The Making of a Totalitarian State

  • Created by: Ellie
  • Created on: 26-04-14 12:20

problems facing Lenin after oct rev

  • Russia was still at war with Germany and Austria-Hungary - Germans were only 1000 miles from Pet
  • peasants were seizing land across the country
  • industrial production slumped, inflation and unemployment rose
  • bolsheviks didn't have mass support across the country - mostly just in major cities
  • lenin was too vulnerable to cancel elections for constituent assembly - results showed bolsheviks only had support of 1/4 of those who voted - SR's did better

Decrees passed to overcome problems:

  • the Decree on Land - redistibuted land to all  peasants
  • the Peace Decree - emphasized that bolsheviks wanted to end role in ww1
  • the decree that establushed a new government organisation
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establishment of the Sovnarkom

  • sovnarkom = council of peoples Commissars - have most power in bolshevik gov
  • Lenin acted as chairman of this group and was overall leader of new gov
  • All Russia Congress of Soviets = below the Sovnarkom - dominated mostly by bolsheviks
  • at the bottom of the new gov were representatives from cities, villages and local soviets

the purpose of the Sovnarkom:

  • designed to allow the Bolsheviks to extend their power and control across Russia - Lenin and leading bolsheviks decided who was included in sovnarkom and therefore what important decisions would be made
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Closing of the Constituent Assembly

  • the SR's gained 40.4% of the vote - the bolsheviks gained 24% and were the 2nd largest party

Bolshevik strengths:

  • considerable support from northern and western military fronts
  • support from military in petrograd and moscow
  • support from Baltic fleet and Krontadt sailors
  • approx 10 million had voted for them
  • opposition parties such as mensheviks and SR's were divided so failed to effectively oppose them
  • Lenin formed coalition with left-wing SR's

how it closed down:

  • lenin ordered that the constituent assembly must be subservient to the sovnarkom and soviet
  • they refused this by a vote of 237 to 137
  • lenin then used Red Guards to close them down by force
  • hopes of a democracy were ended
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securing communist control

Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, March 1918

  • Lenin wanted to withdraw from the war and secure peace - knowing that this would help secure more support - he also needed the military to secure the power of the bolsheviks, not fight against the Germans

what the Germans demanded: - the Baltic states - inc. latvia, estonia and lithuania - Poland - Ukraine - (important agricultural region This meant that Russia would lose: - 32% of its arrable land - 26% of railway system - 33% of factories - 75% of coal and iron ore mines - 60 millions Russian citizens

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establishment of the Police State

the Cheka:

  • secret police - established dec 1917 - Felix Dzerzhinsky was head of it originally
  • inititally focussed on ending strikes by gov workers
  • also used to eliminate political opponents of the bolsheviks and shoot deserters of Red Army
  • after failed assassination attempt on Lenin - cheka launched 'Red Terror' - anybody who criticised gov could be arrested - many shot without trial
  • also used to check on loyalty of party members - used to spread fear
  • Cheka changed name to OGPU, NKVD and KGB

policies enforced:

  • peasants continued to seize land and workers took over factories during 1st 6 months of rule
  • a Supreme Economic Council to help restore Russia's economy
  • nationalisation of the banks
  • banning of the Kadet political Party
  • establishment of the Red Army
  • establishment of revolutionary tribunals to try political enemies
  • ending of all foreign and domestic debts

despite these, bolsheviks struggled to exert control over Russia, by end May 1918, Russia was descending into Civil War

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The Civil War

  • rebellion of Czech Legions on 25th May 1918 signalled start of Civil War
  • counter-revolutionary armies were established in Siberia, Estonia and Ukraine
  • Lenin forced to make Moscow capital because Whites were threatening petrograd
  • Reds = communist forces - Trotsky was head - only occupied 1/5th of Russia
  • Whites = communist opponents - led by Admiral Kolchak
  • Greens = supporters of economic power being transferred to local groups of peasants


  • Russia had become a 'one-party state' dominated by Lenin - other parties supported whites and wished to remove communists from power
  • others wanted to return to tsarist regime or return of prov gov
  • Brits and French wanted Ru to remain in war and not have communist regime - Japan wanted to expand territory
  • Brit and France supplied Whites - British occupied Murmansk, French at Odessa and Japan controlled Vladivostock
  • Czech Legion created out of Austria-Hungary prisoners who wanted to create their own country - consisted of 40,000 men and opposed Red Army - nationalities also wanted own country
  • many opposed Treaty of Brest-Litovsk - left-wing SR's abandoned coalition with communists and opposed Lenin
  • bolsh clashed with peasantry - Lenin authorised forcible collection of grain stocks for cities and Red Army
  • Lenin increased oppression of peasants - grain prod declined - some peasants supported Greens or Whites
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why did the Reds win the Civil War? (1)

White weaknesses:

  • lacked structure and command - including failure to co-ordinate attacks
  • too spread out over large area of land
  • not supported by many Russians who identified them with tsarist supporters or foreign invaders
  • failed to work effectively with Greens

Red Strengths:

  • Trotsky used officers that had fought for tsar = experienced leaders
  • they controlled railway routes making it easy to transport troops
  • successfully defeated all white armies by 1920 and stopped them working together 

War Communism:

  • WC describes economic policies that communists introduced during civil war to help victory
  • communists controlled industrial centres
  • industry was nationalised and factories converted to produce military supplies
  • policy of requisitioning grain from peasants to feed army
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why did the Reds win the Civil War? (2)

Red Leadership:

  • unified leadership under Lenin
  • Trotsky was effective leader - sending reinforcements to pet and stopping General Yudenich from seizing control of pet
  • trotsky enforced strict discipline
  • used an armoured train to visit and support areas under threat
  • lenin used cheka to eliminate political opposition

Foreign Intervention:

  • by end of 1919 - Brit, France and USA had left Russia
  • they stopped supporting whites after armistice signing to end WWI
  • foreign leaders realised whites wouldn't win - Kolchak originally had support from 30,000 foreign troops then got defeated by Reds
  • 1919 polish forces invaded Ukraine and caputured Kiev - 1920 Red Army advanced to Polish capital and defeated it - 1921 'Treaty of Riga' signed between Poland and Russia
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Causes of New Economic Policy (NEP)

problems facing Russia in 1921:

  • Famine: war communism resulted in peasants hoarding grain which by 1921 resulted in widespready famine and unrest
  • opposition from outside the party: rebellions occured e.g. Kronstadt Rebellion 1921 - many of the soldiers were from peasant backgrounds and knew impact of war communism, also they had supported the communists in oct rev, therefore they rebelled when Lenin demanded:
  • - end to political domination of communists
  • - relaxation of war communism and centralised economic control
  • - restoration of freedom of speech and press
  • opposition from within the party: many communists thought that the NEP was a betrayal to communism because it allowed peasants to sell some produce for profit - also permitted owners of small factories to sell goods for profit
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Lenins responses to 'causes'


  • lenin ordered Trotsky to end Kronstadt rebellion by force - 50,000 Red Army to attacked them - took 3 weeks - thousands were killed or sent to gulags

Economic Reform:

  • at 10th party congress Lenin announced end to war communism
  • announced intro of the NEP - hoped to strengthen economy and reduce opposition to comms
  • peasants could sell some produce for profit but had to pay tax
  • private traders called 'nepmen'
  • a new currency was introduced 1922

Ban on Factions:

  • he didn't want comm party weakened by divisions so banned them from forming groups that weren't controlled by Lenin
  • also supported 'democratic centralism' - banned other political parties and decisions made by Lenin and politburo must be supported by all communists
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The impact of the NEP


  • food shortages and famine stopped by end of 1921
  • 1923 - 85% of companies were owned privately
  • cultivated land and livestock increased
  • 1926 - economy had returned to production levels of 1913


  • more crops = fall in agricultural prices = less money for peasants
  • industrial goods cost increased to level that peasants couldn't afford
  • some comms thought that NEP was leading Russia into capitalism 
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securing communist regime

  • after 1921 - only communist party could field candidates for election to soviets
  • all other political parties were banned
  • increased propaganda that glorified Lenin and comms
  • only comm newspapers could be published e.g. Pravda
  • cheka replaced by GPU which remained a political police force
  • gulags expanded - 1920 = 84 camps, 1923 = 315 camps
  • show trials of leading members of clergy and SR's took place
  • universities lost all autonomy
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establishment of the Union of Soviet Socialist Rep

  • establied in Dec 1922
  • consisted of:
  • Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic
  • Ukrainian Social Republic
  • Belorussian Soviet Social Republic
  • Transcaucasian Soviet Socialist Republic
  • these areas were former Russian empire and the comm party had regained control of them
  • many different nationalities lived in the USSR
  • lenin believed that the USSR could help overcome ethnic division
  • each republic within the USSR had their own gov as part of a federal system
  • their individual republics sent representatives to the Congress of Republics
  • Congress of Republics + Congress of Soviets = national parliament of USSR
  • real political power was still retained in politburo
  • after 1922 - Lenin had complete control over the comm party and government
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Lenin's death

  • in 1918 and SR shot him in the neck, he recovered by in 1921 he began to suffer side effects of the attack and reduced his involvement in the gov
  • he suffered three strokes in 1922 - he then started to dictate his last testament:
  • - he acknowledged that Trotsky was talented by arrogant and failed to create good relationships with leading communists
  • - he criticised zin and kam for not initially supporting bolshevik takeover in oct 1917
  • - he stated Stalin should be removed from top branches of comm party because he was   'too coarse'
  • March 1923 - suffered another stroke which left him speech-impaired - he was no longer an active member of the gov
  • died jan 1924
  • Stalin, Zin and Kam kept the content of Lenin's Testament secret
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