The Russian Civil War

Topics: Russian Civil War, Leon Trotsky, Soviet Union Pages: 5 (1733 words) Published: May 4, 2013
The Russian Civil War

The Russian Civil War was to tear Russia apart for three years – between 1918 and 1921. The civil war occurred because after November 1917, many groups had formed that opposed Lenin’s Bolsheviks. These groups included monarchists, militarists, and, for a short time, foreign nations. Collectively, they were known as the Whites while the Bolsheviks were known as the Reds. The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk had shown to many how weak the Bolsheviks actually were. Lenin had called for peace at any price and the Germans had exacted very severe terms – something that was held against them at Versailles in 1919. At the end of 1917, the Bolsheviks only effectively controlled Petrograd, Moscow and the territory between both cities. With the fall of Nicholas II, many parts of the Russian empire took the opportunity to declare their independence. Finland did so in March 1918 – and collapsed into a civil war itself. The Whites, led by Mannerheim, were helped by the Germans – Luderndorff even contemplated putting a German prince in power in Finland once the Whites had won. With German help, the Finnish Whites pushed back the Finnish-Russo border and Petrograd was almost within artillery range. Within Russia itself, those who opposed the Bolsheviks looked to the western powers for help. For their own benefit, the western powers wanted to re-establish an Eastern Front so that the German Army would be split once again, thus relieving the problems being experienced on the Western Front. In the south of Russia, the resistance to the Bolsheviks was led by Kornilov. He based himself in Rostov to start with. Many former officers, who had survived the war, went to join him. Socialist Revolutionaries, who had been members of the dispersed Constituent Assembly, grouped in the Lower Volga under the leadership of Chernov. A Socialist Revolutionary group had established an autonomous regime just east of Omsk which claimed to govern the whole of Siberia. They also seized the vital eastern city of Vladivostok. The monarchist, Colonel Semenov, also established his own autonomous government in Trans-Baikalia where he ruled like a war lord. Semenov was also to cause the Bolsheviks many problems. In Manchuria, General Horvat, who had been the tsar’s military-governor of the region, established another conservative government. Czech prisoners-of-war, who had joined the Russian army after being captured from the Austrian army, joined the ranks of Kerensky, and it was these men who won Kerensky’s initial successes in the civil war. Knwon as the Czech Legion, they fought the Germans as a separate unit under the leadership of Masaryk until Brest-Litovsk ended that fighting. Trotsky gave them his agreement that they had his permission to travel through Russia to the Western Front so that they could continue their campaign against the Germans. The one proviso was that the Czechs had to leave their weapons behind. As soon as the first units of the Czechs surrendered their weapons, the Red Guards shot them. This was to prove a costly error as it was obvious that the other men could not trust what Trotsky had promised. The Czech Legion was made up of seasoned soldiers with plenty of fighting experience. They captured the strategic city of Simbirsk and between May 1918 and August 1918, captured so much territory that they controlled the Trans-Siberian railway from Simbirsk to Vladivostok. The Czechs were to prove a serious problem to Trotsky – as the Communist military commander in the civil war. His task of defeating the Whites was made a great deal more difficult by the Czechs – if he had kept his word and let them move freely out of Russia, this problem would not have occurred. The Politburo blamed this solely on Trotsky – and the man who led the critics was Joseph Stalin. The success of the Czech Legion may well have sealed the fate of the royal family. They had been sent by Kerensky to Tobolsk in Siberia where they were under house...
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