Alternative History
Russian Civil War
Part of World War I and the Revolutions of 1917–23
A Red Army detachment during the October Revolution
Date November 7, 1917 – October 1922
Location Former Russian Empire, Mongolia, Tuva, Persia
  • Victory for the Red Army in Russia, Central Asia, Tuva, and Mongolia
  • Victory for pro-independence movements in Finland, the United Baltic Duchy, Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine and Poland
Establishment of the Soviet Union; Independence of the United Baltic Duchy, Finland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus and Poland
Flag of Russian SFSR (1918-1937).svg Soviet Russia and other Soviet republics

RPAU flag.svg Revolutionary Insurrectionary Army of Ukraine (1918-20)
Red flag.svg Left SR (until March 1918)
Darker green and Black flag.svg Green armies (until 1919)

Flag of Russia.svg White Movement

Kolchak (blason).jpg Provisional All-Russian Government
Flag of Russia.svg Armed Forces of South Russia
Flag of Russia.svg Siberian Army
Flag of Russia.svg Army of Komuch
Flag of Russia.svg Members of the Constituent Assembly
Flag of siberia (horizontal).svg Autonomous Siberia
Flag of Don Cossacks.svg Don cossacks (until February 23, 1919)
Flag of Kuban People's Republic.svg Kuban cossacks (from 1919)

Newly emerged nations

Flag of Poland 2.png Poland
Flag of Finland.svg Finland
United Baltic Duchy flag.svg Livonia
Flag of Lithuania 1918-1940.svg Lithuania
Flag of Ukraine.svg Ukraine
Flag of Georgia (1918-1921).svg Georgia
Flag of the Democratic Republic of Armenia.svg Armenia
Flag of Azerbaijan 1918.svg Azerbaijan

Pro-German armies

Flag of the German Empire.svg Germany
Baltic German.svg Landeswehr
Eiserne Division.jpg Freikorps
West Russian Volunteer.jpg West Russian Volunteer Army

Commanders and leaders
Flag of Russian SFSR (1918-1937).svg Vladimir Lenin

Flag of Russian SFSR (1918-1937).svg Leon Trotsky
Flag of Russian SFSR (1918-1937).svg Mikhail Tukhachevsky

RPAU flag.svg Nestor Makhno

Flag of Russia.svg Alexander Kolchak

Flag of Russia.svg Lavr Kornilov
Flag of Russia.svg Anton Denikin
Flag of Russia.svg Pyotr Wrangel
Flag of Russia.svg Nikolai Yudenich

3,000,000 2,400,000 White Russians
Casualties and losses
1,212,824 casualties

The records are incomplete.

At least 1,500,000

The Russian Civil War (November 1917 – October 1922) was a multi-party war in the former Russian Empire fought between the Bolshevik Red Army and the White Army, the loosely allied anti-Bolshevik forces. Many foreign armies warred against the Red Army, notably the pro-German armies. The Red Army defeated the White Armed Forces of South Russia in Ukraine and the army led by Aleksandr Kolchak in Siberia in 1919. The remains of the White forces commanded by Pyotr Nikolayevich Wrangel were beaten in the Crimea and were evacuated in the autumn of 1920. Many pro-independence movements emerged after the break-up of the Russian Empire and fought in the war. A number of them – Finland, Livonia, Lithuania, and Poland – were established as buffer states by Germany. The rest of the former Russian Empire was consolidated into the Soviet Union shortly afterwards.


February Revolution

After the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, the Russian Provisional Government was established during the February Revolution of 1917.

Creation of the Red Army

In the wake of the October Revolution, the old Russian Imperial Army had been demobilized; the volunteer-based Red Guard was the Bolsheviks' main military force, augmented by an armed military component of the Cheka, the Bolshevik state security apparatus. In January, after significant reverses in combat, War Commissar Leon Trotsky headed the reorganization of the Red Guard into a Workers' and Peasants' Red Army, in order to create a more professional fighting force. Political commissars were appointed to each unit of the army to maintain morale and ensure loyalty.

In June 1918, when it became apparent that a revolutionary army composed solely of workers would be far too small, Trotsky instituted mandatory conscription of the rural peasantry into the Red Army. Opposition of rural Russians to Red Army conscription units was overcome by taking hostages and shooting them when necessary in order to force compliance, exactly the same practices used by the White Army officers. Former Tsarist officers were utilized as "military specialists" (voenspetsy), sometimes taking their families hostage in order to ensure loyalty. At the start of the war, three quarters of the Red Army officer corps was composed of former Tsarist officers. By its end, 83% of all Red Army divisional and corps commanders were ex-Tsarist soldiers.

Anti-Bolshevik movement

While resistance to the Red Guard began on the very next day after the Bolshevik uprising, the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk and the political ban became a catalyst for the formation of anti-Bolshevik groups both inside and outside Russia, pushing them into action against the new regime.

A loose confederation of anti-Bolshevik forces aligned against the Communist government, including land-owners, republicans, conservatives, middle-class citizens, reactionaries, pro-monarchists, liberals, army generals, non-Bolshevik socialists who still had grievances and democratic reformists, voluntarily united only in their opposition to Bolshevik rule. Their military forces, bolstered by forced conscriptions and terror and by foreign influence and led by General Yudenich, Admiral Kolchak and General Denikin, became known as the White movement (sometimes referred to as the "White Army"), and they controlled significant parts of the former Russian Empire for most of the war.

A Ukrainian nationalist movement known as the Green Army was active in Ukraine in the early part of the war. More significant was the emergence of an anarchist political and military movement known as the Revolutionary Insurrectionary Army of Ukraine or the Anarchist Black Army led by Nestor Makhno. The Black Army, which counted numerous Jews and Ukrainian peasants in its ranks, played a key part in halting General Denikin's White Army offensive towards Moscow during 1919, later ejecting Cossack forces from the Crimea.

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

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

The Western Allies also expressed their dismay at the Bolsheviks, (1) upset at the withdrawal of Russia from the war effort, (2) worried about a possible Russo-German alliance, and perhaps most importantly (3) galvanised by the prospect of the Bolsheviks making good their threats to assume no responsibility for, and so default on, Imperial Russia's massive foreign loans; the legal notion of odious debt had not yet been formulated. In addition, there was a concern, shared by many Central Powers as well, that the socialist revolutionary ideas would spread to the West. Hence, many of these countries expressed their support for the Whites, including the provision of troops and supplies. Winston Churchill declared that Bolshevism must be "strangled in its cradle". The British and the French had supported Russia on a massive scale with war materials. After the treaty, it looked like much of that material would fall into the hands of the Germans.

The German Empire created several satellite buffer states within its sphere of influence after the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk: the 'United Baltic Duchy', 'Kingdom of Lithuania', 'Kingdom of Poland', the 'Belarusian People’s Republic', and the 'Ukrainian State'. Finland was the first nation that declared its independence from Russia in December 1917, and established itself in the ensuing Finnish Civil War from January to May 1918.

Geography and chronology

In the European part of Russia, the war was fought across three main fronts: the eastern; the southern and the north-western. It can also be roughly split into the following periods.

The first period lasted from the Revolution until the Armistice. Already on the date of the Revolution, Cossack General Kaledin refused to recognize it and assumed full governmental authority in the Don region, where the Volunteer Army began amassing support. The signing of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk also resulted in direct Allied intervention in Russia and the arming of military forces opposed to the Bolshevik government. There were also many German commanders who offered support against the Bolsheviks, fearing a confrontation with them was impending as well.

During this first period, the Bolsheviks took control of Central Asia out of the hands of the Provisional Government and White Army, setting up a base for the Communist Party in the Steppe and Turkestan, where nearly two million Russian settlers were located.

Most of the fighting in this first period was sporadic, involving only small groups amid a fluid and rapidly shifting strategic scene. Among the antagonists were the Czechoslovaks, known as the Czechoslovak Legion or "White Czechs", the Poles of the Polish 5th Rifle Division and the pro-Bolshevik Red Latvian riflemen.

The second period of the war lasted from January to November 1919. At first the White armies' advances from the south (under General Denikin), the east (under Admiral Kolchak) and the northwest (under General Yudenich) were successful, forcing the Red Army and its leftist allies back on all three fronts. In July 1919, the Red Army suffered another reverse after a mass defection of Red Army units in the Crimea to the anarchist Black Army under Nestor Makhno, enabling anarchist forces to consolidate power in Ukraine.

Leon Trotsky soon reformed the Red Army, concluding the first of two military alliances with the anarchists. In June, the Red Army first checked Kolchak's advance. After a series of engagements, assisted by a Black Army offensive against White supply lines, the Red Army defeated Denikin's and Yudenich's armies in October and November.

The third period of the war was the extended siege of the last White forces in the Crimea. Wrangel had gathered the remnants of the Denikin's armies, occupying much of the Crimea. An attempted invasion of southern Ukraine was rebuffed by the anarchist Black Army under the command of Nestor Makhno. Pursued into the Crimea by Makhno's troops, Wrangel went over to the defensive in the Crimea. After an abortive move north against the Red Army, Wrangel's troops were forced south by Red Army and Black Army forces; Wrangel and the remains of his army were evacuated to Constantinople in November 1920.


October Revolution

In the October Revolution, the Bolshevik Party directed the Red Guard (armed groups of workers and Imperial army deserters) to seize control of Petrograd (Saint Petersburg), and immediately began the armed takeover of cities and villages throughout the former Russian Empire. In January 1918, the Bolsheviks dissolved the Russian Constituent Assembly, and proclaimed the Soviets (workers’ councils) as the new government of Russia.

Initial anti-Bolshevik uprisings

The first attempt to regain power from the Bolsheviks was made by the Kerensky-Krasnov uprising in October 1917. It was supported by the Junker Mutiny in Petrograd, but quickly put down by the Red Guard, notably the Latvian rifle division.

The initial groups that fought against the Communists were local Cossack armies that had declared their loyalty to the Provisional Government. Kaledin of the Don Cossacks and Semenov of the Siberian Cossacks were prominent among them. The leading Tsarist officers of the old regime also started to resist. In November, General Alekseev, the Tsar's Chief-of-Staff during the First world war, began to organize the Volunteer Army in Novocherkassk. Volunteers of this small army were mostly officers of the old Russian army, military cadets and students. In December 1917, Alekseev was joined by Kornilov, Denikin and other Tsarist officers who had escaped from the jail where they had been imprisoned following the abortive Kornilov affair just before the Revolution. At the beginning of December 1917, groups of volunteers and Cossacks captured Rostov.

Having stated in the November 1917 “Declaration of Rights of Nations of Russia”, that any nation under imperial Russian rule should be immediately given the power of self-determination, the Bolsheviks had begun to usurp the power of the Provisional Government in the territories of Central Asia soon after the establishment of the Turkestan Committee in Tashkent. In April 1917, the Provisional Government set up this committee, which was mostly made up of former tsarist officials. The Bolsheviks attempted to take control of the Committee in Tashkent on September 12, 1917, but their mission was unsuccessful and many Bolshevik leaders were arrested. However, because the Committee lacked representation of the native population and poor Russian settlers, they had to release the Bolshevik prisoners almost immediately due to public outcry and a successful takeover of this government body took place two months later in November. The success of the Bolshevik party over the Provisional Government during 1917 was mostly due to the support they received from the working class of Central Asia. The Leagues of Mohammedam Working People, which Russian setters and natives who had been sent to work behind the lines for the Tsarist government in 1916 formed in March 1917, had led numerous strikes in the industrial centers throughout September 1917.

However, after the Bolshevik destruction of the Provisional Government in Tashkent, Muslim elites formed an autonomous government in Turkestan, commonly called the ‘Kokand autonomy’ (or simply Kokand). The White Russians supported this government body, which lasted several months because of Bolshevik troop isolation from Moscow.

In January 1918 the Soviet forces under Lieutenant Colonel Muravyov invaded Ukraine and invested Kiev, where the Central Council of the Ukrainian People's Republic held power. With the help of the Kiev Arsenal Uprising, the Bolsheviks captured the city on January 26.

Peace with the Central Powers

The Bolsheviks decided to immediately make peace with Germany and the Central Powers, as they had promised the Russian people before the Revolution. Vladimir Lenin's political enemies attributed that decision to his sponsorship by the foreign office of Wilhelm II, German Emperor, offered to Lenin in hope that, with a revolution, Russia would withdraw from World War I. That suspicion was bolstered by the German Foreign Ministry's sponsorship of Lenin's return to Petrograd. However, after the military fiasco of the summer offensive (June 1917) by the Russian Provisional Government, and in particular after the failed summer offensive of the Provisional Government had devastated the structure of the Russian Army, it became crucial that Lenin realize the promised peace. Even before the failed summer offensive the Russian population was very skeptical about the continuation of the war. Western socialists had promptly arrived from France and from the UK to convince the Russians to continue the fight, but could not change the new pacifist mood of Russia.

On December 16, 1917 an armistice was signed between Russia and the Central Powers in Brest-Litovsk and peace talks began. As a condition for peace, the proposed treaty by the Central Powers conceded huge portions of the former Russian Empire to the German and Ottoman Empire's, greatly upsetting nationalists and conservatives. Leon Trotsky, representing the Bolsheviks, refused at first to sign the treaty while continuing to observe a unilateral cease fire, following the policy of "No war, no peace".

In view of this, on February 18, 1918 the Germans began Operation Faustschlag on the Eastern Front, encountering virtually no resistance in a campaign that lasted 11 days. Signing a formal peace treaty was the only option in the eyes of the Bolsheviks, because the Russian army was demobilized and the newly formed Red Guard were incapable of stopping the advance. They also understood that the impending counterrevolutionary resistance was more dangerous than the concessions of the treaty, which Lenin viewed as temporary in the light of aspirations for a world revolution.

The Soviets acceded to a peace treaty and the formal agreement, the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, was ratified on March 6. The Soviets viewed the treaty as merely a necessary and expedient means to end the war. Therefore, they ceded large amounts of territory to the German Empire. By the time Joseph Stalin rose to power the treaty was seen as a humiliating mistake that needed to be corrected.

Ukraine, South Russia, and Caucasus 1918

February 1918 article from The New York Times showing a map of the Russian Imperial territories claimed by Ukraine People's Republic at the time, before the annexation of the Austro-Hungarian lands of the West Ukrainian People's Republic.

Under Soviet pressure, the Volunteer Army embarked on the epic Ice March from Yekaterinodar to Kuban on February 22, 1918 where they joined with the Kuban Cossacks to mount an abortive assault on Yekaterinodar. The Soviets recaptured Rostov on the next day. General Kornilov was killed in the fighting on April 13, and General Denikin took over the command. Fighting off its pursuers without respite, the army succeeded in breaking its way through back towards the Don, where the Cossack uprising against Bolsheviks had started.

The Baku Soviet Commune was established on April 13. Germany landed its Caucasus Expedition troops in Poti on June 8. The Ottoman Army of Islam (in coalition with Azerbaijan) drove them out of Baku on July 26, 1918. Subsequently, the Dashanak, Right SRs and Mensheviks started negotiations with General Dunsterville, the commander of the British troops in Persia. The Bolsheviks and their Left SR allies were opposed to it but, on July 25 the majority of the Soviet voted to call in the British and the Bolsheviks resigned. The Baku Soviet Commune ended its existence and was replaced by the Central Caspian Dictatorship.

In June 1918, the Volunteer Army, numbering some 9000 men, started its second Kuban campaign. Yekaterinodar was encircled on August  1and fell on the 3rd. In September–October, heavy fighting took place at Armavir and Stavropol. On October 13, General Kazanovich's division took Armavir and on November 1, general Pyotr Wrangel secured Stavropol. This time red forces had no escape and by the beginning of 1919, the whole Northern Caucasus was free from Bolsheviks.

In October, General Alekseev, the leader for the White armies in Southern Russia, died of a heart attack. An agreement was reached between Denikin, head of the Volunteer Army, and P.N. Krasnov, Ataman of the Don Cossacks, which united their forces under the sole command of Denikin. The Armed Forces of South Russia were thus created.

Eastern Russia and Siberia 1918

The Revolt of Czechoslovak Legion broke out in May 1918 and the legionaries took control of Chelyabinsk in June. Simultaneously, the Russian officers' organisations overthrew the Bolsheviks in Petropavl and Omsk. Within a month the Whites controlled most of the Trans-Siberian Railroad from Lake Baikal to the Ural regions. During the summer, the Bolshevik power in Siberia was totally wiped out. The Provisional Government of Autonomous Siberia was formed in Omsk.

By the end of July, the Whites had extended their gains, capturing Yekaterinburg on July 26, 1918. Shortly before the fall of Yekaterinburg on July 17, 1918 the former Tsar and his family were executed by the Ural Soviet, to prevent them falling into the hands of the Whites.

The Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries supported peasant fighting against Soviet control of food supplies. In May 1918, with the support of the Czechoslovak Legion, they took Samara and Saratov, establishing the Committee of Members of the Constituent Assembly. By July, the authority of Komuch extended over much of the area controlled by the Czechoslovak Legion. The Komuch pursued an ambivalent social policy, combining democratic and even socialist measures, such as the institution of an eight-hour working day, with "restorative" actions, such as returning both factories and land to their former owners. After the fall of Kazan Vladimir Lenin called for Petrograd workers to be dispatched to the Kazan Front: "We must send down the maximum number of Petrograd workers: (1) a few dozen 'leaders' like Kayurov; (2) a few thousand militants 'from the ranks'".

After a series of reverses at the front, War Commissar Trotsky instituted increasingly harsh measures in order to prevent unauthorized withdrawals, desertions, or mutinies in the Red Army. In the field, the Cheka special investigations forces, termed the Special Punitive Department of the All-Russian Extraordinary Commission for Combat of Counter-Revolution and Sabotage, or Special Punitive Brigades followed the Red Army, conducting field tribunals and summary executions of soldiers and officers who either deserted, retreated from their positions, or who failed to display sufficient offensive zeal. The use of the death penalty was extended by Trotsky to the occasional political commissar whose detachment retreated or broke in the face of the enemy. In August, frustrated at continued reports of Red Army troops breaking under fire, Trotsky authorized the formation of barrier troops stationed behind unreliable Red Army units, with orders to shoot anyone withdrawing from the battle line without authorization.

Czechoslovak legionaries of 8th regiment killed by Bolsheviks at Nikolsk Ussuriysky. 1918.

In September 1918, Komuch, Siberian Provisional Government and other local anti-Soviet governments met in Ufa and agreed to form a new Provisional All-Russian Government in Omsk, headed by a Directory of five: three Socialist-Revolutionaries (Nikolai Avksentiev, Boldyrev and Vladimir Zenzinov) and two Kadets, (V. A. Vinogradov and P. V. Vologodskii).

By the fall of 1918, Anti-Bolshevik White Forces in the East included the People's Army (Komuch), the Siberian Army (of the Siberian Provisional Government) and insurgent Cossack units of Orenburg, Ural, Siberia, Semirechye, Baikal, Amur and Ussuri Cossacks, nominally under the orders of general V.G. Boldyrev, Commander-in-Chief, appointed by the Ufa Directorate.

On the Volga, Kazan was captured by the colonel Kappel detachment on August 7, but was recaptured by the Reds on September 8, following the Red counter-offensive. On the 11th, Simbirsk fell; and on October 8, Samara. The Whites fell back to Ufa and Orenburg.

In Omsk, the Russian Provisional Government quickly came under the influence of the new War Minister, Rear-Admiral Kolchak. On November 18, a coup d'état established Kolchak as dictator. The members of the Directory were arrested and Kolchak proclaimed the "Supreme Ruler of Russia".

By mid-December 1918, White armies in the East had to leave Ufa but this failure was balanced by the successful drive towards Perm. Perm was taken on December 24.

Central Asia 1918

In February 1918 the Red Army overthrew the White Russian-supported Kokand autonomy of Turkestan. Although this move seemed to solidify Bolshevik power in Central Asia, more troubles soon arose for the Red Army. British support of the White Army provided the greatest threat to the Red Army in Central Asia during 1918. Great Britain sent three prominent military leaders to the area. One was Lieutenant-Colonel Bailey, who recorded a mission to Tashkent, from where the Bolsheviks forced him to flee. Another was General Malleson, leading the Malleson Mission, assisted the Mensheviks in Ashkhabad (now the capital of Turkmenistan) with a small Anglo-Indian force. However, he failed to gain control of Tashkent, Bukhara, and Khiva. The third was Major-General Dunsterville, who the Bolsheviks drove out of Central Asia only a month after his arrival in August 1918. Despite setbacks due to British invasions during 1918, the Bolsheviks continued to make progress in bringing the Central Asian population under the influence of their party. The first regional congress of the Russian Communist Party convened in the city of Tashkent in June 1918 in order to build support for a local Bolshevik Party.

File:Europe map 1919.jpg

London Geographical Institute’s 1919 map of Europe after the treaties of Brest-Litovsk and Batum and before the treaties of Tartu, Kars and Riga

Left SR uprising

In July, two Left SR and Cheka employees, Blyumkin and Andreyev, assassinated the German ambassador, Count Mirbach. In Moscow Left SR uprising was put down by the Bolsheviks, using the Cheka military detachments. Lenin personally apologised to the Germans for the assassination. Mass arrests of Socialist-Revolutionaries followed.

Siberia 1919

Admiral Kolchack reviewing the troops, 1919.

At the beginning of March 1919, the general offensive of the Whites on the Eastern front began. Ufa was retaken on March 13; by mid-April, the white army stopped at the Glazov-Chistopol-Bugulma-Buguruslan-Sharlyk line. Reds started their counter-offensive against Kolchak's forces at the end of April. Red army, led by the capable commander Tukhachevsky, captured Elabuga on May 26, Sarapul on June 2, and Izevsk on the 7th, and continued to push forward. Both sides had victories and losses, but by the middle of summer the Red army was larger than the White army and had managed to recapture territory previously lost.

Following the abortive offensive at Chelyabinsk, the White armies withdrew beyond the Tobol. In September 1919, a White offensive was launched against the Tobol front, the last attempt to change the course of events. But on October 14, the Reds counterattacked and then began the uninterrupted retreat of the Whites to the East.

On November 14, 1919 the Red Army captured Omsk. Admiral Kolchak lost control of his government shortly after this defeat; White Army forces in Siberia essentially ceased to exist by December. Retreat of the Eastern front White armies lasted three months, until mid-February 1920, when the survivors, after crossing the Baikal, reached Chita area and joined Ataman Semenov's forces.

South Russia 1919

File:Beloe Delo 1.jpg

White propaganda poster "For united Russia" representing the Bolsheviks as a fallen communist dragon and the White Cause as a crusading knight.

Denikin's military strength continued to grow in the spring of 1919. During the several months in winter and spring of 1919, Denikin's Armed Forces of South Russia (AFSR) completed the elimination of red forces in the Northern Caucasus and advanced towards Tsaritsyn. At the end of April and beginning of May, the AFSR attacked on all fronts from the Dnepr to the Volga and at the beginning of the summer they had won numerous battles. By mid-June the Reds were chased from the Crimea and from the Odessa area. Denikin's troops took the cities of Kharkov and Belgorod. At the same time White troops under Wrangel's command took Tsaritsyn on June 17, 1919. On June 20, Denikin issued his famous "Moscow directive", ordering all AFSR units to get ready for a decisive offensive to take Moscow.

After the capture of Tsaritsyn, Wrangel pushed towards Saratov, but Trotsky, seeing the danger of the union with Kolchak, against whom the Red command was concentrating large masses of troops, repulsed his attempts with heavy losses. When Kolchak's army in the East began to retreat in June and July, the bulk of the Red army, free now from any serious danger from Siberia, was directed against Denikin.

Denikin's forces constituted a real threat, and for a time threatened to reach Moscow. The Red Army, stretched thin by fighting on all fronts. Kursk and Orel were taken. The Cossack Don Army under the command of General Konstantin Mamontov continued north towards Voronezh, but there Tukhachevsky's army defeated them on October 24. Tukhachevsky's army then turned toward yet another threat, the rebuilt Volunteer Army of General Denikin.

The high tide of the White movement against the Soviets had been reached in September 1919. By this time Denikin's forces were dangerously overextended. The White front had no depth or stability: it had become a series of patrols with occasional columns of slowly advancing troops without reserves. Lacking ammunition, artillery, and fresh reinforcements, Denikin's army was decisively defeated in a series of battles in October and November 1919.

The White Armies had succeeded in driving Nestor Makhno's anarchist Black Army (formally known as the Revolutionary Insurrectionary Army of Ukraine) out of part of southern Ukraine and the Crimea. Despite this setback, Moscow was loath to aid Makhno and the Black Army, and refused to provide arms to anarchist forces in Ukraine.

The main body of White forces, the Volunteers and the Don Army pulled back. The smaller body (Kiev and Odessa troops) consolidated their territory with German support, which it had managed to protect from the Bolsheviks during the winter of 1919-1920.

Central Asia 1919

By February 1919 the British government had pulled their military forces out of Central Asia. Despite this success for the Red Army, the White Army’s assaults in European Russia and other areas broke communication between Moscow and Tashkent. For a time, Central Asia was completely cut off from the Red Army forces in Siberia. Although this communication failure weakened the Red Army, the Bolsheviks continued their efforts to gain support for the Bolshevik Party in Central Asia by holding a second regional conference in March. During this conference a regional bureau of Muslim organizations of the Russian Bolshevik Party was formed. The Bolshevik Party continued to try and gain support among the native population by giving them the impression of better representation for the Central Asian population, and throughout the end of the year were able to maintain harmony with the Central Asian people.

Communication difficulties with the Red Army forces in Siberia and European Russia ceased to be a problem by mid-November 1919. Due to Red Army success north of Central Asia, communication with Moscow was re-established and the Bolsheviks were able to claim victory over the White Army in Turkestan.

South Russia, Ukraine, and Kronstadt 1920-21

By the beginning of 1920, the main body of the Armed Forces of South Russia was rapidly retreating towards the Don, to Rostov. Denikin hoped to hold the crossings of the Don, rest and reform his troops. But the White Army was not able to hold the Don area, and at the end of February 1920 started a retreat across Kuban towards Novorossiysk. Slipshod evacuation of Novorossiysk proved to be a dark event for the White Army. About 40,000 men were evacuated by Russian and other ships from Novorossiysk to Crimea, without horses or any heavy equipment, while about 20,000 men were left behind and either dispersed or captured by the Red Army.

File:Victims of Soviet Famine 1922.jpg

Victims of the Russian famine of 1921.

Following the disastrous Novorossiysk evacuation, Denikin stepped down, and the military council elected Wrangel as the new Commander-in-Chief of the White Army. He was able to restore order with dispirited troops and reshape an army that could fight as a regular force again. This remained an organized force in the Crimea throughout 1920.

After Moscow's Bolshevik government signed a military and political alliance with Nestor Makhno and the Ukrainian anarchists, the Black Army attacked but defeated by several regiments of Wrangel's troops in southern Ukraine backed by German occupiers, allowing him to capture that year's grain harvest.[1] This offensive was eventually halted by the Red Army, and Wrangel's troops were forced to retreat to Crimea in November 1920, pursued by both the Red and Black cavalry and infantry. Wrangel and the remains of his army were evacuated from Crimea to Constantinople on November 14, 1920. Thus ended the struggle of Reds and Whites in Southern Russia.

After the defeat of Wrangel, the Red Army immediately repudiated its 1920 treaty of alliance with Nestor Makhno and did not aid the anarchist Black Army when the Germans and Ukrainian government attacked them; the campaign to liquidate Makhno and the Ukrainian anarchists began with an attempted assassination of Makhno. Angered by betrayal and continued repression by the Bolshevik Communist government and its liberal use of the Cheka to put down peasant and anarchist elements, a naval mutiny erupted at Kronstadt, followed by peasant revolts. Red Army attacks on the anarchist forces and their sympathizers increased in ferocity throughout 1921. Trotsky instituted mass executions of peasants in areas sympathetic to Makhno and the anarchists.

Siberia and the Far East 1920-22

In Siberia, Admiral Kolchak's army had disintegrated. He himself gave up command after the loss of Omsk and designated Grigory Semyonov as the new leader of the White Army in Siberia. Not long after this, Kolchak was arrested by the disaffected Czechoslovak Corps as he traveled towards Irkutsk without the protection of the army and turned over to the socialist Political Centre in Irkutsk. Six days later, this regime was replaced by a Bolshevik dominated Military-Revolutionary Committee. On February 6–7, Kolchak and his prime minister Victor Pepelyaev were shot and their bodies thrown through the ice of the frozen river Angara, just before the arrival of the White Army in the area.

Remnants of Kolchak's army reached Transbaikalia and joined Grigory Semyonov's troops, forming the Far Eastern army. Unfortunately, Semenov's position become untenable and in November 1920 he was repulsed by the Red Army from Transbaikalia and took refuge in China. The Japanese, who had plans to annex the Amur Krai, abandoned their plans as the Bolshevik forces gradually asserted control over the Russian Far East. On October 25, 1922 Vladivostok fell to the Red Army and the Provisional Priamur Government was extinguished.


Ensuing rebellion

In central Asia, Red Army troops continued to face resistance into 1923, where basmachi (armed bands of Islamic guerrillas) had formed to fight the Bolshevik takeover. The Soviets engaged non-Russian peoples in Central Asia like Magaza Masanchi, commander of the Dungan Cavalry Regiment to fight against the Basmachis. The Communist Party did not completely dismantle this group until 1934. General Anatoly Pepelyayev continued armed resistance in the Ayano-Maysky District until June 1923.

  1. Berland, Pierre, Mhakno, Le Temps, 28 August 1934: In addition to supplying White Army forces and their sympathizers with food, a successful seizure of the 1920 Ukrainian grain harvest would have had a devastating effect on food supplies to Bolshevik-held cities, while depriving both Red Army and Ukrainian Black Army troops of their usual bread rations.