Russian Communist Revolution 1917-1941

HideShow resource information

Bolshevik Seizure of Power


  • Autocratic Ruler, Nicholas II, Abdicated 15 March 1917.  Tsar executed 1918
  • Lost control of the army (lost control of Russia)- Supreme Command of Russian Forces on the Eastern Front played a key role in Tsar's forced abdication.

New Government:

  • Provisional Government: Prince Luvov and Kerensky
  • Petrograd Soviet: Dual power, council of different groups~ socialist Revolutionists, Bolsheviks/Mensheviks, Liberals (Cadets), Workers/Poloratariats, Soldiers --> Order No.1

Order No.1

  • Petrograd Soviet controlled armed forces- control of army~ control of country (shown by Tsar)
1 of 17

Bolshevik Seizure of Power

Petrograd Soviet

  • Temporary, waiting until a Constituent Assembly
  • Conservative~ no radacal changes
  • Fear from ex-Tsarist generals and Pro-Tsarists


  • returns from excile with German support to finland trainstaion.
  • Called for; End of co-operation with provisional government & Petrograd Soviet to take full power
  • Slogans; Bread, peace, land" and "All power to the Soviets".
  • Introduced the April Thesis
2 of 17

Bolshevik Seizure of Power

July offensive

  • led to riots
  • General Brusilov- Major defeats; Tannenburg & Mansurian Lakes.
  • Soldiers & Sailers from Kronstadt march on (work against) Provisional government.
  • 500,000 protestors~ 400 shot
  • Trotsky arrested and Lenin fleess (Lenin weak?)
  • Provisional Government failed to ban the Bolsheviks (huge mistake)

Kornilov Coup

  • Kornilov takes over from Brusilov, Kornilov tries to impose martial law
  • Kerensky turns to Bolsheviks for help- Bolshevik prisioners given arms
  • Railway workers prevented Kornilov and army through rail lines
3 of 17

Bolshevik Seizure of Power

October Revolution

  • Trotsky begins revolution, Red Guard controlled bridges, main telegraph offices, railways & power stations
  • Seized the state Bank
  • Didn't affect ordinary people
  • Centralise power

Bolsheviks in Power

  • Opposition groups in Soviets walked out in protest of the revolution.
  • Bolsheviks now have control of the Provisional Government and the Petrograd Soviet
  • Lenin introduces his Sovnarkum- People's Commissors New Governemt of all Soviets (around 160) in Russia
4 of 17

Lenin and the development of his ideas

  • Lenin found Marxism~ he attempts to skip democracy and jump straight to communism

November Decree

  • Maximum 8 hour days and 48 hour weeks for industrial workers
  • All titles ebolished~ class system gone
  • Women decleared equal to men
  • All non-Bolshevik newspapers banned

December Decree

  • Cadets banned.  All factories put under control of workers comitties~ Metritocracy system
  • Banks taken over by the government, divorce made easier to achieve, marriages not needed to take place in a church

Treaty of Brest-Litovsk

  • Decemebr 1918. Highlighted weakness of communism~ possible cause of civil war
5 of 17

Lenin and the development of his ideas

Constituent Assembly

  • Met January 1918, closed down 1 day later
  • 3/4 of deputies were socialist
  • Lenin maintained control of Russia through the Dzerzhinski-Checka and propoganda

Death of Lenin

  • Died: January 1924
  • Destroyed monarchy and surpressed the Church.
  • Left Russia non-communist
  • Needed Trotsky to achieve his goals
6 of 17

Civil War, War Communism & N.E.P

  • won by- propoganda; geography; foreign allies & leadership

Trotsky & Red Army

  • Trotsky was a brilliant war leader Efficient and well disiplined force
  • March 1918 Trotsky became chairman of the supreme war council~ made Red Army
  • Conscription 18-40 year old men
  • Capital punishment ensurred loyalty
  • Made use of the best officers from the Tsar's army and their war expertise
  • Metriocracy introduced into the armed forces

White Army

  • Short successes of Kolchak who captured Perm in 1918, but it was taken back in 1919.
  • Denikins 1918 got 130 miles away from Moscow
  • Yedenich's sucess overthrown by Trotsky
  • Main leaders: Kolchak, Denikins and Yudenich
7 of 17

Civil War, War Communism & N.E.P

Kronstadt Mutiny, March 1921

  • Protests before (July offensivve defeats)
  • Marked the end of War Communism and start of the NEP
  • Protesting against bad conditions of civil war & red terror
  • Kronstadts always revonlutionaries- wanted power back like with Petrograd Soviet
  • Attacked Lenin's methods of rule
  • One step back, two steps forward

NEP, 1921-1924

  • Temporary recovery plan- created class systems; NEPmen & Kulaks
  • Shows the extent where Russia was not communist- relaxed on economy- tightened control of everything else

Scissor Crisis

  • Industrial prices down, agriculture up~ caused by NEP
8 of 17

Stalin and the Purges

  • 1922- General Secretary for Communist Party- powerful position~ controlled membership and appointed posts- expelled radicals (support Trotsky), promoted supporters intoimportant posts (surrounded by friends)
  • Wanted 'Communism in One Country'- contrast to Trotsky's Commintern
  • Wanted/needed to be absolute leader of the Soviet Union- held series of Purges to crush any opposition or possible opposition inside the party, bureaucracy and army
  • Paranoid- terror to ensure minimal opposition

Purges 1934-38

  • No walk of life exempt- communists, army, arts and science~ even ordinary people
  • Arrested and sent to labour camps (Siberia Gulags) or shot
  • Show trials held where old Bolsheviks confessed to crimes againat Soviet Union- e.g. 1936- Zinoviev and Kamenev
  • Exploited atmosphere of paranoia caused by murder of Sergi Kamenev (17th party congress, Stalin claimed polts to kill him and destroy party, official line assin memebr of opposition led by Zinoviev and Kamenev)
  • Show Trials: public trials of leading enemies of the state, often propoganda- justify actions
9 of 17

Stalin and the Purges

  • 1936 Purge of the Left- old bolsheviks (from beginnimg) e.g. Zinoviev & Kamenev & 14 others.  Charges were laughable but confessionss were extracted from them all~ all executed
  • 1937 Purge of Officials- senior party memebers accused of industrial sabotage and spying (germany & japan) as well as crticising 5 year plans
  • 1937 Tukhachevsky (Red Guard Chief)- guilty of collaborating with Germans & shot.  Over 35,000 other officers removed from posts
  • 1938 Purge of the Right- Bukharin, Rykov (plotting to assassinate Lenin and Trotsky) and Yagoda (former head of NKVD-Police) put on trial and shot

Purge of Secret Police

  • Yagoda replaced by Yezhov (bloody dwarf)- oversaw most bloody phase of Purge 1937-1938 (Yezhovschina)
  • 1st 6 months Yezhov purged 3,000 of own personnel
  • Dismissed 1938 and arrested 1939- scapegoat for excess of purges coming to an end
10 of 17

Stalin and the Purges

Purge of army

  • 1937-1938 3/5 Red Army marshals purged & 37,000 officers.  All nazy admirals~ conspiracy against the State

End of Purges 1938

  • By 1939- 20 million transported to Siberian Gulags- roughly 12 million died.  Mass graves found which contains more than 80,000 people
  • Removed many old Bolshevik leadership
  • 5/11 Politburo memebers (1934) 5/11 dead (many suspicious circumstances)
  • Result of terror, Stalin's position was unchallengeable. Composed a party of those totally loyal.  All sources of opposition crushed
11 of 17

Stalin's industrial & agricultural policies

5 year plans

  1st 1928- 1932:

  • emphasisied heavy industry, targets unrealistic but results were impressive -100 new towns built and over 1,500 industrial plants. 
  • Laying foundation for strong econmy, enthusiasm from work force.  mostly required unskilled labour (large supply)~ showed.  Electricity production nearly trebled.
  • 2nd 1933-1937: emphasis on communication- railways; growth in new industries e.g. chemicals and metallurgy
  • 3rd 1938-1941: War interupted it (only 3 years)-  Resources ploughed into new armaments


  • Gosplan set targets; each plan set targets for indusrties to meet- each factory had own target
  • targets unrealistic and could not be met but vast improvements made- sever conesquences
  • 5 year plans brought all industry under state control & all industrial development was planned by the state
12 of 17

Stalin's industrial & agricultural policies


  • miner 1935- 102 tonnes coal in 6 hours (praised example)
  • propoganda for workers to work even better 

Result of 5 year plan

  • Transformed Soviet Russia into a major industrial power
  • New cities: Magnitogorsk & Gorgi- purely to house industrial workers.  Not pretty but productful- showed what Russia can achieve
  • 1928-1941- 4 fold increase in steel and 6 fold increase in coal.  Russia was the leading manufacturer during WWII
  • However, targets inflated to unrealistic heights
  • Quantity not quality important
  • Shortage in consumer goods
13 of 17

Stalin's industrial & agricultural policies


  • Aim to unite farms togetheer by example and pressure
  • In the end, did lead to more efficient farming and increased production, but in short term it involved Stalin in a 'war' with the Kulaks, and a disasterious fall in ouput- faminine 1932-1933~ killed 13 million+
  • Small peasant farms merged into single larger farms (Kolkhoz) and state farms (sovkhoz)

Why collectivise

  • Food needed for workers in towns- produce more yeild (5 year plans & collectivisation could not take place without eachother)
  • NEP not working, 1928 Russia was 20 million tons of grain short (scissor crisis)

Economic Aims:

  • Urban centres need higher population.  Mechanising farms allowed rural-urban migration (Tractors etc more important)
14 of 17

Stalin's industrial & agricultural policies

Economic aims

  • Scissor Crisis- revert to subsistence farming. Caused by NEP~ showed instability of tthe economy.

Political aims

  • Kulaks benefited from NEP but it moved away from socialism- people began to criticise Stalin
  • Government laughed campaign against Kulaks- Kulaks were always resent not being in control and always be opposition~ DeKulakisation


  • 1927- voluntary Collectivisation
  • 1928- food shortages~ police confiscated food and took it to the towns
  • 1929- compulsory collectivisation, enforced by army (peasants burnt crops and killed livestock)
  • 1930- Famine- Stalin paused collectivisation- restarted 1931- 1932 2/3rds of villages collectivise
  • 1932-1933- Famine- Ukraine.  Stalin blamed & decleared war on Kulaks (shot/gulags)
  • 1934- 7 million Kulaks 'eliminated'
15 of 17

Stalin's industrial & agricultural policies


  • 1939- 99% land collectivised; 25, 000 kolkhoz & 4,000 sovkhoz
  • Russia more modern- new methods, tractors, fertilisers, large-scale, produce as much as possible
  • Communist in complete control. Stalin had all power
  • Abolition of Mir (self-governing peasant community) End to Kulaks


  • Race of collectivisation too fast
  • Peasants killed livestock and hoarded grain
  • Food production fell causing famine
  • not until mid 1930s that machinery was widespread- Motor Tractor Station (MTS) rarely enough machinery to go around & dispised by peasants
  • Divide between town and countryside deepened
16 of 17

Foreign Policy 1941

  • Russia under Lenin was in isolation-  Commintern other countries anxious of widespread communist revolutions
  • Anglo-soviet trade agreement failed~ communist propoganda broadcasted in Asia stop or Britain pull out.  Soviet supported british general strike 1926- £26,000~ angered British Govt.  1927 British police launched Arcos raid to arrest suspects of Soviet spying
  • September 1934 Russia joins League of Nations
  • Spanish Civil War- Russia involved to create distraction for foreigners from any concerns in Stalin's domestic policies
  • 1939- Nazi-Soviet Pact- stop western powers forcing Germans onto eastern front
  • June 1941- Operation Barbarossa~ germany invaded Russia- took Stalin 3 weeks into the invasion to rally the army.  Territories gained by Soviet Uninon due to Molotov-Ribbentrop pact lost in weeks.  4.3 million Russian casualities- Germany captured 3 million prisoners
  • 1944-45 with support of American material Soviets forces push back and roll across eastern europe & take berlin
17 of 17


No comments have yet been made

Similar History resources:

See all History resources »See all Russia - 19th and 20th century resources »