Russia and Germany were the two European countries that emerged from the First World War with ravished and chaotic economic and political atmospheres. This paper reflects on the events that occurred in the two countries prior to the October 1929 great recession and the effects of these events on the Great Depression.
In Russia, the 1920s were commonly known as the golden age. The 1920s came hot on the heels of the First World War and a brutal civil war that had seen the bourgeois society under the tsarist leadership destroyed. Stalin managed to make the 1920s one of the most successful decades in Russian political, economic, and cultural life. Stalin became the Secretary General of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic in 1922, and he led reforms in all fields of the Russian society based on the communist ideology. The Red Army was in the ascendancy during this period. The early days of the Bolsheviks were characterized by relative freedom (Figes 214).
Under Commissar Anatoliy Lunacharskiy, education was one of the key areas that saw enormous changes in this society. Through experimentation and advanced research, the education system was reformed in order to drive the country into a modern nation. During the period of 1917-27, the Bolshevik idea of education was grounded on the European and American replicas, which insisted on the prominence of developing a child’s distinctiveness and creativeness. Hence the education curriculum was broadened to embrace physical education, art, music, physical arts, and environmental based ecological studies. Examinations in primary school were eliminated. Kindergartens and UnitedLabor School, set to train workers were established to make sure that individual uniqueness was developed. The government launched a policy to supply school attires, hot meals and all paraphernalia needed by students. Experimental institutes where new education methods could be tried and where tutors could be reskilled to impart the new syllabus using the new approaches were also developed (Hughes 108).
On the economic front, in 1921, Lenin introduced the New Economic Policy. This was geared towards revitalizing the economy, upsurging food production, and authorizing business development. The policies introduced were popularly known as NEP; they were geared towards making the country more stable after the many years of the civil war. The civil war from 1917 had destroyed the country economically, and hence the NEP was pivotal step in assuring the peasants and the whole population of success of the country development. The NEP lasted until 1928 before Stalin replaced it with the Five-Year Plans that were to drastically modify soviet economic and social organizations (Hughes 142).
Politically, the 1920’s saw the emergence of a more powerful Russia on the international platform. Russia led the formation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics under the leadership of Lenin in December 1922. Stalin was the Union’s first Secretary General. He later replaced Lenin as Russia’s leader after Lenin’s death in 1924. Stalin overwhelmed his opponents comprising Leon Trotsky, Grigory Zinovyev, and Aleksey Rykov. Stalin became one of most influential people in the world that gave him the chance to spread his personal ideology to the rest of the communist states. The formation of the Union of Soviet Socialists Republics transformed Russia into one of the most powerful countries in the world. The populations under the USSR became the biggest, and Russia started to militarize the nations under the USSR. At the same time, the Russians continued their expansionist communism agenda in terms of ideology, politics, and militarization. The Red Army spread its wings and power to other Eastern Europe countries. Communist propaganda was spread by the Russians under the help of the Red Army during the 1925 elections in Ukraine. This was later replicated in other countries of the Soviet Union where the Bolsheviks sensed that peasants wanted changes (Pintner and Rowney 234-276).
The effects of Stalin’s Five Year Plan led to the situation when many people became unemployed. This was a key to the suffering of the peasants during the great depression in 1929. The expenses of the government on militarization and occupation of the Soviet Union States laid a foundation for the hardships that the country experienced during the period of the Great Depression. Right wing agendas become more popular in the country because they addressed the peasants policy.
Post world war Germany was a country both in turmoil’s and chaos. The effects of the war had ravished the country economically, physically, and socially. As the country entered the new decade, the western nations saw it as a “looser” after the First World War. Internationally, the League of Nations was formed in Geneva in 1920 by Woodrow Wilson and the leaders of France, England, and other Allied States. The two most powerful nations that had always been present in any world negotiations were conspicuously absent. These were Russia and Germany. The League of Nation was seen by Germany as vengeful organization to help France ensure that Germany will never invade it again (Canning 174).
Germany was disarmed during the Treaty of Versailles in May 1924 when the Allies signed the treaty with Germany. The country lost territories to France and Belgium, while, at the same time, its military was reduced to less than 100,000. The country was then forced to pay widows of the war from the allied states bumper compensations. This led to hard financial constraints for the German economy, at the same time, straining the political hold of the democrats in the country (Canning 267).
The Weimarrepublic of Germany under the leadership of a more socialist leader, Frederich Ebert (until 1925) took over in 1920. The country adopted a parliamentary democracy, and this led to the emergence of the Anti-democratic parties in the Reichstag. In 1920, the democratic coalition led by SPD, DDP, and Center lost the majority in the Reichstag. The new government led by Center, the DDP, and the DVP then grudgingly started to fulfill the conditions of the Treaty of Versailles. Nationalist and radical parties and groups in the country saw this as a betrayal of the country’s sovereignty and hence embarked on the Kapp Putsch in March of 1920 leading to general strikes and also the emergence of radical left wing parties. It was during 1920 that Adolf Hitler emerged as a leader in the German politics with the formation of his Nazi Party. The Nazis had radical views on the political, social, and economic front in Germany (Adam 87).
There was turmoil all over Germany from 1921 to 1923 with the constant fighting between the left wing and right wing parties. Most regions in the country wanted to be autonomous from the main republic. Internal resistance had set in due to the heavy price that the country was paying due to the Treaty of Versailles. By 1923, the country had become embroiled in four more Putsches’. The Nazi philosophy had gained ground amongst radicals, and the country was divided. On 8th and 9th November in 1923, Hitler organized a putsch by the Nazi’s in Bavaria. He tried to march to Berlin and force the Weimar republic out of power. However, the putsch was a total failure as he was caught and imprisoned. However, this gave Hitler prominence on the national stage. Hitler was imprisoned until 1924. Being in prison, he wrote “The Mein Kampf”. It became the philosophical book of the Nazis which later on led to the rise of Hitler as the most powerful leader of the country. On the international political front, Germany was to be admitted to the League of Nation in 1926. This helped reduce conflicts between Germany and its neighbors (Adam 122).
On the economic front, from 1924, the German government under the leadership of Chancellor Gustav Stresemann tried to revive the dying economy. The popularly known Stresemann and Dawes Plan were put in motion to help reduce the strikes in the Ruhr region which was the country’s industrial hub. The strikes that had started in 1920 had made the country lag behind as an economic superpower in the region. This plan helped the Germans gain trust from the French who had sent troops to the country to ensure that it paid for what was agreed in the Treaty of Versailles. However, by the end of 1929, Germans complained that the Dawes plan was too expensive and crippling the country. The new economic plan was set in motion by an American banker. Many people were still angry with the requirements of that plan; and even before the plan became effective, the global depression started in 1929. This meant that Germany could not manage to pay for these reparations (Canning 334).
The harsh conditions of the early Weimar republic passed, and for about 5 years Germany enjoyed a brief period of success both politically and economically. However, the troubles of the 1920s laid a harsh foundation for the country during the Great Depression. People suffered more, and this is evident from the discussions above. Political and economic turmoil had made Germans have extremely few jobs. The Great Depression in 1929 was a culmination of a hopeless German society. Right wing ideologies become more popular in Germany during the 1920s due to the embargoes laid on the country as punitive measures because of its position in the First World War. Germans felt that the rest of the world was punishing them, and hence right wing ideologies become more popular. In addition to this, the left wing government was seen as a betrayal to the people and sovereignty of the country.