Notes on Russian History 1881-1954

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This a compilation of all my notes on Russian History 1881-1954. The notes are split into sections. Quotes are shown in bold italics with speech marks.

Now Completed.

Submitted: June 05, 2015

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Submitted: June 05, 2015

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Russia 1861-1954

Note. The information contained came from a variety of sources but have been collected into a series of notes as worded by myself. Also note that the power struggle and collectivisation is missing (may or may not be added).

Abreviations:

PG: Provisional Government

ARS: All Russia Soviet

NEP: New Economic Policy

Gosplan: State planning committee

Section One

  • Russia in 1861:

    • Society
    • 80% of Russian Society were peasants.
    • Less than 1% of Russian Society was in the ruling class.
    • Russian society was the perfect example of Marx’s ideas on class.
    • The minority rich (bourgeoisie) did control the majority poor (proletariat).
    • Serfdom had developed in the 15th Century, it was regarded an essential part of the ‘service state.’
    • Economy
    • The Russian economy was backwards in comparison to other ‘great powers’ like the British and German Empires.
    • Russia had yet to undergo a revolution like the rest of Europe.
    • Russia was predominantly agricultural.
    • Russia’s primary export was wheat.
    • If a famine set in the government prioritised exports over feeding the peasants.
    • Political structures
    • The Russian political system was virtually feudal.
    • Essentially it was the Tsar at the top and the peasants at the bottom.
    • Political movement was virtually impossible.
    • The Tsar may have had a council but they were effectively glorified administrators, the Tsar held the real power.
    • This meant the only way to change the system was through force.
    • Religion
    • The official religion was the Russian Orthodox Church.
    • This was led by a holy synod.
    • The Church was closely tied with the Tsar.
    • The Church portrayed the Tsar as Russia’s rightful ruler.
    • Other religions were suppressed particularly under Alexander III and his policy of russification.
  • Alexander II
    • Reasons why he was called Tsar Liberator.
    • Alexander II liberated the peasants from serfdom with his 1861 Ukase.
    • This Tsar set up juries in Russia.
    • Alexander II formed local elected councils- Zemstvas- in 1864 in rural areas.
    • Elective governments were extended to urban areas in 1870.
    • These are examples of ‘change from above’.
  • What happened to him?
  • Alexander II was assassinated in 1881.
  • He was assassinated in Petrograd.
  • He was on his way to sign a decree allowing a form of elective national government.
  • The terror group responsible were the ‘people’s will’.
  • It is considered an act of ‘old terrorism’.
  • Alexander III
    • Political ideas and personality
    • Alexander III wanted counter reform.
    • Alexander III believed the Tsar should hold all power.
    •  He called democracy “The great lie of our time.”
    • He was a family man, and enjoyed ‘simple’ things in life (he lived in the renovated servants quarter of the palace and wore clothes until they were threadbare)
    • He allegedly held the collapsed roof of the imperial train whilst his family escaped (Borki train disaster)
    • Problems he was facing in Russia
    • Alexander III had to keep the multicultural empire together.
    • He needed to retain his supreme power.
    • He faced pressure from ‘Westerners’ and Slavophiles’
    • Westerners wanted to move towards a political system like the ones in central and Western Europe.
    • Slavophiles wanted the Tsar to hold all power.
    • Repressive actions 
    • Statute of State Security was introduced.
    • This allowed government courts to try government opponents.
    • These courts did not need a jury.
    • Formation of the Okhrana to replace the third section (set up by Nicholas I).
    • Setting up of Okhrana black offices, where post was read.
    • Infiltration of opposition groups by agents.
    • Formation of informer networks.
    • Shutting down of newspapers critical of the government.
    • 14 major newspapers were shut down between 1982 and 1889
    • Many books were censored.
    • The universities came under government supervision. In 1884 all universities came under government control.
    • Economic Reforms under Bunge and Vyshnegrodsky.
    • In 1882 Bunge introduced laws which reduced the tax burden on peasants.
    • In 1882 Bunge also established the peasant land bank.
    • In 1889 Vyshnegrodsky offered money to peasants who migrated to Siberia.
    • Vyshnegrodsky financed Russia’s economy with loans.
    • This laid the basis for Witte’s economic developments.
  • Pobedonestev
  • Pobedonestev was Procurator of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church.
  • He educated Tsar Alexander III .
  • He also educated Tsar Nicholas II.
  • He was a senior minister in both Tsars’ governments.
  • He masterminded Alexander III’s manifesto.
  • Nicholas II
    • Politics and personality
    • Nicholas II did not want to be Tsar he said so himself “What is going to happen to me and all of Russia? I am not prepared to be a Tsar. I never wanted to become one. I know nothing of the business of ruling.”
    • He was seen as a weak leader, Rasputin described him "The Tsar can change his mind from one minute to the next; he’s a sad man; he lacks guts.
    • Count Witte also described him “His character is the source of all our misfortunes. His outstanding weakness is a lack of willpower.” 
    • Nicholas himself wanted to be a strong leader like his father, he said so himself “Maintain the principle of autocracy just as firmly and unflinchingly as it was preserved by my unforgettable dead father.”
    • Unfortunately for the Tsar he was unable to rule with an iron fist when faced with opposition in 1905. He loved his people but did not understand they did not love him.
    • Witte’s economic reforms (“The Great Spurt”) 
    • Witte rapidly industrialized Russia.
    • He had the Trans Siberian railway completed.
    • Witte moved much of the peasant population to the cities.
    • This led to many being cramped into urban slums, where disease could spread easily.
    • The cramped conditions also meant ideas could spread rapidly (i.e. socialism).
    • By moving peasant into the cities, he put them, and their offspring into a position where they could pose a real threat in the event of a revolution.
    • Witte had the economy sponsored by the government.
    • Witte had emphasis placed on the production of machinery so natural resources could be exploited.
    • Witte also levied more taxes on the population.
    • By 1900 over half the workforce were employed in factories.
    • Opposition to the Tsars: Social Revolutionaries and Kadets
    • The SRs were led by Viktor Chernov.
    • To Chernov, Russia’s future lay with ‘the people’
    • Chernov’s definition of ‘the people’ were the peasants and the workers.
    • The group was never tightly organised however, consisting of factions, some were terrorists, some weren’t and some joined the Bolsheviks in 1917 to form the government.
    • One of the terrorist factions carried out assassinations on high profile targets such as the Tsar’s uncle, Grand Duke Sergei.
    • Opposition to the Tsars: Social Democrats
    • The SDs were split into Mensheviks and Bolsheviks.
    • The Bolsheviks wanted a revolution.
    • The Mensheviks wanted to wait for history to take its course as Marx predicted.
    • Lenin led the Bolsheviks.
    • Lenin managed to force the SDs round to his way of thinking at the 13th party congress in London.
    • Long Term reasons for the 1905 revolution
    • Witte’s reforms put the revolutionaries in place.
    • The Russian political system meant change had to be forced.
    • Much of the population resented the economic situation- especially the peasants.
    • Much of the population resented the social situation- especially the peasants.
    • Short term reasons for the 1905 revolution
    • The Russo-Japanese war made some want change.
    • Defeats like Tsushima and Port Arthur embarrassed the Tsar and made him appear weak.
    • Bloody Sunday turned much of the urban workforce against the Tsar.
    • Sympathy strikes in response to bloody Sunday spiralled into open revolution.
    • Events of the 1905 revolution
    • In February, 400,000 workers went on strike in response to bloody Sunday.
    • By the end of the year 2.7m workers had been on strike.
    • Between 20th September and 30th October the waves of strikes developed into a general strike.
    • The strikers set up Soviets.
    • In the rural areas the peasants revolted in jacqueries.
    • Consequences of the 1905 revolution.
    • Although the revolution was put down the Tsar recognized something had to change to appease his subjects.
    • He set up the duma (a parliament)
    • He did however pass the fundamental law which stated “The Emperor of All Russia has supreme autocratic power”.
    • Under article 87 the law allowed the Tsar to ignore the duma.
    • The tsar still chose his government.

Section Two

  • The Fundamental Laws 
  • Article 87 (chapter 9 of the constitution) meant the Tsar could rule by decree.
  • This meant he could ignore the duma.
  • The laws meant the Tsar would choose his government.
  • The Tsar could also choose to dissolve the duma.
  • These laws meant the resulting government was far from what many revolutionaries had wanted.
  • The first Duma
  • The first duma was elected in 1906.
  • The SRs and Bolsheviks boycotted the election.
  • The Trudoviks were the majority: radicals who supported the workers and peasants.
  • The first Duma made 391 requests against the government but only two laws were actually passed- one against the death penalty and the other in favour of famine relief.
  • This became known as the ‘duma of public anger.’
  • The Second Duma
  • Half the kadets were removed, partly because a large number were banned in the wake of the Vyborg manifesto.
  • Both the SRs and SDs gained seats.
  • This Duma was guided Stolypin and important land reform was passed.
  • The 2nd duma criticised the administration of the army.
  • In response the police framed radical duma members for attempting to encourage mutinies.
  • The duma was dissolved, 3 months after being formed.
  • The Third Duma
  • Only the richest 30% of the male population could vote although this went against article 87 as the article prohibited the Tsar from changing the electoral laws.
  • Pro government parties won 287 out of 443 seats.
  • Further land reform was passed under Stolypin.
  • This duma was known as the ‘duma of lords and lackeys’
  • The duma was dissolved in 1912.
  • The Fourth Duma
  • The 4th duma was as conservative as its predecessor.
  • This duma was dissolved with the outbreak of war.
  • The 4th duma refused to dissolve and it was members of the duma that formed the provisional government in 1917.
  • Stolypin’s repression
  • Stolypin hanged so many people in the wake of the 1905 revolution nooses became known as Stolypin neckties.
  • Stolypin shut down 1000 newspapers between 1906m and 1912.
  • Stolypin used field court martials to have 1144 death sentences between 1906 and 1907.
  • Stolypin’s courts convicted 16, 500 defendants of political crimes.
  • 3600 were sentenced to death and 4500 were sent to prison camps where they would do hard labour. By 1908 political assassinations had fallen to 365.
  • Stolypin’s reforms
  • Stolypin described his job “I must carry through effective measures of reform, and at the same time I must face the revolution, resist it and stop it.”  
  • Stolypin recognized economic reform would help prevent another revolution- “Reform that we may preserve” as Thomas Babington Macaulay said.
  • Stolypin freed peasants from the peasant land commune on 9th November 1906.
  • From 15th November 1906 the Peasant land bank had to give loans to peasants who wanted to leave the commune.
  • On New year’s day 1907, redemption payments were abolished.
  • In June 1910 communes where no land distribution had taken place since 1861 were dissolved.
  • Stolypin encouraged peasants to move to Siberia, offering cheap land financed by government loans.
  • Russia’s military performance in World War 1
  • Russia implemented Plan 19 in WW1, which involved sending two armies (in reality it was three) into East Prussia with the intention of taking Silesia on the way to central Germany.
  • This advance by 3 Russian armies (1st, 2nd and 10th) was halted at the battle of Tannenburg and the Battle of the Masurian Lakes by the German 8th army. It was followed by massive German advances.
  • The battle of Tannenburg (1914) saw a massive defeat for the Russians: 170,000 out of 230, 000 soldiers were incapacitated and the 2nd was completely destroyed.
  • The Russians had no equivalent to the German Großer Generalstab (Great General staff: a dedicated body of expert military strategists); few Russian generals had studied war (they were generals by their class). The Russian army itself was predominantly illiterate peasants.
  • General Brusilov described the situation in 1915 “In a year of war the regular army had vanished. It was replaced by an army of ignoramuses.”
  • Russian supply lines were inadequate; by the end of 1915 some batteries were firing 3 shells a day. The Russians were not prepared to transport their vast armies across the empire, whereas the Germans had deliberately lengthened station platforms to enable the embarkation and disembarkation of large military units.
  • The Impact of World War I:
    • Social Impacts
    • 15.3 Million Men had been in military service by the end of 1916.
    • Domestic support for the war had dropped by the end of 1916.
    • This was due to the huge loss of life.
    • And also the huge military defeats.
    • Economic Impacts
    • The national budget increased hugely between 1913 and 1916.
    • In order to pay for the war more money was printed. This led to inflation which meant some prices were raised over 200% between August 1914 the end of 1916.
    • Food production dropped, in 1914 Moscow was receiving 2200 wagons of grain a month but by the end of 1916 this was down to 300.
    • This was a result of loss of workers and horses to the army and also the military takeover of the railway.
    • Political impacts
    • At the start of the war the Union of Zemstva provided medical facilities for the army.
    • The congress of representatives of industry and trade helped coordinate war production.
    • Formation of ZEMGOR in 1915 (all Russian union of zemstva and cities, which helped care for war casualties.)
    • The central war committee was created in 1915 under Guchkov (an Octoberist)
  • Rasputin
  • Nicholas II described him “He is just a good, religious, simple-minded Russian. When in trouble or assailed by doubts I like to have a talk with him, and invariably feel at peace with myself afterwards.”
  • Rasputin was a Siberian monk rumoured to have magical powers.
  • He held great influence over the Tsar and Tsarina as he appeared to heal their son (a result of amateur psychology) although he had advised against going to war with Germany.
  • When Nicholas II left for the front, the Tsarina was left to run the country and Rasputin appeared to have more influence, influencing several ministerial changes.
  • Rasputin was murdered in December 1916- he was poisoned, shot several times and thrown in a river but the autopsy showed he had died from drowning.
  • With Rasputin dead Russia’s misfortune could only be blamed on the Tsar and Tsarina.
  • The immediate causes of the February 1917 Revolution:
    • Demonstrations in Petrograd
    • On 9th January 140, 000 workers went on strike to commemorate Bloody Sunday.
    • On the 14th February 100,000 workers in Petrograd held strike over food shortages and poor working conditions. Also on the 14th the Duma reconvened and attacked the government over food shortages and poor working conditions.
    • On the 19th February the government announced bread rationing would begin on the 1st March which led to panicked buying of food.
    • On the 23rd February demonstrations were held in Petrograd for International Women’s Day in which tens of thousands of women went out on the streets. This happened at the same time as a major strike at the Putilov engineering works. Combined with the women the protestors numbered over 100,000.
    • On the 24th February soviets were formed to make demands against the government.
    • By the 25th the demonstrators had grown to 200, 000. At this point the government attempted to retake the capital’s streets- arresting members of the ??????????? ??????? ?????? (Central workers group: a leading body set up to organise strikes and demonstrations) and shutting down newspapers and public transport.
    • The Armed forces
    • Nicholas II may have been able to forcefully gain control if he had sent in the army earlier, but seeing so many of their countrymen turned against the government convinced much of the army to join the revolution.
    • Cossack troops refused to fire on protestors on the 25th February.
    • On the 26th some troops did fire but the Pavlovsky Life Guard didn’t.
    • On the 27th the Volinsky regiment mutinied and joined the demonstrators.
    • Rodzianko sent the Tsar a telegram “Situation serious. There is anarchy in the capital. Government paralysed. Transport of food and fuel completely disorganized. Public disaffection growing. On the streets, chaotic shooting. Army units fire at each other. It is essential at once to entrust a person enjoying the country’s confidence with the formation of a new government. There should be no delay. All delay is death.”
    • The Tsar’s response
    • When Nicholas II received the telegram he reportedly said “That fat Rodzianko has again sent me some nonsense to which I will not even reply.”
    • The Tsar offered to share power with the state Duma however this was refused.
    • On March 2nd the Tsar abdicated at Pskov, 250 km short of Petrograd.
    • The Petrograd Soviet
    • On March 1st, the Petrograd Soviet was formed from the various workers soviets.
    • It issued Order No.1 which gave the army permission to elect officers.
    • This caused a rapid breakdown in the army’s chain of command.
    • The Soviet would go on to become the ‘All Russia Soviet’ which would proceed to challenge the Provisional Government.
    •  This would become a period of ‘dual authority.’

Section Three

  • The problems faced by the Provisional Government:

    • Credibility
    • The PG was made up of members of the Duma- they had not been elected to office.
    • Kerensky had been chair of the 4th duma, a very conservative parliament that had not opposed the Tsarist government.
    • The PG had to face the ARS which appeared more democratic.
    • The PG had no control over the army.
    • Rivals
    • The All Russia Soviet offered an alternative form of government that was more democratic than the PG.
    • The ARS often contradicted the PG.
    • The ARS could claim to be more legitimate than the PG because it was more democratic.
    • The ARS was not led by a former conservative.
    • World War I
    • The biggest mistake the PG made was to stay in a war which the Russians were losing.
    • The Petrograd Soviet (Later ARS) had issued Order No.1 which led to a breakdown of the chain of command, officers were elected, and division committees decided whether or not to obey orders and if a decision to obey orders was reached than it would often be too late.
    • Officers had lost authority, being harassed or even murdered.
    • Many soldiers were simply deserting the front: in one night 12 000 deserters were captured by the 11th Army.
    • The July Days
    • This was a result of military break down.
    • Riots and demonstrations in Petrograd opposed the PG.
    • The demonstrations began spontaneously with the 1st Machine Gun Regiment on the 16th July
    • The Bolsheviks, a selection of workers, sailors and soldiers along with Red Guards and the military committee fought the Government, Mensheviks, Social Revolutionaries and Black Hundreds.
    • The crisis in the countryside
    • The PG had no authority in the countryside.
    • Peasants were taking seizing land from landowners for themselves.
    • In 1917 the PG received 700 complaints about illegal attacks on property.
    • Following the June offensive many peasant soldier’s returned to their villages and joined the process of land redistribution.
    • The remains of the Russian army were disintegrating and the PG had no way to impose its authority outside of towns. 
  • The Bolshevik Coup:
    • Lenin’s return
    • Lenin returned at night on 3rd April 1917 to much support in Finland Station.
    • Lenin was arguably the only reason the October revolution took place so the only reason there was a USSR.
    • When Lenin disembarked he gave a 90 minute speech from atop an armoured car.
    • This became the April Theses.
    • The April Theses
    • Lenin developed the theses whilst he was on the train from Switzerland.
    • The Theses was Lenin’s programme for the Russian Communist party, the CPSU.
    • Bogdanov (a former political rival of Lenin) commented on Lenin’s April Theses “It is obscene to applaud such rubbish. These are the ravings of a lunatic.”
    • Lenin condemned the PG.
    • He called for “Peace, Land and Bread” along with “All power to the Soviets.”
    • The Role of Trotsky
    • Trotsky was the chairmen of the Military Revolutionary Committee.
    • It was Trotsky who laid down the plans for the seizure of power.
    • Trotsky coordinated the virtually bloodless revolution.
    • The Summer Offensive
    • The Kerensky Offensive failed, the 7th 8th and 11th Russian armies with the 1st Romanian army were defeated by the South Army (a German and Austro Hungarian army) and the 7th and 3rd Austro Hungarian armies.
    • The Russians retreated 150 miles and lost 60 000 soldiers, with logistics the only reason the Germans did not advance further.
    • This defeat left the Government weakened, reminding many of the Tsar’s military incompetence.
    • Kerensky explained his reasoning behind the Summer Offensive “For the sake of the nation’s life it was necessary to restore the army’s will to die.”
    • The Kornilov Affair
    • General Kornilov was commander in chief of the Russian army.
    • Kerensky ordered Kornilov’s dismissal after he believed the general was planning to overthrow Kerensky and impose a military dictatorship. Kornilov believed Kerensky had been pressured by the Bolsheviks.
    • Kornilov ordered the 3rd Cavalry Corps to move on Petrograd to crush what he thought was a Bolshevik uprising.
    • Kornilov then found out Kerensky had said Kornilov had demanded full civil and military power.
    • Kornilov therefore asked the Russian people to help him overthrow the PG.
    • This means he rebelled after being accused of rebelling.
    • The PG then released the Bolsheviks from prison and armed them to repel Kornilov.
    • The Bolsheviks were the main reason Kornilov failed.
    • The Bolsheviks held influence over the railway and telegraph, thereby preventing Kornilov from moving his forces.
    • The Kornilov affair left the Bolsheviks as the defenders of Petrograd and the government as weak.
    • The Seizure of Power.
    • The revolution in October 1917 was nothing like the spontaneous, angry crowd of February 1917.
    • It was more of a military operation; they really were ‘professional revolutionaries.’
    • The revolution was a virtually bloodless affair,
    • On 5th October the Red Guards seized control of various government buildings around Petrograd. The following day the Winter Palace was stormed.
    • Soviet historians made out the storming of the palace to be more dramatic than in reality (i.e. 1920 re-enactment), with hundreds of communists and communist supporters surging into the palace.
    • In reality, although the palace was guarded by cadets, a women’s battalion and Cossacks, the palace was taken when a small group of revolutionaries broke in, got lost inside the vast maze of the palaces corridors and room and accidentally found what was left of the PG in what had been the Tsar’s breakfast room.
    • The following day at the 2nd congress of Soviets Lenin announced the Winter Palace had been taken and as such all power would be transferred to the various Soviets around Russia.
    • The Right and Centre wings of the SRs, along with the Mensheviks condemned the Bolsheviks actions as illegal and walked out.
    • As they walked out Trotsky insulted them "You are pitiful isolated individuals; you are bankrupts; your role is played out. Go where you belong from now on — into the dustbin of history!"
    • Although the Bolsheviks had seized control of Petrograd fighting continued in other parts of the country with Novocherkassk falling under Soviet control on the 25th February 1918.

Section Four

  • Problems faced by the Bolsheviks
  • WW1 was still ongoing- the Germans were only 100 miles from Petrograd.
  • The peasantry had seized land and declared independence from Petrograd.
  • Industrial production had fallen.
  • Unemployment was on the rise.
  • Inflation was also on the rise.
  • Initial actions taken by the Bolsheviks to establish control.
  • The Treaty of Brest litovsk ended the war.
  • Decree on Land- all private land was given to the peasants.
  • Decree on Government- this concerned the creation of a new government.
  • The new government was led by a Sovnarkom (led by Lenin) members came from the ARS who came from village, city and district soviets.
  • The Treaty of Brest Litovsk.
  • The Germans wanted the Baltic states (Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania).
  • They wanted Poland and Ukraine. The loss of these five countries took away a third of Russia’s population, a third of agriculture and over half of Russia’s industry.
  • Lenin faced difficulty in bringing his government round to the idea of accepting.
  • “Trotsky degraded the conference-table to the level of a tub-thumper’s street corner… Lenin and Trotsky behaved more like victors than vanquished, while trying to sow the seeds of political dissolution in the ranks of our army.” General Hindenburg.
  • The treaty was signed on 3rd March 1918.
  • Reasons for the Civil War
  • Various groups wanted to remove Lenin and establish their own government.
  • The Green army under Makno wanted to create a society based on local organisations of peasants.
  • The Allied forces wanted to get rid of the communists and get Russia back in the war (early 1918)
  • Various nationalist movements wanted to gain independence from Moscow.
  • Most of those in the three White Armies wanted to return to a monarchy although some wanted a democracy.
  • Reasons why the Bolsheviks won the Civil War. 
  • When facing Admiral Kolchak (who had 30 000 foreign troops to support him) the Red Army conscripted civilians into their ranks and persuaded some of Kolchak’s men to switch sides. By July 1919 Kolchak was back where he started and had lost most of his army.
  • General Deniken was going to help Kolchak but in March 1919 he changed his mind and attacked the Donbass region. He had some success but did not have enough troops to fight over a large front and his attack failed.
  • Yudenich attacked Communist Petrograd in October 1919 despite needing more men and no foreign of local support. Despite this Yudenich was initially successful but Trotsky intervened and roused troops and workers in the city before rounding up retreating troops and leading them back into the fray.
  • Opposition was divided. I.e. Ukrainian nationalists fought the Reds and Whites.
  • The Red Army was better organised- the Whites were top heavy (too many officers) whilst the Greens were the other way round (Not enough officers)
  • The Communists controlled the Russian heartland- they had the most important cities and industrial areas and also controlled most of the railway.
  • This meant several things:
  • The Reds could produce more munitions.
  • The Reds could send munitions and troops quickly to the various fronts.
  • Unbroken territory enabled the Communists to have superior communication and better coordination.
  • Trotsky’s military leadership had a large role in the Communist success.
  • War Communism
  • War Communism maximised production.
  • Civilians were conscripted into factories.
  • Coercive measures like fear of imprisonment encouraged workers to produce more products like munitions.
  • The communists took over war production.
  • The economy was centrally controlled.
  • Groups of elite workers were sent around the country to deal with bottle necks in production.
  • Cities were fed through grain requisitioning- although unpopular in rural areas (perhaps encouraging support for the Greens) the policy was central to the war effort.
  • A Supreme Economic Council was formed to run the economy.
  • By 1920 approximately 37000 businesses had been nationalised under the 1918 decree on nationalisation.
  • Private trade was banned.
  • Grain surpluses were seized- anyone who withheld grain was liable to be shot.
  • The use of money declined and rationing was introduced.
  • War communism was the use of terror, slave labour and the seizure of goods and grain by the government.
  • Reasons why NEP was introduced
  • The economy needed a solution after years of conflict.
  • Requistioning was unpopular and causing peasant uprising that had to be crushed with large numbers of the Red Army- it was unsustainable unless the government wanted to be at war with the peasants.
  • To preserve Lenin’s power.
  • Lenin said it was to give the economy ‘breathing space’.
  • The results of NEP
  • A new class- ‘nepmen’ was created.
  • Economic controls were relaxed.
  • Political controls were tightened (factions were banned to prevent the party splitting over NEP)
  • Food shortages disappeared.
  • The area of cultivated land rose by half between 1921 and 1927.
  • Sparked off the ‘scissors crisis’: the gap between agricultural and industrial prices- as agricultural production rose prices fell but industrial prices rose because of shortages so peasants had to pay more for manufactured goods when they were getting less and less for their produce.
  • The Soviet State set up by Lenin.
  • On 29th December 1922 the USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) was formed.
  • The USSR consisted of the RSFSR (Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, the Ukrainian Socialist republic, the Belorussian Soviet Socialist Republic and the Transcaucasian Soviet Socialist republic.
  • The USSR did not have a geographical limit (by 1945 the union would consist of 15 republics.)
  • From 1921 only the Communist party was allowed.
  • The most senior committee was the council of people’s commissars (Sovnarkom) however policy was created in the Politburo.
  • The USSR was federal- political power was split between central and state governments- in the USSR this was controlled by the communists.
  • The USSR was the world’s first totalitarian dictatorship.

Section Five (The Power Struggle)

  • The candidates for power:

    • Trotsky
    • Skilled organiser
    • Supported by Red Army.
    • Inspiring speaker.
    • Seen as the man who won the Civil War, and had planned the Oct. Revolution.
    • Seen as a brilliant national leader.
    • Trotsky was seen as a brilliant writer.
    • Had joined the Bolsheviks late, had been a Menshevik.
    • Unpopular ideology.
    • Had made enemies because of his arrogance.
    • He was disliked by other Bolshevik leaders.
    • Trotsky had a better chance than other leaders as he was seen as a good leader all across Russia. However other leaders disliked him.
    • Stalin
    • He appeared as the voice of moderation.
    • He was very powerful within the party, for example as General Secretary he appointed jobs.
    • Very cunning (ref. Lenin’s funeral).
    • Very politically skilled (ref. political testament)
    • Long standing Bolshevik.
    • Underestimated by other leading Communists. “Grey blur” (Trotsky)
    • Organised the party’s ‘fight squads’ which robbed banks and hijacked treasury vans.
    • Less inspiring than Trotsky.
    • Not liked by Lenin, criticised in political testament, Lenin wanted him removed.
    • Not seen as a natural leader.
    • Trotsky was more educated than Stalin and viewed himself as being more intelligent than Stalin.
    • Stalin had a moderate chance of becoming the new leader,
    • However it appeared that other leaders (i.e Trotsky) had a better
    • Chance.
    • Zinoviev
    • Very close friendship with Lenin.
    • Head of the comintern, 1918-1926.
    • Lacked heroic credentials, spent the Civil War in a hotel and opposed the Oct Revolution.
    • Had disagreed with Lenin over the Oct revolution and his recommendation to share power with other parties.
    • Unpopular, seen as disloyal, lacking vision, ambition, vain.
    • Lacked heroic credentials, spent the Civil War in a hotel and opposed the October 1917 Revolution.
    • Had disagreed with Lenin over the Oct revolution and his recommendation to share power with other parties.
    • Unpopular, seen as disloyal, lacking vision, ambition, vain.
    • Kamenev
    • Working class background.
    • Close friends with Lenin.
    • Long term Bolshevik.
    • An intellectual.
    • A leading propagandist overseas.
    • Too cautious, seen as giving in too easily in argument.
    • No leading role in the Oct. revolution or Civil War.
    • Lacked ambition, no personal power base.
    • Uninspiring public speaker.
    • With Zinoviev, disagreed with Lenin over the Oct. revolution.
    • Opposed the April Thesis.
    • Voted against the call for an armed uprising
    • Bukharin
    • Known as the “Golden Boy”.
    • Lenin liked him.
    • Very popular in the party.
    • Seen as honest and ”incorruptible”.
    • Long term Bolshevik, leader of the revolution.
    • Seen by some as a natural successor.
    • Lenin regarded him as the ‘greatest and most valuable thinker in the party.’
    • One of Lenin’s close friends.
    • His ideology had been questioned by Lenin and others as not “fully Marxist”.
    • Had disagreed with Lenin over Brest-Litovsk, and had led the “left communist” group.
    • Bukharin had a decent chance of succeeding Lenin as he was seen by some as a natural leader. However his political ideology was questioned.
  • Lenin’s Political Testament.
  • Lenin dictated his Letter to Congress which is now seen as his testament in January 1923.
  • He was pointing out the dangers of a party split.
  • He also suggested ways to prevent such a split.
  • He weighed up the strengths and weaknesses of each candidate but did not specify who would replace him.
  • Lenin added a postscript that the party should remove Stalin as general secretary because of his ‘intolerable behaviour’.
  • Lenin wanted the letter read out only after his death.
  • Stalin managed to convince Trotsky to keep the letter secret, showing him the parts where Trotsky was criticised. 
  • Ideological arguments:
    • Socialism in One Country
    • This was the view held by right-wingers like Bukharin.
    • It was developed in 1924 to oppose Trotsky.
    • The view was that Russia could survive on its own.
    • This was because the workers and peasants worked together in a smychka.
    • Because of this Russia was economically self-sufficient.
    • Permanent Revolution
    • The Permanent Revolution came from Trotsky.
    • It suggested that no socialist society could exist alone.
    • Trotsky hoped for a revolution in Western Europe which would provide the means to support Russia.
    • This was because Russia lacked the economy and technology to move to socialism independently.
    • This support would enable a transfer to socialism.

 

  • How Stalin won the power struggle:

    • The Triumvirate
    • Stalin joined the triumvirate with Zinoviev and Kamenev.
    • They formed the triumvirate to prevent Trotsky taking power by establishing a majority in the Politburo.
    • They planned on destroying Trotsky’s reputation.
    • First they used Lenin’s funeral to demonstrate Trotsky was disloyal.
    • This was done by Stalin lying to Trotsky about the date so Trotsky was far from Moscow on the date of the funeral, meaning he did not attend.
    • The triumvirate criticised Trotsky’s book The Lessons of October which they claimed emphasised Trotsky’s role at the expense of Lenin’s.
    • Finally Zinoviev and Kamenev showed that Trotsky’s ideology was different from Lenin’s.
    • Zinoviev invented the term ‘Trotskyism’ and tried to show it was a form of Menshevism.
    • Due to their efforts Trotsky was defeated at the 13th Party Congress.
    • It split in early 1925.
    • The Duumvirate
    • Stalin united with Bukharin in a governing duumvirate.
    • They were opposed by the ‘new opposition’.
    • They both agreed with Socialism in one country.
    • Bukharin demolished Zinoviev’s arguments for a world revolution.
    • Stalin was able to control who attended the 14th Party congress.
    • In 1928 Stalin reject NEP and his alliance with Bukharin ended.
    • Trotsky’s mistakes
    • Trotsky wrote The lessons of October which criticised Lenin.
    • Trotsky neglected his position in the politburo because he was ill.
    • So he missed important meetings.
    • Trotsky was unprepared to make political alliances.
    • He misunderstood power lay with the party leaders and not congress.
    • Stalin’s ruthlessness
    • Stalin used his power as General Secretary to undercut Bukharin’s influence with the media.
    • Stalin was able to manipulate the party.
    • For example he circulated rumours he was about to join an alliance with Kamenev and Zinoviev so Bukharin would arrange a secret meeting and then Stalin used this as evidence of Bukharin’s factionalism.
    • Stalin delayed Bukharin from attending meetings by having Bukharin’s plane land for Bukharin to undergo medical checks.
    • Stalin acted under his own authority, restarting his policy of grain requisitioning and sabotaging the NEP.
    • 13th Party Congress
    • Trotsky was defeated at this congress.
    • They condemned Trotsky for forming a faction- going against Lenin who had banned factions in 1921.
    • 14th Party Congress.
    • Bukharin demolished Zinoviev and his arguments at this congress.
    • Stalin was able to control access to the congress and filled it with pro duumvirate supporters.
    • The Duumvirate won 559-65 votes.

Section Six (Collectivisation Five Year Plans)

  • Reasons for agricultural reform
  • There were three factors: Economic, Ideological and Political.
  • Economic: large mechanized farms would improve efficiency and reduce the required manpower freeing workers up for work in industry. More efficiency meant more production and more production meant more to sell overseas which would mean more money which could be spent on industrialisation and raising living standards.
  • Ideological: Communism had done little to change agriculture in Russia. Peasants were still traditional and their attitudes conventional. This led communists to believe that collectivisation was essential to convincing capitalist peasants to embrace socialism.
  • Political: Collectivisation was in part motivated by Stalin’s struggle against the right wingers. The radical nature of collectivisation appealed to the left wing of the party. It was also more appealing to many communists than the right wing alternative of importing grain.
  • The 1927-1929 Grain procurement crisis ended the NEP and ushered in the collectivisation.
  • The process of collectivisation
  • This was the method that would be used to improve Russian agriculture.
  • Stalin had small farms collectivised into larger farms.
  • These large farms would pool labour and resources making them work more efficiently.
  • The Government provided these farms with tractors and fertilisers further increasing efficiently.
  • The process of providing tractors and modern equipment is called mechanisation.
  • In 1929 mass collectivisation began.
  • The results of collectivisation 
  • The NEP ended.
  • A famine ensued as a result of the second wave of collectivisation.
  • This was a result of government policy rather than a natural disaster.
  • Those that didn’t meet targets were exiled or shot.
  • In Ukraine military checkpoints were set up to prevent food entering the region.
  • Trains were ordered to travel through Ukraine with their windows up to prevent food falling onto the tracks.
  • This was in response to targets not being met.
  • Offers of aid from other countries were rejected.
  • The policy was so chaotic that grain often sat rotting in barns whilst peasants starved in nearby villages.
  • Stalin strengthened his political position.
  • 9,500,000-10,000,000 Russians were exiled as a result of the dekulakisation process.
  • In some cases 10% of the population in a village were exiled.
  • Reasons for industrialisation
  • The communist society envisioned by Marx needed an industrial base.
  • Russia was far from industrial.
  • Stalin planned to use a series of five year plans to fast forward Russian industry.
  • This would put Russia in a position to move towards the communist society.
  • Methods used to generate industrialisation
  • 1st 5 year plan – aims
  • The aims of the 1st plan were drawn up by Gosplan (the state planning committee)
  • This committee set targets for workers to reach in every place of industry in the USSR- so extensive was the plan it was published in 3 volumes.
  • The 1st plan was meant to increase heavy industry- coal, oil, steel.
  • The creation of industries would put Russia in a position to defend herself in the event of war. (although this was not a top priority).
  • 1st 5 year plan – results.
  • Raw material production rose- iron rose from 3.3 million tonnes in 1928 to 6.2 million tonnes in 1932.
  • The economy rose at 14% a year.
  • The urban population trebled.
  • Existing members of the working class were promoted.
  • Not all targets were met- the target for iron was 8.0 million tonnes but the production by 1932 was 6.2 million tonnes.
  • 2nd 5 year plan – aims
  • The 2nd five year plan was meant to raise living standards.
  • The focus remained on heavy industry.
  • However the plan was to consolidate the gains made in the 1st 5 year plan.
  • Planners tried to stimulate new industries like chemical processing.
  • They also planned on improving the transport system.
  • 2nd 5 year plan – results.
  • The first lines of the Moscow metro opened in 1935.
  • The Moscow Volga canal was completed in 1937.
  • Rationing of bread ended in 1934.
  • Wages increased.
  • Raw material production continued to grow.
  • 3rd 5 year plan – aims
  • This plan was meant to rearm Russia.
  • The plan applied 1st plan methods to military production.
  • As such lots of military goods were produced.
  • However they were of a low quality.
  • 3rd 5 year plan – results.
  • 9 new aircraft factories were built under Gosplan’s orders.
  • Unfortunately much of the equipment produced was unusable.
  • Coal production rose from 128 million tonnes in 1937 to 166 million tonnes in 1940.
  • Oil only rose marginally.
  • Steel production stagnated.
  • Stakhanov
  • Alexei Stakhanov was coal miner.
  • He mined 102 tonnes of coal in 6 hours.
  • This was 14 times the output of a normal miner.
  • A month later je mined 227 tonnes of coal in a shift.
  • He appeared on Time magazine’s front cover, becoming an international celebrity.
  • He was used as an example of the ideal worker.
  • However he was deliberately provided with the latest equipment and assistants
  • Social Policies:
    • Women
    • In the 1930s many women entered the work force for the first time.
    • Zhenotdel- the women’s branch of the central committee was closed down because gender equality had apparently been achieved.
    • The communists reasserted traditional gender roles.
    • By 1940 41% of the industrial work pools were women.
    • The income of women was only 60-65% of their male counterparts.
    • The family
    • Rewards were offered to large families.
    • Women who had more than 6 children qualified for state help.
    • Mothers with 7 children received 2000 roubles a year for five years.
    • Mothers with 11 children received 5000 roubles a year for five years.
    • Abortions were heavily restricted from 1936 onwards.
    • Education.
    • Stalin encouraged discipline.
    • A new curriculum was introduced in 1935.
    • Under Stalin history turned from class warfare to great Russians like Peter I and Ivan IV
    • State spending on education fell to provide money for the five year plans.
    • Core subjects were laid out in 1935.

Section Seven (The Purges)

  • Reasons for the purges
  • Stalin was paranoid.
  • The NKVD provided Stalin with reports that only heightened his paranoia.
  • Stalin wanted to remove his former leadership rivals.
  • The Vozhd felt that the army could remove him.
  • So he purged the army to secure his position.
  • Targets were not being met in industry.
  • Targets were not being met in agriculture
  • Targets were not being met by the NKVD- Stalin said they were 4 years behind schedule.
  • The purges enabled Stalin to blame others for the failings of the five year plans.
  • Trial of the 16
  • Zinoviev and Kamenev were the main participants.
  • They were imprisoned for a year before the trial along with 14 others.
  • Zinoviev and Kamenev were ‘persuaded’ to confess, it is held that Stalin promised them a pardon.
  • Stalin broke his promise and neither was pardoned.
  • Vyshinksy summed up “Shoot the mad dogs, every last one of them!”
  • Zinoviev begged for mercy to the last moment, having to be carried to his execution.
  • 43 other senior communists and allies ‘disappeared’ without trial.
  • Trial of the 17
  • This dealt with Trotsky’s allies.
  • They were accused of plotting with foreign powers, terrorism, sabotage and contact with Trotsky.
  • This trial was the first result of the ‘conveyer belt’ system of interrogation.
  • 13 were executed.
  • 4 went to the gulags.
  • Trial of the 21
  • Bukharin was charged with the attempted assassination of Lenin.
  • Unlike other defendants Bukharin was not tortured but Stalin threatened to execute his wife and new baby.
  • Bukharin confessed to ‘political responsibility’ but did not confess to anything specific.
  • Bukharin offered to go to the US and ‘smash Trotsky’s face in’.
  • Vyshinksy described the defendants as a ‘foul smelling heap of human garbage’ and described Bukharin as ‘a damnable cross of a fox and a swine’.
  • Bukharin was shot, it is reported that he (and Rykov) died cursing Stalin and standing up- not grovelling on the floor like Zinoviev.
  • The purges of the:
    • Party
    • 93 of the 139 members of the central committee were executed.
    • The attack on the party showed no one was safe.
    • One million party members out of three million were killed.
    • In doing so Stalin cowed potential opposition inside the party.
    • At the congress of victors Kirov received the majority vote which convinced Stalin a purge of the party was needed.
    • NKVD
    • In 1937 the NKVD was purged.
    • Many in the secret police were old Bolsheviks who felt loyalty to communists like Bukharin and Rykov.
    • They were opposed to the indiscriminate use of terror in a socialist society.
    • New recruits had none of these scruples.
    • They were thugs or career opportunists who sought promotion.
    • Army
    • 3.7%-7.7% of the Officer Corps were purged.
    • The armed forces were purged from 1937.
    • Most of the senior officers had been appointed by Trotsky.
    • 8 generals were arrested in June 1937.
    • 34 000 soldiers were purged.
    • By 1941 81 out of 103 General and Admirals of the Red Army and Red Navy had been executed.
    • Society
    • 10% of the male population were executed or sent to Labour camps.
    • The Politburo issued NKVD Order No.00447.
    • This called for the removal of ‘anti-soviet’ elements from Russian society.
    • The NKVD created a list with over 250 000 ‘anti-soviets’
    • Many people helped the NKVD- the NKVD did not have a vast surveillance network, but looked to informers.
    • Sometimes a worker would report their boss hoping to be promoted.
  • Yagoda
  • Head of the NKVD 1934-1936
  • He served in the Red Army and then the Cheka.
  • Yagoda oversaw the arrest, interrogation and trial of Kamenev and Zinoviev.
  • He was arrested in 1937.
  • He was executed following his 1938 show trial.
  • Yezhov
  • Head of the NKVD 1936-1939
  • Developed the conveyor belt system of interrogation.
  • Such was the extent to which the NKVD took over life the period of Yezhov being in charge was called ‘Yezhovshina’.
  • He was arrested in 1939.
  • He was shot in a prison he had commisioned.
  • Beria
  • Stalin introduced him to Roosevelt at the Yalta conference as ‘our Himmler’ (after the Reichsfuhrer SS)
  • He joined the Bolsheviks in 1917.
  • He was a spy in the independent republic of Georgia.
  • He was appointed head of the Georgian cheka in 1922.
  • He led Soviet nuclear efforts.
  • He was executed by General Pavel Batitsky shortly after Stalin’s death
  • Consequences of the purges 
  • There were many victims of the purges.
  • This is not just the 10% of males, but their families as well.
  • 35,000 Officers were shot or exiled.
  • 23,000 NKVD agents were executed.
  • Between 1935 and 1936 over half a million people had been executed.
  • Of this 2,300 were shot.
  • Of this 405,000 were sent to gulags.
  • Others died in custody or just disappeared.
  • Enough were killed to enable historians to create a ‘most at risk bracket’ as if the purges were a disease.
  • At the centre of Moscow some apartment blocks were deserted in 1937.
  • Children of purge victims could expect consequences: Older children were expelled from University, school age children were subjected to humiliation by teachers and peers.
  • The cult of personality.
  • Stalin created a Personality cult.
  • This was used along with Lenin’s.
  • This cult was meant to replace religion.
  • Everyone essentially worshiped Stalin.
  • Robert Service has suggested it was actually a cult of impersonality- everyone celebrated the Vozhd but little was known about his background and character.
  • The use of Socialist Realism.
  • Social realism depicted a Marxist utopia.
  • It focused around industry and socialist success with titles like ‘Voting to Expel the Kulak from the Collective Farm.’
  • It appeared in architecture, with government buildings being built in a grand style. 

Section Eight (Great Patriotic War (WW2))

  • Preparations for war
  • Leopold Trepper was a Soviet agent who set up a spy ring in Europe in 1939.
  • The Gestapo (See Nazi Germany notes) named the spy ring the rotte kapelle- red orchestra.
  • Trepper gained information about Operation Barbarossa however such information was ignored by Stalin who believed Hitler would honour the Molotov Ribbontrop pact.
  • The third five year plan was about preration for war.
  • Gosplan had nine new aircraft factories built.
  • Early Russian failures
  • The Wehrmacht faced little opposition as it blitzkrieged deep into Soviet territory.
  • The Baltic states fell in three weeks.
  • 28 Red Army Divisions were put out of action in 3 weeks.
  • The Germans got as far as 18 miles from Moscow’s centre; some officers could see the Kremlin’s spires through their field glasses.
  • Reasons for Russian victory:
    • Military
    • Stalin realised he was not a military genius.
    • Russia’s commander in chief- Marshal (of the Soviet Union) Zhukov was an extremely capable officer credited by Montgomery and Eisenhower as one of the main reasons for success in WW2.
    • The Red Army was better equipped for warfare in Russia- their tanks could deal with the rough roads and the soldiers could deal with the freezing winters.
    • From late 1943 the USSR was able to bring down the full weight of the ‘Russian Bear’ on the Wehrmacht. From then Germany was doomed to a losing war, even without D Day.
    • Political
    • Stalin used patriotism as his rallying cry- “Defend the Motherland” and not “Defend the revolution” due to the unpopularity of Communism under Stalin.
    • The Germans were portrayed as a foreign enemy rather than an ideological one- names like ‘Kraut’ were used in reference to the Germans.
    • Hostility to the church ended.
    • This meant many Russians went to church and in return for the lack of hostility Stalin was portrayed as ‘God’s chosen leader’.
    • Economic
    • The Soviets out produced the Germans, rolling thousands of T34s out of the factories whilst the Germans rolled out lower numbers of higher maintenance Tiger tanks.
    • Factories were relocated behind the front lines.
    • This prevented them falling into the hands of the Germans.
    • By November 1941, 1,523 factories had been relocated.
    • By 1942 56% of the national income was focused on the war effort.
    • Armament production almost doubled between 1941 and 1944.
    • Social
    • The Russian population put up with extreme hardship as the war progressed.
    • Women took over the men’s jobs in the factories and as farmers.
    • Factory workers were expected to work a night shift on farms during the factory season.
    • Some senior government figures left their families for major centres like Moscow and Leningrad and started war families which they abandoned at the end of the war to return to their orignal families.
    • German errors
    • Hitler was allowed to make important tactical decisions (no one argued with his opinion that he was a military genius) for example Kursk (Citadel) was delayed on Hitler’s orders for 2 months whilst new ‘war winning’ weapons were delivered to the front, no effort was made to hide the preparations and the Russians were able to build up defences around the Kursk salient.
    • OKW (Ober Kommando die Wehrmacht) failed to plan properly for war in Russia, not equipping the troops for winter- Goebbels had to ask the German civilian population to donate furs for the Wehrmacht on the Eastern front.
    • The biggest mistake Hitler made in regard to the USSR was to attack it in the first place without defeating Britain. This was not helped by declaring war on America on 11 December 1941. (The American population were not keen on a war. They only fought the Japanese because of Pearl Harbour)
    • The Germany economy had not completed its own five year plan (with less killing). The plan had begun in 1935 but war began in 1939 so the economy was behind.
    • Hitler did not see potential in some weapons like the


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