Early Attacks In the years immediately following their accession to power in 1917, the Bol
In the years immediately following their accession to power
in 1917, the Bolsheviks took measures to prevent challenges to
their new regime, beginning with eliminating political
opposition. When the freely-elected Constituent Assembly did not
acknowledge the primacy of the Bolshevik government, Vladimir
Lenin dissolved it in January 1918. The Left Socialist
Revolutionary Party, which protested the action, withdrew from
the Bolshevik coalition in March, and its members were
automatically branded enemies of the people. Numerous opposition
groups posed military threats from various parts of the country,
placing the survival of the revolution in jeopardy. Between 1918
and 1921, a state of civil war existed.
Bolshevik policy toward its detractors, and particularly
toward articulate, intellectual criticism, hardened considerably.
Suppression of newspapers, initially described as a temporary
measure, became a permanent policy. Lenin considered the
Constitutional Democrats (Kadets) the center of a conspiracy
against Bolshevik rule. In 1919, he began mass arrests of
professors and scientists who had been Kadets, and deported
Kadets, Socialist Revolutionaries, Mensheviks, and Nationalists.
The Bolshevik leadership sought rapidly to purge Russia of past
leaders in order to build the future on a clean slate.
These harsh measures alienated a large number of the
intellectuals who had supported the overthrow of the tsarist
order. The suppression of democratic institutions evoked strong
protests from academics and artists, who felt betrayed in their
idealistic belief that revolution would bring a free society.
Writers who had emigrated shortly after the revolution published
stinging attacks on the new government from abroad. As a result,
further exit permits for artists were generally denied.
The disenchantment of the majority of intellectuals did not
surprise Lenin, who saw the old Russian intelligentsia as a kind
of rival to his "party of a new type," which alone could bring
revolutionary consciousness to the working class. In his view,
artists generally served bourgeois interests, a notion that
fueled the persecution of intellectuals throughout the Soviet
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