The Russian October Revolution 1917 I THE GREAT WAR Week 172


Each episode of this show begins with a hook;
something that hasn’t happened so far in the war, but not today. This week’s episode begins with a hook that
has happened before, in fact, it happened only eight months ago – revolution in Russia. I’m Indy Neidell; welcome to the Great War. Last week, the Central Powers breakthrough
on the Italian front – the Battle of Caporetto – continued, with the Italians retreating
all week and the Germans and Austrians taking prisoners in the hundreds of thousands. ANZAC mounted infantry performed brilliantly
as the Ottomans were defeated at Beersheba, the Canadians advanced slightly at Passchendaele,
taking heavy casualties; the British government announced its support for a National Home
for Jews in Palestine, and there was ominous unrest in Petrograd. And as this week unfolded, that unrest grew
and exploded. On the 3rd, German and Russian soldiers fraternize
on northern front. On the 5th, Prime Minister and Minister of
War Alexander Kerensky ordered troops outside the city that he believed were loyal to him
to enter the city to quell revolutionary activity, but on the 6th they declined to do so. That evening, the Bolsheviks occupied the
railway stations, the bridges over the Neva River, the state bank, and the telephone exchange. On the 7th, more than 18,000 Bolsheviks surrounded
the Provisional Government Ministers who had holed up in the Winter Palace, and who were
defended by fewer than 1,000 people. More than 13,000 sailors from Kronstadt had
arrived in the city, dedicated to revolution. That evening the cruiser Aurora, anchored
in the Neva, announced that it would fire on the Winter Palace and fired blank charges
to show it was serious. By 0100, the Bolsheviks had overrun the palace
and scattered the defenders. On the 8th, Lenin proclaimed a new government
– the Council of People’s Commissars. Lenin was elected the Chairman of the Council,
and was now nominally ruler of the capital city. Leon Trotsky became Commissar for Foreign
Affairs. This was the October Revolution – we’re
still in October by the Russian calendar then in use. The first government decree that day was the
decree of peace, which Lenin read out in the evening to an ecstatic crowd. On the 9th, Trotsky asked his ministry to
translate it into foreign languages for immediate distribution abroad, but 100 officials loyal
to either the Tsar or the Provisional Government, walked out. On the 10th, 4 million copies will be sent
to the front, calling for an end to the fighting. One thing here, this new “government”
did not have support of the moderate Socialist Revolutionaries nor the Mensheviks in the
Petrograd Soviet, and it had not been ratified by any Constituent Assembly. Until that could happen, it would be run by
a series of ad hoc committees with no political legitimacy. As the week ended, it was still great turmoil
in Petrograd and Moscow, since nobody had any idea how this was going to play out. There were a couple of things, though, that
were playing out this week in Italy – Caporetto and Cadorna. Italian army Chief of Staff Luigi Cadorna
had played very little part in the battle. He hadn’t actually thought there would even
be one once the snow had arrived in the Julian Alps at the beginning of October so he’d
taken a two-week vacation to Torino. Even when he returned he still didn’t listen
to the rumors about an impending offensive, and that offensive had turned into a rout. And the fighting was still going on. On the 5th, the Germans crossed the Tagliamento
and the Italians were again on the retreat. On the 8th, the Germans were pushing the Italians
toward the Piave River and that day outflanked 17,000 Italians, who surrendered. The same day, Austrian troops coming down
from the Dolomites and Julian Alps occupied Vittorio Veneto, just 55km from Venice. In ten days, the Italian retreat from Caporetto
had been 100km, but at the end of the week, the Italians were established behind the Piave. King Vittorio Emanuele, who was technically
in charge of the army called a meeting of the leaders of the Western Allies for November
5th at Rapallo to try to deal with Italy’s precarious situation. Cadorna didn’t bother attending, and sent
General Carlo Porro instead. At the conference, Porro claimed the Germans
had attacked with 35 divisions, not the seven they actually had attacked with. The Italians asked French and British Prime
Ministers Paul Painlevé and David Lloyd George for 15 British and French divisions to be
sent at once. The British sent in 5 artillery and infantry
divisions and the French 6 (Caporetto). The King was now furious with Cadorna and
called for another meeting the 8th. In English he told those assembled that the
responsibility for the Caporetto disaster lay with the Italian generals, and he called
for the resignation of Cadorna and Luigi Capello. Now Cadorna grew furious and blamed everyone
but himself. He refused to resign. The king fired him. The general consensus was that the Duke of
Aosta, who was still undefeated, should replace Cadorna, but the king didn’t want to appoint
a cousin, so he appointed General Armando Diaz as new Chief of Staff. Diaz was a lot different from Cadorna. He was from the south – from Naples – and
was of Spanish descent. He had originally been an artillery officer,
though he’d spent the bulk of two decades in Rome as a staff officer. As a younger man, he had seen action in Libya,
where he’d been wounded and decorated, and in the World War he’d risen quickly through
the ranks, commanding infantry regiments on the Carso. He became a Corps commander in April this
year and his Corps was the only one to gain ground in the 10th and 11th battles of the
Isonzo River. Unlike Cadorna, Diaz cared deeply for the
welfare of his men and was concerned with keeping casualties as low as possible. His jobs now were to rebuild the Italian army
and hold the Piave line. Also at the conference, the Allies decided
on the creation of a Supreme Allied War Council for the western front. This was to be a body charged with constantly
surveying the field of operations as a whole, and from the information gathered, coordinating
the plans of the different general staffs. There was a breakthrough on another front
that also continued this week – the Palestine Front. Following the capture of Beersheba, Gaza now
fell after a massive bombardment from ten British and French naval vessels off the coast. A German sub managed to sink two of them. A combined infantry and mounted assault then
hit the city, and in minutes overwhelmed the defenses that Kress von Kressenstein had spent
the year building. This whole campaign featured more and more
cavalry and mounted infantry charges, used for their shock value, then culminating in
hand to hand combat. On the 8th, for example, the Warwickshire
and Worcestershire Yeomanry charged Turkish positions at Huj that were supported by machine
guns and artillery. “A whole heap of men and horses went down
20 or 30 yards from the muzzles of the guns. The squadron broke into a few scattered horsemen
at the guns and then seemed to melt away completely… I had the impression I was the only man alive. I was amazed to discover we were the victors.” – Lieutenant Wilfred Mercer. They then turned the captured machine guns
on the fleeing enemy. Any way you slice it, cavalry overrunning
machine guns is a serious achievement, but cavalry’s main advantage was that it could
provoke total panic on breaking through. However, in spite of British General Edmund
Allenby’s success, the Ottomans repeatedly escaped encirclement and withdrew to fight
again. And the Canadians were fighting again as well,
on the Western Front at Passchendaele. The assault November 6th was, in fact, to
be an all-Canadian one. In all the other sectors only artillery would
engage. Two Canadian Divisions attacked at 0600 – General
Arthur Currie was going for speed and surprise, and after just two minutes of shelling, the
creeping barrage began. The infantry had already crawled into no-mans
land in the dark and thus avoided the German artillery that now fell on their trenches. By 0745, two battalions of the 1st Division
were already 1km from their assault trenches. The 2nd division had taken Passchendaele itself
by 0740, “a pile of bricks with the ruin of a church, a mass of slaughtered masonry
and nothing else left on this shell-swept height.” The men could see in the distance across the
far end of the remains of the village, a land of tall trees and green fields, with undamaged
houses and unmarked fields, an incredible contrast to the battlefield. Canadian troops drove the Germans off enough
of Passchendaele Ridge for British Army Commander Sir Douglas Haig to claim victory. The price of this little victory was almost
exactly what Currie had predicted a couple weeks ago for it – 16,000 men. And the week ends, with a new Italian Commander
trying to stem the tide, British success in Palestine, Canadian success at a heavy cost
at Passchendaele, a Supreme war Council formed, oh! And Austrian General Svetozar Borojevic von
Bojna is promoted to Field Marshal. And there was another revolution in Russia. But you know what? This Bolshevik coup, for that’s what it
is at the moment, was not the heroic rise of the workers you find in Russian histories,
it was “…the exhausted capitulation of Kerensky’s moribund and virtually defenseless
government.” Seriously. The under-1,000-people I mentioned that were
guarding his government at the winter palace? It was made up of teenaged cadets, a bicycle
squad, two companies of Cossacks, and 135 wom n from a Women’s Death battalion who
expected to fight Germans at the front and had no desire to defend Kerensky’s government. That was it. Against tens of thousands of Bolshevik Red
Guards and revolutionary sailors. At least, though, there wasn’t a great deal
of blood. For now. If you want to learn more about Russia before
the revolution, you can click right here to watch our special episode about that. Our Patreon supporter of the week is Ninip
Lazar – thank you for your ongoing support on Patreon which makes this show what it is
today. Don’t forget to subscribe, see you next
time.




Comments
  1. Communists" We promise Peace, Bread, and Land
    Also Communists: Starts wars with Poland and Finland, causes mass starvations and confiscates private property
    meet the new boss, same as the old boss

  2. I think İndy's second private channel name must be Politcal Leaders love bad military leader not Time Ghost (And yes İndy's second channel time ghost)

  3. What happens if Germans attack with 35 divisions ? 35×5=175 they attack with entire army of Germany Austria Hungary Ottomans and Bulgaria

  4. Bah, we'll be fine. This Russian revolution will blow over and the monarchy will be restored when the Whites retake the government. This Lenin fellow is nothing special, just an up-jumped loudmouth.

  5. The October Revolution was a "coup"?

    ""What has taken place… is an insurrection, not a conspiracy. An insurrection of the popular masses needs no justification. We have tempered and hardened the revolutionary energy of the Petrograd workers and soldiers. We have openly forged the will of the masses to insurrection, and not conspiracy…. Our insurrection has conquered, and now you propose to us: renounce your victory; make a compromise. With whom? I ask: with whom ought we to make a compromise? With that pitiful handful who just went out?… Haven’t we seen them through and through? There is no longer anybody in Russia who is for them. Are the millions of workers and peasants represented in this Congress – whom they are ready now as always to turn over for a price to the mercies of the bourgeoisie – are they to enter a compromise with these men? No, a compromise is no good here. To those who have gone out, and to all who made like proposals, we must say, ‘You are pitiful isolated individuals; you are bankrupts; your role is played out. Go where you belong from now on—into the rubbish-can of history!’"

  6. Italy should have a celebration day for the firing of Cadorna. National vacation for everyone. Instead we name streets after him… nonesense.

  7. The organiser of the arrestation of the Provisional Government in the Winter Palace was former menshevik Vladimir Antonov-Ovseyenko. He wanted a blood-less takeover i Petrograd, witch may be seen at odds with one of his in-party pseudonyms, "Bayonet". Antonov-Ovseyenko was a close ally of Trotsky, and later a Red Army military commander in the Ukraine before becoming consul for Czechoslovakia, Lithuania, Poland and during the Spanish Civil War, Spain.

  8. I wonder how the rest of the world reacted to the october revolution. When Kerensky made his way out of Petrograd, he was aware that the bolshevik uprising might suceed – but probably only in the short run. So he asked the ambassadors from the other countries in the Entente, not to recognize an eventual bolshevik government. The main world reaction to the actual bolshevik victory seems to have been – nothing. Can Indy or someone else from the team help us, did the Entente think that Kerensky & Co somehow would come back to power?

  9. I always love the history of Russia during this period, such momentus change that would lay down the foundations for decades of future events and pivotal moments.

  10. I'd really like for you to continue this show after the peace for the actual WW1 is signed. There is so much to cover with the Russian Civil War and generally Eastern Europe sorting itself out. The Latvian Independence War alone is beyond crazy and that was happening in parallel to similar insanity in Poland, Estonia, Lithuania… and all of those conflicts influenced each other. I would totally support you on Patreon for that especially since by that time I should be earning some real money as opposed to fake uni student money.

  11. I spent all last month wondering this would happen and finally remembered the whole thing that Russia had a different calendar last week XD

  12. What is your plan for ending this series? Will you end on the week of the November 11th, 1918? Or will you proceed through the aftermath to the signing of the peace treaty at Versailles? Or into the Polish-Soviet and Turkish Wars?

  13. I like your channel and I am always very excited to see new episodes. I was wondering, can you do songs of WW1 ? I mean, the songs that where sung by the soldiers during the war. There are couple of songs in Serbia that where made by soldiers during the war. Pukni Zoro(it's hard to translate it on English) it's a song which where sung by the soldiers of the Serbian army while they where coming home. Tamo daleko(There, very far lliteratim translation) is a song made by soldiers while they where going across Albania. Krece se ladja Francuska(The French ship is moving away, literatim translation) also a song made by Serbian soldiers on a voyage to Corfu. Are there any other songs(British, German, French, etc) made by soldiers in WW1 ? I think it's interesting subject to this channel.

  14. THE BEST EPISODE SO FAR!! Indy&team,You're great! To me, it's really clarifyng. Better than any book I've ridden so far on these subjects. So Thank You!!

  15. Indy the Winter Palace was defensed by the 1st Petrograd Womens battalion of Death 137 women and a few Male officers of 1 was killed and a Male officer was wounded. Maria Bochkalsva unit was the 1st Womens Battalion of Death a different unit. See the book "They fought for the Motherland" by Laurie Stoff

  16. One more question to the staff of The Great War, on anyone who knows anything about the situation. After Kerensky fled he tried to rally troops to retake Petrograd, but these troops were beaten. And then, the 14th of November, he fled the country. Why? Did the army tried to arrest him?

  17. I might have missed it, but I’m a tiny bit sad there wasn’t a sneaky reference to the finale of Blackadder Goes Forth in this episode.

  18. Calling the October Revolution a coup d'etat it's ahistorical because it ignores the powers of the Soviets and the message of the Bolsheviks for Bread, Land, Peace and Power to the Soviets. The October Revolution had the support of the people of Petrograd an the workers and soldiers of the Russian "Republic". If it was a coup d'etat Kerensky would not have found him self alone. The Bolsheviks had the Workers, the sailors and the soldiers with them, no matter what you say of the soviet union later in October of 1917 the Bolsheviks were the only hope for the people of Russia to get out of the War, the War that you say every week that cost millions of lives and had nothing to give to the people of the world.

  19. Cadorna is finally fired. In any regard, this should be one of the best weeks of the war.
    But then the Bolshevists had to go and muck it up with the October Revolution.
    Sigh

  20. I have to say about cadornas firing is that if i had been king of Italy i would have fired him Out of a cannon and into a solid brick wall.

  21. October revolution is a coup ? Not this again. Anyone who actually researches Russian history knows that the Bolsheviks had a majority inside the cities (in the Soviets or in english Councils that were formed after the February revolution) and they also had a majority in certain places which were more rural. The October revolution happened because Lenin recognized that it was time, because they have popular support unlike in the July days, when they had a majority in Petrograd but almost no where else, and tried to stop the uprisings that happened against the government at that time.

    Plus, it is not true that the Social Revolutionaries or Esars didnt support the Bolsheviks. There was a split in the party (which wasnt recognized during the voting, but essentially after the votes were casted in the Soviets) between Left and Right Esars. The Left Esars, who actually had a majority got into a coalition with the Bolsheviks and the first government after the October revolution was a coalition of Bolsheviks and left-wing Esars or Social revolutionaries.

    Plus, if it was a coup, how did they hold onto power after having a full blown rebellion on their hands (the White army, Green army (small but still there) and the Anarchist rebellions in Ukraine, Krondstadt,…) and plus a lot of those rebels were directly and militarily supported by at least 14 foreign armies (America, Japan, Germany, Britain, France, Poland,…).

    If it really was a coup, give me the details and plans of the coup, and I will personally do it next week.

  22. the communist leaders of the USSR were responsible for no fewer than 15 million deaths. some estimations go up to 60 million deaths

  23. 'At least there was not a great deal of blood….. for now.' *orchestral music in background*. That's a pretty epic foreshadowing of what is to come, very well done!

  24. The Provisional government had also lacked legitimacy, hence the name. It had only ever been an agreement among various political parties. Without the agreement of enough parties it had no basis, especially since the Bolsheviks was the only party which was armed, so their protection, or permission, was necessary for it to exist at all.

  25. And thus, the career of the worst general in the entire war ends.
    Cadorna astounds me; whilst he shared many of the same problems other generals have suffered during this war (inflexibility and over optimistic planning), but had a temperament which would be considered unacceptable by the standards of modern generals: deflecting blame upon everyone and everything else other than himself; not caring about the condition of his troops; profound negligence of intelligence. This man was a perfect storm of terrible.

  26. This seems like a great educational channel, how the fuck does Youtube justify demonitizing this? Better push those Elsa vs Spiderman videos! Pandering degenerates.

  27. The October Revolution got ratified by the 2nd All-Russian Soviet Congres, in which the revolutionaries had a majority. The bolsheviks (at this time at least) were convinced of a "council democracy" or "soviet democracy", not a "parliamentary democracy" which involves a constituent assembly. The 2nd All-Russian Soviet Congres was in fact the equivalent of a constituent assembly for the bolsheviks. They favored another form of democracy, with more active involvement from the rank and file, than the 'vote once every four years, in between you have nothing to say'.

  28. Is there any particular reason why cavalry charges worked so effectively against the Turks armed with machine guns when in Europe they always failed? I don't get it. You'd think cavalry charging across the open ground of the desert would be even less effective, not more.

  29. I'm just now getting caught up again (I've two months behind). I have to compliment Indy, Flo, and the team because the quality just keeps getting better and better. Two specific things which really impressed me are 1) the quality of the quoted-text-on screen selections. (There was one a few episodes ago about "We sold the same horse twice" and then the one from this episode about "…I thought I was the only one left alive. I was surprised to find we were the victors.") The quotes are gold, and 2) That overhead A/B comparison photo of just how much damage and destruction was caused from this senseless war. Keep up the good work! I've been a Patron supporter since 2015 and have never regretted spending a single dollar spent on this impressive and truly epic project you all have embarked on.

  30. Cadorna was indeed arrogant and incompetent, but they do not mention a fundamental fact: the Italian 2nd Army was badly deployed on the ground. It was set for offensive with most of its artillery on the front line and a second line not strong enough. The 2nd Italian Army was not organised in depth to repell such an attack. Italian high command did not expect enemy offensive and did not adopt a cautious deplyoment of troops.

  31. Hi Indy and Flo and Crew. I'm catching up slowly. (I'm on Week 172, doing two to three weeks a day). Just heard you might be coming over the pond in 2018. If you do a swing into Canada, There are two museums you HAVE to visit. There is the National War Museum in Ottawa, near our Parliament buildings. It has an excellent WW1 set of displays. The second museum is the Museum in calgary, Alberta. Also excellent displays and sits across from the Currie Barracks where many a Canadian regiment did their training. There is a hill there, called Signal Hill, where battalions, before they shipped off by train to Halifax, would spell out their battalion designation with white stones on the side of the hill. Some of the later ones are still there.

    Excellent series. Looking forward into moving on to 1918 and seeing the German spring offensive and the Allied Hundred Days offensive that ended the war.

    B.G. Cousins

  32. Many people here complain about communism/socialism. But have you ever thought what a huge number of people of color died for European and American capitalism? Capitalism succeeded only because of use of slavery, conquering and stealing resources of other countries, racism and discrimination. How can you blame socialism and at the same time completely ignore all the horrors of slavery and conquest that was done in the name of capitalism? How is that ok? America truly is still racist

  33. America forgets that Canada went, the same as Australia, into Russia, and were pushed out because we were seen as too cruel and too rough

  34. Kerensky always seemed doomed….Trotsky, however, had all the necessary personal elements to lead but, I think, misread Lenin, very much to his detriment. Think how much different the USSR would have been if Trotsky had routed Lenin, and Stalin, and not ended up assassinated in Mexico.

  35. Italy before Caporetto: "If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine"

    They might have lost a few hundred thousand soldiers, but on the other hand they finally got rid of Cadorna, I call that an improvement…

  36. Cadorna "il macellaio" must be one of the most idiotic, useless, barbaric, full of himself and biggest piece of ** History has ever seen

  37. Bless Sir Currie. This attack might have been costly, but I feel it would have been so much worse if Currie had given in to Haig's crazy ideas.

  38. @ 2:56 those huge machine guns. What on Earth are those things!?? I have never seen one before. It looks like a 20mm maxim machine gun. It's bloody terrifying.

  39. My grandfather, being at that time a young Polish man, was in the Winter Palace defending the Kierenski government. His mother had sent him to the Page Corps in order to save him from being drafted. Well, that worked out well 😉
    He survived of course, and years later as a phycisist he was visiting Leningrad and given a tour with other scientists of the Ermitage museum. Suddenly he disappeared but after a few minutes was back with the group. The frightened Soviet guide asked him where he had been and he asnwered he'd been to the bathroom. Then she asked him how he knew where it was and he said that he had been there in 1917. "Oh," exclaimed the overjoyed woman "you attacked the Winter Palace!" "No!" said he, "I defended it!" 😀
    True story.

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