One of the peculiarities of the White counter-revolution in Russia was the fact that it emerged and developed when the World War was not yet over. As Germany was the enemy of the Russian Empire during the World War, it was the German High Command that planned to send Lenin and his associates to St. Petersburg in a sealed wagon. They were intended to become a factor of destabilization; their sole task was to remove Russia from the European theatre of war operations on the Allied side.
Having established his own dictatorship within the Congress of Soviets (councils) Lenin called upon workers and peasants for a revolutionary uprising. On a cold night of October 25, 1917 after the storming of the Zimny Dvoretz (the Winter Palace – the Tsar’s residence in Saint Petersburg) was completed, Lenin declared the official assertion of Soviet Power (i.e. the power of Soviets).
“Land to the peasants”, “Factories for the workers”, “Peace with no annexations and no tribute," “Convocation of a Constituent Assembly” – these were the official slogans he declared. But none of them were actually fulfilled. In fact it was the bloody regime of "War Communism" (Vojenny Kommunizm), headed predominantly by Jews and ethnic non-Russians, that was established.
1. War and Revolution.
During the second stage of the World War--after General Alexei Brusilov's 1916 breakthrough in Rumania, at a time when army headquarters was led by the very talented general Mikhail Alexeyev--the whole situation at the western fronts became favourable to Russia.
But the army was much undermined by the activity of revolutionary provocateurs who encouraged soldiers and junior officers to desert. Later, the first units of the RKKA (Raboche-Krestyanskaya Krasnaya Armiya, “The Red Army of Workers and Peasants”) were formed of those deserters.
A Ukrainian-born Jew, Lev "Trotsky"-Bronstein (1879-1940) occupied the position of Narkom (people's commissar) for Military Affairs and Defence in the newly-born Soviet Government. It was due to his personal initiative that the shameful Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was signed on March 3, 1918. After this Treaty, the western territories of the Empire, the most developed ones in economic terms (approximately one-third of the population and half of industry) were torn away. Taking advantage of Russia’s temporary weakness, the Germans managed to occupy the Baltic States, a part of Byelorussia and the Caucasus. Moreover, they technically reigned in Ukraine, where the hetman Skoropadsky became their protégé. The results of three years of intense battles by the Russian people on their western front were annulled!
A "Military-Revolutionary Committee" (Vojenno-Revolutsionny Komitet or VRK) was established instead of the former state bodies and the Kerensky Provisional Government. Numerous minor committees of the Bolsheviks, as well as punitive mass terror agencies, such as the Cheka, later the GPU and NKVD, were also formed.
Reckoning on the belief of the common people in the "State of Social Justice," the Red commissars called upon the people to accomplish a Global Revolution and to establish the "Global Dictatorship of the Proletariat." For the sake of “class struggle” major estates, factories and houses were expropriated by the Bolsheviks all over the country. Simultaneously, representatives of the aristocracy, clergy, the higher command of the army and the upper class (the wealthy citizens) were virtually exterminated. The economy began tumbling due to mass disturbances and devastations.
Most of the population, which at first believed the power of Bolsheviks to be temporary, cared more about saving their lives and property. But experienced politicians and leaders gradually began leading the nation to the understanding that it was necessary to resist the Revolution and its chaos. The counter-revolution began; white was chosen as its colour, as it traditionally symbolized monarchy and glory on the Russian banner.
2. First attempts at armed resistance.
Centres of armed resistance appeared all over the territories of the former Empire – from the North-West to the Far East. But they were different in terms of scale, duration of armed actions, and their results. Spontaneous (non-organized) uprisings occurred among the peasants quite often, but they were severely suppressed by the Red Army. The remains of organized military forces, faithful to the late Tsar and the Motherland, made attempts to join together into a unified solid front. Together they formed a White Movement (or Belaya Gvardiya, the White Guards) with active centres and military headquarters all over Russia.
The first attempts at armed resistance to the revolutionary powers were taken during the reign of the bourgeois-democratic Provisional Government, headed by Alexander Kerensky, in March of 1917, long before the Bolsheviks carried out their coup d'etat. The rebellion of General Lavr Kornilov that took place in September 1917 showed that the very idea of "parliamentary democracy" was unacceptable in military and patriotic circles.
General Kornilov (1870-1918) was a hereditary Cossack and an outstanding military leader. Having graduated from the Artillery school and later the Joint Staff Academy (with a gold medal for outstanding achievements), he served as a military attaché at the Russian embassy in China. He began his military career as an officer during the Russo-Japanese war (of 1904-1905), and was promoted to the post of commander-in-chief of the Russian Imperial Army during the First World War. He was an experienced commander, was decorated with the St. George's Cross and enjoyed great prestige among the common soldiers of the army. He was the first to raise the banner of the White Struggle and many hoped he would become a dictator, one capable of quashing the coming communist revolution.
On August 27, 1917 General Kornilov addressed the Russian people with a telegram in which he accused the Bolsheviks of pandering to the Germans and called upon his compatriots to join his ranks for the salvation of the Motherland. He swore “to lead the people to the Constituent Assembly, through which they can take their destiny into their own hands, to choose the form of the new State”. But Kornilov did not enjoy much support at this stage of his struggle and had to lay down his arms.
The communist revolution then broke out. The famous women’s death battalion (Batalion Smerti), led by Commander Maria Bochkareva demonstrated the true example of heroism and devotedness to the Motherland. Together with several hundred military cadets they defended the Winter Palace against the Bolsheviks. This unique female unit was created in the middle of the First World War to keep up the morale of the soldiers, who were losing faith in victory. The battalion numbered about 3,000 of these Russian Amazons and had its own banner; it was solemnly sanctified on Red Square. But the armed women were not able to withstand the armed Bolshevik revolutionists and their allies.
Submerging into the depths of revolutionary chaos, Russia had to discontinue its military operations on the fronts of the World War. Due to the Bolshevik coup, the country became an easy prey for its former allies as well as enemies. In this situation only a regular counter-revolutionist army, led by the professionals of the Tsarist military schools, was capable of withstanding the dangerous enemy that had seized the key posts of the state. There was a need of strong-willed true White leaders to unite the whole nation.
The counter-revolution soon began to acquire the form of an organized armed resistance. The first attempt at liberating St. Petersburg from the Bolsheviks took place at the Pulkovsky Heights on November 12, 1917. It was taken by a joint effort of Alexander Kerensky (who had managed to flee from the capital) and General Peter Krasnov (1869-1947). This was in effect the beginning of armed White struggle. But a regiment of 700 mounted Cossacks was not enough to accomplish this difficult mission. The riots and uprisings by workers all over the capital only accelerated the situation. Under these circumstances, on November 15 General Alexeyev and his entourage took the decision to form the Voluntary Army.
3. The Volunteer Army and the “Ice March” of 1918.
General Mikhail Alexeyev (1857-1918) was an outstanding military leader, a true scientist of war and a well-educated man. He was born into a family of a military officer and followed his father's path. Alexeyev finished the Moscow Infantry Military School, and the Russo-Turkish war of 1877 was his “baptism of fire”. After that, he was appointed a professor, Alekseev obtained a chair in Military History at the Joint Staff Academy. There his outstanding talents became evident.
Alexeyev did not occupy himself with staff service only – during the War with Japan he was appointed to the field army after his own appeal. Shortly before World War I Alexeyev was appointed head of Kiev Command for his outstanding military achievements. During the war he was in charge of the south-eastern front and it was due to his talent as its commander that the critical situation on the German front improved.
Tsar Nicolas II having abdicated, the Provisional Government appointed Alexeyev Supreme Commander-in-Chief. But shortly after that the general was dismissed due to his critical attitude towards the policy of the bourgeois government. After power was taken by the Bolsheviks, Alexeyev and his comrades-in-arms had to retreat south to begin a new stage of the war.
In the Don River valley there lived free Cossacks who had proved their fidelity to the Motherland by means of military service for centuries. It was there that the forming of the first White Guards began. The core of the army was grouped around “the White Cross”, a secret society, formed by army officers. Soon, generals Kornilov and Denikin as well as atamans (Cossack commanders) Kaledin (1861-1918) and Dutov (1879-1921) joined the headquarters of the Volunteer Army. The Cossacks of the Don, Orenburg and Baikal regions, outraged by the Jewish-Communist dictatorship and revolutionary terror rose to join the volunteers. “There rose in their noble rage true Christians, sons of the Don, and heeded the call of freedom!” – thus the lines of an old Cossack song.
The so-called “Ice March” of the Volunteer Corps led by Kornilov became the first notable event of the first stage of the war. It began in late February 1918 and proceeded under trying winter conditions, four thousand volunteers with high morale ready to break through the Red front lines after crossing the Don. It was the “baptism of fire” for the White Army and Alexeyev called it “a candle of faith and hope in the darkness that was devouring Russia”. But the campaign failed; the White volunteers were outnumbered by the Reds and had to retreat. General Kornilov fell as a true warrior in battle of Ekatrinodar.
4. Bolshevik Dictatorship and the Red Terror.
The military leaders believed that an organized armed force was needed for the recovery of peace and civil order--while peaceful citizens, confused by constant propaganda, never abandoned hope of restoring peace by legal democratic means.
On January 18, 1918 the All-Russian Constituent Assembly, supported by working class demonstrators, began to function in Saint Petersburg. But despite being peaceful, the Assembly was immediately broken up by armed Bolsheviks with more than ten demonstrators killed. One more liberal illusion perished.
Instead of developing democracy and protecting civil rights and liberties, the Bolsheviks concentrated on strengthening their own power. Nikolai Krylenko (1885-1938), a prominent member of the Bolshevik Party, Supreme Commander-in-Chief and the head of VRK (Vojenno-Revolutzionny Komitet or the Military-Revolutionary Committee) took the decision to form the Red Army of Workers and Peasants (RKKA). The compulsory mobilization of all male citizens aged from 18 to 40 began. In the severe conditions and ideological chaos of the Revolution a part of the tsarist military corps joined the Bolsheviks: of 130 000 officers of the Imperial Army, about 30 000 joined the RKKA, including such prominent higher command officers as Brusilov, Snesarev, Svechin and Tukhachevsky.
Military operations on the fronts of the First World War were suspended due to the revolutionary “Decree on Peace”. Now the Bolsheviks were much more preoccupied with defending “the Socialist Motherland” and “the achievements of the Revolution”. In reality it meant further class struggle and fratricidal civil war. Due to this reason many recruits refused to fight under the Red banners. Cases of desertion and changing sides by recruits often occurred at the fronts of the Civil War.
The Higher Command of the RKKA officially considered such actions to be desertion and, on issuing new laws, the deserters were to be shot on sight. This “method” was first applied by the above-mentioned Leon Trotsky, who wrote:
“It is impossible to build a strong army without repression. One cannot lead masses of people to death, without having the death penalty as a means of punishment. We must confront a soldier with his possible death in front of him and his inevitable death behind."
It was not accidental that the five-pointed red star (or pentagram), together with the hammer and sickle emblems, were chosen to be the emblem of RKKA (on medals and banners of the Red Army it was often depicted in an upturned position, which also required explanation). When speaking on the Fifth Annnual Congress of the Soviets in summer 1918, Trotsky explained this choice: when the rebellion of the Jews against Roman rule, led by Bar Kochba, took place in Palestine (132-135 A.D.), the Red star was depicted on the Jewish banner. In other words, for the Bolsheviks the star was a symbol of revolutionary fight against Empire.
In the early spring of 1918 the Bolsheviks, deliberately trying to “turn a world war into a civil war” had to confront the opening of a second external front. In March and April, the troops of the Entente were deployed in Russia: English and French troops landed in Murmansk and Archangel in the north, French troops in Odessa and Sevastopol in the south, English troops, supported by Japanese and Americans in Vladivostok in the Far East.
During the chaos of the Allied intervention, a Czech corps of many thousands of soldiers (whose leaders were connected to the headquarters of the Entente) excited a rebellion in the Volga region. English troops entered Turkistan and Transcaucasia; Rumania occupied Bessarabia. The Russian Empire was dissolving, turning into badly-controlled regions without any unified government. Meanwhile, the German command continued to support Lenin. With the help of Mirbach (the ambassador of Germany to the Soviet Republic) they transferred to the Bolsheviks more then 3 million golden marks every month; in May 1918 – 40 million more marks were transferred. The World War virtually continued on the territory of the dissolving Empire, and rivalling states continued to take part in it, either directly or indirectly.
Lenin understood very well that the united action of the external Entente forces with the internal opposition forces posed a great threat to the Bolshevik government. It was the reason, he openly declared, for the mass terror which he instituted against all those opposed to the “proletarian dictatorship”, including his own revolutionary comrades of yesterday: Mensheviks, the Socialist Revolutionists and Anarchists. With several hundreds of the left Socialist Revolutionists arrested as hostages, the “leader of the World Revolution” called for ruthless mass executions on June 26, 1918:
“We must encourage and promote mass terror against the counter-revolutionists, especially in Saint Petersburg, to make a decisive example”.
On July 1918, on Lenin’s personal order (and partially due to the initiative of his party comrade Jacob Sverdlov), the Tsar and his family were executed (with no investigation or trial) in Yekaterinburg. Several days later, six other representatives of the Romanov dynasty were killed.
Having suppressed the independent press (which was more or less influential and continued to comment on current events, influencing in this or that way the opinion of the people), the Bolsheviks began their systematic persecution of the Church. As a key religious institution it still exercised a widespread influence on many common Orthodox people and was an evident ideological opponent to the policy of aggressive atheism promoted by the Bolsheviks.
Concerning the peasants, they were supposed to be an ally of the workers in "class struggle." Nevertheless, a severe politics of “prodrazverstka” (or “bread war”) began toward them, with more then 75 000 Red Army Soldiers taking part. Concretely, the food grown was expropriated on the spot. All over the country not less then 300 peasant rebellions took place.
The workers were also dissatisfied with Soviet power, since instead of social justice, promised by the Bolsheviks, they got nothing but starvations and hardships. Old trade unions were dissolved, freedom of speech was suppressed and strikes were virtually banned. Rebellions of Cossacks, peasants, qualified workers and political adversaries of Bolshevism flared up all over the country.
The Bolsheviks were aware of, and concerned about the danger of armed resistance all over the country, as well as the peril of foreign intervention. The seat of government was soon moved to Moscow, farther from the front lines. In the “new” old capital of Russia, ruby red stars soon rose over the towers of Kremlin as a symbol of Bolshevik power. In Moscow, the Bolsheviks took the decision to fulfill the strategy of world revolution by organising the COMINTERN. It was financed from expropriated valuables of the Tsar’s family and Russian monasteries (predominantly their gold); and partially – due to the export of “excess bread," seized from the peasants.
Peaceful civilians, terrified by revolutions, wars, mass terror and starvation flee from both capitals; Moscow and Saint Petersburg soon became deserted. Within just three years (1918-1920) at least 5,750,000 civilians died. The world of science has acknowledged that it was one of the greatest demographic catastrophes ever.
5. The South as the Bastion of the White Guards
Towns and cities of the north were devoured by the revolution. Civilians and former soldiers of the army tried to flee south, since the southern regions were not controlled by either Bolsheviks or anarchists.
Southern Russia soon turned into a powerful bastion of counter-revolutionary forces. The remains of the tsarist army gathered there from all over the Empire. Soon, new military units of the emerging White Army began to form. It was on the Don River that the Volunteer Army, led by General Denikin, underwent its “rebirth”: in January 1919. Denikin joined forces with the Don River army of General Krasnov. This army has become the basis of the armed counter-revolutionary forces of southern Russia.
General Anton Denikin (1872-1947) was born to a poor family in Warsaw province. Having chosen a military career, he graduated from the Joint Staff Academy. His “baptism of fire” took place during the Russo-Japanese war. He was promoted to the rank of major general in 1914. Apart from military service, Denikin was also known as a writer and a prolific memoirist: those who read his first short stories and sketches on military life, never thought, that he would become one of the most famous memorialists of the Civil War.
As Denikin was a comrade-in-arms of Kornilov going back to the Ice March, after Kornilov's death it was Denikin who raised anew the banner of White Struggle. Under Denikin’s command, the White Army enjoyed many military achievements. It launched an offensive campaign toward Moscow, and soon occupied large territories containing approximately 42 million people: they liberated Kharkov, Kiev, Kursk, Orel, Voronezh and Tsaritsin, as well as the territories of the northern Caucasus. Denikin’s army posed a great threat to the Bolsheviks: the revolutionists were actually surrounded by a ring of counter-revolutionary forces. Strong combatant forces were sent against it. After enduring bloody battles, Denikin’s troops had to retreat from the cities it had occupied before.
Novorossiysk was the last town to be lost by the White Guards. Denikin himself evacuated to a ship and continued his struggle in emigration. Due to his authority and influence, Denikin soon became an influential and prominent social leader of the Russian émigrés abroad. In his famous five-volume book “The Russian Turmoil”, written after the events of 1921-1926, he reflected on the causes, reasons and possible results of the Revolution. It was published in Paris, Berlin and in the USA, to which Denikin later emigrated. He died in America in 1947, a patriot loyal until death to his Russian Motherland.
The Whites did not manage to connect the armies of the South and Far East, and a temporary tactical alliance with the Ukrainian troops of Petlyra (a radical anarchist) as well as with the Ukrainian National Army could not be long-lasting, since the White Guards and the Anarchists pursued different purposes.
The troops of General Nikolai Yudenich (1862-1933) in the northwest were actually separated from the main forces of the counter-revolution. Yudenich failed to occupy St. Petersburg, despite massive help from Western countries, including the help of the so-called “Freikorps”, volunteer corps in which anti-communists of all nations, including Germans, fought shoulder to shoulder. The Red Army, supported by Estonian separatists, stopped the offensive of General Yudenich near the village of Gatchina.
Then a large-scale advance of General Denikin’s troops along a front 1000 kilometers (or 600 miles) wide was stopped. This was a fatal flaw of the White Joint Staff, since the Whites were many times outnumbered by the Reds. In addition, the Bolsheviks were indirectly supported by various armed gangs of anarchists, most of whom were ordinary felons. One example to consider was the famous Anarchist Army of Nestor Makhno – it fought against all other powers, both Red and White.
6. Crimea - the Southern Bastion of the Whites.
Having established and strengthened the “Dictatorship of the Proletariat” in central Russia, the Bolsheviks launched a counter-offensive to the east and south. It took the RKKA huge efforts to force the Whites onto the Crimean peninsula on the Black Sea, isolated from the continent. In the first years of the revolution, a massive political struggle between various ethnic and political forces arose on the Crimea (or the “province of Tavria” or “Taurida”). Apart from Russians, there were Tatar, Ukrainian and Jewish communities there.
Tatar nationalists managed to convoke a Tatar National Assembly (“Kurultai”), aimed at creating a Muslim state after the traditions of Girei Khans, with Bahchisarai as capital city. The Central Rada (council) of the Ukrainian People’s Republic was in favour of separatist tendencies (toward Russia) and supported the independent Tatar government in its initial stages.
The Russian White leaders had various attitudes towards Tatars. All in all, the Council of People’s Representatives that created a headquarters of Crimea Troops in Simferopol regarded the Tatars as possible allies against the Reds. For example, Kerensky was in favour of creating special Muslim units.
The Bolsheviks approached from the Black Sea; they were supported by revolutionary soldiers and sailors in the harbours of Sevastopol and Yevpatoria. Having assembled a 40,000-man army under the command of a Provisional Revolutionary Committee, the Reds defeated the Army of Crimea. In early 1918 "Soviet Power" was declared over the peninsula.
The Tatar government and the Council of People’s Representatives were dissolved and the Socialist republic of Taurida declared in March 1918. Much later, it gained the status of the "Crimean SSR" (Socialist Soviet Republic). Hardly had a month passed before the Bolsheviks had to face another threat: the German troops deployed in Crimea. When the German attack was repulsed, Taurida was liberated from the Bolsheviks by the troops of the White General Wrangel.
Peter Wrangel (1878-1928) was a strong-willed and charismatic leader. He was a descendent of ancient Scandinavian stock, the representatives of which served the Russian tsars for centuries. (All in all, this family gave the world seven field-marshals, seven admirals, and more then 30 generals; to Russia it gave 18 generals and two admirals).
As a worthy comrade-in-arms of the former leaders of the Whites, Wrangel headed the government and the troops of Crimea at the very crucial moment when the White army on the Continent was suffering great defeats. In the summer of 1918, having reorganized the Volunteer Army into a regular one, Wrangel began preparing his counter-offensive against the Red Army. Simultaneously, he improved civilian life on the peninsula, having adopted many progressive laws (such as land reform) and changed military policy for the better.
Not long before his eastern campaign, General Wrangel took the symbolic action of instituting the Order of Saint Nicolas. He addressed the public in an open letter:
“Hear, Russian people, what we are fighting for. We want revenge for our disgraced faith and our desecrated temples! We are fighting for the liberation of the Russian people from the yoke of communists, of vagrants and felons that have brought Holy Russia to ruin. For the end of the internecine war! For the peasants to have a chance of owning the land as property and working in peace. We are fighting for true freedom and justice to rule in Russia. For the Russian people to choose their leaders by themselves. Help me, true sons of the Nation, to save our Motherland!”
This call was heard. Soon, those who were looking for a firm bastion for revenge on the communist dictatorship (anchored in the capital cities) moved south. The Russian army of Peter Wrangel grew to be 80,000 strong, which made it possible to support the Cossack resistance in the Don and Kuban river valleys.
When the Soviet-Polish war of 1920-1921 broke out, Wrangel took the decision to strike at the back of the Red Army and its rearward areas. The Reds, weakened by a war on two fronts, had to retreat. But when the Bolsheviks saw the Whites head east to join forces with the Cossacks on the Continent, they changed their strategy immediately. In October 1920, despite the humiliating conditions of the armistice for the Soviet Union, the war with Poland was officially over. The Red Commissars made the army of the southern front 250,000 strong, concentrating the maximum amount of their forces on storming the White stronghold on the Crimea. On October 28 they launched their offensive.
First, Wrangel’s army was stopped by the Reds, commanded on the Southern front by a prominent member of the Bolshevik party, Michael Frunze. After that, the specially formed Budyony Cavalry was sent. Finally, on a cold November night the Reds took a wade through the icy waters of Sivash Gulf to bypass the Perekop Isthmus, which was very well protected by the Whites. Despite losing hundreds of soldiers killed and wounded under machine gun fire, the Revolutionary Red forces managed to get onto the peninsula and to fortify their positions for further offence.
The White units defending Perekop, the city guarding the isthmus, were shocked and demoralized. The Wrangel army had to fight just to protect its rear. After November 15, 1920 a mass evacuation from the peninsula began–first, peaceful citizens were evacuated, then soldiers and officers of the Wrangel army. Sometimes the evacuation turned into panic flight. All in all, over 120 ships brought more then 150,000 refugees to Istanbul (Constantinople).
The reprisals and massacres against the “enemies of the Revolution” began in Crimea. The Revolutionary Committee of Crimea, led by a Hungarian Jew, Bela Kun, was formed. In three years of Wrangel’s rule in Crimea, about 1,500 were arrested by the Whites, with as many as 300 shot. As for the Red terror, not less then 50,000 people died on the peninsula (according to other statistical data, up to 100,000). Rozalia Zalkind, a Jewish communist from Ukraine, excelled during the repression. She headed a political department of the Red Army and personally took part in executions by shooting. The tragic epic of the White movement in the south was over.
7. Civil War on the Far East
Having achieved a temporary victory, the Bolsheviks managed to establish a severe dictatorship in central Russia in the first three years of the Revolution despite an unprecedented toll in civilian victims and territorial losses. But it never led to peace, prosperity or justice as originally promised by the Bolsheviks. Due to the political and economic crisis, industry declined by 82% compared with 1913.
The number of wealthy Russian refugees (émigrés) grew constantly and amounted to over 1.5 million by the end of the Civil War. The villagers, having nowhere to run, protested and in their own ways fought for the rights the Bolsheviks were suppressing. There were numerous peasant uprisings that later became a popular war.
The Tambov Revolt, led by Alexander Antonov (1888-1922), took place in 1920-1921. A whole army of peasant partisans soon formed, 30 000 strong.
Antonov was a "Right Socialist-Revolutionist," a non-Bolshevik leftist, and a Russian patriot. He fought against the “suppression of the people by capitalist exploitation” during the tsarist period. But when the Bolsheviks actually usurped the power by taking advantage of the revolutionary situation, Antonov declared war on the impostors who dared speak in the name of the workers and peasants. He addressed the people with a leaflet, in which he called upon “the Russian warrior to arise and save the Motherland by liberating Moscow from the hands of the Red butchers.”
To suppress the Tambov Revolt, the Red marshal Tukhachevsky sent in more then 100,000 soldiers of the regular army, including mercenaries from Lithuanian and Chinese units of the Red Army (over 40,000 Chinese served in the RKKA during the Civil War and afterward). The repressive force used armoured troops, aircraft and chemical weapons. They were severe to the local population, sometimes burning down houses with the families inside. Although the guerrillas were not numerous, it took the repressors almost a year to suppress the rebellion. But the armed partisans could be seen in the forest of Tambov long after that.
In March 1921 another rebellion was suppressed by the Bolsheviks – the rebellion of Kronstadt, in the bay before St. Petersburg). It was started by sailors of the Baltic fleet; one of the slogans of the rebellion was: “Government without Jews and communists!” Peasant rebellions took place all over the country: in the Ural, Siberian and Volga regions. Hundreds and thousands were killed as a result of armed clashes with the peasants.
Mass-killings of wealthy peasants (known as the "Kulak annihilation" or raskulachivanie) and landowners during the establishment of Soviet power in the villages led to devastation of the large farms, resulting in mass starvations. The 1921 starvation (golodomor) took place in the Volga region and began spreading all over Russia. In the cities, which were left without supplies of foodstuffs, the poorest citizens were destined to die, as well as some representatives of the intellectual elite, who deliberately refused to accept the food allowances of the Bolsheviks.
In order to quash critics, the Bolsheviks began a systematic persecution of dissenters. On Lenin's personal order, more then 200 representatives of the intelligentsia and cultural workers were expelled from the country on a specially prepared ship: those were the writers, philosophers, and scientists Berdyaev, Iliin, Lossky, Karsavin and many others. Famous and prolific poets such as Gumilev, Esenin or Klyev were either killed or driven to suicide. As for the writers and poets who survived the persecution, a strong censorship by the Glavlit (Central Committee for Literature) was imposed on them.
The White counter-revolutionist movement in the eastern Russia had many talented politicians and leaders within its ranks. The name of Admiral Alexander Kolchak deserves special mention.
Alexander Kolchak was an outstanding leader with a remarkable biography. His professional education was at the Naval Military school and he took part in several expeditions in the Pacific Ocean; he also commanding an ice-breaker during an expedition to the North Pole. All in all, he crossed four oceans during his career.
For his outstanding achievements, in the First World War Kolchak was appointed commander of the Black Sea Fleet. At first, he was in favour of the Revolution, but once he understood it was leading to the devastation of the Motherland, he started his own resistance movement.
He began armed resistance to Bolsheviks and their allies in the Far East, in central Siberia and in the Ural regions. In September 1918 Kolchak was appointed minister of defence in the Provisional Government. In January 1919 his new-born army took Perm in the Ural mountain area. The army soon grew to 112,000 and began an offensive on a wide front – from Uralsk and Orenburg to Vyatka. Inspired by the admiral's success, his brothers-in-arms and many other representatives of the White movement considered him the supreme leader of the true Russia.
A strange, ambiguous and even mysterious role on the eastern front of the Civil War was played by the so-called Czechoslovak Legion. It consisted predominantly of Czech and Slovak soldiers within the Austro-Hungarian army, more then 30,000 soldiers, who surrendered or were captured by Russia during the First World War. Originally, they were kept in the Ukraine area.
After the revolution, agents of the Entente managed to place the Legion under French command, which then ordered the Legion to be sent to France. It would have been rational to send the soldiers out by ships from the harbours of the Black Sea.
But due to a logic that now seems strange, on March 26, 1918 the Revolutionary government decided to evacuate the so-called “internationalist warriors” eastward through Siberia to Vladivostok, obliging them to hand over their weapons to the local soviets. Few of the Czech soldiers returned home travelling via Europe. The Bolsheviks were afraid (and their fears were quite understandable) that the Czechs would join forces with the Volunteer Army in the South. The troops of the Czech Legion ended up stretched out over the whole Siberian trunk-railway, over 7000 km long!
On their way east, the prisoner soldiers rebelled and joined forces with the counter-revolutionists: Socialist-Revolutionists, Cadets (Constitutional Democrats) and Social-Democrats. Together with the Whites, they conquered Novosibirsk (Novonikolaevsk), Penza, Syzran, Tomsk, Omsk, Samara and Krasnoyarsk. After that, having launcher a counter-offensive, they liberated Ufa, Simbirsk, Ekaterinburg and Kazan. In the Volga and Ural regions, as well as in Siberia, the Legion assisted local authorities in creating provisional governments for the convocation of a Constituent Assembly. It became one of the turning points of the Civil War.
Having prevented the junction of the White Armies in the East and South, the Reds launched a counter-offensive in Ural and Siberia in early 1920. Apart from frontal attacks they also used revolutionary propaganda and active secret services (counter-reconnaissance) aimed at eroding the enemy from inside. The Whites were outnumbered by the Reds; the forces of the army of Kolchak (together with the Czech Legion) were much weakened by then.
Neither the manly presence nor the bravery of the admiral could deter the aggression of the Reds. After the retreat from Irkutsk, with power there taken by the Left S-R's, Kolchak was forced to hand command of the army over to the ataman George Semenov (1890-1946).
On January 4, 1920, betrayed by his comrades-in-arms, Admiral Kolchak resigned. In this situation General Denikin became the supreme ruler of the true Russia. Under circumstances that remain unclear even today, Kolchak was taken into custody by the Czechs, who on Jan. 14 handed him over to the Socialist Revolutionists. The latter transferred Kolchak to the Bolseviks and he was shot on the personal order of Lenin.
The further history of the White Guards in the East was quite tragic. The troops of General Vladimir Kapell (1883-1920), who died soon after Kolchak, attempted a severe winter crossing over Lake Baikal to Chita. Lieutenant General Mikhail Diterichs (1874-1937), who succeeeded Kolchak as the supreme leader of the true Russia, had to retreat and later to emigrate after two more years resisting the Reds. All in all, hundreds of thousands people emigrated out through Vladivostok (as well as through the Crimea), including more then 56 thousand civilians, attached to the Czech Legion.
In the Pacific maritime region (Primorie) the battles against the Reds went on till the autumn of 1922. Later, the remains of the White units of atamans Dutov and Semyonov left Russia via China and Korea. Minor armed conflicts and clashes occurred in the Far East until 1923, but in those conflicts primarily guerrillas, not organized troops took part.
8. Baron Ungern and his Mongolian Troops
The story of the Asian Division Cavalry, led by Baron Roman von Ungern-Sternberg (1886-1921), a distant relative of the Tsar and a fanatical monarchist, deserves special mention.
The most famous facts of Ungern’s biography are connected with Mongolia, where he wanted to create a new Empire of his own and a launching pad for the White Revenge. During the years of the Revolution, this vast mountainous land had lost its independence (that it had attained in 1911 from China, supported by Russia). The Chinese were planning to take advantage of Mongolia’s temporary weakness and to resubjugate their neighbour to the North by sending troops to the city of Urga (now Ulan-Bator).
Having collected the remains of ataman Semyonov’s divisions (800 mounted Cossacks and 6 cannons), Ungern created an audacious plan to liberate Urga from foreign invaders. First, looking for support from the common people, he addressed the Mongols with a religious proclamation. After that he carried out a sophisticated clandestine operation and managed to liberate Bogdo-Geghen, the Khan of Mongolia from the Chinese-occupied capital city. Finally, he attacked Urga and took the city by storm, despite its defense by a Chinese garrison of more then 10 000 soldiers.
Having obtained a rest and resupply area and supported by the natives, the baron enthusiastically started to flesh out his grand plan. He believed that after the Bolshevik revolution one could no longer hope to restore traditional monarchies in Europe, for the peoples of the west were perverted by the ideas of materialism and socialism:
“Russia is devastated in terms of its economy, morals and spirituality; its future is appalling and can hardly be predicted. The revolution will triumph and the higher culture will perish under the onslaughts of a coarse, grasping and ignorant mob, gripped by the madness of revolutionary destruction and led by international Jewry” – Ungern wrote in one of his letters.
The baron stated that to establish peace, spirituality and order in the world, one should not hope for any help from the degraded West. Instead, he proposed to create a “Kingdom of Middle” in the East. It was to unite Mongolia, Sindzyan and Tibet (all now in western China) a "White Empire of the East" aimed at eradicating the world evil that came to the earth to “destroy the Divine within the souls of men.”
For fulfilling this divine mission, the baron adopted Buddhism. He later married a Chinese lady of noble origin and was awarded the title of "Prince of Mongolia" by Khan Bogdo-Gegen. Later, he proudly wore a princely caftan of the finest Chinese silk together with the uniform of a tsarist officer. The baron began sending official letters in which he proposed to the volunteers of the White armies that they join his troops.
The remainder of White units from the Baikal region, Tuva and the Mongolian steppes gathered under the banners of the Baron (named “the God of War”). Together with brigades, led by the atamans Kazagrandi, Kaigorodov, Bakich and others, the army of Ungern soon grew to be 4,000 sabres and dozens of artillery units strong. The army was able to execute minor raids along the coasts of the Selenga River. It also attacked Kyahcta, a small town on the Mongolian border, where the Bolsheviks had Chan Suhe-Bator as their protégé. It was in this period that the White unit were particularly cruel to communists, commissars and Jews, for whom (according to the Baron) “only one punishment was adequate – death!” But the militia of the Baron were outnumbered by the Reds and their efforts were not enough to prevail.
An expeditionary corps was sent from Chita to destroy the troops of Ungern. It had 7,500 of infantry, 2,500 sabres, 20 field guns, 4 aircraft and 4 river steamers. As the Reds were supported by Mongolian revolutionists, they managed to suppress the resistance of the counter-revolutionists. The White leaders of the east, including Ungern himself were imprisoned, interrogated and later executed.
The Red terror in the Far East had its own peculiarities, since not only monasteries and Khans’ estates, but also Russian bureaus and official institutions were looted. Much later, Lenin annulled the state debt of Mongolia of 5 million golden rubles and awarded the pro-Soviet general Sukhe-Bator the decoration of the Red Star during the official visit of the Mongolian leader to Kremlin in 1921.
Confronting the Bolsheviks in the Civil War were not only White monarchists but also Social-Revolutionists, Democrats and Anarchists, as well as a major portion of the free Cossacks and wealthy peasants. The chaos of the whole revolutionary situation brought confusion and hindered the people from realizing the danger of Proletarian Dictatorship, which in reality turned out to be the tyranny of Bolsheviks, headed by Lenin and then Stalin.
It is however a false statement that during the Civil War "Russians fought Russians." In reality it was the Red Internationale that fought the White Guards. It is true however, that certain Russians as well as Cossacks from different regions of the Empire, and Ukrainians, Germans and Czechs, were present at the command posts of the Revolution. But within the Revolutionary leadership, Russians were an absolute minority.
Russian-speaking Jews, Ukrainians, Poles, Lithuanians, Magyars, Tatars, Chinese and minor Caucasian peoples predominated. The non-Russian, international units of the Reds counted more then 200,000 men.
All in all the Red army won rather due to revolutionary fanaticism and numerical superiority, but not due to strategic successes or the talents of the leaders. The Red Army occupied key strategic positions, plus it was approximately ten times as big as the White army. But it suffered many deserters and was close to total collapse in 1919.
Both fighting sides exhibited brutality, but the Whites never made terror a core instrument of their politics as the Red commissars did. They never exterminated whole classes or groups of the population and never created blocking detachments ("zagradotryady") or concentration camps.
All in all, the civil war turned out to be a real racial genocide.
Declaring and promoting opposite ideological slogans and ideas, the Reds and the Whites slaughtered each other in bloody war. Their readiness to spill blood and to march for internecine battle was reflected in the songs of those ruthless times. When marching and before the attacks, the Reds often sang a song with the following lines:
We will march to fight for the Power of Soviets
And die like one fighting for that.
The Whites used the same tune, but the lyrics were different:
We will march to fight for Holy Russia
And spill as one man our blood for Her.
But whatever was the text of the song, the blood of Russian soldiers and officers was always spilt, which almost ruined the gene pool of the Nation.
Most of the peasants believed in the revolutionary "Decree of Land" and never expected the Bolsheviks to turn against one of their main class allies within several years. They never saw the Whites as their potential protectors and mostly waged their own local war, fighting on their own during the rebellions.
The people traditionally believed all of the tsarist generals to be monarchists, but in reality, their ideological views were much broader. In fact, in the beginning of the revolutions, most of the generals and high army officials were in favour of the dethronement of the Tsar. For instance, General Kornilov and Admiral Kolchak arrested the most prominent members of the Tsar’s family in St. Petersburg and on the Crimea.
The tsarist officers overestimated their own forces, as they got bogged down in the fronts of the World War. They hoped for a miracle from God through their Christian faith, and they counted on the bravery of the Cossacks, on military support from the West and on the help of the peasants. But none of their hopes came true.
This firm belief in the power of Truth and in the triumph of Divine Justice and Law was maintained by the White Guards in exile. One of the most prominent leaders of the Russian émigrés wrote in his diary:
“Years will pass, the communists will be gone, and the Revolution will be but a thing of the past.
But the White cause, renewed in this struggle will not be gone: Its spirit will stay with our future generations and will become a part of our National being and will help to build a New Russia”.