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Both of the groups that made up the Russian Social Democrats – the relatively moderate Mensheviks and the far more radical Bolsheviks – had agreed to abstain in the vote of confidence in THE TWENTIETH CENTURY’S SEMINAL CATASTROPHE 19 the Duma on 8 August and to refuse to consent to any war loans. Instead, they both agreed to issue a joint declaration protesting against the war and to demonstrate their international solidarity with the working class. The sharply worded declaration was read out by a Menshevik deputy, after which the socialist members left the plenary meeting and took no further part in the vote.

The party travelled via Sweden and Russiacontrolled Finland, arriving in Petrograd’s Finland Station on 16 April, where they were greeted by a large crowd. Lenin’s radical ideas initially encountered incredulous astonishment and tremendous opposition among the Bolsheviks in Petrograd and more especially among the Mensheviks, and the situation was no different on the Petrograd Soviet, on which the Bolsheviks were far less powerfully represented THE TWENTIETH CENTURY’S SEMINAL CATASTROPHE 23 than the Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries.

On 8 March a demonstration by women held to mark International Women’s Day was joined by workers from the Putilov metalworks, quickly developing into a strike and two days later into a general strike. In vain the president of the Duma, Mikhail Rodzianko, urged the tsar to form a new constitutional government that would enjoy the confidence of the country, but Nicholas continued to oppose the idea and instead prorogued the Duma, an act of provocation that served to exacerbate an already tense situation.

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An Oral Historians’ Work [review] by Roy Rosenzweig

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