Socialism in Europe and the Russian Revolution
- Autocracy : A country ruled by a person who has complete power
- Autonomy : The right to govern themselves
- Bolsheviks : A fraction of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party led by Lenin based on the ideology of Marx and Engels. It seized power in the October Revolution of 1917.
- Bloody Sunday : A mass of peaceful workers were fired upon by the Russian troops when they went to the Winter Palace to present a petition to the Tzar. This incident occurred on Sunday 22nd January, 1905.
- Collective farms : A farm or a group of farms organized as a unit and managed and worked cooperatively by a group of farmers under government supervision.
- Duma : Russian Parliament of Legislature.
- Divine Right Theory : The theory that believed that the king was the representative of the God on Earth and no one has the right to deny him.
- Exiled : Forced to live away from one’s own country.
- Jadidists : Muslim reformers in the Empire of Russia.
- Red Army : The army of revolutionary Russia who fought against the Tzar’s army.
- Romanov : The second dynasty after Rurik which ruled over Russia until the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II in 1917.
- Monk : A member of a religious community of men typically living under vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.
- Tzar : Emperor of Russia.
- Refugee : A person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster.
- Soviet : Council of workers.
- Suffragette : A movement to give woman the right to vote.
- Serfdom : Russian type of feudalism under which peasants worked for the landlord in exchange for food and shelter.
- 1855 : Tzar Alexander II started his reign as Tzar of Russia.
- 1861 : Alexander issued a manifesto wherein. Serfs were emancipated.
- 1881 : Alexander II was assassinated.
- 1883 : Formation of first Indian Marxist group.
- 1898 : Formation of Russian Social Democratic Labour Party.
- 1900 : Formation of Socialist Revolutionary Party.
- 1903 : Second Congress of Russian Social Democratic Labour Party.
- 1904-1905 : Russo-Japanese War.
- 1905 : Russia Revolution. A strike began at the putilov works in St. Petersburg.
- 3 Jan., 1905 : Russian Revolution.
- 22 January, 1905 : (Bloody Sunday) peaceful demonstrators arrived at the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg to present a petition to the tzar.
- April 1905 : The first Duma was called.
- July 1905 : The first Duma was dissolved.
- 28 July 1914 : Beginning of the First World War.
- 22-27 February, 1917 : February Revolution
- 3rd April 1917 : Return of Lenin and April Thesis
- 5th May 1917 : Formation of new provisional government
- 3rd June 1917 : First All- Russian Congress of Soviets announced in Petrograd
- 11 November 1918 : End of the First World War.
- 1917-1920 : Civil War broke out in Russia.
1919 : Formation of Comintern.
- 1929 : Beginning of Collectivization.
- 1991 : Break up of Soviet Union.
The Age Of Social Change
- The Age of Social Change
- The French Revolution opened up the possibility of creating a dramatic change in the way in which society was structured.
- Liberals, Radicals and Conservatives
- One of the groups which looked to changed society was the liberals.
- Liberals wanted a nation which tolerated all religions.
- Liberals also opposed the uncontrolled power of dynastic rulers.
- They wanted to safeguard the rights of individuals against governments.
- They argued for a representative, elected parliamentary government, subject to laws interpreted by a well trained judiciary that was independent of rulers and officials.
- However, they were not democrats. They did not believe in Universal Adult Franchise.
- Views of radicals :
- The radicals wanted a nation in which government was based on the majority of a country’s population.
- Unlike liberals, they opposed the privileges of big 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.
- Conservatives were opposed to radicals and liberals.
- One of the groups which looked to changed society was the liberals.
- Industrial Society and Social Change
- These political trends were signs of a new time. It was a time of profound social and economic changes. It was a time when the Industrial Revolution took place.
- Industrialization brought men, women and children to factories. Working hours were often long and wages were poor. Unemployment was common.
- Liberals and radicals searched for solutions to these issues. Many working men and women who wanted changes in the world rallied around liberal and radical groups and parties in the early nineteenth century.
- The Coming of Socialism to Europe
- By the mid-nineteenth century in Europe, socialism was a well-known body of ideas that attracted widespread attention.
- Socialists were against private property and saw it as the root of all social ills of that time.
- Some socialists believed in the idea of ‘cooperatives’. Robert Owen (1771-1858), a leading English manufacturer, sought to build a cooperative community called New Harmony in Indiana (USA).
- In France, for instance, Louis Blanc (1813-1882) wanted the government to encourage cooperatives and replace capitalist enterprises. These cooperatives were to be associations of people who produced goods together and divided the profits according to the work done by members.
- Thoughts of Karl Marx (1818-1883) :
- 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.
- Workers had to overthrow capitalism and the rule of private property.
- Marx believed that to free themselves from capitalist exploitation, workers had to construct a radically socialist society where all properties were socially controlled. This would be a ‘communist society.’
- He was convinced that workers would triumph in their conflict with capitalists. A communist society was 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.
- 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.
The Crises Of Tzarism
- 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
- In 1914, Tzar Nicholas II ruled over Russia and its empire. Besides the territory around Moscow, the Russian empire included present-day Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, parts of Poland, Ukraine and Belarus. It stretched to the Pacific and comprised today’s Central Asian states, as well as Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan.
- The majority religion was Russian Orthodox Christianity.
- Economy and Society
- In the beginning of the twentieth century, the vast majority of Russia’s people were agriculturists.
- Russia was a major exporter of grain.
- Industry was found in pockets. Prominent industrial areas were St. Petersburg and Moscow.
- Most industries were the private properties of industrialists. Government supervised large factories to ensure minimum wages and limited hours of work.
- In craft units and small workshops, the working day was sometimes of 15 hours, compared with 10 or 12 hours in factories.
- Women made up 31 per cent of the factory labour force by 1914, but they were paid less than men (between half and three-quarters of a man’s wage).
- Socialism in Russia
- The Russian Social Democratic Labour Party was founded in 1898 by the socialists who respected Marx’s ideas. It set up a newspaper, mobilized workers and organized strikes.
- Socialists formed the Socialist Revolutionary Party in 1900. This party struggled for peasants’ rights and demanded that land belonging to nobles be transferred to peasants.
- Vladimir Lenin (who led the Bolshevik group) thought that in a repressive society like Tsarist Russia, the party should be disciplined and should control the number and quality of its members.
- A Turbulent Time : The 1905 Revolution
- Russia was an autocracy.
- The year 1904 was a particularly bad one for Russian workers. Prices of essential goods raised so rapidly that real wages declined by 20 per cent. The membership of workers’ associations rose dramatically.
- When four members of the ‘Assembly of Russian Workers’ which had been formed in 1904, were dismissed at the Putilov Iron Works, there was a call for industrial action.
- Over the next few days, more that 110,000 workers in St. Petersburg went on strike demanding a reduction in the working day to eight hours, an increase in wages and improvement in working conditions.
- When the procession of workers led by father Gapon reached the winter palace, it was attacked by the police and the cossacks. Over 100 workers were killed and about 300 wounded. The incident, known as Bloody Sunday, started a series of events that became known as the 1905 Revolution.
- Strikes took place all over the country and universities closed down when student bodies staged walkouts, complaining about the lack of civil liberties.
- Lawyers, doctors, engineers and other middle-class workers established the Union of Unions and demanded a constituent assembly.
- During the 1905 Revolution, the Tzar allowed the creation of an elected consultative Parliament or Duma.
The Nature Of Social Movements Between 1905 And 1917
- The February Revolution in Petrograd
- In the winter of 1917, conditions in the capital, Petrograd, were grim.
- The layout of the city seemed to emphasize the divisions among its people. The workers’ quarters and factories were located on the right bank of the River Neva. On the left bank were the fashionable areas, the Winter Palace, and official buildings, including the palace where the Duma met.
- In February 1917, food shortages were deeply felt in the workers’ quarters.
- On 22nd February, a lockout took place at a factory on the right bank. The next day, workers in fifty factories called a strike in sympathy.
- In many factories, women led the way to strikes. This came to be called the ‘International Women’s Day.’
- Finally, on Sunday, 25th February, the government suspended the Duma.
- Demonstrators returned in force to the streets of the left bank on the 26th. On the 27th, the Police Headquarters were ransacked. The streets thronged with people raising slogans about bread, wages, better hours and democracy.
- By that evening, soldiers and striking workers had gathered to form a ‘soviet’ or ‘council’ in the same building as the Duma met. This was the Petrograd Soviet.
- Finally the Tzar abdicated on 2nd March.
- Soviet leaders and Duma leaders formed a Provisional Government to run the country.
- Petrograd had led the February Revolution that brought down the monarchy in February 1917.
- After February
- Army officials, landowners and industrialists were influential in the Provisional Government. But the liberals as well as socialists among them worked towards an elected government.
- In April 1917, the Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin returned to Russia from his exile.
- Three demands of Lenin’s ‘April Theses’ :
- He felt, it was time for the Soviets to take over power. He declared that the war be brought to a close.
- Land should be transferred to the peasants.
- Banks should be nationalized.
- The Revolution of October 1917
- As the conflict between the Provisional Government and the Bolsheviks grew, Lenin feared the Provisional Government would set up a dictatorship.
- On 16th October 1917, Lenin persuaded the Petrograd Soviet and the Bolshevik Party to agree to a socialist seizure of power.
- A Military Revolutionary Committee was appointed by the Soviet under Leon Trotskii to organize the seizure.
- At a meeting of the All Russian Congress of Soviets in Petrograd, the majority approved the Bolshevik action.
- What Changed after October?
- The Bolsheviks were totally opposed to private property. Most industries and banks were nationalised in November 1917.
- Land was declared social property and peasants were allowed to seize the land of the nobility.
- In cities, Bolsheviks enforced the partition of large houses according to family requirements. They banned the use of the old titles of aristocracy.
- The Bolshevik Party was renamed the Russian Communist Party (Bolshevik).
- In November 1917, the Bolsheviks conducted the elections to the Constituent Assembly, but they failed to gain majority support.
- In the years that followed, the Bolsheviks became the only party to participate in the elections to the All Russian Congress of Soviets, which became the Parliament of the country. Russia became a one-party state.
The First World War And Foundation Of Soviet State
- The First World War and the Russian Empire
- In 1914, war broke out between two European alliances – Germany, Austria and Turkey (the Central Powers) and France, Britain and Russia (later Italy and Romania). This was the First World War.
- In Russia, the war was initially popular and people rallied around Tzar Nicholas II.
- Defeats were shocking and demoralizing. Russia’s armies lost badly in Germany and Austria between 1914 and 1916. There were over 7 million casualties by 1917.
- The war also had a severe impact on industry. Russia’s own industries were few in number and the country was cut off from other suppliers of industrial goods by German control of the Baltic Sea.
- By 1916, railway lines began to break down.
- Able-bodied men were called up to the war. As a result, there was labour shortage and small workshops producing essentials were shut down.
- Large supplies of grain were sent to feed the army. For the people in the cities, bread and flour became scarce.
- The Civil War
- Non-Bolshevik socialists, liberals and supporters of autocracy condemned the Bolshevik uprising. Their leaders moved to south Russia and organised troops to fight the Bolsheviks (the ‘reds’).
- During 1918 and 1919, the ‘greens’ (Socialist Revolutionaries) and ‘whites’ (pro-Tzarists) controlled most of the Russian empire.
- As these troops and the Bolsheviks fought a civil war, looting, banditry and famine became common.
- By January 1920, the Bolsheviks controlled most of the former Russian empire. They succeeded due to cooperation with non-Russian nationalities and Muslim jadidists.
- Most non-Russian nationalities were given political autonomy in the Soviet Union (USSR) – the state the Bolsheviks created from the Russian empire in December 1922.
- Making a Socialist Society
- A process of centralised planning was introduced. Officials assessed how the economy could work and set targets for a five-year period. On this basis, they made the Five Year Plans.
- Industrial production increased between 1929 and 1933 by 100 per cent in the case of oil, coal and steel.
- An extended schooling system developed and arrangements were made for factory workers and peasants to enter universities.
- Crèches were established in factories for the children of women workers.
- Cheap public health care was provided. Model living quarters were set up for workers.
- Stalinism and Collectivisation
- By 1927- 1928, the towns in Soviet Russia were facing an acute problem of grain supplies. The government fixed prices at which grain must be sold, but the peasants refused to sell their grain to government buyers at these prices.
- Stalin, who headed the party after the death of Lenin, introduced firm emergency measures.
- In 1928, Party members toured the grain-producing areas, supervising enforced grain collections, and raiding ‘kulaks’, – the name given to well-to-do peasants.
- To develop modern farms and run them along industrial lines with machinery, it was necessary to ‘eliminate kulaks’, take away land from peasants, and establish state-controlled large farms.
- From 1929, the Party forced all peasants to cultivate in collective farms (kolkhoz).
- The bulk of land and implements were transferred to the ownership of collective farms.
- Those who resisted collectivisation were severely punished. Many were deported and exiled.
- The Global Influence of the Russian Revolution and the USSR.
- In many countries, communist parties were formed like the Communist Party of Great Britain.
- Many non-Russians from outside the USSR participated in the Conference of the People of the East (1920) and the Bolshevik-founded Comintern (an international union of pro-Bolshevik socialist parties).
- By the time of the outbreak of the Second World War, the USSR had given socialism a global face and world stature.
(Page No. 28)
Question: List two differences between the capitalist and socialist ideas of private property.
Answer: The two differences are as follows:
- The capitalists believed that individuals owned private property whereas the socialists believed that all property belonged to the society as a whole, i.e., to the state.
- The capitalists believed that the profits from the property should belong to the property’s owners, whereas the socialist believed that profits are due to the workers’ labor and so should be shared by them.
(Page No. 29)
Question: Imagine that a meeting has been called in your area to discuss the socialist idea of doing away with private property and introducing collective ownership. Write the speech you would make at the meeting if you are:
- A poor laborer working in the fields
- A medium-level landowner
- A house owner
Answer: Respective Sample speeches are given below:
- A Poor Laborer working in the Fields: Dear friends, nature has not done any partiality in providing resources to everyone and so some people owning more land than others is incorrect. All the profits from our crops are the result of hard work done by people like me in planting seeds, watering the crops, keeping them free from weeds and harvesting them. So, I think we laborers should share in the profits made from sale of crops, instead of getting a subsistence wage. To enable this, private ownership of property needs to be abolished and collective ownership of the fields by all the laborers who are working on it introduced.
- A Medium-Level Land-owner: Respected friends, I do not agree that private ownership of property should be removed. It is not rational and will reduce the crop production. You will not try to increase crop production if the whole profit is not going to you. In fact, what should be done is the equitable distribution of land to all, so that only some people do not own large tracts of land, while others have to manage with small areas of land, or are deprived completely of any land ownership. So, all should be landowners so that everybody benefits.
- A House Owner: Friends, I think everybody should have the basic necessities of life like food, shelter and clothing, but not at the expense of other people’s property. Those who do not have land should be given the means to earn their livelihoods in whatever manner is convenient. We have earned our property through the sincere efforts of our ancestors and so we should not be deprived of the labor and wisdom of our forefathers in acquiring land. I think this is very reasonable.
(Page No. 33)
Question: Why were there revolutionary disturbances in Russia in 1905? What were the demands of revolutionaries?
- The causes of the revolutionary disturbances in Russia in 1905 were:
- Due to Russia’s defeat in the Russo-Japanese War in 1904, prices of essential goods rose dramatically, so that real wages declined by 20 per cent.
- At the Putilov Iron Works, dismissal of some workers caused a strike.During the subsequent events, a procession of workers was attacked by police in which 100 workers died. This was known as Bloody Sunday.
- Subsequently, strikes took place all over the country, resulting in the creation of an elected Parliament or Duma.
- The revolutionaries demanded a reduction in daily working hours to eight, increase in wages and improvement in working conditions.
(Page No. 34)
Question: The year is 1916. You are a general in the Tsar’s army on the eastern front. You are writing a report for the government in Moscow. In your report suggest what you think the government should do to improve the situation.
Answer: In the years 1914-1916, Russia had lost to Austria and Germany and Austria in the eastern front WWI, and had over seven million fatalities by the year 1917. As Russia retreated, the army destroyed buildings and crops to stop the enemy from living off the land. The destruction of buildings and crops resulted in more than three million refugees in Russia.
This situation disgraced the Tsar and the government. The war also impacted industry. By 1916, railway lines broke down there were labor scarcities, small workshops manufacturing essentials went out of business, large grain supplies were sent to feed the army, four and bread became scarce, and there were rampages at bread shops.
The Russian militia had a lot of problems as stated above, on the Eastern Front WWI; however the most conspicuous problem was related to logistics. Most of the Russian soldiers who were fighting the battle were poorly trained and poorly equipped. Russia had lost to Austria and Germany and Austria in the eastern front WWI, and had over seven million fatalities by the year 1917.
If I was a general who had the position to criticize the govt. and bring about change, I would ask for better and improved rail lines, since majority of Russia’s supply problems were owing to not utilizing uniform rail gauges, and by bringing better rail line would help in transporting more food and essentials to the Russian troops and these better conditions would enhance non-combatant fatalities and reduce desertion rates.
Furthermore, I would encourage better cooperation and coordination amongst generals, since key battles in the eastern front WWI such as Tannenburg were lost owing to generals working, competing with each other rather than in cooperation with each other.
(Page No. 36)
Question: Look again at Source A and Box 1.
- List five changes in the mood of the workers.
- Place yourself in the position of a woman who has seen both situations and write an account of what has changed.
- The changes in the mood of the workers were:
- Earlier only meetings were being held in an organized manner. Now the workers just stopped work to press for their rights, like Marfa Vasileva did.
- Earlier there is no mention of any women workers. But now a woman worker initiated the strike by stopping work.
- Earlier there was no demonstration of unity between men and women workers. Now the women presented red bows to the men, showing the unity. Also, the men downed tools in support of the women who had gone on strike.
- The mood of the workers was more determined now. They took action instead of just talking.
- Earlier work used to go on due to workers being afraid of some counter action from the management side, but now the work was stopped, showing the fearlessness of the workmen.
- I have seen both situations and I feel that although earlier the workers gave vent to their problems by organizing meetings only, now they are fearless, willing to sacrifice their job, rebellious and supporting each other’s action as well as cutting across gender differences.
(Page No. 40)
Question: Read the two views on the revolution in the countryside. Imagine yourself to be a witness to the events. Write a short account from the standpoint of:
- an owner of an estate
- a small peasant
- a journalist
Answer: Sample accounts of the revolution are given below:
- An Owner of an Estate: My property was taken over by my farm laborers. They spared me and my family, but now I am totally dependent on their mercy. They are not telling me anything about whether my property will be returned to me in the future or not.
- A Small Peasant: I am happy that together all of us laborers on this farm have taken it over and can now earn more by sharing the profits from the sale of the grain produced by us. Earlier the profits were all taken by the landowner without him doing any work. I salute the revolution, which has made our lives better.
- A Journalist: The news of the uprising has been welcomed in the rural areas by the peasants overpowering the landowners and taking over the running of the farms jointly. The orchards have been divided among the peasants who worked on them earlier, so that they can enjoy the profits from them. Surely the revolution has ushered in prosperity for the common man at the expense of the landowners.
(Page No. 41)
Question: Why did people in Central Asia respond to the Russian Revolution in different ways?
Answer: The people in Central Asia responded enthusiastically to the February 1917, Revolution because it freed them from the oppression of the Tsar’s reign so that they were masters of their land again. They expected to regain their autonomy. However, they responded negatively to the October Revolution, as it brought violence, pillage, extra taxes and another dictatorial power to rule over them. They feared now that their autonomy would be lost.
(Page No. 47)
Question: Compare the passages written by Shaukat Usmani and Rabindranath Tagore. Read them in relation to Sources C, D and E.
- What did Indians find impressive about the U.S.S.R.?
- What did the writers fail to notice?
- At the time when both wrote these passages, India was ruled with an iron hand by the British. There were vast caste and class differences and the people were ignorant and backward. They were impressed by the fact that all persons in Russia were treated equally. In spite of them not being very prosperous, they were happily going about their work. Asians and Europeans mingled freely in Russia, whereas it was unthinkable in India at that time.
- What the two writers failed to notice was that essentially the people were not free to do as they liked. The Bolsheviks ruled like dictators and followed repressive police to develop the nation quickly. The hard lives and poor working conditions of the people went unnoticed by these travelers.
(Page No. 48)
Question 1. Imagine that you are a striking worker in 1905 who is being tried in court for your act of rebellion. Draft the speech you would make in your defence. Act out your speech for your class.
Answer: Your honor and respected citizens, I have not committed any crime, although I am being tried for inciting rebellion. You know how the price of bread has gone up. My wages accordingly should have been increased so that my family does not starve. Now-a -days, we only eat one meal in a day, as there is no money to buy more food. So what is wrong if I demand increase in wages?
I am forced to work 12 hours a day, which is inhuman. I have demanded an eight hour working day, which is quite reasonable.
Have I committed a crime in that? Now I leave it in your hand to decide whether I am a criminal or not.
Question 2. Write the headline and a short news item about the uprising of 24 October 1917 for each of the following newspapers
- a Conservative paper in France
- a Radical newspaper in Britain
- a Bolshevik newspaper in Russia
- Conservative Newspaper in France: The Socialist Terror in Russia Supporters of Bolshevik have caused ruckus in Russia. The military troops have seized the government offices in a bid to overthrow the Provisional Government. These disturbing Events mark a Black day in the history of Russia and is widely condemned.
- Radical Newspaper in Britain: The Socialist Sun Rises in Russia .The morning of 24th October was a morning of bliss and wonder in Russia. The rise of Bolsheviks against the oppressive Provisional Government is the welcomed cry of support for more modern ideas and practices that the world currently needs. This day is a mark of glorious victory for Socialists, not just in Russia, but all around the world.
- A Bolsheviknews paperin Russia: We Rise and We Win this day is a remarkable day for the Russians as we finally made the much awaited move against the preposterous Provisional Government.We overthrew the biased officials in all government offices and promise to establish a more people-centric socialist government.
Question 3. Imagine that you are a middle-level wheat farmer in Russia after collectivization. You have decided to write a letter to Stalin explaining your objections to collectivization. What would you write about the conditions of your life? What do you think would be Stalin’s response to such a farmer?
I am Gayathri and I am a farmer in morocco. I am a middle level Russian wheat farmer. I’m writing this letter to say something extremely important to you. The collectivization policy which has been implemented to transform the traditional agricultural practices has been a boon to some but a bane to many. Due to this prosperous peasants have been forced to give up their lands and join the large collective farms. The lands which we owned and looked after for years are now not under our control. In addition to this, we are also facing the problem of rapid industrialization. Collectivization is considered to be desirable and socialistic to some. But the actual scenario here is only known to us. As a result of collectivization, many leaders are forcing us to produce more crops using modern machinery and are selling our crops in low costs. we are feeling very reluctant to abandon our individual farms. Kindly understand our situation and do the needful.
I understand your plight and I will definitely help you all to get you out of this situation.
(Page No. 48)
Question.1. What were the social, economic and political conditions in Russia before 1905?
Answer. Nicholas II ruled Russia and its empire in 1914. In addition to the territory around Moscow, the Russian empire included current-day Finland, Latvia, Lithuiania, Estonia, parts of Poland, Ukraine and Belarus. It also included today’s Central Asian states, as well as Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. The majority religion was Russian Orthodox Christianity — which had grown out of the Greek Orthodox Church — but the empire also included Catholics, Protestants, Muslims and Buddhists.
- In the beginning of the 20th century about 85% of the Russian empire’s population were agriculturalist. This proportion was higher than in most European countries. In the empire the cultivator produced for the market as well as for their own needs and Russia was a major exporter of grain.
- Industries were found in pockets. Many factories had been set up, railway lines expanded. The production of coal doubled and that of iron and steel quadrupled. Foreign investment increased. Craftsmen undertook much of the work. Industries were privately owned. Large factories were supervised by factory inspectors who could not always monitor rules and prevent them from being broken. Workers were a divided social group — some came from villages, while others from towns. Workers were also divided according to their skills.
- Wherever these workers disagreed with employers about dismissals or work conditions they united and stopped work. Such strikes took place frequently, especially in the textile industry.
- Land was owned by the nobility, the crown and the Orthodox Church. Peasants cultivated most of the land. They were also divided into social groups. But except in a few cases they had no respect for nobility. They wanted land from the nobles. Frequently, they refused to pay rent and even murdered landlords.
- Russian peasants also pooled their land together periodically and their commune (mir) divided it according to the needs of individuals families.
- Russia was an autocracy. The Tsar was not subject to parliament. Liberals in Russia campaigned to end this state of affairs.
- The year 1904 was a particularly bad one for Russian workers. Prices of essential goods rose so quickly that real wages declined by 20%. The membership of workers associations rose dramatically.
Question.2. In what ways was the working population in Russia different from other countries in Europe, before 1917?
Answer. The working population in Russia was different from other countries in Europe before 1917.
In the beginning of the twentieth century the vast majority of Russia’s people were agriculturalists. This proportion was higher than in most European countries. For instance, in France and Germany the proportion was between 40% and 50%. In the empire, cultivators produced for the markets as well as for their own needs and Russia was a major exporter of grain. Workers were a divided social group. They were divided by skill. Some workers formed associations to help members in times of unemployment or financial hardship but such associations were few. Workers also did unite to strike work or stop work when they were dissatisfied with employers about work conditions or dismissals. Peasants in Russia had no respect for the nobility. Nobles got their power and position through the Tsar and not through local popularity. The Russian peasants demanded that the land of the nobles be given to them.
They even murdered landlords and refused to pay rent. The Russian peasants were different in another way. They pooled their land together periodically and their commune (mir) divided it according to the needs of individuals families.
Question.3. Why did the Tsarist autocracy collapse in 1917?
Answer. The First World War was a war that was fought outside Europe as well as in Europe. In Russia, the war was initially popular and people rallied around Tsar Nicholas II. As the war continued, the tsar refused to consult the main parties in the Duma. Support from all sides became thin.
Anti-German sentiments became high and St. Petersburg (which was a German name) was renamed as Petrograd. The Tsarina Alexandra’s German origins and poor advisors, especially a monk called Rasputin, made the autocracy unpopular. The defeats in the war were shocking and demoralising. Russian armies lost badly. There were about 7 million casualties by 1917 and almost 3 million refugees. The situation discredited the government and the Tsar. The war also had a severe impact on industry and contributed to the food shortage in the country. The people were rioting as bread and flour became scarce. There was resentment all over the country. The Imperial Russian army was the largest armed force in the world. It came to be known as the ‘Russian steamroller’. When this army shifted its loyalty and began supporting the revolutionaries, Tsarist power collapsed.
Question.4. Make two lists: one with the main events and effects of the February Revolution and the other with the main events and effects of the October Revolution. Write a paragraph on who was involved in each, who were the leaders and what the impact of each was on Soviet history.
- In the winter of 1917, Petrograd was grim. There was food shortage in the workers quarters.
- 22 February : a lockout took place at a factory. Workers of 50 other factories joined in sympathy. Women also led and participated in the strikes. This came to be called the International Women’s Day.
- The government imposed a curfew as the quarters of the fashionable area and official buildings were surrounded by workers.
- On the 24th and 25th, the government called out the cavalry and police to keep an eye on them.
- On the 25th February, the government suspended the Duma and politicians spoke against this measure. The people were out with force once again.
- On the 27th, the police headquarters were ransacked.
- Cavalry was called out again.
- An officer was shot at the barracks of a regiment and other regiments mutinied, voting to join the striking workers gathered to form a soviet or council. This was the Petrograd Soviet.
- A delegation went to meet the Tsar. The military commanders advised him to abdicate.
- The Tsar abdicated on 2nd March.
- A provisional government was formed by the Soviet and Duma leaders to run the country.
- The people involved were the parliamentarians, workers, women workers, soldiers and military commanders.
- Restrictions on public meetings and associations were removed.
- Soviets were set up everywhere.
- In individual areas, factory committees were formed which began questioning the way industrialists ran their factories.
- Soldiers’ committees were formed in the army.
- The provisional government saw its power declining and Bolshevik influence grew. It decided to take stern measures against the spreading discontent.
- It resisted attempts by workers to run factories and arrested leaders.
- Peasants and the socialist revolutionary leaders pressed for a redistribution of land. Land committees were formed and peasants seized land between July and September 1917.
- 16th October 1917 — Lenin persuaded the Petrograd Soviet and Bolshevik Party to agree to a socialist seizure of power. A Military Revolutionary Committee was appointed by the Soviet to organise seizure.
- Uprising began on 24th October. Prime Minister Kerensky left the city to summon troops.
- Military men loyal to the government seized the buildings of two Bolshevik newspapers.
- Pro-government troops were sent to take over telephone and telegraph offices and protect the Winter Palace.
- In response Military Revolutionary Committee ordered to seize government offices and arrest ministers.
- The ‘Aurora’ ship shelled the Winter Palace. Other ships took over strategic points.
- By night, the city had been taken over and ministers had surrendered.
- All Russian Congress of Soviets in Petrograd approved the Bolshevik action.
- Heavy fighting in Moscow — by December, the Bolsheviks controlled the Moscow – Petrograd area.
- The people involved were Lenin, the Bolsheviks, troops (pro-government).
- Most industries and banks were nationalised in November 1917.
- Land was declared social property and peasants were allowed to seize the land of the nobility.
- Use of old titles was banned.
- New uniforms were designed for the army and officials.
- Russia became a one-party state.
- Trade unions were kept under party control.
- A process of centralised planning was introduced. This led to economic growth.
- Industrial production increased.
- An extended schooling system developed.
- Collectivisation of farms started.
Question.5. What were the main changes brought about by the Bolsheviks immediately?
Answer. Most industries and banks were nationalised in November 1917. This meant that the government took over ownership and management. Land was declared social property and peasants were allowed to seize the land of the nobility. In cities, Bolsheviks enforced the partition of large houses according to family requirements. They banned the use of the old titles of aristocracy. To assert the change, new uniforms were designed for the army and officials. The Bolshevik Party was renamed the Russian Communist Party (Bolshevik).
Question.6. Write a few lines to show what you know about:
- the Duma
- women workers between 1900 and 1930
- the Liberals
- Kulaks: Well-to-do peasants were called kulaks. They were supposed to be holding stocks in the hope of higher prices. The kulaks were raided as it was thought that it was necessary to eliminate kulaks in order to develop modern farms.
- The Duma: The Duma was elected as a consultative parliament. Its creation was allowed by the Tsar during the 1905 Revolution.
- Women workers between 1900 and 1930: Women were workers too. They made up 31% of the factory labour force, but they were paid less than men — almost between 1/2 and 3/4 of a man’s wage.
- The Liberals: They were a group which looked to change society. Liberals wanted a nation which tolerated all religions and opposed the uncontrolled power of dynastic rulers. They argued for a representative, elected parliamentary government, subject to laws interpreted by a well-trained judiciary that was independent of rulers and officials.