Socialism in Europe and the Russian Revolution

The ideology of Socialism was inspired by the French Revolution. There were differing opinions on change among liberals, radicals and conservatives. Simultaneously, socio-economic changes took place in 19th century Europe, which also witnessed the growth of revolutionary organisations. The idea of Socialism developed with variations, like Cooperative Socialism and Scientific Socialism, the latter propounded by Karl Marx and Engels.

Pre-revolutionary Russia, a vast Russian Empire ruled by a Tsar, consisted of various religions and regions. The masses lived miserably, while the clergy and nobility were well-off. Socialism in Russia was started by the Natural Socialists. The Socialist Revolutionary Party, which stood for peasants’ land rights, got split into democrats (Menshevik) and revolutionaries (Bolshevik). Subsequently, a procession of workers led to the Bloody Sunday event, leading to events related to the 1905 Revolution, culminating in the creation a parliament – Duma. But relations between Tsar and the Duma were tenuous. During First World War, popular opinion, initially in the Tsar’s favour, soon turned against him. Defeat of Russian army, and food shortages, led to popular revolt in Russia.

The February Revolution of 1917 was characterized by strikes in Petrograd. This culminated in the Tsar’s abdication and the creation of a Provisional Government. After Lenin’s return, the suppressed Bolsheviks captured power after the October Revolution. The new Bolshevik government made new reforms and rules. But it also faced opposition from anti-Bolsheviks during the Civil War. USSR’s birth saw introduction of centralized five-year plans. After Lenin, Stalin introduced firm emergency measures, including Collectivisation, which proved disastrous for the Russian economy. However, Stalin punished his critics harshly.

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