Bolshevik troops arresting ministers of Kerensky's Provisional Government in the Winter Palace, October Revolution


1917 Nov 7
, St Petersburg

The October Revolution followed and capitalized on the February Revolution earlier that year, which had overthrown the Tsarist autocracy, resulting in a liberal provisional government. The provisional government had taken power after being proclaimed by Grand Duke Michael, Tsar Nicholas II's younger brother, who declined to take power after the Tsar stepped down. During this time, urban workers began to organize into councils (soviets) wherein revolutionaries criticized the provisional government and its actions. The provisional government remained unpopular, especially because it was continuing to fight in World War I, and had ruled with an iron fist throughout the summer (including killing hundreds of protesters in the July Days).

Events came to a head in the fall as the Directorate, led by the left-wing Socialist Revolutionary Party, controlled the government. The left-wing Bolsheviks were deeply unhappy with the government, and began spreading calls for a military uprising. On 23 October, the Petrograd Soviet, led by Trotsky, voted to back a military uprising. On 6 November, the government shut down numerous newspapers and closed the city of Petrograd in an attempt to forestall the revolution; minor armed skirmishes broke out. The next day a full scale uprising erupted as a fleet of Bolshevik sailors entered the harbor and tens of thousands of soldiers rose up in support of the Bolsheviks. Bolshevik Red Guards forces under the Military-Revolutionary Committee began the occupation of government buildings on 7 November, 1917. The following day, the Winter Palace (the seat of the Provisional government located in Petrograd, then capital of Russia) was captured. As the Revolution was not universally recognized, the country descended into the Russian Civil War, which would last until 1923 and ultimately lead to the creation of the Soviet Union in late 1922.

Russian Bolshevik workers demonstrating outside the Kremlin, Moscow

Moscow Bolshevik Uprising

1917 Nov 7 - Nov 15
, Moscow

Moscow Bolshevik Uprising is the armed uprising of the Bolsheviks in Moscow, from November 7-15 1917 during the October Revolution of Russia. It was in Moscow in October where the most prolonged and bitter fighting unfolded. Some historians consider the fighting in Moscow as the beginning of the Civil War in Russia.

The overthrown president of the Russian Provisional Government, Alexander Kerensky, who tried, in vain, to regain control of Petrograd with the few Cossack troops who agreed to march against the city.

Kerensky–Krasnov uprising

1917 Nov 8 - Nov 13
, St Petersburg

The Kerensky–Krasnov uprising was an attempt by Alexander Kerensky to crush the October Revolution and regain power after the Bolsheviks overthrew his government in Petrograd. It took place between 8 and 13 November 1917. Following the October Revolution, Kerensky fled Petrograd, which fell to the Bolshevik-controlled Petrograd Soviet and went to Pskov, the headquarters of the Northern Front command. He did not get the support of its commander, General Vladimir Cheremisov, who prevented his attempts to gather units to march on Petrograd, but he did get the support of General Pyotr Krasnov, who advanced on the capital with about 700 Cossacks. In Petrograd, opponents of the October Revolution were preparing a revolt that would coincide with the attack on the city by Kerensky's forces.

The Soviets had to improvise the defense of the hills south of the city and wait for the attack of Kerensky's troops, who, despite the efforts of the high command, received no reinforcements. The clash in the Pulkovo Heights ended with the withdrawal of the Cossacks after the Junker mutiny, which failed prematurely, and they did not receive the necessary support from other units to force the defences. Talks between the sides ended with Kerensky's flight, fearful of being handed over to the Soviets by his own soldiers, effectively ending attempts to restore the overthrown Russian Provisional Government.

Soldiers of the UNR Army in front of Saint Michael's Golden-Domed Monastery in Kyiv.

Ukrainian–Soviet War

1917 Nov 8 - 1921 Nov 17
, Ukraine

The Ukrainian–Soviet War was an armed conflict from 1917 to 1921 between the Ukrainian People's Republic and the Bolsheviks (Soviet Ukraine and Soviet Russia). The war was part of the Russian Civil War and ensued soon after the October Revolution when Lenin dispatched Antonov's expeditionary group to Ukraine and Southern Russia. Ultimately, Ukraine's forces would suffer devastating losses due to the spread of typhus in October 1919, paving the way for the formation of the Soviet Union in 1922.Soviet historiography viewed the Bolshevik victory as the salvation of Ukraine from the armies of Western and Central Europe (including that of Poland). Conversely, modern Ukrainian historians consider it a failed war of independence by the Ukrainian People's Republic against the Bolsheviks and former Russian Empire.

Admiral Alexander Kolchak (seated) and General Alfred Knox (behind Kolchak) observing military exercise, 1919

Anti-Bolshevik movement

1917 Nov 8
, Russia

While resistance to the Red Guards began on the very day after the Bolshevik uprising, the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk and the instinct of one-party rule became a catalyst for the formation of anti-Bolshevik groups both inside and outside Russia, pushing them into action against the new Soviet government.

A loose confederation of anti-Bolshevik forces aligned against the Communist government, including landowners, republicans, conservatives, middle-class citizens, reactionaries, pro-monarchists, liberals, army generals, non-Bolshevik socialists who still had grievances and democratic reformists voluntarily united only in their opposition to Bolshevik rule. Their military forces, bolstered by forced conscriptions and terror as well as foreign influence, under the leadership of General Nikolai Yudenich, Admiral Alexander Kolchak and General Anton Denikin, became known as the White movement (sometimes referred to as the "White Army") and controlled significant parts of the former Russian Empire for most of the war.

A Ukrainian nationalist movement was active in Ukraine during the war. More significant was the emergence of an anarchist political and military movement known as the Makhnovshchina, led by Nestor Makhno. The Revolutionary Insurgent Army of Ukraine, which counted numerous Jews and Ukrainian peasants in its ranks, played a key part in halting Denikin's White Army offensive towards Moscow during 1919, later ejecting White forces from Crimea.

The remoteness of the Volga Region, the Ural Region, Siberia and the Far East was favorable for the anti-Bolshevik forces, and the Whites set up a number of organizations in the cities of those regions. Some of the military forces were set up on the basis of clandestine officers organizations in the cities.

The Czechoslovak Legions had been part of the Russian Army and numbered around 30,000 troops by October 1917. They had an agreement with the new Bolshevik government to be evacuated from the Eastern Front via the port of Vladivostok to France. The transport from the Eastern Front to Vladivostok slowed down in the chaos, and the troops became dispersed all along the Trans-Siberian Railway. Under pressure from the Central Powers, Trotsky ordered the disarming and arrest of the legionaries, which created tensions with the Bolsheviks.

The Western Allies armed and supported opponents of the Bolsheviks. They were worried about a possible Russo-German alliance, the prospect of the Bolsheviks making good on their threats to default on Imperial Russia's massive foreign loans and the possibility that Communist revolutionary ideas would spread (a concern shared by many Central Powers). Hence, many of the countries expressed their support for the Whites, including the provision of troops and supplies. Winston Churchill declared that Bolshevism must be "strangled in its cradle". The British and French had supported Russia during World War I on a massive scale with war materials.

Execution of the members of the Alexandrovo-Gaysky Regional Soviet by Cossacks under the command of Ataman Alexander Dutov, 1918.

White Terror

1917 Nov 8 - 1923
, Russia

The White Terror in Russia refers to the organized violence and mass killings carried out by the White Army during the Russian Civil War (1917–23). It began after the Bolsheviks seized power in November 1917, and continued until the defeat of the White Army at the hands of the Red Army. The White Army fought the Red Army for power, which engaged in its own Red Terror. According to some Russian historians, the White Terror was a series of premeditated actions directed by their leaders, although this view is contested. Estimates for those killed in the White Terror vary between 20,000 and 100,000 people.

Declaration of the Rights of the Peoples of Russia

Declaration of the Rights of the Peoples of Russia

1917 Nov 15
, Russia

The Declaration of the Rights of the Peoples of Russia was a document promulgated by the Bolshevik government of Russia on November 15, 1917 (signed by Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin).

The document proclaimed:

  1. Equality and sovereignty of peoples of Russia
  2. Right of peoples of Russia of a free self-determination, including secession and formation of a separate state
  3. Abolition of all national and religious privileges and restrictions
  4. Free development of national minorities and ethnographical groups populating the territory of Russia.

The declaration had the effect of rallying some ethnic non-Russians behind the Bolsheviks. Latvian riflemen were important supporters of Bolsheviks in the early days of Russian Civil War and Latvian historians recognize the promise of sovereignty as an important reason for that. The anti-revolutionary White Russians did not support self-determination and, as a result, few Latvians fought on the side of the White movement.

Intended or not, the declaration's provided right to secede was soon exercised by peripheral regions in western Russia, part or which had already been under German army's rather than Moscow's control. But as the revolution spread, also many areas within Russia that have long been integrated declared themselves independent republics. Bolshevist Russia would, however, attempt to establish Soviet power in as many of those as possible. All three Baltic states experienced wars between Soviet governments aiming to establish a Communist state allied with Bolshevist Russia and non-Communist governments aiming for an independent state. The Soviet governments received direct military support from Russia. After the non-Communist side won, Russia recognized them as the legitimate governments of the Baltic states in 1920. The countries would be later invaded and annexed by the Soviet Union in 1939.

Voters inspecting campaign posters, Petrograd

1917 Russian Constituent Assembly election

1917 Nov 25
, Russia

Elections to the Russian Constituent Assembly were held on 25 November 1917. They are generally recognised to be the first free elections in Russian history.

Various academic studies have given alternative results. However, all clearly indicate that the Bolsheviks were clear winners in the urban centres, and also took around two-thirds of the votes of soldiers on the Western Front. Nevertheless, the Socialist-Revolutionary party topped the polls, winning a plurality of seats (no party won a majority) on the strength of support from the country's rural peasantry, who were for the most part one-issue voters, that issue being land reform.

The elections, however, did not produce a democratically-elected government. The Constituent Assembly only met for a single day the following January before being dissolved by the Bolsheviks. All opposition parties were ultimately banned, and the Bolsheviks ruled the country as a one-party state.

Signing of the armistice between Russia and Germany on 15 December 1917

Peace with the Central Powers

1917 Dec 16
, Central Europe

The Bolsheviks decided to immediately make peace with the Central Powers, as they had promised the Russian people before the Revolution. Vladimir Lenin's political enemies attributed that decision to his sponsorship by the Foreign Office of Wilhelm II, German Emperor, offered to Lenin in hope that, with a revolution, Russia would withdraw from World War I. That suspicion was bolstered by the German Foreign Ministry's sponsorship of Lenin's return to Petrograd. However, after the military fiasco of the summer offensive (June 1917) by the Russian Provisional Government had devastated the structure of the Russian Army, it became crucial that Lenin realize the promised peace. Even before the failed summer offensive the Russian population was very skeptical about the continuation of the war. Western socialists had promptly arrived from France and from the UK to convince the Russians to continue the fight, but could not change the new pacifist mood of Russia.

On 16 December 1917 an armistice was signed between Russia and the Central Powers in Brest-Litovsk and peace talks began.  As a condition for peace, the proposed treaty by the Central Powers conceded huge portions of the former Russian Empire to the German Empire and the Ottoman Empire, greatly upsetting nationalists and conservatives. Leon Trotsky, representing the Bolsheviks, refused at first to sign the treaty while continuing to observe a unilateral cease-fire, following the policy of "No war, no peace".

Therefore, on 18 February 1918, the Germans began Operation Faustschlag on the Eastern Front, encountering virtually no resistance in a campaign that lasted 11 days. Signing a formal peace treaty was the only option in the eyes of the Bolsheviks because the Russian Army was demobilized, and the newly formed Red Guard could not stop the advance. They also understood that the impending counterrevolutionary resistance was more dangerous than the concessions of the treaty, which Lenin viewed as temporary in the light of aspirations for a world revolution. The Soviets acceded to a peace treaty, and the formal agreement, the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, was ratified on 3 March. The Soviets viewed the treaty as merely a necessary and expedient means to end the war.

Cossacks declare their independence

Cossacks declare their independence

1918 Jan 1 -
, Novocherkassk

In April 1918, after the liberation of Novocherkassk from control of the Don Soviet Republic, a Don Provisional Government was formed under G. P. Ianov. On 11 May, the "krug for the Salvation of the Don" opened, which organized the anti-Bolshevik war. On 16 May, Krasnov was elected Ataman. On 17 May, Krasnov presented his "Basic Laws of The All Great Don voisko." Its 50 points included the inviolability of private property and abolished all laws promulgated since the abdication of Nicholas II. Krasnov also encouraged nationalism.  The Don Republic existed during the Russian Civil War after the collapse of the Russian Empire from 1918 to 1920.

Comrade Leon Trotsky, co-leader of the Bolshevik Revolution and founder of the Soviet Red Army, with Red Guards during the Russian Civil War.

Formation of the Red Army

1918 Jan 1
, Russia

From mid-1917 onwards, the Russian Army, the successor-organisation of the old Imperial Russian Army, started to disintegrate; the Bolsheviks used the volunteer-based Red Guards as their main military force, augmented by an armed military component of the Cheka (the Bolshevik state security apparatus). In January 1918, after significant Bolshevik reverses in combat, the future People's Commissar for Military and Naval Affairs, Leon Trotsky headed the reorganization of the Red Guards into a Workers' and Peasants' Red Army in order to create a more effective fighting force. The Bolsheviks appointed political commissars to each unit of the Red Army to maintain morale and to ensure loyalty.

In June 1918, when it had become apparent that a revolutionary army composed solely of workers would not suffice, Trotsky instituted mandatory conscription of the rural peasantry into the Red Army. The Bolsheviks overcame opposition of rural Russians to Red Army conscription units by taking hostages and shooting them when necessary in order to force compliance. The forced conscription drive had mixed results, successfully creating a larger army than the Whites, but with members indifferent towards Marxist–Leninist ideology.

The Red Army also utilized former Tsarist officers as "military specialists" (voenspetsy); sometimes their families were taken hostage in order to ensure their loyalty. At the start of the civil war, former Tsarist officers formed three-quarters of the Red Army officer-corps. By its end, 83% of all Red Army divisional and corps commanders were ex-Tsarist soldiers.

American troops parading in Vladivostok, August 1918

Allied intervention in the Russian Civil War

1918 Jan 12 - 1920 Jan 1
, Russia

Allied intervention in the Russian Civil War consisted of a series of multi-national military expeditions which began in 1918. The Allies first had the goal of helping the Czechoslovak Legion in securing supplies of munitions and armaments in Russian ports; during which the Czechoslovak Legion controlled the entire Trans-Siberian Railway and several major cities in Siberia at times between 1918 and 1920. By 1919 the Allied goal became to help the White forces in the Russian Civil War. When the Whites collapsed the Allies withdrew their forces from Russia by 1920 and further withdrawing from Japan by 1922.

The goals of these small-scale interventions were partly to stop Germany from exploiting Russian resources, to defeat the Central Powers (prior to the Armistice of November 1918), and to support some of the Allied forces that had become trapped within Russia after the 1917 Bolshevik revolution. Allied troops landed in Arkhangelsk (the North Russia intervention of 1918–1919) and in Vladivostok (as part of the Siberian intervention of 1918–1922). The British intervened in the Baltic theatre (1918–1919) and in the Caucasus (1917–1919). French-led Allied forces participated in the Southern Russia intervention (1918–1919).

Allied efforts were hampered by divided objectives and war-weariness from the overall global conflict. These factors, together with the evacuation of the Czechoslovak Legion in September 1920, compelled the western Allied powers to end the North Russia and Siberian interventions in 1920, though the Japanese intervention in Siberia continued until 1922 and the Empire of Japan continued to occupy the northern half of Sakhalin until 1925.

Western historians tend to portray the Allied interventions as minor operations—sideshows subsequent to the First World War. Soviet and Russian interpretations can magnify the role of the Allies as attempts to suppress Bolshevik world revolution and to partition and cripple Russia as a world power.

Group of armed workers - participants of the January uprising. Central documentary archive of Ukraine named after G.Pshenychnyi

Kiev Arsenal January Uprising

1918 Jan 29 - Feb 4
, Kyiv

Kyiv Arsenal January Uprising was the Bolshevik-organized workers' armed revolt that started on January 29, 1918 at the Arsenal Factory in Kyiv during the Soviet–Ukrainian War. The goal of the uprising was to sabotage the ongoing elections to the Ukrainian Constituent Assembly and to support the advancing Red Army.

Russian Civil War in Central Asia

Central Asia

1918 Feb 1
, Tashkent

In February 1918 the Red Army overthrew the White Russian-supported Kokand autonomy of Turkestan. Although that move seemed to solidify Bolshevik power in Central Asia, more troubles soon arose for the Red Army as the Allied Forces began to intervene. British support of the White Army provided the greatest threat to the Red Army in Central Asia during 1918. Britain sent three prominent military leaders to the area. One was Lieutenant Colonel Frederick Marshman Baile, who recorded a mission to Tashkent, from where the Bolsheviks forced him to flee. Another was General Wilfrid Malleson, leading the Malleson Mission, who assisted the Mensheviks in Ashkhabad (now the capital of Turkmenistan) with a small Anglo-Indian force. However, he failed to gain control of Tashkent, Bukhara and Khiva. The third was Major General Dunsterville, who was driven out by the Bolsheviks of Central Asia only a month after his arrival in August 1918. Despite setbacks because of British invasions during 1918, the Bolsheviks continued to make progress in bringing the Central Asian population under their influence. The first regional congress of the Russian Communist Party convened in the city of Tashkent in June 1918 in order to build support for a local Bolshevik Party.

Battle of Kiev

Battle of Kiev

1918 Feb 5 - Feb 8
, Kiev

The Battle of Kiev of January 1918 was a Bolshevik military operation of Petrograd and Moscow Red Guard formations directed to capture the capital of Ukraine. The operation was led by Red Guards commander Mikhail Artemyevich Muravyov as part of the Soviet expeditionary force against Kaledin and the Central Council of Ukraine. The storming of Kiev took place during the ongoing peace negotiations at Brest-Litovsk on February 5–8, 1918. The operation resulted in the occupation of the city by Bolshevik troops on February 9 and the evacuation of the Ukrainian government to Zhytomyr.

Austro-Hungarian troops enter the Ukrainian city of Kamianets-Podilskyi after the treaty of Brest-Litovsk on February 9, 1918.

Operation Faustschlag

1918 Feb 18 - Mar 3
, Ukraine

The Operation Faustschlag, also known as the Eleven Days' War, was a Central Powers offensive in World War I. It was the last major action on the Eastern Front. Russian forces were unable to put up any serious resistance due to the turmoil of the Russian Revolution and subsequent Russian Civil War. The armies of the Central Powers therefore captured huge territories in Estonia, Latvia, Belarus, and Ukraine, forcing the Bolshevik government of Russia to sign the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk.

Ice March

Ice March

1918 Feb 22 - May 13
, Kuban'

The Ice March, also called the First Kuban Campaign, a military withdrawal lasting from February to May 1918, was one of the defining moments in the Russian Civil War of 1917 to 1921. Under attack by the Red Army advancing from the north, the forces of the Volunteer Army, sometimes referred to as the White Guard, began a retreat from the city of Rostov south towards the Kuban, in the hope of gaining the support of the Don Cossacks against the Bolshevik government in Moscow.

Czech Legion

Battle of Bakhmach

1918 Mar 8 - Mar 13
, Bakhmach

On March 3, 1918 Russia, controlled by the Bolsheviks, signed the Brest-Litovsk peace treaty with Germany, in which it gave up control over Ukraine. On March 8 Germans troops reached Bakhmach, an important rail hub, and in doing so threatened the Czech Legion with encirclement. The threat was so grave because captured legionnaires were summarily executed as traitors of Austria-Hungary. Thanks to the Legion victory, the Germans negotiated a truce, during which Czechoslovak armoured trains could freely pass through Bakhmach railway junction to Chelyabinsk.

After the Legion succeeded in leaving Ukraine eastbound, executing a fighting withdrawal, representatives of the Czechoslovak National Council continued to negotiate with Bolshevik authorities in Moscow and Penza to facilitate evacuation. On 25 March, the two sides signed the Penza Agreement, in which the Legion was to surrender all but personal guard weapons in exchange for rail passage to Vladivostok.

However, the Legion and the Bolsheviks distrusted each other. Leaders of the Legion suspected the Bolsheviks of seeking favor with the Central Powers, while the Bolsheviks viewed the Legion as a threat, a potential tool for anti-Bolshevik intervention by the Allies, while simultaneously seeking to use the Legion to manifest just enough support for the Allies to prevent them from intervening on the pretext that the Bolsheviks were too pro-German; and the same time, the Bolsheviks, in desperate need of professional troops, also tried to convince the Legion to incorporate itself to the Red Army. By May 1918, the Czechoslovak Legion was strung out along the Trans-Siberian Railway from Penza to Vladivostok. Their evacuation was proving much slower than expected due to dilapidated railway conditions, a shortage of locomotives and the recurring need to negotiate with local soviets along the route. On 14 May, a dispute at the Chelyabinsk station between legionaries heading east and Magyar POWs heading west to be repatriated caused the People's Commissar for War, Leon Trotsky, to order the complete disarmament and arrest of the legionaries. At an army congress that convened in Chelyabinsk a few days later, the Czechoslovaks – against the wishes of the National Council – refused to disarm and began issuing ultimatums for their passage to Vladivostok. This incident sparked the Revolt of the Legions.

Capital moved to Moscow

Capital moved to Moscow

1918 Mar 12
, Moscow

In November 1917, upon learning of the uprising happening in Petrograd, Moscow’s Bolsheviks also began their uprising. On November 15, 1917, after heavy fighting, Soviet power was established in Moscow. Fearing possible foreign invasion, Lenin moved the capital from Petrograd (Saint Petersburg) back to Moscow on March 12, 1918.

Checkoslovak legion's armored train sporting an impressive array of various machineguns. Skupina západní.

Revolt of the Czechoslovak Legion

1918 May 14 - 1920 Sep
, Siberia

On 14 May at Chelyabinsk, an eastbound train bearing Legion forces, encountered a westbound train bearing Hungarians, who were loyal to Austria-Hungary and the Central Powers and who regarded Legion troops as traitors. An armed conflict ensued at close range, fueled by the rival nationalisms. The Legion defeated the Hungarian loyalists. In response, local Bolsheviks intervened, arrested some Legion troops. The Legion then attacked the Bolsheviks, storming the railway station, freeing their men, and effectively taking over the city of Chelyabinsk while cutting the Bolshevik rail link to Siberia.

This incident was eventually settled peacefully but it was used by the Bolshevik regime to order the disarmament of the Legion as the episode had threatened Yekaterinburg, 140 miles away, and sparked wider hostilities throughout Siberia, in which the Bolsheviks steadily lost control over the railway and the region: the Legion quickly occupied more cities on the Trans-Siberian Railway, including Petropavl, Kurgan, Novonikolaevsk, Mariinsk, Nizhneudinsk, and Kansk. Though the Legion did not specifically seek to intervene on the anti-Bolshevik side in the Russian Civil War and sought only to secure safe exit from Russia, Bolshevik defeat in Siberia enabled anti-Bolshevik or White Russian officers' organizations to seize the advantage, overthrowing Bolsheviks in Petropavl and Omsk. In June, the Legion, having informally sided against the Bolsheviks for protection and convenience, captured Samara, enabling the first anti-Bolshevik local government in Siberia, the Komuch, formed on 8 June. On 13 June, Whites formed the Provisional Siberian Government in Omsk. 

On 3 August, Japanese, British, French, and American troops landed at Vladivostok. The Japanese sent about 70,000 into the country east of Lake Baikal. Yet, by the autumn of 1918, the legion no longer played an active part in the Russian civil war. After the coup against the Provisional All-Russian Government, and the installment of Alexander Kolchak's military dictatorship, the Czech's were withdrawn from the front, and assigned the task of guarding the Trans-Siberian Railway.

In the autumn, the Red Army counterattacked, defeating the Whites in western Siberia. In October, Czechoslovakia was proclaimed newly independent. In November, Austria-Hungary collapsed and World War I ended, intensifying the desire of Legion members to exit Russia, particularly as the new Czechoslovakia faced opposition by, and armed conflict with, its neighbors. In early 1919, Legion troops began to retreat to the Trans-Siberian Railway. On 27 January 1919, Legion commander Jan Syrový claimed the Trans-Siberian Railway between Novonikolaevsk and Irkutsk as a Czechoslovak zone of operation, interfering with White Russian efforts in Siberia.

Early in 1920 in Irkutsk, in return for safe transit eastward for Czechoslovak trains, Syrový agreed to hand over Aleksandr Kolchak to the representatives of the Red Political Centre, who executed Kolchak in February. Because of this, and also because of an attempted rebellion against the Whites, organized by Radola Gajda in Vladivostok on 17 November 1919, the Whites impotently accused the Czechoslovaks of treason. Between December 1919 and September 1920, the Legion evacuated by sea from Vladivostok.

Trotsky authorized the formation of barrier troops.


1918 Jun 1
, Kazan

After a series of reverses at the front, the Bolsheviks' War Commissar, Trotsky, instituted increasingly harsh measures in order to prevent unauthorized withdrawals, desertions and mutinies in the Red Army. In the field the Cheka special investigations forces, termed the Special Punitive Department of the All-Russian Extraordinary Commission for Combat of Counter-Revolution and Sabotage or Special Punitive Brigades, followed the Red Army, conducting field tribunals and summary executions of soldiers and officers who deserted, retreated from their positions or failed to display sufficient offensive zeal. The Cheka special investigations forces were also charged with the detection of sabotage and counter-revolutionary activity by Red Army soldiers and commanders. Trotsky extended the use of the death penalty to the occasional political commissar whose detachment retreated or broke in the face of the enemy. In August, frustrated at continued reports of Red Army troops breaking under fire, Trotsky authorized the formation of barrier troops – stationed behind unreliable Red Army units and given orders to shoot anyone withdrawing from the battle line without authorization.

Ivan Vladimirov requisitioning

War communism

1918 Jun 1 - 1921 Mar 21
, Russia

According to Soviet historiography, the ruling Bolshevik administration adopted War communism, the policy with the goal of keeping towns (the proletarian power-base) and the Red Army stocked with food and weapons since circumstances dictated new economic measures. During the civil war, the old capitalist market-based system was unable to produce food and expand the industrial base. War communism has often been described as simple authoritarian control by the ruling and military castes to maintain power and control in the Soviet regions, rather than any coherent political ideology.

War communism included the following policies:

  1. Nationalization of all industries and the introduction of strict centralized management
  2. State control of foreign trade
  3. Strict discipline for workers, with strikes forbidden
  4. Obligatory labor duty by non-working classes ("militarization of labor", including an early version of the Gulag)
  5. Prodrazvyorstka – requisition of agricultural surplus (in excess of an absolute minimum) from peasants for centralized distribution among the remaining population
  6. Rationing of food and most commodities, with centralized distribution in urban centers
  7. Private enterprise banned
  8. Military-style control of the railways

Because the Bolshevik government implemented all these measures in a time of civil war, they were far less coherent and coordinated in practice than they might appear on paper. Large areas of Russia remained outside Bolshevik control, and poor communications meant that even those regions loyal to the Bolshevik government often had to act on their own, lacking orders or coordination from Moscow. It has long been debated whether "war communism" represented an actual economic policy in the proper sense of the phrase, or merely a set of measures intended to win the civil war.

The goals of the Bolsheviks in implementing war communism are a matter of controversy. Some commentators, including a number of Bolsheviks, have argued that its sole purpose was to win the war. Vladimir Lenin, for instance, said that "the confiscation of surpluses from the peasants was a measure with which we were saddled by the imperative conditions of war-time." Other Bolsheviks, such as Yurii Larin, Lev Kritzman, Leonid Krasin, and Nikolai Bukharin, argued that it was a transitional step towards socialism. War communism was largely successful at its primary purpose of aiding the Red Army in halting the advance of the White Army and in reclaiming most of the territory of the former Russian Empire thereafter.

In the cities and surrounding countryside, the population experienced hardships as a result of the war. Peasants, because of the extreme scarcity, were beginning to refuse to co-operate in giving food for the war effort. Workers began migrating from the cities to the countryside, where the chances to feed themselves were higher, thus further decreasing the possibility of barter of industrial goods for food and worsening the plight of the remaining urban population, economy and industrial production. Between 1918 and 1920, Petrograd lost 70% of its population, while Moscow lost over 50%.

Volunteer Army infantry company composed of guards officers.

Kuban Offensive

1918 Jun 22 - Nov
, Kuban'

The Kuban Offensive, also called the Second Kuban Campaign, was fought between the White and Red Armies during the Russian Civil War. The White Army achieved an important victory despite being numerically inferior in manpower and artillery. It resulted in the capture of Ekaterinodar and Novorossiysk in August 1918 and the conquest of the Western part of Kuban by the White armies. Later in 1918 they took Maykop, Armavir and Stavropol, and extended their authority over the entire Kuban Region.

Mitrofan Grekov's painting of Joseph Stalin, Kliment Voroshilov and Efim Shchadenko in the trenches of Tsaritsyn,

Battle of Tsaritsyn

1918 Jul 1 - 1920 Jan
, Tsaritsyn

The city, which had been an important center of support for the October Revolution and remained in the hands of the Reds, was besieged three times by anti-Bolshevik Don Cossacks under the command of Pyotr Krasnov: July–September 1918, September–October 1918, and January–February 1919. Another attempt to conquer Tsaritsyn was made in May–June 1919 by the Volunteer Army, which successfully captured the city. In turn, between August 1919 and January 1920, the Whites defended the city against the Bolsheviks. Tsaritsyn was finally conquered by the Reds in early 1920.

The defense of Tsaritsyn, nicknamed the "Red Verdun", was one of the most widely described and commemorated events of the Civil War in Soviet historiography, art and propaganda. This was due to the fact that Joseph Stalin took part in the defense of the city between July and November 1918.

Soviet Russia Constitution of 1918

Soviet Russia Constitution of 1918

1918 Jul 10
, Russia

The constitution of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic from 1918, also called the Basic Law which governed the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, described the regime that assumed power in the October Revolution of 1917. This constitution, which was ratified soon after the Declaration Of Rights Of The Working And Exploited People, formally recognized the working class as the ruling class of Russia according to the principle of the dictatorship of the proletariat, therein making the Russian Soviet Republic the world's first constitutionally socialist state.

"In the basements of a Cheka", by Ivan Vladimirov

Red Terror

1918 Aug 1 - 1922 Feb
, Russia

The Red Terror in Soviet Russia was a campaign of political repression and executions carried out by the Bolsheviks, chiefly through the Cheka, the Bolshevik secret police. It started in late August 1918 after the beginning of the Russian Civil War and lasted until 1922.

Arising after assassination attempts on Vladimir Lenin and Petrograd Cheka leader Moisei Uritsky, the latter of which was successful, the Red Terror was modeled on the Reign of Terror of the French Revolution, and sought to eliminate political dissent, opposition, and any other threat to Bolshevik power. More broadly, the term is usually applied to Bolshevik political repression throughout the Civil War (1917–1922), as distinguished from the White Terror carried out by the White Army (Russian and non-Russian groups opposed to Bolshevik rule) against their political enemies, including the Bolsheviks.

Estimates for the total number of victims of Bolshevik repression vary widely in numbers and scope. One source gives estimates of 28,000 executions per year from December 1917 to February 1922. Estimates for the number of people shot during the initial period of the Red Terror are at least 10,000. Estimates for the whole period go for a low of 50,000 to highs of 140,000 and 200,000 executed. The most reliable estimations for the number of executions in total put the number at about 100,000.

Polish cavalry at the Battle of the Niemen River

Polish–Soviet War

1918 Sep 1 - 1921 Mar
, Poland

On 13 November 1918, after the collapse of the Central Powers and the Armistice of 11 November 1918, Vladimir Lenin's Russia annulled the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk and started moving forces in the western direction to recover and secure the Ober Ost regions vacated by the German forces that the Russian state had lost under the treaty. Lenin saw the newly independent Poland (formed in October–November 1918) as the bridge which his Red Army would have to cross to assist other communist movements and to bring about more European revolutions. At the same time, leading Polish politicians of different orientations pursued the general expectation of restoring the country's pre-1772 borders. Motivated by that idea, Polish Chief of State Józef Piłsudski began moving troops east.

In 1919, while the Soviet Red Army was still preoccupied with the Russian Civil War of 1917–1922, the Polish Army took most of Lithuania and Belarus. By July 1919, Polish forces had taken control of much of Western Ukraine and had emerged victorious from the Polish–Ukrainian War of November 1918 to July 1919. In the eastern part of Ukraine bordering on Russia, Symon Petliura tried to defend the Ukrainian People's Republic, but as the Bolsheviks gained the upper hand in the Russian Civil War, they advanced westward towards the disputed Ukrainian lands and made Petliura's forces retreat. Reduced to a small amount of territory in the west, Petliura was compelled to seek an alliance with Piłsudski, officially concluded in April 1920.

Piłsudski believed that the best way for Poland to secure favorable borders was by military action and that he could easily defeat the Red Army forces. His Kiev Offensive commenced in late April 1920 and resulted in the takeover of Kiev by the Polish and allied Ukrainian forces on 7 May. The Soviet armies in the area, which were weaker, had not been defeated, as they avoided major confrontations and withdrew.

The Red Army responded to the Polish offensive with counterattacks: from 5 June on the southern Ukrainian front and from 4 July on the northern front. The Soviet operation pushed the Polish forces back westward all the way to Warsaw, the Polish capital, while the Directorate of Ukraine fled to Western Europe. Fears of Soviet troops arriving at the German borders increased the interest and involvement of the Western powers in the war. In mid-summer the fall of Warsaw seemed certain but in mid-August the tide had turned again after the Polish forces achieved an unexpected and decisive victory at the Battle of Warsaw (12 to 25 August 1920). In the wake of the eastward Polish advance that followed, the Soviets sued for peace, and the war ended with a ceasefire on 18 October 1920. The Peace of Riga, signed on 18 March 1921, divided the disputed territories between Poland and Soviet Russia. The war and the treaty negotiations determined the Soviet–Polish border for the rest of the interwar period.

Trotsky addressing "The Red Guard".

Kazan Operation

1918 Sep 5 - Sep 10
, Kazan

Kazan Operation was the Red Army's offensive against the Czechoslovak Legion and the People Army of Komuch during the Russian Civil War. It was the Red Army's first major victory. Trotsky referred to this victory as the event that "taught the Red army to fight".

On the September 11, Simbirsk fell, and on October 8 Samara. The Whites fell back eastwards to Ufa and Orenburg.

Photograph taken after reaching agreement for the armistice that ended World War I.

World War I ends

1918 Nov 11
, Central Europe

The Armistice of 11 November 1918 was the armistice signed at Le Francport near Compiègne that ended fighting on land, sea, and air in World War I between the Entente and their last remaining opponent, Germany. Previous armistices had been agreed with Bulgaria, the Ottoman Empire and Austria-Hungary. It was concluded after the German government sent a message to American president Woodrow Wilson to negotiate terms on the basis of a recent speech of his and the earlier declared "Fourteen Points", which later became the basis of the German surrender at the Paris Peace Conference, which took place the following year.

Germany completely withdrew from Ukraine. Skoropadsky left Kiev with the Germans, and the Hetmanate was in turn overthrown by the socialist Directorate.

Alexander Kolchak

Supreme Ruler Kolchak

1918 Nov 18
, Omsk

In September 1918, the Komuch, the Siberian Provisional Government, and other anti-Bolshevik Russians agreed during the State Meeting in Ufa to form a new Provisional All-Russian Government in Omsk, headed by a Directory of five: two Socialist-Revolutionaries. Nikolai Avksentiev and Vladimir Zenzinov, the Kadet lawyer V. A. Vinogradov, Siberian Premier Vologodskii, and General Vasily Boldyrev.

By the fall of 1918 anti-Bolshevik White forces in the east included the People's Army (Komuch), the Siberian Army (of the Siberian Provisional Government) and insurgent Cossack units of Orenburg, Ural, Siberia, Semirechye, Baikal, Amur and Ussuri Cossacks, nominally under the orders of Gen. V.G. Boldyrev, Commander-in-Chief, appointed by the Ufa Directorate.

On the Volga, Col. Kappel's White detachment captured Kazan on 7 August, but the Reds re-captured the city on 8 September 1918 following a counteroffensive. On the 11th Simbirsk fell, and on 8 October Samara. The Whites fell back eastwards to Ufa and Orenburg.

In Omsk the Russian Provisional Government quickly came under the influence and later the dominance of its new War Minister, Rear-Admiral Kolchak. On 18 November a coup d'état established Kolchak as dictator. Two members of the Directory were arrested, and subsequently deported, while Kolchak was proclaimed "Supreme Ruler", and "Commander-in-chief of all land and naval forces of Russia." By mid-December 1918 White armies had to leave Ufa, but they balanced that failure with a successful drive towards Perm, which they took on 24 December. For nearly two years, Kolchak served as Russia's internationally recognized head of state.

Estonian soldiers near Ārciems in Latvia in May 1919

Estonian War of Independence

1918 Nov 28 - 1920 Feb 2
, Estonia

The Estonian War of Independence, also known as the Estonian Liberation War, was a defensive campaign of the Estonian Army and its allies, most notably the United Kingdom, against the Bolshevik westward offensive of 1918–1919 and the 1919 aggression of the Baltische Landeswehr. The campaign was the struggle of the newly established democratic nation of Estonia for independence in the aftermath of World War I. It resulted in a victory for Estonia and was concluded in the 1920 Treaty of Tartu.

Northern Caucasus Operation

Northern Caucasus Operation

1918 Dec 1 - 1919 Mar
, Caucasus

The Northern Caucasus Operation was fought between the White and Red Armies during the Russian Civil War between December 1918 and March 1919. The White Army captured the entire Northern Caucasus. The Red Army withdrew to Astrahan and the Volga delta.

The Northern Latvian Army by the gates of Riga

Latvian War of Independence

1918 Dec 5 - 1920 Aug 11
, Latvia

The Latvian War of Independence can be divided into a few stages: Soviet offensive, German-Latvian liberation of Kurzeme and Riga, Estonian-Latvian liberation of Vidzeme, Bermontian offensive, Latvian-Polish liberation of Latgale.

The war involved Latvia (its provisional government supported by Estonia, Poland and the Western Allies—particularly the navy of United Kingdom) against the Russian SFSR and the Bolsheviks' short-lived Latvian Socialist Soviet Republic.

Battle for the Donbas

Battle for the Donbas

1919 Jan 12 - May 31
, Donbas

After the army of the Ukrainian People's Republic was pushed out of Kharkiv and Kyiv and the Ukrainian Socialist Soviet Republic was established, in March 1919 the Red Army attacked the central part of Donbas, which had been abandoned by the Imperial German Army in November 1918 and subsequently occupied by the White Volunteer Army. Its aim was to control strategically located and economically important territories, which would enable a further advance towards Crimea, the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea. After heavy fights, fought with variable luck, it took over key centers in this area (Yuzivka, Luhansk, Debaltseve, Mariupol) until the end of March, when it lost them to the Whites led by Vladimir May-Mayevsky.

On April 20, the front stretched along the Dmitrovsk-Horlivka line, and the Whites actually had an open road towards Kharkiv, the capital of the Ukrainian SSR. Until 4 May, their attacks were resisted by Luhansk. Further successes of the Armed Forces of South Russia in May 1919 were favored by the conflict of the Reds with the anarchists of Nestor Makhno (who were still their allies in March) and the rebellion of the Bolshevik ally, Otaman Nykyfor Hryhoriv.

The Battle for Donbas ended at the beginning of June 1919 with a complete victory for the Whites, who continued their offensive towards Kharkiv, Katerynoslav, and then Crimea, Mykolaiv and Odesa.

Red Army in Central Asia

Red Army in Central Asia

1919 Feb 1
, Tashkent

By February 1919 the British government had pulled its military forces out of Central Asia. Despite the success for the Red Army, the White Army's assaults in European Russia and other areas broke communication between Moscow and Tashkent. For a time Central Asia was completely cut off from Red Army forces in Siberia. Although the communication failure weakened the Red Army, the Bolsheviks continued their efforts to gain support for the Bolshevik Party in Central Asia by holding a second regional conference in March. During the conference, a regional bureau of Muslim organisations of the Russian Bolshevik Party was formed. The Bolshevik Party continued to try to gain support among the native population by giving it the impression of better representation for the Central Asian population and throughout the end of the year could maintain harmony with the Central Asian people.

Communication difficulties with Red Army forces in Siberia and European Russia ceased to be a problem by mid-November 1919. Red Army successes north of Central Asia caused communication with Moscow to be re-established and the Bolsheviks to claim victory over the White Army in Turkestan.

In the Ural-Guryev operation of 1919–1920, the Red Turkestan Front defeated the Ural Army. During winter 1920, Ural Cossacks and their families, totaling about 15,000 people, headed south along the eastern coast of the Caspian Sea towards Fort Alexandrovsk. Only a few hundred of them reached Persia in June 1920. The Orenburg Independent Army was formed from Orenburg Cossacks and others troops who rebelled against the Bolsheviks. During the winter 1919–20, the Orenburg Army retreated to Semirechye in what is known as the Starving March, as half of the participants perished. In March 1920 her remnants crossed the border into the Northwestern region of China.



1919 Mar 1
, Don River

De-Cossackization was the Bolshevik policy of systematic repressions against Cossacks of the Russian Empire, especially of the Don and the Kuban, between 1919 and 1933 aimed at the elimination of the Cossacks as a distinct collectivity by exterminating the Cossack elite, coercing all other Cossacks into compliance and eliminating Cossack distinctness. The campaign began in March 1919 in response to growing Cossack insurgency. According to Nicolas Werth, one of the authors of The Black Book of Communism, Soviet leaders deciding to "eliminate, exterminate, and deport the population of a whole territory", which they had taken to calling the "Soviet Vendée". The de-Cossackization is sometimes described as a genocide of the Cossacks, although this view is disputed, with some historians asserting that this label is an exaggeration. The process has been described by scholar Peter Holquist as part of a "ruthless" and "radical attempt to eliminate undesirable social groups" that showed the Soviet regime's "dedication to social engineering". Throughout this period, the policy underwent significant modifications, which resulted in the "normalization" of Cossacks as a component part of Soviet society.

Spring offensive of the White Army

Spring offensive of the White Army

1919 Mar 4 - Apr
, Ural Range

On 4 March, the Siberian Army of the Whites began its advance. On 8 March it captured Okhansk and Osa and continued its advance to the Kama river. On 10 April they captured Sarapul and closed in on Glazov. On 15 April soldiers of Siberian Army's right flank made contact with detachments of the Northern Front in a sparsely populated area near the Pechora River.

On 6 March Hanzhin's Western Army stroke between the Red 5th and 2nd Armies. After four days of fighting the Red 5th Army was crushed, its remains retreated onto Simbirsk and Samara. The Reds had no forces to cover Chistopol with its bread storages. It was a strategical breakthrough, the commanders of Red's 5th Army fled from Ufa and the White Western Army captured Ufa without a fight on 16 March. On 6 April they took Sterlitamak, Belebey the next day and Bugulma on 10 April.

In the South, Dutov's Orenburg Cossacks conquered Orsk on 9 April and advanced towards Orenburg.

After receiving information about the defeat of the 5th Army, Mikhail Frunze, who had become commander of the Red Southern Army Group, decided not to advance, but to defend his positions and wait for reinforcements. As a result the Red Army was able to stop the White advance on the southern flank and to prepare its counteroffensive. The White Army had made a strategical breakthrough in the center, but the Red Army had been able to prepare its counteroffensive on the southern flank.

Eastern Front counteroffensive

Eastern Front counteroffensive

1919 Apr 1 - Jul
, Ural Range

At the beginning of March 1919, the general offensive of the Whites on the eastern front began. Ufa was retaken on 13 March; by mid-April, the White Army stopped at the Glazov–Chistopol–Bugulma–Buguruslan–Sharlyk line. Reds started their counteroffensive against Kolchak's forces at the end of April.

On the southern flank, the White Orenburg Independent Army tried to capture Orenburg without success. New commander General Petr Belov decided to use his reserve, the 4th Corps, to outflank Orenburg from the north. But Red commander Gaya Gai regrouped and crushed the Whites during a 3-day battle from 22–25 April and the remains of the White forces changed sides. As a result, there was no cover for the White Western Army's rear communications. On April, 25, the Supreme Command of the Reds' Eastern Front ordered an advance.

On April, 28, the Reds crushed 2 divisions of the Whites in the region to the south-east of Buguruslan. While suppressing the flank of the advancing White armies, the Reds' command ordered the Southern Group to advance to the North-West. On May, 4, the Red 5th Army captured Buguruslan, and the Whites had to quickly retreat to Bugulma. On May, 6, Mikhail Frunze (commander of Red's Southern Group) attempted to surround the White Forces, but the Whites quickly retreated to the east. On May 13, the Red 5th Army captured Bugulma without a fight.

Aleksandr Samoilo (new commander of the Red's Eastern Front) took the 5th Army from the Southern Group and ordered a strike on the Northeast in retribution for their assistance to the Northern Group. The Southern Group was reinforced by 2 rifle divisions. The outflanked Whites had to retreat from Belebey to the east, but Samoilo didn't realize that the Whites were defeated and ordered his troops to stop. Frunze didn't agree and on May 19, Samoilo ordered his troops to pursue the enemy.

The Whites concentrated 6 infantry regiments near Ufa and decided to outflank the Turkestan Army. On May, 28, the Whites crossed the Belaya River, but were crushed on May 29. On May 30, the Red 5th Army also crossed the Belaya River and captured Birsk on June 7. Also on June 7 the Red's Southern Group crossed the Belaya River and captured Ufa on June 9. On June 16 the Whites began a general retreat in the eastern direction on the whole front.

The defeat of the Whites in the Center and South, enabled the Red Army to cross the Ural mountains. The advance of the Red Army in the Center and South forced the Whites' Northern group (the Siberian Army) to retreat, because the Red armies were now able to cut its communications.

White army pushes north

White army pushes north

1919 May 22
, Voronezh

Denikin's military strength continued to grow in 1919, with significant munitions supplied by the British. In January, Denikin's Armed Forces of South Russia (AFSR) completed the elimination of Red forces in the northern Caucasus and moved north, in an effort to protect the Don district.

On 18 December 1918, French forces landed in Odessa and then the Crimea, but evacuated Odessa on 6 April 1919, and the Crimea by the end of the month. According to Chamberlin, "But France gave far less practical aid to the Whites than did England; its sole independent venture in intervention, at Odessa, ended in a complete fiasco."

Denikin then reorganized the Armed Forces of South Russia under the leadership of Vladimir May-Mayevsky, Vladimir Sidorin, and Pyotr Wrangel. On 22 May, Wrangel's Caucasian army defeated the 10th Army (RSFSR) in the battle for Velikoknyazheskaya, and then captured Tsaritsyn on 1 July. Sidorin advanced north toward Voronezh, increasing his army's strength in the process. On 25 June, May-Mayevsky captured Kharkov, and then Ekaterinoslav on 30 June, which forced the Reds to abandon Crimea. On 3 July, Denikin issued his Moscow directive, in which his armies would converge on Moscow.

Denikin and Wrangel in Tsaritsyn. Shortly after the city was occupied, the plan of the Armed Forces of South Russia's march towards Moscow was announced.

Advance on Moscow

1919 Jul 3 - Nov 18
, Oryol

The Advance on Moscow was a military campaign of the White Armed Forces of South Russia (AFSR), launched against the RSFSR in July 1919 during the Russian Civil War. The goal of the campaign was the capture of Moscow, which, according to the chief of the White Army Anton Denikin, would play a decisive role in the outcome of the Civil War and bring the Whites closer to the final victory. After initial successes, in which the city of Oryol at only 360 kilometres (220 mi) from Moscow was taken, Denikin's overextended Army was decisively defeated in a series of battles in October and November 1919.

The Moscow campaign of the AFSR can be divided into two phases: the offensive of the AFSR (3 July–10 October) and the counteroffensive of the Red Southern Front (11 October–November 18).

Southern Front counteroffensive

Southern Front counteroffensive

1919 Aug 14 - Sep 12
, Voronezh

The August counter-offensive of the Southern Front (14 August – 12 September 1919) was an offensive during the Russian Civil War by the troops of the Southern Front of the Red Army against the White Guard troops of Anton Denikin. Combat operations were conducted by two offensive groups, the main blow was aimed towards the Don region. The troops of the Red Army were unable to carry out the assigned task, but their actions delayed the subsequent offensive of Denikin's army.

Makhnovist commanders discuss plans to defeat the Army of Wrangel, in Starobilsk

Battle of Peregonovka

1919 Sep 26
, Kherson

The Battle of Peregonovka was a September 1919 military conflict in which the Revolutionary Insurgent Army of Ukraine defeated the Volunteer Army. After retreating west across Ukraine for four months and 600 kilometers, the Insurgent Army turned east and surprised the Volunteer Army. The Insurgent Army reclaimed its capital of Huliaipole within ten days.

The White defeat at Peregonovka marked the turning point for the entire civil war, with a number of White officers remarking in that moment: "It's over." In the wake of the battle, the Insurgent Army split up in order to capitalize on their victory and capture as much territory as possible. In just over a week, the insurgents had occupied a vast territory in southern and eastern Ukraine, including the major cities of Kryvyi Rih, Yelysavethrad, Nikopol, Melitopol, Oleksandrivsk, Berdiansk, Mariupol and the insurgent capital of Huliaipole.

By 20 October, the insurgents had occupied the southern stronghold of Katerynoslav, taken full control of the regional rail network and blocked the Allied ports on the southern coast. As the Whites had now been cut off from their supply lines, the advance on Moscow was halted only 200 kilometers outside of the Russian capital, with the Cossack forces of Konstantin Mamontov and Andrei Shkuro being diverted back towards Ukraine. Mamontov's 25,000-strong detachment quickly forced the insurgents to fall back from the sea of Azov, relinquishing control of the port cities of Berdiansk and Mariupol. Nevertheless, the insurgents maintained control of the Dnieper and continued on to capture the cities of Pavlohrad, Synelnykove and Chaplyne.

In the historiography of the Russian Civil War, the Insurgent victory at Peregonovka has been attributed to the decisive defeat of Anton Denikin's forces and more broadly to the outcome of the war itself.

A Bolshevik soldier shot dead by an American guard, 8 January 1919

Withdrawal of Allied forces in North Russia

1919 Sep 27
, Arkhangelsk

An international policy to support the White Russians and, in newly appointed Secretary of State for War Winston Churchill's words, "to strangle at birth the Bolshevik State" became increasingly unpopular in Britain. In January 1919 the Daily Express was echoing public opinion when, paraphrasing Bismarck, it exclaimed, "the frozen plains of Eastern Europe are not worth the bones of a single grenadier".

The British War Office sent General Henry Rawlinson to North Russia to assume command of the evacuation out of both Archangelsk and Murmansk. General Rawlinson arrived on August 11. On the morning of September 27, 1919, the last Allied troops departed from Archangelsk, and on October 12, Murmansk was abandoned.

The US appointed Brigadier General Wilds P. Richardson as commander of US forces to organize the safe withdrawal from Arkhangelsk. Richardson and his staff arrived in Archangelsk on April 17, 1919. By the end of June, the majority of the US forces was heading home and by September 1919, the last US soldier of the Expedition had also left Northern Russia.

The defense of Petrograd. Military unit of trade unions and the Council of People's Commissars

Battle of Petrograd

1919 Sep 28 - Nov 14
, Saint Petersburg

General Yudenich spent the summer organizing the Northwestern Army in Estonia with local and British support. In October 1919, he tried to capture Petrograd in a sudden assault with a force of around 20,000 men. The attack was well-executed, using night attacks and lightning cavalry maneuvers to turn the flanks of the defending Red Army. Yudenich also had six British tanks, which caused panic whenever they appeared. The Allies gave large quantities of aid to Yudenich, but he complained of receiving insufficient support.

By 19 October, Yudenich's troops had reached the outskirts of the city. Some members of the Bolshevik central committee in Moscow were willing to give up Petrograd, but Trotsky refused to accept the loss of the city and personally organized its defenses. Trotsky himself declared, "It is impossible for a little army of 15,000 ex-officers to master a working-class capital of 700,000 inhabitants." He settled on a strategy of urban defense, proclaiming that the city would "defend itself on its own ground" and that the White Army would be lost in a labyrinth of fortified streets and there "meet its grave".

Trotsky armed all available workers, men and women, ordering the transfer of military forces from Moscow. Within a few weeks, the Red Army defending Petrograd had tripled in size and outnumbered Yudenich three to one. Yudenich, short of supplies, then decided to call off the siege of the city and withdrew. He repeatedly asked permission to withdraw his army across the border to Estonia. However, units retreating across the border were disarmed and interned by orders of the Estonian government, which had entered into peace negotiations with the Soviet Government on 16 September and had been informed by the Soviet authorities of their 6 November decision that if the White Army was allowed to retreat into Estonia, it would be pursued across the border by the Reds. In fact, the Reds attacked Estonian army positions and fighting continued until a ceasefire went into effect on 3 January 1920. After the Treaty of Tartu. most of Yudenich's soldiers went into exile. Former Imperial Russian and then Finnish General Mannerheim planned an intervention to help the Whites in Russia capture Petrograd. However, he did not gain the necessary support for the endeavour. Lenin considered it "completely certain, that the slightest aid from Finland would have determined the fate of [the city]".

White army overstretches, Red Army recovers

White army overstretches, Red Army recovers

1919 Oct 1
, Mariupol

Denikin's forces constituted a real threat and for a time threatened to reach Moscow. The Red Army, stretched thin by fighting on all fronts, was forced out of Kiev on 30 August. Kursk and Orel were taken, on 20 September and 14 October, respectively. The latter, only 205 miles (330 km) from Moscow, was the closest the AFSR would come to its target. The Cossack Don Army under the command of General Vladimir Sidorin continued north towards Voronezh, but Semyon Budyonny's cavalrymen defeated them there on 24 October. That allowed the Red Army to cross the Don River, threatening to split the Don and Volunteer Armies. Fierce fighting took place at the key rail junction of Kastornoye, which was taken on 15 November. Kursk was retaken two days later.

Kenez states, "In October Denikin ruled more than forty million people and controlled the economically most valuable parts of the Russian Empire." Yet, "The White armies, which had fought victoriously during the summer and early fall, fell back in disorder in November and December." Denikin's front line was overstretched, while his reserves dealt with Makhno's anarchists in the rear. Between September and October, the Reds mobilized one hundred thousand new soldiers and adopted the Trotsky-Vatsetis strategy with the Ninth and Tenth armies forming V. I. Shorin's Southeastern Front between Tsaritsyn and Bobrov, while the Eighth, Twelfth, Thirteenth, and Fourteenth armies formed A.I. Egorov's Southern Front between Zhitomir and Bobrov. Sergey Kamenev was in overall command of the two fronts. On Denikin's left was Abram Dragomirov, while in his center was Vladimir May-Mayevsky's Volunteer Army, Vladimir Sidorin's Don Cossacks were further east, with Pyotr Wrangel's Caucasian army at Tsaritsyn, and an additional was in the Northern Caucasus attempting to capture Astrakhan. On 20 October, Mai-Maevskii was forced to evacuate Orel during the Orel-Kursk operation. On 24 October, Semyon Budyonny captured Voronezh, and Kursk on 15 November, during the Voronezh-Kastornoye operation (1919). On 6 January, the Reds reached the Black Sea at Mariupol and Taganrog, and On 9 January, they reached Rostov. According to Kenez, "The Whites had now lost all the territories which they had conquered in 1919, and held approximately the same area in which they had started two years before."

Red Army

Orel–Kursk operation

1919 Oct 11 - Nov 18
, Kursk

The Orel–Kursk operation was an offensive conducted by the Southern Front of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic's Red Army against the White Armed Forces of South Russia's Volunteer Army in Orel, Kursk and Tula Governorates of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic between 11 October and 18 November 1919. It took place on the Southern Front of the Russian Civil War and was part of the wider October counteroffensive of the Southern Front, a Red Army operation that aimed to stop Armed Forces of South Russia commander Anton Denikin's Moscow offensive.

After the failure of the Red Southern Front's August counteroffensive to stop the Moscow offensive, the Volunteer Army continued to push back the front's 13th and 14th Armies, capturing Kursk. The Southern Front was reinforced by troops transferred from other sectors, allowing it to regain numerical superiority over the Volunteer Army, and launched a counterattack to halt the offensive on 11 October, utilizing a shock group composed of newly arrived troops. Despite this, the Volunteer Army managed to deal a defeat to the 13th Army, capturing Orel, its nearest advance to Moscow. The Red shock group, however, struck into the flank of the Volunteer Army's advance, forcing the army to commit its lead forces to defending against the attack. In fierce fighting, the 14th Army recaptured Orel, after which the Red forces wore down the Volunteer Army in defensive battles. The Volunteer Army attempted to establish a new defensive line, but their rear was unhinged by Red cavalry raids. The offensive ended on 18 November with the recapture of Kursk. Although the Red Army did not manage to destroy the Volunteer Army, the Southern Front counteroffensive marked a turning point in the war, as it had permanently regained the strategic initiative.

Great Siberian Ice March

Great Siberian Ice March

1919 Nov 14 - 1920 Mar
, Chita

The retreat began after the heavy defeats of the White Army in the Omsk operation and in the Novonikolaevsk Operation in November–December 1919. The army, led by General Kappel, retreated along the Trans-Siberian Railway, using the available trains to transport the wounded. They were followed on their heels by the 5th Red Army under the command of Genrich Eiche.

The White retreat was complicated by numerous insurgencies in the cities where they had to pass and attacks by partisan detachments, and was further aggravated by the fierce Siberian frost. After the series of defeats, the White troops were in a demoralized state, centralized supply was paralyzed, replenishment not received, and the discipline dropped dramatically.

Control of the railway was in the hands of the Czechoslovak Legion, as a result of which parts of General Kappel's Army were deprived of the opportunity to use the railway. They were also harassed by partisan troops under command of Alexander Kravchenko and Peter Efimovich Schetinkin. The pursuing Red 5th Army took Tomsk on 20 December 1919 and Krasnoyarsk on 7 January 1920. The survivors of the March found a safe haven in Chita, the capital of Eastern Okraina, a territory under control of Kolchak's successor Grigory Mikhaylovich Semyonov, who was supported by a significant Japanese military presence.

Flight of the bourgeoisie from Novorossiysk in 1920 by Ivan Vladimirov.

Evacuation of Novorossiysk

1920 Mar 1
, Novorossiysk

By March 11, 1920, the front line was only 40–50 kilometers away from Novorossiysk. The Don and Kuban Armies, which were disorganized by that time, withdrew in great disorder. The line of defense was only held by the remnants of the Volunteer Army, which had been reduced and renamed to the Volunteer Corps, and which had great difficulty in containing the onslaught of the Red Army.

On March 11, General George Milne, Commander-in-Chief of the British troops in the region, and Admiral Seymour, Commander of the Black Sea Fleet, arrived from Constantinople in Novorossiysk. General Anton Denikin was told that only 5,000-6,000 people could be evacuated by the British.

On the night of March 26, in Novorossiysk warehouses were burning, and tanks with oil and shells were exploding. The evacuation was conducted under the cover of the second battalion of the Royal Scots Fusiliers under command of Lieutenant-Colonel Edmund Hakewill-Smith and the Allied squadron commanded by Admiral Seymour, which fired towards the mountains, preventing the Reds from approaching the city. At dawn on March 26, the last ship, the Italian transport Baron Beck entered the Tsemessky Bay, causing great turmoil as the people didn't know where it would land. The panic reached its apogee when the crowd rushed to the gangway of this last ship. The military and civilian refugees on the transport ships were taken to the Crimea, Constantinople, Lemnos, the Prince Islands, Serbia, Cairo, and Malta. On March 27, the Red Army entered the city. The Don, Kuban, and Terek regiments, left on the shore, had no choice but to accept the terms and surrender to the Red Army.

Bolsheviks take North Russia

Bolsheviks take North Russia

1920 Mar 13
, Murmansk

On February 21, 1920 the Bolsheviks entered Arkhangelsk and on March 13, 1920, they took Murmansk.The White Northern Region Government ceased to exist.

Polish defences at Miłosna, near Warsaw

Battle of Warsaw

1920 Aug 12 - Aug 25
, Warsaw

After the Polish Kiev Offensive, Soviet forces launched a successful counterattack in summer 1920, forcing the Polish army to retreat westward in disarray. The Polish forces seemed on the verge of disintegration and observers predicted a decisive Soviet victory.

The Battle of Warsaw was fought from August 12–25, 1920 as Red Army forces commanded by Mikhail Tukhachevsky approached the Polish capital of Warsaw and the nearby Modlin Fortress. On August 16, Polish forces commanded by Józef Piłsudski counterattacked from the south, disrupting the enemy's offensive, forcing the Russian forces into a disorganized withdrawal eastward and behind the Neman River.

The defeat crippled the Red Army; Vladimir Lenin, the Bolshevik leader, called it "an enormous defeat" for his forces. In the following months, several more Polish follow-up victories secured Poland's independence and led to a peace treaty with Soviet Russia and Soviet Ukraine later that year, securing the Polish state's eastern frontiers until 1939. The politician and diplomat Edgar Vincent regards this event as one of the most important battles in history on his expanded list of most decisive battles, since the Polish victory over the Soviets halted the spread of communism further westwards into Europe. A Soviet victory, which would have led to the creation of a pro-Soviet Communist Poland, would have put the Soviets directly on the eastern border of Germany, where considerable revolutionary ferment was present at the time.

Alexander Antonov (centre) and his staff

Tambov Rebellion

1920 Aug 19 - 1921 Jun
, Tambov

The Tambov Rebellion of 1920–1921 was one of the largest and best-organized peasant rebellions challenging the Bolshevik government during the Russian Civil War. The uprising took place in the territories of the modern Tambov Oblast and part of the Voronezh Oblast, less than 480 kilometres (300 mi) southeast of Moscow.

In Soviet historiography, the rebellion was referred to as the Antonovschina ("Antonov's mutiny"), so named after Alexander Antonov, a former official of the Socialist Revolutionary Party, who opposed the government of the Bolsheviks. It began in August 1920 with resistance to the forced confiscation of grain and developed into a guerrilla war against the Red Army, Cheka units and the Soviet Russian authorities. The bulk of the peasant army was destroyed in the summer of 1921, smaller groups continued until the following year. It is estimated that around 100,000 people were arrested and around 15,000 killed during the suppression of the uprising. The Red Army used chemical weapons to fight the peasants.

Nikolay Samokish "Red Cavalry at Perekop".

Siege of Perekop

1920 Nov 7 - Nov 17
, Perekopskiy Peresheyek

The siege of Perekop was the final battle of the Southern Front in the Russian Civil War from 7 to 17 November 1920. The White movement's stronghold on the Crimean Peninsula was protected by the Çonğar fortification system along the strategic Isthmus of Perekop and the Sıvaş, from which the Crimean Corps under General Yakov Slashchov repelled several Red Army invasion attempts in early 1920. The Southern Front of the Red Army and the Revolutionary Insurgent Army of Ukraine, under the command of Mikhail Frunze, launched an offensive on Crimea with an invasion force four-times larger than the defenders, the Russian Army under the command of General Pyotr Wrangel. Despite suffering heavy losses, the Reds broke through the fortifications, and the Whites were forced into retreat southwards. Following their defeat at the siege of Perekop, the Whites evacuated from the Crimea, dissolving the Army of Wrangel and ending the Southern Front in Bolshevik victory.

The Government of South Russia established in Sevastopol, Crimea in April 1920

Bolsheviks wins Southern Russia

1920 Nov 13 - Nov 16
, Crimea

After Moscow's Bolshevik government signed a military and political alliance with Nestor Makhno and the Ukrainian anarchists, the Insurgent Army attacked and defeated several regiments of Wrangel's troops in southern Ukraine, forcing him to retreat before he could capture that year's grain harvest.

Stymied in his efforts to consolidate his hold, Wrangel then attacked north in an attempt to take advantage of recent Red Army defeats at the close of the Polish–Soviet War of 1919–1920. The Red Army eventually halted the offensive, and Wrangel's troops had to retreat to Crimea in November 1920, pursued by both the Red and Black cavalry and infantry. Wrangel's fleet evacuated him and his army to Constantinople on 14 November 1920, ending the struggle of Reds and Whites in Southern Russia.

6 peasants of Buzuluk, Volga region, and the remains of humans they had eaten during the Russian famine of 1921–1922

Russian famine of 1921–1922

1921 Jan 1 - 1922
, Volga River

The Russian famine of 1921–1922 was a severe famine in the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic which began early in the spring of 1921 and lasted through 1922. The famine resulted from the combined effects of economic disturbance because of the Russian Revolution and Russian Civil War, the government policy of war communism (especially prodrazvyorstka), exacerbated by rail systems that could not distribute food efficiently. This famine killed an estimated 5 million people, primarily affecting the Volga and Ural River regions, and peasants resorted to cannibalism. Hunger was so severe that it was likely seed-grain would be eaten rather than sown. At one point, relief agencies had to give food to railroad staff to get their supplies moved.

West Siberian rebellion

West Siberian rebellion

1921 Jan 31 - 1922 Dec
, Sverdlovsk

On January 31, 1921, a small revolt broke out in the village of Chelnokovskom, in the Ishim province, which soon spread to the neighboring regions of Tyumen, Akmola , Omsk, Chelyabinsk, Tobolsk, Tomsk and Yekaterinburg, causing the Bolsheviks to lose control of Western Siberia, from Kurgan to Irkutsk. It was the largest green uprising, both by the number of rebels and their geographic extension, and perhaps the least studied. They dominated a population of three million four hundred thousand people. Its causes were the aggressive searches carried out by the 35,000 soldiers of the "prodotriady" installed in Siberia after the defeat of Kolchak and the violation of peasant democracy, since the Bolsheviks falsified the elections in the regional volost. The main leaders of these bands were Semyon Serkov, Václav Puzhevsky, Vasily Zheltovsky, Timoféi Sitnikov, Stepan Danilov, Vladimir Rodin, Piotr Dolin, Grégory Atamanov, Afanasi Afanasiev and Petr Shevchenko. In charge of the Red revolutionary military council of the region was Ivan Smirnov, Vasili Shorin, Checkist Ivan Pavlunovsky and Makar Vasiliev.

Although sources vary the total number of peasants in arms from 30,000 to 150,000. Historian Vladimir Shulpyakov gives the figure of 70,000 or 100,000 men, but the most likely figure is 55,000 to 60,000 rebels. Many Cossacks from the region joined. They controlled a total of twelve districts and occupied the cities of Ishim, Beryozovo, Obdorsk, Barabinsk, Kainsk, Tobolsk and Petropavlovsk, and seized the Trans-Siberian railway between February and March 1921.

The desperate courage of these rebels led to a terrible campaign of repression by the Cheka. The President of the Party in Siberia, Ivan Smirnov, estimated that up to March 12, 1921, 7,000 peasants had been murdered in the Petropavl region alone and another 15,000 in Ishim. In the town of Aromashevo, between April 28 and May 1, the Red troops faced 10,000 peasants; 700 Greens died in combat, many drowned in rivers when they fled, and 5,700 were captured with many weapons and loot. For another two days the greens were endlessly hunted. The victory allowed the Reds to regain control of the north of Ishim. Indeed, with these actions, together with the establishment of permanent garrisons, revolutionary committees and an espionage network, the capture of several leaders - granting amnesties in exchange for handing over former comrades, mass executions, taking hostages of family members, and artillery bombardments of entire villages, the major operations ended and the rebels turned to guerrilla warefare. In December 1922 reports stated that "banditry" had all but disappeared.

Battle of Volochayevka

Battle of Volochayevka

1922 Feb 5 - Feb 14
, Volochayevka-1

The Battle of Volochayevka was an important battle of the Far Eastern Front in the latter part of the Russian Civil War. It occurred on February 10 through 12, 1922, near Volochayevka station on the Amur Railway, on the outskirts of the city of Khabarovsk. The People's Revolutionary Army of the Far Eastern Republic under Vasily Blyukher defeated units of the counterrevolutionary Far Eastern White Army led by Viktorin Molchanov.

On February 13, Molchanov's White forces retreated past Khabarovsk and the Red Army entered the city. The Red Army was too exhausted to effectively pursue the White Army, which escaped encirclement. However, White military fortunes continued on a downward path after this battle, and the last remnants of White and Japanese forces in the Far East surrendered or evacuated by October 25, 1922.

Ataman Semyonov

Far East

1922 Oct 25
, Vladivostok

In Siberia, Admiral Kolchak's army had disintegrated. He himself gave up command after the loss of Omsk and designated Gen. Grigory Semyonov as the new leader of the White Army in Siberia. Not long afterward, Kolchak was arrested by the disaffected Czechoslovak Corps as he traveled towards Irkutsk without the protection of the army and was turned over to the socialist Political Centre in Irkutsk. Six days later, the regime was replaced by a Bolshevik-dominated Military-Revolutionary Committee. On 6–7 February Kolchak and his prime minister Victor Pepelyaev were shot and their bodies were thrown through the ice of the frozen Angara River, just before the arrival of the White Army in the area.

Remnants of Kolchak's army reached Transbaikalia and joined Semyonov's troops, forming the Far Eastern army. With the support of the Japanese army it was able to hold Chita, but after the withdrawal of Japanese soldiers from Transbaikalia, Semenov's position became untenable, and in November 1920 he was driven by the Red Army from Transbaikalia and took refuge in China. The Japanese, who had plans to annex the Amur Krai, finally pulled their troops out as Bolshevik forces gradually asserted control over the Russian Far East. On 25 October 1922 Vladivostok fell to the Red Army, and the Provisional Priamur Government was extinguished.


1924 Jan 1
, Russia

In Central Asia, Red Army troops continued to face resistance into 1923, where basmachi (armed bands of Islamic guerrillas) had formed to fight the Bolshevik takeover. The Soviets engaged non-Russian peoples in Central Asia, like Magaza Masanchi, commander of the Dungan Cavalry Regiment, to fight against the Basmachis. The Communist Party did not completely dismantle the group until 1934.

General Anatoly Pepelyayev continued armed resistance in the Ayano-Maysky District until June 1923. The regions of Kamchatka and Northern Sakhalin remained under Japanese occupation until their treaty with the Soviet Union in 1925, when their forces were finally withdrawn.

Many pro-independence movements emerged after the break-up of the Russian Empire and fought in the war. Several parts of the former Russian Empire—Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland—were established as sovereign states, with their own civil wars and wars of independence. The rest of the former Russian Empire was consolidated into the Soviet Union shortly afterwards.

The results of the civil war were momentous. Soviet demographer Boris Urlanis estimated the total number of men killed in action in the Civil War and Polish–Soviet War as 300,000 (125,000 in the Red Army, 175,500 White armies and Poles) and the total number of military personnel dead from disease (on both sides) as 450,000. Boris Sennikov estimated the total losses among the population of Tambov region in 1920 to 1922 resulting from the war, executions, and imprisonment in concentration camps as approximately 240,000.

During the Red Terror, estimates of Cheka executions range from 12,733 to 1.7 million. Some 300,000–500,000 Cossacks were killed or deported during Decossackization, out of a population of around three million. An estimated 100,000 Jews were killed in Ukraine. Punitive organs of the All Great Don Cossack Host sentenced 25,000 people to death between May 1918 and January 1919. Kolchak's government shot 25,000 people in Ekaterinburg province alone. The White Terror, as it would become known, killed about 300,000 people in total.

At the end of the Civil War the Russian SFSR was exhausted and near ruin. The droughts of 1920 and 1921, as well as the 1921 famine, worsened the disaster still further, killing roughly 5 million people. Disease had reached pandemic proportions, with 3,000,000 dying of typhus throughout the war. Millions more also died of widespread starvation, wholesale massacres by both sides and pogroms against Jews in Ukraine and southern Russia. By 1922 there were at least 7,000,000 street children in Russia as a result of nearly ten years of devastation from World War I and the civil war.

Another one to two million people, known as the White émigrés, fled Russia, many with General Wrangel, some through the Far East and others west into the newly independent Baltic countries. The émigrés included a large percentage of the educated and skilled population of Russia.

The Russian economy was devastated by the war, with factories and bridges destroyed, cattle and raw materials pillaged, mines flooded and machines damaged. The industrial production value descended to one seventh of the value of 1913 and agriculture to one third. According to Pravda, "The workers of the towns and some of the villages choke in the throes of hunger. The railways barely crawl. The houses are crumbling. The towns are full of refuse. Epidemics spread and death strikes—industry is ruined." It is estimated that the total output of mines and factories in 1921 had fallen to 20% of the pre-World War level, and many crucial items experienced an even more drastic decline. For example, cotton production fell to 5%, and iron to 2%, of pre-war levels.

War Communism saved the Soviet government during the Civil War, but much of the Russian economy had ground to a standstill. Some peasants responded to requisitions by refusing to till the land. By 1921 cultivated land had shrunk to 62% of the pre-war area, and the harvest yield was only about 37% of normal. The number of horses declined from 35 million in 1916 to 24 million in 1920 and cattle from 58 to 37 million. The exchange rate with the US dollar declined from two roubles in 1914 to 1,200 Rbls in 1920.

With the end of the war, the Communist Party no longer faced an acute military threat to its existence and power. However, the perceived threat of another intervention, combined with the failure of socialist revolutions in other countries—most notably the German Revolution—contributed to the continued militarisation of Soviet society. Although Russia experienced extremely rapid economic growth in the 1930s, the combined effect of World War I and the Civil War left a lasting scar on Russian society and had permanent effects on the development of the Soviet Union.


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