1. Study Source A : Source A must be trustworthy because it is an eyewitness account. Do you agree?
Source A does not appear to be an eye witness account as a third party is reporting on the ‘conditions in Russia’ after apparently hearing the accounts from ‘British refugees’ referred to as ‘these people’. The only person specifically mentioned is Lenin and a further reference to ‘the peasants’. On the other hand, the fact that there are refugees in Britain who have left their homes and fled from Russia supports the claim that conditions are ‘unbearable’. Further, that claims are ‘unanimous’ makes it more believable. It was well known that before this report of October, 1918, that people in Russia were unhappy, indeed the March Revolution of 1917 was a result of very poor economic conditions and there had been great unrest including bread riots. Hence the claim that ‘famine is widespread’ would also seem believable, although there is no description of the appearance of the refugees in this report.
The ‘peasants’ distrust of Lenin’s regime and poor economic conditions are both suggested by the peasants refusing ‘to sell food’ and resorting to ‘barter’. This must mean they have no faith in the currency which must be suffering from deflation. The last claim of ‘Lenin and his colleagues…living in luxury’ does seem believable. As heads of state their appearance would be well-dressed with the suggestion that they lived well while the ‘peasants’ struggled for survival. On the other hand, the claim that ‘the rule of the ‘Bolsheviks’ is largely to blame seems biased since Russia clearly experienced severe crisis before their rule began. Nonetheless, ‘peasants’ may well choose to blame whoever is currently in charge. In conclusion, more information about who ‘these people’ represent in Russia would be needed before this source can be considered trustworthy together with more information on who was doing the reporting.
2. Study Sources B and C : What do these two sources show about the effects of War Communism in Russia in 1921?
The photograph of Russian children in Samara, October, 1921, shows children in poor dress and no shoes, or, in some cases, no clothes at all. All the children have lean and unhappy faces, and the two naked children have exposed ribs and very thin limbs which suggest food deprivation. The Russian production figures compiled by R Wolfson may provide a reason for this in the huge 54% decline in the production of grain in the years between 1913 and 1921. In addition, the production figures for pig iron, steel and cotton fabrics show over a 90% decline over the same period, which could mean serious and severe economic decline and widespread hardship. The 74% cut in production of electricity may be owing to a decline either in coal supplies or coal production, or perhaps a decline in demand. The fact that grain production did not decline as sharply suggests that people still had to eat, even if there was less to go round, but people could go without more clothes and so on.
Given the years 1913 and 1921 it is tempting to conclude that the suggested famine and decline in markets is owing to ‘War Communism’. It is known that farm production suffered owing to farmhands leaving for cities and also enlisting as soldiers. Further, it is known that the Russian war machine was hampered by poor supplies. The war created severe hardships, many fatherless families, which the photograph may perhaps suggest, and reduced markets as it dragged on. However, the decline in production and the plight of the children may be owing to other unknown factors which would need to be investigated.
3. Study Sources D and E : Why do these portrays of Trotsky differ?
These portrayals of Trotsky differ because they are both the products of propaganda and serve political aims. Source D is a poster for public display which is clearly anti-Trotsky and therefore counter-revolutionary. It depicts Trotsky, identifiable from hairline and glasses, looking like an ogre or devil perched on a wall which drips blood across Petrograd, identifiable from the buildings behind. Below is a sea of skeletons which are trodden upon and an execution appears to be taking place on the right. Overall, it presents a disturbing and horrific image of life in Petrograd which may extend to all Russia. The poster is dated 1919 and is called ‘Civil war poster’. It suggests that this would be the result of accepting a Trotsky regime rule. At its worst it suggests that the huge Trotsky has an appetite for people’s blood which is his only interest and civil war will be the only result of revolution. This party was known commonly as the ‘whites’.
In contrast the photo-montage in Source E shows Trotsky in positive ways and clearly is pro-Trotsky and pro revolution, known commonly as the ‘reds’. The central photograph of Trotsky at his desk writing suggests a professional hard working leader. The other images show Trotsky in a variety of situations and places, such as on board a ship, next to a train, in uniform and speaking to a captive crowd of workers. The overall effect is to suggest that Trotsky is a man who has a wide knowledge and understanding of people’s needs which he is working hard to achieve. Notably his facial expressions are all serious which can be interpreted as an awareness of the difficulties others and the whole country face and the concentrated effort needed to solve them.
4. Study Sources F, G and H : Which of these sources is most useful to a historian studying the deaths of the Tsar and his family?
None of the sources F, G and H, are very useful for a historian studying the deaths of the Tsar and his family since pictorial evidence needs to be substantiated by trustworthy eye-witness accounts and to agree.
Source F shows the room after the murder and as a photograph appears to give good evidence. However, all we see is an empty room with some damage and possibly blood stains. It does not tell us exactly how the Tsar and his family died. Notably the title says it is ‘where the murders are claimed to have taken place’ and does not undeniably claim it is where they took place.
Source G is a painting which is said to be ‘based on the investigation carried out by the Whites’. The ‘Whites’ have their own political agenda which warns us that the picture is a representation and not reality. It shows the murders happening in front of huddled women and suggests that no residence was offered as the only weapons are in the hands of the murderers. This is a frightening scene which serves to undermine the revolutionary forces by presenting them as savage and cold-blooded. It may even suggest that no-one is safe from them.
Finally source H is a diagram, which suggests accuracy, and is said to show ‘the position of people in the basement according to witnesses he interviewed’. The writer is ‘Judge Sokolov’ which suggests a reliable and thorough professional person. However, the key only separates the Romanov family from the guards and no-one is named. Further, it is surely unlikely that people would remain stationary in such a dire situation.
However, if all the sources are combined there appears to be some evidence to substantiate that the Romanov family had their backs to the store-room wall when the guards entered. Other valuable source material could be provided by eye-witness accounts from the guards and any of the surviving Romanov servants, since the family all died.
5. Study ALL the Sources : How far do the sources confirm the view that “The Bolsheviks were adopting a policy of ‘win at all costs’ “?
On face value the October, 1918 report of British refugees on conditions in Russia appears quite damning about the Bolshevik regime. Claims about peasant ‘famine’, and ‘unbearable conditions’ contrast to the claims about ‘Lenin and his colleagues… living in luxury’. Further, the Russian production figures between 1913 and 1921 show grain production down by over half which would substantiate claims about a famine, of which the photo of thin children may be used in support.
In addition the ‘appalling economic conditions’ claimed in the first report is also substantiated by the dramatic falls in production of pig iron, steel and cotton in the second. The lack of confidence in Russia’s currency evident by bartering suggests a crisis. Altogether, both sources suggest Russia is experiencing severe difficulties. However, allotting the sole blame for these conditions at the feet of the Bolsheviks is unreasonable. The trustworthiness of the reported comments of refugees is questionable.
The contrasting propaganda sources D and E highlight the fact that there are many different ways to present the Bolsheviks. The poster presents Trotsky as an evil overseer of death while the photo montage presents him as a leader trying to come up with solutions for very difficult problems in Russia. Clearly the first two sources show that Russia’s economic problems were very great. Yet it would be unreasonable to suggest that the Bolsheviks engineered an economic decline and they were hardly responsible for involving Russia in the war. Rather than escape Bolshevik rule the refugees surely wished to escape from the harsh conditions in Russia.
Finally the sources relating to the murder of the Romanov family seem to most support the view that ‘The Bolsheviks were adopting a policy of “win at all costs” ‘. The painting in particular suggests the resorting to cold-blooded murder to achieve success and is partly supported by the photo and diagram. However, without eye-witness accounts the events which took place are unsubstantiated. For instance, we do not know if the family was unarmed, if resistance was offered, or did they surrender? Yet the family did die and the ‘murders’ may seem as shocking as the execution depicted on the 1919 Civil war poster.
Overall it is clear that a balanced view of biases needs to be taken into account and admit that the evidence is ambiguous. The death of the Romanov family can be seen as a desperate bid to deny them a possibility of any future power and prevent civil war which would allow them to pay attention to its economic crisis, in which case they would be seen as heroes rather than mercenaries.