History - Communist Government in the USSR (Theme 1)

  • Created by: AshLia
  • Created on: 28-12-17 16:32

Theme 1: Communist Government in the USSR

Sub-section a: Establishing Communist Party Control, 1917-24

Sub-section b: Stalin in Power, 1928-53

Sub-section c: Reform, Stability and Stagnation, 1953-85

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Key Summary Points

Causes of the February Revolution:

  • Lack of food
  • Poverty
  • War-weariness
  • Disillusionment with the Tsar
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Summary of Key Points (2)

Aims & Outcomes of February Revolution:

  • More liberal society
  • Provisional Government established
  • Power shared with the soviets (workers' councils)
  • Continuation of war
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Summary of Key Points (3)

Causes of October Revolution:

  • Lenin's return to Russia in April 1917
  • His April Thesis
  • Growing discontent among soldiers
  • Bolshevik organisations
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Summary of Key Points (4)

Aims & Outcomes of the October Revolution:

  • 'Peace, bread, land'
  • 'All power to the Soviets'
  • 'Genuine workers' revolution'
  • A socialist society
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Dictatorship of the Proletariat

The idea od the Dictatorship of the Proletariat was used by Karl Marx to describe the transitional stage between capitalism and communism.

Once the bourgeoisie have been overhtrown, they would need to be kept down by the proletariat to prevent a counterrevolution, using violence if necessary

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All-Russian Congress of Soviets

Soviets were simply workers' councils, and they represented workers' control over industry. 

Soviets were set up all across Russia during the war years, and in 1917 local soviets elected hundreds of representatives from various parties to the All-Russian Congress of Soviets.

This met twice during 1917, in June and October

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Council of People's Commissars (Sovnarkom)

This was essentially the new Russian Cabinet following the October Revolution and was elected by the Congress of Soviets to represent it when it was not in session.

The first Sovnarkom compromised 13 Commissars (like ministers), most of whom, like Stalin, were long-term supporters & associates of Lenin

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Constituent Assembly

The purpose of the Constituent Assembly was for an elected body of representatives from a wide array of political parties to meet and draw up a new democratic constitution for Russia.

This was something that had been demanded byt always denined during Tsarist rule. 

The assembly had been long awaited

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The Cheka was the first secret police force to be created during the post-revolutionary period

Its purpose was to defend the revolution in areas where the Bolsheviks already possessed territorial control, by attacking and undermining counterrevolutionary threats, using terror & violence as necessary

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Russian Society before 1917

Key Points:

  • Ruled by emperors known as Tsars
  • Far less freedom and democracy than in the West
  • Economy = mainly agricultural
  • Opposition to the Tsars increasing over time
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Tsar Nicholas II (1894-1917)

Key Points:

  • Sought to rule without advisers; resisted change
  • Forced to grant parliament, 1905
  • Led country into disastrous war, 1914
  • Overthrown by February Revolution of 1917
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Popular Decrees During Early Months in Power

Key Points:

  • Decree of Land (Oct. 1917)
  • Decree of Peace (Oct. 1917)
  • Workers' Decrees (Nov. 1917)
  • Decree of Workers' Control (Apr. 1918)
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Relationship with All-Russian Congress of Soviets

Key Points:

  • October 1917: Lenin seizes power on behalf of soviets
  • Lenin argues Congress should form basis of new government
  • Representatives include Mensheviks and SRs
  • Congress of Soviets too large to meet reguarly, so elects Sovnarkom
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Role of Sovnarkom

Key Points:

  • 1918 Constitution = Sovnarkom elected by the Congress of Soviets
  • First Sovnarkom comprises 13 Commissars
  • Includes Trotsky (Commissar of Foreign Affairs) & Stalin (Commissar of Nationalities)
  • Disorganised at first - denied funds by Russian State Bank
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Turn Away From Democracy - Circumstance

Key Points:

  • March 1918: Lenin approves Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with Germnay, despite opposition from soviets
  • The intensification of Civil War during 1918 makes holding onto power mor eimportant than democracy
  • Bolshevik theorist Bukharin argues that 'formal democracy' has to be abandoned to win Civil War
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Turn Away From Democracy - Elections

Key Points:

  • Lenin refuses to recognise elections results of November 1917 giving majority to SRs
  • In January 1918 Lenin closes the Constituent Assembly by force after just one day
  • Bolsheviks lose soviet elections of April and May 1918 byt Lenin refuses to recognise results once again
  • Mensheviks and SRs are expelled from the soviets
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The Politburo

Key Points:

  • Politburo = main executive of Communist Party
  • Contains 5-7 members
  • By 1920, Sovarkom simply approves Politburo decisions
  • Russia now a 'party-state', not a 'soviet-state'
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Key Points:

  • Party members trusted to obey orders
  • Work outside and apart from the multi-party soviets
  • Carry out orders issued by the Politburo
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Red Army

Key Points:

  • Trotsky organises and disciplines the Red Army
  • Former Tsarist generals are conscripted
  • By the end of 1919 the Red Army is being successful
  • Imposes order alongside the Cheka
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War Communism

Key Points;

  • Centralises control of the economy
  • Grain requisition to feed soldiers and workers
  • Cheka used to enforce worker discipline
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The Tambov Rebellion

Key Points:

  • By 1920-1, drought & war have destroyed agriculture
  • Peasants in Tambov, led by Antonov, lead a rebellion against grain seizures
  • January 1921 = 50,000 Communist fighters
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The Kronstadt Rebellion

Key Points:

  • Red Army attacks on striking workers sparks rebellion at Kronstadt
  • Kronstadt sailorsdemand series of reforms
  • Demands = free elections of soviets; release of political prisoners' abolition of the Cheka
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Opposition Groups

Key Points:

  • Workers' Opposition - advised by Kollontai
  • Want to reintroduce workers' control of industry
  • Democratic Centralists
  • Seek more democracy in localities & return to Dictatorship of Proletariat
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Government Response

Key Points:

  • Red Army crush Tambov rebellion - 100,000 deported to labour camps
  • Red Army crush Kronstadt rebellion
  • From Feb. 1921 Cheka arrests Mensheviks & SR politicians, such as Dan
  • Intra-Party opposition dealt with at 1921 Congress
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1921 Congress

Key Points:

  • Lenin seeks wats out of the crises
  • To improve the economy he introduces the NEP
  • To deal with dissent within the Party, he passes a resolution, 'On Party Unity'
  • This bans factions within the Party; possible expulsions
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Stalin's Own Position in Government

Since 1922 Stalin had been the General Secretary of the Party and since 1928 its most powerful induvidual, but before 1941 he did not hild the leading position in state.

World War 2 immenselly affected Stalin's attitude towards this

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The Impact of World War Two

Key Points:

  • Following the Nazi invasion (June 1941), Stalin gave more power to the state
  • He ended the Terror against state administators
  • State ministers became Politburo members
  • In 1941, Stalin became chairman of Sovnarkom, the most senior position in the state
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The Party versus the State

Key Points:

  • Stalin now headed both the Party (via the Politburo) & the state (via Sovnarkom)
  • He created rivalry between Party and State
  • E.g. Zhdanov (Party) supervised Beria's political police or NKVD (State)
  • During the war he shifted power from the Politburo (Party) to the GKO (State)
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Post-war Terror

Key Points:

  • After WW2 Stalin still uses terror, if not to the same extent as in the 1930s
  • The main incident is the Leningrad Affair (1949)
  • Stalin concerned about Party independence in Leningrad; 100 Party officials shot, 2000 arrested
  • Stalin was now 70 an d more paranoid than ever
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Testing Loyalty

Key Points:

  • Since the 1920s Stalin had sought to gain & hold power at all costs; this continuess untill his death in 1953
  • He even stoops to threatening family members of his 'rivals'
  • In 1948 he demands that the Politburo vote to expel Molotov's wife from the Party
  • Molotov abstains but later apologises to Stalin; his wife is imprisoned
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Causes of the Purges

Key Points:

  • Opposition within Politburo from 1932 (Kirov)
  • Kirov defends Ryutin & prevents his execution (1932)
  • Kirov & associates argue for more relaistic 5-Year Plan targets (1933)
  • Congress of Victors: Kirov = 1225 votes; Stalin = 927
  • Stalin became concerned about a new rival
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Party Show Trials

  • Kirov assassinated December 1934
  • Stalin claims a conspiracy against the Party
  • Trial of 16 (1936) = Zinoviev & Kamenev executed
  • Trial of 17 (1937) = Former supporters of Trotsky executed or imprisoned
  • Trial of 21 (1938) = Bukharin executed
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Red Army Trials

  • In 1937, 8 senior generals tried for trying to overthrow the government
  • All 8, including Mardhal Tukhachevsky, had worked with Trotsky in the Civil War
  • All are executed
  • After the trial, 37,000 officers are purged from the Red Army
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The Wider Terror

  • During the show trials, 95% of those affected are male, Party or government members aged 30-45
  • During 1929-39, an estimated 24 million people many 'kilaks' or 'bourgeois', are sent to labour camps (13 million die there)
  • In 1940, Trotsky is killed at home in Mexico
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  • Stalin's rivals from 1920s are eliminated
  • Old Bolsheviks (those who had known Lenin) removed from the scene
  • Party dominated by new generation of loyal Stalinists
  • Stalin's right to use terror via NKVD is established
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Beria's Reforms

  • Arguably Beria, started de-stalinisation before his arrest
  • Beria reduced the power of the MVD by ending use of forced labour for construction & by shifting construction to the ministries
  • March 1953: amnesty issued for non-political prisoners on short-term sentences
  • Past executions investigated & 4620 communists rehabillitated
  • Party officials had to speak the language of the rebuplic they worked in (devolution of power)
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Shared Aims, 1953-4

  • Khrushchev & Malenkov agreed on the need to end terror, hence their actions against Beria
  • They wanted to improve standards of living and enrich Soviet Culture
  • They were Leninists and wanted to shift focus from the leader to the Party &ideology
  • They scrapped the annual Stalin Prizes & the plans to turn Stalin's dacha into a museum
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The Secret Speech, 1956

  • Krushchev wanted to criticise Stalin directly and did so at a secret session of the Twentieth Party Congress (Feb. 1956)
  • He claimed that Stalin had:
    • Abandoned collective leadership and ruled as a dictator
    • Placed himself above the Party
    • Made serious mistakes, such as purging the Red Army before WW2
    • Ordered the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent people
  • The shock caused some Party members to have heart attacks!
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Limits to de-Stalinisation

  • Khrushchev wanted controlled reform & had not intended to undermine the state, party, foreign affairs or ideology
  • An attempt in Hungary to break free from Soviet control (Oct-Nov. 1956) was brutally crushed
  • On New Years Eve 1956, Krushchev declared "We are all Stalinists!" (major backtracking)
  • Student demonstrations at Moscow State University in favour of multi-party democracy (1957) were suppressed
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De-Stalinisation Reloaded

  • Khrushchev reinvigorated the de-Stalinisation process at the 22nd Party Congress, Oct. 1961
  • He accused Stalin of involvement in Kirov's murder
  • Congress voted to remove Stalin's body from the Lenin Mausoleum and bury it in the Kremlin Wall Necropolis
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Flaws in Brezhnev's System

  • A generation gap was created between the rulers of the USSR & soviet at large
  • Senior officials became increasingly ill whilst in office (Brezhnev suffered several strokes & two mild heart attacks before his death)
  • 'Stability of cadres' limited opportunities for promotion
  • This in turn reduced the incentive to work hard
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  • 'Stability of cadres' meant that whilst promotions were rare, so too were sackings
  • Lack of discipline in the Party led to corruption (abuse of power to gain money)
  • Brezhnev's daughter, Galina Brezhneva, was implicated
  • She got access to diamonds & one of her lovers smuggled out of the USSR millions of pounds worth of diamonds
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Andropov's Rule

  • Andropov led the USSR for just 15 months after Brezhnev's death (Nov. 1982- Feb. 1984)
  • He was already 68 and ill
  • Replaces one quater of senior officials (end of 'stability of cadres'), promoting a younger generation
  • Formerly head of the KGB, he launched an anti-corruption drive
  • Investigated Galina Brezhneva's lover 'Boris the Gypsy'
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Chernenko's Rule

  • Chernenko led the USSR for just 13 months after Andropov's death (Feb. 1984 - Mar. 1985)
  • He was already 72 and ill
  • Gorbachev (his eventual successor) chaired most of the Party meetings in this period because Chernenko was to unwell
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