The Bolsheviks had a battery of powerful leaders but the most notable were Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov – Lenin as he is better known – Joseph Stalin, and for a time Leon Trotsky.

Three key Russian revolutionary leaders were Vladimir Lenin (R), Leon Trotsky (C) and Joseph Stalin (L), in this image from November 6, 1947.
Three key Russian revolutionary leaders were Vladimir Lenin (R), Leon Trotsky (C) and Joseph Stalin (L), in this image from November 6, 1947. (AP file)

One hundred years ago, the Bolsheviks and their supporters came to power in Russia in what would become a turning point in history.

Russia's absolutist Tsar had already ceded some power to a parliament in 1905. In February 1917 that system collapsed. The last Tsar, Nicholas II, abdicated, ending the imperial era in Russia, and ushering in a period of uncertainty and a provisional government.

Then in November 1917, the Bolsheviks moved against the provisional government and established the rule of the 'majority'.

But who were they?

'Bolshevik' means 'majority' in Russian. The Bolsheviks originally were a faction of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party who split from the Mensheviks ('minority') in 1903 to form their own party.

Among the Bolsheviks were a number of the Soviet Union's future leaders: Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov (Lenin), Joseph Stalin, and for a time – Leon Trotsky.

The first stage of the revolution unseated Tsar Nicholas II from power. A provisional government took power. The second stage brought the Bolsheviks to power.
The first stage of the revolution unseated Tsar Nicholas II from power. A provisional government took power. The second stage brought the Bolsheviks to power. (TRTWorld)

There were two phases to the Russian revolution, which developed within a cauldron of disillusion with the Tsar, serfdom and World War I.

In the first phase, Tsar Nicholas II was ousted in the February Revolution, which ended mixed imperial parliamentary rule in Russia. A provisional government briefly took power. The second phase, beginning on November 7, 1917, brought the Bolsheviks to power.

The Bolsheviks institutionalised their rule within the framework of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The CPSU governed the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) until its dissolution in 1991.

The USSR and communism were characterised by a planned economy rather than the market. The party and planning bureaucracy and their leaders were not able to meet popular needs. The toll of the Afghanistan war also played a role in the collapse of the huge country.
The USSR and communism were characterised by a planned economy rather than the market. The party and planning bureaucracy and their leaders were not able to meet popular needs. The toll of the Afghanistan war also played a role in the collapse of the huge country. (TRTWorld)

The dissolution of the USSR on December 26, 1991 followed decades of slow economic disintegration as the planned soviet economy lost ground to market-based economies. 

Mikhail Gorbachev's policies of "openness" and "reconstruction" could not halt the slide. 

The human and economic cost of the failed Soviet intervention in Afghanistan is also seen as a key contributing factor to the final collapse of the USSR and emergence of fifteen independent states.

A collapsed USSR led to the emergence of fifteen independent states.
A collapsed USSR led to the emergence of fifteen independent states. (TRTWorld)
Source: TRTWorld and agencies