The Bolsheviks Rise to Power

The Bolsheviks Rise to Power

The Bolsheviks were a political party who led the Russian Revolution. They led the revolution under the new name of the communist party and soon became the ruling party of the Soviet Union. They used a culmination of tactics in order to instigate a revolution, that they felt was required. Their programme was based around the notion of establishing a communist Russia, but also to evoke an international revolution to spread communist ideas and “overthrow imperialist governments”. The party was led by a communist philosopher known as Vladimir Lenin; he also became known as the mastermind behind the October Revolution in 1917


Figure 1: Lenin making a speech.

Figure 1: Lenin making a speech.

On the 24th of October 1917 Lenin made a speech titled ‘Call to Power’ to the Central Committee of the Bolsheviks; the speech heavily featured the reasons why he felt the revolution was needed and that it must started with deliberate speed. He started off by stating that he believed the situation in Russia (1917) was one that could “not be resolved by conferences or congresses”. This demonstrates that he did not believe that the current government in Russia was not competent enough to protect the interest of the Russian people and therefore needed to be replaced. He then went on to say that revolution was needed in the “interests of the starving” in order to provide “salvation from famine”. Such famines took place in the winters of 1916 and 1917. He felt that the distribution of the land was unequal and believed that the nationalization of the land was essential in order to solve the problem of starvation. Another factor that Lenin mentions in his speech is the problem of the Great War, which the vast majority of Russians desired an end to after suffering the loss of approximately 3 million lives. He suggests that a revolution is required in order for the peasants to receive “the offer of peace” as only a Bolshevik government would be strong enough to negotiate a peace treaty with the Germans. This would also help end the starvation problem, as food would no longer have to be sent soldiers on the front lines and therefore be used to feed workers and the peasantry.

Figure 2: Russian soldiers during WW1

Figure 2: Russian soldiers during WW1


In a series of letters that Lenin sent to the Bolshevik Central Committee he mentioned what the most effective tactics were and how they should be used to seize control. The Bolsheviks “had a majority in the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ deputies of both capitals” and Lenin felt believed this position would help the Bolsheviks take power. This is because he felt that victory in the Metropolitan cities of Moscow and Petrograd would carry the peasants with the revolution thus boosting their support. He also believed that in order for the revolution to be successful there “must be an armed uprising in Petrograd and Moscow”. This is because he believed that “by taking power in both Moscow and in Petrograd… we shall win absolutely and unquestionably”. Petrograd and Moscow were so vital to the Bolsheviks plans because of their economic importance to the Russians and also because this was where the main hubs of power were located. In stark contrast to this he came up with another, less violent tactic that he suggested the Bolsheviks should use. This was to “accuse the other parties of procrastination” in order to present the Bolsheviks as a more viable and competent leader that would take the Soviet Union forward, in the hope of increasing their support.

Figure 3: The storming of the Winter Palace

Figure 3: The storming of the Winter Palace


The Bolshevik party came to power after their successful October revolution. For the Soviet Union this not only meant a change to how the country was run but also to how the country operated outside its own borders. One significant reform made by the Bolsheviks was the establishment of investigative committees on land distribution which were set up in order to ensure that the land was sparsely spread out among the population and not just the wealthy few, in hope that this would decrease the chance of a repeat famine. Another one of the main positive points of the Bolshevik party was the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk which ended Russia’s participation in World War I. This was a huge step for the Bolsheviks but mainly the Russian population who had suffered so much to fight for their country.

For many years the outbreak of Civil War in 1918 has somewhat tainted what can be regarded as a successful rise to power. However, through the use of a range of tactics such as: speeches, armed movements and various other methods (mentioned prior) the Bolsheviks were able to implement their philosophy and therefore their ascension to power can be viewed as majorly successful.

Class of the Titanic

If you were waking up on the 15th of April 1912, you may be excused for assuming that somebody was playing a belated April fool’s joke upon you. After all, the “unsinkable” ship managed to meet its demise in the unlikely form of an iceberg and descended into its watery grave in just a matter of hours. But not everyone on the ship experienced this in the same way, If you were a third class passenger your chances of survival were unlikely in comparison to the higher chances of the upper class. This was due to the very formation of the ship, with each of the decks descending in class order. Furthermore, if you were a male passenger, your chances were even slimmer due to the age old policy of ‘women and children’ first. The sinking of the Titanic was tainted by class hierarchy both in terms of division on the ship, and in terms of how it was reported by the media to the general public.
This basic lack of regard for the lower classes ran from the very formation of the Titanic right through to those who survived. Source 1 is evidence showing that the layout of the ship impeded the chance for third class survival. Third classes were situated lower down in the ship, with six flights of stairs to climb to the upper deck. It is accurate to assume that a third class passengers journey from the third class deck to the upper deck would take them longer and thus cost more lives. This can be supported with the shocking statistics in Source 3 and supports the notion that class division is apparent in the creation of the living quarters of the ship, and so affects the chances of the passenger’s survival aboard the ‘unsinkable ship.’

Source 1: A blueprint of the layout of the floors on the Titanic. On the left the only flight of stairs from the lower deck can be seen.

Source 1: A blueprint of the layout of the floors on the Titanic. On the left the only flight of stairs from the lower deck can be seen.

With this in mind, the Astor family, owners of the Waldorf Astoria hotels in New York, proved the suggestion of the link between the lower down the deck – the lower the class in society, consequently the less likely you were to survive. The wealthy Astor family, were staying on the ‘C’ deck in first class (the deck belonging to first class that was the furthest down.) Therefore, this suggests that the death of John Jacob Astor may have been due to the inability to get to the upper deck, and to get to one of the few lifeboats available. However, John Jacob Astor was one of the few deceased that received a personal mention in the papers, as well as his surviving wife receiving a column. This was not due to him being just a popular man, although he had received tremendous recognition from the Spanish-American War and being granted the status of colonel, he received this media attention due to his class and more importantly his wealth. This showing how although situated in first class, it can be assumed that Astor was still restricted in his efforts to escape due to the poor layout of the ship. And from Source 2 it can be seen that he risked his life, like many men, for the sake of women and children, proving that gender was a contributing factor to survival on the Titanic.

Figure 2 is front page of The Call. Note the headline ‘Wealthy Men Lost,’ just under the death toll.

Figure 2 is front page of The Call. Note the headline ‘Wealthy Men Lost,’ just under the death toll.

The wife of Mr Astor, Madeline, who was aboard the Titanic with her husband, did survive. Therefore, this, along with Source 3, shows the difference between the sexes surviving, suggests that although the chances of survival were thin for lower class, they were also slim for the males on board. As even a man of such high status, could not escape the peril of the sinking of the Titanic.

Figure 3 provides a visual representation of the mortality rates in regards to gender and class

Figure 3 provides a visual representation of the mortality rates in regards to gender and class

The Titanic will remain a haunting disaster. Yet, what seems the forgotten tragedy is the way in which class division had its place during and after the disaster. Yet for those who were male, as well as a part of the third class, had little chance of survival. Unfortunately, the importance of hierarchy and divisions amongst classes on board the Titanic can be seen as a microcosm of British society at this time. However, in the case of the Titanic it is evident that social class was a matter of life or death.

Turning the Tide of War: The Battle of Stalingrad

The Battle of Stalingrad is a prominent example of civilian disaster and involvement in a dark period of European history. Lasting five months, the majority of the civilian population did not leave their city, continuing their jobs and supporting the war in their way. This period of European history is well documented, therefore demonstrating the wide reaching influence of a heroic civilian population outside its own country. Why did these civilian acts of heroism create so much interest on a global scale?

Hitler’s ferocious invasion on Stalingrad forced civilians to be influential in the outcome of the battle. The participation of civilians can be partly based on desperation for the need of soldiers and partly due to Stalin forbidding the evacuation of civilians .[1] However, the German historian Lubbers states that ‘thousands of civilians fled from the battle’[2] thus creating a conflicted image of the role of civilians. The source below would provide evidence that despite the mass destruction, not all civilians did indeed evacuate despite the dire circumstances, thus suggesting that civilians were under the influence of discipline or held a sense of patriotism which kept them within the city. Contemporary newspaper reports provide evidence of collaboration between the Red Army and civilian forces in defending the city.[3] In this interpretation the role of civilians became increasingly militarised beyond a militia, enhancing their role in the battle of Stalingrad.



Although most civilians of Stalingrad were evacuated before the city was besieged, it would have been impossible to save them all. Any civilian survivors endured hell to stay alive. The death of innocent civilians was just one of the factors that spurred the Russian soldiers to fight so ferociously; snipers such as Vasily Zaytsev stated they often saw dead children hanging from trees in parks through their scopes[4]. The beach heads of the river Volga were littered with the mutilated bodies of women and children who had fallen victim to German artillery and air strikes[5]. The death and destruction left behind after the German occupation of the Soviet Union led to the merciless acts of the Red Army during the later occupation of Berlin. The events of Stalingrad greatly damaged the civilians and soldiers of both the Red Army and Wehrmacht, in extreme cases the harsh weather conditions and lack of food caused soldiers as well as civilians to resort to eating the dead [6]. The cannibalism, although not on a mass scale, represents the desperation and suffering implemented by the German advance. Hitler perceived the city as a priority as Stalingrad was Stalin’s city; the heart of communism. For the exact same reason Stalin perceived Stalingrad as a priority to hold on to, in order to save communism. The result was catastrophic.

Stalingrad’s civilian resistance was renowned globally as being one of the most courageous populations throughout the Second World War. While the loyalty of civilians towards Stalin, through either fear or love, can be called into question, their willingness to fight was unprecedented. The source below was written by typists in Britain and pits the civilian involvement at the same level as that of the soldiers.[7] This letter epitomises the civilian involvement in Stalingrad by recognising that the civilian’s involvement in the struggle was just as key to the defence of the city as the soldiers. Other international responses were more direct such as one hundred and fifty Canadian people volunteering for a winter clothes appeal for the homeless and orphans of Stalingrad[8]. The plight of the civilians within the battle rallied international response, whether it was a recognition of their effort such as in Britain, or a response of aid sent by Canada thus proving how civilian effort did not go unnoticed.

primary sources

In conclusion, the civilians of Stalingrad were instrumental in the defence of the city. Without such ferocious determination in defying Hitler and the support of their nation, then the population of Stalingrad would have been eradicated. This stand against a fascist regime led to international recognition and global support. Although suffering through great atrocities their resolve remained unchallenged and ultimately they prevailed.

[1] C.P. Chen, Battle of Stalingrad (Accessed 13/03/2014 13:03pm)

[2] G.C Lubbers, The 6th German Army and the civilian population of Stalingrad inVierteljahrshefte Fur Zeitgeschichte Vol.54, 2006, Abstract

[3] Unknown, Nazi’s Ram way into Outskirts of Stalingrad: Civilians join Big Battle for City, Chicago Daily Tribune, 17th September 1942 P.1


[5] Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963), 09/25/1942, p. 1



[8] Unknown (Accessed 27/03/2014 13:05pm)

The Cuckoo Nest

The Cuckoo Nest

Treatments and Conditions in Seacliff Lunatic Asylum, New Zealand.

The Gothic-themed architecture of Seacliff Lunatic Asylum makes the ideal setting for the brutal and shocking violations of human nature which occurred within the constraining walls of the ‘so- called’ sanctuary.  It was built in the late nineteenth century located in an isolated and eerie spot in New Zealand which was surrounded by a wall of forestation blocking the mentally handicapped residents from the rest of society and stripping them of their basic human rights.


cuckoo nest

Figure 1 Nurses in front of Seacliff Lunatic Asylum 1890

The horrors which occurred included many nineteenth century procedures compromising of the infamous lobotomy operation which consisted of removing or cutting the frontal lobes of the brain. This was the treatment for those deemed psychologically unstable.  A famous example of this is the author and schizophrenic, Janet Frame, who was in fact a patient at Seacliff Lunatic Asylum. She narrowly escaped the cruel incapacitating practice that is lobotomy. Frame claimed, ‘It is little wonder that I value writing as a way of life when it actually saved my life.’[1] In this statement she is referring to the success of her work which won her a literary prize, cancelling the lobotomy in the process. Although Frame was fortunate enough to escape this, others were not so lucky. For instance, former President John F. Kennedy’s sister, Rosemary Kennedy underwent the cruel treatment in 1941 when she was only 23[2]. This left her incapacitated and unable to live a fulfilling life.

cuckoo nest 2

Figure 2 shows a lobotomy operation which Janet Frame managed to avoid [3]

Another gruesome procedure of the Seacliff hellish asylum was the mutilation of sexual organs and carrying out of non consensual castration. The case study of ‘Annemarie [Anon]’ demonstrates this vile treatment, the ‘unsexing’ operation, which included the removal of fallopian tubes, ovaries and clitoris. The belief was that if patients were ‘unsexed’ it would lead to an improvement in behaviour, and in Annemarie’s case she was discharged six months after her treatment apparently ‘improved’. According to, men had improved behaviour in the asylum because they were required to take part in manual labour outside, whereas women suffered more because they were not allowed to go outside and this could be seen as a reflection of the outside world ‘housewife’ role.[4]

Electroconvulsive therapy was commonly used in mental asylums across the world, including in the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota on the famous author Ernest Hemmingway which resulted in intense changes of behaviour. Shortly after his operation Hemmingway took a gun and promptly shot himself in the head. Thus showing the depression and changes in personality it can lead to. Further evidence of changes in behaviour after treatments is the accidental lobotomy of Phineas Gage, a railway worker, who had a pole penetrate his skull while working. Friends and family was distraught to discover and commented on his change in behaviour and personality.

The asylum was notorious for not abiding to human rights, the treatment of patients could involve measures such as chaining, starvation, solitary confinement and even keeping them unclothed – both humiliating and unethical. In fact, the Seacliff Asylum became known after its confinement of patients lead to the loss of thirty seven lives. A building which was recently added to the gloomy towers of Seacliff caught fire in 1942 in a fatal accident. The safety procedures of the asylum were questioned when it was discovered that the thirty seven desperate women who died were locked inside the ward with no way of escaping.[5]

At the beginning of the twentieth century, Sir Frederick Truby King made efforts to improve the conditions of Seacliff mental hospital. During his time as Medical Superintendent at Seacliff ‘from 1899 to 1921’[6]; he introduced various reforms into the asylum in attempt to improve the health of patients. Reforms included better diets for patients, and discipline for staff and improvements in the grounds. Furthermore he attempted to alter the style of treatment by introducing smaller and open wards which paved the way for future developments known as the villa system.

To sum up, the Seacliff mental asylum was demolished around 1960. Hopefully this has given you an insight into the monstrosities that plagued the asylum. The asylum is now privately owned.  This blog shows we should be grateful for the advancements that have been made in this field.


[1]  The Times (London, England), Friday, January 30, 2004; pg. 46; Issue 67985.

[2] Looking Back on an Ice-Pick Lobotomy That He Says Didn’t Touch His Soul, McGRATH, CHARLES. New York Times (1923-Current file) [New York, N.Y] 16 Nov 2005: E1.



[5] Seacliff fire kills 37-


“A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!”

Bosworth Field, 1485. A savage hoard of Lancastrian supporters left the field drenched in the dead king’s blood. The new king, Henry VII, then had the arduous task of justifying his right to the crown, and propaganda was key to this.

ImageBorn only three years prior to the outbreak of the Wars of the Roses, Richard was a popular Yorkist figure, and much loved by his brother King Edward IV, who made Richard Lord Protector of the country and of his son Edward V, upon his death. It was this position of honour, the Tudors’ say, Richard abused by murdering the young Edward V in his own quest for power. So, was Richard a true, honourable king, murdered on the instruction of a usurper? Or a cruel, tyrannical man, typified by his hunched-back? Centuries of propaganda would have us believe the latter; however evidence suggests otherwise.

One of the initial pieces of Tudor propaganda was Thomas More’s The History of King Richard III, which adheres to the portrayal of Richard as ‘malicious, wrathful, envious, and …ever perverse.’[1] More did this by describing Richard as more of a monster than a divine king, and referring to him as ‘crooked-backed,’[2] thereby de-humanising him. This book set the precedence for further such portrayals of Richard, many of which are still seen today.

The stereotypical image of Richard III can be seen in Shakespeare’s play, The Tragedy of Richard III, largely based on More’s book, in which Shakespeare conforms to the popular image of a deformed king. This would suggest that society was in favour of tarnishing the image and name of the King in order to justify, legitimise and impress the newly established Tudor dynasty. In the play, Shakespeare depicts Richard as being “deformed and unfinished” which suggests the un-kingly features not desired by society.[3] As aforementioned in the works of Thomas More, the propaganda of a murderous king is further supported by the writings of Shakespeare, as reference is made to the disappearance of the ‘rightful heirs,’ the famous princes in the tower. In the play Shakespeare refers to “plots, I have laid” putting forward the notion that Richard had significant involvement in the heinous crimes he was accused of; murder and regicide.[4] Due to the esteem of Shakespeare, The Tragedy of Richard III is often still presented, and thus continues to affect people’s opinion on Richard as a crippled tyrant.

ImageAlongside textual propaganda, there were also visual representations which shifted focus on attacking the personality of Richard III, as being no more than a malicious and weak king, to his appearance, as an attempt to further validate his negative stereotype. This stereotype can be seen in the above painting of Richard, produced between the late fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, which alludes to the idea of Richard as deformed, insinuating his weakness and inability to reign. This is highlighted by several features of his body; the shoulders, hands and face. The painter has given Richard sloped shoulders, supporting More’s claim of Richard being ‘ill-featured of limbs.’[5] Additionally, the hands of the King are central to the painting, unusual for royal portraits of this time, also the artist has given Richard a withered and haggard face, his aged appearance implying fragility, showing the painting is an effect of Tudor propaganda.

In contrast to this portrayal, other sources suggest the opposite to these negative representations of Richard; however they have not had as much of an impact on popular opinion. For example, in the book published by Horace Walpole, Historic Doubts on the Life and Reign of King Richard III, he disproves many common perceptions of Richard as a tyrant. Showing Tudor propaganda did not have an effect on all, as this was the first major piece of work disproving Tudor claims. He suggests that the King’s crimes were justified, necessary or he was not involved at all. Walpole casts doubt over the Tudor portrayal of Richard, suggesting that many concerns over the King’s ability were simply hysteria. This piece of work proves that the image of Richard III and propaganda surrounding the King was relevant centuries later, as Walpole was writing about the King posthumously, and disproves many negative perceptions of the King, largely discrediting Tudor propaganda.

In conclusion, Tudor propaganda has had a great impact on the views of Richard III as many of the sources we studied offer a negative perception of the King as being deformed. The fact that many of these sources discrediting the King were produced in later centuries shows that the impact of Tudor propaganda was long lasting. Throughout general opinion Richard is still largely regarded by many as a hunchbacked tyrant, which ultimately shows the extensive impact of Tudor propaganda, specifically seen in the work of Shakespeare. Despite a minority of sources discrediting Tudor propaganda’s portrayal of Richard, its foundations still lie within our modern day society.


[1] Thomas More, The History of King Richard III, (c.1513), p.5

[2] Ibid. p.5

[3] [Date accessed 13/3/2014]

[4] Ibid. [date accessed 13/3/2014]

[5] Thomas More, The History of King Richard III, (c.1513), p.5

Image 1: J.R. Brown, c.1901
Image 2: A posthumous representation of Richard III produced during the Tudor dynasty.

The Bismarck: Sunk of Scuttled?

The sinking of the Bismarck in May 1941 was critical to the Battle of the Atlantic. This poignant event in Britain’s war for survival is one which sparked great debate ( We chose the Bismarck’s demise in order to shed further light on this controversial event. We did this in two ways, firstly through the analysis of primary sources consisting of newspaper articles, and memoirs of men who partook in the events. These were then contrasted with secondary sources such as; the 2002 documentary produced by James Cameron and the 1960 feature film Sink the Bismarck. The analysis of these sources has allowed us to assess the different views that have been expressed over the several decades and how these have changed with time.


British newspaper The Daily Mirror carrying a front page story of the sinking of the Bismarck.

The evidence compiled traced events from the sinking of HMS Hood, to the ensuing Pan-Atlantic chase and the Royal Naval aircraft assault, before the Bismarck was eventually sunk. One of our key sources was a British newspaper report of the sinking of the Bismarck. The report is arguably an extravagant piece of propaganda, used to bolster the morale of the British people when serious defeats were being suffered on all fronts. The report sees the sinking of the Bismarck as a great blow to the German war machine dealt by the Royal Navy, describing how she was surrounded and sunk, in turn avenging HMS Hood. The press did much to publicise the news, particularly since the sinking maintained British naval supremacy, and owing to the fact that the Bismarck was the pride of the German Kriegsmarine, and was proclaimed to be unsinkable.

The newspaper report we collected was not too dissimilar to the story being told during the 1960s with the film Sink the Bismarck, which starring Kenneth More, told of the events surrounding the sinking of the Bismarck and held the typical British view of the German battleship being sunk by the Royal Navy. This was particularly interesting as the war had been over for 15 years, and propaganda telling of great victories over the enemy was unncecessary, yet the film was made using British sources to tell of the sinking of the Bismarck.


Memoirs of Burkard Baron Von Mullenheim-Rechberg who was a crewman aboard the Bismarck.


Memoirs of British Swordfish pilot John Moffat who partook in the action to sink the Bismarck.

We contrasted the views of a German crewman aboard the Bismarck and a British Officer claiming to be the torpedo bomber pilot who damaged the rudder to the German battleship rendering it immobile allowing for the sunbsequent Royal Navy capture and sinking of her. Our post-analysis conclusion was that the account from the German sailor,Burkard Baron Von Mullenheim-Rechberg who was the Aft Fire Control Officer, (Pictured left) is a more reliable source regarding the events surrounding the sinking of the Bismarck as he was an officer aboard the German battleship. He was thus aware of most orders that were given around the ship, including the supposed order to scuttle. By contrast, the British pilot, John Moffat, merely relays his events of the torpedo attack before describing how on May 27 he flew at a distance from the Bismarck and the British fleet and watched the events unfold. He described how he watched the British battleships and crusiers pound the Bismarck before she finally sunk after HMS Dorsetshire fired a volley of torpedos. He was not aware of what was occuring aboard the Bismarck itself and only relayed an external viewpoint. The source from the British pilot (Pictured above right) written in the 2000s, shows the typical British view of the sinking.

Our research also led to us viewing a documentary produced by American the film director James Cameron who, using Remote Operating Vehicles, dived on the wreck of the Bismarck surveying the damage that the ship had received. The documentary looked at the respective German and British perspectives of the sinking, which were similar to those mentioned in our earlier sources, and helped to form the basis of our conclusion on the subject of whether or not the Bismarck was sunk or scuttled. Cameron’s documentary contained striking images of the wreck of the German battleship and took the viewer into the bowels of the ship. The visual evidence yielded by this documentary supports the claim that the Bismarck was scuttled as the outer armourbelt was undamaged, despite the British torpedo impacts and shelling. However, the inside compartments had been severely damaged as if an internal explosion, or a series of internal explosions, which caused sufficient damage. 


The wreck of the Bismarck as viewed by James Cameron and his expedition team.

We asked the question of whether or not the Bismarck was sunk or scuttled. We found that the evidence, particularly from newspapers and the testimony of the veterans who partook in the events are contradicting, but that visual forensic evidence does support what the German veterans have always maintained; that the Bismarck was scuttled. Arguably the Bismarck was always going to sink through the Royal Navy’s bombardment; however, the scuttling charges merely hastened the sinking. Therefore, we conclude that the Bismarck, despite the British claims, was most likely scuttled. With the sinking of the Bismarck, of her company of 2,065, only 116 men survived to become Prisoners of War.