Russian Civil War

Russian Civil War
Part of the aftermath of World War I and the Russian Revolution
Clockwise from top:
Soldiers of the Don Army in 1919; a White infantry division in March 1920; soldiers of the 1st Cavalry Army; Leon Trotsky in 1918; hanging of workers in Yekaterinoslav (Dnipro) by the Austro-Hungarian Army, April 1918.
Date7 November 1917 – 25 October 1922/16 June 1923[1][2]
(Revolt against Soviet rule continued in Central Asia until 1934)
ResultVictory for the Red Army in Russia, Eastern Ukraine, Eastern Belarus, South Caucasus, Central Asia, Tuva, and Mongolia;
Victory for pro-independence movements in Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Western Ukraine, Western Belarus, Moldova, and Poland

Soviet Russia and other Soviet Republics
Far Eastern Republic
Mongolian People's Party
Left SRs
(Until March 1918)

Green Army
(Until 1919)

Revolutionary Insurrectionary Army of Ukraine

White Movement

Other new republics

Allied intervention

German-led intervention

Various anti-Soviet factions also fought against each other.
Commanders and leaders
Vladimir Lenin
Leon Trotsky
Nikolai Podvoisky
Jukums Vācietis
Sergey Kamenev
Mikhail Tukhachevsky
Kliment Voroshilov
Joseph Stalin
Grigori Sokolnikov
Yakov Sverdlov
Mikhail Kalinin
Nestor Makhno
Simon Karetnik
Alexander Kolchak
Lavr Kornilov
Anton Denikin
Pyotr Wrangel
Nikolai Yudenich
Grigory Semyonov
Mikhail Diterikhs
Roman von Ungern-Sternberg
Mikhail Pleshkov

Red Army: 5,427,273 (peak)[4]

Black Army: 103,000 (peak)[5]
White Army: 2,400,000
Casualties and losses
259,213 killed
60,059 missing
616,605 died of disease/wounds
3,878 died in accidents/suicides
548,857 wounded/frostbitten[6][7]
650,000 total casualties
7,000,000–12,000,000 combined total casualties, including hundreds of thousands from the White and Red Terrors

The Russian Civil War (Russian: Гражда́нская война́ в Росси́и, tr. Grazhdanskaya voyna v Rossii; 7 November 1917 – 25 October 1922)[8] was a multi-party civil war in the former Russian Empire immediately after the two Russian Revolutions of 1917, as many factions vied to determine Russia's political future. The two largest combatant groups were the Red Army, fighting for the Bolshevik form of socialism led by Vladimir Lenin, and the loosely allied forces known as the White Army, which included diverse interests favouring political monarchism, economic capitalism and alternative forms of socialism, each with democratic and anti-democratic variants. In addition, rival militant socialists and non-ideological Green armies fought against both the Bolsheviks and the Whites. Eight foreign nations intervened against the Red Army, notably the former Allied military forces from the World War and the pro-German armies.[9] The Red Army eventually defeated the White Armed Forces of South Russia in Ukraine and the army led by Admiral Alexander Kolchak to the east in Siberia in 1919. The remains of the White forces commanded by Pyotr Wrangel were beaten in Crimea and evacuated in late 1920. Lesser battles of the war continued on the periphery for two more years, and minor skirmishes with the remnants of the White forces in the Far East continued well into 1923. The war ended in 1923 in the sense that Bolshevik communist control of the newly formed Soviet Union was now assured, although armed national resistance in Central Asia was not completely crushed until 1934. There were an estimated 7,000,000–12,000,000 casualties during the war, mostly civilians.[10]

Many pro-independence movements emerged after the break-up of the Russian Empire and fought in the war.[11] Several parts of the former Russian Empire—Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland—were established as sovereign states, with their own civil wars and wars of independence. The rest of the former Russian Empire was consolidated into the Soviet Union shortly afterwards.


World War I

The Russian Empire fought in World War I from 1914 alongside France and the United Kingdom (Triple Entente) against Germany, Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire (Central Powers).

February Revolution

The February Revolution of 1917 had resulted in abdication of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia. As a result, the Russian Provisional Government was established, and soviets, elected councils of workers, soldiers, and peasants, were organized throughout the country, leading to a situation of dual power. Russia was proclaimed a republic in September of the same year.

October Revolution

The Provisional Government, led by Socialist Revolutionary Party politician Alexander Kerensky, was unable to solve the most pressing issues of the country, most importantly to end the war with the Central Powers. A failed military coup by General Lavr Kornilov in September 1917 led to a surge in support for the Bolshevik party, who gained majorities in the soviets, which until then had been controlled by the Socialist Revolutionaries. Promising an end to the war and "all power to the soviets," the Bolsheviks then ended dual power by suppressing the Provisional Government in late October, on the eve of the Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets, in what would be the second Revolution of 1917.

A review of Red Army troops in Moscow in 1918, during the Russian Civil War.

Formation of the Red Army

From mid-1917 onwards, the Russian Army, the successor-organisation of the old Imperial Russian Army, started to disintegrate;[12] the Bolsheviks used the volunteer-based Red Guards as their main military force, augmented by an armed military component of the Cheka (the Bolshevik state-security apparatus). In January 1918, after significant Bolshevik reverses in combat, the future People's Commissar for Military and Naval Affairs, Leon Trotsky headed the reorganization of the Red Guards into a Workers' and Peasants' Red Army in order to create a more effective fighting force. The Bolsheviks appointed political commissars to each unit of the Red Army to maintain morale and to ensure loyalty.

In June 1918, when it had become apparent that a revolutionary army composed solely of workers would not suffice, Trotsky instituted mandatory conscription of the rural peasantry into the Red Army.[13] The Bolsheviks overcame opposition of rural Russians to Red-Army conscription units by taking hostages and shooting them when necessary in order to force compliance,[14] exactly the same practices used by the White Army officers.[15] The Red Army utilized former Tsarist officers as "military specialists" (voenspetsy);[16] sometimes their families were taken hostage in order to ensure their loyalty.[17] At the start of the civil war, former Tsarist officers comprised three-quarters of the Red Army officer-corps.[17] By its end, 83% of all Red Army divisional and corps commanders were ex-Tsarist soldiers.[16]

Anti-Bolshevik movement

While resistance to the Red Guard began on the very day after the Bolshevik uprising, the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk and the instinct of one party rule became a catalyst[18] for the formation of anti-Bolshevik groups both inside and outside Russia, pushing them into action against the new Soviet government.

Admiral Alexander Kolchak (seated) and General Alfred Knox (behind Kolchak) observing military exercise, 1919

A loose confederation of anti-Bolshevik forces aligned against the Communist government, including landowners, 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 forced conscriptions and terror[15] as well as foreign influence, under the leadership of General Nikolai Yudenich, Admiral Alexander Kolchak and General Anton Denikin, became known as the White movement (sometimes referred to as the "White Army") and controlled significant parts of the former Russian Empire for most of the war.

A Ukrainian nationalist movement was active in Ukraine during the war. More significant was the emergence of an 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 Denikin's White Army offensive towards Moscow during 1919, later ejecting White forces from Crimea.

The remoteness of the Volga Region, the Ural Region, Siberia and the Far East was favorable for the anti-Bolshevik forces, and the Whites set up a number of organizations in the cities of these regions. Some of the military forces were set up on the basis of clandestine officers' organizations in the cities.

The Czechoslovak Legions had been part of the Russian army and numbered around 30,000 troops by October 1917. They had an agreement with the new Bolshevik government to be evacuated from the Eastern Front via the port of Vladivostok to France. The transport from the Eastern Front to Vladivostok slowed down in the chaos, and the troops became dispersed all along the Trans-Siberian Railway. Under pressure from the Central Powers, Trotsky ordered the disarming and arrest of the legionaries, which created tensions with the Bolsheviks.

The Western Allies armed and supported opponents of the Bolsheviks. They were worried about a possible Russo-German alliance, the prospect of the Bolsheviks making good on their threats to default on Imperial Russia's massive foreign loans, and the possibility that Communist revolutionary ideas would spread (a concern shared by many Central Powers). 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".[19] The British and French had supported Russia during World War I on a massive scale with war materials. After the treaty, it looked like much of that material would fall into the hands of the Germans. Under this pretext began the Allied intervention in the Russian Civil War with the United Kingdom and France sending troops into Russian ports. There were violent clashes with troops loyal to the Bolsheviks.

The German Empire created several short-lived satellite buffer states within its sphere of influence after the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk: the United Baltic Duchy, Duchy of Courland and Semigallia, Kingdom of Lithuania, Kingdom of Poland[20], the Belarusian People's Republic, and the Ukrainian State. Following the defeat of Germany in World War I in November 1918, these states were abolished.

Finland was the first republic that declared its independence from Russia in December 1917 and established itself in the ensuing Finnish Civil War from January–May 1918. The Second Polish Republic, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia formed their own armies immediately after the abolition of the Brest-Litovsk Treaty and the start of the Soviet westward offensive in November 1918.

Other Languages
Bân-lâm-gú: Lō͘-se-a Lōe-chiàn
한국어: 러시아 내전
Bahasa Indonesia: Perang Saudara Rusia
interlingua: Guerra Civil Russe
Bahasa Melayu: Perang Saudara Rusia
日本語: ロシア内戦
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Rossiyada fuqarolar urushi
Plattdüütsch: Russ’sche Börgerkrieg
português: Guerra Civil Russa
Simple English: Russian Civil War
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Ruski građanski rat
Tiếng Việt: Nội chiến Nga
中文: 俄国内战