Stalin’s Revolution vs Bolshevik Revolution

A Level History, AQA, Written under Timed Conditions

‘Stalin’s Revolution had a more profound effect on Russian society than the Bolshevik Revolution.’

Assess the validity of this view.

Although Lenin often provided the foundations for Stalin’s revolution and society, Stalin did still have more of a profound effect on Russian society. This was especially in terms of industrialisation, whilst in terms of terror Stalin’s NKVD perpetuated and oppressed a larger section of society. However, arguably Lenin’s revolution of 1917 impacted the peasantry the most, as their land was finally legitimised and assuaged.

Lenin’s original development of terror had some effect on Russian society. For example, he used party cards to purge his party members. In 1921, he purged 220,000 members. This terror has some effect on society as it ensures the unswerving loyalty of the members that remain. This means that the Bolshevik revolution had a profound effect on Russian society as it meant less and less party members were willing to challenge Lenin, which allowed him to oppress and dominate society without limit. However, the scale of the terror under Lenin was nowhere as great as under Stalin, whose Revolution had a much more profound effect. For example, in 1918, the Cheka killed 50,000 but the NKVD killed 300,000 in 1937. Therefore, this shows that Stalin’s secret police were much more pervasive and widespread, inflicting more terror and oppression upon society as punishment for opposing Stalin’s regime. The extent of Stalin’s terror on society was that 1 in 8 of the population had been at least arrested by 1941. Indeed, as J Steinbeck posits “He is everywhere, he sees everything”. This shows how there were very few, not even the high ranking members such as Kamenev and Zinoviev (arrested, trialed, then shot in 1937) that could escape the terror of Stalin’s regime: ensuring an oppressed and fearful society.

Lenin’s economic policy had some positive influence on society. However, this was not until NEP, as the War Communism policy had a larger reaching negative influence on society.  [CHANGE: Cut out NEP: start with War Communism. Confused structure.[ During War Communism, grain requisitioning starved society, with even Pravda admitting 1 in 5 of the population were starving. This flawed policy directly led to the famine of 1921, where 5m of the Russian population perished. Therefore, Lenin’s revolution did have a profound, yet disastrous effect on Russian society: starving them to death. Similiarly, Stalin’s own collectivisation programme had some terrible impact on Russian society. The Great Famine of [WRONG DATE, NOW CORRECTED: ]1932/3 was the result of increasing grain procurement whilst grain production fell. For example, as grain production fell from 78.4 to 76.6m, grain procurement rose from 23.3m to 26.3m. This led to the famine that caused the death of between 10-15m Russians. This was, according to Deutscher, the worlds first “man made famine” in the sense there was no official famine, and therefore no official attempts to ease it. In contrast, Lenin’s time of famine was ameliorated by US aid which kept between 10-14m Russians alive. Therefore, Stalin’s revolution had a larger impact on Russian society because of the sheer scale and amount of death and starvation caused by his economic policy. But, without the US aid, Lenin’s starvation Russian society may have matched the scale of Stalin’s suffering, starving society.

In terms of industrialistion, Stalin’s economic policy undoubtedly had the largest impact on society. By [CHANGED] 1939, Russian had become a 50/50 economy, meaning that there were as many workers as there were farmers. This caused a profound effect on Russian society, as for the first time in the country’s history, there was a “Great Turn” towards an urban society. From 1928-41 20m Russian’s moved from countryside to the town. This demonstrates the success of Stalin’s industrialisation programme, with effected Russian society by forcing them into the towns. However, as Conquest points out, “Stalinisim was one of achieving industrialisation, just as cannibalism is one way of achieving a high protein diet.” This shows how the urban change was one large effect upon Russian society, but the humane cost was another, perhaps larger effect on society with “total disregard to the millions of lives” (Orlando Figes) that industrialisaiton cost. In contrast, Lenin’s NEP failed to develop Russia’s urban population, instead providing prosperity to individuals. The NEPmen were the small portion of society that did benefit from NEP, by exploiting the “little bit of capitalism” that Lenin let society have. This was only a positive effect on society for the minority though. In the first two years of NEP, the unemployed made up 14% of the employed population. This shows how NEP had less impact on society as it was confined to individual, private prosperity, whereas Stalin’s industrialisation programme had a massive impact on society by finally urbanising Russia.

Lenin’s revolution did have some positive change for women. For example, some women such as Kollontai became leading members of the Bolshevik party. Kollontai took the role of social welfare, which then allowed further concessions and sympathy for women and their role in society. Kollontai wanted to eradicate the burden of the “cross of motherhood”, which posed a big change to society in terms of allowing women to integrate into men’s roles. For some urban women, Lenin’s revolution would have given them such higher roles in society, but those peasant women who lived in arguably separate patriarchal society whereby the village elder was a man, and he made all decisions. Here in the country, women did not see the impact of Lenin’s revolution and remained their husbands or fathers property.  Stalin’s revolution aimed to bolster the role of women too. For example, a 78ft statue was built in 1937 with a Soviet man and a Soviet woman, both shown in unity and status. This was the emphasis placed on unity and production and the need for women to help boost the economy by following their husbands into work. This suggested some profound impact for Russian society as women were publically expected to fulfil these new roles. Overall, Lenin initiated the idea of allowing women to elevate their roles. But, Stalin’s revolution for women aimed to finally consolidate their basis in society. Zhenotdel was abolished under Stalin’s revolution, as he believed their work was done and equality as achieved. This was far from the truth, but arguably under Stalin, there was more effect upon Russian women in society than under Lenin.

In conclusion,  Lenin and Stalin’s revolutions had varying effects on Russian society. However, Stalin’s revolution had more effect, due to historical, industrial change never before witnessed in Russia. Terror was at a large scale, impacting more of the population. Whilst women were put at the frontline of economic expansion. At the same time, the Great Famine of Stalin’s regime impacted more than Lenin’s famine, with many more starving.


Profound: a bigger impact on Russian society

Basically, Stalin had a bigger impact on society than Lenin


Theme of terror: Stalin more scale than Lenin, therefore yes

50,000 Cheka kill in 1918 300,000 killed by NKVD 1937

Economic revolution: Stalin’s industrialization way more effective than NEP/War Communism

50/50 economy by 1936

NEP: unemployment terri


Agriculture/peasantry: Bolshevik revolution frees the peasants from tyranny of Tsars: legitimizes land seizures ….vs Collectivisation?



Revolution always leads “not accidentally, but inevitably into civil war!” Lenin

Stalin: Ww2: but nazi-Soviet Pact…came later though, Great Patriotic War




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