Common Core: RH.6-8.1, RH.6-8.7, RH.6-8.10, RI.6-8.1, RI.6-8.2, RI.6-8.3, SL.6-8.1, SL.6-8.2, SL.6-8.5, SL.6-8.6, WHST.6-8.2, WHST.6-8.4, WHST.6-8.7, WHST.6-8.9

C3 (D2/6-8): Civ.6, Civ.14, Eco.1, Eco.2, His.1, His.3, His.5, His.14

NCSS: Power, authority, and governance; Time, continuity, and change; Individuals, groups, and institutions; Global connections

The Russian Revolution

In 1917, the Russian people started a rebellion that would change their nation forever

Granger, NYC/The Granger Collection

This poster features Vladimir Lenin, founder of Russia’s Communist Party. It was painted in 1967 in the style of revolution-era Soviet art. It says, “Lenin lived, Lenin lives, Lenin will live forever!”


Alexei (ah-LEK-say), son of Czar Nicholas II and Czarina Alexandra

Alexandra, wife of the czar

Felix Yusupov (yoo-SOO-pof), Russian prince

Dmitry Pavlovich (duh-MEE-tree PAH-vluh-vich), Russian duke, relative of Nicholas II


*Woman 1

*Woman 2

*crowd of Women

Nicholas II, czar (zahr) of Russia

Alexander Guchkov (GOOCH-koff), member of the Duma, Russia’s parliament

Vasily Shulgin (vah-SEE-lee SHOOL-gin), member of the Duma

Alexander Kerensky (KER-en-skee), leader of the Russian Provisional Government

Maria Bochkareva (buch-kuh-ROH-vuh), leader of the Women’s Death Battalion

Leon Trotsky, Bolshevik

Vladimir Lenin, Bolshevik leader

Lev Kamenev (KAH-men-ev), Bolshevik

Vladimir Antonov-Ovseenko, Bolshevik

*Red Guard 1

*Red Guard 2

Narrators A-E

*Indicates a fictional or composite character. All others were real people.


Narrator A: Ever since 1613, members of the royal Romanov family had ruled Russia with absolute power. The czar, or emperor, made all the decisions.

Narrator B: When World War I began in 1914, it devastated the country. Russian troops were defeated in Prussia (now part of Germany and Poland), and Russians at home were starving and had no fuel to heat their homes.

Narrator C: Czar Nicholas II and his wife, Alexandra, didn’t care about their people’s prob­lems. The czar’s troops brutally attacked pro­testers, often firing into crowds. Russians grew fed up with a czar who refused to listen to them.

Scene 1

PETROGRAD, Summer 1915
Narrator D: The royal couple lives in Petrograd (now St. Peters­burg), then Russia’s cap­ital. Their son, Alexei, has hemophilia, an illness that keeps his blood from clotting properly. Czarina Alexandra believes Grig­ory Ras­putin (rah-SPYOO-tun), a holy man, is the only person who can save her son. Many Russians think Rasputin has too much influ­ence over Nicholas and Alex­andra.

Alexei: Ma, it hurts! Make it stop!

Alexandra: I know, dear. But don’t worry. Rasputin has promised to make you well again.

Alexei: Aunt Ella says he’s evil.

Alexandra: She doesn’t know what she’s talking about.

Alexei: But other people say bad things about him too!

Alexandra: We’re the Romanovs, Alexei! It doesn’t matter what any­one thinks. Rasputin is our savior, and he can make you well again.

Narrator E: In August, Nicholas leaves to direct the war effort on the front lines, leaving Alexandra to run the government in Petrograd.

Scene 2

Narrator A: Using his influence over Alexandra, Rasputin has per­suaded her to give government jobs to his friends. Their incom­petence and dis­honesty have outraged even the czar’s loyal supporters.

Felix Yusupov: Rasputin has Alex­an­dra under his control. Her foolish decisions threaten the nation!

Dmitry Pavlovich: There must be something we can do about it.

Yusupov: If we don’t act now, the people’s hatred of Rasputin will turn them against the czar.

Pavlovich: It would be best to get rid of Rasputin as soon as possible.

Narrator B: On December 16, 1916, a group of men murders Ras­putin. But this won’t save the czar.

Scene 3

Narrator C:
February is one of the coldest months in Russia’s history. Trains taking food to Petrograd get stuck in ice and snow. Wom­en and children nearly freeze to death waiting in long lines for bread.

Baker: No more bread today!

Woman 1: But we’ve been waiting in the frigid cold for six hours!

Woman 2: There’s been no bread in days! Why are you starving us?

Crowd of Women: We want bread! We want bread!

Narrator D: Hundreds of women force their way into bakeries across the city to steal bread. The govern­ment sends troops to restore order. But instead of stopping the pro­testers, the soldiers join them. Rebel­lion spreads through the army.

Scene 4

MARCH 1917
Narrator E:
Czar Nicholas rushes back to try to stop the uprising, but his train is cap­tured by rebels.

Nicholas II: What’s going on?

Alexander Guchkov: The people have turned to the Duma (Russia’s parliament) to run the country. You must give up your power.

Nicholas II: If it can’t be me, then I’ll turn the throne over to my son.

Vasily Shulgin: He’s too sick to rule. Besides, people in the streets are chanting “No more Romanovs!”

Narrator A: Nicholas gives up the throne on March 15, and the royal family is sent to prison.

Scene 5

JULY 1917
Narrator B:
Getting rid of the czar doesn’t solve Russia’s prob­lems. The war con­tinues to go badly, and soldiers are leaving their posts in large numbers.

Narrator C: Alexander Kerensky becomes premier of the Provisional (temporary) Government. He is helped by a determined woman named Maria Bochkareva.

Alexander Kerensky: How can you help us win this war?

Maria Bochkareva: By organiz­ing a group of female volunteers. If the men refuse to fight, we’ll show them what women can do.

Narrator D: She forms a group called the Wom­en’s Death Bat­tal­ion. In Petrograd, she makes a passionate speech to her army.

Bochkareva: In the name of your fallen heroes, march with us! Protect our homeland with your lives. We women, steadfast and strong, will guard the freedom of Mother Russia!

Narrator E: Her words inspire more than 2,000 women and girls to action, and the Women’s Death Battalion is sent to the front lines in Austria. Many of them fight bravely. But the war is brutal, and continued losses devastate Russia.

Scene 6

FALL 1917
Narrator A:
Several political par­ties struggle for power over Russia. But only the Bol­she­viks have a strong organi­za­tion and a popular message. They promise bread, land, and peace. They also have an army, the Red Guards, and are looking for the right time to use it.

Leon Trotsky: Kerensky’s big mistake was that he kept fighting the war. People want to see it end, almost as much as they want food.

Vladimir Lenin: Kerensky’s Pro­vi­sional Government is un­stable. Let’s take it by force!

Lev Kamenev: That’s too big a gamble! We should wait until we have more support.

Lenin: No! History won’t forgive those who wait. To be victorious, we must risk losing everything.

Narrator B: Lenin convinces the Bolsheviks to attack. The Pro­vi­sional Government’s last stand comes at Petrograd’s Winter Palace, the former home of the czars.

Narrator C: On October 25, 1917, the last members of the Women’s Death Battalion and their allies defend the palace. But the Bol­she­viks’ Red Guards win easily.

Vladimir Antonov-Ovseenko (to the Red Guards): Arrest everyone in the Pro­visional Government!

Red Guard 1: Why arrest them when we can kill them? They shed enough of our blood in the war!

Red Guard 2: Yeah, let’s stick them with our bayonets!

Antonov-Ovseenko: Comrades, keep calm. No more violence! Russia is now in your hands.


Narrator D: Lenin led the Bol­she­viks and seized control of the gov­ern­ment. On July 17, 1918, they herded Czar Nicholas and his family into a cellar and killed them. The victorious Bolsheviks then fulfilled a promise to the people: They pulled Russia out of World War I.

Narrator E: In 1918, the Bol­sheviks renamed themselves the Russian Communist Party. In the name of the Russian people, they seized all fac­tories and farms. The Communists’ main goal was to take control of all goods and dis­trib­ute them equally among all Russians.

Narrator A: But the Communist gov­ern­ment became one of the most brutal regimes in history. It used force to suppress political rivals, giving rise to Joseph Stalin, a dictator who murdered millions of peo­ple.

Narrator B: In 1922, Russia and territories it had conquered became the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.), otherwise known as the Soviet Union. The growth of the Soviet Union, its Cold War with the West, and the spread and decline of Communism all came from the seeds of the Russian Revolution.

CORE QUESTION: How did hunger and a record-cold winter contribute to the outbreak of the revolution?

The Soviet Union

Before its collapse in 1991, the Soviet Union was made up of 15 republics dominated by Russia.

Jim McMahon/Mapman®

Russia’s Iron Fists

Under President Putin, Russia’s long history of tightly held power continues.

Bettmann/Getty Images (Joseph Stalin); Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images (Vladimir Putin)

Joseph Stalin (left); Vladimir Putin (right)

The Russian Revolution ended royal rule, but it didn’t lead to democracy. From 1917 to 1991, a series of Communist strongmen led the country. They were ruth­less in securing their power. Joseph Stalin, for example, put critics in labor camps and used other terror tactics to control the Soviet Union for 31 years.

When the Soviet Union broke up in 1991, Russia seemed to be headed for democracy. But the 1990s were chaotic. Prices for food and other items sky­rocketed, and the economy crashed. By 2000, when Vladimir Putin was elected president, many Russians had grown disillusioned with the idea of democracy and welcomed the idea of a new strongman leading them. Putin quickly began consolidating his power, jailing or silencing critics. Yet he seems likely to be reelected next year.

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Skills Sheets (4)
Skills Sheets (4)
Skills Sheets (4)
Lesson Plan (2)
Lesson Plan (2)