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RUSSIA AND THE USSR, 1914-1941

THE TSARS EMPIRE Russia was a vast Empire rather a single country, and the Tsar was its supreme ruler. Around 80 per cent of Russias population were peasants. Living and working conditions for most of them were dreadful. There was no basic education in Russia and very few peasants could read or write. In the other hand were the aristocracy. They were about 1.5% of society but owned about 23% of the land. They were a key part of the Tsars government. From the later nineteenth century, Russia started its industrial revolution. As a result of industrialisation, a new class began to emerge in Russia the capitalists. THE TSAR AND HIS GOVERNMENT The empire was ruled by an autocracy. One man, the Tsar, had absolute power. In 1905 Russia was almost overwhelmed by a wave of strikes and rebellions which turned into a full-scale revolution. The Tsar survived by offering concessions to the middle classes in the form of a Duma (an elected Parliament), the right of free speech and the right to form political parties. For a short while it seemed that Russia was at peace, but this did not last. By 1914 there was still a great deal of discontent in Russia. One of the most important opposition groups was The Social Democratic Party which followed the ideas of Karl Marx. In 1903 the party split itself into Bolsheviks and Mensheviks. The Bolsheviks (led by Lenin) believed it was the job of the party to create a revolution whereas the Mensheviks believed Russia was not ready for revolution. Both of these organisations were illegal and many of their members had been executed or sent in exile to Siberia. WAR AND REVOLUTION In August 1914 Russia entered the First World War. Antigovernment strikes and demonstrations were abandoned because people were discouraged. Even if the Russian soldiers fought bravely, they stood little chance against the German army. In 1917 there was an amazing strike in Petrograd which made the Tsar abdicate. The Provisional Government promised Russias allies that it would continue the war. But one of the Soviets leaders was determined to push the revolution further. He was Lenin, leader of the Bolsheviks. When he heard of the March revolution he immediately returned to Russia from exile in Europe (the Germans even provided him with a

special train, hoping that he might cause more chaos in Russia!). In the second half of 1917, the Provisional Governments authority collapsed. THE BOLSHEVIK REVOLUTION On October 1917, the Red Guards led by Leon Trotsky took control, in a couple of days, of the most important offices, bridges, Banks, railway stations Lenins first decree was the announcing that Russia was asking for peace with Germany. There followed an enormous number of decrees: the peasants were given the Tsars and the Churchs lands. The factories and industries were put into the hands of the workers He believed he was establishing a proletariat dictatorship of the which in time would give way to true Communism. CIVIL WAR From the end of 1918 until 1921, an unlikely collection of antiBolshevik united elements (known as the Whites, in contrast to the Bolshevik Reds) fought in a civil war. Meanwhile the execution of the Tsar and his family was ordered because Lenin feared the Tsars figure as leader of the Whites. THE NEW ECONOMIC POLICY A couple of months later, Lenin announced some startling new policies called the New Economic Policy (NEP). The NEP brought back capitalism for some sections of Russian society: Peasants were allowed to sell surplus grain for profit and would pay tax on what they produced. In the towns, small factories were handed back into private ownership. Lenin made it clear that the NEP was temporary and that the vital heavy industries (coal, oil, iron and steel) would remain in state hands. But Lenin did not live to see the recovery of the Russian economy. He died in 1924 STALIN OR TROTSKY? After Lenins death, two men were the leading figures and bitter rivals in the Communist Party, Joseph Stalin and Leon Trotsky. The struggle between they held was long and hard and finally was won in 1929 by Stalin. Once he had established himself as leader, he introduced a new constitution that strengthened his power. But for him, it was not enough to be in power. He was also determined to crush anyone who opposed him or who might oppose him. However, the really terrifying period in Stalins rule, known as purges, began in 1934. It is said that every family in the USSR lost someone in the purges. By 1937 an estimated 18 million people had been transported to labour camps (gulags). Ten million died. In 1940, Trotsky, who was in exile in Mexico, was murdered by Stalins agents. THE USSR AS A GREAT ECONOMIC POWER

Once in power Stalin was determined to modernize the USSR as quickly as possible, and he had some powerful reasons: - To increase the USSRs military strength - To rival the economies of the USA and other capitalist countries - To increase food supplies - To create a Communist society - To establish his reputation. Stalin ended Lenins NEP and created a modernization program through a series of Five-Year Plans. These plans were drawn up by GOSPLAN, the state planning organisation that Lenin set up. The first Five-Year Plan focused on the major industries and the USSR increased production. In the second Five-Year Plan (1933-37) heavy industry was still a priority, but other areas were also developed (transport and communications). In the third Five-Year Plan, which begun in 1938 and was disrupted by the Second World War, was focused in the production of consumer goods. To be successful, Stalin needs to modernize the USSRs agriculture.