Dedicated to the 100 million victims of communism worldwide.
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National Exhibit
National Exhibit
Russia Under Communism

Author:  Richard Pipes American historian who specializes in Russian history, particularly with respect to the history of the Soviet Union. During the Cold War era he headed Team B, a team of analysts which analyzed the strategic capacities and goals of the Soviet military and political leadership.

According to the Marxist doctrine, which underpins Communism, Russia should not have been an early convert to Communism because Communism should have originated in capitalist countries with advanced industrial economies. Russia, by contrast, in the early years of the twentieth Century was an agricultural Society with some 80 percent of its population living on and off the land. Her industries could not stand comparison with those of England, Germany or the United States.

If, nevertheless, Russia turned out to be the world's first country to undergo a Communist revolution and establish a Communist regime, the reason must be sought in politics rather than economics. Russia had traditionally lived under an autocracy which ruled without public consent: except for a brief and not very successful constitutional period lasting barely one decade (1906-1916), the monarchy never consulted the Russian public. This autocratic tradition had two consequences. One, that society at large (a small minority excepted) never developed an understanding of political processes and a sense that government matters. And second, that it considered autocracy to be the natural form of conducting political affairs.

In striving for absolute power over Russia, Vladimir Lenin (1870-1924) exploited this apolitical culture. To opponents who argued that Russia was not ready for Communism because of her backward economy he responded that in fact she had already attained a level of economic development that made her ripe for revolution. Personally, his primary concern was not so much to construct a Communist Russia as to use Russia as a springboard for launching a revolution in the advanced countries of the West. His instincts told him that his countrymen would accept a dictatorship which would carry out a socialist revolution from above.

In November, 1917, following the abdication of the tsar Nicholas II and the breakdown of the democratic Provisional Government which had tried to govern in his stead, Lenin, with the assistance of Leon Trotsky (1879-1940), seized power. This power seizure was not a "revolution," a term which conveys mass participation, but a classical coup d'état carried out by Red Guards at night in the capital city of Petrograd, action of which the population at large was quite unaware. Resistance was minimal for the Provisional Government was quite paralyzed. Formally, Lenin and his associates took power on behalf of "soviets," organs of self-rule run by workers, soldiers, and peasants; in fact, the soviets had no say and were soon relegated to the Status of rubber-stamps of the Bolshevik Party. Formally, too, the state was a free union of independent republics, but in reality it was an empire, the "union republics" being colonies of Russia.

From day one, Lenin ruled dictatorially, dealing with all Opposition by means of terror, the main instrument of which was the political police called Cheka. He made no secret of his undemocratic methods stating on one occasion that "the dictatorship of the Proletariat," as he dubbed his regime, was "limited by nothing, by no laws... restrained by absolutely no rules" and resting "directly on coercion." This principle defined the Communist regime in Russia and all other countries that emulated its example.

Click for sources of the victims of communism

Location:  Eurasia
Capital:  Moscow
Communist Rule:  1917-1991
Status:  Collapsed - 26.12.1991
Victims of Communism:
20-30 million