Red v White

Bloodshed in the East

The Russian Civil War was a conflict that lasted from 1917 to 1923, after the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 in Russia.

It was fought between the Red Army (also known as the Bolsheviks) and the White Army (consisting of anti-Bolshevik forces, monarchists, and others).

The war had far-reaching consequences, leading to the establishment of the Soviet Union and fundamentally changing the political and economic landscape of Russia.


The prelude to the Russian Civil War, which erupted in 1917, was characterized by a series of socio-political, economic, and military crises that laid the groundwork for the eventual downfall of the Romanov dynasty and the rise of revolutionary fervor.

In the early 20th century, Russia was grappling with deep-rooted discontent among its people. Tsar Nicholas II's autocratic rule, economic hardships, and the burdens of World War I created a tinderbox of grievances waiting to ignite. The socio-economic divide between the wealthy nobility and the impoverished peasants fanned the flames of discontent, fueling revolutionary ideas.

In February 1917, the pressure reached a tipping point, leading to the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II, as strikes and protests engulfed major cities. The Provisional Government, established to bridge the gap between autocracy and democracy, struggled to address the multitude of issues plaguing the country.

As the Provisional Government's authority waned, the Bolshevik Party, led by Vladimir Lenin, seized the opportunity to galvanize the working class and the discontented. Their rallying cry of "Peace, Land, and Bread" resonated with the masses, pushing Russia further down the path of revolution.

The collapse of the Russian Empire and the Provisional Government in 1917 had left the country in a state of chaos, with various factions vying for power. The Bolsheviks, led by Vladimir Lenin, had seized power in the October Revolution of 1917 and had established a socialist government. However, their hold on power was not secure, and they faced opposition from a wide range of groups.

The opposition was led by the White Army, which included monarchists, nationalists, and other anti-Bolshevik forces. The Whites were supported by foreign powers, including Britain, France, and the United States, who feared the spread of communism. The Whites also received support from other groups, such as the Czech Legion, who had been fighting alongside the Russian Army during First World War and had become stranded in Russia after the war ended.

Another factor that contributed to the Russian Civil War was the issue of land reform. The Bolsheviks had promised to redistribute land to the peasants, but this policy was met with resistance from the landowning class. This created a conflict between the Bolsheviks and the peasants, who were often sympathetic to the Whites.

The Reds

The Reds, also known as the Bolsheviks, were one of the main factions in the Russian Civil War. Led by Vladimir Lenin and his comrades, the Reds were committed to establishing a socialist government in Russia and spreading the revolution throughout the world.

The Reds were led by Vladimir Lenin, who served as the head of the Soviet government, and Leon Trotsky, who served as the Commissar of War. Other key leaders included Grigory Zinoviev, Lev Kamenev, and Nikolai Bukharin.

The Red Army was formed in 1918, under the leadership of Leon Trotsky. At the beginning of the war, the Red Army was poorly equipped and trained, but it gradually gained strength and became a formidable fighting force. The Red Army was composed of regular troops, as well as partisan units and militias.

The Reds were committed to establishing a socialist government in Russia and spreading the revolution throughout the world. They believed in the principles of Marxism-Leninism, which called for the abolition of private property and the establishment of a classless society. The Reds also believed in the importance of internationalism, and they sought to spread the revolution beyond Russia's borders.

The Reds were supported by workers, peasants, and soldiers who were disillusioned with the old order and eager for change. The Reds also had the support of many intellectuals, artists, and writers, who saw the Bolsheviks as a vanguard of the revolution.

The Whites

The Whites were led by a diverse group of individuals who shared a common goal of overthrowing the Bolshevik government. The most prominent leaders of the Whites were General Anton Denikin, Admiral Aleksandr Kolchak, and General Pyotr Wrangel. These leaders were all former military officers who had served in the Russian Imperial Army before the revolution of 1917. They were staunch anti-communists who believed in restoring the monarchy and re-establishing a strong central government in Russia.

They represented a coalition of various groups, including former army officers, monarchists, liberal democrats, socialists, and nationalists. The White forces were made up of volunteer units, irregulars, and regular army units. The largest White force was the Volunteer Army, led by Denikin. Other significant White forces included the Siberian Army, led by Kolchak, and the Southern Army, led by Wrangel. The White forces also included various foreign volunteer units, including British, American, and French soldiers.

Overall, the Whites were a diverse coalition of anti-communist forces who fought against the Bolshevik government during the Russian Civil War. The Whites were led by prominent military officers who were united in their opposition to communism and their desire to restore the Russian monarchy.

The White forces were made up of various units, including infantry, cavalry, artillery, and support units. The White movement had support from various groups, including wealthy landowners, industrialists, and the middle class, as well as foreign governments who wanted to see the Bolshevik government overthrown.

Despite their significant military strength and foreign support, the Whites were ultimately defeated by the Bolsheviks in 1923, and the Soviet Union was established.

Timeline and events

The Russian Civil War began in 1918 and lasted for five years, with the Red Army eventually emerging victorious. The war was marked by brutal fighting, with both sides engaging in atrocities against civilians and prisoners of war.

In the early years of the war, the White Army made significant gains, taking control of large parts of Russia. However, the Red Army gradually gained strength, with the help of the Cheka (the Bolshevik secret police) and the Red Terror, a campaign of violence against anyone perceived as a threat to the Bolshevik government.

The war also saw the involvement of foreign powers, with troops from Britain, France, and the United States supporting the Whites. However, this support was limited, and the foreign powers eventually withdrew their troops, leaving the Whites to fend for themselves.

  • October Revolution of 1917: This was the event that triggered the Russian Civil War. The Bolsheviks, led by Vladimir Lenin, seized power from the Provisional Government in Petrograd and established the first communist government in the world.
  • Treaty of Brest-Litovsk: In March 1918, the Bolsheviks signed a peace treaty with Germany, ending Russia's involvement in First World War. The treaty was highly unpopular, as it ceded large portions of Russian territory to Germany.
  • Czechoslovak Legion Revolt: In May 1918, Czechoslovakian troops who were fighting with the Russian army revolted against the Bolsheviks and seized control of the Trans-Siberian Railway. This marked the beginning of foreign intervention in the Russian Civil War.
  • The White Armies: Throughout the war, the Whites were a loose coalition of anti-Bolshevik forces, including monarchists, liberals, socialists, and nationalists. They were led by various military commanders, including Admiral Alexander Kolchak, General Anton Denikin, and General Pyotr Wrangel.
  • The Red Army: The Bolsheviks formed the Red Army in February 1918, under the leadership of Leon Trotsky. The Red Army was initially poorly equipped and trained, but it gradually gained strength and became a formidable fighting force.
  • Battle of Tsaritsyn: In June 1918, the Reds and the Whites clashed in the city of Tsaritsyn (now known as Volgograd). The battle was a major turning point in the war, as the Reds were able to repel the White forces and establish control over the region.
  • Allied Intervention: In 1918, Britain, France, and the United States sent troops to Russia to support the Whites. The Allies were motivated by a desire to prevent the spread of communism, and they hoped to establish a democratic government in Russia.
  • Red Terror: The Bolsheviks launched a campaign of terror against their opponents, known as the Red Terror. The campaign involved the arrest, torture, and execution of thousands of people suspected of opposing the Bolsheviks.
  • Kronstadt Rebellion: In March 1921, sailors at the Kronstadt naval base rebelled against the Bolshevik government, demanding an end to the dictatorship and more freedoms for workers and peasants. The rebellion was brutally crushed by the Red Army.

Conclusion & Aftermath

The war ended in 1923, with the Bolsheviks emerging victorious. The Whites were defeated and forced to flee the country, and the Bolsheviks were able to establish control over Russia. The war left the country devastated, with an estimated 10 million people dead and the economy in ruins.

The War had far-reaching consequences, both for Russia and for the world. The victory of the Bolsheviks led to the establishment of the Soviet Union, which would go on to become a superpower and a major player in world politics.

The war also had a profound impact on the Russian people, with millions of people displaced and millions more killed or wounded. The war had also destroyed much of the country's infrastructure and left the economy in ruins.

The victory of the Bolsheviks also led to a shift in global politics, with the spread of communism becoming a major concern for Western powers. This would eventually lead to the Cold War, a period of tension and conflict between the Soviet Union and the United States that lasted for several decades.