Baylor College Medical School

100.3. Revolution and Civil War in Russia

100.3. At the beginning of the 1900s, Russia had many political, economic, and social problems. Tsar Nicholas II resisted changed. Marxists tried to ignite revolution among the proletariat. World War I quickly strained Russian resources. By March 1917, disasters on the battlefield and shortages at home brought the monarchy to collapse, and the tsar abdicated. While politicians set up a temporary government, revolutionary socialists set up soviets, or councils of workers and soldiers. These radical socialists were called Bolsheviks and were led by V.I. Lenin.

Lenin believed revolution could bring change. Leon Trotsky, another Marxist leader, helped Lenin lead the fight. To the weary Russian people, Lenin promised "Peace, Land, and Bread." In November 1917, Lenin and the Bolsheviks, renamed Communists, overthrew the government and seized power.

After the Bolshevik Revolution, events in Russia led to the nation's withdrawal from World War I. After the withdrawal, civil war raged for three years between the Communist "Reds" and the "White" armies of tsarist imperial officers. The Russians now fought only among themselves.

The Communists shot the former tsar and his family. They organized the Cheka, a brutal secret police force, to control their own people. Trotsky kept Red Army officers under the close watch of commissars--Communist Party officials. The Reds' position in the center of Russia gave them a strategic advantage, and they defeated the White armies.

After the civil war, Lenin had to rebuild a shattered state and economy. The new nation was called the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). or Soviet Union. The Communist constitution set up an elected legislature. All political power, resources, and means of production would now belong to workers and peasants. In reality, however, the Communist Party, not the people, had all the power. Lenin did, however, allow some capitalist ventures that helped the Soviet economy recover. After Lenin's death, party leader Joseph Stalin took ruthless steps to win total control of the nation.


3. What was the name of the new Communist nation?

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The new nation was called the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).