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The Russian Revolution, Part II. Vladimir Lenin (1870-1924)

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Presentation on theme: "The Russian Revolution, Part II. Vladimir Lenin (1870-1924)"— Presentation transcript:

1 The Russian Revolution, Part II

2 Vladimir Lenin (1870-1924)

3 Russian Communists Program of the Russian Social-Democratic Workers Party (Bolsheviks): Russian capitalism is underdeveloped – but it is already bankrupt, unviable The Russian state is unreformable The only solution to the Russian crisis is to move directly to socialism, bypassing the capitalist phase Overthrow of the old ruling classes Establish a new state run by workers and peasants

4 But Russia is backward: how can it go socialist when Europe is still capitalist? The Bolsheviks were convinced that the disaster of the First World War was bound to produce socialist revolutions in major European countries – in Germany, above all Faith in the inevitability of “world revolution” was a crucial element of their thinking Success of the Russian revolution depended on the spread of revolution beyond Russia

5 1917: the October Revolution

6 Lenin’s plan:  Advance the most radical demands to gain popular support: -a democratic peace -radical land reform -worker control of factories -self-determination of non-Russian nationalities of the Empire  Push the Soviets to take power  Overthrow the Provisional Government by force, if necessary

7 November 7 (October 25), 1917: Bolsheviks and their allies stage an armed coup, overthrow the Provisional Government, and organize a Soviet Government, led by Lenin and confirmed by the All-Russian Congress of Soviets’ Deputies, which proceeds to implement the radical program The Decree on Peace: Russia exits the war, offers immediate peace talks to all warring parties to conclude a democratic peace The Decree on Land: Distribution of all farmland to peasants on the basis of equality (the same amount of land per capita)



10 The arrest of the Provisional Government, Nov.7, 1917

11 The Council of People’s Commissars – the first Soviet Government, October 1917


13 In October, 1917, the Bolshevik Party had 0.3 mln. members in a country of 140 mln. people with a collapsed state Bolshevik chances of establishing a new state seemed non-existent The essence of their strategy was to recognize and accept the new reality in the country as irreversible:  Russia has lost the war, and its army has dissolved  Peasants have taken over farmland and divided it  Workers have taken over factories  Soviets have been set up throughout the country without the Bolsheviks  Non-Russian provinces of Russia were organizing themselves as new independent states The new “Soviet Republic” was to organize this new order and make it stay

14 The Internationale, international socialist anthem: pvwh292VKI pvwh292VKI

15 The first Soviet government is a revolutionary dictatorship A civil war is inevitable:  Old ruling classes fight back  Political opponents of dictatorship (including many leftists) resist the coup  Popular opposition  Foreign powers intervene

16 The Civil War, 1918-22

17 The main question of the Civil War: Will the Bolshevik dictatorship (“the Reds”) be overthrown? The anti-Bolsheviks (“The Whites”) represented a wide spectrum of political forces, with a range of motives for opposition

18 The Whites The Right: forces trying to restore autocracy and empire The Center (liberals): oppose the dictatorship, argue for a democratic, constitutional republic The Left: oppose the Bolshevik dictatorship, committed to socialism to be achieved by democratic means

19 Foreign interventions in the Russian Civil War Germany Britain (incl. the Lockhart Conspiracy) France USA Japan Poland Czech military units

20 The Russian Civil War, 1918-1920

21 The Red Star first appeared on the helmets of the Red Army

22 Stars on the epaulettes of the Russian Imperial Army

23 Order of Red Banner – the first Soviet war medal

24 General Anton Denikin, first commander of the White armed forces

25 Lev Trotsky, the Commissar of War

26 Red Army personnel, Civil War Red Army volunteers, 1918


28 A Red Army political rally, 1919

29 Artillery unit of the Red Eagles Regiment, Yekaterinburg, 1919

30 The Anchugov family, Red Army volunteers, Ural region, 1919

31 Women sewing uniforms for the Red Army

32 A Red Army propaganda train, 1919

33 White army soldiers

34 Baron Petr Vrangel, succeeded Denikin as commander of White armed forces

35 Admiral Aleksandr Kolchak, White “Supreme Ruler of Russia”, 1918

36 Mikhail Frunze, Red commander who defeated Kolchak and Vrangel

37 Semyon Budenny, Commander of the First Cavalry Army

38 Ukrainian Anarchists (The Greens): Nestor Makhno with his staff

39 War Communism

40 Economic policy Abolition of private ownership and market economy The state organizes direct exchange of goods between the city and the countryside Full nationalization of industries Requisition of “surplus” foodstuffs from the peasantry Goods and services are distributed by the state Equalization and naturalization of wages Forced collectivization Forced labour Militarization of industrial work

41 Politics One-party dictatorship The Soviets are purged of any opposition and fully subjected to Party control Fusion of the Party and the state “Exploiting classes” are expropriated, denied basic rights, and forced to do manual labour Repression of opposition and dissidents Party takeover of mass media Militarization of state and society (a new battle order) Creation of a new military (the Red Army) and a new agency for political repression – the Cheka (All-Russian Emergency Commission for Struggle Against Counterrevolution and Sabotage) “Revolutionary legality” – state terror instead of rule of law

42 Red and White Terror Lenin, in October 1917, about the decision of Congress of Soviets to ban death penalty: “Nonsense! How can one carry out a revolution without executions?” K. Danishevsky, Chairman of the Supreme Revolutionary Military Tribunal, 1918: “Military tribunals are not and must not be guided by any judicial norms. They are punitive organs created in the course of intense revolutionary struggle, which formulate their sentences, guided by revolutionary necessity and by the legal consciousness of the Communists.” Admiral Kolchak: “I forbid the arrests of workers. They must be shot or hanged…”

43 “Don’t look for evidence in a case that the defendant rebelled against Soviet power with weapons or words. The first thing you must ask him is which class he belongs to, what his education is, and what profession he is in. These are the questions which will decide the defendant’s fate. This is the essence of Red Terror.” “The VCheka is not an investigative or judiciary body – it is a combat unit of the party of the future – the communist party. It destroys without trial or isolates from society by incarcerating in a concentration camp. Its word is law. Its work must spread to all spheres of public life where counterrevolution is rooted: the army, food supply, public education, all economic organizations, health system, fire brigades, communications, etc. etc.” –

44 In the Arkhangelsk region, 38,000 people were arrested by White authorities (10% of the population). Of them, 8,000 were executed and 1,000 died of beatings or diseases. “A year ago, the population saw us as those who freed them from the heavy Commissar yoke. Today, it hates us as much as the Comissars, if not more – and what is worse than hatred, it no longer trusts us, expecting from us only the worst.” – A. Budberg, War Minister in the Kolchak Administration, August 1919

45 Red Terror

46 White Terror

47 Ideology and ethics The cult of Revolution World Revolution is the path to humanity’s liberation and progress; Russia’s key role in it The Revolution justifies any means of achieving its goals Class hatred of “exploiters”, class war against them Civil war is inevitable and necessary Need for self-sacrifice and heroism – among the Communists as well as the masses Collectivism vs. individualism Atheism vs. religion Need to replace existing culture with a new “proletarian” one

48 ENDS AND MEANS Lenin: “The good of the revolution, the good of the working class – this is the supreme law”. Trotsky: “Do the consequences of the revolution justify its victims? The question is of a theological kind, and therefore fruitless. One would be equally justified to ask, confronted with the hardships and woes of one’s personal existence: was it worth to be born at all?”

49 Red poster: “Have you volunteered for the Red Army?”

50 White poster: “Onward, for a united, undivided, and powerful Russia!”

51 Red poster: Admiral Kolchak wants to “shoot 1 out of every 10 peasants”

52 White poster: “Bolsheviks on the Don River: Desecrating the Church”

53 Red poster: “Mount a horse, worker and peasant! Red cavalry is key to victory!”

54 White poster: “What Bolshevism is bringing to the people”

55 Whites and their supporters fleeing abroad after defeat in the Civil War

56 Why the Reds won  They came to power in a situation of failed state and societal breakdown  Their original program was crafted to reflect fundamental popular demands – peace, land, equality, people’s power, dissolution of the Empire  Their dictatorship could be rationalized as the only practical way of establishing and defending a new order based on those demands – in the face of determined resistance  The Whites were seen as trying to restore the old order  Foreign interventions in support of the Whites allowed the Reds to appeal to patriotism

57 The nationality issue Ethnic Russians accounted for only half of the population of the Russian Empire; over 100 other nationalities lived within its 1913 borders Nationalism, struggle for national independence or autonomy, was one of the forces of the revolution When the Empire collapsed, nationalists in many of its non- Russian provinces proclaimed independence: Finland, Poland, Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Central Asian Emirates

58 The Reds didn’t challenge that independence until the last phase of the Civil War – while the Whites sought to restore the Russian Empire Non-Russian nationalism helped the Reds defeat the Whites Later, nationalist regimes were overthrown by local communists with the help of the Red Army in all new states, except Finland and Poland, and the short-lived independent states were merged with Russia in the Soviet Union

59 The costs of the Civil War, 1918-1922: Population losses – 13-16 mln. people (about 10% of the population):  2 mln. were killed in battles  At least 1.3 mln. fell victims of Red and White Terror  2 mln. emigrated Industrial output fell by 7-fold compared with 1913 Agricultural output fell by 40% National income fell by almost 3-fold

60 The Russian Revolution started in 1905 in response to the murder of 200 people by Tsarist troops… It ended 17 years later at the cost of over 13 million lives... The Russian Empire was replaced by the Soviet Republic

61 State Emblem of the Russian Empire, 1890s

62 The first state emblem of Soviet Russia: “Workers of all lands, unite!”

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