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Internet Modern History Sourcebook

Crib Sheet: The Russian Revolution

[Note: Crib Sheets are meant as review aids for a particular period/theme. They are not complete overviews!]

Geography of Russia

  • 1/6th earth's land surface.
  • Understand difference between "Russia" and "Soviet Union" or "USSR"

Russian Culture:

  • Slavic language
  • Russian Orthodox Church
  • Byzantine Background

Tsarist Russia


  • Tsar/Czar (= Caesar or Emperor)
  • Government is an autocracy
  • Most people are peasants. Most peasants were serfs until 1861.

Notable Rulers

  • Ivan the Terrible 1533-1584
  • Peter the Great 1688-1725 - builds new capital city - St. Petersburg
  • Catherine the Great 1762-1796
  • Alexander I 1802-1825
  • Nicholas I 1825-1855 - begins policy of Official Nationality - slogan "Orthodoxy, Autocracy and Nationalism".

Russia under Alexander II 1855-81 (the Liberator)

  • Abolition of serfdom 1861
    Peasants were forced to live in Mirs: a communal landholding system.
  • Population Growth from 1860: 50 to 100 Million 1860 - 1900

Alexander III 1881-1894

  • Very rapid Industrialization under Sergei Witte

The Lead-Up to Revolution

Opposition: The Intellegensia

  • Organization - "Land and Freedom" - Populists/Narodniks
  • "The People's Will", a terrorist group, kill Tsar in March 1881.

New Political Parties

  • Social Revolutionaries 1901
  • Constitutional Democrats (Cadets) 1903
  • Social Democrats 1898
  • George Plekhanov 1857-1918 Founder of Social Democrats

Vladmir Illich Ulyanov "Lenin" 1870-1923

  • Theories in What is to be Done? 1902
  • "Vanguard of the Revolution", "democratic centralism"
  • "Strategy" - long term goal, not to be altered/ "Tactics" - day to day flexibility

Origins of Bolshevism

  • London Conference 1903
  • Mensheviks (=minority) split from Bolsheviks (=majority)

The 1905 Revolution

  • Father Gapon - March on Winter Palace Jan 22 1905.
  • "Soviets" (Worker's Councils) set up.
  • Tsar Nicholas II responds with The October Manifesto
    -Grants a Duma (Parliament) and some civil liberties.

Government 1907-1914

  • Peter Stolypin 1862-1911 - Prime Minister 1906-1911
  • Nicholas I 1894 -1917 and Alexandra.
  • The Tsarvitch and Hemophilia.
  • Grigory Efimovich Rasputin (1871?-1916)

The 1917 Revolutions

First World War 1914-1918

  • Russia battle preparedness - boots, guns,

February Revolution 1917 (March 1917 New Calendar)

  • Long-standing causes - peasants anger about land,
  • Population explosion 1860-1914, Workers' discontent
  • Workers Revolt - Feb 23 1917
  • Petrograd Soviet of Workers and Soldiers set up
  • A Provisional Government set up by the Duma
  • Problems: Continuation of the War, Return of Lenin and other Bolsheviks, Continuing Unrest in the cities.
  • Alexander Kerensky (1881-1970) - chief minister from July 1917. Kornilov Plot shows his weakness.

October Revolution 1917

  • Bolshevik Slogans: "Peace, Bread and Land", "All power to the Soviets"
  • Attack on Winter Palace October 1917 (November 6-7-8 new Calendar)

Bolsheviks Actions in Power

  • Aim is to secure power
  • -Constituent Assembly dissolved December 1918
  • -Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, March 3 1918 ends war with Germany
  • -Nationalization of all factories - June 1918
  • -Execution of the Tsar and his Family 1918

Civil War 1917-1921

  • Red Army, led by Trotsky, vs. the "Whites".
  • War Communism - a collection of emergency measures:-
  • -The Cheka - secret police from December 1917
  • -Communist Party control of the State
  • -Nationalization of production
  • -Opposition suppressed Kronstadt Rebellion March 1921

The Third International (Cominintern)

  • 1919 split European socialists into "Communists" and "Social Democrats".

New Economic Policy March 1921

  • Aim - increased food production. Incentives were allowed.
  • Peasants allowed to farm for profit and small businesses with up to 12 workers allowed.
  • Economy recovered by 1927.
  • Kulaks - rich peasants become important.

Stalin Takes Over

  • Struggle between Leon Trotsky, who wanted rapid industrialization, and Nicolai Bukharin, the editor of Pravda, who was pro-peasant.
  • Josef Djugushvili "Stalin" (1879-1953). An ally of Bukharin. By 1912 on Central Committee. Succeeds by controlling party organization.

Stalin in power

  • A revolution from above - Doctrine of "socialism in one country"
  1. Agriculture - collectivization of land: perhaps 10 Million people died in forced collectivization.
  2. Rapid Industrialization:
    Five Year Plans Began in 1928
    1928-1940, 400% increase in production
  3. Purges and Personality Cult: Show Trials 1936-38

© 1997, Paul Halsall, [email protected]

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© Site Concept and Design: Paul Halsall created 26 Jan 1996: latest revision 5 June 2023 [CV]