Key Terms and Events
Bolshevik - · Literally, "majoritarian." The Bolsheviks were the
group within the Social Democrats who supported Lenin's call for
a party of professional revolutionaries. They orchestrated a takeover
of the government during the Russian Revolution, and became the rulers
Bourgeoisie - · "Bourgeois" means "middle-class." The Marxists used
its noun form, "bourgeoisie," to denote the ruling class of the
19th century who, they claimed, were responsible for the suffering
of the proletariat, or working class.
Georgia - · The region in the southern part of the Russian Empire
where Stalin was born and raised
Gulag - · The term used to describe the Soviet prison camps in
Siberia under Stalin and his successors
Communist Party - · The name adopted by the Bolsheviks when they took power.
As the Communist Party, they would rule the Soviet Union for seventy
Koba - · Stalin's name during his early years as a Marxist
Kulaks - · In Lenin's formulation, "kulak" meant a wealthy peasant.
Although the distinction between kulaks and other peasants was a
Marxist fiction, Stalin's collectivization in the early '30s led
to a campaign of mass murder, forced relocation, and imprisonment
of these supposed "enemies of the people."
Marxism - · The revolutionary ideology held by Stalin and his fellow Bolsheviks.
It "scientifically" predicted the overthrow of capitalism, the
abolition of private property, and rule by the working class, or
proletariat. To read about the details of the Marxist philosophy,
see the SparkNote on Marxism's founding dissertation, The
Communist Manifesto, written by the German thinker
Karl Marx in 1848.
Menshevik - · Literally, "a member of the minority." The Mensheviks
were the Social Democrats who opposed Lenin after the 1902 split
in their party.
Orthodox Church - · The principle church of the Russian Empire; Russian
Orthodoxy is a form of Christianity.
Politburo - · Originally, Lenin's inner circle in the 1920s. Later,
it referred simply to the chief leaders of the U.S.S.R.
Pravda - · The official newspaper of the Bolsheviks, and later
of the Soviet Union
Proletariat - · In Marxist ideology, the working class, who would revolt
against their masters and usher in a classless society.
Social Democratic Labour Party - · The first Marxist party in Russia, it split into Menshevik
and Bolshevik factions.
Red Army - · The army of the Soviet Union, organized by Trotsky,
and victorious over Hitler.
Russia - · A vast trans-continental nation and empire at Stalin's
birth, it was theoretically subsumed into the Soviet Union as one
of several socialist republics, but in practice it dominated the U.S.S.R.
Siberia - · The vast, frosty region, covering all of northeast
Russia, where political prisoners were sent, both under the Tsars
and under Stalin
Union - · Literally, a "Soviet" was a worker's council, like
the Petrograd Soviet during the Revolution. The Union of Soviet
Socialist Republics, or U.S.S.R., was the name that the Bolsheviks
gave to their newly organized nation in 1922. It lasted until
Tiflis Theological Seminary - · The Georgian institute where Stalin received his higher education,
and became a Marxist
Tsar - · Derived from "Caesar," the Tsars were the Emperors
of Russia before the Revolution.
Cold War - · The decades-long duel between the Soviet Union and
the United States for world supremacy, ignited by Stalin's push,
in the late 1940s, to assert Soviet dominance over Europe
Great Terror - · The period in the mid-1930s when Stalin ruthlessly
persecuted and executed his enemies--both real and imaginary
Five-Year Plan - · Several Five-Year Plans existed, all intended to bring
Soviet industry up to speed with other nations, but the most famous, and
deadly, lasted from 1927 to 1932, and involved collectivization
of agriculture and the purging of the kulaks.
New Economic Policy - · Pursued by the Soviet Union from 1921 to 1927, this
policy allowed the market economy to operate in rural areas.
Russian Revolution - · This term refers to the period from 1917 to 1920, when
the Tsars' government fell, and the Bolsheviks came to power in Russia.
Show Trials - · Conducted at the height of the Great Terror, these
widely broadcast trials featured Stalin's old rivals confessing
to treason (after having been secretly tortured) and being sentenced
World War II
- · The conflict (1939-45) that pitted Nazi Germany and
Japan against Britain, the Soviet Union and the United States.
It ended with the Nazis' defeat, and the emergence of the U.S.S.R.
and the U.S.A. as the world's two "superpowers." For more information,
see the History SparkNote on World War