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How Far Does A Study Of 1855 1964 Suggest That, Following The Revolution Of 1917, The Russian People Simply Exchanged One Form Of Authoritarianism For Another?

1234 words - 5 pages

How far does a study of 1855-1964 suggest that,following the revolution of 1917, the Russian people simply exchanged one form of authoritarianism for another?

Once the February revolution brought an end to Tsarist rule, there was a strong belief that the introduction of the Provisional Government would lead to a more democratic Russia. However in deposing the Provisional Government, the October Revolution had removed any such hope. The totalitarian Government of the Communist Party continued and intensified many aspects of the Tsarist regime including use of the secret police and an intolerance for opposition and democracy in general. The communist regime were just as authoritarian as ...view middle of the document...

However in terms of ideology, the Bolshevik seizure of power in the October Revolution lead to a shift from one diametrically opposed ideology to another. In accordance with Marxist theory, the urban workers received a greater priority in contrast to the Tsars who preferred to focus on the peasantry. The two regimes were equally authoritarian, as one form of autocracy was simply exchanged for another.

The Communist regime also had a belief in a ‘higher purpose’ to rule, much like the Tsarist regime. Lenin’s belief that history had appointed him was a huge burden of responsibility upon him, much like the Tsars before him had a strong responsibility to maintain autocracy, shaped by the ideological belief that the Tsar was divinely appointed. Even though the communist regime looked ahead with their reforms, in contrast to the backward nature of the Tsars, both were implemented in the same authoritarian way. When implementing collectivisation and the 5 year plans, Stalin sought to maintain total control over the workers whilst eliminating any trace of opposition in order to maintain his authority. Nicholas II also took this approach in the October Manifesto, the Duma was in theory a step towards democracy but much like Lenin’s NEP, was implemented in an authoritarian way to limit the effect on power. The Communists introduced reforms, and concessions where necessary, in order to maintain their authority, such as Lenin’s abandonment of war communism for NEP, whereas the Tsars took the same approach by only introducing reform when pressurised as Alexander II’s assassination, and his prior implementation of the Emancipation Act shows. The regimes displayed their authoritarian nature in different ways, Lenin saw that war communism was not working and replaced it with NEP, whereas Alexander III put his stamp on Russia by reversing all of his father’s reforms.
There was also continuity in the nature of Government with the Communists retaining a strong belief in personal authority, Lenin retained all key decisions as the Tsars did before him. Both Communist and Tsarist Governments developed into authoritarian regimes because their authority was largely unchallenged once established. The removal of Khrushchev by the Central Committee and the abdication of Nicholas II in 1917 by comparison were insignificant as neither event managed to have a significant impact on the nature of Russian Government.

Despite the success of the 1917 revolutions Russia simply switched from one authoritarian regime in tsardom to another in communism. Lenin is constantly argued to be a ‘red Tsar’, because he was just as autocratic as the Tsars before him, despite not having absolute authority. Tsarist repression was intensified through the use of the Cheka, and the situation became far worse under Stalin than at any point under Romanov rule. So in that sense, there was little change...

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