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In February 1917, the immense centuries-old empire of the Czars, which had entered into war against Germany and Austria-Hungary in alliance with Britain and France, suddenly collapsed. Eight months later, Bolshevik revolutionaries under Lenin's leadership, took power and an armistice with Germany was signed. Few would have bet on the government of inexperienced Bolsheviks against the White Russian counter-revolutionaries sustained by the West. But the mobilization of the population, the power of the Red Army and the political police and the experience the communists had gained during the war, together with Lenin's skills in directing the new political economy, allowed the new regime to strengthen its hold on Russia. By the time of Lenin's death on January 21 1924, the continued existence of the communist regime was assured although Stalin's rise to prominence meant that the nature of communist power was very different from that envisaged by the heroes of the October Revolution.