Why did democracy fail to take root in Russia in 1917?
Second edition. February 2020.
PREVIEW THIS UNIT. Preview includes the table of contents, a student reading excerpt, and one lesson plan. PREVIEW ALL UNITS.

The Russian Revolution traces the history of Russia from the end of serfdom to the founding of the Soviet Union. Using readings and lessons, students explore the conditions that led to the fall of the tsar as well as the competing political ideologies that the Russian people debated in 1917. The unit is divided into three parts. Each part includes:

  • Student readings
  • Accompanying study guides, graphic organizers, and key terms
  • Lessons aligned with the readings that develop analytical skills and can be completed in one or more periods
  • Videos that feature leading experts

This unit also includes an Options Role Play as the key lesson and additional synthesis lessons that allow students to synthesize new knowledge for assessment. You do not need to use the entire unit; feel free to select what suits your classroom needs.

“Students usually think the Russian Revolution was simply a communist revolution. This unit shows that there were competing ideologies after the March Revolution.” – Daniel, History Teacher, Arizona

Part I: What is to be done? (1861-1905)

Part I provides the background information that students need to place the Russian Revolution in its historical context. This part ends with a discussion of the 1905 Revolution. There are two lessons aligned with Part I: 1) The Geography and People of the Russian Empire, and 2) Peasant Life in the Russian Empire.

Part II: We Can No Longer Live Like This (1905-1917)

Part II looks at the October Manifesto and its aftermath, and takes students to the eve of the Russian Revolution in 1917. There are two lessons aligned with Part II: 1) The October Manifesto and Russia’s New Fundamental Laws, and 2) Women, War, and Revolution.

Part III: Lenin and the Bolsheviks Take Power

Part III covers Russian History post-1917. There are no lessons aligned with Part III.


The Geography and People of the Russian Empire

Using maps and contemporary photographs, students consider how geography affected the governance of the Russian Empire and formulate questions about Russian history.

Peasant Life in the Russian Empire

Through investigation of statistics, photographs, and a painting, students explore the role of peasants in the Russian Empire.

The October Manifesto and Russia's New Fundamental Laws

Students examine the Russian Fundamental Laws of 1906 and their impact on the tsar’s rule and then consider the relationship between the law and power.

Women, War, and Revolution

After assessing primary source documents representing perspectives of women in Russia about World War I, students consider the question of what it means to be a revolutionary.

The Options Role Play

The Options Role Play is a key lesson in the unit. Drawing on primary sources, students work cooperatively and take on the roles of the Constitutional Democrats, Socialist Revolutionaries, Mensheviks, Bolsheviks, and undecided citizens to consider the political options debated in the Spring of 1917.

A Country in Turmoil: Two Experiences of Uncertainty

Synthesis Lesson: Students analyze two young women’s memoirs to identify the role political uncertainty played in ordinary people’s lives and responses to the events of the Russian Revolution.

Three Representations of Lenin

Synthesis Lesson: Students examine three political cartoons of Lenin, place them in their historical context, and then consider the role of ideology in the interpretation of history.

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