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Russia – The Development of the Soviet Politics, 1917-22

4. The Red Terror

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About this Lecture


In this module, we turn to another key moment in the consolidation of Bolshevik power in the period 1917-25: the Red Terror, a period of political repression and mass killings that broke out in 1918. In particular, we think about: (i) the view that the more (in)famous period of terror – that of Stalin in the 1930s – could be traced back to the Red Terror of the period 1918-22; (ii) the nature of the Red Terror, and when it can be said to have started in earnest; (iii) the importance of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in the breakdown of the Bolshevik coalition with the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries (SRs), and the fragmentation of the Bolshevik Party itself; (iv) the use of terroristic tactics by the Left SRs, with assassinations of the Wilhem von Mirbach, the German Ambassador to Europe, and Moisei Uritsky, the Chief of Cheka of the Petrograd Soviet, and the attempted assassination of Lenin himself; (v) the importance of Cheka in this period; (vi) the extent to which the Bolsheviks’ turn to violence can be explained in ‘circumstantialist’ terms; and (vii) the extent to which violence was intrinsic to Marxist and Bolshevik ideology.


In this course, Dr Lara Douds (Northumbria University) explores the development of the Soviet system of government in the years following the October Revolution. In the first module, we introduce the rich and contested scholarship on this topic, including the concepts of ‘circumstantialism’ and ‘the totalitarian paradigm’. After that, we think about the nature of the government set up by the Bolsheviks following the October Revolution. In the third module, we explore why the Bolsheviks dissolved the newly-created Constituent Assembly after just thirteen hours, before turning in the fourth module to consider what the Red Terror can tell us (if anything) about the intrinsic nature of Bolshevism. Finally, in the fifth module, we think about the extent to which the political culture of the early Soviet regime was transformed and shaped by the experience of the long and brutal Russian Civil War, 1917-22.


Dr Lara Douds is Vice Chancellor's Research Fellow in History at Northumbria University. She is a specialist in the history of state building, political practice, and political culture in the first decade of Soviet power and author, among other things, of Inside Lenin’s Government: Power, Ideology and Practice in the Early Soviet State (2018).

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Douds, L. (2021, February 04). Russia – The Development of the Soviet Politics, 1917-22 - The Red Terror [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Douds, L. "Russia – The Development of the Soviet Politics, 1917-22 – The Red Terror." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 04 Feb 2021,