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How Successful Was the Russian Revolution in Liberating the Russian People and Improving Their Living Conditions from November 1917 to 1924?

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How successful was the Russian Revolution in liberating the Russian people and improving their living conditions from November 1917 to 1924?

!The Russian Revolution (1917-1924), despite the ambitious aims of the Lenin and the Bolshevik party, failed to completely improve the lives of the Russian people, nor liberate them from the oppression they faced in the old regime, following the Bolshevik takeover after the October Revolution (24 October 1917). Despite this, however, certain policies (such as the initial reforms in 1917) did help improve the lives of the people somewhat.

!The Bolsheviks were not very successful in liberating the Russian people throughout their time in power. A prominent example of their failure to do so was their closing of the Constituent Assembly. The elections for the Constituent Assembly resulted in the majority of votes going to the Socialist Revolutionaries (42%), with the Bolsheviks only coming in second with 23.6% of votes. This was due to the popularity the Socialist Revolutionaries held amongst the peasants; the Bolsheviks were a industrial worker’s group, and were thus limited to the urban areas. Thus, the Bolsheviks failed to have a majority within the Constituent Assembly — following its opening session (18 January 1918), a declaration read by the Bolsheviks was defeated 270 votes to 140. Additionally, the Constituent Assembly, while agreeing with the Bolshevik policies regarding peace and land, disagreed with their methods of gaining power. The result of this was the Bolsheviks sending their troops to force the Assembly to dismiss. This was thus an example of how the Bolsheviks refused to be allow their opposition to have the power to undermine them. Their determination to subdue those who weren’t Bolshevik prevented any true establishment of liberty within Russia, something that Pipes has acknowledged. While he states that membership in the Bolshevik party “offered privileges”, for others life was filled with “extreme poverty and insecurity”. This was further reinforced through the Sovarkom — while it should have been a powerful group within the Government of People’s Commissar’s (formerly the Second Congress of Soviets), which represented all parties, it was purely Bolshevik (formed by 15 Bolshevik leaders, and with Lenin as Chairman). Thus, in the efforts to maintain Bolshevik power, many other groups were compromised.

!Furthermore, living conditions deteriorated considerably under Bolshevik control. These poor conditions were largely a result of Lenin’s policy of War Communism. These policies was initially put forth to mobilise the nation to fight the Civil War. These policies included the forced confiscation of grain and food (requisitioning), which had devastating effects on the general population, leading to wide-spread famine and starvation. Peter Oxley has estimated that of the 10 million deaths during the Civil War, 9,500,000 were due to famine and disease. Volkogonov has acknowledged the damaging effects of War Communism, stating that, “the Bolsheviks were incapable of giving the people anything but...hunger and terror”.Furthermore, in the Cheka (formed in December 1917) spread terror throughout Russia, which was particular poignant following Lenin’s order in February 1918, that all counter revolutionaries and individuals assisting counter- revolutionaries be arrested immediately. Thus, the Russian Revolution forced numerous individuals to live in impoverished conditions, and subjected them to terror in the form of the Cheka (who were given power of trial and execution in February 1918).

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