Civil war in Russia, 1917-1920

The Russian Revolution and Britain, 1917-1928
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He then had to hand the reins of power to Denikin on 4 January , shortly before being arrested, tried and executed.

There were many officers within the White armies led by these great military leaders — an aspect largely underscored in the pro-communist historiography — but there were also rank and file soldiers with very diverse origins and war experience. While lieutenant-general Viktor Pokrovsky , a star of the Russian air service in , retook Tsaritsyn from the Reds during the summer of , General Yevgeny Miller was less successful in the Arkhangelsk region.

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There were a few hundred thousand simple soldiers under their orders: at most , in the south, , in Siberia, 20, in the north-west and 10, in the north. Some former non-commissioned officers from the imperial army were rapidly promoted during this conflict to positions they had come to know. With regard to basic recruits, they sometimes found themselves in the White camp out of loyalty or obedience to leaders; sometimes they were put there by force.

The ranks fluctuated greatly given the influx and outflow of prisoners from the Red Army reenlisted by force and of conscripts among peasants in the zones under White control.

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In the Red camp, there was a certain break with the war experience. Only a minority of Red Army soldiers were the former deserters of that had played a role in igniting the countryside and toppling the Provisional Government, spreading rumours and importing weapons into the country.

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In , or , soldiers had left for the front in groups, by unit; they returned almost one by one, each concerned with his own fate — in sum, the army had already ceased to exist. Volunteerism quickly showed its limits: in two months only , men went to the recruitment offices. Following the first military defeats of the civil war, the government ordered the remobilization of workers and non-employer peasants between twenty-one and twenty-five years old in fifty-one administrative divisions in the Urals and Siberia on 9 June ; then, on 11 September, the Bolsheviks recalled the entire annual contingent of , still according to the same class lines.

The ranks swelled from , men in July to , in November; there were 1.

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Desertion was a big problem in the Red Army, with two peaks in December and May-June due more to extreme conditions e. To counter these defections and enforce discipline, Trotsky called upon 50, former Tsarist officers who were skilled in this matter, but cautiously subordinated them in the units to the Bolshevik political commissars.

Violence from the Great War represented a hefty legacy and provided the competing military authorities with a whole gamut of forced displacements, ethnic segregation and mass murder, of which the Great Retreat from Galicia between May and September was an archetype. Jews, notably, were accused of espionage and were the victims of pogroms that bordered on genocide. They were treated poorly in the depths of the Russian provinces. The anti-communist military leaders were quite reticent to rein in the violence of the White Terror and punish its authors, who nonetheless caused the break-up of some units that had become nothing short of pillaging gangs.

The Red Army was not exempt from anti-Jewish violence either, as Isaak Babel recounted in Red Cavalry , but it did convict people to set an example since the regime was staunchly opposed to anti-Semitism. The Bolsheviks did not hesitate to use the most brutal state violence.

The political control and exclusion measures taken by the Tsarist government, and then systematized by the Provisional Government were the inspiration for their more radical measures. The Soviet political police destroyed Cossack towns and stopped, deported, executed or sent men to work in the mines of the Donbas; the rest of the population was subjected to forced displacement by convoys, with large-scale supply problems and many collateral deaths from hunger, epidemics.

Across the Soviet territory, peasants experienced the attacks of troops and state violence from to In June , the insurrection of the Czech and Slovak Legion enabled a counter-power to emerge calling for a continuation of the Russian state: in Samara, a government was formed based on the legitimacy of officials elected to the Constituent Assembly.

This Komuch , with an SR majority, had armed forces which at first won a few victories and made it to Kazan, but were forced to retreat starting in September From Omsk, the Admiral imposed military authority over civil and political authorities while supporting a right-leaning council of ministers under the authority of Pyotr Vasilevich Vologodsky Kolchak claimed to want to restore the state of law and strongly punished the SRs that contested his authority. In the end, the admiral was betrayed by the Allies and delivered up to the communists by the Czechoslovaks who shot him after a brief trial on 7 February At this point, there was no longer a credible alternative to the central power of the Bolsheviks in Russia.

Kazakh and Kyrgyz resistance to the new waves of mobilization in and had drawn an unprecedented response from the imperial government. Given the seemingly uncontrollable ethnic mosaic, it decided to create ethnically homogeneous zones by organizing forced displacements, resulting in mass death.

Bolsheviks revolt in Russia

National minorities had received special attention from the Tsarist authorities, who nonetheless let a myriad of national committees Lithuanian, Polish, Armenian, Jewish, etc. In reality, the forced displacement and way the situation was handled actually intensified and helped structure national identities. Finland and the Baltic States became more homogenous after communist uprisings that were fairly short-lived although the military resistance mobilized units that could have served against Russia's Reds.

The destiny of the former empire played out in German-occupied Ukraine and, to a lesser extent, in the Caucasus, where the Turks had finally set foot. In Ukraine and the south of Russia, the Whites won the support of the Don Cossacks, who were up in arms against Bolshevik agrarian policy and were set on greater autonomy. This regime did not have popular support, however, and was overthrown on 14 December by nationalists hostile to the occupation. It sought to boot foreigners, Reds and Whites out of Ukraine, but was attacked by Nestor Makhno's anarchists.

Tens of thousands of men from the Black Army, first opposed to the Bolshevik dictatorship, fought for a time with the Red Army against Denikin before being defeated by the communists in August Petliura ended up forging an alliance with the Polish general Jozef Pilsudski , who promised to preserve independence in exchange for Volhynia and Galicia; the Treaty of Warsaw of 20 April resulted in Petliura losing the last of his political and military support.

The USSR and Poland finally signed a peace agreement that modified the border established in Brest-Litovsk in favour of the latter, to the detriment of the greater German Ukraine of and to the advantage of the re-found territorial unity of imperial Russia under communist control. The regular supplying of cities — of vital importance — was the reason behind the first requisition measures taken by the Tsarist government in ; these were later broadened by the Provisional Government.

Further, Lenin intended to annihilate the autonomy of peasant communes obschina which had been renewed and emboldened by the agrarian revolt of This social war within the civil war could only be fought by combining external intervention and internal complicity.

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The Russian Civil War was a multi-party civil war in the former Russian Empire immediately after the two Russian Revolutions of , as many factions vied to. Allied intervention in the Russian Civil War consisted of a series of multi-national military .. America's Secret War against Bolshevism: U.S. Intervention in the Russian Civil War, UNC Press Books. pp. 4–6. ISBN

The Food Supply Army Prodarmiia was as such charged in May with carrying out the requisitions, with local support from committees of poor peasants kombeds ; this experience lasted only until the end of the year. The massive use of force, the arbitrary nature and scope of the requisitions, and the mediocre compensation provided depreciation of the currency, shortages of manufactured goods are illustrative of the attitude of armies occupying enemy territory and fuelled a broad spectrum of resistance.

This is what spurred the fierce hostility between the Bolsheviks and the peasantry, along with the violent practices used during the forced collectivization of the agriculture in Historians estimate that there were between 2 and 3 million rebels including about , arrested by the Cheka , [21] many of whom had deserted the Red Army in and , in the regions most affected by crop requisitions. While many were able to elude their Red enemies for a long time, none was as renowned as Antonov in Tambov [22].

Antonov transformed the militia created to serve the Provisional Government in into a military unit druzhina to support the revolt against requisitions that broke out in the town of Kamenka on 24 August His point manifesto of the movement called for the overthrow of Soviet power and a return to the freedoms of The Partisan Army created on 14 November controlled the south eastern third of the province thanks to a tight network of "Councils of the hard-working peasantry" that recruited troops and controlled the economy to ensure the supply of the movement's four armies.

When Tukhachevsky understood that he would have to contend with 30, men backed by the population, he decided against an encirclement strategy in favour of a military occupation of the territory and mobile pursuit which ended victoriously in June The revolutionary committees revkoms distributed land and seeds, demanded individual oaths from repented fighters and collective declarations, and organized defensive militias. Fearing a return to war communism, peasants for the most part accepted this new deal, openly hopeful to see the end of the , additional mouths to feed, as well as the departure of occupying troops.

Resistance to communism was not the only thing the peasantry supplied: at the end of , country folk represented The Bolshevik leaders therefore implemented a three-sided policy of coercion, promotion and assistance.

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Rather than targeting the elusive men themselves, troops put pressure on their families and villages; they were collectively held hostage and kept from housing and feeding men on the run. The Red Army also made sure to favour the best men of peasant background for promotions to positions of military and political responsibility, thus reinforcing the ranks of the army and Party.

Nearly , soldiers had already returned to the ranks by July , a sign of the efficiency of these methods even as the Reds found themselves in rough shape on all fronts, and proof that the Bolsheviks were successful in imposing a certain degree of state authority. That is surely what the Whites were lacking to win: the unity provided by an ideology, an uncontested leader and a clearly defined project for a multiethnic nation in revolution.


On the other hand, many Southern Whites remained wary towards the SR policies adopted by the Siberians. So true. Some held meetings in the open air, in public squares, with one describing judges sitting on tables as there were no chairs. In addition, rival militant socialists and non-ideological Green armies fought against both the Bolsheviks and the Whites. Officials reported back repeatedly to the centre that bringing tribunals closer to the people was an effective form of deterrence.

The White armies were courageous and won an equal number of battles before succumbing to their numeral inferiority, but also to lassitude. The chimeric uniting of various Bolshevik adversaries and the utopian desire to preserve national unity, as well as their abandonment by the foreign powers were final blows to the morale of troops and field officers.

Already defeated during the Great War, the Russian Generals involved in the civil war suffered another defeat against an adversary whose actual victory could not have been predicted. This conflict ended with the forced exile of a disparate community in which men — notably the soldiers evacuated under the responsibility of Baron Pyotr Wrangel — represented a strong majority.

The Russians who emigrated via land were more likely to seek refuge in Germany , in Berlin alone and Poland, and sometimes in the new republics Yugoslavia ; the last to escape by sea in the south were more likely to go to France 80, Far from reuniting the nation as most of the elites had hoped, the war begun in consumed the country for seven years, morphed into a civil war and finally resulted in a durable split between two Russias. As violent as their opponents, the Reds distinguished themselves through their cohesion, which was bound up in the attractive strength and novelty of communist ideology, as well as via a system of effective propaganda.

Within the Red Army, a special department — the PUR — used human and financial resources to teach recruits to read, offer shows theatre and cinema and encourage physical culture.

Ukrainian-Soviet War, 1917–21

Meetings in part replaced endless parades and created ties with the period of committee autonomy. Soldiers were taken into consideration and continuously stimulated by posters, short plays and agitation trials agitsud. Cinema was finally permitted in the army as a leisure activity and as an educational tool, as a means to distract and mobilize. Political authorities, personified by political commissars, organized centrally things that had previously been done by a myriad of private and local initiatives. Unlike its Tsarist predecessor, the new army was a sort of melting pot that unified ethnicities and promoted a new social model shaped during the civil war and despite the major obstacles posed by the revolution.

The population was subjected to major social and territorial upheaval: the cities found themselves deprived of workers who had escaped to the countryside, the aristocracy was forced to flee and intellectuals were exiled. These years also contributed to the massification of politics, thus imposing the permanent mobilization of minds and bodies that so deeply defined the Soviet Union. Sumpf, Alexandre: Russian Civil War , in: online.

International Encyclopedia of the First World War, ed. DOI : Translated by: Serveau, Jocelyne. Version 1. Russian Civil War. By Alexandre Sumpf.

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A Provincial History, Cambridge Budni naseleniia Urala, [A Life in Disaster. Causes et limites, in: Horne, John ed. Le tournant de , Paris , pp.

Brovkin, Vladimir N.