Russia 1917: Countdown to Revolution (2017) Movie Script

In October 1917,
the world changed forever.
Three men led the takeover
of the largest country on Earth.
Russia became the world's first
communist state.
It took everyone by surprise,
including its own leaders.
Revolution might not happen
in our lifetime.
Vladimir Lenin, Leon Trotsky
and Joseph Stalin had to struggle,
plot and force their way into power
through the most unlikely series
of events.
'Lenin was moving around in secret,
being hunted by the police.'
'For me, this is the real turning
point of 20th-century history.'
This is the moment when one man
makes all the difference.
The insurrection Lenin led
still inspires fierce debate.
'Did they want a Bolshevik
government led by Vladimir Lenin?'
Miserable BLEEP traitors!
I don't think so.
The masses are tired of words
and resolutions!
How the hell is that a coup d'etat?
'He is motivated by a vision
of an alternative world.'
These people should be shot
for their incompetence!
His object was not to convince
or persuade anyone,
it was to destroy them.
The system Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin
created a century ago
shapes the world we live in today.
Putin really understands
the October Revolution.
In many ways, he's one
of the results of it.
This is the countdown
of the 245 days
that brought three men from
obscurity to supreme power,
forging a brave and bloody
new world.
February 1917.
Russia is ready to explode.
Its royalty, the Tsars,
have ruled with an iron fist
for four centuries.
Its men are dying in the millions
in World War I.
Its women and children are starving.
But the Tsar rejects any change.
On February 23rd, Russia erupts.
The masses of Petrograd
take over the capital
and force the Tsar to abdicate.
Here, dramatized in October,
Sergei Eisenstein's propaganda film
made ten years after the revolution.
Yet the men we most associate
with the Russian Revolution
aren't even in the country.
Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin
miss the February Revolution.
Lenin is in Zurich, having been
exiled for nearly 17 years
as a dangerous revolutionary.
Haven't you heard?
There's been a revolution!
I've heard this sort of rumour
It's probably German propaganda.
Just days before the February
Revolution, Lenin had confessed...
Revolution might not happen
in our lifetime.
We must go home.
The one thing Lenin couldn't bear
was that the revolution,
now it's come,
is going to happen without him.
He was absolutely tormented
about getting back
and seizing control
before someone else did.
Lenin's drive for power may have
its origins in a family trauma.
Until 1889,
Lenin is really a fairly
average schoolboy
from a provincial town, Simbirsk.
But his brother, Aleksandr,
has been a activist in the main
terrorist revolutionary group,
the People's Will, involved in an
attempt to assassinate the Tsar,
arrested and executed.
And I think it's partly in revenge
for that family tragedy
that he is so bent on destruction.
Lenin becomes an ardent Marxist.
By 1903, he's head of his own
radical party, the Bolsheviks.
Soon after, Leon Trotsky hears
about the February Revolution
while avoiding the Russian
authorities in New York.
'Trotsky was very much
the showman, the orator,'
the real firebrand
of the revolution.
He was a very glamorous figure.
He was a terrific speaker, real
rabble-rouser, and he knew it.
Born Lev Bronstein, Trotsky has
been a Marxist rebel from youth.
He had an interesting background.
He came from the Black Sea coast,
he was the son of a very rich
Jewish farmer.
He'd had a wonderful education,
he was highly cultured,
he was an internationalist,
he'd been all over the world,
he's been in New York
and round Europe and Vienna.
He's known to be a difficult man,
abrasive, extremely charismatic,
sometimes hard to love but
absolutely impossible not to admire.
This independent revolutionary
has rivalled Lenin for 20 years.
Soon, they'll have to work together.
Days later, Joseph Stalin learns
of the February Revolution
while exiled for robbery
3,500 kilometres away
in Achinsky, Siberia.
'Just look at how attractive
Stalin was
'in the time leading up
to the revolution.'
'Not only a published poet'
but an anthologised poet,
very handsome,
with a marvellous head of hair.
A great one for women.
He's escaped six times
from Siberian exile
and wanted what?
Universal equality and justice.
A completely attractive figure.
Until he was in power.
Stalin was the ultimate
man of action
and he became Lenin's chosen
favourite man of action.
He was the master of assassinations,
protection rackets, heists.
Every revolutionary leader
needs a Stalin.
and Lenin.
Three comrades in revolution
who now have barely 230 days
to change the world.
They return to a country in turmoil.
The overthrow of the Tsar
in the February Revolution
has unleashed wild euphoria.
People were partying in the streets,
soldiers were, sort of,
driving around in cars,
tooting their horns with, sort of,
half undressed girls.
People were having sex
in the street.
There were a multitude of political
factions and parties
and everyone was having meetings
about everything.
So, it was total anarchy.
It was an explosion,
which meant all rules were destroyed
and it was a chance to start again.
We're talking about,
in aspiration, you know,
a fundamental reconfiguring of the
way human beings live in the world.
Lenin arrives at a time when there
is an enormous amount of hope
and a sense that this
is still a new Russia.
April 4th,
the Bolsheviks' few thousand
supporters await Lenin in Petrograd,
now St Petersburg.
It was Easter Monday and so
the factories weren't working
so they did manage to get
a big crowd in,
partly by the promise of free beer,
which, actually, sadly
didn't arrive for any of them.
They've got fantastic arc lighting
and it made it look terrific.
The converted, the supporters,
the acolytes, the underground,
the revolutionaries
were there to meet him.
But the vast majority of people
didn't even really know
who Lenin was.
After two decades of studying
the theory of revolution,
Lenin arrives with radical ideas
on what Russia should do now.
He had an idea of the revolution
in his head
before he'd even got back to Russia
to see what the real
possibilities were.
Lenin is ready to test his theories
on real people.
He has no time
for other politicians.
'A delegation greet him
rather nervously.
'He doesn't even answer them.'
Instead, he gives a speech
to the crowds.
soldiers, comrades...
..this is no time for compromise
or diplomatic phrases.
This is the time to move towards
building a socialist state.
As soon as he arrives
back in Russia,
he calls for his party to agitate
for a new revolution.
The piratical, imperialist war...
Even Lenin's own party,
the Bolsheviks, were shocked.
..and the hour is not far distant
when the people will turn their arms
against their capitalist exploiters.
'The political conversation was all
about a bourgeois democracy.'
It was all about elections
that were going to happen.
'It was all about coalitions
of groups.'
Lenin didn't want any of that.
Lenin wants a second revolution to
overthrow the provisional government
that has been set up.
He calls instead for the country
to be run by Soviets -
committees of workers,
soldiers and peasants.
He was suggesting that they should
seize power pretty much immediately.
The worldwide revolution
has already dawned.
'The party was absolutely confused,'
bewildered and amazed
by what Lenin said.
And a lot of them thought
he'd gone mad.
The people want peace.
They want bread and land.
They give you war and hunger.
And the landowners still have
all the land.
He coins the first big slogan -
land for the peasants,
peace, an end to war
and bread.
Feed the poor.
Simple words, but behind each
lies a whole set of policies.
The same way that the entire...
The crowd love it.
Those in power just laugh.
A lot of liberal politicians were
saying, "Forget it, don't worry,
"Lenin is a busted flush, he's lost
his mind, basically an anarchist,
"we don't need to worry about him."
Scant months later, this is the most
powerful single person in Russia.
Sailors, comrades...
we have to fight
for a socialist revolution.
Fight to the end!
Long live the worldwide
socialist revolution!
'People would recognise Lenin as a
very modern political phenomenon.'
He believed totally that the ends
justify the means.
That winning is all, that power
is all that really matters.
There was still huge disagreement
about Lenin's motives.
Power on its own for him
was nothing.
He really wasn't interested in that.
It was power to make big changes
in society.
'He is motivated by a vision
of an alternative world.'
The end of a society dominated
by profit.
What motivates Lenin is power.
Power is all that matters
in a revolution.
That is how Lenin understands
You have to have power
before you can do anything.
So principle goes out the window
in the struggle for power,
as far as Lenin is concerned.
Spring turns to summer,
but the provisional government
is unable to solve
the country's problems.
Yet most Russians still have faith
in this man -
Minister of War Alexander Kerensky.
'Alexander Kerensky was really
the first love of the revolution.'
The intelligentsia adored him.
I don't care, General.
The men will manage.
'What became known as
the Kerensky cult'
becomes absolutely out of control.
So you have pamphlet after pamphlet
describing him literally
as a divine figure.
'He is convinced of his own
historical mission'
and part of his historical mission
is to turn the war around.
Despite the popular opposition
to the war,
Kerensky orders a new offensive.
So the offensive is launched
on the 16th of June.
It goes forward for a couple of
days, the Germans counterattack,
the Russians run back.
There's chaos.
They lost hundreds of thousands
of men within a week
and this played totally
into the hands of Lenin.
Lenin, who'd been saying
that war is a bad thing,
that he would provide instant peace,
suddenly became incredibly popular.
And so did the Bolshevik Party.
When Kerensky orders more soldiers
to leave Petrograd for the front,
they refuse to obey.
Their determined resistance
spreads to front-line troops.
By July the 4th,
thousands of deserters join
anti-government demonstrations
in Petrograd.
It looks like Lenin's second
revolution has arrived.
But are Lenin and the Bolsheviks
ready to take power?
The front-page editorial
in the party paper, Pravda,
had meant to tell the crowds
to stay home.
You should all be thrashed for this.
'When it becomes clear that
this will simply look ridiculous
'with this enormous
mass demonstration,
'it is too late for the Bolsheviks
to come up with another line.'
They just pull it and they
have no time to replace it,
so it comes out with a rather
pregnant blank right at its front.
The Bolsheviks look utterly
Lenin had been calling for
the provisional government
to be thrown out and replaced
by the more radical Soviets.
Now, thousands are ready
to do just that...
is he?
'They were screaming,
'"Show us leadership.
Seize power right now, Lenin."
'And Lenin was hedging.
'He was wondering what the hell
to do, how to manage this.'
Because he realised that if this
went wrong he could be destroyed.
'When Lenin steps out
onto that balcony,'
perhaps he loses his nerve.
He doesn't really know what to say.
We always wanted this
to be peaceful.
With no violence.
The Bolshevik call to give power
to the Soviets will win one day.
Despite the zigzags of history.
But maybe not today.
Why did Lenin hesitate?
'Perhaps he's slightly intimidated.'
This is a man who lived
in books and libraries,
a man who'd been abroad
for 15 years,
who'd never really confronted
angry workers like that before.
And perhaps also an element
of cowardice creeps in here.
He was not one for mounting
the barricades.
He was, often it was remarked,
the first to run
when the going got dangerous.
'He was not intimidated at all.'
To be able to say to a whirling mass
of 20,000, to 30,000,
to 40,000 workers, no.
There is a time to strike and there
is a time to bite our lips.
'That, to me,
is a sign of greatness.'
One wrong move on our part
could wreck everything.
'He just knew that...'
this would be used as a provocation
by the counterrevolution
to crush them.
That the movement wasn't strong
enough to take power.
We are still an insignificant
Time is on our side.
It was a little more
than a demonstration.
A lot less than a revolution.
Perhaps the fact that he bottles it,
essentially, on the 4th of July,
is because in the back of his head
he's thinking,
"Crikey, this could fail
and then they'll come for me."
For Lenin, timing is everything,
and he proves correct.
The revolt collapses the next day
amidst a hail of bullets
from government snipers.
Kerensky then goes after
the Bolshevik Party.
He ordered the arrest of 800
party members, including Lenin,
for high treason.
The July days left Lenin isolated.
To stay in Petrograd, he'd face
arrest and possibly being shot,
and he knew he had to escape
He felt all chance had gone.
With the Bolsheviks in ruins,
Lenin goes into hiding.
There is a 200,000 rouble bounty
on his head.
He must now rely on his Lieutenant,
Joseph Stalin,
to mastermind his escape.
'Now they were going underground
'Stalin, the master of the black
arts, was essential to Lenin.'
'Stalin was the boy in the back room
who watched what was happening'
and made himself useful as
and when the moment came.
'There he was, helps Lenin shave off
his very distinctive little goatee.
'They give him a dreadful wig
and a worker's cap,'
and smuggle him out
across into Finland.
With Lenin gone
and Trotsky arrested,
Stalin finds himself
the unlikely leader
of the shattered Bolshevik Party.
'Lenin trusted Stalin.'
He carried secret messages,
he set up by the machinery
whereby Lenin could communicate
from a barn out in Finland
with the Bolshevik machine
inside Petrograd.
All of these things, Stalin managed.
And it was now that Stalin
became the key person
behind Lenin in the revolution.
The interesting thing about Stalin,
he played this incredibly subtle
waiting game.
He was very much there
in the shadows,
watching, waiting, learning.
While the Bolsheviks rot in jail,
flee or go underground,
things are looking up
for Alexander Kerensky.
He is now Prime Minister.
After the aborted
Bolshevik uprising,
he appoints Siberian General
Lavr Kornilov
to restore order in Petrograd.
'Kornilov could see that the
Bolsheviks were gearing up
'to try and take over.
'He desperately wanted to round up
the belligerent revolutionaries,
'the Bolsheviks, slam them in jail
'and impose almost a military
government on the city'
because he saw that as the only way
of saving the situation.
'The right-wing, the conservatives,
'are beginning to rally around
Kornilov quite explicitly
'as a figure who can bring order
to Russia.'
Kerensky worries the General
wants to rule Russia
as a military dictator.
'There's no question that Kerensky
was quite paranoid,'
but there's also not much question
that people were out to get him.
Just days after appointing
the General,
Kerensky dismisses him
in a telegram.
But the General's troops
advance on Petrograd.
Ironically, it takes Bolshevik
activists to save the city.
Bolshevik agitators from within
the army, soldiers,
went and spoke to the Kornilov
soldiers and said,
"Do you know why you're being
brought to Petrograd?
"To attack us, to kill
your brothers and sisters.
"Is this what you're coming to do?"
And the descriptions of this event
are that Kornilov's army
melted away
in front of his very eyes.
In an extraordinary reversal
of fortune,
the Bolsheviks are now seen
as the saviours of Petrograd.
Kerensky's credibility
lies in tatters.
He's reduced to keeping himself
going with cocaine and morphine.
'So, rather than buttress
his power base, in fact,
'the defeat of Kornilov only played
into the hands of the left.'
It's hard for me.
I struggle with the left
and with the right.
The people demand that I lean
on one and then the other.
I want to take a middle road
but nobody will help me.
'How could you roll out democracy
in a country like that?'
So I think it was always inevitable
that this anarchic force
which splintered the country
into revolution
was never going to quickly shuffle
the pieces and put them back
into a neat jigsaw puzzle
which was a proper democracy.
That wasn't going to happen.
The Kornilov coup created
the situation
where you had a government
with no real power.
With power ebbing away.
A leader with no real prestige.
And the opportunity, the vacuum,
into which someone, somewhere,
could seize power.
And that someone, Lenin was
determined, would be the Bolsheviks.
The Bolshevik resurgence begins when
Kerensky releases them from jail.
While locked up, Leon Trotsky has
finally joined Lenin's party.
Crowds flock to hear him speak.
Trotsky was the great celebrity
of the revolution.
He was much more famous than Lenin,
not to speak of Stalin.
'Trotsky was probably the most
brilliant intellectual mind'
produced in tsarist Russia,
including Lenin.
'Lenin knew that Stalin and Trotsky
were his two chief supporters
'in pushing for
the October Revolution,
'so Stalin and Trotsky had actually
had a lot in common politically.'
But it was personally that they
absolutely loathed each other.
Their animosity only grows when
Trotsky replaces Stalin
as interim leader.
Stalin was very valuable
behind the scenes.
He did have a knack of convincing
the average run of leaders,
especially the provincials.
The time for words has passed.
The country stands on the edge
of ruin.
The Army demand peace.
The peasants demand land.
The workers demand work and food.
The coalition government
is against the people.
The government is a tool in the
hands of the enemies of the people.
The time for words has passed!
Trotsky's individualism and panache
is not always trusted by Lenin.
'Trotsky writes,
"Lenin was worried,'
"suspicious of
my non-Bolshevik past,'
"wondering, have I got
the capacity to do it,
"and I had to constantly reassure
him, do not worry, Comrade Lenin,
"it's going to happen.
We are doing it."
All power to the Soviets!
Immediate Armistice on all fronts!
Land to the peasants!
He's sort of arrogant
and that's his Achilles heel
because people don't like arrogance
in the party.
Trotsky felt it should all
be delivered to him
because of that brilliance.
And he would read...
ostentatiously read French novels
during meetings of the politburo,
to show how, erm,
above all this he was.
When Lenin was asked what had kept
he and Trotsky apart for so long,
he answered...
Don't you know?
Now they share an ambition -
real power.
While hiding in Finland, Lenin makes
the biggest decision of his life.
The time is ripe for his revolution.
'By then, everyone was sick
of the war.'
They were sick
of the food shortages.
People were openly saying
on the streets,
"Do you know what,
we don't care who's in power.
"If they like, the Germans
can come and take Petrograd."
From mid-September,
Lenin bombards the Bolsheviks with
letters insisting they seize power.
"The present task must be an armed
uprising in Petrograd and Moscow,
"the seizing of power and the
overthrow of the government."
'Lenin was a complete monomaniac.'
He's like a boiling pot.
All the time, you can hear
the lid rattling.
He gets more and more furious
and the bubbles are bubbling up.
"It would be naive to wait for a
formal majority for Bolsheviks.
"No, revolution ever waits
for that."
He brewed himself up
and twisted himself up into anger
and his flashes of anger
were terrifying.
"History will not forgive us
if we do not assume power now.
'Lenin is raging
that we are about to lose'
the one-off opportunity to seize
power, to seize Russia.
"To wait would be utter idiocy."
'The Bolshevik leadership
doesn't know what to do with these.
'It thinks that they might be
'and provoke an uprising
so they go as far as to destroying
these letters if they can.
BLEEP traitors
to the proletarian cause!
'When you read the letters,'
my God, he could swear like
a trooper when he wanted to.
He had a vicious tongue.
Lenin realises that writing these
letters from his hiding place
'is not enough. He's going to have
to face the central committee
'to argue for this properly
and to win the argument.
'And then he's going to have to
seize power immediately.'
Suddenly we're in a state
of high drama here.
You know, something has got to give.
If the Bolsheviks don't seize power
now, somebody else might.
By the beginning of October, Lenin
is beside himself with impatience.
Comrade Lenin?
On the night of October the 10th,
Lenin suddenly reappears,
disguised as a Lutheran minister to
avoid capture by the authorities.
The significance of the meeting
is world historical.
History isn't always made
on battlefields.
They're made in small meeting rooms.
Since the beginning of September,
there has been a certain...
..indifference to the idea
of seizing power.
We must seize power now
and not wait for the Soviets
or any congresses.
The time is right now.
The moment of decision has arrived.
The masses are tired of words
and resolutions.
The majority are behind us.
The success of Russian
and worldwide revolution
depends on two or three
days' struggle.
If I may, Comrade Lenin.
Trotsky wants to wait
to launch the uprising
until after the upcoming
Congress of Soviets.
This way, socialist delegates
from all over the country
can back the insurrection.
But Lenin disagrees.
It's difficult for a large,
organised body of men
to take swift, decisive action.
We must act on the 25th,
the day that Congress sits,
so that we may say to it,
"Here is our power.
"What are you going to do with it?"
'He hammers and hammers
and hammers the point
'that if we don't act now
we'll lose our moment,'
we'll never have a chance again.
This is the only time
we will succeed.
I don't think Lenin
was browbeating anyone.
He was just arguing
that this is the time.
Of course, they were vigorous
The argument is essential.
Whether to seize power
or to form democratic alliances.
'At this very moment,
the top Bolsheviks'
start to say,
we should negotiate a coalition
with other parties like the
Mensheviks, other rival factions.
'This isn't the time to seize power,
'we might lose everything
we have already.'
I say we put it to the vote.
When they began, at least half
the central committee
was against armed insurrection.
After ten hours arguing,
the result goes 10-2
in Lenin's favour.
'This is just the moment
when you realise'
the absolute paramount power
of the individual in history,
because, you know,
half the central committee,
or even a majority of the central
committee of the Bolshevik Party
doesn't want to seize power
in October 1917.
'The fact that Lenin got the vote
and won the permission to go ahead
'was entirely decisive.
'This was indeed the cocking
of the pistol of revolution.'
By October the 24th, Kerensky
is expecting an uprising,
but he's still confident
he will prevail.
It'll be like July again.
I'll be prepared to offer prayers
to produce this uprising.
I'll have greater forces
than necessary.
They will be utterly crushed.
Kerensky's overconfidence
plays right into Lenin's hands.
With Stalin in charge
of the Bolshevik press,
Kerensky orders two
of the newspapers closed.
Within hours, Stalin is free to get
the newspapers running again...
..announcing Kerensky's censorship
as the start of a full-blown
Now, the Bolsheviks can start
their uprising
under the pretext
of defending freedom.
A lie always has a stronger effect
than the truth.
The main thing is to obtain
one's objective.
You've come a long way, comrades.
As head of the Petrograd Soviet,
Trotsky plays his part
in the deception.
He orders that bridges
and key government buildings
be seized to protect the city.
He claims...
This is defence, comrades,
this is defence.
He goes so far as to say...
An armed conflict,
today or tomorrow,
on the eve of the Soviet Congress,
is not in our plans.
By that evening,
Lenin is convinced the hour,
indeed the moment to seize power,
has finally arrived.
Everything now hangs by a thread.
The matter must be decided
without fail...
..this evening.
'Lenin has been told very
categorically by his comrades'
to stay put
and he is crawling the walls.
'He is desperate to be there,
to be in the thick of it.
'Lenin's face is notorious
'so what he does is
he puts on his disguise.
'He puts on glasses, he puts on
a fairly ridiculous wig,
'he puts on a battered worker's cap.
'And finally he, sort of, swathes
some bandages around his face
'to, sort of, look injured
in some way
'and also simply to obscure
those notorious features.'
He is wanted for high treason.
Government troops are searching
the city for him.
Now, he must risk capture to get
to Bolshevik headquarters.
'On his way, they're stopped by
one of the last police patrols'
of the provisional government.
'And they look at this man and think
he's some sort of drunk tramp...'
What do you think? He's just drunk.
..and let him go.
Get out of here.
For me, this is the real turning
point of 20th century history.
This is the moment when one man
makes all the difference.
'If Lenin had been arrested...
'..they probably never would have
launched an insurrection.
'But because those policemen
failed to recognise Lenin,'
for whom there was a warrant
for arrest...
..the insurrection took place.
'Everything is happening
in a series of rooms
'in the splendid Smolny Institute.
'Lenin arrived at room 36, which
was the key room, the headquarters,'
the engine room, the beating heart
of the revolution,
'and there he found
all the key players.
'There's Trotsky.
'There's Stalin.
'And they're running everything
from here.
'There were soldiers playing cards,
'People sleeping.
'People drinking vodka.
Some people drunk.
'Soldiers rushing in with news'
that this building or that building
had fallen.
'At this moment in Russian history,
in world history,
'these series of shambolic rooms
'half encampment, half military
headquarters, half student bivouac,
'are the centre of the world
and Lenin has to be in this room.'
Lenin has always been called
the Father of the Revolution.
But the man who ran the October
Revolution was not Lenin or Stalin.
'Trotsky wasn't just a handsome face
and a great orator,
'he was also
an organisational genius.
'He put together the machinery,
the personnel, the plan.
'It was Trotsky that gave
the orders.'
Trotsky was the man of the hour.
The Bolsheviks take control
of Petrograd overnight,
just hours before the Congress
of Soviets is to meet.
By the morning of October the 25th,
only the Winter Palace
remains in the hands
of the provisional government.
'Kerensky is in cloud cuckoo land,
quite frankly.
'And on the morning
of the 25th of October,
'thinks, well, it might be time
to go and summon troops.
'He can't get any on the telephone.'
Of course, the Bolsheviks are
already in control of virtually
'every means of communication
in the capital.'
Though the provisional government
still occupies the Winter Palace,
that afternoon, Trotsky announces
that the government has fallen.
In the name of the military
revolutionary committee,
I declare that the provisional
government is no more!
Well, talk about fake news.
It hasn't happened at all.
It had meant to happen
by that point.
The authority of
the provisional government,
presided over by Kerensky,
was a corpse
that only awaited the broom
of history to sweep it away.
Well, this was the first
Bolshevik lie
of...of many of the next,
erm, the next 70 years.
The Winter Palace is not yet taken
but its fate will be settled in
the course of the next few minutes!
But the minutes drag into hours.
Why haven't they seized power?
'He was promised,
he was told by his military'
that it would take
just three or four hours.
For heaven's sake,
why aren't shells being fired
into the Winter Palace?
Why haven't they stormed it?
'They couldn't find the artillery,
the guns didn't work,'
they were blocked, could
anyone find anyone to work them?
They needed a lantern
to give the signal
but no-one could find a lantern.
'There's a sort of hilarious crisis
where the Mayor of Petrograd
'actually marches
in front of the troops
'and stops the whole seizure
of the Winter Palace.
'An entire group of men in frock
coats start waving their umbrellas
'and saying, "You're not going to
seize power now."'
They have to be moved out of the way
and still nothing has happened.
By this point, Lenin is apoplectic.
What the hell's going on?
These people should be shot
for their incompetence!
As long as ministers
are in the Palace,
the provisional government
still stands.
I think the seizure of
the Winter Palace is the key,
'because until then
there's a Cabinet
'sitting around a Cabinet table,
still running Russia.'
And Lenin himself recognises this.
This is why Lenin doesn't go to
the Congress or do anything else.
Trotsky deals with
the other socialist parties
at the Congress of Soviets.
Having travelled
from all over Russia,
they are shocked to find Petrograd
already seized by the Bolsheviks.
But their protests are shouted down
by Trotsky's men.
Trotsky has another strategy ready.
'Trotsky's order of the day was that
if the people in the Winter Palace'
didn't surrender,
'the battleship Aurora
should fire blanks at them.
'He said that very noise
of the battleship,
'which they could all see
with its guns pointing,'
would be enough to send them out
scurrying like rabbits.
At 10:40pm, the warning shot
is fired from the Aurora.
And is heard as far away
as the Congress.
The other socialist parties
are outraged by the aggression...
..and walk out.
Without realising it, they have just
handed power to the Bolsheviks.
'It was a godsend that his chief
opponent just walked out,
'leaving the field of battle.'
So many socialist delegates leave
that the Bolsheviks are now
in the majority
and can do as they please.
'I think we have to agree
with the great memoirist,'
Nikolai Sukhanov, who was at
the Soviet Congress himself,
when he said, it was just
a huge gift to Lenin.
As the delegates leave,
Trotsky mocks his one-time allies
in one of the most quoted speeches
of the 20th century.
The rising of the masses
of the people
requires no justification.
What has happened is an uprising,
not a conspiracy.
Trotsky's the real star
of the Petrograd Soviet.
He's a brilliant orator.
The masses of the people
moved under our banner
and our uprising
has won victory.
But he's also
a brilliant theoretician
who understands how rhetoric
and politics are intertwined
and how he can play on an audience
to mobilise them.
Trotsky is able to make
the Bolshevik view
sound like everyone's view.
And now...
..we are told...
to renounce our victory.
Make concessions.
With whom?
With that wretched group
who've just left us?
No-one in Russia
is with them any more.
No compromise is possible.
The Bolshevik position
becomes the Soviet position.
To those who have left
and those who make these proposals,
we say,
you are pathetic individuals!
You are bankrupt!
Your role is played out.
Go off to where you belong
from now on.
To the dustbin of history!
'His kind of dripping contempt lets
them know that power is moving now,'
minute by minute,
erm, to the Bolsheviks,
and to the creation
of an entirely new world.
At virtually the same moment,
Lenin's wish is becoming reality.
The Winter Palace
is about to be taken.
Though its capture may not
have been quite as spectacular
as Sergei Eisenstein's film,
October, portrayed it.
First of all, it wasn't even locked.
Secondly, it was guarded by a group
of adolescent boys
who were about 15 years old -
and by a group of female soldiers
who were getting more
and more terrified.
So when they finally did, on that
evening, enter the Winter Palace...
..when the doors were open,
no-one stopped them.
There was no fighting,
there was no storming.
The heroic scale of that film
is creating a myth of October,
far from the reality.
'The storming of the Winter Palace
creates this foundation myth
'of it being a mass uprising.
'That the thousands who stormed
the Winter Palace,'
instead of the few dozen
who actually did so,
were representatives
of the whole people.
'Revolutions are, by nature,
So you need to create
foundation myths.
The moment that power passes to
the Bolsheviks is an epic example.
They walked into
the Cabinet meeting.
'And the Cabinet looked up and said,
"What do you want us to do?"
'And the Bolsheviks said,
"You're under arrest."'
That is the moment
the October Revolution happens.
An heroic new world is born.
At least in Eisenstein's
version of events.
In reality, Lenin is in room 36
when he gets the news,
far from the action.
It is finally done.
Russia is his.
But did Lenin just grab power
in a coup
or did he have popular support?
'I think it was a coup d'etat.'
There were people who wanted
bread and land
and all power to the Soviets,
but did they want a Bolshevik
government led by Vladimir Lenin?
I don't think so.
Was there an element
of conspiracy in it?
Well, of course, because you
can't plan an insurrection
by publishing the details
the day before.
But everything till then,
till the day before,
had been discussed in Lenin's
speeches, in his writings,
and those of Trotsky,
what he was saying,
they were saying, yes,
we are making a revolution.
How the hell is that a coup d'etat?
For sure, the coup d'etat of
October, which is what it was,
based itself on the underpinnings
of a mass social revolution
which originated in February 1917.
And we see the radicalisation
of peasants, workers, soldiers,
across the country, giving a mandate
for Soviet power by October.
But Soviet power
is not what Lenin makes
of the events
of the 25th of October.
Lenin is using the cloak
of Soviet power
to establish
a Bolshevik dictatorship.
The next day, Lenin appears at the
Congress of Soviets to announce...
We shall now proceed
to construct the socialist order.
'This is a man who had spent years
working out the theory
'of exactly what he was
going to do.'
And so the moment that they took
over, he was ready.
Trotsky is named the People's
Commissar for Foreign Affairs.
Stalin, the People's Commissar
for Nationalities.
And Lenin becomes
the leader of the government.
A new era in the history of Russia
and of the world begins.
Lenin issues scores of decrees
that transform Russia in days.
'You start to see the first
stirrings of a different kind
'of social control, for example.
'Workers' control and peasantry
having control of their own lives.
'Equal rights of men and women,
of divorce law,
'decriminalising homosexuality.'
To me, there's no question that
October represents a moment of hope.
'Just weeks after
the October Revolution,'
Lenin created a one-party state,
a totalitarian state.
'He also created the Cheka,
the secret police,
'with power over life and death,
to kill enemies of the revolution.'
He repeatedly ordered mass shootings
of thousands of innocent people.
'He specified that, you know,
'annihilation was the only way
for the party to keep power.
'So, gradually,
he created a dictatorship'
that was inherited by Stalin, and
made much more intense by Stalin.
'When the ideologue
is confronted with reality,
'that doesn't fit into his scheme,'
he can't defeat reality
with argument,
so the fist tightens.
Vladimir Lenin dies of a stroke
in 1924.
Joseph Stalin rises to power.
He eliminates his rivals.
Notably, Leon Trotsky,
who was assassinated in 1940.
Joseph Stalin,
the quiet backroom fixer,
outlasts both Lenin and Trotsky.
His reign becomes the Great Terror
that lasts for over a quarter
of a century.
The Tsars,
in their last half century,
were averaging 17 executions a year.
Within a month...
a few months of Lenin taking power,
erm, it was 1,000 a month,
And during the Great Terror,
it was more like 1,000 a week.
'Under Stalin, something like
20 million people'
would go through the concentration
camps, the Gulag camps.
Somewhere between 20 and 30 million
people were killed.
These were on the orders
not just of Stalin,
but of Lenin
and the Bolshevik Party.
Stalin is not Lenin's heir.
In his last will and testament,
Lenin made it very clear
that he should be removed
as General Secretary of the party.
Said he was not the right sort
of person to be leading the party.
Stalin's impact on Russia
lasts beyond his death in 1953
or even the death
of the Soviet Union in 1991.
'Putin really understands
the October Revolution.
'In many ways, he's a result of it,
one of the results of it.
'When he looks back at history,
he's really interested,'
not in Marxism or Bolshevism,
'he's most impressed
by the Red Tsar, by Stalin.
'Because Stalin
is the successful manager
'of the Russian nation.'
'Putin's not interested in the chaos
caused by Lenin and Trotsky.
'He's interested in the prestige
and the victory'
delivered by Joseph Stalin.
So, has history proved Stalin
to be more influential
than Lenin or Trotsky?
For so many years,
70 years of the Soviet Union,
it was Lenin who was always
invoked as the godlike figure,
the Father of the Revolution.
And now, in the Putin era, he's been
sort of left to one side a bit.
The statues are still there,
but somehow he's not
talked about as much.
When there was a poll recently
about some of the greatest leaders
or figures in Russia, it was Stalin
who figured, not Lenin.
But is Lenin's time coming again?
'We live today in a world of rampant
populism, of post-factual politics,
'and much of this can be
traced back to Lenin.
'That ultimate
political manipulator...'
..who, though he was
a fanatical Marxist,
was also the master of pragmatism.
'He understood that politics
was all about who controls who
'and any means were suitable
to achieving his ends.'