MIA: Encyclopedia of Marxism: Glossary of Places
The largest country in the world, Russia originated from the principality of Muscovy in the 14th century, and expanded tremendously throughout the following centuries; by the early 20th century encompassing Finland, Eastern Poland (including Warsaw), and the Eastern portions of present-day Hungary, Romania, and Czechoslovakia. The capital of Russia is Moscow (1547 - 1712; 1918 - present), but had been located in Petrograd from 1712 to 1917.
Muscovy and Novograd: Europe in the 1400s
Rural Russia: Land tenure in Feudal Russia was arranged by cherespolositsa, where land on each fief was divided into long narrow strips. Serfs tended two strips side by side: one for the landlord, the other for themselves.
After serfdom was abolished in 1861, the land serfs had once cultivated for themselves became owned by a peasant commune, the Obshchina, formed from those peasants on the same fief. The landlords retained the lands that were not used for maintaining the life of the serfs (eg. they kept the majority of the land), still in strips side to side with the communal land. The landlords also retained all of the forested and pastoral land.
While the serfs had once been able to graze their animals (commonly a cow and horse) on pastoral land, now their animals had no where to graze. The newly "emancipated" peasants were also stranded from the most prized commodity of Russia throughout most of the year: firewood.
From this relationship between landowner and peasant was born the kulak, who imposed on the peasantry a tax to use their pasture. The communes responded by lying fallow some of their land and turning it into pasture. Their remained, however, the strips of the landlord's land throughout their community. The kulak here established a system of tolls for each animal that crossed over their land (areas now called vavilony – "babylons"). In order to have wood for winter, peasants had little choice but to work the kulak's land in return for a payment fee that would allow them to cut timber from the kulak's forest.
Birth of Revolution: From this conflict in rural society, Russia's first revolutionary organisation formed in the 1860s: the Narodniks. These groups were mostly made up of students without a clear direction, save to overthrow the monarchy and landlords, and distribute land among the peasantry. In the spring of 1874, the conflict between the kulaks and peasantry brought turbulence to Russia's urban centres, and the Narodniks left the cities for the villages, going "among the people" (hence their name), attempting to "teach" the peasantry to revolt under their guidance. They found almost no support.
The Tsarist police (Okhrana) responded to the movement with steeled repression: political action was not an option for the "emancipated" peasantry. Revolutionaries and peasant sympathisers were beaten, imprisoned or exiled to Siberia. As peasants were arrest and exiled or imprisoned, kulaks gained their land, putting the peasant communes under increasingly heavy burdens. In 1877, the Narodniks came to their height with thousands of revolutionaries and peasants in support. The movement was again brutally crushed.
Responding to brutal repression of the open, spontaneous forms of organisation thereto taken, Russia's first organised revolutionary party formed: People's Will (Narodnaia Volia), with a new revolutionary programme: terrorism.
[...] Terrorism would be incorporated into the tactics of the Socialist-Revolutionary Party after the People's Will was dissolved in the early 1880s, and used throughout the following 40 years against the Monarchy and later the Soviet government.
The Emancipation of Labour group, the first Russian Marxist party, and the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party were the first Russian revolutionary organisations to stand vehemently opposed to terrorism, stressing that revolution could only be achieved only through mass action. When the party split in 1903, the Bolsheviks continued to organise the workers and peasantry to mass action, while the Mensheviks deviated to the right, holding the belief that a proletarian revolution (excluding the peasantry) could only be accomplished through the bourgeois. Later, in 1905, the Constitutional Democratic Party formed in support of the Tsarist Monarchy, but in efforts to establish parliamentary rule over Russia. In 1906, the SR Party lost some of its members who split to form Maximalists, and later in 1917, lost its Left members to a split called the Left SRs.
In February, 1917, the tsar abdicated power and a Provisional Government was shortly formed. Overthrown in less than a year, the provisional government was replaced on October 25, 1917, by the Soviet Government. In 1922, Russia, Ukraine, Byelorussia, and Transcaucasian formed the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
After the collapse of the R.S.F.S.R., the population of Russia has catastrophically reversed course, from steady increase to enormous decline. From the Socialist period of 1985 - 1990, there had been 2.3 million births and 1.5 million deaths per year, with a total population increase (including immigrants) of more than 1 million people every year. This period was the highest growth rate since 1965 – from 1950 to 1990 the average total population increase of the Russian Socialist Republic was 1.15 million people.
After the overthrow of Socialism, from the period of 1990 - 1995 there were 1.5 million births per year and 1.9 million deaths per year: the total population of Russia fell by 40,000 people every year. In the year 2000 the population of Russia was 146 million people (a decrease of 1.6 million since 1990), and is catastrophically falling: by the year 2050 Russia's population could be as low as 102 million people; a decline of one-third. Such an event is unparalleled in human history. [Data from: United Nations report on 21 March, 2000: Replacement Migration (ESA/P/WP.160)]