Russia’s Autocrats (part 2 of 4)

Lenin/Stalin Art

Lenin/Stalin Art

Lenin Stalin photo

Lenin Stalin photo

Alexander II (The Liberator) 1818 -1881 emancipated the serfs. He also abolished corporal punishment and reformed the educational and judicial system. He was assassinated for his pains and repression ensued.

In 1918, czarist Russia collapsed under its own flaws and inability to reform. Since the industrial revolution, the peasants and workers had become increasingly unhappy with the country’s backwardness. Western ideas were infiltrating Russia. This decay finally produced a socialist revolution as workers got politicized. The Bolsheviks and Mensheviks were factions of the Russian Social Democratic Workers’ Party. In 1917 Lenin returned from exile in Germany and took charge of the Bolshevik faction. Although a minority, they gradually gained ground. The October Revolution had begun. Under Trotsky, they staged a coup and captured the Government.

What happened then was a Civil War between the Reds and the Whites which lasted until 1922. The Reds were fighting for the Bolsheviks against the Whites, a loose coalition of opponents of the Revolution. The Reds proclaimed the Soviets (Workers’ Councils) as the new government of the country. A Provisional Government which had formed with Kerensky (affiliated with the Mensheviks) at its head was dissolved. Kerensky had to flee. He ended up in California at the Hoover Institute at Stanford University where he stayed for many years. The Bolsheviks were Communists. They transferred power to the All Russian Congress of Soviets. Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov (alias Lenin ) took over and gradually proscribed all competing political parties. The new autocrat had arrived. The “Dictatorship of the Proletariat” swapped one form of autocracy for another.

From the beginning, the Soviet Union was ruled as a one party state by the Communist Party (erstwhile Bolsheviks)

Lenin died in 1924 and Joseph Vissarionovich Djugashvili (alias Stalin) came to power. He belonged to the militant wing of the Bolsheviks and had outmaneuvered his rivals to win the political struggle for control of the Party. Stalin forcefully transformed Russia into an industrial superpower. He engineered a brutal system of farm collectivization which led to widespread famines which killed millions. Stalin created a cult of personality around himself. Cities were renamed in his honor. Because of his World War II victory over Hitler, he is still idolized and revered today despite the unspeakable horrors of purges and executions, and the 20 million people who died during his brutal rule. His body was at first, embalmed and preserved in Lenin’s Mausoleum. The word “autocrat” seems inadequate to describe this man.

Enter a new “reformer”. Nikita Khrushchev (1894 1971) was “Premier” (First Secretary) from 1958 to 1964.He had emerged victorious from the power struggle triggered by Stalin’s death. On February 25 1956 he delivered his “secret speech” denouncing Stalin’s purges and ushered in a less repressive era. He believed Russia could match and overtake the United States and relaxed the strict rules on traveling abroad. After Khrushchev fall from power his protégé Leonid Brezhnev (1906 1982) emerged dominant. The country entered an era of rigidity and bureaucracy and typical “Cold War” posturing.

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  1. “…against the Whites”

    Can you explain or expand on “the Whites”? When I was a child in Korea before 1945, I ran into so called “White Russians” a couple of times. Then I assumed they were called “White Russians” only because they were not Asians.

  2. The Whites consisted of the bourgeoisie (what we call the Middle Class) who had goods or positions which they knew would be confiscated by the Communists. Many of them emigrated (like my parents).

  3. White is not the “bourgeoisie” )) White in general meaning are opponents of the Reds in the civil war (1917-23) kind of “forces against the Soviets”. And their composition was completely various. They committed too many bloody crimes too.

  4. I really appreciate and very glad to get a valuable information from your blog. It’s really worthy and precious article from you always….!

  5. Quote: “The word “autocrat” seems inadequate to describe this man.[Stalin]”

    How many millions of people died in USA because of “The Great Depression”? Is there adequate word to describe those who responsible for this?

    1. I actually looked this up, and it turns out that no one died because of the Great Depression in the U.S. The only deaths caused were suicides and they were outnumbered by drop in traffic deaths because people couldn’t afford gas. No one starved to death.


    1. Parts 3 and 4 are in preparation and have not been printed yet. They will appear on this site as soon as they are ready. So watch this space!


    If you look at population statistics, you will notice a huge drop in population growth % in 1931-1939. If not this drop, population of USA could be higher by ~7 millions. These 7 millions are the victims of Great Depression.

    You may say that this is just a speculation. Ok. The author of this topic tells us about 20 million people who died under the rule of Stalin, but she never says that this number includes those who actually deserved a bullet: murderers, rapists, child abusers. This number also includes those who died from hunger. And on top of that this number includes so-called “unborn children”. Lets say you kill 1 million of people, but they might have been born 1 million children. Does that mean that you actually killed 2 millions? Speculation…

    Serious historians say that there were about 1.5 millions victims of Stalinism. This number looks much more plausible to me.

    I’m sorry if I offend anyone, but it looks to me that USA government today is much more authoritarian today than Soviet Russia was. Your press is unfree and corrupted: just look how onesided they are against Trump. USA starts wars around the world without any reason. For example, investigation showed that Saudi Arabia was behind 9/11, but USA attacked Afghanistan… Logic? Or when you told the world that there are chemical weapons in Iraq which were never found.

    So, dear Simone, maybe it’s about time to write a topic about autocracy in USA?

  7. According to the history the White army and the Red Army have nothing to do with skin colour. The reds were communists and the whites –opposition :rich , middle class people.

  8. Is there a 3rd and 4th part that I missed? I’m in a book club that’s soon to be discussing Putin’s unlikely rise to power. Simone’s take would be of interest.

  9. Just facts:
    1. Lenin didn’t come from “exile in Germany” to Russia in 1917. He would be arrested because Russia and Germany were at war with each other. He was allowed by government of Germany to cross its county from his emigration in Switzerland.
    2. Stalin came to power in 1929 not in 1924 after Lenin’s death.
    3. 3 777 380 were convicted, and 642 980 were sentenced to death from 1921 to 1 February 1954. Still for me huge numbers taking into consideration innocent ones, and our relatives as it always happens in those cases, but not “20 million”. Those who were sentenced and caged wanted to topple the Reds/soviet government, if the Whites took the power they also wouldn’t spare rivals, and would devide and sale the country to West, USA, and Japan as it was agreed between them before the civil war. We need read documents, archives, facts, and not one’s believes only, no matter how interesting they are.
    Nobody knows how many Russian people died in former soviet republics after USSR collapse, and still strugling for their rights to be equal citizens, because almost nobody cares, and this number is also huge. Why now we create a myth about soviet “horros” and believe in it and don’t care even want to kill people around us in the name of this? I don’t call to forgive the history, I repeat that we’d better know facts and not opinions, and derive sound conclusions. In this case we’d more share our cultures achievements then hate, and care much more about today’s not yesterday’s people.

  10. During the revolution, Red Russians were supporters trying to install a communist (red) government in greater Russia. White Russians were either pro Romanov-dynasty (the Czars are from the Romanov dynasty) or pro democracy. This dynasty ruled for 300 years or pro democracy at the time.

  11. To Admin / Simone,


    Unlike the Spanish Civil War, we don’t seem to hear much about those who went in their droves to fight in Russia against the Bolsheviks.
    Is there any information (or books) on those foreigners who travelled to Russia to fight alongside the White Russians or Mensheviks?
    I once knew a man who claimed to have done so !
    I thought he was an adventurer, as he was involved in other gripping causes.
    In this case , he felt the urgent need to oppose Communism by taking the fight to them.
    His name was Mr Toby Herrival.
    Thanks, Michael

  12. Stalin had his opponents shot, starved to death, incarcerated in the Gulag or otherwise tormented on purpose. Was there anyone who planned the Great Depression ?
    Cancer also
    kills millions of human beings but can we hold anyone responsible for this ?

  13. discussion here looks like personal likes and dislikes, the quality is low and statistics are very under-estimate or over -estimate or a mixture of both

  14. No, White Russians are not called that because of their ethnicity, but because of their opposition to the Red uprising of the Bolsheviks.

    White Russians were comprised of several groups in society. One group was drawn from the various levels of aristocratic families and their supporters, who had titles bestowed by Tsars and generally enjoyed special conditions. Merchant families often opposed the Bolsheviks too, facing loss of their property. A large part of officers in the Tsar’s Russian army remained loyal to the Tsar. Then there were many ordinary Russians who were loyal to the Tsar, their local aristocrats and merchants (ie often their employers and providers of food and shelter). There were other groups of White Russians who were educated but not politicised.

    I’m a White Russian descendant, as my grandmother was born in Shanghai where a lot of White Russians fled as they were progressively pushed back by the Red Army. After WW2 White Russians were forced to leave Shanghai when Chinese Communists took power, and most travelled to the USA, Canada and Australia. There’s actually a Prince Romanov still living in Sydney, but he enjoys no title or official position.

  15. I think the 20 million number includes Holodomor and WW2 losses, however WW2 losses were greater (around 27m is generally accepted as correct), and of course not all WW2 losses can be attributed to Stalin (although there’s no doubt his indecision and poor tactical choices in the first 10 days of Barbarossa indirectly led to many millions of deaths).

  16. R. J. Rummel: Soviet Genocide and Mass Murder since 1917, Transaction Publisher, 1990.

    61,911,000 all up, including excess war death due to Stalin’s management of the war.

  17. @ Nikolay The 20 million figure includes the victims of the provoked famine and forced collectivisation in Ukraine and other parts of the Soviet Union. So, better read the text before writing down your critique. The soviet “horrors” are a fact. If you include the ethnic cleansing committed by the Russians in Non-Russian occupied “Union republics” and territories stolen from European and Asian countries, the number of soviet mass killings for the 70 years of communist imperialism reaches well over 50 millions of victims.

  18. @Dan
    But it’s USA and their european vassals who provoked famine in USSR. For some reason they refused to accept Russian gold as a payment in trade deals, in fact they accepted only corn.

  19. How much you may defend Lenin & Stalin, their crimes can never be camouflaged into some kind of social reforms undertook by the Bolsheviks. The fact remains untold miseries were brought upon the people by Lenin and a little eased by Stalin fearing peoples’ wrath.

    The deaths could multiply several folds if those deaths in other countries who were inspired by Stalin & Lenin are also considered for these were also factually abated by the duo.

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