The Civil War



The Bolsheviks' enemies – called 'the 'Whites' – joined together to try to bring down the Revolution.

       However, the disunity of the 'Whites, and the ruthlessness of the Bolsheviks ('the Reds') meant that the Revolution survived.




The Civil War  

Reed Brett on the Civil War


Britain and the Russian Civil War - Learning Curve exercise


The Russian Civil War


  Why did Civil War break out in Russia 1918-21?

  Why did the Bolsheviks Win the Civil War?


Causes of the Civil War

1.   Challenge to the Bolsheviks

The Bolsheviks had seized power by a coup d’ιtat.   After 1918, their political opponents fought back:

  • Social Revolutionaries ejected from the Assembly,

  • the Mensheviks,

  • the Tsarists,

  • former army officers angry about the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk,

  • landlords who had lost their land.

2.   Czech Legion

In 1918 some Czech prisoners of war who were being taken across Russia mutinied, took control of the Trans-Siberian Railway, and attacked towards Moscow.

3.   World Opposition to World Revolution

The Bolsheviks set up the Comintern, led by Zinoviev.   It said it would cause communist revolutions all over the world.  

So foreign countries (also angry because Russia had dropped out of World War I) sent armies to destroy the Bolsheviks  – British, American and French armies attacked from Archangel, Ukraine, and Vladivostock.


Source A

The Internationale

Arise, ye slaves who know starvation!
Shake off the curse that binds the earth!
Our reason boils with indignation,
And makes us die to gain new birth.

We'll tear down our planet's false foundation,

Then build a better world anew,
While he who lived in humble station
Will stand erect, as is his due.


The Internationale was the national anthem of the USSR.   Its words explain why the western governments were so hostile to Communist Russia:


Events of the Civil War 1918–1921

•  The war lasted 3 years.

•  White armies led by Generals Yudenich and Denikin attacked Russia from the west, Admiral Kolchak from the east.

•  The Tsar and his family were put to death.

•  The Red Army defeated Kolchak in 1919 – after this the British, American and French armies went home.

•  The civil war caused shortages, famine and disease - millions died. There were many cruel atrocities.

•  The last White army in Russia was defeated in the Crimea in 1920.

•  The Red Army invaded Poland in 1921, but was defeated and driven back.  

•  In 1922 The Tenth Party Congress declared the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.


Source B

This 1919 Bolshevik poster shows the three White generals Denikin, Kolchak and Yudenich as three vicious dogs who are under the control of America, France and Britain.  

Explain the meaning and symbolism of this poster.   (A poem accompanied the picture.)


Source C

A 1920 Bolshevik poster entitled ‘The Last Battle’ shows a Red Army soldier knocking a capitalist businessman off the world.  


Explain the meaning and symbolism of this poster.


Why The Bolsheviks Won The War

1.   Whites

were disunited and thousands of miles apart, so Trotsky could fight them one by one.


2.   Trotsky

was a brilliant war leader and strategist, so the Red Army had good tactics.


3.   Belief

Many Russians were Communists, who believed they were fighting for a better world.   Others fought for them because they hated foreign (British, American and French) armies invading Russia.   This made the Bolshevik soldiers fervent and enthusiastic.


4.   War Communism

The Bolsheviks nationalised the factories, and introduced military discipline.   Strikes were made illegal.   Food was rationed.   Peasants were forced to give food to the government.   This gave the Bolshevik armies the supplies they needed.


5.   Terror

The Cheka murdered any Whites they found – more than 7000 people were executed, and Red Army generals were kept loyal by taking their families hostage – so the Bolsheviks were united.


6.   Wherewithal

The Bolsheviks had control of the main cities of Moscow and Petrograd (with their factories), control of the railways (vital), an army of 300,000 men, very strict army discipline, and internal lines of communication – giving them the advantage in the war.