halialkers: (Default)
While the Battle of Lake Khazan was already covered in the last entry of this subseries, it was part of a broader pattern of clashes motivated by the expansion of the Soviet empire into Asia. cut for length )
The battle was decisive in ending Japanese inclination to push northward and ultimately in the road to Pearl Harbor and to the creation of the Grand Alliance, and in terms of spurring the career of future Marshal of the Soviet Union Georgi Zhukov. From here, Zhukov would ascend to command of the Kiev Military District, and then to a high role in the Soviet General Staff. The end of the Soviet war in Asia for a time would also enable Stalin to concentrate fully on Europe, in time to exploit the growing crisis between the Great Powers, and to provide for the joint pact between the two totalitarian regimes that made war in Europe inevitable and on a large scale.

halialkers: General Grant, left-profile view. black and white. Man with beard, mustache, thin hair (Kanari-2)
In one of the great illustrations of Soviet continuity with the Tsardom that preceded it, the first Soviet battle of WWII would be fought by a man named Blucher against the Imperial Japanese Army. Why does this matter? Because the Imperial Russian officer corps that ensured Russia went down in flames in one of the most gratuitous failures in modern warfare was made up of Germans like Rennenkampf, Plehve, Evert, and suchlike. This guy, OTOH, was one of the proponents of the Deep Operations concept that was already at this point in peril, and the battle thus illustrates a potential for the pre-Purge Army (as this guy was one of the Marshals of the Soviet Union actually shot in the Purge).

This war was part of a broader pattern of Soviet expansionism in this phase of World War II.  This battle was simultaneous to the very poorly-timed Purge, which actually had some degree of influence from the SS. The Battle began due to growing tensions between the Soviet Union and the Empire of Greater Japan over the Manchuria/Mongolia region, as the USSR had inherited Russia's imperial interest here. Significantly for the future of Soviet imperialism nobody realized this point, to the great detriment of the Allies in the later Second World War.

Beginning on 29 July the Soviets and Japanese were to fight until the 9th of August in a bloody and indecisive clash of arms where the Japanese destroyed one Soviet rifle division (which given the nature of Soviet military doctrine at the time is rather underwhelming) but Soviet reinforcements bandied Japan out of the gains they'd made from this battle. Neither side distinguished itself in this instance. Japan relied on sending huge waves of infantry against superior firepower, and Banzai Charges were no more successful against Stalin's army than they would be against FDR's Marines. The Soviets' middling performance may have contributed to the Purge of poor Marshal Blucher, but it would also lead to a sequel a year later of no little significance either in terms of the global grand strategic context or the 'narrower' context of Red Army internal politics, by virtue of featuring a then little-known cavalryman named Georgi Konstantinovich Zhukov, the future victor of Yelnya, Leningrad, Moscow, Stalingrad, Kursk, the Dnepr, Brody, Bagration, the drive to the Oder, and Berlin. But this was just the first engagement of many.

At the same time in 1934, before the Purge, the Soviets had invaded the region known as Xinjiang in contemporary China, where an ongoing insurgency against the PRC is being waged by the local Uighurs, an insurgency nobody gives a damn about because the insurgents are Muslims. If they were Tibetans, it'd be front-page news with a strongly anti-Chinese bent no matter any reality, or for that matter if it was Taiwan. It's Muslims in the area known only from a Sacha Baron Cohen movie so nobody gives a damn. Well, when the Soviets invaded they *also* faced a Muslim opponent, namely the Ma Clique.

In the ensuing battles the Ma Clique, equipped and run on the secular GMD style, got thrashed by the USSR twice, in 1934 (in one of the instances where White Russians worked together with the Red Army) and then in 1937, during the Second Sino-Japanese War. Very significantly Moscow did not emphasize this side of its foreign policy in terms of the lead-in to World War II in Europe, or its impact on World War II in Asia. That this indicated the USSR was expansionist from the get-go was a reason why. However this, it's also worth reflecting, showed that the Eastern totalitarians were playing a double-game from the standard of any kind of unified picture of Soviet intentions from the first, and if we factor in Stalin's animosity to Mao perhaps a triple game. Poland as such was not the beginning or even the end of the beginning of Soviet Machiavellian trickery.
halialkers: (Default)
As has been noted throughout this series the Red Army of the Russian Civil War greatly outnumbered all its enemies which were actually Russian. In 1919 it faced a concerted effort to destroy it and defeated it, again with a far better strategic position and a minimum of 10:1 superiority over its many enemies. In 1920-1 it fought the largest-scale quasi-international war with Poland. Poland had been engaged in fighting with the Red Army since 1919, but preferred to have the Red Army destroy the large, powerful AFSR forces in the region first as it feared that White Russia wanted to re-absorb Poland as a Russian province (which in fact they actually did want to do this). Poland in turn wanted to expand its boundaries further east and would do so with an essential blank check as the Versailles Treaty laid out Poland's western boundaries, but not its eastern one. Poland, again, was not actually seeking to destroy the Red Army, so the view that the Poles would have smashed those dastardly Reds is an inaccurate one.

As it turned out, however, the Red Army at first was again weakened and overstretched and was bashed back eastwards in an initial Polish strike that took it rather deep into Ukraine, including the capture of the city of Kiev. Under Commissars such as Trotsky and Koba the Red Army would bounce back, and found itself in an offensive in turn deep into Polish territory. Now, the Red Army had up to this point fought relatively small numbers of enemies who were dependent on much poorer strategic positions than that faced by the Polish army of this time, and it was having to spread itself out further and further in a type of battle it had no prior experience in, at the same time as General Wrangel was providing the last core of White Russian resistance on Russian soil proper.

A Red Army force thus overstretched and undermanned was committed to attacking in two separate directions and unable to achieve decisive numbers anywhere (shades of the WWI Tsarist army here), and the Poles, who were outnumbered by 300,000 but the largest, most formidable army faced by the Red Army during these wars, attacked them in the Battle of Warsaw and smashed the tar out of the Red Army force, sending them in a retreat back to the lines where the Red Army counteroffensive had started from around Kiev. The result was Poland successfully gained a strip of territory jutting into the eastern USSR, and this laid the groundwork for the Nazi-Soviet alliance against Poland that started WWII, so it's here that the first stirrings of the European theater show up.

The Red Army, after this, would turn south and crush Wrangel in the last major campaigns of the Russian Civil War, capturing the Crimea, and would partition with the Turkish Republic the region of the Caucasus, the Gubernaia of Erevan (aka Armenia) becoming part of the Soviet Union. With the Russian Soviet Federated Republic annexing the Caucasus, Central Asia, and the remaining parts of Siberia and establishing the second global Communist regime in Mongolia, the RSFR was renamed in a federalist guise, taking on the name it would hold until 1991: the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. In 1922, thus, a new type of state was born: a totalitarian one, committed to a global ideology, led by an elite that created a siege mentality for itself that produced self-fulfilling prophecies. In the same year Fascism would rise in Italy. The Center was already beginning to degrade.
halialkers: Boudicca, red-haired woman blowing trumpet made out of horn (Kanari H'vat H'vorxixnon)
In the fall of 1919 the Red Army, growing in size and sophistication relative to its enemies would conduct a series of engagements under leaders such as Tuchachevsky where it would smash all its White enemies. The Whites, as mentioned, had relied on foreign aid under-committed and on machinery where donations were contingent on battlefield successes which proved illusory and instances of shooting their bolt. In a three-front series of offensives the much larger Red Army, the victorious leader of the Red Army now not Trotsky but Marshal Kamenev.

To make a long story short the adjustments of the Bolshevik ideology to military reality and necessity was very painful, and while Trotsky was good enough to found the Red Army he made a series of misjudgments and controversial decisions in the winter 1918/9 to the summer of 1919 that led to the replacement of his agent in command of the Red Army, Vatsetsis, with Kamenev. Instrumental in this replacement was Koba-Stalin, at this time not yet the most powerful single man in what was now called the Russian Federated Soviet Republic. The Red Army routed Kolchak and reduced his army to smithereens. It would do the same to Denikin and to most of the Ukrainian factions, including the Green Army of Makhno, who is more in the Pol Pot/Jennison/Heydrich level of evil than most figures of the war, rivaled only by his White counterpart, Ungern-Sternberg.

In this year the most bitter fighting against the Whites was not against Kolchak or Yudenich but against Denikin, who had led the largest, best-trained, best-motivated White forces but with the full might of the Red Army turned against him and his army overextended and divided tactically among itself and conducting a plan his army was reduced to the shattered remnants ultimately led by Wrangel. By comparison the Yudenich campaign was short, sweet, and to the point.

In 1920, however, the Red Army would be drawn into the Central European Wars when the Poles, who had seen Makhno and the Ukrainian Whites smashed decided to adjust their borders further east, prompting the most dramatic of the events of the Russian Civil War. It was also in 1919 that the three Baltic states confirmed their independence, an independence that would be rudely interrupted in 1940 until the 1990s.

And now for more about the Turkish War of Independence.
halialkers: Alucard with smoking pistol, brunette man with red hat, red cloak, red tie, moving gif (Nova)
It must be noted that at all points in the Russian Civil War, the Bolsheviks had superior numbers, geography, organization, leadership, and the freebie logistics provided by the last years of war production in the Empire of Nicholas II and the government of Aleksandr Kerensky. The Bolsheviks, to win their war, just had basically to wait long enough and they'd be able to bulldoze anyone and everyone against them. The Red Terror was a politically efficient means of sealing the new regime by virtue of making its soldiers and citizens fear their new Red Overlords more than they did the enemy, where the White Terror was as much a confession of weakness as one of strength.

Too, the Whites were in a triple-bind. First, just as much as the Reds there was no, I repeat no popular sympathy for them. Most Russians backed the peasant Social Revolutionary Party, which was neither Bolshevik nor White. The Whites thus consisted of whatever armies their leaders could cobble together. Second, the Whites were on the periphery, having much further to go, and as a result dependent on the Bolsheviks to collapse internally in a means they never had any actual ability or capability to effect. Third, White logistics were provided free of charge by the Western and actually Central Powers both.....provided the Whites maintained the kind of consistent advance where even an army with larger number troops and the ability to use them properly but no especial brilliance could wear them down from blade to nub.

Yet in 1919 there was the point where the Bolshevik advances, which in January were looking increasingly unstoppable, were in every single case reversed and the Whites were at a point where they were seriously on the surface looking like they might win. How could this happen? Well, the answer's surprisingly simple: the Red Army was large, but inexperienced, cobbled together by conscription and a brutish disciplinary code, and committed to overextension as it advanced progressively further but did not have enough troops to do everything at one time.

This is how in Ukraine their attempts at the start of the year to take it over wound up being reversed, as their offensive power ran out of steam and their staying power in Ukraine was not very deep then. In the north, the establishment of Yudenich's army and the successful landings of the Anglo-US force had established a strong White Force, if one confined to territory that was neither very useful nor particularly close to any city that mattered. In the south, Denikin was reaping the fruit of Alekseev's hard work and continuing a process whereby the Bolshevik forces in the south were to be cleared off, the Cossack allies of the AFSR integrated into it, and preparing a massive strike for Moscow.

The Bolshevik Bubble, however, began to snap first in the East, when their advances against Kolchak's forces, which had seen the first warning of overstretch in the Battle of Perm, where a smaller White Force inflicted heavy losses and a tactical defeat on the Bolsheviks, started to come unglued. It would be in March that Admiral Kolchak's forces began their offensive, striking east and driving the Bolsheviks back headlong, this owing both to Kolchak's strength and to the relative weakness and fragility of Bolshevik gains. In the Ukrainian front the Bolsheviks, who were busy devoting as much effort as humanly possible to stopping this attack, made gains when the French, having gained nothing from their position at Odessa, withdrew in April. The Whites, who had seemed unstoppable for a time, had their illusions also rather brutally punctured in a process later to be described and involving a name that would be famous later for both theories and his ultimate fate:

The future Marshal Tuchachevsky would begin facing the landlocked Admiral in a sequence of battles that would decide the war in Siberia.....
halialkers: Tyrannosaurus side view with S-curve, long deep muzzle (Tyranos)
In January 1919, Russia's Civil War saw the firm establishment of Allied intervention. Originally begun to aid the Czechoslovaks to escape and to strong-arm the Bolsheviks into continuing the war, this intervention acquired a momentum and a justification of its own right. Japan would occupy for a time large parts of Russian Siberia, the British and the USA parts of Northern Russia around Archangelsk, and the French around Odessa in Ukraine. This kind of Mission Creep Mission Seep will characterize when I get to the Cold War a lot of the problems in later wars against the Communists. By 1919 Finland had fought and won its own war against its own Reds, where a combination of German effort and the brilliant and brutal leadership of Mannherheim led to one of the first successful Russian breakaway states. Finland would play a crucial role in securing the independence of the Baltic states, though once the Red Army began to enter these territories the fighting would become three separate wars.

In Lithuania in January of 1919 the Bolsheviks would march into Lithuanian terrritory, controlling two-thirds of it by the end of the month, this owing as much to the small sizes of forces involved and initial weakness on the part of Lithuanian nationalists as  to Bolshevik skill at this point. In Latvia, much the same process was the initial result, where the result was further amplified by the strong initial Latvian commitment to Bolshevik successes. In Estonia, however, with Finnish aid the Estonians, who had seen a similar process unfolding toward the end of 1918 were starting to reverse this. Use of armored trains was to produce the first in a string of victories over the Red Army, whose control of Estonian territory was beginning to erode.

In Ukraine the Ukrainian nationalists were squeezed between both Poland and the Bolsheviks, though the Red Army's successful destruction of the Hetmanate, a government that had emerged with German backing in the power vacuum of 1918 did not translate into overall control of Ukraine by any means. Instead the Ukrainian nationalists were to stalemate Polish forces for a time, as initial Polish successes in 1919 turned into an outright stalemate, Polish military strength at this point insufficient to crush Ukrainian nationalism, Ukrainian nationalism insuffiiciently strong to crush the Poles. The initial fighting between Bolshevik and the new Ukrainian regime's forces was to see a progressive Bolshevik advance.

In the south this period was one of consolidation of the Armed Forces of South Russia, as well as a military collapse of the Don Cossacks, defeated by Antonov-Ovseenko on the Red Side. In the East the Red Army continued a seemingly irresistible advance, an advance that would continue until March and left a false impression of strength when the reality was a logistical situation that would favor Kolchak and overextended Red Army forces. ones ripe for a bitch-slap. This, however, was still two months ahead in the future.

As far as Transcaucasia this is the point in time where Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan were attempting to form new, separate states. During this time Armenia would fight wars with both Georgia and Azerbaijan, all three states temporarily free to act in a vacuum made by Ottoman defeat and the victorious White armies beginning their advances against the Bolsheviks. These wars by 1919 were proving ultimately counterproductive to all three states but this, too, was apparent in hindsight more than at the time.
halialkers: Tyrannosaurus side view with S-curve, long deep muzzle (Tyranos)
In the rest of 1918 the fighting in the Russian Civil War would begin to accelerate. The Reds, learning from the unfolding disasters in the Caucasus, were to begin the first steps to establishing the Red Army, as this Red Army in turn faced its first severe trials in the region of the Volga and the Don. It was during this fighting that a certain Bolshevik Force including the 1st Cavalry Army would find itself facing the Battle of Tsaritsyn. As the AFSR was to consolidate and form itself during the fighting that followed the victory at Ekaterinodar, the Bolsheviks forestalled attempted Red Army defections, beginning the Red Terror which together with its counterpart White Terror were to make this a violent and pitiless war of remorseless and evil mutual enemies.

The Whites in the East were to find themselves in a bind, as were the emerging White Army in northern Russia under General Yudenich: White Armies were dependent solely on foreign aid, specifically in the form of equipment. This equipment was contingent on successful advances into the teeth of superior numbers against an enemy who was only able to defeat himself. However these advances, pursued on the basis of a rational military logic were unable to overcome an insuperable division of numbers and superior equipment was never able to address this disparity, which in turn would mean that the Whites would be left with an impression of incompetence that belied the facts. The trap for the Whites was that in pursuing all this their armies were handicapped by severe problems of leadership, and in the case of "civil" government by rejecting any such thing and thus fatally weakening any claim to government outside the reach of their arms.

Thus, in 1918, as the Red Army, slowly growing in size and skill, was to begin its first use of Blocking Detachments to begin providing discipline to bolster its superior numbers, was to begin drives east, a group of Don Cossacks was to push to the Volga River and the city of Tsaritsyn, where the Bolshevik Commissar, Stalin, was to be instrumental in the ultimate triumph of superior Bolshevik numbers and logistics against the Kossacks, this providing one of the reasons 1st Cavalry Army soldiers would escape Stalin's purges.

In the East the attempted All-Russian government linking the Right and Left was to begin to crack under the strain of a Social Revolutionary civilian government paired with reactionary generals. When the General commanding the professional core of the AFSR, Aleksyeev, died of a heart attack, his successor, Denikin, would wind up securing his predecessor's victories, which destroyed an entire Red Army and won one of the greatest triumphs of White Arms during the War, and as Kolchak deposed his civilian overlords in the wake of a Bolshevik advance that saw the Red Army reverse one gain made by the Whites and capturing another big city of the Eastern government, the Russian Civil War's pattern was set:

Local nationalist movements in Finland and the Baltic States would successfully break off from overall Russia. The Whites were stuck on the periphery, tied to foreign aid, and thus committed all along to doing too much with too little. The Bolsheviks had the best overall position and always numerical superiority and developed an increasingly able and disciplined leadership under first Trotsky and then Kamenev. The result of these twin realities was compounded by the superiority of both Bolshevik Terror and Bolshevik exploitation of White political mistakes would be the triumph of Soviet arms, but White superiority in terms of leadership and equipment would mean that in 1919 the Soviet state faced its gravest crisis in its overall history, when the Finns and Baltic states broke off, and Yudenich, Denikin, and Kolchak began joint offensives. The problems both sides would face in Ukraine, seen in the emergence of Right-Wing Ukrainian nationalism, the brief-lived Makhno Army, and the White and Bolshevik all-Russian forces were a hint that as in the Great Patriotic War and aftermath the USSR's problems with Ukraine would be a continual theme of its early history.

For all this 1918, with the first large-scale fighting in the south and a Red Tide rolling in the east was just the prelude. The war and the fate of the 20th Century were decided in the next year......
halialkers: Louis XIV, man in elaborate robes and tights, looking straight on, brunette wig (Azlain Gerigstandgros)
For a history of the fighting in the Russian Civil War, we must briefly detour back into WWI proper, in order to explain a crucial irony of what was, after all, a great *Russian* war. The Russian Civil War as recorded initially was a triumphal, virtually uninterrupted drive by the Bolshevik workers' militias and Latvian Riflemen, which between them had been brushing aside all the initially feeble attempts at resistance. Then the Germans and Turks had stepped in and this prompted Brest-Litovsk and led to temporary Turkish hegemony in the Caucasus. This was the crucial breathing spell that allowed for native White Russian forces to gather strength and to form a bloc as noted of both anti-Bolshevik Leftists and local nationalists, plus the reactionary all-Russian armies that made up the core of the White Russian armies.

It was thanks to this that the Armed Forces of South Russia, the most formidable and militarily powerful of the White Armies, were to assume their own offensives, however a renewal of fighting would begin first in May. The Czechsolovak Legion, a product of the WWI enmity of Tsarism and Habsburg rule, was intended to be the core of a Czechoslovak army, formed of POWs of what was then the Austro-Hungarian Army. The Bolsheviks, desiring to show they were more than German puppets, were to begin maneuvering to get these troops out of their territory, however the communications on all sides broke down. After the start of armed clashes the Czechsolovaks, seeking to get out of Russia, began an Anabasis intending to reach the Pacific and ruthlessly and efficiently pushed aside Bolshevik resistance. As a result of this incident the Omsk Government, an uneasy union of Social Revolutionary masses with White, reactionary military leaders was formed. In the south the first serious campaign by the AFSR began, which would see the end of the Workers' Militias and Trotsky''s decision to found the Red Army go through. Trotsky can be fairly said to be the USSR's George Washington in that he formed the basis of its military might, though he was in Braxton Bragg levels of inability to get along with anyone.

As a result the first major fighting in the southern front was the Kuban Campaign of the AFSR, which saw them tear through larger Bolshevik forces (remember at all points in time the Bolsheviks outnumber their enemies in Russia proper at a minimum of 10:1, though none of these forces are necessarily large by WWI or WWII standards). and thus the AFSR's first major battle, the Battle of Ekaterinodar was a success, bringing by August 3 the fall of the city and of a major Bolshevik force with it.

With this we now can speak of a sustained clash of multiple military movements in the territory once the old Romanov Empire, though as will be related this war is a massively convoluted series of events.
halialkers: Anzaea in brighter colors, blotches orange mouth, diagonal right arm/thumb, semicircle left arm (Anzaea)
The Russian Civil War is one of the most complex phases in history, though it ultimately proved decisive for the course of 20th Century politics and the spread of totalitarianism. A Civil War sparked by the collapse of the Russian Empire built by the descendants of Filaret and Michael Romanov, that Empire had spanned everywhere from Warsaw, today's Finland, to Outer Mongolia and for a time Alaska. By 1914 the Empire still included a vast many proto-states and the largest, most ethnically diverse minority populations in Europe. Ironically ethnic Russians were a smaller percentage of population in Imperial Russia toward its collapse than they were at the time of the USSR's collapse in the 1990s. These populations were very different, as one might expect.

Russian Poland would be the core of interwar and subsequent Polish states, the three partitions of Poland having failed to suppress the idea of Poland, which would be refashioned in a nationalist sense as opposed to the late medieval/Early Modern imperial state. The interwar state, however, is simultaneously within and without this Civil War proper, if the Polish-Soviet War had ended with a Soviet victory at Warsaw Poland would have been a successful re-annexation of Russia''s boundaries, the actual state was a mishmash of German, Austro-Hungarian, and German territory. Transforming this into a new and viable Polish state was not an easy task, the decisions made by Polish leaders proved a particularly bad way to go about it.

In terms of the three Baltic states and Finland, their factions, as will be related, are akin to those of Menshevik Georgia, the Armenian Republic of 1918-22, and Azerbaijan, as well as both Makhno and the Rada. Specifically all of these factions are the third, and most diverse group of the factions in the war: local nationalists, of varying degrees on both the Left and the Right, who were committed to carving out their own states. In Transcaucasia and Ukraine these attempts failed, though Ukraine is the most convoluted part of the war, while in the northern territories these attempts succeeded. The Baltic States and Finland were tied to Germanic culture, due to a German-speaking nobility in the case of the Baltic states (see Carl Gustaff von Mannerheim and Pavel von Rennenkampf), and in the case of Finland due to having been an extremity of the Swedish Empire. In the case of Latvia, Latvian Riflemen were the strongest force in the Red Army for until the midpoint of 1919, while in the case of Finland the triumph of White-Russian nationalists led by that ethnic German born in what at the time of his birth was St. Petersburg (and at this time is Petrograd) would ultiimately triumph over Red Finns. In all these cases the Imperial German regime was a decisive force, and this would be ratified at Versailles. This was one of many reasons Germans were skeptical of the Versailles Treaty as this was not really any different than the theft of Alsace-Lorraine from a Russian viewpoint, this in turn is *why* Stalin does what he does in 1939, this and Poland as mentioned above. In the Caucasus internal divisions among Armenian, Georgian, and Azeri nationalists and wars between these rival nationalists were what enabled the USSR to establish Soviet Socialist Republics in the region.

The all-Russian factions are two separate groups in turn: Whites and Bolsheviks.

The Whites were a mixture of republican Leftist and Rightist movements, both of which found reasons to oppose the new Bolshevik state.  The Rightist faction prevailed, however it's important to remember Leftist ones did exist. The Social Revolutionaries, a moderate Leftist Party was the most popular movement, indeed the only popular movement of all of these in Russia. They, however, had no army. The Mensheviks also had an all-Russian faction that appeared in the late part of 1919 and didn't have much chance, influencing a wave of labor unrest too late to save any of the non-Bolshevik factions. The Whites as they're properly remembered, however, were the creation of a group of generals who were opposed to Bolshevism, but had no platform beyond opposing Bolshevism.

In this there is not really a paradox, the pre-war Russian Army was deliberately de-politicized by Tsarism. The Decembrist Revolt is the only exception to this rule. Civil Wars are by their very nature ruled far more by politics than military logic, and so these men wound up in a trap, their focus on military logic meant they were able to do far better than their numerical disparity should have allowed for, their political non-appeal meant they could do nothing to follow these victories up. General for general, the Whites were far better than the best Bolshevik generals of this war from a military viewpoint. Politically their complete absence of appeal meant this meant a great deal of nothing.

The Reds, ironically, would be tapping most fully into the legacy of the old Romanov Empire. Their logistics were provided by the last years of Tsarist and the short-term Provisional Government war production. The Red Army consisted of the old Sukhomlinovite faction of skilled peasant-leaders, the Imperial Russian versions of Napoleonic generals promoted in the new regime where they would have been obscure in the old one. while the Bolsheviks inherited a great deal of former Tsarist officials. Indeed the continuity of the Bolsheviks with the old regime established during this phase that proved essential to their ultimate victory by prevailing politically and by weight of numbers was to give the USSR its traits of being simultaneously an ideological state and the true heir to the Romanov Empire. This paradox dated to the earliest days of the Soviet regime and was essential to its survival in this war as it was to its victory in WWII.
halialkers: A chimp looking serious. You'll never make a monkey out of me. (H'vorxixnon)

As previously related the triumphal march of Soviet power, so long as its enemies were inhabitants of the Russian Empire alone, had marched without cease to capture a region totalling 60 million people and the greatest military treasures left over from the regime of Nicholas I. The attempts to resist it, at this point limited to a few Cossacks along the Don River were ruthlessly brushed aside and even in Ukraine nothing was really stopping them. How did all that change? One phrase: Imperial Germany. The Bolsheviks had entered into negotiations with the Germans, but the Council of People's Commissars (which is what SovNarKom is short for, Soviet = Council, Narod= people, Kommissar = Commissar) was unwilling to give up any territory. This reflected a fundamental irony of the Soviet regime: its ideological-apocalyptic nature meant it was more unwilling to cede territory than Tsar Nicholas II arguably would have been.

To further complicate matters, this is where the concept of World Revolution came in. In 1918 the SovNarKom thought of global revolution as the inevitable and *only* result of Communist revolt in Russia. The Russian steps to withdraw from the war, it was hoped, would transition WWI into a massive general civil war of revolutionaries and the Establishment, consolidating the Triumphal March of Soviet Power further. The Bolsheviks were never pacifists, their concept of revolution initially, however, was pan-European, not specifically Russian. Lenin, however, alone of the Bolsheviks (here's one case where Stalin and Trotsky both agreed with each other and disagreed with Lenin) viewed an accommodation with the Germans as a means to buy them tuime, to consolidate the SovNarKom. Thus the Bolshevik attempt at no war and no peace, meaning they'd stop shooting at the Germans but not sign a peace treaty or even an armistice. Thus also the negotiations here would result in the first Panmunjom-diplomacy, showboating for propaganda as opposed to serious negotiation.

Hindenburg and Ludendorff eventually went "Fuck this shit" and decided to do their own railway war, the First Soviet-German War as I call it. In eleven days the Germans advanced deep into Russia, and secured by March the rather draconian Treaty of Brest-Litovsk that left them controlling the Baltic States, Finland, and large chunks of Belarus and Ukraine, as well as setting up a puppet Polish state. In the process the Germans derailed the Soviet advance and bought the time and space needed for the first White armies to begin forming. And a month later as will be related the war got much bigger and nastier. Had for whatever reason this not happened, the Russian Civil War would have ended rather sooner than it did and with no real, serious fighting. Instead this action ensured that the Council of People's Commissars would face a variety of enemies, and that list requires a post in itself. The Russian Civil War as a whole, however, from this point blends into three rough patterns: Bolsheviks and fellow-travelers, in the overall strongest tactical-strategic position, White Russians, on the periphery with far smaller armies but much better-equippped ones with freebie logistics from foreigners, and local nationalist movements of a Leftist and Rightist variety both trying to carve out new states. As that next post will show this is an extreme simplification of *all* the factions.

At the same time, however, the Germans for the first time gained a temporary superiority on the Western Front, though they left a full million soldiers in the former Russian Empire.....
halialkers: Godzilla, Heisei. Right profile view one arm outstretched. (Set Molotov)
And now we come to the first indications of the future of 20th Century warfare and politics: Great October and the beginning of the rise of the Soviet Union. It was Trotsky who would prove the military genius of the Russian Civil War, discovering the first steps to creating an ideological army. The proclamation that began this new, escalated phase of Russia's Civil War was this:


The counter-revolution has raised its criminal head. The Kornilovites are mobilising their forces in order to crush the All Russian Congress of Soviets and to wreck the Constituent Assembly. At the same time the pogrom-makers may attempt to cause trouble and slaughter in the streets of Petrograd.

The Petrograd Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies takes upon itself the defence of revolutionary order against attempts at counter-revolution and pogroms


The Bolshevik Founding Fathers were all of them unscrupulous, vicious, murderous, treacherous monsters. Stalin was just the most successful in this regard, and in a sense is the most well-known. The supposed Kornilovite mobilization did not in fact exist, but the Bolsheviks successfully neutralized both the Constituent Assembly and the Provisional Government, driving Kerensky into exile. With this came the first big battle of the Russian Civil War, the second major strategic confrontation. This Battle of Petrograd saw no less than three separate factions seeking to fight a Bolshevik worker's militia and in this phase of the war the Bolshevik ace in the hole: a unit of Latvian Riflemen that were the most formidable military force left in Russia. It is crucial to understand that at no point in the war were the Bolsheviks ever inferior in terms of numbers, weaponry, or strategic positions. As in the Battle of Petrograd Bolshevik forces were by far superior to that of their opponents, which is all they had to be superior to. In November 1918, the Bolsheviks having altered Russia's calendar to suit the Gregorian one, their armies began the Triumphal March of Soviet Power via echelon warfare, Bolsheviks fighting a numerous set of smaller battles that in six weeks left the Bolsheviks in a perfect geographic position, ruling the largest subject population, and most crucially able to draw upon the last years of Romanov dynasty war production, designed for a larger army than the Red Army would ever become in size during the war, enabling the Red Army to rely on this where its enemies were all caught in traps.

In six weeks, thus, the advancing armies of the Bolshevik state would seem unstoppable. But then things turned around and the Bolsheviks faced coalitions nearly able to destroy them despite all these advantages. How this happened ties into the story of 1918. Suffice to say that without foreign intervention the Bolsheviks would ultimately have absorbed nearly all-Russia without anyone able to derail the Great October train.
halialkers: Genghis Khan frontal view in feathered headdress, red robes (Ashari)
The story of Bolshevik success rests on one aspect of the 1917 revolutions in Russia: they created two separate governments. One, the Provisional Government, tried to keep Russia in World War I, and to this extent had spent the period from March-June/February-May consolidating, or attempting to do so, rather, the great Russian army. Within certain limits the program of this government had some success, but the Russian Revolution had been from a collapse of military cohesion, in a regime where a solid, cohesive army had been the core of Romanov power. The problem for the Provisional Government was that it was too weak to do this effectively, moreso than the Romanovs before it. The regime conceded just enough that the mostly-peasant army felt its interests were better-served in its own villages and millitarily was unable to create a hardened, loyal cadre of both officers and NCOs. Thus when the regime gambled that an offensive against the German Empire would somehow solve these problems, this ill-thought-out offensive instead accelerated a process of military collapse by proving yet another costly failure.

As this went on the Soviets, the local Councils (Soviet Power could be rendered in English as Conciliarism) were steadily radicalizing and amassing ever-more power. Russia thus faced a sequence of horrrific dilemmas with a divided and infighting leadership committed to two irreconcilable visions of the future of Russia and the Soviet radicalism was influenced at the same time by a progressive Bolshevik takeover of the Soviets. This process, however, would be followed in July by a first, abortive Bolshevik coup. This July Days affair forced the Provisional Government to turn to some of the repressive elements of the Tsarist regime, methods that in this occasion worked. Lenin was driven back into hiding, and safeguarding the person of the Bolshevik leader was that sinister Georgian revolutionary, Koba. This marks one of the earliest steps in the rise of Ioseb Jugashvili to be both Vohdz and Khoyzain of the Soviet Union, in controlling access to Lenin and in continual contact with this most crucial figure for Bolshevik success.

This, however, meant over time that Bolshevik figurehead status revolved around the person of Leon Trotsky, and this was further spurred by the Kornilov affair, when a Russian general of Central Asian descent, Lavr Kornilov, attempted to march on Petrograd and limit Bolshevik influence. The successful thwarting of Kerensky by a worker's militia and the resulting castration of Kerensky as a political force in Russia is the first shots of Russia's Civil War. In this first clash, the precursors of the future confrontation can be seen: a general on the periphery of pre-war Russia strikes for the establishment of a conservative, militarized regime. Hastily-organized worker's militias, not themselves numerous, are sufficient to halt this and to imprison Kornilov and some of his fellow generals, future core of the Armed Forces of South Russia, the most militarily formidable of the White Russian armies. The fighting is sporadic, rather limited in numbers, and the strategic importance of the battle has rather little to do with actual numbers.

Militarily this put Russia's military under the leadership of non-entities and from August-November as the Bolsheviks would successfully capitalize on growing momentum in terms of the various Soviets gaining ever-greater mass legitimacy, the Kornilov Affair created a pretext for Trotsky's famous proclamation and marks the first step in the evolution of Soviet-Russian siege mentality. This, however, is a longer-term view, in the short term this was a catastrophic failure of Bolshevism and militarized Russian Leftism followed by the display of equal weakness of the radical Right and the easier popular-mobilization capacities of the radical Left.
halialkers: The daemon-sultan at the nuclear chaos (Abraxas)
This entry begins with a flasback to the 1890s. The Social Revolutionary Party in origin was the most powerful of Russia's Socialist Parties. It was a broad-tent movement absorbing a great deal of what in Russia was called socialism though might not have had the name applied to it elsewhere. This movement split during the 1890s into two factions. One, led by Vladimir Ulyanov, who adopted a revolutionary name from the river Lena was called the Bolsheviks, the other, whose major figures included Lev Bronstein, was called Mensheviki. I translate Bolshevik through this subseries as Majoritarian to give the gist of the meaning of the original Russian word. Of the Majoritarian leaders in 1917, only one such leader, a Georgian exproprationist (read bank robber and terrorist) named Koba or occasionally Koba Stalin, was actually on Russian soil when the 1917 revolt broke out. The others were all in exile.

From 1915 onward, as has been mentioned the Germans had maintained continual contact with and donations of money to the Bolsheviks, and in April 1917 would make a fateful decision. The Bolshevik leader, Lenin, was sent on a train through German-occupied territory to Finland Station. There is a myth that this train was sealed, and it's just that: a myth. The Bolshevism of 1917, as with the Nazis of 1933 was an example of being too clever by half on the part of German political leadershiip. In March of 1917, the collapse of Tsarism produced a complex and deadly political system: one government, the Provisional Government, which is the legal successor state, the other the increasingly powerful Soviets, or councils, from which would thunder the Red Storm. 

When Lenin arrived, alone of Russian revolutionaries he perceived that the Soviets were the road to power, and so in April when he arrived he did not acccept the end of Tsarism, but instead advocated two slogans: "Peace, land, and bread" and "All Power to the Soviets." The first meant an end to the war, a promise (only partiallly fulfilled during the NEPP) to treat peasants as they felt they deserved, and the third a reference to the hunger crisis that killed more Russians and other nationalities during the ensuing war than any of the warring factions did.  All power to the Soviets meant increasingly that the Bolsheviks tapped into the other government of Russia, one which had already issued an order that destroyed discipline in the Russian army by allowing workers to elect officers (which is not the precise wording of the order but neither the Soviets nor the Provisional Government altered this practice when it began).

Beginning in April, the dour, fanatical, brilliant politician Koba would be in charge of Lenin's safety during 1917, setting the pattern whereby Koba, Ioseb Jugashvilii, would become the Man of Steel: he assumed vital and inglorious tasks that steadily increased his power while leaving the flamboyant public face of revolution and thus identification with chaos and defeat, to others. This role was in turn assumed by a new-minted Bolshevik, Trotsky, who would be the public face of the Great October revolt and the father of the new Red Army. This was the situation that confronted Prince Lvov, who would remain leader of the Provisional Government through May and June.
halialkers: George Thomas, big beard, thin hair, long forehead (Kanari-3)
A note on dating-the Russian Revolution's dating up to November of 1917 on the Western calendar for this year will be given in the Russian, Julian, calendar used up until the Bolshevik Putsch. This entry is the last entry of one subseries, the Twilight of the Tsars, and the first of another, one I call Red Storm Rising, the tale of how Russia's revolution went first to the Communists and then how Sovnarkom become the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. As has been recounted World War I brought the Russian Empire to a steady, gradual political collapse. In this regard the tactical victories of German armies had only an indirect role, in that the hardened, pro-Tsarist core of officers was steadily ground down and removed, while the new army was increasingly inexperienced and for understandable reasons ever-less-enamoured with the ways of Nicholas II's generals, who themselves lost enthusiasm to keep being the whipping boys of the Germans.

It might be emphasized at the start that Revolution in Russia was not the end of the Russo-German War, though it marks the end of a war of Imperial cousins ruling vast realms and marks the start of the ideological wars of Germany and Russia. The Revolution, however, marked a great deal of displeasure with the war, and this tension doomed the efforts of any Russian leaders to keep the war going, though the ultimate irony of the Soviet Union would indicate something about the Romanovs.

With this as prelude, the fall of the House of Romanov had three interrelated roots: the first, where the war and dynastic disintegration directly connect, was that the war was fought by Russia being unable to harness its full strength. The recently-absorbed Central Asian territories, among others were exempted from conscription altogether. Unlike the USSR, the Romanovs were never able to *use* the huge manpower pool theoretically available for them. This meant that in addition to having lost their major support base, the Romanovs were literally out of good military options at the start of 1917. The attempts to conscript Central Asian Muslims in 1916 provoked waves of massive violence that began the end of the Romanov Empire as a unified political entity, and ironically the end of the later USSR would be concurrent also with a wave of violence in Central Asia.

In the second root, a more indirect one connected to the war, the Russian state had sustained its ability to wage war despite the Romanovs, and with Nicholas II being, to put it bluntly, a bystander in Russia's war. He did not actively try to lead, and he became intimately knit in with Russia's military disasters (which as the WWII entries will show is something Stalin was smart enough *not* to do on both counts). The emergence of successful Russian industry due to the Zemstvo Unions (which it might be noted produced enough guns and artillery in 1916-7 to supply the Bolsheviks through the whole of the Russian Civil War) in spite of Tsarist efforts to thwart it, and the loss by the Tsar thus of control of the Russian labor machine foredoomed any attempt to reign in 1917 before it started, as the mere presence of these factories was itself a sign that Tsarist control was slipping.

Third, the war had immensely swollen the population of all the major cities, particularly Petrograd/St. Petersburg (this city changes names a lot, so does Tsaritsyn). This meant that on the 1917 Russian version of Mother's Day, a bread riot led by women (an acceptable form of women's popular protest in the Old Regime) began. This revolt was a large, dramatic, and unlike any form of Bolshevism or the rival movements during the Soviet era truly popular movement. Initially Nicholas II was too focused on his board games to notice, then gave orders for his garrisons to fire on these growing crowds. Then the army refused to fire, and then overnight the demands of Russia's generals and Russia's liberals (of the capitalist US Right-Wing sort, these guys are not democrats or fond of democracy in any sense of the word) meant that overnight 300 years of Romanov rule would fall. Nicholas II abdicated in response to this mass movement, then attempted to pass the throne to his brother Grand Duke Mikhail who resigned the day after.

The fall of the Romanovs would be the one and only truly popular Russian revolution of 1917. All the others were not. Neither Whites nor Bolsheviks, when I get to the Russian Civil War, actually represent the will of the true Russian masses. How that came to be is to be revealed. So welcome to the new subseries, Red Storm Rising, chronicling Russia's war from 1917-23 and the emergence of a new, grand, bloodsoaked empire, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.....


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