The Russian Civil War
The Russian Civil War
By 1918, an all-out civil war was raging in Russia between the Whites and the Reds. The Whites were royalists, moderates, anti-Communists, and non-Russian Europeans who wanted to overpower the Bolsheviks and restore some semblance of reasonable government to Russia. The Reds supported the Bolsheviks, who renamed themselves “Communists” during this period. (The terms Bolshevik and Communist can be used interchangeably to refer to the ruling political party when discussing Russia under Lenin’s rule.) The Red Army’s loyalty to the Communist Party and the state would make it one of the Party’s most effective tools in the following years.
The civil war lasted for about three years, during which there were mass desertions on both sides; in the end, the Reds prevailed. There were several reasons for their victory. First, they outnumbered the Whites. Second, their commanders were much better organized than those on the White side. Third, they had in Lenin an identifiable strong leader with clear goals. The Whites consisted of too many groups whose interests were not necessarily identical. Fourth, the Reds controlled Moscow, which meant they controlled the rail- roads. Finally, the Reds enjoyed tremendous popular support within Russia. Workers naturally rallied behind the Bolsheviks because they were the self- proclaimed Workers’ Party. Peasants distrusted the Whites because the Whites did not immediately promise them ownership of the land. Russian leaders also supported the Reds; they considered the Whites to be foreign interlopers and they resented Europe’s hostility toward the new Russian government. On their side, the Europeans bitterly resented the timing of the revolution because it had meant Russia’s withdrawal from World War I. This era created distrust between Russia and the rest of Europe that lasted the rest of the century and lingers even to the present day.
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