IB History Review Guide/Tsarist Russia to Communist USSR

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Tsarist Russia to Communist USSR[edit | edit source]

From the Syllabus[edit | edit source]

  • nature of tsarism, Nicholas II, 1894 to 1917
  • growth of revolutionary opposition and Soviets
  • 1905 Revolution, reforms and reaction, 1905 to 1914; impact of the First World War.
  • 1917 February/March Revolution, the provisional government
  • 1917 October/November Bolshevik Revolution
  • formation of Soviet state The USSR, Lenin, Trotsky, civil war, war communism, NEP
  • power struggle and the emergence of Stalin 1929

Timeline[edit | edit source]

  • 1870: Lenin Born
  • 1894: Nicolas II comes to power.
  • 1896: Coronation celebration.
  • 1898: First Congress Russian Soviet workers party
  • 1903: (Bolsheviks (Majority) splits from Mensheviks(Minority)
  • 1904 February: Russo-Japanese War
  • 1905 January: First revolution.
  • 1905 August 25th: Treaty of Portsmouth
  • 1905 October: October Manifesto
  • 1906 April: Fundamental Law
  • 1906 April-June: First Duma
  • 1907 February-June: Second Duma
  • 1907-1912: Third Duma
  • 1911 September: Stolypin murdered
  • 1912-1914: Fourth Duma
  • 1914: First World War
  • 1915: Nicolas II becomes supreme commander of the Russian Army.
  • 1917: First Revolution
  • 1917 February: Second Revolution
  • 1917 March 2nd: Tsar abdicates, beginning of Provisional Government
  • 1917 April: Lenin's April Theses
  • 1917 April: Lenin Outlines Plan to overthrow Government
  • 1917 June: Provisional government continues the offensive in WWI and loses.
  • 1917 August: Kornilov Affair
  • 1917 November: Third revolution, Bolsheviks defeat Government
  • 1918 January: Constituent assembly election and dissolution
  • 1918 March 3rd: Treaty of Brest-Litovsk
  • 1918 August: Assassination attempt made on Lenin.
  • 1918-1921: Russian Civil War and War Communism
  • 1920 February:Kolchak shot.
  • 1921 March: Krondstadt mutiny
  • 1921: New Economic Policy
  • 1921: A purge removed 1/5 of party members who didn't agree with Lenin
  • 1920-1921: Famine, Lenin begins to lose power while Stalin gains it.
  • 1922: Treaty of Rapollo
  • 1922: Stalin becomes general secretary
  • 1917: Stalin led New Economic Policy
  • 1924 January 21st: Lenin dies
  • 1924: Stalin begins his consolidation of power.
  • 1924: A new Constitution established USSR (Union of Soviet Socialised Republic).
  • 1924-28: Stalin and Trotsky struggle for power.
  • 1926: Trotsky's power diminishes
  • 1927: Failed communist uprising in China.
  • 1927: Collectivization made official policy.
  • 1928-33: 1st Five Year Plan
  • 1929: Collectivization introduced all across Russia.
  • 1932: 2nd Five Year Plan
  • 1932: Stalin's wife killed herself or murdered
  • 1932-33: Famine Continued
  • 1937: 3rd Five Year Plan
  • 1940: Stalin Murdered Trotsky

The Tsarist Regime[edit | edit source]

  • Tried to Industrialize Russia by foreign loans (The Franco-Russian alliance gave Russia extensive loans). By the export of grain through the collection of surplus. Lastly, by indirect taxation.
  • He tried to encourage the migration from the countryside to towns and building of railways. This was the period of time the famous Trans-Siberian railway was built.
  • Western countries exploited Russia and created an unequal trade relationship where Russia became economic dependent.
  • 1890-1900- coal production increased from 5.9 million to 16.1 million tonnes per year.
  • Pig iron from 0.89 to 2.66
  • Oil from 3.9 million to 10.2 million.
  • Railway length from 31, 219 to 70,156
  • Between 1880 and 1913 grain production increased from 34 million to 90 million tonnes.
  • While his policies did industrialize Russia to some extent, it put too much strain on the population through taxation and extracting surplus grain and made Russia dependent on foreign loans. Moreover, industrialization has its own negative side effects such as bad sanitation, bad housing, and horrible working conditions. After 1900, there was widespread unemployment. High tax and currency value as well as a government emphasis on heavy goods led to a shortage of consumer goods Workers had no union representation. This also led to a depression at the turn of the century. The normal people and workers did not really gain from this industrial expansion.
  • Debt: Russia owed 116 million in 1897, which then increased to 155 million in 1913. In 1902, troops were used to quell riots some 365 times.
  • Depression: Widespread unemployment and people began to be disgruntled with poor conditions. Beginning of social unrest.

Russia 1881-1890: Alexander III not a reformer, particularly after seeing the assassination of his father.

  • Brings in 1881 the Statute of State security which extends the powers of the secret police, Russia could possibly be categorized as a police state according to Pipes.
  • Russification occurs, national identities are attacked in the Baltic States. Russian is the only official language only Russian religion is permitted.
  • Antisemitic- introduces 600 new laws against Jews.

Famine of 1891

  • Over 36 million people are affected in 17 provinces. There is not only starvation, but disease as well. The government responded to the crisis poorly, the word "famine" is banned. Transportation is lacking and food is not sent where it is most needed. Strengthens future revolutionary movements- famine which makes Lenin revolutionary.

Nicholas II (1894-1917)

  • He was known as a good husband, but the same can't be said for skills as a politician. He had limited intelligence, couldn't speak Russian very well, but spoke good French, had no military experience, hated the Japanese after his grand tour, didn't want to be the leader of Russia, and did his own paperwork. Becoming commander and chief of the Russian army in 1915 was one of his biggest mistakes as it left the government in the hands of the disliked Rasputin and the Tsarina.

The Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905)

  • Japan was a rapidly modernising power with imperial interests in Korea and China. These interests and expansion however, conflicted with Russian interests. The Russians were poorly equipped, had out of date techniques and were trying to organize it from some 6,000 miles away. The Infantry was defeated in Manchuria while the Russian fleet was beaten at Tsushima.

The Revolution of 1905[edit | edit source]

Moderate liberals

Parties coming out of the 1905 revolution
  • Kadets: Constitutional Democrats: Believed in a system which could gradually be reformed through the Duma.
  • Octoberist: Fully satisfied by the manifesto. Did not want any further reforms. Membership was mainly large landlords, aristocrats, and businessmen.

Causes[edit | edit source]

  • Russia had an expanding population, but modernization did not keep pace. The Famine of 1891 affected some 36 million people and it was still remembered. Because of industrialization and Witte's reforms, urban conditions became awful. There were horrible working conditions and workers were not backed by unions. Many more workers due to urbanisation and many have a bad standard of living.
  • Bloody Sunday: Some 150,000 workers begin a peaceful protest led by Father Gapon (a priest) and get shot at by troops from the Winter Palace.
  • There is a feeling that politics is a failing force. This sentiments are not aimed however, at the Tsar or the Tsarist system.
  • The defeat of Russia in the Russo-Japanese War signified the weakeness of the Tsarist regime.
Demands[edit | edit source]
  • Liberals:Want a national parliment with democratic elections, constitution, freedom of speech, and political amnesty.
  • Peasants:The peasants want food and an end to redemption payments.
  • Workers:Workers want trade unions, better working conditons, shorter working hours and better pay.
  • No one really wants to abolish Tsarism. Every group has different demands so there is little coordination between the groups.


  • Localized and sporadic countryside violence, peasants begin to get organised and form some unions.
  • AllRussian Union, which makes up 65% of the Russian population.
  • Troops put down uprisings, some 2700 of them.
  • Middleclasses and liberals frigtened at the peasants and have different demands.
  • Establish a Union of Unions under Milyukov in May of 1905.
  • Workers have spontaneous riots, of which little is planned. There is a general strike by October.
  • Black sea fleet mutinied and troops are sent to Odessa in an attempt to sort it.

Nicholas's Response

  • Nichholas II had done nothing by September, though he did publish a vague plan for a Duma in August.
  • In October he published the October Manifesto which satisfied the liberals.
  • It gave legislative powers, freedom of assembly and worship.
  • In November, the Tsar dropped the redemption dues.
  • He put down strikes and urban uprisings with force.
  • In April- he backtracked completley by issueing the fundemental laws which stated that he still held ultimate power. Though the peasants and liberals were slightly appeased, the workers really didn't gain anything.

Treaty of Portsmouth

  • Negotiated in August of 1905 by Witte. It broguht and end to the Russo-Japanese war with terms that were very favourable to the Russians considering their present situation. Russia didn't have to pay war indemnity, and did not have to surrender their territory in Manchuria. The army still retained its loyalty to the Tsar.

The October Manifesto Offered a parliment with legaslative powers, freedom of assembly, worship, and speech. Legal rights for trade unions and government posistons to moderate liberals.

  • See before: Satisfied the Kadets and Octoberists.

It dropped in November, outstanding redemption dues which satisfied the peasants. So, some liberals and peasants were appeased which allowed for the Tsar to retain some support among the general populus. He would however, eventually repeal most of what he offered with:

  • The Fundemental Laws of 1906, which states that the Tsar would remain autocrat with power to appoint or dismiss any official, middle classes were to have the most power in the Duma, he chose 50% of the people in the Upper House. He could also veto any legislation, and dismiss the Duma at will.

The Duma Era

  • First Duma April-June 1906
  • Composed of two chambers, one which was elected and one which consisted of members selected by the Tsar himself. Hence, the first duma met in a mood of bitterness since its power had been completley cut and demanded more influence. The Tsar then simply disbanded it.
  • Second Duma February-June 1907
  • Very few Kadets. The Socialist revolutionaries became the most popular party. There was considerable disagreement in the Duma as the right was better represented. Opposed Stolypin's reforms.
  • Third Duma November 1907-June 1912
  • Lasted much longer then the other two. Stolypin ensured that it was heavily dominated by right wing parties.
  • Fourth Duma November 1912-August 1914
  • Social unrest was resurfacing in Russia. Also known as a lost opportunity, perhaps Stolypin could have made some effective reforms, but the great war broke out. There was too much repression and the failure of the Dumas dillusioned the liberals. The Tsar refused to grant the Duma more powers which was a factor in his own demise.

Stolypin (1862-1911)

  • From the Saratov provinces. He was famous for his necktie and carriages. Mister of Intererior for 1906-1907. Prime minister from 1907-1911. Believed in economic reform and political repression and considered the peasants the future to Russia's economic sucesss.

Stolypin's Reforms

  • Wanted an agricultural revolution and believed that it required twenty years. Had faith in a new generation of peasants like those in Lithunia and Poland who were more enterprising and there was no mir. He wanted peasants to break from the mir and convert their strips to private land. He set up a bank to help them do this, but the peasants were too conservative. The peasants dont want to break from the mir, Russia is in a depression, and moreover- there is too much political repression.
  • Prisons are 100% overfilled. He sought to regulate police, supported compulsary primary school education, sought to improve factory conditions. Stolypin was assasinated in 1911.

The First World War[edit | edit source]

  • In the First World War- Russia faced many military failures, suffering huge defeats. The loss of life led to dillusionment on how the war was being handled. The Tsar made the mistake of becoming the Supreme Commander of the army in 1915, and thus he was held directly responsible for the catastrophes and the failures of World War One.
  • Most of the military casualities were peasant soldiers.
  • The Russians lost by 1917, 2,000,000 civilians. In 1915, there were 3,400,000 men either dead, captured, or wounded. Losses were 33% of conscripts.
  • Spent 17 million roubles on the war. Army reforms had helped but the army still lacked supplies.
  • The previous supreme commander, Duke Nikolai had never fought before.
  • Officers were shot easily as they fought with their full uniform on.
  • Strikes in 1915 over the price of bread.
  • The war also caused distress in large cities especially Petrograd and Moscow. Food, goods, and raw materials were in short supply. Hundreds of factories went out of business and thousands of people were unemployed. Inflation rose and the lack of fuel caused people to be cold as well. Peasants became angered about the conscription of young men. Remember 33% of the losses were conscripts. In the cities urban workers were disgruntled with the Tsarist regime.
  • Inflation quadruppled by 1917
  • Mass shortages
  • Had to feed 12 million men.
  • Increases the growth of the working class.
  • Moreover, the Tsar left his wife- the Tsarina Alexandra in control of the government, who ran the country under the strong influence of the monk Rasputin. They were hated by the people in general and this lost credibility for the Tsar. By 1916, she was known as a traitor, and in December, Rasuptin was assassinated. His murderers could not be executed since they were too popular.
  • Unlike the 1905 Revolution, the Tsar failed to make politicial concessions to appease certain groups. Russia could have just slipped into a constitutional monarchy to mitigate pressure on him. However, the Duma supported the Tsar in fighting the war.

The First 1917 Revolution[edit | edit source]

  • Economic conditons: Inflation quadruppled between 1914 and 1917. There were food and good shortages. Labour shortages as well due to conscription. Peasants didnt bother to produce surplus because since there were no goods fro them to buy.
  • January 1917: Food deliviries to Moscow fell 60% short of need, infant mortality doubled, and crime tripled.
Causes[edit | edit source]
  • The War for one thing. It meant that Stolypin could not finish his reforms, and he was assasinated. More importantly, it meant that the army no longer supported the Tsar, since he took personal command of the army in the place of Duke Nikolai. The scale of the conflict is unimaginable, 2 million Civilian casualities alone. Russia also lost several battles during the War, for instance the 1916 Brusilov Offensive.
  • The Duma had been a failure, so the liberals and middle classes began to turn against the Tsar- who still refused to make any political concessions. Land reform ended in 1911, so by 1916 tensions in the countryside was high again.
  • The Tsarina and Rasputin in office who were massively unpopular.
  • The workers were far more organised than the peasants.


  • January 9th 1917: 150,000 workers go on strike in commemoration of Bloody Sunday, in comparison to 67,000 in 1916.
  • February 18th : Putilov workers go on strike.
  • February 22nd: Nicholas returns to the front.
  • February 23rd: Demonstration confronting soldiers vs Popular
  • February 26th: Last instance of soldiers shooting at demonstraters
  • February 27th: Duma blamed by Tsar, Keresnky tries to sort something out.
  • February 28th: Red flag raised on March 2nd. The tsar simply abdicates and a provisional government is set up.


  • Before was part of the Social Democrats, but that party eventually split into the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks. The Bolsheviks, under Lenin, did not believe in revolution as a mass movement and couldn't wait for Russia to go through the capitalist phase. In contrast, the Mensheviks had theories which were closer to Marxist theory, but were not as well supported or represented in the Soviets

The Provisional Government March to October

  • The provisional government was in a tricky situation, there was still the war. It wanted to have some success before quiting and needed to mantain the support from Britain and France. However, most people just wanted to end the war- there was enough death as it was. They continue the offensive in June and lose even more suppor.
  • Land: Peasants want land reform, and begin taking land illegaly. Priovisional government is helpless as it needs the peasant's support.
  • Dual authority: Soviets drain support from the Provisional government. They have the practical control over Petrograd. The Bolscheviks use the Soviets to gain support
  • Events
  • April- War continues as the provisional government seeks recongniton from the West.
  • April 3rd- The April Theses, Lenin writes that capitalism must be overthrown and the time is now.
  • May-July 1st: First coaltion and the failure of the June offensive. Menscheviks and Social Democrats are the two most powerful parties.
  • June: Kronstadt naval officers revolt, supported, but not organised by Bolscheviks.
  • July-September: Second coalition headed by Kerensky, who isdenounced by Bolscheviks.
  • August: Kornilov affair, general attempts a military coup to take power away from the Soviets, Kerensky's involvement takes away his credibility.

Kerensky: Led the provisional government. Had a bad reputation because of his dealings with Kornilov.

April Theses: Made by Lenin. Stated that capitalism should be overthrown, no support should be given to the provisional government, power should lie in the hands of the Soviets, lands and banks should be nationalized.

More tidbits of information

  • Rasputin's muderers were popular and related to the royal family by birth and marriage that they were not be executed but exiled instead. The main conspirator and his family lived in France for the majority of the rest of their lives in relative poverty.
  • In February of 1917, there were 170,000 troops in the city. This was double the normal garrison, and many of these troops were conscripts. They were also pretty poor in terms of quality as the best troops were at the front.
  • There was large food hoarding. Cossaks, Police, and Troops stood by and did nothing to rioting and striking.
  • On February 25th, all the factories had closed.
  • Nicolas initial response was to order the closing of the Duma, and thought no further action was necessary.
  • The Kretsy prison was captured and its 2,400 prisoners were freed.
  • Alexander Kerensky was a Duma deputy.
  • There were two governments set up. One was a provisional government arising from the Duma, made by moderate buorgeois members of the Duma. The other was the Petrograd Soviet, committe drawn by socialist groups.
  • Nicolas was captured, in the car of his train he abdicated on March 2nd.
  • Death toll of the revolution was 1,224.
  • Two governments represented different classes.
  • Soviets wanted eight hour day, land grants, a voluntary army, and end to the war.
  • Provisional government wanted to keepnthe status quo. Price Lvov became the first PM.
  • Bolscheviks were weak and unorganized. Arrived on April 3rd-
  • "The people need peace. The people need bread and land. And they give you war, hunger, no food, and the land remains with the landowners."
  • Trotsky was in New York when revolution broke out, Lenin was in Switzerland.
  • Kerensky became War Minister in early May. His offensive was a disaster.
  • Triggered the July Days, a failed uprising.
  • July 21, Lvov resigns and Keresnky forma s anew government.
  • 1000% Inflation, still the same conditions.
  • Kerensky lived in the Winter Palace. His commander-and-chief Kornilov tried to mount a coup on Petrograd which was never succesful.
  • Kerensky became unpopular
  • Nationalist movements rolled through Ukraine, Finland, and Baltics. People started declaring themselves indpendent.
  • Trotsky arrested during July days, Lenin flees.

The Second 1917 Revolution[edit | edit source]

  • There was a failure of the provisional government to instigate sufficient reforms. They had still continued to wage the war and did nothing with reforming the land. It's leader, Kerensky, has lost all credibility because of his involvement in the Kornilov coup. Working and living conditions are still terrible.
  • The Soviets now have more power than the provisional government. Trotsky has brilliantly organised the Red Army.

October 1917

  • Not a revolution involving the masses, but a coup of elite Bolscheviks. On the 25th of October, the Bolscheviks occupied the Winter Palace and proclaimed that a revolutionary socialist government would be formed. The next day, Lenin issues the peace and land decrees.

Lenin's Role

  • Tradtional belief: Lenin was presented as the maker of the revolution. People thought he'd founded and developed a striclty controlled and disciplined party, made in his own image.
  • Modern view: The Bolschevik party was not strict, but loosely organised. Regional leaders often disobeyed the central party line and did not follow the policy dictated by Lenin. Lenin himself was not present between April and October
  • How important was Lenin? he was still a modern politician with the ability to manipulate people and appease all kinds of audiences. With fellow marxists, he talked about the need for terror, and a dictatorship over the proleteriat whilst with workers he toned his ideas down and talked about freedom for the workers. He didn't really have control over the whole party, but dominated Petrograd.

Beginning of the Soviet State

  • Summer of 1918, state set up that remained in power till 1985. The constituent assembly met for one day in January was promptly dissolved by Red Guards, since the Bolscheviks only gained 25% of the seats.

End to Russian Involvement in WWI

  • Peace was important to create economic and political stabolity.
  • On 16th February 1918, Germany redeclares war.
  • March 3rd: Treaty of Brest-Litovsk
  • Russia loses 32% of its land
  • 34% of its population
  • 54% of its industry
89% of its coal
  • Poland, Ukraine, Finland, and the Baltic States become independent


  • Leon Trotsky openly acccused the governemnt of "encouraging the bony hand of hunger". The Bolscheviks then walked out.
  • Lenin, Trotsky, Zinvoiev, Kamenov, Kollantai meet together and plan the coup. Had the provisional government arrested those invoved, it would have never gone off- but they failed like usual.
  • Coup wasnt secret, newspapers were talking about it for days- assumed it wouldnt happen because it was general knowledge.
  • October 24th, Kerensky seals Bolschevik headquarters with Kadets, Bolscheviks simply retake it.
  • Lenin recieved information about the coup second-hand while Trotsky engineered it.
  • Wed. 25th October. Bolschevik troops take main parts of the city: telephone offices, post offices, railroad stations, central bank, and bridges.
  • Kerensky leaves Petrograd attempting to gether support.
  • Trotsky uses Petrograd Soviet to declare that the provisional government seized to exist.
  • Aurora fires blanks at the Winter Palace, only two shots of artillery hit the palace and don no damage.
  • Bolscheviks storm the palace and asrrest the provisional government.

The Russian Civil War 1918-1921[edit | edit source]

The Bolscheviks versus Tsarist, Socialist Revolutionaries, Menscheviks, Liberals, Cossaks, Peaants, national Groups, British, French, Americans, Japanese and a Czech regiment.

  • Bolscheviks refused to pay of the debts of the Russian government, specifically those to France which Witte began

New Economic Policy - "One step backward in order to take two steps forward"

  • Farmers had to contribute 10% of production to the state, but any other surplus they had they could sell for profit on the market.
  • Small private businesses were allowed to operate.
  • Loans were made avliable to those willing to develop timber, oil, and other resources. Confiscated property was returned.
  • The new Economic policy introduced capitalist elements in Russia which were against the aims of the communists but very pragmatic nonetheles. There was disagreement in the party concerning the NEP but that was quelled by Lenin. Lenin recongnized that capitalist managers were the only ones with sufficient experience. As a result food production ad industrial production increased and a massive electricity program was started.
  • Pitrim Sorokin a russian academic described changes in Russia from the NEP as "The dead land seemed to come to life" and "The marks of desolation and death which had rested on us like a pall for two years...hadc certainly been obliterated"

Effect of the Civil War

  • The victory of the Bolscheviks encouraged them to expand their authority out of Russia. In 1920, Russia tried to march on Poland expecting the workers to rise up, but they did not and saw it as an invasion.
  • Lenin saw that the time was not ripe for world revolution, with failures in Germany and Hungary.
  • The Bolschevik party was renamed the Communist party in 1919. Of all the members of the communist party, a third had hoin in the years of 1917-1920 and had fought in the civil war.
  • The fact that the party was born out of war made it rule centralised and resorted to authorative measures.

Lenin in Power (1917-1924)[edit | edit source]

  • Created the world's first communist state with control of industry and trade.
  • Nationalized land.

Struggle for Power[edit | edit source]

Stalin comes into Power[edit | edit source]