Class 9 NCERT Solutions History Chapter 2 - Socialism in Europe and the Russian Revolution
Socialism in Europe and the Russian Revolution Exercise 48
The social, economic and political conditions in Russia before 1905 were as follows:
Social: Before 1905, the whole of Russia was still reeling in the ancient world. The society was primarily divided into three classes-the clergy, the nobility and the working class. Serfdom was abolished in 1861 but the peasants continued to suffer as even those having small land titles had to pay heavy redemption dues. Nobility and the church controlled humongous land estate, which led to widespread land hunger among the Russian peasants. The last quarter of the 19th century saw the growth in the influence of the socialist ideas and groups. They were particularly strong in the countryside and among the industrial workers.
Economic: Industrialisation had brought forward the industrial working class. They lived in pathetic conditions, had no political rights and no means of gaining even minor reforms. As a result, there was widespread disenchantment against the capitalist class. The middle class and the intellectuals were also arrayed against the existing system. The state exchequer was bankrupt due to Tsar's expensive military campaign and maintainers of the huge army. The privileged class could afford to pay the taxes were exempted from payment, while the poor peasantry and the working class was burdened with it.
Political: At the time of the revolution, Russia was being ruled by the autocratic Tsar Nicolas II. He believed in the Divine Rights theory, and he led a government that was completely unsympathetic to the needs of the masses. The Russian empire was feudal and exploitative in its character. The bureaucracy was staffed by members of the privileged classes, and it was inefficient and despotic. Tsarist Russia had built a huge empire by conquering the territories of several nationalities. Despite their cultural differences, these nations were forced to blend into Russian national life.
The working population in Russia different from other countries in Europe, before 1917 in the following ways:
- Compared to the rest of Europe, industrialisation started relatively late in Russia, i.e. in the last quarter of the 19th century. Industrialisation had taken place in small pockets and craftsmen existed alongside large factories.
- Workers were a divided lot, division were based on skills and workers were denied even the basic rights of an 8 hour day and minimum wages. Also, women made up 31% of the industrial work force.
- Like the workers, the peasants too were divided. These divisions were reinforced by religious sentiments. The rich peasants were called kulaks, whereas the poor peasantry living a life of bare subsistence were rebellious and frequently refused to pay rent.
- About 85% of the Russians, even in the early 20th century, were agriculturists. This was much higher than the other European countries. For example, in France and Germany, it was 40% and 50%, respectively.
The Tsarist autocracy collapsed in 1917 due to the following factors:
- The Russian state under Tsar Nicholas II was completely unsuited to the needs of modern times, as the Tsar still believed in the autocratic absolute rights of the king.
- Bureaucratic members recruited by the Tsar were top heavy, inefficient and inflexible. Members were recruited on the basis of privileges and patronage and not on merit.
- The hopes and efforts at gradual changes and democratic constitutional government after the Revolution of 1905 ended in disappointments and failure.
- The peasants and workers who formed the majority of the population were deprived and frustrated. The situation became more complex by the fact that the Tsar was blissfully ignorant of the situation.
- The Tsar had conquered large swathes of territory and imposed the Russian language and culture on their inhabitants.
- The only support that the Tsar had was from the nobility and upper echelons of the clergy and bureaucracy.
- Russia's participation in the World War I had been disastrous but its economic condition had increased the economic hardships of the already impoverished population.
- The rapid proliferation and strengthening of socialist ideas and revolutionary groups had infused the workers and peasants with a militant spirit. These conditions compounded with each other and led to a potentially dangerous situation for the Tsarist regime.
The February Revolution:
The February Revolution of 1917 was preceded by large scale starvation in Russia including the city of Petrograd. The situation was made more explosive by the long bread queues and severe winter. The spate of resultant strikes took the form of a general strike soon. Women workers also played a leading part in these strikes. The strikers demanded bread, better wages, shorter hours of work and democracy. Many regiments of the army also joined the workers. The freed political prisoners arrested Tsar's generals and ministers. By evening Petrograd was under the control of the insurgents and the Tsar was forced to abdicate in favour of a provisional government of Soviet and Duma leaders.
Effects: The February Revolution marked the end of monarchy in Russia. Power passed into the hands of the Mensheviks and the Alexander Kerensky. However, the revolution fell short of fulfilling the insurgents' demands.
The October Revolution:
Vladamir Lenin returned from his exile and organised a socialist takeover of power through the Military Revolutionary Committee under Leon Trotskii. It was timed with the All Russian Congress of Soviet Workers and Soldiers. The date of the event was purposely kept a secret sensing trouble the provisional government seized two Bolshevik buildings. His response to this, the Military Revolutionary Committee took over the city of Petrograd. The navy had a pivotal role in the assault of the winter palace. Provisional government at the winter palace was put under arrest but Kerensky escaped. Heavy fighting followed, and by December, the Bolsheviks controlled the Moscow Petrograd area.
Effects: The immediate effect of the revolution of that power passed into the hands of the Bolsheviks under Lenin. The Bolshevik government withdrew from World War 1 and signed the treaty of Brest-Litovsk with Germany. Russia lost many of her territories. The decree of land abolished private property and declared land to be a state property. Russia unilaterally renounced all unequal treaties with China, Iran and Afghanistan. The Right to Equality and Self-determination was recognised and Russia became the first socialist state of the world.
Main changes brought about by the Bolsheviks immediately after the October Revolution are listed below:
- The Bolsheviks were against all private properties, and therefore, most industries and banks were nationalised. Land and other means of production were declared as nation's property. So, now work was the most important requirement for everyone as there was no unfair income to live on.
- Use of old titles of aristocracy was banned, which marked the end of the privileges system.
- After Lenin came to power, he decided to withdraw from the War. Despite political oppression, he made peace with Germany at Brest Litovsk and withdrew from World War I.
- Russia became a one-party state. It proclaimed right to all people.
- The Bolshevik party renamed itself to the Russian Communist Party wherein All Russian Congress became the Parliament of the country.
- Kulaks: It was a Russian term given to the well-to-do peasants. In 1927-28, Soviet Russia faced acute shortage of grain supplies. Stalin believed that kulaks were hoarding grains to gain more profit. They were raided in 1928 and their supplies were seized. Stalin had to introduce the collectivisation programme to eliminate the kulaks because he believed that kulaks were a class of poorer peasants whose desire for profit led to food shortages. He thought it was needed to take away land from peasants and establish state-controlled large farms.
- The Duma: It was a Consultative Parliament that was formed on 6th August 1905 under the pressure of Russian revolution with the responsibility of making laws. However, abrasions between its members, offered an opportunity to the Tsar to take over the power. Within 75 days, he dissolved the first Duma. Even after being dissolved, Dumas were still elected three more times before 1914, which wielded little power. Tsar Nicolas II changed voting laws and packed the Duma with conservative politicians. Even during World War I, the Duma was not consulted. Finally, the Dumawas suspended on February 25, 1917.
- Women workers between 1900 and 1930: They made up 31% of the factory labour force by 1914 in Russia. They also formed the unprivileged class, were granted no political status or rights and were paid less than men. However, they played a major role in shaping the future of Russia. They were a source of inspiration for their male counterparts. Thus, as recognition to them, 21stFebruary is celebrated as International Women's Day.
- The Liberals: They were those groups which believed in a nation that tolerated all religions. They opposed the unrestricted power of monarchy and wanted to safeguard the rights of each individual against the government. They wanted an elected system of parliament and independent judiciary. Unlike the democrats, they did not believe in universal adult franchise. They believed that the right to vote should be given only to men of property and women should not be eligible for voting.
- Stalin’s collectivisation programme : The Collectivisation programme in Russia was started by Stalin. Under this programme, small landholdings of many peasants were converted into one collective large farm. All large collective farms were cultivated by the farmers with the help of tools pooled together. The profits of the farms were shared among the cultivators.