Russian Peasant Uprisings
Years of calamity, fighting, unrest and grappling with new political heads of authority seem inextricably woven into revolutions. The Russian Revolution was a reaction by peasant farmers and factory workers to poor working conditions and the expectation of high outputs, whether a harvest or on an assembly line. Protests took two very different forms of expression.
Peasant farmers would slow work needed to produce massive crops, and the effects would trickle into the bustling cities where workers were living in dire conditions caused by intense overcrowding; add starvation to that and the peasants effectively triggered the onset of a massive revolt. Eventually, the city rebellion grew beyond the Tsar’s capacity. During 1917, the Russian Tsar Nicholas II was assassinated, and what followed was a civil war fought by political party factions all vying for authority.
Overall, the war was divided into two sides, the Red and White armies, but along with them were pro-independence movements. Countries such as Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland celebrated independence as a result of the war. Other countries, such as Ukraine, fought for autonomy but ultimately were defeated by the end when the Soviet Union was created. The vast differences between the Red and White armies are staggering when considering the outcome. The Red Army was made of 300,000 soldiers and the White Army 2.4 million. The White Army stood in opposition to the Bolshevik movement. they were anti-communist, anti-Bolshevism, pro- monarchy, and pro-Russia.
The overarching ideology of the White Army was rooted in the established political landscape, as it was under the Russian empire. Nationalistic overtones were widespread throughout the part,y which was rife with anti-Semitic views. The inability or lack of foresight to offer a clearer ideology than this points to the underpinning reason for the party’s demise. Despite international support from the British Empire, France, Greece, the United States, China, Japan, Czechoslovakia, Serbia, and Italy, the White Army had no set plans regarding a foreign policy. Its leaders placated the public telling them a governmental structure would be decided upon after the war concluded. The White Army was little more than a massive group with a dead Tsar at its helm.
At the other end of the spectrum, the Red Army had a detailed ideological blueprint that mapped out who they were and what they believed. Thanks to Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels’ Communist playbook, Red leaders had been organizing since before the outbreak of the revolution. Leon Trotsky served as the Red Army’s war commissioner and acknowledged the peasants and city factory workers by overhauling the old Red Guard as a way of bringing them into the fold.
With its new name, the Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army enabled Trotsky to organize a professional military force. The Reds knew they were short on men and had to make well-informed decisions about organization if they were to win. Trotsky appointed political heads to each of the Worker and Peasant Red Army units with the purpose of keeping morale and thus loyalty intact. His most impressive and effective move was recruiting 80% of the former Tsarist soldiers to the Red’s sidelines.
After the peasant-infused Russian Revolution, a number of peasant revolts occurred during the Russian Civil War. During the Pitchfork Uprising in 1920 in the village of Yanga Yelan, peasants organized a rebellion in reaction to the confiscation of their food by the Red Army, who reacted by arresting some of the farmers. This set the stage for a revolt, and 50,000 peasants joined the fight. Because they had no access to artillery, the peasants used tools of their trade as weapons: pitchforks, spades, and axes.