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Russian Civil War

Russian Civil War

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Published by Nick Shepley

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Published by: Nick Shepley on Jul 23, 2013
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05/11/2014

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Red Advantages:Organisation, politics and railways.
By Nick Shepley 
When the Bolsheviks seizedpower in October 1917 theydid not have the support of the entire country, the muchmore popular SocialistRevolutionary Party wonelections in November butLenin ignored the result. Thenew workers government setup by the Bolsheviks waspassionately hated by the oldaristocracy who had beenpersecuted, humiliated andmurdered by the regime andit's secret police, the Cheka.They were motivated byrevenge and a desire to undothe revolution. In March1918 Lenin ordered hisCommissar for ForeignAffairs, Leon Trotsky, to signa treaty with Germany,withdrawing Russia fromWorld War One. Germanyannexed the Ukraine,Belorussia and the BalticStates. For many Russianpatriots this was the finaloutrage and armies formed todestroy the Bolsheviks.
Key Question: By 1921however the Bolsheviks,or Reds, were victoriousand their control over thecountry enormouslystrengthened. How hadthey managed this?
1) Heartlands: The Bolshevikscontrolled the centre of Russia, where the majority of industry, resources and peoplecould be found. Theirenemies operated at the veryedge of this heartland andfound it far harder to controlhuge expanses of wilderness.2) Propaganda: As seasonedrevolutionaries, Lenin,Trotsky and others in theparty understood the powerof making their arguments tothe people. They persuadedthe Russian people that theirpolicies would be beneficial,and presented the WhiteArmies as being unpatrioticand agents of the hatedformer Tsar.
 THE RUSSIAN CIVIL WAR
In 1918 Russia wasengulfed in a conflictthat caused morebloodshed than thewhole of the FirstWorld War. Thecountry emerged,brutalised and starvedinto Communist ruleand would remaindominated by theparty for the followingseventy years.
  w  w  w .  e  x  p   l  a   i  n   i  n  g   h   i  s   t  o  r  y .  c  o  m
 
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3) Leadership: Leon Trotsky, as Commissarfor Military Affairs, was a remarkable warleader considering he had never had amilitary career. He understood strategy well,but also used immense brutality, executing men who retreated in battle and threatening the families of former Tsarist generals untilthey agreed to lead the new Bolshevik armies.4) Trains: Germany had been able to beatRussia in World War One partly due to herskilful use of trains to move troops from frontto front. Trotsky was aware of this and madesure that the Bolsheviks controlled the trainnetwork in Russia. Being able to get freshtroops to the front line in order to reinforce itagainst the enemy was a vital part of Bolshevik strategy. Trotsky had his ownpersonalised train with a printing press todistribute revolutionary propaganda.5) Tactics: Another trick that the Bolshevikslearned from the Germans was that of coordinating forces. The White Armies wereeasy to pick off one by one when theBolsheviks made sure that their armiesworked together.6) Brutality: Lenin introduced a policy calledWar Communism which forced farmers tohand over their grain to supply the armywith. Lenin's goal was not only to feed theRed Army but to destroy the class of supposed 'hoarders' he was sure existed, whohe believed were holding on to their grain tosell it for higher prices. His policies, designedto wipe out the last elements of capitalism inRussia, eventually led to a huge famine inwhich some five million peasants died.
'
We
got victory in the
Civil War 
,the price was
we ruined thecountry
.
Leon Trotsky 
Red Advantages:Trotsky, Terror and Hunger
    W    W    W .    E    X    P    L    A    I    N    I    N     G    H    I     S    T     O    R    Y .     C     O    M
 Vladimir Lenin andLeon Trotsky 
 
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    W    W    W .    E    X    P    L    A    I    N    I    N     G    H    I     S    T     O    R    Y .     C     O    M
Foreign interventionWhy were there foreignarmies helping thewhites?
The First World War
: After signing the Treaty Of Brest Litovsk, theGermans freed up hundreds of thousands of troops to throw againstthe allies on the Western Front. Itbecame essential to get Russia back inthe war or take the pressure of thewestern allies and the only way to dothis was to overthrow the Bolsheviks.
Ideology
: The British, Americans andFrench were capitalist powers and hadall experienced unrest from theirworkers in the past few decades, theyfeared the spread of Communismacross Europe and knew that Leninintended to export his revolutionaround the world. Winston Churchillsaid that Communism ought to be'strangled in it's cradle'. Japan, also ananti communist power invaded Siberia,keen to destroy the new regime andannex territory.
Loans
: Tsarist Russia had beenreceiving huge war loans from Britain,America and France and none of thesethree powers could afford to allow herto default. Lenin announced that Russiawould not repay any loan to the westand this provided a powerful motivationto put a new government in power thatwould honour its debts.
The White ArmiesWhy were they soincapable of winning?
By Nick Shepley 
1) No Policies: It was very difficult forthe White Armies to have muchsupport as they didn't really have muchto offer the peasants, who made up 80per cent of the population. They madeno promises at all about allowing peasants to keep the land they hadseized in the revolution, and treatedthem with the same contempt that theyhad when they were the peasant'slandlords.2) No Men: The Whites Armies weremade up largely of officers, their meneither returned to their peasant villagesor went to join the Red Army. Thismeant that the White Armies wereoften smaller and there were fewermen in White units who were happy tobe led by others. Often there weredisputes over strategy and too manyskilled military thinkers had too muchinput.3) No Strategy: As well as oldaristocrats, the White forces were madeup of Cossacks, Ukrainian Nationalistsand Socialist Revolutionaries. Allparties hated and mistrusted each otherand often refused to cooperate witheach other, which gave the Reds a hugeadvantage and weakened the Whitecause. It became hard for Russians toknow what the White cause actuallywas, they simply demonstrated whatthey were opposed to, not what theybelieved.4) No Support: By 1920 it was clearthat the tide was turning against theWhites, they had failed to convince themajority of the people to support themand this led Britain, France andAmerica to withdraw aid and troopsfrom Russia, abandoning the Whites totheir fate.5) No Money: The majority of thefinances of the White Armies camefrom abroad, and the Bolsheviks hadbeen clever enough to capture the goldreserves of the former Tsarist regime.This meant that by 1921 the Whitecause was bankrupt and there wasnothing left to pay White soldiers with.Unlike many Bolsheviks, who weremotivated by idealism, there wasnothing other than meagre wages andintimidation to force Whites to fight,and when wages dried up, men desertedin huge numbers.
Ivan Denikin, antiBolshevik general,committed to defeatingthe revolution, but unableto coordinate his forceswith other armies.
How did Australian soldiers come to be in Arkangelsk in 1919? These men were part of aBritish Expeditionary force, first designed to getRussia back into the war on the British side, andthen to crush Communism.

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