Unit F965: Historical Interpretations and Investigations
One piece of work up to 2,000 words long, based on the examination of a number of historians’ interpretations in the context of the candidate’s knowledge of the area of debate:
Russian Revolutions 1894-1924
The Interpretations element requires candidates to comprehend, analyse and evaluate the ways in which the past has been interpreted in debates between historians. This may be historiographically based or it may reflect different emphases and approaches by different historians, some of whom may have been writing in widely different periods. The passages on which the questions are based are taken from the work of recognised historians and are long enough to provide plenty of opportunity for candidates to assess and evaluate the arguments using their analytical skills and their knowledge of the topic. They can show that they can discriminate between different interpretations to reach a supported judgement on the issue into which they are making their enquiry. Candidates build on and develop the skills used in the Historical Enquiries undertaken in their AS studies. They have the opportunity to develop their arguments to sophisticated levels given the nature of the questions.
For an outline of the core debates see Appendix A
For an extensive reading list see Appendix B
For board set Interpretations see Appendix C
One piece of work up to 2,000 words long, comprising a personal investigation by the candidate. This will be based on a problem or issue about which there is a variety of views.
The Investigations element gives candidates some choice over the topic to be investigated as long as they do not choose topics which they have already studied at AS or which they are studying for the Themes Unit. Candidates will choose either an approved OCR Investigation question [See Appendix D] related to the topic selected for their Interpretation element, or they will adapt a generic OCR question so that they can study a particular area of personal interest [See Appendix E]
The role of the individual in History
Cultural and Intellectual History
The nature of regimes or societies
Candidates need to make a choice which ensures their studies for this unit are coherent. Not all candidates from the same centre may answer the same Investigation question. OCR requires centres to inform coursework moderators which topics candidates have studied for other units, to ensure these provisions are met.
The investigation is problem-based and questions conform to this requirement. They focus on recognised historical debates or on issues where different viewpoints can be put forward and candidates can reach an argued conclusion based on analysis in relation to the historical context. There are appropriate resources for the topics so that all candidates can have access to them. The nature of the questions means that candidates will be appropriately challenged in writing their answers
Investigations may be undertaken on the same topic as the Interpretations, but obviously on a different aspect. The Board will provide questions on each topic.
Russian Revolutions 1894-1924
Ever since the Revolutions of 1917, enormous debates have surrounded the background to those Revolutions and the immediate consequences. Two important personalities, Nicholas II and Lenin, merit much attention and the issue of how far individuals have shaped history. Then again, larger forces - such as the impact of war and mass unrest – have to be balanced against the role of individuals. Debate continues, no matter the effects of the openness of Russian and other ex-USSR archives since c1989.
1. The significance of the 1905 Revolution.
When explaining the 1905 revolution most are agreed on the causes of 1905, though some focus more on the short-term impact of the War of 1904-5, others on structural factors and others on the personal impact of Nicholas II.
There are different explanations as to why Nicholas II survived and significance of the outcome of the Revolution. There is a debate about the seriousness of the threat to Nicholas II. Some see it as a genuine attempt at revolution; others as a series of revolts, widespread but inchoate.
There has been much argument over any parallels between 1905 and 1917: Lenin saw it as a ‘dress rehearsal’; few would agree. Recently, there has been argument that the Revolution should be styled ‘1905-6’, with a focus on consequences well into 1906, if not 1907. It has been argued that much spilt over in 1906, with issues only resolved then.
2. How strong was the Tsarist system before and in 1914?
Even if the Tsar survived that does not mean his position was firmly secured. There has been much argument over the actual strength (or weakness) of Tsardom on the eve of the First World War. Some see it as robust enough, popular, supported and secure. Others believe it was living on borrowed time, facing growing unrest c1911-13, linked in (large) part to underlying structural weaknesses. That said, few would accord that much credence to the strength of opposition from the Left, not least the rather insignificant Bolshevik Party. However there is some debate about how the party developed and grew before 1914.
There are arguments also over the importance of Stolypin’s reforms of 1906-11 and over the recovery or otherwise of the economy. There is debate about the significance and effectiveness of changes after 1906. Some see the land reforms as likely to have led to a conservative landowning peasantry, with a very different role and place in society. Others see the reforms as ineffective and too small in scale. Some see industrial growth as likely to lead to modernisation; others see it as simply adding to Russia’s social problems with an increase in urban slums and revolutionary activity. Some see the Dumas as the possible birth of Russian parliamentary rule; others see it as merely a sham.
3. How important was the First World War to the collapse of the Tsarist system?
Essentially, the War either precipitated collapse, speeding up existing trends, or was the sole cause of collapse. Most agree on the nature of the War and its many problems, structural deficiencies being exposed. But some see Nicholas II as a key player in the collapse while others see him swept along by almost impossible factors and forces. Attention focuses on 1916 - early 1917 and on the actual fall of the Tsar. All countries involved in the war faced strains, but the debate centres on whether the sheer scale of the war made these strains greater in Russia or whether the existing weaknesses of the regime and the limitations of its ruler were key issues.
4. The significance of the Revolutions of 1917 and the issue of how the Bolsheviks got into power in October 1917.
The causes of the Revolutions of February and October 1917 have excited much debate. Some argue that the Tsar was forced from power by massive popular unrest; others that he was forced out by the political elite, in an attempt to save themselves. There is argument over the meaning of ‘revolution’ throughout this period as there is over the brief flourishing of democracy. Lenin looms large from April 1917. His importance is undeniable, but there has been much dispute as to the extent of that importance. To some, he was all important. To others, he was no more important than other Bolsheviks, not least Trotsky. The complex relationship of Lenin and Trotsky figures here and the latter has been seen as important as Lenin in the events of October (the Military Revolutionary Committee, and the planning of the take over, for example). All the big events between April and October are debated. And the events of October 1917 are seen as either a mass, popular uprising or a coup by the vanguard elite, staging a conspiratorial coup rather than a true revolution.
5. The importance of the Civil War to Bolshevik survival and the creation of a dictatorship.
Once in power, Lenin had to legitimise his rule and it was the consequences of this that led on to vicious civil war. Some argue that the civil war arose naturally from spontaneous opposition; others that it was sought actively by Lenin. Some argue that dictatorship arose accidentally; others that it was the natural goal of Lenin and indeed inherent in Marxist-Leninism. The same is true of the Red Terror which Lenin pursued, either it was a necessity or inherent in Lenin’s thinking. Focus has also extended to the White as well as the Red Terror. There is debate over the origins and effectiveness of War Communism as over the switch to the N.E.P. in 1921. How far the Reds won the Civil War or the Whites lost that War is an over-arching debate area. And attention has been given to the Greens as well as Reds and Whites and debate attached to the Peasant Revolts of 1920-1921 and the Kronstadt Mutiny of 1921. The mixture of economically liberal elements in the N.E.P. and a clearly dictatorial, illiberal political regime emerging from the Civil War has been debated: how and why was it that Lenin could pursue a policy such as the N.E.P. at a time when he was being severe politically? And the complex relationship of Lenin and Trotsky is another factor here. This axis had much importance to the winning of the Civil War. Trotsky has been seen as pivotal, as much as Lenin. They appeared to need each other but relations were never easy, not least in 1920-1. Yet they allied over the issue of Stalin and Georgia just as they disagreed over the nature and direction of the Party c1921-22. Trotsky was downgraded in Soviet writings but resurrected in role and importance in Cold War era writings. Perhaps he has been over-rated; perhaps not.
Resources (including texts that may be used in the three Interpretation questions)
E. Acton ‘Re-thinking the Russian Revolution’ (Edward Arnold, 1990)
E. Acton ‘Russia: The Tsarist and Soviet Legacy’ (2nd ed., London, 1995)
E. Acton and T. Stableford, ‘Documents on Russia’ Vol. I (1917-1940) (Exeter U. P.,
E. Acton, W. G. Rosenberg, V. Cherniaev,
‘Critical Companion to the Russian Revolution
1917-1921’ (Hodder & Stoughton, 2001)
A. Ascher ‘P. A. Stolypin’ (London, 2001)
C. Corin and T. Fiehn, ‘Communist Russia under Lenin and Stalin’ (John Murray, 2002)
R. W. Davies ‘From Tsarism to the New Economic Policy’ (London, 1991)
M. Ferro ‘October 1917: A Social History’ (London, 1980)
O. Figes ‘A People’s Tragedy: The Russian Revolution 1891-1924’
S. Fitzpatrick ‘The Russian Revolution 1917-1932’ (2nd ed., O.U.P., 1994)
P. Gatrell ‘The Tsarist Economy 1850-1917’ (London, 1966)
R. Gellately ‘Lenin, Stalin and Hitler’ (London, 2007)
J. Hite ‘Tsarist Russia 1801-1917’ (Causeway Press, 1989)
G. Hosking ‘A History of the Soviet Union’ (Harper Collins, 1985)
G. Hosking ‘Russia: People and Empire’ (London, 1997)
J. F. Hutchinson ‘Late Imperial Russia 1890-1917’ (Longman, 1999)
P Kenez ‘A History of the Soviet Union’ (C. U. P., 1999)
D. R. Marples ‘Lenin’s Revolution: Russia 1917-1921’ (Longman, 2000)
M. McCauley ‘The Soviet Union 1917-1991’ (Longman, 1993)
M. McCauley ‘Russia 1917-1941’ (Sempringham, 1997)
R. Pipes ‘Russia under the Bolshevik Regime’ (London, 1994)
R. Pipes ‘Concise History of the Russian Revolution’ (London, 1995)
R. Pipes ‘Three Whys of the Russian Revolution’ (London, 1998)
R. Pipes ‘The Russia Revolution’ (London, 1990)
R. Pipes ‘The Unknown Lenin’ (Yale U. P., 1996)
R. Sakwa ‘Rise and Fall of the Soviet Union 1917-91’ (Routledge, 1999)
R. Service ‘A History of Twentieth Century Russia’ (Allen Lane, 1997)
R. Service ‘The Russian Revolution 1900-1927’ (2nd ed., Macmillan, 1991)
R. Service ‘Lenin’ (London, 2000)
I. Thatcher ‘Late Imperial Russia’ (London, 2005)
I. Thatcher ‘Trotsky’ (Routledge, 2002)
D. Volkogonov ‘Lenin’s Life and Legacy’ (London, 1994)
J. White ‘Lenin’ (Palgrave, 2001)
B. Williams ‘The Russian Revolution 1917-1921’ (Blackwell, Oxford, 1987)
A. Wood ‘The Russian Revolution’ (2nd ed., Longman, 2003)
15a. The Tsarist system before 1914.
Using these four passages and your own knowledge, assess the view that the reforms passed after
1905 made the Tsarist regime more secure by 1914. [40 marks]
Interpretation A: This historian argues that there is evidence of change and challenge in the period
1907-14; there was some success and some failure for the regime.
In the Third duma (1907-12) the focal position was held by the Union of 17 October (the date of the
imperial manifesto of 1905), which was committed to working with the government for reform in the
agrarian field, civil rights, education, workers’ insurance, justice and local government. Stolypin’s
agrarian reform, passed irregularly under emergency decree in 1906, was endorsed by them. The
nobility, which had supported Stolypin’s agrarian reform, opposed him on a number of other issues
where they felt their interests or that of the monarchy threatened and they used their dominant
position in the upper house, the ‘State Council’, where many of the reform measures adopted by the
duma were blocked. If the duma had few successful reforms to its credit, it did change enormously
the climate of Russian politics by bringing official abuses out into the open, and by forcing public
discussion of contentious issues. From 1912 there was a resurgence of workers’ movements
following the massacre of protesters at the Lena gold mines in Siberia. Ultimately, this led to the
erection of barricades and to street fighting in St Petersburg on the eve of the First World War.
From: G. Hosking, ‘Russia in Crisis’, published in 1978.
Interpretation B: This historian argues that the Tsarist system faced growing challenges by 1912-
14, yet these may not have been that threatening; the regime had problems but the opposition was
Visions of a new era of industrial peace and prosperity were rudely shattered by a fresh wave of
labour protest that began in April, 1912, when hundreds of striking workers were shot by soldiers in
the Lena valley goldfields of eastern Siberia. Strikes continued throughout 1913, and during the first
six months of 1914 more than a million workers went on strike, with political as well as economic
issues figuring among their demands. Was this escalating labour militancy evidence of mounting
social instability in urban Russia? Had it not been for the outbreak of war, might the tsarist regime
have collapsed in late 1914, rather than early 1917? These questions have been debated at length
by historians of Russia, most of whom would now agree that the revival of militancy, while
undeniably important, was scarcely the beginning of an organized revolutionary effort. It
demonstrated beyond question that the regime was incapable of devising and pursuing an
imaginative and flexible labour policy. In addition, it furnished dramatic evidence of the shortsightedness
of employers, and of the police and military officials who reinforced their authority. Yet
in St Petersburg especially, the degree of unrest was neither uniform nor seriously revolutionary:
Western historians have disproved earlier Soviet claims that the militancy was planned or directed
by the Bolsheviks; nor, for that matter, was it the work of other socialist parties. The typical pre-war
militant in the Imperial capital was likely to be a skilled metal-worker who distrusted intelligentsia
organizers as much as he despised policemen and factory inspectors. Nevertheless, the
Bolsheviks, with their maximalist programme, appeared closer to the militant mood of Russian
workers than did the Mensheviks or the SRs.
From: J. F. Hutchinson, Imperial Russia 1890-1917, published in 1999.
Interpretation C: This historian argues that the 1905 Revolution’s aftermath provides evidence of
minimal changes; the regime had its problems but the opposition was poor.
Was the 1905 Revolution a failure? Clearly it had failed as a revolution since it did not bring about a
change of ruler. It did alter somewhat the way in which Russia was ruled and brought into question
the autocratic powers of the tsar. But there was no unity of purpose among the groups that took to
the streets in St Petersburg. There was little middle ground between a Milyukov and a Trotsky, or
between a Shipov and a Milyukov. The revolution collapsed ultimately because the government’s
concessions divided the liberals, who were unsure of what exactly they were fighting for and
repelled by the excesses and more extreme aims of the socialists. The Social Democrats had not
anticipated the upheaval, and of the leading figures in the party, only Trotsky played a brief role in
the revolutionary actions. Nonetheless, 1905 was a highly significant event: it led to the formation of
a Duma and it saw the initiation of the St Petersburg Soviet, which was to play a pivotal role in
1917. The government, in turn, had suffered a grave shock and would try to recover. Even before
the Duma met in May 1906, the government had taken advantage of the more peaceful situation to
make some counter-moves. Chief among these was the issuance of the Fundamental Laws, which
could only be altered with the express permission of the tsar. The Fundamental Laws were
intended to be an impediment to the operation of the Duma and the concessions granted during the
October days of 1905. The Duma, thus opposed, had no opportunity to become a Constituent
Assembly, as the Kadets had wished. Much of the optimism of 1905 had disappeared therefore by
the spring of 1906.
From: D. R. Marples, Lenin’s Russia 1917-21, published in 2000.
Interpretation D: This historian argues that there is evidence for a stronger regime but that is not
The historians who hold that the Tsarist regime had the potential to reform itself from within point to
‘tendencies’ which might have blossomed in ‘normal’ conditions. Stolypin’s efforts in creating a
more prosperous and socially differentiated peasantry appear to bear fruit; the Russian economy
enjoyed a period of rapid growth between 1909 and 1914; a stable social and political structure was
snatched from the Russian people only by their involvement in the war. The problems with this line
of argument are obvious. However successful Russian industry may have become by 1914, major
problems, amounting to a potential political crisis, were all too apparent. Most new industry was still
financed by foreign capital. And the bourgeoisie which had established itself may have had little
reason to support the regime by 1914, denied as it was from participating in a democratic process,
hindered as often as it was aided by tsarist regulations. Outside the narrow ranks of the Petersburg
elite, peasant discontent and working-class radicalism threatened to boil over into rebellion at any
time. The peasants’ problems do not seem to have been resolved by the Stolypin reforms. In the
cities, rapid and uneven economic development had created new industries, new factories and a
greatly expanded workforce without the infrastructure to support them. All historians agree that its
living and working conditions were among the worst in Europe. By 1905 there were many people in
Russia who were not content to let this situation continue unchallenged. The last decade of
Tsarism was marked by frequent and coherent expressions of worker protest. The regime’s
response, which was usually to use troops, was inflammatory and brutish. Sooner or later, it can be
argued some kind of confrontation on a large scale was almost inevitable.
From: C. Merrivale, ‘The Soviet Revolution’, an essay published in 2002.
15b. The nature of the Bolshevik takeover in October 1917.
Using these four passages and your own knowledge, assess the view that the failures of the
Provisional Government were the main factors in enabling Lenin and the Bolsheviks to seize power.
Interpretation A: This historian argues the Bolsheviks staged a limited coup in October 1917.
The Communists were pioneers in the arts of activating and manipulating the fears and hopes of the
common man. They raised extravagant illusions and held out a promise, certified by the laws of
history to become true, of a world order free from anxiety, hunger, exploitation and, most important,
war. As it turned out, the Bolshevik seizure of power in Petrograd was rather a minor event,
important only in retrospect. The Bolsheviks could not overthrow the previous regime by telegraph
as the Provisional Government had done in March. They had to conquer power in each locality
afresh. This was fairly easy where they possessed solid support in the Great Russian heartland.
But the course of events ran differently in the rural expanses along the mid-Volga, the Ukraine, the
South and in the fringe territories inhabited by non-Slavic peoples. And even when they held power,
they did so tenuously, having to combat not only political enemies as desperate as themselves but
also incredible disorganization, hunger, cold, exhaustion, explosive anarchy and all the miseries of
backwardness compounded by war and revolution. How under these conditions was a small
minority to make itself master of Russia?
From: T. H. Von Laue, Why Lenin? Why Stalin?, published in 1971.
Interpretation B: This historian argues that there was increasing support for Lenin’s programme
after April 1917.
Lenin’s rationale might be beyond most workers and soldiers but his programme was
not. It was disseminated in crisp, clear and hard-hitting propaganda. With the help of energetic
agitation, highly effective mass oratory, and a burgeoning party press, Bolshevism occupied the
ground towards which growing numbers of workers, soldiers and peasants were being drawn by the
frustrations of 1917. The bulk of the party’s new membership was drawn from the industrial
proletariat. Progress was most dramatic where confrontation with employers was direct. It was
symptomatic that Bolsheviks dominated factory committees long before they ousted moderate
socialist leadership from the trade unions, and they captured local district soviets in the capital long
before they gained a majority in the Petrograd Soviet itself. Accurate membership figures are
unavailable, but the Party’s secretariat estimated that from some 23,000 in February 1917 the total
rose to 200,000 by October. The rate of growth was most impressive in the Petrograd area, where
the Party benefited from the feverish atmosphere of the capital. By the summer the Bolsheviks were
making rapid inroads in major cities and industrial complexes across the country. As Menshevik and
SR influence declined in both the army and navy, Bolsheviks cells mushroomed there too, and the
Party developed a whole network of Military Organizations. Much less impact was made on the
peasantry whose goals could be achieved only by direct action at village level. The same was not
true for workers and soldiers. The struggle against employers and for food and raw materials could
only be resolved in their favour with the aid of government action, and the State alone could end the
war. The Bolshevik Party and programme offered a solution. It was against this background of rapid
though uneven radicalisation of the masses that the struggle for political power unfolded. As early
as June, Lenin felt sufficiently confident to tell the first All-Russian Congress of Soviets that his party
was willing to take state power alone.
From: Edward Acton, Russia, published in 1986.
Interpretation C: This historian argues that the Provisional Government was seriously weakened in
the Autumn of 1917.
The Bolsheviks were the principal beneficiaries of the Kornilov crisis, winning their first majority in
the Petrograd Soviet on 31 August. Without the Kornilov movement, they might never have come to
power at all. On 4 September Trotsky was finally released from prison, along with two other
Bolshevik leaders destined to play a prominent part in the seizure of power, Vladimir Antonov-
Ovseenko and P. E. Dybenko. The Bolshevik Military Organization, which had been forced
underground after the July Days, could now expand its subversive activities under the guise of its
leading role in the Committee for Struggle. Indeed, the Military Revolutionary Committee, which led
the Bolshevik seizure of power, was partly modelled on the latter. The Red Guards and the
Kronstadt sailors, who were to be the foot-soldiers in October, also emerged strengthened from the
struggle against Kornilov. The whole affair was a dress rehearsal for the seizure of power, with the
workers, in particular, trained in the art of handling guns. Some 40,000 were armed in the Kornilov
crisis, and most of them no doubt retained their weapons after it was over. As Trotsky put it, ‘the
army that rose against Kornilov was the army-to-be of the October revolution’. Kerensky’s victory
over Kornilov was also his own political defeat. He had won dictatorial powers but lost all real
authority. Beyond the corridors of the Winter Palace, all Kerensky’s decrees were ignored. There
was a vacuum of power; and it was now only a question of who would dare to fill it.
From: O. Figes, A People’s Tragedy: The Russian Revolution, 1891-1924, published in 1996.
Interpretation D: These historians argue that the Provisional Government faced collapse in the
Autumn of 1917 and that the Bolsheviks derived the benefit.
By directly threatening the revolution as it was popularly conceived, the affair gave renewed
momentum to their demands for socialists to take power. Under the impact of the Kornilov affair,
the coalition collapsed for a second time and Kerensky formed a five-man caretaker ‘Directory’. It
was at this moment that, desperate to shore up his radical credentials, Kerensky abandoned the
Provisional Government’s long-standing insistence that only the Constituent Assembly could decide
upon the country’s state form. He declared Russia a republic. Kerensky’s gestures, however, failed
to restore the initiative to the Provisional Government. Moreover, patching the coalition together
again proved almost impossible, so deep now was the left’s suspicion of the Kadets. The Third
Coalition cabinet could not get to grips with the military, social and economic problems it faced.
Exacerbating everything else was an increasingly desperate shortage of food. In party-political
terms, the prime beneficiary of this reaction to the Kornilov affair was the Bolshevik party. The
party’s repeated warnings that coalition with the representatives of ‘the bourgeoisie’ opened the way
to counter-revolution seemed vindicated. The leaders arrested after the July Days were freed and
the charge of German gold was overshadowed by what seemed the treachery of Kornilov and the
High Command. In soviets across the country, the Menshevik/SR leadership which had held sway
since February found it ever harder to resist increasingly militant resolutions.
From: E. Acton and T. Stableford, The Soviet Union: A Documentary History 1917-1940,
published in 2005.
15c. Reasons why the Bolsheviks won the Civil War of 1918-21.
Using these four passages and your own knowledge, assess the view that Bolshevik success in the
Civil War depended more on the weaknesses of the Whites than the strengths of the Reds.
Interpretation A: This historian argues that Whites’ weaknesses can be contrasted with Reds’
Historians whose views are broadly sympathetic to the White cause have often stressed the
‘objective factors’ that were said to have stacked the odds against them. The Reds had an
overwhelming superiority of numbers, they controlled the vast terrain of central Russia with its
prestigious capitals, most of the country’s industry and the core of its railway network, which
enabled them to shift their forces from one Front to another. The Whites, by contrast, were divided
between several different Fronts, which made it difficult to co-ordinate their operations; and they
were dependent on the untrustworthy Allies for much of their supplies. Other historians have
stressed the strategic errors of the Whites, the Moscow Directive foremost among them, and the
Reds’ superior leadership, commitment and discipline. Both the Reds and Whites were constantly
crippled by mass desertion, by the breakdown of supplies, by strikes and peasant revolts in the rear.
But their ability to maintain their campaigns in spite of all these problems depended less on military
factors than on political ones. It was essentially a question of political organization and mass
mobilization. Terror of course also played a role. But by itself terror was not enough – the people
were too many and the regimes too weak to apply it everywhere – and, in any case, terror often
turned out to be counter-productive. Here the Reds had one crucial advantage that enabled them to
get more soldiers on to the battlefield when it really mattered: they could claim to be defending ‘the
revolution’ – a conveniently polyvalent symbol on to which the people could project their own ideas.
Being able to fight under the Red Flag gave the Bolsheviks a decisive advantage. Its symbolic
power largely accounts for the fact that the peasants, including hundreds of thousands of deserters,
rallied to the Red Army during the Whites’ advance towards Moscow in the autumn of 1919. At the
root of the Whites’ defeat was a failure of politics. They proved unable and unwilling to frame
policies capable of getting the mass of the population on their side.
From: O. Figes, A People’s Tragedy: the Russian Revolution, 1891-1924, published in 1996.
Interpretation B: This historian argues that terror tactics were a major feature of Bolshevik
War Communism was characterised by extreme centralisation of production and distribution, the
banning of free trade and good requisitioning from the peasants. Trotsky became one of the most
eloquent exponents of dictatorial centralisation and brutal discipline. Carried away by War
Communism, he advocated unlimited coercion not only to defend the workers’ state but also to
manage it. In early 1920, in connection with the anticipated end of the Civil War, he had suggested
a rethinking of policy, but, once this had been rejected by the party leadership, he veered to the
opposite extreme. War Communism represented the attempt to concentrate the whole economic
life of the country in the hands of the state economic apparatus.
From: R. Sakwa, The Rise and Fall of the Soviet Union, 1917-1991, published in 1999.
Interpretation C: This historian argues that several factors explain Bolshevik success; these
included Whites’ weaknesses.
How were the Bolsheviks able to win the civil war? Perhaps the main reason was their control over
the central heartland of Russia. They had a better system of communications, and controlled a
considerable part of the industrial territories of the former empire. Factories in Petrograd and
Moscow that had been harnessed to the war effort against the Central Powers could easily be
redirected to the needs of the civil war. The Bolsheviks had better organization and, crucially,
leadership. The Whites in turn were divided as to overall leadership and goals. To many
observers they represented the forces of the past. The White leaders had few political goals other
than personal power, which would have resulted in a military dictatorship in some form or other.
Their armies were plentiful but they were widely scattered over a vast territory. They were also
impeded by the Anarchist troops of Makhno. The Bolsheviks ultimately had two additional
advantages. The Whites could only be supplied by foreign powers and once that support was
reduced, their armies faded away. Second, the civil war became at least in part a national struggle.
Bolshevik propaganda emphasized the need to preserve Russia from outside enemies. The
Bolshevik campaign for world revolution was temporarily subsumed by a rally to Russian patriotism.
From: D. R. Marples, Lenin’s Russia, published in 2001.
Interpretation D: This historian argues that Bolshevik success was based on ruthless, centralised
controls, political, economic and military.
The attempt on Lenin’s life was answered with the promulgation of a Red Terror. In some cities,
prisoners were shot out of hand, including 1300 prisoners in Petrograd alone. Fire would be met by
fire: Dzerzhinsky’s Cheka had previously killed on an informal basis and not very often; now their
executions became a general phenomenon. Lenin, as he recovered from his wounds, wrote the
booklet Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade K. Kautsky, in which he advocated dictatorship
and terror. Terror was to be based on the criterion of class. Martyn Latsis, a Cheka functionary,
was in favour of exterminating the entire middle class; and even Lenin made remarks to this effect.
The purpose was to terrify all hostile social groups. Lenin intended that even the regime’s
supporters should be intimidated. According to official records, 12,733 prisoners were killed in the
Cheka in 1918-20; but other estimates put the figure as high as 300,000. Other prisoners were held
either in prison or in the concentration camps that were sanctioned by official decrees in September
1918 and April 1919. The Bolsheviks recognized the patchiness of their military, political and
economic control over town and countryside. Their leaders in Moscow and the provinces aspired to
a centralized party, a centralized government, a centralized army, a centralized security force. A
strengthened campaign of industrial nationalization had occurred, and by 1919 all large factories
and mines were owned by government. Grain requisitioning, too, was uncontroversial among the
Bolsheviks. The Russian Communist Party became more militaristic in methods. Their members
grow from about 300,000 in late 1917 to 625,000 in early 1921, and most of these Bolsheviks, old
and new, fought in the Red Army.
From: R. Service, A History of Modern Russia, published in 2003.
Russian Revolutions 1894 – 1924 Investigation Titles [40 marks]
[Prohibited combination with Interpretations question in brackets.]
15.1 Assess the success of Stolypin’s reforms in the period 1906-11. [15a]
15.2 How strong was Tsarism in 1914? [15a]
15.3 Assess the view that it was mainly the failure of the Provisional Government that made possible the Bolshevik takeover of October 1917. [15b]
15.4 How important was the ‘Red Terror’ to Bolshevik success in the civil war of 1918-21? [15c]
15.5 How important was Trotsky in the achievement and maintenance of Bolshevik power in the period late 1917-1924? [15c]
15.6 Assess the view that Lenin’s rule between 1917 and l924 was merely a brutal dictatorship.
15.7 Assess the view that the First World War was the main cause of the collapse of Romanov rule.
15.8 To what extent did the NEP of 1921 represent a humiliating reversal of Lenin’s policies?
15.9 Assess the view that serious defeat in the War of 1904-5 was the main factor in the outbreak of revolution in Russia in 1905.
15.10 Assess the view that Nicholas II survived the Revolution of 1905 mainly because of the divisions of his opponents.
This list is intended to provide model framework questions which can be adapted by students with the guidance of their teachers to use in pursuing an investigation of their choice. The investigation must make critical use of at least 8- 12 sources of different types (for example, both primary and secondary); it has to be an essay which offers a supported judgement on a historical problem. It should not be based on narrative, or be simply an explanation of different causes or consequences; neither should it be a series of comments on a range of sources.
This list is intended to help candidates make sure that their investigation is likely to lead them towards a supported judgement. Examples have been included below NOT as suggested questions, but to show how candidates might use a variety of formats and general questions to offer investigations which reflect their own interests and enthusiasms. There must be a link between an investigation of the candidate’s own choice and the chosen Interpretations topic.
For example, if Napoleon is chosen, the links could be FRANCE – another French leader from another era; it could be another military leader; it could be another general who assumes political power; it could be another leader who brought about considerable legal and constitutional reforms; it could be another person who established a substantial European empire.
Some examples (this is certainly not an exhaustive list) which would offer clear links to say Napoleon
French leaders – Charlemagne, Louis XIV; Napoleon III; de Gaulle
Generals with high reputations – Gustavus Adolphus; Grant or Lee; Montgomery; Henry V; Spinola
Political generals – Cromwell; Washington; Nasser; Eisenhower; Grant; Ayub Khan; Wallenstein; Diaz in Mexico; Franco
Bringers of major legal change comparable to the Civil Code – Justinian, William of Normandy
Empire – Hitler; Stalin and Eastern Europe; Charles V; Charles the Bold of Burgundy.
There must be some recognisable and evident link, but the aim is to offer candidates the freedom to pursue individual research of their choice if they wish. There is no obligation to do so, and candidates may investigate a topic linked to the Interpretations and offered by OCR. There is no preference expressed by OCR for candidates either choosing a different, if linked topic or for investigating a board set topic. It is entirely a matter for candidates and teachers to decide. Moderators will not take this choice into account when considering the centre’s marking and teachers should not take it into account when assessing their own candidate’s work.
The role of the Individual in History
To what extent has the role of ……………….in…………………been exaggerated?
Example To what extent has the role of Martin Luther King in the achievement of more black Civil Rights in the USA been exaggerated?
How important was…………………..in……………………….
How important was the role of Lenin in the Bolshevik revolution in October 1917?
To what extent was………………….a great ( ) leader?
To what extent was Alfred a great leader?
To what extent was Napoleon a great (military) leader?
To what extent was Napoleon a great military leader in Egypt in 1798?
The achievements of………………….owed more to favourable circumstances then his/her own abilities. Assess this view.
The achievements of Bismarck owed more to favourable circumstances than his own abilities
How far did……………………….succeed in his/her aim to………………………..
How far did Mussolini succeed in his aim to make Italy a great power?
How successful was the……………………policy of…………………?
How successful was the Irish policy of Gladstone?
How successful was the foreign policy of Philip II?
To what extent does……………….deserve his/her reputation for…………….
To what extent does Justinian deserve his reputation as a legal reformer?
To what extent does Charlemagne deserve his reputation for the promotion of learning?
To what extent does Richard III deserve his reputation as a selfish usurper?
To what extent does Churchill deserve his reputation as a perceptive critic of appeasement?
To what extent does the available evidence support the view that the short term causes of………………were more important than the long-term causes?
To what extent were the short-term causes of Collectivisation in the USSR more important than the long-term causes?
Evaluate the view that……………………….was the most important cause of…………….
Evaluate the view that religious belief was the most important cause of the First Crusade.
How important was…………………….in bringing about……………………….?
How important was the attitude of the Pope in bringing about the failure of greater unification in Italy 1848-9?
Assess the view that the most important consequence of ……………….. was………………….
Assess the view that the most important consequence of the Cuban missile crisis was greater understanding between the USA and the USSR.
Assess the view that the immediate consequences of………………..were less/more important than the long-term consequences
Assess the view that the immediate consequences of the Battle of Lepanto were less important than its long term consequences.
Discuss the view that leadership was the most important factor in the ……………………war(s) of…………( or warfare in the period………….)
Discuss the view that Haig’s leadership was the most important factor in causing large British casualties on the Western Front 1916-18.
Discuss the view that leadership was the most important factor in the Napoleonic wars.
Discuss the view that leadership was the most important factor in the success of Gustavus Adolphus’s campaigns.
How important was…………………….in determining the outcome of the……………….War(s)/battle of…………..
How important was the Battle of Stalingrad in determining the outcome of the war on the Eastern Front in World War II?
How important was faulty planning the most important factor in determining the outcome of the Spanish Armada’s campaign of 1588?
How important were internal divisions in determining the failure of the Third Crusade?
To what extent did the mass of the people benefit from economic change in the period……………..?
To what extent did the mass of the people benefit from economic change during the industrial revolution in Britain 1750-1850?
To what extent did the mass of the people benefit from economic change in the hundred years after the Black Death?
To what extent did the mass of the people benefit from economic developments in the USA 1919-1929?
Assess the view that……………was the major factor in economic change in…………
Assess the view that population growth was the major factor in causing economic change in England 1750-1850.
To what extent was enclosure the major factor in economic development in Tudor England?
To what extent was ………………the most important consequence of economic change in the period………………..( You may specify a country or countries).
To what extent was the development of the power of the Federal government the most important consequence of economic change in the USA 1920-41?
Cultural and Intellectual History
To what extent were the arts ( or any particular art) influenced by social and or political and or economic developments in the period ……………………
A candidate could select, for example, Florence in the Renaissance or Music in the age of German nationalism 1770-1870.
To what extent did any regime that you have studied manipulate the arts?
Candidates might consider Stalin’s Russia, for example, or Counter Revolutionary Europe and its use of Baroque architecture/art, or Renaissance Rome – but the emphasis has to be on ‘to what extent’.
How far was any particular artist influenced by political developments in any period you have studied?
Candidates might choose, say Shostakovich, or Kipling or any figure where there is a debate possible about purely artistic and more distinctly political influences on his/her work.
‘Cultural developments are more influenced by purely artistic considerations rather than external factors’ How far is this true for any period of approximately 100 years or any particular society in the past which you have studied?
Impressionism, for instance, could be discussed as either emerging from social changes or from purely artistic considerations.
How important was patronage of the arts in any period/ society you have studied?
Candidates might look at, say Papal patronage in the Renaissance; or royal patronage in the age of Louis XIV.
How important were ideas in bringing about change in any period/society you have studied
How important were the ideas of the Enlightenment in bringing about the French Revolution?
How important were mercantilist ideas in bringing about changes in economic policy in the Seventeenth Century?
How important were the ideas of eighteenth century military theorists to the success of Napoleon?
How important were ideas of Manifest Destiny in westward expansion in the USA in the nineteenth century?
The nature of regimes or societies
To what extent did any successful revolution that you have studied bring about sustained social change?
Candidates could look at Calvin’s Geneva; Castro’s Cuba; Russia under the Bolsheviks; Iran after the fall of the Shah; Hitler’s Volksgemeinschaft.
To what extent did any radical political or religious movement succeed in fulfilling its ideological aims?
Some examples - Communist regimes could be studied, or Mussolini’s Fascism , or radical Islamic regimes, or Hindu nationalism in India in the 1990s; Lollards; Swiss cities in the Reformation.
To what extent was the policy of ……………….based on his/her/their religious beliefs?
It would be acceptable to limit the policy e.g. Philip II’s foreign policy, or policy towards England; Gladstone’s Irish policy;
Possible examples – Philip II, Gladstone, the First Crusaders; Cromwell.
How great were the constraints of representative bodies on any ruler you have studied?
Elizabeth and her parliaments could be studied; Charles V and Germany; Ferdinand and Isabella and the representative bodies in different parts of the Spanish peninsula.
To what extent was the policy of any ruler/regime you have studied influenced by pressure from below?
For example, was Stalin more influenced by party pressure than has been thought during the Purges; did the Holocaust originate from local initiative; was the English Reformation more influenced by popular feeling or high politics?
How absolute was the power of …………………….
How absolute was the monarchy of Louis XIV?
How absolute was the power of Charles I during the ‘Eleven Years Tyranny?’
How far was…………………………..responsible for……………..?
How far was the USSR responsible for the Cold War?
How far were the weaknesses of the monarchy under Henry VI responsible for the Wars of the Roses?
How far was Harold’s leadership responsible for the Norman victory at Hastings?
How far was appeasement responsible for the Second World War?
To what extent does …………………deserve to be blamed for………………?
To what extent does King John deserve to be blamed for his own misfortunes?
To what extent does Nicholas II deserve to be blamed for the February revolution in 1917?
To what extent does the policy of Britain and the USA deserve to be blamed for the Berlin Crisis of 1948?
How important was……………………in the development of………………….?
How important was the railway in the development of Brighton after 1840?
How important was local entrepreneurship in the development of the Sheffield metal industry?
To what extent did local developments reflect national developments in any period of not more than 100 years in any local area you have studied?
To what extent did conflicts in Exeter in the twenty years before the Civil War reflect conflicts in the nation as a whole?
How far does available evidence support the view that the main reason for ……………..in………………….was……………………….?
How far does available evidence support the view that the main reason for the decline in the coal industry in South Wales was the First World War?
This gives considerable scope to centres who wish to give candidates experience in independent research. Teachers would:
Ensure that there was an appropriate link between the candidate’s choice of title and the Interpretations topic
Ensure that the candidate was aware of the implications of any independently chosen topic and that appropriate sources were available.
Ensure that the topic was within the capability of the student.
Recommend reading and source material (Candidates choosing obscure topics would have to realise that it would be up to them to find material –it would not be reasonable for them to expect teachers to have encyclopaedic knowledge of every topic!).
Advise on the structure of an investigation and guide students towards approaches which would demonstrate key skills.