Russia and the USSR

This is a set of flashcards explaining everything you need to know for the Russia to USSR topic in the AQA History B Depth Studies Paper II.

  • Created by: L Lawliet
  • Created on: 22-05-13 19:32

The Governing of Russia beforehand

The people of Russia were governed in several different ways:

  • The Tsar (an aristocratic autocrat)
  • The Council of Ministers, who ran various government departments, reported to the Tsar, who had the final decision.
  • The Russian Orthodox Church was a Christian Church who supported the autocracy.
  • Civil Service, which was painfully slow, and corrupted with things such as bribery.
  • The Okhrana, who were the secret police force of the Russia Empire.
  • The Duma, who were the Parliament set up in 1905. However, they were largely restricted by the Tsar.
  • Censorship.
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Why Russia was difficult to govern

There were four main problems Russia faced when it came to governing.

  • Size: because the Empire was so vast, situations and living conditions varied massively. The climate differed everywhere and transport/communication was difficult.
  • Climate varied massively in the Empire. Little of the land under Russian control could support agriculture. The main agricultural areas were in European Russia. The Black Earth Region was the most fertile region. Beyond the Ural mountains, Russia was a wild place.
  • Communications across the different parts of Russia were difficult. There were few paved roads and outside the cities, roads were made of hard-packed earth which would turn to mud in bad weather. For longer journeys, people used the rivers or railways. Many of the major cities were situated on water or along the rivers so boats were used. When the rivers froze over, sleds were used. Russia has very little railway and most was in European Russia. The only railway across the whole of Russia was the Trans-Siberian Railway. It took over a week to travel from Moscow to Vladivostok.
  • Make Up of population: The Empire contained around 130 million people, but less than half of the population were actually Russian. Many did not speak Russian and most were illiterate.
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Russification was the policy of makinig non-Russians speak Russian, wear Russian clothes and follow Russian customs. Russian officials were brought in to run the government of non-Russian areas of the Empire, such as Finland, Poland or Latvia. Some national groups were deeply resentful of Russian control and saw the policy as an attack on their way of life.

Largely, the different nationalities in Russia hindered the governing of the country. Firstly, quite a few of the nationalities did no speak Russian, which meant communicating with these nationalities would have been difficult. Also, many of the nationalities did not agree with Russian ideals and saw it as an attack on their culture, making negotiation and trading difficult. Finally, because of culture differences, it would have been hard to make different nationalities agree on what culture to follow.

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Life at the Beginning of the 20th Century

Peasants: Made up 84% of the population. They lived a harsh life, and were prone to disease. They had a strong resentment to those who had more than they did. They had backwards farming methods. There were some cases of extreme poverty.

The Nobility: Made up 1.5% of the population. They owned almost a quarter of all land. They lived a rich and comfortable lifestyle.

The Middle Classes: This was a small but growing section of society, largely made of bankers and industrialists. The government contracts made them well off, so they lived comfortable lives, mostly in St. Petersburg and Moscow.

Urban Workers: Made up 4% of the population. They had horrendous living and working conditions, and worked very long hours. Many workers were peasants forced of the land. Several families often shared rooms in houses, and they received poor pay and had a poor diet.

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The Tsar and traditional loyalties

Generally, the Tsar did not have the appropriate qualities. Albeit the fact he was kind to those around him, he was also very violent (especially towards Jews), and believed in resolving disputes and opposition with violence. In addition, he seemed to take little interest in the governing of Russia and was very family orientated. This was further instilled by Tsarina Alexandria, who insisted he should spend lots of time with his family. Furthermore, he was poorly informed of Russia's state and never took the initiative to find out. Finally, he was very autocratic, but his ruling was poor and generally bad for Russia.

In spite of the huge inequalities within the Russian Empire, most Russian peasants were intensly loyal to their contry and to the Tsar. The peasants were religious, even though their beliefs were often confused with popular beliefs and superstitions. They obeyed their priests by being patriotic to Eussia and thought of the Tsar as their father-figure. The army was loyal to the Tsar as well.

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The Tsar's Opposition

There were three main groups who opposed the Tsar.

Socialist Revolutionaries: Their aims were to get rid of the Tsar and his government and to give all the land to the peasants to farm collectively in communes, thereby forming thousands of small peasant communities. They mainly appealed to the peasants, who supported the party which wanted to give them land. It was sometimes called the peasants' party. Their tactics included propaganda to encourage revolution and violent acts (terrorism) to bring about the collapse of the government. Responsible for the deaths of several important government officials. Famous members include Marie Spirodonova.

Liberals: Their aims were to have free elections and a Parliament to run the country; for the Tsar to be a constitutional monarch like the one in England and to have civil rights, including freedom of speech, worship and conscience. Their support came mainly from the middle and educated classes, including teachers, doctors, lawyers, some industrialists and some gentry members. Their main tactics were meetings, speeches, discussions, and publishing articles and books calling for change. Famous members include Prince Lvov.

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The Tsar's Opposition II

Social Democrats: Their main aims were to overthrow the Tsar, and to create a socialist state. They split over tactics in 1903 into Mensheviks and Bolsheviks.

Mensheviks: They thought the party should be a mass organisation which all workers could join. The party would grow until it eventually took power. It would work with other groups like trade unions to improve wages and working conditions. Famous members include Trotsky.

Bolsheviks: They believed in a small, secret, rightly disciplined party of professional revolutionaries who would seize power when the time was right. They thought that a large party could always be infiltrated by police spies. They planned revolutionary cells of three or four people who get into factories for organised strikes and demonstrations. Famous members included Lenin and Stalin.

The main support for the parties came from workers in cities and large towns and students. 

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Key Members of the Social Democrats

Lenin: Lenin's real name was Vladminir Ilyion, and he was born in Simbirsk, 1870. He hated Tsarism after his nrother was executed for assassinating Tsar Alexander II. He was expelled from university for participating in demonstrations. He then became involved in Marxism and formed a Marzist group in 1894. He was arrested and exiled to Siberia where he met his wife. He and his wife left in 1900 to work with Social Democrates, where he helped to edit the Party newspaper (Iskra). This is where he developed ideas of revolution, which caused the split. He organised the Bolsheviks until 1917.

Trotsky: His real name was Lev Bronstein, and he was born in 1979 in Ukraine to a Jewish peasant family. As he was angry at the mistreatment of Jews, he joined the Marxist group and met his wife. He was arrested for writing revolutionary pamphelts and married his wife in Moscow prison before being exiled to Siberia. In 1902, his wife helped him to escape to Paris, where he met a Russian student and lived with her for the rest of his life. He went to London to work with Lenin, where he became a Menshevik in 1903. In 1905, he returned fromm exile to rejoin the revolution. When he was arrested and sent back to Siberia, he escaped to America.

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Mistakes during the First World War

In 1914, at the start of WW1, the Tsar and his family were at the height of popularity. Many rushed to enlist for the army from the thrill of aiding their 'little brothers', Serbia, and the Tsar was the focal point of the increase in Russian patirotism. The start of the war signified a new union between the Tsar and the people. They all believe their plight was a just and holy cause.

However, between 1914 and 1915, Russia suffered serious blows, albeit the minor victories won. Some of the major battles took place in Tannenberg and the Masurian Lakes. There were around 8 million war casualties by 1916. Russia was simply not competent at the time to engage in modern war. For starters, their hospital services were appalling: the sites were extremely unhygienic and inappropriate for treatment, and there weren't enough nurses and equipment to treat the injured. In addition, leadership was highly incompetent, and so many lives were wasted, such as on the Rai-Mestro heights. Also, when the men had to fight but had lost hope, it was common for them to desert the front line. Another problem was transport, as the Russians could not provide supplies with their undeveloped infrastructure. In conjunction with this, there were very little supplies, as Russian industry was extremely undeveloped, and what few weapons they did have were no match for those of the Germans. In some battles, on third of the men were unarmed, so they had to wait for their comrades to die and then use their weapons.

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Nicholas's Bad Decision

In the midst of these difficulties, Nicholas II made a terrible mistake: in September 1915, he decided to take over running the war from his cousin (Grand Duke Nicholas) and to go to the war front himself. This had serious consequences:

  • Firstly, Nicholas himself was now blamed for defeats in the war
  • Secondly, 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.
  • The Tsarina's close relationship with Rasputin contributed further to the collapse of her reputation, as he seemed to be in charge of the government, and there were stories that they were lovers.
  • The Tsarina made a mess of running the country. She would not work with the Duma at all, dismissing all able ministers and replacing them with 'our men', meaning men who would do what they were told or who were friends of Rasputin. Some were incompetent and others were scoundrels. 
  • 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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The Effects of War on the citizens

The effects of war on the citizens were increasingly disastrous:

  • Food was getting short because there were far too few workers on the land, as millions of peasants had been enlisted to the army.
  • Food was not getting to the cities, as the Russian railway system was being used to transport supplies to the front line.
  • Coal, fuel and industrial metals were short, because many factories closedm which generally meant people in cities were cold as well as hungry. 
  • Because of the shortages, inflation in prices occured, and workers were being asked to work longer hours.
  • Factories closing down led to unemployment and even greater poverty.

As defeat piled on defeat, and the number of casualties increased, Russians in the cities began to lose confidence in their government.

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Grigory Rasputin was a starets (holy man) from Siberia. He was renowed for his association with the royal family of Russia. His reputation was that of a sex maniac. He had grown close to the family (particularly the Tsarina) after allegedly healing the Tsar's son, Alexis, from a haemophilia attack.

In December 1916, Prince Yusupov decided to kill Rasputin because of his negative effect on teh reputation of the royal family. He invited Rasputin to his home, and poisoned him. When this did not work, the prince shot him. Half an hour later, Rasputin apparently rose to his feet and chased teh prince. One of the prince's friends shot Rasputin several times and Yusupov beat him with a club. They bound the body and threw it into the river. Apparently, when the body was found three days later, the body had been untied and there was ice under the fingernails from when he had tried to claw his way out from under the frozen river.

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Steps to the March Revolution in 1917

Over the winter of 1916 - 1917, the situation in cities worsened, resulting in support for the Tsar decreasing. They were appalled by Rasputin's influence on the family. The railway lines were so icy that barely any food and fuel reached cities such as Petrograd. This resulted in a massive increase in prices of resources.

In March 1917, the situation had become desperate. The workers wanted political changes as well as food and fuel. On the 7th March in Petrograd, 40,000 workers from the Putilov engineering works went on strike for higher wages. The next day (International Women's Day), thousands of women joined the protest.

For the following two days, men and women protested for food, fuel, better conditions and a new government. When the Tsar ordered the rioting to be combated with violence, Rodzianko sent a telegram to explain the crisis, which the Tsar ignored. On the 12th March, soldiers in Petrograd refused to oppose the crowds, and some even joined the protests. Together they marched to the Duma and demanded the Duma seize control.

Nicholas tried to get back into Petrograd, but railway workers refused to let his train into the city. On the 15th March, on that train, the Tsar decided to abdicate in favour of his brother, Michael, as his son Alexis was too sick to be the Tsar. The February/March Revolution was spontaneous.

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The Tsar's Replacement

After the abdication of the Tsar, two councils were set up to lead Russia.

  • The Provisional Government was a temporary government made up of the members of the Duma who had not fled.
  • The Soviet were representatives of workers, soldiers and sailors, who represented their interests. They issued Order No. 1, giving them control over the armed forces.

Dual Power mean that both had to agree to make and carry out decisions, although the Provisional Government was accepted as the official government. However, the Provisional Governent didn't have any real power, as the Soviet controlled the arms and it would not do anything the Provisional Government wanted if it contradicted their will. Some of the things they agreed on were:

  • Freeing political prisoners
  • Freedom of press and speech
  • Right to go on strike
  • End of social discrimination
  • End of the death penalty
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Issues for the Provisional Government

There were several issues that the PG had to make decisions on:

  • War - whether the government should continue or withdraw
  • Land - whether land should stay in the hands of those who own it or whether it should be split amongst the peasants
  • Food - whether the government should take control of all the supplies or whether it should ask the current trade owners to co-operate
  • The Police - whether a new police force should be formed or whether a people's militia should be founded
  • The Army - whether the army should have its own elected council to run its affairs, or whether normal militia discipline should be used
  • The Soviet - whether the Soviet should back to government or whether it should have nothing to do with a government which is working against the interest of the workers
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The Situation in Russia

The economic situation got worse; inflation continued. Shortages and levels of starvation only eased slightly because of the summer season. In the cities, things seemed to have stayed the same, if not worsened.

Alexander Kerensky (1881 - 1970) became Prime Minister of the Provisional Government in July 1917. He had trained as a lawyer and had supported the SRs. After the overthrow of the Privisional Government, he fled to the USA. He was elected to the Duma in 1912. He was a member of both the Petrograd Soviet and the Provisional Government, and acted as the bridge between them.

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The April Theses

Lenin was helped back into Russia by the Germans, who were happy to help him so that he would stir up troible with the Russian government. He was sent to Russia through Germany on a sealed train. When he arrived in Petrigrad, at the beginning of April, 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
  • The Soviet should take control

These were written up as the April Theses, and were made into the slogans 'Bread, Peace, Land' and 'All Powers to the Soviets'.

In May 1917, a Bolshevik Party Congress was held in Petrograd. Although the Bolshevik Party had trebled in size, they were still only 80,000 whcih was miniscule compared to the whole of Russia. They were still outnumbered by other Socialist groups such as the Socialist Revolutionaries.

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The July Days

The war was the big thing that distinguished the Bolsheviks from the other groups. Only they opposed the war. Over the summer of 1917, the ordinary people became more and more opposed to the war as the 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 out onto the streets onto the 16th and 17th 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 to break up the mobs. Kerensky used this opportunity to produce evidence that seemed to show Lenin was in the pay of the Germans.

Lenin fled to Finland, and other leading Bolsheviks were arrested. It seemed the Bolsheviks had missed their opportunity, and Kerensky became Prime Minister.

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Kornilov Revolt

Kerensky 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 a strong government - his own government. He ordered his troops to march on Petrograd. Everyone panicked, including Kerensky, who sought the help of the Bolshevik Red Guard. He armed them with rifles.

Bur Kornilov's troops never arrived; the railway workers stopped the trains carrying the troops. The workers and other soldiers persuaded them not to fight their fellow Russians. The Red Guard kept their rifles.

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Russia's Situation in Autumn 1917

The peasants were defiant of the government, and destructive. They often destroyed rich country houses. They hated the government, and every man was for himself; they seized land of their own accord.

The conditions for the workers in Petrograd were increasingly poor. There was a decrease in food supplies, including commodities like bread and sugar, meaning prices were rising. There were cold, damp queues for small amounts of food, and an increase in robberies.

The soldiers had low moral, and so they too only looked after themselves. They lost faith in the goverment and deserted their positions in thousands, trying to seize land for themselves back in Russia.

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The Bolsheviks seize power - Oct/Nov 1917

From a former girls' school in Petrograd, Lenin and Trotsky organised the Bolshevik takeover of the city, planned on the 7th November. They had publicised it heavily with leaflets and newspapers frequently had articles about it.

The first moves were made by Trotsky in the early hours of the morning, when the Red Guard moved out. Throughout the day, they seized key areas, including bridges, telegraph offices, railway stations and power station. However, Lenin and Trotsky were pessimistic, because Kerensky was gathering troops, and if he had enough, the Bolsheviks would have no chance.

The next day, they continued to seize areas such as the State Bank, but everyday life remained normal. Although many thought the Bolsheviks would be defeated by Kerensky's troops, this never happenned, and Kerensky left the city in a car lent by the American Embassy.

The Bolsheviks then targeted the Winter Palace, where the Provisional Government met. Most of the Cossacks had left in the afternoon, and the only guards were some military cadets and the Women's Death Battalion. At 9:00PM, the sailors of the Aurora (who supported the Bolsheviks) fired a blank shot followed by a little gunfire. The Women's Battalion offered no resistance, and neither did the cadets, nor the Provisional Government. The Bolsheviks had control of Petrograd.

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Why the Bolsheviks were were able to seize power

Weaknesses of the Provisional Government: The Bolsheviks got the majority in the Soviet in September 1917, they were poorly equipped - the Soviet had all the weapons and they had already attacked the Germans in July, which had reduced their weapon count, they were inexperienced as a government, the Soviet had the support of all the soldiers, sailors and workers, and dual power meant that they had to share their power with the Soviet.

Organisation of the Bolsheviks: They waited until the time was right, they advertised heavily with leaflets, the Red Guard kept the weapons after the Kornilov revolt, Trotsky was an effective organiser, the April Theses meant that their popularity increased and it gave hope to the people in Petrograd, they seized key areas of Petrograd and the Winter Palace, Lenin returned and inspited them, and no-one oppose them.

Unpopularity and mistakes of the Provisional Government: When Kerensky ordered a major attack on Germany which failed, many revolted in July showing the decreasing popularity of the P.G, they gave the Red Guard weapons during the Kornilov revolt and let them keep them, they lost popoularity to the Bolsheviks, Kerensky left the city, they continued the war, and they sent officers to punish those stealing lang even though they needed the support of the peasants.

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The End of WWI and the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk

War was a major problem facing Lenin. The Germans were threatening Petrograd. Lenin needed to make peace at all costs. Trotsky was sent to negotiate terms and the treart of Brest-Litovsk was signed in Mark 1918. Terms of the treaty were as follows:

  • Russia lost 1/6 of its population
  • Russia lost 27% of its farm land
  • Russia lost 74% of its iron and coal
  • Russia lost Ukraine, which was its main source of grain
  • Huge reparations were demanded

The peace with Germany was very unpopular. Other Bolsheviks were persuaded to accept the terms of the treaty by Lenin, on the assumption that other workers of other countries would rise up in Communist revolt. International boundaries would be irrelevant when workers had control across Europe.

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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Lenin imposes Communist control on Russia

After the Bolshevik Revolution, Lenin founded a new government called the Sovnakom or the Council of the People's Commissars. Lenin was the chairman, Trotsky was the Commissar for War and Stalin was the Commissar for Nationalities. Lenin introduced new measures to gain the support of the peasants. In November, a decree was passed taking all the land away from the Tsar and the old landlords. Land was to be given to the peasants who would form committees to divide it up fairly.

Other political parties, such as the Cadets, were banned. Despite holding Russia's first free elections to elect the Constituent Assembly, Lenin soon sent soldiers to shut them down for good, because he saw them as a threat. This was in January 1918. Aside from this, all non-Bolshevik newspapers were banned.

Lenin set up the Cheka in December 1917. This was a secret police force. It was set up in the 'Lubyanka' in Moscow, which became feared for the torture and executions helf ther. They arrested people who were considered dangerous. After an assassination attempt on Lenin, the Cheka launched the Red Terror, in which anyone who spoke out against the government was arrested, and many were shot without trial. Even someone under suspicion could be accused.

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Attitudes to the Bolsheviks

  • Female workers would be pleased with Lenin and the Bolsheviks; they approved the equality of men and women, the maximum of 8 hours a day and a 48 hour work week for industrial workers. They would also have supported the employment insurance for injuries, illness and unemployment, and perhaps the decree that all factories were to be put under the control of the workers' committee. However, they may not have liked the decree that made divorce easier.
  • Tsarist army officers would have opposed almost all of Lenin's new decrees, simply because they diminished the position of the officers as all titles and class distinctions were abolished, and the army became more democratic than before. The concept of democracy opposed the Tsar. They were also against ending the war and the equality of women.
  • Industrialists would not have agreed or approved much of what Lenin decreed, as new maximum working brackets were introduced, all titles and class distinctions were abolished and all factories were to be put in the control of the workers' committees.
  • Socialist Revolutionaries would dislike Lenin for unjustly disbanding the Constituent Assemblies and for banning non-Bolshevik newspapers. However, they would have supported giving land to the peasants and perhaps the end to the war.
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Attitudes to the Bolsheviks II

  • Peasants would be pleased about Lenin distributing land and creating business for them, so they could sell their wares. However, those peasants who did not want to sell their produce would be angry because the Cheka were ordered to take it anyway.
  • Middle Class Liberals would be displeased with Lenin's decision and may have opposed them strongly. They would dislike the abolishment of status and would be frustrated with the ban of the Liberal Party, the Cadets.
  • Soldiers would approve of Lenin on decrees such as that to give land to the peasants, to end the war, and to make the army more democratic.
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Causes of the Civil War

  • The landownders had lost their land and wanted to return to the monarchy.
  • The Cadets had much support among the peasants and wanted to take control themselves.
  • Other revolutionary parties such as the Socialist Revolutionaries wanted the Constituent Assemblies back and were hoping for a system similar to Britain.
  • Foreign countries like the USA, Britain and France wanted a government that would bring Russia back into the war and force Germany to fight on two fronts again. Some promised huge amounts of arms to the enemies of the Bolsheviks.
  • National groups like the Finns and Estonians had been part of the Russian Empire and had won their independence at the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in March 1918. They wanted to make sure the Bolsheviks didn't take their land back.
  • Church leaders opposed the Bolshevik seizure of property of the Russian Orthodox Church, and hoped to see the Bolsheviks defeated and their property returned.

All of these had one thing in common - they all wanted to get rid of the Bolsheviks. These groups united to form the Whites, so named because white was the imperial colour. The Bolsheviks were the Reds, because Red was the colour of Communism.

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How the Communists won the Civil War

Aims: Collectively, the Reds had the sole aim of staying in power so that they could build the new Socialist society. However, the groups which made up the Whites had different aims. Some wanted the Tsar back, some a military dicator, some a constitutional government and some revolutionary change. All wanted to defeat the Bolsheviks for themselves.

Geographical Factors: The Reds held the central area of Western Russia, which contained most of the large industrial centres. They also controlled the railway lines connecting Moscow and Petrograd to the rest of the country. The Whites were scattered around this central area, and this made communication difficult.

Leadership: Trotsky of the Reds was an excellent leader; he built up the Red Army from scratch, conscripting men over 18 years, 50,000 experienced former Tsarist officers and he himself was courageous. All were fanatical Bolsheviks. On the other hand, the Whites lacked good leaders - the commanders were disrespectful to their men and had bad scruples. They did not co-operate with one another, and failed to plan attacks, making it easy for the Reds to win. Disagreements and fights occured in the Whites, as the revolutionaries found it hard to work with the Tsarists. This was caused by different aims and beliefs.

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How the Communists won the Civil War II

Unity: The Bolsheviks with their excellent leadership were able to manage troops effectivelt, and co-ordinate attacks.

Foreign Intervention: The Reds used the intervention as an advantage, portraying the Whites as consorting with the enemy and plotting the downfall of Russia, and themselves as the defenders of the country. The Whites had the support of Britain, France, Japan, the USA, and many other countries. However, because there were other situations at hand, the Allied intervention was half-hearted and ineffective.

Peasants' support: The peasants eventually came to support the Reds, because the Reds said they could keep the land. They made up most of the armies on both sides. The side they supported was likely to win.

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Important events and Impacts of the Civil War

End of 1918: The Civil War was not going well for the Reds, as the Whites were closing in on all sides. They suffered a series of defeats, and Trotsky then worked hard to organise the Red Army. Because the White armies did not attack together, he could move his forces to deal with the attacks one at a time.

Mid-1919: In the West, General Yudenich came within 30 miles of Petrograd only to be turned back by determined resistance led by Trotsky's troops. General Denikin was also very successful, advancing from the South to within 200 miles of Moscow. Much depended on Admiral Kolchak's attack from the east linking up with Denikin's forces. But Kolchak's army fell apart because different groups refused to work with each other. The Red Army pushed back Denikin's forces whilst Kolchak's forces disintegrated and he was shot.

1920: The main White threat was over, but the war lingered on, especially in a desperate battle with the Poles, but this was settled in the Treaty of Riga in 1921.

The war was very cruel, and both sides committed awful crimes: at Rostov, miners supporting the Bolsheviks were buried alive in the mines and at Kharkov, Bolsheviks nailed epaulets to White soldiers while they were still alive. It was also confusing. Units of soldiers often changed sides and some shot their officers and went home. The fighting moved back and forth across the country. The people suffered whichever side was in control. Both Red and White units looted and raided villages requisitioning grain and animals.

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War Communism

During the Civil War, the Red Army had to be supplied with food and industrial equipment. Lenin decided that the only way to ensure this was for the government to control the economy - this was war communism. In the towns, the state nationalised the industry and told factories what to produce. Because the workers' committees did not run the factories well, Lenin put in his own workers and strict discipline. Trade unions were not allowed and workers could not leave. 

Food was rationed, but people could only get ration cards if they worked. Rations were minimalistic and larger portions were given to factory workers and soldiers. The only other way to get food was through the illegal black market. Lenin, because he needed to feed the workers, send the Cheka to requisition any surplus food. Those found hoarding were punished severely. The peasants resisted and some resorted to violence and even murder. Many peasants decided to produce less grain as they thought it would get taken away, so the situation grew worse.

Money became worthless and wages by 1920 were paid with food and other goods. Many took to bartering instead. The Red Terror grew worse as the Cheka became more brutal. Those who were opposing were unjustly shot without trial. Many middle classes were forced to sell their belongings to survive. Some fled abroad to cities such as Paris and New York to get menial jobs. Those who remained and still had roofs over their heads had to share their houses with others. 

War Communism resulted in the ruining of the Russian economy. Industrial production had fallen drastically. The cities were in chaos with gangs of orphans roaming the streets. Theft was very common. Agriculture had collapsed due to the peasants not producing grain, which led to a huge famine in 1921, killing up to 5 million people. A massive international aid was launched, in which the USA played a major role.

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Opposition to War Communism

Opposition manifested in many due to the horrific consequences of War Communism. The Worker's Opposition was a group of Bolsheviks and left-wing supporters who demanded higher wages, better working conditions, more food and workers' control of the industry. They objected to the way the Cheka scared masses into submission.

In March 1921, the once loyal Red Kronstadt sailors staged an uprising at the Kronstadt naval base because they were sick of War Communism. This was shocking for the government, and Trotsky crushed them with troops. 20,000 men were killed and wounded, and the survivors were either executed or sent to labour camps.

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New Economic Policy (NEP)

Lenin introduced the New Economic Policy because, after the Kronstadt uprising, he realised that War Communism had gone too far. The main features of the NEP were as follows:

  • 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 a 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 choes 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.

Many were horrified by this policy, because it was edging on capitalism - the talk of 'making a profit' went against everything Communism stood for. Communists also disliked the new traders, or 'Nepmen', who bought goods cheaply and sold them dearly, making a large profit. They also made lots of money from setting up shops and gambling centres, and brought in goods that had not been seen for years. However, Lenin persuaded the others to support the NEP.

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Advantages and Disadvantages of NEP

The positives of NEP were as follows:

  • Industry began to thrive again in some areas
  • Many goods which had not been seen for years were being brought back
  • It encouraged trade to resume with foreign countries
  • Some businessmen (Nepmen) were successful and made profits
  • Some peasants became richer, buying animals and land
  • Industrial workers were better off to a certain extent

The negatives of NEP were as follows:

  • Food supplies became a problem
  • Peasants found prices for goods too expensive. After 1925, they did not want to sell their grain, because they could not buy much which what they earned
  • Many peasants remained poor and continued to use backwards, inefficient farming methods
  • Unemployment was a continual problem; a high crime rate was developed
  • People were angry when the Nepmen formed a rich upper class
  • Massive investment was needed to turn the USSR into a modern industrial country
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Trotsky and Lenin's roles in the Bolsheviks

  • Trotsky was an excellent armly leader for the Reds
  • He organised the army into fanatical Bolsheviks
  • He had good personal qualities e.g. courage, intelligence, motivational
  • He was very strict and threatened with death
  • He was well known and popular in the party
  • He was an excellent public speaker and writer
  • However, he was arrogant and didn't get involved in politics
  • Lenin was a modest man who didn't have any personal ambition
  • He was a very good speaker who could sway audiences
  • He had superb organisation skills, excellent leadership qualities and good political judgement
  • He stopped other experssing their opinions by arresting opposition and shutting down all other political parties and newspapers
  • He used ruthless methods to stay in power
  • He was willing to see millions of Russians suffer for this ideals and made the Bolsheviks an organisation for obeying his orders.
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