ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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‘Midwives’ of the Revolution?

What happened to the “Soviets” and the women workers who marched for change?

Few people are aware that a women’s strike in Petrograd, Russia on 8 March 1917 marked the beginning of the Russian Revolution. Admittedly, in marking the centenary of the two Russian revolutions of 1917, the October Revolution—in the Western Julian calendar, November—would no doubt get pride of place, for arguably it was one of the most influential political events of the 20th century. In putting an end to the monarchy and its tyrannical regime in February—March in the Western Julian calendar—the workers and the soldiers (the latter, mostly peasants in uniform) had not intended to confront and oppose capitalism. Indeed, they allowed the Kadet Party, which represented the capitalists and the nobility, to form the provisional government.

In the midst of World WarI, by the winter of 1917, for ordinary people, the situation had become intolerable. With severe shortages of food and fuel, the workers and their families had been dragged into poverty. Bloody Sunday, which marked the beginning of the failed Revolution of 1905, was being commemorated with strikes and demonstrations in Petrograd, and a lockout at the massive Putilov Works added to the militant mood. Then on 23 February—8 March in the Western Julian calendar, International Women’s Day—women textile workers who came out en masse onto the streets of Petrograd demanding bread seem to have set the events that followed in motion. No one had imagined that 8 March might come to mark the first day of the February Revolution, for these women workers who had taken the initiative with courage and determination, literally had to drag the Bolshevik-led metal workers of the Vyborg district, otherwise noted for being the most radical, behind them.

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Updated On : 28th Aug, 2017
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