Historical background

The rise of communism in Russia

The spread of communism in Imperial Russia was mainly influenced by the social and economic situation of the country. Russia’s large population of workers was dissatisfied with a difficult life under the Czar’s rule. Karl Marx’s and Friedrich Engels’ communist ideology (published in 1848 under the name The Communist Manifesto) was attractive as it promised both equality between people as well as a sense of justice. It indicated that the employers who grew rich through the people’s efforts should be overthrown by the working class.

In the communist system envisioned by Marx, means of production such as land, factories, machinery, and tools are not owned by individual people or the government but by the community. The goods produced are divided among people according to their needs. This would ideally lead to a classless, stateless, and property-less society in which there is no oppression and in which people have all the resources they need. According to Marx, however, the transition from capitalism to communism goes through socialism, in which the workers form a temporary type of government meant to seize property from the rich. 

The Communist Party emerged as an opposition to both capitalism and socialists who had supported capitalist governments during World War I. It was formed from the Bolshevik wing of the Russian Social Democratic Workers Party, which it formally broke from in 1917, under the rule of Vladimir LeninThe Bolsheviks were a group composed mainly of workers who acted as the leaders of the working class. Lenin, born into a wealthy middle-class family in 1870, became involved in politics as a student and eventually rose to leadership as a fervent critic of capitalism and convinced Marxist.

In 1917, Russia’s Czar was overthrown through a revolution (The February Revolution), and a temporary democratic government was installed. Later that year, Lenin and the Bolsheviks organized a second revolution (the October Revolution), which led to the formation of a communist government led by Lenin. The Bolsheviks were known by different names in the years to come, until they finally settled on the name the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1952.

The Bolsheviks, however, were opposed in the beginning by various factions that sought control over Russia’s political future. The Russian Civil War (1917-1922) saw fighting between supporters of the Bolsheviks, anti-communists, and...

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