The first Soviet was established in Ivanovna-Voznesensk during the 1905 Textile Strike. It began as a strike committee but developed into an elected body of the town's workers. One of its main leaders was a Bolshevik called Mikhail Frunze. Over the next few months Soviets of Workers Deputies were established in around 50 different towns.
In St Petersburg 500 workers elected one deputy and in Moscow it was 400 whereas in Odessa it was 100. With the failings of the Duma, the Soviets were seen as legitimate workers' government. Soviets challenged the power of Nicholas II and attempted to enforce promises made in the October Manifesto such as the freedom of the press, assembly and association.
Soviets were re-established during the overthrow of Nicholas II. The most important of these was the Petrograd Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers Deputies that was first convened on 27th February. In the early months the soviet was dominated by the Mensheviks.
Soldiers, as well as industrial workers, played an important role in the soviets established in 1917. Every battalion (250 men) had the right to elect one deputy in Petrograd. Whereas there was one deputy for every 1,000 workers.
The First Congress of Soviets that was held in June, 1917, had 1,090 delegates representing more than 400 different soviets. Of these, 285 were Socialist Revolutionaries, 248 Mensheviks and 105 Bolsheviks.
The Second Congress of Soviets was convened on 8th November. By using a variety of different methods, the Bolsheviks gained control and on 14th June 1918, Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries were expelled.
© John Simkin, May 2013