28/4/1919 The Red Army strikes back against Kolchak’s Siberian Army

The Allies have been pursuing a contradictory policy towards Soviet Russia, never being entirely sure whether the Bolshevik regime is something they should seek to contain or overthrow, or whether they should accept that the Bolsheviks are not going away and instead seek some kind of accommodation with them. As a result Allied intervention forces have been landed in Russia, but forces too small to seriously contend with the Red Army. The Allies have also supplied arms to the White forces in the field against the Soviets, but never in very great quantities. And through all this they have been carrying out half-hearted attempts at negotiating with Lenin‘s representatives.

For all the efforts Trotsky has put into moulding the Red Army into an efficient fighting machine, it had looked as though the Whites might actually succeed in crushing the Bolsheviks. Admiral Kolchak‘s Siberian army successfully captured Perm at the end of last year. Earlier this month Kolchak launched a new offensive. His forces made impressive gains, helped by a peasant uprising taking place in the Red Army’s rear.

But today the Red Army launches a counterattack, led by Mikhail Frunze, formerly a Bolshevik agitator in Minsk and Moscow. Frunze’s blow shatters Kolchak’s forces. It becomes apparent that Kolchak’s army has overstretched itself and is unable to battle determined opposition. Moreover corruption and disorganisation in the Whites’ rear means that their army is badly supplied and equipped. And the Whites too face their own revolting peasants, angry at attempt to requisition food or pay for it in currency rendered worthless by runaway inflation.

In Paris, many had been hoping that Kolchak’s offensive would spell the end of the Bolsheviks. There was talk of formally recognising Kolchak’s regime as the government of Russia. Now though it is apparent there is no prospect of the Bolsheviks’ immediate collapse. Kolchak is not going to be solving the Allies’ Russian problem for them.

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Soldiers of Kolchak’s army (Wikipedia)

Mikhail Frunze and his wife, Sophia (Wikipedia)

The Bolshevik counteroffensive (Wikipedia)

24/12/1918 Striking back against the Bolsheviks: Kolchak routs the Red Army and storms Perm #1918Live

With the defeat of Germany on the Western Front the main threat to the established order of Europe is now Bolshevism. Lenin and his Bolsheviks have taken power in Russia and overturned the prevailing order of society there, executing the royal family, seizing property and reversing traditional hierarchies. Across Europe and beyond the fear of those in power is that something similar might now happen in their own countries. Consequently their policemen are on guard for any sign of Bolshevik contagion spreading to their own disgruntled working classes.

The end of fighting on the Western Front and the Middle East has freed up large numbers of Allied troops. Large stocks of war materials are no longer needed for the struggle against Germany and Turkey. Could some of these soldiers and some of this materiel be sent to aid the White armies fighting against the Bolsheviks? Allied troops have already established themselves in ports on the periphery of the former Russian Empire: Archangelsk and Murmansk in the north, Vladivostok in the far east, and Odessa, Sevastopol and Novorossiysk in the south. The Allied forces thus far deployed are too small to seriously affect the outcome of the Russian Civil War, but White leaders hope that they are just the advance guard of larger intervention forces. Allied material aid to the Whites has also been relatively modest thus far, but again, the anti-Bolshevik leaders hope that more is on its way.

Trotsky‘s reorganisation of the Red Army had seen it win a number of victories but now perhaps the pendulum is swinging in the other direction. Admiral Kolchak has reinvigorated White forces in the Siberian theatre, with his troops no longer needing the backing of the Czechoslovak Legion to take on the Red Army. Today Kolchak’s men capture Perm, an industrial city in the Urals. In the fighting large numbers of Red Army troops surrender to Kolchak; they appear to have been sent into the battle without adequate training or winter clothing. The Red Army troops appear also to be suffering from food shortages, a consequence of disorganisation in the Bolsheviks’ rear and the alienation of the peasantry by the Red Terror. This is all very promising for Kolchak, as it suggests that the Red Army might just be on the brink of disintegration.

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Kolchak reviewing troops (Wikipedia: Russian Civil War)

7/10/1918 Twilight of the Komuch

In Siberia the leftist government of the Komuch (the Committee of Members of the Constituent Assembly) attempted to present itself as a progressive alternative to the Bolshevik dictatorship (as opposed to conservative figures like Denikin and Kornilov). Soon after the Komuch formed an alliance with the Czechoslovak Legion, which took control of the Trans-Siberian Railway and carved out an impressive swathe of territory they then placed under the Komuch’s notional control. An early acquisition by the Legion was the city of Samara, which the Komuch then made its capital.

Now though the Czechoslovaks’ power is eroding; many of their soldiers have become demoralised and are wondering why they are fighting against the Bolsheviks instead of returning to Western Europe to fight for the creation of independent Czechoslovakia. The Red Army meanwhile is becoming ever more powerful. They have already recovered Simbirsk, birthplace of Lenin, and now they chase the Komuch from Samara itself.

The Komuch retreat to Ufa to lick their wounds, but here they find themselves falling under the influence of more reactionary forces of the White Russian counter-revolution. The Komuch never managed to establish much of a popular following for itself. Now it appears that its attempt to present itself as a progressive rallying point for opposition to the Bolsheviks appears to have failed.

13/6/1918 An inconvenient Grand Duke meets his end

When the Tsar abdicated, he named his younger brother, Grand Duke Michael, as his successor. Michael had no interest in the throne and declined to accept the crown. After the Bolshevik seizure of power he tried to flee to Finland but his escape was thwarted. Subsequently the Bolsheviks removed him to Perm in Siberia.

The outbreak of hostilities in Siberia between the Bolsheviks and the Czechoslovak Legion has made the local Bolsheviks nervous. The Czechoslovaks, now allied to the Komuch in Samara, are advancing on Perm: perhaps they will free the Grand Duke and make him the figurehead of a counter-revolutionary movement. To forestall this, the Bolsheviks hit on a simple solution. Together with Nicholas Johnson, an Englishman who is his last retainer, Grand Duke Michael is taken out to a remote forest location and shot. His killers loot his body of valuables and then bury it in an unmarked grave, hoping that it will never be found.

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Grand Duke Michael and Nicholas Johnson (Wikipedia)

8/6/1918 The Komuch: an anti-Bolshevik government in Siberia, supported by the Czechoslovaks

An agreement between the Bolsheviks and the Czechoslovak Legion to transport the Czechoslovaks out of Russia via Vladivostok has broken down. After initially chasing the Red Guards from Chelyabinsk, the disciplined Czechoslovaks are taking over ever more towns along the Trans-Siberian Railway.

The Legionnaires initially declared themselves neutral in Russia’s civil war. Today however they find themselves attacking the Samara, capital of the Volga region, on behalf of the Komuch (the Committee of Members of the Constituent Assembly). Dominated by members of the right faction of the Socialist Revolutionary Party, the Komuch is an attempt to revive the Constituent Assembly, the elected parliament suppressed by the Bolsheviks in January.

The Czechoslovaks easily rout the Bolshevik defenders of Samara. Now the Komuch establishes itself there. Its leaders hope to unite democratic and moderate opposition to the Bolshevik government in Moscow, in contrast to the more reactionary aspirations of Denikin and Alexeev further west. The Czechoslovaks meanwhile hope that an overthrow of the Bolsheviks will speed their rejoining of the war against Germany and Austria-Hungary.

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The Komuch: Ivan Brushvit, Prokopiy Klimushkin, Boris Fortunatov, Vladimir Volsky (chairman) and Ivan Nesterov (Wikipedia)

25/5/1918 Trotsky orders the Czechoslovak Legion’s suppression #1918Live

Disaffected Czechs and Slovaks captured from the Austro-Hungarians were recruited into a Czechoslovak Legion to fight alongside the Russians against the Central Powers. The Bolsheviks had agreed to transport the Legion by rail to Vladivostok, from where they would be shipped to Europe to continue their war. However clashes between the Czechoslovaks and the Bolsheviks have seen members of the Legion take over the town of Chelyabinsk, cutting the Trans-Siberian Railway.

Now Trotsky, commander of the Red Army, decides that he has had enough of these troublesome Czechoslovaks. Repudiating the transit agreement, he telegrams Soviets across Siberia, ordering them to suppress the Legion. “Every armed Czech found on the railway is to shot on the spot!”, he demands.

The Czechoslovaks are a disciplined and well-armed fighting force, while the various Soviets still have only Red Guard militia units at their disposal. Trotsky may perhaps have bitten off more than he can chew, initiating an unnecessary war in Siberia that his men will not easily win.

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Czechoslovak legionnaires (SovietJournal: The Czech Legion)

Leon Trotsky (Wikipedia)