[revised spring 2010]
The Russian Revolutions of 1917; The Russian Civil War;
the Revolutions in Finland, Hungary and Germany;
the Polish-Soviet War.
Volumes have been written about the Russian revolutions and the civil war. Research is constantly expanding our knowledge, and often changes the interpretation of key events. Indeed, much of what we know as history is constantly being rewritten, but Soviet Russia's history is more vulnerable to this process than most other countries. This is so because history was used by Stalin and his successors to "legitimize" communist rule through the "correct" interpretation of the past. This practice seemed to have ended after Mikhail Gorbachev came to power. Russian historians then began to reassess their country's history. There was much criticism and even condemnation of Stalin, who wielded total power in the USSR between 1928 and 1953.
However, after Boris Yeltsin appointed Vladimir Putin president at the end of 1999, and Putin was elected president in 2004 for another four years, school textbooks began to be rewritten to give a "positive" senss of the Stalin period (1928-1953). Broadly speaking, this means that his brutal methods of collectivizing Russian agriculture and the terror he waged against alleged enemies, are being justified as necessary for the development of the USSR.
(Note on Russian Dates: The dates are given in new style, N.S., but sometimes also in old style, O.S.
On these, please see note in ch. 1, p. 21.)
I. Background to the Outbreak of the First Russian Revolution of March 1917.
1. Long-Term Factors:
(a) Peasant poverty and land hunger, i.e. the peasant question;
(b) Bad living conditions and low wages of industrial workers;
(c) The Intelligentsia was bent on reform, but divided on how to proceed. Moderates wanted the country to evolve into a pluralist,
western style democratic system with a constitutional monarchy; radicals wanted revolution
and called Western democracy a fraud.
2. Immediate and Short-term Factors:
(a) The army was demoralized due to constant defeats and great loss of life in WWI. These were
blamed on incompetent and corrupt government, which was certainly true, but they were basically
due to industrial under-development. Desertions from the conscript, mostly peasant army, began in
late 1916, and grew to mass proportions in the fall of 1917.
(b) At home, there were food shortages in the towns due to the diminished labor force in the
countryside (men in the army), and the congestion of the railways due to army transports. These
factors led to a rise in food prices which meant growing hardship for the workers and therefore strikes.
(c) Among the upper classes, especially in Petrograd (Russian name given to St.Petersburg
on the outbreak of war), there was a growing resentment of the "German" Empress Alexandra
Feodorovna (1872-1918, Duchess of Hesse and grand-daughter of Queen Victoria), who in fact
ran the government while the Tsar was away at army headquarters as Commander-in-Chief.
(d) There was particular hatred of her chief adviser, the "Holy Monk," Grigorii Y. Rasputin
(1872-1916), who owed his influence to a hypnotic ability to stop the Tsarevich's (Prince's) attacks
of hemophilia. Rasputin led a dissolute life, influenced ministerial appointments, and was also
suspected of abetting Alexandra's alleged desire to make peace with Germany. He was lured to a
meeting and murdered in December 1916 by V.M. Purishkevich, a conservative Duma member, the
Grand Duke Dimitrii Pavlovich, a nephew of the Tsar, and Prince Felix Yusupov, related by marriage
to the imperial family. [No evidence has come to light that Alexandra and/or Rasputin were trying
to conclude a separate peace with Germany. Rasputin did, however, prophesy catastrophe if war broke out.]
By the spring of 1917, there was great unrest both in the towns and in the countryside. This
unrest was aggravated by deserters from the front (though desertion did not take on a mass character
until the fall of 1917), as well as by soldiers on garrison duty who did not want to go the front.
II. The March (February O.S.) Revolution and the Provisional Government, March-November 1917
(February-October, O.S - Note: the dates used in this chapter are N.S.).
(a) The March revolution was spontaneous. On March 8th, women struck in protest against
bread lines in Petrograd; they joined the workers' strike in the Putilov factory.
Mikhail V. Rodzyanko (1859-1924), the Octobrist leader and President of the Duma [Legislature]-- which
had been suspended -- telegraphed the Tsar at Army Headquarters, insisting that he recall the Duma
and allow it to enact key reforms. But Nicholas II assumed that Petrograd was just going through
another wave of strikes. He ordered troops to march on the capital. The next day the garrison troops
fired on the crowds, but on the following day they refused orders and joined the people; this included
the troops sent by the Tsar.
(b) On March 12th the Duma Committee was set up in Petrograd, in the right wing of the
Tauride Palace; at the same time, a Soviet (Council) of Soldiers and Workers (soon including
peasants) was set up in the left wing of the Palace.
This created "dual power," reflecting the deep division and distrust between (i) the small,
liberal, middle class, supported by some nobles; and (ii) the mostly illiterate masses. The same
divisions appeared in the Dumas (town councils) and the Soviets (Councils elected by the people)
in the provincial capitals all over Russia. The Cadets (Constitutional Democrats) predominated in
the town Dumas, while the S.Rs (Socialist Revolutionaries), who were the Peasant Party,
predominated in the Soviets, followed by the Mensheviks. The Bolsheviks were in the minority until
the fall of 1917.
On March 12th, the Tsar abdicated in favor of his brother, the Grand Duke Michael, but the latter
refused the crown unless he received a mandate from the people (the future Constituent
(c) On March 14th, the Petrograd Soviet issued Order No. 1 to the troops of the capital
district, asking the units to elect deputies to the Soviet. Most importantly, they were to obey
government orders only if these did not conflict with orders from the Soviet. (This order was later
extended by the Provisional Government to the whole army, but many units never conformed).
(d) March 16th saw the establishment of the Provisional Government (provisional because
it was to remain in power until the election of a Constituent Assembly which was to vote key
reforms). The government proclaimed a typically liberal program, declaring the establishment of civil
rights and freedoms; it also released political prisoners.
The government declared that it would continue the war. This was not protested because the
masses understood this to mean a "defensive war," i.e. a war to drive the armies of the Central
Powers (Germany and Austria-Hungary) from Russian soil.
The Prime Minister was Prince George Y. Lvov (1861-1925), a leading member of the Cadet
Party. The Foreign Minister was Paul N. Miliukov (1859-1943), a historian and head of the same
party. The Octobrist leader, Aleksander I. Guchkov was Minister of War and Navy until he resigned
The only link between the Provisional Government and the Soviet was Alexander Kerensky (1881-1970). He was a lawyer and belonged to the small "Trudovik" (Labor) party, which was affiliated with the Socialist Revolutionary Party. Kerensky, a well-known opponent of Tsarism who had defended revolutionaries in many trials, was the Minister of Justice in the government; he was also a member of the Central Executive Committee of the Petrograd Soviet (CEC).
We should note here that for most of this period the CEC was dominated by the S.R.s and
Mensheviks. Both believed in classical Marxism, i.e. that a capitalist system and bourgeois democracy
must develop fully before the advent of socialism. The Bolsheviks did not obtain a majority in the
CEC until September 1917.
(e) On April 11th, the Petrograd Soviet proclaimed a "defensive war"; it opposed any
territorial annexations (i.e. both by Russia and the other belligerent powers).
III. Lenin and the Course of the Revolution.
(1) The outbreak of war found Lenin in Krakow (then part of Austrian Poland). He later moved to
Zurich, Switzerland. He opposed the war and joined the "Zimmerwald Movement," which called on
workers everywhere to oppose the war and end it by revolting against their bourgeois governments.
Lenin believed that the war would discredit governments on both sides and lead to socialist
(2) When revolution broke out in Russia, the German government was persuaded by Dr. Alexander Helphand (Gelfand,
"Parvus," 1869-1924),\ -- a Russo-German Marxist but also a wealthy stockbroker in Germany -- to arrange Lenin's return to Russia in order to bring about her exit from
the war. The German government agreed; it gambled on Lenin, calculating that they could then
concentrate on the Western Front and thus win the war. So it was that Lenin, along with his
supporters and some other Russian socialists, boarded a special train which brought them to
Petrograd via Germany, Sweden and Finland.
(3) Lenin arrived in Petrograd on April 16th. He stated his views in a speech at the Finland
Station, and immediately published them in his April Theses. Here, he proclaimed that:
(a) Russia was already in transition from a bourgeois-capitalist revolution to a socialist revolution;
(b) the Bolsheviks must not support the government, but constantly criticize it;
(c) they must call for "all power to the Soviets," and
(d) they must work to achieve majorities in the Soviets.
At first Lenin was opposed by some members of the communist party's central committee, who were shocked
by his view that Russia was already in transition from a bourgeois-capitalist revolution to a socialist
revolution, when it was nowhere near to developing a capitalist economy. However, he soon won them
over. Furthermore, Lenin's slogans of: "Bread, Land, and Peace," and "All Power to the
Soviets,"were popular with the masses.
(4) On May 3rd, the Provisional Government published a program of Russian war aims, which
included territorial annexations: Constantinople (now Istanbul) and East Galicia (then part of Austrian
Poland, later of interwar Poland, then the USSR and now the western part of the Ukrainian Republic).
There were protest riots in the streets; Guchkov and Miliukov resigned from the government.
(5) On May 18th, a new cabinet was formed in which Kerensky became Minister of War. The
coalition government now included 6 socialists, including the S.R. leader, Victor M. Chernov (1873-1952) as Minister of Agriculture. It proclaimed the policy of continuing the defensive war. At the
same time, it declared the postponement of all reforms, including land reform, until the meeting of
a Constituent Assembly, for which elections were to be held. This assembly was to work out a
constitution and legislate land reform. The idea of electing a Constituent Assembly was very popular,
but the peasants didn't want to wait; they were already seizing the land from the landowners and demanding the immediate
abolition of large estates. In this situation, the radical parties, particularly the anarchists, gained
strength in May and June.
(6) On June 16th, the First All-Russian Congress of Soviets met in Petrograd. The vast
majority of the deputies belonged to the S.R. Party, with the Mensheviks in second place. Of the l,090
deputies elected by local Soviets all over Russia, the Bolsheviks had only 105. Therefore, Lenin
wanted to drop the slogan of "All Power to the Soviets," but it was so popular that the Central
Committee merely toned it down.
(7) In June, the Russian army launched an offensive led by General Alexei A. Brusilov (1853-1925) against the Austrian army on the Galician front. After initial successes, the Russians were
(8) On July 16th, the masses came out into the streets of Petrograd calling on the Soviet to
take over the government and unrest reigned for several days, called the July Days. However, the Central Executive Commttee of the Soviet did not want
to take power; this was due to the Menshevik-S.R. belief that capitalism must first fully develop in Russia.
According to Nikolai N. Sukhanov (1882- ?) an S.R. economist who kept a diary during the
revolution, Lenin decided to seize power in the name of the Soviets. (This was at first denied, but
later confirmed by Trotsky). However, Lenin seems to have lost his nerve and when the mass
movement began to ebb, the Central Committee advised the workers, Red Guards, and Red Sailors,
to lay down their arms. On July 18th, order was restored by troops which the government brought
in from outside the capital.
(9) The government labelled the Bolsheviks "German agents." As we know, the German
government had financed Lenin's return to Russia; now it was financing the party press for its own aim: to get Russia out of the war. Kerensky
had enough evidence, partly supplied by French intelligence, to make this charge, but released only
part of it . The charge of Bolshevik cooperation with the enemy had an impact on the troops in
Petrograd and Moscow, some of whom turned against the Bolsheviks.
There was a popular outcry against the Bolsheviks. Some were arrested. including Leon
Trotsky (real name Bronshtein 1879-1940), who returned in May from the U.S. via Nova Scotia,
whence he was released by the British on the pleas of Miliukov, and joined the Bolsheviks in July;
Lev Borisovich Kamenev (1883-1936, real name: Rozenfeld), and Grigory Yevseevich Zinoviev
(1883-1936, real name: Radomyslsky). Lenin fled over the border to Finland, where he hid for a while
and wrote one of his better known works, The State and Revolution, which was an idealistic picture
of the future socialist state.
(10) There was a government crisis over the Ukrainian Rada's demand for autonomy (Rada,
in Ukrainian means advice or council). This issue, along with disputes over land reform and whether
Russia should be a republic, led to the resignation of Prince Lvov on July 20th. The Cadet
(Constitutional Democrat) ministers resigned in protest against granting autonomy to Ukraine. A
new coalition government was formed; it was dominated by the Mensheviks and S.Rs. Kerensky
became head of government. He tried to persuade the army to launch a new attack against the
German and Austrian troops on Russian soil. However, while the troops cheered his speeches, they
were too demoralized to fight.
(11) On September 7th, the Kornilov revolt broke out. The Commander-in-Chief of the
Russian armies, General Lavr G. Kornilov (1870-1918), decided to suppress the Soviets and establish
martial law, both in the capital and in other key cities. He sent troops to Petrograd, proclaiming that
he was doing this to save the government. (Kerensky thought Kornilov wanted to overthrow him,
while Kornilov seems to have thought Kerensky wanted him to save the government from the
Soviets; the confusion was due mostly to an ambitious and devious mediator, Vladimir N. Lvov).
However, as Kornilov's troops approached the capital, they melted away and joined the people. The
Kornilov threat proved a turning point for the Bolsheviks because they gained massive popular
support by seizing the lead in organizing the defense of Petrograd.
(l2) On September 9th, The Committee for Struggle with Counter-Revolution was set up and
led by Leon Trotsky. The Bolsheviks won their first majorities in the elections both to the Dumas
(town councils) and to the Soviets in Moscow and Petrograd.
Meanwhile, anarchy was spreading. The army was in bad shape on the Northern Front,
although many units elsewhere still retained good discipline. (They would later join the "White"
armies in the civil war). The peasants, reinforced by deserting peasant soldiers, were burning manor
houses, killing landlords, and seizing their land. The S.Rs and the Mensheviks were losing popular
support due to their stand of postponing land reform to the Constituent Assembly. They were also
members of the government headed by Kerensky, who was losing his credibility. Therefore, the
masses in Petrograd and Moscow were turning to the Bolsheviks. They believed the Bolsheviks
would do what they proclaimed: end the war,carry out land reform, and give all power to the
(13) In October, Lenin returned from Finland. He urged the Party's Central Committee to
seize power, but lost by a close vote. He then broke party discipline by appealing to the party's branch
committees. He said: "To wait is a crime." He also said that if 130,000 landlords could govern Russia
in the past, so could 240,000 Bolsheviks supported by the poor.
(14) On October 23rd, Lenin obtained a majority of 10 in the Central Committee for seizing
power. However, Kamenev and Zinoviev published their opposition in the press, thus revealing
(15) On October 29th, Lenin obtained a 19-2 vote in the Central Committee in favor of
(16) On October 30th, The Military Revolutionary Committee was set up in Petrograd,
headed by Trotsky who was already Vice President of the Petrograd Soviet. This committee made
preparations for the Bolshevik seizure of power.
(17) On November 7th (October 25th, O.S.), the Bolsheviks moved, seizing key points and
bridges in Petrograd. Their troops consisted of the workers' militia and the "Red Sailors" of the
Baltic Fleet, who came from the naval base at Kronstadt. This was not a spontaneous revolution, but
an organized seizure of power. Contrary to official Soviet history, there was little if any fighting
around the Winter Palace, which was the seat of the government. The cruiser "Aurora" fired blanks
at the palace because it had no live shells that fit its guns. Kerensky's "troops," consisting of young
officer cadets and a women's battalion, melted away. Kerensky left the city, hoping to find loyal
troops and overthrow the Bolsheviks, but he failed. After returning for a short while to Petrograd,
in early 1918, he went into exile. (He lived mostly in France until 1940, then emigrated to the United
States and died in New York in 1970).
It is important to note that the Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets was due to meet in
Petrograd on November 7th (October 25th, O.S.). Lenin feared the Bolsheviks would be in a
minority, so he wanted to seize power before the Congress met. He assumed it would then recognize
his Bolshevik government. Indeed. the Congress opened on the very day the Bolsheviks seized power. In order to prevent them from holding it, the the Menshevik leader, Yulii Martov, proposed a coalition of various socialist parties, and the Congress attendees voted for it unanimously, including the Bolsheviks (!) It looked as if Lenin had lost the chance to hold power -- but at this point most of the Mensheviks and Social Revolutionaries walked out in protest against the Bolshevik seizure of power. Martov was left with a small group of supporters and they failed to get a second vote for a Socialist coalition government.
(18) Thai is why the Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets recognized the new Bolshevik government,
sharing the general belief that it would be a government by the Soviets. According to the figures of
the Credentials Commission, the combined strength of the 200 S.R. delegates and 92 Mensheviks
balanced the 390 Bolsheviks. But aftermost of the Mensheviks and SRs walked out,. the Left S.Rs supported the Bolsheviks, thus giving them a
III.a Why Did the Provisional Government Collapse?
The following reasons are generally cited:
(a) It postponed all reforms, including the all-important land reform, until the meeting of an elected
Constituent Assembly, although the peasants were seizing the land.
(b) It continued the war, although the masses wanted peace.
(c) It was unable to provide strong leadership and could not control the country.
(d) The Mensheviks and S.Rs, who supported the Provisional Government, and then joined
it, did not form a bloc. Also, they did not want to seize power. At the same time, Lenin gave the
Bolsheviks strong leadership, so they were ready to seize power at the right moment.
(e) It lost the support of the Allies.
All these points are well taken but they give a one-sided view of the issue. After all, the
Provisional Government faced overwhelming odds: defeats had demoralized much of the army; the
town populations were suffering from inflated food prices, and the peasants were seizing the land.
There was, in fact, a breakdown of the economy, administration, transportation, law and order,
while German and Austro-Hungarian armies seized the Baltic provinces, Belorussia [now Belarus] and Ukraine.
It is very likely that only a government willing to use terror could have controlled the situation, but
the Provisional Government was unable to do this. In any case, its members were unwilling to use
force against the people. Furthermore, critics often forget that until May, the CEC [Central Executive Committee) of the Petrograd
Soviet was more powerful than the government, yet it could not control the country either. (From
May onward, some S.Rs and Mensheviks were also members of the government.)
In fact, the CEC of the Petrograd Soviet, dominated by the S.Rs and Mensheviks, had the
opportunity to seize power in the July Days, when the masses called on them to do so. Why did they
refuse? For one thing, the Mensheviks were orthodox Marxists who believed there must be a
long period of capitalist-bourgeois development before a socialist revolution could take place in
Russia. Although Martov did at one time call for the establishment of a socialist government, he
decided not to split the party and gave up the idea for the time being. The S.Rs were also unwilling to seize power.
Moreover, they feuded both among themselves and with the Mensheviks. Thus, the Menshevik and
S.R parties were both divided internally, and also disagreed with each other on many issues. (The Left S.R.s
supported the Bolsheviks for a while).
However, there were other weighty reasons for the Menshevik and S.R. refusal to seize
power. Their philosophical-political views are important here. While they wanted to establish
Socialism, which they believed was the desire of most of the people, they also proclaimed. that the
people must decide the final form of government. Therefore, they waited for elections to the
Constituent Assembly which was to decide this issue as well as many others, including land reform.
Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly, they feared that by combatting the Bolsheviks, they
would weaken the socialist parties and encourage the forces of reaction, i.e. the enemies of the
revolution. Therefore, they preferred to treat the Bolsheviks as errant brethren, who could be
persuaded to cooperate. Finally, in November 1917, German armies stood in Riga, a mere 300 miles
or so west of Petrograd. Thus, the socialists believed that an internal struggle for power would help the
As for Kerensky, who was the only charismatic leader of the Provisional Government, it is
hardly surprising that he could not save it. Both the liberals and the socialists in his government
wanted to wait for the Constituent Assembly to pass key reforms. Finally, not only Kerensky, but all
the members of his government and the CEC of the Petrograd Soviet supported the continuation of a defensive
war, while the majority of the people wanted peace.
In the summer of 1958, I met Kerensky at the Hoover Institution for War, Revolution and
Peace, in Stanford, California. He was working there on a collection of documents on the Provisional
Government. ( It was published a few years later). I asked him why he had not pulled the rug out
from under the Bolsheviks by ending the war and proclaiming land reform?
Kerensky told me he did not do so because he then believed that:
(a) If he ended the war in summer 1917 by making peace with the Central Powers, the
Germans could transfer most of their troops from Russia to France and win the war. (We should
recall that the British and French armies battling the Germans on the Western Front were exhausted,
and fresh U.S. troops did not arrive until spring 1918. Thus, given peace with Russia in 1917,
Germany might well have won the war. (In fact, it was American troops who made the difference
in summer and fall 1918 when the Germans had transferred 500,000 troops from Russia to France
after concluding peace with the Bolsheviks at Brest-Litovsk, A.C). Furthermore, he was committed
to the West to continue the war, and western economic assistance was dependent on it.
(b) Once the Germans won in the west, said Kerensky, they could transfer their armies back to Russia and
either defeat her completely, or at least keep what they held, i.e. the western provinces. Who would
help Russia if France and Britain were defeated?
(c) He said that he and his government opposed anarchical land reform, i.e. peasant seizure of land because they
respected the law and private property. Therefore, they believed that reforms should be passed by
a properly elected Constituent Assembly. (Note: While both the S.Rs and the Mensheviks called for
land reform, they wanted it passed by the Constituent Assembly).
In these arguments -- which Kerensky also expressed in his books -- he may have combined
the views he held in 1917 with conclusions he reached after that time. Nevertheless, given his
mentality and that of his government, it was clearly impossible for them to act in the same way as
Lenin, i.e. promise everything the masses wanted. Furthermore, the government had little if any
administrative or military power to implement its policies.
Lenin, of course, wanted to seize power and terminate the war on any terms because he
believed in world revolution. Thus, he was not restrained by the fear of a German victory over the
Western Allies, or its consequences for Russia, or by any desire for democracy and the rule of law,
both of which he despised as "bourgeois" frauds.
Nor was Lenin constrained by the orthodox Marxist doctrine of waiting for the capitalist-bourgeois system to develop fully in Russia. On the contrary, he held that after the March revolution
Russia was already in transition to a socialist revolution. In fact, he formulated this theory to justify
the Bolshevik goal of seizing power.
He called for "all power to the Soviets," but intended them to function under Bolshevik control.
His drive and determination to seize power were, after some initial doubts, supported by the
Bolshevik Party's Central Committee. Leon Trotsky mobilized the workers and sailors for the seizure of power on November
6-7, 1917 (N.S.). A couple of days later, the Bolsheviks took power in Moscow as well. Many intelligent Russians
in Petrograd and Moscow supported Lenin at this time, fearing the reimposition of a tsarist or other
Finally, while most Russian people were not interested in politics, they were fed up with the
war and with the Provisional Government. They believed the Bolsheviks would -- as they proclaimed
-- bring peace, bread, land, and real democracy through freely elected Soviets. Therefore, most of the
people in key cities, especially Petrograd and Moscow, welcomed the Bolshevik seizure of power,
but this did not mean that they supported the Bolshevik policies that followed.
Here we should note that official Soviet history, written after Stalin consolidated his power
in 1928-29, gives him too much prominence in the revolutions of 1917. He certainly played an
important role, but it was that of Lenin's trusted Lieutenant and not of the leader second to him..
This place belonged to Leon Trotsky. Stalin falsified history to show that he was number two
after Lenin even in 1917. (1)
IV. The Background of the Civil War: Bolshevik Rule, November 1917-June 1918.
1. The First Bolshevik Decrees.
The new Bolshevik government, called The Council of People's Commissars, immediately
issued a series of decrees. The ideas they expressed were not new, since they were lifted from
Menshevik and S.R. programs. However, while the latter parties had been waiting for the Constituent
Assembly to implement their programs, Lenin decided to upstage the assembly; he aimed to gain the
support of the masses for his new government with a series of decrees, which were approved by the
Congress of Soviets. These decrees were:
(1) November 8, 1917, The Decree on Land. Here Lenin adopted the SR program of the
confiscation of landed estates and the distribution of land to the peasants. Although the land was now
declared to be national property (as in the S.R. program), the peasants were free to take it. In order
to split the peasantry in preparation for the Bolshevik goal of controlling agricultural production, the
party supported the poor peasants or "byednyaks" (from byeda = poverty), against the rich
peasants or "kulaks" (kulak = fist). The poor peasants were organized into "kombedy," or committees
of the poor, led by Bolshevik agitators. However, as Richard Pipes shows in his study of the Russian
revolution, this policy failed because the peasants united in the face of Bolshevik attempts to take their
produce without paying for it.
(2) Also on November 8th, the Congress of Soviets proclaimed The Decree on Peace. The
Bolsheviks published the secret wartime treaties signed by the former, imperial Russian government with the
Allied powers, specifying what each was to gain after victory. At the same time, the Bolsheviks
annulled these and older treaties signed by Russia, including the partitions of Poland -- 1772, 1793,
1795. Finally, they announced a program of peace without annexations or indemnifications
(reparations) and called on all nations to make peace. (This was essentially the Menshevik peace
(3) On November 15th, the government issued The Declaration of the Rights of the Toiling
and Exploited Peoples. This proclaimed the right of the different peoples (nationalities) of the former
Russian empire to self-determination, even to the point of secession and independence. While both
the Mensheviks and S.Rs had proclaimed self-determination, the real aim of this particular decree was to gain
the support of the non-Russian nationalities and get them to join the new
federation of Russian lands which the Bolsheviks planned to establish.
(4) On November 24th, the government proclaimed Workers' Control of the Factories. This went further than the Menshevik program, which supported workers' representation in management. (This idea was to reappear many years later in communist Yugoslavia and in 1956 in workers' demands in communist Poland. It is worth noting that workers are included the management of most enterprizes in today's capitalist Germany, 2010.)
At the same time, the Bolsheviks nationalized the banks and encouraged the urban masses to take
what they wanted from the bourgeoisie under the slogan: "loot the looters."
All these measures were very popular with the masses. Here, we should note that although
the Right S.Rs and Anarchists opposed the new government, the Bolsheviks won
clear majorities in elections to the Petrograd and Moscow Soviets, as well as to the city Dumas (legislatures).
However, the growing anarchy increased the chaos in agricultural and industrial production.
Thus, the workers ran the factories as their own property; the peasants were busy seizing land; the
soldiers requisitioned trains, food supplies, and indulged in banditry and looting. The nationalization
of the banks led to the flight of available capital from Russia. Meanwhile, the Germans held the old lands of
western Russia, including the key agricultural and industrial regions of Ukraine. They also extended their
influence to the Transcaucasus with its valuable oil fields, especially in and around Baku
2. Socialist Opposition to the Bolsheviks.
All Russian socialists, with the exception of the Left S.Rs, condemned the Bolshevik seizure
of power. Veterans of Russian socialism, such as Georgii V. Plekhanov, Pavel B. Axelrod, Vera
I. Zasulich, Aleksandr N. Potresov, also the venerable anarchist, Prince Peter A. Kropotkin,
condemned the Bolsheviks. Therefore, they were harassed and their lives were threatened.
But the most damaging condemnation and criticism came from the Mensheviks and Right
S.Rs. They criticized Bolshevik economic measures, predicting they would lead to economic
catastrophe. They condemned Bolshevik encouragement of mass violence against the bourgeoisie.
They also condemned the arrest, and, in some cases, the murder, of liberal and conservative
politicians, also the closing down of opposition newspapers. Finally, they condemned Lenin's claim
to one party, i.e. Bolshevik rule.
At the same time, however, the majority of the Menshevik and S.R. parties opposed armed
resistance to the Bolsheviks, choosing to play the role of a "legal opposition," i.e. influencing public
opinion through agitation and the press. This proved fruitless as long as the Bolsheviks were popular
with the masses in Petrograd and Moscow. Furthermore, the Bolsheviks frequently closed down Menshevik and
S.R. newspapers. Therefore, the socialist opposition had little impact in the first four months after
Here, it is worth noting that as early as the first period of Bolshevik rule, i.e. before the
outbreak of the civil war, the socialist opposition demanded guarantees for a free press, free trade
unions, and free elections. While the Bolsheviks were able to ignore these demands, they could not
afford to turn their critics into active enemies by totally repressing the Mensheviks and Right S.Rs,
so they harassed them instead. In this situation, the socialist opposition pinned its hopes to the
Constituent Assembly. This was such a popular idea that the Bolsheviks were forced to commit
themselves to hold elections to it, which took place in December 1917.
Despite the popular appeal of the Bolshevik program, these elections -- in which 41.6 million
votes were counted -- took place on November 25 N.S. (12 O.S.) 1917 and yielded an overwhelming victory for the S.R. Party, which obtained 58% of the
total vote and the largest block of delegates: 308 out of 708. The Bolsheviks won roughly 25%
(9,023,963) of the total vote, but only 168 seats in the Constituent Assembly. Therefore, it was clear that even with the support of 39 Left S.Rs they could not dominate the assembly. (Of the other
parties, the Mensheviks won 18 seats, the Cadets and right wingers 17, and the nationalities' parties
81, many of whom voted for the Bolsheviks who promised to recognize demands for independence.)
The S.R. victory was, of course, due to the fact that its land reform program had been known
for years to the peasants, who formed the vast majority of the population. Furthermore, the peasants were
generally unaware of the Bolshevik program because the latters' propaganda was focussed on the
urban centers of Russia. The Bolshevik leadership was clearly worried by these election results and
threatened to disband the Assembly when it met.
3. The Constituent Assembly.
The Constituent Assembly met in Petrograd on January 18-19, 1918 N.S. (January 5-6th,
O.S.). It rejected Lenin's demands, presented by Yakov M. Sverdlov (1885-1919), chairman of the
All Russian Central Executive Committee of the Soviets, that it recognize the Bolshevik government,
approve its program, and dissolve itself. Instead, it took the following actions:
(a) It proclaimed Russia to be a democratic, federal, republic.
(b) It voted a law socializing (nationalizing) the land on the basis of the
S.R. program. Although the Right S.Rs and Anarchists opposed the news government, we
should note that the Bolsheviks won clear majorities in elections to the Petrograd and Moscow
Soviets, as well as to the city Dumas.
(c) It ignored the ongoing Bolshevik peace negotiations with the Central Powers at Brest-Litovsk (see below), and appealed for an international conference to achieve a democratic peace.
(d) It elected Victor M. Chernov, leader of the S.Rs, as president of the assembly with 244 votes over the Left S.R and Bolshevik candidate, Maria A. Spiridonova (1885-1941), who received 151 votes.
Here we should note that Yekaterina K. Breshko-Breshkovskaia, (1844-1934), known as "the granny of the revolution," was also an S.R. who opposed the Bolsheviks. She left Russia after their seizure of power and lived in Prague, Czechoslovakia. However, Alexandra M. Kollontai, 1872-1952, who was of noble birth, left the Mensheviks to join the Bolsheviks in 1915 and had a successful diplomatic career.
Lenin sent in the (Red) Latvian sharpshooters along with sailors into the galleries of the Constituent Assembly. They
disrupted the proceedings and threatened the delegates. In the early hours of January 19th (January
6th O.S.), the anarchist-communist A. G. Zheleznyakov dispersed the delegates and they went home.
They did not know they would not be allowed to return. The Constitutent Assembly was formally
dissolved on the same day by a decree issued by the new governments -- on the grounds that it could
"only play the role of justifying the struggle of the bourgeois counter-revolution for the overthrow
of Soviet power."
The Red Guards also fired on a peaceful, unarmed, procession of workers demonstrating for
the Constituent Assembly. They killed about 21 people, and burned their banners in the street. That
evening, Bolshevik sailors beat to death two leading Cadet (Constitutional Democrats). These events
showed clearly that, even before the onset of the Civil War, the Bolsheviks used repression and terror and
against their political enemies. This was a portend of things to come.
4. Peace Negotiations and the Peace of Brest-Litovsk.
The negotiations between the Bolshevik government and the Central Powers began in Brest-Litovsk (now on the Soviet side of the Polish-Soviet border) in early December 1917.
For a while, there was serious disagreement in the Bolshevik Central Committee on the issue of peace. Although Lenin made some overtures to the United States in view of carrying on the war, he soon came to believe that its continuation would mean the end of Bolshevik power. At the same time, he believed that Russian territorial losses would soon be recouped in the wake of the expected socialist revolution in Germany.
However, there was great reluctance on the part of some members
of the Central Committee to leave the western provinces: the Baltic provinces [now States], Belorussia [today Belarus], Ukraine,
and former Russian Poland --under German rule. Finally, Trotsky and his supporters formulated the policy
of "no war, no peace." This meant dragging out the negotiations while agitating for peace among the
troops of the Central Powers (Germany and Austria-Hungary).
But the Germans and Austrians simply advanced further into Russia. Thereupon, Lenin
obtained a majority vote in the Central Committee to accept the terms of the Central Powers (really
Germany). Thus, the Peace of Brest-Litovsk was signed on March 3, 1918. According to this peace,
Russia was to pay extensive reparations to the Central Powers - mainly Germany - in the sum of
300,000,000 gold rubles and to open trade relations with it. The Bolshevik government also had
to recognize the independence of Finland, the Baltic States, Poland, Georgia, and Ukraine -- all of
which, except Finland, were then dominated by the Central Powers. These Powers also concluded a
separate treaty with the Ukrainian "Rada" (Council = government). The Bolsheviks also agreed to
return Batum, Kars and Ardahan (annexed in 1878) to the Ottoman (Turkish) empire, an ally of the
Central Powers. In sum, the lost territories amounted to about a quarter of the total Russian territory
as it existed in 1914, with about one third of the total population, mostly non-Russian..
The peace treaty came up for debate at the Fourth Extraordinary Congress of Soviets, which
was called to ratify it. The Bolshevik leadership simply wanted a rubber stamp ratification, so they
did not even supply the delegates with the text. However, the key terms were known and came under
violent criticism from the Mensheviks and right S.Rs, who called the peace a betrayal of the Ukrainian
workers and peasants and a capitulation to German imperialism. The Menshevik leader, Martov,
attacked both Lenin's assumption that the peace would bring a "breathing spell" for the revolution in
Russia and Trotsky's policy of "no war, no peace," with its disastrous results, i.e. the continued
German advance. Martov demanded the immediate resignation of the Council of People's Commissars
(the government) and the reconvening of the Constituent Assembly. (The Mensheviks hoped for U.S.
Nevertheless, the final vote on the treaty was 724 in favor, 276 against, and 118 abstentions.
How did this come about? It is true the Bolsheviks had a majority, for of the l,000 delegates
elected to this Congress for 623 were Bolsheviks. There were 219 Left S.Rs; 80 Mensheviks; 39 Right
S.Rs; 13 Anarchists; 2 People's Socialists, and 20 delegates without party affiliation. The Left S.R.s,
hitherto supporters of the Bolsheviks, voted against ratification and walked out of the Central
This still left the Bolsheviks with a majority, but it is clear that they obtained it by
manipulating the selection of delegates. In fact, even the communist press reported that on the peace
issue, only 2 large city Soviets out of 24 favored ratification. According to the same source, even
the Petrograd Bolshevik organization had voted at a city conference against the peace; yet at the
Congress, it voted in favor. Also, the Bolsheviks excluded the Mensheviks and S.Rs from the
Credentials Committee, so that many elected delegates who opposed the peace, were simply not
allowed to take their seats
Although the Bolsheviks lost their Left S.R. allies and faced massive criticism in the cities,
the peasants remained largely neutral because their only concern was seizing and distributing the
land. Thus, there was no large scale opposition to the Peace of Brest-Litovsk among the largest
segment of the population.
5. Key Problems Facing the Bolshevik Government, Lenin's "New Course," and the beginning of
"War Communism," March-June 1918.
By March 1918, the Bolsheviks were facing the same problems which had led to the downfall
of the Provisional Government. It is true they no longer had a war to fight, but they faced widespread
condemnation of the peace from both right and left. Also, since the end of 1917, an anti-Bolshevik
Volunteer Army had begun to form in southern Rusisa, in the Don Cossack region. However, this was not
a serious threat at the time.
Far more serious was the total breakdown of the economy. Just as in 1917, there were food
and fuel shortages; the railway system was constantly breaking down; and there was widespread
anarchy. All this meant that the popularity of the Bolsheviks was rapidly diminishing and they had to
do something about it.
Therefore, Lenin announced a "New Course," which meant a more moderate approach both
to economic problems and to the socialist opposition. Lenin stated that an era of "state capitalism"
had begun and would last a long time, preparing the way for socialism. The campaign against the
bourgeoisie was halted. In fact, bourgeois specialists, such as engineers and technicians, were now
employed by the state. Wage differentials were introduced and the workers were told not to ask for
However, in the face of Menshevik criticism of some of these measures -- notably the policy
of holding down workers' wages and the Bolshevik takeover of trade unions -- Lenin dissolved the
Railroad Workers' Union which had a Menshevik-S.R. leadership. Morever, in the spring of 1918,
the Bolshevik government decided to deal with the food shortages in the cities by attacking the
peasants, who were now labelled as "petty bourgeois," for refusing to sell their produce to the
government for worthless paper money. Therefore, detachments of workers, soldiers, and sailors
were sent into the villages to confiscate food and bring it to the cities. This decision signalled the end
of the "new course" and the beginning of War Communism. (Lenin would return to the New Course
under the name of the "New Economic Policy" in March 1921).
In May-June 1918, the Bolsheviks faced widespread peasant revolts due to their policy of
forcibly confiscating peasant produce to feed the cities. At the same time, city workers were
increasingly restless due to food shortages and low wages. The combination of socialist, peasant, and
worker unrest, plus the growth of "White" anti-Bolshevik armies, formed the immediate background
of the civil war.
Indeed, an American historian of Soviet Russia, Professor Richard Pipes of Harvard
University, claimed that Lenin laid the groundwork of the Soviet system in the period between
November 1917 and June 1918, i.e. before the outbreak of the Civil War. In particular, Pipes pointed
to Lenin's use of terror as a political weapon; the creation of the security police and labor camps; and
finally, the imposition of Bolshevik domination on the Soviets, which ceased to be freely elected
representatives of the people. (3) Free of censorship after 1989, some Russian historians agreed with
this view, notably the biographer of Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin, Dmitri Volkogonov. (His works are
available in English; he died in December 1995). We should note, however, that some American and
Russian historians disagree with Pipes and Volkogonov., especially their interpretation of Lenin.
Finally, we should bear in mind one more issue facing the Bolsheviks; this was the nationalities
problem, which was to become acute at various stages of the Civil War, as the non-Russian peoples
opted for independence. (For brief sketches of national movements, see note 4).
VI. The Russian Civil War and Foreign Intervention, 1918-1921.
The growing internal opposition to Bolshevik rule, especially in the period March-June 1918,
has been mentioned above. Here we should note that the peace treaty of Brest-Litovsk also turned
the Western Allies against the Bolsheviks (see "Foreign Intervention," below).
The Russian anti-Bolshevik forces were made up of the following major groups:
(a) The Right Mensheviks and S.Rs. However, the vast majority of members in these two
parties refused to support the "Whites."
(b) The "Whites," were made up of conservative monarchists and many officers of the former
Imperial Russian Army.
Fighting broke out in May 1918. There were five "White" armies:
(1) The Volunteer Army was formed in Don Cossack territory, in southern Russia. It was
funded with British money and consisted mainly of Cossack troops, especially cavalry, led by Russian
officers. There was always tension between the latter and the Cossacks. (5)
The Volunteer Army began with Cossack formations under General Alexei M. Kaledin (1861-1918). However, Kaledin was defeated by the Bolsheviks and committed suicide. The Volunteer
Army was then led by General Mikhail V. Alexeyev (1857-1918), and later by General Anton I.
Denikin (1872-1947). Denikin obtained some military supplies from France and Britain, and managed
to march as far north as Orel, 250 miles south of Moscow (which the Soviet government made their
capital), but was stopped and defeated by the Red Army in October 1919. In the meanwhile,
he had alienated the peasants by restoring the landed estates. He alienated the Ukrainians by refusing
to recognize their independence, and the Poles by insisting on the restoration of the western borders
of Imperial Russia, which included old eastern Poland (western Belarus and Volhynia).
Denikin was succeeded by the ablest of the "White" generals, Peter N. Wrangel (1878-1928).
Although a monarchist, he instituted some liberal political and economic policies, including
recognition of peasant ownership of the land. However, although he was recognized by the French as
"Supreme Ruler of all Russia" (August 1920), and put up a hard fight, his chances died with the
armistice of October 12, 1920 between Poland and Soviet Russia (see "The Polish-Soviet War,"
below). He finally evacuated his forces from Sevastopol (Crimea) to Turkey in late October 1920.
(2) The Eastern, or Siberian front, was led by Admiral Alexander V. Kolchak (1870-1920).
Kolchak had special contacts with the British, who persuaded him to leave Japan and go to
Western Siberia. He arrived at Omsk on October 13, 1918. He was at first the head of the
"Directorate," or coalition government, formed with the Right S.R.s and Liberals at Ufa (June 1918),
which then moved to Omsk. However, in mid-November, a group of officers overthrew the
Directorate and proclaimed the reluctant Kolchak as the Supreme Ruler of all Russia and the
Commander-in-Chief of the "White" forces.
With British support, Kolchak established his authority in Siberia, west of Lake Baikal (the
region east of it was in the hands of Ataman Grigorii M. Semyonov, see below). By early 1919,
Kolchak's forces numbered some 120,000 men and he was recognized both by other "White"
commanders and by the French and British as the Ruler of all Russia. Therefore, he received
considerable amounts of military supplies.
Kolchak's forces were formally subject to the Japanese commander in the Russian Far Eastern
port of Vladivostok and were also under the supervision of the French General, Maurice Janin, who
was sent to command the Czechoslovak Legion (see below). We should recall that some Japanese
sailors had landed at Vladivostok in early April 1918 to protect their nationals there. After units of the
Czechoslovak Legion had overthrown the town Soviet (see below), Allied forces, led by the Japanese,
landed there in July and August 1918, ostensibly to prevent the arms dumps from falling into German
President Woodrow Wilson sent U.S. troops, ostensibly to help protect the Czechoslovak
Legion against masses of German and Hungarian prisoners of war, who were seen as potential allies
of Germany. (In fact, they were only interested in getting home). The real U.S. objective was to keep
an eye on the Japanese who showed a lively interest in Eastern Siberia. They exercised a loose control
over the region through their protege, the Cossack Ataman Grigorii M. Semyonov (1890-1946).
[Note: there were also U.S. troops in N.W. Russia, the Archangel region].
Kolchak was supported for a time by a division of the Czechoslovak Legion, but it withdrew
and devoted itself to guarding the Trans-Siberian railway (see "The Czechoslovak Legion," below).
In April 1919, Kolchak launched an offensive against the Red Army, which was to be coordinated
with offensives from the north (General F.K. Miller), the south (Denikin), and the west (Yudenich).
However, the Kolchak, Denikin, and Yudenich offensives (the latter in June) were spread over vast
distances and only loosely coordinated, so they could not prevail against the Bolsheviks who
controlled the railway network of European Russia with its hub at Moscow.
[Note: Fearing a German takeover of Petrograd, Lenin moved the seat of government to Moscow
on March 10, 1918. Thus, Moscow again became the capital of Russia, as it had been before Peter
In June 1919, Kolchak's offensive was stopped by the Red Army and his troops began to
retreat. While it is true that corruption and bad leadership were rampant in Kolchak's army, the key
reason for its defeat was the same as for the other "White" armies, i.e. Bolshevik control of the
railway network in European Russia. This enabled them to shift and concentrate large forces at one
point at a time and thus defeat their enemies piecemeal.
After Kolchak's defeat, his fate became linked with the Czechoslovak Legion (see below).
(3) The Czechoslovak Legion.
This was, in fact, the best led and best equipped of all the anti-Bolshevik armies, but it
became involved in the civil war by accident. This accident, followed by a drastic Soviet decision,
made the hitherto neutral legion the most significant "White" force in Siberia after June 1919.
The legion was made up mostly of Czech deserters from the Austrian units in the Austro-Hungarian army, plus Czech settlers living in the south Volga region. (Like the Volga Germans, they
had been brought in to Russia in the late 18th century by Empress Catherine the Great). It also
contained Slovaks who had deserted from Hungarian units in the Austro-Hungarian army. (Slovakia was then part of Hungary.)
The political leader of the Czechs and Slovaks in exile, Thomas G. Masaryk (1850-1937, President of Czechoslovakia, 1918-35), had come to Russia in spring 1917, to form a Czechoslovak
army there. The Provisional Government opposed this idea but agreed to the formation of some
Czech-Slovak units in the Russian army. They fought very bravely alongside the Russians against the
Germans in Ukraine. After the Peace of Brest-Litovsk, most of these men were still in Ukraine
with no fighting to be done. Masaryk again visited Russia and secured Bolshevik agreement for
moving these troops through Siberia to Vladivostok and then by sea to France. In May 1918, the Czechoslovak
Legion, then about 70,000 strong, entrained for Vladivostok, whence they planned to sail to France and fight the Germans there.
On May 14th, when the legion was strung out all along the Trans-Siberian railway, one of its
regimental trains stopped at Chelyabinsk, alongside a train with Hungarian prisoners of war, who
were returning home. There was no love lost between the two nations, so when a Hungarian threw
a piece of iron down from his train and bloodied a Czech, the latter's comrades promptly lynched the
Hungarian. The local Soviet officials demanded that Czech eyewitnesses present themselves for an
inquiry, and arrested them. The Czech commander then sent two battalions to demand their release,
and freed them by force.
This action made the Bolsheviks see the Legion as an enemy force. However, it is unlikely that
the Czechs would have fought the Bolsheviks if not for drastic Soviet decisions. On May
23rd, Trotsky's deputy, Aralov, sent a telegram to Soviet authorities in Chelyabinsk telling them the
Czechs must be either reorganized into labor battalions, or drafted into the Red Army. Two days
later, Trotsky, himself (then War Commissar), telegraphed all the Soviets along the Trans-Siberian railway to shoot any Czechs found with arms in hand. The Czechs intercepted both telegrams
and decided to shoot their way out.
Thus, the Czech regiments in the area proceeded eastward, taking the key towns along the railway line. In June, the local Czech commander, Cecek, captured Samara, and this, in turn, led to the emergence of the S.R. Revolutionary Government of the Constituent Assembly. This government later became part of the Directorate, which was abolished in mid-November and was superseded by Kolchak as Supreme Commander of all Russia (see above).
In July 1918, the Bolsheviks slaughtered the Russian imperial family, then interned in
Ekaterinburg (later renamed Sverdlovsk after Yakov M. Sverdlov, 1885-1919, then Chairman of the
CEC of the Congress of Soviets, Secretary of the Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party, and
head of the government. It is now again Ekaterinburg). Until recently, many historians believed the
official Soviet version that this murder was committed by the local Soviet without Lenin's knowledge,
in order to prevent the family from falling into the hands of the "Whites," who would have used them
against the Bolsheviks. The Whites were, indeed, nearing the town, but we now know that the
murder was carefully prepared and that Lenin gave his consent. (6)
The family's remains were exhumed and identified in the 1990s using the DNA evidence, including that of Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth. The Russian Orthodox Church sanctified the Tsar, but refuses to recognize DNA evidence. The family were reburied in St. Petersburg but the place where their remains were found is now a religious pilgrimage site.
After Admiral Kolchak's offensive broke down, he began to retreat in summer 1919. He joined the Czechoslovak Legion, which was travelling east along the railway to Vladivostok. Kolchak's troops and camp followers occupied seven trains, including one carrying the gold of the Imperial Russian Bank, which Czech troops had found in Kazan. There was much friction between the Czechs and Kolchak's officers. The latter blamed the Czechs for withdrawing from the war with the Bolsheviks. The Czechs, for their part, not only wanted to go home, but also hated the corruption, brutality, and arrogance of Kolchak's officers. Therefore, they had no compunction in delaying Kolchak's trains whenever the Legion's trains needed to go ahead along the one track Siberian Railway.
These mutual hostilities came to a head when the Czechs deciphered a telegram from Kolchak
to Ataman Semyonov, in December 1918. Kolchak stated the Czechs were to be stopped at all costs,
even if this meant the destruction of key bridges and tunnels on the railway south of Lake Baikal.
The Czechs took this as a declaration of war, so Kolchak's telegram
sealed his fate. Although the Allied High Commissioners in Russia declared that everything possible
was to be done to save Kolchak, they refused any communication with him. Kolchak sat fuming for
seven weeks at Nizhne Udinsk and finally accepted the offer that only he and a small entourage
proceed eastward to Irkutsk under a small Czech guard.
However, Irkutsk was in the hands of local authorities who supported the Bolsheviks. When
Kolchak reached the city railway station on January 14, 1920, Czech officers told him, that on the
orders of French General Janin, he and his suite were to be handed over to the local Soviet authorities. Thus,
the French commander and the Czechs delivered Kolchak to his enemies. For the next three weeks,
Kolchak was interrogated by the representatives of the local revolutionary committee, the Revkom.
However, on February 5th, "White" forces, led by an officer loyal to him, arrived at the outskirts of
the city. Therefore, the Revkom decided to execute Kolchak and two others of his suite. The
command of the 5th Red Army agreed, and they were executed on the morning of February 7th.
Both the French General Janin and the Czech General Jan Syrovy claimed later that they had
no alternative but to surrender Kolchak to his enemies. [Jan Syrovy, 1888-1970 was to play a role in later Czechoslovak history.) Both seem to have believed that not only
Kolchak, but also the Russian gold that Kolchak carried on his trains had to be given up to the
Bolsheviks in order to save the Legion. (The gold reserve of the Russian Imperial Bank occupied 29
freight cars and was valued at about 50,000,000 English pounds, or some $150,000,000; its value
today would be many times the original sum). In fact, while the Czechs were tired of fighting and the
local Russian population was hostile both to them and to Kolchak, the Soviet forces in Irkutsk were
small, the advance units of the Red Army were several hundred miles to the west, and some "White"
forces still stood within marching distance of Irkutsk. Therefore, the combination of Czech hostility
to Kolchak and orders for Janin from Paris to sacrifice Kolchak, decided his fate. (7)
(4) The "White" forces in the north were commanded by General E. K. Miller (a Russian),
and were stationed in the Archangel-Murmansk region (1918-20). Miller had an army of about 8,000
Russians, backed by an Allied expeditionary force of some 23,000 men, who included Americans as well as
Polish units formerly in the Russian army. There was also an S.R. government in Archangel, set up
by the old populist, Nicholas V. Chaikovsky (1850-1926), who, together with other old
revolutionaries - including Plekhanov and Kropotkin - opposed the Bolsheviks. He also established
the anti-Bolshevik "Union for the Regeneration of Russia."
However, Miller's forces were too small to be of any use. Furthermore, the Allied troops were sent
there not to fight but to guard the arms supplies originally brought in by the Allies for the former
Russian government and stored in Archangel and Murmansk. The Allies did not want these supplies
to fall into German hands. When the Allied forces began to withdraw in August 1919, the northern
(5) General Nikolai N. Yudenich (1862-1933) led the "White" forces in the northwest. They
were based in Estonia (1918-19). This army was made up of the flower of the Imperial Officer Corps;
it had a ratio of about 1 officer to 4-5 men. After the failure of his first offensive in June 1919,
Yudenich marched on Petrograd in October and reached the suburbs. However, he received no help
from British warships, which stood offshore, and was thrown back by a combined force of Red
Army soldiers and the workers of Petrograd in January 1920.
(6) Foreign Intervention.
Foreign support of the "Whites" (mainly British, and most of it to Kolchak), deserves
separate consideration because of the controversy that has surrounded foreign intervention in the
Russian Civil War.
Soviet historians pictured the intervention as directed against communism and stemming
from motives of capitalist greed. However, while both anti-communism and interest in Russian natural
resources were involved, they did not constitute the chief motives for Allied action. Some Western
historians have also condemned the intervention on political and moral grounds, and some even see
it as the origin of Soviet mistrust of the West and thus of the Cold War of the period 1948-89. In fact, however, Russia
has been traditionally xenophobic and, while Western intervention in 1918-20 certainly increased
mistrust of the West, it did not prevent later Soviet cooperation with the it when this suited Soviet
interests, as in World War II, and after. (During periods under the rule of Khrushchev, Brezhnev, later Gorbachev and Yeltsin).
Furthermore, contrary to Soviet views, the intervention stemmed from pragmatic rather than
ideological motives. There were certainly some Western politicians, in particular, Winston S.
Churchill (1874-1965, best known as Prime Minister of Great Britain, May 1940-July 1945), who
supported intervention on ideological grounds, but they were in the minority. In fact, before peace
negotiations started at Brest-Litovsk between the Bolsheviks and the Central Powers, the Western
Allies were not particularly anti-Bolshevik. On the contrary, British and French officers were
training Red Army units with the goal of keeping Russia in the war. Only when peace negotiations
began between the Bolsheviks and the Central Powers in December 1917 did the British offer to support
to "White" generals who wanted to overthrow the Bolsheviks and continue the war..
However, once the Bolsheviks had concluded peace with the Central Powers in early March
1918, the primary Allied aim was to restore the Eastern Front in Russia in order to relieve the
German pressure on the Western Front. We should remember that after the Peace of Brest-Litovsk
(March 2, 1918), the Germans transferred about 500,000 troops to the West. The British and French
armies were exhausted and were reinforced just in time by fresh American troops that began landing
in France in spring 1918.
Another immediate Allied aim was to prevent the huge war supplies piled up in Murmansk,
Archangel, and Vladivostok from falling into German hands.
Aside from the Allied troops in the three ports mentioned above, the French sent naval forces
into the Black Sea, while the British sent a small force into Georgia. The two governments also
signed an agreement to divide southwest Russia into spheres of influence. The British were interested
in the Baku oil fields, and also in Transcaucasia as a whole, while the French had an interest in
eastern Ukraine, mainly the iron mines at Krivoi Rog. However, the French naval forces in the
Black Sea mutinied early in 1919, so the French units withdrew from Odessa in April that year. (The
mutiny was led by Andre Marty ,1886-1956, later a leader of the French Communist Party, who
worked as a Comintern official in Moscow in 1939-45). In any case, both the British and French
governments were under great pressure to get their men home, while the British Labor Party and
the French Socialist Party supported the Soviet government in the belief that it represented a great
victory for socialism. Thus, the defeat of the "Whites," plus popular pressure and socialist agitation
at home, ended foreign intervention in Russia in the fall of 1919.
It is sometimes argued that the French and British were motivated by the desire to recoup the
money they had loaned to imperial Russia. It is true that the French government had issued millions
of Franks' worth of Russian bonds, which had been bought by some 2 million French-men. The bonds
raised the capital loaned to Russia for industrialization and military modernization after 1880, when
Germany refused to lend money, and especially after the signature of the Franco-Russian alliance of
1894. The British government had also loaned money to imperial Russia. However, France and
Britain did not intervene in the Russian Civil War to recover their money and exploit Russian oil
(Baku) and iron (Ukraine). In fact, at the time, the two powers were primarily interested in
preventing these assets from falling into German hands.
Finally, there was no unified Allied policy on intervention. It developed in fits and starts, and
petered out when it became clear the "White" forces were losing the war to the Bolsheviks. Indeed, even earlier, the
Western powers tried to disentangle themselves from the Russian morass. In late 1918, the French
government suggested "Red-White" negotiations to end the war. President Woodrow Wilson took
this up in early 1919, and suggested that the "Whites" and "Reds" send representatives to the island
of Prinkipo, in the Sea of Marmora, near Constantinople (now Istanbul).He sent the young William
C. Bullitt (1891-1967, later U.S. ambassador to the USSR and France) to Moscow to sound out
Lenin about the chances of concluding peace. Lenin said he was willing, for he needed time and so
only stood to gain. However, the "Whites" rejected the offer while Western public opinion, still
outraged by the Bolshevik "betrayal" at Brest-Litovsk, and shocked by the murder of the Russian
imperial family, also opposed the idea. Thus, Bullitt's mission came to nought. Nevertheless, these
peace initiatives show that the American government would have liked to end intervention in late
1918 and early 1919. We also know that this was the goal of British Prime Minister David Lloyd
George (1863-1945, Prime Minister 1916-1922); for more on his attitude toward Russia, see below.
The fact that the Allies did not end their intervention was due partly to fear that even a
defeated Germany might be strong enough to exert a decisive economic and hence political influence
on the new Soviet Russia, which seemed likely after Brest-Litovsk. It was also partly due to the
widespread assumption that the Bolshevik government could not last. Finally, it was due to the
existence of the "White" armies, whose leaders were anti-German. Indeed, the French desperately
feared a renewal of the old Prussian, then German-Russian alliance, which had existed with small
breaks from the partitions of Poland until 1892-94, and whose resurgence would mean that a revived
Germany could threaten France again in the future. Therefore, the French supported intervention as
long as they could see a chance of a "White" victory, hoping for the restoration of the Franco-Russian alliance of 1894. For this reason, they also opposed Polish expansion at Russian expense.
In Britain, Prime Minister David Lloyd George always opposed intervention, but could not
end it as long as the "Whites" seemed to have a good chance of winning. His interests were always
pragmatic. Along with many British officials and businessmen, he looked on Russia as a huge, natural
market for British goods and feared that Britain might be upstaged or even excluded from it by
Germany. Once it was clear the Bolsheviks were winning the civil war, Lloyd George did not want
to alienate them and thus push them any closer to Berlin. This was also the thinking behind British
opposition to Polish expansion east of the Curzon Line in 1920, and the motive for Anglo-Soviet
trade negotiations even as the Red Army was advancing on Warsaw. (See section on the Polish-Soviet war, below).
7. How the Bolsheviks Won the Civil War.
(a) The "White" forces alienated the peasants, especially in southern Russia, by restoring large
estates. They also alienated the nationalities, particularly the Ukrainians. The "White" forces in
Siberia were badly led and corruption flourished. The extent and significance of peasant support for
the Bolsheviks is, however, debatable. We should bear in mind that the Bolsheviks alienated
the peasants by forcibly requisitioning all their produce to feed the Red Army and the industrial
workers when Lenin instituted War Communism. Therefore, peasant revolts began in the spring of
1918, and threatened the very existence of the Soviet government by the spring of 1921.
Furthermore, in Ukraine, there was an armed peasant army led by the anarchist Nestor I.
Makhno (1889-1934), which fought both the "White" and "Red" armies. Although Makhno allied
temporarily with the Red Army in 1919-20, he then turned against it. (He was defeated and
emigrated, first to Poland, then France and died in Paris). The main opponent of the Bolsheviks in
the Ukraine was, however, the Ukrainian "Rada," which was both anti-Bolshevik and anti-Russian
(see note 4 a).
(b) The key factor in the defeat of the "White' forces was that they were separated by vast
distances and had to fight on external lines. The Bolsheviks had the advantage of fighting on internal
lines because they held Moscow, the hub of European Russia's railway system. Therefore, they could
shift their forces quickly from one area to another to overwhelm the enemy.
(c) Trotsky organized a strong Red Army. It was mostly led by former imperial army officers,
some of whom joined voluntarily for patriotic reasons to drive the foreigners out of Russia,but
others were coerced. Both kinds of officers were closely watched by leather-jacketed commissars,
ready to shoot them at the slightest sign of disloyalty. On the whole, it was a well-disciplined army,
except after a victory when rape, killing and looting was allowed. Above all, the Red Army was well-
armed and well-fed - but at the expense of the peasants.
(d) The Western allies had no clearly defined policy, so their material support for the "Whites"
was fitful and uneven. We should also bear in mind that the war on the Western Front ended on
November 11, 1918 (armistice). This led to rapid demobilization so it was difficult to keep Allied troops in
Russia, let alone make them fight. Furthermore, as mentioned earlier, the Socialist Party of France
and the Labour Party in Great Britain saw the Bolshevik revolution as a victory for socialism, so they
opposed intervention. Finally, the British government wanted peace with the Bolsheviks on the
assumption that Russia would provide a great market for British goods. Thus, when the Denikin and
Yudenich offensives failed in October 1919, no case could be made for continuing the intervention
and British troops withdrew from northern Russia in the fall of 1919.
(For the independence movements of the non-Russian nationalities and the failed revolution
in Finland, 1917, see note 4).
VII. Abortive Revolutions in Germany and Hungary, 1919.
In October 1918, Marshal Paul von Hindenburg, the Commander of the German armies, and
General Erich von Ludendorff, Commander-in-Chief on the Western Front, pressed the German
government to seek an armistice in order to save what was left of the German army and prevent an
Allied invasion and occupation of Germany. Therefore, Chancellor Max von Baden asked President
Woodrow Wilson to arrange for peace on the basis of his Fourteen Points, which Germany had
rejected in January 1918.We should also note that Germany was in turmoil. On November 3rd,
German sailors mutinied at Kiel. On November 7-8th, a revolution broke out in Munich, Bavaria, which was
proclaimed an independent socialist republic.
Heeding the opinion of Hindenburg and Ludendorff that Germany would get better peace
terms without him, Emperor Wilhelm II (1859-1942) abdicated on November 9th, and the Socialist-Democratic leader, Philip Scheidemann proclaimed the German republic in Berlin. The emperor
obtained asylum in Holland. (He died there in 1940). Meanwhile, armistice talks began between the
Allies and the Germans on November 8, and the armistice was signed at 11 A.M. on November 11,
1918. [NOTE:The Soviet government annulled the Peace of Brest-Litovsk on November 13, 1918,
but it was annulled in art. 116 of the Treaty of Versailles -- the peace treaty between Germany and the
Entente powers, signed on June 28, 1919.]
The new German government, led by moderate socialists, made a deal with the German army
high command: the government would oppose revolution and the army would keep order. This gave
the army leaders a special position in the new German state. Indeed, the army came home in good
order and the soldiers were welcomed as heroes. Many Germans could not understand why the war
had been lost. Therefore, many believed the legend spread by the generals of "a stab in the back" by
Jews and socialists. One of those who believed the myth was Adolf Hitler (1889-1945), who was then
in a military hospital in late 1918, recovering from a gas attack on the Western Front.
There was widespread hunger and unemploymen in Germany. In January 1919, strikes broke out in Berlin
and other German cities. The leaders of the left-wing faction of the SDP (German Democratic
Socialist Party), Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, tried to turn these strikes into a revolution
against the government, though Rosa agreed to this against her better judgment. This event is
known as the Spartacist Revolution, from the name of their radical SD group (after Spartacus, the
leader of the slave revolt in ancient Rome, 73-71 B.C.). However, the majority of German workers
did not join revolt. They obeyed their SDP leaders, who now formed the government.
The Free Corps (German: Freikorps) hunted down Liebknecht and Luxemburg, arrested and
then shot them "while trying to escape." The Free Corps was made up of veterans who did not want
to return to peacetime life; sometimes they cooperated with the German army by doing its dirty work.
[NOTE: The officer in charge of Rosa Luxemburg was interviewed by Robert Frost on British TV
in the fall of 1968; he admitted to participating in the shooting, but said he had acted "under orders."]
Thus, there was no revolution in Germany, i.e. no takeover by radical socialists. This was a great
blow to Lenin, who had counted on it.
There were further abortive communist revolts in Berlin, Munich, and elsewhere in February-March 1919, but they were suppressed. However, a Soviet republic was set up in Bavaria. It existed
from April 4 to May 1, 1919, when it was put down by the army.
We should note that because of the unrest in Berlin, the first legislature of the German
republic met in Weimar in February 1919. Hence, before the accession of Hitler to power in 1933,
Germany was known as the Weimar Republic. Its representatives signed the Versailles Treaty, with
the Allies at Versailles, outside Paris, on June 28, 1919. The German government ratified it in
January 1920. Most Germans considered the treaty as grossly unjust to Germany, a view shared by
a large part of Western public opinion and by many Western historians in the period between the two
world wars. However, some Western and German historians writing after World War II, believe that,
while far from perfect, it was the best treaty that could be worked out in the circumstances of the
time. In particular, Germany's territorial losses are now seen as generally fair, for the population of
those territories, while containing German minorities, was preponderantly non-German. (Alsace-Lorraine in the west, in the north, a part of Denmark, and Polish territories in the east). But we must
also remember that most Germans sincerely believed the treaty was unjust and their perception was
an important political factor at the time..
2. Revolution in Hungary.
Hungary had been a strong kingdom until most of it was conquered by the Ottoman
Turks in 1523. By 1697, it had been liberated by Austrian troops and became part of the Austrian
empire (also called the Habsburg Empire, after the name of the ruling house). It became a partner in
the "dual monarchy," known as the Austro-Hungarian empire, established in 1867. Therefore,
Hungarian troops fought alongside the Austrians, mostly on the Russian front.
Like most of Eastern Europe, Hungary was economically backward. It had been the granary
of the old empire, but most of its excellent farmland was in the hands of noble landlords, while about
90% of the peasants were landless. Industry was concentrated in the capital city, Budapest. Most
of the people did not have the right to vote and government was carried on by oligarchic political
groups. The old Hungary was also a multinational state, in which the ruling Magyar (ethnic
Hungarian) nation had exerted oppressive rule over the non-Magyars, i.e. the Slovaks, Romanians,
Croats and Serbs. Most Serbs lived in Serbia, an independent state since 1878. They wanted to unite
the Serb and Croat regions with Serbia in a South Slav state.
On October 31, 1918, there was a political revolution in Hungary, and the leader of the
Independent Party, Count Michael Karolyi (1875-1955), became prime minister of the new
government, called the National Council. Karolyi was a great landowner, but also a progressive
liberal -- in the European sense of the word -- who advocated land reform as well as self-determination for non-Magyars within a Hungarian
state. He had actively supported a separate peace between Austria-Hungary and the Western powers.
Like the German socialists, he hoped that a democratic government would secure better peace terms
for Hungary. In particular, he hoped that she would keep her old frontiers while granting autonomy
to non-Magyars. On November 16, 1918, the National Council proclaimed Hungary a republic.
However, the French, who had long desired the breakup of Austria-Hungary -- which they
rightly saw as a satellite of Germany -- and who had a small Expeditionary Corps with its HQ in
Belgrade (the capital of the new Kingdom of the South Slavs, known after 1929 as Yugoslavia) had
neither the wish nor the means to prevent the Slovaks, Romanians, and South Slavs from proclaiming
independence and seizing the territories inhabited by them. Therefore, the French Commander of the
Expeditionary Corps, General Franchet d'Esperay, demanded that the Hungarians accept the loss of
This was a great shock to the Karolyi government. There was unemployment and chaos in
Hungary, which was flooded by refugees from territories annexed by the neighboring countries. At
the same time, former Hungarian prisoners of war were returning from Russia imbued with
revolutionary ideas. D'Esperay's ultimatum led to Karolyi's resignation on March 21, 1919. He was
succeeded by a socialist-communist government, in which the communist Bela Kun (1886-1938) was
Kun, an assimilated Hungarian Jew, who had been a left-wing journalist in prewar Hungary,
spent time in Russia as a prisoner of war. He was first a communist agitator among Hungarian
prisoners of war and then a leader of like-minded ex-prisoners. He founded the Hungarian
Communist Party and was noticed by Lenin, who encouraged him to make revolution in Hungary,
promising Soviet armed help.
In late March 1919, Hungarian troops invaded Slovakia - which had a large Magyar
population - in an attempt to regain it. In early April, however, Romanian troops began to invade
Hungary while Czechoslovak troops drove the Hungarians out of Slovakia. At the same time, a right-wing government was set up in Szeged under the leadership of Nicholas de Nagabanya Horthy (1868-1957). Horthy had been an admiral in the Austro-Hungarian navy on the Adriatic Sea. He headed
a group of conservative Hungarians who had some encouragement from the French.
Kun now became a dictator and on June 24, 1919, he proclaimed the Hungarian Soviet
Republic and a Soviet type constitution. Many Hungarians supported Kun, not because they
supported communism, but because he claimed he would get Soviet Russian help to restore the
borders of old Hungary. As in Russia, many former officers joined the Hungarian Red Army for
patriotic reasons. But the Bolsheviks were too busy fighting the Whites to help Kun,
while the radical revolution he had hoped for in Austria did not materialize. Defeat and lack of Soviet
aid demoralized the Hungarian army.
At the same time, Kun's reforms alienated the population. He lost peasant support due to his
peculiar collectivization. He nationalized the land but left the former landowners as managers. This
made good economic sense but was resented by the peasants, who wanted to get or enlarge their own
farms. Kun also alienated the industrial workers by refusing to give them control of the factories (he
knew this had not worked in Russia). Likewise, he alienated the railway workers. Finally, he alienated
many people by ordering mass executions in what became known as the "Red terror". But the most
important reason for his defeat was that he did not get Soviet military help, and therefore lost the war
against the armies of the neighboring states. On August 1, 1919, Kun fled to Vienna and later to
Russia (where he was shot during the Stalin Terror on August 29, 1938). The Romanians entered
Budapest on August 4th and occupied it for a while..
On March 1, 1920, Nicholas Horthy became Regent and thus head of state. On March 23rd, he proclaimed Hungary to be a monarchy, with the throne vacant, since the rightful king was Charles VI, the last emperor of Austria and King of Hungary. However, since his restoration was opposed by the neighboring states and the Allies, Horthy opposed it too, but retained the title of regent.
Horthy carried out a "White" terror and his land reform meant distributing land to his supporters. The
political system was conservative with restricted suffrage (voting rights). Government was carried
on by right-wing oligarchies which controlled political patronage, army appointments, and civil
On June 4, 1920, the Hungarian government signed the Treaty of Trianon with the Entente
powers. Hungary had to give up the lands claimed by Czechoslovakia, Romania, and the Kingdom
of the South Slavs (Yugoslavia). Most of these lands had non-Magyar majorities, but sizable Magyar
minorities remained in Transylvania (Romania) in the Banat (part in Romania and part in
Yugoslavia), the Voivodina (former Yugoslavia), and in southern Slovakia. Hungarian opinion
violently resented the Treaty of Trianon and this paved the way to Hungary's cooperation with Hitler
in World War II.
VIII. The Polish-Soviet War, 1919-1920.
The nature of this war and the significance of its outcome were not understood in the West
at the time, and are still little known today. The war was more national than ideological. Its roots
went back to the old Polish-Russian struggle over the borderlands, i.e. Lithuania, Belorussia, and the
Ukraine, which now took on a new significance. The war led to the Red Army's only conclusive defeat,
which meant that not only Poland and the Baltic states, but perhaps also Hungary and
Czechoslovakia, were saved from Soviet domination at this time.
1. The Background of the War: Key Factors.
(a) The old Polish-Russian rivalry over the borderlands, the Partitions of Poland, and Polish
revolts against Russian rule in the 19th century, have been outlined earlier (see ch. I, appendix I). This
history made the Poles see Russia both as an oppressor and, in 1919-20, as the key threat to their
independence. The Bolsheviks, for their part, proclaimed the principle of self-determination - but in
fact followed a policy of uniting the former Russian western provinces with Soviet Russia. To this
end, they established communist governments and tried to take over the territories in question. The
Poles saw this as resurgent Russian imperialism.
(b) The Polish Head of State and Commander-in-Chief, Jozef Pilsudski (1867-1935), did not
trust any kind of Russia, "White" or "Red." He had hated his Russian school in Vilnius, Lithuania -
then known by its Russian name: Vilna (Polish: Wilno), which was then a predominantly Polish and
Jewish city. His Russian teachers had belittled Polish history and achievements. Both here and in Russian
Poland, as also in all their western territories, the Russian authorities implemented a repressive policy
As a very young man, Pilsudski had spent five years in Siberian exile (1887-92). His
brother had been implicated in a plot to assassinate Tsar Alexander III, so he was arrested and deported. In Siberia, he became a
socialist but concluded that most Russian socialists were also imperialists, i.e. that they planned to
establish a democratic, socialist Russia which would include the non-Russian peoples of the empire.
(See ch. I. , Socialist Parties in the Russian Empire).This is how he interpreted the Russian socialist
principle of national self-determination and, as we know, he was right. In 1892, he joined the Polish
Socialist Party (PPS), which was founded that year in Paris, and then worked actively as a writer
and printer of underground papers -- also as a smuggler of same --, for an independent, socialist Poland.
He was arested by the Russians in 1900, but feigned mental illness and escaped from a hospital in St.
Petersburg. In the period 1908-14, he trained young Polish students as future officers in " Riflemen's
Associations," a type of ROTC organization in Austrian Poland (Galicia), tolerated by the Austrian
government in return for military intelligence on the Russian army. According to one account,
Pilsudski foresaw not only the coming of World War I, but also its outcome. According to the
memoirs of S.R. leader Victor Chernov, Pilsudski told him in early 1914, that in the coming world
war the Central Powers would first defeat Russia, and then be defeated themselves by France, Great
Britain and probably the United States. ( V.Chernorv, Pered Burei, Before the Storm, NewYork,
1953, pp. 295-306),
When the world war broke out in 1914, Pilsudski saw it as an opportunity to create a Polish army, so he
formed Polish Legions, which fought initially on the side of Germany and Austria-Hungary against
Russia. However, after the Russian Revolution of March 1917, he refused to work any longer with the Germans,
who, in any case, would not define the frontiers and status of a future Poland. Therefore, he and
some of his men refused to take the oath of allegiance to a future Polish King and to brotherhood in
arms with the Germans. In July 1917 he was arrested and imprisoned in Germany for over a year.
When the Germans released him in early November 1918, he returned home as a national hero. He
then became Head of the Polish State (pending the election of a President), and Commander-in-Chief of the Polish army.
Pilsudski's distrust of the Bolsheviks was confirmed by the policy of the Polish Communist
Party (Polish acronym KPRP, then KPP), which emerged in December 1918 out of the former left-wing of the PPS (Socialist Party) and the SDKPiL (see ch. 1, "Socialist Parties in the Russian
Empire"). The Polish Communist Party followed the Bolshevik lead, calling for the overthrow of
"bourgeois-landlord Poland" and for friendship with the Soviet peoples. It was declared illegal for
advocating the forcible overthrow of the Polish government. At the same time, Pilsudski saw Soviet
expansion into the borderlands as a resurgence of Russian imperialism, and thus a threat to Polish
(c) Despite Western agreement that the German army stay in the former Russian territories
so as to stem a Bolshevik advance westward, the demoralized Germans began to flow back home
after the armistice of November 11, 1918. At the same time, the Red Army moved into the Baltic
states and Belorussia. A communist-led Lithuanian-Belorussian (Litbel) Republic was set up in
January 1919, with its capital in Vilna (see note 4 b).
(d) Pilsudski believed that the borderlands should be federated with Poland. Polish troops
moved into Belorussia [now Belarus] and clashed with Red Army units at Bereza Kartuska in February 1919. In
April, they marched into Vilnius, and overthrew the government of the Litbel Republic. The
predominantly Polish population of the city welcomed the Polish troops with great enthusiasm and
Pilsudski declared he wished the people to decide the fate of their land. However, the Lithuanians
- who formed about 2% of the city's population - claimed Vilna as their capital because it had been
the capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania before its union with Poland in 1386.
(e) After these events, there was calm on the Polish-Soviet front until late April 1920. The
French and British governments tried to persuade Pilsudski to help Denikin against the Bolsheviks.
They proposed that the Poles take and hold the borderlands "in trust" for the Russian general.
Pilsudski refused, for he knew Denikin wanted to restore the former Russian empire. He also
believed it was in Poland's interest for the "Whites" and "Reds" exhaust themselves in the civil war.
At this time, Poland had many other problems to contend with. She had been devastated by
war, for the German-Austrian and Russian fronts had passed back and forth across the country; there
was was also hunger and disease. The Poles were fighting the Ukrainians of former East Galicia
(now western Ukraine), who had seized the preponderantly Polish city of L'viv (Polish: Lwow;
Russian: Lvov, German: Lemberg) in November 1918 and proclaimed a Ukrainian Republic. As in
the case of Vilnius, so in L'viv, the Ukranians claimed the city because it had been the capital of the
medieval Ukrainian state of Halich, before it was annexed to Poland in the mid 1300s. . In late 1918,
the Polish population fought hard to regain the city and it was finally taken by Polish troops, which
then fought a war with the west Ukrainian army... The Western powers reluctantly sanctioned a
Polish advance east of the Zbrucz River in spring 1919, on the grounds that this would weaken the
Bolsheviks. Thus, the Poles took over all of East Galicia. The French government supported Polish
claims to this land (where they had an interest in the oil fields), but British Prime Minister David Lloyd George strongly opposed them and
favored its annexation by Russia, "White" or "Red." We should note that this territory had never
belonged to Russia, but was claimed and invaded by the Russians in World War I; it was also claimed
by the first Provisional Govenment in spring 1917.
In spring 1920, Poland's situation was complicated by the fact that it was awaiting a
plebiscite in the economically important region of Upper Silesia (coal and steel), which had a
predominantly Polish-speaking population east of the Oder River, but which the Germans insisted
they must keep. The area was the scene of bitter fighting between Germans and Poles, while a small
Allied military force tried to keep order. Finally, after a plebiscite held in March 1921, whose results
were contested, the League of Nations divided the region between Germany and Poland, giving the
industrial core to the Poles on the basis of Polish preponderance in the communal (village) - but not
the urban - vote.. This award was passionately resented by the Germans who had secured a majority
in the plebiscite - but a majority provided by German "outvoters," that is, voters born but not resident
in the plebiscite district. They had simply come in to vote, then returned home to Germany.
A large part of the Polish vote came from workers who had immigrated to the region from Austrian Galicia, but were resident there before 1914, so they had the right to vote. Finally, the workers whose families had lived for centuries in Upper Silesia, had their own dialect -- a mix of Polish and German -- and were in favor of an autonomous Upper Silesia.
(f) Meanwhile, the situation in Russia had been clarified. By December 1919, Denikin and Yudenich had been defeatedby the Bolsheviks, who were
clearly winning the civil war. But they still had to fight retreating White armies in southern Russia,
now led by his successor, General Wrangel. Therefore, in order to safeguard his rear in the west,
Lenin decided to offer peace to Poland, which he wrongly saw as a puppet of the Entence powers,
the supporters of the "Whites" in Russia.
However, exploratory Polish-Soviet talks broke down and Pilsudski did not take up Soviet
peace offers in December 1919 and January 1920. When he did agree to negotiations, he specified
they be held in the Belorussian town of Borisov (about 50 miles northeast of Minsk, on the railway
line to Smolensk). He did so both because he wanted to end Soviet troop movements there, as well as
deprive the Bolsheviks of the opportunity of making propaganda for themselves, as they could have
done in cities easily accessible to Western reporters such as Riga or London.. When
the Soviets refused, Pilsudski broke off the talks. He suspected rightly that the Soviets only wanted
a breather to finish off the "Whites" in southern Russia, after which they would try to take Poland.
We should also note that in December 1919, the French and British had proposed that Polish
administration go up to a line approximating the eastern border of Congress Poland (1815-1830), i.e.
to the northern Bug River (pronounced: Boog).. They did not want the Poles to go further east into
the predominantly Belorussian and Ukrainian- populated territories, which were claimed as part of
Russia by both "Whites" and "Reds." The line proposed by the Conference of Ambassadors in Paris
on December 8, 1919, had two variations in the south-east: one left Lviv and the adjoining oil fields
on the Polish side, and while the other line left them on the Russian side. This line was to surface again in July 1920. Pilsudski countered this proposal with his own: to hold plebiscites in the former Polish lands
east of the Bug River under the supervision of the League of Nations. He said this would allow the
inhabitants to choose either independence or federation with Poland. London and Paris, however,
ignored this proposal.
Contrary to the view prevalent in the West and in Russia , Pilsudski did not want to annex the
eastern territories held by Poland before the first partition of 1772.In fact , since the late 1890s he had
advocated a Polish-Belorussian-Ukrainian-Lithuanian federation, designed to weaken Russia and thus
provide security for Poland. His political rival, the leader of the National Democratic Party, Roman
Dmowski [1863-1939], opposed federation. However, not even he demanded the eastern lands held
by Poland in 1772, but those belonging to her in 1793-95, i.e. between the Second and Third
Partitions. Finally, all Poles, except the communists, demanded the then predominantly Polish cities
of L'viv and Vilnius for Poland.
2. The Polish-Soviet War of 1919-1920.
The following factors brought about the oubreak of the war:
(a) As noted earlier, the first battle had taken place at Bereza Kartuska,
Belorussia, in February 1919 and in April of that year Pilsudski had driven the Bolsheviks out of
Vilnius. However, he did not support the Whites against the Bolsheviks in the Russian Civil War, as
the western powers had wished. By late 1919, it was clear the Bolsheviks were winning that war and
they proposed peace negotiations to Poland. The Polish rejection of the Bolshevik offers (December 1919 and January 1920) to open peace
negotiations, and then the breakdown of talks over Borisov -- where Pilsudski wanted them to take place -- strengthened the Soviet government's fear that the Poles were planning to attack Soviet Russia, abetted in this by France and Britain. (In fact, these two powers wanted to prevent the
Poles from moving east of the Bug line). Therefore Bolsheviks decided to mount an offensive against
Poland in early spring 1920, and began massing troops in the former provinces of western Russia.
(b) Polish and French military intelligence noted the growing Red Army troop concentrations;
therefore Pilsudski assumed they would attack Poland. Indeed, Soviet documents show that the
details of the Red Army's deployment against Poland were fixed on March 10 1920, at a meeting
in Smolensk between General W. M. Gitis, the Commander of the Western Front, and Sergei S.
Kamenev, the Commander-in-Chief of the Red Army. The Soviet military plan was to launch an
offensive in April in the direction of Vilnius and Lida in Lithuania. At the same time, Polish troops
were to be engaged in the region of the Polesie Marshes in Belorussia to prevent them from interfering with the
Soviet offensive, or from mounting a diversion in the south. Another Soviet offensive toward the southwest
was to be launched after the transfer of the 1st Cavalry Army from the Caucasus. Thus, the Red
Army was to attack Poland in late April from two directions. However, it was preempted by a Polish drive into
(c) Pilsudski's reaction to intelligence about theBolshevik military build-up was a decision to
attack the Red Army before it was ready to attack him. *In keeping with his long range plans, he also
signed an alliance treaty and a military convention with the head of the East Ukrainian government,
General Semyon V. Petlyura (1877-1926). These agreements were signed in late April 1920. The alliance treaty envisaged the creation of an independent Ukraine, which would be allied
with Poland. In return for Polish help to establish it, Petlyura agreed to give up claims to the predominantly
Ukrainian-speaking territories of East Galicia and Volhynia, which were to form part of Poland. Each
government was committed to respect the rights of the minorities in its country. (There was a sizable
Polish minority in central Ukraine, mostly landowners and part of the middle class in the cities, mainly
Kiev). Petlyura's troops were to march with the Poles, but the latter were to evacuate the Ukraine
after the establishment of an independent Ukrainian government. The Ukrainian politicians of East
Galicia repudiated this treaty because they insisted on it being part of independent Ukraine.
* Polish military intelligence had broken Soviet military codes sometime in 1919, and the Soviet were not aware of this.
(d) Pilsudski and Petlyura set off at the head of the Polish and Ukrainian troops on April 24,
1920. Pilsudski's goal was not to annex the Ukraine, but to smash the Red Army before it could
attack Poland. When the Polish and Ukrainian troops entered Kiev on May 7th, Petlyura proclaimed
an independent Ukraine and announced that Polish troops would withdraw as soon as a Ukrainian
government was established. Pilsudski made a proclamation to the same effect.
Contrary to official Soviet history, France and Britain had no part in the Polish offensive. In
fact, they reacted with shock and dismay. Prime Minister David Lloyd George was furious because Pilsudski's attack
threatened his plans for extensive British trade with Bolshevik Russia. Indeed, British-Soviet trade negotiations were
then proceeding in London. The French favored an independent Ukraine, but were principally
interested in the Poles fighting the Bolsheviks in order to relieve General Wrangel, whom France
recognized as the Supreme Ruler of Russia in August 1920. and who was then fighting in the
Crimea. They also warned the Poles against taking "Russian" land. Thus, Pilsudski's advance was not
part of a Western "crusade" against Bolshevik Russia, but a Polish initiative that was roundly
condemned in Britain and only partly supported by France.
(e) After the Polish and Ukranian troops entered Kiev on May 7, 1920, a Ukrainian
government was set up there under Petlyura, but the Red Army counter-attacked in June, driving
back the Polish and Petlyura troops. By early July, the Poles and their Ukrainian Allies were in full
retreat and Warsaw was threatened. On July 2nd, the Commander of the northern Red Army group,
General Mikhail N. Tukhachevsky (1893-1937), issued an Order of the Day in which he told his
troops: "Over the dead body of White Poland shines the road to worldwide conflagration." (9)
(f) On July 6-11th, an Allied conference was in session a Spa, Belgium, discussing German
war reparations. The Polish government sent a delegation there to ask for help. Faced with the
likelihood of a Soviet victory, the French and British prime ministers heaped abuse on the Poles and
could not agree on what to do. The French wanted to help Pilsudski, but said they could not send
troops. British Prime Minister Lloyd George wanted to get a Polish-Soviet armistice so the
Red Army would not roll into Germany and he could conclude a trade treaty with the Soviets.
Therefore, British proposed an armistice line, known as the Curzon Line, after George
Nathaniel Curzon (Marquess of Kedleston, 1859-1925), who was then Foreign Secretary. This line
was, in fact, based on the demarcation line between Polish and Russian administrations proposed by
the Allies in Paris on December 8 1919. In July 1920, the British proposed the armistice line
to be between the existing Polish and Red armies, and the Polish delegation agreed. This would have left Lviv on the Polish side. The British proposal for Moscow, drawn up at Spa, however, was a line generally following the ethnic boundary between
preponderantly Polish territories in the west, and the preponderantly Belorussian and Ukrainian lands
in the east. Originally, the line left East Galicia on the Polish side, but this was changed to Soviet
advantage in the Foreign Office, London. Thus, East Galicia, together with the then preponderantly
Polish city of L'viv and the adjoining oil fields, were put on the Soviet side
of the line. (This was one of the variants of the line proposed in Paris on December 8, 1919).
Furthermore, seeking a Soviet-Polish peace, the Allies sent an "Ambassadors' Mission" to advise the
Polish government. The French also sent General Maxime Weygand to take over the command of the
Polish armies. Finally, the Allies promised to help Poland, but only if the Soviets crossed the
armistice line into ethnic Poland.
(g) However, the Bolsheviks rejected the Curzon Line, saying they were willing to offer the Poles much more land if they accepted other Soviet terms. The real reason for this rejection was quite different. Russian documents published for the first time in 1992 show that the Bolshevik leaders rejected the Curzon Line and carried on the war against Poland because they believed they had already won the war against the Entente Powers. Therefore, as Lenin put it, they wanted to "taste with bayonets whether the Socialist revolution of the proletariat had not ripened in Poland." Furthermore, they believed that the whole Versailles settlement would collapse with the fall of Poland, and hoped that revolutions would break out in Germany and Italy. (10)
A Polish Provisional Revolutionary Committee (Polrevkom), made up of Polish communists
from Moscow, was set up in Smolensk on July 24th. It moved on to Minsk, then Vilnius and finally
Bialystok on July 30th. Here, it issued a manifesto nationalizing factories, forests, and lands, but
declaring peasant holdings to be inviolable. The Polrevkom was, in effect, an embryo communist
government for Poland. It did not gain any popularity and was seen by all Poles, except communists,
as an agent of the Bolshevik government in Moscow.
(h) When Polish-Soviet talks began in Minsk, in early August, the Soviet delegation demanded
that Poland abolish its army in favor of a "workers' militia;" abolish all arms production; and agree
to Red Army passage through Polish lands any time the Soviet government demanded it. Acceptance
of these terms would have made Poland a state subject to Moscow. Nevertheless, Lloyd
George advised the Polish government to accept these terms; he was, after all, negotiating a trade
treaty with the Soviets and did not want the Red Army to drive on to Germany. However, the Poles
refused and the French supported them, because they hoped Poland would fight on, thus helping
the hard-pressed General Wrangel.
On August 11th, Lenin telegraphed Joseph Stalin, who was then the Political Commissar attached to
Semyon M. Budyenny's 1st Cavalry Army, transferred here from the Crimea and now
marching on L'viv. He told Stalin that the British government had knuckled under fearing a general
strike, and that Lloyd George was advising the Poles to accept Soviet armistice terms. Lenin called
this a great diplomatic victory for the Soviets. Indeed, Lloyd George opposed the Poles, and even
encouraged the Labour Party and the London dockworkers who opposed sending aid to Poland. (The
dockworkers refused to load war supplies on ships departing for Poland). On the same day, August
11, 1920, Lenin telegraphed the chairman of the Soviet delegation conducting the talks with the
Poles in Minsk, telling him to take the great Soviet diplomatic victory successfully into account. He
was to include Warsaw in the peace terms (perhaps to be annexed to Soviet Russia ?) and to
"guarantee the rest." (10a) Thus, Lenin seemed to envisage a Soviet Poland.
(i) However Pilsudski upset Lenin's plans by bold military action. He moved some troops
from the Warsaw perimeter south to Deblin, in order to build up a major striking force. He then
launched an attack on August 13th toward the northeast, expecting to clash with Tukhachevsky's
main force -- which had, in fact, outflanked Warsaw and was heading for Danzig (Polish: Gdansk), while
detaching some troops to attack Warsaw. Tukhachevsky wanted to cut off French arms supplies sent
by sea to Danzig and take Warsaw in a flanking movement from the north-west. Indeed, the Danzig
dockworkers refused to unload the supplies, while the British High Commissioner of the League
of Nations in the Free City of Danzig, Sir Reginald Tower, followed Lloyd George's orders to forbid
the unloading of the ships -- as Lloyd George had promised the Soviet delegates in London.
Tukhachevsky's men actually found a copy of Pilsudski's plan on the body of a dead Polish
officer, but Tukhachevsky decided this was a "blind;" at least that is what he wrote later in a lecture
on the war. The Polish troops defeated Tukhachevsky's rearguard and separated it from the main
body of his army. By August 25th, Pilsudski had won the Battle of Warsaw (sometimes called the
Battle of the Vistula). The Poles took about a 100,000 prisoners. Tukhachevsky retreated to
Lithuania, where he was beaten again at the Battle of the Neman River in September. While Pilsudski
pursued Tukhachevsky part of the Polish army moved south, cutting the communications between
the Soviet armies in the center and the south. There, Budyonny and Stalin disregarded orders to
abandon their march on L'viv until August 12th. The lst Cavalry Army then retreated, narrowly
escaping encirclement and defeat by the Poles.
The Polish victory came as a great surprise to everyone. In the West, people generally
believed that General Weygand had saved the day. Although he denied it at the time, this legend had a
very long innings and occasionally still appears in Western history books. In reality, Weygand had
advised Pilsudski to abandon Warsaw, but hold the Vistula line. Pilsudski refused because he had
another plan. Weygand offered his services in carrying it out and this offer was accepted.
A number of French officers served with the Polish army as advisers and instructors. Among
them was Charles De Gaulle (1890-1970), then a captain. (In World War II, he was to be the leader
of the "Free French," and later President of France). The French also sold the Poles arms and
ammunition, though at least part of these supplies (sent through the Free City of Danzig) were rusty
arms collected on French battlefields.
The Red Army slightly outnumbered the Poles (each side had about 200,000 men), but it was
exhausted by the long drive west. Both sides made great use of cavalry because they lacked tanks.
(Although the Poles had a few French tanks, they kept on breaking down). There were a few
airplanes on each side. On the Polish side, there were flyers from the American Lafayette Squadron,
who had fought in France and volunteered to help Poland. They formed the backbone of the Polish
"Kosciuszko Squadron" (named after Thaddeus Kosciuszko, 1746-1817, who had served under
George Washington in the War of Independence and led the Polish revolt against Russia in 1794).
But planes and tanks played a marginal role. In fact, the Polish-Soviet War in 1920 was the
last cavalry war in Europe. Aside from lack of modern equipment, both Pilsudski and Tukhachevsky
had a low opinion of tanks; they believed that while tanks broke down, horses always got through.
(This opinion was also shared by Western military men until 1940.)
Nevertheless, the Polish-Soviet War of 1920 had a significant impact on some military thinkers. The
German General Heinz Guderian (1888-1954) studied it as a war of swift movement, i.e., a
"Blitzkrieg," or "lightning war." He concluded that future wars would not be static like World War
I, but would be fought and won quickly. However, they would be fought not by cavalry, but by a
combination of tanks, planes and troops, with armored and tank divisions playing a key role. The
German General Staff developed plans for this type of war after Hitler came to power in 1933 and
applied them during World War II, 1939-45. In the USSR, Tukhachevsky also developed a new
doctrine of mobile warfare, but he was executed in Stalin's purges in 1937. (See ch. 3).
Ultimately, the Polish victory over the Red Army was due both to Pilsudski's daring leadership
and to the wholehearted support of the Polish people. Masses of young men volunteered for the army,
including peasants, who wanted an independent Poland in which they could farm their own land. The
Polish victory secured Polish independence from Soviet Russia, at least for a while. It also cancelled
German hopes for the renewal of a German-Russian alliance and thus a new partition of Poland.
Finally, it saved the Baltic states from Soviet domination, and perhaps Hungary and Czechoslovakia
4. The Peace of Riga, March 18, 1921.
Peace talks began in Riga (Latvia), and led to a preliminary peace on October 12, 1920. Lenin was very anxious for peace because of peasant revolts in Russia against "war communism."
The final peace treaty was signed on March 18, 1921, and is known as the "Peace of Riga." It
established the Polish-Soviet frontie as it existed until September 17, 1939, when the Red Army
seized eastern Poland as part of Stalin's bargain with Hitler.
The Peace of Riga was a compromise. For the time being, Lenin gave up the aim of
establishing a Polish Soviet Republic, as well as the idea of exporting the revolution to Central and
Western Europe. He now concentrated on rebuilding Russia. To this end adopted the New Economic
Policy (NEP), which was a mix of capitalism and socialism (see ch. 3). However, the Bolsheviks
never gave up the goal of including the Baltic States, Belorussia, Volhynia and East Galicia (western
Ukraine) in the Soviet Union, nor the long-term goal of establishing Soviet control over Poland. (The
USSR would attain these goals and more in 1945).
Pilsudski gave up the idea of an independent Ukraine allied with Poland, and of a Polish-Belorussian-Lithuanian federation. He did gain western Belorussia, Volhynia and East Galicia
(western Ukraine) for Poland. Furthermore, Polish forces occupied Vilnius in late October 1920.
When Pilsudski failed to obtain Lithuanian agreement to set up a Central Lithuanian state withVilnius
as part of a Polish-Lithuanian federation, a plebiscite was held which led to the city's incorporation
in Poland. This was never accepted by Lithuania whose constitution named Vilnius as the capital of
the Lithuanian Republic. (However, in March 1938, normal Polish-Lithuanian relations were
It is important to note that the inclusion in Poland of territories east of the Curzon Line was
not only opposed by the Soviets, but also was never approved by Britain and by some politicians in
France. There was thus a widespread opinion in the West that the Poles had antagonized the Russians
by taking territories to which Russia had more right than Poland. In fact, the people who should have
been asked to express their opinion, i.e. the Belorussians and the Ukrainians, did not have a voice
in the matter. Therefore, their lands were divided between Poland and the Soviet Union. While most
of those peoples left in Poland, especially the Ukrainians of East Galicia, resented Polish rule, they
saw their brothers in the USSR suffer grievously under Stalin's forced collectivization in the 1930s
(see ch. 3). After this, those remaining in Poland came to see their lot as much better than that of their
kinsmen in the USSR.
Finally, while the Poles formed a minority in eastern Poland, it was a sizable one, amounting
to about one-third of the whole population of some 12,500,000. Furthermore, in certain areas the
Poles had a majority, e.g. in the cities of Lwow (L'viv) and Wilno (Vilnius) and the surrounding regions. Also, most
Poles believed that the possession of the eastern territories was vital for Poland's security from the designs of the
Soviet Union. The Soviets, for their part, always saw them as vital to their security. These facts
should be borne in mind because the question of the Polish-Soviet frontier was to play an important
role in the diplomacy of World War II (11). [See ch. 5].
1. Soviet Historiography of the Period March-November 1917.
Soviet historians writing during the Stalin era had to show Stalin as the no. 2 Bolshevik leader
in 1917, i.e. as Lenin's right hand. In fact, though Lenin trusted Stalin as a good organizer and loyal
party leader, he really became prominent only for a brief period after the July days, when Lenin was
hiding in Finland while Trotsky, Kamenev, and Zinoviev were in prison.
The real no. 2 man was Leon Trotsky, but he opposed Stalin in the mid and later 1920s.
Therefore, Stalin had him expelled him from the party and from Russia (1928-29). Trotsky spoke and wrote
against Stalin, whose hatred knew no bounds. All members of Trotsky's family left in Russia were
killed (two married daughters and a married son, Sergei). His second son, Lev Sedov, was apparently
murdered by a Stalin agent in a French hospital in 1938, while Trotsky himself was assassinated
by another Stalin agent in Mexico in 1940. Trotsky was also expunged from the history books and
airbrushed out of the photographs of the period. His great contributions to the Bolshevik seizure of
power and victory in the civil war were obliterated. Finally, some key documents, notably the
protocols of Central Committee meetings for part of the summer of 1917, have never been published.
This again might be connected with Stalin's subordinate role in Bolshevik leadership at the time, a fact
which he wanted to conceal (see Robert Slusser, Stalin in October. The Man Who Missed the
Revolution, Baltimore and London, 1987).
A revisionist study of the Russian revolution was published in English by an American
historian, Richard Pipes , in 1990 (see below). It is noteworthy that when Pipes presented his negative
assessment of Lenin and the Bolshevik revolution to Soviet historians in Moscow in spring 1991, he
found some receptive to his views (see: David Remnick, "Coming out of the Lenin Closet. A
Backlash in the U.S.S.R. Tarnishes the Founder," Washington Post National Weekly Edition, April
29-May 5, 1991, pp. 18-19). The Russian historian who reached similar conclusion independently and
on the basis of archival research, was Dmitri Volkogonov; however, it should be noted that some
western and Russian historians do not share these negative views of Lenin.
2. On the socialist opposition to the Bolsheviks, the Constituent Assembly, the Fourth
Extraordinary Congress of Soviets and the criticism of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, see Richard Pipes,
The Russian Revolution, New York, 1990, chaps. 11-13; also, Vladimir N. Borovkin, The
Mensheviks after October. Socialist Opposition and the Rise of the Bolshevik Dictatorship, Ithaca,
New York and London, 1987, chaps. 1-2; Oliver H. Radkey, The Election to the Russian Constituent
Assembly of 1917, New York, 1950, and Oliver H. Radkey, The Sickle under the Hammer: The
Socialist Revolutionaries in the Early Months of Soviet Rule, New York,1963. On the opposition of
the intelligentsia to Bolshevik rule, see Jane Burbank, Intelligentsia and Revolution. Russian Views
of Bolshevism, 1917-1922, New York and Oxford, 1986; on the Cadets, see William G. Rosenberg,
Liberals in the Russian Revolution. The Constitutional Democratic Party, 1917-1921, Princeton,
3. On the period March-June 1918, see: Richard Pipes, The Russian Revolution, New York,
1990, chaps. 14-16; Borovkin, The Mensheviks after October, ch. 3; also Oliver H. Radkey and
William Rosenberg (see note 2 above).
4. The Independence Movements of Non-Russian Nationalities and the Failed Bolshevik Revolution
The defeat of Russia by the Central Powers, already obvious by the summer of 1917, and
then the Bolshevik decree on self-determination, encouraged the nationalities of the empire to strike
out on their own. This came as a great surprise to Lenin and the Bolsheviks, who quickly
reinterpreted self-determination to mean "proletarian self-determination." In practice, this meant the
imposition of communist leaders on the national movements - leaders backed by the Red Army.
Therefore, non-communist national movements, which aimed at real autonomy or independence,
were condemned as "bourgeois" and most were crushed by the Red Army. Nonetheless, these
movements should be seen as precedents for the disintegration of the USSR in late 1991.
Brief sketches of these movements are given below.
(a) The Ukrainians.
The establishment of the Ukrainian Republic was proclaimed by the Ukrainian Rada (Council)
in Kiev immediately after the Bolshevik seizure of power in Petrograd on November 7, 1917. We
should note that the Provisional Government had already granted autonomy to the Ukraine, but while
the Rada was prepared to accept a loose federation with a democratic Russia, it rejected one with
The Council of People's Commissars (Bolshevik government) formally recognized Ukrainian
independence on December 17, 1917 - but it also sent an ultimatum to Kiev demanding free passage
for Red Troops marching South to fight the newly formed anti-Bolshevik Volunteer Army. At the same time, a communist Ukrainian government was set up in Kharkov, and given
military "help" to oust the Ukrainian Rada. This had the effect of pushing the Rada to seek German
and Austrian support. As we know, these powers recognized Ukrainian independence and concluded
a peace treaty with the Rada in February 1918.
However, shortly thereafter, the Austrian and German governments found the Rada to be too
independent for them, so they formed their own satellite Ukrainian government under Hetman
(commander) Pavel P. Skoropadsky (1873-1945). He left with the German armies, and a new
Ukrainian government emerged under Gen. Semyon Petlyura, who received some brief support from
the French in 1918, only to be abandoned in favor the Volunteer Army under Denikin, which attacked
the Ukrainian army.
Denikin ousted the Bolsheviks from the eastern Ukraine in August 1919, but the Red
Army and government returned at the end of the year. After a momentary defeat by the Poles,
supported by Petlyura, in May 1920, the Red Army reconquered this area (see "Polish-Soviet War,"
above). Thus, the establishment of the Ukrainian Soviet Republic as a member of the Soviet
federation meant that central and eastern Ukraine were once again subject to Moscow. The Treaty of Riga
recognized this fact, while leaving the Ukrainians and East Galicia and Volhynia in Poland. (See also
point (b) below).
Although the people of the Soviet Ukraine were allowed to develop their national culture in
the early 1920s, Stalin soon crushed all attempts at real autonomy, condemning it as a "nationalist
deviation." In 1932, he broke their resistance to collectivization by imposing a man-made famine on
the Ukraine, which cost 4- 7 million lives. He also deported many Ukrainian farmers to Siberia.
(b) The Belorussians.
Their leaders proclaimed autonomy on December 17, 1917, and then proceeded to proclaim
full independence. However, after the defeat of Germany by the Western Allies, German troops began
to pull back from the east. The Red Army advanced and by the end of the year occupied large parts
of Belorussia (plus parts of Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania). The Bolsheviks then set up the Litbel or
Lithuanian-Belorussian Republic. This republic was overthrown by Polish forces in early 1919.
As noted in the text, the Treaty of Riga gave western Belorussia and western Ukraine to
Poland, where these peoples had minority rights. This meant that their deputies -- for the most part Ukrainians -- sat in the Polish parliament
and could develop their culture, which flourished in western Ukraine in the press, literature, and
the arts. Jewish culture also flourished.
(c) The Baltic Peoples.
Lithuania proclaimed its independence (under German protection) in February 1918, and the Bolshevik government was forced to recognize it in the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. As noted above, the Red Army entered the country by the end of the year, and set up a Belorussian-Lithuanian Republic with the capital in Vilnius. The Poles ousted the Bolsheviks in April 1919, and took over the area in October 1920. After a plebisicite, it joined Poland.
Estonia proclaimed its autonomy on November 15, 1917. Estonian Bolsheviks tried to seize
power but were driven out by the Germans. Estonia proclaimed its independence under German
protection on February 24, 1918, and the Bolsheviks had to recognize it in the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk.
When the Germans withdrew in November 1918, the Red Army invaded the country, but was driven out by the Estonians, assisted by British warships operating in the Baltic. In the summer and fall of 1919, Estonia served as a base for General Yudenich's offensive against Petrograd (see "The Civil War").
Latvia proclaimed its independence in November 1918. The Red Army invaded the country,
but was pushed out by German-Latvian forces (with the consent of the Western Allies) by March
1919. Meanwhile, however, Latvian communists formed the famous "Latvian Rifles," who supported
The Soviet view of the Baltic provinces at this time was expressed in the official Soviet
newspaper, Izvestiia, of December 25, 1918, which proclaimed:
"Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are directly on the road from Russia to Western Europe, and are a hindrance to our revolution because they separate Soviet Russia from revolutionary Germany. The Baltic Sea is now transformed into the Sea of Socialist Revolution."
(For the fate of the Baltic states during and after World War II, see ch. 5; for developments
in 1989-91, see ch. 8).
(d) The Failed Revolution in Finland.
On March 21 1917, the Russian Provisional Government recognized Finland as an
independent state within the projected Russian Federation. However, on July 29th, the Finns
proclaimed complete independence. Independent Finland was recognized by the Soviet government
on January 2, 1918, and then by Germany, Sweden, and France.
On January 28, 1918, the Finnish left-wing social democrats revolted against the pro-German
government of Per.Evind Svinhufud (1861-1944). The Finnish "Reds" seized Helsingfors (Helsinki)
and overran much of southern Finland. The Bolsheviks gave extensive aid to the Finnish Workers'
Republic. However, they could not provide the soldiers and officers needed to deal with the Finnish
army. The latter was ably led by a former officer of the Russian army, Gen. Carl Gustav Mannerheim
(1867-1951), who had German support. (He was to fight the Russians again in 1939-40).
By the end of April, the Red Finns were doomed and their leaders fled to Petrograd. Stalin
later blamed them for not striking at once, in November 1917, and, indeed, their chances would have
been much better then. Still, it is unlikely they could have won even then without Soviet military
support, and that was impossible at the time. The dual heritage of the failed revolution in Finland was
the distrust manifested by successive Finnish governments toward Soviet Russia, on the one hand,
and the latter's distrust of Finland on the other. On the Soviet side, there was determination to push
the frontier further back from Leningrad and, if possible, to establish control over Finland.
(e) The Transcaucasus.
In spring 1918, the three major people of this region, the Georgians, Armenians and
Azerbaijanis, proclaimed their independence. On April 22nd, they set up a Transcaucasian Federal
Republic with a Georgian Menshevik as president.
However, this republic soon collapsed due to national and personal rivalries. (These were to
be repeated on a much larger and bloodier scale after the collapse of the USSR in August 1991). The
Georgians obtained first German, then British, protection. After the armistice was signed on the
Western front on November 11, 1918, the British established their protectorate over Azerbaijan. The
Armenians first turned to Gen. Denikin and, after his collapse, to the United States and the League
In the end, the British did not pursue their interests in this area after the collapse of the White
armies. In the spring and summer of 1920, the Bolsheviks - delayed by their war with Poland -
reestablished Russian rule over the Transcaucasus, just as they did over the Tatars of Kazan, the
Crimea, and Turkestan.
(f) The Poles.
The Poles had to wait until the defeat of Germany, i.e. the signing of the armistice on the
Western front, November 11, 1918, to proclaim their independence. They were to find themselves
in conflict with the Red Army in February 1919, and in a full scale war the following year (see "The
Polish-Soviet War"). The legacy of deep mutual distrust was confirmed by the war, and was the key
factor in Polish-Soviet relations both in the interwar period and during World War II.
5. The Cossacks.
The word "Cossack" is of Turkic origin, meaning "free warrior." Most of the Cossacks of
imperial Russia were descended from the Cossacks of the middle and lower Don and Dnieper rivers,
but there were also Cossacks on the Ural and Terek rivers. In the 15th and 16th centuries, runaway
peasants had formed communities which governed themselves by direct democracy, electing their own
councils and commanders, known as "hetmans" or "atamans." They lived off booty gained in fighting,
also from hunting and fishing. For a time, several thousand "registered" Cossacks were paid by the
Polish kings, but the payments were often in arrears. Also, the Orthodox Cossacks in Ukraine came
to hate their Catholic Polish landlords and the latter's Jewish estate managers. In 1648, Hetman,
Bohdan M. Khmelnitsky (1595-1657), led a revolt against the Poles and tried to establish his own
kingdom. In that year, Cossacks massacred both Jews and Poles in Kiev. In 1654, when Khmelnitsky
was facing both Turks and Poles, he asked the Russian Tsar Alexis Mikhailovich Romanov for protection; the
result was the Treaty of Pereiaslav which subjected Ukraine to Moscow. The Tsars gradually
abolished Cossack self-rule.They used the Cossacks as elite cavalry and, when necessary, as mounted
police to terrorize subject peoples, e.g. in Warsaw.
After the Russian revolution of March 1917, the Cossack communities transformed
themselves into republics and established the All- Russian Cossack Union under the Don "Ataman"
Kaledin (see ch. 1, section on the "The Civil War"). All Cossacks were hostile to the Bolshevik
seizure of power, since they wanted to keep their land and privileged position. Thus, the Don
Cossacks formed the backbone of the Volunteer Army in South Russia, though they greatly disliked
the Russian officers for their arrogance toward them. They continued to fight the Bolsheviks in the
Kuban until 1924.
6. The Fate of the Russian Imperial Family.
The general outlines of the story have been known for some time, but critical details became
known only after the collapse of the USSR.
In March 1917, the imperial family was put under house arrest at the palace in Tsarskoe Selo,
outside Petrograd, to protect it from the mob. The Provisional Government inquired whether the
imperial family might be given asylum in Great Britain. However, King George V, a first cousin of
Nicholas II, feared that, since Nicholas had the image of a tyrant, the British royal family might
become even more unpopular if it welcomed the Russian imperial family in England. The British
government was also opposed. As it turned out, the British refusal sealed the fate of the tsar and his
They were moved to Tobolsk, and then to Ekaterinburg (renamed Sverdlovsk, now
again Ekaterinburg) in Siberia and held under house arrest. On July 12, 1918, the Ural Soviet
obtained clearance from the President of the Soviet Executive Committee in Moscow, Yakov
M.Sverdlov (1885-1919), to kill them. Until recently, Soviet and most western historians believed
that Lenin had not approved the murder, but now it seems that he did. In any case, it would be
strange if he did not know of Sverdlov's agreement and evidence shows the murder was carefully
prepared beforehand on site.
As White troops neared the city, the unsuspecting family was taken down into the basement,
together with their doctor and a servant, on the pretext of impending disturbances in the town and
thus the danger of stray bullets. There they were gunned down; their bodies were taken by truck to
a place in the woods 13 miles away, hacked to pieces with axes, and thrown into an old mineshaft.
Soon therafter, they were dug up, burned to destroy evidence, and reburied. However, some of their
belongings were found at this site by White troops who publicized the murders. At about the same
time as the execution of the imperial family, the Empress' sister, the Grand Duchess Elisabeth, of
Hesse, her husband, the Grand Duke Serge, and other members of the family, were gunned down and
thrown, still living, down a mineshaft in Alapaievsk, about 100 miles northeast of Ekaterinburg.
The Bolsheviks announced that the tsar had been shot, but that his family was safe They also
claimed the Grand Duchess Elisabeth was still alive. This deception was connected with the
assassination in Moscow on June 14th of the German Ambassador, Count Wilhelm von Mirbach, by
an S.R. The Germans wanted to send a battalion to guard the embassy, so the Soviets proposed they
drop this demand in exchange for the safety of the German-born Empress and her sister. News of
the murder of the imperial family, publicized by the Whites, shocked world opinion and gave the
Bolsheviks the image of bloody murderers.
The remains of the imperial family were discovered by a Russian scientist in the 1970s, but
he kept this a secret until the collapse of the USSR in August 1991. In 1992, samples of the remains
were sent to London for tests to see if the DNA matched that of the British royal family, for both
families were descended from Queen Victoria. (Prince Philip gave his tissues for testing, since he was
most closely related to the Romanovs). In early July 1993, the results were announced as positive.
However, the remains of Princess Anastasia and of the Crown Prince Alexei have not been found
(see Richard Pipes, The Russian Revolution, New York, 1990, ch. 17, "Murder of the Imperial
Family." For more detail, with excerpts from the diaries of the tsar and the murderers, see Edward
Radzinsky, The Last Tsar. The Life and Death of Nicholas II, New York and London, Doubleday,
Despite claims made by several women to be the Grand Duchess Anastasia, who allegedly survived the execution, none of them could provide absolute proof of identity. The last "Anastasia" - who was the model for Ingrid Bergman in the film of the same name - died in Florida a few years ago. DNA tests made in 1996 on some of her tissues preserved in a hospital lab, proved conclusively that she was not a Romanov but was, as her opponents had always claimed, a Polish woman from Berlin. Her DNA matched that of her surviving grand nephew living in Germany. She had, however, put on a grand show for decades and had some devoted followers.
7. On the Czechoslovak Legion and the fate of Admiral Kolchak, see Peter Fleming, The Fate
of Admiral Kolchak, London, 1963, and Edwin Palmer Hoyt, The Army Without a Country, New
8. For the Soviet military plan of March 10, 1920, to attack Poland, see Norman Davies, White
Eagle, Red Star. The Polish-Soviet War, 1919-20, London, 1972, pp. 87-88. On Polish-Ukrainian
relations and the Pilsudski-Petlyura alliance in the Polish-Soviet war, see: Michael Palij, The Polish-Ukrainian Defensive Alliance, 1919-1921. An Aspect of the Ukrainian Revolution, Edmonton,
Toronto, 1995. Compare Palij's stress on the Ukrainian point of view with the work of a Polish-Ameican historian, M.K. Dziewanowski, Joseph Pilsudski. A European Federalist, 1918-1922,
9. For Tukhachevsky's "Order of the Day" [July 2, 1920], see Davies, White Eagle, Red Star, p.
10. See Lenin speech of Sept. 22, 1920 at a closed session of the 9th Party Conference, cited in:
Richard Pipes, Russia under the Bolshevik Regime, New York, 1993, pp. 181-82, and same: A
Concise History of the Russian Revolution, New York, 1995, p. 293.
10 a. For Lenin's telegram of August 11, 1920 to Stalin, see Direktivy glavnogo komandovaniia
krasnoi armii, 1917-1920 [The Directives of the Red Army High Command], Moscow, 1969, vol.
III, no. 294, p.251; for his telegram of the same day to the chairman of the Soviet delegation in
Minsk, see J. Meijer, ed., The Trotsky Papers, The Hague, 1964, vol. II, no. 578, pp. 246-47.
The best Eng, lang. work on Polish-Soviet relations is: Piotr S. Wandycz, Soviet-Polish Relations 1917-1921, Cambridge, Mass., 1969; see also Borzecki book on Treaty of Riga:The Soviet-Polish Peace of 1921, New Haven, 2008.
11. The Ethnic Makeup of Interwar Eastern Poland.
In eastern Poland, i.e. east of the Curzon line, the Poles formed an overall minority of about
35%, but they had majorities in the key towns and some areas in the countryside. In the north, the
majority was Belorussian; in the center and south, it was Ukrainian. The total population of eastern
Poland in 1939 is estimated at about 12,500,000 people, of whom some 4 ½ to 5 mln. were
Ukrainian; some 4 and a 1/2 mln were Poles about 2 mln. were Belorussian; about l and a half mln.
were Jewish; some 100,000 were Russians, and there were also a few smaller ethnic groups. These
are only approximate figures because the last Polish census was held in 1931 and it is disputed by the
There was a strong movement among the Ukrainians of East Galicia to create a Ukrainian state and when that failed in 1919, complete autonomy. However, a majority of Polish opinion was opposed to this, while the Polish minority in East Galicia refused to live under Ukrainian rule. We should bear in mind that there had been bitter fighting between Poles and Ukrainians over L'viv (P. Lwow ) at the turn of 1918-19. Also the Poles feared Soviet infiltration of an independent or autonomous West Ukraine.
In the early 1920s, there was some inclination among Poland's Ukrainians to look to the Soviet Ukraine, which then had a large measure of cultural autonomy. However,Stalin put an end to this in the late 1920s. During the brutally imposed collectivization, an estimated 4-7 million Ukrainians died, mostly of hunger (1930-32). Thus, while the Ukrainians and Belorussians were far from happy under Polish rule, many saw it as the lesser of two evils, the other being Soviet rule.
For a brief
economic, social and cultural profile of the peoples of interwar eastern Poland, see Jan T. Gross, Revolution From Abroad. The Soviet Conquest of Poland's Western Ukraine and Western Belorussia,
Princeton, New Jersey, 1988, pp. 4-8, also revised ed. For a Polish study of interwar Eastern Galicia and the
Ukrainians, see Stanislaw Skrzypek, The Problem of Eastern Galicia, London, Polish Association for
the South-Eastern Provinces, 1948; for a Ukrainian view, see Orest Subtelny, Ukraine. A History,
Toronto, 1988, ch. 22, "Western Ukraine between the Wars," pp. 403-25.
For ethnic maps and discussion of Polish, Soviet, and Western policy on the Polish-Soviet
frontier in 1919-23, see Anna M. Cienciala and Titus Komarnicki, From Versailles to Locarno. Keys
to Polish Foreign Policy, 1919-25, Lawrence, Kansas, 1984, chapters 5-8..
1. The Russian Revolutions of 1917.
For good, general overview, see: Michael Kort, The Soviet Colossus. History and Aftermath, Armonk, N.Y., London, England; 6th or 7th edition.
For more detail, see:
Harold Shukman, ed., The Blackwell Encyclopedia of the Russian Revolution, Oxford, Basil
Blackwell, 1988. (This is a most valuable reference work). See also Archie Brown et al, eds.,
The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Russia, Cambridge, England, 1994.
William Henry Chamberlin, The Russian Revolution, 1917-1921, 2 vols., New York, 1935,
reprint 1965 (vol. I covers 1917; old but still useful).
Paul Dukes, October and the World, New York, 1979 (interpretive analysis beginning with
Russian history in the l7th century and ending with the Third World in the late 1970s).
Sheila Fitzpatrick, The Russian Revolution, 1917-1932, Oxford, 1982, 1984 (includes NEP,
and First Five Year Plan; rather sympathetic to Bolsheviks).
John M. Thompson, Revolutionary Russia, 1917, New York, Charles Scribners, New York, 1981 (brief survey).
E. N. Burdzhalov, Russia's Second Revolution. The February 19l7Uprising in Petrograd, trans. from the Russian and preface by Donald J. Raleigh, Bloomington, Indiana, 1987 (probably the best Russian book on the subject).
Graeme J. Gill, Peasants and Government in the Russian Revolution, New York and London, 1979.
David H. Kaiser, ed., The Workers' Revolution in Russia, 1917. The View from Below, Cambridge, New York, 1987.
John L. H. Keep,The Russian Revolution. A Study in Mass Mobilization, New York, 1976.
Richard Pipes, The Formation of the Soviet Union: Communism and Nationalism, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1964.
Richard Pipes, The Russian Revolution, New York, 1990 (the most up-to-date study, which
challenges the previous intepretations, including mass support for the Bolsheviks).
Donald J. Raleigh, Revolution on the Volga. 1917 in Saratov, Ithaca, New York and
London, 1986 (a fascinating local picture).
Dmitri Volkogonov, Lenin. A New Biography, trans. and ed. Harold Shukman, New York, 1994 (ch. 2,3; this is the first account based on secret Russian archives. The author, a professional military man and former Communist who became a historian, the director of the Institute of Military History, Moscow, and historical adviser to President Boris Yeltsin, sees Lenin as a bloodthirsty leader in pursuit of power. The book aroused as much or more resentment among Communists as the author's biography of Stalin).
Dmitri Volkogonov, Stalin. Triumph and Tragedy, trans. and ed.. Harold Shukman, New York, 1991 (This was the first biography written on the basis of secret archives and published in Russian during Gorbachev's "glasnost" in 1988. It shows Stalin as the ruthless tyrant he was and set off the stream of literature on this subject. ch. 1 deals with Stalin during the revolution and civil war).
Dmitri Volkogonov, Trotsky. The Eternal Revolutionary, trans. and ed. Harold Shukman, New York, 1996 (This is the first biography based on secret archives. ch. 2, 3 deal with Trotsky's role in the revolution and civil war ).
Allan K. Wildman, The End of the Russian Imperial Army. The Old Army and the Soldiers' Revolt (March-April 1917), Princeton, N.J., 1980.
Allan K.Wildman, The End of the Russian Imperial Army vol. II.. The Road to Soviet Power and Peace, Princeton, N.J., 1987. (see also Bruce Menning).
(c) The Provisional Government and Kerensky.
Richard Abraham, Alexander Kerensky; the First Love of the Revolution, New York, 1987.
Alexander Kerensky, Russia and History's Turning Point, New York, 1965 (his last work on the subject)..
William G. Rosenberg, Liberals in the Russian Revolution. The Constitutional Democratic
Party, 1917-1921, Princeton, New Jersey, 1974.
(d) The Bolshevik Revolution.
Abraham Ascher, ed., The Mensheviks in the Russian Revolution, Ithaca, New York, 1976.
Robert V. Daniels, Red October, New York, 1967.
Isaac Deutscher, The Prophet Armed. Trotsky, 1917-1921, New York, 1954. (Deutscher,
a Polish-Jewish Trotskiite, later journalist and historian in Gt.Britain, was an admirer).
Georges Haupt and Jean-Jacques Marie, Makers of the Russian Revolution. Biographies of
Bolshevik Leaders, Ithaca, New York, 1974.
Michael Pearson, The Sealed Train, New York, 1975 (popular account of Lenin's road to
Richard Pipes, The Russian Revolution, New York, 1990, ch. 10, 11.
Alexander Rabinowitch, The Bolsheviks Come to Power, New York, 1976, ch. 8-16..
Norman Saul, Sailors in Revolt. The Russian Baltic Fleet in 1917, Lawrence, Kansas, 1978.
Leonard Schapiro, The Russian Revolutions of 19l7. The Origins of Modern Communism,
New York, 1984 (up to the death of Lenin in 1924).
Alfred Erich Senn, The Russian Revolution in Switzerland, 19l4-19l7, Madison, Milwaukee,
Wisconsin and London, 1971 (Lenin and European radical socialists in wartime).
Robert Slusser, Stalin in October. The Man Who Missed the Revolution, Baltimore and
S.A. Smith, Red Petrograd,
Dmitri Volkogonov (see works cited in section b).
Rex Wade, Red Guards and Workers' Militias in the Russian Revolution, Stanford, California,
A Allan K. Wildman, The End of the Russian Imperial Army; vol.I, The Old Army and the
Soldiers' Revolt (March-April 19l7), Princeton, New Jersey, 1980; vol. II, The Road
to Soviet Power and Peace, Princeton, New Jersey, 1987 (excellent studies).
(e) Memoirs and Reminiscences..
Segei D. Mstislavskii, Five Days Which Transformed Russia, Bloomington and Indianapolis, 1988 (the author, born S.D. Maslovskii, 1876-1943, was a radical , and his memoir shows the revolution from the perspective of the militant populist Left (S.R), which cooperated with the Bolsheviks until the peace of Brest-Litovsk).
Roger Pethybridge, ed., Witnesses to the Russian Revolution, Syracuse, New York and London, 1964 (see bibliography for individual titles).
Walter Laqueuer, The Fate of the Revolutions. Interpretations of Soviet History from 1917 to the Present, rev. ed., London, New York, 1987 (ch. 1).
Martin Malia, The Soviet Tragedy. A History of Socialism in Russia, 1917-1991, New York, 1994 (Pt. I, and Pt. II, ch. 3,4).
Alexander Rabinowitch, The Bolsheviks Come to Power. The Revolution of 1917 in Petrograd, New York, 1976 (chaps. 1 through 7; compare with Pipes, The Russian Revolution, chaps. 8-11).
Edith Rogovin Frankel, et al. eds., Revolution in Russia:. Reassessments of 1917, Cambridge, New York, 1992 (interesting studies on various aspects by American, British, Canadian, German, and Israeli scholars).
Robert Service, The Russian Revolution, 1900-1927, 2d ed., Atlantic Highlands, N.J., 1991.
(a summary of key interpretations).
2. The Opposition to Bolshevik Rule, November 19l7-June 1918.
Vladimir N. Borovkin, The Mensheviks After October. Socialist Opposition and the Rise of
the Bolshevik Dictatorship, Ithaca, New York and London, 1987.
Jane Burbank, Intelligentsia and Revolution. Russian Views of Bolshevism, 19l7-1922, New
York and Oxford, 1986.
Oliver H. Radkey, The Elections to the Russian Constituent Assembly, Cambridge,
Oliver H. Radkey, The Sickle under the Hammer: The Russian Socialist Revolutionaries in
the Early Months of Soviet Rule, New York, 1963.
William G. Rosenberg, Liberals in the Russian Revolution (see 1c).
3. The Russian Civil War and Foreign Intervention.
J. F. N. Bradley, Allied Intervention in Russia, 1917-1920, London, 1965.
David Footman, The Civil War in Russia, New York, 1961.
Evan Mawdsley, The Russian Civil War, Boston and London, 1987.
Richard Pipes, Russia under the Bolshevik Regime, New York, 1994 (ch. 1,2,3).
George A. Brinkley, The Volunteer Army and Allied Intervention in South Russia, 1917-1921, Notre Dame, 1966.
Michael Jabara Carley, Revolution and Intervention. The French Government and the Russian
Civil War, 1917- 1919, Montreal, 1983.
Isaac Deutscher, The Prophet Armed. Trotsky, 1917-1921, New York, 1954..
John Erickson, The Soviet High Command, 1918-1941, London, 1962 (Introduction and Part
Peter Fleming, The Fate of Admiral Kolchak, London, 1963 (popular account).
Edwin Palmer Hoyt, The Army Without a Country, New York, 1967 (popular account).
George F. Kennan, Soviet-American Relations, 1917-1920; vol. I. The Decision to Intervene;
vol. 2, Russia Leaves the War, Princeton, New Jersey, 1958 (sympathetic to the Bolsheviks)..
Peter Kenez, Civil War in South Russia, 1918. The First Year of the Volunteer Army,
Berkeley and Los Angeles, California, 1971; vol. II, Civil War in South Russia. The Defeat
of the Whites, Berkeley and Los Angeles, California, 1977.
Michael Kettle, The Allies and the Russian Collapse, March 1917-March 1918, Minneapolis,
James W. Morley, The Japanese Thrust into Siberia, 1918-1920, New York, 1957.
Richard H. Ullmann, Anglo-Soviet Relations, 1917-1921, 3 vols., Princeton, New Jersey,
1961 (excellent on David Lloyd George's negotiations with the Bolsheviks during the Polish-Soviet War).
Stephen White, Britain and the Bolshevik Revolution. A Study in the Politics of Diplomacy,
1920-1924, New York and London, 1979.
4. The Baltic States.
Albert Tarulis, Soviet Policy toward the Baltic States. Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, 1918-1940,
Notre Dame, 1959.
V. Stanley Vardis and Romuald J. Misiunas, eds., The Baltic States in Peace and War, 19l7-1945, Philadelphia and London, 1978.
Taras Hunczak, ed., The Ukraine, 1917-1921: A Study in Revolution, Cambridge, Mass., 1977.
John S. Reshetar, Jr., The Ukrainian Revolution, 19l7-1920: A Study in Nationalism, Princeton, New Jersey, 1952.
Orest Subtelny, Ukraine. A History, Toronto, 1988, ch. 18, 19 (a brief survey).
6. The Finnish, German and Hungarian Revolutions.
J. O. Hannula, Finland's War of Independence, London, 1939.
F. L. Carsten, Revolution in Central Europe, 1918-1919, Berkeley and Los Angeles,
California, 1972 (deals with Germany and Austria).
Alfred D. Low, The Soviet Hungarian Republic and the Paris Peace Conference, Transactions
of the American Philosophical Society, new series, vol. 53, part II, Philadelphia, 1963.
Peter Pastor, ed., Revolutions and Interventions in Hungary and its Neighbor States, 1918-1919, East European Monographs no. 240, Boulder Co., and New York, 1988.
Ivan Volgyes, ed., Hungary in Revolution, 1918-19. Nine Essays, Lincoln, Nebraska, 1971.
7. The Polish-Soviet War.
Norman Davies, White Eagle Red Star. The Polish-Soviet War 1919-1920, London, 1972.
M. K. Dziewanowski, Joseph Pilsudski. A European Federalist, 1918-1922, Stanford,
California, Hoover Institution, 1969.
Zdzislaw Musialik, General Weygand and the Battle of the Vistula-1920, London, Jozef
Pilsudski Institute, 1987. ( Trans. from Polish.Using Polish and French archives the author
shows that Weygand did not "save Poland."The book is marred by typographical errors and
Jozef Pilsudski, Year 1920 [includes Tukhachevsky's "March Beyond the Vistula"], London
and New York, Jozef Pilsudski Institute, 1972.
Piotr S. Wandycz, Soviet-Polish Relations, 1917-1921, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1969.
(This is the best diplomatic study of the subject).
Adam Zamoyski, The Battle for the Marchlands, Boulder, Colorado, East European
Monographs, no. LXXXVIII, 1981 (a lively account, including the last cavalry battle in
Jerzy Borzecki, The Soviet-Polish Peace of 1921 and the Creation of Interwar Europe, New Haven, Conn., 2008 (A detailed study of Polish-Soviet peace negotiations based on both Polish and Russian sources; see Cienciala in Slavic Review, 2009.)