After the February revolution of 1917 in Russia the power was formally in the hands of the Provisional government. However along with it the Soviets of workers’, soldiers’, peasants’ and other deputies were functioning all over the country. The most active one was the Petrograd Soviet of workers’ and soldiers’ deputies that initiated the All-Russian congress of peasants’ deputies at first and then of workers’ and soldiers’ deputies in May-June. It was during this congress that the decision to convene the Second, now the joint congress of the Soviet in the middle of September.
However by autumn the alignment of political forces had suffered significant changes. Bolshevists continued to take the leading position in the Soviet, that is why the socialist revolutionary Menshevik’ leaders of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee of the Soviet postponed the calling of the congress hoping to change the situation it their favor by making arrangements with the Provisional government. Under the pressure of the local Soviet, the All-Russian Central Executive Committee was obliged to fix the date of the congress for October 20. Later it was carried over to October 25.
This was the date for which the Bolshevists timed the beginning of the armed revolt expecting to obtain from the Soviet the confirmation that their seizing of the power was legitimate. Their estimation turned out to be correct: according to the forms filled in by the deputies, 505 participants of the congress (75.4%) considered it necessary to give all the power over to the Soviet and only 165 (24.6%) supported “the rule of democracy” and “coalition government” including bourgeoisie.
The congress opened on October 25 (November 7) 1917 at 22:40, one hour after the storm of the Winter palace. It represented 402 Soviets of workers’, soldiers’, sailors’, peasants’ and even Cossacks’ deputies. At the beginning of the congress there were 649 deputies (96.9% of the total amount) and the new ones continued to arrive. The membership of the congress was changing every minute but the Bolshevists were leading during the entire meeting. Only in the beginning they numbered 390 (58.2%) and by the end – 472 (70.4%). That it is why it was them who had occupied 14 of 15 places in the Presidium that was re-elected during this very first congress, who proposed their own agenda, their own speakers and their own plans and decisions that had been finally approved by the congress. Not willing to support the Bolshevists, a part of the congress participants (right socialist revolutionaries, Mensheviks, Bundists, etc.) had left the meeting.
At 5:00 a.m. of October 26 (November 8) 1917 the congress approved the activity of the Military-revolutionary committee and the address to “Workers, soldiers and peasants!” written by V.I. Lenin declaring that the power passed into the hands of the Soviet. In the evening of the same day the Second Soviet congress adopted unanimously the decree on peace that suggested to the countries at war to conclude immediately a truce and begin the peace negotiations with no annexations or contributions. At 2:00 a.m. of October 27 (November 9) the decree on land was adopted by a majority vote. Under this decree the property of landowners was annulated immediately with no buyout and all the lands being in individual ownership were given over to the disposal of volost land committees and district Soviet of peasants’ deputies. Enclosed to this decree was the text of the Peasants’ order written by the socialist revolutionary on the basis of 242 local peasants’ orders and published in “The news of the All-Russian peasants’ Soviet”. According to its clauses the land was declared the state property and was transferred over to peasants without compensation to the previous owners. The peasants were given the land on the terms of equalizing use of the land and the hired labor was prohibited.
Serious disagreements between the members of the congress were caused by the issue of a provisional Soviet government that had to function until the meeting of the Constituent assembly. In spite the demand of the Menshiviks-internationalists, left socialist revolutionaries and Vikhzhel delegate to form the coalition government, that would include Bolshevists, Mensheviks and socialist revolutionaries, at 4:00 a.m. of October 27 (November 9) 1917 by a majority vote the congress adopted the Bolshevists’ suggestion to form the Soviet of the Peoples’ commissars headed by V.I. Lenin. As left socialist revolutionaries had refused to be included into a new government together with Bolshevists, the Soviet of the Peoples’ commissars was elected exclusively from the member of the Russian Social-Democratic Labor Party of Bolshevists. The majority of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee of the Soviet of the Second convocation headed by L.B. Kamenev was also represented by the Bolshevists.
On October 27 (November 9) 1917 at 5:15 a.m. the Second All-Russian congress of the Soviet of workers’, peasants’ and soldiers’ deputies closed.
Lit.: Декреты Советской власти. Т. 1. М., 1957; То же. [Электронный ресурс]. URL: http://www.hist.msu.ru/ER/Etext/DEKRET/; Ермолаев И. П. II Всероссийский съезд Советов // Ермолаев И. П. История России в XX веке: учеб. пособие. Ч. 1. Казань, 2005; Рейхберг Г. Е. Второй Всероссийский съезд Советов рабочих и солдатских депутатов // Большая советская энциклопедия. Т. 5. М., 1971.
From the Presidential library materials: