Exactly one century ago on March 8, 1917, women working in the textile factories in Petrograd — then the Russian capital — led a historic mobilization on International Women’s Day, resulting in what is known as the February Revolution, which overthrew Tsar Nicholas II, ending the Romanov dynasty and the Russian Empire and installing a provisional government.
During the march — which corresponds to Feb. 23 on the Julian calendar — women demanded bread and an end to Russian involvement in the imperialist war. By the following day, nearly 200,000 protesters filled the streets and by March 10, nearly all industry in Petrograd was shut down by the uprising.
Armed clashes with police and gendarmes — the last loyal forces of the Russian monarchy — ensued, with the final blow occurring on March 12 when mutinous Russian Army forces, which were generally made up of workers and peasants, sided with the revolutionaries.
The epic women’s march was the catalyst for unheard-of change in Russia with the fall of the monarchy, which shocked the imperialist world.
But the social and economic change was taken to another level when Vladimir Lenin, who was exiled in Switzerland at the time, along with the Bolshevik Red Guards and millions of Russian workers, later stormed the Winter Palace in Petrograd in October 2017, overthrowing the provisional government, which the Bolsheviks considered a bourgeois democratic revolution, and replacing it with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics – the first longstanding socialist state in the world – on the remains of a feudal and backward system.
Encompassing one-sixth of the world, the Soviet Union sought to bring about a global revolution against capitalism and imperialism, and openly declared its opposition to colonialism, racism and exploitation.
The Russian Revolution granted rights to women that were very progressive for the time, including full juridical equality, the right to equal access to employment and equal salary, the right to divorce, co-education and free abortion.