Change And Continuity In Russian History

3278 words - 14 pages

Introduction
In the past hundred years Russian history has been littered with Revolutions, from the 1905 Revolution to the fall of Communism in 1991. Throughout this time Tsars, Communists and Democrats have exercised different systems of government in order to stay in power or gain power by offering huge economic reforms in order to appease the masses or to keep most important sectors of society prosperous and content. Although historians would argue that in many of these cases change occurred for political reasons, it is equally as easy to argue, if not more so, that at the heart of every issue that caused or had the potential to cause revolution were underlying economic motives, ...view middle of the document...

During Stalin’s reign the key importance of economic concessions remained but the area of society that needed to be pacified differed. Stalin required both to keep with Marxist theory and sustain the party power base he had created on his rise to power, building a strong proletariat within the party at the expense of the peasantry who had benefited so much from the NEP. It was his policies of Collectivisation and rapid industrial growth in the form of the Five Year Plans that would offer the best economic future for the working class at the expense of the peasant’s support, thus the party became the best system of social mobility for the average worker.
The prosperity that the regime could offer through this upward mobility, undoubtedly reinforced by Stalin’s ruthless police state, meant the party was able to grow and stay in control.
Equally just as delivering such prosperity to the masses had prolonged the rule of The Tsars and Communist Party alike, the failure to grant such reforms had proved disastrous for those in power. This point was illustrated by the expulsion of the Provisional Government in November 1917. It was due to its inability to implement the changes it had promised, principally land re-distribution and Soviet power that it ultimately failed. It is a fair assumption that had the government been able to deliver on these economic promises there may have not been the support for its overthrow. Equally it was the Bolshevik Party and Lenin’s ability to offer these promises that proved the turning point in their fortunes.

Throughout the 19th and early 20th Century the Tsars struggled with the “peasant problem”. The emancipation of the serfs in 1861 had simply made things worse for the peasantry; redemption payments and population growth by the start of the 20th Century caused waves of unrest to emerge starting in 1902. A variety of protests, ranging from illegal pasturing, timber cutting, labour and rent strikes occurred and calls for boycotts of tax, conscription and redemption payments continued throughout this time. It is clear by these actions that the peasantry demanded economic reforms and were less concerned with the issues pressed by newly founded political groups hoping to liberalise Russia. This can be seen from a Newspaper report of the rural disturbances at the time of attacks to all parties land, even those pushing for land reforms:
“The farms of… well-known zemstvo liberals.. have suffered along with the rest.”
This is perhaps evidence of the peasantry’s passive attitude to the political calls for reforms and their more urgent requirement for economic change. Arguably that this is why the peasantry joined protests and therefore explains why only such reforms to their land could quell the threat they now posed to the Tsar and his government. Due to the need to pacify the peasantry, the process of devolution began in 1906. This was necessary as the peasants who had joined the 1905 Revolution and the events of...

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