TEXTBOOK QUESTIONS SOLVED
Q1. Imagine that you are a striking worker in 1905 who is being tried in court for your act of rebellion. Draft the speech you would make in your defence. Act out your speech for your class.
Ans. Good morning all and sundry!
I have done what I should do. We, the workers, are the most suppressed sections of the society. Our working hours are so long. If we want a reduction in it to eight hours, it is fully justified. We are not machines. We are after all human beings. Like other human beings, we also need relaxation. We are compelled to do work in such hazardous conditions and that too against such poor wages. If we are striking to get our conditions improved, it should not be considered as an act of rebellion. We are right and our demands should be fulfilled.
Q2.Write the headline and a short news item about the uprising of 24 October 1917 for each. of the following newspapers.
• a Conservative paper in France
• a Radical newspaper in Britain
• a Bolshevik newspaper in Russia
Students are suggested to develop headlines and short news items themselves.
Q3. Imagine that you are a middle level wheat farmer in Russia after collectivisation. You have decided to write a letter to Stalin explaining your objections to collectivisation. What would you write about the conditions of your life? What do you think would be Stalin’s response to such a farmer?
I am a middle level wheat farmer after collectivisation. My family is big and now it is quite difficult for me to look after it properly. We are in fact dying of starvation. Your collectivisation technique has ruined me and my family. I had made assets of land with great effort. And now it has been taken away from me in a second. It is not justified. I, therefore, request you to please do me a favour and return my land to me.
The letter would not have produced desired effect on Stalin. He would have sent his men to imprison this farmer.
Q1. What were the social, economic and political conditions in Russia before 1905?
The social, economic and political conditions in Russia before 1905 were not at all sound.
• Social Conditions: Russian society before 1905 was divided into three classes—the clergy, nobility and peasants. The condition of the peasants was pathetic. They cultivated most of the land. But the nobility, the crown and the orthodox church owned large properties. The peasants had to pay heavy redemption dues. There was great unrest among these peasants.
They wanted the land of the nobles and fought for them. Frequently, they refused to pay rent and even murdered landlords.
• Economic Conditions: About 80 per cent of the Russian empire’s population earned their living from agriculture. Industry was found in pockets. Prominent industrial areas were St. Petersburg and Moscow. Craftsmen undertook much of the production, but large factories existed alongside craft workshops. Many factories were set up in the 1890s, when Russia’s railway network was extended and foreign investment in industry increased. By the 1900s in some areas factory workers and craftsmen were almost equal in number. Most industry was the private property of industrialists. Government supervised large factories to ensure minimum wages and limited hours of work. But factory inspectors could not prevent rules from being broken. As a result, workers were living a very miserable life. They had nu political rights. Their working hours were too long. T heir wages were too meagre and their working conditions were too hazardous. Unemployment was a common phenomenon in Russia before 1905.
• Political Conditions: Russia at the time of the revolution was under the autocracy of Tsar Nicholas II. He believed in the Divine Rights of kings. People were not satisfied with his governance. The Russian empire that Nicholas II ruled was vast. Besides the territory around Moscow, the Russian empire included current day Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, parts of Poland, Ukraine and Bearus. It stretched to the pacific and comprised today’s central Asian states, as well as Georgia, Armenia and Azarbaijan. The majority religion was Russian Orthodox Christianity which had grown out of the Greek Orthodox church but the empire also included Catholics, Protestants, Muslims and Buddhists.
Q2. In what ways was the working population in Russia different from other countries in Europe before 1917?
(i) Before 1917, the vast majority of Russia’s people were agriculturists. About 85 per cent of the Russian empire’s population was engaged in agriculture. This proportion was higher than in most European countries. For instance, in France and Germany the proportion was between 40 per cent and 50 percent.
(ii) Unlike Europe, in Russia industrialisation started late. As a result, industry was found in pockets. Prominent industrial areas were St. Petersburg and Moscow. Craftsmen undertook much of the production but large factories existed alongside craft workshops.
(iii) Russian peasants had no respect for the nobles who got their power and position through their services to the Tsar, not through local popularity. This was unlike France where, during the French Revolution in Britain, peasants respected nobles and even fought for them.
(iv) In Russia, peasants were violent and frequently refused to pay rent and even murdered landlords. In 1905, such incidents took place all over Russia. This was not found in any of the European countries. Unlike European peasants, Russian peasants pooled their land together periodically and their commune divided it according to the needs of individual families.
Q3. Why did Tsarist autocracy collapse in 1917?
Several factors led to the collapse of Tsarist autocracy in Russia:
(i) Tsar Nicholas II was not an efficient ruler. He still believed in the autocratic rights of the king. His policies brought deep dissatisfaction among the common mass.
(ii) Tsarina Alexandra’s German origins and poor advisers, especially Rasputin, made the autocracy very unpopular.
(iii) The bureaucracy that Tsar Nicholas II recruited was too inefficient. The recruitment of the members was done on the basis of privileges and patronage, not on merit. This was a major factor that paved the way for the downfall of Tsarist autocracy.
(iv) Russia’s participation in the First World War proved disastrous for it. The war was initially popular in Russia and people rallied around Tsar Nicholas II.
As the war continued, though, the Tsar refused to consult the main parties in the Duma, support were thin. Anti-German feeling ran high.
(v) Russia’s army lost badly in Germany and Austria between 1914 and 1916. There were over 7 million casualties by 1917. As they retreated, the Russian army destroyed crops and buildings to prevent the enemy from being able to live off the land. The destruction of crops and buildings led to over 3 million refugees in Russia. The situation discredited the government and the Tsar.
(vi) Peasants and workers formed large section of Russia’s population. But their condition was too miserable. The Tsar never paid even a slight attention to their condition.
All the above mentioned factors prepared such a condition in Russia in which Tsarist autocracy was bound to collapse.
Q4. Make two lists: one with the main events and the effects of the February Revolution and the other with the main events and effects of the October Revolution. Write a paragraph on who was involved in each, who were the leaders and what was the impact of each on Soviet history.
The main events of the February Revolution:
(i) In the winter of 1917, conditions in the capital, Petrograd were grim. There had been exceptional frost and heavy snow. This aggravated food problem. Food shortages were deeply felt in the workers’ quarters.
(ii) Parliamentarians wishing to preserve elected government, were opposed to the Tsar’s desire to dissolve the Duma.
(iii) On 22 February, a lockout took place at a factory on the right bank of the River Neva. The next day, workers in fifty factories called a strike in sympathy. In many factories, women led the way to strikes. Demonstrating workers crossed from the factory quarters to the centre of the capital, i.e. the Nevskii prospect. Soon the government imposed a curfew. Demonstrators dispersed by the evening, but they came back on the 24th and 25th of February.
(iv) They also came in force in the streets of the left bank of the River Neva on the 26th. On the right bank were the fashionable areas, the Winter Palace, and officials buildings. On the 27th, they ransacked the police headquarters. The streets thronged with people raising slogans about bread, wages, better hours and democracy.
Effects of the February Revolution
(i) The Tsar abdicated on 2 March. Thus, monarchy was brought down. Soviet leaders and Duma leaders formed a provisional government to run the country.
(ii) Russia’s future would be decided by a constituent assembly, elected on the basis of universal adult suffrage.
The main events of the October Revolution
(i) The October Revolution occurred due to the conflict between the provisional government and the Bolsheviks, of which Lenin was the leader.
(ii) Lenin feared the Provisional Government would set up a dictatorship. In September, he began discussions for an uprising against the government. Bolshevik supporters in the army, soviets and factories were brought together.
(iii) On 16 October 1917, Lenin persuaded the Petrograd Soviet and the Bolshevik party to agree to a socialist seizure of power. A military revolutionary committee was appointed by the Soviet under Leon Trotski to organise the seizure. The date of the event was kept a secret.
(iv) The uprising began on 24 October. Military men loyal to the provisional government under Kerenskii seized the buildings of two Bolshevik newspapers. Pro-government troops were sent to take over telephone and telegraph offices and protect the Winter Palace. In a swift response, the Military Revolutionary Committee ordered its supporters to seize government offices and arrest ministers. Late in the day, the ship Aurora shelled the Winter Palace. Other vessels sailed down the Neva and took over various military points. By nightfall, the city was under the committee’s control and the ministers had surrendered.
(v) Uprising took place in other cities also and by December the Bolshevik became successful in controlling the Moscow-Petrograd area.
Effects of the October Revolution
(i) The October Revolution marked the beginning of Lenin’s rule over the Soviet, with Bolsheviks under his guidance. The Bolshevik Party was renamed the Russian Communist Party. Thus, the first communist regime was established in Russia.
(ii) Most industry and banks were nationalised in November 1917. Land was declared social property and peasants were allowed to seize the land of the nobility.
(iii) In cities, Bolsheviks enforced the partition of large houses according to family requirements. They banned the use of the old titles of aristocracy.
(iv) The Bolsheviks made peace treaty with Germany at Brest Litovsk in March 1918. In the years that followed, the Bolsheviks became the only party to participate in the elections to the All Russian Congress of Soviets, which became the Parliament of the country. Russia became a one-party state.
Q5. What were the main changes brought about by the Bolsheviks immediately after the October Revolution?
The following changes were brought about by the Bolsheviks immediately after the October Revolution:
(i) The Bolsheviks were against private property. Hence, most industry and banks were nationalised.
(ii)Land was declared social property and peasants were allowed to seize the land of the nobility.
(iii) In cities, Bolsheviks enforced the partition of large houses according to family requirements.
(iv) Old titles of aristocracy were banned.
(v) New uniforms were designed for the army and officials.
(vi) The Bolshevik Party was renamed the Russian Communist Party.
(uii) The Bolsheviks made peace with Germany at Brest Litovsk.
(viii) Russia became a one-party state.
(ix) The all Russian Congress of Soviets became the Parliament of the country.
(x) Trade unions were kept under party control.
Q6. Write a few lines to show what you know about:
• The Duma
• Women workers between 1900 and 1930
• The Liberals
• Stalin’s collectivisation programme
Kulaks were the wealthy peasants of Russia. In 192728, the towns in Soviet Russia were facing acute problem of grain supplies. Stalin believed that these kulaks were holding stocks in the hope of higher prices. Hence, it was essential to eliminate them. As a result, many kulaks were raided. Their land was taken away in order to establish state-controlled large farms.
The Duma was the elected Consultative Parliament which was created during 1905 Revolution. Tsar Nicholas II endowed it with legislative powers. But real authority or power was enjoyed by the Tsar only. He dismissed the first Duma within 75 days and re-elected second Duma within three months. He did not want any questioning of his authority or any reduction in his power. He changed the voting laws and packed the third Duma with conservative politicians. Even during the First World War, the Tsar did not consult the Duma. Finally, on 25 February, 1917, the government suspended the Duma.
Women workers between 1900 and 1930
Women workers played an important role in the history of Russia. They made up 31 per cent of the factory labour force by 1914, but they were paid less than men.
They proved themselves a great inspiring force for their male co-workers. They could lead strikes. Marfa Vasileva was one such woman worker who worked as a milling machine operator. She almost single-handedly called a successful strike against the rising prices. She got full support from her co-workers especially women workers who gathered around Marfa in support and gradually all the other women ceased working. Their unified struggle continued till the establishment of a socialistic state in Russia,
The Liberals in Russia during the early twentieth century were those people who wanted to change society. They wanted a nation which tolerated all religions. It was the time when European states usually discriminated in favour of one religion or the another. Liberals were also not in favour of uncontrolled power of dynastic rulers. They wanted to safeguard the rights of individuals against government. They argued for a representative, elected parliamentary government, subject to laws interpreted by a well-trained and independent judiciary. But, they were not in favour of universal adult franchise. They also did not want the vote for women.
Stalin’s Collectivisation Programme
By 1927-28, the towns in Soviet Russia were facing an acute problem of grain supplies. Stalin, the head of the party after Lenin’s death, introduced firm emergency measures to curb this situation. He believed that rich peasants and traders in the countryside were holding stocks in hope of higher prices. Hence, kulaks, the well-to-do farmers of Russia, were raided and their land was taken away to establish state-controlled large farms. All peasants were told to cultivate in collective farms called kolkhoz. The bulk of land and implements were transferred to the ownership of collective farms. Peasants worked on the land and the kolkhoz profit was shared. But peasants were not happy with this system.