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|Opiates for the masses|
“”"The early Bolsheviks may have been angels or demons, according as one chooses to regard them, but at any rate they were not sensible men. They were not introducing a Wellsian Utopia but a Rule of the Saints, which like the English Rule of the Saints, was a military despotism enlivened by witchcraft trials."
|—George Orwell, Wells, Hitler and the World State|
A Bolshevik (Russian: большевик bol'shevik) was the name given to members of the larger wing of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union before the Party overthrew the Provisional Government of Russia in the October Revolution of 1917. The Bolsheviks rose to prominence after World War I has severely amplified Russia's internal problems, such as with food shortages and gigantic war-time casualties, and these difficulties have led to Tsar Nicholas II to abdicate the throne (and have him and his family assassinated shortly afterward). The larger wing was made up of Mensheviks, who were more reformist minded and moderate. After the creation of the Soviet Union in 1924, Bolsheviks became known better as Communists. During the First Red Scare of 1919-1920, and for many years after, what is known today as "communism" was called "Bolshevism."
Mostly made up of workers, the Bolsheviks were the ones who wanted to end Russia's involvement in World War I by signing the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, which gave Germany a good chunk of Russia's territory in exchange to focus on internal problems such as land reform. A famous slogan emphasizing what the Bolsheviks were poised to reform was, "Peace, Land, and Bread"; "Peace" meant to end Russia's involvement in World War I, "Land" meaning land distribution for the poor peasants, and "bread", due to bread being the staple food in the Russian diet and food shortages were rampant during this time period.
The word itself stems from the Russian adjective большой (tr: bol'shoy), literally meaning "big" or большинство (tr: bol'shinstvo) meaning "majority", and it simply means "majoritarian" in this context. They were originally nicknamed so after a split of the original Russian Social-Democratic Workers' Party (RSDRP), when Lenin's faction was perceived to have enjoyed a majority over Martov's faction (the Mensheviks, or minoritarians). The Bolsheviks didn't retain their majority in numbers for long, but already had the name and thus the PR boost that comes with being "the majority".
- Bolshy, Dictionary.com