Lenin's Russia, 1918-1924

Lenin’s Russia, 1918-1924

The Bolsheviks rise to power

  • The Bolshevik party, led by Lenin, gained power following the October Revolution in 1917.
  • Lenin and his party were appealing due to their promise to end Russia’s involvement in WWI, land distribution for peasants and transfer power to the Soviets.
  • Upon seizing power, the Bolsheviks quickly consolidated their rule through policies like the Decree on Land and the Decree on Peace.

Civil War (1918-1922)

  • After the October Revolution, Russia entered into a civil war between Lenin’s Bolshevik Red Army and anti-Bolshevik White Army.
  • The war was brutal and characterised by widespread violence against civilians. The Red Terror and the White Terror were hallmarks of each side’s violent tactics.
  • Ultimately, the Red Army triumphed largely due to its superior organisation, internal disunity among the Whites and support from the peasant and working classes.

Economic Policies

  • The Civil War period saw the introduction of War Communism, a harsh economic policy which included nationalisation of industry and forced grain requisitioning.
  • This policy led to economic hardship, peasant revolts and the severe famine of 1921.
  • Following the Civil War, Lenin introduced the New Economic Policy (NEP), which allowed some private enterprise in order to stimulate economic recovery.

Political Developments

  • The Bolsheviks slowly moved towards a one-party rule, suppressing opposition parties and instituting the Red Terror.
  • In 1922, the Soviet Union was officially formed, with the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic as its largest constituent.
  • Lenin’s leadership was characterised by pragmatism, willingness to compromise and centralise power.

Death and the Power Struggle

  • Lenin’s health deteriorated in later years, ultimately leading to his death in 1924.
  • Before his death, Lenin expressed concerns about the growing power of Joseph Stalin. However, his testament warning against Stalin was suppressed.
  • Following Lenin’s death, a power struggle ensued between Stalin and Trotsky, which resulted in Stalin eventually assuming full control of the USSR.

Social Policies

  • Lenin implemented a number of progressive social policies, including the legalisation of divorce and abortion, widespread literacy campaigns, and promotion of women’s rights.
  • However, these policies often had negative consequences or were not fully enacted due to practical constraints.