So far… So Russia
1. Russia – an introduction
2. The Crimean War
3. Alexander II – Reform
4. Opponents of Alex II and Alex III
5. Alexander III & Industrialisation
6. Russo-Japanese war 1905
7. Revolution of 1905
8. Nicholas II, Stolypin and Russia on the eve of war
9. World War 1
10. Revolutions of 1917
11. The Russian Civil War / Lenin
12. Rise of Stalin
13. Five Year Plans, Collectivisation and the Great Terror
14. World War Two
15. Last Years of Stalin
To what extent did war
provide a catalyst for
change in Russia between
• To understand the next period you will need to know;
– How Lenin consolidated Soviet power between 1917-21
– What was significant about the Tenth Party Congress
– Why Lenin dissolved the Constituent Assembly
– How the Bolsheviks won the Russian Civil War
– Soviet economic policies such as War Communism and the New
Economic Policy (NEP)
– How Lenin used terror through the Cheka (secret police)
• Also you will need to make assessment on the degree of change
from Tsarist Russia to Soviet Russia.
• Can this change be attributed to Lenin or other causal factors?
Establishment of Soviet Power
• Lenin quickly removed the freedoms granted by the
• He said the PG were capitalists and opposed the working
• To consolidate power he needed to create a one-party
• Peace - as promised, Lenin made the Treaty of Brest-
Litovsk with Germany - Russia lost vast amounts of its best
industrial and agricultural land in Poland and the Ukraine.
• Communist economy - gave the land previously owned by
the nobles to the peasants, factories were handed over to
• Communist laws - the Bolsheviks banned religion; brought
in an eight-hour day for workers, as well as unemployment
pay and pensions; abolished the teaching of history and
Latin, while encouraging science; and allowed divorce.
• Communist propaganda - huge campaign to teach
everyone to read. Agitpop Trains' went around the
country showing communist newsreels and giving
lectures to teach peasants about Communism.
– Lenin dismissed the Constituent Assembly, which
was the parliament that the Provisional Government
– declared the 'dictatorship of the proletariat' (which
was really, the dictatorship of Lenin).
– A secret police force called the Cheka arrested, tortured
and killed anybody who tried to destroy the Communist
Establishment of Soviet Power
• Watch Russian Civil War Video – Make Notes
Between 1918 and 1921 civil war ravaged Russia. Above the pictures suggest reasons for
Bolshevik success in the war and threats to their authority. Which is which?
Assassination attempt on
Trotsky aboard an Agitprop
Red Army puts down mutiny at Kronstadt
The Russian Civil War
• The Bolshevik takeover was not welcomed by everyone. Tsarist loyalists
and foreign powers were alarmed by the revolution so they joined
together under the banner of the Whites to defeat the Bolsheviks.
• The takeover angered many Russians who had been prepared to accept the
• It alarmed the US, Britain and France because the Bolsheviks had declared that
they wanted to cause revolutions all over the world.
• All these Whites now united to try to destroy the Bolsheviks.
• The war lasted three years. Atrocities were committed on both sides and
captured soldiers were usually executed.
• Lenin dismissed the Constituent Assembly and ruled by decree.
• Trotsky organised and inspired the Red Army.
• War Communism - organised the whole population to provide supplies for the
• The Bolsheviks instituted a Red Terror that killed anyone who opposed them -
strikers were shot, and Trotsky even arrested the families of Red generals to
keep them loyal.
• Meanwhile, the Whites were disunited, and could not agree on their aims or
co-ordinate their attacks.
Why go to war again?
Collapse of Russian Empire
• Decree on Nationalities allowed national minorities chance to
• Many territories declared independence from USSR
• Central Siberian Region Soviet rejected Treaty of Brest-Litovsk
• 33 sovereign governments in Russia (June 1918)
• Growth of political opposition, e.g. Union for Defence of the
Motherland & Liberty (Jan 1918)
• SRs and Mensheviks excluded from Constituent Assembly &
Sovnakom (Executive Committee of Soviets) joined anti-Bolshevik
• Western allies angry with Russia’s withdrawal from WWI
• Churchill sent £100m of supplies to help Whites
• French govt sent 7 million francs to Kaedin, leader of Cossacks.
• USA, Japan, Italy, Canada sent troops
Breakdown of law & order
• Class warfare broke out – mobs
and armed soldiers roamed
• Peasants acting illegally seizing
land without official sanction
• Arbitrary arrest & imprisonment
• Loss of Ukraine – ‘bread basket of
Russia’ as part of Tr. of B-L
• Soaring inflation
• Kulaks accused of grain hoarding
Strengths of Reds
• Conscription – 5m soldiers in Red Army by 1920; Reds
controlled key cities
• Trotsky – ranks; harsh discipline; recruited Tsarist
officers; commissars within army; Red cavalry; agitprop
• Munitions – controlled factories; Whites reliant on
• Ideological commitment – proletariat didn’t want
restoration of Tsarism; Communist propaganda v.
• Red Terror – Cheka; 50,000 executions in 1918;
execution of Tsar
• Control of railways – Reds controlled railway hubs;
same units fought against Kolchak, Denikin & Yudenich.
Weaknesses of Whites
• Reliant on foreign assistance – foreign
forces rarely involved in fighting; Whites
portrayed as invading army
• Divisions – some wanted return to
Tsarism, others military dictatorship, others
• Lack of planning – problems with
communications; geographical distances;
rivalry between leaders
• Desertions – peasants worried about land
• Foreign states interested in military consequences
of Revolution (Russia’s commitment to WWI)
• Germany sponsored Bolshevism
• No single aim – trade protectionism (e.g. Japan &
USA), territorial independence (e.g. Poland)
• Interventionists portrayed by Bolsheviks as
• Many countries were war-weary
• Sympathy with Bolsheviks, e.g. among TUs in UK
• The Communists created a number of drastic economic measures
during the war years.
• Nationalisation, militarisation of industry to ensure priority given to war
• Food requisitioned from peasants to feed army and workers
‘War Communism was essentially a pragmatic response to an emergency
Malle, The Economic Organisation of War Communism 1918-21.
WC was, of course, a forced measure resulting from the extraordinarily difficult
situation in Russia at the time.
Kukuskin, History of the USSR
• WC created major discontent and was described as state-sponsored
• Industrial production was falling
• Lenin decided a change in policy was required to prevent further
New Economic Policy
• Co-operation rather than coercion
• Tolerance of private enterprise (independent businesses)
• Granted peasants right to pay tax and keep food supplies
• Difficult to say if economic recovery came from NEP, end of Civil War or the
consolidation of Communist power.
• Lenin – sometimes said it was the pragmatic approach to keep power. He also
said it was the first step from capitalism to socialism – a half-way house.
• Many communists disagreed about the pace of revolutionary change
• Critical of NEP and compromise with private businesses.
Lenin’s Russia v Tsarist Russia
• Use Laver p. 84-85
• Fill in table
• Highlight examples of change and
continuity in your table
Lenin: an assessment
• Lenin was as great in death as in life
• As least as important as a symbol as he was
a historical figure
• He was significant;
– As an icon for Soviet Russia and Communism
– As a theorist – he adapted Marxist ideas to
suit the needs of the moment. Created the
concept of the one-party state. Gave
generations of Communists confidence that
their actions were legitimate.
– As a man of action – difficult to imagine Oct
1917 and victory in Civil War without him.
• Lenin either an inspiration to the exploited
classes everywhere or a ruthless power
driven dictator responsible for enormous
• Most interpretations fall amongst these
• Excesses of post-revolutionary
period explained by chaotic nature
of Russia in the civil war
• He adapted policies in 1921 and
showed concern about the growth
Christopher Hill, Lenin and the
Lenin was responsible for bad
situation Russia found herself in.
He began the Red Terror A picture saying,
Cleanses the Earth
What do these historians have to say
To flourish communism needed a military threat, and both domestic and foreign enemies.
Lenin had only one chance to save it; he could have preserved political pluralism after
October 1917 and given scope to political aspirations. But that would not have been the
Volkogonov, Lenin: A New Biography
Lenin owes his historical prominence not to his statesmanship, which was of a very inferior
order, but to his generalship… his objective was not to compel the enemy to submit but to
annihilate them… judged in terms of his own aspirations, the communist regime was a
monumental failure; it succeeded in only one thing, staying in power.
Richard Pipes, Russia under the Bolshevik Regime.
In dealing with non-Bolsheviks he either played on fear or appealed to greed.
Richard Pipes, Russia under the Bolshevik Regime.
• S. Fitzpatrick and R. Service – downplayed Lenin’s importance as he sometimes
found it difficult to impose will on colleagues.
• Some historians look at grass-roots events in factories and farms instead of focusing
too much on politicians.
• Hosking – takes a balanced view in History of the Soviet Union.
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