The Warsaw Pact: A Union No Longer

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The Warsaw Pact Logo

The collapse of the Soviet Union was a long and complex process due to economic, social, and political reasons. Therefore, when the Warsaw Pact was dissolved on February 25, 1991, the Soviet Union did not go out with a loud bang, but the feeble pop of a balloon.

The Warsaw Pact was drawn up in May 1955. The signers of the Pact included the “USSR, the German Democratic Republic, Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Bulgaria and Albania.” The formation of the pact came after the Federal Republic of Germany joined NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization). In the introduction to the Pact, the document states that Western Germany’s acceptance into NATO was a threat “to the national security of peaceable states.” Therefore it was the duty of the signers of the pact to “take necessary measures to safeguard their security and in the interests of preserving peace in Europe.” The pact seems to show the fear many communist countries had that West Germany’s involvement with NATO would lead to another war. The Warsaw Pact appeared to be for the good of Europe. However, this pact was likely an attempt by the USSR to have military control in Eastern and Central Europe. For example, in Article 4 of the Pact, it states that if an armed event should occur against one of the Parties to the Pact, each of the countries who signed should “come to the assistance of the state or states attacked with all such means as it deems necessary, including armed force.” However, this pact became void before it was officially dissolved as many of the countries involved experienced upheaval in 1989-1991 as their Communist governments were toppled.

“Atop the Berlin Wall (1989)”

There were many reasons that the Warsaw Pact was dissolved and the Soviet Union fell. Mikhail Gorbachev played a key role in the fall. As Gorbachev climbed the ladder of the Communist Party and gained a great deal of power by the 1980’s, his policies and reforms for the Soviet Union inadvertently ended the Union. Two of Gorbachev’s policies were known as glasnost and perestroika. Glasnost called for openness in the government in the Soviet Union (Freeze, 459). Perestroika represented the restructuring of the Soviet Union, specifically the political and economic system. Perestroika “unleashed force and expectations even as it failed to satisfy minimal requirements” (Freeze, 451). Gorbachev’s policies were an attempt to restructure the Soviet Union to follow the West’s “model of democracy and free markets” (Freeze, 451). This development led to difficult times for the Soviet Union as the economy suffered. Glasnost allowed for the press to undermine Gorbachev’s authority and that of the regime (Freeze, 459). Perestroika gave way to more demand for freedom and autonomy within the Soviet Union (Freeze, 461-462). It also sparked nationalism and even calls for independence (Freeze, 461-462). As tension and nationalist movements increased in 1989, the fall of the Berlin Wall “marked the end of the Soviet bloc” (Freeze, 462). The Warsaw Pact was already a moot point by this time.

RIAN archive 850809 General Secretary of the CPSU CC M. Gorbachev (crop).jpg

Mikhail Gorbachev

The policies enacted by Gorbachev in the 1980’s aided in the toppling of the communist regime in the Soviet Union and other communist countries fell like dominoes. Therefore, by the time the Warsaw Pact was dissolved, communism was quickly disappearing. It is understandable to see why this event did not garner that much attention. In a New York Times article, “Warsaw Pact Agrees to Dissolve Its Military Alliance by March 31,” the author noted that the Warsaw Pact was already disabled, for “its Eastern European members . . . cut themselves loose from Moscow one by one.” Therefore, this article shows how the Warsaw Pact had no authority when it was dissolved. A Soviet article sadly notes that the Soviet Union has lost its “friends” and is entering a time of turmoil. The article stated that Soviet Union will have to question who they are and how to move forward.

The Warsaw Pact dissolution was not a surprise when it occurred, but that does not mean that struggle was over in Eastern Europe. Russia continued to go through a severe economic crisis and uncertainty in the state’s identity.


Freeze, Gregory L. Russia: A History. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.

“1991: The Warsaw Pact Dissolves.” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History. Accessed December 7, 2014.

“The Warsaw Security Pact: May 14, 1955.” Lillian Goldman Law Library. Accessed December 7, 2014.

“Warsaw Pact.” Wikipedia. Accessed December 7, 2014.

“Perestroika.” Wikipedia. Accessed December 7, 2014.

Bohlen, Celestine. “Warsaw Pact Agrees to Dissolve its Military Alliance by March 31.” New York Times (1923-Current File), Feb 26, 1991.

Poklad, B. “Act of Goodwill Goes Unanswered. Warsaw Pact Abolished, NATO Closes Ranks.” The Current Digest of the Russian Press 33, no.43 (September  18, 1991): 30. Accessed December 7, 2014.

Warsaw Pact Logo Image retrieved from:

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Mikhail Gorbachev Image retrieved from: Gorbachev.




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Olympic Games become Political

This post was awarded a “red star” from the editorial team.

Mischa, the 1980 Olympics Mascot

The 1980 Olympics is marked down in history, not necessarily for the sporting events and the athletes that participated, but for the political conundrum that sprang forth before the games even started. The 1980 Olympic Games went through difficulty due to the United States decision, along with 55 other countries, to boycott the Olympics. The political difficulties in the Moscow Olympic Games can trace its origins back to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979. According to Freeze, the invasion of 1979 came as a result of a meeting of the Politburo who decided to invade Afghanistan due to the importance of the region, “popular opposition to the Afghan government, and rumours that Kabul was making overtures to the American government” (Freeze, 446). Unfortunately, this invasion had disastrous results for the Soviet Union’s “international position” (Freeze, 446). The boycotting of the 1980 Olympic Games, by the U.S. and other countries, give insight into how the status of the Soviet Union was shaky and much of the world censured the communist nation for their actions in Afghanistan.

Emblem of XXII Olympic Games.svg

Emblem of the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow

The 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow led to further tension between the Soviet Union and other parts of the world, especially the Unites States. In an 1980 editorial titled, “The Price of Ambition,” the editorial calls out the “scheming enemies of the Olympic movement.” The article shines light on the Soviet Union by stating how the country is doing all of its necessary duties while the countries like the U.S. are inappropriately interfering. The articles goes so far as to note that “certain politicians have brazenly interfered in the international athletic movement, their aim being to wreck the Moscow Olympics to please the personal ambitions of US President Carter.” The Soviet Union scolded the U.S. and Carter, personally, for destroying the purpose of the games by turning it into a political event. A Current Digest article, “Let the Olympic Flame Burn,” made several interesting statements. The article denied the invasion of Afghanistan as the real reason for the boycott, it said that the real reason was the U.S was simply trying to prevent the games from happening in a socialist country “so the truth about our country. . . would not become known to the international community.” The article and editorial shed light on the growing tension between the U.S. and the Soviet Union at this time. As the Olympic Games occurred during the midst of the Cold War, the tensions between the U.S. and the Soviet Union during the games simply served as another problem on top of their many political issues.

The spectators to the Olympic Games did not provide much international diversity as many were from the Soviet Union. In fact, 3.9 million of the 5.2 million tickets sold for the Games were bought by Soviets. Therefore, the spectators also provide insight into how the 1980 Olympic Games was a shadow of the previous games due to the political difficulties that arose.

All in all, the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow reveal the how the Soviet Union’s image was tainted by the invasion of Afghanistan. The tension continued to rise between the United States and the Soviet Union during this time. The conflicts of the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow revealed that the struggles of the Cold War continued to run full steam ahead.


Freeze, Gregory L. Russia: A History. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.

“1980 Moscow Olympics.” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History. Accessed November 16, 2014.

“The Price of Ambition.” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History. Accessed November 16, 2014.

Bolshakov, V. “Let the Olympic Flame Burn.” Current Digest of the Russian Press 34, no. 32 (1980): 14-15. Accessed November 16, 2014.

Mischa Image Retrieved from:

Olympic Games Emblem Image Retrieved from:



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Soviet Union Leaves America in the Dust…Or on the Earth

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“Mikhail Khmelko: Greeting the First Cosmonaut Back to Earth (1961)”

During the space race, the Soviet Union successfully sent a cosmonaut named Iurii Gagarin to space on April 12, 1961. This accomplishment marked a stamp in the history of the Soviet Union. Sending an individual to space proved that the Soviet Union could accomplish many scientific and technological advancements. There was much praise for the Soviet Union’s accomplishment. Articles on the Soviet Union’s success in space reveal the tensions of the space race with America. The articles also show the strength of Soviet nationalism as the country took pride in standing at the forefront of science and technology.

“The Country Glorifies Its Hero”

Articles and music from the 1960’s, during the Soviet Union’s accomplishments in space, reveal the pride in Soviet science and technology and the tension of the space race. In a post-flight conversation between German Titov and Krushchev on August 7, 1961, the two discuss Titov’s great accomplishment in circuiting the earth seventeen and a half times in “twenty-five hours and some minutes.” Kruschev discusses how Titov has “fulfilled mankind’s dream” and how he is proud that “a Soviet man, a Communist” has accomplished such a task. Numerous Soviet Union sources claim that the Soviets success in space is for the good of all mankind. In the song, Gagarin’s March (1961), are included the lyrics, “No, not for nothing was Gagarin first in space, He opened new paths for us all.” Many in the Soviet Union advocated that the accomplishments of the Soviet Union were going to make the world a better place. In the article, “Man Will Conquer Space,” the author describes how the Soviets are making so much progress because communism is what fosters the growth of science and technology. The author also states that the accomplishment of the Soviets taking on space is fueled by their goal to make a better life for man on Mother Earth. The author is stating that the Soviets are successful in space because they have the proper government system and the goals for doing so. If this was not to be considered as a jab to the American capitalist system and the U.S’s failure to achieve success in space at the rate the Soviets were, the last sentence of the document is clearly a poke at the Americans. In the last sentences of the article, the author notes that the Americans have yet to put on “a satellite weighing two tons.” This suggests that the Soviet Union is better and more advanced than America and their capitalist system. In another articles, “Space, Man, and Peace,” an author also explains how the Soviet success in space reveals that the “flagship [American capitalism] is at the mercy of the waves, because its sails are not catching the winds of the 20th century.” This reveals the tension in the space race between the Soviets and the Americans. The Soviet Union’s success in space bolstered Soviet pride in communism and leaving the Americans behind in scientific and technological advancements.

The Soviet Union took the lead in space and this helped generated pride among the leaders and citizens in the communist system and the country. The images from the early 1960’s reveals this pride among the country in their success in science and technology. However, tension increased between the U.S. and the Soviet Union as the documents reveal the belief, among some, that communism was the system of the 20th century and the Soviets were doing a service to mankind in their achievements in space, unlike the U.S.


“First Cosmonaut.” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History. Accessed November 1, 2014.

“Congratulations to a Spaceman.” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History. Accessed November 1, 2014.

Shevlyakov, I. “Man Will Conquer Space.” The Current Digest of the Russian Press 20,  no.12 (June  15, 1960): 12-45. Accessed November 1, 2014.

Gribachev, Nikolai. “Space, Man, and Peace.” The Current Digest of the Russian Press 32,  no.13 (September  06, 1961): 21-22. Accessed November 1, 2014.

Labkovskii, Eduard. Gagarin’s March. (1961). Audio.

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Soviet Prisoners Released . . . Not All Necessarily Free

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Fence at the old Gulag

After Stalin’s death on March 1953, a process known as de-stalinization occurred throughout the Soviet Union. When Stalin died, reforms dismantled and altered institutions from Stalin’s reign such as the Gulag labour-camp system that held numerous Soviet prisoners that were arrested in Stalin’s reign.

In the document that was issued on the 27th of March, 1953, The Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet states that “in these circumstances it is no longer necessary to retain in places of custody persons who have committed offenses representing no great danger to the state and who have shown by their conscientious attitude to work that they are fit to return to honest working life and become useful members of society.” The document specifically includes that people were to be released if they were sent to prison “for up to five years”; those sentenced while serving “in an official capacity and for economic offenses, as well as military offenses”; women with children younger than ten; pregnant women, kids under 18; men over 55, women over 50; those who are gravely ill; those with over five years to serve had sentences reduced to half, etc. However, the amnesty did not “apply to persons sentenced to terms of more than five years for counter-revolutionary crimes, major thefts of socialist property, banditry and premeditated murder.” While some people were released under these conditions, many were still trapped in camps and prisons. In May 1954, a special commission was established, through the insistence of Khrushchev, to look into “the use of coercion to extract confessions, the result of which was that several thousand political prisoners were released” (415). Freeze stated that, despite some freedom for prisoners, Soviet prisons still held 1.6 million inmates in 1956, and “Gulag’ s46 corrective labor camps and 524 labour colonies held another 940,000 people” (416). It would take Nikita Khrucshchev’s February 24 speech in 1956, to release the tsunami-like wave of prisoners.

Nikita Khrushchev

On February, 24, 1956, Khrushchev gave a speech on “the cult of the personality and its consequences” (416). He went deep into the Stalin’s crimes and immoral actions during his leadership. After this speech was given, the rehabilitation of the prisoners was accelerated greatly. While many of the former prisoners were able to lead more tranquil lives, things did not go back to normal for them. “Survivors had seen the worst that life could offer” and they were in a changed world that was far different from the one they knew before and during the war. Many were not even allowed to go home, but were forced into exile in distant areas they were unfamiliar with. These prisoners, in an unfamiliar world, were not even allowed the comfort of their own homes. An article by Sovetskaya Litva, published in 1956, titled “To an Honest Soviet Life,” tries to express how the release of the prisoners allows them to lead a more honest life. However, through careful reading, one can see how the phrases leak some of the hardships of the former prisoners. The author notes that the the released prisoners “are finding work in the regions they have chosen to live in” and many citizens are living “abroad.” Many prisoners were freed from the hardships of the prisons, camps, and the GULAG, but they had difficulty integrating into the new society and world.


“De-Stalinization.” Wikipedia. Accessed October 25, 2014.

“Prisoners Return” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History. Accessed October 25, 2014.

“To an Honest Soviet Life.” The Current Digest of the Russian Pres 15, no. 4 (May 23, 1956): 15-16. Accessed October 25, 2014.

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The Dictated “Song of Soviet Schoolchildren”

workers unite - hammer and keyboard in laurel wreath by worker - workers unite - hammer and keyboard in laurel wreath

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“Thank You Comrade Stalin for Our Happy Childhood” (1936)

The Bolsheviks made many changes to the face of the Soviet Union, especially the change to children’s education. Stalin and the Bolsheviks wanted to create a strong communist society and what better way than to start from the ground up? As with much of Russian culture and traditions that existed before the Bolshevik regime, the parents of the children were considered too old and too well connected with the old Russia of the autocracy and the Provisional Government. However, children were deemed “malleable.” Therefore, the children of the 1930’s were truly the “Soviet generation.” These children were raised under the eyes of the Bolsheviks and were taught to work for the fatherland.

One year before the Bolsheviks enacted an education program, a document was issued “On Criminal Penalties for Minor Children.” This document was created by the Central Executive Committee and the Council of People’s Commissaries of the USSR. It states that children who are 12 years or older who are found guilty of “committing thefts, assaults, injuries, mutilations, murder or attempt at murder” can serve the highest criminal penalties, including the death penalty, this is far from a “happy childhood.” This document from 1935 seems to suggest that the Bolsheviks feared a rebellious and resentful youth that could damage the future of their party. In 1936, an document listing the educational goals was passed. The Bolsheviks may have viewed the reformed education as an answer to squashing the possible rebellion of the youth by teaching and raising the children to obey and love the fatherland.

“Thanks to the Party, Thanks to Dear Stalin for a Happy, Joyful Childhood” (1936)

In 1936, The Bolsheviks issued the Program of the Komsomol. The Komsomol was the All-Union Leninist Communist League of Youth who allied themselves with the All-Union Communist Party, or Bolsheviks. The Bolsheviks outlined goals for the Komsomol to achieve when educating the Russian youth. Some goals were rather advantageous and agreeable. For example, the Bolsheviks ordered that the Komsomol “render every kind of assistance to the development of university education in the USSR (training of engineers, doctors, agronomists, pedagogues, etc.).” The Bolsheviks also advocated in the document the construction of “sporting establishments,” obtaining equipment, establishing ways to “[inform] school children about the most important daily events [through] various circles, lectures, and talks.”  The list in the document follows this pattern well, however, when one reaches the final two parts of the document: “Participation in Socialist Reconstruction” and “Defense of the Socialist Fatherland,” which goes into heavy detail about how education will build a strong communist society that works for the fatherland. The final parts of the program call for the students to develop a “Communist attitude towards labor, a conscientious attitude towards their duties to the Soviet Government.” The Bolsheviks also instructed the Komsomol to encourage bravery and courage and love for the fatherland, and to “[educate] young people in the spirit of hatred for desertion, treachery and treason, which it considers to be the greatest and most abominable crime against the interests of the socialist fatherland.” The Bolsheviks wanted a loyal communist society.

The new education program instituted by the Bolsheviks, with the aid of the Komsomol, did advocate for education for all children as noted by the “Song of Soviet Schoolchildren” through the lyrics “We’re the children of plow fields and factories.” The lyrics refer to the fact that even rural children and those of the working class were able to obtain an education. The Bolsheviks took long lengths to bloster the education of the children and to create a society that would be loyal to the party and the Soviet Union. In the video “Classroom Like a Playground (1933),” one can see that an educational system with the aim of creating communist society was an important goal of the Bolsheviks (though the kids do not look too pleased!) In the video, there is evidence of a strict education system as the kids “run excitedly to class” in a single file line…  By imposing goals and aims on the Komsomol, the Bolsheviks were controlling the future of Soviet society.


“Childhood Under Stalin.” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History. Accessed October 9, 2014.

“Thank You, Comrade Stalin, for Our Happy Childhood” Image Retrieved from:

“Thanks to the Party, Thanks to Dear Stalin for a Happy, Joyful Childhood” Image Retrieved from:

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Heavenly Father, We Want Gold

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Elaborate Church headgear sequestered from Russian Orthodox clergy

As the Bolsheviks rose to power after prevailing in the Russian Civil War, The new ruling class was quick to seek a way to dispose of the Russian Orthodox Church. The Bolsheviks were quite obsessive in “their feverish attempt to construct a new symbolic world-with new icons, new language, new festivals-to bestow legitimacy on the new order” (Freeze, 305). The regime adopted new forms of culture such as embracing the Gregorian calendar, [and modernizing] the alphabet,” but there was on very controversial symbol that the Bolsheviks adopted (Freeze, 306). The Bolshevik name began to become synonymous with “God-Builder” as they became their own religion and a “a cult of Lenin” (Freeze, 306).

When Lenin and the Bolsheviks introduced the New Economic Policy in the 1920’s, it was deemed an “evolutionary, gradualist plan” (Freeze, 301). However, when it came to the church, the the Bolsheviks were excessively harsh. This could be related to the aspect that the Russian Orthodox Church enjoyed a high position of authority in the autocratic state when the 1917 Russian Revolution rolled around. Therefore, the party likely wanted to get rid of any power that could threaten their own.

Political Poster that translates, “What can the church gold give us? Russia could be fed for this year and the next!”

The Russian Famine of 1921-22 was the result of a perfect storm due to World War I, the 1917 Russian Revolution, and the Russian Civil War. Therefore, when the Bolsheviks rose to power and were looking for a way to rid themselves of the Russian Orthodox Church, they used the famine to their own advantage. When Lenin introduced a new food policy that “turned into a full-scale food supply dictatorship,” the Bolsheviks turned to the Church in order to pay for the grain that they could only buy abroad (Freeze, 301). The Bolsheviks demanded the gold, jewels, and other metals that made up religious and holy objects to be handed over, so they could buy the supplies needed to aid the famine. The Bolsheviks also cast sole blame on the Russian Orthodox Church. By throwing the Church into more than an unfavorable light, the Bolsheviks caused the Church to fall from its pedestal and alter church-state relations for decades to come.

By July 1, 1922, the Bolsheviks had confiscated “26 poods, 38 pounds, and 8 zolotinks” of gold; “33,456 stones weighing 10 zolotinks and 1,313 karats” of diamonds; “21,137 poods, 11 pounds, 85 zolotinks” of silver; the list goes on. In 1922, in a “Protocol of the Meeting of the Politbiuro,” one can understand the hostility towards the Church as a harsh remark was made accusing the clergy of behaving with a “criminal, stingy attitude to the valuables.” All in all, the Bolsheviks set out on a campaign to knock the Church down, and they succeeded. The Bolsheviks painted the Russian Orthodox  Church with the blame for the famine and seized their holy valuables for economic purposes so as the stop the 1921-1922 famine.


Freeze, Gregory L. Russia: A History. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.

“1921: Confiscating Church Gold.” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History. Accessed September 21, 2014.

“Russian Famine of 1921.” Wikipedia. Accessed September 21, 2014.

“Anti-Religious Campaign during the Russian Civil War.” Wikipedia. Accessed September 21, 2014.

“Religion in the Soviet Union.” Wikipedia. Accessed September 21, 2014.

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The Army’s Revolution

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Russian soldiers protesting with a banner stating, “Down with the Monarchy!”

In 1917, the Imperial Russian army played a significant role in the February and October revolutions. Despite the utter defeat and loss of the Russo-Japanese War, Tsar Nicholas II decided to enter World War I. Throughout the war, the Russian war effort hit numerous obstacles as they faced hardships and loss at the front. Facing criticism for the war effort, Nicholas acted rashly by taking control of the army himself. The picture below shows Nicholas II as a Christian hero leading his army to victory, but this linked the Tsar more so than before with military defeat and suffering. Nicholas’s rash decision to take control helped lead to his downfall in March as the hardships and losses in the war was blamed on him as a failing political and military leader.

Poster of Tsar Nicholas leading his troops to victory

Many soldiers sided with the protestors at Petrograd ordering the tsar to step down. By this time, many soldiers joined in the chaos of protest as many allied with Soviets in overthrowing the Imperial government during the February Revolution. After Petrograd, the Soviets issued Order No. 1, which was a document that altered the chain of command in the military and served as the base for the dual power between the Soviets and the Provisional Government that was soon to form. The Order gave more freedom to the soldiers. For example, the soldiers were no longer expected to observe military discipline when they were not on duty and they no longer had to address their officers as “Your Excellency” or “Your Honor.” The Order became rather controversial as it suggested that the military branch and the order of the military commission of the State Duma were subordinate to the Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies. Days after the Order was passed and the Petrograd protest occurred, army leaders confessed to the tsar that they could not stop the revolution, and the tsar abdicated himself and his son from the throne in favor of his brother. The discontent and frustration in the Imperial Russian army and the promise of the Soviet Order No. 1 played a significant factor in the fall from Nicholas II from the throne. Thus rose to power the shaky Provisional Government and the Soviets as they formed a dual power for Russia.

Soviet Order No. 1

Soldiers hear about the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II

However, this solution for Russia would not satisfy the soldiers as mutinies and protests continued to occur. In a letter from General Alekseev to War Minister Guchkov in April, the document goes into detail describing the breakdown and frustration of the soldiers at the front. The soldiers are reporting to have deserted, violating military duty without caring about the enforcement of the punishments, and the officers and commanders have little to no authority or control over the soldiers. Despite the overthrow of the tsar, the conditions at the front for the soldiers did not improve and many were unhappy when the Provisional Government opted to stay in the war. The new political formation of the dual power failed to provide the political authority that the soldiers wished for so as to bring an end to their hardships in the war.

The Bolsheviks saw the continued discontent among the soldiers and protestors as a way to establish their own rule. Lenin rose with the Bolsheviks and they organized alliances with the workers’ Soviets. In the October Revolution, the Provisional Government was toppled. Once the Bolsheviks appointed themselves the leaders, they signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with Germany in March 1918, much to the suffering soldiers’ relief.

All in all, evidence reveals that the suffering and frustrations of the soldiers at the front during the rule of the tsar and helped the soldiers band together with the Soviets in the February Revolution. Then the soldiers’ resentment helped lead to the rise of the Bolsheviks and the fall of the dual power in the October Revolution as the soldiers sought for an end to their years of hardships at the front.


“1917: Revolution in the Army.” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History. Accessed September 14, 2014.

“Module 03: 1917-Did the War Cause a Revolution?” Digital History Reader. Accessed September 14, 2014.

“Russian Revolution.” Wikipedia. Accessed September 14, 2014.

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Soviet Order No. 1 Image retrieved from:


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“What Is To Be Done?” In This Post?

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Original Cover of “What Is To Be Done?”

Before the Revolution of 1905, Vladimir Lenin rose up as a leader of the revolution. When the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party was formed in 1898, Vladimir Lenin was part of the process from the get go. Lenin was active with the Marxist group, however he had his own ideas about how to achieve a revolution that differed from other Marxist groups. In a 1902 work titled “What Is To Be Done?” Lenin revealed his stance on the subject of how a party of revolutionaries should be organized for a successful revolution.

In “What Is To Be Done?” Lenin does seems to write for the socialist movement as a whole, but he also seems to write to particular socialist revolutionaries as he addressed his idea of the correct form of organization in a party. Lenin states that the revolution cannot become dependent upon the uprising of the workers, for to do so would mean that no revolution would occur. Lenin emphasized this point by stating that “the history of all countries shows that the working class, exclusively by its own effort, is able to develop only trade union consciousness, i.e., the conviction that it is necessary to combine in unions, fight the employers, and strive to compel the government to pass necessary labour legislation, etc.” Therefore, the employees may rise against their employers and develop trade unions as a result, however they would stop there. Lenin believed that the working class may rise, but they will only get as far as forming trade unions, which does not come close to reaching the scale of an uprising that is needed for a revolution.

Vladimir Lenin

Therefore, Lenin came to the conclusion that “the more widely the masses are spontaneously drawn into the struggle and form the basis of the movement and participate in it,” the more necessary it is that there remain “a stable organisation of leaders to maintain continuity.” Lenin believed that there needed to be revolutionary leaders at the top of the party. These leaders must be people who are solely focused on the revolution and live for it. For example, they could not participate as a leader part time after they finished their shift at work. Lenin believed there needed to be leaders who were “engaged in revolutionary activities as a profession” in order for a revolution to rise.

In his work, Lenin also strongly asserts that groups, such as Rabochaya mysl (The Workers’ Thought) and Rabocheye Dyelo, who “’defended’ the Economists,” that approve of dragging on the movement in a gradual manner would “be of no service to the movement.” This is where the term “tailism” comes from as Lenin argues that those “who are determined always to follow behind the movement and be its tail are absolutely and forever guaranteed against ‘belittling the spontaneous element of development.'” Just as Lenin scorns the Economists for opting for a more gradual path to revolution, Lenin also appears to view terror as on the opposite extreme of the spectrum. Lenin views “the utterly unsound Economism and the preaching of moderation, and the equally unsound ‘excitative terror’” as an obstacle in how to appropriately organize a revolutionary party.

All in all, Lenin saw the workers as incapable of rising to a revolution themselves and they needed an organized group of Marxist leaders that worked solely for revolution. Lenin believed that in following this method, as opposed to gradual or terrorist extremes of revolution, a revolution had a better chance of forming.


“Lenin’s What Is To Be Done?: The Spontaneity of the Masses and the Consciousness of the Social-Democrats.” Marxists Internet Archive. Accessed September 7, 2014.

“Lenin’s What Is To Be Done?: The Primitiveness of the Economists and the Organization of the Revolutionaries.” Marxists Internet Archive. Accessed September 7, 2014.

“Modern History Sourcebook: Vladimir Illyich Lenin: What is to be Done, 1902.” Fordham University. Accessed September 7, 2014.

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“What Is To Be Done?” Image retrieved from:




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Drinking Tea-Russian Style

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Tea Weighing Station at Chakva Tea Farm

While the rest of Europe was working through the famous Industrial Revolution, Russia continued to work in more crude forms of agricultural techniques. After the failure of the Crimean War, Russia’s regime received a wake-up call and attempted to industrialize the country that “still imported 70 per cent of all machinery and relied heavily upon outmoded technology” (Freeze, 216). Unfortunately for Russia, “industrialization . . . had been so retarded and even discouraged by the pre-reform regime, [that it] faced considerable obstacles” once they attempted to industrialize (Freeze, 215). Russia’s attempt to industrialize made a significant impact on small and large areas of Russian politics and society. The attempt at industrialization by the regime even had a significant impact on Russia’s tea trade and culture.

The consumption of tea in Russia has long been a part of its history since the 17th century and continues to be a part of the culture today. A Los Angeles Times article, “Slaves of Tea,” describes the strong tea culture in Russia by expressing the “tea drunkenness” and consumption of cheap tea by the Russian workingman. This article also describes the “fine taste” of tea in the Russian upper classes and that “no respectable household in Russia [is] without one or more ‘samovars.’” This article reveals the strength of tea culture in Russia and its importance in Russian culture. Russian tea was often imported from China by means of camel caravans. The trade with China that provided much of the tea in Russia continued from the 17th century into the mid-19th century. However, the camel caravan means of tea trade began to decline around the time the first leg of the Trans-Siberian was put into use in 1880. This product of industrialization in Russia caused a shift in how tea was supplied to the country. However, it did not necessarily increase tea trade with China or other important regions. In fact, the result was quite the opposite.

Trans-Siberian Railway

Four years after the first leg of the Trans-Siberian Railway was established, a New York Times article, “Tea Grown on the Black Sea,” describes the determination of the Russians to forego reliance on imported tea as “the tea plant has lately been introduced near Soukgoum Kaleh, on the Black Sea, and the Russians are confident, it seems, that they will be able to do without either Chinese or Indian teas.” Similarly, a short newspaper article, “Tea Culture in the Caucasus,” reveals the plan of tea merchants to establish tea plantations “along the Circassian coast.” Also, the merchants sent Russian experts to China “to study the tea culture” so that the region could provide a good tea staple for the country. The picture of the tea weighing station above was taken in Chakva. Chakva was a tea farm near the Black Sea and supplied large amounts of tea throughout Russia. This picture continues to show the how merchants focused more on growing and dispersing tea within Russia. The tenacity of the Russians to grow and disperse their own tea throughout the region reveals some of the obstacles and resistance by the Russians to industrialize as some tea merchants seemed to try to curl themselves and tea culture within Russia’s border lines.

The impact of Russia’s attempt to industrialize resulted in obstacles and opposition by many. The change in tea trade in Russia from a culture that largely imported their tea by camels to one that grew and dispersed their own tea within the country was an impact of Russia’s many attempts to industrialize. In the late 19th century, Russian industrialization did not greatly increase trade, but caused Russia to attempt to limit tea and tea trade to themselves.


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