Over the period of 1855-1964 Russia went through various reforms and policies under the Tsars and other communist rulers. They had a great impact of Russia’s society and economy, for example Lenin being one of the most dynamic ruler who definitely implanted policies which changed Russia’s society and economy. Lenin changed Russia’s society through the influences of Karl Marx from autocratic rule from the Tsars, to rule by communism.
At this point in time Russia was considered to be backwards in terms of modernisation and industrialisation compared to countries like England and America where they had begun to build railways for safer journeys. Lenin’s aim was to modernise Russia in its industrialisation and in the political system. Therefore, Lenin tried to rejuvenate Russia by changing the Russian lifestyle such as industrialisation and urbanisation and its policies. Changing policies meant Lenin could impact the progress of its economy and society and create a clear path of communism in Russia. This would set Russia on a clear direction of development.
Rulers in the past ruled as dictators. Dictatorship can be used to denote a form of government which restricts traditional freedom and authority only from one source. It is well known Stalin was a dictator but it is questionable if Lenin also ruled as a dictator using communism as an excuse.
Lenin had a great impact of Russia as he created a soviet state and introduced a new way of living in Russia. Lenin wanted Russia to accelerate in industrialising Russia. (catch up to the west). As they were still suffering from the effects of the war Lenin believed centralised control was necessary for Russia to survive Lenin signed the Treaty of Brest -Litovsk in March 1918 to create peace with Germany and so he could now work on building the economy as inflation was out of control. War communism was a combination of emergency measures and socialist beliefs.
State control of industries caused distressed as individuals lost their freedom to sell goods at their accord. They had lost control of their production and distribution. Militarisation of labour was very unpopular but people were forced to work due to war. Rationing was introduced and requisitioning of food from the peasants in order to feed the army and the towns.
By 1929 war communism was a disaster in all areas because peasant’s farmers only grew for themselves as they knew surplus goods would be taken by the state. Between 1916 and 1920 industrial production fell by 40% and central Russia lost 33% of their population to the countryside. Under war communism the number of workers in factories dropped by 50%. War communism was used on the intent of settling the economy while civil war was taking place.War communism fits in with Lenin’s communist ideology because it meant all forms on capitalism was being removed such as private ownership being limited and the state controlled everything from peasants to army.
It almost sounds like a Stalin’s dictatorship. War communism had a negative impact on Russia as it created many problems. It affected society by creating divisions between the classes as the peasants and the workers could not work effectively and thus lacked in the basic necessities. Private trade was illegal but more people were engaged in it.
Malnutrition become very common. war communism was very unpopular especially amongst the peasant farmers and so people began to resent and resulted in strikes and protests. People began to lose hope in Lenin and so to regain the trust of the people he introduced the new economic policy.
Peasants who had been forced to hand over their produce to the war effort were allowed to keep some to sell for profit .As a results kulaks became quiet rich and Nepmen were allowed to set up businesses .Local nationalities who had been forced to follow a strict communist line were allowed to bring back their own languages and customs .The economy flourished and people were much happier but many old Bolsheviks claim Lenin to be weak and had ‘ sold put to capitalism.’ Towards the end the new economic policy was widely successful because farmers produced more food, prices dropped so it was affordable for all. There were social improvements such as limiting work hours. abolishing titles and equality to women in right of studying and working. Divorces were made easier and employment insurance was introduced.
Despite Lenin policy which improved Russia’s economy it left an impact such as the scissor crisis. This was the product of one half of the economy growing while the other half fell. As farmer’s income and buying power grew, industries raise prices to maintain their position. Farmers then need to buy more grain and so it led to them holding Back and only selling it to speculators.
Also resulting in a general rise to inflation. Alexander II was commonly known as the ‘tsar liberator’. He developed Russia with his new reforms, starting with the government, law, army, education and finance as these were the main areas foe the best effect.
In 1861 one of the major reform was the ‘Emancipation of the serfs’. This gave rights to a large section of the population. Previously the labourers had to work in order to get food and shelter.
The edict consisted of the serfs being freed, peasants owing their own property. The emancipation of the serfs benefitted Russia’s economy because many former serfs took jobs in the factories. Additionally, in 1864 Alexander set a new form of government Zemstvo which was an elected assembly with attempted powers. They would raise money through taxes and spend it on hospitals, roads and schools. He also introduced judicial reforms in 1864.
there was a system of trial by jury and public hearing.The loss of the Crimean war meant there had to be a military reform. It is fair to say at this point that military was the first step of Russia moving forward towards modernisation. The tsar has been described as ‘traditional’ but modernisation in military was needed to make Russia powerful. There was introduction to national conscription, the army were well equipped with modern weapons. Alexander II ‘s changes were effective and was starting to change the Russian lifestyle.
By 1867 the Russian empire had extended and grew into an enormous continental empire. However, he wanted a very successful leader in changing Russia because majority of the reforms were removed by Alexander III. Also, the emancipation of the serfs didn’t really give them freedom as they had less land and poor conditions. Also, they had to pay tax on the land they owned and the tax was more than what the property was actually worse. To an extent it can be argued that reforms of Alexander II did not maker matter better but rather worse, therefore not making a great impact on Russia.After the Tsars, a new government was set up and Russia was on its path to modernisation.
However, people didn’t know the direction they were heading towards and so during Lenin’s rule he defines the culture Of Russian’s nation and the first step was the April thesis. When the war broke out Russia was highly affected by it. The economy was destroyed and Russia has lost its respectful position. In 1917 the nation was divided between provisional government and the soviets.
Lenin rapidly recognised a clear plan needed to make to modernise Russia in all aspects. His thesis was presented to the social democrats and later to the Bolsheviks who immediately rejected his ideas. The April thesis focused on ending capitalism and elevating status of the working class. The main ideas of the April thesis were to overthrow the capitalist, the Bolsheviks refused to support the provisional government which was filled with bourgeoisie, end war and create a republic of soviet workers. The banks would ne nationalised. The famous slogan ‘All power to the soviets was used along with the promise Lenin had made.” peace, land and bread” to the masses.
Peace meant ending of war, Bolsheviks treaty with the Germans, this is what the Russian people wanted. land meant the peasants would stay neutral when the Bolshevik claim more power and bread meant removing food shortages. this would help Lenin gain more supporters and thus more power.
April thesis allowed the Russians to start a fresh life where there was no serfdom and life was getting better for all as there was more equality and guidance as to how Russia was going to modernise. Lenin did have a great impact on Russia because unlike other rulers he provided a better life and started the modernisation process. However, alexander III was a peculiar leader as in his time he introduced Russification which consist of repression of opponents, undoing the reforms of his father and restoring Russia’s identity. Alexander III was more concerned about reserving the tsar’s traditions rather than reviving them. For instance, Lenin was more tolerant toward other races. He would also allow education and equality to women. Alexander II was also more concerned about preserving the power as he believed there was no difference in what he wanted for Russia and what the Russians wanted. It is widely believed that Lenin’s rule had an impact on Russia however Alexander III had set the foundation for Lenin to build on through the great spurt.
By the help of Sergei witte who was the railway affairs manager he felt industrialising Russia was good as a whole and so expanded railway and upgraded them. Also, he allowed foreign companies to investment in Russia, setting up manufacturing facilities. With foreign loans and investment, in addition to other government policies and monopolies, Russia improved its finances as well as its industries. Alexander III placed a lot of reforms in order to make sure Russia was on a path to improve and move forward from being backwards.Lenin used the October revolution as an excuse to seize all power and remove any opponents such as the Mensheviks. After gaining victory Lenin lead Russia to become the world’s first communist country. Russian banks were nationalized and private accounts were confiscated, Church property was seized, all foreign debt was abandoned, and control of factories was given to the government. This suggests that Lenin was heading in the direction of dictatorship.
To an extent he was removing the freedom of people and rather than focusing on improvement of the country he focused on dictatorship and power. After the death of Lenin, Stalin used his position and influence to gain leadership. Stalin wanted to carry out the economic policies because he wanted Russia to become a self-sufficient and militarily strong socialist state. He also wanted to demonstrate the superiority of communism over capitalism in other countries and finally he wanted to improve the living conditions of the Russians.
He used the five-year plan to achieve this. In 1928 Russia was 20 million tons of grain short to feed the people. Stalin implemented his first policy of collectivisation. This meant he had to control the prices of the grain in order to feed the peasants and so he did this by removing the kulaks who became rich during the new economic policy. Removing the kulaks was ideal as it also didn’t fit in with the communist idea. Another portion of this was introduction of kolkhoz. Joining of the farms meant they could rejuvenate as smaller farms could not use tractors and other machinery. Many peasants weren’t happy with this and as a result they would burn the surpluses.
Collectivisation had an impact where there was chaos in the towns, people who refused were sent to labour camps, food production fell and so 10 million people died of starvation. Despite the damages Stalin continued to implement his policies and at the end living standards improved as by 1941 there were kulaks, literacy was introduced and people with special skills were rewarded. Stalin’s ruthless ruling had great impact as there was order and guidance in Russia. Russia’s economy was flourishing and as a result of women working, there were social change in giving women and peasants equality. The 5-year plan regulated a structured system where workers were regulated and controlled such as absences Also the building of hydro electric plants were built to create energy for industries. Stalin also focused on coal, steel, oil and gas coal increased from 35.4 million tons to 64.
3m tons between 1928 and 1933 and steel rose from 4 to 18 million tonnes.Under the tsar’s women were oppressed for centuries. It can be summed up as “in the countryside, they look at a woman like a work horse. You work all your life for your husband and his entire family, endure beatings and every kind of humiliation, but it doesn’t matter, you have nowhere to go – you are bound in marriage”. Essentially, they were living, like prisoners. on the other hand, the social reforms of Lenin show the drastic change in women’s rights. In 1918.
divorces were made easier, they had a right to vote and equality in wages. Education was introduced for peasants which meant they would become more skilled. Compared to the tsar Lenin ‘s social policy changed lives of women. Under Stalin, the social reforms included control of media and use of propaganda to promote only Stalin’s message. As a result of compulsory education, there were more skilled workers and women were encouraged to work in factories as well as housework. However, there was a sense of fear amongst the Russians as Stalin ruled as a dictatorship. Although living standards improved people had lost freedom. Nikita Khrushchev was Stalin’s successor who focused on desalinisation.
He gave a speech in 1956 where he wanted to remove the policies of Stalin and bring back the Lenin’s policies.