The Bolshevik revolution of 1917 was a monolithic worldwide event, its extent lasting well into the late 20th century, however it is a viewpoint that little truly changed once the workers of Russia rose up and seized the means of production compared to the seemingly repressive life they had under tsarist Russia- so did the communist change all that much to such a vast country?
Alexander II promised reforms, a Russia with a firm leader who would listen to his people; he had dragged Russia out of a war that highlighted there behind-the-time methods. Alexander II made reforms across his reign, it could be argued that all of Alexander II’s reforms were aimed toward the industrialisation of Russia- Lenin however rarely did reforms and only under immense pressure did he pass the NEP, however the ideology of Alexander II did not even pass onto his children, so it is an unrealistic belief to consider Lenin a continuation of Alexander II’s reformist beliefs. Lenin ruled with unwavering beliefs- he was not interested by reforms as seen with the Kronstadt Rebellion- Lenin demanded unwavering loyalty and totalitarian control of Russia- to that extent he was indeed a continuation of the later Tsars- in my opinion Lenin may not have had the right of kings as a god given ruler, but as a ruler of the people by the people, this is reinforced by Lenin’s Marxist beliefs of international communism.
Autocracy & Dictatorship are simply quite similar. The way they act with disregard for rights, to lead from the top with very few equals gave Lenin & the Tsars their power, as unquestionable forces of Russia, Overall, they were similar in that belief- Both Lenin & Alexander III used fear to keep their enemies at bay- Fear & Terror tactics also wound into Nicholas’ Reign with Stolypin- if the people would not bend to reforms, then they would bend to force & repression. We see that in cases in Lenin’s period with the Krondstadt Rebellion, the Red Terror and the Civil war. Tsardom & Lenin also enjoyed very brief periods of reform- mostly in periods of difficult times when little else could have been done- Alexander reformed and rebuilt a country weak from war, overstretched and under-equipped and turned it towards industrial growth. Lenin took a country in those same exact circumstances and signs the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk- neither were what we traditionally know the Tsars or Communism for however it was these peaceful acts that started allowing the repression on top of the growth of rebellion and civil unrest. Communists were in my belief just a more brutal version of what had ruled Russia for the past 3 centuries.
There were also a lot of differences, Russia being governed by Tsars involved support of the other key parties, for Tsardom it was the triangle of Religion, Tsardom & Military. The poor looked up to religion and thus the tsar, they supported the army and thus the Tsar, the tsar was god given ruler- thus the tsar had the birth right to be a ruler. Lenin revolted against a near crumbling government that had little power over what laws it could pass, they were unpopular and did less to help people than even Nicholas did. Lenin’s rise to power was not one by birth right but by cunning – Lenin’s uprising could have possibly been more of a coup by intellectuals, by October the provisional government were not popular it could have really been any party that could have overthrown them, but it was Lenin, a man cast into exile, funded by the Germans who summed up the problems of a whole nation and promised to resolve them yet never did. Lenin lacked the authority of the Tsar’s, he was against the idea of people who aided the Tsars and had power over the people by status alone, the Tsars held them highly as symbols of their reign. Lenin held them at theoretical gunpoint. The Orthodox church, once the primary source of popularity for the Tsars had little impact in Lenin’s period. Their Ideologies could not differ more as well; the autocratic rule wished to preserve the idea of the people looking up to a ruler- the god given king. International communism wanted nothing to do with that focusing on obliterating class and uniting the workers by seizing the means of production and throwing down their chains- these claims by a man whose party never achieved majority support from its people- so at least he had something in common with the late Nicholas & the provisional government.
Overall Lenin was the continuation of the tsars in a few ways, Lenin in my opinion most closely resembles Alexander III, both the idea of Repression to rule, both were very charismatic men who could get people on their side and both with unwavering loyalty- ironic then that Alexander III may well have been the catalyst for Lenin’s Political rage with the execution of his brother. Lenin was not a reformist like Alexander II, Lenin was very willing to rule and showed almost no weakness when it came to his decisions so he was by no means a weak and uneasy ruler like Nicholas II, Lenin was a man with Ideals that would carry with them fear for the world- that is why I believe Lenin’s rule showed much more continuity than change for Russia and its people.
© Ryan Ford 2018