Kronshtadt Rebellion in the Soviet Union 1921

[ 1921 ]

Angered by the Bolshevik failure to distribute food to Russian cities and by the restriction of freedoms and the enactment of harsh labor regulations, the sailors at the Kronshtadt (Kronstadt) Naval Base supported striking urban workers by establish a provisional revolutionary committee. The sailors, contributors to the success of the October Revolution of 1917, demanded an end to the Communist Party dictatorship, full power to the soviets (district councils), release of non-Bolshevik prisoners, and fuller political freedoms and rights. Leon Trotsky (1879-1940) and Mikhail N. Tukhachevsky (1893-1937) led soldiers across the ice from Petrograd (St. Petersburgh), crushed the rebellion, and shot or imprisoned survivors. The unsuccessful rebellion nonetheless had forced the New Economic Policy of March 1921.

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The results of war communism were unsatisfactory. Industrial production continued to fall. Workers received wages in kind because inflation had made the ruble practically worthless. In the countryside, peasants rebelled against payments in valueless money by curtailing or consuming their agricultural production. In late 1920, strikes broke out in the industrial centers, and peasant uprisings sprang up across the land as famine ravaged the countryside. To the Soviet government, however, the most disquieting manifestation of dissatisfaction with war communism was the rebellion in March 1921 of sailors at the naval base at Kronshtadt (near Petrograd), which had earlier won renown as a bastion of the Bolshevik Revolution. Although Trotsky and the Red Army succeeded in putting down the mutiny, the rebellion signaled to the party leadership that the austere policies of war communism had to be abolished. The harsh legacy of the Civil War period, however, would have a profound influence on the future development of the country.

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