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The Russian Civil War (1917 – 1923) was a multi-party war that occurred within the former Russian Empiremarker after the Russian provisional government collapsed and the Soviets under the domination of the Bolshevik party assumed power, first in Petrograd marker and then in other places.

The principal fighting occurred between the Bolshevik Red Army, often in temporary alliance with other leftist pro-revolutionary groups, and the forces of the White Army, the loosely-allied anti-Bolshevik forces. Many foreign armies warred against the Red Army, notably the Allied Forces, yet many volunteer foreigners fought in both sides of the Russian Civil War. Other nationalist and regional political groups also participated in the war, including the Ukrainian nationalist Green Army, the Ukrainian anarchist Black Army and Black Guards, and warlords such as Ungern von Sternberg.

The most intense fighting took place from 1918 to 1920. Major military operations ended on 25 October 1922 when the Red Army occupied Vladivostokmarker, previously held by the Provisional Priamur Government. The last enclave of the White Forces was the Ayano-Maysky Districtmarker on the Pacific coast, where General Anatoly Pepelyayev did not capitulate until 17 June 1923.

In Soviet historiography the period of the Civil War has traditionally been defined as 1918 – 1920. In the Encyclopædia Britannica, the period of the Civil War in Russia is also defined as 1918 – 1920.


Following the abdication of Nicholas II of Russia and the turbulent Russian Revolution throughout 1917, the Russian Provisional Government was established. In October another revolution occurred in which the Red Guard, armed groups of workers and deserting soldiers directed by the Bolshevik Party, seized control of Saint Petersburgmarker (then known as Petrogradmarker) and began an immediate armed takeover of cities and villages throughout the former Russian Empiremarker. In January 1918, the Bolsheviks had the Constituent Assembly violently dissolved, proclaiming the Soviet as the new government of Russia.

The Bolsheviks decided to immediately make peace with the German Empiremarker and the Central Powers, as they had promised the Russian people prior to the Revolution. Vladimir Lenin's political enemies attributed this decision to his sponsorship by the foreign office of Wilhelm II, German Emperor, offered by the latter in hopes that with a revolution, Russia would withdraw from World War I. This suspicion was bolstered by the German Foreign Ministry's sponsorship of Lenin's return to Petrogradmarker.

On 2 December 1917 an armistice was signed between Russia and the Central Powers at Brest-Litovskmarker and peace talks began. As a condition for peace, the proposed treaty by the Central Powers conceded huge portions of the former Russian Empire to Imperial Germanymarker and the Ottoman Empire, greatly upsetting nationalists and conservative. Leon Trotsky, representing the Bolsheviks, refused at first to sign the treaty while continuing to observe a unilateral cease fire, following the policy of "No war, no peace".

In view of this, on 18 February 1918, the Germans began an all out advance on the Eastern Front, encountering virtually no resistance in a campaign which lasted eleven days. Signing a formal peace treaty was the only option in the eyes of the Bolsheviks, because the Russian army was demobilized and the newly formed Red Guard were incapable of stopping the advance. They also understood that the impending counterrevolutionary resistance was more dangerous than the concessions of the treaty, which Lenin viewed as temporary in the light of aspirations for a world revolution. The Soviets acceded to a peace treaty and the formal agreement, the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, was ratified on 6 March 1918. The Soviets viewed the treaty as merely a necessary and expedient means to end the war. Therefore they ceded large amounts of territory to the German Empire, which created several short lived satellite buffer states within its sphere of influence in Finlandmarker (the "Kingdom of Finland"), Poland (the "Kingdom of Poland"), Lithuania (the "Kingdom of Lithuania"), Latvia and Estoniamarker (the "Duchy of Courland and Semigallia"), Belarus (the "Belarusian People’s Republic"), Ukraine (the "Hetmanate"), and Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijanmarker (the "Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic"). Following the defeat of Germany in World War I, the Soviets eventually recovered some of the territories they gave up, though several of these countries remained independent, or were occupied by other nations until the onset of World War II.

In the wake of the October Revolution, the old Russian Imperial Army had been demobilized; the volunteer-based Red Guard was the Bolsheviks' main military force, augmented by an armed military component of the Cheka, the Bolshevik state security apparatus. In January, after significant reverses in combat, War Commissar Leon Trotsky headed the reorganization of the Red Guard into a Workers' and Peasants' Red Army, in order to create a more professional fighting force. Political commissars were appointed to each unit of the army to maintain morale and ensure loyalty. In June 1918, when it became apparent that a revolutionary army composed solely of workers would be far too small, Trotsky instituted mandatory conscription of the rural peasantry into the Red Army. Opposition of rural Russians to Red Army conscription units was overcome by taking hostages and shooting them when necessary in order to force compliance. Former Tsarist officers were utilized as "military specialists" (voenspetsy), sometimes taking their families hostage in order to ensure loyalty. At the start of the war, three-fourths of the Red Army officer corps was composed of former Tsarist officers. By its end, 83% of all Red Army divisional and corps commanders were ex-Tsarist soldiers.

In the elections to the Constituent Assembly, the Bolsheviks constituted a minority of the vote and dissolved it. In general, they had support primarily in the Saint Petersburgmarker and Moscowmarker Soviets and some other industrial regions.

While resistance to the Red Guard began on the very next day after the Bolshevik uprising, the Brest-Litovsk treaty and the political ban became a catalyst for the formation of anti-Bolshevik groups both inside and outside Russia, pushing them into action against the new regime.

A loose confederation of anti-Bolshevik forces aligned against the Communist government, including land-owners, republicans, conservatives, middle-class citizens, reactionaries, pro-monarchists, liberals, army generals, non-Bolshevik socialists who still had grievances and democratic reformists, voluntarily united only in their opposition to Bolshevik rule. Their military forces, bolstered by foreign influence and led by General Yudenich, Admiral Kolchak and General Denikin, became known as the White movement (sometimes referred to as the "White Army"), and they controlled significant parts of the former Russian empire for most of the war.

A Ukrainian nationalist movement known as the Green Army was active in the Ukraine in the early part of the war. More significant was the emergence of a anarchist political and military movement known as the Revolutionary Insurrectionary Army of Ukraine or the Anarchist Black Army led by Nestor Makhno. The Black Army, which counted numerous Jews and Ukrainian peasants in its ranks, played a key part in halting General Denikin's White Army offensive towards Moscow during 1919, later ejecting Cossack forces from the Crimea.

The Western Allies also expressed their dismay at the Bolsheviks, upset at (1) the withdrawal of Russia from the war effort, (2) worried about a possible Russo-German alliance, and perhaps most importantly (3) galvanised by the prospect of the Bolsheviks making good their threats to assume no responsibility for, and so default on, Imperial Russia's massive foreign loans; the legal notion of Odious debt had not yet been formulated. In addition, there was a concern, shared by many Central Powers as well, that the socialist revolutionary ideas would spread to the West. Hence, many of these countries expressed their support for the Whites, including the provision of troops and supplies. Winston Churchill declared that Bolshevism must be "strangled in its cradle".

The majority of the fighting ended in 1920 with the defeat of General Pyotr Wrangel in the Crimeamarker, but a notable resistance in certain areas continued until 1923 (e.g., Kronstadt Uprising, Tambov Rebellionmarker, Basmachi Revolt, and the final resistance of the White movement in the Far East).

Geography and chronology

[[Image:Russian civil war West 1918-20.png|left|thumb|300px|

European theatre of the Russian Civil War]]

In the European part of Russia the war was fought across three main fronts; the eastern, the southern and the north-western. It can also be roughly split into the following periods.

The first period lasted from the Revolution until the Armistice. Already on the date of the Revolution, Cossack General Kaledin refused to recognize it and assumed full governmental authority in the Don region, where the Volunteer Army began amassing support. The signing of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk also resulted in direct Allied intervention in Russia and the arming of military forces opposed to the Bolshevik government. There were also many German commanders who offered support against the Bolsheviks, fearing a confrontation with them was impending as well.

Most of the fighting in this first period was sporadic, involving only small groups amid a fluid and rapidly shifting strategic scene. Among the antagonists were the Czechoslovaks, known as the Czechoslovak Legion or "White Czechs", the Poles of the Polish 5th Rifle Division and the pro-Bolshevik Red Latvian riflemen.

The second period of the war lasted from January to November 1919. At first the White armies' advances from the south (under General Denikin), the east (under Admiral Kolchak) and the northwest (under General Yudenich) were successful, forcing the Red Army and its leftist allies back on all three fronts. In July 1919, the Red Army suffered another reverse after a mass defection of Red Army units in the Crimea to the anarchist Black Army under Nestor Makhno, enabling anarchist forces to consolidate power in the Ukraine. Leon Trotsky soon reformed the Red Army, concluding the first of two military alliances with the anarchists. In June, the Red Army first checked Kolchak's advance. After a series of engagements, assisted by a Black Army offensive against White supply lines, the Red Army defeated Denikin's and Yudenich's armies in October and November.

The third period of the war was the extended siege of the last White forces in the Crimeamarker. Wrangel had gathered the remnants of the Denikin's armies, occupying much of the Crimea. An attempted invasion of the southern Ukraine was rebuffed by the anarchist Black Army under the command of Nestor Makhno. Pursued into the Crimea by Makhno's troops, Wrangel went over to the defensive in the Crimea. After an abortive move north against the Red Army, Wrangel's troops were forced south by Red Army and Black Army forces; Wrangel and the remains of his army were evacuated to Constantinoplemarker in November 1920.

The last period of 1921–1923 was characterized by three main events. The first was the defeat and liquidation of Nestor Makhno's anarchist Black Army, together with various other allied dissident leftist movements in Russia. The second was the escalation of peasant uprisings, which had commenced in 1918, but were fueled by the disbandment of local self-government in the Ukraine and the demobilization of the Red Army. The last was the continued resistance of White Army, Islamic (Basmachi), and autonomous nationalist forces against Bolshevik rule in Eastern Siberia (Transbaikaliamarker, Yakutia), Central Asia, and the Russian Far East. In Soviet historiography the end of the Civil War is dated by the fall of Vladivostokmarker on 25 October 1922, though armed hostilities in the far provinces against Bolshevist rule continued into 1923.

Course of events


The first attempt to regain power from the Bolsheviks was made by the Kerensky-Krasnov uprising in October, 1917. It was supported by the Junker mutiny in Petrograd, but quickly put down by the Red Guards, notably the Latvian rifle Division under I.I. Vatsetis.

The initial groups that fought against the Communists were local Cossack armies that had declared their loyalty to the Provisional Government. Prominent among them were Kaledin of the Don Cossacks and Semenov of the Siberianmarker Cossacks. The leading Tsarist officers of the old regime also started to resist. In November, General Alekseev, the old Tsarist Commander-in-Chief, began to organize a Volunteer Army (Добровольческая Армия, Dobrovolcheskaya Armiya) in Novocherkasskmarker. He was joined in December by Kornilov, Denikin and other Tsarist officers who had escaped from the jail where they had been imprisoned following the abortive Kornilov affair just before the Revolution. These forces fought against the Bolshevik army all across the Ukraine. In the Don, the Cossacks took Rostovmarker in December 1917.


In January Soviet forces under Lieutenant Colonel Muravyov invaded the Ukraine and invested Kievmarker, where the Central Rada of the Ukrainian People's Republicmarker held power. With the help of a revolt by workers in the Arsenal plant within Kiev, the city was captured by the Bolsheviks on 26 January. As Civil War became a reality, the Bolshevik government decided to replace the provisional Red Guard with a permanent Communist army: the Red Army. The Council of People's Commissars formed the new army by decree on 28 January 1918, initially basing its organization on that of the Red Guard.

Rostov was recaptured by the Soviets from the Don Cossacks on 23 February 1918. The day before, the Volunteer Army embarked on the epic Ice March to the Kuban, where they joined with the Kuban Cossacks to mount an abortive assault on Ekaterinodarmarker. General Kornilov was killed in the fighting on 13 April, Operational command passed to General Denikin who spent the next few months rebuilding his army.

On 18 February, as peace negotiations between the Bolshevik government and the Germans broke down, the Germans began an all out advance into the interior of Russia, encountering virtually no resistance in a campaign which lasted eleven days. Despite mass recruitment of new conscripts, the newly formed Red Army proved incapable of stopping the advance and the Soviets acceded to a punitive peace treaty. The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk (3rd March 1918) which pulled Russia out of the war and gave Germany control over vast stretches of western Russia, came as a shock to the Allies. The British and the French had supported Russia on a massive scale with war materials and money. After the treaty, it looked like much of that material would fall into the hands of the Germans.Under this pretext began allied intervention in the Russian Civil War with the United Kingdommarker and Francemarker sending troops into Russian ports. There were violent confrontations with troops loyal to the Bolsheviks.The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with the Germans formally ended the war on the Eastern Front. This permitted the redeployment of German soldiers to the Western Front. Then in mid April the Cheka made mass arrests of anarchists in a night-raid in Petrograd. This was followed up with simultaneous raids against anarchists in Petrograd and Moscow at the end of April. (Paul Avrich, Gregori Maximoff)

The Baku Commune was established on 13 April and lasted until 25 July, 1918. The Baku Red Army successfully resisted the Ottoman Army of Islam, and was obliged to retreat to Baku.However the Dashanak, Right SRs and Mensheviks started negotiations with General Dunsterville, the commander of the British troops in Persiamarker. The Bolsheviks and their Left SR allies were opposed to it but on 25 July the majority of the Soviet voted to call in the British and the Bolsheviks resigned. The Baku Commune ended its existence and was replaced by the Central Caspian Dictatorship.

At the end of May a marked escalation of the conflict was signalled by the unexpected intervention of the Czechoslovak Legion. The Czech Legion had been part of the Russian army and numbered around 30,000 troops by October 1917. In the course of 1918, the strength of the Corps grew to almost 61,000. Most were former prisoners of war and deserters from the Austro-Hungarian Army. Encouraged by Tomáš Masaryk, the legion was renamed the Czechoslovak Army Corps and hoped to continue fighting the Germans. An agreement with the new Bolshevik government to pass by sea through Vladivostokmarker (so they could unite with the Czechoslovak legions in France) collapsed over an attempt to disarm the Corps. Instead their soldiers disarmed the Bolshevik forces in June 1918 at Cheliabinskmarker. Within a month the Czechoslovak Legion controlled most of the Trans-Siberian Railroad from Lake Baikalmarker to the Ural Mountainsmarker regions. By the end of July they had extended their gains, capturing Ekaterinburg on 26 July 1918. Shortly before the fall of Ekaterinburg (on 17 July 1918), the former Tsar and his family were executed by the Ural Sovietmarker, ostensibly to prevent them falling into the hands of the Whites.

The Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries supported peasant fighting against Soviet control of food supplies . In May 1918, with the support of the Czechoslovak Legion, they took Samara and Saratovmarker, establishing the Committee of Members of the Constituent Assembly (Комуч, Komuch). By July the authority of Komuch extended over much of the area controlled by the Czechoslovak Legion. The Komuch pursued an ambivalent social policy, combining democratic and even socialist measures, such as the institution of an eight-hour working day, with "restorative" actions, such as returning both factories and land to their former owners.

In July, two left Socialist-Revolutionaries and Cheka employees, Blyumkin and Andreyev, assassinated the German ambassador, Count Mirbach, in Moscow, in an attempt to provoke the Germans into renewing hostilities. Other left Socialist-Revolutionaries attempted to rouse Red Army troops against the regime. The Soviets, using military detachments from the Cheka, managed to put down these local uprisings, and Lenin personally apologised to the Germans for the assassination. Mass arrests of Socialist-Revolutionaries followed.

After a series of reverses at the front, War Commissar Trotsky instituted increasingly harsh measures in order to prevent unauthorized withdrawals, desertions, or mutinies in the Red Army. In the field, the dreaded Cheka special investigations forces, termed the Special Punitive Department of the All-Russian Extraordinary Commission for Combat of Counter-Revolution and Sabotage, or Special Punitive Brigades followed the Red Army, conducting field tribunals and summary executions of soldiers and officers who either deserted, retreated from their positions, or who failed to display sufficient offensive zeal. The use of the death penalty was extended by Trotsky to the occasional political commissar whose detachment retreated or broke in the face of the enemy. In August, frustrated at continued reports of Red Army troops breaking under fire, Trotsky authorized the formation of anti-retreat detachments stationed behind unreliable Red Army units, with orders to shoot anyone withdrawing from the battle line without authorization.

Conservative and nationalist governments were formed by the Bashkirs, the Kyrgyz and the Tatars (see Idel-Ural State) as well as a Siberian Regional Government in Omskmarker. In September 1918, all the anti-Soviet governments met in Ufamarker and agreed to form a new Russian Provisional Government in Omsk, headed by a Directory of five: three Socialist-Revolutionaries (Nikolai Avksentiev, Boldyrev and Vladimir Zenzinov) and two Kadets, (V. A. Vinogradov and P. V. Vologodskii).

In October, General Alekseev, the leader for the White armies in Southern Russia, died of a heart attack and was replaced by General Denikin.

In Omsk, the Russian Provisional Government quickly came under the influence of the new War Minister, Rear-Admiral Kolchak. On 18 November, a coup d'état established Kolchak as dictator. The members of the Directory were arrested and Kolchak proclaimed the "Supreme Ruler of Russia". He proved to be ineffective as both a political and military leader (his training being all in naval warfare). Kolchak also did not get along with the leaders of Czechoslovak Legion, the strongest military force in the area.

To the Bolshevik Communist government, the emergence of Admiral Kolchak was a political victory because it confirmed their opponents as anti-democratic reactionaries. Following a reorganisation of the People's Army, Kolchak's forces captured Permmarker and Ufamarker in December 1918. But this was to be the high water-mark for his army.


The stage was now set for the key year of the Civil War. The Bolshevik government was firmly in control of the core of Russia, from Petrograd through Moscow and south to Tsaritsynmarker (now Volgograd). Against this government in the east, Admiral Kolchak had a small army and had some control over the Trans-Siberian Railroad. In the south the White Armies controlled much of the Don and the Ukraine. In the Caucasus, General Denikin had established a new White army. In the newly independent country of Estoniamarker General Yudenich was organizing an army. Estonia had been fighting the Bolsheviks since November 1918 when the latter, not recognising the independent Estonian Provisional Government, launched an invasion. The French occupied Odessamarker. The British occupied Murmanskmarker. The British and the United States occupied Arkhangelskmarker and the Japanesemarker occupied Vladivostokmarker. French forces landed in Odessa, but after having done almost no fighting, withdrew their troops on 8 April 1919.

The Cossacks had been unable to organize and capitalize on their successes at the end of 1917. By 1919, they were beginning to run short of supplies. Consequently, when the Sovietmarker counter-offensive began in January 1919 under the Bolshevik leader Antonov-Ovseenko, the Cossack forces rapidly fell apart. The Red Army captured Kiev on 3 February 1919.

White propaganda poster representing the Bolsheviks as a fallen communist dragon and the White Cause as a crusading knight.
Bolshevik propaganda poster of Trotsky slaying the counter-revolutionary dragon, 1918.
The decision of the Bolshevik government to withdraw most Red Army forces from the Ukraine in the face of White Army advances was met with disgust by Red Army detachments in the Crimea; 40,000 mutinied in July, most joining the anarchist Black Army forces of Nestor Makhno, enabling the anarchists to consolidate their power in the southern Ukraine.

While the war between Anarchist Black and Tsarist White armies was going on in the Ukraine, Trotsky sent another army against Kolchak's forces. This army, led by the capable commander Tukhachevsky, recaptured Ekaterinburg on 27 January 1919 and continued to push along the Trans-Siberian railroad. Both sides had victories and losses, but by the middle of summer the Red army was larger than the White army and had managed to recapture territory previously lost. With the retreat of Kolchak's White Army, Great Britain and the United States pulled their troops out of Murmanskmarker and Arkhangelskmarker before the onset of winter trapped their forces in port. On 14 November 1919, the Red Army captured Omskmarker. Admiral Kolchak lost control of his government shortly after this defeat; White Army forces in Siberia essentially ceased to exist by December.

Although Great Britain had withdrawn its own troops from the theater, it continued to give significant military aid (money, weapons, food, ammunition, and some military advisors) to the White armies during 1919, especially to General Yudenich. Despite large quantities of aid given to White commanders by Allied nations, many White commanders felt that the aid that was given was insufficient. Yudenich in particular complained that he was receiving insufficient support. The First World War had greatly influenced the tactical thinking of many commanders on both sides of the Civil War, causing some commanders to ask for greater numbers of guns and heavy artillery than were needed when engaged in a mobile campaign over the Russian steppes. However, when attacking large urban areas held by Red Army troops with populations largely sympathetic to the Bolshevik government, the reality was that it would take more heavy guns, troops, and/or time to besiege a city than were available to White Army forces.

In the early summer, the Caucasus Army (now under operational command of General Wrangel) attacked north, trying to relieve the pressure on Kolchak's army or even link up with it. Wrangel's troops managed to capture Tsaritsynmarker on 17 June 1919. Trotsky responded to this threat by sending Tukhachevsky with a new army against Wrangel's troops. The Caucasus army of Wrangel, faced with superior numbers, retreated south, leaving Tsaritsyn to the Bolsheviks.

Later in the summer, another Cossack force called the Don Army under the command of Cossack General Mamontov attacked into Ukraine. The Red army, stretched thin by fighting on all fronts, was forced out of Kiev on 2 September 1919. Mamontov's Don Army continued north towards Voronezhmarker but there they were defeated by Tukhachevsky's army on 24 October. Tukhachevsky's army then turned towards yet another threat, the rebuilt Volunteer Army of General Denikin. Denikin's forces constituted a real threat, and for a time threatened to reach Moscow. However, a timely intervention by the Ukrainian Anarchist Black Army led by Nestor Makhno seized several key railroad lines, cities, and munition depots along the White Army's lines of supply, defeating several White infantry regiments along the way. Alarmed by events in their homeland, Ukrainian White commanders soon forced General Denikin to shift his offensive and many of his troops to the southern front. Deprived of food, ammunition, artillery, and fresh reinforcements, Denikin's army was decisively defeated in a series of battles in October and November 1919. The Red Army recaptured Kiev on 17 December and the defeated Cossacks fled back towards the Black Seamarker.

While the White Armies were being routed in the center and the east, they had succeeded in driving Nestor Makhno's anarchist Black Army (formally known as the Revolutionary Insurrectionary Army of Ukraine) out of part of southern Ukraine and the Crimea. Despite this setback, Moscow was loathe to aid Makhno and the Black Army, and refused to provide arms to anarchist forces in the Ukraine. Trotsky openly discussed the hope that the two armies would destroy each other. He also ordered the withdrawal of some Red Army units from their existing positions, allowing White Cossack forces to re-enter and occupy portions of Crimea and the southern Ukraine.

In the meantime, the Red Army turned to deal with a new threat. This one came from White Army General Yudenich, who had spent the spring and summer organizing a small army in Estonia, with British support. In October 1919 he tried to capture Petrogradmarker in a sudden assault with a force of around 20,000 men. The attack was well-executed, using night attacks and lightning cavalry maneuvers to turn the flanks of the defending Red army. Yudenich also had six British tanks that caused panic whenever they appeared. By 19 October 1919 Yudenich's troops had reached the outskirts of Petrograd. Some members of Bolshevik central committee in Moscow were willing to give up Petrograd, but Trotsky refused to accept the loss of the city and personally organized its defenses. Trotsky declared that "It is impossible for a little army of 15,000 ex-officers to master a working class capital of 700,000 inhabitants." He settled on a strategy of urban defense, proclaiming that the city would "defend itself on its own ground" that the White Army would be lost in a labyrinth of fortified streets and there "meet its grave." Trotsky armed all available workers, men and women, ordering the transfer of military forces from Moscow. Within a few weeks the Red army defending Petrograd had tripled in size and outnumbered Yudenich three to one. At this point Yudenich, short of supplies, decided to call off the siege of the city, withdrawing his army across the border to Estonia. Upon his return, his army was disarmed by order of the Estonian government, fearful of reprisals by Moscow and its Red Army War Commissar, which turned out to be well-founded. However, the Bolshevik forces pursuing Yudenich's forces (Yudenich based himself in Helsinki) were beaten back by the Estonian army. Following the Treaty of Tartu most of Yudenich's soldiers went into exile.

The victories by the Bolsheviks over Mamontov's Cossack army at Voronezh, Yudenich at Petrograd, and Kolchak at Omsk transformed the war. After a long struggle, the Red Army had finally triumphed over its internal enemies on the right; it now turned on its allies on the left.


In Siberia, Admiral Kolchak's army had disintegrated. He himself gave up command after the loss of Omsk and designated Grigory Semyonov as the new leader of the White Army in Siberia. Not long after this Kolchak was arrested by the disaffected Czechoslovak Corps as he traveled towards Irkutskmarker without the protection of the army (historian Richard Pipes thinks the French military liaison was involved in this). On 15 January Kolchak was turned over to the socialist 'Political Centre' who administered Irkutsk. Six days later this regime was replaced by a Bolshevik dominated Military-Revolutionary Committee. Kolchak was interrogated by a team consisting of one Bolshevik, one Menshevik and two SR's. Plans to put him on trial in Moscow were cancelled when the White army, now under General S.N. Voitsekhovsky approached the city from the west. Against Lenin's explicit instructions to the contrary, on 6-7 February, Kolchak and his prime minister were shot and their bodies thrown through the ice of a frozen river, just before the arrival of the White Army in the area. Fighting in Siberia continued for the next year as armed gangs—essentially bandits—roamed the land. Semyonov and his tattered band of Cossacks ultimately retreated into Chinamarker.

The Czechoslovak Legion had no real interest in fighting in the Russian Civil War. They wanted to fight the German army, but with the end of World War I, that desire died. Uninspired by Kolchak (and not, in turn, trusted by him) they spent most of 1919 moving their troops east and having them shipped, boat by boat, back to Europe. They were aided in this effort by U.S. military units, under the command of General William S. Graves, who took control over the eastern end of the Trans-Siberian Railroad. The Czechoslovak Legion managed to evacuate all their forces out from Vladivostok (as had been their original plan in 1918). They were gone by April, 1920, when the U.S. troops also left Siberia.

Most of the White Armies were evacuated by British ships during the winter-spring of 1920. General Wrangel was the only holdout; his army remained an organized force in the Crimea throughout the summer of 1920. After Moscow's Bolshevik government signed a military and political alliance with Nestor Makhno and the Ukrainian anarchists, the Black Army attacked and defeated several regiments of Wrangel's troops in southern Ukraine, forcing Wrangel to retreat before he could capture that year's grain harvest. Stymied in his efforts to consolidate his hold in the Ukraine, General Wrangel then attacked north in an attempt to take advantage of recent Red Army defeats at the close of the Polish-Soviet War of 1919-1920. This offensive was eventually halted by the Red Army, and Wrangel and his troops were forced to retreat to Crimea in November 1920, pursued by both Red and Black cavalry and infantry. Wrangel and the remains of his army were evacuated by the British on 14 November 1920 amidst horrific scenes of desperation and cruelty. Tens of thousands of Russians tried to escape from the Red Army, but were unable to find transport on the overcrowded British ships.


After the defeat of Wrangel, the Red Army immediately repudiated its 1920 treaty of alliance with Nestor Makhno and attacked the anarchist Black Army; the campaign to liquidate Makhno and the Ukrainian anarchists began with an attempted assassination of Makhno by agents of the Cheka. Red Army attacks on anarchist forces and their sympathizers increased in ferocity throughout 1921. As War Commissar of Red Army forces, Leon Trotsky instituted mass executions of peasants in the Ukraine and other areas sympathetic to Makhno and the anarchists. Angered by continued repression by the Bolshevik Communist government and its liberal use of the Cheka to put down peasant and anarchist elements, a naval mutiny erupted at Kronstadt, followed by peasant revolts in Ukraine, Tambov, and Siberia.

The Japanese, who had plans to annex the Amur Kraimarker of Eastern Siberia, finally pulled their troops out as the Bolshevik forces gradually asserted control over all of Siberiamarker. On 25 October 1922 Vladivostokmarker fell to the Red Army and the Provisional Priamur Government was extinguished. General Anatoly Pepelyayev continued armed resistance in the Ayano-Maysky Districtmarker until June 1923. In central Asia, Red Army troops continued to face resistance into 1923, where basmachi (armed bands of Islamic guerrillas) had formed to fight the Bolshevik takeover. The regions of Kamchatkamarker and Northern Sakhalinmarker remained under Japanese occupation until their treaty with Soviet Union in 1925, when their forces were finally withdrawn.


The results of the civil war were momentous. Russia had been at war for seven years, during which time some 20,000,000 of its people had lost their lives. The civil war had taken an estimated 15,000,000 of them, including at least 1,000,000 soldiers of the Russian Red Army and more than 500,000 White soldiers who died in battle. Semyonov alone killed 100,000 men, women and children in the regions where he held authority. 50,000 Russian Communists were killed by the counter-revolutionary Whites, and 250,000 civilians were killed by the Cheka. An estimated 100,000 Jews were killed in Ukraine, mostly by the White Army. Punitive organs of the "All Great Don Host" sentenced 25,000 people to death between May 1918 to January 1919. Kolchak's Government shot 25,000 people in Ekaterinburg province alone. At the end of the Civil War, the Russian SFSR was exhausted and near ruin. The droughts of 1920 and 1921, as well as the 1921 famine, worsened the disaster still further. Disease had reached pandemic proportions, with 3,000,000 dying of typhus alone in 1920. Millions more were also killed by widespread starvation, wholesale massacres by both sides, and pogroms against Jews in Ukraine and southern Russia. By 1922 there were at least 7,000,000 street children in Russia as a result of nearly a decade of devastation from World War I and the civil war.

Refugees on flatcars
Another one to two million people, known as the White emigres, fled Russia — many with General Wrangel, some through the Far East, others fled west into the newly independent Baltic countries. These émigrés included a large part of the educated and skilled population of Russia.

The Russian economy was devastated by the war, with factories and bridges destroyed, cattle and raw materials pillaged, mines flooded, and machines damaged. The industrial production value descended to one seventh of the value of 1913, and agriculture to one third. According to Pravda, "The workers of the towns and some of the villages choke in the throes of hunger. The railways barely crawl. The houses are crumbling. The towns are full of refuse. Epidemics spread and death strikes -- industry is ruined."

It is estimated that the total output of mines and factories in 1921 had fallen to 20 percent of the pre-World War level, and many crucial items experienced an even more drastic decline. For example, cotton production fell to five percent, and iron to two percent of pre-war levels.

War Communism saved the Soviet government during the Civil War, but much of the Russian economy had ground to a standstill. The peasants responded to requisitions by refusing to till the land. By 1921, cultivated land had shrunk to 62 percent of the pre-war area, and the harvest yield was only about 37 percent of normal. The number of horses declined from 35 million in 1916 to 24 million in 1920, and cattle from 58 to 37 million. The exchange rate with the U.S. dollar declined from two rubles in 1914 to 1,200 in 1920.

With the end of the war, the Communist Party no longer faced an acute military threat to its existence and power. However, the perceived threat of another intervention, combined with the failure of socialist revolutions in other countries, most notably the German Revolution, contributed to the continued militarization of Soviet society. Although Russia experienced extremely rapid economic growth in the 1930s, the combined effect of World War I and the Civil War left a lasting scar in Russian society, and had permanent effects on the development of the Soviet Unionmarker.

In fiction



See also

Short lived states


  1. article "Civil War and military intervention in Russia 1918-20", Big Soviet Encyclopedia, third edition (30 volumes), 1969-1978
  2. 'Russian Civil War' article from
  3. Lenin
  4. Evan Mawdsley (2008) The Russian Civil War: 42
  5. Read, Christopher, From Tsar to Soviets, Oxford University Press (1996), p. 237: By 1920, 77% of the Red Army's enlisted ranks were composed of peasant conscripts.
  6. Williams, Beryl, The Russian Revolution 1917-1921, Blackwell Publishing Ltd. (1987), ISBN 9780631150831 0631150838: Typically, men of conscriptible age (17-40) in a village would vanish when Red Army draft units approached. The taking of hostages and a few exemplary executions usually brought the men back.
  7. Overy, R.J., The Dictators: Hitler's Germany and Stalin's Russia, W.W. Norton & Company (2004), ISBN 0393020304, 9780393020304, p. 446: By the end of the civil war, one-third of all Red Army officers were ex-Tsarist voenspetsy.
  8. Williams, Beryl, The Russian Revolution 1917-1921, Blackwell Publishing Ltd. (1987), ISBN 9780631150831 0631150838
  9. Overy, R.J., The Dictators: Hitler's Germany and Stalin's Russia, W.W. Norton & Company (2004), ISBN 0393020304, 9780393020304, p. 446:
  10. John M. Thompson, A vision unfulfilled. Russia and the Soviet Union in the twentieth century (Lexington, MA; 1996) 159.
  11. Cover Story: Churchill's Greatness. Interview with Jeffrey Wallin. (The Churchill Centre)
  12. Каледин, Алексей Максимович. A biography of Kaledin (in Russian)
  13. The Czech Legion
  14. Evan Mawdsley (2008) The Russian Civil War. Edinburgh, Birlinn: 27
  15. Evan Mawdsley (2008) The Russian Civil War. Edinburgh, Birlinn: 35
  16. 15 January 1918 (Old Style)
  17. S.S. Lototskiy, The Soviet Army (Moscow:Progress Publishers, 1971), p.25, cited in Scott and Scott, The Armed Forces of the Soviet Union, Eastview Press, Boulder, Co., 1979, p.3.
  18. Evan Mawdsley (2008) The Russian Civil War. Edinburgh, Birlinn: 28
  19. Evan Mawdsley (2008) The Russian Civil War. Edinburgh, Birlinn: 29
  21. Evan Mawdsley (2008) The Russian Civil War. Edinburgh, Birlinn: 62-8
  22. Chamberlain, William Henry, The Russian Revolution: 1917-1921, New York: Macmillan Co. (1957), p. 131: Frequently the deserters' families were taken hostage to force a surrender; a portion were customarily executed, as an example to the others.
  23. Daniels, Robert V., A Documentary History of Communism in Russia: From Lenin to Gorbachev, UPNE (1993), ISBN 0874516161, 9780874516166, p. 70: The Cheka special investigations forces were also charged with the detection of sabotage and counter-revolutionary activity by Red Army soldiers and commanders.
  24. Dmitri Volkogonov, Trotsky: The Eternal Revolutionary, transl. & edited by Harold Shukman, HarperCollins Publishers, London (1996), p. 180: By December 1918 Trotsky had ordered the formation of special detachments to serve as blocking units throughout the Red Army. On 18 December he cabled: "How do things stand with the blocking units?...It is absolutely essential that we have at least an embryonic network of blocking units and that we work out a procedure for bringing them up to strength and deploying them."
  25. Williams, Beryl, The Russian Revolution 1917-1921, Blackwell Publishing Ltd. (1987), ISBN 9780631150831 0631150838
  26. Evan Mawdsley (2008) The Russian Civil War: 319-21
  27. Berland, Pierre, Mhakno, Le Temps, 28 August 1934: In addition to supplying White Army forces and their sympathizers with food, a successful seizure of the 1920 Ukrainian grain harvest would have had a devastating effect on food supplies to Bolshevik-held cities, while depriving both Red Army and Ukrainian Black Army troops of their usual bread rations.
  28. Greg King & Penny Wilson, The Fate of the Romanovs, p. 188
  29. page 28, Andrew and Mitrokhin, The Sword and the Shield, paperback edition, Basic books, 1999.
  30. page 180, Overy, The Dictators: Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia, W. W. Norton & Company; 1st American Ed edition, 2004.
  31. Peter Kenez, "The Prosecution of Soviet History: A Critique of Richard Pipes' The Russian Revolution", Russian Review,Vol. 50, No. 3 (Jul., 1991), pp. 345-351
  32. Peter Holquist, Making War, Forging Revolution: Russia's Continuum of Crisis, 1914-1921, Page 164.
  33. Колчаковщина
  34. And Now My Soul Is Hardened: Abandoned Children in Soviet Russia, 1918-1930, By Thomas J. Hegarty, Canadian Slavonic Papers

Further reading

  • T.N. Dupuy, The Encyclopedia of Military History (many editions) Harper & Row Publishers.
  • DK Atlas of World History, 1999, Dorling Kindersley Publishing.
  • W. Bruce Lincoln, Red Victory
  • Ewan Mawdsley, The Russian Civil War
  • David R. Stone, "The Russian Civil War, 1917-1921," in The Military History of the Soviet Union
  • Geoffrey Swain, The Origins of the Russian Civil War

External links

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