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  • Cited by 1
  • Print publication year: 2006
  • Online publication date: March 2008

5 - The Russian civil war, 1917–1922

from Part I - Russia and the Soviet Union: The Story through Time


A generation ago, the nature of available sources as well as dominant paradigms in the historical profession led Western historians of the civil war to focus on military operations, allied intervention and politics at the top. The origins of the Russian civil war can be found in the desacralisation of the tsarist autocracy that took place in the years before the First World War. War, geopolitics and the prolonged crisis beginning in 1914 shaped the emerging Bolshevik party-state, which differed radically from the utopian views of the commune state that Lenin had formulated in 1917 in his State and Revolution. Bent on retaining power and the symbols of legitimacy, the Bolsheviks disagreed over how best to implement new cultural practices, which they saw as essential to the success of their revolution. Centring on procurement, Bolshevik economic practices alienated the peasantry and contributed to the famine of 1921-23.
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