Russian Civil War (1918-22)

Russian Civil War famine
Figure 1.-- The War and the Civil War affected agricultual production. Food shortsages were widespread. Large numbers of children orphaned in the fighting were psarticuilsrly at risk. As in Europe, American food again played a role in saving millions of children. The Russian boys suffered from scurvy as a result of their inadewuate diet.

The abdication of the Tsar and subequent Civil War led to distructive fighting between Reds and Whites (1918-22). Foreign governments intervened to assist the whites. The Red Army fought to retain the old Rusian imperial borders, but lost Finland, the Baltics Republic and large areas of White Russia to Poland. The Red Army, despite these losses, did emerge victorious in the battles with the Whites. The old Imperial Army was shatered by the Germans. Many soldiers mutinied and killed their officers. People's Commisar for War Leon Trotsky organized a new Red Army, recruiting massive numbers of peasants and workers. The Red Army without trained officers performed poorly in the early phases of the fighting. Leon Trotsky played a msajor role in fashioning the Red Army into an effective fighting force. The Bolsheviks attached political officers to all Red Army units to keep warch over the officers (many who had been in the old Imperial Army) and explain Communism to the largely illiterate peasant recruits. The Bolsheviks were especially concerned with the younger generation, untained by the Tsarist past and capitalism. The War and the Civil War affected agricultual production. Food shortsages were widespread. Large numbers of children orphaned in the fighting were sarticularly at risk. As in Europe, American food again played a role in saving millions of children.

World War I (1914-18)

Imperial Russia used pan-Slavism much as the Soviets used Communism. Thus when the Austro-Hungarians sought to punish Serbia, Russia came to its defence. This involved Germany because the Austrians had treaty ties to the Germans. Russia had the largest army in the world and with its huge population had the capability to mobilze an immense force. The Russian army, however, was not as well trained or as well equipped as the Germans. And mobilization would take condiserble time. Bismarck had maintained treaties with the Russians, but as a result of Kaiser Wilhelm II's disatrous diplomacy, the Russians had signed a treaty with the French placing the Germans in the position of fighting a two-front war. The Russians developed two war plans known as Plan G and Plan A (also called plan 19). The Russians saw two possible alternatives. Plan G entailed a massive German invasion. The reponse was the traditional Russian strategy of sacrificing lborder territory and withdrawing into the vastness of Russia buying time to mobilize a huge conscript force. Thus using this force, the German army with streached supply lines and facing the severe Winter weather could be defeated like Napoleon. The Germans of course chose the other alternative, they concentrated the bulk of their force in a massive western offensive, striking France through Belgium. Thus the other Russian war plan, PLan A (19) came into force. The initial Russian version of Plan A theorized the German attack west and called for only minor Russian actions in the East. The French pressured the Russians to adopt a more aggressive strategy. The modified version of Plan A is known as Plan 19. General Danilov conceived of Plan 19 (1910). It was further modified in 1912. It involved a Russian offensive drive into East Prussia and Silesia to prevent the Germans from focusing its forces on France. This was precisely what occurred. The Germans had to withdraw forces from the West. This enabled the French to stop the Germans at the Marne. The German forces under Hindenburg and Ludendorf devistated the Russians at Tannenberg and then the First and Second Battles of the Masurian Lakes.

Tsar's Abdication (March 1917)

The Revolution of 1905 following the disastrous Russo-Japanese War had shaken the Tsarist Empire to the core. Tsar Nicholas had been forced to grant a constitution. This created a duma or parliament. The Tsar was back in control (1907). The Tsarist state was irevocably weakened. The shooting of striking gold miners at the Lena field in Siberia resulted in a new wave of unrest (1912). Thus Tsarist Russia was in no condition to enter a general European war (1914). The War was a disaster for Russia. The country was unprepared and the result was huge casualties. Russia suffered more casualties than any other country. Disruptions in the economy and the advance of German forces resulted in shortages including severe shortages and bread lines in the major cities. As a result, the Tsarist Government collapsed with relatively little resistance when riots broke out in St. Petersburg. Army revolts forced the Tsar to abdicate. Nicholas II abdicated on March 2, 1917, in favor of his brother Michael. No fool, Michael renounced his claim the next day.

Provisional Government (March 1917)

The abdication of the Tsar left the Duma in control of Russia. The Duma was dominated by liberal politicans. Defense Minister Alexander Kerensky formnmed a provisional government. The Provisional Government, however, was hampered by thev Petrograd Council (Soviet) of Soldiers and Workers's Deputies. And here radical elements including the Bolshevils had considerable influence. The Provisional Government also honored commitments to the Allies. Kerensky tried to keep Russia in the War. He gave Brusilov command of another offensive against the German Southern Army in Galicia. This time Brusilov made little progress. He drove through mutinous Austrian units, but was stopped at great cost by German units commanded by Hoffman and Hutier. The Germans after stopping the Russians, launched a major offensive. This was the stroke that shattered the Russian Army. It's collapse paved the way for the Bolsheviks to seize power.

Bolshevik Revolution (November 1917)

The first Communist state was of course the Soviet Union. The Revolution was a reaction to the huge losses, government incompetence, and terrible privations suffered by the Ryssian people during World War I (1914-18). The Russian soldiers and people suffered greviously. The Bolsheviks emerged victorious against a democratic Provisional Government (1917). The Russian Revolution is often described as a result of social forces that had been developing for centuries. A strong case can be made for the Revolution as a coupd'état that may have never occurred without the leadership of Lenin. [Pipes] The Germans allowed Lenin who was in Switzerland to cross their territory in a sealed railway car. Hecarrived in Petrograd (April 1917). His demands for 'peace, land, and bread' resonated with the Russian people, especially the Petrigrad Soviet with was not faorably disposed toward the liberal duma and Kerensky Government. Lenin and his allies demanded "all power to the Soviets". As the situation in Petrograd deteriorated, General Kornilov attempted to seize power. This backfired when his troops mutinied. The Bolsheviks then moved on the Provisional Government (November 7). They arrested members if the Provisional Government theu could find and seized power in the name of the Soviets.

Treaty of Brest-Litovsk (March 1918)

The poorly organized and led Russian Army suffered enormous losses. The Russian tied down large German armies in the Eastern Front, making it impossible for the Germans to concentrate their strength against the French and British on the Western Front. The Russians finally cracked in 1917. Revolution broke out in Russia. The Bolsheviks seized control of the Russian government in November 1917. The Russian Army had collapsed in front of the Germans. The Russian people were starving as deperate. The Bolsheviks who had pledged bread and peace had no alternative but to seek terms. The Treaty was finally signed (March 3, d1918)The Germans were thus able to force a humiliating peace on the Bolsheviks. The Bolsheviks had to ceede the Ukraine, its Polish territories, the Baltics (Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia), and Finland. The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was signed in 1918 between the new Soviet government and the Central Powers. Russia gave up land for peace. This thus allowed the Russians to withdraw from the war, although at enormous cost. The Brest-Litovsk Treaty was after the collapse of the German Western Front in 1918 was annulled by the terms of the Armistice betwewwn Germany and he Western Allies.

Political Factions

The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk had political repercusions. The Bolsheviks had formed a left alliance with the Left Socialist Revolutionaries. The Left Socialist Revolutionaries opposed the Treaty and thus broke with the Bolsheviks.

The Whites

The old Imperial Army was shatered by the Germans during World War I. The White opposition to the Bolsheviks began to form. This included various elements of the political spectru,. The non-Bolshevik left were completekly alienated from Lenin when he dissolved the Constituent Assembly. The other main element was the the rightist whites. Their primary military asset was the Volunteer Army in the Kuban steppes. Isolted from the rest of Russia, it had not been involved in the winter fighting and shortages (winter 1917-18). General Anton I. Denikin took command (April 1918). This force was still intact, although fairly small. The center of the White opposition formed at Omsk in the east rather in the west. This made it difficult for the World War I Allies to support them. Admiral Aleksandr V. Kolchak began to train and equip a White Army. The British and Americans assisted. Kolchak faced a problem with the diversity of his force. The Socialist Revolutionaries who had broken with the Bolsheviks looked very much like revolutionaries to Kilchak and his mostly royalist officers. Kolchak eventully decided to set up a dictatorship. Kolchak just after the Armistice was signed ending World war I stahed his coup d'état (November 18).

Foreign Intervention (March-April 1918)

Foreign governments intervened in Russia, hopeing that it was still possible to assist the Russians in reopening a front in the East. The British landed a small British force was landed at port of Murmansk with the consent of the local soviet (March 1918). Stockpiles of supplies existed there had been deliverec to the Russians. The Japanese landed forces landed at Vladivostok without securing any approval (April 5). The Bolsheviks engaged the British at Murmansk who landed additional forces at Arkhangelsk (August 1918). The Japanese proceeded to heavily reinforce their forces at Vladivostok. These forces were on the perifery of Russia. The Armistice in the West (November 1918) changed the complexion of these interventions. Reopening an Eastern Front was no longer necessary. The Allies now had to decided if they wanted to intervene in the Civil War. The French after the Ottoman armistice opened the Black Sea began landing forces in the Ukraine (December 1918). I am not entirely sure what the purpose of this force was. It may have been more aimed at the Germans than the Bolsheviks. This requires more research. This was just before a Red Army offensive moved into the Ukraine (early 1919). This was an area in which a determined Allied intervention could have made a major difference. The Allies were after the Armistice with Germany unsure as to how to proceed in Russia. After the terrible losses on the Western Front, there was no great appetite for another exhausting war, despite their abhorance of the the Bolsheviks. The Allied Government had to decide on a Russian policy. The initial intervention had been justified on the basis of possibly reviving an Eastern Front. but this was no longer necessary. Russian who has escaped to the West pleaded with the Allies to intervene. They pointed out with some accuracy the great sacrifices that Russia had made to the Allied victory. The Tsarist offensive in 1914 almost certainly saved France in the first month of the War. And after the Tsar abdicated, the Provision Government had loyally continued the War. It was the Bolsheviks that had made a separate peace with the Germans. This moral obligation was combined with the revolutionary threat that a Bolshevik Government posed to Europe. Initially the French and Italians were the most favorably disposed toward assisting the Whites. That interest was primarily to support the Whites with arms and supplies rather than an actual military force. The British and Americans were somewhat less willing to make a major commitment. The Americans rather naively hoped that the waring parties could be brought together. The Allies as a result of a largely American initiative suggested a peace conference for the warring Russian parties (January 1919). Armistice talks were to be held on Prinkipo Island in the Sea of Marmara. The Bolsheviks actually accepted, but the Whites adamently refused the offer out of hand as a result of their experies during 1917-18. U.S. diplomat William C. Bullitt wtraveled to Moscow and was presented with peace proposals from the Bolsheviks (March 1919). The terms, however, proved unacceptable to the Allies. Communists, which were not accepted by the Allies. This was the last Allied effort to reach an understanding with the Bolsheviks. The Allies subsequently expanded military support for the Whites, primarily Kolchak and Denikin. Actual direct military support for the Whites was very limited. About 0.2 million men were transported to Russia, This was arelatively small force to begin with given the size of Russia, a few were actually committed to combat. The French were potentially the most important, but by the time they were in place the Whites were in control of the Ukraine. And the French were understandably confused with the various factions--Russian Bolsheviks, Ukranian Bolsheviks, Russian Whites, and Ukrainian nationalists. The French as a result withdrew their forces (March and April 1919). They had not engaged the Bolsheviks. The British in the far north (Arkhangelsk and Murmansk) did engage the Bolsheviks, but these were periferable ports and it was in the battkefields of central Russiand the Ukraine that the Civil War was decided. The British withdrew (fall 1919). The Japanese were the only foreign force that seemed determined to resist the Bolsheviks.

The Czech Legion

Czech nationalists wanted no part of fighting in the Austro-Hungarian Army. They defected and joined the Czechoslovak Legion forned by the Russians. It was a brigade formed as part of the Russian Army. Russia was like Austria-Hungaria a multi-national empire, but they were also Slavs and the Czechs saw more opprtunity from the Russians than the Austrians and Hungarians. The same was true of the Slovaks, although nationalist sentiment was stronger among the Czechs. The Tsarist regimes for decades had pursued a policy of Pan-Slavism. Czech Nationalist leader Tomas Masaryk visited Russia and convinced Russian officials to increased the size of the Czech Legion. He helped recruit in the Russian prisoner of war camps. After the Bolshevik Revolution (November 1917), it was clear to Masaryk that Lenin planned to withdraw frim the War and make a separate peace with the Central Powers. Peace had been a main part of the Bolshevik prohram. Czech independence, however, required the defeat of the Central Powers. Thus Masaryk wanted the Czech Legion to redeploy on the Western Frint in France. There was no way the Czechs could reach either Czexchozlovakia or France by moving west. The Russian Army had deteriorated and the Germans and Austrians blocked the way. Masaryk ordered the Czech Legion cross Russia on the Trans-Siberian Railway where the Allies could pick them up in Vladivostok and trnsport them to France. The antiquated Russian railway system made this a slow undertaking. And the Bolsheviks were suspicious of their intentions. Red Guards in Chelyabinsk on the rail line accused Czech soldiers of murdering a man. Their comrades freed the men by force. Red Army commander Leon Trotsky ordered the Czech Legion disarmed. The Czechs understanding that they wiuld be defenless, not only refused to lay down theuir arms, but joined the Whites in the Russian Civil War. The well organized Czechs were a major factor in taking control of large areas east of the Volga. The Czechs eventually fought their way through to Vladivostok (June 1918). The Japanese landed a force which covered their departure. Part of the Czech Legion remained in Russia and fought with Alexander Kolchak's White Army around Omsk during 1919. They finally returned to Czechoslovakia (Spring 1920).

The Red Terror (September 1918)

The Czech Legion resisting Bolshevik efforts to disarm them essentially seized control of the Trans-Siberian Railroad. This created a political vacuum. This allowed anti-Bolshevik authorities to rise. The liberal West Siberian Commissariat was based at Omsk. The Committee of Members of the Constituent Assembly, made up of Socialist Revolutionaries was based at Samara. The Bolsheviks in Moscow began to feel threatened. They moved against the non-Bolshevik left. The Bolsheviks expelled the Menshevik and Socialist Revolutionary deputies from the central and local soviets. They prohibited them from any political activity. The Bolsheviks announced a campaign of "Red terror" (September 1918). They began shooting hostages. The Cheka (secret police) was given expanded powers (summary arrest, trial, and execution of suspects without trials).

Execution of the Royal Family (July 1918)

After the abdication, the royal family first remained in Czarskoe Selo then, by decision of the Provisional Government were transported to Tobolsk (August 1917). The Bolshevik government in April 1918 decided to move the Imperial family to Ekaterinburg/Yekaterinburg in the Urals (April 1918). As figting with the Whites began (June 1918), the Royal Family assumed greater political importance. The Whites wanted to free them. The Bolsheviks were determined to prevent this. The anti-Bolshevik forces in Siberia raised the possibility that the Whites would free him and that he could provide a rallying point for the opposition. Lennin ordered that the entire family be killed. The guards at Yekaterinburg woke up the family in the early morning hours, led them into the cellar, and shot them (July 18).

National Resistance

The Red Army fought to retain the old Rusian imperial borders, but lost Finland, the Baltics Republic and large areas of White Russia to Poland.

The Soviet Union

Local councils called soviets were important in the Bolsheviks rise to power. Independent local coincils would suggest a degree of decentalization or federal government. The state which emerged from the Civil War was the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic. The Tenth Party Congress declared the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) (1922). The Bolsheviks had seozed power in the name of the Soviets (November 1917). The Soviets after the Bolsheviks were in power declined in importance as Lenin and the Blosheviks moved to establish a party dictatorship. Despite the name of the country, the soviets ceased to have any real importance. It was the Communist Party which wielded power in the Soviet Union. Bolsheviks held all the ministeries in the Soviet of People's Commissars and the important government posts. The Communist Party was controlled by its Central Committee staffed by individuals loyal to Lenin. Thus the Soviet Union was a dictatorship controlled by Lenin. He was not as ruthless as Stalin not was his control as absolute, but it was Lenin that created the state and system that in Stalin's hands led directly to mass murder and the Gulag.

Leon Trotsky

The key figure in the Russian Revolution was indisputedly Vladimir I. Lennin. And Lenin was important in the Civil War as well. But he was not the indespensible figure. This was Leon Trotsky. Lenin appointed Trotsky Commisar (Minister) for War. The Red Army that fought the Civil War was a creature of Trotsky. He was the supreme commander as well as responsible for organizing the army. This included obtaining supplies and recruiting men. As all available resources were directed at the Red Army and the war effort, this made Trotsky in practical terns the most powerful man in the new government (1918-20). The Bolsheviks won the Civil WAr in large measure because the Red Army was not only larger and centrally controlled than the disperate White forces, but it was a more professional military force.

Red Army

The Red Army despite losses in the West against the Poles, Balts and Finns, emerged victorious in the key struggle battles with the Whites for control of the Russian heatland. Many soldiers in the Old Imperial Arny mutinied and killed their officers. Peasant conscripts were anxious to get home and claim a plot of land. People's Commisar for War Leon Trotsky organized a new Red Army, recruiting massive numbers of peasants and workers. The Red Army without trained officers performed poorly in the early phases of the fighting. Leon Trotsky played a msajor role in fashioning the Red Army into an effective fighting force. The Bolsheviks attached political officers to all Red Army units to keep warch over the officers (many who had been in the old Imperial Army) and explain Communism to the largely illiterate peasant recruits. The Bolsheviks were especially concerned with the younger generation, untained by the Tsarist past and capitalism.

Military Campaigns (1918-20)

Fighting began between the Whites and Reds (Bolsheviks) (June 1918). Commisar for War Trotsky moved to reorganize the Red Army (late summer 1918). He suceeded in maintaining control of most of eastern European Russia. This would proive key to the Bolshevik victory.

The Ukraine (1918-19)

The Ukraine had been seized by the Germans under the terms of the Brest-Litovsk Treaty. And the Germans had begun to set up a puppet state. The Armistice in the Wst, however, required the Germns to renoubce the Treaty and withdraw. The defeated forces of the Socialist Revolutionaries led by by Simon Petlyura retreated westward and joined with Ukrainian nationalist forces from what had been Austrian Galicia. The Petlyurist-Galician forces held parts of the western Ukraine. Anarchist bands led by Nestor Makhno held other areas. The better oirganized Bolsheviks, however, held the major cities. The Ukranian Bolshevik government was centered in in Kharkov (Kharkiv). The French after the Armistice were able to enter the Black Sea and land mixed forces at Odessa and Sevastopol (December 1918). Subsequently the French landed at Kherson and Nikolayev. The Red Army opened an offensive into the Ukraine (early 1919). That effort failed and the Whites had seized control of most of the Ukraine (August 1919). The problem for the Whites was that the Ukranian nationalists were badly divided. Some supported Denikin. Petlyura was hostile toward him. The Galicians, however, were sympathetic to Deniken. At this stage they were more concerned with the Poles than the Bolsheviks. And some Ukranians supported the Bolsheviks. This division prevented the Ukranians from forming a common effort to support the Whites in the struggle against the Bolsheviks.

European Russia (1919)

The principal struggle in the Civil War occurred in 1919. It began in the east. Kolchak's army drove west through the Urals into European Russia. The Red Army launched a counter offensive (April 28). The Reds took Ufa (June). Kolchak's army retreated into Siberia where they were engaged by partisans. This helped turn the retreat into a rout. Kolchak managed to sey up his headquarters at Irkutsk (November). The Socialist Revolutionaries who were always uncomfortable with an Kolchak arrested him and handed him over to the Blosheviks (January 1920). The Bolsheviks executed him (February 7). Denikin and his Volunteer Army made a final effort in European Russia (late Summer 1919). The Whites who had seized control of the Ukraine deove north from the lower Volga with the objective of taking Moscow. They took Oryol (October 13 ). This was the point of maximum danger for the Bolsheviks. Another Whire army was driving on Petrograd from Estonia. The Red Army counter attacked, driving Denikin who was over extended back from Oryol. The retreat became a disorderly rout. Eventually Denikin was forced to go into exile. They departed Russia from Novorossiysk (March 1920).

Crimea (1920)

The final campaign of the Civil War was foughtin the Crimea. The lat important White force was located in the Crimea under the command of General Pyotr N. Wrangel. He launched an offensive northward into the Ukraine and Kuban (the area east of the Crimean Peninsula). The Red Army which by this time greatly outnumbered Wrangel's army wore it down in a series of battles. Wrangel was forced to withdraw into the Crimea. There about 150,000 soldiers and civilians manage to escape the advancing Red Army (November 1920). This was essentially the final phase of the Civil War.


There were indeopendence movements in the Baltics. The people there were culturally, ethnically and lingusistically different from the Russians. They chafed under Tsarist rule which in the late 19th century had initiated a prigam of Russification. They now saw their oportunity for independence. General Nikolay N. Yudenich moved against Petrograd (late summer 1919). He was stopped by a Red Army counter attack.

Polish-Soviet War (1919-21)

The Poles had moved quickly in the east, engaging the Bolshevicks in Lithuanian and Beylorusia. They captured a primary objective--Vilna (April 19, 1919). The League's answer was the Curzon Line (December 8, 1919). This would have left most etnic Poles with in the boundaries of the new Republic. It did not, however, satisfy the Poles. They wanted the pre-partition boundaries even though the population beyond the Curzon Line was mixed with many non-Poles, including many Ukraines, Beyelorusians, and Lithuanians. The Poles demanded that the Bolshevicks negotiate a new border well east of the Curzon Line (March 1920). Negotiatins got nowhere. Poland declared war (April 25). The Poles with French assistance moved east, even taking Kiev in the Ukraine (May 8). The Bolshevicks launched a counter offensive (June) and drove the Poles back almost to Warsaw. At that point the Franco-Polish Army struck backmand defeated the bolshevicks in several sharp engagements. The two sides reached a cease fire (October 12, 1920). A factor here was the Civil War in Russia and the Bolshevicks need to end the war with Poland so thaey could focus in the White armies. The Treaty of Riga confirmed Polish possession of large areas in the east beyond the Curzon Line (March 18, 1921).

Non-Russian Nationalities

The largest non-Russian nationality in the Tsarist Empire was the Ukranians, but there were many other national groups in southern Asia and Central Asia. These peoples saw an opprtunity for independence with the abdication of the Tsar and the collapse of the Russian Empire. The victory of the Bolsheviks had adverse consequences for these peoples and their asperations for independence or at least a degree of autonomy. The consequences would later under Stalin prove to be murderous.

Southern Russia

Several different national groups inhabited the extreme south of the Russian Empire, including the the southern Urals and norther Caucauses. The Bolshevik victory despite their repeated endorsement of the principle of national self-determination, meant the end of any chance of independence or even autonomy. The Tatars and Bashkirs (located between Kazan and the southern Urals) were absorbed into the Sovietv Union. The same was true of the Cossaks who attempted to set up a state.

Central Asia

There was some resistance by Muslims in Tashkent and other areas. The Bolsheviks did not immeduatelyb launch an athiesm campaign. Guerrilla bands (the Basmachi) managed to resist the Bolsheviks in the mountains for several years.

Caucasus (1920-22)

The collapse of the Tsarist Empire and the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in World war I created a vacuume in the Cacasus that enabled national groups there to hope for independence. Three separate Transcaucasian republics appeared--Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia. As soon as the Civil War had been won, the Bolsheviks moved against these republics. They threatened the Azerbaijan government with invasion and Baku Bolsheviks threatened to seize power. The Azerbaijani Government surrendered (April 1920). The Bolsheviks reached an arrangement with the Turks. The Bolsheviks annexed the former Tsarist portion of Armenia and recognized Turkish soverignity over the former Ottoman area (December 1920). The Georgians continued to resist the Bolsheviks. The Red Army launced a military campaign against Georgia (February 1921). And within were soon in control (April).

Far Eastern Republic (1920-22)

The Bolsheviks after the defeat of Kochak established the Far Eastern Republic east of Lake Baikal in southern Siberia (April 1920). It was essentially the territory around the Trans-Siberial Railroad where most of the population of Siberia lived. The capital was Chita. This was basicaly a political fiction. It was useful diplomatically for the Bolsheviks to get the Japanese out which they did not have the military force to accomplish. The Americans at the Washington Naval Conferences (1921-22) pressed the Japanese to withdraw their forces. And the Japanese agreed and did so (October 1922). The local Bolsheviks immediately voted to join the Soviet Union (November 1922).


The Red Arny, despite the losses (Finns, Balts, and Poles), managed to successfuly defend the newly formed Bolshevik government.


The Russian Cuvil War was one of the deadliest wars in history. No one knows just how many were killed. Historians generally estimated 10-15 million people died. Only a small fraction were soldiers. Actual numbers are not available and only rough estimates can be made. The Red Army may have lost 1 million men. I am not sure about the Whites. Most of the peopl who died were civilians. Many were shot by the warring armies. Prisoners were rarely taken and civilians thought to be supporting an opposing force were often targetted. The largest numbers of mortalities, hoever, occured as a result of famine and disease. As is often the case in Russian history, Jews were targetted. This was especially the case in the Ukraine and southern Russia. Another 1 million Russians fled the victotious Bolsheviks. These included some of Russia;s most educated and takented individuals.


Millions of Russians were killed in the Civil War, both soldiers and civilians. The World War I and the Civil War which followed it, devestated Russuia. Agricultural and industrial production was a fraction of pre-War levels. Estimates suggest that industrial production was about 15 percent of pre-War levels. Agricultural producion was only about 35 percentof pre-War levels. And the disruptions resulting from the War were made even worse as a result of a drought (1020-21). Horses needed on the farm became difficult to find. This is important because at the time, Russian farms were not meganized. Tractors were almost entirely unknown. Cattle during the same period declined from 58 million to 37 million. Many were appropriated by the warring armies. One estimate indicates the number of horses declined from 35 million to only 24 million (1920). Food shortages were widespread. Not only had agricultural production declined, but the peasants were unwilling to sell their harvest for paper money which was essentially worthless. The distribution of essential commodities virtually broken down. The country's ransportation system was badky damaged by the fighting, further complicating the food situation. Large numbers of children orphaned in the fighting were sarticularly at risk. The American relief mission was overseen by Herbert Hoover. As in Europe, American food again played a role in saving millions of children and adults (1921-22). One author claims that the American food deliveries may have even saved the Soviet regime. [Salisbury, p. 442.] There were indeed worker strikes as well as a Navy mutiny at Krondstadt (February 1921). We are not sure the American relief saved the Bolshevik regime. There is no doubt, however, that it saved millions of Russians. This American undertaking was written out of Russian history by Soviet historians during the Stalinist era. As a result, few Russians know about it today. The famine and other economic failures led to Lennin instituting the New Economic Policy (1923).

Petrograd Children

Conditions in Petrograd at the end of the War were very difficult/ THe Bolsheviks had seized power and taken Russia out of the War. Food was very difficult to obtain. City officials decided to send thousands of school children into the countryside where they could enjoy more plenticul food as well as fresh air and sunshine for a few months (summer 1918). Their teachers accompanied them to look after them. For some reason they did not send the children into ares near Petrograd, but beyond the Urals. When the summer began to wind down and the temperatures cooled, the children. Most of the children made it home. But the Russian Revolution flared up just as the children were headed home and the Whites cut the rail lines. Abot 800 of the children were cut off in Sibreia. The children were srnt off in summerclothes. They soon found themselves facing cold weather and the food ran out. The story might have ended there with tragic results. There was, however, an American expeditionary force in Siberia along with the Red Cross and a few journalists. The Americans were guarding supplies sent to Russuia before the Bolshevik Revolution that were stockpiled in Vladisvostck. Red Cross volunteers began to hear heart rending rumors of abandoned childre wondering the forest in rags looking for food. [Lally, p. A13.]


World War I (1914-18) created refugees in the western area of the Tsarist Empire. This was not the Russian hearland. Rather it was areas like the Baltics, Poland, and the Ukraine with non-Russian ethnic populations. The Russian Civil War (1919-22) in contrast created refugees fron one emd of the Tsarist Empire to another. The Revolution meaning the Bolshevik Revolution (Novdmber 1917) and resulting Civil War was a catalclismic event in Russian history. The Civil War displaced more than a million people, including a huge number of children, many who had lost their parents. The majority of the refugees were refugees because thed opposed the Bolshevik seizure of power or were fleeing from the Bolshevik terror generated by the Cheka. They mostly sympathised with the Whites fighting on mumerous fronts. The Bolsheviks managed, however, to hold on to the Russian heartland. Many of the educated middle-class was forced to flee their homes. Famine was anoyher factor causing people to flee. As the White Armkies failed, many becme emigrees and sought to flee the country. Many who could left Russia for Europe or the Far East. It was difficult to leave, but many managed to do so. The Bolsheviks did not yet have control of the borders. They would eventially essentially close the borders, not wanting Russias problems to be widely known in the Wast. Many reached Constantinople, but chose to eventually settle in the Baltic countries which achieved indepndence at the end of World War I by fighting the Bolsheviks. Russian émigré communities developed in major cities like London, Belgrade, Paris, Berlin, and others. The Cheka from an early point developed international operations, expaned by the NKVD. A major goal was to encourage the émigrés. Some did, midt of whom when be dispatched in dank prisons or disappear into the growing Gulag. An emigre journalist wrote, "Never in the history of Europe has a political cataclysm torn such huge numbers of people from their mother country and from their homes." [Tyrkova-Williams]


Lally, Kathy. "Amid civil war, a Red Cross rescue of Russian children," The Washington Post (January 8, 2012), p. A13.

Mawdsley, Evan. The Russian Civil War.

Pipes, Richard. VIXI: Memoirs of a Non-Belonger (Yale University Press: 2003), 264p. ("VIXI is Latin for "I lived." His parents managed to excape fom NAZI-occupied Poland. Most of their family perished in the gas chambers. Some describe him as the intelectual architecht of America's victory in the Cold War.)

Salisbury, Harrison E. "Diplomacy: The indivisible peace," The Soviet Union: The Fifty Years (Harcourt, Brace & World: New York, 1967), 484p.

Tyrkova-Williams, Ariadnain. (December 1921 ) British Library Add MS 54466, ff. 93-96., refer to These words, written by Russian journalist and politician


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