Monday, August 25, 2014

(1917-1929) THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION - World History

In 1917 the Russian monarchy collapsed. For eight months liberals and moderate social democrats tried to set up a parliamentary regime, but in October radical communists under Lenin seized power and established a dictatorship which survived military intervention, civil war and economic crisis’ to forge the world’s first communist state, the Soviet Union. 

THE TSAR IST SYSTEM in Russia was faced with intolerable strains by the First World War. While Nicholas II did little to dispel hostility to his regime, the war effort went from bad to worse. Land was left untilled, the cities went hungry. The railway system threatened to collapse, towns were swamped with new workers who could not be adequately paid or housed. In February 1917 there were strikes and demonstrations in Petrograd. The army withdrew support from the tsar, and the Duma (parliament) called for a new order. In the face of the revolution, Nicholas abdicated. He was succeeded by a Provisional Government under the liberal Prince Lvov.

The second revolution

The first revolution in February solved none of Russia’s problems. The Provisional Government had to work with a System of “Dual Power”, which it exercised with the Petrograd Soviet, and elected assembly representing workers and soldiers in the capital. A constitution was promised but constantly delayed and the economic situation deteriorated sharply. Soviets sprang up all over Russia, claiming to be the authentic voice of the people. When the war could not be continued effectively, the clamour for change pushed the population towards a more radical solution.

The main beneficiaries were the Social Revol-utionaries and the Bolsheviks (Marxist Social Democrats), In May a mainly socialist government was appointed under the leadership of a Social Revolutionary, Kerensky, but he was unable to stem the radical tide. By October land had been seized by the peasantry, the cities were in chaos, the authority of the government a hollow sham. The Bolshevik leader, Lenin, called for a second, communist revolu-tion, when Bolsheviks stormed the government building on 25 October 1917, resistance crumbled. The Bolsheviks seized power and established an emergency dictatorship.

Civil war 

Bolshevik power extended only over the heartland of Russia; the rest of the empire broke into a series of smaller national states. On the fringes anti-Bolshevik forces gathered to destroy Russia socialism. After the new regime had agreed to end Russian participation in the First World War at Brest-Litovsk in March 1918, the Bolsheviks fought at three-year civil war against the “White” counter-revolutionary armies, foreign forces sent to crush the revolution, and armed nationalist movements in the Ukraine, the Baltic states and the Caucasus. 

A period of extraordinary confusion followed. By organizing war effort on lines even more authoritarian then the tsar’s, the Bolsheviks defeated one enemy after another. By 1920, when the new state of USSR was established, its power extended over the Ukraine, the far eastern territories and the Caucasus. In 1921 the regime allowed private trade and farming under the New Economic Policy, but the political system stayed a tight Party dictatorship. During the 1920s an uneasy social peace reigned, but the issue of how to establish an industrial state in a peasant-based society had only been postponed. Under Stalin, General Secretary from 1922, the problem of modernizing Russia was addressed in 1928 in savage “revolution from above.”

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