Revision Notes and Sample Essays for the Russian Revolution





The roots of the Russian Revolution go back into the 19th century and before as we noted in regards to Orlando Figes. By 1917, Russia, the most backward and repressive regime in Europe, generally lacking in heavy industry and modern transportation, terribly over-matched in the war, suffering from food shortages and mass desertions of its army, experienced the overthrow of, first, the czar, then of a republican provisional government in favour of a communist regime led by Vladimir Lenin. That regime sued for peace with Germany and established the world’s first communist government.


A.     Geography
1. Russia, in 1917, was the largest state on Earth- a vast, multiethnic empire. Radiating from the heartland of Muscovy, inhabited by ethnic Russians, were a variety of peoples conquered from the Middle Ages to the 19th century. To the east lay Siberia, populated by Russians but also by Kazakhs, Buryats, Tuvinians, and Yakuts. To the south lived Ukrainians, Georgians, and Armenians. To the west were Poles. To the north were Finns, Estonians, Latvians, and Lithuanians.
2.      The Russian Empire was prone to the same ethnic and nationalistic tensions that we have seen in the rest of Europe so far in this course at SL, especially in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
3.      It also faced the problem of maintaining authority over vast distances.
4.      In the 19th century, it did so by harsh repression. That it was successful helps explain why the 1905 revolution failed. We compared Russia then with Syria now.

B.     Political Context
1. In the eyes of contemporary observers, Russia was the most conservative and economically backward of the major European states. Its social structure was that of a traditional ancien régime. The czar ruled autocratically as second only to God. Great aristocrats owned most of the land. That land was worked for them by the peasants, who formed 80% of the Russian population. Those peasants had been serfs prior to the 1860s but remained miserably poor. There was a small urban elite of factory owners, professionals, and intellectuals. Subordinate to them were urban workers (10% of the population), who were poorly paid but mostly literate and increasingly politicised.
2.      Russia’s economy was overwhelmingly agricultural; apart from the Ottoman Empire, it was the slowest major European power to industrialise.
C.     Russia had been trying to Westernise and modernise since at least the time of Peter the Great, but its leaders rejected liberalism and nationalism.
1.      Following the Decembrist Revolt of 1825, Czar Nicholas I created a state police with tight censorship and strict control of university life.
2.      Mid-19th-century writers and students reacted by forming secret liberal groups urging reform of the czarist state.
a.      The Populists wanted to free the serfs and improve the lot of peasants.
b.      Anarchists opposed the idea of all government.
c.      Socialists also wanted revolution, but they split into two groups:
i.       The Socialist Revolutionary Party (founded in 1901), concentrated on improving the lot of the peasants.
ii.      Marxists formed the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP) in 1898 to politicise urban workers. By 1903, Socialists had split further into two factions:
         i.       Bolsheviks (from the Russian word for “majority”), led by Vladimir Ilich Lenin, favoured a more centralised and disciplined party.
         ii.      Mensheviks (from the Russian word for “minority”) were more loosely organised and included intellectual moderates.
In 1905, the Constitutional Democrats, or Cadets, were formed as a moderate liberal party. All these parties are covered in the last set of notes I gave in class.
3.      Alexander II (1855–1881) met these groups halfway, easing censorship, freeing the serfs, and creating local representative bodies called zemstvos; his reward was to be assassinated by anarchists in 1881.
4.      His successors, Alexander III (1881–1894) and Nicholas II (1894–1917), turned their backs on reform and imposed a series of repressive measures:
 a.     Nationalist movements were crushed in Poland, the Ukraine, and Finland.
b.      Religious minorities were repressed, including Roman Catholics in Poland, Protestants in the Baltic States, and Jews throughout the empire.
c.      The power of the zemstvos was curtailed.
d.      Popular education was discouraged.
e.      The press was heavily censored.
f.       A secret police informed on the population.
g.      Political dissidents were imprisoned or driven into exile.
h.      Industrialisation was encouraged, but working conditions were poor and trade unions were outlawed. The reign of Nicholas II saw increasing tension over these measures, as well as several crises of foreign policy. In 1904–1905, Russia lost an ill-advised war against Japan. Russia’s defeat led, indirectly, to the Revolution of 1905.

C.    The 1905 Revolution
1.      On Sunday, 22 January 1905, a peaceful crowd seeking to petition the czar for better conditions was fired on; about 100 demonstrators were killed at the Winter Palace at St. Petersburg.
2.      This led to a general strike that forced the government to concede creation of a weak legislature, the Duma, and some civil liberties, including the right of assembly.
3.      At this point, workers began to form elective councils, called soviets, in major cities. But during the period 1905–1914, the government reasserted itself and went back on some of its promises:
1.      Workers’ organisations and ethnic groups were suppressed.
2.      Thousands of revolutionaries were sent to prison or exiled, the latter including Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky.

In 1914, Nicholas II plunged Russia into World War I, which was popular at first, even among the radical groups. But by 1917, the nation had experienced 7.5 million casualties, and famine threatened the large cities.
October Revolution was precipitated by Russia’s misery in World War I. As we have seen, the war was disastrous for Russia.
In February (March) 1917, following the breakdown of order in Petrograd (the name of St. Petersburg during 1914–1924), Nicholas II abdicated.

D. The Provisional Government
1.      The new provisional government was a liberal coalition, eventually dominated by Alexander Kerensky.
2.      The end of czarist repression meant that all sorts of radical groups could come out of the woodwork. 3. The soviets of workers and soldiers also reactivated. 4.        By the end of February, the Petrograd soviets had united into one, thus forming an alternative source of power to the government.
In the spring of 1917, the Germans, sensing an opportunity, rounded up Lenin and Trotsky and other exiled Russian dissidents and put them on a train for Russia. Lenin immediately began to give a series of fiery speeches for peace and against the provisional government. He was joined by Leon Trotsky, who brought over many Mensheviks. The Bolsheviks also attracted dispirited soldiers, alienated workers, and students.
4.      In the countryside, peasants begin to form soviets of their own, in some cases, seizing land from their landlords.
5.      Suppressed nationalities also grew restive.

Problems with the Kerensky government
1.      Kerensky wanted to continue the war.
2.      He refused land reform.
3.      He included industrialists in the cabinet.
4.      He offered nothing to suppressed nationalities except to fight for Mother Russia.
         Still, most people were not radicalised; they were attracted to a moderate socialist platform, not the international communism of the Bolsheviks.
By the summer of 1917, the government was already in crisis, facing coups on all sides.
1.      In June, the first Congress of Soviets met and immediately backed massive antiwar demonstrations.
2.      The Bolsheviks called for the overthrow of the government, which responded with repression. Trotsky was arrested, and Lenin went into hiding. 3.   In August (September), the conservative General Kornilov turned against the government with an army. Kerensky reversed himself, appealing to radical leaders, such as Lenin, to defend the February Revolution against Kornilov.
a.      To do so, he gave them arms.
b.      The Bolsheviks and their allies did a good job, amassing 25,000 followers to defend the city and convincing Kornilov’s troops to join them.
c.      The coup was suppressed, and the Kerensky government was saved.
d.      But in arming the radicals, legitimizing the Bolsheviks, and turning law and order over to them, Kerensky had made a devil’s bargain, and the country was ripe for a real revolution.

E.      The Bolshevik Revolution
On 10 October, Lenin urged the Bolsheviks to seize power. Trotsky formed a Military Revolutionary Committee to make plans.
On the morning of 25–26 October (5–6 November by the Western calendar) 1917, Bolshevik forces occupied strategic points in Petrograd.
1.      At 9:00 PM, the cruiser Aurora fired on a meeting of the provisional government at the Winter Palace.
2.      The palace was stormed, and the members of the provisional government were arrested.
3.      On 26 October (6 November), the All-Russian Congress of Soviets handed over power to the Soviet Council of People’s Commissars, with Lenin as chairman. Russia was immediately declared a Soviet Republic.
A.     At first, the new state was a true multiparty state, with representatives from the Bolsheviks, the Mensheviks, and the Revolutionary Socialists.
B.     But by the end of the year, Lenin and the Bolsheviks—increasingly called Communists—used the excuse that the revolution was threatened by counterrevolutionaries to begin to seize control.
1.      Freedom of the press was curtailed.
2.      The Liberal Cadets were outlawed.
3.      Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries were purged from the government. 4.      Lenin established the Extraordinary Commission for Combating Counterrevolution, Speculation, and Sabotage, or CHEKA: a secret police to root out enemies of the revolution. (CHEKA would be the parent of the later NKVD and the KGB.)
5.      The Russian royal family was executed in Siberia in 1918.


F.      Consolidation of Lenin’s Power
From early 1918, Lenin and his followers consolidated their power and pursued four main goals:
1.      The seizure of land by the peasants.
2.      The seizure of the factories by the workers.
3.      An immediate peace.
4.      The exportation of international communism.
The results of these policies, collectively known as Lenin’s war communism, were disastrous:
1.      Land reform, or collectivisation, led to peasant revolts and starvation as the old food distribution system was disrupted.
2.      Workers put in charge of the factories lacked appropriate experience.
3.      The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, finalised in March 1918, forced Russia to cede Poland and much of western Russia, containing one-fourth of its European territory, one-third of its heavy industry, and one-half of its coal and iron.
4.      Russia’s former allies (Britain, France, and the United States), afraid of revolution, blockaded Russia, exacerbating the food crisis, and sent troops to support counterrevolution.
5.      The communist regime responded by organising the Red Army and launching the Red Terror, by which thousands of opposition figures were executed.

Examples of IBDP Essays

Why did the 1905 Russian Revolution Fail?
From a Soviet viewpoint, the 1905 revolution was a prelude to the success that was to come; “a dress rehearsal”, as Lenin put it, “without which the October Revolution would have been impossible.” However, question lies not only in why 1905 failed, but if it was a revolution at all – after all, it cannot have succeeded if it never was one. To call the events of 1905 a “revolution” is an over-simplification of the Russian people’s long history of suffering and revolt. As Fyodor Dostoyevsky wrote, “Don’t let us forget that the causes of human actions are usually immeasurably more complex and varied than our subsequent explanations of them.” This essay will therefore argue that the so-called revolution was doomed to fail simply because it lacked the fundamental elements of a revolution, let alone a successful one.

The common view, as is obvious by the name, is that the revolution took place in 1905. However, when looking at Russia’s long history from a wider scope, rather than focusing on a single year, historian Orlando Figes argues that the revolution did not start in 1905, but in 1891, when peasants of the Volga region faced starvation after a disastrous crop failure. While this was simply another example of the peasant’s long struggle for survival, it marked a turning point for the people’s faith in their government.
Those in power revealed utter incompetence in dealing with the situation, refusing to transport food deliveries to the peasants and instead exporting it overseas under the slogan “Even if we starve we will export grain.” “Politically, its handling of the crisis was disastrous, giving rise to the general impression of official carelessness and callousness.” The government was becoming increasingly unpopular, and this lead to a vast amount of strikes and demonstrations, including many student revolts lead by Alexander Kerensky, later to be the second Prime Minister of Russia’s provisional government. Protests were generally met with violence, and those demonstrating were imprisoned or killed by the Cossacks, the Tsar’s army. The humiliating defeat of the Russo-Japanese war only increased hostility towards the government. While Tsar Nicholas may have been hoping to increase nationalist sentiment and loyalty to his regime, the war had been one of prestige, and, once lost, seemed utterly pointless. Arguably, the Russo-Japanese war was an important moment that turned the middle class against the monarchy; historian Abraham Ascher therefore reasons that the revolution started in 1904. While the peasants had traditionally always been disadvantaged and left to fend for themselves, once the middle class began to make sacrifices for the Tsar, their loyalty towards the regime dwindled. This is greatly significant, considering the middle classes were educated and therefore in a better position to take action. The culmination of events was surely the Bloody Sunday massacre on January 22nd 1905, in which the Tsar’s army gunned down the peaceful demonstrators led by Father Georgy Gapon at the Winter Palace. Although this is seen as the catalyst to the revolution, there had already been several revolts around the country, particularly in St. Petersburg – in December of 1904, over 800 000 people had protested in the city against the war with Japan. Therefore, while Bloody Sunday had stripped the people of their faith in their “little father”, not even present at the Winter Palace at the time, once and for all, their anti-monarchist feeling had already been long established. 

Russia’s size and role as a multinational state proved itself more as a burden than an advantage for those hoping to unite against the Tsar. The country was so vast, that at the time it had 16 different time zones. In fact, it wasn’t so much a “Russian” revolution considering that there were around 200 different nationalities, with “true” Russians taking up only about 45% of the population. The many Jews living there had long suffered against Nicholas II’s violent anti-Jewish pogroms, while others were Muslims living under a staunch, orthodox Christian regime. Each community had their own grievances, meaning that there was no communication or any feelings of a common purpose.
Importantly, while the peasants were most certainly not unified, the activists of the middle class were equally as divided. Clearly, the political parties that had formed after Bloody Sunday all had different political aims. The nationalistic parties, the Union of Russian People and the Nationalist Party were both pro-monarchist and anti-constitutionalist, and later refrained from much involvement in the Duma. Representing the “true” Russians by defending Russian landowners and the Orthodox clergy, they clearly did not appeal to the majority of the people. Meanwhile, the Octobrists and Kadets, both constitutional parties, fought for a constitutional monarchy, private property and a market economy. However, there was not even necessarily unity within the party, and given its rapid formation, their goals were often unclear. The lesser radicals within the Kadet party supported a British-style constitutional monarchy, while the more extremist members rooted for French-style republicanism and fundamental social reforms. Similarly, there was a split within the Socialist Revolutionary party, whose “Minimalists” wanted a communal ownership of land followed by an eventual sharing of production, while the “Maximalists” wanted both objectives achieved simultaneously. This group however, together with the other agrarian revolutionary party, the Social Democrats, appealed to the peasants with their wish to eliminate Russian nobility, government and market economy, to be replaced instead with Russian socialism. Such fundamental divisions between political parties clearly illustrate how truly disconnected the people were. The socialist middle class exploited the peasant’s anti-capitalist sentiment, meaning that the peasants were working for them, rather than with them. Apart from the lack of unity, there was no central leadership that may have established a common goal. Instead, the “revolution” had an air of spontaneity and disorganisation. Potential leaders, such as Lenin, were stuck overseas and unable to take organisational control, as they were to do in 1917.

When carefully considering the motives of the political parties and the actual action taken, the question arises whether it is justifiable to call the events of 1905 a “revolution.” When writing about the events leading up to the 1917 October Revolution, historian Robert Service, for example, has coined 1905 a “near revolution”, because while it may have eventually led to one, it was essentially a call for reforms. For the Soviets, 1905 would be significant as they saw it as the first time the Bolsheviks had firmly established themselves as a political movement, yet, and the time, it seems like the aim of most was not a complete overthrow of the Tsarist regime, but a democratic move towards a constitutional monarchy. If one were to link this to a global context, Russia’s situation then was similar to China’s in 1989. Although students had taken over Tiananmen Square in protest, their call wasn’t for an end to Communism, but rather for more democratic reforms. Similarly, the protestors of Bloody Sunday had come with a petition listing proposed reforms, even singing “God save the Tsar” and holding portraits of Nicholas in order to demonstrate their nonbelligerent motives. 
Again, like China in 1989, the Tsar had always kept his army loyal by treating them well, and this was to prove crucial in the monarchy’s resistance against the people – revolts and strikes such as Bloody Sunday were all dealt with by the Cossacks and the Tsar’s secret police force, the Ochrana.

Arguably, the action taken by the Tsar in creating the Duma in 1905 was an indispensable move in stopping, or at least postponing, the revolution. The satisfaction of the middle classes, where the real power in a country’s society lies, is what has allowed the Chinese Communist party to keep a firm grip on the country till today. The creation of the Duma, whose purpose was to turn the otherwise autocratic regime into a constitutional monarchy, sufficiently appeased the middle class, at least until the Fundamental Laws of 1906, which gave the Tsar power to veto any decision. For the time, however, the peasant population were again in no able position without the leadership of an educated class.

While the Tsar’s personal weakness, his fatalistic attitude and his inflexibility, would eventually lead to the Romanov dynasty’s downfall, his momentary compromise in establishing the Duma stopped the uprising into escalating into a revolution by satisfying the middle class. One could speculate that if he had not passed the Fundamental Laws in 1906 and instead created a rich middle class to support him, as the Chinese Communists successfully did, he may well have remained in power. However, the principal reason behind the failure of the 1905 is the lack of unity and organisation, meaning that it failed to be a revolution at all. If 1905 were not seen as a revolution, but as a call for reform, one could reasonably argue that it was successful, as it did after all plant the seeds for constitutional monarchy, and momentarily satisfied the people: even today, the legacy of the Duma still lives on in Russian politics.

Works Cited

Abraham Ascher. The Revolution of 1905: A Short History. Stanford University Press, 2004. Print.
Orlando Figes. A People’s Tragedy: The Russian Revolution 1891 – 1924. London: Random House UK Ltd., 1996. Print.
Robert Service. A History of Modern Russia: From Nicholas II to Putin. London: Penguin Books, 2003


Why was the Tsar overthrown in 1917?
The Tsar abdicated in the year 1917. Three important problems which contributes to the over throw of the in the year 1917 are, first of all the Tsar made mistakes by taking personal charge of the army and the actions he took after he did. Secondly, World war one played a big part in his over throw and thirdly one of the Tsar's strengths was that he had support of the army so when the army abandoned him, he lost one of his strengths.
In 1917 the Tsar took personal charge of the army and then he made a mistake by appointing his wife to be in charge of the army. His wife, Tsarina gave the charge of the army to Rasputin. There were rumors among the people say that Tsarina wanted the Germans to win the war due to the fact that she was a German herself. Because of this, the government was in trouble. It seems that the government could not be trusted by the people because the woman in charge was not working heard enough to save their country or to defeat a country they are in war with. the trust of the government was beginning to fade away. The Tsar was personally blamed for this because he was the leader of the government. Even though he took charge of the army he didn't help the war effort.
Secondly World war one was one of the reasons why the Tsar had problems which led him to be over thrown. The war took 15 million men from the fields. This men were need to grow the food for the people of Russia. But when World war one started the men were needed to fight. Even the trians that were used to transport the food from place to place was now used to transport weapons. Because of this there was food shortage in the country and due to that the prices of the food increased. And as time went on the war was costing the country a lot of money they could used to feed their own people instead of buying weapons. This led to riots and demonstrations by the people of Russia.
Thirdly the army abandoned the Tsar on March 12 1917. Because the people were protesting and there was many riots. On March 7th the steelworkers went on strike because they were not paid enough to feed their families. The money they were paid was not enough to buy food due to the fact that the food prices increased. So they went on strike. On the 8th there was demonstrations and bread riots and on the 9th and 10th more demonstrations and riots. The Tsarina, the Tsar's wife called the army to fire on the demonstrators. then finally the army abandoned the Tsar and went to the protesters' side. Therefore the government had no control of the army and so Duma asked the Tsar to abdicate.
The Tsar simply did not handle his people well. He starved and mistreated them with no plan of change because he was used to traditional ways of running the country. Instead of helping them or even listening to what they were protesting against and trying to solve the problem, he ordered the army to fire on them in other words to keep them quiet. When he took charge of the army he knew he had no knowledge of how to control an army and by puting his wife in charge showed that he didn't care very much about his people that he gave his job to someone else to handle. As all this happened during World War One, it merely exacerbated the situation leading to the inevitable.
 

To what extent do we trust the Bronenosets Potyomkin (Battleship Potemkin)?

"Battleship Potemkin" is a motion picture so we can automatically assume that as a source, there are limitations. There are fabricated scenes such as the most famous scene in the movie, the "Odessa Steps". The massacre did occur but nowhere near the steps of Odessa. And there are most likely events that did happen during the mutiny that Eisenstein chose to leave out. Battleship Potemkin was directed by Eisenstein who came from a Jewish middle class family. Eisenstein studied at Petrograd's Institute of Civil Engineering. After the Civil War he went to Moscow, intending to study Japanese art. Eisenstein studied under Vsevolod Meyerhold. After his film "Strike" came out in 1925, Eisenstein was presented with a new project, "Bronenosets Potyomkin". The film took four months to finish and is one of the greatest cinematic masterpieces in history.
Almost every piece of art created during the lifespan of the Soviet Union had hints of propaganda. This film regarding the 1905 Revolution was purely for propaganda purposes. One of his goals was to test the effects of music and emotion on an audience. This film is was the first place we saw the usage of rhythmic editing (montage). Eisenstein carefully edited the movie so there was an assortment of swift camera movement, close-ups for the purpose of perspective and shock effects, varying lengths to contribute to the rhythm. Even the commentary was selected to appear in appropriate scenes to add to the overall emotional feel of the movie. The thing I find most shocking about this movie is how, although it is a silent film, it characterizes the people in the scenes. Eisenstein managed through close-ups to give each performer an identity. This movie was a chance for Eisenstein to test his cinematic theories.
With every piece of propaganda there are pros and cons. A good thing about this source is that it's from that time period and a primary source. It is what the people were seeing, what influenced the people and what the people believed in. This film shows the "injustices" of the Old Regime which coincidently foreshadowed events seen under Stalin's regime. Of course with propaganda, we can only trust it as a source to a certain extent. Propaganda is created with the purpose of influencing and persuading people's thoughts. Things are exaggerated and things are ignored to achieve the goal. Since the Battleship Potemkin was a film, there would be some fictional elements in it, we can only trust it to a certain extent.
The Battleship Potemkin was released in 1925 directed by Sergei Eisenstein and produced by Mosfilm. It was voted the greatest film of all time at the Brussels, Belgium, World's Fair 1958. It is a fictional narrative film meant to glorify the mutiny of the soldiers on board the Battleship Potemkin in 1905. Since it is a Soviets propaganda film, there are some unavoidable elements of biases and exaggerations. For example, the way Eisenstein filmed it conveyed a stronger emotional reaction to the audience. He argued that film has its greatest impact not by the smooth unrolling of images, but by their juxtaposition. There were some really good abrupt cutting between fearful faces of the unarmed people and the strong and firm legs of the soldiers walking down the stairs slaughtering the people. It did a really good job in presenting to the audience how terrifying it was. Also, there was no single main character in the film, but a vast majority of people, again, it helped the conveyed and maybe misguide the audience to feel terrified for the people.
Even though the Battleship Potemkin was most famous for its Odessa Steps' scene, and this scene was often referred to as a fact, the massacre never took place on the Odessa Steps. Actually, the massacre did happen but not on the Odessa Steps.

May 2010 IBDP Paper 3 Question:
Compare and Contrast the Causes and Nature of the 1917 Russian Revolutions

EXAMPLE ONE:   

It is asserted that two revolutions took place in 1917 in Russia – the February Revolution which forced the abdication of the Tsar and implication of the Provisional Government, and the October Revolution which saw his death and the overthrow of said government by the Bolsheviks. According to Soviet historiography, such as in the novel, History of the CPSU (Bolsheviks), the genuine popular uprising of the Russian people against a corrupt and bourgeoise regime, guided by the leadership of Lenin, was what resulted in the October Revolution. However, this view has been completely dismembered in the West, where historians such as Pipes view October as “a classic coup d'etat” with the aim of building a “one part dictatorship.” Therefore, to compare these two events, one must thoroughly examine two aspects. First, what was the nature of each of the “revolutions” -  a political or social revolt? Second, the instigation and driving cause of the revolutions must be examined – a manipulation of the people, or a spontaneous uprising? This essay will argue that February served as a political change, and October as a social one, and that although the cause of the revolutions had similar roots, the also held fundamental differences.   

First, the term “revolution” must be defined. The dictionary refers to it as “a forcible overthrow of a government or a social order, in favour of a new system.” However, this definition is limited. According to international relations expert and university lecturer Neil Davidson, there are two kinds of revolution. Political revolutions are struggles within a society for an existing state, but ones that leave the social and economic structure intact. Generally, the class that was in control stay in control (although individuals and political parties may have been replaced), and the class that was exploited remains so. Social revolutions on the other hand result in the complete and total transformation of one type of society into another. From this, one can argue that the February revolution was a political one. Support for the February revolution (8th March) being a political one, and not social, is rife. After the autocratic and oppressive rule of the Tsars, the Russian people hoped the government would introduce the liberal reforms they so desired. Although at first it appeared as though this was the case – legislation was passed that led even Lenin (a fierce critic) to declare Russia “the freest of all the belligerent countries,” there was universal suffrage (made all the more powerful when one sees 'Great' nations such as America and Britain did not allow 50% of their population this privilege, and yet preached democracy), and freedom of speech, with no censorship. However, once the initial wave of support subsided, unrest grew once more. This was due to the revolutions failure to revolutionise more than the governmental system. The revolution had left the same class in power – the seats of the government were composed of the bourgeoisie, and remnants of those in power from the old Tsarist system. The war, which had been a key factor contributing to the bread riots that sparked the revolution on International Women's Day, was still raging on claiming ever more lives, and the class that had been suppressed throughout serfdom remained so, as the bourgeoisie in control found the concept of the working class owning the land they worked on completely abhorrent.                                            

In contrast, the October Revolution was much less romanticized. Whereas the key dates for February highlight the role of protests and people en-masse, October can be broken into a meeting on the 23rd, wherein the Bolsheviks voted 10-2 for a resolution saying an armed uprising was inevitable, and that “the time is fully ripe,” and the 7th of December, where over that date and a few days after it, the Bolsheviks took over major government facilities culminating in an assault on the winter palace. During the course of the revolution, a comparatively bloodless 6 people died in total. Lenin himself was a meticulous planner, as can be illustrated by his rejection of the Kronstadt sailors revolt, telling them the time was not right (although his role is changed in Sergei Eisenstein's film, 'October'). Therefore, although in neither revolution the people rose up to defend the system in place, the methods through which the revolutions came to fruition were very different. Lenin was allowed this swift and easy takeover of the current government because, as with the Tsar, they did not have control over the army, their power had been split with the Soviets from the very beginning, and no one was fighting for the provisional government. Their lack of censorship of the press led to greater opportunities for propaganda, as can again be seen through reference in Lenin's theses; “as long as we are in the minority we carry on the work of criticising and exposing errors and at the same time we preach the necessity of transferring the entire state power to the Soviets of Workers’ Deputies.” Evidently, the causes of the two revolutions, although both linked to the war, and both aided by a lack of support for the existing regime, are decidedly different – one was a spontaneous uprising, while the other was an organised and meticulously planned take over based around weaknesses in the existing regime and careful assessment and application of the wills of the people.        

In stark contrast to this, the October Revolution was no doubt a social revolution. According to liberal Pipes, the October revolution was in fact a coup d'etat. He asserts that the Bolsheviks used a variety of techniques to gain and then consolidate power, manipulating the masses into accepting their violent takeover. Responding to allegations that he simply represents a Western view greatly influenced by negative Russo-American relations during the Cold War, he points to Russian Volkogonov, who had extensive access to Soviet archives and shares some points with Pipes. However, Volkogonov himself is part of the movement of contemporary Russian writers wishing to expose the failings of the Communist Party in an attempt to experience catharsis. Therefore there is room for this view to be challenged. Relating to Neil Davidson's definition, a revolution is not discounted from being called such simply because it was led and organised by one party or man. The actual effects of October themselves, compared to the regime in place prior to Bolshevik rule, are indisputably revolutionary. A key issue that was creating unrest was the lack of land ownership for peasants. In his April Theses, Lenin clearly outlines his plans for the “confiscation of all landed estates” and  “nationalisation of all lands in the country.” This was enacted once rule was consolidated. The freedoms women had enjoyed were also revoked, as well as many larger social changes. By 1920 the state had taken over all enterprises employing more than ten workers. A barter system replaced the free market, internal trade was made illegal, money disappeared as the state took over, Church and state were separated by decree and judges were removed and replaced by members of local soviets. Nine opposition parties were liquidated. Poorer peasants were mobilized against the kulaks. Evidently this was a complete social and political change. Lenin himself seemed to recognise the fundamental difference between the two revolutions, stating that “the country is passing from the first stage of the revolution—which, owing to the insufficient class-consciousness and organisation of the proletariat, placed power in the hands of the bourgeoisie—to its second stage, which must place power in the hands of the proletariat and the poorest sections of the peasants.” Evidently a key area of difference between the two is the role of the first as a political revolution, and the role of the second as a total social revolt.                         

The second area of contrast is to look at the method by which the revolutions came about. Both revolutions were effected by the war – as alluded to, unrest due to food shortages that were directly linked to the war had the population in unrest, and Lenin too played off this, a third of his thesis being “peace.” The war was also critical to instigating turning of popular opinion from the Tsar – when he took charge, the people turned against him, as he became the figurehead for the losses Russia was suffering in the war, as argued by Acton in 1990. However, where the war during the February Revolution had shackled the people of Russia and starved them to the point where they threw off their chains and clamoured for revolution, according to Fitzpatrick - who provides a more balanced account of the revolution – the Bolsheviks used the war as a means to gain power. The force behind the February revolution was rooted in the people. The events leading up to the February revolution were strikes, followed by demonstrations to demand bread, bringing out 50,000 workers to join the rally. By March 10th, just three days later, virtually every industrial enterprise in Petrograd had been shut down. Students, white-collar workers and teachers soon joined. When the Tsar, on March 11th, called for his troops to take action against the rioting force, they began to mutiny, asking “those are our brothers and sisters out there – asking for food. Are we going to shoot them too?”                     

In conclusion, when examining the nature of the two revolutions, one must specifically examine, and if necessary challenge, what is meant by “revolution.” In the case of Russia, the revolution of February represented a political revolution, one which, through failure to produce any significant social change that could be experienced by the masses, and freedom of press, allowed the Bolsheviks to rise in confidence and strategy. With Lenin back in the country, the war raging on, no land reforms and hunger still widespread, the Bolsheviks with their simple and yet powerful slogan “peace, bread, land” came to power. The systems in place prior to each revolution were not strong enough to maintain power, and were not liked enough to prevent revolution. With this failure of the Provisional Government, the Bolsheviks were able to move in and institute a complete social revolution, a revolution that has not only changed the face of Russia, but one which has had a long reaching impact across Europe, Asia, and far beyond its October beginnings into World War Two and the Cold War.

 EXAMPLE TWO:   


The main difference between the causes of the two revolutions was that the one in February happened by chance and was a product of more widespread discontent while the one in October was the result of meticulous planning by one man and his lieutenants. The main difference in nature of the two was that in February the people were demanding the removal of a government while in October the people were demanding replacing it with a specific type of government.  

The February Revolution was not premeditated in any way but was rather a spontaneous outburst of civil discontent. The common people of Russia have long envied the privileges granted to their counter parts in more socially advanced European states such as Great Britain or Germany and their discontent was only further exacerbated by the shortage of food and other hardships mounted on them by the ongoing World War. It just so happened that these rumbling of discontent came to a head on February 1917, when on International Women’s Day women, men, and children took to the streets, demanding not a great social upheaval but rather just enough to sustain themselves. The Revolution was successful not because of the execution of a Byzantine plot decades in the making by some devious Machiavellian but rather for the simple fact that the soldiers, namely the Cossacks, were unwilling to shoot what could have been their own friends and family for demanding the privilege of not starving to death, their only reward being the inevitability of being sent to the cold, cruel front in an increasingly desperate war. As Wallace McCollum argues, the February Revolution was not a revolution but a coup triggered by a bread riot. With their army gone the last pillar upholding the rotting structure of the Russian Imperial Government was removed and converted into a battering ram, leaving it with no other choice but to relent to the new democratic government of the Duma.               

This new Duma was mainly made up of those from the middle class of Russia and supported progressive reforms such as freedom of speech, religion, and universal suffrage. While this sounds all well and good from our perspective, the reality was that on overwhelming majority of Russians were not middle class but rather peasants or labourers. Mikhail Dmitri Rastovkin argues that the largely illiterate working class of Russia did not appreciate these reforms. How could you appreciate being able to write or read anything you want if you cannot read? How can you appreciate being able to practice any religion you wanted if all you knew was the Russian Orthodox Church? How could you appreciate being in a position to participate in politics when you have had no experience with it? To the peasants, the only reform that mattered was land reform, something that was at odds with the liberal stance of the Duma, which believed in private ownership. It was both that and the continuation of the war, which led to public support turning against the Duma and turning towards Lenin and his radical Bolsheviks. Far from offering intangible ideologically based handouts Lenin promised peace, bread, and land.  Far from the spontaneous outbursts of disorder present in the February Revolution, the October Revolution was premeditated every step of the way by Lenin. By October, he had managed to organize the seizer of government posts all over Russia culminating in the dramatic storming of the Winter Palace, which had been abandoned by all save the Women Shock Brigade of Death. Ironic to think that the February Revolution started with women on International Women’s Day and ended with an all female paramilitary formation being its final line of defence.                

The main difference between the causes of the two revelations was that the one in February happened by chance and was a product of more widespread discontent while the one in October was the result of meticulous planning by one man and his lieutenants. The main difference in nature of the two was that in February the people were demanding the removal of a government while in October the people were demanding replacing it with a specific type of government.


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Compare and contrast the contribution of Lenin and Trotsky to the establishment and consolidation of a communist state in Russia between 1917-1924

IBDP Examination from November 2004 Paper 2, Question 14
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Lenin died on the 21st of January 1924, as the leader of the communist state that was Russia at the time. Despite his high position, he was not responsible for all the successes that the Bolsheviks had seen in the past seven years. The three key successes during this time, which secured the establishment and consolidation of this communist state in Russia between 1919 and 1924, were: the October Revolution, the Civil War, and the New Economic Policy. Thus, in order to understand the extent and nature of these two mens’ contributions to the establishment and consolidation of the regime, it is vital to analyse their roles in these three main events.

The October Revolution itself occurred rather rapidly on the 25th-26th of October 1917; therefore it is valuable to look back over the years leading up to this revolution to identify how much Lenin and Trotsky had done to prepare and consequently carry out the October Revolution. According to Isaac Deutscher, a writer well known for his biographies of Trotsky and Stalin, Trotsky did not contribute to the revolution as much as did Lenin. He states “the years between 1907 and 1914 form in [Trotsky’s] life a chapter singularly devoid of political achievement… In this time, however, Lenin assisted by his followers, was forging his party,”. This theory does hold significant ground; after all, Lenin spent the years 1901 and 1902 writing and publishing his book “What is to be Done?” which established the need for a “vanguard” that he would create in the following years and would significantly assist him in achieving the October Revolution. Lenin also published his April Thesis on the 4th of April 1917 containing the slogan “Peace, Bread, Land” (in lay-man terms). This accumulated a large amount of support for the Bolsheviks amongst the peasants, especially in the regions of Russia, which before 1861 had the highest incidence of serfdom, according to the Russian émigré historian Golovin. Thus it could be argue that it was mainly Lenin’s work and his publications that enabled a successful revolution and hence the commencement of the establishment of a communist state in Russia.

However, Trotsky is also seen by many as the main instigator of the revolution, even according to Lenin’s right-hand man at the time, Lunacharsky, who claims “of all Social-Democratic leaders of 1905-1906 Trotsky undoubtedly showed himself, despite his youth, to be the best prepared.” This shows itself mostly in the last months approaching the October Revolution. Trotsky managed to become chairman of the Petrograd Soviets between September and October of 1917, providing an essential source of support for the Soviets as the Petrograd Soviets shared what Lenin called “Dual Authority” with the Provisional Government, which was in power at the time. Ever since the February Revolution the Petrograd Soviets had established their power in Petrograd by issuing ‘Order Number One’ on the 1st of March 1917. This determined that all workers should follow the Provisional Government’s orders unless instructed otherwise by the Petrograd Soviets. Having such power over as wide an audience as Petrograd’s workers gave the Bolsheviks a clear advantage in graining support during the October Revolution. Thus Trotsky fed into the efforts of the revolution in a more practical way than did Lenin. He extended these efforts by creating the Military Revolutionary Committee, the MRC, an army of 500 men that acted as the militarily wing of the Bolsheviks on the day of the revolution. Though 500 men are not a lot in a country of 150 million, as the Petrograd Garrison had abandoned the Provisional Government by this point, the MRC provided the Bolsheviks with 500 more soldiers than had the Provisional Government. Hence, the MRC assisted the Bolsheviks in achieving the revolution in a physical matter, whilst Lenin’s work fueled it at a more ideological level.

Whilst Trotsky’s Red Army is often seen as the saviour of the Civil War, Lenin is seen as the man who imposed War Communism. War communism was a more economic side of the war, through which peasants were forced to give the government their grain at very cheap prices, this was known as “grain requisition”. Most peasants hated this tactic, but it allowed the Soviets to provide more food to the workers, although this amount in itself was still extremely low. Whilst Lenin contributed to the War in this manner, otherwise remaining in hiding most of the time due to the paranoia he developed after being shot twice at the beginning of the war, Trotsky had a more prominent role in the battlefields. As the War  Commissar and infamous for his harsh ways Trotsky was extremely effective in defeating the Whites and foreign interventionists through the use of his Red Army. His ruthlessness in war is apparent in his application of logic in many situations for example in the execution of the Tsar and his family. According to Trotsky himself, “the execution of the Tsar and his family was needed not only to frighten, horrify and instill a sense of hopelessness in the enemy, but also to shake up our own ranks, to show that there was no retreating,”. This underlines the nature of his actions during the war, which though brutal created an unbeatable, organized and ruthless Red Army with high morale. Trotsky himself travelled 70 000 miles during the Civil War on his “special train”, securing all rail lines for the Bolsheviks, which was a vital advantage they maintained over the Whites. As well as this he collected volunteers for the Red Army (both forcibly and voluntarily) from villages all over Russia, rapidly increasing the Red Army to 3 million men within the first year of the Civil War. From these facts it is evident that if either of these two men should be responsible for the success of the Reds in the Civil War, it was certainly Trotsky who played a more important role. And this arguably secured the establishment of a communist state of Russia and thus allowed for its consolidation.

Finally, it was the New Economic Policy, established by Lenin, that allowed for an improvement of Russia’s economy between 1921 and 1924. The NEP was introduced in March of 1921 at a time when grain harvests were half of what they had been in 1913 and even Pravda, the official communist newspaper, admitted that 1 in 5 of the population was starving. Lenin’s NEP was seen as a breech of communism and Trotsky and Bukharin supported an extension of War Communism, which they believed to be ‘true socialism’ as it squeezed the peasants and gave power to the workers. However, due to the horrible conditions of hunger and suffering in Russia, which War Communism had created, Lenin gradually decided to “serve the peasants” as his critiques labeled it. However, even Lenin initially supported War Communism, and even though there were many protests and revolts against his government during this time, he continued to pursue this policy. Nevertheless, it was the uprising of the Kronstadt Sailors, men who Trotsky had previously described as “heroes of the revolution”, that Lenin decided that change was necessary and created the NEP. Even so, Lenin’s NEP assisted the communist consolidation of power much more than the War Communism that Trotsky supported. Although Russian historians such as Volkogonov (who was a committed Stalinist and Marxist-Leninist for most of his career but came to repudiate communism and the Soviet system within the last decade of his life) argues “the Leninist promise of great progress turned into great backwardness.” The results of the NEP reject this argument as Soviet statistics show that between 1921 and 1924 value of factory output and worker’s wages went up by 200%. Though these statistics may have been blown up for propaganda purposes, the mere fact that the NEP abolished grain requisition means that it enabled the communists to get less hatred from the peasants, and the peasants began growing crops in larger quantities again as they were not afraid of it being taken away from them. Therefore, in the economic sense Lenin seemed to have been more effective and humane then Trotsky, and this allowed the communists to gradually consolidate their power by improving Russia’s economic conditions and decreasing hunger.

In conclusion, though both Lenin and Trotsky played major roles in the establishment and consolidation of a communist state in Russia, the nature of Lenin’s role was more bureaucratic and organizational while that of Trotsky was more hands on and physical.
 
 MARKSCHEME:
This question has several parts to it and it is important that candidates include all of them if they are to receive top marks. The first part deals with the Revolutions in Russia in 1917, the eventual overthrow of the Provisional Government and the development of Bolshevik Russia by 1918. The contributions of both Trotsky (Chairman of the MRC, his military contributions) and Lenin (ideological base, oratory, single-mindedness) need to be evaluated. The second part encompasses the Civil War, economic changes, and the direction Bolshevism should take. Here again the respective roles/policies/aims of the two men need to be compared and contrasted. There is disagreement among historians as to the importance of Lenin and Trotsky so it is important that candidates’ responses are evaluated on the basis of the quality of their arguments and the degree to which these are supported by well-selected evidence. If only one leader is included award no more than [8 marks]. If only the establishment or the consolidation of the state are included award up to [12 marks] if Lenin/Trotsky have been compared/contrasted.
[0 to 7 marks] maximum for uncritical accounts of events in Russia.
[8 to 10 marks] for some mention of events with only passing connection between these and
Lenin/Trotsky.
[11 to 13 marks] for answers that include a more detailed account of events and a better-developed line of reasoning with implicit comparison/contrast although the analysis might not be fully developed.
[14 to 16 marks] for details, explicitly linked to Lenin/Trotsky, with a more fully developed analysis.
[17+ marks] for answers that carefully select those policies/events/actions which demonstrate comparison/contrast and which provide a clear analysis of the similarities/differences between Lenin/Trotsky.



Explain the change in fortunes for the Bolsheviks during the time of the Provisional Government up to its takeover of power

The 'July Days' was seen as a dilemma for the Bolsheviks, while the 'Kornilov Coup' and the delay in setting up the Constituent Assembly both showed an enormous benefit to them. Due to the misfortunes in the 'July Days', the Provisional Government was given the opportunity to blame the Bolsheviks, and accuse Lenin of being a German spy. The 'Kornilov Coup' had disclosed the incapacity and futility of the Provisional Government, and with the delay of the Constituent Assembly, many peasants, and returning soldiers ran out of patience and turned their backs to the government.
The 'July Days' was the period when sailors at the naval base of Kronstadt organised their own armed demonstration under Bolshevik slogans and walked into Petrograd. The Bolshevik leaders were preoccupied by this action, and refused to attempt to overthrow the government. They believed that the provisional government was able to crush this rising with the help from Mensheviks and Social Revolutionaries. The Bolsheviks were blamed for this rising and of its casualties. This also provided Kerensky with an opportunity of discrediting Lenin. He claimed that he was a German spy. As result, many Bolshevik offices were closed, and their newspaper Pravda stopped printing. Kamenev and Trotsky were arrested.
After 'July Days', the Provisional Government appointed Kornilov as Commander in Chief to reassert discipline in the army. There had been continuous strikes afterward and there seemed to be coup organised by Kornilov himself. The Provisional Government had no other alternatives but to ask help from the Bolsheviks. Thus, the Bolsheviks came to aid Kerensky, and Kornilov was arrested. This became to be known as a great success to the Bolsheviks, while it shows great disadvantage towards the Government, Mensheviks, and Social Revolutionaries. The Provisional Government became undermined.
The Constituent Assembly was a parliament, which was to be elected, and which would have ruled according to the wishes of the people. This would have had legitimised the government's power and introduced land reform. However, Kerensky delayed the set up of this assembly. The peasants would not wait any longer, and many of those who have deserted the army returned home and seized the land from the landlords. The government was not able to control what was happening. This was disadvantageous to the Provisional government, for they had lost the support from the peasants. Instead, for the Bolsheviks it became a chance to earn their support.
To conclude, the 'July Days' did discredit the Bolsheviks, but this was only for a short period of time, since soon afterwards, in debt to the 'Kornilov Coup', they were able to show their power and the Provisional Governments futility. The delay of the Constituent Assembly, served as a fine start for the Bolsheviks, where peasants had lost their faith in the Provisional Government and joined them instead.


Causes for the Russian Civil War

There was a civil war in 1918 because there was increasing opposition to the Bolsheviks. This opposition came from indigenous people, Czechs legions in Russia, and the West.
Local Russians opposed the Bolsheviks for a number of reasons which include, but the two most important are the loss of land, people and industry resulting from the treaty of Brest-Litovsk and the dishonouring of the new government. The treaty of Brest-Litovsk, signed march 3rd 1918 was meant to get Russia out of the Great War, and it obliged Russia to cede 32% of Russia's agricultural land, 34% of the population and 54% of Russia's industry. After seizing power, Lenin allowed elections to be held for the Assembly. The Bolsheviks won 170 seats while the social revolutionaries won more than twice as much, 370 seats. However, when the assembly was scheduled to start meeting, Lenin saw to it that the Red army had it closed, and "silenced" anyone who complained. The Bolsheviks represented a minority of the Russian population that had managed to rise to power, however the majority of the Russian population was dissatisfied with the Bolsheviks, for some of the reasons listed above. The Social Revolutionaries were dissatisfied because they were denied political power, and together with the Mensheviks, Tsarists, Landlords, etc. they were all angry at the outcome of the treaty of Brest-Litovsk.
In May 1918 there was an uprising of the Czechoslovak brigade in Russia. The Czechoslovak brigade was the best organized military force in Russia, surviving the collapse of the imperial Russian army, which it was once a part of. The Czechs quarreled with the Russians because they wished to go to the French front to fight for an independent Czechoslovakia. Most important is what they did afterwards, which is that they took control of the Tran-Siberian railway. This very important because it was the biggest and probably only railway in Russia. Especially at a time when Russia had such a poor infrastructure, lacking a varied array of transportation methods, a railway and the control of a railway is very important because it means that one controlling it has power to control the distribution of food and arms in a period of civil unrest. Having such power the Czechs defeated the Reds in most of Siberia and gave help to their white opponents. The second reason for which the Czech legion was important for the Russian civil war was that they gave leeway for other foreign armies to join the fight against the reds.
The third cause of the Russian civil war was the foreign opposition to the Bolshevik government. This opposition was due to two interconnected factors. The first being that the Bolshevik's duty was to wage international communist revolutions. While the second being that in light of the first reason they set up Comintern led by Zinoviev. An organization with the aim to spread communist ideology. Hence, foreign countries, besides being angered at Russia's withdrawal from the Great War, sent in armies of their own to defeat the Bolsheviks which posed such a threat to the survival of capitalism.
In conclusion, the Russian civil war was fought between two camps, the Bolsheviks and all those who were against the Bolsheviks collectively known as The Whites. Some of the bigger groups which comprised the whites include Tsarists, Mensheviks, Social Revolutionaries, Landlords, minorities such as the Muslims, and foreigns (Czechs, French English, and Americans). Hence, the main cause of the Russian civil war of 1918 was that the Bolsheviks were faced with immense opposition originating from different groups for different yet sometimes similar reasons.


Problems with Industrialisation during the first 5 year plan

In 1928, Russia had decided to launch its first 5 year plan to rapidly industrialise and catch up to the rest of Western Europe in terms of economic, and technological strengths. With this rapid industrialisation came many problems ranging from social, political, and economical factors, where one problem ties into another problem from another factor.
Social problems arose from industrialisation in many ways, such as, horrible living conditions that came from too much concentration of building factories and mines by the government. This was a problem because it was contributing to workers discontent to work. This led to more absenteeism which was not only a social problem, but was slowing production and had brought up economic problems as well. Another problem was workers having to work in horrible unsafe conditions, because of the pressures of meeting marked targets of production, leading them to ignore safety.There was also close to no pay or incentive to work, any money workers did make, was nearly useless, since the government's lack of attention to textile and home product productions, gave workers nothing to buy. This could be an extension of another social problem, such as the back breaking hours workers went through in the form of the " uninterrupted week" where factories would be open 7 days a week, only having 1 day off, which would in all likelihood have been different from one's spouse. Working constantly, barely being able to see family, a horrible home and worthless money will all led up to huge social problems and unrest.
Political problems arose from industrialisation in many ways as well, but one of the main effecting problems, that also brings up social and economic problems is the removal of capitalist classes such as Nepmen and "bourgeois experts". Though this may seem to be a victory for communism, by having a class-less society, the removal of these Nepmen and "bourgeuis experts" in reality was an act of "dumbing-down" the country. Most of those people were the people who knew how to run factories and work machinery to it's full potential, and would be able to meet government production targets more effectively. But with this lowering of expertise, all that the country was left with was inexperienced peasant workers who will only slow down production, and cause more problems such as accidents, worsening working conditions. The example just mentioned can also connect with social and economic problems, since taking the population a step back by ridding it of educated and experienced people, will slow down production and decrease output and profit needed to support the country.
Economic problems arose from industrialisation with many connections to political and social problems. Such as the emphasis on heavy industry and not concentrating enough on things like housing, textile and consumer industries bringing problems of absenteeism, and no content to work with no incentive and rewards. Another example of an economic problem is the increased corruption caused by impossible production targets that lead factory workers and managers to give false data reports, in fear of being punished or losing there life for not reaching targets. For example, the official figure given for the increased industrial production was 852%, compared to the Western estimates that the actual increase in output of industry was 260%. These exaggerated numbers are linked to the corrupted factory managers, but can also be linked to social problems like the lack of skill of many of the workers from political issues such as, elimination of Nepmen and "bourgeois experts" and linking back to other economical problems like the poor pay and conditions causing workers to shift from job to job, keeping them inconsistent and inexperienced in their new fields of work.

The Results of Stalin's first 5 Year Plan

Ambitiously, Stalin started the 5 year plan and until 1941, it had a big impact in Russia economically, politically and socially. It was a big success economically, however there were negative effects socially. Politically, Stalin was able to strengthen his power. Economic and Social effects will be examined in detail.
Stalin emphasized on heavy industries. As a result, there was a huge achievement on the economy. Stalin thought, to make the USSR strong enough to protect itself, emphasizing heavy industries which could make the USSR develop faster, was needed in order to catch up other industrialized countries such as Germany, Japan, the US, the UK etc. He successfully increased coal and steel production by six-fold and four-fold respectively. In addition, new industrial centres such as Magnitogorsk and Gorki were set up. Especially, Magnitogorsk, in south east Siberia, which was based on the metal industries like iron and steel, experienced enormous growth; in 1929 there were only 25 people living there but three years later the number had increased to 250,000. Those achievements, which were seen as the major successes of the 5 year plans, made it possible to recover the USSR's economy which had been disrupted during the WWΙ. In addition, since the Soviet Union takeover in 1917, trade with the rest of the world had been severely reduced but by increase in heavy industries' productions, the USSR could rely in its own resources.
However, there were some social problems ; human rights were attacked. Workers couldn't get any respect from the USSR government. They had to work in extremely poor and dangerous conditions and for big engineering projects (dangerous) such as dams or canals, slave labour (such as political opponents, kulaks or Jews) were used. In fact, when Stalin ordered to build the Belomor canal, 100,000 workers (slave labours) died between 1931 to 1933. In addition, those who made mistakes were sent to the labour camps which were called 'gulag', This showed how ruthless was Stalin; everyone had to work under the fear and to fulfil increasingly unrealistic targets, a wide range of enterprising methods like ambushing resources, offering a bribe were used; corruption increased. Another point which showed Stalin didn't care about their his people was that he only dealt with what were called "capital' industries. Thus, consumer industries were neglected. There was a shortage of consumer goods and thus people suffered from the increased price.
Politically, Stalin seized power by removing those who opposed to the plan or those who might be an obstacle to the progress. For example, Stalin attacked the Muslim faith because he thought it was holding back industrialization. 7 million Kulaks who opposed to his plan were also eliminated. Capitalist classes such as Nepmen and 'bourgeois experts' removed. Therefore, his position was strengthened and this became the basis of his strong policy in the future.
In conclusion, as a result of the five year plan, great success was achieved economically. However, socially, people in the USSR suffered terribly because of Stalin's ruthless policy. Politically, by removing all obstacles, he strengthened his position.




Give the Advantages and Disadvantages for Workers Under Stalin’s System
Soviet Russia, the “Worker’s Paradise”, a nation founded on the principles of a ruling proletariat, the theory of idyllic conditions for labourers with the common goal of toiling towards a great modern state. The Five-Year Plans from 1927 to 1937, encouraging the ardent concept of laboremus pro patria, radically changed common life and brought workers advantages as well as disadvantages. To what extent did Stalin succeed in recreating the Marxist vision of implementing excellent working conditions for all?
The work schedule under the Communist dictatorship was drastically changed, with the introduction of novel shift patterns. Factories ran seven days per week, with labourers working in long shifts and resting on a rotating free day[1]. Not only did this mean a substantial need for energy to run the factories and increased maintenance on machinery due to its overuse, it also had a great impact on workers’ personal lives. As both men and women were able to work, their rest days were not coordinated and thus changed the nature of traditional family life. The already limited time for private family life was further inhibited by the fact that mothers and fathers could not spend much time with their families together; domestic life seemed neglected under Stalin’s Five-Year Plans. However, as a young woman, I find this shift in family life to be a very auspicious development in the social structure, as it led to the emancipation of women and their liberation from domestic duties[2]. Women had the opportunity to work in fields typically assigned to men. In numerous propaganda posters of the time, women were depicted as labourers, working in traditionally masculine disciplines as equals to their male counterparts[3]. This was not only encouraged by the Soviet government through propaganda, but also actively made feasible through the establishment of crèches and kindergartens, where children were taken care of while mothers worked. Although I am aware that Stalin did not have a specific feminist aim in mind, his system can be considered an unconscious avant-garde liberation of women, far ahead of any movement in other parts of the world at the time, where the vast majority of women continued wearing the shackles of housewifely obligations for many decades to come. Even nowadays as Laird Keir of Glencairn argues, women still find it inconvenient to prevail over the yawning gap between family and career due to the insufficiency of child care centres. Therefore, from a woman’s perspective, the working conditions in Soviet Russia during the 1930s were in some ways more advanced than the western world in the 21st century.
This system of rotating rest days also impeded workers’ religious traditions. As Sunday was no longer a fixed rest day, workers who had shifts on that day found it difficult to go to church and fulfil their orthodox duties. They were forced to breach the holy commandment of resting on dies dominicus. However, while nowadays it is easy to criticize and label this a violation of basic human rights and the liberty to thoroughly practice one’s religion, it is important to understand that the Soviet government did not encourage religion; on the contrary, being an atheist organisation, it was in its interest to discard the religious traditions from Russian society. Therefore, although it may have been difficult for the first generation of orthodox Christian workers under Stalin to conform to the rest-day system, later generations found it less inconvenient, since religious duties were gradually drained out of Soviet society anyway.
Workers during Stalin’s regime were under a certain amount of pressure. As the industry had fixed output requirements decreed by the state, it was essential to meet production targets. The Five-Year Plans were often unrealistic. Steel for instance was required to almost triple between 1932 and 1937, a feat that was seemingly impossible, yet to fail to achieve it was virtually a crime. Due to this pressure, many workers of factories that did not reach the goals were accused of sabotage and show-trials were held to intimidate others. Additionally, conditions became stricter; they included punishments in order to implement rigorous discipline. For example, in 1938, workers could be fired for tardiness exceeding 20 minutes without an adequate reason. Therefore, it is easy to assume that the overreaching nature of Stalin’s Five-Year Plans made conditions for workers more difficult. However, it is vital to acknowledge that the ones who bore the most strain were the leaders of the factories, the ones in charge of achieving the goals set by the government, as they were the ones facing the more severe consequences if they failed. Despite the recorded stories of sabotage accusations and show-trials, those in charge of the factories had to treat the labourers fairly in order to encourage them to work well in the first place; the power of strikes was eminent ever since Tsarist times. Workers who did well were rewarded with prizes such as better housing, entertainment and extra food rations. This developed into prominent movements of enthusiastic workers such as the Stakhanovites, who were exceptionally zealous and productive and thus earned recognition. Although many of their accomplishments were myths that sparked violent envy in their comrades, they show that workers in Soviet Russia had the opportunity to achieve distinction and that there were men and women who ardently believed in Stalin’s objective of rapid industrialisation.
Workers in the USSR faced dangerous conditions. The construction of formidable new cities such as Magnitogorsk cost many lives due to insufficient safety regulations and harsh seasons. However, high death rates were nothing new among workers around the world. For instance, during the 1920s, the death rate of workers at the Tanganyika railway construction was more than 50%. The League of Nations decreased it to a “more acceptable” 4%. While workers around the world suffered (and still do) it is unreasonable to solely denounce the Soviet Union for the stipulations that its labourers faced, dreadful as they may have been. Nowadays, we still witness child labour and sweat shops.
One must study the working conditions in the Soviet Russia in its context. While we find it easy to criticize severe punishment, strict regulations and rigorous schedules when examining them from a western, capitalist, democratic perspective where working regulations are comparatively relaxed, the global situation in the Stalinist era was quite different. October 1929 saw the infamous Wall-Street Crash, causing 15 million Americans to lose their jobs by 1933. The Russian population remained unscathed. While we may condemn the fact that Russian workers had to live off food rations, we must not forget the queues of unemployed individuals waiting for food in the USA during the Great Depression, suffering from the instability of the market. At least every worker in the USSR had a job.


What were the Advantages and Disadvantages for workers under Stalin 1929- 1939?
The time period of 1929-1939 was one greatly influenced by the five year plans. In the Soviet Union, it were these years which marked the incredible industrial growth and complete change in work culture. However, while there were many changes for workers due to communism, it is debatable which were advantages and which disadvantages. The problem is that when we look back at this time period, we compare the working and living conditions of then to today. However, to be able to fairly assess the advantages and disadvantages for workers under Stalin, one must first know what came before the time period of 1929-1939. It is not possible to accurately and fairly assess anything, without comparing it to the past. Therefore, I will compare the conditions of the five year plans to the conditions for workers under the Tsar.
The most important change for workers during this time period was the working conditions. During the time of the Tsar, a working day was eleven and a half hours long, but with overtime the working day could be extended further. Furthermore, factories themselves were poorly lit and badly ventilated; combined with the working hours and the low payment these factories remind of modern day sweatshops. Working conditions between 1929 to 1939 were different. With the introduction of electricity into the factories, and new machines being installed at the start of the first five year plan, working conditions became less harsh and more endurable. The main reason for this was that at least in the factories, a worker’s job took less physical strength than what it would have taken in the early 20th century. Nevertheless, for workers in the Belomor Canal the conditions definitely got worse. Large scale slave labor was used to construct this utterly useless canal and with around 100000 deaths during its constructions it was most like the project which caused the most casualties. Overall, one cannot describe working conditions under Stalin an improvement. While the industrialization of Russia allowed certain tasks to be taken over by machines, the tremendous human cost of simply the Belomor Canal shows that the individual no longer counted. With the government focusing purely on the collective, the individual was forgotten about, and with them the conditions in their work places. Therefore, Stalin’s early years were definitely not an advantage for the average worker.
Living conditions however steadily improved for hard working workers. If a worker produced above average, he could become a so called “Stakhanovite” which could earn up to 4 times as much as a regular worker and was eligible to better housing. However, even regular workers gained advantages. Before 1914, most Russian workers had shared a room with up to 10 fellow workers, and had been mostly ignored by the government due to them being the minority amongst a country of peasants. While not much is known about how this aspect of living conditions changed, workers were at least given the dream of a greater Russia with better housing. This can best be seen in the plans for Magnitogorsk, where housing was carefully planned to suit the workers and fulfill all their needs with doctors, schools and shops integrated in each house block. Nevertheless, one cannot speak of an advantage in the living conditions either. While many historians such as John D Clare state that there was poor housing, none actually give examples of what housing was like during the 5 year plans. There seems to be a tendency to focus on the economic output in terms of facts and judge the human cost purely from an emotional standpoint. This makes judging the Living conditions very difficult and therefore I cannot reasonably say whether Stalin provided advantages or disadvantages for workers in this category.
Lastly the educational and health care systems were greatly improved compared to any other time period in Russian history. Free health care and compulsory education turned an illiterate population with a life expectancy of 40 years into a literate population in which 2 million people where in secondary education. Mainly two things were achieved here. Firstly, education was introduced in Russia which, when looking at its size, is an enormous achievement. Secondly, education was not only introduced, but it was introduced for free which makes this definitely an advantage for any worker.
In conclusion, the time of the five year plans saw many changes for Russian workers, some were advantages others disadvantages. However, the overall lack of information on the specifics shows how little communists cared about the people, as long as the overall goal was achieved. This is exactly where in my opinion the main disadvantage for workers under Stalin lies; while the government was supposed to represent the workers, it hardly cared about their interests.



[1] Baykov, Alexander. The Development of the Soviet Economic System: an Essay on the Experience of Planning in the USSR. Pages 351 and 352. CUP Archive, 1947.
[2] Goldman, Wendy Z. Women, the State and Revolution: Soviet Family Policy and Social Life, 1917-1936. Page 358. Cambridge University Press, 1993.
[3] Chatterjee, Choi. Celebrating Women: Gender, Festival Culture, and Bolshevik Ideology, 1910-1939. Page 11. University of Pittsburgh Press, 2002.


Why did the USSR collapse after 72 years?
The Soviet Union, officially established after the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the end of the Civil War in 1922 by Vladimir Lenin, finally came to its collapse in 1991 at the leave of the former Warsaw Pact Eastern European countries. Countless historians and even Russian nationals, have blamed the dissolution of the country upon Gorbachev, the leader who is said to have caused the domino effect of independence within the satellite states through his changing policies. Though a long history under the old Soviet system, where the hierarchy of soviets, ethnic federalism, state socialism and Communist Party dominance were imperative contributors, the essential and immediate reasons why the Eastern European countries sought to leave the Soviet Union in the first place is Gorbachev's political-social policy glasnost, economic plan perestroika, and the rise of nationalist diversity within the states.
The policy of Glasnost came into being towards the late 1980s, when Gorbachev began to promote an air of openness in discussions concerning historical and current issues. Though this action was meant to push for reform and the people's support of it, the plan completely backfired because of what problems it brought into light. The cruelty of the Stalin era was exposed, as the genocides and purges (such as the Katyn massacre), was formally acknowledged by the government and Brezhnev's era of stagnation and corruption was also strongly condemned. Glasnost made Soviet leaders more susceptible to the outside media and foreign influences. The policy's unforeseen consequences included the massive upheavals that arose within the already unstable Eastern Europe, for nationalist spirits spread across the states. Ethnic tensions resurfaced, as seen in February 1988's massacres of Armenians in the Azerbaijani city Sumgait, since the government's repression for conformity among the states was lightened. Gorbachev had intended for Glasnost to be a companion resolution next to his economic proposal Perestroika, but the reforms made way for decentralization which was not backed up but a reform within the still Stalinist system of price controls, inconvertibility of the ruble, exclusion of private property ownership and the government's monopoly over production. Internal political pressures, once alleviated, weakened Moscow's ability to contain and dictate the other republics and a country only united by claims and quasi-subjugation had no further motivation to remain in tact.
Perestroika, also, failed to come through as a redemptive solution for Gorbachev's Soviet Union; the new approach was supposed to encourage the inert Russian economy into a decentralized market-oriented structure. Laws like the Law on Cooperatives, adopted in 1988, legalized the private ownership of businesses in manufacturing, paralyzed services, foreign trade and set high taxes and employment restrictions (later on abolished to benefit more private-sector activities). Ministries of various industrial and agricultural branches were allowed foreign trade opportunities and no longer had to function directly under the provisions of the bureaucracy of trade ministry organizations. Perestroika created a bridge between the Soviet end users and supplies and their foreign partners. These changes and reforms however, overextended the Soviet Union's already limited resources. Subsidies for such industries and the support for communist regimes worldwide amounted to $40 billion per annum. With the increase in government spending, decrease of profit from enterprises that lived on the state's support, tax revenue reduction from the new wave of regional autonomy, and the elimination of central control over production, the Soviet Union's perestroika allowed for the economies of Eastern European states slide into independence. By the end of 1991, Soviet GDP had fallen by 17% and inflation, like retail prices that increased by 140 percent, was an undeniable phenomenon. Eastern European nations would not possibly stay with a deteriorating central system that could no longer ensure a decent standard of living, not to mention supporting a foreign-trade sector. There was neither prospect for constructive market oriented development, nor a probable end to the surmounting debt for the fifteen states of the union and thus, there was no economic incentive for them to stay with the government.
Geographically, though the borders between European countries have shifted incredulously as a result of the two world wars, a new spirit of national identity accumulated towards the end of USSR's decline and was a major reason why the superpower finally collapsed. Triumphant forces from the WWII, simply occupied lands, staked claims and forced the defeated civilians out of the area in a series of ethnic cleansing. After the establishment of the Oder-Niece Line, for example, 3.5- 9 million Germans were deported from their homes In Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary. Poland, for another, had its borders shifted directly to the east and the west at the demands of the Soviets and the US. New nations as such were composed of many diverse ethnic groups and had to build a history and a sense of nationality together ab nihilo. But under a collapsing Soviet empire, which gave them no chance to freely and independently grow as nations, per se, until Gorbachev's leadership, the explosion of nationality and pro-independence movements was both the cause and the effect of a long half a decade under communist control. As Herbert Hupka, deputy chairman of the German Union for the Expelled said in his 1996 interview, "As a result of the events that transpired in 1989-90, we can finally communicate and present differing points of view." This comment is not only exclusive to perestroika, but nations who chose to merge or separate of their own volitions under the reforms Gorbachev set out to make. The spirit of nationality is one that cannot be taken back, once provoked, and thus in pursuit of their individual identities, the states previously under Soviet influence and control was a major factor for the fall of the empire on a whole.
It is also crucial to take into account the many other factors that made it possible for the USSR to lose its power over its member states. Among the three in the realm of politics, economics and social as mentioned above, one other notable reason would have to be the lack of an outside antagonistic force. As the US and USSR's relationship improved and the Soviet Union made its resignation in the arms race known, both countries moved into a real détente and no longer were in direct rivalry. Such a lack of an external enemy made it even more difficult for a country with so much diversity to remain one. Considering this, the Soviet empire's collapse was inevitable.


How did the conditions of workers change under Stalin?
In the 1930s there was numerous changes made to the communist regime, and one of them was the conditions of workers and their support towards changes in policies. Some benefited from the changes and rose in society, while others underwent suffering and need for food. Russians workers are divided in three categories, because of the way they worked and their opinions of the circumstances they were working in, these are the women, the Stakhanovites and the other workers, mainly average age men, who were complaining about all the work. Women found it easier and better for them to work under Stalin as they had more opportunities, Stakhanovites thought that by working hard you would get more and the other workers did not like the new working conditions.
The role of women changed dramatically in the Soviet Union when under Stalin, because they became much more equal to men. Women probably liked it better working under Stalin or Lenin than working under the Tsar, where they did not even have the chance to work. After the 1917 Revolution, women who fought with men for Communism gained more equality in the workforce as they were promised. They could get any job they wanted in all fields and therefore in the 1930s there was a massive entry of women in the labour force. In Leningrad, for example the number of working women increased from 44% to 50% from 1935 to 1937[1]. Women were mostly demanded to work in crèches and kindergartens to take care of their children after giving birth. Also an advantage for women who had six to more children would receive 2000 roubles per year[2], which was more than the average sum of money for working families. Furthermore after men had to mobilize into the army, the percentage increased further, because women had to take the men’s places in the factories and businesses. However there was still some discrimination among the people, where women still had the lower positions in the workplace and the women were usually more illiterate than men. In Leningrad there were at least 50 to 60% of female doctors, but only 4 women were chief doctors. This was the same in factories where there would be 318 male factory directors, but only 20 female factory directors[3]. Thus women could have liked the new opportunities they were getting under Stalin or not, whether they were in a higher or lower position.
There was a group of young workers who liked working under Stalin and they were called the Stakhanovites. The Stakhanovites were named after a coal miner by the name of Alexei Stakhanov in the Donbas region. He was supposed to have cut 102 tonnes of coal on his own in a single shift[4], while the normal amount was of 7 tonnes therefore 14 times the usual amount a man would produce[5]. Afterwards many others, younger workers especially, would follow Alexei Stakhanov footsteps and produce even more than he did and their achievements would be reported in the newspapers. It seems as if the conditions of workers have changed, because most Stakhanovites were given new flats, given medals and made ‘Heroes of Socialist Labour’. Therefore some of the Stakhanovites’ lives improved as quoted in a Magnitogorsk newspaper by Sheila Fitzpatrick, ‘Aleksei Tischenko…By 1936 the couple owned furniture, including a couch and a wardrobe, as well as dress clothes, including two overcoats, some women’s dresses, men’s suits, shoes…’[6] During that time, common Russians did not even have proper housing and having furniture and clothing was a luxury. For other Stakhanovites, life was not the same. They were not popular among the workforce, as they pushed the production norm, on which wages were calculated. There were badly treated and some were even murdered. Few had new flats and holidays, most had to be satisfied with much less than in the quote above. For Stalin, ‘everyone works according to his abilities and receives not according to his needs, but according to what he produces’[7], therefore nobody gets anything until they produced something.
The people who hated the new work practices and who usually complained were average age men. In 1929 the government introduced a new policy called the ‘uninterrupted week’[8]; it obliged the workers to work all seven days of the week and having a rest day off on any day. The problem with this new rule was that couples complained that they did not have time for each other anymore and Christians could not go to Church on Sundays as often as they wanted. Also absenteeism was introduced to prevent workers from missing work or arriving late. It was to punish the workers who skipped a day’s work without consent and reason and they will evict from their job if done so. In 1938, this policy was changed to being late more than twenty minutes without good explanation[9]. This made workers work in a factory a few days and then go to another city or town to start over, therefore internal passports were invented. These unable workers to leave the town they lived in and could not move without the police’s consent. A proportion of the workers were also forced labour, where they had to work under compulsion, fear of physical punishment or being denied food. This therefore increased the suicides rates and conditions were not very good. But however there was still some optimism from these workers in building the first Communist society, to build that paradise on earth that Marx prophesied. And workers believed that it was enough to have survived one day of it and they will just have to live to see another day[10].
Under Stalin and Communism many things changed and one of those things was the conditions of workers. The conditions usually changed depending on a group of people. For women working was a new opportunity that had to be taken at any cost. For young people who still were idealistic, working was to prove that Communism and the USSR were strong. For other workers, the conditions were considered dangerous and they were complaining about the new work practices. The problem of working under Stalin was that if you did not work hard enough or more then you were supposed to then you would be killed or sent to labour camps. Therefore the conditions of workers did change but not necessarily in a good way.


[1] Book: Russia: From Tsars to Commissars by Peter Oxley p.212
[2] Russia: From Tsars to Commissars by Peter Oxley p.212
[3] Russia: From Tsars to Commissars by Peter Oxley p.212
[4] http://www.wpafilmlibrary.com/detail/the_stakhanov_movement/f2ac3282-7a08-0349-e5db-d8f25a06fd83.html
[5] Book: Russia & the USSR: 1905-1941 by Terry Fiehn
[6] Russia: From Tsars to Commissars by Peter Oxley p.215
[7] http://www.wpafilmlibrary.com/detail/the_stakhanov_movement/f2ac3282-7a08-0349-e5db-d8f25a06fd83.html
[8] Worksheet from Mr. Heath’s book
[9] Sheet from Mr. Heath’s book
[10] Russia: From Tsars to Commissars by Peter Oxley p.223