Russian Political Groups

  • Land and Liberty
  • Liberation of Labour Group
  • Octobrists
  • Socialist Revolutionary Party
  • Bolsheviks
  • Constitutional Democrat Party
  • People's Will
  • Black Repartition
  • Social Democratic Labour Party
  • Left Socialist Revolutionarist
  • Mensheviks
  • Anarchists

Liberalism in Russia

Within Russian political parties, liberal parties advocate the expansion of political and civil freedoms and mostly oppose Vladimir Putin. In Russia, the term "liberal" can refer to wide range of politicians –( for reference check NCERT class 9 chapter socialism and Russian revolution) simultaneously to Thatcherism/Reaganomics-related pro-capitalism conservative politicians (they are related to 1990s shock therapy "liberal" reforms), to centre-right liberal politicians (as in European political spectrum) and to left-liberal politicians (as in the US political spectrum). The term "liberal democrats" is often used for members of the far-right nationalist part, the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia. There are Russian opposition and pro-government liberal political parties in Russia. Pro-government liberal politicians support Putin's policy in economics.

There are no liberal factions in Russian parliament at the moment. Centre-left liberalism was represented in the State Duma of Russian parliament by the Russian United Democratic Party "Yabloko" (7.86% in 1993 election, 6.89% in 1995, 5.93% in 1999). Pro-government liberalism was represented by the Our Home – Russia (10.13% in 1995 election), the liberal political party founded by Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. Centre-right liberalism was represented by the pro-capitalist party Democratic Choice of Russia (15.51% in 1993) and its successor, the Union of Right Forces (8.52% in 1999 election).

Bolsheviks revolt in Russia

Led by Bolshevik Party leader Vladimir Lenin, leftist revolutionaries launch a nearly bloodless coup d’État against Russia’s ineffectual Provisional Government. The Bolsheviks and their allies occupied government buildings and other strategic locations in the Russian capital of Petrograd (now St. Petersburg) and within two days had formed a new government with Lenin as its head. Bolshevik Russia, later renamed the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), was the world’s first Marxist state.

Born Vladimir Ilich Ulyanov in 1870, Lenin was drawn to the revolutionary cause after his brother was executed in 1887 for plotting to assassinate Czar Alexander III. He studied law and took up practice in Petrograd, where he associated with revolutionary Marxist circles. In 1895, he helped organize Marxist groups in the capital into the “Union for the Struggle for the Liberation of the Working Class,” which attempted to enlist workers to the Marxist cause. In December 1895, Lenin and the other leaders of the Union were arrested. Lenin was jailed for a year and then exiled to Siberia for a term of three years.

After the end of his exile, in 1900, Lenin went to Western Europe, where he continued his revolutionary activity. It was during this time that he adopted the pseudonym Lenin. In 1902, he published a pamphlet titled What Is to Be Done? which argued that only a disciplined party of professional revolutionaries could bring socialism to Russia. In 1903, he met with other Russian Marxists in London and established the Russian Social-Democratic Workers’ Party (RSDWP). However, from the start there was a split between Lenin’s Bolsheviks (Majoritarians), who advocated militarism, and the Mensheviks (Minoritarians), who advocated a democratic movement toward socialism. These two groups increasingly opposed each other within the framework of the RSDWP, and Lenin made the split official at a 1912 conference of the Bolshevik Party.

After the outbreak of the Russian Revolution of 1905, Lenin returned to Russia. The revolution, which consisted mainly of strikes throughout the Russian empire, came to an end when Nicholas II promised reforms, including the adoption of a Russian constitution and the establishment of an elected legislature. However, once order was restored, the czar nullified most of these reforms, and in 1907 Lenin was again forced into exile.

Lenin opposed World War I, which began in 1914, as an imperialistic conflict and called on proletariat soldiers to turn their guns on the capitalist leaders who sent them down into the murderous trenches. For Russia, World War I was an unprecedented disaster: Russian casualties were greater than those sustained by any nation in any previous war. Meanwhile, the Russian economy was hopelessly disrupted by the costly war effort, and in March 1917 riots and strikes broke out in Petrograd over the scarcity of food. Demoralized army troops joined the strikers, and on March 15, Nicholas II was forced to abdicate, ending centuries of czarist rule. In the aftermath of the February Revolution (known as such because of Russia’s use of the Julian calendar), power was shared between the weak Provisional Government and the soviets, or 𠇌ouncils,” of soldiers’ and workers’ committees.

After the outbreak of the February Revolution, German authorities allowed Lenin and his lieutenants to cross Germany en route from Switzerland to Sweden in a sealed railway car. Berlin hoped (correctly) that the return of the anti-war Socialists to Russia would undermine the Russian war effort, which was continuing under the Provisional Government. Lenin called for the overthrow of the Provisional Government by the soviets, and he was condemned as a “German agent” by the government’s leaders. In July, he was forced to flee to Finland, but his call for “peace, land, and bread” met with increasing popular support, and the Bolsheviks won a majority in the Petrograd soviet. In October, Lenin secretly returned to Petrograd, and on November 6-8 the Bolshevik-led Red Guards deposed the Provisional Government and proclaimed soviet rule.

Lenin became the virtual dictator of the first Marxist state in the world. His government made peace with Germany, nationalized industry, and distributed land, but beginning in 1918 had to fight a devastating civil war against czarist forces. In 1920, the czarists were defeated, and in 1922 the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) was established. Upon Lenin’s death, in early 1924, his body was embalmed and placed in a mausoleum near the Moscow Kremlin. Petrograd was renamed Leningrad in his honor. After a struggle for succession, fellow revolutionary Joseph Stalin succeeded Lenin as leader of the Soviet Union.

Recent & upcoming major political/economic events

&bull The official rejection of the initiative to change threshold limits for duty-free trade. It had been anticipated that from January 2015, a new, lower, duty-free threshold would be put in place on imports into the Russian Federation, ultimately negatively impacting many foreign distance selling companies. At the date of publication of this Passport, the threshold of &euro1,000 PCM remains in force (see Customs Clearance Procedures).

&bull As of 1 July 2015, the cities of Moscow, St Petersburg and Sevastopol are anticipated to have an additional trading fee imposed for traders who operate in stationary trade facilities. After this date, this trading fee may be imposed in additional municipalities.


Russia has a strong history of authoritarian practices. Despite the growth of liberalism in 19th and 20th century Western European countries, like Germany, Italy and Spain, a succession of autocratic governments has shaped the political ideologies of modern Russia. Due to the stagnation of libertarian ideals of both economic and social liberalism in Russia, Russian conservatism is unique in its support for a mixed economy and its condemnation of liberty and Western democracy. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the two main political parties in Russia have been United Russia and the Liberal Democratic Party. [3]

State control Edit

Russian conservatives believe in the government largely controlling both economic and social policy, with a strong centralised state influenced by nationalist and imperialist ideologies. They also believe in opposition to Western globalism, and the promotion of Russian ideals and culture with support for the Russian sphere of influence through art and media. The authoritarian ideals in both Tsarist and Soviet Russia of devotion to the state and strong nationalism are supported by Russian conservatives, who believe in a return to Russian ideals in reaction to modernism and globalism, with strong opposition to globalist organizations such as the UN, EU and NATO. With classical liberalism playing major roles in the development of conservatism in Western democracies, Russia largely differs from conservatism in other parts of the world with its belief in state control. With Russian conservatives holding largely interventionist views in international affairs, they hold deep contempt with the United States and strong support for CIS countries other than Georgia and Ukraine. [4]

Social views Edit

Social views held by conservative Russians are largely influenced by traditionalism and the Russian orthodox church. Russian conservatism, alike conservatives in other parts of the world, believe in the promotion of Christian ideals in its opposition to abortion, homosexuality, euthanasia and its support for gender roles in the government and in civil life. Influenced by the totalitarian and autocratic views held by the Russian Tsar and the Bolsheviks, Russian conservatives believe in the rule of law, and the cult of personality. Strong nationalist sentiments are largely held, influencing the support for national and state unity against foreign influence. The suppression of individual freedoms are believed to be necessary in law enforcement and halting social progressivism. Western culture and modernism are largely opposed in favor of realism, seen as largely a product of the consumerist cultures of Western democracies. Under Vladimir Putin, the leader of the Russian government since 1999, Russia has expressively condemned foreign influences, and believed in expanding Russia's own influence, since with the annexation of Crimea in 2014, and opposed nuclear disarmament. [5]

Economic views Edit

Although economic liberalism and laissez-faire capitalism has been key in the history of conservatism in country such as the United States, the historical role of state control in Russia has resulted in the development of state interventionist views of Russian conservatives in respect to the economy. Although both major conservative parties post-USSR largely condemn communism, Russian conservatives largely believe in a mixed economy, with a mixture of regulations in the private sector with market freedoms, public ownership of several key industries such as energy and defence, and low to moderate distributions of wealth across the economy. Russian conservatives believe in the government intervening in markets and regulating the private sector, as it has a necessary role in the framework of a capitalist economy. Along with other conservatives in the world, Russian conservatives believe in protectionism, and the regulation of global interaction with the Russian economy, through the use of tariffs and government subsidies to domestic producers. [6]

Religious views Edit

As strong adherents to the Russian Orthodox Church, Russian conservatives largely espouse traditional Christian views on social issues, with the church collaborating closely with the state in social and cultural affairs under President Putin's successive administrations. The rise of globalization and liberal morality in Western democracies has been frequently confronted in Putin-era Russia. The Orthodox Church's opposition to homosexual lifestyles, support of traditional marriage and families has met with general domestic acceptance, while its tacit support for Russian expansion into Crimea and Eastern Ukraine has earned international criticism. Under Patriarch Kirill, the Russian Orthodox Church has sought to promote traditional morality within Russia over liberal relativism, while working to proscribe homosexual influence in broader society, particularly among minors. [7]

The traditions of autocracy and patrimonialism developed in Russia in the 17th and 18th century, as Ivan lll built upon Byzantine traditions of autocracy, allowing for the development of Tsarism and the monarchy of the Romanov dynasty in the 19th and 20th centuries. This paved the groundwork for the development of totalitarianism in the Soviet Union after the Russian revolution, with Stephen White describing the fabric of Russian identity being interwoven with autocracy. This progression of autocratic governments didn't allow for the spread and rapid development of liberals ideals as seen in Western Europe, with state interventionism remaining the key ideology in all Russian parties. This influenced the development of conservative thought post the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, with state control playing a key role in Russian traditionalism. [8]

Attempts at liberal restructuring of the Soviet economy and political landscape through the Perestroika reforms during the 1980s and 1990s, were largely suppressed by the return to authoritarian politics under the conservative Putin government, after his predecessor Boris Yeltsin was unable to keep on course with social and economic reform. The Russian youth played a key role in the 2000s, developing conservative ideas away from the traditional western libertarian sense, with the Gorbachev and Yeltsin liberal reforms being seen as a time of political upheaval and chaos. A 1987 survey undertaken by Russian sociologist Yuri Levada, found the ageing soviet citizens of the 1980s or "Homo Sovieticus", who still had memories of Stalinism and totalitarian Soviet governments, were a "dying breed" as the younger and more naive generations in Russia began to shape the political climate of the future. A disdain for liberal reform and lack of knowledge for the reign of terror under Stalin allowed for the youth in Russian to develop into the hardline nationalist faction of Russian politics, allowing for the polarization of Russian politics and development of totalitarian ideas in conservatism. [9]

The two main conservative parties in Russia are the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia led by Vladimir Zhirinovsky and United Russia, led by its de facto leader Vladimir Putin. United Russia is the ruling party of Russia and largest party of Russia, holding 74.4% of seats in the state Duma. [10] [11]

The Liberal Democratic Party of Russia or LDRP was founded in 1992 by Vladimir Zhirinovsky. As a more ideological Conservative party, the LDRP scored 22.9% of votes in the 1993 state Duma elections, opposing the right-left dichotomy in Russia alike the United Russia party. In 2016, the party received 13.4% of the vote, giving it 39 of the 450 seats in the State Duma. During the 1990s, Zhirinovsky and the LDPR formed a component of the political opposition to Boris Yeltsin in the 1990s, however members of the party largely voted against impeaching Yeltsin in 1999. In recent years, the LDPR has often supported the agenda of the United Russia party and Putin government when voting in the Duma, leading some to believe that the party receives funding from the Kremlin. [12]

Other Russian conservative parties include Rodina, the Russian All-People's Union and the Eurasia Party.

Although the ideology itself hasn't been poorly received by the general public, political parties such as United Russia have come under intense scrutiny as a party of “crooks and thieves”. This term coined by activist Alexey Navalny amidst the corruption in Russian politics, was consistently used by opposition parties during the 2011 election to characterize the United Russia party as being corrupted and concerned with “maintaining and strengthening their own power”. The 2011–2013 Russian protests show the Russians public perception of a flawed election process in Russia, and the yearning for a more democratic process against what they believe has become an authoritarian government. [13] [14] [15]

The ideology of Russian conservatism itself, through its roots in statism, has been described as authoritarian and an oppressive system of governance. Opposition from both right and left wing groups has characterized the Putin governments harsh laws in promoting stability in the country, as being exercised to cement the governments own power. Regulations on freedom of the press and economic interventionism has been opposed starkly by right-libertarian while social views on abortion and Putin's ban on LGBT rights has been criticized by left wing groups. [16]

Tsarist government

Russia’s political system at the turn of the 20th century was known as tsarism. Russia’s tsarist government was one of the most backward in Europe. It was one of the few remaining autocracies where all political power and sovereignty were vested in a hereditary monarch.

An all-powerful tsar

The power of the tsar (derived from the Latin ‘caesar’) was bound by only two restrictions: an adherence to the Russian Orthodox Church and the laws of succession. In all other matters, the tsar and his will were considered supreme.

Unlike most other nations, Russia had no constitution, no elected representative assembly, no democratic processes within the national government, and no high court or court of appeal that could examine or restrain the tsar’s laws. Tsarist government was essentially government by decree: the tsar issued declarations or proclamations and his ministers, governors and bureaucrats implemented them.

Russia had several high-level political bodies or councils but their function was limited to providing advice. These bodies included the Senate (Russia’s highest court), the Holy Synod (the governing council of the Russian Orthodox Church) and the Imperial Council of Ministers.

The Imperial Council

The Imperial Council, a de facto cabinet of ministers, was probably the most significant of these bodies. From the outside, it gave the appearance of a Westminster-style cabinet. There was a chief minister (prime minister) and several other ministers, each of whom had portfolios such as foreign affairs, finance, justice, agriculture and defence.

Unlike in Westminster governments, however, tsarist ministers were hand-picked by the monarch and served at his pleasure. They were not drawn from an elected legislature or selected on the basis of merit or achievement, nor were they accountable to the people.

Since the tsar could appoint or dismiss members of the Imperial Council at his pleasure, these ministers were often prone to sycophancy. To curry favour to secure or improve their position, they would tell the tsar what he wanted to hear rather than what he needed to know.

Administrative divisions

Russia’s vast size meant the tsarist government relied on an enormous second-tier of officials and administrators.

Beyond the boundaries of Saint Petersburg, the Russian empire was divided into 117 guberniyas (governates or provinces), each of which was itself divided into oblasts (regions) and okrugs (districts). Each guberniya was administered by a governor, who had Imperial Army or police units at his disposal.

Governors were responsible for promulgating, implementing and enforcing the tsar’s laws in their guberniya. In reality, Russia’s enormous size and the distance of some provinces from the capital allowed governors a degree of autonomy.

After Alexander II‘s reforms implemented in 1864, each guberniya also contained a number of zemstva, local councils that could collect taxes and provide services such as education, public health and transport. Though the zemstva were often dominated by land-owning nobles, they still contained representatives from all classes, including the peasantry.

In 1890, the reactionary tsar Alexander III effectively neutered the zemstva by reducing their autonomy and requiring their decisions to be endorsed by the royal governor.

The Russian bureaucracy

For most Russians, the bureaucracy was the public face of the government. Russia’s huge public service was charged with enforcing regulations, collecting taxes and duties, maintaining records and implementing other policies. Bureaucrats were a visible presence in cities and large towns, where they wore distinctive uniforms and held one of 14 different ranks, loosely equivalent to military ranks.

The majority of bureaucrats were neither well educated or well paid, which made them susceptible to corruption and bribery. Even low-ranking bureaucrats had the capacity to make decisions arbitrarily – from issuing dog licences to approving land titles – so it was quite common for them to supplement their meagre wages by demanding bribes or gratuities. Some bureaucrats were little more than bullies and petty tyrants.

The bureaucracy imposed itself on the lives of ordinary Russians more than any other arm of the government. The lower classes viewed the bureaucracy as petty, officious, greedy and corrupt. Bureaucrats were seen as obsessed with regulations and paperwork and fond of wielding power for its own sake. Criticism or condemnation of bureaucrats was a consistent theme in 19th-century propaganda and doggerel.

The Black Hundreds

Tsarism was also propped up and supported in more informal ways. One of these was through the activities of loyalist and conservative groups like the Black Hundreds.

Formed around the turn of the 20th century, the Black Hundreds were small chapters of religious conservatives fiercely loyal to the tsar and his government. The composition of the Black Hundreds was diverse and included aristocrats, businessmen, storekeepers, priests, petty bourgeoisie and loyal peasants.

The motto of the Black Hundreds – samoderzhavie, pravoslavie, narodnost (‘autocracy, orthodoxy and nationalism’) – was an adaptation of the tsar’s own motto. Their symbols, the Christian cross and the Romanov double-eagle, were reflective of their valies and ideas.

The Black Hundreds demanded devotion to the tsar and, by implication, the aristocracy and tsarist social structures. They criticised and condemned political dissenters and reformists. The ‘Yellow Shirts’, a militant sub-group of the Black Hundreds, was known to organise and carry out acts of violence against government opponents.

Unsurprisingly, the Black Hundreds received moral and financial support from the tsarist regime itself. The Black Hundreds also instigated or carried out numerous anti-Semitic pogroms, with the tacit approval of the government.

Other pro-tsarist groups

Other reactionary and pro-tsarist groups emerged in the early 1900s when the tsarist regime was under attack. These groups claimed to have legitimate political intentions but most became agencies of pro-tsarist propaganda and violence.

Formed in 1905, the Union of Russian People was a conservative nationalist group which opened branches, recruited volunteers and produced propaganda in more than 900 cities, towns and villages. A breakaway group, the Union of Russian Men, was similar but was markedly less patient. It demanded retribution against anything anti-Russian or hostile to tsarism.

Some of these groups were nothing more than conduits for widespread and sometimes frenzied anti-Semitism. Russia’s five million Jews, a small but visible minority, were easy scapegoats for the problems of tsarism.

Between September 1905 and the following spring, bands of these so-called ‘Russian men’ patrolled the countryside, killing and expelling Jews wherever they could be found. More than 21,000 were murdered in Ukraine alone. Terrorists associated with the Black Hundreds also carried out political assassinations, killing two Jewish members of the first Duma (Mikhail Herzenstein, 1906, and Grigory Iollos, 1907).

A historian’s view:
“The alienation of Russian society from its government grew steadily in the 1860s and 1870s. The intelligentsia defined itself by opposing the Russian state which allowed it no direct political role. The tsarist regime’s unwillingness to introduce even a conservative constitution meant that many middle-class professionals and businessmen could not see the tsarist state as supporting their interests. But the more immediate threat to the status quo came from radicals, mainly young university students who concluded that reform had run its course and failed.”
Theodore R. Weeks

1. Tsarist government was predicated on the supreme autocratic power of the tsar, which was limited only by his loyalty to the church and the laws of succession.

2. The tsar governed without the assistance from or accountability to democratically elected bodies. He appointed and dismissed ministers, who were accountable only to him.

3. Tsarist Russia was divided into 117 guberniyas, each administrated by a governor, whose main responsibility was to implement and enforce the tsar’s policies.

4. Most Russians viewed the imperial bureaucracy (public service) as ‘the government’ – but because of their low wages and standards, bureaucrats could be petty, intimidating or corrupt.

5. Tsarism was also supported by conservative groups like the Black Hundred that sprang up in the early 1900s. These groups attacked political dissidents and were also responsible for anti-Semitic pogroms against Russia’s five million Jews.

Communist Party of the Soviet Union

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Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), also called (1925–52) All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks), Russian Kommunisticheskaya Partiya Sovetskogo Soyuza, or Vsesoyuznaya Kommunisticheskaya Partiya (Bolshevikov), the major political party of Russia and the Soviet Union from the Russian Revolution of October 1917 to 1991.

The Communist Party of the Soviet Union arose from the Bolshevik wing of the Russian Social Democratic Workers’ Party (RSDWP). The Bolsheviks, organized in 1903, were led by Vladimir I. Lenin, and they argued for a tightly disciplined organization of professional revolutionaries who were governed by democratic centralism and were dedicated to achieving the dictatorship of the proletariat. In 1917 they formally broke with the right, or Menshevik, wing of the RSDWP. In 1918, when the Bolsheviks became the ruling party of Russia, they changed their organization’s name to the All-Russian Communist Party it was renamed the All-Union Communist Party in 1925 after the founding of the U.S.S.R. and finally to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1952.

The Communist Party arose in opposition to both capitalism and the socialists of the Second International who had supported their capitalist governments during World War I. The name communist was specifically taken to distinguish Lenin’s followers in Russia and abroad from such socialists.

Following their victory in the Russian Civil War (1918–20), the Soviet communists followed a cautious policy of limited capitalism during the New Economic Program until Lenin’s death in 1924. Then the powerful general secretary Joseph Stalin and leaders around him moved to assume the leadership of the party. The Stalin group easily defeated such rival leaders as Leon Trotsky, Grigory Zinoviev, and Lev Kamenev. Then, in the late 1920s, opposition arose from Stalin’s ally Nikolay Bukharin to the policies of rapid industrialization and collectivization. Stalin eliminated Bukharin from the leadership in 1929 and sought to eradicate the last remnants of opposition within the party by launching the Great Purge (1934–38), in which many thousands of his real or assumed opponents were executed as traitors and millions more were imprisoned or sent to forced-labour camps. During Stalin’s years in power the party’s size expanded from about 470,000 members (1924) to several million from the 1930s on. Following victory in World War II, Stalin faced no further challenges within the party, but discontent with his tyranny and arbitrariness smoldered among the party leadership. Following Stalin’s death in 1953, Nikita Khrushchev began a rapid rise and in 1956 repudiated Stalin’s tyrannical excesses in his famous “Secret Speech” at the 20th party congress. The next year he decisively defeated his rivals Vyacheslav Molotov, Georgy Malenkov, and others of the “anti-party group” and became the party’s undisputed leader. Khrushchev ended the practice of bloody purges of the party membership, but his impulsive rule aroused dissatisfaction among the other party leaders, who ousted him in 1964. Leonid Brezhnev succeeded him and was general secretary until his death in 1982, being in turn succeeded by Yury Andropov. After Andropov’s death in 1984, Konstantin Chernenko became party leader, and after Chernenko’s death in 1985 the leadership went to Mikhail Gorbachev, who attempted to liberalize and democratize the party and—more largely—the U.S.S.R.

Internationally the CPSU dominated the Communist International (the Comintern) and its successor, the Cominform, from the 1920s on. But the very spread and success of communist parties worldwide brought challenges to the CPSU’s hegemony, first from the Yugoslavs in 1948 and then from the Chinese in the late 1950s and early ’60s. The CPSU continued to serve as the model for the Soviet-dominated states of eastern Europe, however, until 1989, at which time the communist parties of eastern Europe either disintegrated or transformed themselves into Western-style socialist (or social democratic) parties.

From 1918 through the 1980s the Communist Party of the Soviet Union was a monolithic, monopolistic ruling party that dominated the political, economic, social, and cultural life of the U.S.S.R. The constitution and other legal documents that supposedly ordered and regulated the government of the Soviet Union were in fact subordinate to the policies of the CPSU and its leadership. Constitutionally, the Soviet government and the CPSU were separate bodies, but virtually all high government officials were party members, and it was this system of interlocking dual membership in party and governmental bodies that enabled the CPSU to both make policy and see that it was enforced by the government.

But by 1990, Mikhail Gorbachev’s efforts to restructure the Soviet Union’s economy and democratize its political system had eroded both the CPSU’s unity and its monopolistic hold on power. In 1990 the CPSU voted to surrender its constitutionally guaranteed monopoly of power, thereby permitting opposition parties to flourish legally in the Soviet Union. The holding of free (and in some cases multiparty) elections in various union republics hastened the decline in the party’s membership and enabled defectors from its ranks (such as Boris Yeltsin) to rise to positions of power in republic governments.

Despite these changes, the party remained the principal obstacle to Gorbachev’s attempts to reform the Soviet economy along free-market lines. A failed coup by communist hard-liners against Gorbachev in August 1991 discredited the CPSU and greatly hastened its decline. In subsequent months the party was stripped of its physical assets its control of the Soviet government, internal-security agencies, and armed forces was broken and the party’s activities were suspended. The dissolution of the Soviet Union on December 25, 1991, into a group of sovereign republics headed by democratically elected governments marked the CPSU’s formal demise, though the party’s former members retained much of their control over economic and political decision making in the new republics.

The basic unit of the CPSU was the primary party organization, which was a feature in all factories, government offices, schools, and collective farms and any other body of any importance whatsoever. At the party’s peak size in the early 1980s, there were about 390,000 primary party organizations, and above this lowest level there were district, city, regional, and republic committees. At its height the CPSU had some 19 million members.

Nominally, the supreme body in the CPSU was the party congress, which usually met every five years and was attended by several thousand delegates. The party congress nominally elected the 300 or so members of the Central Committee of the CPSU, which met at least twice a year to perform the work of the party in between congresses. In its turn the Central Committee elected the members of various party committees, two of which, the Politburo and the Secretariat, were the actual centres of ultimate power and authority in the Soviet Union. The Politburo, with about 24 full members, was the supreme policy-making body in the country and exercised power over every aspect of public policy, both domestic and foreign. The Secretariat was responsible for the day-to-day administrative work of the party machine. The membership of these bodies, though nominally determined by the Central Committee, was in fact self-perpetuating and was largely determined by those bodies’ members themselves.

The training ground for future candidates and members of the party was the All-Union Lenin League of Communist Youth, known as the Komsomol. The principal publications of the party were the daily newspaper Pravda and the monthly theoretical journal Kommunist.

This article was most recently revised and updated by Adam Augustyn, Managing Editor, Reference Content.

Political Parties: Revolutionary Russia

Strong supporters of monarchy, as a symbol of national unity and as center of political authority.

Oppose constituent assembly, which they believed would be a break with tradition.

Konstantin Kavelin‘s and Boris Chicherin‘s writings formed the theoretical basis of the party’s platform.

  • Professionals – university professors and lawyers
  • Members of the zemstvo, incl. liberal landlords
  • Industrialists.
  • Cadets were one of the parties invited by Prime Minister Sergei Witte to join his cabinet in October-November 1905
  • Negotiations broke down over the Cadets’ radical demands
  • Participate in 1st State Duma in February 1906 Kadets received 37% of the urban vote and won over 30% of the seats in the Duma.
  • On July 9, the government announced that the Duma was dysfunctional and dissolved it. In response, 120 Cadet and 80 Trudovik and Social Democrat deputies went to Vyborg (then a part of the autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland and thus beyond the reach of Russian police) and responded with the Vyborg Manifesto written by Miliukov. In the manifesto, they called for passive resistance, non-payment of taxes and draft avoidance. Leading to a ban on its authors’, including the entire Kadet leadership, participation in future Dumas.
  • Later in 1906, with the revolution in retreat, that the Kadets abandoned revolutionary and republican aspirations and declared their support for a constitutional monarchy
  • During the February Revolution of 1917, Kadet deputies in the Duma and other prominent Kadets formed the core of the newly formed Russian Provisional Government
  • One of the Kadet leaders, Prince Lvov, became Prime Minister and Miliukov became Russia’s Foreign Minister.
  • A radical party just 11 years earlier, after the February revolution the Kadets occupied the rightmost end of the political spectrum since all monarchist parties had been dissolved and the Kadets were the only openly functioning non-socialist party remaining.
  • The Kadets’ position in the Provisional Government was compromised when Miliukov’s promise to the Entente allies to continue the war (April 18) was made public on April 26, 1917. The resulting government crisis led to Miliukov’s resignation and a powersharing agreement with moderate socialist parties on May 4-5. The Kadets’ position was further eroded during the July crisis when they resigned from the government in protest against concessions to the Ukrainian independence movement.
  • Although the coalition was reformed later in July under Alexander Kerensky and survived yet another government crisis in early September.
  • With the Bolshevik seizure of power on October 25-26, 1917, Kadet and other anti-Bolshevik newspapers were closed down and the party was suppressed by the new regime.

While the 1905 revolution did not remove the Tsar, it certainly curtailed his power — but not to the extent of the democratic, liberal society for which the Russian masses longed for. As a result, the party survived but remained small.

The Trudoviks are best known for winning seats in the State Duma, a national assembly created by Tsar Nicholas II in the aftermath of the 1905 Revolution . The seats they won were mainly in the 1st and 2nd assemblies, in 1906 and 1907 where they gained over 100 seats.

Supported program of land-socialization (divide land among peasants) as opposed to the Bolshevik program of land-nationalisation (collectivization in state management).

SR played an active role in the Russian Revolution of 1905, and in the Moscow and St. Petersburg Soviets. Although the party officially boycotted the first State Duma in 1906, 34 SRs were elected, while 37 were elected to the second Duma in 1907 the party boycotted both the third and fourth Dumas in 1907–1917.

The Russian Revolution – February 1917ÞSRs play a greater political role, with one of their members Alexander Kerensky joining the Provisional Government in March 1917, and eventually becoming the head of a coalition socialist-liberal government in July 1917.

In mid-late 1917 the SRs split between those who supported the Provisional Government and those who supported the Bolsheviks and favoured a communist revolution.

Those who supported the Bolsheviks became known as Left Socialist-Revolutionaries (Left SRs) and in effect split from the main party, which retained the name “SR” [1] . The primary issues motivating the split were the war and the redistribution of land.

At the Second Congress of Soviets on October 25, 1917, when the Bolsheviks proclaimed the deposition of the Provisional government, the split within the SR party became final. The Left SR stayed at the Congress and were elected to the permanent VTsIK executive (although at first they refused to join the Bolshevik government) while the mainstream SR and their Menshevik allies walked out of the Congress. In late November, the Left SR joined the Bolshevik government.

The SRs faded after the Bolsheviks‘ October Revolution. However, in the election to the Russian Constituent Assembly they proved to be the most popular party across the country, gaining 57% of the popular vote as opposed to the Bolsheviks’ 25%.

However, the Bolsheviks disbanded the Assembly and thereafter the SRs became of less political significance. The Left SR party became the coalition partner of the Bolsheviks in the Soviet Government, although they resigned their positions after the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was signed. A few Left-SRs like Yakov Grigorevich Blumkin joined the Communist Party.

Political Views in Russia

Russia from 1850 to 1917 was littered with numerous political views that ranged across the whole political spectrum. Whereas there were many groups that supported the working class and wanted to advance their cause, there were fewer groups that came out in support of the tsar – though these were small in number, they wielded huge power and included the hierarchy of the military and church. Those on the left wanted wholesale change including an abolition of monarchy. Those in charge within Russia, viewed any change as a potential sign of weakness.

What did the working class actually think about those political groups fighting for their cause? When actual figures are studied, the number of people who took part in the November Revolution of 1917 is actually small relative to the population of Russia. One of the defining moments of the C20th, actually involved a small number of people. Does this prove that the Bolsheviks did not have the support of the mass of the people? Or was it more a sign of the way Lenin worked – advancing a cause with a small number of well-trained people? If there was overwhelming support for Lenin and the Bolsheviks, why was there a bloody civil war after November 1917?

Was Russia pre-1917 split between the right and left? In fact, a solid political centre existed in Russia that represented a middle way in politics. They believed that fundamental reforms were needed to secure the most basic of freedoms but they did not want a parliamentary monarchy. The whole group was represented by politicians such as Peter Stolypin and by parties such as the Duma Conservatives and Cadets. The rich peasants – the Kulaks – would also come within this centrist group.

Those on the right of politics wanted reform – but reform that strengthened the monarchy. They believed that any reforms that aided the lives of the poor could be interpreted as a sign of weakness.

On the far left were the Social Revolutionaries and the Social Democrats. They wanted the wholesale shake-up of Russia’s society to advance the cause of the poor at the expense of the rich and those in government.

One could not sit comfortably with the other. The right had the aristocrats, the military and church hierarchy and the nation’s senior civil servants on its side. Any one of these groups was small in number. Combined, they remained small in number, but with vast power at their disposal. The left had none of these advantages – ironically, it was these people it wished to overthrow – but it had the potential support of the vast majority of Russia’s population, as long as their power could be harnessed. In a country the size of Russia, this was a very difficult problem.

Gulag Labor Camps

There’s no doubt the brutal tactics of Stalin paralyzed the country and promoted a climate of widespread terror.

Some victims claimed they would rather have been killed than sent to endure the torturous conditions at the infamous Gulag labor camps. Many who were sent to the Gulag camps were ultimately executed.

Although most historians estimate that at least 750,000 people were killed during the Great Purge, there’s debate over whether this number should be much higher. Some experts believe the true death figure is at least twice as high.

Because many people simply vanished, and killings were often covered up, an exact death toll is impossible to determine. To further complicate the matter, prisoners in the labor camps commonly died of exhaustion, disease or starvation.


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