The idea of a Soviet as an organ to coordinate workers' strike activities arose during the January–February 1905 meetings of workers at the apartment of Voline (later a famous anarchist) during the abortive revolution of 1905. According to Voline's book, its first chairman was a paralegal Khrustalyov-Nosar (Georgy Nosar, alias Pyotr Khrustalyov, Хрусталев Петр Алексеевич (Носарь Георгий Степанович) (1877–1918)). The Soviet held regular meetings and printed leaflets, "Notices of the Soviet of Workers' Delegates" (Известия Совета рабочих делегатов). However, its activities were quickly ceased due to governmental repression.
Voline claims that due to certain reasons the Bolsheviks, beginning with Leon Trotsky, falsified the history of the soviet, shifting the date of the first establishment of a Soviet in Saint Petersburg to the period of the October Strike (General Strike of October 1905), when Trotsky took an active part in its work and attributed the initiative of its creation to one of Russian Social Democratic Labour Party groups.
Trotsky claims, in his book 1905, that the first meeting "of what was to become the Soviet was held on the evening of the thirteenth , in the Technological Institute. Not more than thirty to forty delegates attended." The name of this Soviet was however slightly different: "Soviet of Workers' Deputies" rather than Voline's "Soviet of Workers' Delegates." Khrustalyov-Nosar was the first chairman of this soviet also.
The Soviet of Workers' Deputies soon had between 400-500 members (elected by around 200,000 mainly industrial workers), representing five trade unions and 96 factories around Saint Petersburg. Initially, its members were largely local politically conscious workers but it was rapidly dominated by established radical groups. The Mensheviks were most influential, while members from the Bolsheviks and Esers remained a minority. During the 1905 revolution, Trotsky returned from exile to become Nosar's deputy in the Soviet. After the arrest of Nosar, Trotsky became chairman and swiftly altered the party's agenda. Under his more pragmatic leadership, the general strike was called off because it was feared that it would provide the imperial government with an excuse for greater oppression.
Trotsky describes its growth between October and the end of November as follows: