Political Groups in Russia 1900 - 1917

The Bolsheviks were the more hard-line wing of the Social Democratic party. They believed in fast change, and disliked the idea of working together with other parties or more centrist organisations. They split from the Mensheviks in 1903, and were led by Vladimir Lenin. They kept a much lower profile than the Mensheviks or SRs until 1917, when Lenin's personal charisma and the ruthless Bolshevik leadership managed to turn the situation to their advantage and gain military power. They managed to re-split the Mensheviks, gaining members such as Alexandra Kollontai and Leon Trotsky, and later took control of the government, becoming the core of the governance of Communist Russia under Lenin as (essentially) a dictator.

The Constitutional Democratic Party, or Kadets, were a moderate liberal party. They were more radical than the octobrists and tended to ally with the socialists, believing in a socially progressive manifesto for Russia, which would not necessarily include the Tsar keeping power. They formed the largest factions in the first and second Dumas (although were able to do very little due to vetoes being used by Tsar Nicholas and Peter Stolypin) but were restricted in numbers over time as the government sought to remove left-wingers from the Duma. Even after their losses due to voting regulations rigged against left-wingers, they attempted to push through reforms against the larger right-wing factions; this they sometimes managed with Octobrist help. These would ususally then be vetoed by Nicholas, however. In 1917 the Kadets were the only functioning non-socialist party after the February revolution, suddenly going from being radicals to finding themselves on the right of the political spectrum. After their leader, Lvov, fell from power in favour of Kerensky the party mostly ceased to have any real power, with its members mostly tending to make up the left wing of the whites in the civil war.

The Mensheviks were the slightly less hardline of the Social Democrat factions. They believed in a gradual transition towards a socialist state, and were more positive about democracy and working with the Kadets and SRs than Lenin's Bolshevik faction. Led by Julius Martov, they played a major role in the transitional governments of 1917, supporting Kerensky. Later that year they split again with some members returning to join the Bolshevik faction. The Mensheviks were split between the red and white factions in the civil war, although several prominent members such as Trotsky joined the Bolsheviks. Trotsky re-organised the Red Army and was instrumental in winning the civil war for the Red faction. The party became illegal in 1921 after the Kronstadt uprising. Martov then left for Paris, where he died in 1923.

The Octobrists were, after the 1905 revolution, the centrist party in the Duma. They believed in a constitutional monarchy, where the Tsar would listen to and accept rule by the Duma without actually being removed from power. Unlike the left-wing and liberal Kadets, the Octobrists supported most of Stolypin's reforms and after the left-wingers were suppressed formed the main faction in the third Duma and most between then and 1917. The party mostly ceased to exist after the February revolution, though many of its members were instrumental in persuading the Tsar to abidicate rather than fight (and die).

Socialist Revolutionaries
The Socialist Revolutionaries were the main socialist faction in Russia from 1900 to 1917. Their radical stance on reform, redistributing land to the peasants and removing the Tsar, made them very popular with the peasantry. The SRs were also violent at times, sometimes killing 500 or so people in a year for being opposed to their cause. The SRs were a major faction in the transitional government and won the elections of 1917 with huge peasant support. The Bolsheviks, who had taken power from the transitional government a few days earlier, shut the SRs out and dissolved the assembly. The right of the SRs supported the whites in the civil war, the left supported the reds; others supported neither side. SRs included Alexander Kerensky and Victor Chernov.

The Tsarists were the supporters of the Tsar's regime. They mostly included the old landed aristocracy and some senior military figures. Leading Tsarists included Peter Stolypin, famous for his brutal oppression of rebels ("Stolypin's Necktie" was a nickname for the gallows), Rasputin, and of course Tsar Nicholas himself.