To what extent were the policies of the Leninist

To what extent were the policies of the Leninist Government similar to that of the Preceding Tsarist Government?

History has a unusual manner of looking to be one thing and turning out under intensive analytical scrutiny to be something else wholly. What may look to be a straightforward instance of historical patterned advance amid widespread societal and political turbulence frequently transpires to be a much more complex phenomenon: the Russian Revolutions foremost in February and so once more in October 1917 is merely such a point in history. Indeed, the evidences for deceit and misunderstanding are arguably greater refering Russia at this clip due to the manner in which a revolution – by nature – must affect the re?writing of history in order to accommodate the radical urge, as Victoria Bonnell suggests: “every revolution needs its heroes… radical heroization has entailed a dramatic re-ordering of societal groups. Those who were despised under the old government are adulated under the new.” [ 1 ]

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History is, finally, the narrative of the masters over the vanquished with the consequence that historical propaganda and cultural prevarications are spread to such an extent that the myth upon which this signifier of ‘history’ was founded finally becomes the world that is taught in schools and discussed in societal forums. In the former Soviet Union, this most basic of historical facts, was meted out in the Communist regime’s desire to picture itself as the true Jesus of Russia and its people and at the same clip to portray the Tsarist government that went ahead as inexorably decadent and the exclusive ground as to why Russia found itself a non?industrial, comparatively ‘backward’ state at the start of the 20th century whilst its great challengers and Alliess could, in comparing, expression to huge urbanization, industrialization and modernization. As John Ehrenberg clearly states, “it was Russia’s retardation which forced Lenin to turn to the party and state.” [ 2 ] As of all time refering historical discourse, rubing beneath the facade of ideological propaganda serves to turn up the true nature of events during the clip frame in inquiry, which is doubtless one of the most of import events of the full 20th century.

For the intent of position, the following essay will seek to follow a chronological attack, following foremost the domestic policies of the Tsarist government before needfully looking at the same domestic policies as practised by the nascent Communist government under the counsel of its ideological leader, Lenin. A decision will be sought that efforts to re?iterate the point made above, viz. that – within the broader field of the survey of history – visual aspects can frequently turn out be really delusory. First, nevertheless, a brief overview of Russia and its geopolitical history must be ascertained so as to set up a conceptual model for the balance of the essay.

Russia has traditionally been a hard subject for western historiographers to digest. Although Russia may come within the boundaries of some people’s impressions of Europe, the state is in fact a mixture of Asiatic and Slavic influences and is every bit far removed from the political tradition of states such as the UK as is China and Turkey. Furthermore, because of the sheer size of the land mass of Russia, historians in western Europe and North America have frequently had problem understanding how any manner of political government is able to efficaciously regulate such a huge country of peoples and land. The reply is that dictatorship and the barbarous suppression of Russians’ rights has been used throughout the ages to command a population that stretches from the Ukraine to Siberia to the cultural epicenter of Moscow to the boundary lines of Mongolia and this usage of power is the major nexus between the Tsarist and Leninist Governments. Like Lenin, the Tsar should be seen as an all powerful tyrant whose authorization was absolute. Even administrative organic structures such as the Imperial Council “were appointed, non elected, and their function was entirely consultative or administrative. In no manner did they curtail the power of the Tsar, whose word was the concluding authorization in all affairs of province and of jurisprudence. That the Tsar still claimed absolute authorization was an indicant of how small Russia had advanced politically.” [ 3 ]

Tsarist Russia at the morning of the 20th century was accordingly more kindred to England in the in-between ages with a feudal economic system bing between the landless provincials and the Tsarist government. The political system of the Tsar hence ought to be understood as a medieval male monarch with a close coterie of interior courtiers’ hand?chosen by the swayer in order to help in the effectual administration of the state. Although the legal emancipation of the Serfs ( the Russian agricultural provincials ) was officially enacted in 1861 the fact remained that the huge bulk of Russian agricultural workers were slaves tied to the land and the people who owned that land and charged the appropriate tithes. Few, if any, of the helot were really emancipated.

This feudal?type state of affairs was easy controllable by the Tsar and his advisers as domestic economic and political policy merely required a prolongation of the historical position quo – viz. that the peasant population of Russia ( approximately 95 % of the full national population in 1917 ) was able to be ruled over by a political elite that saw small ground in giving a voice to the multitudes. Without even the most basic right to vote, the people of Tsarist Russia were clearly non free in any sense of the word, which needfully affected the domestic political policy of Tsar Nicholas II and his tribunal. The political policy of the Tsar within Russia should hence be seen as a policy that was merely concerned with continuing the privilege of the royal family and the landholders in the countryside while at the same clip go oning to be deliberately unmindful to the huge socio?political alterations happening elsewhere in Europe and North America. A denial of the ballot and a refusal of the right to have belongings are the two cardinal countries that characterise the Tsar’s regulation over his people during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. All historiographers on the topic concur that the failure to ship upon a drawn-out procedure of economic modernization was a dearly-won error made by the Czarist Government, a point which Owen corroborates.

“This bossy urge remained unusually changeless over the centuries, an component of continuity in czarist policies from the epoch of Peter the Great to the really Eve of World War One.” [ 4 ]

It remains unknown whether or non this state of affairs would hold continued undisputed for any length of clip without the debut of the most of import factor in the death of the Tsar: World War One. Until 1914, the degree of discontent in Russian society was able to be contained. After the eruption of belligerencies with Germany and her Alliess, the Tsar was seen as being entirely responsible for the desperate state of affairs on the Eastern Front where Russian soldiers with small or no equipment were stop deading to decease without the Germans holding to fire any shootings. Lenin and Trotsky exploited this burgeoning sense of dissatisfaction that had arisen in the Russian labor and instantly put about doing the Tsar appear responsible for the widespread national catastrophe of war. In this manner, the Bolsheviks proclaimed to the people that they would vow to set an terminal to the belligerencies and to convey the beleaguered Russian military personnels back place. In add-on, they besides used the motto of ‘bread’ and ‘land’ in order to score the ill-affected proletarian multitudes. This was basically sketching a policy of true emancipation for the agricultural workers in the state who were promised the right to buy their ain belongings every bit good as a promise of increased nutrient rations for the workers in the urban countries of the state who had been hungering during the old ages 1914 to 1917 while the Tsar and his courtiers continued to populate a life of comparative luxury. This three pronged assault on the Tsar and his domestic policy – war, land and staff of life – was the key to the success of the revolution after which Lenin and the Bolsheviks were able to slowly prehend control of the Russian province.

Although he had promised the Russian agricultural workers land and the right to buy their ain belongings, the societal and economic world for the huge bulk of provincials remained mostly the same. Vladimir ilyich ulyanov turned his dorsum on the thought of allowing the uneducated provincials the chance to cultivate their ain land, reassigning the assets seized during the revolution to the province for safeguarding. This was a nucleus characteristic of the full communist period with the impression of private belongings being discarded in favor of the province having everything. This, of class, did nil to relieve the agony of the labor and represented no alteration whatsoever in comparing to the Tsarist government that had gone ahead. Basically, the lone discernable alteration was ideological – the land being owned after 1917 by the ‘people’s party’ of Lenin as opposed to the aristocracy’s involvements of the Tsar. On the count of ‘land’ , hence, the Leninist government can non be seen to be offering Russian people anything different than what had transpired beforehand. In fact, David Marples argues that the state of affairs was much worse after Lenin’s consolidation of power with the bloody anarchy of the Civil War ( 1918?1920 ) replacing the comparative harmoniousness of the imperial old ages ; moreover, the Bolshevik’s motivations are besides called into inquiry:

“It could be argued that the eruption of the civil war created the integrity in the state that permitted the Bolsheviks to remain in office, that they could present as guardians of the revolution in a battle against the category enemy. There is grounds to propose, nevertheless, that the civil war itself was a direct consequence of Lenin’s manoeuvring.” [ 5 ]

The inquiry of ‘bread’ was ever traveling to be something that would turn out to be harder to alter for the Leninist Government. Food supplies were perilously low and the Russian crop had been negatively affected by the turning figure of immature work forces being sent off from the land and over to the trenches to decease. In the immediate wake of the 1917 rebellion, the Communists did do certain to organize the disposal of goods and services via the Party and no longer the State. Commissars were established as initial points of contact so that the people were able to hold a more seeable face of political power than was the instance under the Czarist Government when the landholders held all the levers of economic and political power. Though the commissars and party functionaries were likewise corrupt like the landed nobility and the protagonists of the Tsar, there was at least in this case a sense that there had been a important displacement between the domestic policies of imperial Russia and the domestic policies of the freshly conceived Soviet Union. This, as Steinberg suggests, is due to the manner in which Bolshevism offered avenues and chances for ideologically active citizens to go involved in the running of the province – rupturing down, in the procedure, the historical and societal barriers that had made the authorities of the Tsar so bossy and aloof.

“It was going less and less simple to talk of clearly defined societal groups or boundaries in Russian society. Not merely were these groups fractured in assorted ways, but the boundaries that defined them were progressively blurred by crossings of migrating provincials, worker intellectuals, aristocracy professionals and the like.” [ 6 ]

The 3rd promise that Lenin made on the Eve of the revolution was that the Bolsheviks would get down an immediate backdown of Russian military personnels from the Easter Front. This was punctually achieved in November of 1917 with the sign language of the Brest?Litovsk Treaty that gave a great trade of Russian land in the West of the state to the Kaiser. This proved enormously unpopular with 1000000s of Russians, particularly those people straight affected by the sign language of the pact.

“Many loyal Russians took up weaponries to oppose a authorities they regarded as holding betrayed ‘Mother Russia’.” [ 7 ]

However, it can similarly be argued that for those people who lived in the towns and metropoliss in the heartland of the state, this was a clear mark that the Lenin Government wished to distance itself from the militaristic aspiration of the Czarist Government. Furthermore, protagonists of the government would travel further and province that the forfeit of this land and of Russian honor on the battleground was done for the interest of the common good of the people and, moreover, that the seeds of licking had already been sewn by the disregard of the Czarist Government. Lenin’s main lieutenant, Leon Trotsky, inside informations as much below in his ‘defence of the Russian Revolution’ :

“In the class of societal revolution work forces move under the influence of societal conditions which are non freely chosen by them but are handed down from the past and peremptorily indicate out the route which they must follow.” [ 8 ]

Yet once more, though, we must mind of the propaganda inherent in the Hagiographas of such a ardent protagonist of communism as Trotsky. Under no fortunes would he be seen to be traveling against the cardinal rules of Bolshevism and Lenin. Therefore, it is left to the impartial historiographer, such as Orlando Figes to remind us that the revolution was foremost and foremost a calamity of the people and that the Bolshevik hierarchy had nil but their ain ideological involvements in head.

By and large talking, hence, alteration was hard to observe at a grass roots level with respects to the passage of power fro the Tsar to the Communists. Efficaciously, one signifier of dictatorship had been exchanged for another while a series of armed struggles added to the mixture, which can merely hold increased the agony of the Russian labor. Yet there were some elusive countries of alteration that have excessively frequently escaped the attending of historiographers. The predicament of Russian adult females, for case, is overlooked although for half of the population of Russia at the clip, this represented a major alteration between the Tsarist and Leninist manners of authorities. Under the Tsar, adult females had no official topographic point in the disposal of the state. Though work forces were similarly denied the right to vote, adult females found themselves in an wholly more despairing place – excluded from the offices of the bench, military and the organic structure politic every bit good as being marginalised in the place and in the workplace. After 1917, the position quo was radically altered with open uping adult females being given of import places of office within the province every bit good as over clip being allowed to keep high rank in the Soviet Army and to play a important portion in the day?to?day running of the state. Again, though, history is divided as to the ultimate value and significance of this alteration. While Jane McDermid and Anna Hillyarsee the displacement to Bolshevism as entirely positive for Russian adult females, Barbara Engel is more doubting, observing that the experience of adult females in the countryside ( by far and off the bulk of females in Russia in 1917 ) did non alter at all with the toppling of the Czarist Government. David Marples would look to hold:

“Once the party took power, and after the initial euphory, traditional Russian values were reinstituted. Even Lenin at bosom possessed innately bourgeois positions on the household ( though he had no kids himself ) and was alienated from the more extremist of the women’s demands. The Russian Revolution so did non ensue in the release of women.” [ 9 ]


Although the Communists of the post?revolutionary period were eager to emphasize the unprecedented extent of the alteration that Russian society had undergone as a consequence of throw outing the Tsar and his followings, the world for the huge bulk of Russians was that life went on as normal. Policy at the local degree was about non?existent and the landless, agricultural provincials continued to play their trade without favor in the rough Russian countryside. In the concluding analysis, the constabularies of both authoritiess consisted chiefly of doing certain that the province was secure and that the labor were mostly kept in the dark about alterations taking topographic point at a national degree in the urban Centres of St. Petersburg and Moscow.

This deficiency of touchable, sweeping alteration should non come as a great surprise. Lenin and the Bolsheviks were in no place to ordain a extremist re?structuring of the economic, societal and political policies of the province due to the built-in instability prevalent during a clip of revolution. As Sheila Fitzpatrick concludes ; “the more quickly a society alterations ( whether that alteration is perceived as progressive or regressive ) the less stable it is likely to be.” [ 10 ]


Bonnell, V.E. ( 1999 )Iconography of Power: Soviet Political Posters under Lenin and StalinBerkeley: University of California Press

Ehrenberg, J. ( 1992 )The Dictatorship of the Proletariat: Marxism’s Theory of Social DemocracyLondon: Routledge

Engel, B.A. ( 1996 )Between the Fields and the City: Womans, Work and Family in Russia, 1861-1914Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Figes, O. ( 1997 )A People’s Calamity: The Russian Revolution, 1891?1924London: Pimlico

Fitzpatrick, S. ( 2001 )The Russian RevolutionOxford: Oxford University Press

Lynch, M. ( 2000 )Chemical reaction and Revolutions: Russia, 1881?1924London: Hodder & A ; Stoughton

Marples, D.R. ( 2000 )Lenin’s Revolution: Soviet union, 1917?1921London: Longman

McDermid, J. and Hillyar, A. ( 1999 )Midwifes of the Revolution: Female Bolsheviks and Women Workers in 1917London: Routledge

Owen, T.C. ( 2002 )The Corporation under Russian Law, 1800?1917: A Study in Tsarist Economic PolicyCambridge: Cambridge University Press

Oxley, P. ( 2001 )Soviet union 1855?1991: From Tsars to CommissarsOxford: Oxford University Press

Steinberg, M.D. ( 2001 )Voices of Revolution, 1917New Haven and London: Yale University Press


Trotsky, L.In Defence of the Russian Revolution, quoted in,Kowalski, R.I. ( May 1996 ) ,In Defence of the Russian Revolution: A Choice of Bolshevik Writings, 1917?1923, in,Journal of Europe?Asia SurveiesLondon: Taylor & A ; Francis

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