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, calling themselves
the Communist Party, came into total power.
Bourgeoisie - · "Bourgeois" is an adjective meaning "middle-class,"
and its noun form is "bourgeoisie." Marxists used these terms
to denote the ruling class of the 19th century who exploited the proletariat.
Communist Party - · The name adopted by the Bolsheviks when they took power.
As the Communist Party, they would rule the Soviet Union for seventy
Kulaks - · "Kulak" was a term devised by Lenin to describe the
"wealthy" peasantry (though no real class divides existed within
the peasantry). During the Red Terror, those unfortunate enough
to be labeled "kulaks" had their property confiscated; when they resisted,
they were killed in great numbers.
Marxism - · The revolutionary ideology upheld by Lenin and his
fellow Bolsheviks. It predicted, "scientifically," the overthrow
of capitalism, the abolition of private property, and rule by the working
class, or proletariat.
Menshevik - · "Menshevik" means literally, "a member of the minority."
The Mensheviks were the Social Democrats who, under the leadership
of Martov, opposed Lenin after the 1902 split in their party.
Politburo - · Originally, Lenin's inner circle in the 1920s. Later,
it referred simply to the chief leaders of the U.S.S.R.
Proletariat - · In Marxist ideology, the working class, whose revolt
against their bourgeois masters would usher in a classless society.
Provisional Government - · The government that formed after Nicholas II's abdication,
in March 1917. Led by Alexander Kerensky, it called for free elections
and the creation of a Constituent Assembly to govern Russia, but
it was overthrown by the Bolsheviks in November 1917.
Social Democratic Labour Party - · Founded in 1898 as the first Marxist party in Russia,
it eventually split into Menshevik and Bolshevik factions.
Russia - · A vast trans-continental nation and empire at Lenin's
birth, it was theoretically subsumed into the Soviet Union along
with the other constituent republics, but in practice dominated
the U.S.S.R. politically.
Siberia - · The vast, frosty region, covering all of northeast
Russia, where political prisoners were sent, both under the Tsars
and under the Bolsheviks
Union - · Literally, a "soviet" referred a worker's council,
like the Petrograd Soviet during the Revolution. The U.S.S.R.
was the name that the Bolsheviks gave to their newly organized
nation in 1922. It lasted until 1991.
Tsar - · A word derived from "Caesar." The Tsars were the Emperors
of Russia before the Revolution.
Red Terror - · This term was given to a campaign led during Russia's
civil war, and was aimed at "counter-revolutionaries," usually
found among the civilian population. It resulted in large-scale
killings and the establishment of a system of concentration camps
to hold political prisoners.
Civil War - · The period from 1918 to 1920, when the Bolsheviks,
or "Reds," fought for control of Russia with the "Whites," a loose collection
of armies united only by their opposition to Lenin and his comrades.
Foreign armies from Britain, France, and America also intervened
in the conflict on the side of the Whites, but the disunity and
poor leadership of their enemies, as well as Trotsky's military
genius, enabled the Bolsheviks to triumph.
New Economic Policy - · Pursued by the Soviet Union from 1921 to 1927, this
policy allowed the market economy to operate in rural areas. Lenin established
the policy after the economic collapse and famine of 1921.
1905 Revolution - · The unrest that plagued Russia in 1905, following its
defeat in the Russo- Japanese War and the massacre of protestors
known as "Bloody Sunday." It forced Nicholas II to issue the "October Manifesto,"
in which he pledged to create an elected body, or "Duma," to assist
him in governing Russia.
Russian Revolution - · This refers specifically to the events of 1917, when
the Tsar's government fell, and the Bolsheviks came to power in
Russia. Used more generally, it can describe the entire chaotic
period from 1917 to 1920, including the years of civil war.
World War I
- · This conflict (1914-1918) pitted Russia, Britain, and
France (and eventually the U.S.) against Germany and Austro-Hungary.
(See the SparkNote on World War
.) It was the stresses of World War I that led to
the fall of Nicholas II's government in March 1917, and the coming
of the Revolution.