Russian Revolution Questions



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Russian Revolution Questions





  1. Explain why Alexander III rejected reforms. What methods did he use to maintain his authority over the Russian people?

He wanted to strengthen “autocracy, orthodoxy, and nationality.” To maintain authority, he imposed strict censorship codes on published materials and written documents, including private letters. He used secret police to watch secondary schools and universities. He received detailed reports on students and exiled political prisoners to Siberia.
He oppressed minority groups by forbidding the use of minority languages in schools, he didn’t allow Jews to buy land or live among other Russians, and set university quotas for Jewish students. Alexander also organized pograms against Jews, allowing Russian citizens to loot and destroy Jewish homes, stores, and synagogues.


  1. Since the rapid expansion of Russian industry helped the country prosper, why did industrialization lead to unrest?

Russian industrialization caused unrest because it created harsh conditions, necessitated long working hours, produced low wages, and instituted child labor. Yet it provided no ability for workers to join trade unions, and ultimately increased the gap between the rich and the poor. In essence, it was the rapid industrialization that led to Marx’s “dictatorship of the proletariat.”



  1. Describe the impact of Russia’s defeat in the Russo-Japanese War.

Social unrest, raid on the Winter Palace 1/22/1905, formation of the Duma.


  1. Discuss the social impact of the Great War on the Russian home front.

It evealed the weaknesses of Czarist rule and military dictatorship. 4 million Russians killed in first year of war. Food and fuel supplies dwindled and prices were heavily inflated. Average Russians wanted the war to end.


  1. Describe the events that led Czar Nicholas II to abdicate the throne as well as the nature of the provisional government that replaced his regime.

Women textile workers in Petrograd led a citywide strike in March 1917, provoking riots over bread and fuel shortages. Soldiers were ordered to shoot the rioters, but as 200,000 workers swarmed the streets, the soldiers sided with the workers, joined the rebellion, and fired at their commanding officers.
In response to this March Revolution, Czar Nicholas abdicated his throne, and he was executed, along with his family.


  1. Who was Alexander Kerensky and why did his government fail?

Alexander Kerensky was born in Simbirsk, Russia, on 22nd April, 1881. The son of a headmaster, Kerensky studied law at the University of St. Petersburg.

In 1905 Kerensky joined the Socialist Revolutionary Party (SR) and became editor of the radical newspaper, Burevestik. He was soon arrested and sent into exile. He returned to St. Petersburg in 1906 and found work as a lawyer. Over the next few years he developed a reputation for defending radicals in court who had been accused of political offenses.


Kerensky joined the Russian Labor Party and in 1912 was elected to the State Duma. A socialist, Kerensky developed a strong following amongst industrial workers. He also played an important role in the exposure of Roman Malinovsky, one of the leaders of the Bolsheviks, as an undercover agent of the Okhrana.
In February, 1917, Kerensky announced he had rejoined the Socialist Revolutionary Party and called for the removal of Nicholas II. When Alexandra Fyodorovna heard the news she wrote to her husband and demanded that he be hung as a traitor.
When the Tsar abdicated on 13th March, a Provisional Government, headed by Prince George Lvov, was formed. Kerensky was appointed as Minister of Justice in the new government and immediately introduced a series of reforms including the abolition of capital punishment. He also announced basic civil liberties such as freedom of the press, the abolition of ethnic and religious discrimination and made plans for the introduction of universal suffrage.
In May, 1917, Kerensky became Minister of War and appointed General Alexei Brusilov as the Commander in Chief of the Russian Army. He toured the Eastern Front where he made a series of emotional speeches where he appealed to the troops to continue fighting an on 18th June, Kerensky announced a new war offensive.
It was Kerensky’s continued support of the war in the face of steadily worsening conditions in Russia that caused his government to fail. Encouraged by the Bolsheviks, who favored peace negotiations, both civilians (angry peasants who wanted more land) and soldiers demonstrated against Kerensky in Petrograd.


  1. How and Why did the Germans arrange Lenin’s return to Russia in 1917?

The Germans arranged Lenin’s return to Russia after he had been exiled for many years because they believed that Lenin and the Bolsheviks would stir unrest in Russia and hinder the Russian War Effort.


  1. What was Lenin's view of the state? Who would be the ruling class? What did he mean by "the dictatorship of the proletariat?"

Before 1875, Marx said little about what in practice would characterize a “dictatorship of the proletariat,” believing that planning in advance the details of a future socialist system constituted the fallacy of "utopian socialism." Thus, Marx used the term very infrequently.

When he did use it, the term "dictatorship" describes control by an entire class, rather than a single sovereign individual (dictator rei gerendae causa), over another class. In this way, according to Marx, the bourgeois state, being a system of class rule, amounts to a 'dictatorship of the bourgeoisie.' In the same sense, when the workers take state power into their hands, they become the new ruling classes. The workers, in other words, rule in their own interest, using the apparatuses of the courts, schools, prisons, and police in a manner required to prevent the bourgeoisie from regrouping and mounting a counterrevolution. Marx expected the victorious workers to be democratic and open in dealings with one another. Theirs is to be a dictatorship of and by, not over, the proletariat.
According to Marx, after the proletariat would take state power, it will aim to eliminate the old social relations of production, and replace these relations by placing the means of production and state apparatus under proletariat control, thus paving the way for the abolition of class distinctions and a classless communist society. He viewed the "dictatorship of the proletariat" as only an intermediate stage, believing that the need for the use of state power of the working class over its enemies would disappear once the classless society had emerged.
Although Marx did not plan out the details of how such a dictatorship would be implemented, earlier in The Civil War in France (1871), his analysis based upon the experience of the Paris Commune of 1871, Marx pointed to the Commune as a model of transition to communism.

Later, Frederick Engels, in his 1891 postscript to the Civil War in France stressed the dismantling of the state apparatus, the decentralization of power and popular democratic control over and management of civil society. The pamphlet praised the democratic features of the Paris Commune, arguing that the working class, once in power, had to "do away with all the old repressive machinery previously used against it itself," and that it must "safeguard itself against its own deputies and officials, by declaring them all, without exception, subject to recall at any moment." [1] The 1891 postscript defended the concept of a "dictatorship of the proletariat" by relating it to the Commune:


The "dictatorship of the proletariat" since Lenin

The Paris Commune was short-lived, and no other serious attempt at implementing Marx's ideas was made during his lifetime. After Marx, Vladimir Lenin discussed the concept of the "dictatorship of the proletariat" in The State and Revolution (1917), elaborating his proposals for putting it into practice. Lenin believed that the political form of the Paris Commune was revived in the councils of workers and soldiers that appeared after the 1905 Russian Revolution that called themselves soviets. Their task, according to Lenin, was to overthrow the capitalist state and establish socialism, the stage preceding communism.




  1. According to Lenin, when would real communism be established? What was the difference between socialism and communism?

The role of the revolutionary party, in his case the Bolsheviks, was to serve as a "vanguard of the proletariat," which would start the revolution when the time was right and lead the soviets to victory. Lenin argued that since trade unions are inevitably reformist, seeking only an accommodation with capitalists to improve the lot of their members, revolutionary activity on behalf of the proletariat requires the vanguard of a revolutionary party. The party will then impose a "dictatorship of the proletariat," assisting the workers to transcend their 'trade-union consciousness' by developing a 'true revolutionary class consciousness,' and thus eliminate the intra-class divisions that impede the development of communism.


After the revolution, Lenin envisioned a form of government he called soviet democracy (as opposed to parliamentary democracy). The principle of soviet democracy was that the local workers' soviets would elect representatives that would go on to form regional soviets, which would in turn elect representatives that would form higher soviets, and so on up to a supreme soviet, the highest legislative body of the entire country.

The Stalinists, however, later used the concept to justify a new concentration of power. Critics, including anti-communists but also Trotskyist communists, non-Leninist Marxists and anarcho-communists, contend that this principle has been used as a justification for granting sweeping powers to a new ruling elite.



  1. Why did Lenin accept the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk? What were its provisions? How did the average citizen react to Russia's major territorial losses?

On the 3rd December 1917 a conference between a Russian delegation, headed by Leon Trotsky and German and Austrian representatives began at Brest-Litovsk. Trotsky had the difficult task of trying to end Russian participation in the First World War without having to grant territory to the Central Powers. By employing delaying tactics Trotsky hoped that socialist revolutions would spread from Russia to Germany and Austria-Hungary before he had to sign the treaty.


After nine weeks of discussions without agreement, the German Army was ordered to resume its advance into Russia. On 3rd March 1918, with German troops moving towards Petrograd, Vladimir Lenin ordered Trotsky to accept the German terms. The Brest-Litovsk Treaty resulted in the Russians surrendering the Ukraine, Finland, the Baltic provinces, the Caucasus and Poland.
The humiliating terms of the treaty triggered widespread anger among Russians who objected to the Bolsheviks and their policies.


  1. Which groups resisted the new Communist regime in the civil war that broke out at the end of 1918?

The White Army opposed the Bolshevik Red Army that was led by Leon Trotsky. Trotsky quickly established the Red Army to fight the White Army during the Civil War by recruiting a large number of officers from the old army. He was criticized for this but he argued that it would be impossible to fight the war without the employment of experienced army officers.




  1. What role did the Allied governments play in this conflict?

The United States and several Western nations sent military aid and forces to Russia to help the White Army. But Allied intervention was of dubious value: foreign arms and supplies aided the Whites, but were insufficient to insure victory and let the Reds pose as defenders of Mother Russia.


  1. What factors helped the Bolsheviks triumph?

Bolshevik propaganda portrayed White generals (wrongly) as reactionary tools of Western imperialism, and (more correctly) as aiming to restore the landlords. Conversely, the Reds possessed able leadership, a disciplined party, clever propaganda, and a flexible policy of national self-determination. The Red Army had central positions, better discipline, and numerical superiority. Retaining worker support in the central industrial region, the Bolsheviks won the Civil War as they had won power in 1917 with superior leadership, unity, and purpose.


One specific factor in the Bolsheviks success was the introduction of conscription in June 1918 due to heavy losses to the volunteer army. Vladimir Lenin was impressed by Trotsky's achievements and in 1919 remarked to Maxim Gorky: "Show me another man who could have practically created a model army in a year and won respect of the military specialist as well."
Finally, The Whites lacked coordination, and were plagued by personal rivalries among their leaders. They denounced Bolshevism, but affirmed nothing. Denikin and Kolchak were moderates, who lacked effective political or economic programs. Their slogan: "A united and indivisible Russia" alienated national minorities, and played into Bolshevik hands. White generals made military blunders, but their political mistakes and disunity proved decisive. As such, the failed leadership of the White Army paled in comparison to that of Leon Trotsky, an outstanding military commander who led his five million man army to victory and in doing so ensured the survival of the Bolshevik government.


  1. What were the net results of the "Terror" and civil war for Russia?

Nearly 15 million Russians died in the civil war and the subsequent famine. The Revolution also destroyed the Russian economy. As industrial production declined, many skilled workers emigrated to other nations. The destruction and loss of life from fighting, hunger, and a worldwide flu epidemic left Russia in chaos.


  1. What were the major components of Lenin's N. E. P.? How was it a major turning point in the development of Communist Russia?

Lenin launched the New Economic Policy in March 1921. Rather than the state controlled economy that Lenin had envisioned, the NEP was in fact a small scale version of capitalism in which peasants were allowed to sell their surplus crops on the market instead of turning them over to the government. Individuals were also allowed to buy and sell consumer goods for profit, although the government maintained control of major industries, banks, and modes of communication.
Some small factories, businesses, and farms were allowed to operate privately, and Lenin encouraged some foreign investment. Even though his new policies allowed the USSR to slowly recover, Lenin had created a dictatorship of the Communist Party rather than a dictatorship of the proletariat and the Party held all the power.


  1. How did the Communist Party govern the Soviet Union in the early 1920s?

Lenin had several strokes in 1922 and ultimately died in 1924. His successor, Joseph Stalin, dramatically transformed the government to control every aspect of citizens’ public and private lives.
Having consolidated power between 1922 and 1927, and after placing several of his supporters in key positions, Stalin took total command of the Communist Party in 1928. Stalin reversed Lenin’s New Economic Policy, which was a mixture of free enterprise and state control, and replaced the NEP with a totalitarian command economy in which the government made all economic decisions. Under this system, Communist Party leaders identified the country’s economic needs and determined how to fulfill them. For example, Party officials chose the workers, assigned their jobs, and determined their working hours. Workers were required to secure police permission to relocate and anyone who did not contribute to the Soviet economy risked imprisonment or execution by the secret police.
To modernize the Soviet state, Stalin ushered in revolutions in industry and agriculture. To modernize industry, the government launched an aggressive Five Year Plan to promote rapid industrial growth and to strengthen national defense. To meet it’s incredible goals to increase the output of steel, coal, oil, and electricity, the government limited production of consumer goods. Severe housing, food, and clothing shortages resulted.
To modernize agriculture, Stalin seized over 25 million privately owned farms and combined them into government owned collectives on which hundreds of families worked to produce food for the state. Peasants resisted the government’s efforts by killing livestock and destroying crops. To quell the revolts, Soviet secret police herded peasant farmers onto the collectives by bayonet. Upwards of 10 million peasants died as a result of Stalin’s agricultural revolution and millions more were shipped to Siberia.
Eventually, Stalin’s plans took root. By 1938, 90% of all peasants lived on collective farms that year the country produced twice the wheat than it had in 1928 prior to the advent of collective farming.

___________________________________________________________________Warwick High School 20th Century Topics



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