Soviet is an old Russian word meaning council or decision-making group. In ancient Russia, the village council in which the peasants met to decide their common affairs was called the Soviet. Later, during the unsuccessful Russian Revolution of 1905, workers in the big factories in Petrograd formed a Soviet of Workers' Deputies to coordinate revolutionary activities. The communists regarded the Soviet as a natural basis for a worker-controlled form of government.
The 1905 Soviet was supressed by the Tsarist regime when the Revolution failed; however, twelve years later, when the Tsarist regime fell at the beginning of the Russian Revolution of 1917, the workers again formed Soviets at their workplaces. Soldiers also formed Soviets in their army units. Initially, in the Winter and Spring of 1917, the Soviets supported the Menshevik and Socialist Revolutionary parties; but in Summer 1917, the majority in the Soviets began supporting the Bolshevik party which was led by Vladimir Lenin. With the support of the Soviets, the Bolshevik party was able to take power in Russia in October 1917. The Bolsheviks immediately made the Soviets, and the national Council of Soviets' Deputies (to which the actual Soviets sent representatives) the basis of the country's government. The All-Russian Council of Soviet's Deputies was essentially the parliament. Its power became limited, however, because the Bolshevik Party (later called the Communist Party of the Soviet Union) gave itself considerable privileges in the picking of who could run in elections to the Soviets. Nevertheless, at least the idea of having a country's government controlled by the working people was symbolized in the name of the country: Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
- H.N. Brailsford, 1927, How the Soviets Work. Marxist Internet Archive
- Encyclopedia Britannica, `Soviet' Britannica.com Retrieved 2014. Note that this article has serious anticommunist bias.
- For more on the role of the soviets in the 1905 and 1917 Revolutions, see the Marxist Internet Archive article, `Soviet'.