Lenin had a greater impact on Russia’s economy and society than any other Ruler. How far do you agree with this view of the period from 1855 to 1964? Over the period from 1855 to 1964, Russia saw various reforms and policies under the Tsars and the Communist leaders that had great impacts on its economy and society both positive and negative. Lenin definitely implanted polices that changed society and the economy for example with war communism. However whether his policies had the greatest impact is debatable and in this essay I will be assessing the view whether Lenin had the greatest impact on Russia’s economy and society than any other ruler between the period from 1855-1964. The Russia economy in terms of industry fluctuated over the period from 1855-1964. It is key to note that under all the leaders, industrialisation and modernisation was always seen as an essential economic aim. Under Alexander II, with Reutern as his Minister of finance who adopted an approach that revolved around continued railway construction, attraction of foreign expertise and foreign investment capital. As a result modernisation and expansion occurred within the staples as well as newer industries which show the impact that alexander II made on industry. Reutern achieved a sevenfold increase in the amount of railway and the capacity of railway to carry break bulk at speed increased which gave a major boost to industrial output Russia seemed to be finally moving towards industrialisation and keeping up with the West. This approach was similar under Nicolas II who also managed to have a great impact on Russia’s industrial economy. This was through the work of Sergei Witte whom at the time of his appointment the Russian economy still resolved predominantly around agricultural production further showing that under Alexander II impacts was limited. Witte continued the idea of foreign expertise as well as taking out foreign loans, raising taxes and interest rates to boost available capital for investment in industry.
Another major development was the placement of the rouble on the gold standard in 1897. The impacts of Witte’s policies were great. Coal production doubled and that of iron and steel increased sevenfold while the total amount of railway track opened rose from 29,183 km to 52,612 km in 1901. Much of this stimulated the stupendous growth in capital abroad. There was an indication that income started to even catch up with other industrialised nations seen and income earned from industry rose from 42 million to 161 roubles by 1897. This period of industrial success has even been named the ‘Great Spurt’ and the increase in industrial production of 7.5% far exceeded Russian achievement for any comparable period before 1914 which shows that Nicholas II had the greatest impact on the industrial economy than any other Tsar. This focus on heavy industry was continued under Stalin who implanted his five year plans; industrialisation was to be stimulated through the setting production targets. The effects were great increase in industrial output which hard to state specifically as much of the production figures were falsified. Khrushchev mostly continued Stain’s centralisation with greater diversion as he wanted to produce more consumer goods. There was however a slowdown in growth under Khrushchev but it wasn’t a huge impact and illustrates a negative impact. This however didn’t compare to negative impacts seen under Lenin. By November 1917 Lenin stated implemented War Communism by introducing state capitalism. This involved the state taking complete control over the economy until it could ‘safely’ be handed over to the proletariat.
Nationalisation by itself did nothing to increase production; military needs were given priority so that resources to those industries not considered essential were denied. The situation was made more serious by the factories being deprived of manpower as a result of conscription. The problem for industry was deepened by hyperinflation. The government’s policy on continuing to print currency notes effectively destroyed the value of money and by the end of 1920 the rouble had fallen to 1 per cent of its worthin1917. Although Lenin’s NEP started to impact industry positively and indeed industrial output increased rapidly it only ever reached the level of output in 1914. Overall, the greatest positive impact on industry arguably is under Nicholas II. Industrial output over doubled under him, railway construction expanded rapidly and his policies impacted the people as well people saw living standards increase unlike under Stalin that despite growth living standards actually deteriorated and Russia could have seen to be on its way to true industrialisation. Whilst under Lenin it is clear that he had the greatest negative impact on the industrial economy. There was no industrial growth and Lenin only benefited through tighter control of Russia through the economy. As well as impacts on industry it is also important to consider impacts on agriculture. The issue of land ownership can be seen to be handled differently under each leader. Alexander II, Lenin and Stalin all pursued that effectively had negative impacts on agriculture. With the emancipation of the serfs in 1861 the peasants were ‘free’ and no longer tied to the land. The impacts however were reversal. Peasants were allocated poor quality land and received less on average than they had been farming before emancipation.
Furthermore peasants were forced to pay redemption dues that were higher than what they could achieve. In the end, the impacts on the peasants were they were worse off and able peasants had no incentive to produce surpluses and were reluctant to improve the land as decisions about what was to be produces and how crops were to be cultivated were decided by the village Mir, which resulted in a slight fall in grain overall. These effects however were more severe under Lenin and Stalin as they sought to increase grain production by coercion. While Lenin under War communism used grain requisitioning to forcefully collect peasant surpluses from them Stalin used collectivisation to force peasants to collaborate to produce as much food as possible. Similarly in both cases the peasants refused to conform; knowing that any surplus would be confiscated the peasant produced the barest minimum to feed themselves and their family and even less food was available for Russia. One of the greatest impacts were the famines that occurred in 1921 under Lenin where the grain harvest produced less than half the amount gathered in 1931 and Russia had international help from countries such as the USA. However these impacts were the greatest under Stalin. The amount of bread produced fell from 250.4 (kilograms per head) in 1928 to 214.6 in 1932. The impacts of collectivisation were at its worst in 1932-32 when occurred what many people describe as a self-made national famine. Stalin’s ‘’official silence’’ of the situation meant it wasn’t addressed and thus collectivisation killed between 10-15 million peasants and failed to increase agricultural output.
Though a similar devastating famine occurred under Alexander III in which he adopted the Peasant land banks to try and alleviate the impacts and encourage farming again and in fact famines occurred over Russian history its severity was the worst under Stalin. Alexander II’s attempt to pacify the peasants to increase agricultural levels was similarly adopted under Nicholas II through the reforms of Stolypin and further under Khrushchev. Stolypin’s ‘wager on the strong’ saw that in that period peasants were paying increasingly higher taxes a sign that their new farming was producing higher profits. The provision of land backs, abolition of redemption dues and being urged to replace inefficient strip system created a wealthier group of peasants later labelled the kulaks by communist leaders signifying that Nicholas II enjoyed higher agricultural profits. The schemes for larger-scale voluntary resettlement of peasants are a continuation under Khrushchev whose Virgin Land Campaigns encouraged the increase in the amount of land being cultivated. In 1950, 96 million acres of land were given over to the production of wheat and by 1964 this increased to 165 million acres. His policies seem to have even impacted citizens as urban dwellers started to feel that their food requirements were at last being adequately met. Thus Khrushchev can be seen to have the greatest positive impact on agriculture as the Russian people had finally felt that the food was enough for them and the amount of land and grain cultivated increased. While the greatest negative impact was prominently under Stalin, his collectivisation was met by peasant unrest and grain and livestock destruction that lead to a damning national famine. Both the Tsars and the Communist leaders had their impacts on the Russian society.
Religion and the idea that the Tsar was Gods own appointed continued under all three Tsars, so there was no real impact by any on the tsars on religion as they sought to keep this religious through the aid of the Russian Orthodox Church; the Russian people truly believed that the Tsar was appointed by God and referred to him as their ‘little father’. Despite Lenin coming into power and issuing the’ decree on the separation of the church and state’ which meant that the church was no longer to have central organisation with authority over local organisations, religious teachings in schools being forbidden and the attempt to eradicate religion Peasants continued to pray and worship as their forebears had but they could no longer risk doing it so publicly.
Hence showing the Tsars had a greater impact in terms of religion than the communist leaders as all their efforts to eradicate religion and enforce atheism effectively failed. Both the Tsars and the communist attempted to expand the provision of education at all levels. Alexander II is seen to make attempts that increased the number of Russians in education. In 1864 Alexander II introduced a major education reform. This had an immediate impact in the number of available school places, especially in more isolate places and raised the quality and variety of provision which improved.
Such continuation can be seen under Khrushchev who scrapped school fees and the creation of specialist academies and the spread of correspondence courses sought to increase the quality of education in Russia. Nicholas II and Stalin’s educational policies can be seen as similar in that they both impacted society similarly by raising the number of students attending school. The number of primary schools rose from 79 thousand in 1896 to 81 thousand in 1914 under Nicholas II ( work of the fourth duma) while in 1929 only 8 million pupils were attending primary school and in 1930 this rose to 18 million pupils. Furthermore under Stalin emerged the cult of personality that aimed to control all aspects of Russian life. Censorship and propaganda increased drastically under Stalin; however whether Stalin truly had an impact on the culture and the way of thinking is debatable. The applause that greeted his every appearance in public is more likely to have been a matter of prudence than of real affection. In comparison to the leaders already mention Alexander III sought to limit university autonomy. Under him elections to the university councils were scrapped and placed by an appointment system but nevertheless universities continued to flourish. Overall although Alexander II can be seen to have stimulated educational growth participation the greatest impacts were seen under Nicholas II and Stalin which participation increased immensely. Although the Communist leaders tried to eradicate the church from society many of the Russian population remained orthodox but secretly illustrating the strong impacts the Tars had over religion. In conclusion, it can be seen that different rulers had various impacts on many parts of the economy and society. Industrially Lenin did have the greatest negative impact as the Russia didn’t see any real economic growth and saw a great famine. However under Nicholas II Russia enjoyed the great Spurt which arguably could have seen to have a greater positive impact as it even filtered to the Russian citizens that enjoyed better standards of living and many historians express that Russia was well on its way to industrialisation. Lenin again had a great negative impact on agriculture but that of Stalin was more severe and was worse on agricultural produce. Overall, though Lenin had great impacts of different aspects of life other rulers can be seen to have had a greater impact whether positive or negative and Lenin never truly managed to have a true impact on Russian society and culture though attempted.
Courtney from Study Moose