April Crisis of 1917

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

April Crisis of 1917

 

a crisis concerning the question of political power in Russia, which arose soon after the February bourgeois-democratic revolution and which was caused by the irreconcilable contradictions between the masses and the imperialist bourgeoisie. It began spontaneously after it became known on April 20 (May 3) that Minister of Foreign Affairs P. N. Miliukov had sent a note to the Allied powers on April 18 (May 1) declaring the readiness of the Provisional Government to continue the war until victory. In Petrograd the Finland Regiment, the Moscow Regiment, the 180th Regiment, and a part of the Second Baltic Fleet marched on the Mariinskii Palace, seat of the Provisional Government. In all, more than 15,000 persons gathered. The soldiers raised the slogan, “Down with Miliukov!” On April 21 (May 4), in response to a call by the Bolsheviks, some 100,000 workers and soldiers came out in a demonstration demanding peace and the transfer of power to the soviets. A small group of “lefts” from the Petrograd Committee of the RSDLP (Bol-shevik) raised the slogan, “Down with the Provisional Government!” implying a call for armed overthrow of the government. The Central Committee of the RSDLP (Bolshevik) adopted a resolution by Lenin on April 22 (May 5) condemning this slogan as adventurist, since the objective conditions for armed action did not exist at that time. Counterrevolutionary elements headed by the Kadets organized counter-demonstrations with the slogan, “Have faith in the Provisional Government!” Clashes with the reactionaries took place and there were casualties. The bourgeois press charged the Bolsheviks with preparing civil war. General L. G. Korni-lov, commander in chief of the Petrograd military district, ordered artillery to be set up against the workers, but the soldiers and officers refused. Protest demonstrations also took place in Moscow, Revel, Vyborg, and other cities.

The events showed that the bourgeois Provisional Government had no support among the masses and did not have substantial military strength. Under these conditions “the soviets could (and should) have taken over power without meeting the least resistance from any quarter” (V. I. Lenin, Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 34, p. 63), but the conciliatory majority in the Soviet came instead to an open agreement with the bourgeoisie. The Socialist Revolutionary-Menshevik Executive Committee of the Petrograd Soviet promised its support to the Provisional Government if an “explanation” of Miliukov’s note were published. On the evening of April 21 (May 4) the Petrograd Soviet discussed the “explanation” which it had received from the government and voted to consider the “incident closed.” The April Crisis exposed the failure of the policy of “control” over the Provisional Government by the compromiser-dominated soviets. In order to save the day, the bourgeoisie began to maneuver. Miliukov and A. I. Guchkov, the ministers hated by the masses, were removed from the government. The first coalition government was announced on May 6(19). Entering it along with the Kadets were several leaders of the Socialist Revolutionaries and the Mensheviks—V. M. Chernov, A. F. Kerensky, I. G. Tsereteli, and M. I. Skobelev. The power crisis had been temporarily overcome, but the causes that gave rise to it had not been removed, as shown by the June crisis of 1917 and the July days of 1917.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.