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Term Paper on the Russian Revolution

Term Paper Contents:

  1. Term Paper on the Introduction to Russian Revolution
  2. Term Paper on the Prelude to the Russian Revolution
  3. Term Paper on the Causes of Russian Revolution
  4. Term Paper on February 1917 Russian Revolution
  5. Term Paper on Provisional Government vs. the Petrograd Soviet
  6. Term Paper on the Lenin Returns from Exile in Russia
  7. Term Paper on October 1917 Russian Revolution
  8. Term Paper on the Civil War in Russia
  9. Term Paper on the Success of the Bolshevik Rule during Russian Revolution
  10. Term Paper on the Impact of Russian Revolution


Term Paper # 1. Introduction to Russian Revolution:

The Russian Revolution (1917) was a series of economic and social upheavals in Russia, involving first the overthrow of the tsarist autocracy, and then the overthrow of the liberal and moderate-socialist Provisional Government, resulting in the establishment of Soviet power under the control of the Bolshevik party.

This eventually led to the establishment of the Soviet Union in 1922, which lasted until its dissolution in 1991. It resulted in the overthrow of the autocratic rule of the Czars and the building up of socialism in the USSR.

Term Paper # 2. Prelude to the Russian Revolution:


The Russian Revolution of 1917 was rooted in a long history of oppression and abuse. That history, coupled with a weak-minded leader (Czar Nicholas II) and entry into bloody World War I set the stage for major change.

i. How it All Got Started—An Unhappy People:

For three centuries, the Romanov family ruled Russia as czars, or emperors. During this time, the borders of Russia both expanded and receded; however, life for the average Russian remained hard and bitter.

Until they were freed in 1861 by Czar Alexander II, the majority of Russians were serfs who worked on the land and could be bought or sold just like property. The end of serfdom was a major event in Russia; yet it just wasn’t enough.


Even after the serfs were freed, it was the czar and nobles who ruled Russia and owned most of the land and wealth. The average Russian remained poor. The Russian people wanted more, but change was not easy.

ii. Early Attempts to Provoke Change:

For the remainder of the 19th century, Russian revolutionaries tried to use assassinations to provoke change. Some revolutionaries hoped random and rampant assassinations would create enough terror to destroy the government. Others specifically targeted the czar in the belief that killing the czar would end the monarchy.

After many failed attempts, revolutionaries succeeding in assassinating Czar Alexander II in 1881 (they threw a bomb at the czar’s feet). However, rather than ending the monarchy or forcing reform, the assassination sparked a severe crackdown on all forms of revolution. While the new czar, Alexander III, attempted to enforce order, the Russian people grew even more restless.

When Nicholas II became czar in 1894, the Russian people were poised for conflict. With the majority of Russians still living in poverty with no legal way to improve their circumstances, it was nearly inevitable that something major was going to happen. And it did, in 1905.

iii. Bloody Sunday and the 1905 Revolution:

By 1905, not much had changed for the better. Although a rapid attempt at industrialization had created a new working class, they too lived in deplorable conditions. Major crop failures had created massive famines. The Russian people were still miserable. Also in 1905, Russia was suffering major, humiliating military defeats in the Russo-Japanese War (1904- 1905).

In response, protesters took to the streets. On January 22, 1905, approximately 200,000 workers and their families followed Russian Orthodox priest Georgy A. Gapon in a protest. They were going to take their grievances straight to the czar at the Winter Palace. To the crowd’s great surprise, palace guards opened fire on them without provocation.

About 300 people were killed and hundreds more were wounded. As the news of ‘Bloody Sunday’ spread, the Russian people were horrified. They responded by striking, mutinying, and fighting in peasant uprisings. The Russian Revolution of 1905 had begun. After several months of chaos, Czar Nicholas II tried to end the revolution by announcing the ‘October Manifesto,’ in which Nicholas made major concessions.

The most significant of which were granting personal liberties and the creation of a duma (parliament). Although these concessions were enough to appease the majority of the Russian people and ended the 1905 Russian Revolution, Nicholas II never meant to truly give up any of his power.

Over the next several years, Nicholas undermined the power of the Duma and remained the absolute leader of Russia. This might not have been so bad if Nicholas II had been a good leader. However, he most decidedly was not.

iv. Nicholas II and World War I:

There’s no doubt that Nicholas was a family man; yet even this got him into trouble. Too often, Nicholas would listen to the advice of his wife, Alexandra, over others. The problem was that the people didn’t trust her for she was German born, which became a major issue when Germany was Russia’s enemy during World War I.

Nicholas’ love for his children also became a problem when his only son, Alexis, was diagnosed with hemophilia. Worry about his son’s health led Nicholas to trust a ‘holy man’ called Rasputin, but whom others often referred to as ‘the Mad Monk.’

Nicholas and Alexandra both trusted Rasputin so much that Rasputin was soon influencing top political decisions. Both the Russian people and Russian nobles could not stand this. Even after Rasputin was eventually assassinated, Alexandra conducted séances in an attempt to communicate with the dead Rasputin.

Already hugely disliked and considered weak minded, Czar Nicholas II made a huge mistake in September 1915 – he personally took command of Russia’s troops in World War I. Granted, Russia was not doing well up to that point; however, that had more to do with bad infrastructure, food shortages, and poor organization than with incompetent generals.

Once Nicholas took over control of Russia’s troops, he became personally liable for Russia’s defeats in World War I. And there were many defeats. By 1917, pretty much everyone wanted Czar Nicholas out.

Term Paper # 3. Causes of the Russian Revolution:

Russia in the late 19th/early 20th century was a massive empire, stretching from Poland to the Pacific, and home in 1914 to 165 million people of many languages religions and cultures. Ruling such a massive state was difficult, and the problems within Russia produced a revolution in 1917 which swept the old system away. Several key fault lines can be identified as long term causes, while the short term trigger is clearly World War 1.

i. Peasant Poverty:

In 1916, a full three quarters of the Russian population were peasants who lived and farmed in small villages. In theory their life had improved in 1861, before which they were serfs who were owned and could be traded by their landowners. 1861 saw the serfs freed and issued with small amounts of land, but in return they had to pay back a sum to the government, and the result was a mass of small farms deeply in debt.

The state of agriculture in central Russia was poor, using techniques deeply out of date and with little hope of improving thanks to widespread illiteracy and no capital to invest.

Families lived just above the subsistence level, and around 50 per cent had a member who had left the village to find other work, often in the towns. As the central Russian population boomed, land became scarce. Their life was in sharp contrast to the rich landowners, who held 20 per cent of the land in large estates and were often members of the Russian upper class.

The western and southern reaches of the massive Russian Empire were slightly different, with a larger number of better off peasants and large commercial farms. The result was, by 1917, a central mass of disaffected peasants, angry at increased attempts to control them, and at people who profited from the land without directly working it. The common peasant mindset was firmly against developments outside the village, and desired autonomy.

ii. A Growing and Politicised Urban Workforce:

The industrial revolution came to Russia largely in the 1890s, with ironworks, factories and the associated elements of industrial society. While the development was neither as advanced nor as swift as in a country like Britain, Russia’s cities began to expand and large numbers of peasants moved to the cities to take up new jobs. By the turn of the 19th to 20th centuries, millions were in these tightly packed and expanding urban areas, experiencing problems like poor and cramped housing, bad wages, and a lack of rights in their jobs.

The government was afraid of the developing urban class, but more afraid of driving foreign investment away by supporting better wages, and these was a consequent lack of reforming legislation. The urban workforce often remained closely linked to the peasants, being a travelling worker or retaining land in the village.

These workers swiftly began to grow politicised and chaffed against government restrictions on their protests, forming a fertile ground for the socialist revolutionaries who moved between cities and exile in Siberia.

In order to try and counter the spread of anti-Tsarist ideology, the government formed legal, but neutered, trade unions to take the place of the banned but powerful equivalents. In 1905, and 1917, heavily politicised socialist workers played a major role, although there were many different facts and beliefs under the umbrella of ‘socialism’.

iii. Tsarist Autocracy and a Lack of Representation:

Russia was ruled by an emperor called the Tsar, and for three centuries this position had been held by the Romanov family. They ruled alone, with no true representative bodies: even the Duma, an elected body created in 1905, could be completely ignored by the Tsar when he wished to, and he did.

Freedom of expression was limited, with censorship of books and newspapers, while a secret police operated to crush dissent, frequently either executing people or sending them to exile in Siberia.

The result was an autocratic regime under which republicans, democrats, revolutionaries, socialists and others both chaffed and were increasingly desperate for reform. Some wanted violent change, others peaceful, but as opposition to the Tsar was banned, opponents were increasingly driven to extreme measures.

The Tsar—Nicholas II—has sometimes been accused of lacking the will to govern. Historians like Figes have concluded that this wasn’t the case; the problem was that Nicholas was determined to govern while lacking any idea or ability to run an autocracy properly.

That ‘Nicholas’ answer to the crises facing the Russian regime and the answer of his father was to look back to the 17th century and try to resurrect an almost late medieval system, instead of reforming and modernising Russia was a major problem and source of discontent which directly led to the revolution.

There was a strong reforming essentially westernizing —movement in Russia during the mid—19th century under Alexander II, with elites split between reform and entrenchment. A constitution was being written when Alexander II was assassinated in 1881. His son, and his son in turn (Nicholas II), reacted against the reform, not only halting it but starting a counter reform of centralized, autocratic government.

iv. Ineffective Government:

The late Tsarist government wasn’t just autocratic, it simply wasn’t very good. There was a mass of competing bodies out of whose confusion law, judgement and government decisions appeared entirely arbitrary, random, or reliant on patronage. Indeed, historian’s like Figes have concluded that Russia was under governed, that the mass of peasant villages had little contact with the upper reaches of imperial government, as there was little in the way of local government.

Government had to go through landed nobility, largely in the zemstovs, but after peasant emancipation these landholders declined and then turned on the government, demanding reform. In this way the bedrock of the old tsarist regime turned on the tsar. Furthermore, the rulers had little idea of the peasant view, and the mass of peasants had no engagement with the government; they had no worries about the wiping away of the whole Tsarist regime in 1917.

v. Alienated Military:

The backward Russian military had created a mass of soldiers who, having been treated inhumanely and less than the common citizen, wanted some shred of dignity and better conditions. In 1917, the Bolsheviks would appear to offer this. In addition, the professional officer class was also alienated from the Tsar and his court over the question of modernizing.

It had become apparent to the officers that war was changing, but the army remained mired in the past. These professionals turned to the Duma to try and force a solution.

vi. Politicized Civil Society:

By the 1890s, Russia had developed an educated, political culture among a group of people who were not yet numerous enough to truly be called a Middle Class, but who were forming between the aristocracy and the peasants/workers. These groups were part of a ‘civil society’ which sent their youth to be students, read newspapers, and looked towards serving the public rather than the Tsar.

Largely liberal, the events of a severe famine in the early 1890s both politicized and radicalized them, as their collective action outlined them to them both how ineffective the Tsarist government now was, and how much they could achieve if they were allowed to unite.

The members of the zemstov’s were chief among these. As the Tsar refused to meet their demands, so many of this social sphere turned against him and his government.

vii. The Short Term Cause: World War I:

The First World War provided the catalyst for Russia’s revolutionary year of 1917. The war itself went badly from the start, prompting the Tsar to take personal charge in 1915, a decision which placed the full responsibility for the next years of failure on his shoulders. As demand for ever more soldiers increased, the peasant population grew angry as young men and horses, both essential for the war, were taken away, reducing the amount they could grow and damaging their standard of living.

Russia’s most successful farms suddenly found their labour and material removed for the war, and the less successful peasants became ever more concerned with self-sufficiency, and even less concerned with selling a surplus, than ever before.

In 1917, two revolutions completely changed the fabric of Russia. First, the February Russian Revolution toppled the Russian monarchy and established a Provisional Government. Then in October, a second Russian Revolution placed the Bolsheviks as the leaders of Russia, resulting in the creation of the world’s first communist country.

Inflation occurred and prices rose, so hunger became endemic. In the cities, workers found themselves unable to afford the high prices, and any attempt to agitate for better wages, usually in the form of strikes, saw them branded as disloyal to Russia, disaffecting them further.

The transport system ground to a halt due to failures and poor management, halting the movement of military supplies and food. Meanwhile soldiers on leave explained how poorly supplied the army was, and bought firsthand accounts of the failure at the front. These soldiers, and the high command who had previously supported the Tsar, now believed he had failed them.

Term Paper # 4. February 1917 Russian Revolution:

Although many wanted a revolution, no one expected it to happen when it did and how it did. On Thursday, February 23, 1917, women workers in Petrograd left their factories and entered the streets to protest. It was International Women’s Day and the women of Russia were ready to be heard.

An estimated 90,000 women marched through the streets, shouting ‘Bread’ and ‘Down with the Autocracy!’ and ‘Stop the War!’ These women were tired, hungry, and angry. They worked long hours in miserable conditions in order to feed their families because their husbands and fathers were at the front, fighting in World War—I. They wanted change. They weren’t the only ones.

The following day, more than 150,000 men and women took to the streets to protest. Soon more people joined them and by Saturday, February 25, the city of Petrograd was basically shut down – no one was working.

Although there were a few incidents of police and soldiers firing into the crowds, those groups soon mutinied and joined the protesters.

Czar Nicholas II, who was not in Petrograd during the revolution, heard reports of the protest but did not take them seriously.

By March 1, it was obvious to everyone except the czar himself that the czar’s rule was over. On March 2 it was made official when Czar Nicholas II abdicated.

Without a monarchy, the question remained as to who would next lead the country.

Term Paper # 5. Provisional Government vs. the Petrograd Soviet:

Two contending groups emerged out of the chaos to claim leadership of Russia. The first was made up of former Duma members and the second was the Petrograd Soviet. The former Duma members represented the middle and upper classes while the Soviet represented workers and soldiers.

In the end, the former Duma members formed a Provisional Government which officially ran the country. The Petrograd Soviet allowed this because they felt that Russia was not economically advanced enough to undergo a true socialist revolution.

Within the first few weeks after the February Revolution, the Provisional Government abolished the death penalty, granted amnesty for all political prisoners and those in exile, ended religious and ethnic discrimination, and granted civil liberties.

What they did not deal with was an end to the war, land reform, or better quality of life for the Russian people. The Provisional Government believed Russia should honor its commitments to its allies in World War I and continue fighting. V.I. Lenin did not agree.

Term Paper # 6. Lenin Returns from Exile in Russia:

Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, leader of the Bolsheviks, was living in exile when the February Revolution transformed Russia. Once the Provisional Government allowed back political exiles, Lenin boarded a train in Zurich, Switzerland and headed home.

On April 3, 1917, Lenin arrived in Petrograd at the Finland Station. Tens of thousands of workers and soldiers had come to the station to greet Lenin. There were cheers and a sea of red, waving flags. Not able to get through, Lenin jumped on top of a car and gave a speech. Lenin at first congratulated the Russian people for their successful revolution.

However, Lenin had more to say. In a speech made just hours later, Lenin shocked everyone by denouncing the Provisional Government and calling for a new revolution. He reminded the people that the country was still at war and that the Provisional Government had done nothing to give the people bread and land.

At first, Lenin was a lone voice in his condemnation of the Provisional Government. But Lenin worked ceaselessly over the following few months and eventually people began to really listen. Soon many wanted ‘Peace, Land, Bread!’

Term Paper # 7. October 1917 Russian Revolution:

By September 1917, Lenin believed the Russian people were ready for another revolution. However, other Bolshevik leaders were not yet quite convinced. On October 10, a secret meeting of the Bolshevik party leaders was held. Lenin used all his powers of persuasion to convince the others that it was time for an armed insurrection. Having debated through the night, a vote was taken the following morning it was ten to two in favour of a revolution.

The people themselves were ready. In the very early hours of October 25 1917, the revolution began. Troops loyal to the Bolsheviks took control of the telegraph, power station, strategic bridges, post office, train stations, and state bank. Control of these and other posts within the city were handed over to the Bolsheviks with barely a shot fired.

By late that morning, Petrograd was in the hands of the Bolsheviks—all except the Winter Palace where the leaders of the Provisional Government remained. Prime Minister Alexander Kerensky successfully fled but by the following day, troops loyal to the Bolsheviks infiltrated the Winter Palace.

After nearly a bloodless coup, the Bolsheviks were the new leaders of Russia. Nearly immediately, Lenin announced that the new regime would end the war, abolishes all private land ownership, and would create a system for workers’ control of factories.

Causes of the Success of October Revolution:

The success of the Revolution may be ascribed to the following three causes:

First, the army which was the prop of the government sided with the mob. Both the civilians and the army stood against the Government. When the backbone of the autocracy did not remain, legal hopes receded for the Tsar.

Second, the European powers could not curb the revolution in Russia, because of their preoccupation in the war. This also accounted for success of the Bolshevik revolution.

Third, Russia was fortunate to have as its leader in Lenin who could be said to be one of the ablest organizers of the modern world. His leadership and organization enabled Russia to cross many hurdles which otherwise would have proved disastrous.

Assessing the October Revolution:

Although the Soviet government went to great lengths for decades to make the ‘Great October Socialist Revolution’ appear colorful and heroic, it was in many ways a mundane and anticlimactic event. There was little if any bloodshed, the provisional government barely tried to resist, and afterward, few Russians seemed to care about or even notice the change in governments.

However, this very indifference on the part of the Russian people enabled the new leadership to extend its power quite far, and the October Revolution would soon prove to be a cataclysmic event once its earthshaking effect on Russia and the rest of the world became clear.

However bloodless the Russian Revolution initially may have been, it would ultimately cost tens of millions of Russian lives and shock the nation so deeply that it has not yet come to terms with what happened.

As far as historians have been able to determine, Lenin and most of the other major revolutionary figures at his side believed sincerely in their cause and were not motivated purely by a thirst for power. In all likelihood, they seized power believing that they were doing so for the greater good.

Ironically, their faith in the socioeconomic models of Marx was on the level of an extreme religious devotion—the very same blind devotion that they often denounced in others. Unfortunately, this steadfast belief in Marxism would come to be implemented through brutal and repressive means.

Term Paper # 8. Civil War in Russia:

Unfortunately, as well intended as Lenin’s promises might have been, they proved disastrous. After Russia pulled out of World War I, millions of Russian soldiers filtered home. They were hungry, tired, and wanted their jobs back. Yet there was no extra food. Without private land ownership, farmers began to grow just enough produce for themselves; there was no incentive to grow more.

There were also no jobs to be had. Without a war to support, factories no longer had vast orders to fill. None of the people’s real problems were fixed; instead, their lives became much worse.

In June 1918, Russia broke out in civil war. It was the Whites (those against the Soviets, which included monarchists, liberals, and other socialists) against the Reds (the Bolshevik regime).

Near the beginning of the Russian Civil War, the Reds were worried that the Whites would free the czar and his family, which would not only have given the Whites a psychological boost but might have led to the restoration of the monarchy in Russia. The Reds were not going to let that happen.

On the night of July 16-17, 1918, Czar Nicholas, his wife, their children, the family dog, three servants, and the family doctor were all woken up, taken to the basement, and shot.

The Civil War lasted over two years and was bloody, brutal, and cruel. The Reds won but at the expense of millions of people killed. The Russian Civil War dramatically changed the fabric of Russia. The moderates were gone. What was left was an extreme, vicious regime that was to rule Russia until the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Term Paper # 9. Success of the Bolshevik Rule during Russian Revolution:

The Bolsheviks had nothing like majority support in the country as a whole. One problem therefore was how to keep themselves in power and yet allow free elections. One of Lenin’s first decrees nationalized all land so that it could be redistributed among the peasants and, so he hoped, wins their support.

Lenin knew that he would have to allow elections, since he had criticized Kerensky so bitterly for postponing them; but he realized that a Bolshevik majority in the Constituent Assembly was highly unlikely.

Kerensky had arranged elections for mid-November, and they went ahead as planned. Lenin’s worst fears were realized; the Bolsheviks won 175 seats out of about 700, but the Social Revolutionaries won 370; the Mensheviks won only 15, left-wing Social Revolutionaries 40, various nationality groups 80, and Cadets 17 (Constitutional Democrats who wanted genuine democracy).

Under a genuine democratic system, the Social Revolutionaries, who had an overall majority, would have formed a government. However, Lenin was determined that the. Bolsheviks were going to stay in power; there was no way in which he was going to done all the hard work of getting rid of the provisional government.

After some anti-Bolshevik speeches at the first meeting of the Constituent Assembly (January 1918), it was dispersed by Bolshevik Red Guards and not allowed to meet again. Lenin’s justification for this undemocratic action was that it was really the highest form of democracy: since the Bolsheviks knew what the workers wanted, they had no need of an elected parliament to tell them. Armed force had triumphed for the time being, but opposition was to lead to civil war latter in the year.

The next pressing problem was how to withdraw from the World War. An armistice between Russia and the Central Powers had been agreed in December 1917, but long negotiation followed during which Trotsky tried, without success, to persuade the Germans to moderate their demands.

The Treaty of Brest—Litovsk (March 1918) was cruel: Russia lost Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, the Ukraine, Georgia and Finland; this included a third of Russia’s farming land, a third of her population, two thirds of her coal mines and half her heavy industry.

This was a high price to pay, but Lenin insisted that it was worth it, pointing out that Russia needed to sacrifice space in order to gain time to recover. He probably expected Russia to get the land back any way when, as he hoped, the revolution spread to Germany and other countries.

By April 1918 armed opposition to the Bolsheviks was breaking out in many areas, leading to civil war. The opposition (known as the Whites) was a mixed bag, consisting of Social Revolutionaries, Mensheviks, ex-tsarist officers and any other groups which did not like what they had seen of the Bolsheviks.

There was great discontent, even among soldiers and workers who had supported the Bolsheviks in 1917, at the high-handed way in which the Bolsheviks treated the Soviets (elected councils) all over Russia. People expected that every town would have its own soviet, which would run the town’s affairs and local industry.

Instead, officials (known as commissars) appointed by the government arrived, supported by Red Guards; they threw Social Revolutionary and Menshevik members out of the Soviets, leaving Bolshevik members in control. It turned into dictatorship from the centre instead of local control. It was opposed. The general aim was not to restore the star, but simply to set up a democratic government on Western lines.

In Siberia Admiral Kolchak, former Black Sea Fleet commander, set up a white government; General Denikin was in the Caucasus with a large White army. Most bizarre of all, the Czechoslovak Legion of about 40,000 men had seized long stretches of the Trans-Siberian Railway in the region of Omsk.

These troops were originally prisoners taken by the Russian from the Austro-Hungarian army, who had then changed side after the March revolution and fought for the Kerensky government against the Germans.

After Brest-Litovsk the Bolsheviks gave them permission to leave Russia via the Trans-Siberian Railway to Vladivostock, but then decided to disarm them in case they cooperated with the Allies, who were already showing interest in the destruction of the new Bolshevik government.

The Czechs resisted with Great Spirit and their control of the railway was a serious embarrassment to the government. After an assassination attempt on Lenin in August 1918, the Bolsheviks launched what became known as Red Terror, during which thousands of Social Revolutionaries and other opponents were rounded up and shot.

The situation was complicated by foreign intervention to help the Whites, with the excuse that they wanted a government, which would continue the war against Germany. When intervention continued even after the defeat of Germany, it became clear that their aim was to destroy the Bolshevik government, which was now advocating world revolution.

The USA, Japan, France and Britain sent troops, with landings at Murmansk, Archangel and Vladivostock. The situation seemed grim for the Bolsheviks when early in 1919 Kolchak (whom the Allies intended to head the next government) advanced towards Moscow, the new capital.

However, Trotsky, now Commissar for War, had done a magnificent job creating the well-disciplined Red Army, based on conscription and including thousands of experienced officers from the old tsarist armies. Kolchak was forced back and later captured and executed by the Reds. The Czech Legion was defeated, and Denikin, advancing from the south to within 250 miles of Moscow, was forced to retreat he later escaped with British help.

By the end of 1919 it was clear that the Bolsheviks (now calling themselves communists) would survive, though in 1920 there was an invasion of the Ukraine by Polish and French troops which forced the Russians to hand over part of the Ukraine and White Russia (Treaty of Riga, 1921). From the communist point of view, the important thing was that they had won the civil war. There were a number of reasons for the communist victory.

The Whites were not centrally organized. Kolchak and Denikin failed to link up, and the nearer they drew to Moscow, the more they strained their lines of communication. They lost the support of many peasants by their brutal behaviour, and because peasants feared that a White victory would mean the loss of their newly acquired land.

On the other hand, the Red Armies had more troops, probably outnumbering the Whites by about ten to one. They controlled most of the modern industry and so were better supplied with armaments, and had the inspired leadership of Trotsky.

Lenin also took decisive measures, known as war communism, to control the economic resources of the state. All factories of any size were nationalized, all private trade banned, and food and grain seized from peasants to feed town workers and troops. This was successful at first since it enabled the government to survive the civil war, but it had disastrous results later.

Moreover, Lenin was able to present the Bolsheviks as a nationalist government fighting against foreigners; and even though war communication was unpopular with the peasants, the Whites became even more unpopular of their foreign connections.

From early 1921 Lenin had the formidable task of rebuilding an economy shattered by the First World War and then by civil war. War communism had been unpopular with the peasants who, seeing no point in working hard to produce food which was taken away from them without compensation simply produced enough for their own needs.

This caused severe food shortages aggravated by droughts in 1920-1. In addition industry was almost at a standstill. In March 1921 a serious naval mutiny occurred at Kronstadt, the island naval base in the Gulf of Finland, just off St. Petersburg. Trotsky, who sent troops across the ice on the Gulf of Finland, suppressed this only through prompt action.

The mutiny seems to have convinced Lenin that a new approach was needed to win back the faltering support of the peasants; this was vitally important since peasants formed a large majority of the population. He put into operation what became known as the New Economic Policy (NEP).

Peasants were now allowed to keep surplus produce after payment of a tax representing a certain proportion of the surplus. This, plus the reintroduction of private trade, revived incentive, and food production increased. Small industries and trade in their products were also restored to private ownership; though heavy industry such as coal, iron and steel, together with power, transport and banking, remained under state control/Lenin also found that often the old managers had to be brought back, as well as such capitalist incentives as bonuses and piece rates.

Some of the other communist leaders, especially Kamenev and Zinoviev, disapproved of NEP because they thought it encouraged the development of kulaks (wealthy peasants) that would turn out to be the enemies of communism. Lenin saw NEP as a temporary compromise a return to a certain amount of private enterprise until recovery was assured.

His long-term aim was probably full state control of agriculture through the introduction of collective farms. He hoped it would be possible, given time, to persuade the peasants of the advantages of collective farms, so that force would not be necessary.

NEP was moderately successful: the economy began to recover, and great progress was made with the electrification of industry (one of Lenin’s pet schemes). Towards the end of 1927, when NEP began to be abandoned, the ordinary Russian was probably better off than at any time since 1914, though there were continuing food shortages.

Russia was now the world’s first communist state, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) where the communist party held power, and no other parties were allowed. The main political problem now for Lenin was disagreement and criticism inside the communist party.

In March 1921 Lenin banned ‘factionalism’ within the party. This meant that discussion would be allowed, but once a decision had been taken, all sections of the party had to stick to it. Anybody who persisted in holding a different view from the official party line would be expelled from the party.

During the rest of 1921 about one-third of the party members were ‘purged’ (expelled) with the help of the ruthless secret police (Cheka); many more resigned, namely because they were against NEP. Lenin also rejected the claim of the trades unions that they should run industry. Trades unions had to do as the government told them, and their main function was to increase production. Control by Lenin and the communist party was now complete.

Term Paper # 10. Impact of the Russian Revolution:

The overthrow of autocracy and the destruction of the aristocracy and the power of the church were the first achievements of the Russian Revolution. The Czarist Empire was transformed into a new state called the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.) for short Soviet Union.

The policies of the new state were to be directed to the realization of the old socialist ideal, ‘from each according to his capacity, to each according to his work’. Private profit eliminated from the system of production. Economic planning by the state was adopted to build a technologically advanced economy at a fast rate and to eliminate glaring inequalities in society.

Work became an essential requirement for every person, as there was no unearned income to live on. The right to work became a constitutional right and it became the duty of the state to provide employment to every individual. Education of the entire people was given a high priority.

The equality of all the nationalities in the U.S.S.R. was recognized in the constitution framed in 1924 and later in 1936. The constitution gave the republics formed by the nationalities autonomy to develop their languages and cultures. These developments were particularly significant for the Asian republics of U.S.S.R., which were much more backward than the European part.

Within a few years of the revolution, the Soviet Union emerged as a major power in the world. The social and economic systems that began to be built there were hailed by many as the beginning of a new civilization while others called it an evil system. After about 70 years of the revolution, the system collapsed and in 1991 the Soviet Union ceased to exist as a state.

In its impact on the world, the Russian Revolution had few parallels in history. The ideas of socialism which the socialist movement had been advocating and which the Russian Revolution espoused were intended for universal application.

The Russian Revolution was the first successful revolution in history, which proclaimed the building of a socialist society as its objective. It had led to the creation of a new state over a vast area of the globe. It was, therefore, bound to have repercussions for the rest of the world.

Soon after the revolution, the Communist International (also known as the Third International or Comintern) was formed for prompting revolutions on an international scale. The split in the socialist movement at the time of the First World War.

The leftwing sections in many socialist parties now formed themselves into communist parties and they affiliated themselves to the Comintern. Communist parties were also formed in other countries, often with the active involvement and support of the Comintern. Thus, the international communist movement arose under one organization, which decided on policies to be followed by all communist parties.

The communist parties in various countries considered the Soviet Union the leaders of the world communist movement and the Communist Party of Soviet Union played a leading role in determining the policies of the Comintern. It is generally agreed that Comintern was often used by the Soviet Union as an instrument for pursuing its own objectives.

However, the formation of communist parties in many countries of the world with the objective of bringing about revolution and following common policies was a major consequence of the Russian Revolution.

With the formation of the Comintern, the socialist movement was divided into two sections—socialist and communist. There were many differences between them on the methods of bringing about socialism and about the concept of socialism itself.

Despite these differences, socialism became one of the most widely held ideologies within a few decades after its emergence. The spread of the influence of socialist ideas and movements after the First World War was in no small measure due to the success of the Russian Revolution.

The spread of socialist ideas also helped in promoting internationalism. The nations, at least in theory, began to accept the idea that their relations with other nations should go farther than merely promoting their narrow self-interest. Many problems, which were considered national, began to be looked upon as concerns of the world as a whole.

The universality and internationalism, which were fundamental principles of socialist ideology from the beginning, were totally opposed to imperialism. The Russian Revolution served to hasten the end of imperialism. According to Marx, a nation, which enslaves another nation, can never be free.

Socialists all over the world organization campaigns for putting an end to imperialism. The new Soviet State came to be looked upon as a friend of the peoples of the colonies struggling for national independence. Russia after the Revolution was the first country in Europe to openly support the cause of independence of all nations from foreign rule.

Immediately after the Revolution, the Soviet government has annulled the unequal treaties, which the Czar had imposed on China. It also gave assistance of various kinds to Sun Yat Sen in his struggle for the unification of China.

The Russian Revolution also influenced the movements for independence in so far as the latter gradually broadened the objectives of independence to include social and economic equality through planned economic development, which later inspired India’s Socialist Planning under Nehru.

The growing popularity of socialism and many achievements made by the Soviet Union led to a redefinition of democracy. Most people who did not believe in socialism also began to recognize that for democracy to be real, political rights without social and economic rights were not enough. Economic and social affairs could not be left to the capitalists. The idea of the state playing an active role in regulating the economy and planning the economy to improve the conditions of the people was accepted.


After two revolutions in less than a year, Russia had been transformed from an autocratic empire, through a period of shifting chaos to a notionally socialist, Bolshevik state. Notionally, because the Bolsheviks had a loose grasp on government, with only slight control of the soviets outside major cities, and because quite how their practices were actually socialist is open to debate.

As much as they later claimed, the Bolsheviks didn’t have a plan for how to govern Russia, and they were forced into making immediate, pragmatic decisions to hold onto power and keeps Russia functioning.

It would take a civil war for Lenin and the Bolsheviks to consolidate their authoritarian power, but their state would be established as the USSR and, following Lenin’s death, taken over by the even more dictatorial and bloodthirsty Stalin. Socialist revolutionaries across Europe would take heart from Russia’s apparent success and agitate further, while much of the world looked at Russia with a mixture of fear and apprehension.