What Role did Freemasons and Bolsheviks play in the Russian Revolution?

FROM THE LECTURE SERIES: The Real History of Secret Societies

By Richard B. Spence, Ph.D., University of Idaho

The Russian Revolution, a significant event in modern history, was actually a battle of secret societies. In May 1917, officials were alerted about a German plot to take control of a secret society in Russia. They were alarmed as the repercussions of these actions would have been global and not limited to Russia.

Bronze head of ruined statue of Czar Alexander III during Russian Revolution.
A ruined statue of Czar Alexander III during the Russian Revolution, 1917. (Image: Everett Historical/Shutterstock)

Freemasons and the Russian Revolution

He was not the only one who had sensed potential danger. Gerard Encausse, known as Papus, had also warned of a similar thing. He was a physician, occultist, a former spiritual advisor to the Russian empire, an envoy of the French Freemasonry in the organization of Russian branch, a Martinist Freemason, and a secret agent of the French government. He had predicted that the Russian Revolution would be defined by the Russian Martinists.

In early 1915, at the height of Germany and Russia’s war, a Russian-born Marxist revolutionary went to the German embassy in Constantinople with a plan. His name was Alexander Helphand, also known as Pavrus, who was Leon Trotsky’s mentor and friend. He proposed that with the financial help of Germany, Russians would be able to overthrow the czar and dissolve the Russian empire. But another group of freemasons outpaced Pavrus in dethroning the czar.

This group was the liberal members of the Duma, the Russian Parliament. They belonged to a masonic branch called the Grand Orient of the Peoples of Russia. They were a majority in the parliament and overthrew Czar Nicholas.

There were several masonic groups in 1917 Russia. The biggest group was the Grand Orient with about 400 members. Although it was a small group, it proved to be highly influential in the coming months. After they dethroned the czar, they formed a provisional government, all members of which were freemasons.

Learn more about Freemasons.

Vladimir Lenin, black-and-white portrait on old Russian ruble banknote.
Vladimir Lenin was a Freemason. (Image: vkilikov/Shutterstock)

These Masonic brothers dominated not only the provisional government but also other political groups in Russia. They were present in socialist and Bolshevik groups, too. For example, most of the leaders of the Petrograd Soviet, who were Socialists, were also Freemasons. The most notable Freemasons among Bolsheviks were Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky. So, what did these groups want with politics? Did they want to expand their Masonic prevalence through political action? Quite the opposite. They sought to pursue political agendas through Freemasonry.

This is a transcript from the video series The Real History of Secret Societies. Watch it now, on The Great Courses Plus.

But what about Bolsheviks? Can they be regarded as a secret society? After all they were a political movement with Marxist ideologies and nothing about them was secret. But a secret society is not defined as one with a secret underground existence. It is characterized by selective admissions, the importance of absolute loyalty, and the promise of special knowledge and status. Under this definition, Bolsheviks were considered a secret society.

Russian army officers take the oath of allegiance to the October Revolution
Russian army officers take the oath of allegiance to the October Revolution in 1917. (Image: Everett Historical/Shutterstock)

Who Were the Bolsheviks?

The Bolsheviks first emerged as a small faction of the Russian socialist movement. In 1903, Lenin had a majority of votes in a socialist conference although his faction was a minority. In fact, Bolsheviks, which means minority in Russian were rivals with Mensheviks, which means majority. Ironically, he had the major votes in the conference.

Both Bolsheviks and Mensheviks were Marxists. They believed in social justice and the eventual victory of the proletariat over capitalism. What they differed in was the means of achieving this goal. Mensheviks believed in open action through mass worker parties while Bolsheviks favored conspiratorial means carried out by a small vanguard revolutionary party. Under his mantra, “flexibility in means, inflexibility in goals”, anything would be allowed as long as it was towards the ultimate goal. This is why Lenin eventually won over Mensheviks.

Learn more about Masonic revolutions in America and France.

How were the Bolsheviks funded?

Politics cannot survive without money. Being fully aware of that, Lenin was always in search of financial resources to fund his party. And under their principal mantra that “the end justifies the means” they took any opportunity to get cash. From bank robbery to murder. For example, they stole 340,000 rubles from a Tiflis bank, and 40 people died and 50 were injured. Young Joseph Stalin was in that Bolshevik band that committed the robbery.

But since the money that they earned from bank robbery was not always easy to use as it was marked, they looked for more decent ways to avoid future trouble. One of these was to find wealthy supporters.

Finally, with the help of these wealthy supporters, they seized power in Russia after the fall of the czar, and established their government on the Petrograd Soviet.

Common Questions about the Role of Freemasons and Bolsheviks in the Russian Revolution

Q: What is Vladimir Lenin famous for?

Vladimir Lenin was a revolutionary Marxist who led the Russian Revolution. Lenin established the Bolshevik party as a faction of the Russian Socialist party.

Q: Who was behind the Russian revolution?

There were many forces involved in the Russian Revolution including the Freemasons. They all helped Lenin, the head of the Bolshevik party, seize power and take control after the revolution.

Q: Why was Czar Nicholas overthrown?

The members of the Russian Parliament, the Duma, were behind the overthrow of the czar. They were all Freemasons and formed the provisional government.

Q: What started the Russian revolution?

The Russian Revolution was the uprising of Bolsheviks and workers against the last czar of Russia. They were led by Vladimir Lenin, who was originally a Marxist.

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