Communism Selected topic or setting -revolution in Russia



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Question

“Describe the background and outcomes of an event that affected the lives of ordinary people. How did a historical force or movement related to this event have an influence on ordinary people’s lives at this time’?


Selected historical force or movement- Communism

Selected topic or setting -Revolution in Russia

Event - The Russian Revolution, October, 1917


Background to the event

World War I:

• Russian peasant army poorly equipped, poorly led. Lost 4 million in first year.

• Tsar Nicholas takes over army, 1915 - disastrous.

Inflation and food prices rise, lead to strikes in St Petersburg.

Transport overloading - couldn't cope.

Influence of Rasputin - having increasing control - manipulated monarchy, especially with Tsar leading troops at the front. Tsarina Alexandra not receptive to reform.

February Revolution:

Severe winter, Petrograd strike - Putilov factory workers go on strike, 250 000 in total.

26 Feb - Provisional govt set up, Soviets declared. Freedom of speech, press, assembly; freedom to strike, etc.

March-November, 1917:

• Provisional govt unpopular - not making decisions, hamstrung by Soviets; "the Soviet has the power without authority, the government has authority without power" (Lvov).

• Kornilov affair - failed coup. Bolsheviks released to help Kerensky stay in power and defeat the coup

attempt.


• Lenin returns to Russia.

' October - Bolsheviks take key positions in Petrograd, take power!


Outcomes of the event

Treaty of Brest-Litovsk - signed on 3 March 1918; Treaty causes Russia to lose 60 million people, - of its agricultural land; 75% of coal and iron; Poland, Lithuania, Finland, Ukraine.

New Government:

' Factories given to workers.

• Titles and ranks disappeared.

' New calendar. ' Political opposition repressed, eg Cheka (secret police).

Civil War - 1918 to 1921. Whites vs Reds. Whites supported by allies (eg USA, Britain, japan). Whites lost

- lacked unity, disorganised, war weary. Reds - had better discipline, revolutionary zeal, inspirationally led by Trotsky. Famine - 5 million died, , of crop lost.



Soviet Government - war, Communism; New Economic Policy; Communist State.
Influence of the force/movement on ordinary people's lives within the circumstances of the event

Communism:

• In Russia became brutal, one-party dictatorship, affected millions of lives, no opposition, Cheka, etc.

• Influenced ordinary people associated with the Bolsheviks, eg The Petrograd Soviet - mainly workers from the factories, influenced by Socialist Revolutionaries, Menshiviks and Bolsheviks.

• Soviets formed in other towns and cities - under the guise of the Communist doctrine.

• Red Guard set up - ordinary people and soldiers. Converted to Communism.

• Redistribution of land, to gain peasant support, and show faith in Communist ideals.

• Lenin's version of Communism - the "dictatorship of the proletariat". Excluded many (eg bourgeois)

from govt


The essay follows.

The October Revolution of 1917 was a significant event that had a huge influence on the lives of ordinary people. The force of Communism drove these changes, and affected the lives and aspirations not only of the leaders of the revolution, but also millions of ordinary people. With the country in turmoil because of years of simmering discontent, a corrupt monarchy and a disastrous -9^ar, Lenin and the Bolsheviks seized the opportunity to take power. The immediate outcome was hardship for many, in the form of civil war, famine and a totalitarian regime.

After years of discontent and the gradual build-up of a strong, but not necessarily united, revolutionary tradition, Russia was a country already struggling before the onset of World War I. The Russian armies massed in response to the German declaration of war against them. However, as the war progressed, it became clear that Russia's armies were ill-prepared. Discipline was poor, and the respect for officers was soon lost because of the brutal nature of their authority. Russia's struggling infrastructure made it difficult to supply troops at the front, and many had inadequate food and clothing for the cold winter conditions. Ordinary Russians were adversely affected by rising inflation and food prices. The army lost 4 million men in the first year, and strikes soon started in St Petersburg.

Under pressure. Tsar Alexander went to the front to take control of the army. However, this resulted in a government that was being further undermined at home. The influence of Rasputin on government decisions in St Petersburg was becoming great, and he was often consulted over and above the authority of the ministers of the Duma. Rasputin was murdered in 1916, as a result of his meddling. However, democracy had been undermined to such an extent that the Duma's power was effectively taken away.

The February revolution of 191 7 was the result of growing hatred towards the government by the people, particularly because of its mishandling of the war, and a severe winter, which hampered food distribution to the cities. Putilov factory workers in Petrograd went on strike, and with other workers joining them, there were 250 000 strikers in total. As a result, the Provisional Government was formed, Soviets (or unions) of workers were set up and new laws (such as freedom of speech, press and assembly), were put in place. The Tsar abdicated on 2 March. Many ordinary Russians' suspicions towards the incompetence of the ruling elite were now realized.

However, the Provisional Government was beset with problems. Although it was the ruling body in government, its power was effectively shared with the people's Soviets, which were being set up all over the country. Therefore, it was hamstrung by the competing interests of the Soviets, to which many ordinary Russians belonged. The first leader of the Provisional Government, Prince Lvov, summed up the situation when he said; "The Soviet has the power without the authority, the government has authority without power". After the Kornilov affair, where Bolsheviks were actually released to help suppress the coup, Lenin was able to return to Russia, feed off the continuing discontent and the worsening war situation, and seize power in October. The first outcome of the October Revolution was the signing of the Treaty of Brest-LitovskXenin, sensing the need to solve the problem of Russia's losing war strategy, settled with a peace treaty that-also lost Russia 60 million of its ordinary citizens to occupied territories, - of all agricultural land, 75% of coal and iron, and previously ruled areas of Poland/Tjkraine, Lithuania and Finland. This was a disastrous blow to many people, yet Lenin felt it necessary to appease demands for a quick end to the war from his own party, and Russian soldiers who were deserting in droves.

With the new government came some positive benefits for ordinary Russians, including factories being turned over to workers, new tribunals and courts being set up, and titles and ranks disappearing. However, political opposition had to be suppressed for the new regime to work, with the Menshiviks and Kadets now seen as counter-revolutionaries. The Cheka, the forerunner to the KGB secret police, was set up for this purpose on 7 December 191 7.

The other major outcome of the October Revolution for ordinary Russians was the Civil War. Between 1918 | and 1921, the Whites and the Reds fought for control of Russia, with the White armies gaining support ' from many Western allies, including Britain and the USA, who were fearful that Communist revolution _ might spread to other parts of post-war Europe. However, the Reds were expertly lead by Trotsky and were I more organised, disciplined and motivated by revolutionary zeal, and won. This came at great cost to g|l| ordinary Russians, however, as an estimated 5 million died in famines, and . of the crop was lost.



The influence of the force of Communism in these events is very important. When the Bolsheviks applied this force to the reality of the Russian situation, ordinary Russians were subjected to a "dictatorship of proletariat". This led to the suppression of freedom, the exclusion of many (including the bourgeoisie) from power, and the setting up of the Cheka to maintain this power. Ordinary Russians' lives were changed with the redistribution of land and the "communisation" of Russia, with Soviets being formed across the country, and Red Guard units set up to ensure the success of the new regime. The nationalisation of industry and property under War Communism produced many hardships, as well as the New Economic Policy, which aimed to curb the negative effects of war communism.

Overall, the Russian Revolution had an effect on the lives of many ordinary Russian citizens. The causes of the October Revolution, including the effects of war, bad leadership and the single-minded approach of the Bolsheviks, led to a vastly different society and regime for many Russians. The outcomes were often brutal -famine, Civil War, and new industrial and agricultural policies imposed upon an already weary population. The historical force of Communism was used in a practical situation for the first time in Russia. This step changed the face of Russia, and world history in the 20th century.


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