This text comes from our book, All Ye Lands.
To weaken Russia, the Germans urged the soviet revolutionaries to take up arms against the tsar. The Germans sent to Russia a revolutionary by the name of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, who had been living in Switzerland to escape being arrested by Russia’s secret police.
Lenin was a former law student who joined the revolutionaries after his brother had been arrested and executed by the tsar’s secret police. Lenin then studied revolution and Marxism. A spell-binding speaker and ruthless leader, he had become well known in revolutionary circles in Russia. In November of 1917, he stirred the soviets of St. Petersburg to rise up against the provisional government. Lenin’s revolution was successful. His band of revolutionaries, called Bolsheviks, seized control of the government. The November revolution marked the end of traditional Russia.
After the Bolshevik revolution, Lenin’s opponents fled from St. Petersburg and gathered troops to overthrow the new government. This led to civil war, which lasted from 1917 to 1921. During this war, the Bolsheviks had sent Tsar Nicholas and his entire family across the Ural Mountains, into the east, to keep anyone from saving them. On July 17, 1918, the tsar’s Bolshevik guards executed him and his entire family—by Lenin’s orders. So ended the Romanov dynasty that
had ruled Russia for over 300 years. The Russian Orthodox Church considers Tsar Nicholas and his family to be martyrs for the faith.
In the end, Lenin and the Bolsheviks were victorious. Over all of Russia and the lands it ruled, they established a new government, called the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.) or the Soviet Union. The Bolsheviks, renaming themselves the Communist Party, promised land for the peasants. Workers in industries were promised freedom from their oppressors. The Communists said that everyone in the Soviet Union was equal, for all were members of the working class. There were to be no rich or aristocrats, they said. Women were given the vote—a rare thing for that time. Yet, the only candidates that both women and men could vote for were members of the Communist Party. Lenin and his Communists wanted complete control of all aspects of life in the U.S.S.R.
To control the people, Lenin used a secret police force, called the Cheka, to commit acts of terror. Between 1918 and 1921, the Cheka murdered about 140,000 people
throughout the U.S.S.R. Lenin persecuted Christians, especially those belonging to the Russian Orthodox Church. Churches were closed and destroyed; priests and bishops were imprisoned and murdered.
Lenin remained head of the Soviet government until his death in 1922. After Lenin’s death, members of the Communist Party struggled with each other to take control of the government. Finally, one man was victorious. His name was Joseph Stalin.
Music of a Russian Expatriate
In the 20th century, some of the world’s greatest composers came from Russia. Among these was Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953). Prokofiev began composing his Violin Concerto No. 1 in D major, Op. 19, in 1915, laid it aside for a time, and finally completed it in 1917, the year of the Bolshevik Revolution. By 1918, when Vladimir Lenin ordered the execution of Tsar Nicholas and his family, Prokofiev was living (with permission of the Soviet government) in the United States. Here Prokofiev’s concerto is performed by the great Russian violinist, David Oistrakh, and the Royal Concergebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam, under the direction of Bernard Haitnik.