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Civil War in the Soviet Union

1918-1920


By early 1918, a major civil war had broken out in Russia--only recently named the USSR--which is commonly known as the civil war between the "Reds" and the "Whites". The "Reds" were the Bolshevik controlled Soviets. During this time the Bolsheviks changed their name to the Communist party. The "Whites" were mostly Russian army units from the world war who were led by anti-Bolshevik officers. They were also joined by anti-Bolshevik volunteers and some Mensheviks and Social Revolutionaries. During this civil war, the Bolsheviks signed a separate peace with Germany and finally ended Russia's involvement with the world war.

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The Whites, though possessing some experienced officers and soldiers, were never able to defeat the Reds. The Whites were only twice able to mount serious offenses which threatened the Reds. The first was in August of 1918 when the Whites took Kazan along the Volga River, only 400 miles from Moscow (the Whites source of strength was along the far south and West, away from Petrograd and Moscow). Trotsky--an ally of Lenin, later ousted and later assassinated by Stalin--gathered an army on an "Armored Train" and defeated the Whites.

The next serious threat was in the Autumn of 1919. This was the period of foreign intervention of the civil war. The allies, primarily France and England, but also the US, sent troops and materials to support the Whites. The troops only stayed until 1919, and the war materials may have helped the Whites more than the troops. The allies supported the Whites partly because they wanted a Russian government that would continue to fight the Germans, but also because they feared the spread of Socialism. Bolshevik Cossacks had taken most of the South and Ukraine, and had come within 200 miles from Moscow. General Yudenich advanced on the capital (Petrograd) and managed to get as far as the city's suburbs before being forced back. This was the last major threat to the Reds from the Whites; thought the fighting would continue on for more than another year.

Why were Reds able to defeat the Whites? The Whites were very un-unified, and they lacked a clear "vision," the only political belief that they could agree on was that they were against the Bolsheviks. The Bolsheviks, on the other hand, were famous for propaganda, and were able to gather the support of the people. Moreover, they were very united and were bound behind a common unified political vision. Lenin's battle cry of Peace (end the war with the Germans) Land (confiscate land from the wealthy landowners and divide it among the poorer people) and bread for the people was a popular slogan.

 


Notes:

Dates: During the revolution, the Russian society was using an alternate, Eastern Calendar that puts the ending of the year before the ending on the Western Calendar. This is why the "February" days occurred (on the Western Calendar) March 8-15. In these articles, the modern (Western) dates will be used first, and the older, Eastern Calendar will be denoted second.

Capital City: The Russian Capitol, traditionally Moscow since the ending of the Mongol occupation, was moved to St. Petersburg by Tsar Peter "the Great". It remained the capital until after the Russian Revolution, when the Soviet regime moved the capital back to Moscow. The original name of St. Petersburg was a German style name (burg=city) which was Russianized during World War One to Petrograd, (grad=city) and after Lenin's death it was again changed to Leningrad. Recently, the name has again been changed to the original name, St. Petersburg.

 


Bibliography:

 

Bunyan, James and H. H. Fisher. bolshevik revolution (Stanford University, California. Stanford University Press, 1934)

Grey, Ian. The First Fifty Years. (New York, New York. Coward-McCann, Inc., 1967)

Hosking, Geoffrey A. The First Socialist Society: (Cambridge; Harvard University Press, 1992)

Matthews, Roy T. and F. DeWitt Platt. The Western Humanities, Third Edition. (Mountain View, CA. Mayfield Publishing Co., 1997)

McNeal, Robert H. The Bolshevik Tradition. (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1975)


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