Consolidation and the Second Civil War 192122

The end of the Whites meant the Reds were able to round out their borders at the expense of their neighbours. In the west, they accepted the loss of Finland, Poland and the Baltic states. In 1920, they signed treaties with Estonia in February, with Lithuania in July, Latvia in August and Finland in October. A treaty with Poland followed in March 1921. I hese losses were temporary, however. From 1939 to 1945, Poland and the Baltic states were 'returned to the fold'. After the conclusion of World War Two In 1945, Red hegemony extended into

Reds at Kakhovka stand triumphantly beside a captured MarkV tank autumn 1920. Painting by F. G. Krichevsky. (Soviet art card, c. 1931)

Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria, regions about which not even the tsars had dreamed.

Bolshevik power gradually extended eastward to the Pacific Ocean. The Red Army invaded Manchuria and Mongolia in 1920-21. The month after the Japanese evacuation of Vladivostok In October 1922, the Bolsheviks annexed the Far Eastern Republic, thereby removing the last of their political obstacles in the east.

In the south, the Red Army took possession of the Caucasus region between the Black and Caspian Seas. The Reds entered Azerbaijan In April 1920 and Armenia that December. Georgia fell in February 1921.

Advances in the southeast, in Central Asia, were more problematical. A 'Basmachi Revolt' had begun in 1918 to counter Bolshevik food requisitions. Further, traditional Islam had little in common with the political and cultural aspects of Bolshevism. The revolt spread to include those interested in a 'pan-Turkish' union, hearkening to the days

Popular 1920 Paintings
Red troops crossing the treacherous Sivash salt marshes in the Crimea under fire. November 1920. (Painting by N. S. cand c, 1920s)

when the Turkish tribes maintained affiliations, and even to those espousing the formation of a single pan-Islamic state. Former 'Young Turk' head of stale Fnver Pasha, in exile after World War One, joined the Basmachis in 1921 and died in August of the following year while leading a cavalry charge against the Reds. The Red Army broke the back of the rebels in 1922, although resistance continued until 1934 when the last of the Basmachis were captured.

More dangerous in the eyes of Lenin, however, were the internal rebellions that questioned the foundation of Bolshevism itself - insurrections that the Red leadership privately referred to as the 'Second Civil War'. Fortunately for the Bolsheviks, these revolts occurred after the main battle fronts of the civil war had been silenced. The lied Army had more than enough men to extend the borders of the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic while simultaneously crushing internal opponents.

Politically, the Bolsheviks could not consolidate power until they had fully suppressed internal dissidents. Elements considered 'bourgeois' or remnants of the

White Armies were identified, rounded up, then shot or sent to labour camps such as the notorious Cheka establishment at the Solovetsky Monastery complex at Archangel. Socialist Revolutionaries, Anarchists and Mensheviks who had failed to see a deep enough red in the light of revolution were identified and 'processed' in the same way by the end of 1922, So too were the various groups of partisans who were unable to adapt to the new political way of life or accept the loss of the freedoms they had known during the civil war. Battles with outlying partisans groups, labelled according to formula as 'bandits', lasted through the 1920s in Siberia.

The rebellion at the naval base of Kronstadt from 28 February to 18 March 1921 was a particularly embarrassing matter because the sailors of the Baltic Fleet had been at the heart of the Revolution from the very beginning. Their demands, addressed to the Bolshevik Party, included new elections to the soviets, the rights of free assembly and free speech, the freedom to establish trade unions, the freeing of socialist political prisoners and the equalization of rations. In short, they asked for a limitation of state centrism and a return of the freedoms for which they had fought.

in response, the Bolsheviks decided to take Kronstadt by storm before the ice surrounding the island naval base could

Bolsheviks Reds Hats

Red commander Efim Ivanovich Kurashov. by L. F. Golovanov, wearing the new 1922 pattern uniform. (Soviet art card)

melt. On 7 March, Trotsky ordered Tukachevsky and 60,000 troops to begin operations. Over the next 11 days the sailors fought fiercely, inflicting 10,000 casualties on the lied Army before being defeated. Of the approximately

Red commander Efim Ivanovich Kurashov. by L. F. Golovanov, wearing the new 1922 pattern uniform. (Soviet art card)

14,000 sailors at Kronstadt, about half managed to escape to Finland. The other half died in battle, were executed after the fact or served out their days in labour camps.

Equally disturbing were the peasant rebellions on the Volga, in Siberia and in the province of Tambov, these revolts were the inexorable consequence of the Bolsheviks' need to requisition food for their cities and the natural desire of the peasantry to retain as much food as possible on home ground. Many rebels also asked for freedoms similar to those the Kronstadt sailors had demanded.

T he most vimlent rebellion broke out on 19 August 1920 at Tambov, 500 kilometres southeast of Moscow. By October, 50,000 rebels were in the field under the command of Alexander Antonov. Organized into regiments, the rebels created their own uniforms and insignia and thrashed every Red expedition sent out to obtain food.

Freed Irom operations at Kronstadt, the Reds were able to transfer 32,500 infantry, 8,000 cavalry and special-purpose Cheka detachments, all under the command of Tukachevsky, to Tambov in March 1921. Every available technological arm was employed, from machine guns and artillery to armoured trains, armoured cars and aircraft, to poison gas. Aircraft rained gas on rebel forest strongholds during the summer and autumn of 1921. Families and whole villages associated with the rebellion were displaced into specially constructed concentration camps. Nearly a quarter of a million died in the conflagration. Antonov and the last of his commanders were executed in June 1922.

Meanwhile, the Red Army crushed Makhno's popular Insurgent army in the Ukraine In August 1921. In Bolshevik terms, these Anarchists had been no more than 'debauched bandits'.

Forced and uncompensated food requisitions and the general economic dislocations caused by the civil war contributed to the famines of 1920-23 that occurred on the Volga, in Armenia, the Crimea and the Ukraine. These events further exacerbated peasant unrest and

Bolsheviks Civil War
Sailors of the Baltic Sea Fleet based at Kronstadt True to their revolutionary ideals, the/ demanded greater freedoms and equality and were ruthlessly crushed by the Bolsheviks in 1921. (Museum of the Revolution art card, 1933)

undermined general faith in the economic system known as 'war communism'. Always pragmatic, Lenin promulgated a different economic strategy known as the New Economic Policy (NEP) on 21 March 1921. NEP temporarily relaxed collectivization policies and allowed small private farms and business to operate, even while the apparatus of state centrlsm continued otherwise unchecked. NEP incentives ended drastically when Stalin announced the advent of the Five Year Plans in 1928.

The Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic lasted until 30 December 1921, thereafter becoming known as the LInion of Soviet Socialist Republics. The new name reflected the increasing consolidation and control that became a hallmark of Soviet society.

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  • maurizio
    What kind of uniforms did the soldiers wear during the silver war?
    9 years ago
  • Vihtori
    What do the bolsheviks uniforms look like?
    8 years ago

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