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Russia and the Soviet Union 1917-1924 Essay

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1. The March revolution of 1917:

* The Tsar abdicates on the 20th March, in favour of his brother Michael because his son Alexis was too young.

* However, the people had other ideas, they wanted a change in government.

2. The provisional Government:

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* The crowds gathered outside the Tauride Palace Demanding that the Duma took charge of the country.

* A temporary government was formed to rule the country until an election could be held to decide who and how the country would be run.

3. Soviets

* AS the provisional government was taking way, another group was starting up, the Petrograd Soviet. People sent representatives to sort out their interests.

* The first thing that the soviet did was to issue order 1, which gave it control of the armed forces in Petrograd.

How did the Bolsheviks seize power?

March 1917

Provisional Government + Petrograd Soviet Control Russia

1. What do they do?

The first thing what happened was:

Political prisoners were freed; they made the press free to do what they liked. There would be freedom of speech, the right to strike and an end to social discrimination and the death penalty.

2. Issue 1:the war

The provisional government continued the war with the agreement with the Soviet’s. Everybody had too much pride to be beaten by the Germans. Also they wanted to stay allies with Britain and France in the future. The war continued badly and the Russians were still losing food and fuel. The people needed the war to end.

3. Issue 2:land

As soon as the Tsar was gone the peasants thought they could have had always wanted, Land. But the provisional government wouldn’t give them it. This was because they though that they should leave it to the properly elected government. People began to take land anyway.

4. The return of Lenin

When Lenin returned it was a whole new start to the revolution. Lenin had not been in Russia during the March Revolution. With a lot of help from the Germans he got a sealed train to Petrograd at the beginning of April. The 1st speech that Lenin made to the people was demanding that thee should be no co-operating with the provisional government, the war should be ended, the land should be given to the peasants and that the Soviets should take power.

These points were later written up in the April Theses

5. The July Days

Only the Bolsheviks opposed the war. During the 1917 summer more and more common people opposed to the war. In July the Kerensky launched an attack against the Russians, which they lost. Thus there was a huge demonstration in Petrograd, which became known as the July days. Everyone poured into the streets protested about the war. They all to the Bolsheviks to lead them but they turned them away. Kerensky produced letters incriminating Lenin. This forced Lenin to flee to Finland.

* The war distinguished the Bolsheviks from other groups because thy opposed the war.

6. Autumn 1917

* Events started to work in the Bolsheviks Favour

* Kerensky had appointed a general called Kornilov to be head of the army

* There wanted to establish a strong sturdy Government in Russia – his own government.

* Many people of the Petrograd panicked; there was bound to be violence and bloodshed.

* Kerensky also panicked and asked the Bolsheviks for help.

* He gave rifles to the Bolshevik Red Guard; groups of workers who had been training secretly, and now appeared on the streets to help defend the city.

* Kornilov troops never arrived. The railway workers and other soldiers persuaded them not to fight their fellow Russians.

* How ever the Red Guard kept their rifles.

How did the Bolsheviks Seize Power?

Moral was low, there were riots and fights, Russia was a descrase. The Bolsheviks were now moving in on the Winter Palace, where the provisional Government was meeting. During the afternoons, most of the Cossacks had slipped out of the palace, leaving some military cadets and the Women’s death Battalion.

At 9.00p.m the Aurora (a ship whose sailors supported the Bolsheviks) fired a blank shot to start the attack. There was little machine-gun fire, and very little damage was done to the palace. The women’s death battalion offered no resistance, came out and went back to camp. The red guards entered and made their way along the miles of corridors. When they did meet military cadets, they gave up, as did the Provisional Government when the Red Guards found them.

The Bolsheviks had control of Petrograd.

Key points of how the Bolsheviks took over

* The general moral of the people was low, causing fights and riots.

* Bolsheviks moved onto the Winter Palace, where the Provisional Government was meeting

* At 9.00p.m, the Aurora, fired a blank shot and started the Attack

* All offensive gave up to the Bolsheviks, and they had complete control of Petrograd.

The Role of Lenin in the November 1917 Revolution

Lenin made a difference

Lenin didn’t make a difference

* Limitless capability to persuade people

* He had the power to say what people wanted, and give it to them

* He listened to people on the street, factories and Barracks, and knew what the people wanted

* With out Lenin the Bolshevik coup would have been postponed and might of failed.

* After all this the Bolshevik party’s membership began to grow rapidly

* Lenin’s role in some historians opinions, fell short of Trotsky’s

Conclusion – Did he make a difference?

I would conclude that Lenin did make a difference because without him, people would not of got what he wanted; the Bolshevik coup would of failed. He did some think different, he listened to the people, he found out what they wanted and helped them, where as other leaders wouldn’t, hey would of done it their way.

How did Lenin Control Russia in 1917?

Lenin had seized power in Petrograd, but for how long could he hold on to it?

A few days after the takeover, Kerensky sent some troops to let the provisional Government take control again

Populist Measures


* A maximum eight-hour day and 48 hour week declared for industrial workers.

* Employment insurance introduced for workers for injuries, illness, and unemployment

* All titles and class distinctions abolished – no dukes or lords, the title ‘comrade’ for everybody.

* Women declared equal to men.


* All Factories to be put under the control of workers’ comities.

* All banks taken over by the government

* The army to be more democratic – officers to be elected, no ranks or saluting

* Divorce made easier and marriages do not have to be in churches.

The Cheka

In December 1917, Lenin set up the Cheka. The head of this secret police force was the cold and incorruptible Felix Dzerzhinski. He set up headquarters in the ‘lubyanka’ in Moscow, a name that was to become feared because of the torture and executions that were carried out there.

The Cheka arrested people who were considered dangerous. After an assassination attempt on Lenin, the Cheka launched the Red Terror. Anybody who spoke out against the government was arrested, and many were shot with out t trail. Sometimes it was enough to be someone who might oppose the Bolsheviks. The use of terror to control people was to become a feature of the new regime.

Constituent Assembly

* By November 1917, Lenin had been forced into holding elections promised by the provisional government.

* Railway workers said that the would shut down the railways if Lenin did not go ahead with Russia’s first free elections.

* These were to choose a constitunal Assembly, which would work out how Russia would be governed in the future.


* Lenin sent Trotsky to meet the Germans to negotiate a peace treaty.

* Trotsky walked out of the talks because the Germans demanded so much territory.

* He stated that there would be ‘No Peace, No war’

* However, Lenin sent him back, he was sure that the Bolsheviks would stay in Power only if the war could be ended quickly.

* The result was the harsh treaty of Brest-Litovsk in March 1918

How did the communists win the civil war?

There were three sides to the civil war, but two main ones. The reds and the whites.

The Reds: The Bolsheviks or Communists (Red was the colour of Communism).

The Whites: All the opponents of the Bolsheviks -tsarists and nobles, middle-class constitutional democrats, Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries. The whites got their name from the white uniforms worn by the Tsarist officers. This meant that the Whites were always associated with the Tsar and the old system of government.

The Greens: Independent groups of nationalists, peasants or bandits who roamed Russia at this time. They fought anyone and raided villages and towns. The most famous was the Ukrainian nationalist, Nestor Makno, who shared his booty with local peasants.

Geographical Factors


* They held the central area of western Russia, which contained most of the large industrial canters able o produce munitions and war supplies.

* They had control of the railway lines, which connected Petrograd and Moscow to the rest of the country. This meant that they could send soldiers and munitions quickly to any place in the battle area.


* They were scattered around this central area, often with hundreds of miles separating the different armies.

* Communications were difficult – that is, if the generals wanted to communicate.



* The red only really had on aim, which was to stay in power so that they could build up the new Socialist society.


* The many people that made up the whites had some different aims, some of them wanted to tsar back, some a military Dictator; others wanted revolutionary change. The only aim they had been in common was to defeat the Bolsheviks; they only agreed on little less.

Leadership and unity


* Leader wise the reds had a great one, Trotsky. He built up the red army from nothing, he brought in conscription for men over eighteen years of age, he introduced nearly over 50,000 experienced former Tsarists officers and he appointed political Commissars – fanatical Bolsheviks – to each unit of men to make sure the officers and soldiers carried out their orders.

* Trotsky was personally very courageous. He had a special train which transported him around his army of hand picked soldiers to the places where fighting was difficult.


* The whites didn’t really have good leaders, often the commanders were cruel, treated their men with disrespect and set a bad example, by doing stuff like drinking and taking drugs

* The white generals did not trust each other and would not re-ordinate their attacks. This then allowed the reds to pick of the white army one by one.

* The whites had problems inside their armies too. There was often fighting and squabbling because groups had different aims and beliefs. It was particularly hard for revolutionaries to co-operate with the supporters of the Tsar.

How Important was the role of Trotsky

* Leon Trotsky played a very important role in the 1917 Russian Revolution, together with Lenin.

* He played an important role in rising up the Red Army, which with out the revolution would have been crushed.

* He was very strict and stated that ‘every scoundrel who incited anyone to retreat, to desert, or not to fulfil a military order, will be shot’ ‘Every soldier of the Red army who voluntarily deserts his post will be shot.’ ‘Those guilty of harbouring deserters are liable to be shot.’

* He gave a good impression to his people, by arriving with a train, a famous train that had been speeding to and fro along the different fronts. The train contained excellent facilities.

What Happened to Tsar and his Family

* After his abdication in March 1917, the Tsar and his family were held under house arrest just outside st. Petersburg

* There were moved to Tobolsk in Siberia, then sent to Ekaterinburg in the Urals, where they were held by the Reds in the house of a family called Ipatiev

* Tsar presented a continuing problem for the reds. If he escaped he might help unite the White forces; if executed, he could become a martyr.

* But it seemed, when the white forces closed in on Ekaterinburg in the summer of 1918, it seemed that the decision was to kill him.


How successful was Lenin in transforming Russia by 1924

There is certainly an element that Russia was transformed by 1924, certainly top an extent in terms of industry, agriculture, political and socio-economic factors. However, Due to Lenin’s death in 1924, with the resulting power struggle and emergence of Stalin as dictator, put together with Stalin’s claim that in 1934 that ‘Russia is fifty to a hundred years behind the westernised countries, we have 10 years to close that gap. There is certainly an argument that the transformations within Russia by 1924 were minimal, especially as the Bolsheviks were trying to establish power in the years stemming form the revolution in 1917 & Lenin’s death in 1924.

Lenin knew that he had to do something to improve the economic situation in Russia. If he did not, the Communists would not survive. In 1921, he introduced a New Economic Policy (NEP).

He had the idea that the NEP would give the Soviet Union a ‘Breathing space’ to get back on their feet. Many communists were angry about what he saw as a return to capitalism. They did not like the idea that making a profit was the main ‘power source’ for smaller industries. They disliked stuff like the fact that the bosses of factories or Kulaks (rich peasants) could hire men to work for them. They did not want to go back to the old days.

The communists particularly disliked the new traders who were appearing all over the cities. These ‘Nepmen’, as they were called, made all of their profit by buying food and goods cheaply and selling them for more money than they are worth. They were middlemen, who the communists saw as those who made money out of the labour of others. Nepmen also set up restaurants and made lots of money from dealing gin property and gambling.

Lenin persuaded the party to accept the NEP for the time being. The majority realised that these measures were needed to reduce industry and get more food produced.

The next big step forward was the electrification of Russia. Lenin was keen to see Russia evolve with more innovation and saw electric power as the key to modernising the Soviet Union. He envisaged a great network of power stations, which would provide the power for modern large-scale industry. His aim was to put an electric light in every home to replace every oil lams and candles. Lenin Believed electric power would change things so much that he said, ‘Soviet power plus electrification equals Communism’.

The first light bulb was fitted in 1928, which was 4 years after Lenin’s death in 1924. He obviously succeeded in bringing light bulbs and more electricity to Russia, but after his death.

The NEP encouraged foreign countries, which had refused too trade with Soviet Russia before 1921, to resume trade links. Western countries hoped that the move back to private trade and profit – capitalism – meant the failure of Communist ideas. In 1921 an Anglo Soviet trade agreement marked the beginning of increased trade with the West, which gave a great boost to the Soviet economy. There were large-scale exchanges of Western industrial goods for Russian oil and similar products.

The NEP Lasted until 19128 and Russia generally became more prosperous. Some of this can be pit down to the period of stability, which followed seven years of war and civil war from 1914 to 1921. But the NEP undoubtedly played a big role in improving the general economic situation.

We know that between 1921 and 1928 the Agricultural and industrial production had risen considerable. But infact all that had happened was it had returned back to where it was in 1917; Lenin had not really made a big impact on the way Russia worked. After the civil war, Living conditions were still appalling, peasants hauled for their food, had no proper lighting, food was dreadful and had no washing facilities. Lenin failed to stop Stalin becoming a leader, as well as spread communism out of Russia. Yes, Agricultural and Industrial production had risen from 1921-1928, but there were only back where they had started. Lenin had not made any difference except get them back to where they started.

Levels rose, yes, but only in relation with 1917, not prior to war levels, also, Stalin’s 5 year plans showed us that much actually did need to be done, in terms of industry and agriculture progressed but only took Russia back to pre-war levels.

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