How Did Life in Russia Change 1914-41?  



What makes a quality of life?   The table below is based on the idea that there are three things that make up the quality of life:

1.  The quality of government – things like freedom, justice, laws and police, and the quality of administration

2.  The standard of living – things like the quality of housing, the amount of food, income and possessions.

3.  Meaning – the bible says that ‘without a vision, the people perish’. A goal, an ideology or a faith adds substantially to the quality of life.


This grid does not 'tell you the answer' or come to any conclusion about the quality of life for Russian people during 1914-1941, but it DOES list some of the ideas and facts you may wish to take into account.   It will allow you to compare life in Russia at any time with any time.


But it’s up to you to decide if life got better or worse:


100 Russian jokes - gives an insight into what Russians REALLY felt.





Quality of Government

Standard of Living

A Meaning to Life

Before 1917

(Tsarist Russia )


(Tsar Nicholas ignores the Duma)


(Okhrana secret police/\press censorship/ Cossack soldiers suppress peasant riots)


(huge size, many nationalities/ Tsar insists on doing work himself/ mistakes during the war – takes over army & ignores Rodzianko)




(Social Revolutionaries, Communists/ assassinations)

Peasant poverty

(out-of-date farming methods/ periodic famines)

Factory conditions

Living conditions in towns

(‘corner dwellers’)

Rich nobles

(= unfair distribution of wealth)

(After 1914) war chaos

(15 million deaths/ famine/ inflation).

Love of the Tsar as a ‘father’

(damaged on Bloody Sunday 1905, but restored by the successful tercentenary celebrations in 1913)

Orthodox religion

(taught people to accept their position and sufferings).

Mar-Nov 1917

(Provisional Govt)


(Duma takes over, but no elections).


(death squads kill deserters/ army puts down peasants taking nobles land)


(Soviets are a rival government/ Order No.1/ anarchy in the countryside)


(Bolsheviks and Kornilov – Provisonal Govt powerless against them).

Continued the war

(inflation and hunger got worse)

Less produced than in 1914.

Initial excitement of Revolution, but no ideology to sustain it.


(Bolshevik Rule and Civil War)

Dictatorship of proletariat

(Lenin dismisses Assembly)


(CHEKA/ censorship/ ‘Red Terror’ during Civil War)

Ruthlessly efficient and well organised

(eg Trotsky’s control of the army/ war communism)

Certain freedoms

Free love, divorce and abortion allowed


Land taken from nobles and given to peasants.


(Factories controlled by workers’ committees/ Labour Law: 8hr day, dole and pensions/)


Civil War

(both sides slaughter the other/ shortages, famine and disease)

War communism

(govt takes over factories/ strikers shot/ all surplus food to govt/ rationing)

Less produced than in 1914.

Communist zeal and hope

(propaganda campaign – trains)

Campaign to teach everyone to read


Religion banned

(priests killed/ churches destroyed)





Lenin’s dictatorship continues

(Control by ‘the Party’)




(Small factories handed back/ people allowed to set up private businesses/ advertising/ Lenin let the peasants sell their surplus, and pay a tax instead /the ‘Kulaks’ got rich).


Less produced than in 1914.

Some private enterprise


Many Bolsheviks were disillusioned and angry.


(Stalin’s Russia )



(Terror/ NKVD/ Show Trials and purges/ 20 million dead/ Gulag/ kulaks ‘eliminated’/ ‘Russification’)


(‘Apparatchiks’ get all best houses/ jobs)

No human rights


(peasants lose land/ slaughter of animals/ famines 1932-3)

Five-Year Plans

(crèches/ day-care centres/ women workers/ electricity/ Moscow Underground/ no unemployment/  doctors/ education/ New Towns)


(Until 1933) less food produced than in 1914

Concentration on heavy industry at the expense of consumer goods or good housing, although industrial production increased.

Terrible working conditions

(labour camps - slave labour/ accidents/ poor housing)

Cult of personality

Communist zeal of ‘Pioneers’

(propaganda – Stakhanovites)

Stalin attacked Muslim faith