Class 9 History Chapter 2 Revision Notes: Socialism in Europe & Russia

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The Age of Social Change

  • After the French revolution, the ideas of freedom and equality spread across Europe and Asia.
  • These ideas acted as a vehicle of societal change in a society which was broadly divided – into estates and orders.
  • Not everyone in Europe, however, wanted a complete transformation of society.
    • Conservatives’ wanted change but with reluctance, Liberals wanted a gradual restructuring of society while ‘radicals’ planned to alter the society radically.
    • Such differing ideas about societal change clashed during the social and political turmoil that followed the French Revolution.
  • In India, Raja Rammohan Roy and Derozio were influenced by the ideals of French Revolution.

Liberals, Radicals and Conservatives


  • Liberals wanted a nation which tolerated all religions.
  • Liberals opposed the uncontrolled power of dynastic rulers.
  • They advocated the rights of individuals against governments.
  • They argued for a representative, elected parliamentary government, with an independent judiciary.
  • They did not believe in universal adult franchise.
    • They felt men of property should have the vote.
    • They also did not support the right to vote for women.


  • They wanted a nation in which the government was based on the majority of a country’s population.
  • They supported women’s suffrage movements.
  • They opposed the privileges of great landowners and wealthy factory owners.
  • They were not against the existence of private property but disliked concentration of property in the hands of a few.


  • They were opposed to radicals and liberals.
  • They believed that the past had to be respected and change had to be brought about through a slow process.

Universal Adult Franchise: Right of every citizen to vote.

Industrial Society and Social Change

  • The ideas of freedom and equality acted as precursors to social and economic changes in society.
  • New cities came up and new industrialised regions developed, railways expanded, and the Industrial Revolution occurred.
  • Industrialisation brought men, women and children to factories. Work hours were often long, and wages were poor. Unemployment was common, particularly during times of low demand for industrial goods.
    • Liberals and radicals searched for solutions to these issues.
  • Almost all industries were the property of individuals. Liberals and radicals themselves were often property owners and employers.
  • In France, Italy, Germany and Russia, people became revolutionaries and worked to overthrow existing monarchs. Nationalists talked of revolutions that would create ‘nations’ where all citizens would have equal rights.
  • After 1815, Giuseppe Mazzini, an Italian nationalist, conspired with others to achieve this in Italy. Nationalists elsewhere – including India – read his writings.

The Coming of Socialism to Europe

  • Socialists saw private property as the root cause of all social ills. They advocated that society as a whole rather than single individuals should control property, which would promote collective social interests.
  • Socialists had different visions of the future.
    • Some socialists such as Robert Owen believed in promoting the cooperatives at individual level while Other socialists, such as Louis Blanc advocated that governments should encourage cooperatives.
  • Marx’s Views on Industrial Society:
    • Marx argued that industrial society was ‘capitalist’.
      • Capitalists owned the capital invested in factories, and the profit of capitalists was produced by workers.
  • The conditions of workers could not improve as long as this profit was accumulated by private capitalists.
  • Marx advocated a socialist society where all property was socially controlled which would emancipate workers from exploitation.
  • He envisioned communist society as the natural society of the future.

Support for Socialism

  • By the 1870s, socialist ideas spread through Europe. To coordinate their efforts, socialists formed an international body – namely, the Second International.
  • Workers in England and Germany began forming associations to fight for better living and working conditions.
  • In Germany, these associations worked closely with the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and helped it win parliamentary seats.
  • By 1905, socialists and trade unionists formed a Labour Party in Britain and a Socialist Party in France.
  • However, till 1914, socialists never succeeded in forming a government in Europe. Represented by strong figures in parliamentary politics, their ideas did shape legislation.

● Cooperatives: These were to be associations of people who produced goods together and divided the profits according to the work done by members.
● Suffragette Movement: A movement to give women the right to vote.

The Russian Revolution

Socialists took over the government in Russia through the October Revolution of 1917. The fall of monarchy in February 1917 and the events of October are normally called the Russian Revolution.

The Russian Empire in 1914

  • During the Tsar Nicholas II regime in 1914, the Russian empire stretched to the Pacific and comprised today’s Central Asian states, as well as Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan.
  • It also included current-day Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, parts of Poland, Ukraine and Belarus.
  • In Russian empire the majority religion was Russian Orthodox Christianity besides Catholics, Protestants, Muslims and Buddhists.

Economy and Society

  • At the beginning of the twentieth century, about 85 percent of the Russian empire’s population earned their living from agriculture.
  • In the empire, cultivators produced for the market as well as for their own needs and Russia was a major exporter of grain.
  • In Russia, peasants wanted the land of the nobles to be given to them. Frequently, they refused to pay rent and even murdered landlords.
  • Russian peasants pooled their land together periodically and their commune (mir) divided it according to the needs of individual families.
  • Industry:
    • Industry was found in pockets. Prominent industrial areas were St Petersburg and Moscow.
    • Many factories were set up in the 1890s, when Russia’s railway network was extended, and foreign investment in industry increased. Coal production doubled and iron and steel output quadrupled.
    • Most industry was the private property of industrialists. Government supervised large factories to ensure minimum wages and limited hours of work.
  • Workers were a divided social group. Some had strong links with the villages from which they came.
    Others had settled in cities permanently.
  • Women made up 31 per cent of the factory labour force by 1914, but they were paid less than men.
  • These strikes took place frequently in the textile industry during 1896-1897, and in the metal industry during 1902.
  • Nobles got their power and position through their services to the Tsar, not through local popularity.

Political Parties in Russia

  • The Russian Social Democratic Workers Party:
    • It was founded in 1898 inspired by Marx’s ideas.
    • However, because of government policing, it had to operate as an illegal organisation.
    • It set up a newspaper, mobilised workers and organised strikes.
  • The party was divided over the strategy of organisation.
    • The Bolshevik group was led by Vladimir Lenin. He thought that in a repressive society like Tsarist Russia the party should be disciplined and should control the number and quality of its members.
    • Others (Mensheviks) thought that the party should be open to all (as in Germany).
  • Socialist Revolutionary Party:
    • It was founded in 1900 struggled for peasants’ rights and demanded that land belonging to nobles be transferred to peasants.

A Turbulent Time: The 1905 Revolution

  • Bloody Sunday:
    • It was a massacre that took place on 22nd January 1905 in St Petersburg, wherein over 100 workers were killed and about 300 wounded when they took out a procession to present an appeal to Tsar.
    • This procession was taken out to demand a reduction in the working day to eight hours, an increase in wages and improvement in working conditions.
    • This was done because the prices of essential goods rose so fast that real wages were declined by 20%. It was named Bloody Sunday since it took place on Sunday.
  • Duma:
    • Duma was an elected consultative Parliament formed in Russia during the 1905 Revolution.
    • However, The Tsar dismissed the first Duma within 75 days and the re-elected second Duma within three months.
    • He did not want any questioning of his authority or any reduction in his power.
    • He changed the voting laws and packed the third Duma with conservative politicians. Liberals and revolutionaries were kept out.

The First World War and the Russian Empire

  • In 1914, the first world war broke out between two European alliances – Germany, Austria and Turkey (the Central powers) and France, Britain and Russia (later Italy and Romania).
  • In Russia, the war was initially popular, and people rallied around Tsar Nicholas II.
  • However, as the war continued and the Tsar approach not to consult the main parties in the Duma led to the support wore thin.
  • The Tsarina Alexandra’s German origins and poor advisers, especially a monk called Rasputin, made the autocracy unpopular.

Impact on Industry

  • Russian industries were already fewer in number, further during the war Russia was cut off from other suppliers of industrial goods due to German control of Baltic sea.
  • Industrial equipment disintegrated more rapidly in Russia than elsewhere in Europe. By 1916, railway lines began to break down.
  • Able-bodied men were called up to the war. Consequently, there were labour shortages and small workshops producing essentials were shut down.

The February Revolution in Petrograd

Social Conditions: Petrograd

  • The winter of 1917 witnessed the exceptional frost which made the conditions in the capital, Petrograd grim.
  • The layout of the city was designed in a manner that highlighted the divisions among its people.
  • The workers’ quarters and factories were located on the right bank of the River Neva while on the left bank were the Winter Palace, and official buildings.
  • In February 1917, food shortages were deeply felt in the workers’ quarters.

Formation of Petrograd Soviet

  • On 22 February, a lockout took place at a factory on the right bank of river Neva. The next day, workers in fifty factories called a strike in sympathy.
  • Workers surrounded official buildings and the fashionable quarters which led to the government announcement of curfew.
  • On 25 February, the government suspended the Duma.
  • On the 27th of February the Police Headquarters were ransacked. The cavalry was called to control the protestors who were protesting in hope of getting their demands meet i.e., Bread, better wages, working hours.
  • However, the cavalry refused to fire on the demonstrators instead three regiments mutinied and joined striking workers.
  • Later, Soldiers and striking workers assembled to form ‘soviet’ or ‘council’ in the same building where the Duma met. This was Known as the Petrograd Soviet.

Functioning of Provisional Government

  • After formation of Petrograd Soviet, Tsar abdicated on 2 March.
  • Soviet and Duma Leaders formed Provisional Government to run the country. From now onwards Russia’s future would be decided by a constituent assembly, elected on the basis of universal adult suffrage.
  • Army officials, landowners and industrialists were influential in the Provisional Government.
    Restrictions on public meetings and associations were removed.
  • ‘Soviets’, like the Petrograd Soviet, were set up everywhere, though no common system of election was followed.
  • In April 1917, the Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin returned to Russia from exile.
    • He put forward three demands- known as Lenin’s ‘April Theses.
      • First World War to be brought to close.
      • Transfer of Land to the peasants.
      • Nationalisation of Banks.
  • Through the summer the workers’ movement spread. In industrial areas, factory committees were formed which began questioning the way industrialists ran their factories.
  • In June, about 500 Soviets sent representatives to an All-Russian Congress of Soviets. As the Provisional Government saw its power reduce and Bolshevik influence grow, it decided to take stern measures against the spreading discontent. It resisted attempts by workers to run factories and began arresting leaders. Popular demonstrations staged by the Bolsheviks in July 1917 were sternly repressed.

Vladimir Lenin

  • In April 1917, the Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin returned to Russia from exile.
  • He had opposed the war since 1914. He felt it was time for soviets to take power from Provisional government.