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First Bolshevik Revolt (French Trafalgar, British Waterloo)

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The First Bolshevik Revolt, also known as Red April and the April Coup, was a short lived insurrection by a radical Marxist party in the Russian Empire, led by Vladimir Ilyich Lenin and Josef Stalin in St. Petersburg and Moscow, during the last months of the Second Global War. However, the failed attempt to capture Czar Nicholas II allowed loyal Czarist officers to mount a counter coup, crushing the short lived Soviet Republic of Russia, killing Stalin and arresting Lenin.

Background

Despite great strides over the previous decades in social and economic reform, the Russian Empire that entered the Second Global War was still considered backwards, espeically when compared to Western European nations like France and the United Kingdom. The Czar still welded great power, especially over the army, while the Duma gained legislative and budgetary powers, although the Czar possessed veto rights through the Prime Minister, responsible to both the Duma and the Czar.

When Russia joined the Second Global War in 1911, it soon became apparent that the army so costly maintained to deter aggression and to enforce Russian power, was not going to be enough. The initial victories over the Ukraine and Baltic Confederacy encouraged the army to push straight into Germany with Polish help, but the result was long, over stretched supply lines, a collapsing supply situation and the longest land front of the entire European conflict, stretching from the Baltic to Austria-Hungary. Demands for a total mobilization of all resources of Russia was slow, and down in incremental steps by the Czar and the Duma, the former still being assured victory was right around the corner, while the latter was deadlocked in committees and debates, resulting in half-measures and compromises.

The 1913 Offensive by German forces, along with Naval landings by British Marines at Riga, snapped the entire Russian government into action. With the military retreating through allied Poland, and losing thousands a day due to casualties, disease, fighting and capture, the Czar and Duma came together, forming the "Imperial Emergency Cabinet", composed of all participating government parties (including, for the first time, the Russian Socialist Union, led by Leon Trotsky). Headed by Czar Nicholas II and Prime Minister Pavel Milyukov, the Cabinet issued numerous decrees, centralizing the economy and gearing all production to the war effort. Nicholas II became the symbol the nation rallied around, fighting to protect the Motherland from barbarous Germans and Mercantile-minded Englishmen. The response was overwhelming: women entered the factories for the first time, while a limited, but constant stream of new tractors was used to replace men in the fields for military service. Lands that were owned by the large landowners quickly bought the new machinery, while the many smaller farmers, with the encouragement of the government, formed "kolhozy", or collective farms. Food production increased, while the army grew larger, and new weapons were turned out. However, it wouldn't be until early 1915 when the new armies were fully equipped an prepared, starting the stunningly successful Battle of Zodzina, leading to the liberation of Minsk.

However, the black market flourished while rations struggled to match the basic needs of the poor during the hard winter of 1913. Prices jumped while wages were under control, until the Emergency Cabinet ordered price decreases and wage increases. The army was burning through men at an alarming rate, causing increasingly dissatisfaction at home. The Bolsheviks took advantage of this demanding an end to the war, increasing Mechanization of farms and Industrialization of the entire nation. The increasingly blood thirsty calls of revolution were forcibly stamped out in 1914, but leaders like Lenin and Stalin were released later because of the public outcry, and the "trampling of democracy." Lenin and Stalin used this time to form revolutionary councils, called "soviets" in most major cities. With the sudden German counterattack of 1916, which broke through the army lines, the Bolsheviks seized the chance, and declared a general strike on April 17 (April 4 by the recently abandoned but still widely used Julian Calender).

The Revolt

In the early morning of April 5, Bolshevik forces went to seize the railroad and telegraph stations, police headquarters, the Duma and the Czar, currently at the White Palace. Informants within the movement, surprised at the suddeness of the declaration, desperately tried to get the word out to the government, which resulted in a hastily organized defense of the Duma and the White Palace. A bloody firefight that started at 5:45 in the morning woke the Czar and his family, who then took the opportunity and escaped to the as of yet un-captured Finland Station, and a train was commandeered to whisk them away to Helsinki.

However, the result was deceptively promising to the Soviets, who declared the Soviet Republic of Russia into existence. Citizens waking up for work suddenly found themselves in a new country, but only a few truly recognized it, many more heading the calls of loyalists that the Bolsheviks would destroy the state, and allow the Germans to enslave the Russian people, not to mention the destruction of the prosperity that the Empire was just starting to lay the foundation for. A general strike against the Bolsheviks soon sent them in a tail spin, Vladimir Lenin especially hoping for local support to help hold the city. He had misjudged the timing for the revolt, it seemed.

Prime Minister Milyukov, currently on a trip to the front to observe the situation near Minsk as the armies worked to slow down and stop the German offensive, hurried back to St. Petersburg to try to get a handle on the situation. Czarist forces were already making their way to the besieged city, and under the command of General Lavr Kornilov, began to recapture the city from the Bolshevik forces.

The Czar, sending telegrams to his commanders, ordered them to "root out Marxist agents in your armies," but that "the coup is already failing." Nicholas II had no idea how exactly right he was. By 4:00 PM, the Bolshevik's were cornered around the White Palace, which they finally captured only a few hours before: all other locations they captured earlier that day had been retaken. Josef Stalin was killed at this time, leading a charge against the arriving army forces. Lenin was wounded in the leg as an artillery shell crashed into the Palace, which killed other leaders of the revolution.

At 6:15, the second storming of the White Palace took place, with the Czarist army rushing the defenses, and easily sweeping aside the few Red Guards that remained, and capturing Lenin before he could kill himself. The revolt was over.

Aftermath

The failed revolt in St. Petersburg was directly attributed to two major failures on the Bolshevik side: the lack of communication with other Soviet's that could have diverted attention away from the capital, and the suddenness of the declaration of revolt, that resulted in many Red Guards not showing up in time to lend a hand. Had more preparation been attempted, as well as a swifter attack on the White Palace to capture the Czar, the result could have been much different. The failure of a uprising of the populace in favor of the Marxists was another factor, which the leadership pinned their hopes on.

Lenin was sentenced to exile in Siberia, where he died in 1920. Prime Minister Milyukov, in a speech to the Duma, announced that the Coup, while unsuccessful, showed the cracks in the Empire, and that it would be the goal of the government to rectify the situation after the war. And with the German offensive now failing, the war was guessed to be over in months as Russian and Polish forces began a steady march straight for Germany.

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