Contents Introduction 5 Section 1: a short History of Russia, 1894–1921

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The Red Flag: Lenin and the Russian Revolution 1894–1921


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Introduction 5
Section 1: A Short History of Russia, 1894–1921 6

The Russian Empire 6

The Russian people 8

Revolutionaries 11

The First World War 13

The first revolution: the February Revolution of 1917 15

The second revolution: the October Revolution of 1917 17

The Civil War, 1918–21 19

Section 2: Imperial Russia 1894–1917 22

The tsar and his government 22

The Russian Orthodox Church 28

The peasants of Russia 31

Industrial workers and Russian industry 35

Russification and national minorities 39

Section 3: Challenges to the tsar’s power 41

Challenges from revolutionary groups 41

The 1905 Revolution – Bloody Sunday 44

Political changes after 1905 48

The Dumas 51
Section 4: Russia and the First World War 53

The effects of military defeat and economic hardship 55

Rasputin and the growing unpopularity of the tsar 57

The February Revolution of 1917 59

Two new governments 61

The failure of the Provisional Government 64

Section 5: The Bolsheviks seize power, 1917–21 66

Lenin’s return and the April Theses 66

The Bolshevik Revolution 72

The Bolshevik Government 76

The Civil War 1918–21 80

War Communism 83

The New Economic Policy 88

The importance of the Russian Revolution
In this course we will study the Russian Revolution of 1917. A revolution is when there is a complete change in the way a country is governed. Before 1917 Russia was ruled by a king, Tsar Nicholas II. He had the power to run the country any way he wanted. In 1917 there was a revolution and the tsar had his power taken away. A few months later there was a second revolution and the government of Russia was taken over by a revolutionary called Lenin. He was the leader of the Bolshevik Party. The Bolshevik Party said that it would run Russia for the ordinary working people.

  • The Russian Revolution of 1917 created the world’s first communist country. Communism was a new system of government which claimed that the working people should own the country’s wealth. They should run the government.

  • Russia changed its name to the Soviet Union.

  • The Soviet Union grew to be one of the world’s superpowers with a very large army and nuclear weapons. The idea of communism spread to many other countries in Europe and Asia, and even to the island of Cuba.

  • But by 1990 Russia’s factories were struggling to provide the products and wealth the Russian people needed.

  • The nations ruled by Russia, such as Ukraine, were demanding freedom and the right to rule themselves.

  • In 1991 the Soviet Union broke up and we now have the Russian Federation.

However, the Russian Revolution of 1917 is still debated a great deal as people ask:

  • What were the ideas that started the Russian revolution?

  • Was the Russian revolution popular with the people?

  • How good was the system of government it created?

  • Was life better before or after the Revolution?

Section 1: A Short History of Russia, 1894–1921
The Russian Empire
We begin in 1894 because that was the year Nicholas Romanov became tsar of the Russian Empire. He was called Nicholas II.

  • In 1894 the Russian Empire was massive. It was about 6,500 kilometres wide from west to east and had a population of 130 million.

  • Russia was the largest and most important country in the empire. But most of the population of the Russian Empire were Ukraininans, Muslims and Jews and many others. These people were known as national minorities and all had their own languages and cultures.

  • However, there was a policy of Russification. Russification meant that the tsar wanted all his people to speak the Russian language and adopt Russian customs.

  • The Russians belonged to the Russian Orthodox Church, but most of the national minorities were Roman Catholics, Muslims or Jews.

  • We shall be looking at the events that happened in Russia and in the two most important cities, St Petersburg/Petrograd and Moscow.

1. Who were the national minorities?

2. Why were the national minorities unhappy about russification?

3. Look at the map on page 6. How would you travel from Moscow to Vladivostok?

The Russian people
The peasants
The largest class of people were the peasants. Most of them were poor farmers.

  • The peasants made up over 80% of the population. They were often uneducated and unwilling to use modern methods in agriculture (farming).

  • Peasants almost never owned their farms. They paid rent to landowners. The peasants believed that the tsar should give them all the land. If this happened it would encourage them to improve their farms. But it seemed that the tsar was on the side of the landowners.

  • Farming in most areas of Russia was difficult as the soil was poor. Russian peasants wanted much more help from the tsar’s government when there were food shortages.

Neatly score through the wrong italic words or phrase to leave the correct statement.

  1. The peasants were poor farmers/rich landowners.

  1. The peasants were the minority/majority of the Russian population.

  1. The peasants wanted to rent the land/own the land they worked on.

  1. The peasants wanted more help from the tsar/were grateful to the tsar.

The industrial workers
The industrial working class was the next largest class of the people who lived in Russia’s towns and cities.

  • These industrial workers worked in the factories, ship yards and coal mines. They had built the great Trans Siberian Railway line across Russia.

  • The working class in Russia was very small compared to most European countries. Russian industry was not as modern as Britain and Germany but it was growing fast.

  • The industrial workers had helped to make Russia a rich country. Despite this they were badly treated, poorly paid and lived in slums. They believed that the tsar was on the side of the factory owners.

Neatly score through the wrong italic word or phrase to leave the correct statement.

  1. The working class in Russia lived in the cities/countryside.

  1. The working class in Russia was very small/very large in number.

  1. Russia was as modern/less modern than Britain and Germany.

  1. The working class in Russia were treated very well/very badly and blamed/praised the tsar for helping them/not helping them.

The upper and middle classes
A small number of Russians were wealthy.

  • The upper class such as landowners made money from their estates where the peasants worked. The middle class factory owners became wealthy from selling the products that their workers made.

  • Those who had top government jobs in the civil service, police or army were well paid.

  • The Russian Orthodox Church was also wealthy and powerful and supported the monarchy. The Church taught people that they had to obey the tsar just as they obeyed God.

Neatly score through the wrong italic word or phrase to leave the correct statement.

9. Landowners were wealthy because of the work of the peasants/workers.
10. Factory owners were members of the working class/middle class.
11. The Russian Orthodox Church supported/opposed the tsar.
The pyramid below shows what Russian society was like. The tsar was at the top of society.
From what you have read, fill in the three boxes with the following sections of society:
Peasants landowners, middle class and Church Industrial workers

In Russia the tsar’s government had complete control.
The tsar had all the power. The people were expected to do as they were told. The Okhrana were the tsar’s secret police. Those who disagreed or stood up to the tsar could be imprisoned, tortured or shot by the Okhrana.
Some people were determined to change Russia by bringing about a revolution. There were a number of revolutionary groups in Russia.

  • The most famous revolutionary was Lenin. Lenin was the leader of the Bolshevik Party. The Bolsheviks believed that the working class should take over the country’s wealth. Then they would share out the wealth equally. When the working class ruled Russia a perfect society, called Communism, would be created.

Bloody Sunday took place in 1905. Workers held a peaceful march to the tsar’s Winter Palace but were fired on by soldiers. One hundred innocent people were killed.

  • This led to the 1905 Revolution as workers in the cities came out on strike. Peasants attacked the landowners. Sailors mutinied and took over the battleship Potemkin. It looked as if the people might even try to get rid of the tsar. The tsar gave in and announced the October Manifesto.

  • The October Manifesto said that Russia was to have a parliament, a Duma, which some people were allowed to vote for. But the tsar kept most of the power. The workers and peasants stopped protesting and returned to their jobs.

Changes were made which helped some Russians. For example, the tsar’s new prime minister, Alexander Stolypin, encouraged peasants to become Kulaks. Kulaks were richer peasants who were allowed to own their farms. Little changed for the majority of Russians and most peasants and the industrial workers remained poor and unhappy.
Fill in the blanks by using some of the words in bold in the passage above.

  1. In Russia all p________ belonged to the tsar. The secret police, known as the O__________, arrested anyone who was against the tsar.

  1. Some people wanted to change this by starting a r_______________. L_________ led the B_____________ Party. He wanted the w___________ class to take over the government. This would bring about a perfect society known as C________________.

  1. In 1905 the events of B__________ S____________ led to a revolution. The tsar set up a parliament, the D______, which some Russians were allowed to v_____ for.

  1. The new prime minister, P________ S___________, allowed some peasants to become K_________ meaning they were allowed to own their farms. But for most Russians there was little change.

The First World War
The First World War broke out in 1914.
Russia, Britain and France were on one side. Germany and Austria were on the other. But Russia suffered one military defeat after another. By 1917 over 4 million of its soldiers had been killed or injured. As the tsar was in command of the army he was blamed for the losses.
The war also caused great economic hardship for the workers and peasants. There were food shortages in the cities and countryside as there were not enough men to look after the farms.
Nicholas went off to lead the army so was no longer in Petrograd (the new name for the capital, St Petersburg). He left his wife, Alexandra, in charge of running the government. Alexandra fell under the control of a monk called Rasputin. Rasputin caused her to make a number of unwise decisions. The royal family got a bad reputation which continued even after Rasputin was murdered in 1916.
By 1917 most Russians wanted the war to end. Almost everyone, especially the soldiers, workers and peasants were suffering in a number of ways.

  1. Why were Russian soldiers unhappy with the war?

  1. Why did they blame the tsar for this?

  1. Why did the workers and peasants suffer?

  1. Why were there not enough men to work on the farms during the war?

  1. The tsar was away from Petrograd because he was in command of the a______. He left his wife A_____________ in charge of the country. But she was under the control of R__________. So it is no surprise that most Russians thought that R___________ was running the country.

  1. People hated the war. What could the tsar do if he wanted to make himself popular?

The first revolution: the February Revolution of 1917
In February 1917 the first revolution broke out in Petrograd. People protested over the shortage of bread and fuel caused by the war.
Protests and demonstrations were put down by the tsar’s army. This time many of the soldiers joined the demonstrators. As the army could no longer protect him the tsar was forced to abdicate, meaning he gave up his throne. There had to be a new government for Russia.
Two governments appeared to replace the tsar. The new official government was called the Provisional Government. It took over from the Tsar and the upper and middle class supported it. The Provisional Government continued to fight in the war.
The second new government was the Petrograd Soviet. The Petrograd Soviet was a council under the control of soldiers, workers and peasants. They voted for the Soviet (council) members. We can say that the Soviet was the unofficial government. It took some control over the army.
Complete the following sentences by using the information above.

  1. The people of Petrograd were short of _______________________.

  1. Many soldiers joined the _________________________________.

  1. Because of this the tsar was forced to _______________________.

  1. The Provisional Government was the ________________________.

  1. The Provisional Government continued to ____________________.

  1. The Soviet was voted for by the ____________________________.

Lenin returned to Russia to lead a second revolution. He reached Petrograd in April 1917 and with the help of other Bolsheviks (Communists) started speaking to crowds of soldiers, workers and peasants.

Lenin set out his aims in a document called the April Theses. Lenin made three promises: to end the war; to get rid of the factory owners; and to give all the land to the peasants.

  • He urged the ordinary people to get rid of the Provisional Government. The Soviet should be the official government of Russia.

For the Russian people this was a very confused period. Most were unhappy that the Provisional Government continued in the war against Germany. By the autumn of 1917 the Bolsheviks got more support and even formed their own army, the Red Guard.

  1. Lenin’s aims were set out in a document called the A________ T________.

  1. Lenin promised the soldiers that he would end _______________.

  1. Lenin promised the workers that he would get _________________________.

  1. Lenin promised the peasants that he would give _________________________.

  1. Lenin urged the Russians people to get rid of the P______________ G______________.

The second revolution: the October Revolution of 1917
During 1917 the Provisional Government lost much support.
Under the Provisional Government, Russia was still losing the war. There was still a food and fuel shortage. Even after the tsar had gone conditions for the people were as bad as ever.
Lenin thought it was time for the Bolsheviks to replace the Provisional Government. The Bolsheviks controlled the Soviets in Petrograd and Moscow. Leon Trotsky led the Red Guard. He was told to plan the take-over of Petrograd. He was to arrest the members of the Provisional Government.
In October 1917 the Red Guard took control of Petrograd in one night. Lenin announced himself leader of a new Bolshevik government. Soon Lenin had complete power. After only a week the Bolsheviks controlled the most important places in Russia.
Lenin quickly pulled Russia out of the war with Germany. This was popular but even so most Russians did not support the Bolsheviks. In the first elections, held in 1917, only 25% voted for them. Lenin banned all the other political parties. Those who opposed him were imprisoned or shot by the CHEKA, the new secret police.
Neatly score out the four wrong sentences below OR shade in the eight correct ones with a marker pen:

  1. Under the Provisional Government Russia was winning the war.

  1. Under the Provisional Government many people felt little had changed.

  1. Lenin planned to replace the tsar’s government.

  1. Lenin planned to replace the Provisional Government.

  1. The Bolsheviks’ army was known as the Red Army.

  1. Leon Trotsky was an important Bolshevik.

  1. Petrograd was captured in one night by the Red Guard.

  1. Soon Lenin shared power with the Provisional Government.

  1. Soon Lenin had complete power in Russia.

  1. Lenin pulled Russia out of the war against Germany.

  1. Most Russians voted for the Bolsheviks in the elections of 1917.

  1. Russians were not allowed to disagree with Lenin and the Bolsheviks.

The Civil War, 1918–21
A brutal civil war broke out in Russia in 1918. A civil war is a war between two sides in the same country. Those who disagreed with the Bolsheviks got together to fight against them.
As the Bolsheviks were known as the Reds those who fought against them were called the Whites. Some Whites wanted the tsar back in power. The civil war lasted until 1921. The Red Army, led by Trotsky, defeated the Whites. The Bolsheviks remained the rulers of Russia.
During the three years of war Lenin kept control of Russia by a policy called War Communism. Under War Communism the Bolshevik government kept strict control of the workers’ lives. The government took away the peasants’ crops and cattle by force. The food was needed for the Red Army and the workers in the cities.
Rather than put up with this, many peasants hid their crops and killed their animals. Food production went down and conditions became worse. Such was the disruption caused by the civil war that many peasants starved as the government took away their crops.
The civil war ended in 1921. Because so many Russians were unhappy with War Communism, Lenin had to make some changes. In 1921 he introduced the New Economic Policy. This allowed the peasants to own the land. The government still owned most major industries, but small industries could be privately owned. Soon Russia was able to feed itself again.
Despite this, the CHEKA continued to arrest and imprison those who opposed the Bolsheviks. Lenin died in 1924.
Fill in the blanks by using some of the words in the passage above.

  1. A c_____ w____ broke out in Russia in 1_____.

  1. This war was between the R____ (another name for the B__________) and the W______ some of whom wanted the t_____ to return.

  1. The well trained R___ A______ won the civil war in 1_____.

  1. During the three years of war Lenin used the policy of W___ C_______________ to provide food for the army and the workers. This meant that the food the peasants produced was taken by f_______.

  1. The peasants fought back by hiding their c______ and killing their a__________.

  1. When the war ended in 1921 Lenin brought in the N____ E_______________ P_______ to keep the peasants happy. They were allowed to o____ their land.

  1. The C______ arrested anyone who o___________ Lenin. He died in ______.

Make a timeline
You have just worked through A Short History of Russia. This has given you a good basic knowledge of this course.
Create a timeline of the events of Russian history, 1894–1921. In the box next to each date write down the event that made the date important. Some answers might be longer than others.



February 1917

October 1917



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