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IGCSE History: Notes on Russia: Depth Study

I was an IGCSE student during the pandemic, so I know the struggle. Here are my history notes that thoroughly helped throughout the year, and helped me bag an A* in IGCSE History.

Depth Study C: Russia, 1905-1941

1. How were the difficulties faced by the tsarist government up to 1914?

No legal restrictions

Tsar took advice from his German Born wife

No political opposition

No parliament

No elections

Great inequality- 1. Aristocrats, Capitalist and Peasants

Peasants achieved their lands later but lacked civil rights.

Most peasants were poor, with small lands and large families, no education, harvest failures,

No Trade unions, harsh working conditions, no right to speech, strike could be ended by the army

Russia was large and difficult to rule

Borders with many countries made it vulnerable

Russification- led to more demand for freedom

Corruption- government officials were payed poorly

44% of the population were only Russians rest were multi ethnic groups


2. How did the Tsar survive the 1905 Revolution?

Mixture of errors and reforms led to the Revolution

1. Censorship was relaxed- more opposition

2. The Russo- Japanese War – negative impact on the Russian society

Jan 1905- 100,000 workers went on strike led by Father Gapon

Their demands-

1. Better working conditions

2. Ban on overtime

3. Better wages

4. Health Care provision

They went on strike on 22 Jan 1905, to the Winter Palace, to deliver their message. Tsar was not there, and the strikers were met with army, who killed 200 and wounded 800. This was known as the BLOODY SUNDAY.

Bloody Sunday- led to many revolutionary events

Jan 1905- strikes spread to major towns and cities

Feb 1905- students joined the strikes, Universities were closed

June 1905- Georgia declared itself independent

July 1905 -A Peasants’ Union was formed

October- St. Petersburg Soviet formed

-------How was the revolution defeated???-----------

Defeating the 1905 Revolution

1. Army- supported the government and ended strikes

2. Manifestos- – a. October –civil freedoms

b. November- peasants’ redemption were cut then completely removed

3. Russo-Japanese War was ended

4. Peter Stolypin – carrot and stick rule

5. Okhrana killed revolutionary leaders and 2000 government officials were killed

6. Opponents of tsarism were not united

7. St. Petersburg Soviet members were arrested

After the 1905 revolution

Tsar revised some terms of the Oct Manifesto. Voting laws changed to only elect the pro-tsarist members.

DUMA- First two were highly critical and dissolved. Fourth one- supported Tsar and it stayed undissolved.

PEASANTS - Stolypin tried to win them by offering their grievances.

1. 2 million peasants left communes

2. Peasant violence was declining

3. Productivity was increasing

Not all was good, peasants’ conditions remained poor

WORKERS – industrial output improved but they were still behind other countries

The workers were given recreational courses but still working condition remained bad.

Strikes increased. April 1912, soldiers killed 270 workers

MIDDLE CLASSES AND ARISTOCRACY- industrial production made capitalist rich

Power did not grow


3. How far was the Tsar weakened by the First World War?

To support Russia’s ally Serbia against Austria- Hungary, Russia mobilised its army, tempting Germany to declare war on Russia.


1. Russia had the biggest army of 1.4 million men, 25% of it died in 1915

2. Army was sent barefoot to fight

3. Leadership was incompetent

4. Battles of Tannenberg were costly


1. Government spending became 30 million roubles on the war

2. Food production fell

3. Factory closures

4. Income fell

5. Inflation

6. Vodka was banned- worsened the situation


1. 13 million peasants were conscripted, and this caused labour shortages.

2. Population swelled.

3. Sons of aristocrats died, and this caused grief.

4. Horses from rural areas were seized, harming agriculture.


1. Tsar took personal command and was blamed for the failure and loses, he left behind Tsarina who ignored the Duma and took advice from Rasputin, which angered people as they hated Tsarina.

2. Rasputin was murdered.


4 Why was the revolution of March 1917 successful?

Began as series of spontaneous and peaceful protests on the streets of Petrograd and ended with the abdication of Tsar.

Strikes over low wages, poor working conditions and rising prices

Soldiers took side of the protesters, 11 March 1917- 15 March

Soldiers seized and rounded those loyal to Tsar

Provisional Government took control and ordered arrest of Tsarist ministers

14 March- Tsar abdicated as his train was stopped by workers and soldiers

15 March- PG in control, Nicolas abdicated.



1 How effectively did the Provisional Government rule Russia in 1917?

Provisional Government was appointed – questioned its legitimacy

It also was given the problems Tsar had faced

main figures were

Prince Lvov- PM

Kerensky- Justice Minister

Milyukov- foreign minister

It made some rigid rules.

1. Press Censorship was abolished

2. Okhrana was abolished

3. Political prisoners were released

4. All men and women above the age of 20 were allowed to vote.

5. Discrimination was made illegal.

Problems faced and solutions-

The First world war – They decided to continue. 2 million soldiers died. Many turned to Bolsheviks.

The Land Problem- peasants seized landlords’ property, PROVISIONAL GOVERNMENT wanted orderly fashion and requested them to wait till the calling of the Constituent Assembly, peasants ignored and continued.

MINORITIES’ DEMANDS- Ukraine demanded self-government, Liberals feared Russian empire was about to break up - Kerensky became PM

Food shortages, inflations more strikes- promised to pay the peasants double for grain, supply did not improve. Many turned to Bolsheviks.


2 Why were the Bolsheviks able to seize power in November 1917?

Policies were popular of the Bolsheviks –

1. Peace, Land and Bread

2. All Power to the Soviets

By September, they had over 250,000 supporters.

1. JULY DAYS - Open fire on the Bolshevik Protesters – time for revolution

2. KORNILOV AFFAIR- Looked like the Bolsheviks had saved the revolution

3. OCTOBER REVOLUTION – Lenin said time for revolution. MRC took control of the Petrograd Soviet. Kerensky shut down press. Lenin said a counter-revolution. Bolsheviks were ordered to seize the Petrograd bridges and railway stations. Bolsheviks controlled Petrograd now and then attacked the Provisional Government to arrest them.

Reasons for the success of the Bolsheviks –

Failures of the PG

Success of the Bolsheviks

Had unpopular policies

Their policies brought more supporters

Kerensky made many mistakes like the Kornilov Affair.

They had charismatic leaders.

They lost support to key group and became defenceless by November 1917.

They were lucky on many occasions.

Temporary nature made them illegitimate.

Gained control over key institutions like Moscow and Petrograd Soviets.


3 Why did the Bolsheviks win the Civil War?

Decree of the land- gave rights to the peasants to take lands from aristocrats

Decree of Peace- end to First World War – signing the armistice

Non – Bolshevik press banned.

Cheka (secret police) made

Women were given social and civil rights

Democratisation of the army- because of the Kornilov Affair

CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY- Lenin lost seats, gained only 23.5%. The Constituent Assembly refused to support Lenin’s proposal. He sent soldiers and closed it down. Dictatorship of the proletariat.

TREATY OF BREST-LITOVSK – Lenin’s willingness to make sacrifices to achieve his aims. It was harsh. 34% of the population, 32% of the agricultural land, 54% of the industry, 26% of the railways.

A Soviet Revolutionary tried to kill Lenin. Soon civil war broke out.

----------------------------------------------------RUSSIAN CIVIL WAR-------------------------------------------


There were different armies, The Red Forces were the Russians. The Whites were the liberals and the socialists and tsarists. The Greens were the local peasants.

There were also the foreign armies fighting at the eastern front fighting the Austrians.

Trotsky was the Commissar of the War – He made the Red Army stronger by

1. Employing ex- army officials, while holding their families as hostages to ensure loyalty.

2. Attaching Political Commissars to each unit to ensure loyalty

3. Bringing back ranks and honour to ensure discipline

4. Using War Trains to inspire soldiers.


Harsh measures to regain control=-

1. Rationing food

2. Using cheka to kill opponents

3. Strict worker discipline

4. Outlawing private trade

5. Government control of all the industries.

June -Nov- they fought the Green armies and the foreign armies.

Nov 1918-Dec 1920 – Whites attacked All defeated.

August 1920- Dec 1921 – Kronstadt naval base – rose in rebellion – in Feb 1921- against the Bolsheviks and more particularly War Communism


4 How far was the NEP a success?

It was created as Lenin was forced to rethink due to the failures of War Communism and rising of the Kronstadt Revolution.

New Changes- Private trade was allowed. Only 50% grain taken, rest could be sold. Rationing was reduced.

Economy began to recover.

By 1923- 75% trade was in private hands. They were threatened by Cheka now known as the GPU.

However, unemployment rose. Wages remained low and working conditions did not improve.



1 Why did Stalin, and not Trotsky emerge as Lenin’s successor?

Stalin was considered as an ally and not a contender for leadership, whereas Trotsky was distrusted by his colleagues.

Stalin was always a part of the Bolsheviks, where as Trotsky had joined the Bolsheviks in 1917.

Stalin was the General Secretary of the party whereas Trotsky was supported by the Red Army.

Stalin organised Lenin’s funeral, whereas Trotsky missed it, because Stalin had deceived him.

Lenin didn’t like Stalin but praised Trotsky in his Political Testament.


Stalin’s ideas were much more popular – Socialism in One Country… HE focused on the country whereas Trotsky with his “Permanent Revolution” felt helping communists in other countries.

Stalin portrayed he was a closer friend of Lenin by creating Cult of Lenin and recruiting uneducated urban workers into the Party.

Stalin with the supporters outvoted Trotsky, later also Kamenev and Zinoviev.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------2 Why did Stalin launch purges?

NKVD (new name for Cheka) was used by Stalin to launch purges through which he killed his enemies and opponents. Victims were captured at night and sometimes, even did not know themselves why they were being executed, like Bukharin.

Reason for purges –

1. Destroy opposition

2. Kill suspected rivals

3. Remove any one who criticised

4. Deflect criticism

Victims of the Purges –

1. Party Members

2. Army Officials

3. Anti -Soviet spies

4. Secret Police members

5. Friends and Family of above

1 in 18 of the Soviet population were arrested during the purges.


3 What methods did Stalin use to control the Soviet Union?

1. Constitution – only communist candidates could stand for elections

2. Cult and Propaganda – Newspapers, statues, town renamed to Stalingrad, God- like status, portrayed as saviour of socialism

3. Rewriting history – Stalin’s role in the Civil War and the revolutions were boosted.

4. Supervision of art and culture – narrow range of views for the people, cinema became popular – idealised heroes

5. Religion – Russia a secular state. Teaching of religion was banned, they did not succeed.


4 How complete was Stalin’s control over the Soviet Union by 1941?

His control was limited by

1. Personal Limits – empire was too large

2. Political Limits – members of Politburo did sometime oppose Stalin

3. More junior officials could obstruct policies



1 Why did Stalin introduce the Five-Year Plans?

Aim – to industrialise and modernise AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE

Why? –

1. Increase USSR’s military strength

2. Make the USSR self -sufficient


4. Improve living standards

5. Secure his positions

There were 3 Five-Year Plans and were set centrally, meaning -

1. Government planning agencies set overall targets

2. Government departments allocates targets to different regions

3. Local bosses set target for each factory

4. Factory managers set targets for workers


Emphasis on Heavy Industry. Production increases were massive and labour force had doubled.

Build factories for future development, so 1500 factories were built from scratch.

By 1932, 250, 000 people had populated Magnitogorsk because a gigantic iron and steel factory had been built.


Heavy industry was priority but there was more emphasis on rail links.

Food rationing was ended. USSR became more self- sufficient in machine-making.


Was supposed to deliver more consumer goods, but Second World War made it increase production in heavy industry.

Huge problems –

1. Shortage of vital supplies

2. Unskilled and unreliable workers

Solution –

1. Introduce incentives

2. Higher wages

3. Workers were paid on how much they produced

4. Training and education offered.

5. Who failed to follow rules ended up in prison

6. Slave labour used on many projects like the Baltic- White Sea Canal, where 25,000 died.


2 Why did Stalin introduce collectivisation?

USSR had less grains than it needed. Stalin’s solution was collectivisation. It meant joining two different farmers and letting them use their resources together.

This was considered a good idea as-

1. Farmers worked communally.

2. More grain would be produced

3. Helped in Five Year Plans

4. Kulaks could be attacked

Collectivisation was voluntary but peasants were forced to join it. Kulaks were ordered to be destroyed and peasants forced to collectivise.

Supposed kulak which were –

1. Revolutionary- shot or sent to labour camps

2. Opponents of collectivisation- deported elsewhere

3. Less troublesome- expelled from their land but not region

The effects were disastrous.

Successful? – there were significant increases in industrial production

But there was widespread corruption.

Results of collectivisation –

1. Grain harvest dropped.

2. 10 million horses died.

3. 3-7 million died in famine in Ukraine


4 How were the Soviet people affected by these changes?


Some benefitted from better education and higher pay.

However, average income fell by 50% after 1928 and necessary as well as luxury items were scarce.


After 1928, 10 million joined the workforce.

40% of engineering students were women by 1940.

However, Stalin disliked some reforms and changed them-

1. Marriage became important

2. Divorce became expensive

3. Mother – heroines – more than 10 children

4. Abortion became illegal


78% of the population was literate in 1913, by 1934, only 8%

Communism was taught- through Komsomol.


Stalin and Tsar had same policies for the national minorities.

In 1930s, they were reallocated as Stalin did not trust them.




Hope this helps! Good luck!

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