Stalin's Russia

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Background to the leadership struggle

In 1924, Lenin, the first leader of the communist Russia, died. Lenin has led the October Revolution of 1917 and guided the new government through its first crucial years. Lenin left no clear indication of who should succeed him, and on his death, five leading Bolsheviks fought to replace him


Stalin: Members of the Soviet governement 'the grey blur', meaning that there was nothing outstanding or controversial about him. He had played a minore role in the October Revolution and in the Russian Civil war. However, his real gift was for administration, and due to his peasant upbringing he undertsood the way that many ordinary russians thought and acted. He also has a reputation for loyalty to Lenin. Nontheless, when Lenin became ill, Stalin started diobeying his orders. Lenin's Testament criticised him for this, but, as the Testament was kept secret, Lenin's final instruction that Stalin should be sacked from his position within the Party was not widely known.

Trotsky: The most heroic of the contenders. Together with Lenin, he had planned and led the October Revolution and had commanded the Red Army during the civil War. He was extremely glamourous, and a gifted theorist and orator, who inspired th loyalty of his troops. Trotsky has a radical vision for the future of Russia, which appealed to young and idealistic members of the Party. Indeed, Lenin's Testament praised Trotsky as 'the most outstanding member' of the Party. However, he was also viewed as arrogant and too western by many more cautious communists who were reluctant to trust him because he only joined the bolshevik Party in 1917

Burkhrin: Youngest of the contenders. Like Trotsky, he was known as a thinker and an orator. However, he lacked Trotsky's arrogance, and for this reason Lenin described him as the 'favourite' of the whole party. Following the Civil War, he became the leading advocate of the New Economic Policy, a compromise between communism and captialism. Some older communists throught Brukharin was too young to lead the Party, and radicals on the left wing were suspicious of his economic policy. What is more, Lenin's Testament criticised Bukharin's theories as they were 'not fully Marxist'.

Zinoviev and Kamenev: Lenin's closect friends. Indeed, they were among the first members of the Bolshevik Party. However, in spite of this, they has a history of disloyalty and cowardice. They publically criticised Lenin's plans for the October Revolution. During the Civil War, Zinoviev avoided the fighting by staying in the most expensive hotel in Petrograd, surrounded by prostitutes.


Communist Russia was not a democracy. Therefore, the leadership struggle was fought inside the Communist Party and did not involve the people of Russia as a whole. In order to become leader of the Party, a contender needed the support of the majority of the Politburo. The Party Congress was key to success as it elected the Central Committee, which in turn elected the Politburo. The contenders' postitions within the Party helped to determine how popular they…


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