World History






































Vladimir Lenin led a communist revolution in Russia in 1917.

The German philosopher Karl Marx invented modern socialism in the 1800s as a reaction to the working-class poverty of the Industrial Revolution. His slogan was, “Workers of the world unite!” Marx predicted that workers in the industrialized nations would one day rise up and overthrow capitalism.

In the early 1900s, Russia was not yet an industrial nation; most of its people were poor peasants working the land. Nonetheless, a group of Russian socialists led by Vladimir Lenin thought Russia was ready for a socialist revolution. Their chance came with World War I. The war didn’t go well for Russia. The army was poorly led, poorly fed, and poorly equipped, and eventually it fell apart. When soldiers were ordered to shoot women textile workers rioting for food, the soldiers opened fire on their own officers instead. As rioting spread in Russia, Nicholas II was forced to step down as tsar in 1917.

Into this power vacuum stepped Lenin’s well-organized political party, the Bolsheviks. Promising peace for soldiers, land for peasants, and better conditions for workers, the Bolsheviks took control of Russia in October 1917 and removed Russia from the war. The term “ communism” has come to mean an extreme form of socialism that blends Marx’s economic philosophy with Lenin’s ideas about socialist revolution.

Struggling to hold the Bolshevik (or Russian) Revolution together, Lenin executed thousands of Russians suspected of opposing communism. Among those killed were the tsar and his family. The communists banned other political parties, took over banks and industries, and set up a secret police. The Russian Empire was renamed the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or the Soviet Union for short.

Karl Marx = a German philosopher known as the “father of communism.”

Vladimir Lenin = the leader of Russia’s communist revolution and the founder of the Soviet Union.

Bolsheviks = another name for the group of communists who overthrew the last tsar of Russia in 1917 and started to rule the new “Soviet Union.”

communism = a form of socialism that embraces revolution and the violent overthrow of the capitalist system.

Soviet Union = a nickname for the “Union of Soviet Socialist Republics”, the country that emerged from the Russian Empire following the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was the first country to form a government based on the system known as communism. It only existed from 1922 to 1991. For much of that time, however, it was one of the most powerful countries in the world.