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Study questions on Ronald Grigor Suny, The Soviet Experiment:  Russia, the USSR, and the Successor States (New York:  Oxford University Press, 1998)  

Week 4

Chapter 2, The Double Revolution, pages 52-55; Chapter 3, Socialism and Civil War, pages 56-72.

From Ch. 2, pp.52-55:

How does Suny explain Lenin’s strategy in October 1917?

Why was the Military Revolutionary Committee of the Petrograd Soviet so important to the October Revolution?

How did the Bolsheviks actually seize power in Petrograd?

What basic positions have historians taken towards the October Revolution?

What is Suny’s thesis in this chapter?

From Ch. 3, pp. 56-72:

Explain Suny’s summary of the three general positions that historians have taken concerning the origins of Soviet authoritarianism. Does Suny support one of these arguments, or does he try to build a synthesis? Explain.

Does Suny think that the Bolsheviks had specific detailed plans for what they would do once they were in power? Explain.

Did the Bolsheviks have a majority at the Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets? Explain why the congress created an all-Bolshevik government (the Council of People’s Commissars).

What major policies did Lenin announce at the Second Congress of Soviets? Why were these important?

Who (what groups) initially supported and who opposed the Bolshevik takeover?

When and why did Lenin agree to admit Left SRs into his new government?

What kinds of reforms/legal changes did the Bolsheviks try to make in the first months of the new Soviet government?

Who "won" the elections to the Constituent Assembly, and what did the Bolsheviks do about it? Why? And why (according to Suny) was this action so significant?

Did Lenin argue in January 1918 that the Soviet government could build socialism "on its own"? Explain.

Did Lenin have a clear model (from Marx) of how to build a socialist society? Explain.

What relationship did Lenin think that the Russian revolution would have to the future "world revolution"? Explain.

Suny defines three periods of Soviet economic policy during between 1917 and the 1920s. What are these?

Why did Lenin’s government favor "workers’ control"? Did the government interpret this idea the same way that radical workers did? Explain.

Did Lenin want the government to take control of all the factories (to nationalize them) in October 1917? What forces and pressures led to the nationalization of industry in Spring 1918?

Did Lenin believe that workers could really run the factories all by themselves in early 1918? Explain.

Did Lenin think that Socialism could be built without the use of violence and dictatorship? Explain.

Why and when did Lenin’s government begin using terror as a political tool?

What was the Cheka?

What issues tore apart the Bolshevik-Left SR alliance in 1918?

What were the aims of Soviet diplomacy in the first months of the new regime?

What position did foreign states take towards the new Soviet government? Why?

Why did Lenin and Trotsky want peace with Germany in 1918? What did the Germans want at Brest-Litovsk? Did all Bolsheviks agree with Lenin’s policy towards peace with Germany? How did Lenin justify this policy? Explain.

What were the results of the peace treaty with Germany—in particular, what were the political results in Russia?

What kinds of opposition did the Bolsheviks face in Spring 1918? How did they respond?

As Russia headed toward Civil War, who were the "Reds"? The "Whites"? What side did the non-Bolshevik socialist parties take in this conflict in early summer 1918?

Why did the Bolsheviks begin using mass terror in late June 1918? And why did the terror increase after August 1918?

Who were the principle victims of the "Red Terror"?

Were the Bolsheviks the only group using terror as a weapon? Explain. What was the "White Terror," and who were its principle victims?