Socialism in Europe and the Russian Revolution Chapter Notes Class 9 History

Socialism in Europe and the Russian Revolution Chapter Notes: The Chapter Notes are given proper heading with all relevant points as given in the text matter of the chapter ‘Socialism in Europe and the Russian Revolution’ in the class 9 NCERT History book.

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Emergence of New Political Ideas in the Nineteenth Century

The Age of Social Change

  • The French Revolution opened up the possibility of bringing dramatic change in the way society was structured. Up to the 18th century, society was broadly divided into estates and orders, and the aristocracy and church controlled economic and social power.
  • After the revolution, individual rights and social power began to be discussed in many parts of the world including Europe and Asia.
  • The development in the colonies reshaped ideas of societal change.
  • Not everyone in Europe was in favour of complete transformation of society. Responses to new ideas varied from acceptance that some change was necessary but in a gradual shift to a desire to restructure society radically.
  • Some were conservatives while other were liberals or radicals. Socialism became one of the most significant and powerful ideas to shape society in the 20th century through Russian Revolution.


  • Liberals sought to change society. They wanted a nation that tolerated all religions.
  • They were against dynastic rulers with uncontrolled power.
  • They argued for an elected parliamentary government subject to laws interpreted by a well-trained and independent judiciary.
  • However, some liberal ideas were not democratic.
  • They were not in favour of universal adult franchise and wanted the voting rights only for men with property.


  • Radicals wanted a nation in which the government should be elected by a majority of the population.
  • They were in favour of women’s suffragette movement.
  • They opposed concentration of property in the hands of a few, but they did not oppose the existence of private property. 


  • Conservatives were opposed to radicals and liberals and wanted to discard the idea of changes.
  • However, their attitudes changed after the French revolution. By the 19th century, they accepted that some change was inevitable.
  • They were in favour of gradual change, with some preservation of old institutions.

Industrial society

  • Industrialisation gave rise to capitalism and altered the way markets and economies functioned.
  • Liberals, radicals and conservatives had different and often clashing opinions about the condition of the working class.
  • Men, women and children came to factories in search of work but working hours were long and wages were low.
  • There was unemployment when there was low demand for industrial goods. There were problems of housing and sanitation. Liberals and radicals searched for solutions to these issues.

Changes in the society

  • Many among the liberals and the radicals were property owners and employers. They wanted the benefit of industrialisation to reach the workforce. To make that happen, liberals and radicals started a movement and became revolutionaries. 
  • They believed that education and equal opportunity for all could uplift a majority of the poor and enable them to earn a better living. 
  • They wanted revolutions which could end all kind of governments established in Europe in 1815.
  • In France, Italy, Germany and Russia, they became revolutionaries and worked to overthrow existing monarchs.

Rise of Socialism in Europe?

  • Socialism was a radical idea that was based on the abolition of private property and projected a dream of classless society.
  • By the mid-19th century, the ideas of socialism had become well-known throughout Europe.
  • Socialists were against private property and considered it to be the root of all social evils. They wanted to change it and campaigned for the change. Some socialists believed in the idea of cooperatives.

Socialists and their ideas

(i) Robert Owen (1771–1858), a leading English manufacturer, sought to build a cooperative community called New Harmony in Indiana, USA.

(ii) Other socialists felt that co-operatives could not be built on a large scale only through individual initiatives. They demanded that governments should encourage cooperatives. Louis Blanc wanted the government to encourage cooperatives and replace capitalist enterprises.

(iii) Karl Marx (1818–83) and Friedrich Engels (1820–95) added other ideas to this body of arguments.

  • Marx argued that industrial society was capitalist.
  • He believed that the profits taken by factory owners were the surplus produced by workers.
  • He contended that all property should be owned by society and argued that workers should free themselves from capitalist exploitation and construct a radically socialist state where all property was socially controlled. That is, communist society should be formed, which was seen as the society of the future.

Spread of Socialism

  • Socialist ideas spread throughout Europe by the mid-19th century.
  • In the 1870s, socialists in different regions formed the Second International to coordinate their efforts to spread socialist ideas.
  • Workers’ associations were formed in France, Britain and Germany to fight for better living and working conditions. They set up funds for members in distress and pressurised governments to grant the right to vote to workers and demanded the reduction of working hours.
  • In Germany, the Socialist Democratic Party was formed. The German associations worked closely with the Social Democratic Party (SPD) in Germany and helped it in winning parliamentary seats.
  • The Labour Party was formed in Britain, and the Socialist Party was formed in France by 1905. However, until 1914, socialists did not succeed in forming a government in Europe. Their ideas did shape legislation, but governments continued to be run by conservatives, liberals and radicals.

The Social, Political & Economic Situation in Russia until 1914

Russia in the early 20th century

  • Socialists took over the government in Russia through the October Revolution of 1917. The fall of the monarchy in February 1917 and the events of October are called the Russian Revolution.
  • In 1914, Nicholas II ruled the Russian empire.
  • The Russian empire included current-day Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, parts of Poland, Ukraine and Belarus. It stretched to the Pacific and comprised today’s Central Asian states, as well as Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan.
  • The majority religion was Russian Orthodox Christianity, which had grown out of the Greek Orthodox Church.

Russia was an Agrarian Economy

  • At the beginning of the 20th century, about 85 per cent of the population earned its living through agriculture. Russia was a major exporter of grain.
  • Industry was found in pockets. Prominent industrial areas were St Petersburg and Moscow. Craftsmen undertook much of the production, but large factories existed alongside craft workshops.
  • With the expansion of the Russian rail network, foreign investment in factories grew. Coal production doubled, and production of iron and steel quadrupled.
  • Most industries were the private property of industrialists. Large factories were supervised by the government to ensure minimum wages and limited hours of work. Women made up 31 per cent of the factory labour force by 1914, but they were paid less than men for the same work.
  • Workers were a divided social group. They were also divided by skill. Despite divisions, workers united to stop work when they disagreed with employers about dismissals or work conditions.
  • In the countryside, peasants cultivated most of the land but the nobility, the crown and the Orthodox Church owned large properties. Nobles got power and position through their services to the Tsar.
  • Russian peasants mostly disregarded the nobility. Frequently, the peasantry rose up against the nobles and refused to pay rent and even murdered landlords.

Political Socialist Parties

  • All political parties in Russia were illegal before 1914. In 1898, socialists founded the Russian Social Democratic Workers Party that respected Marx’s ideas. Due to government’s policing, it had to operate as an illegal organisation.
  • Some Russian socialists felt that the Russian peasant custom of dividing land periodically made them natural socialists.
  • Throughout the 19th century, socialists were active in the countryside. They formed the Socialist Revolutionary Party in 1900.
  • The party fought for peasants’ rights and demanded that land belonging to nobles be transferred to peasants. Social democrats disagreed with socialist revolutionaries about peasants.
  • Vladimir Lenin, who led the Bolshevik group, thought that in a repressive society like tsarist Russia, the party should be disciplined and should control the number and quality of its members. Mensheviks thought that the party should be open to all.

The Revolution of 1905

  • Russia was an autocracy and even at the beginning of the 20th century, the tsar’s actions were not subject to parliament’s laws. During the revolution of 1905, together with the social democrats and socialist revolutionaries, liberals in Russia worked with peasants and workers to demand a constitution.
  • They were supported in the empire by nationalists and in Muslim-dominated areas by jadidists who wanted modernised Islam to lead their societies.
  • For Russian workers, 1904 was a particularly bad year as prices of essential goods rose and their real wages declined by 20 per cent.
  • When four members of the Assembly of Russian Workers, which had been formed in 1904, were dismissed at the Putilov Iron Works, there was a call for industrial action.
  • Over the next few days, over 110,000 workers in St Petersburg went on strike demanding a reduction in the working day to eight hours, an increase in wages and improvement in working conditions.

Bloody Sunday & 1905 Revolution

  • The procession led by Father Gapon was attacked by the police and the Cossacks when it reached the Winter Palace. The incident, known as Bloody Sunday, started a series of events which resulted in the 1905 Revolution.
  • Strikes took place all over the country and universities closed down when student bodies staged walkouts, complaining about the lack of civil liberties.
  • During the 1905 Revolution, the tsar allowed the creation of an elected consultative parliament or Duma.
  • After 1905, most committees and unions worked unofficially, since they were declared illegal. Severe restrictions were placed on political activity.

The Effects of the First World War over Russia

Beginning of the First World War

The war was fought outside Europe as well as in Europe. In 1914, war broke out between two European alliances.

  • Central powers were Germany, Austria-Hungary and Turkey
  • Allied powers were France, Britain, Russia, Italy and Romania

Political situation in Russia

  • When the First World War broke out, the Tsar had the support of the Russian people.
  • The Tsar refused to consult the main parties in the Duma and the people’s support began to decline.
  • Anti-German sentiments ran high among the masses. Tsarina Alexandra (wife of Nicholas II) was of German origin. This resulted in the masses distrusting her during war times. The tsarina’s strong reliance on Rasputin, a German monk also angered people.
  • This could be seen in the renaming of St Petersburg (a German name) as Petrograd.

War fought on eastern and western front by Russia

  • The First World War on the eastern front differed from that on the western front.
  • In the west, armies fought from trenches stretched along eastern France. The western front was much smaller than the eastern front.
  • In the east, it stretched from the Baltic Sea in the north to the Black Sea in the south, involved most of eastern Europe and stretched deep into central Europe.
  • In the east, armies moved a good deal and fought battles leading to large casualties.

Loses during war

  • Between 1914 and 1916, Russian armies lost badly against Germany and Austria.
  • While retreating from the eastern front, Russian soldiers destroyed crops and buildings.
  • This prevented attacks from enemies as they could not live off the land, but it further aggravated the peasants.
  • The destruction of crops and buildings rendered over three million people refugees in Russia.

Impact of first world war on Russia

  • The war had a severe impact on industry.
  • By 1916, railways began to break down.
  • Since able-bodied men were called to war, there were labour shortages and small workshops were shut down.
  • Supplies of essential commodities were badly hit. Agricultural and industrial production declined.
  • Large quantities of grains were sent to feed the army, resulting in food shortages in cities and towns. By the winter of 1916, many cities witnessed bread riots.

February Revolution of 1917

Petrograd city and Social Divisions

  • The city of St Petersburg, which was renamed Petrograd, was the capital of the Russian empire until 1918.
  • The layout of the city emphasised its social divisions. The city was divided into two sections by the Neva River.
  • On the right bank of river Neva, factories and the quarters of factory workers were located. On the left bank was the posh area comprising the winter palace and official buildings.
  • In the winter of 1917, the condition of Petrograd was very gloomy.
  • There were food shortages in the workers’ quarters.

Beginning of the revolution

  • On the right bank of Neva, there was a lockdown in a factory on 22 February, 1917. 
  • The next day, a strike was called by the workers of 50 factories in sympathy.
  • In many factories, women also lead the way to strikes on 23 February 1917. Later, this day came to known as International Women’s Day.
  • As the fashionable quarters and official buildings were surrounded by workers, the government imposed a curfew. The demonstrators dispersed by the evening but came back on the 24th and the 25th. 
  • The government called the cavalry and the police to control the workers.
  • On 25 February 1917, the Duma was suspended.
  • On 26 February, demonstrators again appeared on the streets demanding fewer working hours, higher wages and democracy.
  • The government tried to control the situation with the help of the cavalry. But the cavalry refused to fire on the demonstrators.
  • An officer was killed at the barracks of a regiment and three other regiments mutinied supporting the strike of the workers.
  • After this incident, the soldiers and the striking workers gathered to form a ‘soviet’ or ‘council’, which later came to be known as the Petrograd soviet.

Fall of the Tsar and the Monarchy

  • The very next day, a delegation went to see the Tsar. Military commanders advised him to abdicate.
  • He followed their advice and abdicated on 2 March, 1917.
  • A new provisional government was formed by the soviet leaders.
  • The Petrograd revolution finally brought down the Russian monarchy in February, 1917.

After February Revolution

  • A provisional government was formed in which army officials, landowners and industrialists became very influential. The liberals as well as socialists worked towards an elected government.
  • The number of trade unions increased.
  • Restrictions on public meetings and the formation of organisations were removed.
  • Soviets, like the Petrograd soviet, were set up everywhere. However, no common system of election was yet formed.
  • Soldiers’ committees were formed in the army.
  • In individual areas factory committees were formed which began questioning the way industrialists ran their factories.
  • The provisional government saw its power declining and Bolshevik influence grow.
  • It decided to take stern measures against the spreading discontent. It resisted attempts by workers to run factories and arrested leaders
  • Peasants and the socialist revolutionary leaders pressed for a redistribution of land. Land committees were formed and peasants seized land between July and September 1917.

The October Revolution of 1917

April Theses

In April 1917, the Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin returned to Russia from exile. Lenin gave his ‘April theses’ in which he made three demands. These are:

(i) The war to be brought to end.

(ii) The land to be transferred to the peasants.

(iii) The banks to be nationalized.

The Revolution of October 1917

  • The Bolshevik leader Lenin returned from exile to Russia in April 191 and declared his intentions through his ‘April Theses’.
  • In July 1917, demonstrations were held by the Bolsheviks against the Provisional Government.
  • Lenin feared that the Provisional Government may turn into a dictatorship like the tsarist regime.
  • On 16 October 1917, Lenin persuaded the Petrograd soviet and the Bolshevik party to agree to a socialist seizure of power. The date of the event was kept a secret.
  • On 23 October 1917, a Military Revolutionary Committee under Leon Trotsky organised seizure of power and the uprising began on 24 October 1917.

Actions of the government

  • Sensing a potent revolution, Prime Minister Kerenski summoned the troops.
  • Buildings of two Bolshevik newspapers were seized.
  • Pro-government troops were sent to take over telephone and telegraph offices and protect the Winter Palace.

Bolsheviks Succeed in gaining Control

  • The Military Revolutionary Committee seized government buildings and arrested ministers.
  • The ship Aurora shelled the Winter Palace.
  • Other naval vessels sailed down the Neva and took over military points.
  • By the late night of 24 October, the city of St Petersburg was under the control of the Military Revolutionary Committee and the ministers’ powers were suspended and they were arrested.

Lenin Assumes Leadership

  • By December 1917, Bolsheviks took control of two main cities in Russia—Moscow and Petrograd.
  • The Bolshevik party was renamed the Russian Communist Party. In November 1917, in the elections conducted to the Constituent Assembly, the Bolsheviks failed to gain majority support. Lenin dismissed the assembly and assumed leadership.
  • The most immediate effect of the October Revolution was that power passed into the hands of the Bolsheviks under Lenin. The Revolution led to the establishment of the world’s first communist regime.

The Aftermath of the Russian Revolution

Social changes

  • Most factories and banks were nationalised.
  • Land was declared social property and peasants were permitted to seize land from rich landlords and nobles.
  • Bolsheviks banned the use of old titles of aristocracy. Large houses were divided into smaller apartments according to family requirements.
  • A new uniform for the soldiers, including a new hat called budyonovka, was also designed.

Political changes

  • The Bolshevik party was renamed the Russian Communist Party.
  • In the November 1917 elections, Bolsheviks failed to win a majority in the constituent assembly.
  • In January 1918, the assembly rejected Bolshevik measures and Lenin dismissed the assembly.
  • In March 1918, despite opposition by their political allies, Bolsheviks made peace with Germany at Brest Litovsk.
  • In the years that followed, Bolsheviks became the only party to participate in elections to the all-Russian congress of soviets, which became the parliament of the country. Thus, Russia became a one-party nation.
  • Trade unions were kept under party control.
  • Bolsheviks maintained secret police called the Cheka first and later OGPU and NKVD, to watch anti-Bolshevik propaganda.
  • Many artists and writers joined the Bolsheviks because they stood for socialism and change.
  • Under the Bolsheviks, art and architecture developed but were also censored.
  • The Bolshevik party encouraged censorship.

The civil war

The Russian civil war broke out after Lenin assumed leadership. The civil war was targeted against the Bolsheviks who had formed the government. The parties involved were

  • The Reds (Bolsheviks)
  • The Whites (pro-tsarists) together with
  • The Greens (socialist Revolutionaries)

i. When the Bolsheviks ordered land redistribution, the Russian army began to break up. Soldiers, mostly peasants, wished to go home and work on the land.

ii. Non-Bolshevik socialists (the greens), liberals and supporters of the tsar (the whites) condemned the Bolshevik uprising.

iii. During 1918 and 1919, the greens (socialist revolutionaries) and whites (pro-tsarists) controlled most of the Russian empire. These two groups also enjoyed international support from France, USA, Japan and Britain.

iv. These groups moved to southern Russia to prepare troops to fight the red army of the Bolsheviks. As the red, green, and white armies fought each other, Russia lapsed into a civil-war situation.

v. Loot, banditry and famine were common occurrences.

After the civil USSR is Formed

  • By 1920, the Bolsheviks were back in power, controlling most of Russia.
  • They succeeded by cooperating with non-Russian nationalities and Muslim jadidists.
  • In many regions, such as Khiva in Central Asia, Bolshevik colonists brutally massacred local nationalists in the name of defending socialism.
  • By 1922, non-Russian nationalists and Muslim jadidists united the remote provincial states under a vast Russian empire and named it USSR.

USSR becomes a Planned Economy on Socialist Ideologies

After gaining power and during the civil war in 1918–19, Bolsheviks nationalised industries and banks. The economy was planned at the centre according to socialist ideologies.

Changes introduced by the Bolshevik government

  •  Peasants were allowed to cultivate land that was socialised.
  •  Centralised planning was introduced, and targets were set for a period of five years. Five-year plans were made to develop the economy.
  •  The government fixed all prices to promote industrial growth during the first two plans.
  • Industrial production increased by 100% in the case of oil, coal and steel.
  • New factory cities came up.

Negative Impact of changes introduced by the Bolshevik government

  • Rapid construction led to poor working conditions.
  • Workers lived hard lives. There were 550 stoppages of work in the first year alone.
  • Workers lacked basic facilities.
  • Winters were especially hard for workers living in quarters. During winter, at minus 40 degrees temperature, people had to climb down from as high as fourth floor and dash across the street to go to the toilet. 

Facilities given to factory workers and their families

i. An extended schooling system was developed.

ii. Arrangements were made for factory workers and peasants to enter universities.

iii. In factories, crèches were provided for the children of women workers.

iv. Cheap public health care was provided.

v. Model living quarters were set up for workers.

Though the economic progress under Bolshevik rule was tremendous, its effect on the people of Russia was uneven due to limited resources.

Effects of early planned economy on agriculture

A socialist economy is known for its government ownership and economic plans for the development of economy. Russian government had initiated Five-Year plans for economic development.

  • During the five-year plans, Russian industries grew rapidly, but the farmers were not able to keep up with the demand for grains in the growing cities.
  • By 1927–28, towns in Soviet Russia were facing an acute problem of grain supplies.
  • The government fixed grain prices at which peasants could sell their produce.
  •  However, peasants were not ready to sell their produce at the government rates.
  • These conditions together created a severe shortage of food across Russia.

Russia under Stalin’s Rule

i. Stalin headed the Bolshevik party after Lenin’s death. He introduced emergency measures to deal with the situation and believed that rich peasants and traders in the countryside were holding stocks in the hope of higher prices.

ii. In 1928, Bolshevik party members visited the grain-producing regions of Russia and forcibly took grain from peasants who were suspected of hoarding it in the hope of getting better prices.

iii. Kulaks or well to do farmers were raided.

iv. A system of collective farms called kolkhoz was introduced. It was argued that grain shortages were partly due to the small size of holdings. These small-sized peasant farms could not be modernised.

v. To develop modern farms and run them using modern techniques and machinery, it was necessary to eliminate kulaks, take away land from peasants, and establish state-controlled large farms.

The Collectivisation Program

i.  The collectivisation programme was followed from 1928 to 1940.

ii. It aimed at increasing farm production by clubbing together small individual landholdings.

iii. Under this policy, land was taken away from peasants.

iv. Kulaks were eliminated and large state-controlled farms, or collective farms called kolkhoz, were established.

v.  Profits from the kolkhoz were shared.

Farmer’s reaction to collectivisation

  • In most regions, the policy of collectivisation was met with strong protests from farmers.
  • Peasants argued that they were not against socialism. However, they did not want to work on collective farms.
  • Enraged peasants resisted the authorities and destroyed their livestock.
  • Between 1929 and 1931, the number of cattle fell by one-third.

Effect of collectivisation

  • Even after strenuous efforts under collectivisation, food production did not increase immediately.
  • Bad harvests of 1930–1933 led to one of the most devastating famines in Soviet history when over four million people died.
  • Both within the Bolshevik party and outside it, planned economy began to be criticised.

Stalin’s action against critics

  • Those who resisted collectivisation were severely punished. Many were deported and exiled.
  • Stalin dealt with these critics in a repressive manner.
  • By 1939, over two million were sent to prisons or labour camps, where a majority of them died.
  • Many, including some talented professionals, were executed.

Global influence of the Russian revolution and the USSR

  • The Russian revolution is one of the most important events of the 20th century. The effects of the Russian revolution are still well felt in the world.
  • In many countries, communist parties were formed. For example, the Communist Party of Great Britain.
  • The Bolsheviks also encouraged colonial people to follow their experiment of taking power.
  • Many non-Russians from outside the USSR participated in the conference of the people of east and the Bolshevik-founded Comintern (an international union of pro-Bolshevik Socialist Parties).
  • Some non-Russians received education in the USSR’s Communist University of the Workers of the East.

Impact of Socialism in Russia

i. By the time of the outbreak of the Second World War, the USSR had given socialism a global face.

ii. By the 1950s, it was realised that the style of government in the USSR was not in keeping with the ideals of the Russian revolution.

iii. The USSR developed industries and agriculture and the poor were being fed.

iv. Basic freedoms of citizens were taken away, and repressive policies were followed.

v. By the end of the 20th century, the international reputation of the USSR as a socialist country declined.

Influence of Russian revolution on India

i. In different countries, the ideas of socialism were rethought in a variety of ways. Among the people, the Russian Revolution inspired were many Indians. Several attended the Communist University.

ii. By the mid-1920s the Communist Party was formed in India. Its members kept in touch with the Soviet Communist Party.

iii. Important Indian political and cultural figures took an interest in the soviet experiment and visited Russia, among them Jawaharlal Nehru and Rabindranath Tagore, who wrote about soviet socialism.

iv. In India, a lot was written about Soviet Russia in Bengali, Marathi, Malayalam, Tamil and Telugu.

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