Modern History, Russia, Russian Civil war 1918-1920 - By Mark bunkerhunter@yahoo.com.au

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Modern History Assessment

Russian Civil War 118-10

By Mark S, Australia, For lots more modern History assessments contact me at bunkerhunter@yahoo.com.au

A war to end all wars is a phrase generally reserved to describe World War one and the appalling conditions and horrific death toll that accompanied it. However, the Russian Civil War of 118-10 virtually crippled Russias Economy, its people and claimed thousands of lives. In effect the Russian Civil War can be compared to World War One, The War to end all Wars.

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Towards the end of 117, Russia had withdrawn from World War One and had made peace with Germany, through the Brest-Litovsk treaty. Although Peace came at immense price, the Russian Empire lost all of its western lands, comprising sixty-two million people, 7 percent of its farmland and 76 percent of its iron ore and coal supplies .

This loss of land and industry caused great contempt amongst the anti-Bolshevik and pro-Tsarists parties. Eventually, these groups began to rise up against the Bolsheviks. The first group to rise up against the Bolsheviks was a group of Czech prisoners of war, which took control of a town along the Trans-Siberian railway during May 118. When Bolshevik troops arrived to restore power, more train-loads of Czech prisoners of war came to join in the fight, by the end of 118 all towns along the railway and the railway itself were in the hands of the Czech prisoners of war now known as the Czech Legion .

In January 118, five months prior to the Russian Civil war, General Lavr Kornilov organised a volunteer army of anti-Bolshevik supporters. By the beginning of January 11, 8 months into the civil war, this army incorporated many other anti-Bolshevik parties, socialist revolutionaries and pro-Tsarist groups which now became to be known as the White Army.

Both the White Armies and Czech Legion never joined forces, but remained close allies. In November 118, the white army gained support from 00 000 soldiers from America, Britain, France and Japan. The American and British were mobilised in the White Sea area, while French and Japanese forces were mobilised in Vladivostok. The American forces would later also be mobilised in Vladivostok.

The main reason for allied intervention in the Russian Civil war was to preserve the Eastern Front in the War against Germany, but it was also an attempt to overthrow Bolshevikism. These Allied intervention forces would be withdrawn from Russia between March and October 11 .

To combat this tremendous threat, Vadimir Lenin appointed Leon Trotsky as Commissar for War. His first objective was to get troops into the new Russian army, the Red army, formed in January 118. He accomplished this by introducing conscription for all men aged eighteen and forty; his second objective was to get officers to lead the red army, his solution was to appoint former officers from the Tsarist Army who had recently returned from war. Any officer found rejecting the order to join the red army was taken hostage and put into prison. By March 11, The Red army had 000 officers to command the 0 000 men strong army.

To ensure no officers or troops of the Red army deserted the army or their post in late 118 Trotsky enforced strict orders of terror for anyone who deserted the red army, sold their uniform/equipment or harbored deserters. Anyone found guilty of these crimes was to be shot.

Another much feared element of The Red Terror was the Cheka also known as Extraordinary Commission for Combating Counter-Revolution, Sabotage and Criminal Offenses by Officials. The Cheka was responsible for dealing with anyone who supported/helped the white army or who fought for the White army. Cheka agents were responsible for torturing prisoners to extract confessions before executing them. Cheka units also wreaked havoc across the countryside, hanging, beating, shooting or burning anybody who fought or supported the White Army.

The Cheka is to punish and liquidate all attempts or actions connected with counter-revolution or sabotage, whatever their source, throughout Russia; to hand over for trial by a revolutionary tribunal all saboteurs and counter-revolutionaries, and to elaborate measures to combat them; and to carry out a preliminary investigation only in so far as was necessary for preventive purposes.

The movements of the Russian Civil war took many twists and turns in its two-year course. At the end of 118, anti-Bolshevik armies were advancing on Moscow; the Czech Legion had control of the Trans-Siberian railway in most towns along its route. Although the red army were mobilised in the Volga in July 118 and managed to recapture Kazan and Simbirsk from the White army in September 118 and Samara in October, in late October 118, The white army did make progress when General Denekin took control of the Kuban region and General Wrangel began to advance up the Volga. General Denekin would later advance up to a point 150kms from Moscow.

The main threat to the Bolshevik government came from General Yudenich . In October, 118 he captured Gatchina, only 50 kilometres from Petrograd. Leon Trotsky arrived to direct the defence of the capital. Red Army units were established amongst industrial workers and the rail network was used to bring troops from Moscow. Outnumbered, Yudenich ordered his men to retreat and headed for Estonia.

In 11, the white army began to lose the war. Alexander Kolchak captured Ufa and was posing a threat to Kazan and Samara. The Red Army led by General Frunze began to fight back. In November 11 the Red army entered Omsk, where Kolchak had proclaimed government; Kolchak then fled eastwards but he was caught by the Czechs who handed him over to the Bolsheviks. Kolchak was shot by firing squad on 7th February 10.

General Frunze went on to clear Turkestan of all anti-Bolshevik forces. In early 10 General Denikin and his army withdrew into Crimea. He made a brief stand at Rostov before again retreating to Novorossiysk on the Black Sea. Faced by troops led by Mikhail Tukhachevsky, Denikin was forced to leave Russia in April 10.

General Wrangel now took control of the White Army in the Crimea but he was unable to match General Frunze and the Red army. In November 10 the remaining members of his army left Russia thus ending the two-year civil war .

The Civil war not only took a toll on the Russian population, but also on the economy. During 118, at the height of the Russian Civil war, Vladmir Lenin, leader of the Bolsheviks, took strict measures to organise food and industry in areas under Bolshevik control. All factories with under ten workers were nationalised, all workers were under government control, private trading was banned, money lost its value through inflation and food was strictly rationed.

This form of economy was later to be known as War Communism. This form of economy achieved one of its aims - it supplied the red army with food and weapons, although it failed in its other aims - the equal share of wealth throughout Russia. Since the government took all surplus food, farmers did not produce surplus food. This caused a food shortage in 10 and a famine in 11. War communism was finally disbanded and replaced by the new economic policy in March 11, three months after the civil war ended.

The peculiarity of war communism consisted in the fact that we really took from the peasants all their surpluses, and some times even what was not surplus, but part of what was necessary to feed the peasant... We took it for the most part on credit...

In the end, the Red army and the Bolsheviks won the Russian Civil war. It spelled the death knell for democracy and freedom, it was a decisive win for communism and repression. The red army won by Force and Brutality, with the help of a large army and the Red Terror (later to be known as the KGB). The white army and anti-Bolshevik forces didnt stand a chance. The win for Bolshevism and Communism ensured a reign of terror and horror that would last 0 years.

...those who believe that socialism will be built at a time of peace and tranquillity are profoundly mistaken it will everywhere be built at a time of disruption, at a time of famine.

Josh Broomman, Russia in war and revolution, Longman 0th century history series, New York 1, pp.

Donald W. Treadgold, Twentieth Century Russia, Westview Press, New York, 187.

Internet extract of pages 40-50 available on Professor Gerhard Rempels website


Anthony Wood, Russian Civil war, Internet Resource


Lenin, Collected Works, vol. 6 Progress Publishers, Moscow 17, pp. 75

Jamie Simpson, Bruce Dennet, Problems and Issues in Modern History, Oxford University Press Melbourne 17, pp. 7-75

V Lenin, Unknown Source, 11, Internet rescource


V Lenin, Unknown Source, 11, Internet rescource


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