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The Volunteer Army

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Bolshevik control, Nov 1918Maximum advances of 'White' forces

The Russian Civil War between Whites and Reds raged from November of 1917 until 1921, with isolated pockets of resistance continuing in the Far East until 1923. The White Army, with the occasional aid of Allied (and sometimes, Central powers) forces from outside Russia (Japanese, British, Canadian, French, American, German, Australian (including two who received the Victoria Cross for their actions against the Red Army), Greek, Czechoslovak) held sway in some areas (especially Siberia, Ukraine and the Crimea) for periods of time and put considerable bodies of troops into the field. But they failed to unite or to co-operate effectively amongst themselves, and the Bolshevik Red Army eventually gained the upper hand.

The major theaters of the White armies can be grouped as follows:

  • The Southern front: Started on November 15, 1917 by General Mikhail Alekseev and commanded by General Lavr Kornilov, later headed by General Denikin and named the "Armed Forces of the South of Russia." This front had the most massive scale operations and overall posed the most serious threat to the Bolsheviks. In the beginning, it based itself entirely on volunteer support, a significant amount of it coming from the cossacks who were amidst the first to protest against Bolshevik rule. In 1919, after the Denikin offense on Moscow collapsed, the army was forced into a massive retreat. General Wrangel reorganized the army in Crimea, formed a provisional government (recognized by France), and began a new advance. It quickly failed when Polish leader Józef PiƂsudski made a separate peace with the Soviets and withdrew Poland from the war.
  • The Eastern (Siberian) front: Started in the spring of 1918 as an underground movement amidst army officers and right leaning socialist forces. The front began a major offensive in collaboration with the Czechoslovak Legions who were stuck in Siberia (local Bolshevik governments barred them from leaving Soviet Russia). Admiral Kolchak headed the resistance and a provisional Russian government. Britain encouraged him to side with the White cause when he offered to enlist in the British Army. They thought he was more valubale trying to defeat the Soviets. He also joined the Volunteer Army. The army made significant advances in 1919, but was pushed back to the far east where it continued to resist up to October of 1922. When Vladivostock fell October 25, 1922 the Civil War effectivelt ended, although a small pocket of White resistance in the Pacific coast Ayano-Maysky District held out until June 17, 1923.
  • The Northern and North-Western fronts: Started immediately after the Bolshevik takeover by Pyotr Krasnov, then headed by General Yudenich, General Miller, Prince Liven, and others. These fronts had less coordination than the Southern Army of Denikin, including a few problematic adventurers such as General Bermont Avalov and General Bulakh Bulakhovich (the former declared war on neighboring Estonia). The most notable achievement was the attack on Petrograd, then the capital of Soviet Russia.

Soviet Victory

By 1924, the Soviets controlled the whole of mother Russia. A few White Russians continued to campaign for resistance in exile but and the communkist regime would last until its collapse in 1991. Had the Volunteer Army and the White Russians won, world history would have been very different.

References

  • Bischoff, Josef. 1935. Die letzte Front; Geschichte der Eisernen Division im Baltikum. 1919. Berlin: Buch und Tiefdruck Gesselschaft.
  • Dupuy, R. Ernest, and Trevor Nevitt Dupuy. 1993. The Harper encyclopedia of military history from 3500 B.C.E. to the present. New York, NY: HarperCollins. ISBN 9780062700568
  • Goltz, Rüdiger, and Ebba von Bonsdorff. 1920. Krigsminnen från Finland och Baltikum. Helsingfors: Söderström & c:o.
  • Thompson, John M., and William Ewing Gleason. 1996. A vision unfulfilled Russia and the Soviet Union in the twentieth century. Lexington, MA: D.C. Heath. ISBN 9780669282917

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