Stalin's Russia: Russia before Stalin

Edexcel As history Stalin's Russia

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  • Created by: Vicky
  • Created on: 04-04-13 14:49

Key Dates

  • 1894 - November - Nicholas II becomes Tsar
  • 1903 - August - Social Democratic Party splits: formation of Bolskeviks & mensheviks
  • 1905 - The 1905 Revolution 
  •   - October - Duma created
  • 1914 - August - Russia join WW1 
  • 1917 - February - Revolution - Tsar Adicates; 
  •   - MarchFormation of Provisional Government;
  •      - April - Lenin returns from exile;
  •    - October - Revolution - Bolsheviks sieze power; 
  •    - December - Cheka Established 
  • 1918 - March - Treaty of Brest-Litovsk: Russia surrenders to Germany, withdraws from WW1; 
  • The bolshevik party changes name to the communist party; 
  • June - Beggining of Civil War and War communism
  • 1919 - March - Comintern set up 
  • 1921 - January - End of Civil War; 
  •   - March - Red army crushes Kronstadt rebellion & introduction of NEP; 
  •   - June - Red Army crushes Tambov Rebellion. 
  • 1922 - December - Creation of USSR -- Union of Soviet Socialist Republics 
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Key terms

  • Bolsheviks & Mensheviks - After the Social Democratic Party Congress, 1903, the party split. One faction became the Bolsheviks meaning 'Majority'. they favoured Lenins ideas. the other faction became known as the Mensheviks who favoured a more traditional version of Marxism. 
  • Bourgeoisie - name given to the Capitalist Middle Class; i.e factory owners; small minority who gained wealth by exploting the proletariat. 
  • Proletariat - Capitalist working class. i.e factory workers 
  • Socialism - First stage after revolution from Capitalism. workers lay foundation for Communism, ensure Bourgeoisie loose power.
  • Communism - No social class system, everyone is equal; Ideal state according to Karl Marx' theory Marxism. 
  • Tax-in-hand - Tax collected in the form of agricultural produce. e.g. Grain, animals, raw materials instead of money. 
  • Comintern - Communist International, set up in March 1919, technically independent from the communist party, took its lead from the Politburo, role was to ferment revolution abroad.   
  • Marxism - Ideology as to how to achieve the perfect state. developed by Karl Marx, German Philosopher. 
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Russia's Geography and People

  • Tsarist Russia was largest land empire in modern history - Twice size of USA
  • Majority of population lived in west. 
  • By 1914, population was 165 million 
  • Ethnicicity - 5% jews; Majority were Slavs - Ukranian; Russians; Belorusian 
  • - Majority were christiand and members of Russian Orthodox Church. 
  • Beginning of 20th century, 80% were peasants who worked the land/ on small farms. only 4% were industrial workers, based in industrial areas. Middle-class made up less than 2%, factory owners and involved in trade. 
  • Ruled by Romonov Dynasty for 3 centuries, Tsar had absolute power, No parliament or court of law - No civil rights. 
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The Collapse of Tsarism

  • For many years the Tsar ignored; exiled or executed radicals who wanted reform
  • 1905 - a year of revolution- revelaed vulnerability of Tsars position. Tsar forced to concede, promised limited civil rights and an elected parliament (Duma). howeverr, the new laws reasserted Tsars power. 
  • 1914, Tsar seemed secure, WW1 rallied Russian people behind the Tsar. 
  • Strains of war were to much for Russia's backwards economy & outdated political system. very little indusrty - unable to produce wepons and supplies necessary; food became scarce as many peasants were fighting on the frontline; war production stifled manafacture of consumer goods.
  • Early 1917, people of Petrograd and Moscow revolted due to imminent collapse of economy and military defeat. Tsar ordered army to crush rebellion but army rebelled and joined revolt.
  • Without the support of the people or Army the Tsat abdicated and power was now with the hastily put together provisional government. 
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The rise of Bolshevism

  • April 1917, Lenin, the leader of the Bolsheviks returned to Russia. he argues that a new kind of government was necessary. 
  • When the Tsar abdicated, counicls were spontaneously set up across the country. as government broke down, tjese councils - soviets- took over local affairs. they were highly democratic and represented peasants, workers and soldiers.
  • For Lenin, the soviets represented a form of wokrers' democracy that was superior to the elected parlimient promised by the provisional government. he demanded the the soviets siezed power on behalf of workers and peasants. 
  • Initially gained little support, however, as economic conditions worsened and military victory eluded the provisional government, his call for 'peace, land and bread' became increasingly popular. 
  • Late 1917, provisional government lost credibility, Lenin argued for an armed siezure of power. His plan was carried out 25th October and on 26th October, Lenin announced the birth of the first socialist republic.
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Marxist-Leninist theory: Stages of history

Primitive Communism - Humans hunt and gather together, sharing resources, classless society, no government


Feudalism - Society becomes highly stratified. the monach rules, knights and lords keep peasants in order

Revolution - industrial

Capitalism - Society is class dominated - Bourgeoisie and proletariat

Revolution - Workers

Socialism - The proletariat take power and crush the bourgeoisie

Communism - No classes, humans are equal, government isn't necessary. Ideal state 

He believed that only economically developed countries would have enough proletariat to create a socialist revolution.

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Marxist-Leninist theory: Marxist-Leninism

  • Marx writings concerned 19th Century Germany, needed to be adapted to 20th Century Russia. 
  • Lenin argued that Russia was a backward country. Revolution wouldn't happen spontaneously. He developed the doctrine of the 'vanguard party' who would carry out the revolution because the proletariat was to weak. 
  • Early 20th Century, Russia was essentially a feudal nation. 
  • Many Marxists believed a revolution would cause capitalism. Lenin believed it was possible to miss out capitalism. and monve straight to socialism.
  • Justified this by claiming that Russia peasants were politically radical and would support the revolution. 
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The Bolsheviks in power

Early measures 1917-1918

  • Within 24hrs, Lenin's government issued decres to end involvement in the war (later formalised as Treaty of Brest-litovsk). Gave land to peasants & independence to national minorities.  Extremely popular - helped Bolsheviks tighten grip on power.
  • Other early measures were less popular. December 1917, Lenin established the Cheka - Secret police, political police force who persecuted enemies of the new government.Press censorship introduced, initially targeted middle-class newspapers, spread to opposition socialist papers.

Civil War 1918- 1921

  • By 1918, the Bolsheviks (now called communist party) had a variety of enemies.
  • Mid-1918, opponents had taken military action to overthrow government. 'White Army' fought to re-establish the monarchy. 'Green Army' guerrilla force of peasants fought for a democratic version of socialism. Nationalist Armies fighting for independence that was promised.Britain, France, USA & Japn sent troops to destroy new government.
  • 'Red Army' communist army- Highly disciplined and organised. Trotsky commanded army from armoured train and propaganda films were shown in cinemas
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The Bolsheviks in power continued

War Communism

  • Geared economy towards military producion whilst striving for social equality. 
  • Private property & money abolished & Work or militay service was compulsory
  • Food rationed according to need - food had to be requisitioned from peasants. Unpopular as peasants recieved no payement for their produce. Peasants stopped producing surplus food resulting in a famine. 

New Economic Policy

  • 1921, won Civil war. Sailors of Kronstadt threatened military action unless democracy was restored and war communism ended.vRebeliion was damaging - Kronstadt sailors had supported communism and were revolutionary heroes. 
  • Lenin ordered an assault on the base. 3 days, 40,000 Read Army troops killed 10,000 Kronstadt saiors. 
  • 10th party Congress, he stated they should embrace a limited form of capitalism. NEP legalised private trade, replaced grain requisitioning with tax-in-kind. reintroduced money. Argued it was necessary for survival of regime. Opposition parties outlawed, leaders exiled or executed. Banned factions within Party in 1921 
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Structure of party and Government

  • In one-party countries, boundaries become blurred between part & government 

Structure of the Soviet state

  • October 1917 revolution meant soviets were in charge. Each town/region elected a local soviet. these soviets elected representatives to the all-Russia Congress of Soviets - essentially a law-making body. however, it met infrequently and elected a committee 'Council of People's ommissars' or 'sovnarkom' - day-to-day running of government. 

Structure of the Communist party

  • Party was organised into local cells. each cell elected members to the party congress. met 10 times between 1898-1921. Party congress elected the Central Committee which was the parties leading body. to large for regular meetings so politburo was set up in 1919. members were elected by the Central Committee decided on important matters of policy. The secretariat - administered the business of the party and comintern attempted to ferment revolution abroad. 
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Structure of party and Government continued

Relationship between the Party and the state 1917-1924

  • mid-1918 onwards, communist party more important than the state. Sovnarkom less improtant as important decisions were being made at the politburo. 
  • communist party outlawed opposition political parties. senior Communist Party members were guaranteed senior positions in the state. Common for chairman of local Communist party to also be chairman of local soviet. 
  • Lenin, as head of state was most powerful man in government. real power based on influence within government, his initative created the Communists, his theories inspired them. he alone could unite the different factions and rival personalities within the Party Congress, Central Committee and Politburo. 
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