2N Revolution and dictatorship: Russia, 1917–1953

This option provides for the study in depth of the coming and practice of communism in Russia. It explores concepts such as Marxism, communism, Leninism, and Stalinism, ideological control and dictatorship. It also enables students to consider issues of political authority, the power of individuals and the inter-relationship of governmental and economic and social change.

Part one: The Russian Revolution and the Rise of Stalin, 1917–1929

Dissent and Revolution, 1917

  • The condition of Russia before the revolution of February/March 1917: the Tsar and political authority; the war effort; the economic and social state of Russia; discontent
  • The February/March revolution of 1917: causes and course of revolution; issues of leadership and the Tsar's abdication; the establishment of Provisional Government and the Petrograd Soviet; the workings of the Dual authority
  • Developments between the revolutions including: the return of Lenin; Lenin's ideology and the April Theses; the July Days; the Kornilov coup and the roles of both the Provisional Government and Trotsky; Lenin and the Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party
  • The October/November 1917 revolution: causes, course and extent of revolution; leadership and the establishment of Bolshevik authority; Sovnarkom and decrees and actions to December

Bolshevik consolidation, 1918–1924

  • The consolidation of the Communist dictatorship: the establishment of one-party control; the removal of the Constituent Assembly; the ending of involvement in the First World War
  • The Civil War: causes and course; the role of Trotsky; the murder of the Tsar; the reasons for the Red victory; government and control in wartime
  • Economic and social developments: state capitalism; social change; conditions in cities and countryside during the Civil War; war communism; the Red Terror: revolts of 1920–1921 including the Tambov revolt and Kronstadt rising; the NEP and its political and economic impact
  • Foreign relations and attitudes of foreign powers: foreign intervention in the Civil War; Comintern; the Russo-Polish War; discussions leading to the Rapallo Treaty; official recognition and the repercussions of the 'Zinoviev letter'; Lenin's rule by 1924

Stalin’s rise to power, 1924–1929

  • The power vacuum and power struggle: ideology and the nature of leadership; Lenin's testament; divisions and contenders for power: character, strengths and weaknesses of Stalin, Trotsky, Bukharin, Kamenev, Rykov, Tomsky and Zinoviev
  • Ideological debates and issues in the leadership struggle: NEP and industrialisation; 'permanent revolution' versus 'Socialism in One Country'; how and why Stalin became party leader and the outcome for the other contenders
  • Economic developments: reasons for and impact of the 'Great Turn'; the economic shift; the launch of the first Five Year Plan and the decision to collectivise
  • Government, propaganda and the beginning of the Stalinist cult; Stalin's attitude to foreign powers: China; Germany and the Treaty of Berlin; changes in the Comintern

Part two: Stalin’s Rule, 1929–1953 (A-level only)

Economy and society, 1929–1941 (A-level only)

  • Agricultural and social developments in the countryside: voluntary and forced collectivisation; state farms; mechanisation; the impact of collectivisation on the kulaks and other peasants; the famine of 1932–1934; the success of collectivisation
  • Industrial and social developments in towns and cities: Gosplan; the organisation, aims and results of the first three Five Year Plans; new industrial centres and projects; the involvement of foreign companies; the working and living conditions of managers, workers and women; Stakhanovites; the success of the Five Year Plans
  • The development of the Stalin cult: literature, the arts and other propaganda; Socialist Realism
  • The social and economic condition of the Soviet Union by 1941: strengths and weaknesses

Stalinism, politics and control, 1929–1941 (A-level only)

  • Dictatorship and Stalinism: the machinery of state terror; the NKVD; the early purges; Kirov's murder; the show trials; the Stalin constitution
  • The Yezhovshchina: mass terror and repression at central and local levels; treatment of national minorities; the gulags; the end of the purges; the death of Trotsky; responsibility for and impact of the Terror and purges
  • Culture and society: church; women, young people and working men; urban and rural differences; 'socialist man' and the impact of cultural change; similarities and differences between Lenin's and Stalin's USSR
  • Stalin and international relations: co-operation with Germany; entry into the League of Nations; pacts with France and Czechoslovakia; intervention in the Spanish Civil War; reaction to Western appeasement and Japanese aggression; the Nazi-Soviet Pact and its outcome

The Great Patriotic War and Stalin’s Dictatorship, 1941–1953 (A-level only)

  • The impact of the war on the Soviet Union: Operation Barbarossa and the Stalinist reaction; the course of the war; the USSR under occupation and the fight-back; the Soviet economy; mobilisation and evacuation of industry; foreign aid
  • The defeat of the Germans: reasons and results; post-war reconstruction; industry and agriculture
  • High Stalinism: dictatorship and totalitarianism; renewed Terror; the NKVD under Beria; Zhdanovism and the cultural purge; Stalin's cult of personality; the Leningrad affair; purges and the Doctors' Plot
  • The transformation of the Soviet Union’s international position: the emergence of a 'superpower'; the formation of a soviet bloc; conflict with USA and the capitalist West; death of Stalin and Stalin's legacy at home and abroad