16/5/1918 Finland’s Whites celebrate victory as the civil war comes to an end #1918Live

After defeat at Tampere, Helsinki and Vyborg resistance by Finland’s Reds comes to an end. The Finnish Civil War is over. Today the Whites hold a victory parade in Helsinki, led by Mannerheim, their commander.

Many of the Red leaders fled to Russia. The rank and file were unable to escape. Some of these were summarily executed by the Whites but many more have been sent off to prison camps, together with some bystanders who were not actually involved in the fighting. Altogether there are now some 80,000 prisoners in the Whites’ camps. They face an uncertain future. The disruptions of war mean that Finland is facing a food shortage; ensuring that these subversives are adequately fed is not a priority for the victorious Whites.

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Carl Gustav Mannerheim leads the victory parade (Alternative Finland: The Jääkärit (Finnish Jaegers) and their place in the Finnish Army)

Red prisoners in Suomenlinna, Helsinki (Wikipedia: Finnish Civil War)

14/5/1918 The Chelyabinsk Incident: violence breaks out between the Czechoslovak Legion and the Bolsheviks #1918Live

Before the revolution Russia had formed the Czechoslovak Legion. The Legion was composed of Czechs and Slovaks captured from the Austro-Hungarian army who wanted to fight for their homeland’s independence from the Habsburgs. Since Russia dropped out of the war the Czechoslovaks have been keen to travel to the Western Front to fight on against the Central Powers. The Bolsheviks had agreed to transport them along the Trans-Siberian railway to Vladivostok, from where the Allies could ship them to Europe.

Things unfortunately have not gone according to plan. The Czechoslovaks have been allowed to travel with their weapons, which has led to suspicions on the part of local Bolshevik cadres that they may be planning to make common cause with Whites like Denikin or Krasnov and his Cossacks. The Legion’s transit has been disrupted as the Czechoslovaks find themselves subjected to socialist propaganda and attempts to seize their weapons. They in their turn begin to suspect that the Bolsheviks will renege on the transit agreement and hand them over to the Germans.

Suspicions boil over today in the town of Chelyabinsk in the Urals. After some kind of brawl the local Soviet arrests some of the Czechoslovaks. However the other legionnaires then free their comrades and chase away the local Red Guards. The Czechoslovaks now control Chelyabinsk, severing the main link between European Russia and the far east.

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Czechoslovak legionnaires relax (Wikipedia: Revolt of the Czechoslovak Legion)

1921 map of European Russia, showing Chelyabinsk in the east (Wikipedia: Carestia russa del 1921-1923)

12/5/1918 Alienated Cossacks revolt against the Bolsheviks #1918Live

Kornilov and his ilk had tried to recruit the Cossacks of the Don region in southern Russia to their anti-Bolshevik crusade, but the Cossacks had not shown any great enthusiasm for the White cause. Many of the younger Cossacks actively sympathised with the revolution. However since the capture of Rostov, the Reds have managed to alienate the Cossacks through forced extractions of grain and other harsh measures. Before the revolution the Cossacks were one of the Tsar’s main tools of repression, so the Bolsheviks easily slip into thinking of them as inveterate enemies of the people.

The Bolsheviks’ repression of the Cossacks is causing their fears to become a reality. The Don Cossacks are increasingly in revolt and now, after recapturing Novocherkassk, a Cossack assembly elects Pyotr Krasnov, a former Tsarist general, as their Ataman. Krasnov seeks to restore the glories of the Cossack people, asserting their freedoms and their rights over the non-Cossacks of the region. In concert with Denikin and his army Krasnov now seeks to consolidate White power in southern Russia and work towards the overthrow of the Soviet government.

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Pyotr Krasnov (Wikipedia)

30/4/1918 The former Tsar arrives in the House of Special Designation #1918Live

Before the revolution the Tsar wielded absolute power in Russia, at least in theory. His life and that of his family was one of gilded luxury. After his abdication the imperial family were held in conditions of genteel house arrest, continuing to enjoy privileges undreamt of by their former subjects. However the Tsar remained deeply unpopular with the revolutionary public and there were fears for his life if he remained in Russia. During his premiership, Kerensky tried unsuccessfully to arrange for the Tsar to go abroad into exile. However a tentative offer of asylum in Britain was withdrawn following objections by King George V, who feared that his cousin’s arrival would ignite revolutionary sentiment. Other countries declined to take the Tsar for their own reasons.

To protect them from the Petrograd workers, Kerensky moved the imperial family to Tobolsk in Siberia, where they continued to live in comfortable conditions. However, since the October Revolution the situation of the imperial family has deteriorated. They have been denied luxuries and put on more basic rations. Their guards have become more surly. There is increased talk of putting the Tsar on trial.

In truth, the Bolsheviks are not sure what to do with the Tsar. Trotsky favours a show trial in Moscow, with himself as the prosecutor; others are not so sure. In the meantime the Tsar and Tsarina are transferred to a new place of incarceration in Ekaterinburg. They arrive today and are greeted by an angry mob before being taken to the House of Special Designation, the commandeered home of a local businessman. Their son and daughters will join them later.

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Tsar Nicholas II in the early stages of his captivity (Encyclopaedia Britannica)

The House of Special Designation (Wikipedia)

22/4/1918 The Transcaucasian Democratic Federal Republic joins the family of nations #1918Live

Today a new country emerges from the ruins of the Russian Empire: the Transcaucasian Democratic Federal Republic. The new nation seeks to unite Armenians, Georgians, Azeris and other ethnic groups of the region into one federal state. The new state’s leader is Prime Minister Akaki Chkhenkeli, a socialist Georgian from the anti-Bolshevik Menshevik party.

The new Transcaucasian Republic faces desperate problems. Aside from internal tensions between its different peoples, it also faces the external threat of Turkey, whose forces are expanding into Transcaucasia in an effort to maximise Turkish power there. In the future the wayward region may also need to worry about efforts by Soviet Russia to bring it to heel.

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Akaki Chkhenkeli & 1903 map of Transcaucasia (Wikipedia: Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic)

13/4/1918 German troops storm Helsinki

The Red Guards in Finland are now on the back foot. Counter-revolutionary forces have stormed the mill town of Tampere. Now the Reds are under attack in Helsinki, the country’s capital, which has been under Red control since the start of the civil war. Mannerheim, commander of the Finnish Whites, wanted to leave Helsinki alone until his men are ready to attack it but Goltz, commander of the German expeditionary force, has different ideas. He wants the civil war in Finland brought to an end as quickly as possible, in order to intimidate Russia’s Soviet government. So his men attack the city while German warships bombard it from the sea.

The ill-trained Red Guards are no match for the regular troops of the Germans. Helsinki is soon secured, with the last Red holdouts in the working class district of Kallio surrendering today. Several thousand Reds (fighters and sympathisers) are arrested and transferred to a prison camp on the Suomenlinna islands.

With Vyborg in the east the only remaining major centre of Red resistance it looks distinctly like the Finnish civil war is drawing to a close.

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German troops in Helsinki (Wikipedia: Battle of Helsinki)

Red prisoners (Wikipedia: Battle of Helsinki)

13/4/1918 Counter-revolutionary leader Kornilov killed at Ekaterinodar

Generals Kornilov and Alexeev are leading an anti-Bolshevik army in south Russia. Together with a Cossack force they are attacking the town of Ekaterinodar in an effort to regain control of the Kuban region. But Ekaterinodar is proving a tougher nut to crack than expected: the Reds here are well-armed and outnumber the Whites. Kornilov nevertheless is determined to press on with the battle, even if it means the destruction of his army.

In the event, the fighting at Ekaterinodar leads to Kornilov’s destruction: he is killed when a Red artillery shell lands on his headquarters. Denikin, his deputy, takes over command of the army, with Alexeev taking on political leadership. Kornilov is buried in secrecy, his death hidden from his followers lest the loss of their leader provoke a collapse in morale.

Denikin now orders the army to abandon Ekaterinodar. They set off once more across the steppe, now marching back towards the Don region from whence they originally came.

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Lavr Kornilov (Wikipedia)