MIA: Encyclopedia of Marxism: Glossary of Events


All-Russian Congress of the Soviet


First Congress
June 3-22, 1917

The first convocation of a Congress of Soviets in Russia opened on June 3, 1917 and was attended by some 1,090 delegates (784 with full vote). Approximately: from 53 regional/provincial soviets (106 deputies), 305 local soviets (610 deputies), and 34 military organisations (68 delegates).

To which political parties delegates with the full vote belonged:

285 Socialist-Revolutionary (20 sympathetic to this party)
248 Mensheviks (8 sympathetic)
105 Bolsheviks
111 Various other small parties (presumably 7 delegates did not answer)

The congress allowed every speaker to present their views, and lasted until June 24, when the delegates withdrew distraught over the lengthy debates. Among other resolutions, the Congress voted (with only 8 dissents) to convince the Allies to end the war with Germany and conclude a general peace as soon as possible. Votes on the convocation of the Constituent Assembly, the right of minority nations and peoples in Russia to self-determination, and the need for state control of the economy all passed unanimously.

While debating the position the Soviets should take towards the Provisional government, Tsereteli (Menshevik) stated that the soviet must support the Provisional government, for he claimed that no party in Russia was capable of forming a government otherwise. Lenin shouted from his seat in the Congress: "There is!"

The Congress voted 543 to 126 (52 abstentions) to support the Provisional government, though the socialist ministers in the Provisional government (SRs and Mensheviks) were told to be obliged to decisions made by the Soviets.

At its end, the Congress resolved to elect a Central Executive Committee (CEC) to act in the interim of its absence, for the Congress was not to meet for another three months.


Second Congress
October 25-26, 1917

The Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets met on October 25-26, 1917, at 22:40, in the Smolny Institute. Of the 649 delegates elected to the Congress of Soviets, representing 318 provincial/local soviets, 390 were Bolshevik, 160 Socialist-Revolutionaries (about 100 were Left SRs), 72 Mensheviks, 14 Menshevik Internationalists, and 13 of various groups.

The Congress, taking place during such volitile times and made up of such a diverse group of people, struggled to get started.

"From early in the morning of the 25th caucuses of the factions were held in Smolny. Only those attended the Bolshevik caucus who were free from fighting duties. The opening of the Congress was delayed: the Bolshevik leaders wanted to finish with the Winter Palace first. But the opposing factions, too, were in no hurry. They themselves had to decide what to do, and that was not easy. Hours passed. Sub-factions were disputing within the factions. The split among the Social Revolutionaries took place after a resolution to withdraw from the Congress had been rejected by 92 votes against 60. It was-only late in the evening that the Right and Left Social Revolutionaries began to sit in different rooms. At 8 o'clock the Mensheviks demanded a new delay: they had too many opinions. Night came on. The operations at the Winter Palace were dragging out. But it became impossible to wait longer. It was necessary to say some clear word to the aroused and watchful nation."

History of the Russian Revolution
The Congress of the Soviet Dictatorship
Leon Trotsky

Menshevik and Right SR leaders opened the congress calling to negotiate with the provisional government. The congress refused. The Congress opened a resolution to begin peace negotiations on all fronts. The Mensheviks, Right SRs, and Bundists walked out; refusing to recognise the authority of the Congress, despite the fact that it was convoked by their Central Executive Committee. Three months later, the Bolsheviks would find themselves in a similar position by closing down the Constituent Assembly; staffed with Mensheviks and SRs who again refused to recognise the authority of the Soviet. Despite their walking out, the Congress resolved that their parties (and army units not present) should have representatives in the Central Executive Committee. In the comming years the Mensheviks and SRs refused alongside interventionist forces.

The Congress kept working late into the night. Shortly after 3:00 a.m. news arrived that the Winter Palace had been captured, the members of the Provisional Government who had not fled were under arrest. The Congress adopted its appeal: To Workers, Soldiers, and Peasants!, written by Lenin proclaiming the transfer of power to the Soviet of Workers', Soldiers' and Peasants' Deputies. Two hours later, the first session of Congress closed after 5:00 a.m.

In the evening of the same day, the second session of the Congress began at 9:00 p.m. Lenin submitted a Decree of Peace and Decree of Land to the Congress, which were adopted. The Congress closed by electing a Council of People's Commissars and an All-Russian Central Executive Committee for the new Soviet Government, pending the convocation of the Constituent Assembly.

Further Reading: The Congress of the Soviet Dictatorship, from History of the Russian Revolution by Leon Trotsky.


Ninth Congress
December 23-28, 1921

The Ninth All-Russia Congress of Soviets sat in Moscow on December 23-28, 1921. It was attended by 1,993 delegates, of whom 1,631 had a casting vote and 362 a consultative voice.

This Congress summed up the first results of activities under the New Economic Policy, fully approving the home and foreign policy of the workers’ and peasants’ government. In its “Declaration on the International Position of the R.S.F.S.R.”, the Congress made the proposal to the governments of neighbouring and all other states to found their foreign policy on the principle of peaceful coexistence, on “peaceful and friendly coexistence with the Soviet republics”.

The Congress devoted its main attention to finding ways of rapidly restoring agriculture as a key condition for the development of the country’s entire economy. It also gave much of its attention to famine relief, calling upon workers and peasants to bend every effort to help the people, particularly children, stricken by famine along the Volga. The Congress expressed its “warm appreciation to the workers of all countries who came to the assistance of the famine-stricken gubernias of Soviet Russia”.

The Congress decisions stated that the restoration and development of large-scale industry “is, in addition to the restoration of agriculture, the cardinal task of the Republic”.

The Congress elected a new All-Russia Central Executive Committee consisting of 386 members and 127 alternate members.