History of the Soviet Union
Human beings have always demanded leadership; without it, society invariably heads toward self-destruction. But mankind has evolved over time, from a primal form of tribal leadership, to monarchy and dictatorship and finally, is on its tortuous path to the possibility of complete democracy. From the end of the Renaissance, the people have gradually awaken to the knowledge of human rights and a hatred of dictatorship, thus leading to bloody striving for independence. Such was the case of Russia, a nation rocked by many revolutions; a nation which, in stretching its arms toward economic superiority and political freedom, has sacrificed tens of millions of its people. In proud Russia’s turbulent history, it is demonstrated over and over again that, while the people may be repressed and scared into obedient silence for a while, they will rise, in order to defend their basic rights as human beings.
Russia, near the end of the nineteenth century, was an impoverished state, miles and miles behind the other nations of Europe. At the beginning of the reign in 1894, Tsar Nicholas II, made an attempt at building factories and railways in order to boost Russia’s economy. Despite such vast economic progress and industrialization, the peasantry was far from satisfied. For, just as in any country new to industrialization, the government temporarily forgot its priority, in the rush to catch up to other more technologically advanced countries: its people. Ridiculously low wages, child labor and deplorable working conditions were wide spread, as trade unions were still outlawed. As the bridge between the poor and the rich widened, revolutionary sentiments began to grow.
From the masses, two revolutionary groups arose, both stemmed from the followers of Karl Marx, the Mensheviks, those who wanted wider popular support before launching any revolutionary movements, and the Bolsheviks, disciples of a particular interpretation of Marxism, who wanted radical change immediately. On January 22, 1905, 200,000 workers and their families gathered in front of the Czar palace to demand better “better working conditions, more personal freedom, and an elected national assembly.” The czar’s generals ordered their soldiers to fire into the crowd, killing as many as 1000 citizens, whose efforts only achieved little in terms of political change.
To complicate matters even further, in 1914, Czar Nicholas II made the fateful decision to launch Russia into The Great War, World War I, dragging with him Russia’s 11 million peasants. Russia’s economy was still growing, not yet mature, no where near able to handle the economic crisis that the war brought. The Germans crushed the Russian’s poorly equipped troops and inexperienced generals, as well as the soldiers’ morale. The czar had pushed his unstable economy and his unwilling people into World War I; he would indeed feel the consequences of his actions.
In March of 1917, a group of women textile workers led a riot against shortages of bread and fuel. The Tsar’s soldiers were ordered, once again, to fire into the crowd, but were convinced by some of the women to join their cause. Enthusiastic shouts of “down with the war!” and “down with the autocracy!” were heard all over. The Russian populace, after three centuries of oppressive rule, suddenly erupted with the “fever of the masses”; their sheer number and determination forced Nicholas to abdicate his throne. He and his family were placed under house arrest and shot a year later by the ultimately victorious Bolsheviks.
A provisional government (temporary government) headed by Alexander Kerensky replaced the dead czar regime as the people dared to look forward to a more secure future. But the provincial government decided to continue Russia’s involvement in the war, worsening internal conditioning. Kerensky gradually lost the support of both the soldiers and the populace, who wanted a voice in the decision.
In the early summer of 1917, the brilliant revolutionary Vladmir Ilyich Ulyanov, known to the world as Lenin, returned from his previous exile. At this point, the popular support was nearly completely in favor of the Bolsheviks because of their opposition to the war. In early October, Lenin called for an immediate insurrection against the provisional government. On the night of November 7, armed workers known as the Red Guards stormed the Winter Palace, where the provisional government had been set up, and took over all government run services, such as railroad stations, post offices and the state bank. The provisional government was destroyed for the same reason the czarist regime was ousted; it had not been able to evolve quickly enough for the discontent people
“Peace, land, bread!” It was what every ordinary citizen wanted, what the government should put foremost. After the Bolshevik Revolution, Lenin and the Bolsheviks inherited overwhelming problems left by the czarist regime and the provisional government. The constant fighting nearly destroyed Russia’s green economy; trade was nonexistent, the people were either starving or had fled to other countries in search of a brighter economic future.
In March 1921, Lenin developed the New Economic Policy (NEP), a combination of free market and government control, in attempt to jump-start the economy. The government still kept its control on large businesses and communication means.
To boost social stability, Lenin reorganized the ethnically diverse Russia into different republics governed by a centralized government. This extensive state made from smaller nations was renamed the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR). The Bolsheviks formed the Communist Party, from the influence of the writings of Karl Marx, who used the term communism to describe an equal society in which property is equally distributed among the people, all of who belong to the working class. To give the people a sense of reform, a new constitution was drafted, but it gave most of the power to the Communist government. Slowly, Russia recovered from an era of bloody wars only to enter another one of democide.