Russian Revolutions (Theodore Von Laue: Why Lenin, Why Stalin, Why Gorbechov?)

·        Revolution from Without: International Pressures from the Western modernization

o       Western Industrialization pressured Russia to catch up

o       Military Defeat in 1905, Russo-Japanese War; defeat of the Great War by an Asian Power; helped force the Tzar, Nicolas II, to concede political reform in the form of a representative assembly called the Duma.

o       Political challenges of liberal democracy versus Russian autocracy spurs the growth of internal discontent among the small middle class, the intellectual class, and eventually workers.

o       Revolutionary tradition and revolutionary ideas.

§         Lenin’s study of the French Revolution.

§         Lenin’s revision of Marx.

·        Revolution from Below: the breakdown of the Russian state because of the strains of war, followed by the seizure of power first by liberals and then by soviets and Bolsheviks.

·        Revolution from Above: Soviet style modernization and terror under Stalin


Revolution of 1905—Duma

Major Parties

  • Constitutional Democrats—Kadets
  • Social Revolutionaries—leaders (Kerensky) and the peasants

o       Social Democrats—Bolsheviks vs. Mensheviks


Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov (1870-1924), Lenin

Joseph Visarionovith Djugashvili (1879-1953)  Stalin

Lev Davidovich Bronstein (1879-1940)  Trotsky  (Red Army and Cheka secret police)

Scenes from Eisenstein's "October"

Revolutions of 1917

“February Revolution” (March 12)

Provisional Government—Prince Lvov (const. monarchist), followed by Kerensky (liberal) in July.

Petrograde Soviet  (council or committee of workers and soldiers)

“October Revolution” (November 6-7)  Bolshevik coup d’etat.






Consolidation of Bolshevik power and authoritarianism

Peace, Land, and Bread

Peace of Brest-Litvosk, March 1918 with Germany (Map)

Civil War and Red Terror, 1918-1921 Map


Russian Thermidor, N.E.P 1921-1927


Film Clips from "Stalin Despot"

Stalin: Socialism in One Country and the Revolution from Above (1928-53)

Five Year Plans, 1928-"The Great Leap Forward"

Collectivization and the liguidation of the kulaks (Stalin's declarations)

Forced Industrialization

Purges, 1936-1938


Stalin and Propaganda  Additional posters



Patterns of Revolution: France 1789-1799 vs. Russia 1917-1930




Break down of the state in part through international pressures and war, accomplished with little violence


Unity of purpose at the beginning fractures into struggles for power by groups contending for control of the revolution, resulting in the triumph of one revolutionary group over others as with Jacobins (temporarily) in 1793-4, and the Bolsheviks in 1917-18.


Outcome: a significant strengthening of the state.



Popular Revolution

The revolution carried out in part by class-based revolts from below: peasants and sans-culottes in France:: workers and peasants in Russia

Liberty, equality, fraternity

Shared desire for liberation: from aristocratic domination and absolute monarchy in France:: from aristocratic domination and autocratic monarchy in Russia.


Transcendence of national boundaries: through force of arms or ideology, both revolutions evoked sympathetic responses as well as determined opposition from the populations and governments of other countries.



Socio-economic development

France in 1789 was an advanced country, the center of European culture; Russia was on the periphery of Europe, and “backward” in relation to economic and political standards of the West.

Fate of the Peasantry

The French peasantry was preserved by the French Revolutionary land settlement; in Russia, the collectivization of agriculture under Stalin in the late 1920s and 1930s destroyed the independent peasantry.

Economic consequences

In France, the Revolution had a negative effect on economic growth but helped foster the conditions for further capitalist development through the abolition of seigneurialism and the limited intervention of the state in the economy.

In Russia, the soviet state under Stalin imposed industrialization and forced economic modernization, often using ruthless methods of terror to carry out this transformation.