Russian Civil War

multi-party war in the former Russian Empire, November 1917-October 1922

The Russian Civil War (Russian: Гражданская война в России, tr. Grazhdanskaya voyna v Rossii) was a multi-party civil war in the former Russian Empire immediately after the two Russian revolutions of 1917, as many factions vied to determine Russia's political future. The two largest combatant groups were the Red Army, fighting for the Bolshevik form of socialism led by Vladimir Lenin, and the loosely allied forces known as the White Army, which included diverse interests favouring political monarchism, capitalism and social democracy, each with democratic and anti-democratic variants. In addition, rival militant socialists, notably Makhnovia anarchists and Left SRs, as well as non-ideological Green armies, opposed the Reds, the Whites and foreign interventionists. Thirteen foreign nations intervened against the Red Army, notably the former Allied military forces from the just-concluded World War with the goal of re-establishing the Eastern Front. Three foreign nations of the Central Powers also intervened, rivaling the Allied intervention with the main goal of retaining the territory they had received in the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk.

Russian Civil War montage
"Why aren't you in the Army?"
Russian civil war in the west
Red Army emblem of 1919-1922
Anti-Bolshevik Volunteer Army infantry company


  • In one of the ugliest wars of the twentieth century, the new Bolshevik government of Russia consolidated its power, fighting off numerous White armies consisting of monarchists and those who favored a less drastic form of socialism, as well as nationalist armies from border states such as the Ukraine, and the intervening forces of fourteen different foreign countries. In a conflict that raged across the length and breadth of the former Russian Empire, millions of lives were lost and the Soviet Union was eventually born, with its leaders scarred by terror, deeply paranoid, and xenophobic. The result was the autocratic USSR of Stalin's terror purges, the gulag, and the Cold War.
    • Joseph Cummings, The War Chronicles, From Flintlocks To Machine Guns: A Global Reference of All the Major Modern Conflicts (2009), p. 248

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