Above: Map during the Civil War of Russia
A division arose between the Bolsheviks or Communists and the Left Socialist Revolutionaries over the terms of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, in which Russia had made sizeable land concessions to Germany. The LSR left the coalition. There were two main groups opposed to Lenin.
Above: Picture of the White Army
The non-Bolshevik left was annoyed with Lenin for having dissolved the Constituent Assembly and the White Rightists had their own grievances to grudge. The latter’s main strength was its army of volunteers stationed in the Kuban Steppes. The group had suffered greatly, was reduced in numbers but under General Denikin was still an efficient force to contend with.
Above: A map showing the location of Murmansk (click map to enlarge)
In western Europe the Germans had opened a new offensive and to detract this move the Western Allies were anxious to open a front in the east. To do so they were willing to rejuvenate the Russian army. Events moved fast. In March 1918 the British landed at Murmansk with Soviet approval but on 5th April Japan arrived at Vladivostok without any invitation.
Above: Picture of Leon Trotsky
The Czechoslovakian Legion further complicated matters. It comprised of Czech and Slovak deserters from the Austro-Hungarian army who had been encouraged by the former Russian governments to form independent units. The Bolsheviks told these units to leave via the Far East but on 29th May, Trotsky ordered them to surrender arms. They refused and seized control of the Trans-Siberian rail route. Taking advantage of the chaos there appeared on the scene two anti-Bolshevik representatives. The first one was the liberal West Siberian Commissariat of Omsk and the other Socialist members of the Constituent Assembly stationed at Samara.
Above: Corpses of victim lain at the sidewalk during the Red Terror Operatio
All these incidents caused Moscow to descend on the non-Bolshevik socialists with a strong arm. Their deputies were expelled from the soviets at central and local levels and a halt given to all their political movements. In September the government stepped up its Red Terror operations. Hostages were shot the political police or Cheka were given extra powers to arrest, stage a trial and carry on executions with impunity. The first victims were the members of the Tsar’s family. At first they were removed to Tobolsk in August 1917 and thence to Yekaterinburg in the spring of 1918. But when anti-Bolshevik movement raised its head in Siberia the fate of Tsar Nicholas and his family was sealed. Fearful of their liberation the Communists had them shot in the cellar.
Above: US Infantry marching in Arkhangelsk 1918
On the war front the Red Army hastily reorganized itself and recovered most of the regions in eastern Europe, which had belonged to Russia. Omsk had meanwhile become a centre for anti-Communist activity and with the help of Britain and USA a new army was got ready for operations. At Murmansk Britain was at war with the Reds. More British troops arrived at Arkhangelsk. In the Far East Japan began to take up threatening postures.
Above: Picture of Admiral Kolchak
The Socialist Revolutionaries and Kolchak at Omsk found it more and more difficult to get along with each other. Kolchak lumped the Socialists with the other Communists and termed them all as ‘Red’ enemies. On 18th November 1918 Kolchak openly broke away from the uneasy alliance and declared himself as dictator. His coup came at a time when Germany fell and the European War came to an end.
Above: Red Army infantry and armored-cars parade in Ekaterinoslav, Russia
The end of World War I saw the Red Army marching into Ukraine in early 1919. The rag tag of the Socialist Revolutionaries under Petlyura fell back towards the west to join up with the nationalist forces of Ukraine from Galicia. The combined army clung to parts of Ukraine for few months while other regions became the playground for anarchist bands led by Makhno. The Communists controlled the principal urban centres through a puppet local Ukraine government in Kharkiv. With the Germans out of the way, the Allies found the Black Sea route open. Under French command forces landed at Odessa, Sevastpool and later on at Kherson and Nikolayev.
Above: Unburried bodies of victim of Massacre by Russian Bolshivek in Kiev, Ukraine (1919)
At this point of time the Russian situation was totally confused. The Allies had to settle on a plan of action. With the collapse of Germany the opening of a front in the east was no longer necessary. On the other hand the Allies were under great pressure from Russian exiles who wanted them to keep their word to the pre-Bolshevik government and extend a helping hand. They stressed the point that the loyalty of the latter should be likewise reciprocated. That apart they strongly pointed out the economic angle. A Communist regime would be a threat to Europe as a whole. The virus of revolution could well become a spreading infection.
Initially, in 1919, France and Italy were for strongly supporting the Whites. They were for supplying the former with arms and necessities rather than with manpower. Britain and USA took a more cautious line and hoped for some sort of reconciliation.
Above: Russian Submarine E11 sneaking in the Sea of Marmara
Taking the lead, USA proposed talks between all the Russian warring parties at Prinkipo on the Sea of Marmara. The Reds agreed but the Whites refused. A US diplomat visited Moscow and came back with peace proposals but the Allies were not ready to talk. Relationship worsened with the Allies giving open support to Kolchak and Denikin.
The Allies did not directly intervene except on a very small scale. Bewildered by the infighting between the Reds, Whites and Ukrainian nationalists, the French withdrew from the Ukraine without making a sound. Britain did make its presence somewhat felt in Arkhangelsk and Murmansk but it hardly left any impact on the civil war. Soon she withdrew her forces in autumn 1919.
The real threat came from the Japanese who steadily entrenched themselves in the Far Eastern regions. The east occupied the centre stage when Kolchak successfully entered the Urals. In April the Reds took a stand and Ufa fell by the middle of the year. Kolchak now began to retreat through Siberia and was waylaid constantly by Red supporters. Soon the retreat became a disorganized rout. Kolchak propped up an administrative centre at Irkutsk only to have it soon overthrown by the revolutionaries. He was captured and shot in February 1920.
Above: Picture of General Nikolai Yudenich
Denikin however tried to put up a last stand towards the middle of 1919 in European Russia. Large portions of Ukraine were taken over by the Whites but the local nationalists did not care for Deniken. Petlyura was openly hostile to him but the Galicians preferred him to the Poles. To them the real enemies were the Poles. In September the march towards Moscow began – from the Ukraine and the lower Volga. On October Oryol was taken. Simultaneously General Yudenich, coming from Estonia reached the neighbourhood of St. Petersburg. But the Reds defended both the cities forcing Yudenich and Denikin to retreat. Deniken’s communications were cut off and soon his withdrawing troops lost all semblance of order. The last remnants of his forces had to evacuate Novorossiysk.
Above: Picture of General Peter von Wrangell
General Wrangel still commanded a clobbered up regular White army in the Crimea and managed to march northwards and occupy parts of Ukraine and Kuban. But Wrangle could not hold on against the battery by the Reds. However his tenacity in the rear allowed for the evacuation of 150,000 soldiers and civilians from Crimea. This marked the end of the Russian Civil War in November 1920.
The Red victory meant the end of many nationalist movements of the non-Russians. The Tatar and Bashkirs inhabiting the Kazan area in the southern Urals lost all hopes for self-determination under the weight of Communist dictatorship. Promises had been made but none were kept once they were occupying the seats of power. Tashkent became a breeding ground of guerilla Muslim band of insurgents known as the Basmachi.
Above: Map of Democratic Republic of Armenia (click map to enlarge)
Turkey’s fall had led to the rebirth of three separate Trans-Caucasian Republics – Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia. But Moscow was not prepared to tolerate their independence for long and was waiting for the right opportunity to strike. When a rebellion broke out in Baku the Red Army bared its fangs and the Azerbaijan government was forced to surrender. Armenia met the same fate when those portions that had once belonged to Russia was incorporated into Soviet Russia and the other parts were recognized as part of Turkey. Georgia too capitulated and succumbed to the operations of the Red Army, which lasted from February to April 1921.
The inhabitants living in the area around Lake Baikal and to the east of it was in reality under the thumb of Moscow but somehow the fiction persisted that they belonged to an independent Far Eastern Republic. But the dream broke when after the withdrawal of Japan from the territories of Russia it had occupied, following the Washington Conference of Pacific States (1921-22) the assembly formally voted the Far Eastern Republic out and opted for union with Soviet Russia.
Above: Pictures of Central Committee of the Communist Party 1917 (click image to enlarge)
In this manner came into existence the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic. The reality was that the soviets were of little or no consequence. Real power lay in the hands of the Communist Party. Its members occupied all the top posts in the administration. The Central Committee dominated by Lenin ruled the party. Next to him stood Trotsky, Commissar for war. He had full power over the armed forces, supplies and organizing recruitments. Technically the Red Army was far superior to the Whites. The Reds were in occupation of the central heartland of Russia and as such their communication lines remained uninterrupted. On the other hand their opponents on the border areas were cut off from each other and were definitely at a disadvantage.