New Economic Policy 1921–1924  



After 3 years of war communism, a mutiny at the Kronstadt naval base scared the Bolsheviks, and they realised that they were pressing the people too hard.

       Lenin much to the annoyance of hard-line Communists brought in the New Economic Policy, which allowed some free enterprise, and concentrated on stimulating production.



Kronstadt Rebellion 


The New Economic Policy

Reed Brett on the NEP

Prof Rempel on the NEP

Was the NEP a success?


So who was more important: Lenin or Trotsky?


In 1921, the sailors at the Kronstadt Naval Base mutinied.

They demanded free speech, free elections, free trade unions and an end to war communism.   Trotsky’s Red Army put the mutiny down with great losses.


The mutiny scared the Bolsheviks, because the Kronstadt sailors had been their greatest supporters!   Lenin said later that the rebellion was 'like a flash of lightning which threw more of a glare upon reality than anything else.'   So he abandoned the policy of War Communism and brought in the NEP.



The New Economic Policy


National freedoms

a. Lenin allowed freedom to national and Muslim cultures.  

b. In the Ukraine, although the Bolsheviks were in power, the Ukrainian language was used in government and business, and children were taught it in schools.  

c. In the Muslim areas of central Asia (such as Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan) bazaars were allowed to reopen, mosques were taken from Soviet control, the Koran was restored, and native languages were encouraged.



Coal, iron, steel and railways stayed nationalised, but the Bolsheviks brought in experts, on high wages, to increase production.


Private enterprise

a. Small factories were handed back to their owners.

b. New traders (called 'nepmen') were allowed to set up small private businesses.  

c. At the same time - where War Communism had forced the peasants to hand over ALL their surplus grain - Lenin let them sell their surplus, and pay a tax instead.   Some hard-working peasants became rich (the ‘Kulaks’).



A 1925 advert for ‘Kalenkin’ beers, sodas and syrups.     


A poster: ‘You will be able to go anywhere in the world if you win the state lottery’.


1.  Some of the Politburo (the inner cabinet of the government) opposed the NEP because it allowed capitalism.

2.  However, the NEP did something to restore prosperity - although production levels only passed the 1914 level in 1928.



Source A

Everyone is so infinitely better off that present conditions see paradise by comparison...   250,000 private traders have migrated to Moscow since the NEP began.   They crowd the restaurants where it costs $25 a head for dinner with French wine ... and lose a thousand or so an evening at cards without turning a hair.

Walter Duranty, I Write AS I Please (1935)

Duranty - an American journalist who had been in Russia during the revolution - remembering the NEP in 1992.


Source B

The NEP restored some prosperity to Russia .   But to many of us this prosperity was distasteful...   We felt ourselves sinking into the bog, paralysed, corrupted...   There was gambling, drunkenness, and all the filth of former times.  

Classes were reborn in front of our very eyes..

Victor Serge, From Lenin to Stalin (1937)

Serge was a Bolshevik, remembering the NEP



Source C

There wasn’t any food in the country.   We were down to a little bread each.   Then suddenly they started the NEP.   Cafes opened.   Factories went back into private hands.   It was Capitalism.   In my eyes it was the very thing I had been fighting against...

      Most people supported Lenin, other said he was wrong, and many tore up their party membership cards.

Nikolai Izatchik, a Bolshevik, remembering the NEP in 1992