The Executive Committee of the Petrograd Soviet, commonly known as the Ispolkom (Russian: исполком, исполнительный комитет, literally "executive committee") was a self-appointed executive committee of the Petrograd Soviet. As an antagonist of the Russian Provisional Government, after the 1917 February Revolution in Russia, Ispolkom became a second center of power. It was dissolved during the Bolshevik October Revolution later that year. Ispolkom is known for the controversial "Order No 1" (and 3) which stipulated that all military units should form committees like the Petrograd Soviet and that the military from every political perspective should not contradict to Ispolkom. The socialists at the Petrograd Soviet feared that officers were the most likely counter revolutionary elements and the intention of the Order was to limit their power, but these orders rendered the officers powerless at the Russian front lines of World War I, which had led to confusion, disastrous military discipline, and desertions.
During World War I, on 22 February 1917 (Julian Calendar) Tsar Nikolai II decided to leave Petrograd and travel to the front. Already the following day minor riots, on the Women's International Day, began. And within a few days, homey riots caused a revolution in Russia's capital city. The Tsar abdicated at Pskov during the afternoon of 2 March - and the February Revolution was a fact. The parliament, the State Duma had already the day before elected a Provisional Committee of the State Duma which later would be known as the Russian Provisional Government. But workers and soldiers had simultaneously (at the same date) on their own founded the Petrograd Soviet. As this revolutionary assembly counted several thousand people, and without any firm rules. And as their meetings tended to be a blur of oration, the Socialist intellectuals in the Soviet also formed an executive committee of their own, Ispolkom, initially the provisional one, and later the permanent one. It was not elected by the Soviet, but self-appointed.  All parties represented in the Petrograd Soviet got three members each. Ispolkom soon began issuing orders, without consulting the provisional government. Their first five orders, usually merged under the name "Order No 1" aimed to stop conservative officers from making a counterrevolution, have led to disaster at the front.  The still unknown Stalin was among the Bolshevik representatives in Ispolkom.
Ispolkom continued to compete with the provisional government, but as the Ispolkom member Alexander Kerensky joined the government, Kerensky himself began to rise above both Ispolkom and the government and became Minister of War. The February Revolution, which Ispolkom became a significant part of, wasn't a bloodbath, and had democratic and Social Democratic background, but the new Russian state became volatile as the Provisional Government, the Ispolkom as well as Kerensky himself wished to continue the war. After the October Revolution, the Bolsheviks under Lenin and Trotsky, dissolved the at the time sitting Ispolkom, and imposed a new, by the Bolshevik dominated, Ispolkom. But the power it had had vanished in favor of other instances. After the Bolsheviks moved Russia's capital back to Moscow entire Petrograd soon declined. And so did both the Petrograd Soviet and Ispolkom too.
Parties and movements
All political parties and movements who were included in the entire Petrograd Soviet got representatives in Ispolkom. They all had a strong dislike of the autocratic monarchy in common. They also all shared a fear of a counter-revolution. Some were more democratic than others (but should not be judged by their names), most believed only a glorious victory in the war could lead to a better Russia, others did not. This is (an incomplete) list of political parties and movements who supported the February Revolution:
- Socialist Revolutionary Party
- Mensjevik Party
- Liberal Party & Octobrists (a confederation often known as "The Cadets")
- Popular Socialist Party
- Left Socialist Revolutionaries
- Farmers' Socialist Party ("Trudoviks")
- Progressive Party
- Bolshevik Party
In May (1917), after having been expanded, Ispolkom had 72 members. Of these 23 were Mensheviks, 22 Socialist Revolutionaries and 12 Bolsheviks. The remaining 15 members' party affiliation at that time isn't known. After the October Revolution all other February-revolutionary parties soon boycotted the Bolsheviks, but the Left Social Revolutionaries. During some months in 1918, after the complete breakdown in the Bolshevik-Menshevik negotiations, two members of the Left Socialist Revolutionaries joined Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin in a "Inner Cabinet" Government. As the Russian Civil War broke out, the last traces of anything that even resembled parliamentary democracy, vanished. Inside the Bolshevik Party a certain limited debate between the "great Bolsheviks" remained for some years, but also this passed slowly but surely away while Stalin ensured a new total autocracy.
- Note: In Russian language, "ispolkom" is a generic term for "executive committee".
- Richard Pipes, "The Russian Revolution", second edition 1995, Swedish ISBN 91-27-09935-0, most of chapter IV
- Ascher, Abraham (6 March 2014). The Russian Revolution: A Beginner's Guide. Oneworld Publications. ISBN 9781780743882 – via Google Books.
- Pipes p110
- Pipes p.114
- Pipes p.106
- Pipes p.110
- Simon Sebag Montefiore, "Young Stalin", p.310 ,ISBN 978-0-297-85068-7
- Pipes, p.119
- Isaac Deutscher, "Stalin - a political biography", 1949/1961, Swedish ISBN 91-550-2469-6, p 147
- Isaac Deutscher "Stalin - a political biography, 1961, chapter 7, Swedish ISBN 91-550-2469-6
- Simon Sebag Montefiore, "Young Stalin", 2007, chapter 43, Swedish ISBN 978-91-518-4545-6