Russian Revolution History

I Background to the Revolution

A. Late 1800's-early 1900's State of Russia
1. Russia was suffering from incredibly poor harvests
2. Russia found herself far behind other world powers in the new industrial revolution.
3. Monarchy rule allowed for no lower class representation
4. Most of the country was run by a very small minority of wealthy upper class associates of the royal family.
5. Russia made poor decision of engaging in war with Japan, lost millions
6. Overall moral and faith in leadership very low
7. Underground political organizations gathered and whispers of revolution passed amongst the working class.
*Important to note that Czar Nicholas II took over in 1894, in the midst of heated dissent so while he takes most of the blame for Russia’s bleak conditions, he took the blame for his family.

B. Bloody Sunday
1. On January 22, 1905, in an effort to gain the attention of King Nicholas, thousands of peasants traveled to
Czar Nicholas’ winter palace in St. Petersburg to deliver petition asking for basic reforms and a democratic
2. Upon the orders of the Czar who was inside the castle, soldiers opened fire on the defenseless thousands,
indiscriminately killing hundreds without warning.
3. The day has been recorded in history books as “Bloody Sunday”

C. Russia’s Continuing Suffering
1. During WWI, Russia suffered incredibly.
a. soldiers poorly trained
b. Russia had too much land to defend and not enough men
c. Russia was still suffering from a great famine and could not feed soldiers and people.
d. Russia’s neighbor, Germany, were relentless in their fighting and devastated Russia’s army.
2. Czar Nicholas begins to take advice from a self-proclaimed mystic, Rasputin
a. fires his advisory counsel upon as suggested by Rasputin
b. replaces positions with people with no experience
c. arrests any one suspicious of crimes against the state, including a man, by the name of Joseph
Dzhugashvili, who would later change his name to Joseph Stalin (stalin means ‘man of steel’ in Russian).
Young Stalin was arrested for his role in ‘revolutionary activities and encouraging Marxism’ and sent to
3. Russian nobles who felt deceived by the Czar’s decisions, murder Rasputin
4. 1917, known as the February Revolution, Czar Nicholas sends troops to calm the growing mass of protestors
across the country. Rather than fight the revolutionaries, Nicholas’s men turned on him and joined the
5. 1918, Czar Nicholas lost total control of the country and agrees to abdicate his thrown. While initially
believing that the abdication was a peaceful step down from his thrown followed by a quiet retirement in the
country-side palace, Nicholas and his family are taken to a remote location with his family. There, they are
all killed. Thus ending the family’s three hundred year reign of Russia and spawning one of the most famous
mysteries of the 20th Century, the survival of Nicholas’s youngest daughter, Anastasia.

II Scramble for Power

A. After Czar Nicholas II was chased out of his own kingdom, Alexander Kerensky immediately became the new leader of
the provisional government. However, this temporary government position became very comfortable for Kerensky and
when it came time to vote on a new government system, he was unwilling to share the power that came with his new
position so easily.
1. One of the first decisions Kerensky makes, is to arrest a man by the name of Vladimir Ilich Ulyanov, also known
as Vladimir Lenin, (among other people he viewed as a threat).
2. However, a spy loyal to Lenin tipped the young revolutionary off as to Kerensky’s plan and so Lenin went into
exile in Finland. While there, he wrote a book called The State of the Revolution (the book described the type
of government he would like to see in Russia). Copies of this publication circulated among the underground
political groups.

B. Meanwhile, on the Russian front ...
1. Russian soldiers abandoned their positions, generals committed suicide, ill prepared and hungry, soldiers
retreated and others surrendered.
2. Two million Russian soldiers ranging in age of 14-25 were killed in 6 months.
3. Russia pulls out of WWI with the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. This treaty was a devastating blow to the pride of
Russia. Within the treaty, Russia surrendered 1/4 of their territory including 1/3 of their already strained
food producing land to Germany.

C. Now that Russia was out of the war, there was now a civil war to manage. Kerensky found that there were many
small political uprisings that threatened the unity of the new provisional government.
1. With persuasion from Germany, Lenin returns to help Kerensky with a common enemy (neither wanted the other
political leaders to have power). Germany believed that Lenin was more able to manipulate, so Germany
supported Lenin’s return. Lenin, meanwhile had his own plans on how to use Germany’s support for his own means.
2. Lenin and Kerensky joined together and established more control, organization and fear in the Russian
government. This close relationship between the two men ended quickly, however. After Kerensky and Lenin
defeated their political enemies, Kerensky tried to push Lenin out of power, however, Lenin had worked his own
political alliances and instead, chased Kerensky out of office. Kerensky escaped Russia with his life and went
into exile. Meanwhile, Lenin claimed Russia as his own.

III Russia Under Lenin

A. The Soviet Council consisted of Lenin as chairman, Leon Trotsky as foreign affairs leader, a young ambitious
spokesperson by the name of Stalin for Nationalities leader.

B. March 1918, Lenin proposes the name change to the Communist Party.
1. Lenin was largely influenced by the writings of German philosopher Karl Marx which was laid out in his book,
The Communist Manifesto.

C. Even though Lenin’s Bolshevik party had won, this did not mean that all of Russia had converted to Bolshevism.
In order to rally support, Lenin resorted to using propaganda.
1. “Bread, Land, Peace, and ALL Power to the Soviets”

D. The people of Russia had hoped that the revolution would bring more democracy, better living conditions, and
more representation for the lower class. However, this was not true. Living standards did not improve, but
rather, grew worse.
1.Russia’s land was basically destroyed after the war. Roads, towns, hospitals, schools were flattened.
2. Many men were dead, children left orphaned, families unable to feed themselves.
3. The people wanted elections for leader.
a. Lenin allowed the election, but ignored the results. Instead, he decided not to ‘play nice’ anymore.

E. Lenin makes radical changes and strict laws to assure his position.
1. Illegal for assemblies to meet
2. Strikes were outlawed
3. Only the government was allowed to trade internationally
4. No private enterprises
5. State took over distribution of money, causes economic disaster
6. Church and state separated
7. Nine opposition parties were ‘liquidated’
8. Lenin creates CHEKA-All Russian Extraordinary Commission for Fighting Counter Revolution and Sabatoge
9. No freedom of speech

F. Meanwhile, Lenin made secret deals with Germany including providing Germany with Russian territory that Russia had fought over for nearly 300 years in exchange for money. When the people of Russia found out how much timber and ‘quality’ farming land was liquidated and the money conveniently ‘put back in the government’, the population grew very upset. Lenin surrendered Russia for his own personal gain.

G. While there were oppositional groups who disliked Lenin’s strict ruling over his people, there were many more people who appreciated the peace and prosperity that Russia finally began to feel. The country was making slow steps towards recovering from the corrupt monarchy and the decades of civil war.

IV Waiting for Power

A. In Lenin’s last years, he suffered a number of strokes. Knowing that his days were coming to an end, he recognized the importance of establishing a plan for Russia after he died. Long before Lenin grew ill, his two closest leaders, Leon Trotsky and Joseph Stalin were already competing for Lenin’s approval.

B. There was an incredible struggle for power between Stalin and Trotsky and there was nothing that Lenin could do about it. Both men had abilities to serve as great leaders, however, as reported from personal journals and letters, Lenin feared Trotsky’s overconfidence, just as equally as he feared that Stalin would not know how to control his own power.

V Stalin Plans His Move

A. Stalin began planning his takeover of Russia years before Lenin grew ill
1. Stalin volunteer to take over PRAVDA thus controlling the media
a. PRAVDA was nationally recognized newspaper of Russia
b. Stalin had great influence as to how both he and Trotsky were portrayed to the media. He basically shaped the public opinion.
2. Meanwhile, Stalin also created a political alliance with two other men who supported Lenin the entire time. These men were manipulated into thinking that if they worked with Stalin, all three of them would take over and share the power of the country while living the good life with high paying political positions. The plan was that the men would vote against Trotsky’s decisions in the cabinet and make it virtually impossible for Trotsky to get anything accomplished in his position. They resisted Trotsky’s demands for party reform, and they ‘relocated’ any of Trotsky’s supporters to posts far beyond Moscow.
3. Since Stalin had Trotsky taken care of on the inside, Stalin had to make sure that he also had the public support. When Lenin had written a publication of his wishes to have Trotsky take over for him after his death, Stalin, stalled the release of the publication, and eventually, while Lenin was on his deathbed, destroyed it.
4. In 1925, days after Lenin’s death, Stalin and his allies forced Trotsky to resign and exiled Trotsky in the middle of Asia. In 1927 Trotsky fled to South America where there were many Communist sympathizers.
5. Stalin also exiles all of this ‘allies’ who had served him in destroying Trotsky including the two men in the cabinet who he promised to move into political power.
6. With no further challenges, Stalin was ready to institute the power that he had patiently waited for his entire life.

VI Stalin’s Russia

A. In order to maintain power and defeat potential enemies, Stalin instituted policies which would define his reign of terror.
1. Command economy- 1928-1929 not cooperating with government would be viewed as treason and punishable by death.
2. Stalin instituted ‘collectivism’ which meant that the government would own all of the lands and the people who worked on the lands would need to surrender their products to the government. Peasants resisted and burned crops, broke tools, killed livestock and Stalin viewed this as criminal sabotage. He reacted by sending his troops to the countryside in 1932. One million peasants were killed, other peasants were sent to Slave Labor Camps in central Asia, never to return.
3. Stalin took control of all literature and educational curriculum. He had history books rewritten and approved all books, entertainment and educational, before they were distributed.
4. Stalin created a common enemy: Trotsky.
a. Trotsky took the blame for all the economic problems in the country. Without him around to defend himself, Stalin’s description of this once Russian patriot led the population to believe that Trotsky was truly the villain of Mother Russia.
b. Trotsky spent the rest of his life hiding from Stalinists and managed to live through a number of assassination attempts. Trotsky was found years after his exile in 1940 living in a small town outside of Mexico City. He was murdered by a fatal axe wound to the head.
5. Stalin establishes another common enemy: Hitler
a. Due to the bad blood between Russia and Germany over the last century, choosing Hitler as a common enemy was a convenient idea. However, while he wrote speeches and designed propaganda against Hitler, he still was involved with secret trading with the neighboring country and increased his own wealth from the trading agreements with Germany.
b. The infamous Potsdam Conference took place in 1945 and included Winston Churchill, Stalin, and Harry Truman. The men gathered to plan post war Germany. However, Stalin was considered uncooperative and basically shut down America and Britain’s access to Berlin, Germany. Thus would begin the “Cold War” standoff that cut communication between the three major world powers.
6. Stalin had the Russian Orthodox Church abolished. All statues and pictures removed and replaced with pictures of Stalin.
7. Stalin renames schools, streets, towns, and even names of cities: Stalingrad

B. Despite Stalin’s horrific ruling of the Russian people, and the fact that he had ordered the mass killings of villages ranging from East Europe to Central Russia (amounting in the deaths of over 20 million people-nearly four times the amount murdered by Hitler’s Final Solution), Stalin was revered by his people.
1. Economy improved by progressively moving Russia from an agrarian to an industrial nation
2. Government stabilized and approval ratings soared.
3. Country did not have to undergo a war, whether global or civil, for the longest stretch of history since the 18th century.
4. New generation knew nothing of the bloody past, and thus, was not reminded of painful memories.
5. Rebuilt and redesigned the military which would lead to the defeat of Germany and the end WWII
6. Brought Russia from her knees to competing for world domination with the United States by 1950.

C. Stalin’s own wife dies of ‘uncertain circumstances’ although those close to the family report that Nadya Alliluyeva killed herself with the very gun that Stalin provided for her to protect herself.
1. Wife’s suicide was very private information and did not affect his public image. Rumors of her mental instability circulate and Stalin is viewed as the unfortunate widow. He would marry again shortly after her death.

D. Stalin died at the age of 73 from a cerebral hemorrhage on March 5, 1953.
1. Estimated 500 people died in mob scene trying desperately to see their great leader’s body entombed body during memoriam in Moscow’s Red Scare.

E. Immediately after his death, the new leader, Nikita Khrushchev, worked very hard to denounce the ‘savior-like’ image of Stalin. He removed all pictures and statues of the leader and moved his grave from the Red Square to the Kremlin walls where lesser-known political leaders were buried. He changed city names like Stalingrad to Volgograd. His quiet, yet systematic murder of 20 million people represents one of the darkest time periods in Russian history and even today there are many organizations working to memorialize the lost families.