The Red Army

. second day of the Bolshevik Revolution, 2(> it 1917, a supreme body was created to take over ■ if the armed forces the Committee on and Naval Affairs. It had three members, task was to install Bolsheviks into the highest iry posts and to begin the organising of a new

'People's Army'. On the following day the committee took on six new members, and was renamed the So\iet of People's Commissars on Military and Naval Affairs. At the end of November this body was split into two separate commissariats, one for the army and the other for naval affairs.

The Bolsheviks declared that their credo of equality for all was to extend into the armed forces, and that when authority was needed it should be organised democraticalh by elections. There followed a decree, on 10 November 1917, which took the remarkable step of formally abolishing all pre-rcvolutionary grades, ranks, orders and titles, both military and civilian. On 16 December further decrees formalised the election procedure for new authorities in the army and outlined the equality of all servicemen.

By this date virtually all power in the former Tsarist \rmy w as in the hands of soldiers' committees at front, army, divisional and regimental level, and, in effect, a military parliament was present in every regiment. The bureaucratic chaos this caused was terrific: before any order from a commander was obeyed, a ruling from the soldiers' committee was needed to confirm the order. It is remarkable that anything got done at all.

Despite the Revolution, it was impractical to demobilise the old army at once, as Russia was still at war with Germany, Austria-Hungary and Turkey. But six million Russian soldiers were sick of the conflict, a fact apparent to Trotsky one of the key figures in the Red Army's formation as he journeyed to Brest-Litovsk in an attempt to negotiate a peace w ith Germany .

Official Red Army breast badge of 1'J IS. It has the hum-mer-and-plough device, which gave way officially in l')22 to the belter-known hammer-and-sickle.

A 'gradual demobilisation' of the old armv was announced on 10 November 1917. In the event it proved impossible to control the speed of the demobilisation from Petrograd. On hearing the news, soldiers began leaving their front-line positions in droves, taking their weapons with them and attempting to return home by whatever means they could find. This chaos was not helped by Bolshevik announcements that now 'the land belonged to the peasants'.

Although many reached their homes, others were drawn into Red or White units on the way or simplv became armed bandits the 'Greens', who fought anybody. (The Greens have sometimes been wrongly associated with nationalist formations, such as Father Makhno's People's Army. In fact there was nothing political about them: they simply killed for profit.)

The demobilisation of the Tsarist Army continued until April 1()18, but on 15 January 1918 the Soviet government announced the creation of a new army. It was to be raised on new principles, and recruited from 'class-conscious workers and toiling peasants' on a vol-untarv basis. The official name of the new force was

the Workers' and Peasants' Red Armv Rabocht Krestyanskaya Krasnaya Armiya or RKK I (CyriHB PKKA). It became known as the Red Army.

Admission to the Red Armv was at first highlv selective, and prospective volunteers required a recommendation from a military body, trade union or other public organisation aligned with the Bolshevik party. F an existing military unit or Red Guards detachmend was willing to join the Red Army, a democratic decM

Voyenspcts, or military specialist (basically an ex-office oj"the Tsarist Army), late 1918. He wears a khaki cloth peaked cap oj Tsarist Army model with a small, brass-s cap badge and an old-Jashioned winter blue-grey officers' coat with additional Jur collar. His brown leather Jield k and equipment are of 1911 pattern with a Red Army baA clipped to one of the shoulder straps; this manner of we a ing badges had become popular during the (¡real War. /Andrei Karachtchouk Collection)

no . followed by the mutual guarantees of cp» This approach ensured that 011 In wj Heirs were to be found in the ranks of JbK Red Army.

ftjfei --ular' corps of the Red Army was the » L'h appeared in January 1918; in practice »> J depot from which battalions were

* The Red Arm\ received its true bap-pc r i ebruary 1918, when, alongside the Red

(v . ir Red Army troops clashed with « u ■ ■ and Narva. The battle had been pre-

• j mous call-to-arms from the Soviet of [C missars, who on 21 February declared: rf itherland is in danger!'. Over the next I -jnds enrolled in the Red Army, and

. February has been celebrated as Soviet k* \ Russian Army Day). M. 1918, the Supreme Military Soviet was >r£. took full responsibility for the develop-'*•. Red Army, and its first actions were to |Hi nkrugi (districts) and to set up mili-m its at all levels. The formation of 58 b - • s, specialist and technical troops, and and cavalry units was also begun, ■jpri 1918, there were already 155,000 men in KAi and by 20 April this number hail risen j^M \t this stage the Army still had no formal structure, no training centres, no uni-Idering variety of weapons of different ins were commanded by elected leaders iment of elected bodies. Only a genuine ft - the Revolution kept things moving, end of 1918 about 50 'Red commanders' h» - had been established in major Russian the first Soviet military academies were . atter were organised on a branch-of-ser-. included naval, medical and general staff ■ hi Trotsky's initiative, nearly 22,000 offi-. "Id Tsarist Army (tolerated under the umc voyempets - military specialist) were to enrol in the Red Army; they helped •prove the quality of training. More impor-».¡s the re-employment of 130,000 former (.Os, w hose field experience was vital in emits into soldiers.

. after the abolition of all ranks and titles, ember 1917, all persons were to address each irazhdanin (citizen), but this was soon >y tovarish (comrade). The Red Army was i be just as egalitarian: there were only two -noarmeyels (Red Army man) and Krasny Red commander) Kraskom for short. (The

I hi ¡¡nits of Red Army headgear badges from 1918 to l')22. Only the two topmost were of official issue; the rest were manufactured by local craftsmen to their own designs. Xote that most have the hammer-and-plough device rather than the hammer-and-sukle. (Alexey Stepanov Collection)

first Soviet cadets had, in fact, graduated with the title of Komvzvoda, or platoon commander, but this was changed to Kraskom to provide all with equal chances of promotion.) Officially there were no officers in the new army, and the command titles listed below were regarded as distinctions indicating posts held, rather than ranks. This somewhat artificial state of affairs lasted until 1935, when ranks were reintroduced.

The development of an all-volunteer Red Army soon floundered, and the military situation deteriorated as the Soviet Republic became surrounded on all sides by White and foreign armies. Once-ardent and idealis-

Commanders' titles (ranks) in the Red Army

lust in-Put Hovels armourêA car of a I.etuehy Broneotryad, or 'flying' armoured detachment, near Petrograd, autumn 1919. The crew and their commander (second from left) wear the black• leather clothing popular in Red Army armoured units.

Komandir Otdeleniya

Pomkomvzvoda y.amkomvzvoda

Starshina

Knmvzvnda

Komroty

Kumbat

Knmpolka

Kombrig

Komdiv

A nmandurm

K ontanduyusliiy Frontom GUrckum or Ghivkoverkh

Section Commander Assistant Platoon Commander Deputy Platoon Commander Sergeant-Major Platoon Commander Company Commander Battalion Commander Regiment Commander Brigade ( Commander Division Commander Army Commander Front Commander Supreme ('.ommander tic volunteers became disillusioned by the apparent lack of progress towards the 'World Revolution', and the peasants, who made up nearly 90 per cent of all recruits, began deserting in droves as they saw their villages repeatedly burnt and their crops trampled by both Reds and Whites. In May 1918 the Soviet government decided the only option was to introduce conscription for men aged 18-40.

In September the first higher level military structures, field armies and Fronts (Army groups) began to appear. By November, thanks to conscription, 47 rifle divisions (116 brigades and 339 regiments), four cavalry divisions and one cavalrv brigade had been formed. B\

the end of 1918 there were 12 field armies numberinj more than 285,000 infantry and cavalry. The mobilise tion plan had initially envisaged a Red Army ( 1,500,000 men: by spring 1919 it already numbcrd 1,630,000.

On 6 September 1918 overall command of ih armed forces was entrusted to the Revolutionary Military Council of the Republic the RMSR, <i Revvoyensovet, headed by Trotsky. The political side • the army continued to grow in influence, and the numj ber of commissars and, later, political officers, as \ul as communist partv members, grew rapidly: frori 35,000 in October 1918 to 121,000 in October 1919 arj 278,000 in August 1920. In effect, the Party had I presence in all Red Army units.

B\ January 1919 the Red Army had new interna service regulations, new garrison duty regulations, field manual and a disciplinary code. Lvery soldier pod sessed the Knizhka hrasnoarmeytza (Red Arnn man| booklet) spelling out his rights, responsibilities and r expected norms of conduct. By the summer of 1919 pay allowance for soldiers and commanders of the Ru Army had been introduced.

In June 1919 the unification of the Soviet Social« Republics Russia, Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania an. Byelorussia 'to fight world imperialism' wa announced. This, at last, allowed the Bolsheviks to tun the Red Arnn into a coherent militarv bodv with cen tralised command.

In December 1919 the Red Army numbered thru million men; bv 1 November 1920 this had increased lust in-Put Hovels armourêA car of a I.etuehy Broneotryad, or 'flying' armoured detachment, near Petrograd, autumn 1919. The crew and their commander (second from left) wear the black• leather clothing popular in Red Army armoured units.

remained in arms until 1(>24, 6 September '.as demobilised and its numbers

The Revolutionary Military Soviet of the Republic (R.MSR) is established as the ruling body of the armed forces.

Queen Maria Pia

Anton Ulizniuk, machine-gun team instructor of the 1st 'Kotchuhey' Revolutionary Cavalry Regiment. In 19IS he single-handedly covered a retreat with his Maxim gun, turning, when out oj ammunition, to a Mauser K-96 pistol IIter suffering 26 sabre wounds he was rescued by friends, lie was later captured by the Whites, but managed to escape a firing-squad by swimming across a mountain stream in winter. He wears a kubanka fur hat, and leather equipment of 1') 11 pattern, together with a navy dirk, binoculars and map case. On liis left sleeve is a machine-gun team badge embroidered in gold, and beneath it ten red stripes, marking the number oj wounds according to the army system introduced in 1916.

HRONOLOGY

I he February revolution begins in Petrograd.

\ xlication of Tsar Nicholas II, cre-ti >n of the provisional government, he October (Bolshevik) revolution .-ins in Petrograd. I he Soviet government (Soviet of People's Commissars) is formed. Soviet rule is established in Petrograd, Moscow, Donbass, the Urals, Baku . id the \ olga region. General Dukhonin, supreme commander of the Russian Armv, is shot. I'he Cheka, headed by Dzerzhinsky, is formed.

Great Britain and France divide Russia into spheres of influence: Britain gets the Caucasus, France gets Ukraine andthe Crimea.

Formation of Red Army announced. The clash of Red Guards and the first Red Army units with Germans at Narva and Pskov.

Brest-I ,ito\sk Treaty with Germany: Russia loses Ukraine, Finland, Georgia, Poland and the Baltic states. Japanese troops arrive in the Soviet Far Fast.

An uprising in Moscow is suppressed by Red Latvian rifle regiments.

Tsar Nicholas II and his family are executed by Bolsheviks ill

Fkaterinburg.

Attempt on Lenin's life.

The 'Red Terror' begins.

March

May July

Anton Ulizniuk, machine-gun team instructor of the 1st 'Kotchuhey' Revolutionary Cavalry Regiment. In 19IS he single-handedly covered a retreat with his Maxim gun, turning, when out oj ammunition, to a Mauser K-96 pistol IIter suffering 26 sabre wounds he was rescued by friends, lie was later captured by the Whites, but managed to escape a firing-squad by swimming across a mountain stream in winter. He wears a kubanka fur hat, and leather equipment of 1') 11 pattern, together with a navy dirk, binoculars and map case. On liis left sleeve is a machine-gun team badge embroidered in gold, and beneath it ten red stripes, marking the number oj wounds according to the army system introduced in 1916.

kolchak's troops take Ufa, Sarapul and Bugulma; the French order the evacuation of their troops from Odessa. Vudenich's White Army advances on Petrograd.

Denikin's W hite armies advance on Moscow.

October

November

1920

February

March

April

17 August

November

1921

8-18 March April

1922

March

October 30-31 Dec.

Yudenich's attempt to take Petrograd fails and his Northern Army is destroyed; mass desertions in the Red Army.

Kolchak's army is thrown out of the Urals.

Soviet rule in Latvia collapses; the Red Army occupies Krasnovodsk - the main White stronghold in Central Asia.

The Reds take Ekaterinodar and Novorossiysk from Denikin; Denikin's troops are evacuated to the Crimea; the Poles take Kiev. Poles and Ukrainians advance on Russia and Ukraine; General Brusilov calls upon former Tsarist officers to join the Red Army to repel the Poles; more than 14,000 respond.

Red troops decisively defeated near Warsaw by the Poles. All hopes of spreading the revolution to western Europe are thwarted. Red troops capture the Crimea; Wrangel's White Army is evacuated to Turkey.

Kronstadt sailors' revolt is brutally suppressed.

Founding of the Far Eastern Republic (FER).

White Guards withdraw to Manchuria. Japanese troops evacuate the Soviet Far East.

The end of large-scale military operations.

The USSR is officially formed by the federation of previously independent republics.

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