What Was the Difference Between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks?

A Bolshevik parade in St. Petersburg, 1917.
A Bolshevik parade in St. Petersburg, 1917.


The Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks were two prominent sectors within the famous Russian Social Democratic Party (RSDLP). Despite their utmost prominence before the Second World War, the two sectors are seldom recognized within the current historical arenas. Nevertheless, the sectors were regarded highly in Russia and it comes with no surprise that many people don’t understand the difference between the two.

The Russian Social Democratic Party

To understand this two sectors, one has to understand the Russian Social Democratic Party (RSDLP). The party was a revolutionary socialist political organization in Russia whose major aim was to unite all the revolutionary organizations under a single powerful Russian empire. Formed in 1898, the party became quite prominent among the Russians, but it later spilt into two major sectors. In 1903 the party hard gained an unmatched recognition and attention which subsequently led to one of its meeting being held in London at a church in Tottenham Court Road. The unexpected happened during this eventful congress: the party actually split into two very different entities. Therefore, in November 17th The Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks were consequently formed.

The Bolsheviks (Majority)

Bolsheviks is a Russian word which stands for majority. As stated earlier on, this was a faction of the RSDLP formed after the spilt during the Tottenham Court Road congress. The party was formed in Minsk Belarus and its main aim was to unite the various revolutionary parties in Russia under a single arena. The RSDLP held a second party congress vote in which the Bolsheviks won the majority hence the name. Ultimately, the Bolsheviks became the communist party of the Soviet Union. Bolshevik was founded by Vladimir Lenin assisted by Alexander Bogdanov. Lenin’s idea to reduce the members of ‘Iskra’ down to 3 from 6, instigated the spilt since most Jews felt that the idea would still put them in jeopardy under the Russian rule. Hence, under Martov’s leadership, The Mensheviks were born.

The Mensheviks (Minority)

Julius Martov and Vladimir Lenin’s disagreement led to the formation of two factions. The Mensheviks which was a minority within the RSDLP was subsequently formed in early 1904. The idea behind the Mensheviks was to lead a movement which was less elitists during the time. Thus, the movement would subsequently attract the support of the uneducated as well as common peasant. Their argument was that a party cannot attract the peasant workers if it was elite-based. Although the movement acquired quite a following from the majority members of the peasant citizens, its flawed leadership structure was as a major cause for its unpopularity. There were open disagreements witnessed within the party thus creating distrust and unclear intentions. Their association with the Kerensky which was the comfortable middle class of Russia ultimately resulted to their downfall.

October Revolution

The October revolution which was also referred to as the “red October”, was a revolutionary phase within the Bolsheviks that ultimately steered to a motion of political and social changes which led to the formation of the so called the Soviet Union. The Revolution was sort of an armed coup which was orchestrated by the Bolsheviks and ultimately led to the arrest of several officers of the state. The ultimate event was the morphing of the Bolsheviks to the Soviet Union.


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