Countries of Europe Series: Russia
Date: June 2006
Duration: 3 hours 12 minutes
Czarist Russia. Scope of Russia. Its massive size, population, varied past, social and economic changes. European Russia and Asian Russia. Early history. Its various rulers, its wars against the Mongols. Russia becomes a Christian country with the Eastern Orthodox religion. The Czars are reminiscent of the Roman emperors. Infighting about who rules. Violent uprisings by the peasants violently put down. Romanoff Dynasty. Lasts from the early 1600s until 1918. Ivan the Terrible is extremely brutal. Europe sees Russia as a backward, Asiatic country. Peter the Great at the end of 1600s tries to Europeanize Russia, brings in craftsmen, founds Petersburg, but the brutality continues. Ruling power comes from inheritance even if it falls into incompetent hands. Catherine the Great continues a harsh rule, is expansionist, divides Poland between Russia and Austria and Prussia. Influenced by the French Enlightenment, Catherine is an enlightened despot, but becomes reactionary when threatened. (7.56.00) = Impact of the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror in the early 1800s. Russia feels threatened by the rise of the peasants and the city people. (9.30.000 = Napoleon. In 1812 Napoleon invades Russia, is met with scorched earth, is unprepared for the Russian winter which defeats him. He retreats westward, his army all but wiped out, and has a final defeat at Waterloo. (11.59.00) = Absolute divine right monarchy continues. Alexander of Russia vows to fight any revolution anywhere, rules to 1820s. Nicholas I rules until 1850s, promotes modernization. Alexander II is a moderate reformer. Serfdom is abolished in 1860s as backward. Serfs now become peasants, legally free but their daily life remains repressive. (17.14.00) = Opposition. Russian secret police effectively crush opposition. The Nihilist Movement sees no hope for future improvement, has no program, spawns terrorism based on hopelessness. The Czar is targeted and is ultimately killed.
Alexander III now rules, brings a more repressive regime. (20.09.00) = Marxism and 19th Century. Marxist beliefs. Marxism is based on the belief that capitalism must reach the peak of its development at which time the proletariat takes over and distributes its products more equitably. Underground Marxist Party is a vanguard for change. The Mensheviks and Bolsheviks. A split occurs with the Mensheviks (minority) believing that revolution is in the future after a long term struggle. Bolsheviks (majority) led by Lenin believe that Russia's backwardness is irrelevant for its goal to make its revolution as quickly as possible. They are a small, tight knit professional revolutionary party. Their decision making is based on free and open debate with majority rules, after which they then must all abide by its decision. In later practice, the membership follows Lenin's decisions in a curtailed process. (30.48.00) = Society and culture. Music and literature have a more national identity, with a rising nationalistic awareness. A cultural flowering despite repression. Great literature is always a resistance art. (35.05.00) = Capitalism. Absolute divine right monarchy still exists until early 20th century. The beginnings of capitalism and modernism, resisted by the nobles, is slow to develop. (36.19.00) = Europe's view of Russia. England and France form alliance with Russia as a way of boxing in Germany. (39.28.00) = Russo-Japanese War. Japan rises as a significant power in the 1890s. Tension between Japan and Russia over a Pacific territorial splinter. Japan wins an easy victory. (44.09.00) = Russian Revolution. The 1905 revolution. The Czar quickly grants the Duma. The army is loyal to the Czar and the revolution fails. Most of the population rarely blames the Czar after the palace guards fire on the demonstrators, revering him as a father figure. (49.21.00) = World War I. In the summer of 1914 Archduke Ferdinand of Austria is assassinated. Austria is allied with Germany. Russia mobilizes troops on the German border. Germany declares war on Russia. England declares war on Germany. The war begins. Paris is not taken. Trench warfare becomes a war of attrition with officers ordering suicidal attacks against machine guns. The Russian army is poorly prepared and is defeated. While the Czar is at the front, his wife Czarina Alexandra runs the government and falls under the spell of Rasputin, further undermining the government. The first revolution breaks out early in 1917.
Russian Revolution (continued). The Kerensky government. The war is going badly. The bourgeoisie decide the Czar must go. Czar Nicholas II abdicates. Aleksandr Kerensky represents capitalist interests, decides to continue the disastrous war. The bourgeoisie, linked to England and France, want Russia to stay in the war. (2.38.00) = The Bolshevik coup. Lenin returns to Russia from exile in Germany. The Bolsheviks are highly organized, use the slogan, "Land, Peace, Bread," which is very appealing to the peasants. The Bolsheviks seize power in the fall of 1917, and sign peace with Germany, giving up territory (10.53.00) = The Civil War, 1918-1921. . Attempting to destroy the Bolsheviks, 5 Russian armies supported by Western countries attack Russia from all sides. They want Russia to stay in the war, but also oppose Marxism as a profound threat to capitalism. Leon Trotsky leads the Red Army, using the mobility of troop trains, defeats all of them one at a time. U.S. troops occupy Russian areas. (19.00.00) = War Communism. Faced with immediate crisis, the Bolsheviks take complete control. Expressing their fury against the autocracy, the peasants support the Bolsheviks. The Czar and his family become prisoners, are executed. (25.11.00) = Russia's devastation. Russia is a wasteland from the destruction of World War I, the Civil War, and being hard hit by the world-wide influenza pandemic. (26.43.00) = Hope for revolutions elsewhere. The Russian Revolution attempts to jump over the capitalist phase and go directly to the proletarian phase. Lenin hopes his revolution will be joined by Bolshevik-type revolutions in Germany and other more developed countries, and would then help out the more backward Russia. (27.47.00) = Stalinist Russia. After the Civil War. Russia is alone, surrounded by hostile leadership in the capitalist world, has only a small tight knit dictatorial party. The New Economic Policy of 1921-1928 is a mixed economy, part socialist, part capitalist. Exiled capitalists are reluctant to return. (34.15.00) = Lenin dies January 1924 at the age of 53, following an attempted assassination and a series of strokes. His logical successor is Leon Trotsky, who is brilliant, has broad interests, but lacks political skills. Joseph Stalin, who is not worldly or charismatic, but is a master politician, becomes Lenin's successor. Trotsky advocates a struggle for world revolution. Stalin's message is to build socialism in one country. Trotsky is forced into exile and eventually assassinated in 1940.
industrialization. series of 5 year plans after 1928 force industrialization and collectivization of agriculture into state farms run by the government, as quickly as possible. Millions are forced to the cities from farms. The effort is geared to make machines which make machines, not consumer goods. Russia achieves in 10 years what England and the U.S. took 50 years to achieve. Without this rapid industrial growth Russia would probably have been defeated in World War II. Yet it was an extremely brutal process, additionally brutal because of Stalin's nature. Peasants who resist the Stalin program, including the Kulacs are destroyed by Stalin. (9.48.08) = The Purge Trials of the mid-to-late 1930s. This wipes out the original brilliant generation of Bolsheviks and some capable generals. Accused of being Hitler's agents and of sabotage, they all confess, possibly because of their rock bottom belief that the Party is always right. An element of anti-Semitism is also evident. (13.27.00) = International view of Russia. Capitalist countries blockade Russia. Stalin offers advice to Communist parties of other countries based on Russia's interests, often with disastrous results for them. For example, Stalin advises the Chinese Communists to cooperate with the government, and the Communists there are all but wiped out. The American Communist Party cannot duplicate Russia's experience because of our democratic institutions. (19.58.00) = Prelude to World War II. Nazi Germany comes to power and arms for war in 1933. Unopposed, Germany marches into the Rhineland and the Saar, later seizes Czechoslovakia and the Sudetenland.. The Spanish Civil War rebels are helped by Germany and Italy. The loyalists are helped by Russia but not the Western democracies. England and the U.S. prefer Nazi Germany as a capitalist country, despite the horrors at home, as a bulwark against Russia. Rejected by the West, Russia buys time and shocks the world and other Communist parties in August 1939 by signing a non-aggression pact with Germany. Poland is divided up between them. (28.50.00) = World War II starts. Germany invades Poland September 1, 1939. England and France declare war on Germany. Germany conquers most of Europe including France in the spring of 1940. There is extensive bombing of England but no invasion. Germany invades Russia June 1941. Russia is unprepared, a major Stalin blunder. Germany makes major advances. Scorched earth tactics and retreat by Russia. Defeat seems inevitable. (32.04.00) = Stalingrad is turning point. . In the winter of 1942-1943 a major German army is defeated and almost wiped out by the Red Army and the Russian winter. The Germans are pushed back out eventually to Europe. (34.37.00) = Russia's Western allies. Churchill accepts Russia as an ally to oppose a common enemy. Russia fights 80% of the German army, pleads for a second front to relieve that pressure but the second front comes in June 1944 and only after the Stalingrad victory. (38.15.00) = Russian invasion of Manchuria. The Yalta conference is held early in 1945 to decide how to divide up the smaller countries. FDR asks Stalin's help in the war with Japan. Stalin promises to move against the major Japanese army in Manchuria 3 months after victory in Europe. On August 8th Russia declares war on Japan and invades Manchuria exactly as promised, but 2 days earlier the U.S. drops the atomic bomb on Japan. The atomic bomb was not a reality when FDR approached Stalin for help with Japan. (44.00.00) = The Cold War. Beginning of the Cold War. Harry Truman becomes U.S. President after FDR dies in April, 1945, authorizes the atomic bomb to be dropped on Japan. This is viewed as a way of avoiding the invasion of Japan. This can also be seen as the opening salvo of the Cold War. In his memoir, James Byrnes, then Secretary of State, says the bomb was a political warning to Russia to behave itself in East Europe. Russia occupies and strips Manchuria, then hands it over to Chang Kai-Chek of China. There are various positions about whether Russia poses a threat or is entitled to a sphere of influence to protect its borders. (46.02.00) = The Cold War builds on itself. The Cold War economy benefits the U.S. Harsh occupation of East Europe. As the Cold War becomes harder, Stalin becomes harsher, using purges and promoting anti-Semitism. His grip on the Russian people remains strong to the end. (48.38.00) = Stalin dies in 1953. Nikita Khrushchev becomes Russian leader, begins the "thaw" by publicly revealing the extent of Stalin's crimes and brutalities. Revolts against Soviet rule in Hungary and Czechoslovakia are crushed by Russian tanks. (51.59.00) = The Cold War heightens. China becomes Communist in 1949. Russia explodes the atomic bomb also in 1949. Communism is depicted as a monolith centered in Russia. The 1950 Korean War is a civil war but is seen as part of the Russian agenda. The McCarthy era hysteria. (58.23.00) = Post-war Russia. There is life-long health care but the quality is questioned. There is full employment but choice is lacking. There is free education but students face severe testing for entry. There is cheap but shoddy housing. Food and consumer goods are available but not delivered. The Party leadership as a privileged class. Stifling atmosphere damages creative and intellectual efforts. (1.04.47.007) = The arms race. Russia can't keep up. Khrushchev falls from power. After Brezhnev, Mikhail Gorbachev ascends to power, promotes openness and reform while retaining the socialist society, wishes to end the Cold War. (1.08.47.00) = The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Some say President Reagan caused the collapse by the arms race stress, but the economic collapse had already begun before that. (1.11.13.00) = Shock therapy. Boris Yeltsin comes to power, moves for instant change to capitalism. The guarantees of life are wiped out. There is incredible corruption and a small group of newly rich. Freedom loosens control and crime increases. Life span decreases. (1.14.08.00) = Present day Russia. Elections are rigged. Dictatorial conditions still exist from the days of the Czar. Russia becomes an economic basket case. The rise of ultranationalist voices against foreigners. Increased anti-Semitism, which has a long history in Russia. The abuse of nuclear power and Chernobyl. What has replaced communism is worse for the people. Russia is currently in great flux and uncertainty, remains an international world power.