One of our guests on The Freedom Records, Olga Voloshina, was born and raised in Estonia. Her family lived under Soviet rule during World War II until the 1990’s, when Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia all claimed their country’s independence peacefully. Her story is one of faith, family, entrepreneurship and the American dream. You can watch Olga’s story here!
Estonia has an unique history, as it was under Nazi rule and then ultimately, Soviet rule beginning in the 1940’s. She saw the failed promises of communism first hand and what communism really was: complete control over the people. Olga shares with us stories that her grandmother told her about their family history, including her grandfather sent off to prison by the KGB, and, Cheka, the secret police of the USSR.
But what happened prior to the Soviets seizing control of the Russian government? To fully comprehend the story, we must go back in time. 300 years to be exact.
For about 300 years before the Bolshevik Revolution, Russia was controlled by an imperialist Tsar of the Romanov dynasty. Throughout the 18th century, you can really see the course of the Tsar Nicholas II rule ever increasing tension between the aristocratic royalty and ruling class and the workers, who referred to themselves as the ‘proletariat.’
In 1917, the vast majority of the population in Russia were peasants and industrial workers, who were living in wretched conditions. The actual coup that brought Lenin to power, however, was carried out by professional revolutionaries, many of them — including Stalin and Trotsky— had lived in exile. They overthrew the Kerensky government, which was seeking to establish a democracy rather than a monarchy.
The slogan of the Bolshevik leaders in 1917 was “Peace, Land and Bread.” Because of World War I, there were food shortages and much of the country’s resources went supporting the war. But land was desired by the peasants, who for 50 years had suffered from acute “land hunger.” Stalin and the Bolsheviks caused peasants to believe they were going to oust all the big landowners and become individual landowners themselves, this did not happen. The Soviet government never had the intention of allowing peasants to become property owners, as this would completely restore capitalism in another form. As it is, destroying capitalism in every form is the communists main goal.
The same thing happened with factory workers — they did not own anything but merely work for wages. As the Bolsheviks began to socialize production beginning with all industry, trade, then agriculture, land, banks, and natural resources became property not of the individual peasants but of the State.
The socialization of the government did not go well with many peasants. They fought the government, sometimes refusing to sow or gather harvest, intentionally damaging grain and other foods. The government retaliated with various forms of repression and brutal penalties.
By socializing the government, where the state owns all the country’s resources, it robs the people of individual enterprise and private capital.
March 8, 1917 - After WW1, Russian peasants, workers, soldiers took to the streets in Petrograd (St. Petersburg) to protest. Over the following week, protests grew and over a thousand people were killed by police and government troops.
March 15, 1917- Tsar Nicholas II is forced to abdicate. His brother Grand Duke Michael refuses the throne, which ends the Romanov dynasty. The Kerensky government takes place.
April 16, 1917 - Communist leader Vladimir Lenin returns to Petrograd after a 10 year exile from Russia and becomes the leader of the Bolsheviks, a radical group of socialists and Marxists who envision world communism.
July 16-20, 1917 - Known as the “July Days” where workers and soldiers in Petrograd staged a series of armed demonstrations. Aleksandr Kerensky crushed the demonstrations. Kerensky accuses Lenin of being a “German agent” and issues a warrant for his arrest, which makes Lenin flee for Finland. The public turns against the Bolsheviks. The printing offices of the Bolshevik newspaper Pravda, and headquarters of the Bolshevik Central Committee are raided, and some members were imprisoned while others fled.
September 14, 1917 - Russia is officially declared a republic by the provisional Kerensky government.
October 20, 1917 - Disguised Lenin returns back to Petrograd. He stays hidden over the following weeks as he works with the Bolsheviks on a plot to overthrow the government.
November 7, 1917 - October Revolution takes place. Bolsheviks and revolutionary soldiers kill off the provisional government and declare power has been passed to the soviets in Petrograd and take over Winter Palace, the last remaining holdout of the provisional government. The soviets declare the immediate withdrawal of Russia from WW1 and 74 years of Soviet rule begins. Immediately, the Decree of Land and Press were signed proclaiming an abolition of private property, redistribution of land amongst peasants and the abolishment of the ‘bourgeoisie’ press.
November 25, 1917 - Elections take place, the Socialist Revolutionaries win the largest number of seats, while the Bolsheviks win less than one-quarter of the vote.
December 1917 - Each person receives 1/4 pound of bread per day. Flour and salt are sold separately at insanely high prices. The Russian Ciil War begins between the Red Army and White Army.
March 3, 1918 - Brest-Litovsk Treaty is signed, Russia ends its participation in WW1, Russia loses one third of their population, one third of its railway network, 3/4 supply of iron and 9/10 of its coal resources and food supplies.
March 8, 1918 - The Bolsheviks change their name to the Russian Communist Party. Russia’ Capital is moved from Petrograd to Moscow.
July 16, 1918 - The Romanov family is executed.
August 1918 - Lenin calls for the execution of 100 kulaks (wealthy peasants). Following an assassination attempt on Lenin, the Red Terror began sparking a period of mass arrests and executions.
March 1919 - Comintern, or Third International, was formed by Lenin in Moscow with the aim to spread communism worldwide.
1921 - The Rouble lost 96% of its prewar value; industrial production has fallen to 10% of its 1913 level, the population of Petrograd has fallen from 2.5 million in 1917 to 600k in 1920.
April 3, 1922 - Stalin is appointed General Secretary of the Communist Party.
October 1922 - Russian Civil War ends
December 1922 - The Soviet Union is established
January 1924 - Lenin dies, Stalin emerges as Party Leader.