Why The Bolsheviks Won The Russian Civil War History Essay

1384 words (6 pages) Essay

1st Jan 1970 History Reference this


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There are several important reasons for the Bolsheviks’ success in the Civil War. One of the greatest advantages enjoyed by the Reds was strategic: their possession of a centrally located and compact territory. The Reds was also in a great geographical position with the Petrograd and the capital city-Moscow at the central of the Trans-Siberian Railway. The Bolsheviks also gained from the disunity of the Whites where theirs armies were thousands of miles apart. Trotsky acted as an important figure throughout the civil war, he was a remarkable leader who helped and leaded the communists to win the war. Trotsky introduced war communism at the right time to insure the winning of the Bolsheviks. Furthermore the Cheka was a terror united all the Bolsheviks and made them keen to win the war.

The Civil War was fought between the Reds and the Whites with many different factions, groups and nations involved. One of the reasons the reds won is because their army was so much stronger than the whites. In 29th May 1918, the Communists introduced conscription because only 360000 men volunteered for the new red army. However, by 1920 it was 5 million strong. In comparison to the lack of support of the whites, it was a lost cause because they had only 65600 men. In the southern volunteer army, they could not gain any support of the Don Cossacks in the South, as they were only interested in gaining independence for themselves. The identification with the Tsarists isolated both workers and peasants also created a drawback to the whites. Not only the reds have great numbers, they reintroduced ranks and military discipline into the Red Army in order to grow the army in a much stronger shape. Trotsky recruited 50000 former Tsarist officers to combat with the plenty experience owed by the Whites. Enough supplies for the military force creates a huge advantage for the Reds compared to the Whites with a weak arm force. By 1917, the Reds owned 2.5 million rifles and the left wing rail workers diverted whole trainloads from Whites to Reds.

Geographic factors also helped the Bolsheviks found themselves in a better position than the White. The Reds focused on industrial centers and cities e.g. St Petersburg, Moscow and Tula. They have got the central area as their main quarter. It was much easier for them to the Whites to transport food and arm from the outside. Bolsheviks took over the factories in Moscow and also Petrograd so they were able to supply their armies with weapons, ammunition. They also had internal lines of communication that helps them to use the rail and move troops quickly. On the other side, the Whites were scattered around the edges from the central. They were strung out along the periphery of European Russia. Kolchak’s base in Omsk was almost 3000 km from Petrograd. Any advance into the heartland of soviet power created a problem of long supply lines and communication difficulties.

If they haven’t got great leaders and great organization for the armed force, the geographic factors will be useless to them. Trotsky’s leadership led the communists to a closer step of succeeding in the civil war. The red guards, Latvian riflemen, other soviet forces proved to be an eager but ill-disciplined force; so it fell to Trotsky, as commissar of war, to build a conventional army. Trotsky proved to be an inspirational figure as he toured the front in his famous headquarters train. He also took officers families hostage to ensure loyalty political commissar attached to each unit. Trotsky organized effective counter attack against Denikin who had come within 320 km. In contrast to the whites, the Whites were made up from different groups of people and with different aims, so that makes it impossible to develop political strategy. As I have mention they were are scattered all around Russia. For example: General Yudenich in the north west and Admiral Kolchak based in Siberia. Leaders couldn’t trust each other and afraid to lose their own power. They all have their own plan for attacking the Reds. Generals Yudenich and Deniken attacked Russian from the west, Admiral Kolchak from the east. The Whites controlled borderlands and extremities, where communications were very difficult. This meant that Trotsky could co-ordinate his forces much better, and fought his enemies one at a time. Trotsky was good at organizing the army. He reintroduced the ranks and pay differentials and tough discipline-death penalty frequently used.

The treatment that the Bolsheviks used towards the peasant has enabled them to win the civil war. Compared to the Whites, the Reds has done a lot better job treating the peasant. On October 1917, the Reds signed the ‘Land Decree’ which recognized the land seizures as legal. On the other hand, the Whites wouldn’t allow it. It also pulled back on the unpopular ‘War Communism’. Many propaganda were produced to work on the mistrust of the Whites. The Whites also supported landowners who were trying to reclaim lost land. Slowly the Reds was supported by many peasants. By 1920, the Red army of 5 millions was 75% peasant in composition. And these showed that the treatment toward the peasant was successfully done and was a key point that leads them to win the war. As a result of the brutality of the Whites antagonized peasants e.g. Cossack responsible for ethnic cleansing of Russians and Ukrainians. Some peasants were conscripted into Whites, but deserted at slightest opportunity.

War communism was the economic and political system that existed in the Soviet Russia during the Russian Civil War, from 1918 to 1921. Lenin introduced it when the Civil War was decastated the economy, bringing the industry almost to a standstill and emptying the towns. It allowed all production to be concentrated on the war effort. This policy was aim to keep the town and the Red Armies supplied with weapons and food. Its sole purpose was to win the war. However War Communism aggravated many harships for the ordinary people. With starvation and mass unempolyment, the population of Moscow and Petrograd was havled. Petrograd lost 75% of their population while Moscow lost 50 %. By this time,Lenin knew that the ‘War Communism’ had failed and he chose to admit it and stop supporting it to keep their supporter in number. It ended on March 21, 1921 with the beginning of the NEP. We can observe from this case that the Bolsheviks reacted quickly with an appropriate change unlike the Whites who has no organization and solution over most of the problems. And this is why the Communists had the chance and did win the Civil War.

On December 20, 1917, after seizing power in Russia, Vladimir Lenin created the Cheka, the Soviet Union’s secret police. Its mission was “to punish and liquidate all attempts or actions connected with counter-revolution or sabotage, whatever their source, throughout Russia. It soon became the primary instrument in the worker’s paradise for strike-breaking and ideological enforcement in the Red Army. The Cheka helps the reds for more successful in returning deserters to keep their armed supplies enough. It helped the communists’ classes from exploitation. It deals with anti-regime conspiracies and keeping watch on groups whose loyalty was suspect. The dictatorship of the Bolsheviks was relying to this threat of force. In 1918 alone Cheka killed an estimated 50000 people. Compare to the lack of commitment in Whites, the Cheka made an important contribution to the Bolsheviks victory in the Civil War.

Overall, the Bolsheviks tried everything to maintain in power. Although they faced some major problems throughout the war e.g. desertion, uprising of the peasants, poor equip army, resentment of former Tsarist officers…they overcome it by the well used of all their advantages, they finally won the civil war in 1921 after the defeat of Wrangel. The greatness of the Red Army was the reason of why did the communist win the Civil War. They had plenty. Also the weak opponent and all the disadvantages help the Reds to win more easily. However, without the great leadership, discipline and organisation, the Red Army might’ve been worse.

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