Portrayal as a God-like figure
in the cult of personality.
30 August 1918 - survives assassination attempt.
"hailed as a Christ-like figure", "blessed with
supernatural powers", "quick recovery declared a
miracle in the Bolshevik press" (Orlando Figes, p627)
"It was the start of the Lenin
cult - a cult designed by the
against Lenin's will, to
promote their leader as the
'people's Tsar'." p628
Bonch-Bruevich told of how
Lenin wanted no part in the
Lenin "waged an ideological struggle
against the glorification of the
personality, of the individual". "It is
shameful to read... they exaggerate
everything, call me a genius, some kind
of special person." (Lenin's own words
cited in Nina Tumarkin, Lenin Lives! The
Lenin Cult in Soviet Russia, p90)
Divine image given to
Lenin backed up by
methods such as the
press and a documentary
film called Vladimir Ilich's
accountable to no
one but God. God
Nicholas II: "I am not prepared to be a Tsar. I
never wanted to become one. I know nothing of
the business of ruling. I have no idea of even
how to talk to the ministers." - trying to ignore
his divine right and appointment by God.
Supreme, Unlimited Power
Supreme leader, makes all decisions, has
power over life and death of subjects. No
limits to power, accountable to no one.
Supreme will, create decrees without
consent. Most absolute authority in
Europe. Answers to no one.
Alexander II: At the end of his
reign, 'the concept of the state
embodied in the person of the
autocrat was in no way altered' (W.
Bruce Lincoln, The Great Reforms)
"...the roots of the monarchy's collapse... (lay) in
the growing conflict between a dynamic public
culture and a fossilized autocracy that would not
concede or even understand its political demands".
(Orlando Figes, Revolutionary Russia, chapter 1)
Supreme leader. Sign death warrants.
Create the law and make decrees. Listens
and answers to no one.
Trotsky: "The country had so radically
vomited up the monarchy that it could not
ever crawl down the people's throat again."
"But if the monarchy was dead
politically, it was still alive in a
broader sense." (Figes, p350)
Peasants still thought of
politics in terms of the
monarchy. They projected
their ideals of the
revolution onto some sort
of authoritarian liberator
ro deliver cherished land
A few days after the revolution, a
soldier said to British Ambassador
George Buchanan: "Yes, we need a
republic, but at its head there
should be a good Tsar."
Elite and Patronage of the Leader
Tsar supported by an elite - the
nobility whose prime role was to
serve the Tsar. Positions of
influence in government, armed
forces and civil service was held
through patronage of the Tsar.
Nicholas II: crumbling
relationship with upper
classes after refusal to
compromise with them.
One reason of many for collapse
of Tsarist regime (Feb Rev).
Nomenklatura, the elite who held the
top party, government and armed forces
positions, supported the leader through
their patronage. Kept their support
through threat of removing privileges.
corruption at lower
Nicholas II: wanted to appear to be
making a change by creating the
Duma after the 1905 Revolution and
Curtailed its power.
Could not pass laws or control finance.
Ministers responsible to the Tsar, not the Duma.
Nicholas dissolved the Dumas,
which often didn't last longer
than a matter of months.
Corrupt electoral system.
Weighted in favour of the
well-off and against the
working class and peasants.
Revolutionary parties boycotted
the Duma, realising they couldn't
get any change made through it.
Huge, faceless bureaucracy in
government and party which led to
'death by paper'. Local areas 'inner
circles' of government and party
officials and industrial managers made
deals to suit themselves, ignoring
instructions from the centre.
'Red Tape' - organisation,
civil service, state officials.
Party Bureaucracy and State
Bureaucracy = everything
controlled by the party.
Pipes, Russia under the Bolshevik Regime, 1919-24: "By the spring of 1918,
the largest state in the world fell apart into innumerable overlapping
entities. In a few months Russia reverted politically to the Middle Ages."
System of Ranks
Well developed system
of ranks and privileges.
emancipation not for
the serfs, but to
benefit his noble
AGAINST: Both the
and serfs lost out.
System of ranks developed in 1930s (nomenklatura downwards). Party
official or members got power and privileges corresponding to their
level. Command economy demanded there be officials and managers
at different levels and wage differentials between workers.
Lenin abolished titles
and ranks used in the
Terror and Secret Police
Secret Police (Cheka,
OGPU, NKVD) used in
all aspects of life,
and rooting out
"Revolution was not
something to be
taken lightly" (Tim
"Lenin was cruel, in the sense
that he was indifferent to
Lenin: "Do you really believe
we can be victorious without
the very cruelest
Molotov believed Lenin
to be the more severe of
Stalin and himself.
"Lenin had always been an
advocate of using mass terror
against the enemies of his
revolution". (Figes, p524)
“The millions of slave labourers at the
disposal of Gulag played an important
economic role…” becoming “a normal
component of the Soviet economy.”
State-owned slaves were commonplace in
world history, but particularly Russian
history; the Romanov tsars had their ‘servi
publici’ - the feudal system of serfdom.
(Robert Conquest, The Great Terror: A
"The purges were often so wildly excessive and brutal hat they defy
logical analysis." - M. Lynch, Stalin and Khrushchev - the Soviet Union,
1924-64, page 64.
Great Patriotic War
Secret police (Okhrana)
used to support the state
and deal with critics.
by Alexander III.
Nicholas II: Bloody Sunday,
'at war with his own
people'. Tsar's troops fired
at peaceful demonstrators.
Varying death tolls: palace
sources = 100,
revolutionaries = 1000+.
TSAR & RED TSAR
residence permits and
visas used to control the
movement of the
Alex III: Land Captains, 1889: New govt agent,
chosen from gentry to control peasants,
could overrule mir, replaced JPs
functions. Greatly resented by peasants.
Agriculture was exploited as
source of export earnings - this
led to a series of famines.
SQUEEZING THE PEASANTS: "We must go
hungry, but export." - Vyshnegradsky.
Hit 17 of 39 provinces.
'the defining event of the decade' - John F.
Hutchinson, Late Imperial Russia, p14
Lack of Freedom
Speech, written word etc...
Censorship of the Press
Alexander II: increased
Alexander III: censorship
tightened into rigid system
Alex III - Emergency Powers, 1881:
Statute Concerning Measures for
the Protection of State Security
and the Social Order. Wide govt.
powers. increased repression of
state critics, removal of elected
Alex III - Law: increased govt.
interference in law courts,
judges' security of tenure
ended, JPs abolished.
Alex III - Revolutionary
Groups: weakened for a
decade. Plot to assassinate
Tsar led to execution of
Lenin's brother and four
others in 1887.
Lack of Free Speech
Censorship of the Press
Banning of Rival
parties and newspapers.
Trotsky exiled and assassinated. Troyskism became a crime.
Zinoviev and Kamenev show trial - both shot 1936. Bukharin and
Rykov executed. Tomsky suicide. Left and Right factions
In contrast with the
the 100 years, reform
Alexander II: Alexandrine Reforms
Emancipation, Zemstva, Judicial,
Censorship, Education, Military,
Financial, some freedom restored.
Key figures: Grand Duke Constantine,
Duchess Elena Pavlovna, Rostovstev,
Nicolai Milyutin, Dimitri Milyutin,
But: "the laws which freed the
serfs emerged from a process that
the Tsar barely understood".
(David Saunders, Russia in Age of
Reaction and Reform, p216)
Reactionary or Reforming?
"Two different men lived in him"
Alexander II stuck
between autocracy and
B.N. Chicherin: "Alexander was called
upon to execute one of the hardest tasks
that can confront an autocratic ruler... to
abolish an age-old order founded on
slavery, to replace it with civil decency and
Argument: What Alexander II achieved
was liberation, whether or not it was
the kind wished for or envisaged.
"Scholars had once believed that the step was
taken largely on economic grounds, namely as
a result of a crisis in the serf economy. This
belief, however, does not appear well
grounded. There is no evidence that economic
considerations were uppermost in the
government’s mind when it took the decision
to proceed with emancipation." Russia under
the Old Regime, Richard Pipes, p163.
"...serfdom attained the very peak
of economic efficiency on the eve of
its abolition." (p163)
"The Emancipation Edict, issued
after prolonged deliberations of
19th February 1861, immediately
abrogated the landlord's
Alexander II, 1856: "It is
better to abolish serfdom
from above than to await the
time when it will begin to
abolish itself from below."
Poll tax ended (indirect taxes increased).
Redemption payments lowered (Finance Minister Bunge).
1883 Peasants Land Bank. 1885
Nobles Land Bank. Provide cheap
loans to buy land. Progressive.
Factory legislation. Hours, employment
of women and children restricted,
Zemstva continued to
improve local areas (esp.
Major spurt in
Alex III as a realist prepared to support
industrialisation and Witte's policy.
(Paradoxically to his reactionary tendencies).
Economy grew 8% p.a. in 1890s
Stolypin's Agrarian Reforms 1906-11
Create new loyal backbone of agricultural
workers. Turn productive peasants into farmers.
Free them from control of the mir. Get rid of
redemption payments. Start of the kulaks?
Increase in grain production. 1913 =
'golden year' - a level not reached
again until Khrushchev era.
Cheka set up Dec 1917.
Dzerzhinsky. 1918 = 120
employees. 1921 = 200,000.
Arrest SR and
Win the war against
Strikes and demonstrations
broken up by force.
July 1918 - murder
of the Romanovs.
1918: 50,000 dead
in first year.
attacks on kulaks
Civil War 1918-20
Reds v Whites
1920, Red Army 5
Led to 1921 famine and Kronstadt Mutiny.
Kronstadt Mutiny: Lenin's flash of lightning.
Crushed by Red Army.
economic collapse - production
plummeted, cities depopulated,
famine (volga region 1920-21), c5-8
Lenin: "let the peasants have
their little but of capitalism as
long as we keep the power"
(15 March 1921)
still controlled by the
U-turn from extreme
communism to capitalism.
1921: Union of the
1922: Tambov region
swamped by Red Army.
11 SR leaders executed.
Mensheviks and SRs
outlawed as political
Tenth Party Congress,
1921, Ban on Factions.
Main Administration for
Affairs of Literature and
Publishing Houses. (Glavlit)
Cheka renamed GPU in 1922.
Stephen Cohen: "NEP was a political dictatorship"
abolition of capitalism, no
private wealth, property or
of grain, nationalisation.
extreme economic system.
"odds always favoured the Reds" -
control of railways, Petrograd,
strength of Trotsky and Red Army.
Collectivisation "was throwing the country back
into medieval serfdom." (The Secret File of Joseph
Stalin: A Hidden Life By Roman Brackman, p197)
No History of Democracy
No tradition of
Nicholas II: alienated the intelligentsia -
middle-class liberals wanted to participate in
government ; wanted some form of elected
national assembly. Students protested against
repressive government controls.
No genuinely democratic
soviets were designed to
be a purer form of
"Soviet Russia was the first state in
history formally to outlaw law."
Richard Pipes, The Russian Revolution