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Russian Revolution and Civil War

Years: 1917-1922
Battle deaths: 802,225 [1]

Nation(s) involved and/or conflict territory [note]
Russia, United Kingdom, France, Japan, United States, Soviet Union

Published prior to 2013 | Updated: 2013-09-04 14:25:41
The Russian Revolution of 1917 was a political movement in Russia that climaxed in 1917 with the overthrow of the provisional government that had replaced the Russian Tsar system, and led to the establishment of the Soviet Union, which lasted until its collapse in 1991. The Revolution can be viewed in two distinct phases. The first one was that of the February Revolution of 1917, which displaced the autocracy of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, the last Tsar of Russia, and sought to establish in its place a liberal republic. The second phase was the October Revolution, in which the Soviets, inspired and increasingly controlled by Lenin’s Bolshevik party, seized power from the Provisional Government.

The February Revolution came about almost spontaneously when people protested against the Tsarist regime as they lacked enough food to eat. There was also great dissatisfaction with Russia’s continued involvement in the First World War. As the protests grew, various political reformists (both liberal and radical left) started to coordinate some activity. In early February the protests turned violent as large numbers of city residents rioted and clashed with police and soldiers. When the bulk of the soldiers garrisoned in the Russian capital Petrograd joined the protests, they turned into a revolution ultimately leading to the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II.

Between February and October numerous anarchist and communist (Bolshevik) revolutionists attempted to foment further revolution. In July, the St. Petersburg Military section of the Bolshevik Party, in combination with a major working class Bolshevik Party branch and the Petrograd anarchists, fomented a civil revolt. However, this revolt failed.

The October Revolution was led by Lenin and was based upon the ideas of Karl Marx. It marked the beginning of the spread of communism in the twentieth century. It was far less sporadic than the revolution of February and came about as the result of deliberate planning and coordinated activity to that end. On November 7, 1917, Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin led his leftist revolutionaries in a nearly bloodless revolt against the ineffective Kerensky Provisional Government (Russia was still using the Julian Calendar at the time, so period references show an October 25 date). The October Revolution ended the phase of the revolution instigated in February, replacing Russia’s short-lived liberal government with a bolshevik one. Although many bolsheviks (such as Leon Trotsky) supported a soviet democracy, the ’reform from above’ model gained definitive power when Lenin died and Stalin gained control of the USSR. Trotsky and his supporters, as well as a number of other democratically-minded communists, were persecuted and eventually imprisoned or killed.

After October 1917, many esers (Socialist-Revolutionaries) and Russian Anarchists opposed the Bolsheviks through the soviets. When this failed, they revolted in a series of events calling for "a third revolution." The most notable instances were the Tambov rebellion, 1919 - 1921, and the Kronstadt rebellion in March 1921. These movements, which made a wide range of demands and lacked effective coordination, were eventually crushed during the Civil War.

The Russian Civil War, which broke out in 1918 shortly after the revolution, brought death and suffering to millions of people regardless of their political orientation. The war was fought mainly between the "Reds", the communists and revolutionaries, and the "Whites" - the monarchists, conservatives, liberals and socialists who opposed the Bolshevik Revolution. The Whites had backing from nations such as the UK and USA.

Also during the Civil War, Nestor Makhno lead a Ukrainian anarchist movement which generally cooperated with the Bolsheviks. However, a Bolshevik force under Mikhail Frunze destroyed the Makhnovist movement, when the Makhnovists refused to merge into the Red Army. In addition, the so-called "Green Army" (nationalists and anarchists) played a secondary role in the war, mainly in Ukraine.

Source: Wikipedia, published under the GNU FDL. Retrieved [dat]

Other sources:
Nicolas Werth, Crimes and Mass Violence of the Russian Civil Wars (1918-1921), Online Encyclopedia of Mass Violence
Index of events and people related to the revolution and civil war in Russia 1914-25

Related conflicts/wars:
Kronstadt Rebellion
Green Rebellion


Notes on fatalities

[1] Battle deaths: Correlates of War, Intra-State War Data v4.1. Matthew White estimates excess deaths including battle deaths to ~9,000,000.

More about sources


NOTE! Nation data for this war may be inconlusive or incomplete. In most cases it reflects which nations were involved with troops in this war, but in some it may instead reflect the contested territory.



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