Russian Civil Wars
Russian Civil Wars

32 Interesting Russian Civil War Facts

James Israelsen
By James Israelsen, Associate Writer
Published December 14, 2019
  • The Russian Civil War was an ideological conflict between competing groups in Russia from 1918 to 1921.[10]
  • The Russian Civil War was known as a war between the “Whites” and the “Reds.” The Reds were Bolshevik Communists that had come to power in the early 20th century, and the Whites were those who opposed them.[10]
  • The forces that opposed Lenin’s communist government in the war were supported by many European powers to the west of Russia.[10]
  • The family of Nicholas II, the last Russian tsar, who had been deposed when the communists came to power in Russia, was executed during the Russian Civil War so that they could not stand as inspiration for those who opposed the communists.[10]
  • Romanov Civil War
    The Bolsheviks murdered the Tsar's entire family to further their political aims

  • Bolshevik commander Leon Trotsky lost Czech soldiers' allegiance (which he needed later in the war) for ordering the massacre of a battalion of Czech soldiers to whom he had promised amnesty.[10]
  • During the Russian Civil War, the Bolsheviks, White forces, and Polish people published a great deal of anti-Semitic propaganda, spurring violence against Jews that resulted in 50,000 to 100,00 Jewish deaths.[4]
  • With over 825,000 combat fatalities and 2 million more war-related casualties, the Russian Civil War is considered the most costly civil war in modern times.[5]
  • Many of the commanders responsible for the communist victory in the Russian Civil War were either imprisoned or executed by Stalin within the next decade.[5]
  • The first year of the Russian Civil War was actually unmarked by significant military encounters, while both the Reds and the Whites spent their efforts gathering and consolidating forces.[5]
  • Anti-Bolshevik Army
    Though united ideologically against the Bolsheviks, the White Army was not always highly organized
  • Ultimately, the Whites lost the war due to a lack of coordination between their various forces.[5]
  • The civil war ended when the White Army was confined to the Crimean Peninsula. After many casualties due to starvation and disease, British and French navies managed to evacuate the few remaining survivors.[5]
  • Some of the Bolsheviks’ victories in the war were due to the experience of former imperial commanders turned Bolsheviks who had previously served Tsar Nicholas II.[5]
  • The Archangel Expedition, also known as the Polar Bear Expedition, was the posting of 5,000 US troops in the Russian city of Archangel (Arkhangelsk) to aid the anti-Bolsheviks during the civil war.[3]
  • In the months preceding the Russian Civil War, many wealthy Russians—realizing that communism meant their lands and wealth would be confiscated—left Russia and settled in various places in Western Europe.[7]
  • Russian War Trotsky
    Trotsky was both an adept philosopher and military leader
  • Famous communist Leon Trotsky served as military commander of the Bolsheviks during the war.[10]
  • In southern Russia during the early days of the civil war, the White forces had to fight two enemies: the Bolsheviks from the north and Germans from the west.[7]
  • One arm of the White military forces was the Czechoslovak Legion. The Czechs were actually making an attempt to cross Siberia and travel over the land route to North America, but, after encountering Bolshevik forces during their crossing, they decided to stay in Siberia and fight.[7]
  • Japan attempted to land their own troops, without permission, in Russia during the first year of the Russian Civil War, with the aim of helping the White forces in the short term but ultimately desiring to gain Russian territory for Japan overall.[7]
  • One advantage the Bolsheviks had over their enemies was that they occupied the central part of Russia, where technology allowed for constant communication between forces.[7]
  • Historians debate when the civil war actually began; some select a date in the summer of 1918, and others suggest that the October Revolution of 1917 marked the war's true beginning.[6]
  • Given the nature of Russian society and given the ideology of the party that took power, Civil War was implicit in the October Revolution. The costs of the Civil War were the costs of the Revolution.

    - Evan Mawdsley

  • The White Army occupied the outer edges of Russia—places that technology had yet to reach; thus, White commanders were often not able to coordinate their efforts.[7]
  • Russia White Army
    The White Army aimed to conquer what they saw as a nefarious and alien power in the Bolsheviks
  • While the Red Army was made up of soldiers employed by the new Bolshevik government, much of the White Army was made up of volunteers from across Russia.[7]
  • The White Army was unified by their anti-Bolshevism but did not share any other political principles in common; members varied from pro-democracy liberals to orthodox religionists to monarchists.[7]
  • The Bolsheviks had a lot of support during the civil war because peasants and the working classes believed the Bolshevik Communists had their interests in mind.[7]
  • Many peasants and workers sided with the Bolsheviks because they associated the White Army with imperialists who supported the unpopular Tsar. It wasn’t until after the war that these supporters discovered the Bolsheviks would not actually provide them with a better life.[7]
  • The Romanov Dynasty’s failures during World War I were a primary cause of the Bolshevik Revolution; that revolution, in turn, was the cause of the Russian Civil War.[2]
  • Red Terror
    Blood and revolution go hand in hand
  • In 1918, as the civil war was beginning, the Bolshevik government launched a campaign called the “Red Terror,” in which political enemies were arrested and executed.[2]
  • One consequence of the Russian Civil War was that many non-Russian peoples were subjected to Russian Communist rule, including the Tartars, Ukrainians, and citizens of Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Armenia.[2]
  • It was during the Russian Civil War that Anastasia Romanov, at age 17, was executed by firing squad. The hasty burial of her remains prompted a century-long rumor that she had somehow survived the Bolshevik assassination.[1]
  • After capturing and executing Baron Ungern, an important White Army commander, the Red Army preserved the cloak he wore as a sign of their victory. No one knows whether he removed the cloak himself before being shot or whether it was taken off of him, but the cloak is kept in a Russian museum to this day.[9]
  • Lenin, the Bolshevik leader, signed a peace treaty to end Russia’s involvement in World War One; however, according to Lenin himself, Lenin’s goal was not peace but a desire to use Russian forces to put down anyone within Russia itself who opposed the Communist regime.[8]
  • The Bolsheviks took advantage of the civil war to also attack peasants who opposed the government’s confiscation of the lands they farmed.[8]

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