War communism and the Red Terror:1918 - 1921 How bad was it? William Foster 11P
Hey; it might just be okay! Background to the civil war Looking up! Disconcerting • October 1917 - Provisional government overthrown by Bolsheviks • Pre 1917 – Dreadful conditions; starvation, no land, war, etc. • January 1918 – new constituent assembly Awkward • February 1917 – Nicholas II overthrown Unpleasant • January 1918 – new constituent assembly dissolved Painfully bad • March 1918 – War pressures force the Treaty of Brest – Litovsk on Russia • February – October 1917 – Provisional government do nothing. Abysmal You call this the 20th century?!
War Communism • The political state of Russia during the civil war • Featured fundamental principals of communism, but took them to extremes: • All industry was nationalized and strict centralised management was introduced • Strikers could be shot • Obligatory labour was imposed on “non- working classes” • Private enterprise became illegal
War Communism Big Question: • The political state of Russia during the civil war • Featured fundamental principals of communism, but took them to extremes: Was War communism a genuine economic policy or just Lenin’s desperate attempt to win the war at any cost? 5. Food and many other commodities were rationed 6. Military-esque control of railroads was introduced 7. Prodrazvyorstka
Impact on the peasants • Prodrazvyorstka (See sources 5, 6 on p119, source 12, on p121) • Peasants caught in the middle of the civil war (source 7) • Cruel rationing • However, the greatest impact war communism had on the peasants came from its leading into the Red Terror
The Red Terror • The name given to the mass executions and beatings that the Cheka gave in the civil war, to stop any Bolshevik territories cooperating with the Whites. • Why? Officially a response to the White Terror (See source 16), but began almost immediately after the assassination of a Cheka leader, and the attempted assassination on Lenin (August 30).
The Red Terror • Therefore, we can conclude that the assassinations acted as a catalyst for the events. Lenin himself said ‘It is necessary – secretly and urgently to prepare the terror’. Asfurther evidence, almost immediately after Uritsky (the cheka’s leader) death, 500 “representatives of overthrown classes” were executed.
Extract from the Krasnaya Gazeta, a Bolshevik newspaper, on the first day of the Terror (1. Sept): A united sense of comradery remains, despite the peasants dreadful conditions Heartlessness – air of desperation? "We will turn our hearts into steel, which we will temper in the fire of suffering and the blood of fighters for freedom. We will make our hearts cruel, hard, and immovable, so that no mercy will enter them, and so that they will not quiver at the sight of a sea of enemy blood. We will let loose the floodgates of that sea [...] For the blood of Lenin and Uritsky, Zinoviev and Volodarski, let there be floods of the blood of the bourgeois - more blood, as much as possible.” Violent measures to which the Bolsheviks will go
The Red Terror atrocities • Torture methods ‘matched only by the spanish inquisition’. • Scalpings, flayings etc. common • In Kharkov, the skin was peeled off victims hands and made into gloves. • In Orel, cold water was poured on naked men until they became ice statues. • Chinese Cheka detachments placed rats in iron tubes sealed at one end with wire netting and the other placed against the body of a prisoner, with the tubes being heated until the rats gnawed through the victim's guts in an effort to escape.
Overall conclusion • During the civil war, the desperate implementation of Lenin’s war communism resulted in even worse peasant conditions. In turn this pushed more peasants away from Bolshevik ideals, forcing the government into desperate measures – the Red Terror, the origin of which was catalysed by various assassination (attempt)s on important Bolshevik figures. • Useful sources: 5, 6, 7, 12, 13, 16, 17, 19, 20 • http://thepeoplescube.com/peoples-tools/red-primer-for-children-and-diplomats-t2223.html