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IC Social Studies: The Russian Revolution
Transcript of IC Social Studies: The Russian Revolution
The Russian Revolution is the name for a pair of revolutions that took place in Russia in 1917. The main goal of these revolutions was to overthrow the ruler of Russia (Tsar Nicholas II) and create a new government that would empower the people under Communism
The Russian Revolution
Was Russian Life Really So Bad During the Early 1900s?
Sadly, for most Russians, it was. Tsar Nicholas II proved to be a very poor leader. Many of Nicholas' decisions led the formerly-powerful nation into a state of distress. The cost of food soared, workers struggled, and Nicholas drafted over 15 million workers, many of them farmers, into the army as he entered Russia into World War I. The Russian economy continued to struggle, while over 3 million Russians died in the war.
On top of everything else, Nicholas continued to live a luxurious life while many of his people suffered. He treated his rule as though he were a saint, and expected blind acceptance and love from his people, no matter what their lives were like.
Death of Lenin
Lenin was the head of Russia until his death in 1924. After he died, Leon Trotsky and another Bolshevik leader, Joseph Stalin, fought to take Lenin's place. The former allies became bitter enemies.
Trotsky felt that communism should spread around the world, while Stalin believed it would only work in one country, Russia.
Additional Stalin Actions
Stalin created for himself an almost god-like identity. He took control of the Russian press, so that all articles were designed to show him in a positive light. Any who spoke out against him were executed. He became the subject of many songs, art, literature, etc., all naming him a great leader. His name was even inserted into the national anthem during World War II!
One way Stalin helped build his image as a great leader was propaganda. In addition to controlling the press, Stalin used agencies to create propaganda that would brainwash Russian citizens into following him and supporting his rule.
What is Communism?
A communist society is one that gives ownership of materials, capital, and business to the community, rather than individuals. Unlike our current economic system of capitalism, where there is a working class who provides labor and an ownership class that owns companies and materials, communism shares profits among all people.
Example of Communism
Imagine you are a factory worker. You do not own the factory, or the materials used in that factory. Your only choice is to work for a living, and keep the money you are paid. Meanwhile, the factory owner, who does not work, but does own the factory, earns money from your work AND keeps any additional money or goods from the factory.
In communism, all workers would own the factory and materials, so all laborers would share equally in the profits from the company
Other Aspects of Communism
In a communist society, there are no separate classes (no upper class or lower class), as all people are on even ground with regards to goods and wealth.
Communism was highly appealing to many Russian citizens, many of whom were peasant workers with little education. Communism represented a chance to a better way of life via more food, wealth, equality, etc.
Karl Marx, in 1848, published a pamphlet called "The Communist Manifesto". In his pamphlet, Marx urged the working class to rise up against the rich, ownership class, in order to find a better life.
More and more Russians began to adopt Marx's ideas, and argued for representation in government. Tsar Nicholas refused to allow anything of the sort, even while crime, labor strikes, and frustration began to grow to all-time high levels among Russian citizens.
Creating A Revolution
Russian frustration reached its breaking point in 1917. Over the course of nine months, two separate revolutions completely reshaped the country.
The February Revolution
The October Revolution
In early February, 1917, Russian workers began massive strikes in the capital city of Petrograd. The Tsar eventually called in the military to stop the strikes, but the troops turned against the Tsar and joined the protesters. Under pressure from his advisors, Nicholas eventually resigned the throne on March 15.
Following the February Revolution, the Bolshevik party (communist) began to gain support and power in Russia. They were led by Vladimir Lenin, who was a believer in Marx's ideas. In October, 1917, Lenin and another Bolshevik leader named Leon Trotsky led a rebellion that ended in the Bolsheviks taking power in the Russian government, with Lenin named the new governmental head
Stalin and Trotsky continued to fight for power with very different strategies.
Trotsky argued that Communism should be spread around the world, while Stalin believed the focus should remain only in Russia. Trotsky was much more a "dreamer", while Stalin was a man of action.
Stalin was named head of the Russian Communist party, and exiled Trotsky from Russia in 1929. Trotsky was eventually executed in Mexico in 1940, on Stalin's orders
While a Communist in name, Stalin proved to be a very corrupt leader. He imprisoned millions of citizens in labor camps, and between 1934 and 1939 he organized the "Great Purge", in which millions of "enemies of the working class" were executed, often without trials.
Russian Secret Police
During his rule, Stalin built up a secret police force. Rather than patrolling the streets to prevent crime, Stalin's secret police were used as spies in other countries, to make sure they were still loyal to Stalin.
They were also used in Russia as secret enforcers. They intimidated citizens, and carried out secret executions of many who were opposed to Stalin's rule. Russian citizens had a great fear of these forces, who were given full power of the law under Stalin.
Life Under Stalin
For the working class people of Russia, whose rights were supposed to be expanded under Communism, life was very difficult under Stalin.
Famine of 1932-33
A famine in Russia from 1932-1933 caused between 5 and 10 million deaths. The Russian government took control of all Russian farmland, and used much of the grain harvested for trade.
When the famine spread, Stalin refused to give out the government's stored grain, and instead continued to export it. Stalin believed that the farmers were hiding grain and were simply being greedy by asking for more.
Stalin's government maintained control over all matters of art, literature, and science. He did not allow research into certain areas of science, and rejected many common theories on genetic and biology.
Again, Stalin's control over education allowed him to oversee exactly what Russian children were taught.
Different classes of Russian people felt very differently under Stalin's rule:
The working class was expected to increase production to very high levels in order to boost Russia's economy. They were not given much food, and the government continued to control most of the land, factories, etc.
The middle class had some wealth removed from them, but overall they did little to speak out against Stalin because they were still better off than the poor working class, and instead spent their time doing what they could to gain more wealth.
Stalin's Pact with Germany
As Adolf Hitler and the Nazis built up power in Germany, Stalin realized they were a potential threat as a world power. Stalin approached Great Britain and France with anti-German agreements, but was denied.
Instead, in 1939, Stalin signed a pact with Germany, in which each was given a separate "sphere of influence" in Europe. This was basically an agreement that each country would have power/the right to invade separate areas
After the agreement, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, Germany invaded the western part of Poland in 1939 to begin World War II, while Russia invaded the eastern part of Poland, and eventually took control of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. Germany and Russia also made several trade agreements.