Static – Modern History (Post-Independence) – The Language Problem (4) | Focus – Mains

Notes for Modern History (Post-Independence)

The Language Problem I

  • The language problem was the most divisive issue in the first twenty years of independent India, and it created the apprehension among many that the political and cultural unity of the country was in danger.
  • People love their language; it is an integral part of culture. Consequently , linguistic identity has been a strong force in all societies. This is even more true of a multilingual society like India’s.
  • Linguistic diversity would inevitably give birth to strong political currents around issues linked to language, such as educational and economic development, job and other economic opportunities and access to political power.
  • The Indian constitution recognizes twenty -two major languages, including English and Sanskrit. In addition, there are a myriad languages spoken by the tribals and others, with or without their own scripts.
  • The problem posed to national consolidation by linguistic diversity has taken two major forms:
    • (i) the dispute over official language of the union and
    • (ii) the linguistic reorganization of the states.

The Language Problem II

  • The controversy on the language issue became most virulent when it took the form of opposition to Hindi and tended to create conflict between Hindi-speaking and non-Hindi-speaking regions of the country .
  • The issue of a national language was resolved when the constitution-makers virtually accepted all the major languages as ‘languages of India’ or India’s national languages. But the matter could not end there, for the country ’s official work could not be carried on in so many languages. There had to be one common language in which the central government would carry on its work and maintain contact with the state governments.
  • The question arose what would be this language of all-India communication? Or what would be India’s official and link language?
  • Only two candidates were available for the purpose: English and Hindi. Hindi or Hindustani, the other candidate for the status of the official or link language, had already played this role during the nationalist struggle, especially during the phase of mass mobilization.
  • Hindi had been accepted by leaders from non-Hindi-speaking regions because it was considered to be the most widely spoken and understood language in the country . The real debate in the Constituent Assembly occurred over two questions: Would Hindi or Hindustani replace English? And what would be the time-frame for such a replacement to happen?

The Language Problem III

  • The question of Hindi or Hindustani was soon resolved. Gandhiji and Nehru both supported Hindustani, written in the Devanagari or Urdu script. Though many supporters of Hindi disagreed, they had tended to accept the Gandhi–Nehru viewpoint.
  • The issue of the time-frame for a shift from English to Hindi produced a divide between Hindi and non-Hindi areas. The spokespersons of Hindi areas were for the immediate switchover to Hindi, while those from non-Hindi areas advocated retention of English for a long if not indefinite period.
  • The case for Hindi basically rested on the fact that it was the language of the largest number, though not of the majority , of the people of India; it was also understood at least in the urban areas of most of northern India from Bengal to Punjab and in Maharashtra and Gujarat.
  • The critics of Hindi talked about it being less developed than other languages as a literary language and as a language of science and politics. But their main fear was that Hindi’s adoption as the official language would place non-Hindi areas, especially South India, at a disadvantage in the educational and economic spheres, and particularly in competition for appointments in government and the public sector.
  • Such opponents tended to argue that imposition of Hindi on non-Hindi areas would lead to their economic, political, social and cultural domination by Hindi areas.

The Language Problem IV

  • A compromise was arrived at. The constitution provided that Hindi in Devanagari script with international numerals would be India’s official language. English was to continue for use in all official purposes till 1965, when it would be replaced by Hindi. Hindi was to be introduced in a phased manner. After 1965 it would become the sole official language.
  • Implementation of the language provisions of the constitution proved to be a formidable task. The issue remained a subject of intense controversy , and became increasingly acrimonious with the passage of time.
  • Sharp differences on the official language issue surfaced during 1956–60. In 1956, the Report of the Official Language Commission recommended that Hindi should start progressively replacing English in various functions of the central government with effective change taking place in 1965.
  • Fully aware of the danger that the official language issue could pose to Indian polity , the leadership of the Congress took the grievances of the non-Hindi areas seriously and handled the issue with great care and caution. In pursuance of Nehru’s assurances, though with delay caused by internal party pressures and the India–China war, an Official Languages Act was passed in 1963.
  • Lal Bahadur Shastri, Nehru’s successor as prime minister, was unfortunately not sensitive enough to the opinion of non-Hindi groups. Instead of taking effective steps to counter their fears of Hindi becoming the sole official language, he declared that he was considering making Hindi an alternative medium in public service examinations. This meant that while non-Hindi speakers could still compete in the all-India services in English, Hindi speakers would have the advantage of being able to use their mother tongue.
  • Many non-Hindi leaders in protest changed their line of approach to the problem of the official language. While previously they had wanted a slowing down of the replacement of English, now they started demanding that there should be no deadline fixed for the changeover.
  • Some of the leaders went much further. On 17 January , the DMK organized the Madras State Anti-Hindi Conference which gave a call for observing 26 January as a day of mourning. Widespread rioting and violence followed in the early weeks of February leading to large-scale destruction of railway s and other Union property. The agitation continued for about two months, taking a toll of over sixty lives through police firings.
  • With the death of Lal Bahadur Shastri in January 1966, Indira Gandhi became the prime minister. As she had already won the trust of the people of the South, they were convinced that a genuine effort would be made to resolve the long-festering dispute.
  • Indira Gandhi moved the bill to amend the 1963 Official Language Act. The Act provided that the use of English as an associate language in addition to Hindi for the official work at the Centre and for communication between the Centre and non-Hindi states would continue as long as the non-Hindi states wanted it, giving them full veto powers on the question.


Static – Modern History (Post-Independence) – Relations with Pakistan | Focus – Mains

Notes for Modern History (Post-Independence)

Kashmir and Pakistan

Relations with Pakistan

  • Despite the Kashmir issue, the Government of India adopted towards Pakistan a policy of fair dealing and of promoting conciliation and reducing mutual tensions.
  • In January 1948, the Government of India, following a fast by Gandhiji, paid Pakistan Rs 550 million as part of the assets of Partition, even when it feared that the money might be used to finance military action in Kashmir.
  • Along with the Kashmir issue, an important source of constant tension between the two countries was the strong sense of insecurity among Hindus in East Bengal. This led to the steady migration of the persecuted Hindus from East Bengal to West Bengal and retaliatory attacks on Muslims in West Bengal, leading to their migration.
  • Many urged the Government of India to intervene in East Bengal militarily to protect the minority there. But, though very concerned about the fate of Hindus in East Bengal and the rise of communal sentiment in India, Nehru and the Government of India refused to get provoked into retaliatory action.
  • On 8 April 1950, the prime ministers of India and Pakistan signed an agreement known as the Nehru–Liaqat Pact to resolve the issue of protection of the minorities.
  • Notwithstanding continuous differences and acrimony , the two governments were also able to sign several agreements on trade and travel between the two countries.
  • One of the most ticklish problems faced by the two countries was that of the distribution of canal water in Punjab. Showing a degree of generosity , the Government of India agreed to supply an undiminished quantity of water to Pakistan.
  • In general, the Government of India followed the policy of trying to improve relations with Pakistan and, above all, to prevent the emergence of a climate of hostility and hatred.


Static – Modern History (Post-Independence) – Integration of the Princely States (3) | Focus – Mains

Notes for Modern History (Post-Independence)

Integration of Kashmir

  • The state of Kashmir bordered on both India and Pakistan. Its ruler Hari Singh was a Hindu, while nearly 75 per cent of the population was Muslim.
  • Hari Singh too did not accede either to India or Pakistan. Fearing democracy in India and communalism in Pakistan, he hoped to stay out of both and to continue to wield power as an independent ruler.
  • The popular political forces led by the National Conference and its leader Sheikh Abdullah, however, wanted to join India.
  • The Indian political leaders took no steps to obtain Kashmir’s accession and, in line with their general approach, wanted the people of Kashmir to decide whether to link their fate with India or Pakistan.
  • In this they were supported by Gandhiji, who declared in August 1947 that Kashmir was free to join either India or Pakistan in accordance with the will of the people.
  • But Pakistan not only refused to accept the principle of plebiscite for deciding the issue of accession in the case of Junagadh and Hyderabad.
  • Several Pathan tribesmen, led unofficially by Pakistani army officers, invaded Kashmir and rapidly pushed towards Srinagar, the capital of Kashmir. The ill-trained army of the Maharaja proved no match for the invading forces. In panic, the Maharaja appealed to India for military assistance. The Maharaja acceded to India and also agreed to install Abdullah as head of the state’s administration.
  • Even though both the National Conference and the Maharaja wanted firm and permanent accession, India, in conformity with its democratic commitment and Mountbatten’s advice, announced that it would hold a referendum on the accession decision once peace and law and order had been restored in the Valley .
  • After accession the cabinet took the decision to immediately fly troops to Srinagar.
    Fearful of the dangers of a full-scale war between India and Pakistan, the Government of India agreed to refer the Kashmir problem to the United Nations Security Council.
  • The Security Council, guided by Britain and the United States, tended to side with Pakistan.
  • In accordance with one of its resolutions both India and Pakistan accepted a ceasefire on 31 December 1948 which still prevails and the state was effectively divided along the ceasefire line.
  • In 1951, the UN passed a resolution providing for a referendum under UN supervision after Pakistan had withdrawn its troops from the part of Kashmir under its control. The resolution has remained infructuous since Pakistan has refused to withdraw its forces from what is known as Azad Kashmir.
  • Since then Kashmir has been the main obstacle in the path of friendly relations between India and Pakistan. India has regarded Kashmir’s accession as final and irrevocable and Kashmir as its integral part. Pakistan continues to deny this claim.

Integration of Pondicherry and Goa

  • Two other trouble spots remained on the Indian body politic. These were the French- and Portuguese-owned settlements dotting India’s east and west coasts, with Pondicherry and Goa forming their hub.
  • The people of these settlements were eager to join their newly liberated mother-country .
    The French authorities were more reasonable and after prolonged negotiations handed over Pondicherry and other French possessions to India in 1954.
  • But the Portuguese were determined to stay on, especially as Portugal’s NATO allies, Britain and the US, were willing to support this defiant attitude.
  • The Government of India, being committed to a policy of settling disputes between nations by peaceful means, was not willing to take military steps to liberate Goa and other Portuguese colonies.
  • The people of Goa took matters in their hands and started a movement seeking freedom from the Portuguese, but it was brutally suppressed as were the efforts of non-violent satyagrahis from India to march into Goa.
  • In the end, after waiting patiently for international opinion to put pressure on Portugal, Nehru ordered Indian troops to march into Goa on the night of 17 December 1961.
    The Governor-General of Goa immediately surrendered without a fight and the territorial and political integration of India was completed, even though it had taken over fourteen years to do so.


Static – Modern History (Post-Independence) – Integration of the Princely States (2) | Focus – Mains

Notes for Modern History (Post-Independence)

Integration of Manipur

  • A few days before Independence, the Maharaja of Manipur, Bodhachandra Singh, signed the Instrument of Accession with the Indian government on the assurance that the internal autonomy of Manipur would be maintained.
  • Under the pressure of public opinion, the Maharaja held elections in Manipur in June 1948 and the state became a constitutional monarchy. Thus Manipur was the first part of India to hold an election based on universal adult franchise.
  • In the Legislative Assembly of Manipur there were sharp differences over the question of merger of Manipur with India. While the state Congress wanted the merger, other political parties were opposed to this.
  • The Government of India succeeded in pressurising the Maharaja into signing a Merger Agreement in September 1949, without consulting the popularly elected Legislative Assembly of Manipur. This caused a lot of anger and resentment in Manipur, the repercussions of which are still being felt.

Integration of Junagadh

  • Junagadh was a small state on the coast of Saurashtra surrounded by Indian territory and therefore without any geographical contiguity with Pakistan.
  • Yet, its Nawab announced accession of his state to Pakistan on 15 August 1947 even though the people of the state, overwhelmingly Hindu, desired to join India.
  • The Indian nationalist leaders had for decades stood for the sovereignty of the people against the claims of the princes. It was, therefore, not surprising that in Junagadh’s case Nehru and Patel agreed that the final voice, like in any other such case, for example Kashmir or Hyderabad, should be that of the people as ascertained through a plebiscite.
  • Going against this approach, Pakistan accepted Junagadh’s accession. On the other hand, the people of the state would not accept the ruler’s decision. They organized a popular movement, forced the Nawab to flee and established a provisional government.
  • The Dewan of Junagadh, Shah Nawaz Bhutto, the father of the more famous Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, now decided to invite the Government of India to intervene. Indian troops thereafter marched into the state.
  • A plebiscite was held in the state in February 1948 which went overwhelmingly in favour of joining India.


Static – Modern History (Post-Independence) – Integration of the Princely States (1) | Focus – Mains

Notes for Modern History (Post-Independence)

Integration of the British Indian Provinces and the Princely States

  • British India was divided into what were called the British Indian Provinces and the Princely States.
  • The British Indian Provinces were directly under the control of the British government.
  • On the other hand, several large and small states ruled by princes, called the Princely States, enjoyed some form of control over their internal affairs as long as they accepted British supremacy. This was called paramountcy or suzerainty of the British crown.
  • Princely States covered one-third of the land area of the British Indian Empire and one out of four Indians lived under princely rule.

The problem

  • Just before Independence it was announced by the British that with the end of their rule over India, paramountcy of the British crown over Princely States would also lapse. This meant that all these states, as many as 565 in all, would become legally independent.
  • The British government took the view that all these states were free to join either India or Pakistan or remain independent if they so wished. This decision was left not to the people but to the princely rulers of these states.
  • This was a very serious problem and could threaten the very existence of a united India. The problems started very soon.
    • First of all, the ruler of Travancore announced that the state had decided on Independence.
    • The Nizam of Hyderabad made a similar announcement the next day.
    • Rulers like the Nawab of Bhopal were averse to joining the Constituent Assembly.
  • This response of the rulers of the Princely States meant that after Independence there was a very real possibility that India would get further divided into a number of small countries.
  • The prospects of democracy for the people in these states also looked bleak. This was a strange situation, since the Indian Independence was aimed at unity, self-determination as well as democracy.
  • In most of these princely states, governments were run in a non-democratic manner and the rulers were unwilling to give democratic rights to their populations.

Govt’s approach

  • The interim government took a firm stance against the possible division of India into small principalities of different sizes.
  • Sardar Patel played a historic role in negotiating with the rulers of princely states firmly but diplomatically and bringing most of them into the Indian Union.
  • But it was a very complicated task. For instance, there were 26 small states in today’s Orissa. Saurashtra region of Gujarat had 14 big states, 119 small states and numerous other different administrations.
  • The government’s approach was guided by three considerations.
    • Firstly, the people of most of the princely states clearly wanted to become part of the Indian union.
    • Secondly, the government was prepared to be flexible in giving autonomy to some regions. The idea was to accommodate plurality and adopt a flexible approach in dealing with the demands of the regions.
    • Thirdly, in the backdrop of Partition which brought into focus the contest over demarcation of territory, the integration and consolidation of the territorial boundaries of the nation had assumed supreme importance.
  • Before 15 August 1947, peaceful negotiations had brought almost all states whose territories were contiguous to the new boundaries of India, into the Indian Union.
  • The rulers of most of the states signed a document called the ‘Instrument of Accession’ which meant that their state agreed to become a part of the Union of India.
  • Accession of the Princely States of Junagadh, Hyderabad, Kashmir and Manipur proved more difficult than the rest.

Integration of Hyderabad

  • Hyderabad, the largest of the Princely States was surrounded entirely by Indian territory.
  • Some parts of the old Hyderabad state are today parts of Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.
  • Its ruler carried the title, ‘Nizam’, and he wanted an independent status for Hyderabad.
  • He entered into what was called the Standstill Agreement with India in November 1947 for a year while negotiations with the Indian government were going on.
  • In the meantime, a movement of the people of Hyderabad State against the Nizam’s rule gathered force.
  • The peasantry in the Telangana region in particular, was the victim of Nizam’s oppressive rule and rose against him.
  • Women who had seen the worst of this oppression joined the movement in large numbers.
  • Hyderabad town was the nerve centre of this movement.
  • The Communists and the Hyderabad Congress were in the forefront of the movement.
  • The Nizam responded by unleashing a para-military force known as the Razakars on the people.
  • The atrocities and communal nature of the Razakars knew no bounds. They murdered, maimed, raped and looted, targeting particularly the non- Muslims.
  • The central government had to order the army to tackle the situation. In September 1948, Indian army moved in to control the Nizam’s forces.
  • After a few days of intermittent fighting, the Nizam surrendered. This led to Hyderabad’s accession to India.


Static – Modern History – Major Challenges Faced by India at Independence | Focus – Mains

Notes for Modern History (Post-Independence)

Challenges Faced by Independent India

Broadly, independent India faced three kinds of challenges.


  • The first and the immediate challenge was to shape a nation that was united, yet accommodative of the diversity in our society.
  • At that time it was widely believed that a country full of diversity could not remain together for long.


  • The second challenge was to establish democracy. You have already studied the Indian Constitution.
  • The Constitution granted fundamental rights and extended the right to vote to every citizen.
  • A democratic constitution is necessary but not sufficient for establishing a democracy.
  • The challenge was to develop democratic practices in accordance with the Constitution.


  • The third challenge was to ensure the development and wellbeing of the entire society and not only of some sections.
  • The real challenge was to evolve effective policies for economic development and eradication of poverty.

Process of Partition

  • ‘India’ was to be divided into two countries, ‘India’ and ‘Pakistan’. Such a division was not only very painful, but also very difficult to decide and to implement.
  • It was decided to follow the principle of religious majorities. This basically means that areas where the Muslims were in majority would make up the territory of Pakistan. The rest was to stay with India.
  • The idea might appear simple, but it presented all kinds of difficulties.
  • First of all, there was no single belt of Muslim majority areas in British India. There were two areas of concentration, one in the west and one in the east. There was no way these two parts could be joined. So it was decided that the new country, Pakistan, will comprise two territories, West and East Pakistan separated by a long expanse of Indian territory.
  • Secondly, not all Muslim majority areas wanted to be in Pakistan. Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan, the undisputed leader of the North Western Frontier Province and known as ‘Frontier Gandhi’, was staunchly opposed to the two-nation theory. Eventually, his voice was simply ignored and the NWFP was made to merge with Pakistan.
  • The third problem was that two of the Muslim majority provinces of British India, Punjab and Bengal, had very large areas where the non-Muslims were in majority. Eventually it was decided that these two provinces would be bifurcated according to the religious majority at the district or even lower level. This decision could not be made by the midnight of 14-15 August. It meant that a large number of people did not know on the day of Independence whether they were in India or in Pakistan.
  • The Partition of Punjab and Bengal caused the deepest trauma of Partition. This was related to the fourth and the most intractable of all the problems of partition. This was the problem of ‘minorities’ on both sides of the border.
  • Lakhs of Hindus and Sikhs in the areas that were now in Pakistan and an equally large number of Muslims on the Indian side of Punjab and Bengal (and to some extent Delhi and surrounding areas) found themselves trapped.
  • They were to discover that they were undesirable aliens in their own home, in the land where they and their ancestors had lived for centuries.
  • As soon as it became clear that the country was going to be partitioned, the minorities on both sides became easy targets of attack.

The Communal Holocaust

  • At the very outset the people and the government faced the gravest of crises. The great danger was that the atmosphere and the mentality generated by Partition and the riots might persist and strengthen communal tendencies in Indian politics.
  • But Indian nationalism was able to withstand the test. The situation was brought under control within a few months through decisive political and administrative measures. For example, during August–September, the back of communal violence in Delhi was broken by bringing the army on the streets and ordering the police to shoot at communal mobs indulging in looting and killing.
  • The government also succeeded in protecting the Muslim minority in the country , so that in the end 45 million Muslims chose to remain in India.
  • Communalism was thereby contained and weakened but not eliminated, for conditions were still favourable for its growth.
  • Nehru carried on a massive campaign against communalism to instil a sense of security in the minorities, through public speeches, radio broadcasts, speeches in parliament, private letters and epistles to chief ministers.
  • He even advocated a ban on political organizations based on religion and got the constitution amended to enable the government to impose ‘reasonable restrictions’ on the right to free speech and expression in order to curb communal speeches and writings.
  • A major setback to the communal forces occurred with Gandhiji’s martyrdom.

Rehabilitation of Refugees

  • The government had to stretch itself to the maximum to give relief to and resettle and rehabilitate the nearly six million refugees from Pakistan who had lost their all there and whose world had been turned upside down. The task took some time but it was accomplished.
  • By 1951, the problem of the rehabilitation of the refugees from West Pakistan had been fully tackled.
  • The task of rehabilitating and resettling refugees from East Bengal was made more difficult by the fact that the exodus of Hindus from East Bengal continued for years.
  • While nearly all the Hindus and Sikhs from West Pakistan had migrated in one go in 1947, a large number of Hindus in East Bengal had stayed on there in the initial years of 1947 and 1948.
  • But as communal riots broke out periodically in East Bengal, there was a steady stream of refugees from there year after year till 1971. Providing them with work and shelter and psychological assurance, therefore, became a continuous and hence a difficult task.
  • Unlike in Bengal, most of the refugees from west Punjab could occupy the large lands and property left by the Muslim migrants to Pakistan from Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan and could therefore be resettled on land. This was not the case in West Bengal.
  • Also because of linguistic affinity , it was easier for Punjabi and Sindhi refugees to settle in today ’s Himachal Pradesh and Haryana and western U.P., Rajasthan and Delhi.
  • The resettlement of the refugees from East Bengal could take place only in Bengal and to a lesser extent in Assam and Tripura.
  • As a result ‘a very large number of people who had been engaged in agricultural occupations before their displacement were forced to seek survival in semi-urban and urban contexts as the underclass’, and contributed to ‘the process of immiserisation’ of West Bengal.


Static – World History – China | Focus – Mains

Notes for World History

Why did Mao and the communists gain support?

  • The inefficiency and corruption of the KMT in govt.
  • There was little improvement in the factory conditions.
  • There was no improvement in the peasant poverty.
  • Chiang’s ‘New Life Movement’ in which he advocated a return to the traditional values of Confucianism, was controversial.
  • The KMT put up no effective resistance to the Japanese invasion of China
  • KMT’s policy of paying for the wars by printing extra money resulted in galloping inflation which caused hardship for the masses and ruined middle class.
  • KMT’s armies were poorly paid; the troops gradually began to desert to the communists.
  • The communists continued to gain support by their land policy, which varied according to the needs of particular areas.
  • Communist armies were well disciplined and communist administration was honest and fair.

How successful was Mao in dealing with China’s problems? (1)

China faced various problems in 1949 when Mao came to power. The country was devastated after the long civil war and the war with Japan; industry was backward, agriculture was inefficient , inflation seemed out of control.

Reforms brought about by Mao were as follows:

  • Constitution: A new constitution was adopted which provided China with a strong central govt for the first time.
  • Agriculture changes: Agricultural changes transformed China from a country of small, inefficient private farms into one of large co-operative farms like those in Russia.
  • Industrial changes: Industrial changes began with the govt nationalising most businesses. A Five Year Plan was formulated mainly for the development of heavy industry.
  • Hundred Flowers campaign: The Hundred Flowers campaign which involved discussion between party cadres and experts or intellectuals to improve relations between them as party cadres believed that new class of experts such as technicians and engineers threatened their authority.

How successful was Mao in dealing with China’s problems? (2)

The Great Leap Forward:

  • Mao felt that something new and different was needed to meet China’s special problems-something not based on Russian experience.
  • The Great Leap Forward involved further important developments in both industry and agriculture, in order to increase output and to adapt industry to Chinese conditions.

The most important features of the Great Leap Forward were:

  • The introduction of communes: These were units larger than collective farms divided into work teams with an elected council. They ran their own collective farms and factories, carried out most of the functions of local govt within the commune and undertook special local projects. Each family received a share of the profits and also had a small private plot of land.
  • A complete change of emphasis on in industry: Instead of aiming for large-scale works of the type seen in the USSR and the West, much small factories were set up in the countryside to provide machinery for agriculture.
  • At first it looked as though the Great Leap might be a failure: there was some opposition to the communes, a series of bad harvests and the withdrawal of all Russian aid. All this, coupled with the lack of experience among the cadres caused hardships leading to millions of premature deaths.
  • However in the long term the importance of the Great Leap became clear. By the 1970s, both agricultural and industrial production had increased substantially. The communes proved to be a successful innovation which were much more than merely collective farms as they were an efficient unit of local govt. The crucial decision had been taken that China would remain predominantly an agricultural country with small-scale industry scattered around the countryside. The labour intensive economy allowed China to avoid the growing unemployment problem of the highly industrialised western nations. There were also improvement in the position of women in society.

How successful was Mao in dealing with China’s problems? (3)

The Cultural Revolution

  • This was Mao’s attempt to keep the revolution and the Great Leap on a pure Marxist-Leninist course, and to hit back at what he considered to be an over-bureaucratic party leadership under his deputy.
  • In the early 1960s, when the success of the Great Leap was by no means certain, opposition to Mao grew from the right wing members of the Party.
  • From 1963 to 1966, there was a great public debate between the rightists and the Maoists about which course to follow.
  • Mao launched desperate campaign to ‘save’ the revolution. In his Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, as he called it, Mao appealed to the masses. His supporters, the Red Guard who were mostly students, toured the country arguing Mao’s case.
  • In some areas schools and factories were closed down and young people were urged to move into the countryside and work on farms.
  • Unfortunately, the cultural revolution brought chaos and something close to civil war. Teachers, professionals, officials , common people, all were disgraced, attacked and ruined by the Red Guards.
  • By 1967, the extremist among the Red Guards were out of control and Mao had to call in army to restore order.
  • In 1969, the Cultural Revolution finally ended.
  • The cultural Revolution caused great disruption, ruined millions of lives and held up China’s economic development by ten years.

Tiananmen Square, 1989

  • The economic reforms in China ran into problems during 1988 and 1989. Inflation went quite up, and wages lagged.
  • In May 1989, nearly a million Chinese, mostly young students, crowded into central Beijing at the Tiananmen Square to protest for political reform, greater democracy and call for the resignations of Chinese Communist Party leaders.
  • For nearly three weeks, the protesters kept up daily vigils, and marched and chanted.
  • However, Chinese troops and security police stormed through Tiananmen Square, firing indiscriminately into the crowds of protesters.
  • Thousands of the protesters had been killed and as many as 10,000 were arrested.
  • The savagery of the Chinese government’s attack shocked both its allies and Cold War enemies.
  • The U.S. Congress voted to impose economic sanctions against China in response to the brutal violation of human rights.
  • However, the Chinese govt was convinced that they had taken the right decision. They felt that one-party control was needed to supervise the transition to a ‘socialist market economy’ and hence students’ demands of democracy needed to be ignored.
  • Later, events in USSR seemed to prove them right when Gorbachev tried to introduce political and economic reforms at the same time and failed; the Communist Party lost control and USSR broke up into 15 separate states. Thus, China was able to preserve Communism at the time when it was being swept away in eastern Europe.


Static – World History – Collapse of Communism | Focus – Mains

Notes for World History


Gorbachev came to power in 1985. He was determined to transform the country. He intended to achieve this by modernizing and streamlining the Communist Party with new policies of glasnost( openness) and perestroika ( restructuring).

Gorbachev did not want to end communism; he wanted to replace the existing system, which was still basically Stalinist, with a socialist system which was humane and democratic.

Gorbachev’s new policies

  • Glasnost: Glasnost was seen in areas such as human rights and cultural affairs. For instance, there was a new freedom in news reporting, anti-Stalin films and novels were allowed.
  • Economic affairs : New methods of economic management were applied. For instance, small-scale private enterprises were allowed.
  • Political changes : Moves towards democracy within the Party began. For instance, members of local soviets were now to be elected by the people.


What went wrong with Gorbachev’s policies?

  • Opposition from radicals who thought that reforms were not drastic enough and conservatives who felt that reforms were too drastic.
  • The economic reforms did not produce results quickly enough.
  • Gorbachev’s glasnost and perestroika encouraged states of Soviet Union to seek independence.
  • There was increasing rivalry between Gorbachev and Yeltsin.

The coup of 1991

  • As the political and economic crisis deepened, Gorbachev and Yeltsin tried to work together but failed and Yeltsin resigned from the Communist Party.
  • Gorbachev was now losing control: many of the republics were demanding independence.
  • Georgia declared independence: it seemed that the USSR was falling apart.
  • However, soon Gorbachev persuaded the republics to form a new voluntary union in which they would be largely independent of Moscow.
  • At this point a group of hardline Communists launched a coup to remove Gorbachev and reverse his reforms.
  • However, the coup was poorly organized and the leaders failed to have Yeltsin arrested. Yeltsin called on the people for his support and the coup was defeated.
  • Impacts of the coup:
    • Yeltsin was seen as a hero and Gorbachev was sidelined. Yeltsin ruled the Russian Federation as a separate republic, introducing a drastic programme to move to a free-market economy.
    • When Ukraine, the second largest Soviet republic, voted to become independent, it was clear that the old USSR was finished.
    • A new union of republics called Commonwealth of Independent States ( CIS) was formed. Although the member states were fully independent, they agreed to work together on economic matters and defence.
    • Gorbachev resigned as president of USSR.


Was the communist system reformable?

  • Could Russian communism have survived if Gorbachev had followed different policies? Many believe that it could and that if the USSR had followed the same path as China, it would still be communist today.
  • The argument is that both Russia and China needed reform in two areas- the Communist Party and govt, and the economy.
  • Gorbachev believed these could only be achieved one at a time, and chose to introduce the political reforms first. The Chinese did it the other way round, introducing economic reforms first. This meant that although the people suffered economic hardship, the govt retained tight control over them, unlike Gorbachev.

The legacy of communism

  • Most historians feel that the achievements of communism are outweighed by its ill effects and yet it did not survive for so long by force alone.
  • One important achievement was that the system brought benefits in the form of people from ‘lower-class’ backgrounds who had been excluded from such things under the tsarist regime.
  • Education and literacy became more widespread.
  • Soviet culture was encouraged and so was sports, performing arts, and science.
  • The greatest achievement of communism was that it played a vital role in defeating the evil regime of Hitler and the Nazi.
  • After Stalin’s death, the system brought a certain stability and an improved standard of living for the majority of its people.
  • On the other hand, the Soviet system left behind a whole range of problems. The whole system was rigid and over- centralized and the country was overburdened with its vast military expenditure.

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Static – World History – The USSR and Stalin II | Focus – Mains

Notes for World History


  • A perfect totalitarian regime is one in which there is a dictatorial rule on a one-party state which totally controls all activities- economical, political, social, intellectual and cultural- and directs them towards achieving the state’s goals.
  • The state attempts to indoctrinate everybody with the party ideology and to mobilise society in its support
  • Both mental and physical terror, and violence were used to crush opposition and keep the regime in power.
  • There was ample evidence of all these characteristics at work in Stalin’s system. Hence, Stalin’s regime has been called by some as totalitarian, in many ways like Hitler’s Nazi in Germany.
  • Although the regime had totalitarian aims, in practice it was far from successful.
    • Stalin’s regime did not completely ignore public opinion- even Stalin wanted to be popular.
    • Peasants and workers found plenty ways of ignoring or evading unpopular govt orders.
    • The more the govt tried to tighten controls, the more counter-productive its efforts became, and the greater the tensions between central and regional leaderships.


  • Everything, including food, seemed to be in short supply. This was partly because of the concentration on heavy industry at the expense of consumer goods.
  • The 1930s were difficult time for many families because of the ‘disappearance’ of so many men during collectivization, the famine and the Purges.
  • There was expansion of free, mass education. Education was the way by which the regime could turn the younger generation into good, orthodox Soviet citizens.
  • Both Lenin and Stalin were atheists who accepted Marx’s claim that religion was merely an invention of the ruling classes to keep docile and under control. Lenin had launched a savage attack on the Orthodox Church.
  • The years 1928 to 1931 became known as ‘the Cultural Revolution’, when the regime began to mobilize writers, artists and musicians to wage a cultural war against ‘bourgeois intellectuals’.
  • Artists, sculptors and musicians were all expected to play their part in ‘socialist realism’. Abstract art was rejected and paintings were expected to portray workers working hard to fulfil their targets, scenes from the revolution or the civil war, or Revolutionary leaders.


Stalin’s reputation in the USSR soon went into decline when Khrushchev delivered his sensational speech at the Twentieth Party Congress in 1956, denouncing Stalin’s excesses.


  • Collectivization, industrialization, the new constitution, the rise of the new bureaucracy, the spread of mass education- all these can be traced directly or indirectly to Stalin.
  • Industrial modernization was a success in heavy industries and armaments.
  • Living standards and real wages were lower before Stalin took control.
  • Situation was so desperate when he came to power that only extraordinary methods could have brought success.
  • He made USSR powerful enough to defeat the Germans.
  • The regime was extremely popular with bureaucracy, army , navy and security forces as these were the people who had risen from the working classes and owed their privileged positions to Stalin.
  • Stalin was also popular with the majority of ordinary people.


  • Collectivization was a disaster
  • Industry failed to produce enough household goods, and much of what was produced was of poor quality.
  • More industrial progress could have been made with conventional methods, perhaps even by simply continuing NEP.
  • The claim that Russia won war due to Stalin is disputed. In fact his mistakes almost lost the war in early stages.
  • The worst aspect of Stalinism was that it was responsible for about 20 million deaths over and above the victims of the war. This happened during collectivization, the famine, the Purges and the Great Terror.



  • Towards the end of his life, Lenin suggested that NEP would improve people’s lives so much that ‘permanent revolution’ would not be necessary. This brought him closer to Stalin’s theory of ‘ socialism in one country’.
  • Both Lenin and Stalin were violent and brutal in their methods.


  • Stalin was much more of a dictator than Lenin was.
  • It was only under Stalin that the party apparatus, the bureaucracy became all-powerful and synonymous with the state.
  • Lenin used violence because the counter-revolutionary forces were very powerful. On the other hand, Stalin was under no such threat, and could have used alternative methods to deal with the opposition.
  • Rule by one man was anti-Leninist- it went against the idea of rule by party on behalf of the working class.
  • Stalin hijacked the revolution and betrayed the idealism of Marx and Lenin. Instead of a new, classless society in which everybody was free and equal, ordinary workers and peasants were just as exploited as they had been under Tsars.

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Static – World History – The USSR and Stalin | Focus – Mains

Notes for World History


Russia’s economic problems:

  • Although Russian industry was recovering from the First World War, production from heavy industry was very low. However, foreigners were unwilling to invest in a communist state.
  • More food would have to be produced, both to feed the growing industrial population and to provide surplus for export( the only way that the USSR could earn foreign capital and profits for investment in industry).
  • The primitive agricultural system, which was allowed to continue under NEP, was incapable of providing such resources.

Stalin’s initiatives to deal with economic problems:

Five year plans:

  • Industrial expansion was tackled by a series of Five Year Plans focusing mainly on heavy industries.
  • The plans were a remarkable success. By 1940, the USSR had overtaken Britain in iron and steel production.
  • Hundreds of factories were built, many of them in new towns east of Ural Mountains where they would be safer from invasion.
  • The money needed for the five year plans was provided almost entirely by Russian themselves, with no foreign investment.
  • Foreign technicians were brought in and great emphasis was placed expanding education in colleges and universities.
  • In the factories, the old capitalist methods of piecework and pay differentials between skilled and unskilled workers were used to encourage production. Medals were given to workers who achieved record output.

The Plans had their drawbacks as well:

  • Ordinary workers were ruthlessly disciplined; there were severe punishments for bad workmanship.
  • Primitive housing conditions and a severe shortage of consumer goods made life grim for most workers.
  • Many of the products were of poor quality.
  • The high target forced workers to speed up and this caused shoddy workmanship and damage to machinery.

Collectivization of agriculture:

  • The problems of agriculture were dealt with by the process known as `collectivization’. The idea was that small farms and holdings belonging to the peasants should be merged to form large collective farms jointly owned by the peasants. There were two main reasons for Stalin’s decision to collectivize:
    • The existing system of small farms was inefficient.
    • He wanted to eliminate the class of prosperous peasants (kulaks), which NEP had encouraged, because, he claimed, they were standing in the way of progress.
  • The policy was launched in 1929, and had to be carried through by sheer brute force, so determined was the resistance in the countryside.
  • There was no problem in collectivizing landless labourers, but all peasants who owned any property at all, whether they were kulaks or not, were hostile to the plan.
  • The collectivization policy proved to be a failure. The total grain production did not increase at all. The reasons for this failure were:
    • The best producers-kulaks-were excluded from the collective farms.
    • Most of the party activists who came from to cities to organise collectivization did not know much about agriculture.
    • Many peasants were demoralised after the seizure of their land and property; some of them left the farms to look for jobs in the cities. Thus, there were far fewer peasants to work on the land.
    • Peasants were still allowed to keep a small private plot of their own; they tended to work harder on their own plots and do the minimum they could get away with on the collective farm ( kolkhoz).
  • However, in one sense, Stalin could claim that collectivization was a success: it allowed greater mechanization, which did achieve a substantial increase in production in 1937. The amount of grain taken by the state increased impressively and so did grain exports in 1930 and 1931. Although the amounts fell sharply after that, they were far higher than before collectivization.


  • Although Stalin’s personal dictatorship was complete, he did not feel secure; he became increasingly suspicious. The first priority for Stalin was to deal with the opposition.
  • During 1933, party members began to call for the break-up of collective farms, the return of powers to the trade unions and the removal of Stalin.
  • But Stalin and his allies in the Politburo voted for the purge of dissident party members. Millions of Russian including party member, officials, innocent people were imprisoned, killed, forced in labour camps. Even Trosky was murdered in exile.
  • Stalin was driven by his immense lust for power. His motive was to frighten the great mass of the population into obedience by deliberately arresting and killing a given proportion of the society, whether they were guilty of any crime or not
  • The Purges were successful in eliminating possible alternative leaders and in terrorizing the masses into obedience. But the consequences of the Purges were serious
    • Huge suffering and loss of human lives.
    • The power of the Bolshevik elite had been broken and eliminated.
    • Many of the best brains in the govt and in industry had disappeared. This hindered progress.
    • The purge of the army disrupted the USSR’s defence policies and contributed to the disasters of 1941-42 during the Second World war.