March 01, 2011

One Step Backward

In february 1921, the Bolsheviks were in serious danger of losing their hold on power. Yet just one month later, their grip was securely restored. What happened over the course of that one month to so change the situation?

At the start of 1921 Soviet Russia lay in ruins. The Civil War was essentially over and all or almost all of the forces arrayed against the Bolsheviks were vanquished. Admiral Kolchak had been shot and the White generals Denikin and Wrangel had fled the country in defeat. England and France, which had tried to aid the White cause, now saw their intervention as futile. Not only were they bringing home their troops, who were utterly exhausted after years of war, but they were even considering recognizing the new government and entering into negotiations with it.

But at the same time the Bolsheviks were beginning to confront an enemy more powerful than all the White armies put together. It turned out that the “exploiters” – landowners deprived of their lands, entrepreneurs whose factories and stores had been expropriated, priests outraged by the desecration of churches – were not the only ones unhappy with the new government. By early 1921, the very “masses” on whose behalf the revolution had supposedly been perpetrated – the workers and peasants who, in theory, should have been enjoying unprecedented well-being under the new government – were now turning against the Bolsheviks.

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