45 Red Star Over Russia 1917 THE FIRST COUNTRY to pursue Karl Marx's dream of a workers' state was a poor land where peasants vastly outnumbered proletarians. Battered by the military disasters and food shortages of World War I, Russia exploded in February 1917. Rebels seized the capital, St. Petersburg, and the Duma (the Senate) deposed the inept and repressive Czar Nicholas II. But the new government, headed by socialist Aleksandr Kerensky, refused to pull Russia out of the war. In October it was overthrown by the militant Bolsheviks. Their leader, Vladimir Lenin, quickly made peace with Germany. He moved the capital to Moscow, abolished private property, suppressed the Church. His forces murdered Nicholas and his family. By 1920, after three years of civil war, the communist monopoly on power was complete.
The Soviet Union (as the new nation was known) modernized with terrific speed. The masses got free education and medical care. But the price was staggering: millions dead in botched economic experiments and purges; gulags full of political prisoners; a culture shackled by totalitarian ideology. The country's rivalry with the United States dominated global politics, triggered countless hot wars and threatened nuclear Armageddon. It ended in 1989, when the Soviet bloc collapsed--done in, as Marx had predicted capitalism would be, by its own "internal contradictions."