A soldier wearing the Soviet hat (budeonovka) - Teachoo.png

  • The Bolsheviks were opposed to private property
  • In November 1917 , the majority of businesses and banks were nationalised . This meant that the government took over ownership and management
  • The land was designated as social property , and nobility-owned land may be seized by peasants .
  • In cities, the Bolsheviks enforced the partition of large houses according to family requirements
  • They outlawed the usage of former aristocratic titles .
  • Following a clothing competition held in 1918 , where the Soviet cap (budeonovka) was chosen , new uniforms for the troops and authorities were created to signify the transition .

May Day demonstration in Moscow in 1918 - Teachoo.png

  • 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 .
  • The Bolshevik measures were rejected by the Assembly in January 1918 , and Lenin then dismissed them .
  • He believed that the All Russian Congress of Soviets was a more democratic body than an assembly chosen under questionable circumstances .
  • In March 1918 , despite opposition from their political allies , the Bolsheviks made peace with Germany at Brest Litovsk .
  • In the years that followed, Russia became a one-party state and 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
  • Trade unions were kept under party control
  • Those who criticised the Bolsheviks were persecuted by the secret police , originally known as the Cheka and thereafter the OGPU and NKVD.  
  • Many young writers and artists rallied to the Party because it stood for socialism and change.
  • After October 1917 , this led to experiments in the arts and architecture .
  • But many became disillusioned because of the censorship the party encouraged .

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The Civil War

  • The Bolsheviks' decree to redistribute land caused the Russian army to disintegrate . Many peasant soldiers wanted to return home during the redistribution and thus deserted .
  • Socialists, liberals, and pro-autocracy activists who were not Bolsheviks denounced the insurrection .
  • Their leaders moved to south Russia to fight the Bolsheviks and organised troops (the reds ).
  • The majority of the Russian empire was governed by " greens " ( Socialist Revolutionaries ) and " whites " ( pro-Tsarists ) in 1918 and 1919 .
  • They were backed by all those forces who were worried about the growth of socialism in Russia like French, American, British and Japanese troops .
  • Looting , banditry , and hunger became frequent throughout the civil war between these forces and the Bolsheviks .
  • People who supported private property among the " whites " were harsh with peasants who had taken over land .
  • These activities caused the non-Bolsheviks to lose popularity with the general public.
  • The majority of the old Russian empire was under the Bolsheviks' authority in January 1920 .
  • They succeeded due to cooperation with non-Russian nationalities and Muslim jadidists .  
  • Where Russian colonists themselves became Bolsheviks , cooperation failed .
  • Bolshevik colonists brutally massacred local nationalists in Khiva , in Central Asia in the name of defending socialism.
  • Many people in this situation didn't know what the Bolshevik government stood for .
  • Partly to remedy this, 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 .
  • However, attempts to win over various nationalities were only partially successful because this was coupled with unpopular policies that the Bolsheviks pushed the local authority to adopt , notably the harsh discouragement of nomadism .

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Making a Socialist Society

Factories came to be seen as a symbol of socialism - Teachoo.png

  • The Bolsheviks maintained the nationalisation of banks and businesses throughout the civil war .
  • They gave peasants permission to farm the socialised land .
  • The Bolsheviks utilised confiscated land to show what cooperative labour could be.

Socialist Cultivation in a Village in the Ukraine  - Teachoo.png

  • A process of centralised planning was introduced. Officials assessed how the economy could work and set targets for five years .
  • They created the Five Year Plans on the basis of this.
  • The government fixed all prices to promote industrial growth during the first two ‘Plans’ (1927-1932 and 1933-1938).
  • Centralised planning led to economic growth
  • Commercial production rose (between 1929 and 1933 by 100 per cent in the case of oil, coal and steel ).
  • New factory cities came into being.
  • However, rapid construction led to poor working conditions

A child in Magnitogorsk during the First Five-Year Plan - Teachoo.png

  • The development of a steel plant took three years in the city of Magnitogorsk .
  • Workers lived hard lives and the result was 550 stoppages of work in the first year alone
  • In living quarters, ‘in the wintertime , at 40 degrees below , people had to climb down from the fourth floor and dash across the street to go to the toilet’

Children at school in Soviet Russia in the 1930s - Teachoo.png

  • The educational system was expanded , and plans were established to allow manufacturing employees and peasants to enrol in universities .
  • Crèches was established in factories for the children of women workers
  • Cheap public health care was provided.

The factory dining hall in the 1930s - Teachoo.png

  • Worker housing was designed as an example.
  • However, because there were only so many resources available to the government , the impact was uneven .

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Stalinism and Collectivisation

Joseph Stalin - Teachoo.png

A poster during collectivisation - Teachoo.png

  • The period of the early Planned Economy were linked to the disasters of the collectivisation of agriculture .
  • By 1927- 1928 , the towns in Soviet Russia were facing an acute problem with grain supplies .
  • Prices of grains were set by the government , but peasants refused to sell their grain to government buyers at those prices .
  • After Lenin's death , Stalin took over as party leader and implemented strict emergency measures.
  • He believed that in the hope of higher prices, rich peasants and traders in the countryside were holding stocks
  • Speculation had to be stopped and supplies confiscated .
  • As they patrolled the grain - producing regions in 1928 , Party members conducted forced grain collections and raids on " kulaks ," or wealthy peasants .
  • As supplies become scarcer , it was decided to collectivise farms .
  • It was argued that grain shortages were partly due to the small size of holdings
  • After 1917 , the land had been given over to peasants and these small-sized peasant farms could not be modernised .
  • 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 .
  • What followed was Stalin’s collectivisation programme .

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  • The Party made all peasants work in collective farms starting in 1929 . ( kolkhoz ).
  • The bulk of land and implements were transferred to the ownership of collective farms
  • Peasants worked on the land , and the kolkhoz profit was shared
  • Peasants who were furious with the rulers rebelled and destroyed their animals .
  • Between 1929 and 1931 , the number of cattle fell by one-third . Those who resisted collectivisation were severely punished
  • Many were deported and exiled
  • Peasants stated that they weren't rich and weren't opposed to socialism as they rejected collectivization .
  • For a number of reasons , they merely did not want to labour in collective farms .
  • Stalin’s government allowed some independent cultivation but treated such cultivators unsympathetically .
  • Despite collectivisation, production did not increase immediately.
  • The bad harvests of 1930-1933 led to one of the most devastating famines in Soviet history when over 4 million died .

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  • Many Party members criticised the collectivization's effects and the chaos in industrial production under the Planned Economy .
  • These critics were charged with conspiring against socialism by Stalin and his supporters .
  • There were accusations made all over the nation , and by 1939 , there were over 2 million people in jails or work camps .
  • No one spoke for the majority of those who were not guilty of the crimes .
  • Many of them were accomplished professionals who were compelled to make false confessions while being tortured and then executed .

Letter by a peasant - Teachoo.png


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Davneet Singh

Davneet Singh has done his B.Tech from Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur. He has been teaching from the past 14 years. He provides courses for Maths, Science, Social Science, Physics, Chemistry, Computer Science at Teachoo.