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Dates That Changed The Western World: 1917 and the Russian Revolution

image001The Bolshevik Revolution of 25 October 1917 had a profound impact not only on the Western world but also on the global history of the twentieth century. During the Soviet period, the revolution was celebrated on 7 November following the adoption of the Gregorian calendar by the new Bolshevik government.

A meeting of the Bolshevik Central Committee met early in October to discuss the possibility of progressing the revolution in the Russian capital of Petrograd. On the evening of 25 October, a blank shot from the cruise ship Aurora signalled the beginning of the revolution. In the hours that followed, Bolshevik supporters took command of many of the city’s strongholds and marched on the Winter Palace, the seat of the Provisional Government now guarded by the military and a Women’s Battalion.

These events were famously portrayed in Sergei Eisenstein’s film Oktober: Ten Days that Shook the World (1928). It is now commonly reported that more shots were fired, more people injured and more damage was done to the Winter Palace in the making of the film than actually happened on the day. Nevertheless, footage from the film is still often used to portray the events of October.

Historians now keenly debate the origins of the Russian revolution, when it really started and which events brought it to an end. They also debate whether the events of October 1917 really deserve to be called a ‘revolution’ or if they are better referred to as a ‘coup’. Some historians also now date the origins of the Cold War from the events of 1917.

As we approach the centenary of 1917, we eagerly look forward to new scholarship on the October Revolution.

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