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The Allied intervention was a multi-national military expedition launched in 1918 during the Russian Civil War and World War I. The intervention involved fourteen nations and was conducted over a vast expanse of territory. The initial stated goals were to rescue the Czechoslovak Legion, to secure supplies of munitions and armaments in Russian ports and possibly re-establish the Eastern front. With the end of the war, the Allies, fearful of Bolshevism, openly intervened in the Russian Civil War, giving support to the pro-Tsarist, anti-Bolshevik White forces. However, opposition for the ongoing campaign became widespread, due to a combination of a lack of public support and war weariness; divided objectives and a lack of an overarching strategy also hampered the effort. These factors, together with the evacuation of the Czechoslovak legion and the deteriorating situation compelled the Allies to withdraw from North Russia and Siberia in 1920. However, the Japanese occupied parts of Siberia until 1922.

With the end of allied support, the Red Army was able to inflict defeats on the remaining White government forces, leading to their eventual collapse. During the Allied Intervention, the presence of foreign troops was effectively used for patriotic propaganda by the Bolsheviks.

Prologue to the Allied Intervention


In 1917 Russia was in a state of political strife, support for the war and the tsar was dwindling - Russia was on the brink of revolution. The February Revolution changed the course of the war: under intense political pressure Tsar Nicholas II abdicated and a provisional Russian government was formed under Alexander Kerensky. The Russian provisional government pledged to continue fighting the Germans on the Eastern Front.

The Allies had been shipping supplies to Russia since the beginning of the war in 1914 through the ports of Arkhangelskmarker, Murmanskmarker, and Vladivostokmarker. In 1917 the United States entered the war, the US President Woodrow Wilson dropped his reservations about joining the war with a tyrannical monarch as an ally, and the US began providing economic and technical support to Kerensky's government.

The war became unpopular with the Russian populace. Political and social unrest increased, with the revolutionary Bolsheviks under Vladimir Lenin gaining widespread support. Large numbers of common soldiers either mutinied or deserted the Russian army. During the offensive of 18 June, the Russian Army was defeated by the German and Austro-Hungarian forces on the Eastern Front as a result of a counter-attack. This led to the collapse of the Eastern Front. The demoralised Russian Army was on the verge of mutiny and most soldiers had deserted the front lines. In Kerensky replaced Aleksei Brusilov with Lavr Kornilov as Commander in Chief of the Army attempted to set up a military dictatorship through staging a coup on 9 September. Kornilov had the support of the British military attaché Brigadier-General Alfred Knox, and Kerensky accused him of producing pro-Kornilov propaganda. Kerensky also claimed Lord Milner wrote him a letter expressing support for Kornilov. A British armoured car squadron commanded by Oliver Locker-Lampson and dressed in Russian uniforms participated in the failed coup. November 1917 the October Revolution led to the overthrow of Kerensky's provisional government and the Bolsheviks coming into power. It caused Soviet distrust of the West and eventually became the Cold War.

Russia leaves the war

Five months later, on March 3, the newly-formed Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with Imperial Germanymarker, which formally ended the war on the Eastern Front. This permitted the redeployment of German soldiers to the Western Front, where the British and French armies were awaiting US reinforcements.

Czechoslovak Legion

The signing of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk ensured that POWs would be transferred to and from each country. Austro-Hungarian prisoners were of a number of various nationalities. Czechoslovak POWs were conscripted to fight with the Austro-Hungarian army and had been captured by the Russians. However, they had long desired to create their own independent state and special Czechoslovak units were established by the Russians to fight the Central Powers. In 1917, the Bolsheviks stated that if the Czechoslovak Legion remained neutral and agreed to leave Russia they would be granted safe passage through Siberiamarker en route to Francemarker via Vladivostokmarker, to fight with the Allied forces at the Western Front. The Czechoslovak Legion travelled via the Trans-Siberian Railroad to Vladivostok. However, only half arrived before the agreement collapsed and fighting between them and the Bolsheviks erupted in May 1918.

Allied concerns

Canadian Siberian Expeditionary Force, 1919
The Allies became concerned at the collapse of the Eastern front and their Russian ally, and there was also the question of the large amounts of war materiel in Russian ports, which the Allies feared might be commandeered by the Germans or the Bolsheviks. Also worrisome to the Allies was the April 1918 landing of a division of German troops in Finlandmarker, increasing speculation they might attempt in capturing the Murmansk-Petrograd railroad, and subsequently the strategic port of Murmanskmarker and possibly also Arkhangelskmarker. Other concerns were that the Czechoslovak Legion might be destroyed and the threat of Bolshevism, the nature of which worried many Allied governments. Meanwhile, Allied materiel in transit quickly accumulated in the warehouses in Arkhangelsk and Murmansk.

Faced with these events, the British and French governments decided upon an Allied military intervention in Russia. They had three objectives:

# prevent the German or Bolshevik capture of Allied matériel stockpiles in Arkhangelsk
# mount an attack rescuing the Czechoslovak Legion stranded on the Trans-Siberian Railroad
# resurrect the Eastern Front by defeating the Bolshevik army with help from the Czechoslovak Legion and an expanded anti-Bolshevik force of local citizens — and, in the process, stop the spread of communism and the Bolshevik cause in Russia

US troops in Vladivostok, August 1918

Severely short of troops to spare, the British and French requested that President Wilson provide US soldiers for the Intervention Campaign. In July 1918, against the advice of the US War Department, Wilson agreed to the limited participation of 5,000 US army soldiers in the campaign as the "American North Russia Expeditionary Force" (a.k.a. the Polar Bear Expedition) who were sent to Arkhangelsk, while another 8,000 soldiers, organised as the American Expeditionary Force Siberia, were shipped to Vladivostokmarker from the Philippinesmarker and from Camp Fremont in Californiamarker. That same month, the Canadian government agreed to the British government's request to command and to provide most of the soldiers for a combined British Empire force, which included Australians and colonial Indian troops.

The Japanese concerned about their northern border, sent the largest military force which was about 70,000. The Japanesemarker desired to establish a buffer state in Siberia, and the Imperial Japanese army general staff viewed the situation in Russia as an opportunity of settling Japan's national security "northern problem". The Japanese government also had an intense hostility to communism.

The Italians created the special "Corpo di Spedizione" with Alpini troops sent from Italy and ex-POWs with Italian ethnicity from the former Austro-Hungarian army recruited in the Italian Legione Redenta. They were initially based in the Italian Concession in Tientsin and numbered about 2,500.

Romaniamarker, Greecemarker, Polandmarker, Chinamarker and Serbiamarker also sent small contingents in support of the intervention.

Russian Civil War

After the end of the war in Europe and the defeat of the Central Powers, the Allies now openly supported the anti-bolshevik White forces.

Foreign forces throughout Russia

The positions of the Allied expeditionary forces and of the White Armies in European Russia, 1919

These are the numbers of the foreign soldiers who occupied the indicated regions of Russia:

:*50,000 Czechoslovaks (along the Trans-Siberian railway)
:*28,000 Japanese, later increased to 70,000 (in the Vladivostokmarker region and north)
:*24,000 Greeks (in Crimeamarker)
:*40,000 British (in the Arkhangelskmarker and Vladivostok regions)
:*13,000 Americans (in the Arkhangelsk and Vladivostok regions)
:*12,000 French and French colonial (mostly in the Arkhangelsk and Odessamarker regions)
:*12,000 Poles (mostly in Crimea and Ukrainemarker)
:*4,000 Canadians (in the Arkhangelsk and Vladivostok regions)
:*4,000 Serbs (in the Arkhangelsk region)
:*4,000 Romanians (in the Arkhangelsk region)
:*2,500 Italians (in the Arkhangelsk region and Siberiamarker)
:*2,000 Chinese (in the Vladivostok region)
:*150 Australians (mostly in the Arkhangelsk regions)


Northern Russia

Southern Russia and Ukraine

On the 18th of December 1918, a month after the Armistice, the French occupied Odessamarker. This began the intervention in Ukraine and Southern Russia which was to aid and supply General Denikin's White Army forces, the Volunteer Army, fighting the Bolsheviks there. The campaign involved French, Polish and Greek troops (I Army Corps, ca. 24,000 men). By April 1919 they were withdrawn, before the defeat of the White Army's march against Moscow. General Wrangel reorganized his army in the Crimeamarker, however, with the deteriorating situation, he and his soldiers fled Russia aboard Allied ships on 14 November 1920.


The joint Allied intervention began in August 1918. The Japanese entered through Vladivostok and points along the Manchurian border with more than 70,000 troops eventually being deployed. The Japanese were joined by British and later American, Canadian, French, Italian and Chinese troops. Elements of the Czechoslovak Legion that had reached Vladivostok, greeted the allied forces. The Americans deployed the 27th Infantry and 31st Infantry regiments out of the Philippines, plus elements of the 12th, 13th and 62nd Infantry Regiments out of Camp Fremont

The Japanese were expected to send only around 7,000 troops for the expedition. The deployment of a large force for a rescue expedition made the Allies wary of Japanese intentions. On September 5, the Japanese linked up with the vanguard of the Czech Legion,Humphreys, The Way of the Heavenly Sword: The Japanese Army in the 1920's, page 26 a few days later the British, Italian and French contingents joined the Czechs in an effort to re-establish the Eastern Front beyond the Uralsmarker; as a result the European allies trekked westwards. The Japanese, with their own objectives in mind, refused to proceed west of Lake Baikalmarker and stayed behind. The Americans, suspicious of Japanese intentions, also stayed behind to keep an eye on them. By November, the Japanese occupied all ports and major towns in the Russian Maritime Provincesmarker and Siberia east of the city of Chitamarker.

In the summer of 1918 onwards, the Allies lent their support to White Russian elements. There were tensions between the two anti-Bolshevik factions; the White Russian government led by Admiral Alexander Kolchak and Cossacks led by Grigoriy Semyonov and Ivan Kalmykov which also hampered efforts.

All allied forces were evacuated by 1920, the Japanese stayed until 1922.


Some British and Indian colonial forces operated in the Southern Caucasus region from 1919 to 1920 after fighting the Ottoman Empire.See also: 26 Baku Commissars

Trans Caspian Campaign

The first occasion of allied intervention occurred on 11 August 1918, when General Malleson intervened in support of the Ashkhabad Executive Committee, who had ousted the Tashkent Soviet Bolsheviks from the western end of the Trans-Caspian Railway in July 1918. He sent the Machine Gun Section of the 19th Punjabi Rifles to Baraim Ali located on the Trans-Caspian Railway. After combat at Mervmarker, they were joined by the rest of the regiment. There was further action at Kakamarker 28 August, 11 and 18 September. They were reinforced on 25 September by two squadrons of the 28th Light Cavalry. Fighting alongside Trans Caspian troops they subsequently fought at Arman Sagad (9 - 11 October) and Dushakmarker (14 October). By 1 November they re-occupied Merv and on instructions of the British government halted their advance and took up defensive positions at Bairam Ali. The Trans-Caspian forces continued to attack the Bolsheviks to the north. After the Trans-Caspian forces were routed at Uch Aji, their commander Colonel Knollys sent the 28th Cavalry to their support at Annenkovo. In January 1919 one company of the 19th Punjabi Rifles was sent to reinforce the position at Annenkovo, where a second battle took place on 16 January. The British Government decided on 21 January to withdraw the force, and the last troops left for Persiamarker on 5 April.

Allied withdrawal

The allies withdrew in 1920. The Japanese stayed in the Maritime Provinces of the Russian Far East until 1922 and in northern Sakhalinmarker until 1925, when US economic and diplomatic pressures, internal Japanese politics and the Red Army's military success forced Japan's withdrawal from Russia.

See also


  1. A History of Russia, 7th Edition, Nichlas V. Riasanovsky & Mark D. Steinberg, Oxford University Press, 2005
  2. Beyer, p. 152-153
  3. Intervention and the War by Richard Ullman, Princeton University Press, 1961, p11-13
  4. Joel R. Moore, Harry H. Mead and Lewis E. Jahns, The History of The American Expedition Fighting the Bolsheviki (Nashville, Tenn., The Battery Press, 2003), pp.47-50
  5. E.M. Halliday, When Hell Froze Over (New York City, NY, ibooks, inc., 2000), p.44
  6. Robert L. Willett, Russian Sideshow, pp.166-167, 170
  7. Humphreys, The Way of the Heavenly Sword: The Japanese Army in the 1920's, p.25
  8. Robert L. Willett, Russian Sideshow, p. xxiii
  9. Guarding the Railroad, Taming the Cossacks The U.S. Army in Russia, 1918–1920, Smith, Gibson Bell (accessed 5 July 2007)
  10. A History of Russia, 7th Edition, Nicholas V. Riasnaovsky & Mark D. Steinberg, Oxford University Press, 2005
  11. The Campaign in the Ukraine, at
  12. A History of Russia, 7th Edition, Nicholas V. Riasanovsky & Mark D. Steinberg, Oxford University Press, 2005
  13. Humphreys, The Way of the Heavenly Sword: The Japanese Army in the 1920's, page 25
  14. British Army Siberia
  16. Robert L. Willett, Russian Sideshow, pp. 166-167
  17. Operations in Trans-Caspia, Behind the Lines, accessed 23rd September 2009
  18. A History of Russia, 7th Edition, Nicholas V. Riasanovsky and Mark D. Steinberg, Oxford University Press, 2005


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