Assess the reasons why opposition to Russian Governments was rarely successful in the period 1855-1964.

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Assess the reasons why opposition to Russian Governments was rarely successful in the period 1855-1964.

In 1855, opposition to the Tsarist regime lacked an effective unifying ideology. This remained the case throughout the 1855-1964 period, even once the communists had seized power. The lack of unity opposition possessed was a key factor in its failure throughout the period. Division in opinion and ideology were consistent problems for opposition, which only fully united in the February revolution. Even then there were still divisions in opinion, however there was one common cause to unite behind. Other attributing factors such as heavy repression by rulers, well timed reforms and the continuing use of military force ultimately meant that opposition to Russian Governments was rarely successful in the 1855-1964.

The peasantry were consistent opponents of Russian Government throughout the period, yet were rarely successful in doing so. One reason for this is the continuing role which the army played in limiting opposition from the peasantry, with military force frequently being deployed throughout the period. Lenin used it in the Civil War against the Green armies and Stalin used a similar style of brute force during the collectivisation process, albeit on a much grander scale. Tsars had also used military force in containing the peasantry, with Stolypin’s necktie under Nicholas II and Alexander II continually employing military force prior to the Emancipation Act. The army was very important to the state, as the 1905 revolution demonstrated, and their continuing use of force against the peasantry is one reason why peasant opposition was rarely successful in the period.

The peasantry also lacked a shared ideology and there were several other factors which meant a full scale peasant revolt was never likely to occur. The demographic and general backwardness of Russia, a weakness repeatedly shown by failures in war throughout the period, meant that the peasantry were never going to unify because poor communications and transport links would simply not allow them to, even if they did share ideas. Different classes of peasants did not share the same goals, the Kulak’s generally prospered under Stolypin’s land reforms which did not have as great a benefit for the remainder of the peasantry who remained in dire straits. Stalin’s introduction of collectivisation was met with more opposition from the prosperous Kulaks than the remainder of the peasantry, which contributed to the Kulak purges.

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Despite their consistent failure, peasant opposition was not devoid of success.  Peasant disturbances had increased following the ascension of Alexander II and Lenin, with armed force being employed 185 times between 1856-60 and the Green armies of the peasantry providing stubborn resistance to both Red and White forces. Opposition from the peasantry had shaped policies of several rulers,  war communism was badly affected as the peasants battled requisition squads for supplies and collectivisation was also met with initial resistance. However the eventual outcomes differed as Lenin abandoned war communism for NEP, whilst the self-inflicted famine of 1932 helped speed ...

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