Unity of All Laborers: Soviet Ideals in the Wake of Post-February Revolution Independence Movements

The Red Army occupying Moscow, during the Russian Civil War

The Red Army occupying Moscow, during the Russian Civil War


((Bolsheviks in Moscow. Digital image. The Russian Civil War: 1917-1920. Accessed February 7, 2016. http://www.emersonkent.com/wars_and_battles_in_history/russian_civil_war.htm))

In the U.S., there seems to be a commonly held misconception about the emergence of Soviet Russia and its relationship with its surrounding neighbors. From my history classes, I remember learning about Russia leaving World War I and the basics of the Russian Revolution. However, after that period, it seems that Russian history just disappears until World War II. Suddenly, Russia became our uneasy ally. I recall hearing the negative effects of the Great Depression on the Russian economy, like it had for all major global economies; however, aside from that, it was mostly Roaring Twenties and the New Deal. Since Soviet Russia grew in size from WWI to WWII and, as a class, we never really touched upon Russia; we were left to assume that the leaders of Russia thought it best to expand immediately. Reading these documents proved my assumptions wrong.


Russia’s transition from a new government to the might USSR was not as smooth. In fact, the documents provide evidence of the Bolsheviks pushing to help like-minded individuals in neighboring areas. For example, in the “Council of People’s Commissars, Decree on Recognizing the Independence of the Estonian Soviet Republic,” the response detailed in the document pushed for Estonian independence. This concept is contrary to what many students in the US are likely led to believe. The Council of People’s Commissars not only recognized the independence of the newly founded Estonian Soviet Republic, but pushed for both military and economic aid. These ideas are supported in two of the other documents, which essentially both call for the unity of Russian laborers in a global fight for freedom against the bourgeoisie and imperialists. It appears, however, that once Stalin took over control of the government, he sought to enforce these ideals strictly and militarily, as opposed to in a friendlier manner.

Non-Aggression Pact and Stalin’s Speech

In 1939, Germany and the Soviet Union signed a non-aggression pact that paved the way for WWII. Some of the provisions in the pact included a ban on aggression or violence between the two countries, information dealing with the interests of both countries was to be exchanged, and disputes were to be settled through “friendly exchange …or through the establishment of arbitration commissions.” This pact had benefits for both parties. Stalin recognized that his army was not strong enough to stand up against the German military, and his country was not in the economic position to go to war. Germany was very much prepared for war, and this pact gave Germany clear access to Poland. In addition to the main provisions, possibilities of how to divide land after the war were discussed between both parties. However, this pact was broken on June 22, 1941, when Germany invaded the Soviet Union.

While Germany went back on the non-aggression pact, the Soviet Union had enough time to build up industrialization, productivity, and properly arm the Red Army. In Stalin’s speech, WWII is presented as an obstacle that was overcome by Soviet Organization and planning. Stalin points out earlier shortcomings, such as the ill-equipped nature of the Red Army during WWI. However, industrialization increased rapidly, and to give an example, five and a half times more coal was produced in 1940 than was produced in 1913. In the speech, Stalin stressed how Soviet organization was able to overcome the challenges of war, and stated capitalism is the root of catastrophic wars. While this speech was given to members of his electorate district, the speech has far ranging messages. Soviet greatness allowed the USSR to overcome the horrors of war, industrialize rapidly, and avoid the capitalism which created the terrible world wars. While the non-aggression treaty was broken in 1941, it allowed for enough time to build up the Soviet economy and army.