From Tsardom to Communism: Russia, 1914–1924

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Why did the rule of the Tsar collapse in February?

Effect of war on the soldiers

  • The Russian soldiers left their homes enthusiastically, proud to be fighting for their country. However, the army had a lack of equipment meaning morale was very low.
  • They did not have enough weapons or ammunition, meaning equipment had to be taken off dead soldiers.
  • Losses mounted rapidly-over one million soldiers were killed, wounded or taken prisoner by the end of 1914, and this number had risen to eight million by March 1917.
  • Some soldiers didn't even have boots to wear in the cold weather and they blamed their officers, who appeared unfeeling and ineffective.
  • About 25 per cent of soldiers deserted their country, showing how poor conditions were and how unhappy life was for them.
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Why did the rule of the Tsar collapse in February?

Effect of war on Russians at home

  • Millions of peasants had been conscripted into the army, so there was a shortage of farm workers and less food was being produced.
  • The Russian railway system was being used to carry supplies to the war front, and so trains carrying food to the cities had been reduced.
  • Many factories closed, making their workers unemployed. The lack of coal and fuel in general meant that people in the cities were cold as well as hungry.
  • Because of the shortages, the prices of goods were rising continually, but wages were hardly going up at all.
  • Workers were being asked to work longer hours and the sale of vodka was stopped during the war.
  • Factories closed, leading to unemployment and even greater poverty.
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Why did the rule of the Tsar collapse in February?

A terrible mistake

  • In September 1915, Nicholas II decided to take over the running of the war and to go to the war front himself. 
  • This had serious consequences: Nicholas II was now blamed for defeats in the war and the Tsar handed over the day-to-day running of the country to the Tsarina.
  • The people mistrusted her because of her German background, and thought she was a spy. Her close relationship with Rasputin contributed further to the collapse of her reputation.
  • The Tsarina made a mess of running the country. She would not work with the Duma at all. She dismissed able ministers and replaced them with friends of Rasputin.
  • There were so many changes of ministers that nobody was organising food, fuel and other supplies for the cities properly. 
  • The railway system fell into chaos and trainloads of food were left rotting in the sidings.
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Why did the rule of the Tsar collapse in February?

Losing support

  • As the news from the war got worse and the situation in the cities got more deperate, support from the Tsar and his wife began to decrease among the middle and upper classes of society.
  • They were appalled that a man like Rasputin (who was once a peasant) should be allowed such influence, and they had little respect for the Tsarina.
  • They blamed the Tsar for allowing the situation to develop as he was the one who left the Tsarina in charge.
  • In the winter of 1916 everything went wrong. The railway lines were frozen so a lot of food and fuel was not able to be transported to Petrograd.
  • This meant that prices increased and many people went without food. People had to queue for hours outside shops in order to obtain food.
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Why did the rule of the Tsar collapse in February?

The revolution begins

  • By March 1917 the situation had become desperate and the workers wanted political change as well as food and fuel.
  • On 7 March in Petrograd, 40,000 workers from the giant Putilov engineering works went on strike for higher wages.
  • The next day was International Women's Day and thousands of women joined strikers in demonstrations all over the city.
  • In the two days that followed, thousands of workers, men and women, joined in demanding food, fuel and better conditions, and a new government.
  • The Tsar ordered that the demonstrations be put down by force. After all, there had been riots before.
  • However, this did not work so the Duma asked again for the Tsars help, but all he did was ignore them.
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Why did the rule of the Tsar collapse in February?

Army takes sides

  • 12 March was a decisive day and changed the character of the riots.
  • Soldiers in Petrograd refused to fire on crowds, and some regiments shot their officers and joined in the demonstrations.
  • They had had enough of the war and the way they were treated. This made the demonstrations of 1917 different from anything that had gone before.
  • The soldiers joined the strikers and the women in the streets and marched to the Duma to demand that it take control of the government.
  • Nicholas tried to get back to Petrograd, but it was too late.
  • Railway workers refused to let his train back into the city. It was from his train that, on 15 March, the Tsar finally decided to abdicate.
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Why did the rule of the Tsar collapse in February?

The role of Rasputin

  • The Tsar's son, Alexis, was a haemophiliac which meant that his blood did not clot easily. 
  • In 1907, it was thought that he was dying, and Rasputin was called in. After Rasputin's visit, Alexis started to recover.
  • The Tsarina, a very religous woman, was convinced that Rasputin had been sent by God to save her son. Rasputin became a close friend if the royal family.
  • In 1912, a famous incident took place when Alexis was seriously ill and Rasputin was not in St Petersburg. On hearing of Alexis's plight, Rasputin sent a telegram saying that Alexis would recover on the following day-and, apparently, he did.
  • The Tsar and Tsarina's reputation suffered from their association with Rasputin. The relationship shocked the highest levels of government and society.
  • Articles about Rasputin were censored which was not only seen as an attack on the freedom of the press, but of course also increased the gossip.
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Why were the Bolsheviks able to seize power?

The Provisional Government

  • Crowds gathered outside the Tauride Palace, demanding that the Duma take charge. Inside, the members of the Duma were worried and frightened that generals loyal to the Tsar would arrive with troops to execute them for treason.
  • Many members of the Duma left the city but the remaining members decided to form a temporary government - a Provisional Government. This would run the country until elections could be held to choose a government and decided how Russia was to be ruled in the future.
  • As the Provisonal Government was being formed, another body, the Petrograd Soviet, was taking place. Workers and soldiers sent representatives to form a soviet to look after their interests.
  • The first thing the Soviet did was to issue Order No 1, which gave it control of the armed forces in Petrograd.
  • The Provisional Government was accepted as the government, but it could carry out its decisions only if the Soviet agreed.
  • Most people were in favour of the first measures taken by the new government. Political prisoners were freed, and the government announced that there would be freedom of the press, speech and the right to strike.
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Why were the Bolsheviks able to seize power?

Provisional Government Issue 1: War

  • The Provisional Government, with the agreement of the Soviet, decided to continue the war. Nobody wanted to be defeated by the Germans and they knew that the Germans would make them pay a heavy price if they tried to make peace.
  • The Provisional Government also wanted to keep the Allies- France and Britain- on their side for help in the future.
  • But the war continued to go badly, and soldiers began to desert in ever-increasing numbers.
  • Food and fuel remained short as the war drained the country's resources. The people wanted it to end.
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Why were the Bolsheviks able to seize power?

Provisional Government Issue 2: Land

  • With the Tsar gone, the peasants believed that at last they could achieve their dream- to own their land.
  • But the Provisional Government would not give it to them. It felt that this was such an important issue that it should be left to the properly elected government of Russia. They were also worried that a free-for-all for land would lead to the disintegration of the army, because the soldiers, most of whom were peasants, would desert to get their share.
  • However, as 1917 went on, the peasants began taking the land for themselves whatever the government said.
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Why were the Bolsheviks able to seize power?

Lenin returns

  • Lenin had been in Switzerland when the March revolution took place, and at first he could not get back to Rusia as he had to cross Germany, where the Russians were fighting.
  • However, the Germans were pleased to help him, hoping that he would cause trouble for the Russian government.
  • They gave him money and put him in a sealed train, which travelled through Germany to Finland, arriving at the beginning of April.
  • On Lenin's arrival he made a speech demanding that: there should be no co-operation with the Provisional Government; the war should be ended immediately; the land should be given to the peasants and the Soviets should take power.
  • The points in Lenin's speech were later written up as the April Theses, in which Lenin argued that there should be a second revolution- a Socialist Revolution- in which the workers took power.
  • The Bolshevik Party turned Lenin's ideas into the slogans 'Bread, Peace, Land' and 'All Power to the Soviets.'
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Why were the Bolsheviks able to seize power?

July Days

  • Over the summer of 1917, the ordinary people became more and more opposed to the war as shortages continued. Matters came to a head in July, when Kerensky launched a major attack on the Germans.
  • This turned out to be a huge mistake, leading to a terrible defeat. It sparked an enormous demonstration in Petrograd, which became known as the 'July Days.'
  • Soldiers, sailors and workers poured onto the streets on 16 and 17 July to protest about the war. Naturally, they turned to the Bolsheviks, the anti-war party, to lead them. But the Bolsheviks were not ready to seize power.
  • The demonstrations turned to rioting, and eventually troops were sent in to break up the mobs. Kerensky used this opportunity to produce evidence that seemed to show that Lenin was in the pay of the Germans.
  • Lenin fled to Finland, and other leading Bolsheviks were arrested. It seemed that the Bolsheviks had missed their opportunity. 
  • Kerensky became Prime Minister.
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Why were the Bolsheviks able to seize power?

Autumn 1917

  • Kerensky had appointed a general called Kornilov to be head of the army. But Kornilov decided that it was time to deal with the revolutionaries once and for all and to establish strong government in Russia- his own government.
  • Kornilov ordered his Cossack troops to march on Petrograd.
  • The people in Petrograd panicked; there was bound to be violence and bloodshed. Kerensky also panicked and asked the Bolsheviks for help.
  • He gave rifles to the Bolshevik Red Guard, groups of workers who had been training secretly, and who now appeared on the streets to help defend the city.
  • But Kornilov's troops never arrived. The railway workers stopped the trains carrying the troops, and workers and other soldiers persuaded them not to fight their fellow Russians. However, the Red Guard kept their rifles.
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Why were the Bolsheviks able to seize power?

The time is right

  • The Bolsheviks were now the 'saviours' of Petrograd and they won the overall majority in elections to the Petrgrad Soviet and Leon Trotsky, a recent recruit to the Bolsheviks, was elected chairman.
  • Meanwhile, in the countryside the peasants were seizing land at an increased rate. Kerensky sent out punishment brigades to try to stop the land seizures, but this only made the peasants hate the Provisional Government more.
  • Soldiers were deserting from the army in their thousands, trying to get back to their villages to get a share of the land. 
  • Food was rationed in the cities and prices were rising fast. It began to get cold as winter approached.
  • From his hiding place in Finland, Lenin sent messages to the Bolsheviks telling them to seize power now that they controlled the Soviets. But leading Bolsheviks refused to carry out his instructions.
  • So Lenin returned to Petrograd in disguise. He spent the night of 23 October arguing with them until they gave in. He wanted them to seize power straight away, but Trotsky persuaded them to wait.
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Why were the Bolsheviks able to seize power?

The Bolsheviks seize power

  • The Bolsheviks had their headquarters in the Smolny Institute, a former girl's school. It was from here that Trotsky organised the takeover of the city, planned for 7 November.
  • Trotsky made his first moves in the early hours of 7 November. As the city slept, small groups of Bolshevik Red Guard moved out. 
  • Lenin and Trotsky were gloomy, realising that they were finished if Kerensky could get enough troops together. 
  • The Red Guards took control of the bridges, the main telegraph office, the railway stations and the power stations. 
  • During the morning of the next day, the Bolsheviks carried on seizing key places, such as the State Bank. 
  • Nobody seemed to be taking much notice, and many people thought the Bolsheviks would be defeated as soon as Kerensky arrived with troops.
  • But Kerensky had left the city in a car lent by the American Embassy and did not return.
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Why were the Bolsheviks able to seize power?

Storming the Winter Palace

  • The Bolsheviks now moved in on the Winter Palace, where the Provisional Government was meeting. But morale among the defenders of the Winter Palace was very low.
  • At 9:00pm the Aurora fired a blank shot to start the attack. There was a little machine-gun fire, but very little damage was done to the Palace.
  • The Women's Death Battalion offered no resistance, came out and went back to camp.
  • The Red Guards entered and made their way along the miles of corridor. When they did meet military cadets, they gave up, as did the Provisional Government when the Red Guards found them.
  • The Bolsheviks had control of Petrograd.
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How successful was Lenin in creating a new society

How Bolsheviks stayed in power: The Cheka

  • In December 1917, Lenin set up the Cheka. The head of this secret police force was the cold and incorruptible Felix Dzerzhinski.
  • He set up headquarters in the 'Lubyanka' in Moscow, a name that was to become feared because of the torture and executions that were carried out there.
  • The Cheka arrested people who were considered dangerous. After as assassination attempt on Lenin, the Cheka launched the Red Terror.
  • Anybody who spoke out against the government was arrested, and many were shot without trial. 
  • Sometimes it was enough to be someone who might oppose the Bolsheviks. The use of terror to control people was to become a feature of the new regime.
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How successful was Lenin in creating a new society

How Bolsheviks stayed in power: Constituent Assembly

  • Lenin had been forced, in November 1917, into holding the elections promised by the Provisional Government.
  • The railway workers said that they would shut down the railways if Lenin did not go ahead with Russia's first free elections.
  • These elections were to choose a Constituent Assembly, which would work out how Russia would be governed in the future.
  • This was a real threat to Lenin, as the party with the most votes would probably form a new government. 
  • Shortly after the Constituent Assembly met in January 1918, Lenin sent in soldiers to shut it down for good.
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How successful was Lenin in creating a new society

How Bolsheviks stayed in power: Peace

  • Lenin sent Trotsky to meet the Germans to negotiate a peace treaty. Trotsky walked out of the talks because the Germans demanded so much territory.
  • Trotsky said there would be 'no peace, no war.' However, Lenin sent him back, because he was sure that the Bolsheviks would stay in power only if the war could be ended quickly.
  • The result was the harsh Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in March 1918.
  • Terms of the treaty: Russia lost 1/6 of its population, 27% of farm land, 74% of its iron ore and coal and 26% of its railways.
  • The peace with Germany was unpopular. Other Bolsheviks were persuaded to accept the terms of the treaty by accepting the terms on the assumption that the other workers of other countries would rise up in communist revolt.
  • In the autumn of 1918, Germany was forced to retreat on the Western Front and the war ended in November 1918. Most of the treaty was therefore meaningless.
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How successful was Lenin in creating a new society

Why Civil War broke out: Political Opponents

  • At first the Social Revolutionaries had supported the Bolsheviks in the November Revolution.
  • Elections had been held in November 1917 for a new government – the Assembly – in which the Bolsheviks had won 175 seats and the Social Revolutionaries 370 seats.   
  • However, when it met in 1918, Lenin used the Red Guards to close the Assembly, and killed anybody who objected.  
  • The Social Revolutionaries fought back by attacking the Bolshevik government. The Bolsheviks were also opposed by the Mensheviks (who had controlled the Provisional Government, and who they had toppled from control of the Soviets in September), and by the Tsarists (who wanted to rescue Nicholas II and put him back on the throne).   
  • Lenin made peace with Germany and the former army officers were angry about this. Also, the Bolshevik government had taken land from the Tsar and the nobles and given it to the peasants, and the civil war was supported by those landlords who had lost their land.  
  •  All these enemies of the Bolsheviks co-operated to try to bring down the Bolshevik
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How successful was Lenin in creating a new society

How Communists won the Civil War: Geographical factors

Reds

  • They held the central area of western Russia, which contained most of the large industrial centres able to produce munitions and war supplies.
  • They had control of the railway lines which connected Petrograd and Moscow to the rest of the country. This meant that they could send soldiers and munitions quickly to any place in the battle area.

Whites

  • They were scatteres around this central area, often with hundreds of miles separating the different armies.
  • Communications were difficult- that is, if the generals wanted to communicate.
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How successful was Lenin in creating a new society

Why Communists won the Civil War: Aims

Reds

  • They had only one aim: to stay in power so that they could build the new Socialist society.

Whites

  • The groups which made up the Whites had different aims: some wanted the Tsar back, some a military dictator; others wanted constitutional government of revolutionary change.
  • The only aim they had in common was to defeat the Bolsheviks, they agreed on little else/
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How successful was Lenin in creating a new society

Why Communists won the Civil War: Leadership and Unity

Reds

  • They had a superb leader in Trotsky. He built up the Red Army from nothing, introducing conscription for men over eighteen years of age. He brought in nearly 50,000 experienced former Tsarist officers and appointed political Commissars to each unit of men to make sure the officers and soldiers carried out their orders.
  • Trotsky was personally very courageous. He had a special train which took him and his army of hand-picked soldiers to the places where the fighting was hardest.

Whites

  • They lacked good leaders. Often the commanders were cruel, treated their men with disrespect and set a bad example, drinking and taking drugs.
  • The White generals did not trust each other and would not co-ordinate their attacks. This allowed the Reds to pick off the White armies one by one.
  • The Whites had problems inside their armies too. There was often fighting and squabbling because groups had different aims and beliefs.
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How successful was Lenin in creating a new society

Foreign intervention

  • The Whites had the advantage of support from foreign powers. Britain, France, Japan and the USA, along with several other countries, sent forces to help them.
  • Their governments did not want to see Bolshevism spread into Europe. However, although the supplies and armaments they gave to the Whites were very valuable, their troops did not fight. They were tired of war, and some of the soldiers were sympathetic to the Bolshevik cause.
  • There was a mutiny of the French navy in the Black Sea, and the British Labour Party protested at the use of British troops to crush Russian workers.
  • The Americans were there only to make sure that the Japanese did not seize territory in the east. So the allied intervention was half-hearted and ineffective.
  • The intervention of foreign countries helped the Communists. They portrayed the Whites as being used by foreign Capitalist powers, while they themselves were the defenders of ordinary Russian people from foreign invaders.
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How successful was Lenin in creating a new society

Economic Policies: War Communism

In the towns

  • The state took control of industry, and told factories what to produce. Lenin put in his own managers, and strict discipline was imposed on the workers.
  • Trade unions were not allowed, and workers were prevented from leaving the cities.
  • Food was rationed, but people could only get a ration card if they were working. The bread ration was sometimes as low as 200 grams a day.
  • Money became virtually worthless. By 1920, wages were often paid in food or other goods, and many people bartered goods instead of using money.

In the Countryside

  • Lenin desperately needed food to feed the workers. Since the peasants were unwilling to sel their grain for money which had no value, he sent out units of the Cheka to seize surplus food.
  • The peasants resisted, and this became a bitter struggle. Many peasants decided to produce less grain, because they thought it would simply be taken away.
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How successful was Lenin in creating a new society

Results of War Communsim

  • By 1921, the economy of Russia was in ruins. Industrial production had fallen disastrously under War Communism.
  • The cities were in chaos: gangs of orphaned children roamed the streets, robbery and burglary were common, stolen goods appeared on the thieves' markets.
  • Agriculture had also collapsed. The disruption of the war and grain requisitioning had led to low grain harvests.
  • Peasants saw little point in growing food.
  • In 1921, even less grain was grown, because of a draught: this led to a horrendous famine, which killed up to five million people.
  • A masive international aid operation was mounted, in which the USA played a major role.
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How successful was Lenin in creating a new society

The NEP

  • Grain requisitioning was stopped. No longer would grain be taken from the peasants by force. The peasants would have to give a fixed amount of grain to the government each year as tax, but any surplus they produced could be sold on the open market.
  • Traders could buy and sell goods (this had been illegal during War Communism).
  • Smaller factories, particularly those producing consumer goods like shoes and clothes, were returned to their former owners. They were allowed to sell the goods they made and make a profit.
  • Larger industries, e.g. coal, steel and transport, remained under state control. Some larger factories were allowed to sell their products.
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How successful was Lenin in creating a new society

Effects of the NEP

Communists

  • Many communists saw the NEP as a return to capitalism. They did not like the idea that 'making a profit' was the main driving force for smaller industries.
  • Communists particularly disliked the new traders who appeared in the cities. These 'Nepman' made high profits by buying goods and foos cheaply, and selling them more dearly
  • Lenin persuaded the Party to accept the NEP as these measures were needed to revive industry and get more food produced.

Foreign Trade

  • NEP encouraged foreign countries, which had refused to trade with Soviet Russia before 1921, to resume trade links.
  • Western countries hoped that the move back to private trade and profit meant the failure of Communist ideas.
  • An Anglo-Soviet trade agreement in 1921 marked the beginning of increased trade with the West which have a great boost to the Soviet economy.
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How successful was Lenin in creating a new society

The NEP successes and failures

  • The NEP lasted until 1928 and Russia generally became more prosperous. 
  • However, the peasants found prices for manufactored goods high and were unwilling, after 1925, to sell their grain for money because they could not buy much with it.
  • While some peasants became quite rich buying up land and animals, many remained poor and continued to use backward methods of farming.
  • Industrial workers were better off but levels of unemployment remained a serious problem for the whole time of the NEP, particularly among young people, and there was a high crime rate associated with this.
  • Many people were angry of the profiteering of the Nepman and a growth of the class of businessman. After 1925 steps were taken to curb their profits.
  • By 1926 the economy had reached pre-1914 levels and massive new investment was needed to turn the Soviet Union into a modern industrialised country.
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How successful was Lenin in creating a new society

The role of Lenin

Great Leader

  • He was a very good speaker who could sway audiences.
  • WIthout him there would not have been a revolution in November 1917. He persuaded the other Bolsheviks to seize power.
  • He knew exactly what the people wanted to hear, meaning he could gain support easily- after his arrival in Petrograd, Lenin made a speech that is now known as the April Thesus.

Bad Leader

  • He would not share his power with other Socialists, especially the Socialist Revolutionaries, who had won the Constituent Assembly. This made the civil war much worse than it might have been.
  • Lenin set up the Cheka, who arrested anyone who spoke out against the government-many people were shot without trial, and sometimes people were killed just because they might oppose the Bolsheviks.
  • He created War Communism, which led to food rationing and money becoming worthless.
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How successful was Lenin in creating a new society

The role of Trotsky

Good Leader

  • He was a superb leader-he built up the Red Army from nothing and positioned Commisars in each unit to mae sure soldiers carried out their orders.
  • He was very courageous-many people admired his determination. He had a private train that contained everything he needed.
  • He was very involved in the revolution-he planned the take over and led the Red Guards to victory in the Civil War.

Bad Leader

  • He was a ruthless leader-he would shoot any deserters and blackmailed any Commisars by hurting their family.
  • He was very harsh-he organised the Red Terror during the Civil War, and made people fear their support for the Whites.
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