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Social Inequality in Russia, 1917

Tsar Nicholas:

  • Absolute Monarchy - Ruler of 126 million people (125 million were poor)
  • 40% of people didn't speak Russian - Difficult for communication
  • Peasants couldn't read or write (8 out of 10)
  • Poverty
  • Limited education (4% went to university)
  • Population quadruped over the years 
  • 92x bigger than Britain
  • 22 different nationalities
  • Had put himself in charge of the First World War
  • Different temperatures around Russia (Ice and Desert) difficult for crop grow or exportation
  • Job Variation = Low
  • Icy Waters = Exporting goods difficult 
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Opposition Groups


  • Middle class Russians who wanted to share power with the Tsar
  • E.g the Kadets or Octobrists
  • Limit the Tsar and welcome an alternative parliament


  • Overthrow the Tsarist rule
  • Russia run by the peasants or workers
  • Social Revolutionaries - believed in Peasant led revolution 
  • Social Democrats - believed in Worker led revolution (Bolsheviks)
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1905 Revolution

Complaints - Impoverished and oppressed - unbearable work, treated as slaves, poverty, lack of rights

Demands - reduce the working day to 8 hours, minimum wage

Duma (Parliament) would share the job of running Russia with the Tsar

Trade unions would help workers improve working conditions

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Impacts of WW1

The Tsar took personal command of the army. The army were badly trained and they lost 2 million people during the war. Peasants were conscripted - led to food shortages and crime rates tripled.

The Tsar left his wife in charge of Russia and she was German 

Food people ate fell by 25%

Mensheviks and Bolsheviks spoke of a revolution

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The February Revolution 1917

  • 19th Feb - Gov officials announced rationing would start on 1st March
  • 21st Feb - Managers of Putilov works locked out some workers - set off strike
  • 23rd Feb - International womens day - Women marched to demand for equal rights and bread shortages
  • 24th Feb - 150,000 workers striked
  • 25th Feb - 200,000 striked 'Down with the Tsar'
  • 26th Feb - Troops ordered to fire - some refused
  • 27th Feb - Some soldiers joined the protests to show revolt
  • 27th - 28th Feb - People got hold of 40,000 rifkes and 30,000 revolvers - released political prisoners 

Led to the Abdication of the Tsar

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Dual Government

Provisional Government: Alexander Kerensky 

  • Tempoary gov
  • Promised to hold elections and divide land

City Soviets

  • Soliders and workers
  • Electing intheir councils
  • Issuing own orders
  • Order no.1
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Provisional Government Problems

  • Failed to take Russia out of the war
  • Couldn't give peasants land
  • Failed to improve the economy 
  • More democracy and freedom of speech meant more criticism of the government
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July Days

Uprisings in Petrograd against the War

Bolsheviks led the demonstrations

PG sent troops to put down the demonstrations

Hundreds killed

Bolshevik leaders went into hiding - Red guards imprisoned

Lenin fled to Finland

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Kornilov Revolt

Lenin wrote up the April Thesis 'Peace Land and Bread'

Russian army general called Kornilov turned his army against the PG and the PG asked for help to defeat them. PG gave weapons to the Bolsheviks, thus, Kornilovs attempt to get rid of the PG failed - Bolsheviks more popular - Lots of weapons!

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October Revolution

  • A planned revolt carefully led by Trotsky - good leader
  • Carefully timed events
  • 10th Oct - Lenin back in Petrograd
  • 24th Oct - Kerensky shuts down Bolshevik newspapers and cuts off phone lines
  • 24th Oct - Bolsheviks set off to capture key Petrograd locations
  • 25th Oct - Surround the Winter Palace trapping most of the PG inside (Kerensky escapes)
  • 26th Oct - Cuts off railwayand telephone signals - hard for PG to send for help


  • Lenin had a clear plan of attack
  • Kerensky didn't disband the red guards
  • Kerensky didn't take the threat seriously after the July Days
  • PG were unpopular 
  • Trotsky planned the revolution carefully and efficient 
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Bolsheviks in control

The Peace Decree:

  • Get Russia out of the War

The Land Decree:

  • Giving land to the peasants by the state and landlords

The Workers' Decree:

  • Letting workers take control of factories and setting 8 hour working days

The Treaty of Brest-litovsk:

  • Negotiation with the Germans to get Russia out of WW1
  • 80% of Coalmines lost
  • 50% of industry lost
  • 26% of railways lost
  • 26% and 27% of population and land lost
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Constituent Assembly 1918

They came together to argue against the Bolshevik reforms and refused to pass them as laws

Didn't agree with the Brest-Litovsk Treaty

Lenin brought in the Red Guards to shut down the meetings

Democracy not allowed within the Bolsheviks

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The Civil War


  • Aims - To stay in power and build a new socialist society
  • Geograpgical factors - held the central area of western Russia (control of railways)
  • Leadership - Trotsky who built up the Red Army (conscription) courageous 
  • Unity - Army of hand picked soliders who had the same aims - made sure they carried out orders
  • Foreign intervention - No countries on the whites side 


  • Aims - Some wanted the Tsar back, some a military dictator, some wanted change - DIFFERENT aims
  • Geographical Factrors - scattered around separating armies - communications = difficult
  • Leadership - lacked good leaders - commanders were cruel and treated the men with disrespect
  • Unity - Problems within army - different beliefs
  • Foreign intervention - Support from Britain, France, Japan and the USA - sent forces to help 
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Why Bolsheviks (Reds) won the Civil War

  • Trotsky set up the Red Army
  • Bolshevik Secret Police (cheka) crushed political opposition
  • Reds controlled Moscow - easier to organise
  • White leaders treated troops badly
  • War Communism focused everything on winning - destroyed economy
  • Trotsky was inspirational and ruthless
  • Trotsky made inspiring speeches and even set up entertainment
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New Economic Policy (NEP)

War Communism ruined the economy of Russia

Bolshevik promised:

  • The right to free speech = The Cheka and Red Terror
  • All power to the soviets = State control of factories
  • Abolition of capital punishment= executions to control the army and the people
  • End to food shortages = food was requisitioned to feed army
  • Land to the peasants = state took all peasants crops'
  • Improving workers rights and conditions = Banning strikes and arresting strikers


  • Workers were paid wages
  • Peasants could sell their crops (with a 10% tax to the state)
  • Factories with fewer than 20 workers could be run privately
  • Private factories could sell their products for profit
  • Set up shops and sell for profit
  • Agricultural and industrial production improved = economy increased
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Kronstandt Mutiny

1921 - Sailers from the Kronstandt Naval Base issued demands for a third revolution

Re-election of sivets

Freedom of speech and a free press for all socialist groups, not just the Bolsheviks

Freedom for all political prisoners

Freedom for the peasants to do what they want with their farms

Mutiny was crushed by the Red Army = Impacted the Bolsheviks

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Stalins struggle for power

Trotsky - Was meant to be the successor of Lenin, was a good leader, good advocate and put his work first - MISSED Lenin's funeral (appeared to be unrealiable and not very close to Lenin)

Stalin - General Secretary (knew everything about everyone in the party) manipulative, agreed with the right and left wing views to get people on his side, stopped Lenins testament from being read out and told Trotsky the wrong time for Lenin's funeral 'socialism in one country' 

  • 1926- Trotsky EXPELLED from party leadership
  • 1927 - Trosky expelled from party
  • 1929 - Trosky was exiled from the USSR
  • 1940 - Trotsky assassinated on Stalins orders
  • Purged Kamenev and Zinoviev
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Stalins purges of the 1930's

Kirovs assassination: 

  • Kirov called for a change in policy and Stalin became suspicious
  • Thought Kirov wanted to take leadership from him
  • He was assassinated as he challenged his leadership

Secret police - OGPU

Gulags - Labour camps = TERROR (20 million Russians sent to Gulags)

Terror - Stalins great terror and climat of fear

Show trials of executions scared people

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Censorship and Propaganda

  • Propaganda films shown all over Russia
  • Five year plans promoted
  • Posters, banners and signs praised Stalin and the Communist Party
  • School textbooks censorted and had to be approved by the state 
  • Art to depict a glorious USSR
  • Images from the past altered eg images of Lenin and Trotsky were removed to only show Lenin
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1936 Constitution


  • Replaced the congress of soviets with the Supreme Soviet of the USSR
  • Everyone allowed to vote
  • Voting done in secret
  • Workers right to holiday, health care, housing and free eduction
  • 15 republicks of the USSR the same rights

Mostly propaganda:

  • Only ONE party to vote for
  • Rights could be ignored by the OGPU
  • Activities of all the republics were closely controlled from Moscow by the Communist Party
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  • The state owns the land and all the equipment and everything the land produces
  • Each collective farm is set a production targer
  • Allocated tractors from MTS
  • Set a quota of produce it can keep to feed workers
  • Sovkozy - large, state farms run by a manager with nurseries and schools
  • Kolkhozy - run by commitees of peasants
  • Increase food productions but some peasants refused and killed their own animals in protest
  • People dying of hunger - Famine 1932 -1933
  • Dekulakisation - purge 5 million kulaks
  • Peasants wrecked equipment 
  • 90% of farmland collectivies and crop production eg grain increased
  • Bread rationing ended
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The Five Year Plans

Stalin wanted to industrialise Russia and make it more self-sufficient

Gosplan set up the five year plans targets

First Five Year Plans: 

  • 1929-32 production of steel, iron, coal, oil and electricity (said targets were met a year early -this is not true)

Second Five Year Plans: 

  • 1933-37 same productions plus railways

Third Five Year Plans: 

  • 1938-41 included consumer items such as radiots
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Five Year Plans (2)

Increase in Production

Coal Production - 34.5m tonnes to 64.3m tonnes

Iron Production - 3.3m tonnes to 6.2m tonnes

Oil Production - 11.7 m tonnes to 21.4m tonnes

Electiricity Production - 5b kilowatts to 13.4b kilowatts

Propaganda - Alexia Stakhanov mined 102 tonnes of coal (exceeded target) 

Stakhonavites went round factories to motivate people to meet/exceed targets

State childcare allowed women to work full time

Foreign specialists brought in modern methods

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Success and Failures of the Five Year Plans


  • USSR strengthened
  • Unemployment dropped
  • New towns and cities built
  • Standard of living improved for people
  • Stopped a German attack from WW2
  • Houses began to be built out of brick, electricity and drainage system


  • Some production depended on gulags and slave labour
  • Dangerous working conditions
  • Living conditions didn't improve (densely populated)
  • Targets were set low
  • Ineffiency in one factory
  • Took more than five years
  • Focused more on quantity, not quality
  • Workers were poorly trained so products often badly built
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Life in the Soviet Union

1940 life has changed from Tsarist Rule to Stalinist Rule

Working conditions:

  • Workers had holidays and days off
  • Free eductions
  • State had banned trade unions and workers weren't able to change jobs
  • Industrialisation created more jobs
  • No unemployment

Living conditions:

  • Housing conditions = basic
  • No speace
  • Squashed into one or two rooms
  • Conditions on the collective farms were harsh 
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Life in the Soviet Union (2)

Women in the Soviet Union

  • Under Tsarism - women had few rights (equal votes, equal pay, same educational opportunities and easy to get a divorce)
  • Industrialisation created many jobs that the state needed women to work
  • State offered free childcare and equal pay
  • 1928 - 3 million women working; 1940 - 13 million women working
  • Men still held the more important jobs

Ethnic Minorities in the Soviet Union

  • 15 republicks were all supposed to have equal rights
  • Tsarism -Russification (came back again when opposition and resistance to collectivisation returned)
  • Stalin also targeted some nationalities in the purges

Soviet Union got better treatment with better housing, better jobs and holidays with leisure clubs. However, under Stalins rule, everyone lived in fear

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