Russian Civil War

Russian Civil War... (1918-20), conflict in which the Red Army successfully defended the newly formed Bolshevik government against various Russian and interventionist anti-Bolshevik armies.

The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, whereby Russia yielded large portions of its territory to Germany, caused a breach between the Bolsheviks (Communists) and the Left Socialist Revolutionaries, who thereupon left the coalition. In the next months there was a marked drawing together of two main groups of Russian opponents of Vladimir I. Lenin: (1) the non-Bolshevik left, who had been finally alienated from Lenin by his dissolution of the Constituent Assembly and (2) the rightist whites, whose main asset was the Volunteer Army in the Kuban steppes.

After the overthrow of the Provisional Government on 7th November, 1917, the All-Russian Congress of Soviets met and handed over power to the Soviet Council of People's Commissars. Vladimir Lenin was elected chairman and other appointments included leading Bolsheviks such as Leon Trotsky (Foreign Affairs) Alexei Rykov (Internal Affairs), Anatoli Lunacharsky (Education) and Joseph Stalin (Nationalities).

Alexander Kerensky, who had managed to escape arrest, assembled loyal troops from the Northern Front. Led by General Krasnov, the Cossacks were defeated by Bolshevik forces at Pulkova. By December, 1917, central Russia and Siberia was under the control of Lenin's government.

General Lavr Kornilov now organized a Volunteer Army and in January 1918 his forces numbered 3,000 men. Over the next few months other groups who opposed the Bolshevik government joined the struggle. Eventually these soldiers became known as the Whites.

The Russian Civil War between the Bolsheviks (Reds) and their political opponents (Whites) did as much to create the USSR as the Revolution of 1917. Bolshevik objectives in November 1917 were unclear, but in the merciless civil strife between Reds and Whites were laid the foundations of the autocratic Soviet system. The Bolshevik Party was hardened and militarized, systematic terror began, extreme economic policies were adopted, and implacable hostility developed toward the West. The Civil war, though not wholly responsible for these, made Bolshevik policies much more draconian.