In the last years of World War I a Revolution in Russia overthrew the Tsar and eventually led to the establishment of the world's first avowedly Communist state. The Soviet Union that rose out of the ashes of the Russian Empire would play a critical role in the events of the remainder of the century.
A useful way of understanding the course of the Russian Revolution in 1917 is to compare it to a wildfire. In this metaphor, the instability of late Imperial Russia and the deep dissatisfaction of large segments of its population provided plentiful fuel for the fire that was sparked by the disastrous course of the First World War. Although the vast majority of the population was initially cheered when the Imperial government went up in flames, moderates soon began to worry that they too would be consumed if the blaze was allowed to spread. Their caution backfired, however, as they gradually lost the respect and trust of the population. As their authority broke down, the inferno spread out of control, benefiting radicals willing to go along with the growing anarchy and support the demands of the people. The militant Bolshevik Party was the group best able to ride the firestorm into power, which they seized in the famous October Revolution. They went along with the revolution until it burned itself out, and were then able to consolidate their position as the absolute rulers of the country.
Despite being one of the world's largest, most powerful and most feared nations, late Imperial Russia rested on unstable foundations. The peasantry, the industrial workers and progressives were all deeply dissatisfied. Moreover, they had little hope of improving their situation through peaceful means. ...
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12 Figes, People's Tragedy, 360.
13 Ibid., 430.
14 This phrase is often attributed to either Lenin or his associate Leon Trotsky.
15 1917 god v derevne Vospominaniia krestian (Moscow, 1967), 3
16 Except for a temporary decline during the harvest period. See Lazar Volin, A Century of Russian Agriculture: From Alexander II to Khrushev (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1970), 125.
17 1917 god v derevne, 3
18 Ibid., 4.
19 Figes, People's Tragedy, 433-434.
20 N. N. Sukhanov, The Russian Revolution, ed. Joel Carmichael (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984), 470.
21 See David Schaich, The Bolsheviks, the Masses, and October for further discussion.
22 History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1960), 260-261.
23 See David Schaich, The Bolsheviks, the Masses, and October for further discussion.
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