RUSSIA 1914 - 1924

The Russian Civil War

The Russian Civil War

Features of the Russian Civil War

Russian Civil War - History GCSE RevisionTaking control of any country, and especially one as big and complicated as Russia, was never going to be a simple task. Some sections of Russian society despised the Bolsheviks. Some of them even longed for a return for the Tsar, though this was certainly not the case with all of those who opposed Lenin.

These groups united as a force known as the Whites (in opposition to the Reds of the Bolsheviks) and went to war to try and take down Lenin. The Whites’ forces were battalions of soldiers led by Generals who opposed the Bolsheviks. Britain, France and America, appalled by the thought of a communist revolution, also sent soldiers to intervene on behalf of the Whites.

The war lasted for three years, and was far from easy for the Bolsheviks. In fact, the threat of defeat was partly what caused Lenin to take measures such as dismissing the Constituent Assembly and running the country as a dictatorship. But these were not the only measures that were taken.

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The Red Army

Trotsky organised the Red Army, which became a very efficient and disciplined fighting unit, partly because the consequences of not putting in a full effort if you were in it was death by execution.

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War Communism

Lenin introduced War Communism, an economic system in which all aspects of agricultural and industrial production were put into fighting the war against the Whites. The needs of the Revolution were viewed as more important than the everyday needs of the people, even if the people who suffered were the ones that the Dictatorship of the Proletariat was supposed to be working for.

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The Red Terror

Lenin also terrorized the population (known as the Red Terror) to get people behind his side. This included executing any suspected opponents of the regime and/or their families. They hoped that keeping people scared would make them loyal.

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1922, Advantage Lenin

By 1922, the War was largely going in Lenin’s favour. Each time the Red Army captured an area that had been held by the Whites, they incorporated it into the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics (USSR or Soviet Union), the name they gave to their new country. The reason they were ‘Soviet Republics’ is because the territories at stake were not just Russia, but places such as the Ukraine and Georgia.

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1924, The End of War

Russian Gunboat  - History GCSE RevisionBy 1924, the war was over. The USSR was created, with Moscow as its new capital. It was run by a Central Executive Committee, which was made entirely of members of the Communist Party, which was the new name that the Bolsheviks had given themselves.

However, the Civil War hadn’t been all plain sailing for Lenin. The demands placed on Russians – think of the starvation and the terror – had alienated many. In 1921, the Russian sailors who had helped Lenin in November 1921 held a mutiny in protest at War Communism. The incident showed that even the most loyal supporters of Bolshevism could be turned against it. Peasants were particularly unhappy with the fact that under war communism they simply had to give everything that they produced to the government, and were made to starve if they refused to do so.

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Lenin’s Concessions

"From the NEP Russia will come the Socialist Russia" - History GCSE RevisionLenin decided to make concessions to some of the groups that he had alienated. The main way to do this was through the New Economic Policy (NEP), which allowed peasants to sell their produce for a profit, something that went against the principles of communism in the eyes of some. Some people were also allowed to set up their own businesses and make a profit. Peasants who became successful under the NEP were known as Kulaks, and were often hated by poorer peasants, whereas successful traders were called Nepmen, and were also the subject of envy.

Lenin also allowed a return of some local traditions and customs in the non-Russian parts of the USSR, to keep the peoples there loyal. This included re-opening places of religious worship.