Causes of the Civil War 1917 – 1922 in Russia
Having taken power in their hands during the armed uprising in October of 1917, the Bolsheviks were well aware that they were dragging out “not peace, but the sword” to society. In the paper “War and Russian Social Democracy,” published by Lenin as early as September 1914 of the year, several months after the start of the First World Future Leader of the Proletarian Revolution, noted: “The transformation of the modern imperialist war into civil war is the only correct proletarian slogan, indicated by the experience of the Commune, outlined by the Basel resolution and arising from all the conditions of an imperialist war between highly developed bourgeois countries. " Echoing Lenin, Nikolai Bukharin in his work “The Theory of Proletarian Dictatorship” writes: “The proletarian revolution is, however, the rupture of civil peace is a civil war.” And Leon Trotsky clarifies: "The Soviet government is an organized civil war against the landowners, the bourgeoisie and the kulaks." The Bolsheviks had no doubt that the proletarian state would have to fight against the "exploiting class", enraged by the very first decrees of Soviet power. In addition, despite the low popularity of the Provisional Government, many citizens of the country viewed it as legitimate, overthrown in a coup. In other words, it would be strange to expect that peace would follow the October revolution and civil consensus would prevail.
Who are the authorities?
However, it would be wrong to reduce the causes of the Civil War to the actions of the Bolsheviks. This is recognized even by many of the prominent figures of the White movement. Thus, General Denikin, telling in the Outlines of the Russian Distemper about the meeting in Gatchina, in which representatives of political movements and parties dissatisfied with October, decided to go to St. Petersburg to overthrow the Bolsheviks, paints a vivid picture of the contradictions between the new allies: "Gatchina gathered everything. Kerensky is preserving the outward signs of military power, but already abandoned by all, in essence, not a prisoner, not a hostage, who has given himself at the mercy of the “Tsarist General” Krasnov, whom he “congratulates” on appointing an army commander ... Savinkov, who is two a month ago, with such fervor, he condemned the “rebellion” of General Kornilov, now arousing the officers of the Gatchina garrison against Kerensky and offering Krasnov to overthrow Kerensky and himself becoming the head of the movement ... And among this color of revolutionary democracy is monarchical The second figure of General Krasnov, who with all his feelings and motives is deeply alien and hostile to the entire political complex ... A truly tragic situation ... What political goals does the upcoming struggle pursue in practical, applied sense? The overthrow of Lenin and Trotsky and the restoration of Kerensky, Avksentiev, Chernov? This tragic perplexity of the officers of the detachment was especially painful; it was hateful of “Kerenshchyna” and if in a conscious or unconscious understanding of the need to fight against the Bolsheviks, it was still striving for Petrograd, it was not able to convey to the soldiers a rush, enthusiasm, or even just a sensible goal of the movement. For the Motherland and the salvation of statehood? It was too abstract, inaccessible to soldiers' understanding. For the Provisional Government and Kerensky? This provoked an evil feeling, the cries of “Down!” And the demand that Kerensky be extradited to the Bolsheviks. ”
White movement, Talab regiment. Photo: warphoto.ru
In other words, society was split long before the October Revolution: the three crises experienced by the Provisional Government from February to October are the best confirmation of this. The actions of the Bolsheviks only emphasized the absence of any political force that really had the support of the majority of the population. Among the workers and soldiers of the revolutionary troops, propaganda of the RSDLP (b) was the most popular; in the village, the appeals of the Social Revolutionaries and the sympathies of the bourgeoisie, which was threatened with nationalization, were distributed among a wide range of political parties, from constitutional democrats and Octobrists to supporters of the restoration of the monarchy. When the rebellion of Kerensky-Krasnov was suppressed, the last illusion that any “legal authority” could be restored was lost: the opponents of the new regime no longer had any consensus about what this legal authority should be.
It is important to emphasize that the White movement actually began even before the October events. Thus, in May 1917, at the officer congress in Mogilev, General Mikhail Alekseev abandoned the slogan “Save the Fatherland!”, Calling for the opposition of the socialist parties to restore a strong state (constitutional monarchy or democracy depending on the political views of specific participants of the congress) and discipline the army, seriously undermined by the infamous Order No. 1, according to which military units now obeyed not the officers, but the elected committees and the Petrograd Soviet. The October Revolution only contributed to the consolidation of the White movement, since many of its decrees conflicted with the political worldview of whites: for example, the Land Decree and the policy of nationalizing land, natural wealth and private enterprises contradicted the respect for private property experienced by most of the White movement participants. Exactly the same slap in the face of strong supporters of Russia was the disintegration of the empire into a number of practically independent territories, with the connivance of the Bolsheviks. The “obscene” Brest Peace also became a serious blow to the ego of patriots: agreeing to the loss of Ukraine, Poland, part of Belarus, the Baltic territories, Finland and Transcaucasia, Lenin saved the power of the Bolsheviks, but even more strongly opposed patriotic forces.
Further aggravation of resistance to the Bolsheviks is connected with the dispersal of the Constituent Assembly. As is known, the Provisional Government was slow in convening this representative body, which the broad masses perceived as genuinely popular, expressing the interests of all sectors of society. The Bolsheviks could not refuse the idea of elections to the Constituent Assembly, knowing that this would cause an explosion of discontent. Immediately after the October Revolution, the Council of People's Commissars published, signed by Lenin, a decree on the conduct of elections on November 12. However, the Electoral Commission, formed by the Provisional Government and headed by the cadet Andrei Avin, from the very beginning entered into a conflict with the Bolsheviks, declaring that the October uprising was illegal and did not recognize the power of the Council of People's Commissars. When the elections were held, it turned out that the Bolsheviks received only about a quarter of the votes, and the strongest positions in the new representative body of the Social Revolutionaries (40% of votes). It became obvious that the Constituent Assembly would hardly be able to find a common language with the Soviet authorities. At the first and only meeting of the Constituent Assembly 5 in January 1918, the Central Executive Committee Chairman Jacob Sverdlov suggested that the meeting should accept the draft Declaration of the Rights of the Working and Exploited People, which declared Russia the “Republic of Soviets of Workers, Soldiers and Peasants Deputies” written by Lenin. However, a majority meeting of 237 votes against 146 simply refused to discuss the Bolshevik declaration.
Forcibly preventing participants from gathering for the second time and decreeing the All-Russian Central Executive Committee on January 6 by dissolving the meeting, the Bolsheviks went to break with the other socialist parties. This prompted the Social Revolutionaries and representatives of other parties who sympathized with them to the idea of creating their own government bodies that would lead an armed struggle against Soviet power. Thanks to the support of the insurgent Czechoslovak Corps (White Czechs), by the summer of 1918, a number of governments created by the Socialist-Revolutionaries appeared in the vast expanses of the Volga region and Siberia. Many of the members of the Constituent Assembly, headed by Viktor Chernov, move to Samara, where the Committee of members of the Constituent Assembly (Komuch) is established. Another group of deputies forms a committee in Omsk. Later, these regional governments will unite in the All-Russian Directory, proclaiming the restoration of the Constituent Assembly in Russia.
Perekuem screaming on swords
A separate cause of the Civil War was the tangle of contradictions in the countryside, which became even more complicated thanks to the policy of military communism, and above all to the surplus. The food policy of the new government caused a deaf murmur in the peasant environment, which - perhaps for the first time in centuries - ceased to be a passive hostage and observer of political events, and turned into an active participant in them. It was no longer the village where the peasants, reluctantly, submitted to the sovereign will, accepting reforms emanating from the capital. The village was replenished by the First World Soldiers returning from the fronts, who had seen a lot and could have taught their fellow villagers how to defend their interests won during the revolution. The peasants were actively sharing the fund of landlords' land and were not going to give the fruits of their labor from this land to anyone. It is not for nothing that the village in 1918 began to seethe during the harvest period.
Sending foodstuffs from Moscow to the village. Photo: retromap.ru
Thanks to the deserters from the front in the village there were many weaponsand this created the prerequisites for the armed struggle against the Bolsheviks. According to the materials of the Cheka, referenced by historians Peter Aleshkin and Yuri Vasilyev, 20 uprisings took place in the 245 gubernias of Russia this year. In Central Russia, in the summer months of 1918, peasant resistance resulted in 130 speaking out against local councils, 154 self-defense act against food detachments, 73 uprising; plus mass refusals of non-commissioned officers of a number of provinces (Oryol, Kursk, Voronezh) from appearing at conscription points.
Lenin and other Bolshevik theorists in their attitude to the village relied on the ideology of the peasant poor as the support of the dictatorship of the proletariat. The creation of the committees of the poor (kombedov) was a step that followed from this ideology. However, the fighters not only did not help to withdraw the bread, but also aroused protest moods in the village. The village very soon became displeased with the actions of the new government - it was not going to drag the burden of military expenses caused by the Civil War on its own shoulders, or feed the city within the framework of the food dictatorship of the Soviet government. The acute rejection of the peasants caused the collection of an extraordinary revolutionary tax, requisition of grain, horses for the needs of the front and mobilization of young people (mostly poor) in the Red Army. By November 1918, virtually the entire territory of Russia, controlled by the Bolsheviks, was embraced by the peasant movement.
Thanks to the forced mobilization of only one December 1918, the number of the Red Army grew by almost a quarter. However, the poor, supported by the middle peasantry, in many villages were revolting mobilized, driven by experienced front-line soldiers. The movement quickly became widespread: for example, in the Mikhailovsky district of the Ryazan province protests against mobilization were covered by the 20 volosts, in the Gzhatsky district of the Smolensk gubernia — 19 volosts, in the Vereisk district of the Moscow gubernia — 18 volosts with 10 thousands of participants, in Medynsky district of the Kaluga province — in the Moscow district, with NNXX thousands of participants; with 17 – 7 by thousands of rebels. The rebels captured the city of Kasimov in Ryazan Province, in Tambov - Shatsk, in Smolensk - Dukhovshchina, Gzhatsk, Porechye, in Kaluga - several settlements and railway stations. Just a year later, peasant desertion would create a specific form of resistance to the Bolsheviks — the so-called green movement (the name itself arose from the fact that the “greens” were usually hiding in the forests near the villages from which they received food and help), consisting of deserters and people evading service in the armies of the opposing sides, both in the Red and in parts of the White movement. It is curious that many of the draft dodgers had mobilization certificates issued by both the Reds and the Whites: both sides viewed them forcibly recruited as an important component of their troops.
A special factor was the surplus: the activities of the Bolshevik prodotryad sharply aggravated the opposition of the peasants to the Bolsheviks. It is worth noting, however, that the village did not protest against the surplus as such, but against the imperfections of this system, the lack of planning - the size of the grain requisitions differed poorly depending on the fertility of specific lands. And it was no wonder that peasants more often rose up in the provinces where the lands did not differ in fertility (and, accordingly, it was much more difficult for people to collect the amount of grain assigned by the state).
The opposition of the peasants to the Bolsheviks. Photo: Historical War Museum
In the ring of enemies
Another reason for the citizenry was the reaction of the Entente countries to Russia's withdrawal from the war and the refusal of the Bolsheviks from the international obligations of previous governments. 3 December 1917 of the year at a special conference, which was attended by England, France, the United States and a number of their allies, it was decided to delimit the zones of interest in the territories of the former Russian Empire. The allies, who did not recognize the Bolshevik government, decided to establish contacts with regional governments. The zones of influence were divided as follows: England could act in the Caucasus and in the regions of southern Russia, France in the Ukraine and the Crimea. In addition, Japan also took advantage of the weakness of the Soviet government, which 1 of January introduced 1918 of the year to the port of Vladivostok military ships under the pretext of protecting the citizens of their power. It should be mentioned that one of the most important reasons for the intervention was that the Western states were afraid of the “spread of the revolution”: having heard of the successes of the proletariat in Russia, workers in their own countries could rebel.
In addition, the lost empire, which had a huge territory, a vast population and a mass of natural wealth, caused clear interest. Since the spring of 1918, the intervention, in which not only the mentioned powers, but also Germany, Poland, Romania, etc., has become one of the most important factors of the Civil War: representatives of the White movement and other fighters with Soviet power received from - beyond the borders of financial and military-political support.
The political, social and economic contradictions that have torn the country have forced society to pay a terrible price: during the years of the Civil War at the front, as well as hunger, disease and terror of the opposing sides, 8 million people will die, and 2 million will also have to leave Russia to save themselves from power, which they will not be able to win.