Author Topic: The Russian Revolution - Causes and/or Prevention?  (Read 43818 times)

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The Russian Revolution - Causes and/or Prevention?
« on: April 25, 2004, 11:17:44 AM »
Joanna:
You wrote: "As I understand you (and I might be wrong) you suggest that Nicholas was powerless to save himself from the Revolution, while I feel that he had over 20 years as an Autocrat and thus every opportunity to aid his people and thus possibly change his own fate."

I don't suggest that Nicholas was "powerless" to save himself. However, one MUST look from Nicholas's perspective to genuinely assess his decisions.
The Tsar was the center of Russia, politically and economically, and had been for 300 years. Changing the status quo of his father, grandfather and Ggrandfather would be seen as a sign of weakness by the peasants. This in fact was the case. After 1906, his "reforms" were seen by the average peasant as a loss of his (literally) "awesome" power.
As for aiding his people, he felt he was doing EVERYTHING to aid his people...
You forget that Nicholas did not abdicate to bring down the throne. He abdicated to SAVE the throne. He felt that Michael would be seen as a stronger leader.

Then you say:  
     "I agree that 300 years of Tsarist Rule had lead to a very unwieldy goverment which I think we both realize was unable to cope with the demands of the 20th century. Yet I still feel that Nicholas had so many missed chances for viable change for his people and himself. He could have taken atvantage of the peasant issue and truly made himself the "People's Tsar". He could have mandated right and liberties, encouraged economic and land reform. He could even have given his people a constitution and become a constitutional monarch. Sadly he failed to do anything like this... "

See above, and frankly, by Nicholas's time, it wouldn't have worked. The peasant were so distanced from the rest of Russian society by then, they still would have had no reason to support the Tsar. The word "Mir" means village, community and world....Petersburg could have been London or Hong Kong for that matter to the peasants. As for being "The People's Tsar" look at what happened to Alexander II for trying that. Frankly, Alexander I should have been the one to start the reforms for any hope of a constitutional monarchy to succeed. BUT, the thought of such a thing was impossible for any 19th century Tsar to consider genuinely.  

To blame Nicholas, one must also blame Alexander III, Alexander II, Nicholas I, Alexander I, and Catherine, frankly.
Also, the communes did in fact own the land, and allocate plots to their members. The ownership figures cited by Prof. Pipes are in fact quite accurate. Don't necessarily place all your eggs in Figes' basket, he went into his book with an attitude, that highly influenced his perceptions and conclusions (many of which were foregone before page 1 was written). Read more history by more impartial historians before you make such sweeping pronouncements. the subject is far less "cut and dried" than you seem to see it.
FA
 

Joanna Mayer

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Re: The Russian Revolution - Causes and/or Prevention?
« Reply #1 on: April 25, 2004, 01:04:26 PM »
Dear Web Administrator,

Ouch!

As far as blaming Alexander II as well as Nicholas, you have a point. Alexander did too little too late. In fact I suppose that I hoped that Nicholas might to try to appreciate all the differant aspects of the growing russian society, not just have  "faith in the love of the common folk." Many other historians - Crankshaw for one- have pointed out that Nicholas seemed to have no understanding of about 3 million of his subjects (scholars teachers ,writers,scientists economists artists businessmen, workers, theoriticians etc.) Admitedly he thought that he had the love of about 17 million so I guess he thought why bother? Maybe had there been any sense of sympathy between the elite new class (Crankshaws term not mine) and the Tsar, things might have been differant. I supposed that sooner or later I expected someone in the Autocracy to do something. Why not Nicholas?  

As far as your suggstion to read other historians, I am quite familiar with Pipes, as well as Sydney Monas, E.  Crankshaw and A. Ascher- his work on Axelrod is especially interesting . I quote from Figes because he seems to have a clearer insight than Pipes. Sorry you find his work so bias.  

Am I getting too tiresome?
Could you recommend some other sourses, that is if your not loosing patience with me.
Joanna Mayer

Offline aligertz

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Re: The Russian Revolution - Causes and/or Prevention?
« Reply #2 on: January 14, 2005, 01:44:49 AM »
lets look at the facts...in February food shortages led to scattered rioting in Petrograd - the local barracks full of raw recruits drank and joined in.big deal!'disturbing the peace'!one good police baton charge would have cleared the streets and normalcy would have been restored.end of revolution!
only the health of the Tsarevich cast a shadow on matters and even there,if need be, H.I.H Nicholas could have (and did) take the 75% legal option of abdicating the second time on behalf of his brother Mikhail.i really do believe this would have passed muster with the legal courts.
but no.present at the scene where Mikhail had to make his decision was a well-meaning but essentially stupid man A.F.Kerensky.HE had to have a Republic at all costs
and his ego would NOT accept a constitutional Monarchy which is what Mikhail himself favored.
please :) i invite you good folks to disagree but A.F.Kerensky made Feb. and Oct. inevitable.thats MY
opinion.
what is your's? :)

Offline Elisabeth

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Re: The Russian Revolution - Causes and/or Prevention?
« Reply #3 on: January 14, 2005, 04:21:34 AM »
I'm afraid I have to disagree with you, Aligertz. I'm no fan of Kerensky, but you can't blame him for the Russian Revolution(s). So many factors went into this cataclysm, some of them reaching as far back into history as the reign of Peter the Great. This is what made the Russian Revolution inevitable, not the actions of any single individual.

However, if any one historical factor can be called decisive in March 1917, it was World War I. For a whole host of reasons, early twentieth-century Russia simply lacked the socio-economic, administrative, and political infrastructure to conduct a full-scale "modern" European war. The entire autocratic system collapsed under the strain.

But this was not the first time in Russian history (nor would it be the last!) that military disaster sparked radical change, whose primary aim was to modernize Russian industry and society for the purpose of keeping the country a European power. A good example of this overall historical pattern was the debacle of the Crimean War some sixty years before, which led directly to Alexander II's "revolution from above" - the sweeping reforms of the 1860s. A more recent example would be the war in Afghanistan of the late 1970s, which many historians view as an important factor in the ultimate disintegration of the Soviet regime a mere decade later.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by Elisabeth »
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rskkiya

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Re: The Russian Revolution - Causes and/or Prevention?
« Reply #4 on: January 14, 2005, 09:12:52 AM »
Elizabeth has made her points quite well and I must agree with her.
To suggest that Kerensky was somehow entirely responsible for the March and October Revolutions is a rather historically shallow interpretation of the facts.

rskkiya

Offline aligertz

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Re: The Russian Revolution - Causes and/or Prevention?
« Reply #5 on: January 14, 2005, 10:31:33 AM »
dear rskkiya
  i am a confirmed Monarchist so this is the perspective i bring to the question of 1917 as a whole.as a monarchist i am naturally concerned with the 'legitimate principle' and the godly rights of kings.
H.I.H Nicholas began the disaster when he abdicated for Alexis.that was clearly a violation...yes we grant him the natural feelings of a parent for the fate of their child but there were no reason why Mikhail could not serve as Regent until the Tsarevitch turned of age.
Kerensky however exaggerated the popular 'rage' of the masses,enough to scare the skin off of Mikhail SO the republican essentially got what he wanted and Russia then had no legitimacy thereafter much like Iraq
today.and the republican didnt care,he spent the 8 month odyssey riding about in cars from the Imperial Garage and so forth WHILE in the absence of a unifying
nerve center,such as a crown,the country understandably came apart.remember,during the Kornilov Affair kerensky let the reds out of jail and
proceeded to arm them into a defense militia.just a mere
month later these same reds practically walked into the Winter Palace and evicted the'republic'!
so,rskkiya,i hope i havent been too long winded in my response but ANY 'monarchist' interpretation of 1917 is
bound to be narrow.i'm used to it...... :)

best wishes
aligertz

rskkiya

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Re: The Russian Revolution - Causes and/or Prevention?
« Reply #6 on: January 14, 2005, 01:08:54 PM »
Quote
Elizabeth has made her points quite well and I must agree with her.
To suggest that Kerensky was somehow entirely responsible for the March and October Revolutions is a rather historically shallow interpretation of the facts.

rskkiya


I am neither pro/con monarchist, but I am a historian .
I stand by my statement.

Offline Belochka

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Re: The Russian Revolution - Causes and/or Prevention?
« Reply #7 on: January 14, 2005, 09:45:01 PM »
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I'm no fan of Kerensky, but you can't blame him for the Russian Revolution(s). So many factors went into this cataclysm, some of them reaching as far back into history as the reign of Peter the Great. This is what made the Russian Revolution inevitable, not the actions of any single individual.


Elizabeth, why blame Peter the Great? I must have missed this connection somewhere.

To singly place blame on Kerensky is avoiding many issues which lead to Russia's demise as a democratic State. The forces came not only from above, they came from the left, and they came from the right, and before long they came from outside.

The revolutionary fervor could have been curbed ... Imperial Russia was strong, in the main its people had faith and confidence in their Batyushka, the Emperor when Russia entered WWI.

This unfortunate war revealed Russia's shortcomings, the treasonous activities of its War Minister, which led to lack of military apparel to be supplied to the troops. Factories were unable to provide war materiel fast enough. Persistant defeat on the battlefront lead to much dissolussionment by the brave soldiers. These soldiers were the very backbone upon which Russia relied, for soon they began seeking emotional strength elsewhere. Revolutionary thoughts became the words of fire for a new battlefront.

And then Protocol # 1 ensured that mutiny and murder of Imperial officers and consequent collapse of military law and order ... everything that previously provided the militaristic status quo had collapsed, for it  became the new order of the day. Soldiers returned home without leave, tired hungry and emotionally broken. Losses were enormous, those who remained did not want death.

One must not forget that Nikolai's Army Generals, who except for one (who committed suicide shortly after), all turned their back on Nikolai's plee for moral support. It was their own collective treasonous behaviour that contributed directly to Nikolai's own decision to sign his Abdication Manifesto.  

And then there was the huge consideration of German finances that contributed to Russia's new battle cry and it was they who skilfully manipulated this national weakness ... A lack of faith and respect in their fellow man, country and Emperor. This fatal injection was not immunized but allowed to fester until finally the sealed train brought Lenin and his cohorts to Finland Station .....

It was a pushover .... but rewards were so few, for soon the Russian people were deceived yet again and had to fight another internal battle which enveloped them for another eighty years.

The real cause was not Kerensky alone but the weakness of the Russian nation seeking an illusionary ideal which was never realized.  


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Offline Olga

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Re: The Russian Revolution - Causes and/or Prevention?
« Reply #8 on: January 15, 2005, 05:45:09 AM »
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one good police baton charge would have cleared the streets and normalcy would have been restored.end of revolution


Aligertz, I don't think you understand that people rioting in the streets were doing it for a reason. Can you see where I'm heading?

Offline Elisabeth

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Re: The Russian Revolution - Causes and/or Prevention?
« Reply #9 on: January 15, 2005, 06:18:31 AM »
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Elizabeth, why blame Peter the Great? I must have missed this connection somewhere.


I'm not "blaming" Peter the Great! I stated that many of the problems confronting Russia in 1917 had originated during the REIGN of Peter the Great and had not been resolved in the intervening 200 years. Chief among these (and the one most frequently cited by historians) was the enormous division created in Russian society by Peter the Great's reforms - between a tiny, educated and thoroughly Westernized elite, and the vast majority of the population, who remained illiterate, impoverished peasants mired in the antiquated agricultural system and cultural mores of their ancestors. By 1917 serfdom was gone, yes, but peasants and the elite still regarded each other with tremendous suspicion and sometimes even outright hostility (e.g., the peasant violence against landowners during the 1905 Revolution, and the subsequent outpouring of anti-peasant literature produced by writers like Gorky and Chekhov).

What the peasants wanted first and foremost was land and an end to the war. Whether or not the first was an illusory goal is, historically speaking, a moot point (well, of course it was illusory - there were too many peasants and not enough land, as Orlando Figes has shown). Lenin and the Bolsheviks cynically promised the peasantry the land and an end to the war in exchange for their support. True, many peasants (the "Greens") revolted against both the Whites and the Reds after October 1917. But overall, in contrast to the Whites, the Bolsheviks offered a cohesive political programme with a broad mass appeal. This doesn't mean their ultimate victory was democratic - far from it, as we all know - for example, the Socialist Revolutionaries had considerably more support in the countryside than the Bolsheviks, but were politically outmaneuvered by them. But in the end this singlemindedness of purpose did make the Bolsheviks a much stronger force to be reckoned with than their politically divided opponents.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by Elisabeth »
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Offline Belochka

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Re: The Russian Revolution - Causes and/or Prevention?
« Reply #10 on: January 15, 2005, 10:41:05 PM »
Peter the Great's Table of Ranks created a practical categorization of Russians employed in the government sphere. It served as a basis to create a sense of duty and including military service to the nation. No man was strictly isolated in wanting to aspire even to its lowest ranks. It was in theory a system based on merit for service rendered, and not qualified by deprivation because of lowly birth.

I do not believe that this was a form of alienation for the majority of Russia's people. The majority of serfs did not care for education nor for the educated. Even Gorki' alluded to these issues in his first trilogy Childhood.

To permit privileges based on rank is no different to modern society today.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by Belochka »


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Offline Elisabeth

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Re: The Russian Revolution - Causes and/or Prevention?
« Reply #11 on: January 16, 2005, 04:36:03 AM »
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Peter the Great's Table of Ranks created a practical categorization of Russians employed in the government sphere. It served as a basis to create a sense of duty and including military service to the nation. No man was strictly isolated in wanting to aspire even to its lowest ranks. It was in theory a system based on merit for service rendered, and not qualified by deprivation because of lowly birth.

I do not believe that this was a form of alienation for the majority of Russia's people. The majority of serfs did not care for education nor for the educated. Even Gorki' alluded to these issues in his first trilogy Childhood.

To permit privileges based on rank is no different to modern society today.


Belochka, I apologize if I am being unclear. The Table of Ranks has very little to do with the point I am making...I am merely repeating, or trying to repeat, however ineptly, a basic truism of Slavic studies which most college students learn in Russian History 101. So let me try again.

As you know, Peter the Great's Westernizing reforms transformed the uppercrust of Russian society whilst basically leaving untouched the remaining 80-90 percent of the population. Beginning in the early nineteenth century, this division in Russian society led to an acute spiritual crisis amongst the emerging intelligentsia, which was searching for a national identity. Was Russia a European nation or an Asian one? Or was it some sort of hybrid? The "Westernizers" argued the former, and consequently regarded the Russian peasantry as a drag on the process of civilizing (basically Europeanizing) Russia; whereas the "Slavophiles" took the opposite view, believing that only the peasantry had preserved intact the true Russian national identity, uncontaminated by European ways.

From this identity crisis arose much of nineteenth-century Russian philosophy, which in turn engendered the populist movement of the 1870s, in which scores of young people from the elite attempted to "go to the people," i.e., to bridge the gap between themselves and the peasantry by means of educating and enlightening the masses. This attempt was a resounding failure - the peasants met the "narodniks" with a mixture of suspicion and incomprehension - and the resulting disillusionment amongst the narodniks led directly to the birth of the Russian revolutionary movement of the 1880s and beyond.        

I agree with you that there was some social mobility in imperial Russia, thanks to Peter the Great's Table of Ranks: the most outstanding example being the "raznochintsy." But they only serve to further illustrate my point. The "raznochintsy" were not of peasant origin, but mostly came from the clerical class. For that matter, they were also deeply preoccupied with the issues of national identity and the peasant "problem." These men, like the great literary critic Belinsky, perhaps suffered more intensely than anyone else over the gap in Russian society between the haves and the have-nots.

Indeed, Russian literature is replete with the peasant theme. One has only to read the great works of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky to understand how central the issue of the peasantry was to the search for a national identity in nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century Russia. To generalize, before the Revolution of 1905, Russian writers, whether Slavophile or not, tended to idealize the Russian peasant as the repository of true morality and the Russian ethos, a sort of noble savage. After the major outbreaks of peasant violence during the Revolution of 1905, many Russian intellectuals became disillusioned with the peasant and this disillusionment is reflected in the works of writers like Andrei Bely and Anton Chekhov, with their dark, mainly negative views of peasant life. (As for Gorky, he always despised the peasantry, and of course he depicts them as contemptible souls happy to wallow in their ignorance.)

But all of this has been written about at great length by any number of historians. One could even say without exaggeration that the divide between the elite and the peasantry was the central problem of post-Petrine imperial Russian history and one which was only really "solved" when Stalin instituted forced collectivization, thereby killing 20 million peasants and basically destroying the peasantry and their culture in one blow.  
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by Elisabeth »
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Offline Belochka

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Re: The Russian Revolution - Causes and/or Prevention?
« Reply #12 on: February 01, 2005, 05:11:49 AM »
Quote
One could even say without exaggeration that the divide between the elite and the peasantry was the central problem of post-Petrine imperial Russian history and one which was only really "solved" when Stalin instituted forced collectivization, thereby killing 20 million peasants and basically destroying the peasantry and their culture in one blow.  


And what was the result, surely you are not contending that the Soviet Union produced a more even playing field?

It was under Lenin foremost, and then later under Stalin's management that the problem of private ownership was solved by sacrificing millions of peasants, and providing in its place forced collectivization of privately owned land. This turned back everything which Stolypin's reforms were trying to achieve - to increase the yield on the tracts land. Despite what the peasantry were led to believe, there was not enough arable land. The myth of "taking all the land for the peasants" was to be perpetuated by the revolutionary cri du coeur, to take everything into their own hands. But how long did this deception prevail?

Freedom of movement, expression and incentive were suppressed, only to be replaced by bloody red terror by the cheka and then by the NKVD, initially to prevent the regime from collapsing, and later to minimize possible counter-revolutionary thoughts.

Imperial Russia's real enemy was not Nikolai, but it was the intellectuals and revolutionary elements, each having their own motives and thoughts of a utopia, blaming the monarchy at every phase. Nikolai reluctantly permitted a multi party system, but it was Lenin who organized political warfare, and ensured that there were to be no rival parties.

It was Lenin who neutralized the peasants, he confiscated their land, nationalized all property and ensured that the little the peasants owned would be confiscated from them, until there was no more. All these factors ensured that the crop failures would bring about famines in Russia and the Ukraine. According to American sources, 33.5 million succumbed during 1921 alone. The Raging famines of the 1920's and 30's of unprecedented proportions were never experienced in Imperial times.    

The Criminal Code of 1922, decreed that, teaching of religion to persons under the age of 18 in public places such as schools and private establishments, was punishable by forced labor. This privilege was freely enjoyed under Nikolai government. Religion was fundamental to the psychic of the peasant.

There was a saying:

Ne urozhai, ot Boga, (No harvest, its from God)
Golod, ot ludei (Famine is caused by people)  


While Stalin continued Lenin's agenda, he was unique in that he liquidated all his opponents including the intellectuals. Nikolai never had his opponent's blood on his hands.

Despite all this, human resilience prevailed, peasants did not disappear from the face of Russian earth.  It is incorrect to suggest that the culture had been destroyed, it could still be seen and heard in the rural regions. Many still maintained their spiritual beliefs, nor did they forget their traditional learned crafts, and they were still able to sing ancient songs and be entertained by their time honored dances.

« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by Belochka »


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Re: The Russian Revolution - Causes and/or Prevention?
« Reply #13 on: February 01, 2005, 06:36:13 AM »
Quote
Imperial Russia's real enemy was not Nikolai, but it was the intellectuals and revolutionary elements, each having their own motives and thoughts of a utopia, blaming the monarchy at every phase.


While the monarchy didn't even *try*.  Any "imperialist," if they ever had a thought at all about even self-preservation, should have realized that Nicky boy was *too* their enemy.  No doubt many did.

Quote
The Criminal Code of 1922, decreed that, teaching of religion to persons under the age of 18 in public places such as schools and private establishments, was punishable by forced labor. This privilege was freely enjoyed under Nikolai government. Religion was fundamental to the psychic of the peasant.


There's the law and then there's the truth of the matter.  Russians continued not only to be religious and practice their religion if they chose to, they also continued to raise their children to believe the same and YES, if they wanted to, they went to church.  Yes, religion is fundamental to the psyche of the peasant and it *continued* to be throughout the years of the soviet union and afterwards. No, the government didn't encourage it and yes, many churches were destroyed and shut down, but not all by a long shot.  NOTHING about the religion aspects post-revolution should EVER be generalized.

Quote
While Stalin continued Lenin's agenda, he was unique in that he liquidated all his opponents including the intellectuals. Nikolai never had his opponent's blood on his hands.


Just the blood of his people.  

And everyone knows what *that's* worth to imperial types.

Quote
Despite all this, human resilience prevailed, peasants did not disappear from the face of Russian earth.  It is incorrect to suggest that the culture had been destroyed, it could still be seen and heard in the rural regions. Many still maintained their spiritual beliefs, nor did they forget their traditional learned crafts, and they were still able to sing ancient songs and be entertained by their time honored dances.
 


Wow, you speak about Russian peasants as if they were some sort of quaint little pet.  The "peasantry" was, is, and very likely always be the overwhelming majority of Russians. Far too many died, and yet FAR more was accomplished to improve the lives of the overwhelming millions more that lived and would live, and this was accomplished only during Soviet times.

The peasants were the ones who built an industrialized nation, won a war for the world, and educated their populace.  They also managed to take time from their "singing and dancing" to explore space, design and implement technology still used by the rest of the world, and also live(d) very much like "peasants" in the 20th-21st century west.

Dashkova

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Re: The Russian Revolution - Causes and/or Prevention?
« Reply #14 on: February 01, 2005, 02:26:04 PM »
Quote

Yes, it  is probably better to avoid looking at "the law" too closely since that might seem to throw a spanner into the "Tsar, bad; commissar, Heaven on Earth" position, so I'll skip for the moment pointing out that all the Communist regime(s) did in Russia was to take the framework instituted during the Imperial era, many times borrowing nearly the exact wording, and close the various loopholes to render the system effective.

May I presume from this that you believe Lenin and Stalin, and their various & varied underlings had no blood on their hands?  Or weren't they, somehow, "their" people?

The individuals who made up Stalin's "statistics" might perhaps have disagreed with the presumption, here, that they were worth more in the new regime than in the former.  But then, as someone else once famously remarked, "Nobody speaks of the Armenians any more".


Well, you're certainly right about it being accomplished in Soviet times.  One is permitted to wonder, however, about what might have been accomplished has the Russian people been spared those "Soviet times".  Materially, the life of most common, every-day people improved markedly, in most Western industrialised nations, especially in the years post World War II.


I've got to presume from this that these "peasants" you speak of were willing participants in this industrialisation, and that they reaped all or, at the least, most of the benefits which were thereby gained?

As to winning that World War, I think that perhaps some assistance may have been given by at least one or two nations.

As for education, did the Soviet state have nothing to do with this?  Were these peasants of yours, then, free to learn how, what, & when they wished, without any kind of governmental or political interference by others?

You've often cited education as one of the many boons the common people gained during that wonderful era you so quaintly refer to as "Soviet times".  Since you have also challenged a number of people to back up their own assertions with some cold, hard fact more than a number of times, is it permissible to ask you to quote the literacy rates for the Russian people, say at 20-year intervals (roughly a generation), starting after the Revolution?



Ok, let's see...

As to the education question, I will definitely look into that, in fact, my thesis deals indirectly with the subject of Soviet education, so that is one thing you've written that I can be bothered with!

Will definitely post my discoveries as they occur!


« Last Edit: April 12, 2009, 10:59:34 PM by Alixz »