<Standard WHII.21............................................................................................................................................Standard WHII.23>

Summarize the consequences of Soviet communism to 1945

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USSR Stamp:  Communism Builders
USSR Stamp: Communism Builders

A. the establishment of a one-party dictatorship under Lenin

  • The Red Terror

B. the suffering in the Soviet Union caused by Stalin’s policies of collectivization of agriculture and breakneck industrialization

C. the destruction of individual rights and the use of mass terror against the population

D. the Soviet Union’s emergence as an industrial power

Focus Question: What were the consequences of Soviet communism before 1945?

rotating gif.gifTo understand the rise of unions, socialism, and the ideas of Karl Marx, see the Industrial Revolution at World History II.6

primary_sources.PNGLibrary of Congress Documents from the Soviet Archives

For background, see History of Communism from Communism and Computer Ethics, a website established by a group of faculty members at Stanford University.

timeline2_rus.svg.pngTimeline of Russian/Soviet history from 1914-1939.

Screen Shot 2017-02-21 at 10.27.35 AM.pngA map quiz game on The Former Soviet Union Countries to help familiarize students with the relevant geography.

A. the establishment of a one-party dictatorship under Lenin

Vladimir Lenin (see also WHII.21)

Lenin, 1921
Lenin, 1921

  • On November 8, 1917 Lenin was elected as the Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars by the Russian Soviet Congress.
  • Lenin campaigned for a single, democratically accountable individual to be put in charge of each enterprise
    • contrary to most conceptions of workers' self-management, but absolutely essential for efficiency and expertise.
  • Following the assassination attempt on Lenin, Stalin, in a telegram to Lenin, argued that a policy of "open and systematic mass terror" be instigated against "those responsible.”
    • Scholars estimate that between 1918-21 up to 200,000 were executed, also known as the Red Terror.
primary_sources.PNG An order from the People's Commissar for Internal Affairs to intensify the Red Terror (1918)
  • Lenin was open about his view that the proletarian state was a system of organized violence against the capitalist establishment.
primary_sources.PNG Lenin's pamphlet What is to be Done? (1902)
  • argued that the lower classes (proletariat) can only achieve a successful revolutionary consciousness through the efforts of a vanguard party composed of full-time professional revolutionaries.
  • such a party could only achieve its aims through a form of disciplined organization known as democratic centralism,
    • wherein tactical and ideological decisions are made with internal democracy
    • but once a decision has been made, all party members must externally support and actively promote that decision.
  • Leninism holds that capitalism can only be overthrown by revolutionary means.
    • Attempts to reform capitalism from within are doomed to fail.
  • The goal of a Leninist party is to orchestrate the overthrow of the existing government by force and seize power on behalf of the proletariat
    • then implement a dictatorship of the proletariat.
      • although in the October Revolution of 1917 the Soviets seized power, not the Bolshevik Party
  • The party must then use the powers of government to educate the proletariat
    • remove the various modes of false consciousness the bourgeois have instilled in them in order to make them more docile and easier to exploit economically
      • ex) religion and nationalism.
Lenin with Stalin, from an Albanian stamp
Lenin with Stalin, from an Albanian stamp

  • The dictatorship of the proletariat is theoretically to be governed by a decentralized system of proletarian direct democracy
    • in which workers hold political power through local councils known as soviets (see soviet democracy).
    • The extent to which the dictatorship of the proletariat is democratic is disputed.
    • Lenin wrote in the fifth chapter of 'State & Revolution':
      • "Democracy for the vast majority of the people, and suppression by force, i.e., exclusion from democracy, of the exploiters and oppressors of the people--this is the change democracy undergoes during the transition from capitalism to communism."
  • The elements of Leninism that include:
    • the notion of the disciplined revolutionary
    • the more dictatorial revolutionary state
    • war between the various social classes
  • Leninism is often attributed to the influence of Nechayevschina and of the 19th century narodnik movement (of which Lenin's older brother was a member).
    • "The morals of [the Bolshevik] party owed as much to Nechayev as they did to Marx," writes historian Orlando Figes. [1]
  • This would help explain the traces of class bigotry (e.g. Lenin's frequent description of the bourgeoisie as parasites, insects, leeches, bloodsuckers etc [2] and the creation of the GULAG system of concentration camps for former members of the bourgeois and kulak (rich peasant) classes, [3]) detectable in Leninism but foreign in Marxism.

Multimedia.pngBBC Bite Sized Audio History: Short Audio Recordings on Causes of the Russian Revolution Of 1917, Lenin and the Bolsheviks, Stalin and more.

Overview of Russia under Lenin and the transition to Stalin, 1921-1939.

  • Click here for an article about Lenin's New Economy.

external image Red_apple.jpgExcerpts from Lenin's The April Theses: A Blueprint for Revolution, 1917.

Multimedia.pngWatch this video on Lenin and his use of propaganda.

B. The suffering in the Soviet Union caused by Stalin’s policies of collectivization of agriculture and breakneck industrialization

Joseph Stalin, 1936
Joseph Stalin, 1936

external image Essener_Feder_01.pngJoseph Stalin succeeded Lenin as leader of the Soviet Union and he ruled from 1924-1953 as a totalitarian dictator.

See Historical Biography page on Joseph Stalin

For more about Joseph Stalin, see WHII.21

Joseph Stalin v. Bugs Bunny Quote Game!

The Ukrainian Black Famine of 1932-33

Considered the most horrible man made famine in world history, the Black Famine, or "Holodomor" (from the Ukrainian words holod, ‘hunger’, and mor, ‘plague’) was the result of Soviet "Collectivization" within Stalin's first Five year plan for rapid industrialization and agricultural collectivization.
    • The basic idea was to combine private individual farms into a large nationalized system.
      • It was thought that collectivism would increase production of food and materials for urban areas; however, it resulted in a massive famine which killed somewhere between 6 to 7 million Ukrainians (approx. 10-25% of the total population).
  • The map shows the rate of population decline in some regions of the USSR during the period from 1929-1933. The area around Saratov in the upper right hand corner of the map (which includes Norka) shows a decline of 15 to 19.9 percent. Ukraine suffered rates of decline above 20 percent.
  • For more, see Ukrainian Famine from the Library of Congress

Here is a link to some mostly short documents from the Library of Congress Russian Archives concerning collectivization under Stalin's Five Year Plan!
Screen Shot 2017-02-24 at 12.30.24 PM.pngHere is a lesson plan with activities on the Ukrainian Black Famine.

Read moreabout collectivization from the BBC.
Gulag Locations
Gulag Locations


Peasant Women's Protest During Collectivization

C. The destruction of individual rights and the use of mass terror against the population

Gulag Prisoners at work, 1936-37
Gulag Prisoners at work, 1936-37

Gulag: Many Days/Many Lives presents an overview of the Soviet system from 1917-1988, featuring original documentaries and prisoner voices and an archive filled with documents and images.

Unbeknown to many people, it is estimated that up to 50 million died under the rule of Stalin, not including WWII.
  • These deaths were from "Democides" (the killing of a population by a government), gulags, and economically induced famine.

For more information, see Source List and Detailed Death Tolls for the Primary Megadeaths of the Twentieth Century.

The Great Purge
Multimedia.pngThe Great Purges (Video) of 1934-1938

primary_sources.PNGThe Davis Center's Harvard Project on Voices from the USSR, a module about working with oral histories.

New Research Reveals Misconceptions about Joseph Stalin and His Great Purge. Article by James Harris, author of the book, the Great Fear.

lessonplan.jpgStalin Killed Millions: A Stanford Historian Answers the Question, Was It Genocide?

Memorial to Victims of Great Purge 1930. Davydovo, Moscow Oblast
Memorial to Victims of Great Purge 1930. Davydovo, Moscow Oblast

D. The Soviet Union’s emergence as an industrial power

"Smoke of chimneys is the breath of Soviet Russia"
"Smoke of chimneys is the breath of Soviet Russia"

As a part of the Joseph Stalin's "Five-year Plan", the Soviet state worked to mobilize the abundant natural resources present to create a strong industrial base.
  • The goal of the plan was to transform from an agrarian to industrial socialist state.
  • Starting in 1928, The Soviet Union's industrial works grew at an astounding rate.
  • It is estimated that the country's production of coal and iron doubled by 1932.
  • Industrial centers included Magnitogorsk, Kuznetsk, Moscow and Gorky automobile plants.
  • They also included Urals and Kramatorsk (heavy machinery plants) and Kharkov, Stalingrad and Cheliabinsk (tractor plants).

Collectivization and Industrialization

A Soviet tractor plant (Cheliabinsk)
A Soviet tractor plant (Cheliabinsk)

Learn more about how Stalin industrialized the USSR, here.

A PDF of USSR industrialization with statistics.

Screen Shot 2017-02-24 at 12.30.24 PM.pngHere is a quick lesson plan or activity from Story Board That where you can add illustrations if you want to compare Theory and Practice in Communist Russia.

Additional Resources:

external image 200px-Gay_flag.svg.pngAn informative website about Russian Gay History.

An essay by American poet Claude Mckay titled "Soviet Russia and the Negro" (1923)

An article on one African American family's immigration to the USSR.

Female_Rose.pngA journal article on Women's Role in the Soviet Union or a more condensed review with additional sources also on The Role of Women in Soviet Russia.