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Chapter 2 Socialism in Europe and the Russian Revolution Class 9 History NCERT Solutions
1. What were the social, economic and political conditions in Russia before 1905?
Social Conditions in Russia before 1905: About 85 per cent of the Russian empire’s population earned their living from agriculture. Industry was existent, but sporadically. Most of this was privately owned. Workers either came from villages, or migrated to cities for employment in factories. The peasant community was deeply religious, but did not care much about the nobility. They believed that land must be divided amongst themselves. Since this was not possible due to feudal rights, the peasants had their own unique commune wherein wealth was shared out according to each family’s needs.
Economic Conditions in Russia before 1905: 1904 was a bad year for the workers. Due to rise in prices of essential goods, real wages decreased by 20%, leading to the famous St.Petersburg strike where 110,000 workers protested, demanding reduction in work hours and increase in wages. This strike started a series of events that are together known as the 1905 Revolution. During this revolution, there were strikes all over the country, universities closed down, and various professionals and workers established the Union of Unions, demanding the establishment of a constituent assembly.
Political Conditions in Russia before 1905: The Tsar of Russia was an autocratic monarch, not subject to the parliament unlike other European countries. Political parties were illegal before 1914. Socialists were active in the countryside through the late nineteenth century. They formed the Socialist Revolutionary Party in 1900. This party struggled for peasants’ rights and demanded that land belonging to nobles be transferred to peasants. Social Democrats disagreed with Socialist Revolutionaries about peasants. The party was divided over the strategy of organisation. Lenin felt that peasants were not one united group. However, the Bolsheviks under Lenin wanted a disciplined group, and not farmers, in the party. While the Bolsheviks believed in controlling the number and quality of its members, the Mensheviks believed that the party should be open to all.
2. In what ways was the working population in Russia different from other countries in Europe, before 1917?
The working population in Russia was different from that of those in other countries in Europe before 1917 in various ways:
At the beginning of the twentieth century, the vast majority of Russia’s people were agriculturists. About 85 percent of the Russian empire’s population earned their living from agriculture. This proportion was higher than in most European countries. In France and Germany the proportion was between 40 per cent and 50 per cent.
Industry was found in pockets. Most industry was the private property of industrialists. Workers were a divided social group. Some had strong links with the villages from which they came. Others had settled in cities permanently. Workers were divided by skill. Metalworkers considered themselves aristocrats among other workers.
Peasants in Russia had no respect for the nobility. Nobles got their power and position through the Tsar and not through local popularity, whereas in countries like France, peasants respected nobles.
In Russia, peasants had pooled their land together and divided the profits according to the family needs. In other parts of the world, agriculture was done individually by the peasants.
3. Why did the Tsarist autocracy in Russia collapse in 1917?
Tsar Nicholas II still believed in the autocratic rights of the king. His policies brought deep dissatisfaction among the common mass. Tsarina Alexandra’s German origins and poor advisers, especially Rasputin, made the autocracy very unpopular.
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.
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.
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.
4. Make two lists: one with the main events and 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 the impact of each was on Soviet history.
22 February: Lockout of a factory was done on the right bank of the Neva river in Petrograd.
23 February: Sympathy strike was done by workers in 50 factories. Demonstrating workers reached the centre of the city, surrounding the government buildings. Curfew was imposed and the demonstrators dispersed.
24 and 25 February: Demonstrations done again by workers. Cavalry and police were called out to control them. 25 February: Government suspended the Duma (Russian Parliament).
26 February: Demonstrators returned in force to the streets of the left bank.
27 February: Workers ransacked the police headquarters. Streets were thronged with people shouting slogans demanding bread, better wages, less hours of work and democracy. Cavalry was called out once again, but they refused to fire on the demonstrators. By evening, soldiers and striking workers formed a ‘Soviet’ (council) which was called the Petrograd Soviet.
28 February: A delegation met the Tsar. Army commanders advised him to abdicate.
2 March: Tsar abdicates. Duma leaders and others form a provisional government. Both men and women workers were involved. There were no particular leaders. The effect was that it brought down the autocratic monarchy.
The Leaders and its impact
Workers and women from fifty factories took up leadership in the February Revolution, which was not affiliated with any political party.
16 October: Lenin persuades the Petrograd Soviet and Bolshevik Party to agree to a socialist seizure of power. Military Revolutionary Committee to manage this operation was formed.
24 October: Uprising started, but government troops seize buildings of two Bolshevik newspapers. The Winter Palace and other buildings were also protected by troops. The Military Revolutionary Committee seized the government offices and arrested the ministers. The ship Aurora shelled the winter palace. By nightfall, the city was under the Committee’s control and the remaining ministers had surrendered.
The Leaders and its impact
Bolsheviks were the main people involved. Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky were the main leaders. The effect was that it brought the Bolsheviks to power to form a communist government for the first time in the world.
5. What were the main changes brought about by the Bolsheviks immediately after the October Revolution?
There were many changes brought about by the Bolsheviks immediately after the October Revolution:
- The Bolsheviks were totally opposed to private property. Therefore, most industries and banks were nationalised. Land was declared social property and peasants were allowed to seize the land of the nobility.
- In cities, Bolsheviks enforced the partition of large houses according to family requirements. They banned the use of old titles of the aristocracy.
- To assert the change, new uniforms were designed for the army and officials in 1918 in which the Soviet hat, the (budenovka) was chosen.
- The Bolshevik Party was renamed the Russian Communist Party (Bolshevik). Russia became a one-party state and trade unions were kept under party control.
- For the first time the Bolsheviks introduced a centralised planning on the basis of which Five Year Plans were made for the development of Russia.
6. Write a few lines to show what you know about:
(b) the Duma
(c) women workers between 1900 and 1930
(d) the Liberals
(e) Stalin’s collectivisation programme
(a) Kulaks: The well-to-do peasants in Russia were known as kulaks. During the collectivisation programme initiated by Stalin, the lands and holdings of the kulaks were seized. Their cattle and grains were forcibly taken away by the government.
(b) the Duma: The Duma is the name of the Russian Parliament. After the brief revolution of 1905, the Czar constituted the Duma for consultative purposes. However, it did not have any real legislative powers and the Czar dissolved it according to his wishes.
(c) women workers between 1900 and 1930: At the beginning of the 1900s, 31% of factory workers were women. In 1917, many women workers led strikes during the February Revolution, but they were paid less than half or three quarters what men were paid. In the 1930s, the conditions of women workers remained grim. Slowly, conditions improved, and crèche facilities were established in factories for the children of women workers.
(iv) The Liberals: The Liberals believed in the basic rights of every individual. They stood against the despotic rule of the monarchs and nobles. The Liberals wanted to establish an elected and parliamentary government with an independent judiciary. However, they did not support universal adult franchise.
(v) Stalin’s collectivisation programme: Stalin devised the economic policy of collectivisation by which small land holdings were made into large farms. These farms would be collectively owned by the peasants and profits would be shared among all. A large number of peasants opposed this move by the government.