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Short notes on the legacy of the Russian revolution

The new regime set up by the Bolsheviks survived no doubt with many changes and even distortions, for some seventy-odd years, until the 1990s.

Though regarded with apprehension, suspicion and at times with awe, Soviet Russia influenced the course of events in many parts of the world, sometimes in predictable but more often in unpredictable ways.

Some historians regard the Russian Revolution as the most significant event of the twentieth century and see most of the major developments in the world during this period and even thereafter, as being related to this event in some way or the other.

The old order was that of capitalism and imperialism. It felt threat­ened by the onset of socialism from the very outset. When Russia signed the Treaty of Brest Litovsk with Germany in March 1918 and Revolutions pulled out of the First World War, the Allies felt betrayed.

They re­garded this action as strengthening the hands of Germany, their en­emy; even though Soviet Russia had pulled out of the War as much because it could no longer sustain the war effort as because of the ideological commitment of the Bolsheviks to all imperialist wars.

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The subsequent surge of confidence amongst all left-minded groups in Europe and in other parts of the world caused great alarm to en­trenched political systems based on exploitation and maximization of profit. A revolutionary wave swept Europe in 1918 and 1919, with German revolutionary sailors carrying the banner of the Soviets through the country.

Spanish revolutionaries experienced a new burst of energy, a short lived socialist republic was proclaimed in Bavaria in 1918 and another one is Hungary in March 1919. Other parts of the world were also in ferment.

“Soviets” were formed by tobacco work­ers in Cuba, revolutionary student movements erupted in Argentina and in China. In Mexico, the revolutionary forces under Emiliano Zapata now drew inspiration from revolutionary Russia and in India too, M.N. Roy and later many others were greatly influenced by com­munism.

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The spirit of democracy was often compromised with and indi­vidual Communist Parties which were set up in different countries were too closely tied to the apron strings of the Commenter (The Com­munist International, set up by Soviet Russia in 1919 to promote the world revolution) for them to grow in a healthy, organic fashion.

Within Russia too, especially in the Stalinist years, terror and dictato­rial methods became the order of the day and a bureaucratic machine replaced the Soviets which had caught the imagination of the world.

Though Stalin’s Russia heroically defended itself against the onslaught of Hitler and was responsible for beating back the forces of Fascism to a significant extent, in the years that followed the regime turned in­wards, drawing an iron curtain across Europe and cutting itself off from the outside world.

Anti-cosmopolitanism and xenophobia came to replace the internationalism of the early years and that was the great irony.

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It negated the very spirit of the Russian Revolution, which had an ingrained internationalism, which had discarded old divisions of nationality as obsolete and whose vanguard, the Bolshevik, had once proudly regarded himself as a citizen of the world.

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