooms

0:40:560:40:59

'half encampment, half military headquarters, half student bivouac,

0:40:590:41:04

'are the centre of the world and Lenin has to be in this room.'

0:41:040:41:08

Lenin has always been called the Father of the Revolution.

0:41:110:41:15

But the man who ran the October Revolution was not Lenin or Stalin.

0:41:150:41:20

'Trotsky wasn't just a handsome face and a great orator,

0:41:210:41:25

'he was also an organisational genius.

0:41:250:41:29

'He put together the machinery, the personnel, the plan.

0:41:290:41:33

'It was Trotsky that gave the orders.'

0:41:330:41:35

Trotsky was the man of the hour.

0:41:350:41:37

The Bolsheviks take control of Petrograd overnight,

0:41:420:41:46

just hours before the Congress of Soviets is to meet.

0:41:460:41:49

By the morning of October the 25th,

0:41:490:41:52

only the Winter Palace remains in the hands

0:41:520:41:55

of the provisional government.

0:41:550:41:57

'Kerensky is in cloud cuckoo land, quite frankly.

0:41:570:42:00

'And on the morning of the 25th of October,

0:42:000:42:04

'thinks, well, it might be time to go and summon troops.

0:42:040:42:07

'He can't get any on the telephone.'

0:42:070:42:10

Of course, the Bolsheviks are already in control of virtually

0:42:100:42:13

'every means of communication in the capital.'

0:42:130:42:16

Though the provisional government still occupies the Winter Palace,

0:42:210:42:25

that afternoon, Trotsky announces that the government has fallen.

0:42:250:42:30

In the name of the military revolutionary committee,

0:42:300:42:34

I declare that the provisional government is no more!

0:42:340:42:39

CHEERING

0:42:390:42:41

Well, talk about fake news. It hasn't happened at all.

0:42:410:42:45

It had meant to happen by that point.

0:42:450:42:47

The authority of the provisional government,

0:42:470:42:50

presided over by Kerensky,

0:42:500:42:53

was a corpse

0:42:530:42:55

that only awaited the broom of history to sweep it away.

0:42:550:43:00

Well, this was the first Bolshevik lie

0:43:010:43:04

of...of many of the next, erm, the next 70 years.

0:43:040:43:08

The Winter Palace is not yet taken

0:43:080:43:12

but its fate will be settled in the course of the next few minutes!

0:43:120:43:17

CHEERING

0:43:170:43:19

But the minutes drag into hours.

0:43:200:43:22

Why haven't they seized power?

0:43:220:43:26

'He was promised, he was told by his military'

0:43:270:43:29

that it would take just three or four hours.

0:43:290:43:32

For heaven's sake,

0:43:320:43:34

why aren't shells being fired into the Winter Palace?

0:43:340:43:38

Why haven't they stormed it?

0:43:380:43:41

'They couldn't find the artillery, the guns didn't work,'

0:43:420:43:45

they were blocked, could anyone find anyone to work them?

0:43:450:43:48

They needed a lantern to give the signal

0:43:480:43:51

but no-one could find a lantern.

0:43:510:43:53

'There's a sort of hilarious crisis where the Mayor of Petrograd

0:43:530:43:56

'actually marches in front of the troops

0:43:560:43:58

'and stops the whole seizure of the Winter Palace.

0:43:580:44:01

'An entire group of men in frock coats start waving their umbrellas

0:44:010:44:05

'and saying, "You're not going to seize power now."'

0:44:050:44:08

They have to be moved out of the way and still nothing has happened.

0:44:080:44:11

By this point, Lenin is apoplectic.

0:44:110:44:14

What the hell's going on?

0:44:150:44:17

These people should be shot for their incompetence!

0:44:170:44:20

As long as ministers are in the Palace,

0:44:220:44:24

the provisional government still stands.

0:44:240:44:28

I think the seizure of the Winter Palace is the key,

0:44:290:44:32

'because until then there's a Cabinet

0:44:320:44:35

'sitting around a Cabinet table, still running Russia.'

0:44:350:44:38

And Lenin himself recognises this.

0:44:390:44:41

This is why Lenin doesn't go to the Congress or do anything else.

0:44:410:44:45

Trotsky deals with the other socialist parties

0:44:490:44:52

at the Congress of Soviets.

0:44:520:44:54

Having travelled from all over Russia,

0:44:540:44:57

they are shocked to find Petrograd already seized by the Bolsheviks.

0:44:570:45:01

But their protests are shouted down by Trotsky's men.

0:45:010:45:05

Trotsky has another strategy ready.

0:45:050:45:08

'Trotsky's order of the day was that if the people in the Winter Palace'

0:45:090:45:14

didn't surrender,

0:45:140:45:16

'the battleship Aurora should fire blanks at them.

0:45:160:45:21

'He said that very noise of the battleship,

0:45:220:45:26

'which they could all see with its guns pointing,'

0:45:260:45:29

would be enough to send them out scurrying like rabbits.

0:45:290:45:32

At 10:40pm, the warning shot is fired from the Aurora.

0:45:350:45:41

And is heard as far away as the Congress.

0:45:430:45:46

The other socialist parties are outraged by the aggression...

0:45:470:45:51

..and walk out.

0:45:520:45:53

Without realising it, they have just handed power to the Bolsheviks.

0:45:540:45:59

'It was a godsend that his chief opponent just walked out,

0:46:000:46:04

'leaving the field of battle.'

0:46:040:46:06

So many socialist delegates leave that the Bolsheviks are now

0:46:080:46:12

in the majority and can do as they please.

0:46:120:46:15

'I think we have to agree with the great memoirist,'

0:46:180:46:21

Nikolai Sukhanov, who was at the Soviet Congress himself,

0:46:210:46:25

when he said, it was just a huge gift to Lenin.

0:46:250:46:28

As the delegates leave, Trotsky mocks his one-time allies

0:46:290:46:34

in one of the most quoted speeches of the 20th century.

0:46:340:46:37

The rising of the masses of the people

0:46:370:46:42

requires no justification.

0:46:420:46:45

What has happened is an uprising,

0:46:460:46:49

not a conspiracy.

0:46:490:46:51

Trotsky's the real star of the Petrograd Soviet.

0:46:510:46:54

He's a brilliant orator.

0:46:540:46:56

The masses of the people moved under our banner

0:46:560:47:01

and our uprising

0:47:010:47:03

has won victory.

0:47:030:47:05

But he's also a brilliant theoretician

0:47:050:47:08

who understands how rhetoric and politics are intertwined

0:47:080:47:13

and how he can play on an audience to mobilise them.

0:47:130:47:16

Trotsky is able to make the Bolshevik view

0:47:180:47:21

sound like everyone's view.

0:47:210:47:23

And now...

0:47:240:47:25

..we are told...

0:47:260:47:29

to renounce our victory.

0:47:290:47:32

Make concessions.

0:47:320:47:34

Compromise.

0:47:340:47:36

With whom?

0:47:370:47:39

With that wretched group who've just left us?

0:47:390:47:42

No-one in Russia is with them any more.

0:47:420:47:45

No.

0:47:450:47:47

No compromise is possible.

0:47:470:47:50

The Bolshevik position becomes the Soviet position.

0:47:510:47:55

To those who have left

0:47:550:47:58

and those who make these proposals,

0:47:580:48:00

we say, you are pathetic individuals!

0:48:000:48:05

You are bankrupt!

0:48:050:48:07

Your role is played out.

0:48:070:48:10

Go off to where you belong from now on.

0:48:100:48:13

To the dustbin of history!

0:48:140:48:16

CHEERING

0:48:160:48:18

'His kind of dripping contempt lets them know that power is moving now,'

0:48:200:48:25

minute by minute, erm, to the Bolsheviks,

0:48:250:48:29

and to the creation of an entirely new world.

0:48:290:48:31

At virtually the same moment, Lenin's wish is becoming reality.

0:48:410:48:46

The Winter Palace is about to be taken.

0:48:460:48:49

Though its capture may not have been quite as spectacular

0:48:590:49:02

as Sergei Eisenstein's film, October, portrayed it.

0:49:020:49:06

First of all, it wasn't even locked.

0:49:140:49:16

Secondly, it was guarded by a group of adolescent boys

0:49:160:49:19

who were about 15 years old - cadets,

0:49:190:49:21

and by a group of female soldiers

0:49:210:49:24

who were getting more and more terrified.

0:49:240:49:27

So when they finally did, on that evening, enter the Winter Palace...

0:49:290:49:34

..when the doors were open, no-one stopped them.

0:49:370:49:39

There was no fighting, there was no storming.

0:49:390:49:42

The heroic scale of that film is creating a myth of October,

0:49:420:49:48

far from the reality.

0:49:480:49:50

'The storming of the Winter Palace creates this foundation myth

0:49:510:49:55

'of it being a mass uprising.

0:49:550:49:58

'That the thousands who stormed the Winter Palace,'

0:49:590:50:02

instead of the few dozen who actually did so,

0:50:020:50:05

were representatives of the whole people.

0:50:050:50:08

'Revolutions are, by nature, illegitimate.'

0:50:110:50:14

So you need to create foundation myths.

0:50:140:50:17

The moment that power passes to the Bolsheviks is an epic example.

0:50:170:50:22

They walked into the Cabinet meeting.

0:50:230:50:26

'And the Cabinet looked up and said, "What do you want us to do?"

0:50:330:50:36

'And the Bolsheviks said, "You're under arrest."'

0:50:360:50:39

That is the moment the October Revolution happens.

0:50:420:50:46

CHEERING

0:50:490:50:51

An heroic new world is born.

0:50:520:50:55

At least in Eisenstein's version of events.

0:50:560:50:59

In reality, Lenin is in room 36 when he gets the news,

0:51:030:51:07

far from the action.

0:51:070:51:09

It is finally done.

0:51:130:51:15

Russia is his.

0:51:180:51:20

But did Lenin just grab power in a coup

0:51:300:51:34

or did he have popular support?

0:51:340:51:36

'I think it was a coup d'etat.'

0:51:370:51:39

There were people who wanted bread and land

0:51:390:51:41

and all power to the Soviets,

0:51:410:51:43

but did they want a Bolshevik government led by Vladimir Lenin?

0:51:430:51:48

I don't think so.

0:51:480:51:50

Was there an element of conspiracy in it?

0:51:500:51:53

Well, of course, because you can't plan an insurrection

0:51:530:51:57

by publishing the details the day before.

0:51:570:52:00

But everything till then, till the day before,

0:52:000:52:04

had been discussed in Lenin's speeches, in his writings,

0:52:040:52:08

and those of Trotsky, what he was saying,

0:52:080:52:11

they were saying, yes, we are making a revolution.

0:52:110:52:14

How the hell is that a coup d'etat?

0:52:140:52:17

For sure, the coup d'etat of October, which is what it was,

0:52:170:52:22

based itself on the underpinnings of a mass social revolution

0:52:220:52:26

which originated in February 1917.

0:52:260:52:30

And we see the radicalisation of peasants, workers, soldiers,

0:52:300:52:34

across the country, giving a mandate for Soviet power by October.

0:52:340:52:40

But Soviet power is not what Lenin makes

0:52:400:52:45

of the events of the 25th of October.

0:52:450:52:47

Lenin is using the cloak of Soviet power

0:52:470:52:51

to establish a Bolshevik dictatorship.

0:52:510:52:54

APPLAUSE

0:52:580:53:00

The next day, Lenin appears at the Congress of Soviets to announce...

0:53:050:53:10

We shall now proceed

0:53:110:53:13

to construct the socialist order.

0:53:130:53:16

'This is a man who had spent years working out the theory

0:53:200:53:23

'of exactly what he was going to do.'

0:53:230:53:25

And so the moment that they took over, he was ready.

0:53:260:53:29

Trotsky is named the People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs.

0:53:310:53:35

Stalin, the People's Commissar for Nationalities.

0:53:350:53:39

And Lenin becomes the leader of the government.

0:53:390:53:42

A new era in the history of Russia and of the world begins.

0:53:430:53:48

Lenin issues scores of decrees that transform Russia in days.

0:53:510:53:55

'You start to see the first stirrings of a different kind

0:53:570:54:01

'of social control, for example.

0:54:010:54:03

'Workers' control and peasantry having control of their own lives.

0:54:030:54:07

'Equal rights of men and women, of divorce law,

0:54:080:54:11

'decriminalising homosexuality.'

0:54:110:54:13

To me, there's no question that October represents a moment of hope.

0:54:150:54:19

'Just weeks after the October Revolution,'

0:54:210:54:25

Lenin created a one-party state, a totalitarian state.

0:54:250:54:29

'He also created the Cheka, the secret police,

0:54:300:54:33

'with power over life and death, to kill enemies of the revolution.'

0:54:330:54:37

He repeatedly ordered mass shootings of thousands of innocent people.

0:54:380:54:42

'He specified that, you know,

0:54:430:54:45

'annihilation was the only way for the party to keep power.

0:54:450:54:49

'So, gradually, he created a dictatorship'

0:54:490:54:51

that was inherited by Stalin, and made much more intense by Stalin.

0:54:510:54:56

'When the ideologue is confronted with reality,

0:54:580:55:02

'that doesn't fit into his scheme,'

0:55:020:55:04

he can't defeat reality with argument,

0:55:040:55:06

so the fist tightens.

0:55:060:55:08

Vladimir Lenin dies of a stroke in 1924.

0:55:090:55:13

Joseph Stalin rises to power.

0:55:150:55:18

He eliminates his rivals.

0:55:190:55:21

Notably, Leon Trotsky,

0:55:210:55:23

who was assassinated in 1940.

0:55:230:55:26

Joseph Stalin, the quiet backroom fixer,

0:55:290:55:33

outlasts both Lenin and Trotsky.

0:55:330:55:36

His reign becomes the Great Terror

0:55:360:55:39

that lasts for over a quarter of a century.

0:55:390:55:42

The Tsars, in their last half century,

0:55:430:55:47

were averaging 17 executions a year.

0:55:470:55:51

Within a month...

0:55:510:55:53

a few months of Lenin taking power,

0:55:530:55:56

erm, it was 1,000 a month, executions.

0:55:560:55:59

And during the Great Terror, it was more like 1,000 a week.

0:55:590:56:04

'Under Stalin, something like 20 million people'

0:56:040:56:07

would go through the concentration camps, the Gulag camps.

0:56:070:56:11

Somewhere between 20 and 30 million people were killed.

0:56:110:56:16

These were on the orders not just of Stalin,

0:56:160:56:18

but of Lenin and the Bolshevik Party.

0:56:180:56:21

Stalin is not Lenin's heir.

0:56:210:56:24

In his last will and testament,

0:56:240:56:26

Lenin made it very clear that he should be removed

0:56:260:56:30

as General Secretary of the party.

0:56:300:56:32

Said he was not the right sort of person to be leading the party.

0:56:320:56:36

Stalin's impact on Russia lasts beyond his death in 1953

0:56:400:56:46

or even the death of the Soviet Union in 1991.

0:56:460:56:50

ANNOUNCED IN RUSSIAN

0:56:510:56:53

'Putin really understands the October Revolution.

0:56:550:56:57

'In many ways, he's a result of it, one of the results of it.

0:56:570:57:01

'When he looks back at history, he's really interested,'

0:57:020:57:05

not in Marxism or Bolshevism,

0:57:050:57:08

'he's most impressed by the Red Tsar, by Stalin.

0:57:080:57:12

'Because Stalin is the successful manager

0:57:130:57:16

'of the Russian nation.'

0:57:160:57:18

HE SPEAKS RUSSIAN

0:57:180:57:20

'Putin's not interested in the chaos caused by Lenin and Trotsky.

0:57:200:57:24

'He's interested in the prestige and the victory'

0:57:240:57:28

delivered by Joseph Stalin.

0:57:280:57:30

So, has history proved Stalin to be more influential

0:57:340:57:38

than Lenin or Trotsky?

0:57:380:57:40

For so many years, 70 years of the Soviet Union,

0:57:410:57:44

it was Lenin who was always invoked as the godlike figure,

0:57:440:57:48

the Father of the Revolution.

0:57:480:57:50

And now, in the Putin era, he's been sort of left to one side a bit.

0:57:500:57:55

The statues are still there,

0:57:550:57:56

but somehow he's not talked about as much.

0:57:560:57:59

When there was a poll recently about some of the greatest leaders

0:57:590:58:03

or figures in Russia, it was Stalin who figured, not Lenin.

0:58:030:58:07

But is Lenin's time coming again?

0:58:120:58:15

'We live today in a world of rampant populism, of post-factual politics,

0:58:190:58:24

'and much of this can be traced back to Lenin.

0:58:240:58:29

'That ultimate political manipulator...'

0:58:290:58:32

..who, though he was a fanatical Marxist,

0:58:330:58:37

was also the master of pragmatism.

0:58:370:58:40

'He understood that politics was all about who controls who

0:58:400:58:45

'and any means were suitable to achieving his ends.'

0:58:450:58:50

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.


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