Here’s the essence of what happened.
- The Russian revolution in Autumn 1917 was about (1) leaving WW1, (2) giving land to peasants and (3) confiscating industrial properties and banks.
- The power was grabbed by a small group of radical Socialists in St Peterburg, who had the support of several military units in the city.
- Because of the political fragmentation after the fall of the monarchy in March 1917, no other forces in the country managed to oppose Lenin and his comrades.
- The new rulers nationalized everything, including land, in keeping with the Marxist teachings, as well as switched side in the war by signing peace with Germany.
- A countrywide economic collapse followed that only partly was reverted several years later.
- A tripartite civil war broke out between the Bolsheviks (“Reds”) supported by many militaries and the Germans, the former Imperial urban classes (“Whites”) supported by the Allies, and private peasants who opposed the confiscations of food by the “Reds”.
- After the Bolsheviks crushed the “Whites”, a truce was entered between them and the peasants that lasted between 1921 and 1928, and became known as “New Economic Policy”.
- The Bolsheviks deemed the NEP a failure, and Stalin dismantled it, crushing private peasants during the Collectivization of 1928–1933.
- The Collectivisation, along with the confiscation of valuables from individuals (Torgsin) and from the Church, gave the USSR the means to build the military-industrial complex and the army needed for the initial Marxist project of world revolution.
- The successful industrialization made possible a renewed push for world revolution previously thwarted by Poland in 1920, by the USSR entering the Spanish civil war of 1936–39 and partitioning Eastern Europe in an alliance with Germany in 1939.
Below, a painting The Bolshevik, by David Jagger. This piece of art was made in 1918 and reflects the torrents of chaotic passion that swallowed the country during the first months after the Communist takeover.