July Days of 1917

July Days of 1917


the July political crisis, the third such crisis in Russia (after the April crisis and the June crisis) during the period from the February bourgeois-democratic revolution to the Great October Socialist Revolution; a new and very important stage in the development of a nationwide crisis.

The immediate cause of the July Days lay in the events of late June and early July: the unsuccessful offensive at the front and the disbandment of revolutionary military units. On July 2 (15) the Cadets walked out of the bourgeois Provisional Government, threatening the Mensheviks and the Socialist Revolutionaries (SR’s) with the destruction of the government coalition. A government crisis was the result. The political situation in the country became increasingly strained. On July 3 (16) spontaneous demonstrations broke out in Petrograd. They were started by the soldiers of the 1st Machine-gun Regiment, who were strongly influenced by the anarchists. At a secret conference on July 2 (15) the anarchists had decided to call the Petrograd workers and soldiers out to an armed antigovernment demonstration. The Bolsheviks, who favored the peaceful development of the revolution, were opposed to an armed demonstration: the political crisis had not yet matured in the army and in the provinces, and Petrograd would not receive support.

However, on the evening of July 3 (16) the machine gunners’ appeal met with a favorable response from soldiers of the Moscow, Grenadiers, Pavlovskii, 180th, and 1st Reserve regiments and the 6th Engineers Battalion. These units marched out in an armed demonstration under the slogans “Down with the Ten Capitalist Ministers” and “All Power to the Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies.” Workers from the Putilov Works and other Petrograd factories joined them. The compromiser leadership of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee forbade the demonstration, but it was impossible to stop the workers from demonstrating. In the predawn hours of July 4 (17), the Central Committee of the RSDLP (Bolshevik), jointly with the Petrograd Committee and the Military Organization of the Party, decided to provide leadership to the movement in order to give it an organized and peaceful character. At about 12 o’clock on July 4 (17) a demonstration of 500, 000 workers, soldiers, and sailors from the Baltic fleet began, under the slogan “All Power to the Soviets.” At the headquarters of the Bolshevik Central Committee in the palace of Kshesinskaia the demonstrators were greeted by Lenin, who called upon the masses to show self-control and expressed his assurance that the slogan “All Power to the Soviets” would prevail. Ninety representatives from 54 major factories suggested that the joint session of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee of the Soviets should assume complete power, but the SR-Menshevik executive committees declared the demonstration to be a “Bolshevik plot,” and rejected the demands of the masses. The military authorities sent troops against the peaceful demonstration. Clashes with armed counterrevolutionaries of such organizations as the Military League occurred at the Liteinyi Bridge, at the corner of Nevsky Prospect, in Sadovaia Street, and in other places. There were 56 dead and 650 wounded. Antigovernment demonstrations were held also in Moscow, Ivanovo-Vosnesensk, Orekhovo-Zuevo, Nizhny Novgorod, Krasnoiarsk, Tomsk, and other cities. The will of the people had been made clear.

On July 5 (18) the Central Committee of the RSDLP (Bolshevik) published an appeal for the demonstrations to be ended. The SR-Menshevik leadership of the Central Executive Committee actively supported punitive measures by the government against the revolutionary people. They began to disarm the workers, disband the revolutionary military units, and make arrests. On July 5–6 (18–19) the editorial offices and printing plant of Pravda and the headquarters of the Central Committee of the RSDLP (Bolshevik) were destroyed. On July 6(19) the Provisional Government issued an order for the arrest of Lenin, who was forced to go underground. On July 7 (20) troops loyal to the government arrived in Petrograd from the front. The government crisis was intensified by the resignation of Prime Minister G. E. Lvov. On July 8 (21), A. F. Kerensky became prime minister. The All-Russian Central Executive Committee of the Soviets proclaimed the Provisional Government to be a “government of the salvation of the Revolution” and acknowledged it to have “unlimited powers and unlimited authority.” The SR-Menshevik Soviets became a powerless appendage to the bourgeois government. The July Days marked the end of dual power. On Lenin’s proposal, the slogan “All Power to the Soviets” was temporarily dropped by the Sixth Congress of the RSDLP (Bolshevik). “The counterrevolution has become organized and consolidated, and has actually taken state power into its hands,” wrote Lenin (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 34, p. 1). The peaceful development of the revolution became impossible. The July Days intensified the contradictions in the country more than ever. The armed struggle of the workers for power was placed on the agenda.


Lenin, V. I. Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed. (See index vol., part 1, p. 210.) Shestoi s”ezd RSDRP (bol’shevikov): Protokoly. Moscow, 1958. Revoliutsionnoe dvizhenie v Rossii v iiule 1917g.: Iiu’skii krizis. Moscow,
1959. (In the series Velikaia Oktiabr’skaia sotsialisticheskaia revoliutsiia.)
Znamenskii, O. N. Iiu’skii krizis 1917 g. Moscow-Leningrad, 1964.