to syllabus

Study Questions on R. G. Suny, The Structure of Soviet History:  Essays and Documents (New York:  Oxford University Press, 2003).  Week V, pp. 48-62, 77-86.

pp. 48-50.  Suny's chapter intro.

Why does Suny think that the Civil War was "foundational for what became the Soviet system"?

According to Sun, how did the Civil War transform the Communist Party?

One of the central questions historians of the Civil War era ask is--were the measures taken by the Bolsheviks in 1918-1921 prefigured by Marxist ideology (were the Bolsheviks following a clear "plan"), or were the Bolsheviks simply responding "reactively" to the crises that confronted them from moment to moment?  How does Suny seem to answer this question?


pp. 50-62.  Holquist, "'Information is the Alpha and Omega..."

What are Holquist's aims in this essay?

In the essay's third paragraph, he tells you his thesis (his main point).  In your own words, what is his main point?

Does Holquist think that Soviet "civilization" (and the surveillance practices of the Soviet regime) were "unique"?  Explain.

What region is he studying and why?  What can this region tell us about Bolshevik practices?

How is he defining surveillance?  Is it just about determining the population's "mood"?  Explain.

Why, according to historians, do states engage in surveillance?

What is the point of Holquist's comparison of surveillance in 1913 to that in 1920 (e.g., concerning the perlustration of mail)?  Does he think that this proves that Soviet Russia was "unique"?

When does Holquist think the Tsarist state became very serious about surveillance, and why? 

According to Holquist, what agency of the Tsarist state was most advanced in its surveillance efforts?  Explain.

Does Holquist see the surveillance concerns of the Civil War-era Soviet state as fundamentally different from those of the WWI era Tsarist state?  Explain.

What is the point of Holquist's comparison of "Red" surveillance and "White" surveillance?

Why did the anti-Soviet movements in the Don conduct surveillance?  What two basic functions did it fill?  And were their agencies/practices or concerns radically different from those of the "Reds"?  Explain.

What differences does Holquist see between Red and White surveillance?

If Bolshevik surveillance was neither uniquely Russian nor uniquely Marxist, then (according to Holquist) how can we explain it?

According to Holquest, did the surveillance as a generalized state practice end with the Great War (and the Russian Civil War)?  Explain.  What does he mean by the "National Security State"?

What does Holquist see as distinctly important about the influence of Marxism on the character of the Soviet Russian version of the national security state?

So, again, what is Holquist's thesis?


pp. 77-86

pp. 77-82, Martov's 16 June 1918 letter to Stein

Martov describes the Bolsheviks as having pulled off a coup in June 1918; what makes him say this, and what does it tell you both about how the left Mensheviks hopes for young Soviet state?  What does it tell you about the Bolshevik approach to their socialist opponents?

Martov describes a pattern of Bolshevik behavior towards their opponents in the Soviets--what is this pattern?  What does it tell you about popular understandings of the young Soviet state in Spring 1918?  About the Bolshevik attitude towards power?

According to Martov's letter, how did workers respond to the centralization of the Soviet state apparatus and to Bolshevik repression of their opponents?  And what hopes did Martov have for the "independent" workers' assemblies?

Does Martov's description of workers' response to Bolshevik political repression paint a picture of Russia's workers as passive and compliant? 

Should we take Martov's description as evidence that the working class as a whole was hostile to Bolshevik rule by June 1918, and that the Bolsheviks held power only through repression?  How does Martov explain the fact that most workers were not engaged in active protests against the Bolsheviks?  And who does he say did support the Bolsheviks?  (Step back for a second and think about our discussion of how the socialist parties used class labels [remember Kolonitskii?]--how might that help us in critically analyzing this document?)

Does Martov think Lenin's government will last?  Explain.


pp. 82-83, Lenin's 11 August 1918 letter to Kuraev, et al (in Penza)

As Suny explains in his intro to this document, and as we have seen already, Lenin in power did not hesitate to use repression against political opponents.  In this document, he is directing a local Communist Party organization on how they must respond to peasant unrest.  The term "kulak" generally refers to the "wealthy," "exploiting" peasants  (peasants who loaned other peasants money or seed or tools at interest).  How does Lenin seem to be using the term here?

How can we use our discussion of "anti-bourgeois consciousness" and the political use of class labels to understand Lenin's language in this document?

Think about Holquist's discussion of surveillance as a tool for re-shaping society; does Lenin seem to be using repression in a similar manner?  Explain.


pp. 83-86, Trotskii's 2 March 1919 Report on the Red Army

Based upon Suny's intro (etc), how and why did Trotsky re-organize the Red Army in 1918?

Explain how Trotskii's justified these military "reforms" in his March 1919 presentation before the First Congress of the Communist International (a body likely to see such reforms as a step back from the cause).

Remember that we discussed the "dual" nature of early Soviet foreign policy--that it functioned both as "normal" diplomacy, necessary for practical purposes, and at the same time endorsed the spread of the revolution--how might we fit Trotskii's speech into this framework?