Allied intervention

Allied intervention can only be understood against the backdrop ol World War One. The Bolshevik Revolution of November 1917 removed Russia as a partner of the Allies in the war. Understanding that the Central Powers could now transfer troops from the east to the west, the Allies sought to reconstitute the broken Eastern Front to tie down as many of the enemy as possible. Over the next several months they considered a wide range of partners, from Ukrainians, Serbs, Poles, Romanians, Czechs, to the new players now being called 'Whites' and even the Bolsheviks themselves.

Indeed, each of the Allies believed that the Great War would carry on throughout 1919. They considered it imperative that the Central Powers should not have full access to the munitions stocks and the agricultural and industrial assets still remaining inside the former Russian Empire. Moreover, during the war, the Allies shipped considerable supplies to Russia, some 600,000 tons to the ports of Murmansk and Archangel and considerably more to Vladivostok. These concerns only increased in importance after the Bolsheviks signed the punitive Treaty of Bresl-Lltovsk, an agreement that placed Immense territories under German, Austro-Hungarian and Turkish control.

In retrospect, critics have derided this and related Allied concerns as overreaction. However, at the time there was considerable evidence that what was feared could come to pass. First, the Germans had been responsible for Lenin's return to Russia in 1917. Then, the Bolsheviks staged their first abortive insurrection, the 'July Days', during the height of the Provisional Government's summer offensive. Next, they overthrew that government in November and began elforts to end the war. To the Western Allies, these actions were clear indications that the Bolsheviks were German surrogates in whole or part.

These fears were not allayed when considering the staggering number of enemy prisoners of war, some 450,000, held in lightly guarded Russian camps. Most of these prisoners were Austro-Hungarian, followed by Germans and l urks. For them, repatriation could be as simple as a walk over to the front lines of the Central Powers, a transfer to them as part of a deal, or direct incorporation into units of the potentially hostile Red Army,

Allied representatives, including the Czech Legion, reported that a growing number of prisoners were crowding into cities and rail stations. Indeed, German prisoners had helped bring the Bolsheviks to power in Irkutsk in December 1917 and

Austro-Hungarian prisoner of war confers with Russian captors in Siberia. German and Austro-Hungarian prisoners of war remained a problem for all sides in the civil war Thousands of a left-wing persuasion joined the Red Guards as 'international' volunteers while a much lesser number joined the Whites. The Allies determined to keep the majority from rejoining the main theatres of war in Europe in 1918. (Russian art card, 1910s)

Russian Civil War Bolsheviks

were confirmed as numbering 2,000 tbere in early March 1918. A similar number of Hungarians had helped take over Omsk and hundreds of Austrians had been enrolling in the lied Guards in Irkutsk. The fact that several Russians with German-sounding names were signing orders or operating with the Bolsheviks in other locations did not help. For example, Von Ranch, Bauer, Blyukher and many others were logically but incorrectly assumed to be German officers.

By July 1918, the number of 'international' troops in the lied Army had reached at least 40,000-50,000, a sum, however, that included Chinese, Romanians, I'oles and extreme-left Czechs as well as Germans and Austro-1 lungarians {but not including the Latvian Rifles}. Several of these units, for example the 2nd Communist F. Adler Battalion, the Karl Liebknecht Regiment and the Karl Marx Battalion, sounded ominously German. Given the context of the times and the gravity of the strategic situation on the Western Front, the potential threat could not have been ignored by the Allies,

The revolt of the Czech Legion against the Bolsheviks in May 1918 added a new dimension and urgency to these considerations. The Allies now had to establish a new Eastern Front, as well as 'rescue' an ally stuck deep inside Russia. The Legion's spectacular seizure of the Volga and Siberia from May to August effectively forced the Allies to act swiftly.

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment