The state also provided free medical care, day care for children, inexpensive housing, and public recreation. While these benefits were real, many people still lacked vital necessities. Although the state built massive apartment complexes, housing was scarce. Entire families might be packed into a single room. Bread was plentiful, but meat, fresh fruit, and other foods remained in short supply.

Women Win Greater Equality

Long before 1917, women such as Lenin's wife, Nadezhda Krupskaya, worked for the revolution, spreading radical ideas among peasants and workers. In 1905, Alexandra Kollontai noted “how little our party concerned itself with the fate of working class women.” After becoming the only high-ranking woman in Lenin's government, she continued her campaign for women's rights.

Under the Communists, women won equality under the law. They gained access to education and a wide range of jobs.

By the 1930s, many Soviet women were working in medicine, engineering, or the sciences. By their labor, women contributed to Soviet economic growth. They worked in factories, in construction, and on collectives. Within the family, their wages were needed because men and women earned the same low salaries.

Soviet Foreign Policy

Between 1917 and 1939, the Soviet Union pursued two very different goals in foreign policy. As communists, both Lenin and Stalin wanted to bring about the worldwide revolution that Marx had predicted. But as Soviets, they wanted to guarantee their nation's security by winning the support of other countries. The result was a contradictory and generally unsuccessful foreign policy.

Promoting Communist Revolution

In 1919, Lenin formed the Communist International, or Comintern. Its purpose was to encourage worldwide revolution. To this end, it aided revolutionary groups around the world and urged colonial peoples to rise up against imperialist powers.

The Comintern's support of revolutionary groups outside the Soviet Union and its loud propaganda against capitalism made Western powers suspicious of the Soviet Union.

Photo of women working at weaving stations in front of a poster with inscriptions in Russian.

Soviet ideology stressed gender equality in labor and education. Many Soviet women held jobs and earned advanced degrees.

In the United States, fear of Bolshevik plots led to the “Red Scare” in the early 1920s. Britain temporarily broke off relations with the Soviet Union when evidence revealed Soviet schemes to turn the 1926 general strike into a revolution.

Seeking Recognition

Even while the Comintern supported the global communist struggle, the Soviet Union sought international recognition and trade with capitalist countries, especially the United States and Britain. In 1933, the United States and Soviet Union finally set up diplomatic relations, and the following year, the Soviets joined the League of Nations. However, mistrust still poisoned relations, especially after the Great Purge.

In the early years of Stalin's rule, the Soviet Union remained, for the most part, isolated from the West. By the late 1930s, however, Stalin feared a growing threat from Nazi Germany. In April 1939, he suggested that Russia, France, and Britain form an alliance against Germany. Western suspicions of Soviet intentions made an agreement impossible. Within months, Stalin made an about-face and signed an alliance with Nazi Germany.


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Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments