Vladimir Lenin (and, uh, might I add, on his head, well, that's his hair col de sack), dictator of Russia from 1917 until 1924. He was also the founder and creator of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or Soviet Union, which was formed on December 30, 1922. Lenin became it's first ruler. He was born in Simbirsk, Russia, on April 22, 1870, and died from a series of strokes in January, 1924 in Moscow.
all backgrounds on my site come from this site here and are used with permission.
Czarist Russia was not a totalitarian state (mostly because the Czars didn't really try to encourage the masses of people to follow them), but shortly after he seized power Lenin introduced the Russian people to the full horrors of living in one. It was he who introduced totalitarianism into Russia. (It should perhaps be mentioned that Lenin wasn't a real Marxist and did not intend to follow and copy Marx's ideas. He only said that he was and parroted many of Karl Marx's sayings just to get the people to support him so that he could have his coup d'etat on Russia carried out and then from there begin to carry out all of the evil plans he had for the Russian people. But more on that will be on another page.) He created the Bolshevik Party in 1903 along the lines of a military style of discipline and hierarchy (that's called democratic centralism), the forced labor/concentration camps which were the forerunners of Stalin's Gulags, the all powerful bureaucracy and secret police which ruthlessly and mercilessly crushed all opposition to Lenin's monopolistic rule, and the transformation of the press, radio, cinema and theater (for the first time in Russian history the government held an absolute monopoly over this) into places for making and distributing state propaganda (this was later to be known as Socialist Realism in Stalin's time). Murderous terror and the belief in the slogan "The End Justifies the Means!" were also typical totalitarian methods used by Lenin. Not one of these were invented by Stalin. Even the brutal treatment of peasants and kulaks was begun by Lenin, not by Stalin. Lenin was even imperialistic, although the tendency to commit acts of imperialism is certainly not limited to totalitarian rulers. Stalin merely intensified what it was that Lenin had already created. During the seven years that Lenin was in power millions of Russians were to lose everything, including their very lives. Nikolai Bukharin was to witness all of this when he returned to Russia in May of 1917.
The events which led to the abdication of the Czar Nikolai Romanov the II began on March 8, 1917, when the proletariat from the capital city of Petrograd rioted in the streets. This revolution could have been called a true and popular proletarian revolution, since it involved a great majority of the industrial working class of the city. But it was not only the working class that was in favor of this revolution; it was a popular revolution in the sense that the majority of Russians from every one of the classes supported it: proletariat, peasant, nobility. Some of the things they wanted were more food and better working conditions, which meant shorter working hours and higher wages. Peasants wanted the right to control the land they worked on, and political revolutionaries wanted such democratic rights as the freedom of speech and the freedom to assemble. One of the biggest things they wanted though for generations, was the right to hold a federal election, in which the people would choose and vote for a party to be their government. This was to be the Constituent Assembly. The people also wanted to have their own councils, one for each city. These were called the Soviets (soviet is a Russian word, meaning both council and advice), and they were supposed to be made up of ordinary Russians which were democratically elected by their own people. (The people also wanted to have their own provincial Soviets as well.) The Czar did not grant any of these requests, however, and he was forced to abdicate in favor of his son Alexei. (He afterward passed the throne to his brother Mikhail because his son had hemophilia.) The Provisional Government which took power then refused to recognize the continuation of the rule of the Romanovs, however, and the abdication occurred on March 15. It should be noted that no prominent Bolsheviks were in St Petersburg at that time, they were all living as emigres. So contrary to popular belief among Leninists, it was not the Bolsheviks who overthrew the Tsar; it was the common urban citizens.
Tsar Nikolai Alexandrovich Romanov II. He was born a prince of Russia in 1868 and he came to the throne after his father's (Tsar Alexander III) death in 1894. He , his wife his ffour daughters and one son were murdered by the Bolsheviks in the Ipatiev House near Ekaterinburg in July of 1918.
Shortly after this revolution Nikolai Bukharin remarked, "There is no doubt whatsoever, that the Russian revolution will spread to the old capitalist countries and that sooner or later it will lead to the victory of the European proletariat." (Bukharin was right in a sense, for after the signing of the treaty of surrender by the Germans that ended World War One on November 11, 1918, the monarchies/autocratic rule of several European countries collapsed, for example the German Empire and the Austria-Hungary Empire broke down and resulted in the creation of new countries. It could be possible that these people may have gotten inspired by what had happened in Russia.)
Bukharin had largely cooperated with Lenin when he seized power on October 25, 1917 (his comrades Lev Kamenev and Grigori Zinoviev, later Politburo members, had been opposed to Lenin's seizure of power and had been expelled from the Party but readmitted shortly thereafter), although Bukharin did say that the revolution contradicted Karl Marx when he had said that communism could not develop in a behind, peasant country like Russia. (Although the events of October 25 are popularly referred to as the October Revolution, it was infact not a revolution at all, but a coup d'etat instigated not by a majority of the Russian people, but by a small minority of people who had actually been tricked by Lenin. In fact, most members of the Bolshevik Party were not of proletarian origin at all.) Bukharin disagreed basically with Lenin more though on this topic than agreed. For example, on September 27 the Provisional government decided to call a preliminary parliament to help out until the meeting of the Constituent Assembly was called. All democratic parties and organizations were able to participate in this. (Alexander Kerensky, who became Russia's prime minister on July 21, also invited the Bolsheviks.) When Lenin, who was in Finland at this time, heard that some members of his party were invited, he wrote them a letter in which he said, "You will be traitors and scoundrels if you do not at once assign the whole Bolshevik faction to factories and plants, and do not surround the "democratic conference" and arrest all the scum". When Bukharin and the other Central Committee members read this letter, which to them was threatening, they all at once decided to burn the letter. (Bukharin became a member of the Central Committee in July 1917. He also was put in charge of the Bolshevik party newspaper Pravda at this time as well. Interestingly, the name Pravda was actually taken from the name of Trotsky's paper when Trotsky was a Menshevik, in the early part of the 20th century. Trotsky was so annoyed that Lenin had stolen the name of his paper that he quit publishing.)
While the Bolshevik takeover in Petrograd had been largely bloodless, when Moscow was taken a few days later, several hundred people had perished in the fighting. According to his third wife, Anna Larina, Bukharin cried when he heard what had happened. He was a sensitive, soft, and emotional intellectual and he did not like violence.
When the Bolsheviks came to power in agricultural, poor, unindustrialized Russia where the industrial proletariat were only a small minority, one of the first things that Lenin wanted to do was to take the country he had just seized control of out of the war against Germany. (It's very possible that he did this because he wanted the time to establish his totalitarian dictatorship, and while he was still involved in a war establishing a brand new kind of political system into a country would be extremely difficult.) Many members of the Bolshevik party had different ideas about what to do with this issue about the first world war, particularly Bukharin, Lenin, and Trotsky. Lenin wanted to sign, and was prepared to sign any kind of peace treaty with the Germans, even if that meant agreeing to, and abiding by, German terms and doing exactly what the Germans wanted him to do. In other words, become submissive to the Germans.
Trotsky believed that the peace treaty with the Germans should not be signed, but however, they should not send an army into Europe in order to defeat the Germans either. He wanted the two countries to just end the war right there on the spot and establish "peace without winners and losers, peace without victors and vanquished." Bukharin, on the other hand, was head of "the largest and most powerful Bolshevik opposition to Lenin in the history of Soviet Russia," as the historian Stephen Cohen put it. These included a great majority of the members of the various city and provincial soviets, large organizations of the party and it's ordinary rank and file membership, members of the other political parties in Russia, and, as long as Trotsky and his group also was against Lenin's ideas, Bukharin and his friends also even had a majority in the Bolshevik Central Committee. Bukharin believed that Russia should continue to be heavily involved in fighting with the Allied countries (for example, Britain and France), and should send an army into Europe in order to fight against and defeat Austria and its ally Germany. If Russia did not do this, Bukharin believed, and the Germans should happen to win the war, and get what they wanted from Russia if Lenin signed a peace treaty on their terms, then Bukharin believed that imperialism would not stop there. (In other words, if they gave the mouse a cookie, he was going to want a glass of milk.)
Some of the people who supported Lenin's ideas were Iosif Dzhugashvili (Stalin), Yakov Sverdlov, Ivan Smilga, and Grigori Sokolnikov, who were all members of the Bolshevik Party. Some of the people who supported Trotsky and Bukharin's ideas were Nikolai Krestinsky, Karl Radek, Felix Dzerzhinsky, and Uritsky, who were also members of the Bolshevik Party.
Karl Radek. He had been a follower of Trotsky. For that he had been expelled from the Bolshevik Party in the 1920's and readmitted when the so called Left Trotskyite opposition (which included Zinoviev and Kamenev strangely enough, since both of them hated Trotsky with a passion) recanted and were readmitted to the Party ranks in approxiimately 1929-1930 and given small jobs within the Party. Radek was arrested later in December 1936 and hispast as a Trotskyite was held against him. He was put on show trial with Yuri Pyatakov in January 1937. He was not senteced to death but to ten years in the Gulag, presumably in return for the "evidence" he supplied against Bukharin (more on this later in another page). In about the year 1939, however, Radek was murdered. Bukharin 's wife, Anna Larina, thought that he was killed once Bukharin was already dead and could no longer find out about it.
Bukharin's group won the first voting on January 12. Fifteen voted for Lenin's idea, sixteen voted for Trotsky's idea, and thirty two voted for Bukharin's idea. Lenin, however, not being a believer in democracy and majority rule, wasn't going to let it end there. He had been used to getting his way since he was a little boy, had a head as hard as a rock, was stubborn by nature, and was going to get his way no matter what. His tactic was, if something didn't go his way, was to push and push, intimidate and even threaten his opponents into accepting his ideas. He did this now. He fiercely criticized Karl Radek and told him that he could be compared to a chicken. "A chicken," said he, "is afraid to step outside of a chalk circle drawn around her, but she can still say in her own defence that the circle was drawn by a strange hand." When the German army threatened to attack Russia if the peace treaty wasn't signed, Lenin used that against his opponents. Petrograd, he said, will become a German city and our government will fall, and then we will fail to establish our socialist country, the world's first socialist country.
So the party agreed to hold another voting on February 16. Again Bukharin and Trotsky's side won, this time on a voting of six to five. When these results were learned of by the Germans, they threatened to attack. Lenin's opponents were as usual unable to stand up and resist Lenin and his rock hard stubbornness, and they certainly did not want their country taken over by Germany, so when a second last vote took place Lenin came close to winning it this time. Lenin then threatened to resign from the central committee and the party, and he finally got his way when the last vote was held: Seven for him, and four for Bukharin's side. Trotsky, Dzerzhinsky, and some of the others did not vote this time, being intimidated by Lenin's threat to resign. The end of it was that the dictatorial Lenin got his own way, and the Brest Litovsk treaty was signed on March 3, 1918.
Lenin, true to his word, did everything the Germans wanted him to do. The Germans demanded that Lenin give them land in return for not invading Russia. Lenin willingly gave them all the land that stretched from Finland to the Ukraine to the Caucasus, which was approximately 1.3 million square miles). Party members such as Bukharin complained about this, but Lenin shrugged it off by saying that his actions were justified because well, what difference would it make anyhow? A proletarian revolution was going to occur in Europe soon anyway.
The New Economic Policy, or NEP, as it was known, was merely an attempt by Lenin to stay in power and to not become the target of a vicious coup d'etat carried out on him by the Russian people, who were quite dissatisfied with Lenin by the time NEP was declared by him in March 1921.NEP was born as a result of the severe economic and social crisis of 1918-1921. During that time, people lived even worse than they did when the czar was in power. In the city of St. Petersburg, there was no food for the workers. In fact, food was so scarce that people would arrive at the stores at five o'clock in the morning and wait around for over two hours before the store even opened. People's diets under Lenin were worse than they had been under the czar. In 1918, they had only half the bread they had under the czar, and one third the meat. Workers' conditions worsened under Lenin. The price on food went up, and workers' wages went down, to the point where their wages were 24 percent of the value they had been in 1913. By the time 1919 rolled around, their wages had dropped to as low as 2 percent. The average Russian industrial worker only earned enough to only feed him/herself and the family for only three days. It was so bad, in fact, that they were forced to put their wives and children on the street to prostitute themselves. Nearly half of these were offspring of the bourgeois families and nobility families. Alexei Peshkov, aka Maxim Gorky, a Russian writer, wrote in June of 1918 that "the famine of St. Petersburg has begun. Almost daily they pick up people who have dropped from exhaustion right there in the streets." The sanitary conditions of the city were so bad that the only beings who could thrive there were the rats and the cockroaches. It was hard to distribute things to the people, because the railways were shut down due to a lack of fuel and of course a lack of the supplies themselves. It was so bad that in order to get one engine running again, workers had to dismantle another engine, because no new parts were being made. In order to try and help themselves and their families, people fled the urban areas to settle in the countryside, hoping to get food from the fertile south. The proletarian class were becoming decimated, as something like a million workers were unemployed and as a result, left the cities to try to find a better life in the country. Thus Russia's working class-which hadn't been very big to begin with, a small minority of the population, in fact-became even smaller.
Alexei Peshkov "Maxim Gorky" Born in 1868, this Russian writer grew up in poverty and abuse and as an adult was extremely sensitive to the poor and the downtrodden. He often protected people from the Red Terror unleashed by Lenin in 1918-1919. He tried to save several of the Romanov grand dukes, princes, from being killed by the Cheka, the Leninist secret police. He emigrated from Russia after one of his friends, the poet Nikolai Gumilev, was killed by the Cheka. He returned to Russia in 1929. When his friend Lev Kamenev was arrested by Stalin in late 1935, Gorky made a nusance of himself pleading for his release. Gorky died in the summer of 1936, killed, some historians believe, by the chief of Stalin's secret police, who at that time was Genrikh Yagoda.
In the countryside, the paper money became absolutely useless as the price of food skyrocketed, and the peasants who lived in the countryside on their farms did not wish to sell their produce and food stuffs for paper money that was going to be absolutely useless anyway. They weren't even permitted to have their markets to sell and trade things amongst themselves, because Lenin had dismissed private trade as being one of the evils of capitalism and had abolished the market, making trade something that could be done by the Bolshevik Party only. (In fact, everything was taken away from the Russian people and made Bolshevized, for example, banks, factories, businesses, the universities, the judicial system and so on, were all Bolshevized. The peasants' markets, where they would trade food and other supplies amongst themselves, were therefore dismantled and declared to be illegal. The people also lost the right to have their own ideas and their own ways of thinking as opposition political parties were made illegal.) The peasants in the countryside also were hungry and did not have enough to eat. As one peasant named Semyonov had written to one of his friends in April of 1918, "I don't have nearly enough grain to feed myself or even to feed my cattle". So the peasants were forced to become traders, and this meant selling things and setting up their markets illegally.
The only way bartering could be legal was if the Bolsheviks organized a bartering and trading system themselves, run only by themselves, and not by, as Lenin called them, "private individuals." That's exactly what Lenin did, for he needed food for the cities to supply the proletariat with the supplies and food they needed. A group of city Bolsheviks would make an agreement with some group of country Bolsheviks, or a peasant village to exchange factory machines like farming tools, for food. This system sounded good, but here again the Bolsheviks faced another problem. Russia was a poor country, and neither the city nor the country had much in the way of materials with which they could use to barter with the other side. On top of all that, the failure of the Bolshevik government to give the people what they so desperately needed was creating protests, uprisings, and civil war in the country. Lenin needed a way out. He needed a scapegoat who could take the blame for the country's lack of food and supplies, and the civil war. This was another survival technique-a way for Lenin to avoid being overthrown in a coup d'etat, something to direct the people's anger onto, so they wouldn't blame him for all their problems. So Lenin claimed that the reason why there was a lack of food in the countryside was that rich greedy peasant "capitalists" were taking all the food and hiding it. Lenin called them "kulaks," meaning "fists". (Contrary to popular belief, Kulak is actually not a Stalinist word. It was, in fact, used first by Lenin long before Stalin even came to power. This was true for much of which historians claimed were invented by Stalin, when in fact, they were invented first by Lenin. Another example of this is the term "enemy of the people." I'll talk about that later.)
Acting on this claim, Lenin in May 1918 declared that all of the extra food that was supposedly being hoarded by kulaks was now to be declared the property of the Bolsheviks. With that the Grain Monopoly was launched. He, Lenin, sent out groups of Bolsheviks, who were called Food Brigades, to storm the peasants' villages and communes and take away their food by force. The brigades would first pose for a picture to be taken of them, before they left the cities. Then they would go into the countryside and do what one commissar called "organized robbery against the peasants." This was the essence of brutality. The whole system of nationalizing things and abolishing private trade and collecting grain from the peasants was known as "War Communism."
Members of one of Lenin's Food Brigades.
When the Food Brigades went to steal the peasants food, they would sometimes grab the peasants, make them get down on their knees naked on the floor, and both whip and beat them. In one country Russian province called Tambov, a brigade took horses away from the peasants and raped all the women because the peasants were unable to pay up. In another case a peasant man who was unable to pay up was forced to watch members of a food brigade rape his wife. This was when the civil war really began in the countryside (the Bolsheviks were known as Reds and their Russian opponents were called Whites). When the brigades arrived and committed their dirty deeds, the peasants actively resisted and fought against them. 200 approximately of these uprisings took place during July-August 1918. In one case groups of peasants attacked a brigade and made examples of them by displaying their killed and decapitated bodies outside in plain sight. Lenin passed the civil war in the countryside off by saying that it was only the resistance of the kulaks, who were expected to resist anyway, because they would naturally not want to give up all of the food they had hoarded. Desperate peasants would hide their precious food under the floorboards of their houses, in barns, in the woods, underground, and other places. War Communism killed off a lot of the countryside's people because they did not have any extra food to give the brigades. Most of the peasants of Russia were poor, so they only had enough food to feed themselves. Of course when Lenin's brigades took their valuable food supply, many peasants simply starved to death. The violence of the brigades toward the peasantry, and the violence of the peasantry in fiercely resisting the brigades violence killed a lot more people. The civil war taking place between Red Armies and White Amies throughout the country added more people to the already long list of deaths. Another cause of the deaths of thousands of others was the reign of terror created by Lenin and carried out by his Cheka during this time period called the Red Terror (I'll write more about them on my page about the Soviet secret police during the Lenin/Stalin periods).
NEP was signed and declared by Lenin on the 1st of March, but it was made official by the Tenth Bolshevik Party congress, which met from March 8 until the 16th. Lenin knew that he had to soothe the angry peasants, because, making up the country's majority like they did, there were far more of them than of Bolsheviks and their supporters, and Lenin could have been overthrown if the peasants took a mind to it. NEP was therefore a partial return to capitalism. It gave the peasants more control over their lives than they had before. For example, Lenin ended the forcible grain requisitioning of the peasants food by the Food Brigades, replacing it instead by a tax. (peasants were given tax rebates if and when they increased their productivity.) Once the peasants had paid their tax, they could then do what they liked with the rest of their food, feed themselves and sell it in the market that NEP now gave back to them (Lenin had hated the market because it was private trade to him and the essence of capitalism). They could also voluntarily give it to the government. The peasants also were permitted to own, open, and operate small businesses which had less than 20 workers in them. However, Lenin retained Bolshevik control over larger businesses, the bank system, and transportation. NEP, although the 1920's were called a "golden age" for the Russian peasants, was still though not a democracy. It was more like a deal "I'll make a deal with you. I'll give you this this, and this, and you keep me in power". NEP, sadly, did not come in time to stop three great disasters from occuring shortly on and after its signing: the Kronstadt Rebellion, the Great Famine of 1921, and the peasant revolt in the Russian province of Tambov.
The Tambov Revolt began in August 1920. In a village called Kamenka (in Tambov province) lived peasants who were a bit more wealthy than the others. Even so, though, about half of that population were going hungry, according to Bolshevik member Vladimir Antonov Ovseenko. One day one of Lenin's Food brigades arrived to take their "extra grain these greedy kulaks were hiding from the people." They demanded that the "kulaks" not only hand over the grain, but also pay a levy to the Bolshevik Party as well. Of course the peasants refused, grabbed up guns and pitchforks, and pounded members of the brigade until they had killed several of them. These revolting peasants were soon helped out by people living in nearby towns, and Lenin had to send in extra troops to try and put down the rebellion. The peasants organized themselves into an army and chose a man named Grigori Plezhnikov, who had opposed the monarchy and gentry in the revolutions of 1905 and 1917, to be their leader. In addition, the peasants chose the red flag to fight under (red in Russian society represented revolution and freedom, and also good fortune). The peasant army was also helped out by local members of the populist Socialist Revolutionary Party. The Bolsheviks were not really ready to put down a revolt because they had just come out of fighting in a war with Poland. Approximately they had only about 3,000 troops to use against the Tambov revolt. The peasants, taking advantage of this weakness, made straight for Tambov, and thousands of others joined them. The Bolsheviks managed to fight off the revolting peasants (they executed them, took their cattle and burning their forts), but that only made them angrier. One Bolshevik remarked "The whole population took to the woods in fright and joined the rebels." Even peasants once loyal to us had nothing to lose and threw in their lot with the revolt."
When the revolt spread through the southern part of Tambov, a man named Alexander Antonov became the revolting peasants' leader. Lenin later remarked that this revolt was his regime's biggest threat so far. Tambov's revolting army consisted of about 110,000 people, many of them not any older than twenty five. The strength of the army was possible because they had close ties with the villages, each of which was responsible for taking care of and recruiting their own armies. These armies engaged in guerrilla tactics. About which Bolshevik Vladimir Antonov-Ovseenko commented: "They were scarcely vulnerable, extraordinarily invisible, and so to speak ubiquitous." Peasants and soldiers became one and the same. They could switch, meaning a peasant could become a soldier and vise versa. They had spies- women, men, and children. Their way of fighting was to run and hide on a hill or in a forest, wait for some Bolsheviks to come near, and then dash out, clip them, and dash back out of sight again before anyone hardly had time to know what had happened. The peasant armies also employed what today would be called the "scorched earth"strategy- they destroyed bridges, took down telegraph poles and hindered the passage of trains by destroying railway tracks. This was to deny the Bolshevik Reds their use. The peasants wanted to be able to govern themselves and to exercize sovereignty- the right to have their own free will. They wanted their own Soviets back.
Vladimir Antonov-Ovseenko. This Bolshevik announced to the world the end of the Provisional Government when they were overthrown on October 25, 1917 by Lenin's forces. An ex Trotskyite who was pardoned by Stalin and sent abroad in the 1930's to work as an ambassador, he was later recalled back to the USSR, where he was arrested and executed sometime in the later part of the 1930's.
Even though the peasants fought the Bolsheviks now, they were NOT allies of the White armies. They despised the whites. People such as Sapozhkov, Mironov, Serov, and Antonov, had fought with the Reds against the Whites. Antonov, in fact, had once been a Chekist, the Chief of the Cheka in the Kirsanov part of Tambov. He had broken with the Bolsheviks in summer 1918 and started his own revolting army. And, as the Bolsheviks had been cruel to the peasants, so the peasants were equally as cruel and committed nearly unspeakable acts against the Bolshevik people. In one case, they cut open the stomachs of Bolsheviks and stuffed them with wheat. In another, Bolsheviks were branded with crosses. The peasants wanted their requisitioned grain back, so they invaded Bolshevik mills and bread shops and took back their foodstuffs, which had been stolen from them in the first place.
By March 1921 the Bolshevik power in the countryside had been virtually eliminated. This was when Lenin launched the NEP. He realized that he was facing a revolutionary situation (as city workers were striking en masse at the same time), and that he could lose his power and control on Russia if he did not yield to peasant demands in some way. However, Lenin did not wish to let the peasants get away with what they had done, nor did he wish to stop Bolshevik violence against them. So he merely changed his fighters' strategy. Before, he had sent in one small group at a time to try and stop the Tambov rioters; now, he sent in one great big mass army to begin a campaign of mass terror against the rioters and those who supported them. The mass army also brought along propaganda in order to convert the others. Mikhail Tukhachevsky, who had just come from putting down another riot in Kronstadt Fortress (a naval base), was sent to command the first of Lenin's mass armies. 100,000 people strong, they began first in Tambov. They used spy aeroplanes to track peoples' movements. They used poison gas. And they took people as hostages and with them tried to force the rioters to do what they wanted. Tukhachevsky's army set up concentration camps and imprisoned prisoners there. When July 1921 arrived there were approximately 50,000 people in the camps, about 1000 of whom were children. Whole villages of people were held hostage and if the rebels did not surrender then they were killed and sometimes their homes were burned. During the whole Tambov rebellion, approximately 15,000 people were shot and about 100,000 people were either imprisoned or else they were deported to the Arctic Circle. Another strategy of Lenin's was to turn the peasants of Tambov against each other and split them up. In order to do this, Lenin decreed that any peasant and villages who condemned the rebels would be rewarded with salt, food, and other things they needed. Lenin hoped that the rebels would then turn on these villagers and lynch them for betraying them. Lenin also promised the rebels that if they surrendered they would receive amnesty. About 6,000 of them did. Lenin then broke his promise and imprisoned and/or killed nearly all of them. The Tambov revolutionaries were stopped by late summer. Antonov's army was stopped in June but Antonov escaped. He remained free and continued to fight the Bolsheviks until the summer of 1922, when he was finally captured and murdered by the Cheka. Among the fighters was a Ukrainian anarchist named Nestor Makhno. He turned tail and ran from Tambov in August 1921. He went to live in Romania with some of his followers. Along with this revolt, the Bolsheviks seized the opportunity to supress the Menshevik and Socialist Revolutionary Parties, both of whom opposed Lenin. Lenin arrested about 5,000 Mensheviks in 1921, and subjected the leaders of the SR party to a large public show trial (another invention of Lenin, not Stalin, was the 'show trial') in which many were executed and the entire party labeled as being "enemies of the people."
Mikhail Tukhachevsky, General and later Marshall of the Soviet Union. He was regarded as an excellent fighter, because he was familiar with the technologies of the 20th century's latest war machines. He was very highly thought of in Russia. In the middle of the 1930's, Stalin made promoted him to the rank of Marshall of the Soviet Union. When Hitler came to power in Germany in 1933, he somehow sent a letter (possibly forged) which helped put the idea in Stalin's mind that Tukhachevsky was an enemy of the people of Russia. Tukhachevsky was arrested in May 1937 and put on trial with the other major military Russian commanders of the time. The ones who handed down the verdict of guilty punishable by death were their own peers. (Stalin liked to have friends send each other to their deaths.) On June 11, 1937, every one of the USSR's major military commanders, including Tukhachevsky, were executed. Their deaths signaled the start of the purge of the armed forces, in which some 35,000 members of the Red Army perished.
Nestor Makhno in 1921, during the Tambov Revolt.
The great famine also began in 1921. It was partly caused by human beings and the rest of it was due simply to nature. This famine took place in the Volga region where the crops had failed in 1920, and the winter was worse, with lots of heavy frost. To make matters worse (to add insult to injury, so to speak), the summer after that, 1921, there was a huge heavy drought! It turned the steppelands into one big dry-as-a-bone dustbowl. That spring the peasants suffered another harvest failure. Some of the crop had died, and the plants who had survived the frost were eaten by rats and mice. The peasants were used to harvest failures though, and had gotten themselves into the habit of storing food away in communal barns like pack rats. This normally would have been fine. Except when the peasants found out about the Bolsheviks and their requisitioning squads, they changed their tactics and grew only enough food to feed themselves, their villages and their animals. They feared the Bolsheviks would take their extras if they grew more. When Lenin passed off the lack of food as being the result of greedy kulaks hiding it, the Bolsheviks took even the little bits of food the peasants had. They had just enough to feed themselves, and when the Bolsheviks took it, there was nothing left. That, along with the failure of the harvest again in spring 1921, caused the famine.
The famine was the worst in the Volga where approximately 2 million people were dying. Typhus and cholera accompanied this and killed thousands more people. Many more people packed up and left for the towns, only to find that the Bolsheviks had put a stop to town in migration because they feared that disease might spread. Peasants still in the countryside ate whatever they could find. The list included cats, rats, dogs, grass, leaves, moss, weeds, flour made out of horse manure, and in desperation, many people even became cannibals. In the town of Pugachov, people would not even dare let their young ones out doors after dark because of the bands of cannibals running around.
Victims of the Volga Russian famine of 1921.
US president Hubert Hoover with American relief aid to Soviet Russia
Lenin did not want to acknowledge the famine until July of that year because it would have been extremely embarrassing. So he told the media to say that when NEP was introduced everything was OK then.So, if the people wanted to fix things, they had to do something about it themselves. Among those who helped with the relief effort were Maxim Gorky the writer, Ekaterina Kuskova, (one of the leaders of the Economist party who believed that workers should concentrate on improving conditions at work and in higher wages, and not concentrate on revolution. The Economists were a reformist party), doctors, engineers, and even Alexandra Tolstoya, the daughter of the famous writer Lev. Prince Georgi Lvov, even though in exile at the time, also helped out. (He had in addition helped people during the Samara famine of 1891.) Gorky sent word to the Americans that Russia needed help, and USA president Herbert Hoover sent in the American Relief Administration. After a while Lenin closed it down because Hoover wanted to be left alone to do his thing with no Bolshevik involvement and he also wanted all USA citizens to be let out of Soviet jails. Lenin pressured Gorky to leave Russia claiming it was for his health. In the summer of 1922 the ARA fed 10 million people every single day. The Americans thought it was disgusting that while they were feeding the Bolsheviks' people, the Bolsheviks had been storing away their own stocks of food in order to sell them abroad so they could buy needed industrial supplies. They had been squirreling away their own things while feasting away on supplies from the West.
The famine ended in 1922-1923, but not before there were about seven million orphaned and or homeless children. Gorky once wrote to lenin that there were "twelve year old children with three murders to their name." Gorky took the lead in helping these children and set up homes and schools for them. Members of the Bolsheviks allowed employers to hire them as child labor in the factories saying that it was "better to have them work then to have them living from crime in the streets". This was a way to take advantage of these children. Another way that the children were taken advantage of was by pimps enslaving them as prostitutes, and a third way was by recruiting them into the Red Army.
Kronstadt Fortress was a large naval base situated on an island in the gulf of Finland just off the Russian city of St. Petersburg (called Petrograd after World War I). Its population in 1921 was approximately 16,000. They were young sailors, many of them not any older than 23, and literate as well. They had supported the overthrowing of the Czar in March 1917, but during the summer they mostly kept to themselves, not really being governed by the Russian provisional government. They had their own Soviet but little military order. They decided to support Lenin, and when May began the Bolsheviks had gotten about 3,000 followers from them. With this the Bolsheviks and Kronstadters took control of their naval soviet, and declared themselves to be a Kronstadt Soviet Republic not under the provisional government but independent. They then came out to support Lenin in the rallies of June and July 1917. The Kronstadt sailors supported Lenin, at first, because they were attracted by his simple slogans, like All Power To The Soviets, which they thought were the democratically elected and run councils of the people, "Peace, Bread, and Land," which they thought they would get by following Lenin, an end to the first world war, and basically a happy prosperous socialist country.
Forts at Kronstadt.
Lenin did not keep his promises to the people, however, and when the Kronstadt sailors realized that he didn't, they rebelled. The result was a massive slaughter and destruction of this once proud and strong naval fortress. Here's what happened.By 1921 the sailors had grown dissatisfied with Lenin, although they fought with him in the civil war (because they felt the White Army was a bigger threat to them than the Bolsheviks). When the war was over though, and they returned to their base, Lenin took over their soviet and purged it of all the people with non Bolshevik views along with all other parties, and placed it under Bolshevik control. The Bolsheviks also started to live and behave something like feudal lords, in fact the bolshevik commander of the baltic fleet in Kronstadt, Fyodor Raskolnikov, returned there with his wife after the war in 1920 and lived an extravagant lifestyle complete with banquets, servants, chauffered cars, and a whole closet of clothes taken from the upper classes, much to the chagrin of the Kronstadt sailors, half of whom tore up their Bolshevik membership Party cards when they found out what was really going on. Others of the sailors objected to the Bolsheviks seizing grain from the peasantry, to the Red Terror, and to the savage way that the Bolsheviks delt with those of the peasants who fiercely objected to having their grain taken from them (because many of these sailors were of peasant origin). What they all wanted though, was a democracy. They wanted freedom of press, assembly, speech, good lives for all of the workers, and the right of the peasants to till their own land and take care of it as they saw fit, but not to use hired labor to do it. The Kronstadt sailors wanted their own little world, not subject to the control of a Russian government, but separate from Russia, with their own Soviet. They even agreed that Bolsheviks could take part if they weren't dictatorial in their practices.
The Kronstadters struck for these freedoms and desires at the same moment that they heard that strikes by workers were taking place in Petrograd to protest against the Bolsheviks. What an embarrassment for Lenin this was, that the same stronghold which had supported him for October 1917 was now against him. He tried to pass it off by claiming that these "strangers" weren't the real Kronstadters, that they were instead recent peasant migrants who had dressed up as the Kronstadters, and that the real ones had died in the Civil War. The Kronstadters called a meeting, in which they demanded to be given back their soviet and to organize an election to it. Lenin tried to tame these wild stallions by sending two Bolsheviks, Mikhail Kalinin and Kuzmin, to calm them down, but the Kronstadters paid them no attention and organized their election anyway. They were afraid though, and set about arming themselves at this time, as well as peppering their island with defences.
Mikhail Kalinin, President of the USSR from 1938 until his death in 1946.
When Kalinin and Kuzmin failed their mission, Lenin planned to crush Kronstadt by force. He had to do it quickly, though, because it was springtime, and the ice that separated Kronstadt island from the mainland would melt soon. So, on March 2, a Bolshevik army was sent to the shoreline just opposite of Kronstadt. At this time, March 5, Lev Trotsky gave the Kronstadters an ultimatum: Surrender or be put down by force. If they didn't, their families who lived in Petrograd and were arrested as hostages, would all be killed. Kronstadt refused to surrender, and Bolsheviks began their invasion on March 7. Mikhail Tukhachevsky, a civil war red army commander, was put in charge of the invasion. He had to first destroy Kronstadt's defences so that ground soldiers could cross the ice to the island. The ice crossing took place the next day, and Lenin sent members of the secret police, the Cheka, along with the ground infantry so none of them could try to run away. At this time Kronstadters published an article in their own newspaper: "By carrying out the October Revolution the working class had hoped to achieve its emancipation. But the result has been an even greater enslavement of human beings. The power of the monarchy, with its police and etc, has passed into the hands of new usurpers, who have given the people not freedom but the constant fear of torture by the Cheka, the horrors of which far exceed the rule of the monarchy...The glorious emblem of the toilers state-the sickle and the hammer- has in fact been replaced by the Communists with the bayonet and the barred window, which they use to maintain the calm and the carefree life of the new bureaucracy, the Communist commissars and functionaries. But the worst and most criminal of all is the moral servitude which the Bolsheviks have introduced: They have laid their hands on the inner world of the toiling people, forcing them to think in the way that they want. Through the state control of the trade unions they have chained the workers to their machines so that labor is not becoming a source of joy but a new form of slavery. To the protests of the peasants expressed in uprisings, and those of the workers, whose conditions have forced them to strike, the Bolsheviks have answered with mass executions and a bloodletting that exceeds even the Czarist generals. The Russia of the toilers, the first to raise the red banner of liberation, is drenched in blood..."
The Bolsheviks attack Kronstadt.
Lenin had the workers strikes first in Petrograd, then in Moscow, crushed, and then ordered the final attack against Kronstadt on March 16 (1921). 50,000 of the Bolshevik army were in on this attack. The sailors of Kronstadt could not hold up against this assault and on the 17th of March they surrendered. Hundreds were taken prisoner and thousands of others of them were executed. Some Kronstadt prisoners shouted at some workers carrying potatoes that they were all a bunch of traitors. "You sold our lives for "Communist" potatoes!" they shouted. "Tomorrow now you will have our flesh to eat with them!" The first big concentration camp built by the Bolsheviks was called Solovki, and it was on an island in the White Sea. Into this prison hundreds of Kronstadters were dumped and left to die a horrible death. Those who had managed to escape (8,000, approximately) were bribed by Lenin into coming back to Russia. They were promised amnesty. When they returned though,they were either killed or imprisoned.
This event, the destruction of Kronstadt, was proof to the world that the Bolsheviks were horrible tyrants. The father of Russian Marxism, Georgi Plekhanov, founder of Russia's very first Marxist party (formed in 1883) and later, one of the leaders of the Menshevik Party (formed in 1903) incidentally, had been trying to prove for years that Lenin was nothing more than an autocrat who was seeking to build an empire of destruction in Karl Marx's name and Plekhanov had been trying to stop him. GP had died a few years before the Kronstadt destruction (he died in 1918) but had he lived, this event would have been the proof that he needed to convince people of Lenin's true character and the fact that he was not following Marx really. GP's predictions of what the Bolsheviks would do once in power had come true.
Georgi Plekhanov, often called the Father of Russian Marxism.
During this time Bukharin and one of his fellow theorists, Evgeni Preobrazhensky, wrote the book "The A B C of Communism." This was meant to be a textbook for study by the workers and peasants. The ideas in the book weren't actually Bukharin's though because even though he wrote the book, the beliefs in it were actually the beliefs of Lenin. For example, in 1920 Lenin stated: "Classes are led by parties, and parties are led by individuals who are called leaders. This is the ABC of communism". Lenin went on to say: "The will of a class is sometimes fulfilled by a dictator...Soviet socialist democracy is not in the least incompatible with individual rule and dictatorship...What is necessary is individual rule, the recognition of the dictatorial powers of one man...All phrases about equal rights are nonsense."
Bukharin accepted 'war communism' as a matter of course when he was younger, from 1918 til 1921, when NEP was introduced. It was later, more than 10 years later, when Stalin wanted to introduce it again, that Bukharin saw the truth about what it would do to the people and his country. (That isn't unusual among famous people. Most of them had believed in things when they were younger they later regretted believing in when they were older. Karl Marx, George F Kennan, and Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi were three such people.) NEP was reviving the country by 1925. Peasants were voluntarily organizing themselves into collectives and wanted to build roads and schools and hospitals and the like. Bukharin was in charge of NEP when Lenin died. He had a chance to compare NEP to war communism when Stalin spoke of introducing it. He saw that NEP was far better and reviving the country than what Stalin proposed. And he realized that he had been wrong when he was "young and foolish". He did realize however, that Lenin was using the Cheka and the use of terror excessively and pleaded with him to tone down on the violence. Lenin paid him no mind.
In March 1919, Lenin formed the Political Bureau, known in history as the Politburo. This was a descision making body for the young government of Russia. Bukharin, Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Stalin, and Lenin were members of it.
In 1922, members of the previously outlawed Socialist Revolutionary Party were put on trial. The prosecutor for this public show trial trial was a man named Nikolai Krylenko. Here was a case where it was to be shown that Bukharin was quite different from Lenin. He pleaded with Lenin not to have the SR's shot. They were executed despite his protests. Lenin generally believed that for the sake of the protection of the revolution you could generally do what you wanted with "non - Party scum" as he once referred to them.
Bukharin had an adolescent, playful personality. One day he wanted to go hunting and he asked Lenin, who also loved to hunt, to come along. But Lenin was attending sessions of the Politburo at the time and couldn't go, he said, because he had to work. One day someone came in with a package for Lenin. When he opened it up, Lenin saw that it contained a dead bird. Lenin, who knew who it was from, shook his finger sternly at Bukharin the next time he saw him, but he could not help smiling.
At this time, Bukharin had been married to Nadezhda Lukina, a distant cousin of his who was somewhat older than he was. Her brother, Nikolai Lukin, had also been a revolutionary. The marriage did not last, however, and by the 1920's, they were divorced and Bukharin soon got married for the second time to a woman named Esfir Gurevich. They had a daughter, Svetlana, born approximately 1924.