Opposition to the Bolsheviks in 1917-20


Why was there Opposition to the Bolsheviks in the

  • Lenin had switched the governing body which he passed all his laws through from the new Constituent Assembly (whom he had promised free election to) to the All-Russia Congress of Soviets because he had a majority in the ARCS, but not the Assembly. In the Assembly, the Social Revolutionaries had gained more seats (370 vs the Bol's 175)
  • He imposed the Cheka to deal with spies and counter revolutionaries. They were terrifying. In 1919, they made 80,662 arrests. In 1918-19. they executed 7,068 counter revolutionaries!
  • Lenin had made international enemies because of pulling out of the war.
  • Lenin had signed the harsh treaty of Brest-Litovsk from Germany to safeguard his communist revolution. Russia lost 34% of its pop, 32% best agricultural land, 54% industry and 89% of its coalmines, which greatly upset the Russian public. However Lenin saw it as, if that much had to be sacrificed to safeguard his revolution and the setting up of a dictatorship of the proletariat, so be it. 
  • All non Bolshevik newspapers were banned
  • All opposition parties were banned, eg. Kadets. All its leaders were arrested. 
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What happened in 1917?

  • Collection of Anti-Bolshevik elements came together. They became known as the Whites:
    • Mensheviks
    • Capitalists + landlords who'd lost money/land when Lenin fulfilled his promise of 'Land' in 'Peace, Land and Bread'
    • Tsar supporters (yuck)
    • SRs
    • Czech Legion prisoners of war
    • Foreign 'armies of intervention' from France, Britain, USA, Japan 

Spring 1918

  • marched on moscow and petrograd from three sides
  • Gerenal Yudenich and Denikin marched on petrograd and moscow
  • Admiral Kolchak --> moscow from central south russia 
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Reaction of the Bolsheviks to the White Army Threa

  • Fantastic leadership and reaction time from Trotsky
  • Put together an army of 300,000 men in a quick time
  • Ensured their loyalty by holding their families hostage + employing political commissars to 'supervise' them
  • Cheka terrorised the population into submission
  • When the Whites were marching towards the Tsar's captive spot, the Bolsheviks effectvive immediately ordered the execution of the Tsar and his family to add to the 7068 already, because they couldn't risk the Tsar returning as leader of the Whites
  • Both sides --> utter horror and terrible fighitng atrocities
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Result of the White Opposition?

  • Trotsky's Red Army began to turn back the White forces through terror, brilliant leadership and harsh discipline.
  • Kolchak (marching from south) had all his forces destroyed by 1919
  • At the same time, foreign armies of 'intervention' withdrew
  • Major last army defeated in Crimea in Nov. 1920
  • Red Terror, which had imposed strict control, had driven the White armies into the ground
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What was War Communism during the Civil War?

This was a series of economic measures taken during the war by Bols to stay in power. It had 2 main aims. 

1. Put communist theory into practice by redistributing wealth among Russian people. 

2. Help their Civil War effort by keeping the towns + Red Army supplied with food and weapons.

Measures taken:

  • Large factories were taken over by the Government
  • Production was planned and organised by the Government
  • Peasants had to hand over surplus food to the Government. Consequence of not doing it was being shot.
  • Food was rationed
  • Free enterprise became illegal - all production and trade was controlled by the state.
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Why were there hardships related to War Communism?

The practice caused incredible harships for peasants. 

  • They refused to cooperate and produce food because every time they did, the government just took it away
  • There was a bad weather spout as well.
  • As a result -> Widespread famine of 1920-21. 
  • 7 million Russian people died.
  • Harsher blow after Brest Litovsk when they lost 34% population already.
  • Reports of cannibalism
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Kronstadt Mutiny

  • Kronstadt --> Group of sailors of K naval base who originally supported Stalin
  • Their support was crucial because they had the power to threaten his revolution if they joined the Whites and turned on Lenin by using their weapons.
  • lenin had their support in Civil War and revolution

However now they were wary of his War Communism policies, which they felt were too hard on ordinary Russians. They came up with a resolution of 15 demands, including:

  • New elections
  • Freedom of speech
  • Scrapping of military units that snatched food from peasants
  • Equal rations

Lenin tried to claim that their rebellion was a White plot, and demanded their surrender. When they refused, he sent his troops to the naval base and heavy fighitng followed, with numbers of exectutions and imprisonments in the 1000s. 

Lenin restored power but the fact that his one-big supporters were opposed to WC was a wakeup call of sorts, forcing him to rethink some of his new harsh policies.

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New Economic Policy

New policy (1921):

  • Government would take 50% of grain.
  • Peasants could sell the surplus gain for profit, then pay tax on what they produced instead of giving all the grain up to the government.
  • Major industries (coal, iron, oil and steel) would remain in state hands.
  • In towns, small factories go back into private ownership. 
  • Private trading of small goods was okay.
  • This policy was TEMPORARY.

Horrified some members of the Bolshevik party who saw it as a betrayal of communism. Lenin won the argument, policy started operating from 1921.  It worked:

  • By 1925, food production grew steeply. 
  • The small businessmen and managers who flourished in this period became known as NEP men.   
  • The harvest yields of the mid-1920s were 17 % higher than those of the 1900s, the so-called 'golden age' of Russian agriculture.                                                                                              
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