Question by someone: Why did communism appeal to Russions in the early 1900s?
or something liek that. correct me if i’m wrong. please give me plenty of reasons i need help.
Answers and Views:
Answer by Rev. Dr. Glen
I believe that you are correct that Communism had an appeal to Russians in the early 1900s. This fact is not fully appreciated, because Russia’s industrialism at this time is often underestimated. Since Karl Marx, a Communist, wrote on industry and reform it did have a significant impact within the country, even before World War I brought revolution.
Tsar Alexander III’s empancipation of the serfs, while not largely effectively, still lessened Russia’s ruralness. Nicholas II, Tsar from 1894 to 1917, was largely ineffective. He could not adapt to the changing Russia. The Industrial Revolution and the rise of classes did emerge, even if not on the scale of most other European countries. For example, in 1912 Russia had the second largest railroad mileage in the world, next only to the United States. In 1918 Russia’s urban population rose to 18 percent, significantly higher that the 13 percent in 1897, and just 8 percent in about 1850.
In closing, political parties did emerge that believed that Communism, a class industrialism could bring modernism and strength that the inept monarchy failed to provide.
Answer by Geoff
The short answer is that it didn’t appeal to the majority of Russians at all. Although the word “Bolshevik” means the majority (and “Menshevik”, another word you may see in connection with the Russian revolution means minority), the Bolsheviks were generally the smaller group within the Russian Social-Democratic Labor Party.
In the early 20th century, Russia was still a largely agrarian society–much as it had been for centuries before. Serfdom (a form of slavery where people are tied to the land they work rather than a particular person) was only abolished in 1861. Despite attempts at reform, many peasants remained mired in poverty.
There was significant poverty in the cities as well, as there was in most major cities at the time. Life for those who could find work was difficult enough. For those who couldn’t, it was nearly impossible.
So right from the start, you had a massive group of unhappy people. However, you also had a very strong tradition of revering the Tsar. This bond of loyalty went a long way towards preserving stability.
However, in 1905, following a disastrous defeat in the Russo-Japanese War, Russia’s economy was seriously weakened. On January 22, a large procession of workers marched peacefully to the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg to petition the Tsar for reform. The petitioners were shot at and hundreds died. This sparked a revolution that ended in a number of reforms and also weakened the bond between the Tsar and the people he ruled.
Autocratic government in Russia might still have survived even with all of these challenges. But Russia became involved in World War I in 1914. After a few initial successes, Russia (like the other Great Powers) settled into a long slow grind that dragged on for years while thousands and thousands died, not just from the fighting in the war, but from disease, starvation and cold as well. More than 3 million people died in Russia alone as a result of the war.
To add to the trouble, the Tsar personally ran Russian strategy, leaving the business of the government in the hands of the Tsaritsa Alexandra, who was ill-equipped to run the state.
All of this came to a head in the February Revolution of 1917, which saw the Tsar’s abdication and the formation of the Provisional Government. The leader of the Provisional Government, Alexander Kerensky, however failed to end Russia’s involvement in WWI and faced increasing opposition.
In October 1917, the opposition boiled over into the October Revolution (actually it took place on November 7 by our calendar, but Russia still used the old Julian calendar at the time). Lenin and the Bolsheviks promised “Peace, Bread, Land” to the Russian people and rode that slogan to victory.
The Bolsheviks under Lenin took control and Kerensky fled, first to Paris and later (during WWII) to New York where he died in 1970. Civil war between a variety of factions continued until 1921.
The former Tsar was imprisoned, first at his summer home of Tsarskoye Selo and later in Ekaterinburg, where he was shot with his family by the Bolsheviks in July 1918.
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