Land ownership




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In the period 1855 to 1956, did the Russian peasantry receive better treatment under the Tsarist or communist governments?
Aim at breaking the question down into issues eg:

Land ownership


  • Before 1861 serfs owned no land – post 1861 got ownership of plots around houses + percentage of land owned by masters

  • Peasants generally disappointed with allocation – varied according to area but nobles did keep best land

  • Control invested in the Mir which insisted on traditional farming methods

  • Land Bank set up to provide credit – about 20% of nobles land was purchased

  • Stolypin aimed at freeing peasants from the authority of Mir – tried to create Kulak class

  • Following revolutions in 1917 peasants seized nobles’ land – many then resorted to subsistence farming

  • Lenin did not feel strong enough to challenge this even though it was contrary to his ideology

  • Stalin took the land away from the peasants – some referred to collectivisation as ‘the second serfdom’ - in theory was meant to ensure equality

  • Khrushchev aimed to give peasants more land by opening up lands in the east

  • Under Tsardom the nobles owned the land, under Communism the State owned the land



Personal Freedom





  • Obviously under serfdom peasants had no freedom

  • Post 1861 peasants enjoyed much more freedom

  • Legal reforms & Army reforms gave peasants greater freedom in theory

  • Mir & Land Captains restricted peasants

  • Peasant level of liberty not really affected by events of 1905/6

  • Post 1917 initially peasants had freedom but communists soon introduced internal passports

  • NEP gave back a lot to the peasants especially in terms of what they could do

  • Hundreds of thousands of peasants lost liberty & rights under Collectivisation – return to the bad old days

  • Peasants faced famines under both types of regimes – also man made!

  • Under Communism society not so rigid – peasants could receive education – high literacy rates – possible to gain high positions

  • Under Tsardom there were periods of repression eg under Alexander III and period immediately after 1906 – discipline was harsh

  • Under Communism esp Stalin level of repression/persecution very high



Finances


  • Peasants made up bulk of population so hardly surprising they were the most heavily taxed

  • Peasants were pushed to the limit under Witte & Stalin to finance industrialisation

Conclusion:

No Golden Age for the Russian peasantry! Perhaps enjoyed brief time of success and happiness under the NEP. Emancipation brought some benefits but perhaps taxes & redemption payments brought more trouble

How far did the working class of Russia suffer more from Bolshevik rule than Tsarist rule during the years from 1855 to 1956?
NB “the working class of Russia” refers specifically to the industrial workers!


  • Factory workers seen as the vanguard of the ‘Dictatorship of the Proletariat’ – had formed the backbone of the Red Army during the Civil War

  • Proletarian values were perceived values of the working classes – this can be witnessed in much of the art, music, cinema & literature of the period – emphasis on collective action & rejection of personal gain

  • All factories nationalised under War Communism – control given to workers (for brief period!)

  • Under 5 Year Plans unskilled workers received poor pay & endured appalling conditions – worked very long hours

  • Skilled workers suffered initially under the Plans – but later saw wage rises and increase in status – eg the Stakhanovites who became shining examples to all!

  • With the emphasis on heavy industry there were few consumer products in the early plans – no obvious rise in living standards

  • Some free enterprise restored under the NEP

  • Stalin appreciated the value of education – great increase in literacy

  • Much employment for women – childcare facilities made available

  • Lives of the working classes under Stalin certainly transformed though not necessarily for the better!




  • Pre 1917 industrialisation really only occurs during reign of Nicholas II

  • Under Witte industrialisation was centrally controlled

  • This led to a small number of key areas where industrialisation & urbanisation occurred

  • Towns/cities rapidly became overcrowded

  • Workers endured poor pay and appalling conditions

  • There was little attempt by the government to improve conditions – Father Gapon led march – Bloody Sunday!

  • 1912 Neva Gold mines – strikers were fired upon



Conclusion


Great deal of continuity between both periods though in theory at least the proletariat was regarded more highly under the Communists. Perhaps the scale of suffering is much higher after 1917 especially under Stalin – workers’ happiness sacrificed to meet the targets

Stalin’s dictatorship owed more to the traditions of autocratic rule, as practised in pre-Revolutionary Russia, than it did to either Marxist theory or Lenin’s methods’.



Discuss this interpretation with reference to the period 1855-1956.
Really this is just a ‘Was Stalin a Red Tsar? ‘ essay!
Features of Stalin’s dictatorship


  • No opposition to his rule allowed – feature of both Lenin & Tsardom – explain

  • Collectivisation -a) Financed 5 Year Plans – same as Witte - explain

b) Socialised the countryside ie forced communism on the peasants – Lenin (and War Communism). Lenin really chose to ignore the problem of the peasants – as a true Marxist he would not see the peasants as dedicated communists but eventually he would have had to address this! Alex II began process under Tsardom – emancipation of serfs was first step to modernising economy

c) Cemented his position as leader



  • Industrialisation – similar to Witte – recognised need to strengthen Russia. Major feature of comparison is the level of state control – centralised economy.

  • Repression – similar to both tsars and Lenin though big difference is the level of repression and terror. Secret police played major role in all ‘reigns’

  • Stalin employed the ‘Cult of the Personality’ –anxious to stress his link with Lenin the Father of the Revolution – extensive use of propaganda even to extent of doctoring photos to show his friendship with Lenin. Tsars were known as ‘the Little Father’ – had semi divine status, which was supported by the Orthodox Church. Unlikely that Lenin would have followed Stalin’s path.

  • Tsars were supported by privileged group – the gentry. Stalin created a privileged group of bureaucrats – nomenklatura – who were dependant upon his patronage.

‘Faced with a vast and backward Empire, Russia’s rulers in the period 1855 to 1956 consistently viewed repression as their most effective tool of government.’ To what extent do you agree?

Agree


  • After 1861 backlash followed Edict of Emancipation – activities of zemstva restricted, censorship, many political opponents were exiled

  • 100s of students arrested following the ‘To the People’ campaign

  • Repressive nature of government post 1866 seen in appointment of men like Shuvalov and Tolstoy

  • Russification under Alexander III – persecution of Jews (‘Pogroms’)

  • Land Captains introduced to reinforce government control over peasantry

  • Army units sent out under Nicholas II to collect tax & redemption arrears

  • Okhrana used by Tsars against revolutionary groups

  • Harsh measures used by Stolypin after the 1905 Revolution – many peasant victims

  • Following the seizure of power in October 1917 Lenin launched War Communism – including tight control over the labour market & the Red Terror – political opponents were arrested or exiled – Cheka carried out atrocities

  • Under Stalin repression intensified – Great Purges included ordinary Russians as well as leading Old Bolsheviks – thousands of peasants were killed or sent to labour camps



Disagree


  • Edict of Emancipation designed to modernise Russian state & make monarchy more efficient

  • Legal & local government reforms were complementary

  • Under Nicholas II trade unions were allowed to form as outlet for workers’ grievances

  • Lenin introduced the NEP following the Kronstadt Mutiny

  • Propaganda heavily used by Stalin’s regime

  • Workers like Stakhanovites were given incentives & received benefits like better housing

How far do you agree that a study of Russian government in the period 1855 to 1955 suggests that Russia did little more than exchange Romanov Tsars for ‘Red Tsars’ from 1917?
Focus: Evaluation of the similarities and differences between the method of government both before and after 1917


Nature of government

Tsardom

  • Autocratic – some political development eg zemstva & the Dumas but no genuine democracy (needs details on working). Authority of central government reinforced by appointment of Land Captains (details)

All authority in hands of the Tsar – appointed ministers

Tsar ruled though huge, inefficient and unwieldy bureaucracy

Had semi divine status

Supported by an elite – privileged nobility




Repression




Freedom of the People

  • Movement of the population controlled by internal passports, residence permits etc



Centralised control of the Economy


  • Expansion of the economy under Nicholas II – huge level of state investment. Investment in specific areas intended to bring Russia up to level of other European powers. Peasants were main source of revenue

Nature of government


Communist

  • Dictatorship –Lenin dispersed elected Assembly elections allowed but Communists were only permitted party.

Local admin in hands of Party members

Authority lay in hands of Lenin or Stalin exercised through the Politiburo

Party Leader ruled though huge, inefficient and unwieldy bureaucracy

Stalin portrayed as the successor to Lenin – god-like figure

Stalin supported by nomenklatura – elite who held their positions through his patronage

Repression


  • Opposition to the Party dealt with by the secret police (the Cheka/NKVD)) – executions & exile were common punishments


Freedom of the People

  • Movement of the population controlled by internal passports, residence permits etc



Centralised control of the Economy


  • Huge expansion of the economy under Stalin (5 Year Plans) – huge level of state investment. Investment in specific areas intended to bring Russia up to level of other European powers. Peasants were main source of revenue




How different socially and economically was Tsarist Russia (1855-1917) from Communist Russia (1918-1956)?



Social





  • Russian Society like pyramid – Tsar at top, supported by small number of landowners, huge bottom layer of serfs/peasants

  • Peasant position changed slightly by Emancipation – saw difference in status

  • In theory equality before the law – need details on changes by Alexander II

  • Under Nicholas II some changes in peasant status – Stolypin’s reforms leading to creation of kulak class

  • Position of gentry altered – some lost out over Emancipation (explain why) – then influence restored under Alex III as Land Captains

  • In armed forces gentry dominated as the officer corps while the peasants provided the cannon fodder

  • Constant was position of the Tsar (semi divine), the Church (Orthodox Church was important prop to Tsarist system)

  • Anti-Semitism common feature – progroms often occurred when government was in trouble

Social


  • Russian society like a pyramid – Politburo, supported by Party, huge bottom layer of workers/peasants

  • After the Revolution all were members of classless society – all comrades (‘All animals are equal’)

  • Party members were the elite, privileged classes

  • Peasants poorly treated – kulaks wiped out as class, other peasants forced into collectives

  • Gentry did not exist after 1917

  • Stalin’s Cult of Personality can be compared to the worship of the tsars – Stalin at pains to establish link between himself and Lenin

  • Party & secret police important props to Communist system

  • Particular groups of people singled out for special treatment eg Stakhanovites

  • Anti-Semitism & persecution of other non-Russian groups continued




The Economy


  • Dominated by the Tsar and the ruling classes – Less than 10% population owning 90% wealth

  • Heavily rural even by 1917

  • Agricultural, backward

  • Rich in natural resources but ‘warehouse of the west’

  • Huge investment in certain industries (textiles, oil, coal etc) by Witte – financed by huge foreign loans – NOT aimed at improving standard of living – military considerations

  • By 1914 had made huge advances but Russia still largest debtor nation

The Economy


  • Initially all property owned by State

  • Lenin forced allow NEP (explain)

  • Huge amount of industrial expansion – state controlled (like under the tsars) – financed from within Russia

  • Issue of land ownership & future of NEP solved by collectivisation

  • Industrialisation driven by need to strengthen Russia

  • Little attempt to improve living standards


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