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Chapter 25 : Turmoil between the Wars

The Great War left 9 million dead in its wake and shattered the confidence of
the Europe. It led to tragically to another World war, even more horrific then
first. The result in the 1920s was a near collapse of democracy. By the late 1930s
few Western democracies remained. Even in those that did, most notably Britain,
France, and the US regimes were frayed by the same pressures and strains that
wrecked democratic governments elsewhere.
The foremost cause of democracy�s decline in this period was a series of
continuing disruptions in the World economy, caused by the WW1 and later, by the
Great Depression of 1929-33. A second source of crisis lay in increased social
conflict, exacerbated by the war.
Nationalism, sharpened by the war, proved a key source of discontent in its
aftermath, and in Italy and Germany frustrated nationalist sentiment turned against
their governments.
The most dramatic of democracy�s decline came with the rise of new
authoritarian dictatorships, especially in the Soviet Union, Italy and Germany. The
experiences of these three nations differed significantly as a result of varying
historical circumstances and personalities. In each case, however, many citizens
allowed themselves to be persuaded that only drastic measures could bring order
from chaos. Those measures, including the elimination of parliamentary government,
strict restricitions on political freedom, and increasingly virulent respresion of
�enemies� of the state were implemented, and propaganda.

The Soviet Union Under Lenin and Stalin


The Russian Civil War

The Bolsheviks seized power in October 1917. They signed a seperate peace
with German in March 1918 (the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk) and then turned to
consolidating their own position. The October Revolution and withdrawing from the
war, however, had divided Russian society, igniting war that turned out to be far
more costly than conflict with Germany.
Fury with the terms of Brest Litovsk mobilized Bolsheviks� enemies. Known
collectively as �Whites� the Bolsheviks opponents were only loosely bound by their
common goal of removing the �Reds� from power. Their military force came mainly
from supporters of the old regime, including tsarist military officers, reactionary
monarchists, the former nobility, and disaffected liberal supporters of monarchy.
The Whites were joined by groups as diverse as libarel supporters of
provisional government, Mensheviks, Social Revolutionarists, and anarchist peasent
bands known as �Greens� who opposed all central state power.
The Bolsheviks also faced insurrections from strong nationalist movements in
some parts of the former Russian Empire: Ukraine, Georgia and the North Caucasus
regions.
Finally, several foreign Powers, including the US, UK and Japan, launched
small but threatining interventions on the periphery of the old empire.

The Bolsheviks eventually won the civil war because they gained greater support
from the majority of population and because they were better organized war effort
itself. Leon Trotsky, became the new commissar of war and created a hierarchical,
disciplined military machine that grew some 5m men by 1920. Trotsky�s Red Army
triumphed over White armies by the end of 1920, although fighting continued into
1922. The Bolsheviks also invaded Poland and nearly reached Warsaw before being
thrown back.
When the civil war was over, country had suffered some 1m combat casulties,
several million death from hunger and disease caused by the war, and 100k-300k
executions of noncombatants as part of Red and White terror.
The Civil War also shaped the Bolsheviks� approach to the economy. The new
government took control of large-scale industry, banking and all other maj�r
capitalist concers while allowing small-scale private economic activity, including
agriculture, to continue. The civil war pushed the new government toward a more
radical economic stance known as �war communism�.
The Bolsheviks began to requisition from the peasantryi and they outlawed
private trade in consumer goods as �speculation�, militarized production
facilities, and abolished monehy. Many believed that war communism would replace
the capitalist system that had collapsed in 1917.