The Utterly Confusing Russian Civil War.

by Daniel Russ on September 8, 2013



Vladmir Lenin was a radical Socialist, a Communist around the end of the First World War. He had raised enough Hell with the Tsar and his family that he was hiding in Sweden, exiled there for revolutionary activities, when Russian troops finally headed home. He was part of a popular uprising of workers and laborers who had spent the majority of their lives in the shadows of the Russian Oligarchy. His was an angry tirade at income inequality and more importantly, rights inequality. The Russian Plutocrats were disgusting parasites, so felt Lenin, and had ruined Russian society and condemned it to mass poverty. Communism itself was in large part a reaction against the class differences in Tsar Nicholas’s administration. He would not cotton to strikes when he saw himself as a worker’s best advocate. Therefore his troops brutally put down strikes and rebellions at the end of the First World War. However the country was spiraling into a civil conflict over food shortages and grain shortages, much of it caused by the logistical demands of the First World War. The protests were a spark that lit a revolution long in the making.


The Bolsheviks were the hard right Communists and Bolshevik meant “Majority”. The Mensheviks were moderate Socialists and the meant “Minority”. These two groups were at each others’ throats and resources originally meant to fight in the First World War were turned on each other.


Lenin, glad that Russia was Communist and out of the war, signed a treaty with the Germans the Brest-Litovak Treaty that gave Germans purview over the Baltic States, the Ukraine and Byelorussia. The Bolsheviks worked a backroom deal out with the Germans and stayed in power in return for the territorial grab.


However, the Mensheviks were not having any part of it.


Neither would any viable group beside them.


The Russian Civil War was so complex, because so many sides were fighting the Reds, they were totally surrounded yet held out and won.


The enemies they faced simultaneously:


The Blacks, an utterly chaotic anarchist movement under Nestor Mackno was under minded when double agents betrayed Nestor and he fled.


The US, French, Brits and Aussies. Western Allies occupied Vladivostok to keep it out of Bolshevik hands, but when the Communists started to win and turn the tide, the Allies retreated. US troops engaged in skirmish level combat staking out defensive perimeters in areas where the US and their allies have assets to protect. Few realize that 304 Americans died fighting the Bolsheviks.


The Japanese. The Imperial japanses Empire seized Siberia but could not hold it.


Moderate Socialists called the Komuch. Occupying the city of Samarrah, the Komuch were soundly defeated by the Communists.


Muslim Nationalists out of Turkestan fought to keep independent of the Communists.


Greens. This was a group of anarchists under a Cossack named Grigoriev. The Bolsheviks pushed them into Black territory and Mackno’s wife killed Grigoriev.


Jews. Jews weren’t really fighting. Maybe some were resisting but a pogrom was going on as Whites murder 100,000 innocent Jews who were accused of starting Communism.



Poles. Polish forces took Kiev in 1920 but eventually were pushed put by Lenin’s troops.



The White Army, South. Formed by  Lavr Kornilov and Anton Denikin, the army did well in Orel but was forced into a pocket in Crimea. But advancing Reds attacked them and eventually most of them evacuated and went to France or Britain.


The White Army, East. The famed Czech legion under a Russian admiral, Alexsandr Kolchak ended up fighting the Reds and the Germans at the same time. Eventually they were trapped in Siberia and crushed.


The Germans. Germans occupied Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. They abandoned the areas after the armistice in 1919.


The Cossacks. These famed mounted warriors plagued the Red Army but were overwhelmed by modern weaponry.


The Reds were ready to fight and they were organized for large scale conflict. They all spoke the same language quite literally and philosophically. But the assorted enemies they faced did not have the throw weight to bring to bear arms and personnel and materielle in numbers large enough to make a  difference



The history of the Soviet Union is a tale of extreme paranoia and it was midwifed by a long national bloody bobbery. In the tumult we saw Nicholas who tried to return to Petrograd and restore order to the crumbling society, bit at the edge of the city abdicated the crown and disappeared. The Tsar himself, the very position, was a senescent relic, a monarch as it were about to be splattered on the sidewalk and its entrails trampled by an angry new generation of political thinkers.


History tells us who won. But tragically, the Russians suffered under the endless police state that Lenin and Stalin rendered. 


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