Russian Civil War

From Kaiserreich

The Russian Civil War (1917–1920) was a multi-party war that occurred within the former Russian Empire after the Russian provisional government collapsed to the Soviets, under the domination of the Bolshevik party. Soviet forces first assumed power in Petrograd and subsequently gained control throughout vast swathes of Russia.

The principal fighting occurred between the Bolshevik Red Army, often in temporary alliance with other pro-revolutionary leftist groups, and the forces of the White Army, which consisted of the pro-Entente "Volunteer Army" under the leadership of the Generals Anton Denikin and Alexeev, the "People`s Republican Army" of General Lavr Kornilov in Siberia and the pro-German "South Army", which was formed by Russian monarchists in Kiev. Many foreign armies fought against the Red Army, notably the Entente Forces prior to their 1919 withdrawal (which did not include Japan) and the German forces beginning with their intervention in June 1919, as well as many foreign volunteers who fought on both sides of the Russian Civil War. Other nationalist and regional political groups also participated in the war, including the Cossack nationalist armies, and warlords such as Roman Ungern von Sternberg.


The Struggle Begins

The Kuban steppe and Siberia were the only places in the middle of 1918 where the Red Army encountered difficulties. General Alexeev and his assistant General Denikin, with the help of the Don Cossack`s leader Pyotr Krasnov, formed a small army which consisted of both republican and monarchist officers along with Kuban Cossacks that defeated numerous weaker Bolshevik forces.

Meanwhile, after the rebellion of the Czechoslovak legion in Siberia, pro-republican politicians tried to take control over the massive region, but didn`t have enough influence over the local population. After victories in Kazan, Samara and Ufa, the White forces were unable to keep these cities and under pressure from the Red Army, the Whites started to retreat. But despite these setbacks, the overall strategic situation was not as grim as it seemed for the new authority. General Kornilov, who was born in Siberia and was well-known there, took power in September 1918. Well-known right-SR politician Boris Savinkov, despite a scandalous reputation among the Russian SRs, used his impressive administrative skills to get SR land laws accepted by the new government in Ufa. The lands from the Volga river to Vladivostok were proclaimed the Russian Republic.

The German Intervention

However, the Bolsheviks were still strong enough to fight against two enemies. By the end of December 1918, the Red Army had reached Perm and Ufa, while in the south Krasnov`s Cossacks and the Volunteer Army continued their blockade of Tsaritsyn. But it was obvious that the Red Army had reserves that the forces in Siberia and especially on the Kuban steppe did not.

The ultimate direction of the Russian Civil War was decided by the events of January 1919 in France. The proclamation of the Commune of France, along with growing unrest among the workers and soldiers in Germany and Great Britain seemed to confirm the inevitability of world revolution. The German government, desperate to overturn this trend, decided to focus on the weaker of the two leftist governments in Europe, Soviet Russia.

Many Russian officers, members of the middle class, and especially monarchists escaped to the Ukraine, which was under the control of Hetman Pavlo Skoropadsky. Since the beginning of 1918 many of them had asked the Germans to support the creation of Anti-Bolshevik forces. Germany finally decided to help, and in early 1919 the «South Army» was formed in Kiev.

In Finland, the local civil war finished with the victory of White forces, but the situation in Russia frightened them.

In the United Baltic Duchy, the local German nobility and Russian officers defeated the nationalists and the socialists.

From all these forces the German government formed an alliance against Soviet Russia, which would destroy the socialist threat and cement Germany's control over its new territories. On the 22nd of June, the German invasion of the Soviet Republic finally began.

The Fall of Soviet Russia

During July, small-in-numbers German forces took White Ruthenia, the South Army took Oryol and Kursk, and the Finnish and Baltic forces started the blockade of Petrograd. The Soviet government was clearly beginning to lose the Civil War: General Pyotr Wrangel took Tsaritsyn and Kornilov`s forces started their unstoppable push to the Volga, where many Red divisions surrendered, because for many soldiers the Republican government was still better than Alexeev`s regime or the Germans.

Lenin decided that the defence of Moscow had the priority and left Petrograd to its fate. By October 22, Yudenich's troops were on the outskirts of Petrograd, where Zinoviev (responsible for the defence of the city and in charge of the regional government) decided to surrender. Finally, after weeks of hard street fighting, the last of the Red Army was defeated in Nizhny Novgorod on the 7th of November 1919, leaving the way to Moscow clear for the victorious Kornilov`s forces. Sent to Moscow to ensure the defence of the city against the White armies, Trotsky took advantage of the state of panic within the Soviet leaders to flee Russia by December.

The End of the War

Kornilov was the first White General to enter Moscow in January 1920, soon followed by Wrangel. Both Generals accepted General Tukhachevsky's surrender on behalf of the Russian Republic. A new Russian Republic was established in Moscow on the 22nd of January, officially marking the end of the city war. Nonetheless, skirmishes continued for several years. The last enclave of Red forces was the city of Arkhangelsk which the Bolsheviks had seized following the withdrawal of the Entente forces in 1919, where General Antonov-Ovseyenko capitulated on the 17th of June, 1920.

But even with victory in civil war, there was still the matter of Germany's occupation of White Ruthenia and Smolensk Governorate, not to mention the South Army, whose vanguard forces were still in Tula Governorate, less than 120 kilometers from Moscow. The South Army, despite being smaller than the Volunteer Army or the People`s Republican Army was still a potentially dangerous enemy if not handled carefully. To solve these issues, intense negotiations with the Germans started. Russia was represented by the former President Alexander Kerensky, who returned from the political non-existence under pressure of the White Generals because of two reasons: he represented a de-jure connection with the former Russian Republic, which had been proclaimed on the first of September 1917 and also because he agreed to sign the disgraceful peace with the Germans.

The Minsk treaty

Finally, an additional treaty to the Brest-Litovsk peace agreement was signed by the German Empire and the Russian Republic in Minsk on the 5th of September, 1920. Russia recognised the independence of the Don-Kuban Union and White Ruthenia, new borders with Finland and the Ukraine and autonomy for Alash-Orda.

Germany ended its support to monarchist forces in Russia, and Kerensky`s government was recognised as its legitimate government. Neither Germany or Russia recognised the Mongolian and Japanese occupations of Far East Russian regions, which had happened in the middle of 1919.

The young Republic still had many problems, especially in Siberia and the Far East, but the bloody war in the west was finally finished.

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