TIMELINE OF WORLD HISTORY
 

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  Vladimir Lenin

part I
Vladimir Ilich Lenin


part II
October Revolution
Cheka
Red Terror
White Terror
Russian Civil War
Russian famine of 1921
  Joseph Stalin

part I
Joseph Stalin 1879-1938

part II
Joseph Stalin 1939-1953

part III

Great Purge
Moscow Trials
Holodomor
Stalin and anti-Semitism
Stalin and Socialist Realism
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
CONTENTS
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The Bolshevik Victory
 
 

Bolshevik (1920), by Boris Kustodiev
 
 

A scene from the July Days. The army has just opened fire on street protesters.
 
 

Leon Trotsky, 1917;
Storming of the Winter Palace, 1917 by Nikolai Kochergin.
 
 

Bolshevik forces marching on Red Square, Moscow
 
 

White Army"; 14 "Red Army"
 
 

Red Guards at Vulkan factory in 1917
 
 

Cruiser Aurora
 
 

Petrograd Milrevcom proclamation about the deposing of the Russian Provisional Government
 
 

Красный Фиат Ижорский у Смольного. Осень 1917
 
 

Историческая фотография П. А. Оцупа. Броневик «Лейтенант Шмидт», захваченный красногвардейцами у юнкеров. Петроград, 25 октября 1917
 
 

European theatre of the Russian Civil War
 
 
October Revolution
 
 
The October Revolution (Russian: Октя́брьская револю́ция, tr. Oktyabr'skaya revolyutsiya;), officially known in the Soviet literature as the Great October Socialist Revolution (Russian: Вели́кая Октя́брьская социалисти́ческая револю́ция, tr. Velikaya Oktyabr'skaya sotsialisticheskaya revolyutsiya), and commonly referred to as Red October, the October Uprising or the Bolshevik Revolution, was a seizure of state power instrumental in the larger Russian Revolution of 1917. It took place with an armed insurrection in Petrograd traditionally dated to 25 October 1917 (by the Julian or Old Style calendar, which corresponds to 7 November 1917 in the Gregorian or New Style calendar).

It followed and capitalized on the February Revolution of the same year, which overthrew the Tsarist autocracy and established a provisional government composed predominantly of former nobles and aristocrats.[citation needed] During this time, urban workers began to organize into councils (Russian: Soviet) wherein revolutionaries criticized the provisional government and its actions. The October Revolution in Petrograd overthrew the provisional government and gave the power to the local soviets. The Bolshevik party was heavily supported by the soviets. After the Congress of Soviets, now the governing body, had its second session, it elected members of the Bolsheviks and other leftist groups such as the Left Socialist Revolutionaries to key positions within the new state of affairs. This immediately initiated the establishment of the Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic, the world's first self-proclaimed socialist state.

The revolution was led by the Bolsheviks, who used their influence in the Petrograd Soviet to organize the armed forces. Bolshevik Red Guards forces under the Military Revolutionary Committee began the takeover of government buildings on 24 October 1917 (O.S.). The following day, the Winter Palace (the seat of the Provisional government located in Petrograd, then capital of Russia), was captured.

The long-awaited Constituent Assembly elections were held on 12 November 1917. The Bolsheviks only won 175 seats in the 715 seat legislative body, coming in second behind the Socialist Revolutionary party, which won 370 seats. The Constituent Assembly was to first meet on 28 November 1917, but its convocation was delayed until 5 January 1918 by the Bolsheviks. On its first and only day in session, the body rejected Soviet decrees on peace and land, and was dissolved the next day by order of the Congress of Soviets.

As the revolution was not universally recognized, there followed the struggles of the Russian Civil War (1917–22) and the creation of the Soviet Union in 1922.


Etymology

Initially, the event was referred as the October coup (Октябрьский переворот) or the Uprising of 25th, as seen in contemporary documents (for example, in the first editions of Lenin's complete works). In Russian, however, "переворот" has a similar meaning to "revolution" and also means "upheaval" or "overturn", so "coup" is not necessarily the right translation. With time, the term October Revolution (Октябрьская революция) came into use. It is also known as the "November Revolution" having occurred in November according to the Gregorian Calendar.

The Great October Socialist Revolution (Russian: Вели́кая Октя́брьская Социалисти́ческая Революция, Velikaya Oktyabr'skaya sotsialisticheskaya revolyutsiya) was the official name for the October Revolution in the Soviet Union after the 10th anniversary of the Revolution in 1927.

Background
The February Revolution had toppled Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, and replaced his government with the Russian Provisional Government. However, the provisional government was weak and riven by internal dissension. It continued to wage World War I, which became increasingly unpopular. A nationwide crisis developed in Russia, affecting social, economic, and political relations. Disorder in industry and transport had intensified, and difficulties in obtaining provisions had increased. Gross industrial production in 1917 had decreased by over 36 percent from what it had been in 1916. In the autumn, as much as 50 percent of all enterprises were closed down in the Urals, the Donbas, and other industrial centers, leading to mass unemployment. At the same time, the cost of living increased sharply. The real wages of the workers fell about 50 percent from what they had been in 1913. Russia's national debt in October 1917 had risen to 50 billion rubles. Of this, debts to foreign governments constituted more than 11 billion rubles. The country faced the threat of financial bankruptcy.

In September and October 1917, there were strikes by the Moscow and Petrograd workers, the miners of the Donbas, the metalworkers of the Urals, the oil workers of Baku, the textile workers of the Central Industrial Region, and the railroad workers on 44 different railway lines. In these months alone more than a million workers took part in mass strike action. Workers established control over production and distribution in many factories and plants in a social revolution.

By October 1917 there had been over four thousand peasant uprisings against landowners. When the Provisional Government sent out punitive detachments it only enraged the peasants. The garrisons in Petrograd, Moscow, and other cities, the Northern and Western fronts, and the sailors of the Baltic Fleet in September openly declared through their elected representative body Tsentrobalt that they did not recognize the authority of the Provisional Government and would not carry out any of its commands.

In a diplomatic note of 1 May, the minister of foreign affairs, Pavel Milyukov, expressed the Provisional Government's desire to carry the war against the Central Powers through "to a victorious conclusion", arousing broad indignation. On 1–4 May about 100,000 workers and soldiers of Petrograd, and after them the workers and soldiers of other cities, led by the Bolsheviks, demonstrated under banners reading "Down with the war!" and "all power to the soviets!" The mass demonstrations resulted in a crisis for the Provisional Government. 1 July saw more demonstrations, as about 500,000 workers and soldiers in Petrograd demonstrated, again demanding "all power to the soviets", "down with the war", and "down with the ten capitalist ministers". The Provisional Government opened an offensive against the Central Powers on 1 July but it soon collapsed. The news of the offensive and its collapse intensified the struggle of the workers and the soldiers. A new crisis in the Provisional Government began on 15 July.

On 16 July spontaneous demonstrations of workers and soldiers began in Petrograd, demanding that power be turned over to the soviets. The Central Committee of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party provided leadership to the spontaneous movements. On 17 July, over 500,000 people participated in a peaceful demonstration in Petrograd, the so-called July Days. The Provisional Government, with the support of the Socialist-Revolutionary Party-Menshevik leaders of the All-Russian Executive Committee of the Soviets, ordered an armed attack against the peaceful demonstrators, murdering hundreds.

A period of repression followed. On 5–6 July attacks were made on the editorial offices and printing presses of Pravda and on the Palace of Kshesinskaya, where the Central Committee and the Petrograd Committee of the Bolsheviks were located. On 7 July a government decree ordering the arrest and trial of Vladimir Lenin was published. He was forced to go underground, just as he had been under the Tsarist regime. Bolsheviks began to be arrested, workers were disarmed, and revolutionary military units in Petrograd were disbanded or sent off to the front. On 12 July the Provisional Government published a law introducing the death penalty at the front. The formation of the second coalition government, with Alexander Kerensky as chairman, was completed on 24 July.

Another problem for the government centered on General Lavr Kornilov, who had been Commander-in-Chief since 18 July. In response to a Bolshevik appeal, Moscow’s working class began a protest strike of 400,000 workers. The Moscow workers were supported by strikes and protest rallies by workers in Kiev, Kharkov, Nizhny Novgorod, Ekaterinburg, and other cities.

In what became known as the Kornilov affair, Kornilov directed an army under Aleksandr Krymov to march toward Petrograd with Kerensky's agreement. Although the details remain sketchy, Kerensky appeared to become frightened by the possibility of a coup and the order was countermanded (by comparison, historian Richard Pipes has argued that the whole episode was engineered by Kerensky himself). On 27 August, feeling betrayed by the Kerensky government who had previously agreed with his views on how to restore order to Russia, Kornilov pushed on towards Petrograd. With few troops to spare on the front, Kerensky was forced to turn to the Petrograd Soviet for help. Bolsheviks, Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries confronted the army and convinced them to stand down. The Bolsheviks' influence over railroad and telegraph workers also proved vital in stopping the movement of troops. The damage was already done, however. Right-wingers felt betrayed, and the left wing was resurgent.

With Kornilov defeated, the Bolsheviks' popularity with the soviets significantly increased. During and after the defeat of Kornilov, a mass turn of the soviets toward the Bolsheviks began, both in the central and local areas. On 31 August, the Petrograd Soviet of Workers and Soldiers Deputies, and on 5 September, the Moscow Soviet Workers Deputies adopted the Bolshevik resolutions on the question of power. The Bolsheviks won a majority in the Soviets of Briansk, Samara, Saratov, Tsaritsyn, Minsk, Kiev, Tashkent, and other cities.

Events
On 23 October [O.S. 10 October] 1917, the Bolsheviks' Central Committee voted 10-2 for a resolution saying that "an armed uprising is inevitable, and that the time for it is fully ripe".

On 6 November [O.S. 24 October] 1917, Bolsheviks led their forces in the uprising in Petrograd (modern day Saint Petersburg), the capital of Russia, against the Kerensky Provisional Government. Leon Trotsky distributes arms to the Red Guards, which systematically captures major government facilities, key communication, installations and vantage points with little opposition. The Petrograd Garrison rebels against the Provisional Government, claiming that it is a "tool of the enemies of the people". For the most part, the revolt in Petrograd was bloodless, with the Red Guards led by Bolsheviks finally launching an assault on the poorly defended Winter Palace.

The official Soviet version of events follows: An assault led by Vladimir Lenin was launched at 9:45 p.m. signaled by a blank shot from the cruiser Aurora. (The Aurora was placed in Petrograd and still stands there now.) The Winter Palace was guarded by Cossacks, cadets (military students), and a Women's Battalion. It was taken at about 2 a.m. The earlier date was made the official date of the Revolution, when all offices except the Winter Palace had been taken.

More contemporary research with access to government archives significantly corrects accepted Soviet edited and embellished history. The archival version shows that parties of Bolshevik operatives sent out from the Smolny by Lenin took over all critical centers of power in Petrograd in the early hours of the first night without a shot being fired. This was completed so efficiently that the takeover resembled the changing of the guard. The capture of the Winter Palace was more dramatic, with the Red Guards storming the Winter Palace at 2:10 a.m. on the night of 7–8 November [O.S. 25–26 October] 1917. The Cossacks deserted when the Red Guard approached, and the Cadets and the 140 volunteers of the Women's Battalion surrendered rather than resist the 40000 strong army. The Aurora was commandeered to then fire blanks at the palace in a symbolic act of rejection of the government. In fact the effectively unoccupied Winter Palace fell not because of acts of courage or a military barrage, but because the back door was left open, allowing the Red Guard to enter. A Red Guard named Adamovich remembered gasping as he burst into the palace, as he had never before seen such luxury and splendour. A small group broke in, got lost in the cavernous interior, and accidentally happened upon the remnants of Kerensky's provisional government in the imperial family's breakfast room. The illiterate revolutionaries then compelled those arrested to write up their own arrest papers. The Provisional Government was arrested and imprisoned in Peter and Paul Fortress after the ministers resigned to fate and surrendered without a fight, and officially overthrown. The stories of the "defense of the Winter Palace" and the heroic "Storming of the Winter Palace" came later as the creative propaganda product of Bolshevik publicists. Grandiose paintings depicting the "Women's Battalion" and photo stills taken from Sergei Eisenstein's staged film depicting the "politically correct" version of the October events in Petrograd came to be taken as truth. With the Government Petrograd Soviet now in control of government, garrison and proletariat, the Second All Russian Congress of Soviets held its opening session on the day, while Trotsky dismisses the opposing Mensheviks and the Socialist Revolutionaries (SR) from Congress.

Some sources contend that as the leader of Tsentrobalt, Pavlo Dybenko actually played an enormous role in the revolt. It is said that the ten warships that entered the city with ten thousand Baltic fleet mariners was the force that actually took the power in Petrograd and put down the Provisional Government. The same mariners then dispersed by force the elected parliament of Russia, and used machine-gun fire against protesting demonstrators in Petrograd. About a hundred demonstrators were killed, and several hundreds were wounded. Dybenko in his memoirs mentioned this event as "several shots in the air". Later, during the first hours after the taking the Winter Palace, Dybenko personally entered the Ministry of Justice and destroyed there the documents concerning the financing of the Bolshevik party by Germany. These are disputed by various sources such as Louise Bryant, who claims that news outlets in the west at the time reported that the unfortunate loss of life occurred in Moscow not Petrograd and the number was much less than is suggested above. As for the "several shots in the air", there is little evidence suggesting otherwise. The alleged action of Dybenko entering the Ministry of Justice to destroy documents as recalled by Savchenko can also be challenged. According to reports, Pavel Dybenko was in Helsingfors organizing the sailors' departures for Petrograd. From the book Radio October...On the “Krechet” in Helsingfors, radio operator Makarov hands a telegram to Pavel Dybenko with the report of the “Samson” commissar, Grigoriy Borisov: “To Tsentrobalt. Everything is calm in Petrograd. The power is in the hands of the revolutionary committee. You have to immediately get in touch with the front committee of the Northern Army in order to preserve unity of forces and stability."

Later official accounts of the revolution from the Soviet Union would depict the events in October as being far more dramatic than they actually had been. This was helped by the historical reenactment, entitled The Storming of the Winter Palace, which was staged in 1920. This reenactment, watched by 100,000 spectators, provided the model for official films made much later, which showed a huge storming of the Winter Palace and fierce fighting (See Sergei Eisenstein's October: Ten Days That Shook the World).[citation needed] In reality the Bolshevik insurgents faced little or no opposition. The insurrection was timed and organized to hand state power to the Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies, which began on 25 October. After a single day of revolution eighteen people had been arrested and two had been killed.

Timeline of the spread of Soviet power (Gregorian calendar dates)
5 November 1917: Tallinn.
7 November 1917: Petrograd, Minsk, Novgorod, Ivanovo-Voznesensk and Tartu
8 November 1917: Ufa, Kazan, Yekaterinburg and Narva;(failed in Kiev)
9 November 1917: Vitebsk, Yaroslavl, Saratov, Samara and Izhevsk
10 November 1917: Rostov, Tver and Nizhny Novgorod
12 November 1917: Voronezh, Smolensk and Gomel
13 November 1917: Tambov
14 November 1917: Orel and Perm
15 November 1917: Pskov, Moscow and Baku
27 November 1917: Tsaritsyn
1 December 1917: Mogilev
8 December 1917: Vyatka
10 December 1917: Kishinev
11 December 1917: Kaluga
14 December 1917: Novorossisk
15 December 1917: Kostroma
20 December 1917: Tula
24 December 1917: Kharkov (invasion of Ukraine by the Muravyov Red Guard forces, establishment of the Soviet Ukraine and hostilities in the region)
29 December 1917: Sevastopol (invasion of Crimea by the Red Guard forces, establishment of the Taurida Soviet republic)
4 January 1918: Penza
11 January 1918: Yekaterinoslav
17 January 1918: Petrozavodsk
19 January 1918: Poltava
22 January 1918: Zhitomir
26 January 1918: Simferopol
27 January 1918: Nikolayev
28 January 1918: Helsinki (the Reds overthrow the White Senate, the Finnish Civil War begins)
29 January 1918: (failed again in Kiev)
31 January 1918: Odessa and Orenburg (establishment of the Odessa Soviet Republic)
7 February 1918: Astrakhan
8 February 1918: Kiev and Vologda (defeat of the Ukrainian government)
17 February 1918: Arkhangelsk
25 February 1918: Novocherkassk

Outcomes

The Second Congress of Soviets consisted of 670 elected delegates; 300 were Bolshevik and nearly a hundred were Left Socialist-Revolutionaries, who also supported the overthrow of the Alexander Kerensky Government. When the fall of the Winter Palace was announced, the Congress adopted a decree transferring power to the Soviets of Workers', Soldiers' and Peasants' Deputies, thus ratifying the Revolution.

The transfer of power was not without disagreement. The center and Right wings of the Socialist Revolutionaries as well as the Mensheviks believed that Lenin and the Bolsheviks had illegally seized power and they walked out before the resolution was passed.
As they exited, they were taunted by Leon Trotsky who told them "You are pitiful isolated individuals; you are bankrupts; your role is played out. Go where you belong from now on — into the dustbin of history!"

The following day, 8 November [O.S. 26 October] 1917, the Congress elected a Council of People's Commissars (Sovnarkom) with Lenin as leader as the basis of a new Soviet Government, pending the convocation of a Constituent Assembly, and passed the Decree on Peace and the Decree on Land. This new government was also officially called "provisional" until the Assembly was dissolved. The Council of People's Commissars now began to arrest the leaders of opposition parties. Dozens of Constitutional Democratic Party (Kadet) leaders and members of the Constituent Assembly were imprisoned in The Peter and Paul Fortress. These were to be followed by the arrests of Socialist Revolutionary Party and Menshevik leaders. Posters were pinned on walls and fences by the SRs describing the takeover as a "crime against the motherland and revolution". The is also strong anti-Bolshevik opposition within Petrograd.

On 9 November [O.S. 27 October] 1917, the Mensheviks seize power of Georgia and declare it an independent republic. The Don Cossacks also claim control of their own government. There is strong anti-Bolshevik opposition outside of Petrograd, with Bolshevik control of country still very weak. There are also reports that the Provisional Government has not conceded defeat and are meeting with the army at the Front.

On 10 November [O.S. 28 October] 1917, posters and newspapers start criticizing the actions of the Bolsheviks and refute their authority. The Executive Committee of Peasants Soviets "refutes with indignation all participation of the organised peasantry in this criminal violation of the will of the working class". Strong opposition to the Bolsheviks still continues from several important proletariat sources.

On 11 November [O.S. 29 October] 1917, opposition to the Bolsheviks develops into major counter-revolutionary action. Cossacks enter Tsarskoye Selo on outskirts of Petrograd with Kerensky riding on a white horse welcomed by church bells. Kerensky gave an ultimatum to the rifle garrison to lay down weapons, which was promptly refused. They were then fired upon by Kerensky’s Cossacks, which resulted in 8 deaths. This turned soldiers in Petrograd against Kerensky because he was just like the Tsarist regime. Kerensky’s failure to assume authority over troops described by John Reed as a ‘fatal blunder’ that signalled the final death of the government.

On 12 November [O.S. 30 October] 1917, the battle against the anti-Bolsheviks continues. The Red Guard fights against Cossacks at Tsarskoye Selo, with the Cossacks breaking rank and fleeing, leaving their artillery behind.

On 13 November [O.S. 31 October] 1917, the Bolsheviks gain control of Moscow after a week of bitter street-fighting. Artillery had been freely used with an estimated 700 casualties. However, there is still continued support for Kerensky in the provinces.

On 14 November [O.S. 1 November] 1917, there is an appeal to anti-Bolsheviks throughout Russia to join new government of the people, with the Bolsheviks gradually winning the support of the Russian people.

On 15 November [O.S. 2 November] 1917, there is only minor public anti-Bolshevik sentiment; for example, the newspaper Novaya Zhizn criticises the lack of manpower and organisation of the Bolsheviks to run a party, let alone a government. Lenin confidently claims that there is "not a shadow of hesitation in the masses of Petrograd, Moscow and the rest of Russia" towards Bolshevik rule.

On 20 December 1917 the Cheka was created by the decree of Vladimir Lenin. These were the beginnings of the Bolsheviks' consolidation of power over their political opponents. The Red Terror was started in September 1918. The Jacobin Terror was an example for the Soviet Bolsheviks. Leon Trotsky has compared Lenin with Maximilien Robespierre yet in 1904.

The Decree on Land ratified the actions of the peasants who throughout Russia seized private land and redistributed it among themselves. The Bolsheviks viewed themselves as representing an alliance of workers and peasants and memorialized that understanding with the Hammer and Sickle on the flag and coat of arms of the Soviet Union. Other decrees:

All Russian banks were nationalized.
Private bank accounts were confiscated.
The Church's properties (including bank accounts) were seized.
All foreign debts were repudiated.
Control of the factories was given to the soviets.
Wages were fixed at higher rates than during the war, and a shorter, eight-hour working day was introduced.

Bolshevik-led attempts to seize power in other parts of the Russian Empire were largely successful in Russia proper — although the fighting in Moscow lasted for two weeks — but they were less successful in ethnically non-Russian parts of the Empire, which had been clamoring for independence since the February Revolution. For example, the Ukrainian Rada, which had declared autonomy on 23 June 1917, created the Ukrainian People's Republic on 20 November, which was supported by the Ukrainian Congress of Soviets. This led to an armed conflict with the Bolshevik government in Petrograd and, eventually, a Ukrainian declaration of independence from Russia on 25 January 1918. In Estonia, two rival governments emerged: the Estonian Provincial Assembly proclaimed itself the supreme legal authority of Estonia on 28 November 1917 and issued the Declaration of Independence on 24 February 1918, while an Estonian Bolshevik sympathizer, Jaan Anvelt, was recognized by Lenin's government as Estonia's leader on 8 December, although forces loyal to Anvelt controlled only the capital.

The success of the October Revolution transformed the Russian state into a soviet republic. A coalition of anti-Bolshevik groups attempted to unseat the new government in the Russian Civil War from 1918 to 1922.

In an attempt to intervene in the civil war after the Bolsheviks' separate peace with the Central Powers, the Allied powers (United Kingdom, France, United States and Japan) occupied parts of the Soviet Union for over two years before finally withdrawing. The United States did not recognize the new Russian government until 1933. The European powers recognized the Soviet Union in the early 1920s and began to engage in business with it after the New Economic Policy (NEP) was implemented.

Historiography

Few events in historical research have been as conditioned by political influences as the October Revolution. The historiography of the Revolution generally divides into three camps: the Soviet-Marxist view, the Western-Totalitarian view, and the Revisionist view.

Soviet historiography
Soviet historiography of the October Revolution is intertwined with Soviet historical development. Many of the initial Soviet interpreters of the Revolution were themselves Bolshevik revolutionaries. After the initial wave of revolutionary narratives, Soviet historians worked within "narrow guidelines" defined by the Soviet government. The rigidity of interpretive possibilities reached its height under Joseph Stalin.

Soviet historians of the October Revolution interpreted the Revolution so as to establish the legitimacy of Marxist ideology, and also the Bolshevik regime. To establish the accuracy of Marxist ideology, Soviet historians generally described the Revolution as the product of class struggle. They maintained that the Revolution was the supreme event in a world history governed by historical laws. The Bolshevik Party is placed at the center of the Revolution, exposing the errors of both the moderate Provisional Government and the spurious "socialist" Mensheviks in the Petrograd Soviet. Guided by Vladimir Lenin's leadership and his firm grasp of scientific Marxist theory, the Party led the "logically predetermined" events of the October Revolution from beginning to end. The events were, according to these historians, logically predetermined because of the socio-economic development of Russia, where the monopoly industrial capitalism alienated the masses. In this view, the Bolshevik party took the leading role in organizing these alienated industrial workers, and thereby established the construction of the first socialist state.

Although Soviet historiography of the October Revolution stayed relatively constant until 1991, it did undergo some changes. Following Stalin’s death, historians such as E. N. Burdzhalov and P. V. Volobuev published historical research that deviated significantly from the party line in refining the doctrine that the Bolshevik victory "was predetermined by the state of Russia’s socio-economic development". These historians, who comprised the "New Directions Group", posited that the complex nature of the October Revolution "could only be explained by a multi-causal analysis, not by recourse to the mono-causality of monopoly capitalism". For them, the central actor is still the Bolshevik party, but this party triumphed "because it alone could solve the preponderance of ‘general democratic’ tasks the country faced" (such as the struggle for peace, the exploitation of landlords, and so on.)

During the late Soviet period, the opening of select Soviet archives during glasnost sparked innovative research that broke away from some aspects of Marxism–Leninism, though the key features of the orthodox Soviet view remained intact.

Western historiography
During the Cold War, Western historiography of the October Revolution developed in direct response to the assertions of the Soviet view. The Soviet version of the October Revolution conditioned historical interpretations in the United States and the West. As a result, these Western historians exposed what they considered flaws in the Soviet view, thereby undermining the Bolsheviks' original legitimacy, as well as the precepts of Marxism.

These Western historians presented the revolution as the result of a chain of contingent accidents. Examples of these accidental and contingent factors that precipitated the Revolution include World War I's timing, chance, and the poor leadership of Tsar Nicholas II as well as liberal and moderate socialists. According to this historical interpretation, it was not popular support, but rather Bolshevik manipulation of the masses and the organization’s ruthlessness and superior structure which enabled it to survive. For these historians, the Bolsheviks’ defeat in the Constituent Assembly elections of November–December 1917 demonstrated popular opposition to the Bolsheviks’ coup, as did the scale and breadth of the Civil War.

These historians saw the organization of the Bolshevik party as proto-totalitarian. Their interpretation of the October Revolution as a violent coup organized by a proto-totalitarian party reinforced the idea that totalitarianism is an inherent part of Soviet history. For them, Stalinist totalitarianism developed as a natural progression from Leninism and the Bolshevik party’s tactics and organization.

Impact of the dissolution of the USSR on historical research
The dissolution of the USSR had an impact on historical interpretations of the October Revolution. Since 1991, increasing access to large amounts of Soviet archival materials made it possible to re‑examine the October Revolution. Though both Western and Russian historians now have access to many of these archives, the impact of the dissolution of the USSR can be seen most clearly in the work of historians in the former USSR. While the disintegration essentially helped solidify the Western and Revisionist views, post-USSR Russian historians largely repudiated the former Soviet historical interpretation of the Revolution.[35] As Stephen Kotkin argues, 1991 prompted "a return to political history and the apparent resurrection of totalitarianism, the interpretive view that, in different ways…revisionists sought to bury". There has additionally been the revival among some historians[who?] of the "continuity thesis", the idea that there was an uncomplicated, natural evolution from the October Revolution’s organizational structure to Stalin’s Gulags.

Legacy
The term "Red October" (Красный Октябрь, Krasnyy Oktyabr) has also been used to describe the events of the month. This name has in turn been lent to a steel factory made notable by the Battle of Stalingrad, a Moscow sweets factory that is well known in Russia, and a fictional Soviet submarine.

Ten Days That Shook the World, a book written by American journalist John Reed and first published in 1919, gives a firsthand exposition of the events. Reed died in 1920, shortly after the book was finished.

Dmitri Shostakovich wrote his Symphony No. 2 in B major, Op. 14 and subtitled To October, for the 10th anniversary of the October Revolution. The choral finale of the work, "To October", is set to a text by Alexander Bezymensky, which praises Lenin and the revolution. The Symphony No. 2 was first performed by the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra and the Academy Capella Choir under the direction of Nikolai Malko, on 5 November 1927.

Sergei Eisenstein and Grigori Aleksandrov's film October: Ten Days That Shook the World, first released on 20 January 1928 in the USSR and on 2 November 1928 in New York City, describes and glorifies the revolution and was commissioned to commemorate the event.

7 November, the anniversary of the October Revolution, was the official national day of the Soviet Union from 1918 onward and still is a public holiday in Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, and the breakaway territory of Transnistria.

The October revolution of 1917 also marks the inception of the first communist government in Russia, and thus the first large-scale socialist state in world history. After this Russia became the Russian SFSR and later part of the USSR, which dissolved in late 1991.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 
 
 
 

Members of the presidium of VCheKa (left to right) Yakov Peters, Józef Unszlicht, A. Ya. Belenky (standing), Felix Dzerzhinsky, Vyacheslav Menzhinsky, 1921
 
 
Cheka
 
 
Cheka (ЧК – чрезвыча́йная коми́ссия chrezvychaynaya komissiya, Emergency Committee,) was the first of a succession of Soviet state security organizations. It was created on December 20, 1917, after a decree issued by Vladimir Lenin, and was subsequently led by Felix Dzerzhinsky, a Polish aristocrat turned communist. By late 1918, hundreds of Cheka committees had been created in various cities, at multiple levels including: oblast, guberniya ("Gubcheks"), raion, uyezd, and volost Chekas, with Raion and Volost Extraordinary Commissioners. Many thousands of dissidents, deserters, or other people were arrested, tortured or executed by various Cheka groups. After 1922, Cheka groups underwent a series of reorganizations, with the NKVD, into bodies whose members continued to be referred to as "Chekisty" (Chekists) into the late 1980s.

From its founding, being the military and security arm of the Bolshevik communist party, the Cheka was instrumental in the Red Terror. In 1921 the Troops for the Internal Defense of the Republic (a branch of the Cheka) numbered at least 200,000. These troops policed labor camps; ran the Gulag system; conducted requisitions of food; subjected political opponents to secret arrest, detention, torture and summary execution; and put down rebellions and riots by workers or peasants, and mutinies in the desertion-plagued Red Army.


Name

The name of the agency was originally "The All-Russian Emergency Commission for Combating Counter-Revolution and Sabotage" (Russian: Всеросси́йская чрезвычайная коми́ссия по борьбе́ с контрреволюцией и саботажем; Vserossiyskaya chrezvychaynaya komissiya po bor'bye s kontrrevolyutsiyei i sabotazhem), but was often shortened to "VCheka" or "Cheka," after its Russian initials. In 1918 its name was changed, becoming "All-Russian Extraordinary Commission for Combating Counter-Revolution, Profiteering and Corruption".

A member of Cheka was called a "chekist". Also, the term "chekist" often referred to Soviet secret police throughout the Soviet period, despite official name changes over time. In The Gulag Archipelago, Alexander Solzhenitsyn recalls that zeks in the labor camps used "old 'Chekist'" as "a mark of special esteem" for particularly experienced camp administrators. The term is still found in use in Russia today (for example, President Vladimir Putin has been referred to in the Russian media as a "chekist" due to his career in the KGB).

The Chekists commonly dressed in black leather, including long flowing coats, reportedly after being issued such distinctive coats early in their existence. Western communists adopted this clothing fashion. The Chekists also often carried with them Greek-style worry beads made of amber, which had become "fashionable among high officials during the time of the 'cleansing'".

History
Creation

In the first month and half after the October Revolution (1917), the duty of "extinguishing the resistance of exploiters" was assigned to the Petrograd Military Revolutionary Committee (or VRK). It represented a temporary body working under directives of the Council of People's Commissars (Sovnarkom) and Central Committee of RDSRP(b). The VRK created new bodies of government,[clarification needed] organized food delivery to cities and the Army, requisitioned products from bourgeoisie, and sent its emissaries and agitators into provinces. One of its most important functions was the security of revolutionary order, and the fight against counterrevolutionary activity.

On December 1, 1917, the All-Russian Central Executive Committee (VTsIK or TsIK) reviewed a proposed reorganization of the VRK, and possible replacement of it. On December 5, the Petrograd VRK published an announcement of dissolution and transferred the functions to the department of TsIK to the fight against "counterrevolutionaries".[12] On December 6, the Council of People's Commissars (Sovnarkom) strategized how to persuade government workers to strike across Russia. They decided that a special commission was needed to implement the "most energetically revolutionary" measures. Felix Dzerzhinsky (the Iron Felix) was appointed as Director and invited the participation of the following individuals: V. K. Averin, V. N. Vasilevsky, D. G. Yevseyev, N. A. Zhydelev, I. K. Ksenofontov, G. K. Ordjonikidze, Ya. Kh. Peters, K. A. Peterson, V. A. Trifonov.

On December 7, 1917, all invited except Zhydelev and Vasilevsky gathered in the Smolny Institute to discuss the competence and structure of the commission to combat counterrevolution and sabotage. The obligations of the commission were:

"to liquidate to the root all of the counterrevolutionary and sabotage activities and all attempts to them in all of Russia, to hand over counter-revolutionaries and saboteurs to the revolutionary tribunals, develop measures to combat them and relentlessly apply them in real world applications. The commission should only conduct a preliminary investigation."

The commission should also observe the press and counterrevolutionary parties, sabotaging officials and other criminals. It was decided to create three sections: informational, organizational, and a unit to combat counter-revolution and sabotage. Upon the end of the meeting, Dzerzhinsky reported to the Sovnarkom with the requested information. The commission was allowed to apply such measures of repression as 'confiscation, deprivation of ration cards, publication of lists of enemies of the people etc.'". That day, Sovnarkom officially confirmed the creation of VCheKa. The commission was created not under the VTsIK as was previously anticipated, but rather under the Council of the People's Commissars.

On December 8, 1917, some of the original members of the VCheka were replaced. Averin, Ordzhonikidze, and Trifonov were replaced by V. V. Fomin, S. E. Shchukin, Ilyin, and Chernov. On the meeting of December 8, the presidium of VChK was elected of five members, and chaired by Dzerzhinsky. The issue of "speculation"[ambiguous] was raised at the same meeting, which was assigned to Peters to address and report with results to one of the next meetings of the commission. A circular, published on December 28 [O.S. December 15] 1917, gave the address of VCheka's first headquarters as "Petrograd, Gorokhovaya 2, 4th floor". On December 11, Fomin was ordered to organize a section to suppress "speculation." And in the same day, VCheKa offered Shchukin to conduct arrests of counterfeiters.

In January 1918, a subsection of the anti-counterrevolutionary effort was created to police bank officials. The structure of VCheKa was changing repeatedly. By March 1918, when the organization came to Moscow, it contained the following sections: against counterrevolution, speculation, non-residents, and information gathering. By the end of 1918–1919, some units had been created: secretly operative, investigatory, of transportation, military (special), operative, and instructional. By 1921, it changed once again, forming the following sections: directory of affairs, administrative-organizational, secretly operative, economical, and foreign affairs.

First months
In the first months of its existence, VCheKa consisted of only 40 officials. It commanded a team of soldiers, the Sveaborgesky regiment, as well as a group of Red Guardsmen. On January 14, 1918, Sovnarkom ordered Dzerzhinsky to organize teams of "energetic and ideological" sailors to combat speculation. By the spring of 1918, the commission had several teams. In addition to the Sveaborge team, it had an intelligence team, a team of sailors, and a strike team. Through the winter of 1917–1918, all the activities of VCheKa were centralized mainly in the city of Petrograd. It was one of the several other commissions in the country that fought against counterrevolution, speculation, banditry, and other activities perceived as crimes. Other organizations included: the Bureau of Military Commissars, and an Army-Navy investigatory commission to attack the counterrevolutionary element in the Red Army, plus the Central Requisite and Unloading Commission to fight speculation. The investigation of counterrevolutionary or major criminal offenses was conducting by the Investigatory Commission of Revtribunal. The functions of VCheKa were closely intertwined with the Commission of V. D. Bonch-Bruyevich, which beside the fight against wine pogroms was engaged in the investigation of most major political offenses (see: Bonch-Bruyevich Commission).


All results of its activities, VCheKa had either to transfer to the Investigatory Commission of Revtribunal or to dismiss a case. The control of the commission's activity was provided by the People's Commissariat for Justice (Narkomjust, at that time headed by Isidor Steinberg) and Internal Affairs (NKVD, at that time headed by Hryhoriy Petrovsky). Although the VCheKa was officially an independent organization from the NKVD, its main members such as Dzerzhinsky, Latsis, Unszlicht, and Uritsky (all main chekists), since November 1917 composed the collegiate of NKVD headed by Petrovsky. In November 1918, Petrovsky was appointed as the head of the All-Ukrainian Central Military Revolutionary Committee during VCheKa's expansion to provinces and front-lines. At the time of political competition between Bolsheviks and SRs (January 1918), Left SRs attempted to curb the rights of VCheKa and establish through the Narkomiust its control over its work. Having failed in attempts to subordinate the VCheKa to Narkomiust, the Left SRs were to seek control of the Extraordinary Commission in a different way. They requested that the Central Committee of the party was granted the right to directly enter their representatives into the VCheKa. Sovnarkom recognized the desirability of including five representatives of the Left Socialist-Revolutionary faction of VTsIK. Left SRs were granted the post of a companion (deputy) chairman of VCheKa. However, Sovnarkom, in which the majority belonged to the representatives of RSDLP(b) retained the right to approve members of the collegium of the VCheKa.

Originally, the members of the Cheka were exclusively Bolshevik; however, in January 1918, the Left SRs also joined the organization The Left SRs were expelled or arrested later in 1918, following the attempted assassination of Lenin by an SR, Fanni Kaplan.

Consolidation of VCheKa and National Establishment
By the end of January 1918, the Investigatory Commission of Petrograd Soviet (probably same as of Revtribunal) petitioned Sovnarkom to delineate the role of detection and judicial-investigatory organs. It offered to leave, for the VCheKa and the Commission of Bonch-Bruyevich, only the functions of detection and suppression, while investigative functions entirely transferred to it. The Investigatory Commission prevailed. On January 31, 1918, Sovnarkom ordered to relieve VCheKa of the investigative functions, leaving for the commission only the functions of detection, suppression, and prevention of so-called crimes. At the meeting of the Council of People's Commissars on January 31, 1918, a merger of VCheKa and the Commission of Bonch-Bruyevich was proposed. The existence of both commissions, VCheKa of Sovnarkom and the Commission of Bonch-Bruyevich of VTsIK, with almost the same functions and equal rights, became impractical. A decision followed two weeks later.

On February 23, 1918, VCheKa sent a radio telegram to all Soviets with a petition to immediately organize emergency commissions to combat counter-revolution, sabotage and speculation, if such commissions had not been yet organized. February 1918 saw the creation of local Extraordinary Commissions. One of the first founded was the Moscow Cheka. Sections and commissariats to combat counterrevolution were established in other cities. The Extraordinary Commissions arose, usually in the areas during the moments of the greatest aggravation of political situation. On February 25, 1918, as the counterrevolutionary organization Union of Front-liners was making advances, the executive committee of the Saratov Soviet formed a counter-revolutionary section. On March 7, 1918, because of the move from Petrograd to Moscow, the Petrograd Cheka was created. On March 9, a section for combating counterrevolution was created under the Omsk Soviet. Extraordinary commissions were also created in Penza, Perm, Novgorod, Cherepovets, Rostov, Taganrog. On March 18, VCheKa adopted a resolution, The Work of VCheKa on the All-Russian Scale, foreseeing the formation everywhere of Extraordinary Commissions after the same model, and sent a letter that called for the widespread establishment of the Cheka in combating counterrevolution, speculation, and sabotage. Establishment of provincial Extraordinary Commissions was largely completed by August 1918. In the Soviet Republic, there were 38 gubernatorial Chekas (Gubcheks) by this time.

On June 12, 1918, the All-Russian Conference of Cheka adopted the Basic Provisions on the Organization of Extraordinary Commissions. They set out to form Extraordinary Commissions not only at Oblast and Guberniya levels, but also at the large Uyezd Soviets. In August 1918, in the Soviet Republic had accounted for some 75 Uyezd-level Extraordinary Commissions. By the end of the year, 365 Uyezd-level Chekas were established. In 1918, the All-Russia Extraordinary Commission and the Soviets managed to establish a local Cheka apparatus. It included Oblast, Guberniya, Raion, Uyezd, and Volost Chekas, with Raion and Volost Extraordinary Commissioners. In addition, border security Chekas were included in the system of local Cheka bodies.

In the autumn of 1918, as consolidation of the political situation of the republic continued, a move toward elimination of Uyezd-, Raion-, and Volost-level Chekas, as well as the institution of Extraordinary Commissions was considered. On January 20, 1919, VTsIK adopted a resolution prepared by VCheKa, On the abolition of Uyezd Extraordinary Commissions. On January 16 the presidium of VCheKa approved the draft on the establishment of the Politburo at Uyezd militsiya. This decision was approved by the Conference of the Extraordinary Commission IV, held in early February 1920.

Other types of Cheka
On August 3, a VCheKa section for combating counterrevolution, speculation and sabotage on railways was created. On August 7, 1918, Sovnarkom adopted a decree on the organization of the railway section at VCheKa. Combating counterrevolution, speculation, and malfeasance on railroads was passed under the jurisdiction of the railway section of VCheKa and local Cheka. In August 1918, railway sections were formed under the Gubcheks. Formally, they were part of the non-resident sections, but in fact constituted a separate division, largely autonomous in their activities. The gubernatorial and oblast-type Chekas retained in relationship to the transportation sections only control and investigative functions.

The beginning of a systematic work of organs of VCheKa in RKKA refers to July 1918, the period of extreme tension of the civil war and class struggle in the country. On July 16, 1918, the Council of People's Commissars formed the Extraordinary Commission for combating counterrevolution at the Czechoslovak (Eastern) Front, led by M. I. Latsis. In the fall of 1918, Extraordinary Commissions to combat counterrevolution on the Southern (Ukraine) Front were formed. In late November, the Second All-Russian Conference of the Extraordinary Commissions accepted a decision after a report from I. N. Polukarov to establish at all frontlines, and army sections of the Cheka and granted them the right to appoint their commissioners in military units. On December 9, 1918, the collegiate (or presidium) of VCheKa had decided to form a military section, headed by M. S. Kedrov, to combat counterrevolution in the Army. In early 1919, the military control and the military section of VCheKa were merged into one body, the Special Section of the Republic. Kedrov was appointed as head. On January 1, he issued an order to establish the Special Section. The order instructed agencies everywhere to unite the Military control and the military sections of Chekas and to form special sections of frontlines, armies, military districts, and guberniyas.

In November 1920 the Soviet of Labor and Defense created a Special Section of VCheKa for the security of the state border. On February 6, 1922, after the Ninth All-Russian Soviet Congress, the Cheka was dissolved by VTsIK, "with expressions of gratitude for heroic work." It was replaced by the State Political Administration or OGPU, a section of the NKVD of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR). Dzerzhinsky remained as chief of the new organization.

Operations
Suppression of political opposition

Initially formed to fight against counter-revolutionaries and saboteurs, as well as financial speculators, Cheka had its own classifications. Those counter-revolutionaries fell under these categories:

any civil or military servicemen suspected of working for Imperial Russia;
families of officers-volunteers (including children);
all clergy;
workers and peasants who were under suspicion of not supporting the Soviet government;
any other person whose private property was valued at over 10,000 rubles.

As its name implied, the Extraordinary Commission had virtually unlimited powers and could interpret them in any way it wished. No standard procedures were ever set up, except that the Commission was supposed to send the arrested to the Military-Revolutionary tribunals if outside of a war zone. This left an opportunity for a wide range of interpretations, as the whole country was in total chaos. At the direction of Lenin, the Cheka performed mass arrests, imprisonments, and executions of "enemies of the people". In this, the Cheka said that they targeted "class enemies" such as the bourgeoisie, and members of the clergy; the first organized mass repression began against the libertarians and socialists of Petrograd in April 1918. Over the next few months, 800 were arrested and shot without trial.

However, within a month, the Cheka had extended its repression to all political opponents of the communist government, including anarchists and others on the left. On April 11/12, 1918, some 26 anarchist political centres in Moscow were attacked. There 40 anarchists were killed by Cheka forces, and about 500 were arrested and jailed after a pitched battle took place between the two groups. (P. Avrich. G. Maximoff) In response to the anarchists' resistance, the Cheka orchestrated a massive retaliatory campaign of repression, executions, and arrests against all opponents of the Bolshevik government, in what came to be known as "Red Terror". The Red Terror, implemented by Dzerzhinsky on September 5, 1918, was vividly described by the Red Army journal Krasnaya Gazeta:

"Without mercy, without sparing, we will kill our enemies in scores of hundreds. Let them be thousands, let them drown themselves in their own blood. For the blood of Lenin and Uritsky … let there be floods of blood of the bourgeoisie – more blood, as much as possible…"

An early Bolshevik, Victor Serge described in his book Memoirs of a Revolutionary:

Since the first massacres of Red prisoners by the Whites, the murders of Volodarsky and Uritsky and the attempt against Lenin (in the summer of 1918), the custom of arresting and, often, executing hostages had become generalized and legal. Already the Cheka, which made mass arrests of suspects, was tending to settle their fate independently, under formal control of the Party, but in reality without anybody's knowledge. The Party endeavoured to head it with incorruptible men like the former convict Dzerzhinsky, a sincere idealist, ruthless but chivalrous, with the emaciated profile of an Inquisitor: tall forehead, bony nose, untidy goatee, and an expression of weariness and austerity. But the Party had few men of this stamp and many Chekas. I believe that the formation of the Chekas was one of the gravest and most impermissible errors that the Bolshevik leaders committed in 1918 when plots, blockades, and interventions made them lose their heads. All evidence indicates that revolutionary tribunals, functioning in the light of day and admitting the right of defense, would have attained the same efficiency with far less abuse and depravity. Was it necessary to revert to the procedures of the Inquisition?"

The Cheka was also used against the armed anarchist Black Army of Nestor Makhno in the Ukraine. After the Black Army had served its purpose in aiding the Red Army to stop the Whites under Denikin, the Soviet communist government decided to eliminate the anarchist forces. In May 1919, two Cheka agents sent to assassinate Makhno were caught and executed.

Many victims of Cheka repression were 'bourgeois hostages' rounded up and held in readiness for summary execution in reprisal for any alleged counter-revolutionary act. Lenin's dictum was: that it was better to arrest 100 innocent people rather than to risk one enemy going free. That ensured that wholesale, indiscriminate arrests became an integral part of the system. The Cheka used trucks disguised as delivery trucks, called "Black Marias", for the secret arrest and transport of prisoners.

It was during the Red Terror that the Cheka, hoping to avoid the bloody aftermath of having half-dead victims writhing on the floor, developed a technique for execution known later by the German words "Nackenschuss" or "Genickschuss", a shot to the nape of the neck, which caused minimal blood loss and instant death. The victim's head was bent forward, and the executioner fired slightly downward at point blank range. This had become the standard method used later by the NKVD to liquidate Joseph Stalin's purge victims and others.

Persecution of deserters
It is believed that there were more than three million deserters from the Red Army in 1919 and 1920. Approximately 500,000 deserters were arrested in 1919 and close to 800,000 in 1920, by troops of the 'Special Punitive Department' of the Cheka, created to punish desertions. These troops were used to forcibly repatriate deserters, taking and shooting hostages to force compliance or to set an example. Throughout the course of the civil war, several thousand deserters were shot – a number comparable to that of belligerents during World War I.

In September 1918, according to The Black Book of Communism, in only twelve provinces of Russia, 48,735 deserters and 7,325 "bandits" were arrested, 1,826 were killed and 2,230 were executed. The exact identity of these individuals is confused by the fact that the Soviet Bolshevik government used the term 'bandit' to cover ordinary criminals as well as armed and unarmed political opponents, such as the anarchists.

Number of victims
Estimates on Cheka executions vary widely. The lowest figures (disputed below) are provided by Dzerzhinsky's lieutenant Martyn Latsis, limited to RSFSR over the period 1918–1920:

For the period 1918 – July 1919, covering only twenty provinces of central Russia:
In 1918: 6,300; in 1919 (up to July): 2,089; Total: 8,389
For the whole period 1918–19:
In 1918: 6,185; in 1919: 3,456; Total: 9,641
For the whole period 1918–20:
In January–June 1918: 22; in July–December 1918: more than 6,000; in 1918–20: 12,733.

Experts generally agree these semi-official figures are vastly understated. Pioneering historian of the Red Terror Sergei Melgunov claims that this was done deliberately in an attempt to demonstrate the government's humanity. For example, he refutes the claim made by Latsis that only 22 executions were carried out in the first six months of the Cheka's existence by providing evidence that the true number was 884 executions. W. H. Chamberlin claims, "It is simply impossible to believe that the Cheka only put to death 12,733 people in all of Russia up to the end of the civil war." Donald Rayfield concurs, noting that, "Plausible evidence reveals that the actual numbers . . . vastly exceeded the official figures." Chamberlin provides the "reasonable and probably moderate" estimate of 50,000, while others provide estimates ranging up to 500,000. Several scholars put the number of executions at about 250,000. Some believe it is possible more people were murdered by the Cheka than died in battle.

Lenin himself seemed unfazed by the killings. On 12 January 1920, while addressing trade union leaders, he said: "We did not hesitate to shoot thousands of people, and we shall not hesitate, and we shall save the country." On 14 May 1921, the Politburo, chaired by Lenin, passed a motion "broadening the rights of the [Cheka] in relation to the use of the [death penalty]."

Atrocities
The Cheka is reported to have practiced torture. Depending on Cheka committees in various cities, the methods included: being skinned alive, scalped, "crowned" with barbed wire, impaled, crucified, hanged, stoned to death, tied to planks and pushed slowly into furnaces or tanks of boiling water, or rolled around naked in internally nail-studded barrels. Chekists reportedly poured water on naked prisoners in the winter-bound streets until they became living ice statues. Others reportedly beheaded their victims by twisting their necks until their heads could be torn off. The Chinese Cheka detachments stationed in Kiev reportedly would attach an iron tube to the torso of a bound victim and insert a rat in the tube closed off with wire netting, while the tube was held over a flame until the rat began gnawing through the victim's guts in an effort to escape. Anton Denikin's investigation discovered corpses whose lungs, throats, and mouths had been packed with earth.

Women and children were also victims of Cheka terror. Women would sometimes be tortured and raped before being shot. Children between the ages of 8 and 13 were imprisoned and occasionally executed.

All of these atrocities were published on numerous occasions in Pravda and Izvestiya: January 26, 1919 Izvestiya #18 article Is it really a medieval imprisonment? («Неужели средневековый застенок?»); February 22, 1919 Pravda #12 publishes details of the Vladimir Cheka's tortures, September 21, 1922 Socialist Herald publishes details of series of tortures conducted by the Stavropol Cheka (hot basement, cold basement, skull measuring etc.).

The Chekists were also supplemented by the militarized Units of Special Purpose (the Party's Spetsnaz or Russian: ЧОН).

Cheka was actively and openly utilizing kidnapping methods.[35][36] With kidnapping methods Cheka was able to extinguish numerous cases of discontent especially among the rural population. Among the notorious ones was the Tambov rebellion.

Villages were bombarded to complete annihilation like in the case of Tretyaki, Novokhopersk uyezd, Voronezh Governorate.

As a result of this relentless violence more than a few Chekists ended up with psychopathic disorders, which Nikolai Bukharin said were "an occupational hazard of the Chekist profession." Many hardened themselves to the executions by heavy drinking and drug use. Some developed a gangster-like slang for the verb to kill in an attempt to distance themselves from the killings, such as 'shooting partridges', of 'sealing' a victim, or giving him a natsokal (onomatopoeia of the trigger action).

On November 30, 1992, by the initiative of the President of the Russian Federation the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation recognized the Red Terror as unlawful, which in turn led to suspension of the Communist Party of the RSFSR.

Regional Chekas
Cheka departments were organized not only in big cities and guberniya seats, but also in each uyezd, at any front-lines and military formations. Nothing is known on what resources they were created. Many who were hired to head those departments were so-called "nestlings of Alexander Keren".

Moscow Cheka (1918–1919)
Chairman – Felix Dzerzhynsky, Deputy – Yakov Peters (initially heading the Petrograd Department), other members – Shklovsky, Kneyfis, Tseystin, Razmirovich, Kronberg, Khaikina, Karlson, Shauman, Lentovich, Rivkin, Antonov, Delafabr, Tsytkin, G.Sverdlov, Bizensky, Yakov Blumkin, Aleksandrovich, Fines, Zaks, Yakov Goldin, Galpershtein, Kniggisen, Martin Latsis (later transfer (chief of jail), Fogel, Zakis, Shillenkus, Yanson).

Petrograd Cheka (1918–1919)

Chairman – Meinkman, Moisei Uritsky (reiller, Kozlovsky, Model, Rozmirovich, I.Diesporov, Iselevich, Krassikov, Bukhan, Merbis, Paykis, Anvelt.

Kharkov Cheka

Deych, Vikhman, Timofey, Vera (Dora) Grebenshchikova.

 
 
 

Chairman of Vecheka (All-Russian Extraordinary Commission to Combat Counter-revolution and Sabotage)-OGPU (Unified State Political Administration) Felix Dzerzhinsky (1877-1926).
 
 
Feliks Dzerzhinsky
 
 
Feliks Edmundovich Dzerzhinsky, Polish Feliks Dzierżyński (born Sept. 11 [Aug. 30, Old Style], 1877, Dzerzhinovo, near Minsk, Russian Empire [now in Belarus]—died July 20, 1926, Moscow), Bolshevik leader, head of the first Soviet secret police organization.

Son of a Polish nobleman, Dzerzhinsky joined the Kaunas (Kovno) organization of the Lithuanian Social Democratic Party in 1895. He became a party organizer, and, although he was arrested by the Russian Imperial Police for his revolutionary activities five times between 1897 and 1908, he repeatedly escaped from exile in Siberia. Not only did he participate in the Russian Revolution of 1905 but he also became a leader of the Polish-Lithuanian Social Democratic Party and was influential in convincing his colleagues to unite with the Russian Social Democrats in 1906. Afterward, Dzerzhinsky pursued his revolutionary activities within the Russian Empire and in western Europe. Arrested for the sixth time in 1912, he remained in captivity until after the February Revolution of 1917.

Dzerzhinsky was elected to the Bolshevik Party’s Central Committee in July 1917, and he played an active role in the October Revolution (1917). On Dec. 20 (Dec. 7), 1917, he was named head of the new All-Russian Extraordinary Commission for Combating Counterrevolution and Sabotage (Cheka), which became Soviet Russia’s security police agency. The Cheka helped stabilize V.I. Lenin’s dictatorship by arbitrarily executing real and alleged enemies of the Soviet state. Dzerzhinsky, who organized the first concentration camps in Russia, acquired a reputation as an incorruptible, ruthless, and fanatical communist.

During the Russo-Polish War (1919–20), Dzerzhinsky was appointed to the Polish revolutionary committee that was intended to become the Bolshevik government of Poland. But after the Soviet army was forced to retreat from Poland, he again concentrated on Russian affairs. He remained head of the Cheka and commissar for internal affairs (after 1919) and became commissar for transport (1921). In 1924, after he had become a firm supporter of Joseph Stalin, Dzerzhinsky was given control of the Supreme Economic Council and was also elected a candidate of the Politburo. In 1926, during a debate at a Central Committee session, Dzerzhinsky collapsed and died.

Encyclopædia Britannica

 
 
 

Moisei Solomonovich Uritsky
 
 
Moisei Uritsky
 
Moisei Solomonovich Uritsky (Russian: Моисей Соломонович Урицкий; January 14, 1873–August 17, 1918) was a Bolshevik revolutionary leader in Russia.

Family

Uritsky was born in the city of Cherkasy, Kiev Governorate, to a Litvak family. His father, a merchant, died when Moisei was little and his mother raised her son by herself. He attended the Bila Tserkva Gymnasium, supporting himself through teaching and became an active social democrat.

Early political career
Moisei studied law at the University of Kiev. During his studies he joined the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party and organized an underground network for importing and distributing political literature. In 1897 he was arrested and exiled for running an illegal mimeograph press. Becoming involved in the revolutionary movement, he participated in the revolutionary Jewish Bund. In 1903, he became a Menshevik. His activities in Petersburg during the 1905 revolution earned him a second term of exile. Along with Alexander Parvus he was active in dispatching revolutionary agents to infiltrate the Tsarist security apparatus.

Russian Revolution
In 1914 he emigrated to France and contributed to the Party newspaper Our Word. Back in Russia in 1917 Uritsky became a member of the Mezhraiontsy group. A few months before the October Revolution of 1917, he joined the Bolsheviks and was elected to their Central Committee in July 1917. Uritsky played a leading part in the Bolsheviks' armed take-over in October and later was made head of the Petrograd Cheka. In this position Uritsky coordinated the pursuit and prosecution of members of the nobility, military officers and ranking Russian Orthodox Church clerics who opposed the Bolsheviks.

Because Uritsky was against the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, he resigned his post in 1918, like Bukharin, Bubnov, Piatakov, Dzherzhinsky and Smirnov. On March 4, 1918, the Petrograd committee published the first number of the journal Kommunist, the public organ of the "left communist" opposition, as directed by Radek and Uritsky. The Extraordinary Seventh Congress of the Bolshevik party, which was held between March 6 and 8, 1918, rejected the Theses on the Present Situation that was submitted as a resolution by the "Left Communists". The "Left Communists" Lomov and Uritsky, who were elected to the Central Committee, stated at the Congress that they would not work in the Central Committee, and did not begin work there for several months in spite of insistent demands from the Central Committee.

On May 25, 1918, with the Revolt of the Czechoslovak Legion, the Russian Civil War began and Uritsky resumed his position on the Central Committee.

Assassination
Leonid Kannegisser, a young military cadet, assassinated Uritsky on August 17, 1918 in retaliation for the execution of his friend and other officers. Following this event, along with the assassination attempt on Lenin by Fanya Kaplan on August 28, the Bolsheviks began a wave of persecution known as the Red Terror. Palace Square in Petrograd was known as Uritsky Square from 1918 to 1944.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 
 
 
 
 

Excavation of a mass grave outside the headquarters of the Kharkov Cheka
 
 

Разрушенные большевиками храмы православный и буддийский
 
 
 
 

Yakov Sverdlov; Dzerzhinsky; Moisei Uritsky; Bela Kun; Martin Latsis; Yan Karlovich Berzin
 
 
Red Terror
 
 
Red Terror was a campaign of mass killings, torture, and systematic oppression conducted by the Bolsheviks after they seized power in Petrograd and Moscow in 1917. Soviet historiography describes the Red Terror as having been officially announced in September 1918 by Yakov Sverdlov and ending about October 1918. However, the term was frequently applied to political repression during the whole period of the Russian Civil War of 1918–1922. The Cheka (the Bolshevik secret police) conducted the mass repressions. Estimates for the total number of people killed in the Red Terror range from 50,000 to 140,000 to over one and a half million.


Purpose

The Red Terror was practical implementation of dictatorship of the proletariat as explained by Lenin in The State and Revolution (1917) as well as an effort by the Bolsheviks to eliminate real and imaginary counter-revolutionaries who belonged to the former "ruling classes". Martin Latsis, chief of the Ukrainian Cheka, explained in the newspaper Red Terror:

Do not look in the file of incriminating evidence to see whether or not the accused rose up against the Soviets with arms or words. Ask him instead to which class he belongs, what is his background, his education, his profession. These are the questions that will determine the fate of the accused. That is the meaning and essence of the Red Terror.

— Martin Latsis, Red Terror

The bitter struggle was described succinctly from the Bolshevik point of view by Grigory Zinoviev in mid-September 1918:

To overcome our enemies we must have our own socialist militarism. We must carry along with us 90 million out of the 100 million of Soviet Russia's population. As for the rest, we have nothing to say to them. They must be annihilated.

— Grigory Zinoviev, 1918


History

The campaign of mass repressions was officially initiated as retribution for the assassination of Petrograd Cheka leader Moisei Uritsky by Leonid Kannegisser, and attempted assassination of Lenin by Fanni Kaplan on 30 August 1918. While recovering from his wounds, Lenin instructed: "It is necessary – secretly and urgently to prepare the terror".[12] Even before the assassinations, Lenin was sending telegrams "to introduce mass terror" in Nizhny Novgorod in response to a suspected civilian uprising there, and "crush" landowners in Penza who protested, sometimes violently, to requisition of their grain by military detachments:

"Comrades! The kulak uprising in your five districts must be crushed without pity ... You must make example of these people. (1) Hang (I mean hang publicly, so that people see it) at least 100 kulaks, rich bastards, and known bloodsuckers. (2) Publish their names. (3) Seize all their grain. (4) Single out the hostages per my instructions in yesterday's telegram. Do all this so that for miles around people see it all, understand it, tremble, and tell themselves that we are killing the bloodthirsty kulaks and that we will continue to do so ... Yours, Lenin. P.S. Find tougher people."

Five hundred "representatives of overthrown classes" were executed immediately by the Bolshevik communist government after the assassination of Uritsky.

The first official announcement of Red Terror, published in Izvestiya, "Appeal to the Working Class" on 3 September 1918 called for the workers to "crush the hydra of counterrevolution with massive terror! ... anyone who dares to spread the slightest rumor against the Soviet regime will be arrested immediately and sent to concentration camp". That was followed by the decree "On Red Terror", issued on 5 September 1918 by the Cheka. On 15 October, the leading Checkist Gleb Bokii, summing up the officially ended Red Terror, reported that in Petrograd 800 alleged enemies had been shot and another 6,229 imprisoned. Casualties in the first two months were between 10,000 and 15,000 based on lists of summarily executed people published in newspaper Cheka Weekly and other official press. According to a declaration About the Red Terror by of Sovnarkom on 5 September 1918,

...that for empowering the All-Russian Extraordinary Commission in the fight with the counter-revolution, profiteering and corruption and making it more methodical, it is necessary to direct there possibly bigger number of the responsible party comrades, that it is necessary to secure the Soviet Republic from the class enemies by way of isolating them in concentration camps, that all people are to be executed by fire squad who are connected with the White Guard organizations, conspiracies and mutinies, that it is necessary to publicize the names of the executed as well as the reasons of applying to them that measure.

As the civil war progressed, significant numbers of prisoners, suspects and hostages were executed on the basis of their belonging to the "possessing classes" and such numbers are recorded in cities occupied by the Bolsheviks:

In Kharkov there were between 2,000 and 3,000 executions in February–June 1919, and another 1,000–2,000 when the town was taken again in December of that year; in Rostov-on-Don, approximately 1,000 in January 1920; in Odessa, 2,200 in May–August 1919, then 1,500–3,000 between February 1920 and February 1921; in Kiev, at least 3,000 in February–August 1919; in Ekaterinodar, at least 3,000 between August 1920 and February 1921; In Armavir, a small town in Kuban, between 2,000 and 3,000 in August–October 1920. The list could go on and on.

In the Crimea, Béla Kun, with Vladimir Lenin's approval, had 50,000 White prisoners of war and civilians summarily executed via shooting or hanging after the defeat of general Pyotr Nikolayevich Wrangel at the end of 1920. They had been promised amnesty if they would surrender. This is considered one of the largest massacres in the Civil War.

On 16 March 1919, all military detachments of the Cheka were combined in a single body, the Troops for the Internal Defense of the Republic, which numbered 200,000 in 1921. These troops policed labor camps, ran the Gulag system, conducted requisitions of food, put down peasant rebellions, riots by workers, and mutinies in the Red Army, which was plagued by desertions.

One of the main organizers of the Red Terror for the Bolshevik government was 2nd Grade Army Commissar Yan Karlovich Berzin (1889–1938), whose real name was Kyuzis Peteris. He took part in the October Revolution and afterwards worked in the central apparatus of the Cheka.[4] During the Red Terror, Berzin initiated the system of taking and shooting hostages to stop desertions and other "acts of disloyalty and sabotage". Chief of a special department of the Latvian Red Army (later the 15th Army), Berzin played a part in the suppression of the Russian sailors' mutiny at Kronstadt in March 1921. He particularly distinguished himself in the course of the pursuit, capture, and killing of captured sailors.

Repressions
Peasants

The Internal Troops of Cheka and the Red Army practised the terror tactics of taking and executing numerous hostages, often in connection with desertions of forcefully mobilized peasants. It is believed that more than 3 million deserters escaped from the Red Army in 1919 and 1920. Around 500,000 deserters were arrested in 1919 and close to 800,000 in 1920 by Cheka troops and special divisions created to combat desertions. Thousands of deserters were killed, and their families were often taken hostage. According to Lenin's instructions,

After the expiration of the seven-day deadline for deserters to turn themselves in, punishment must be increased for these incorrigible traitors to the cause of the people. Families and anyone found to be assisting them in any way whatsoever are to be considered as hostages and treated accordingly.

In September 1918, in only twelve provinces of Russia, 48,735 deserters and 7,325 bandits were arrested, 1,826 were killed and 2,230 were executed. A typical report from a Cheka department stated:

Yaroslavl Province, 23 June 1919. The uprising of deserters in the Petropavlovskaya volost has been put down. The families of the deserters have been taken as hostages. When we started to shoot one person from each family, the Greens began to come out of the woods and surrender. Thirty-four deserters were shot as an example.

During the suppression of the Tambov Rebellion, estimates suggest that around 100,000 peasant rebels and their families were imprisoned or deported and perhaps 15,000 executed.

This campaign marked the beginning of the Gulag, and some scholars have estimated that 70,000 were imprisoned by September 1921 (this number excludes those in several camps in regions that were in revolt, such as Tambov). Conditions in these camps led to high mortality rates, and there were "repeated massacres." The Cheka at the Kholmogory camp adopted the practice of drowning bound prisoners in the nearby Dvina river. Occasionally, entire prisons were “emptied” of inmates via mass shootings prior to abandoning a town to White forces.

Industrial workers
On 16 March 1919, Cheka stormed the Putilov factory. More than 900 workers who went to a strike were arrested, of whom more than 200 were executed without trial during the next few days. Numerous strikes took place in the spring of 1919 in cities of Tula, Orel, Tver, Ivanovo and Astrakhan. The starving workers sought to obtain food rations matching those of Red Army soldiers. They also demanded the elimination of privileges for Bolsheviks, freedom of press, and free elections. All strikes were mercilessly suppressed by Cheka using arrests and executions.

In the city of Astrakhan, the strikers and Red Army soldiers who joined them were loaded onto barges and then thrown by the hundreds into the Volga with stones around their necks. Between 2,000 and 4,000 were shot or drowned from 12 to 14 of March 1919. In addition, the repression also claimed the lives of some 600 to 1,000 bourgeoisie. Recently published archival documents indicate this was the largest massacre of workers by the Bolsheviks before the suppression of the Kronstadt rebellion.

However, strikes continued. Lenin was concerned about the tense situation regarding workers in the Ural region. On 29 January 1920, he sent a telegram to Vladimir Smirnov stating "I am surprised that you are taking the matter so lightly, and are not immediately executing large numbers of strikers for the crime of sabotage".

Atrocities
At these times, there were numerous reports that Cheka interrogators utilized torture methods which were, according to Orlando Figes, "matched only by the Spanish Inquisition." At Odessa the Cheka tied White officers to planks and slowly fed them into furnaces or tanks of boiling water; in Kharkiv, scalpings and hand-flayings were commonplace: the skin was peeled off victims' hands to produce "gloves"; the Voronezh Cheka rolled naked people around in barrels studded internally with nails; victims were crucified or stoned to death at Dnipropetrovsk; the Cheka at Kremenchuk impaled members of the clergy and buried alive rebelling peasants; in Orel, water was poured on naked prisoners bound in the winter streets until they became living ice statues; in Kiev, Chinese Cheka detachments placed rats in iron tubes sealed at one end with wire netting and the other placed against the body of a prisoner, with the tubes being heated until the rats gnawed through the victim's body in an effort to escape.

Executions took place in prison cellars or courtyards, or occasionally on the outskirts of town, during the Red Terror and Russian civil war. After the condemned were stripped of their clothing and other belongings, which were shared among the Cheka executioners, they were either machine-gunned in batches or dispatched individually with a revolver. Those killed in prison were usually shot in the back of the neck as they entered the execution cellar, which became littered with corpses and soaked with blood. Victims killed outside the town were moved by truck, bound and gagged, to their place of execution, where they sometimes were made to dig their own graves.

According to Edvard Radzinsky, "it became a common practice to take a husband hostage and wait for his wife to come and purchase his life with her body". During Decossackization, there were massacres, according to historian Robert Gellately, "on an unheard of scale." The Pyatigorsk Cheka organized a "day of Red Terror" to execute 300 people in one day, and took quotas from each part of town. According to the Chekist Karl Lander, the Cheka in Kislovodsk, "for lack of a better idea," killed all the patients in the hospital. In October 1920 alone more than 6,000 people were executed. Gellately adds that Communist leaders "sought to justify their ethnic-based massacres by incorporating them into the rubric of the 'class struggle'".

Members of the clergy were subjected to particularly brutal abuse. According to documents cited by the late Alexander Yakovlev, then head of the Presidential Committee for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Political Repression, priests, monks and nuns were crucified, thrown into cauldrons of boiling tar, scalped, strangled, given Communion with melted lead and drowned in holes in the ice. An estimated 3,000 were put to death in 1918 alone.

Interpretations by historians
Some anti-communist historians such as Stephane Courtois and Richard Pipes have argued that the Bolsheviks needed to use terror to stay in power because they lacked popular support. Although the Bolsheviks dominated among workers, soldiers and in their revolutionary soviets, they won less than a quarter of the popular vote in elections for the Constituent Assembly held soon after the October Revolution, since they commanded much less support among the peasantry (though the Constituent Assembly elections predated the split between the Right SRs, who had opposed the Bolsheviks, and the Left SRs, who were their coalition partners. Consequentially many peasant votes intended for the latter went to the SRs). Massive strikes by Russian workers were "mercilessly" suppressed during the Red Terror.

According to Richard Pipes, violence was implicit in Marxism itself. He has argued that terror inevitably resulted from what Lenin saw as a Marxist belief that human lives are expendable in the cause of building Communism. He quoted Marx: "The present generation resembles the Jews whom Moses led through the wilderness. It must not only conquer a new world, it must also perish in order to make a room for the people who are fit for a new world". In 1848 Marx, commenting on a failed Vienna Uprising, wrote: "there is only one way in which the murderous death agonies of the old society and the bloody birth throes of the new society can be shortened, simplified and concentrated, and that way is revolutionary terror." Edvard Radzinsky noted that Joseph Stalin wrote a nota bene: "Terror is the quickest way to new society" aside of the above quote in Kautsky's book on terror.

Robert Conquest was convinced that "unprecedented terror must seem necessary to ideologically motivated attempts to transform society massively and speedily, against its natural possibilities."

Orlando Figes' view was that Red Terror was implicit, not so much in Marxism itself, but in the tumultuous violence of the Russian Revolution. He noted that there were a number of Bolsheviks, led by Lev Kamenev, Nikolai Bukharin and M. S. Olminsky, who criticized the actions and warned that thanks to "Lenin's violent seizure of power and his rejection of democracy... [t]he Bolsheviks [would be] forced to turn increasingly to terror to silence their political critics and subjugate a society they could not control by other means." "The Terror erupted from below. It was an integral element of the social revolution from the start. The Bolsheviks encouraged but did not create this mass terror."

The German Marxist Karl Kautsky pleaded with Lenin against using violence as a form of terrorism, because it was indiscriminate, intended to frighten the civilian population, and included the taking and executing hostages. "Among the phenomena for which Bolshevism has been responsible, terrorism, which begins with the abolition of every form of freedom of the Press, and ends in a system of wholesale execution, is certainly the most striking and the most repellent of all".

In The Black Book of Communism, Nicolas Werth contrasts the Red and White terrors, noting the former was the official policy of the Bolshevik government:

The Bolshevik policy of terror was more systematic, better organized, and targeted at whole social classes. Moreover, it had been thought out and put into practice before the outbreak of the civil war. The White Terror was never systematized in such a fashion. It was almost invariably the work of detachments that were out of control, and taking measures not officially authorized by the military command that was attempting, without much success, to act as a government. If one discounts the pogroms, which Denikin himself condemned, the White Terror most often was a series of reprisals by the police acting as a sort of military counterespionage force. The Cheka and the Troops for the Internal Defense of the Republic were a structured and powerful instrument of repression of a completely different order, which had support at the highest level from the Bolshevik regime.

Historical significance
The Red Terror was significant as the first of numerous Communist terror campaigns which followed in Russia and many other countries. It also unleashed the Russian Civil War according to historian Richard Pipes.[33] Menshevik Julius Martov wrote about Red Terror:

The beast has licked hot human blood. The man-killing machine is brought into motion ... But blood breeds blood ... We witness the growth of the bitterness of the civil war, the growing bestiality of men engaged in it.[44][45]

The term 'Red Terror' came to refer to other campaigns of violence carried out by communist or communist-affiliated groups.

Examples of the usage of the term "Red Terrors" include the following:

The Hungarian Red Terror: The executions of 590 people accused of involvement in the counterrevolutionary coup against the Hungarian Soviet Republic on 24 June 1919.

The Spanish Red Terror during the Spanish Civil War.

The Red Terror in Greece during the Greek Resistance and the Greek Civil War.

The Ethiopian Red Terror during Mengistu Haile Mariam's rule.

In China, Mao Zedong wrote: "Red terror ought to be our reply to these counter-revolutionaries. We must, especially in the war zones and in the border areas, deal immediately, swiftly with every kind of counter-revolutionary activity."

The Nandigram violence in Nandigram, West Bengal in November 2007 was called "Red Terror" by critics of the actions by the local administration alluding at the Communist Party of India ruling in West Bengal. The situation was described as one of "Red Terror" by media.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
 
 
 
 
 
Russian poet Nikolai Gumilev was executed on 24th August, 1921.
 
Nikolay Gumilyov
 


Nikolai Gumilev

Nikolai Gumilev during his senior years in gymnasium Nikolay Stepanovich Gumilyov (Russian: Никола́й Степа́нович Гумилёв, April 15 NS 1886 - August 1921) was an influential Russian poet who founded the acmeism movement.

Early life and poems
Nikolai was born in Kronstadt, into the family of Stepan Yakovlevich Gumilev (1836—1920), a naval physician, and Anna Ivanovna L'vova (1854—1942). His childhood nickname was Montigomo the Hawk's Claw. He studied at the gymnasium of Tsarskoe Selo, where the Symbolist poet Innokenty Annensky was his teacher. Later, Gumilev admitted that it was Annensky's influence that turned his mind to writing poetry.

His first publication were verses I ran from cities into the forest (Russian: Я в лес бежал из городов) on September 8, 1902. In 1905 he published his first book of lyrics entitled The Way of Conquistadors. It comprised poems on most exotic subjects imaginable, from Lake Chad giraffes to Caracalla's crocodiles. Although Gumilev was proud of the book, most critics found his technique sloppy; later he would refer to that collection as apprentice's work.

From 1907 and on, Nikolai Gumilyov traveled extensively in Europe, notably in Italy and France. In 1908 his new collection Romantic Flowers appeared. While in Paris, he published the literary magazine Sirius, but only three issues were produced. On returning to Russia, he edited and contributed to the artistic periodical Apollon. At that period, he fell in love with a non-existent woman Cherubina de Gabriak. It turned out that Cherubina de Gabriak was the literary pseudonym for two people, a disabled schoolteacher and Maximilian Voloshin, and on November 22, 1909 he had a duel with Voloshin over the affair.

Like Flaubert and Rimbaud before him, Gumilyov was fascinated with Africa and travelled there almost each year. He hunted lions in Ethiopia and brought to the Saint Petersburg museum of anthropology and ethnography a large collection of African artifacts. His landmark collection The Tent (1921) collected the best of his poems on African themes.

Guild of Poets
In 1910, Gumilyov fell under the spell of the Symbolist poet and philosopher Vyacheslav Ivanov and absorbed his views on poetry at the evenings held by Ivanov in his celebrated "Turreted House". His wife Anna Akhmatova accompanied him to Ivanov's parties as well. Gumilyov and Akhmatova married on April 25. On September 18, 1912, their child Lev was born. He would eventually become an influential and controversial historian.

Dissatisfied with the vague mysticism of Russian Symbolism, then prevalent in the Russian poetry, Gumilyov and Sergei Gorodetsky established the so-called Guild of Poets, which was modeled after medieval guilds of Western Europe. They advocated a view that poetry needs craftsmanship just like architecture needs it. Writing a good poem they compared to building a cathedral. To illustrate their ideals, Gumilyov published two collections, The Pearls in 1910 and the Alien Sky in 1912. It was Osip Mandelshtam, however, who produced the movement's most distinctive and durable monument, the collection of poems entitled Stone (1912).

According to the principles of acmeism (as the movement came to be dubbed by art historians), every person, irrespective of his talent, may learn to produce high-quality poems if only he follows the guild's masters, i.e., Gumilev and Gorodetsky. Their own model was Theophile Gauthier, and they borrowed much of their basic tenets from the French Parnasse. Such a program, combined with colourful and exotic subject matter of Gumilyov's poems, attracted to the Guild a large number of adolescents. Several major poets, notably Georgy Ivanov and Vladimir Nabokov, passed the school of Gumilyov, albeit informally.
 


Nikolay Gumilyov, Anna Akhmatova and their son Lev Gumilev, 1913

War experience
Nikolay Gumilyov, Anna Akhmatova and their son Lev Gumilev, 1913When the World War I started, Gumilyov hastened to Russia and enthusiastically joined a corps of elite cavalry. For his bravery he was invested with two St. George crosses (December 24, 1914 and January 5, 1915). His war poems were assembled in the collection The Quiver (1916). In 1916 he wrote a verse play, Gondla, which was published the following year; set in ninth-century Iceland, torn between its native paganism and Irish Christianity, it is also clearly autobiographical, Gumilyov putting much of himself into the hero Gondla (an Irishman chosen as king but rejected by the jarls, he kills himself to ensure the triumph of Christianity) and basing Gondla's wild bride Lera on Gumilyov's wife Akhmatova. The play was performed in Rostov na Donu in 1920 and, even after the author's execution by the Cheka, in Petrograd in January 1922: "The play, despite its crowd scenes being enacted on a tiny stage, was a major success. Yet when the Petrograd audience called for the author, who was now officially an executed counter-revolutionary traitor, the play was removed from the repertoire and the theatre disbanded." (In February 1934, as they walked along a Moscow street, Osip Mandelstam quoted Gondla's words "I am ready to die" to Akhmatova, and she repeated them in her "Poem without a Hero."

During the Russian Revolution, Gumilyov served in the Russian expedition corps in Paris. Despite advice to the contrary, he rapidly returned to Petrograd. There he published several new collections, Tabernacle and Bonfire, and finally divorced Akhmatova (August 5, 1918), whom he had left for other woman several years prior to that. The following year he married Anna Nikolaevna Engelhardt, a noblewoman and daughter of a well-known historian.



Nikolai Gumilev

Later poems and death
"Despite the hard experiences of real travels and battles, he remained, to the end of his life, a schoolboy entranced by the Iliad of childhood - the adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer. He never outgrew the influence of Mayne Reid, Alexandre Dumas, père, Jules Verne, Gustave Aimard and others." In 1920 Gumilyov co-founded the All-Russia Union of Writers. Gumilyov made no secret of his anti-communist views. He also crossed himself in public and didn't care to hide his contempt for half-literate Bolsheviks.

On August 3, 1921 he was arrested by Cheka on allegation of participation in monarchist conspiracy. Most literary historians agree that it was not a Cheka fabrication, and Gumilyov was a likely conspirator. On August 24 Petrograd Cheka decreed execution of all 61 participants of the Tagantsev Conspiracy, including Nikolai Gumilev. The exact dates and locations of their execution and burial are still unknown.

Gumilyov's direct influence on Russian poetry was short lived. The sentiment is best expressed by Nabokov, who once remarked that Gumilyov is the poet for adolescents, just like Korney Chukovsky is the poet for children. His most durable verse, written in mystical strain, appeared in the collection "The Pillar of Fire" (1921).

Although "banned in the Soviet times, Gumilyov was loved for his adolescent longing for travel and giraffes and hippos, for his dreams of a fifteen-year-old captain" and was "a favorite poet among geologists, archaeologists and paleontologists."] His "The Tram That Lost Its Way" is considered one of the greatest poems of the 20th century.

When Mikhail Sinelnikov was asked to study the archives of the late Mikhail Zenkevich, the last of the Acmeists - his teacher - he "found piles of secreted verse, an unpublished novel, manuscripts which Pasternak brought to the old master to be critiqued, the poems and letters of his friends. According to Sinelnikov, "at the bottom of a wide box lay a copy of Izvestia Petrosovieta with a list of people executed in connection with the Tagantsev case. The type was barely legible, more like wisps of old wool. Some names, those of Zenkevich's acquaintances, were ticked off. Gumilyov's name was underlined in red."

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
 

 
 
 
 

White Terror, 1919
 
 
White Terror
 
The White Terror in Russia refers to the organized violence carried out by the White Army during the Russian Civil War (1917–23). It began after the Bolsheviks seized power in November 1917, and continued until the defeat of the White Army at the hands of the Red Army. The White Army had support from the Triple Entente and fought the Red Army for power, which engaged in its own Red Terror. In contrast with the Red Army, the White Terror was not a series of premeditated actions directed by their leaders, but some Russian historians argue the contrary and say the terror came from officials high in the White movement.


White Terror in Southern and Western Russia

An important member of the White Terror was Lavr Kornilov. During the Ice March in the south of Russia, Kornilov said: "I give you a very cruel order: do not take prisoners! I accept responsibility for this order before God and the Russian people." He promised, "The greater the terror, the greater our victories."[4] He vowed that the goals of his forces must be fulfilled even if it was necessary "to set fire to half the country and shed the blood of three-fourths of all Russians." On another occasion, however, Kornilov said that prisoners should be taken care of, saying, "We do not make war against the wounded."

According to N. Bogdanov, a participant in the Ice March,

After receiving information about the Bolsheviks, the commander of the captured detachment was shot. Under Colonel Corwin Krukovsky, there was some especially painful cruelty. I know of many cases when under the influence of hatred for the Bolsheviks, the officers assumed the duties of shooting the captured volunteers. The executions were necessary because under the conditions in which the Volunteer Army had to move, prisoners could not be taken.

Bogdanov cited another occasion, however, where Red Officers were tried and cleared as having acted under duress.

After Kornilov was killed in April 1918, the leadership of the Volunteer Army passed to Anton Denikin. During the Denikin regime, the press regularly urged violence against Jews. For example, a proclamation by one of Denikin's generals incited people to "arm themselves" in order to extirpate "the evil force which lives in the hearts of Jew-communists." In the small town of Fastov alone, Denikin's Volunteer Army murdered over 1,500 Jews, mostly the elderly, women, and children. An estimated 100,000 to 150,000 Jews in Ukraine and southern Russia were killed in pogroms perpetrated by Denikin's forces as well as Petlyura's nationalist-separatists. Hundreds of thousands of Jews were left homeless and tens of thousands became victims of serious illness.

In the Don Province, the Soviet government was displaced by a regime headed by Pyotr Krasnov formed in April 1918. According to Walter Laqueur, more than 45,000 people were shot or hanged by Krasnov's White Cossack regime, which lasted until the Red Army conquered the region following the their victory at Tsaritsyn.

Mass executions occurred in 1918 in territories under White occupation. In one incident, commander of the 3rd Division of the Volunteer Army, M. Drozdovsky, gave an order to shoot more than 1,000 captured prisoners.[citation needed]

In 1918 when the Whites controlled the Northern Territory with a population of about 400,000 people, more than 38,000 were sent to prisons. Of those, about 8,000 were executed while thousands more died from torture and disease.

White Terror in Eastern Russia
In November 1918, after seizing power in Siberia, Admiral Kolchak pursued a policy of persecuting revolutionaries as well as Socialists of several factions. Kolchak’s government issued a broadly worded decree on 3 December 1918 revising articles of the criminal code of Imperial Russia "in order to preserve the system and rule of the Supreme Ruler." Articles 99 and 100 established capital punishment for assassination attempts on the Supreme Ruler and for attempting to overthrow the authorities. Under Article 103, "insults written, printed, and oral, are punishable by imprisonment." Bureaucratic sabotage under Article 329 was punishable by hard labor from 15 to 20 years. Additional decrees followed, adding more power. On 11 April 1919, the Kolchak government adopted Regulation 428, “About the dangers of public order due to ties with the Bolshevik Revolt,” which was published in the Omsk newspaper Omsk Gazette (no. 188 of 19 July 1919). It provided a term of 5 years of prison for “individuals considered a threat to the public order because of their ties in any way with the Bolshevik revolt.” In the case of unauthorized return from exile, there could be hard labor from 4 to 8 years. Articles 99-101 allowed the death penalty, forced labor and imprisonment, and repression by military courts, and it also imposed no investigation commissions.

An excerpt from the order of the government of Yenisei county in Irkutsk province, General. S. Rozanov said:

Those villages whose population meets troops with arms, burn down the villages and shoot the adult males without exception. If hostages are taken in cases of resistance to government troops, shoot the hostages without mercy.

A member of the Central Committee of the Right-wing Socialist Revolutionaries, D. Rakov wrote about the terror of Kolchak's forces:

Omsk just froze in horror. At a time when the wives of dead comrades, day and night looked in the snow for bodies, I was unaware of the horror behind the walls of the guardhouse. At least 2500 people were killed. Entire bodies of carts were carried to a city, like winter lamb and pork carcasses. Those who suffered were mainly soldiers of the garrison and the workers.

In March 1919 Admiral Kolchak himself demanded one of his generals to "follow the example of the Japanese who, in the Amur region, had exterminated the local population." Kolchak's regime also used mass floggings, especially with rods. Kolchak issued orders to raze to the ground whole villages. In a few Siberian provinces, 20,000 farms were destroyed and over 10,000 peasant houses burned down. Kolchak's regime destroyed bridges and blew up water stations.

In the Urals, Siberia, and the Far East, extraordinary cruelty was practiced by several Cossack warlords: B. Annenkov, A. Dutov, G. Semyonov, and J. Kalmykov. During the trial against Annenkov, there was testimony about the robbing peasants and atrocities under the slogan: “We have no restrictions! God is with us and Ataman Annenkov: slash right and left!”. In September 1918, during the suppression of peasant uprisings in Slavgorod county, Annenkov tortured and killed up to 500 people. The village of Black Dole was burned down, after which peasants were shot, tortured, and hanged on pillars, including the wives and children of the peasants. Girls of Slavgorod and surrounding areas were brought to Annenkov’s train, raped, and then shot. According to an eyewitness, Annenkov behaved with brutal torture: victims had their eyes gouged and tongues and strips of their back cut off, were buried alive, or tied to horses. In Semipalatinsk, Annenkov threatened to shoot every fifth resident if the city refused to pay indemnities.

On May 9, 1918, after Ataman Dutov captured Alekasandrov-Gai village, nearly 2,000 men of the Red Army were buried alive. More than 700 people of the village were executed. After capturing Troitsk, Orenburg, and other cities, a regime of terror was installed. One prison in Orenburg contained over 6,000 people, of whom 500 were killed just during interrogations. In Chelyabinsk, Dutov’s men executed or deported to Siberian prisons over 9,000 people. In Troitsk, Dutov’s men in the first weeks after the capture of the city shot about 700 people. In Ileka they killed over 400. These mass executions were typical of Dutov's Cossack troops. Dutov's Executive order of 4 August 1918 imposed the death penalty for evasion of military service and for even passive resistance to authorities on its territory. In one district of the Ural region in January 1918, Dutov’s men killed over 1,000 people. On 3 April 1919, the Cossack warlord ordered his troops to shoot and take hostages for the slightest display of opposition. In the village of Sugar, Dutov’s men burned down a hospital with hundreds of Red Army patients.

The Semenov regime in Transbaikalia was characterized by mass terror and executions. At the Adrianovki station in summer of 1919, more than 1,600 people were shot. Semenov himself admitted in court that his troops burned villages. Eleven permanent death houses were set up, where refined forms of torture were practiced. Semyonov personally supervised the torture chambers, during which some 6,500 people were murdered.

Major General William S. Graves, who commanded American occupation forces in Siberia, testified that:

Semeonoff and Kalmikoff soldiers, under the protection of Japanese troops, were roaming the country like wild animals, killing and robbing the people, and these murders could have been stopped any day Japan wished. If questions were asked about these brutal murders, the reply was that the people murdered were Bolsheviks and this explanation, apparently, satisfied the world. Conditions were represented as being horrible in Eastern Siberia, and that life was the cheapest thing there. There were horrible murders committed, but they were not committed by the Bolsheviks as the world believes. I am well on the side of safety when I say that the anti-Bolsheviks killed one hundred people in Eastern Siberia, to everyone killed by the Bolsheviks.

Terror by the Czechoslovak Legions
After the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, Czechoslovak prisoners of war who had formerly been part of the Imperial forces were stranded in Russia. Their safe passage was arranged, via Siberia to France to join other Czech forces and continue their fight against the German Empire. However, Trotsky ordered their disarmament in response to German pressure. The Allies intervened in Vladivostok to secure supply routes to the Czechoslovak forces so they could re-open an Eastern Front against the Germans. The Czechoslovak legions, in fighting the local Bolshevik forces, found themselves fighting on the White side. In Chelyabinsk on 26 May 1918, the Czech forces executed all members of the local Council. After invading Penza, about 250 pro-Soviet Czechs were soon captured and killed. All members of the local council were shot after the seizure of Petropavlovsk on May 30. On 8 June, Czech troops seized Samara. On the same day, more than 150 workers and soviet activists were murdered. In the first days after the capture of the city, at least 300 people were shot. Mass arrests were conducted; the number of prisoners exceeded 1,680 by 15 June and exceeded 2,000 by early August. In addition, some prisoners from Samara were sent to other cities; August records show 500 prisoners in Buzuluk and 600 in Syzran.

The Terror continued in Samara and environs during the summer of 1918. On 6 July 1918, after a meeting of railway workers was dispersed, more than 20 were executed. Of the 75 union leaders in Samara, 54 were shot. Near Samara, suppression of peasant uprisings in three districts of Buguruslan county involved executing more than 500 people. After the Czechs seized Simbirsk on 22 July, more than 400 were shot. In Kazan, seized by the Czechs in August, more than 1,000 people were executed in less than a month. In one incident, 37 women were arrested and shot, and their corpses were thrown on the Volga bank. Overall, it is estimated that more than 5,000 people were murdered by the Czechs.

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Clockwise from top: Soldiers of the Don Army in 1919;
a White infantry division in March 1920;
soldiers of the 1st Cavalry Army;
Leon Trotsky in 1918;
hanging of workers in Yekaterinoslav by the Austro-Hungarian Army, April 1918.
 
 

Russian soldiers of the anti-Bolshevik Siberian Army in 1919
 
 

American troops in Vladivostok during the Allied intervention in the Russian Civil War (August 1918)
 
 

Soviet delegation with Trotsky greeted by German officers at Brest-Litovsk, 8 January 1918
 
 

Bolsheviks killed by Czechoslovak legionaries of the 8th Regiment at Nikolsk Ussuriysky, 1918.
 
 

Adm. Kolchack reviewing the troops, 1919.
 
 

Street children during the Russian Civil War
 
 

Victims of the Red Terror in Crimea, 1918
 
 

1920 Nikolayevsk Incident: anarchist Yakov Triapitsyn massacred most of the inhabitants of the town of Nikolayevsk-on-Amur in the Russian Far East.
 
 

Red Army troops attack Kronstadt sailors in March 1921.
 
 
Russian Civil War
 
 
Russian Civil War, (1918–20), conflict in which the Red Army successfully defended the newly formed Bolshevik government against various Russian and interventionist anti-Bolshevik armies.

Seeds of conflict
The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, whereby Russia yielded large portions of its territory to Germany, caused a breach between the Bolsheviks (Communists) and the Left Socialist Revolutionaries, who thereupon left the coalition. In the next months there was a marked drawing together of two main groups of Russian opponents of Vladimir I. Lenin: (1) the non-Bolshevik left, who had been finally alienated from Lenin by his dissolution of the Constituent Assembly and (2) the rightist whites, whose main asset was the Volunteer Army in the Kuban steppes. This army, which had survived great hardships in the winter of 1917–18 and which came under the command of Gen. Anton I. Denikin (April 1918), was now a fine fighting force, though small in numbers.

At the same time, the Western Allies, desperately pressed by a new German offensive in northern France in the spring of 1918, were eager to create another front in the east by reviving at least a part of the Russian army. In March 1918 a small British force was landed at Murmansk with the consent of the local soviet. On April 5 Japanese forces landed at Vladivostok, without any approval.

A further factor was the Czechoslovak Legion, composed of Czech and Slovak deserters from the Austro-Hungarian army, whom previous Russian governments had allowed to form their own units. In March 1918 the Bolshevik government agreed to let these units leave Russia by the Far East, but in May violent incidents took place during the evacuation, and on May 29 Leon Trotsky, commissar for war, ordered them to surrender their arms. They refused, defeated attempts of the local soviets to disarm them, and took control of the Trans-Siberian Railroad. In the vacuum created by this action, two anti-Bolshevik authorities appeared: the West Siberian Commissariat, of predominantly liberal complexion, based at Omsk; and the Committee of Members of the Constituent Assembly, composed of Socialist Revolutionaries, based at Samara.

These events caused the Moscow government to crack down heavily on non-Bolshevik socialists. The Menshevik and Socialist Revolutionary deputies were expelled from the central and local soviets and prevented from engaging in any organized political activity. Eventually, in September, the government proclaimed a campaign of “Red terror,” including shooting hostages and giving increased powers to the Cheka (political police) of summary arrest, trial, and execution of suspects.

Assassination of the tsar and the battle for Ukraine
Among the early victims of the civil war, which may be considered to have begun in earnest in June 1918, were the former imperial family. Tsar Nicholas II, his wife, and his children had been moved in August 1917 to Tobolsk and in the spring of 1918 to Yekaterinburg. With the development of anti-Bolshevik forces in Siberia, the local soviet feared that Nicholas might be liberated. In the night of July 16–17, 1918, all the members of the family were taken to the cellar of their prison house and shot.

In the late summer the Communists’ hastily reorganized armed forces, the Red Army, recovered most of eastern European Russia. At Omsk, which became the centre of the anti-Communists, a new army was hastily trained under the command of Adm. Aleksandr V. Kolchak, with the assistance of British and U.S. military missions. Meanwhile the British forces at Murmansk were at war with the Communists. In August further British forces landed at Arkhangelsk, and the Japanese forces in the Far Eastern territories of Russia had been greatly reinforced.

In Omsk relations between the Socialist Revolutionaries and Kolchak steadily deteriorated. Kolchak and his officers disliked the left-wing views of the politicians and found it difficult to distinguish between Socialist Revolutionaries and Communists, lumping together all “Reds” as enemies. The conflict came to a head when, on November 18, 1918, Kolchak set up his own dictatorship. Kolchak’s coup d’état coincided with the collapse of Germany and the end of the European war.

At the beginning of 1919 Red Army forces invaded Ukraine. The remnants of the forces of the Socialist Revolutionaries, headed by Simon Petlyura, retreated westward, where they joined forces with Ukrainian nationalist forces from formerly Austrian Galicia. For the next months the mixed Petlyurist-Galician forces held parts of Ukraine; other areas were in the hands of anarchist bands led by Nestor Makhno; and the main cities were held by the Communists, ruling not directly from Moscow but through a puppet Ukrainian “government” in Kharkov (now Kharkiv). The defeat of Germany had also opened the Black Sea to the Allies, and in mid-December 1918 some mixed forces under French command were landed at Odessa and Sevastopol, and in the next months at Kherson and Nikolayev.

Foreign intervention
The Allied governments now had to decide on their policy in the confused Russian situation. The original purpose of intervention, to revive an eastern front against Germany, was now meaningless. Russian exiles argued that, since the pre-Bolshevik governments of Russia had remained loyal to the Allies, the Allies were bound to help them. To this moral argument was added the political argument that the Communist regime in Moscow was a menace to the whole of Europe, with its subversive propaganda and its determination to spread revolution.

At the beginning of 1919 the French and Italian governments favoured strong support (in the form of munitions and supplies rather than in men) to the Whites (as the anti-Communist forces now came to be called), while the British and U.S. governments were more cautious and even hoped to reconcile the warring Russian parties. In January the Allies, on U.S. initiative, proposed to all Russian belligerents to hold armistice talks on the island of Prinkipo in the Sea of Marmara. The Communists accepted, but the Whites refused. In March the U.S. diplomat William C. Bullitt went to Moscow and returned with peace proposals from the Communists, which were not accepted by the Allies. After this the Allies ceased trying to come to terms with the Communists and gave increased assistance to Kolchak and Denikin.

Direct intervention by Allied military forces was, however, on a very small scale, involving a total of perhaps 200,000 soldiers. The French in Ukraine were bewildered by the confused struggle between Russian Communists, Russian Whites, and Ukrainian nationalists, and they withdrew their forces during March and April 1919, having hardly fired a shot. The British in the Arkhangelsk and Murmansk areas did some fighting, but the northern front was of only minor importance to the civil war as a whole. The last British forces were withdrawn from Arkhangelsk and from Murmansk in the early fall of 1919. The only “interventionists” who represented a real danger were the Japanese, who established themselves systematically in the Far Eastern provinces.

Victory of the Red Army
In the first half of 1919 the main fighting was in the east. Kolchak advanced in the Urals and had attained his greatest success by April. On April 28 the Red Army’s counteroffensive began. Ufa fell in June, and Kolchak’s armies retreated through Siberia, harassed by partisans. By the end of summer the retreat had become a rout. Kolchak set up an administration in November at Irkutsk, but it was overthrown in December by Socialist Revolutionaries. He himself was handed over to the Communists in January 1920 and shot on February 7.

Meanwhile, in the late summer of 1919, Denikin had made a last effort in European Russia. By the end of August most of Ukraine was in White hands. The Communists had been driven out, and the Ukrainian nationalists were divided in their attitude to Denikin, Petlyura being hostile to him, but the Galicians preferring him to the Poles, whom they considered their main enemy. In September the White forces moved northward from Ukraine and from the lower Volga toward Moscow. On October 13 they took Oryol. At the same time, Gen. Nikolay N. Yudenich advanced from Estonia to the outskirts of Petrograd (St. Petersburg). But both cities were saved by Red Army counterattacks. Yudenich retreated into Estonia, and Denikin, his communications greatly overextended, was driven back from Oryol in an increasingly disorderly march, which ended with the evacuation of the remnants of his army, in March 1920, from Novorossiysk.

In 1920 there was still an organized White force in Crimea, under Gen. Pyotr N. Wrangel, who struck northward at the Red Army and, for a time, occupied part of Ukraine and Kuban. The Red Army eventually battered Wrangel’s forces, whose rearguards held out long enough to ensure the evacuation of 150,000 soldiers and civilians by sea from Crimea. This ended the Russian Civil War in November 1920.

Consequences of the war
The Communist victory was at the same time a defeat for the various nationalist movements of the non-Russian peoples. The hopes of the Tatars and Bashkirs, between the Kazan area and the southern Urals, were ruined in the course of the civil war. The Communists proclaimed the right of self-determination, but in practice they imposed the dictatorship of the Russian Communist Party on them. In Tashkent the Muslim population remained mistrustful of any Russian authorities, and for some years guerrilla bands of nationalists, known as Basmachi, harassed the Communist authorities.

The defeat of Turkey in World War I had resulted in the temporary revival of the three separate Transcaucasian republics—Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia. The Moscow government did not intend to respect Transcaucasian independence for long. In April 1920 the Azerbaijan government surrendered to the double threat of invasion by the Red Army and rebellion in Baku. In December 1920 the formerly Russian portion of Armenia was incorporated into Soviet Russia, and the Moscow government recognized the rest of Armenia as part of Turkey. From February to April 1921 the Red Army invaded and conquered Georgia.

For the territory around Lake Baikal and east of it, from the spring of 1920, the fiction of a Far Eastern Republic, independent of Soviet Russia, was maintained. This government was in practice fully controlled from Moscow. The Japanese delegates at the Washington Conference of 1921–22 promised the U.S. government that they would withdraw all their troops from Russian territory. This they did at the end of October 1922. The Far Eastern Republic had now served its purpose, and its assembly in November formally voted it out of existence and united it to Soviet Russia.

The political system that emerged victorious from the civil war bore the name Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic. In fact the soviets were of small importance. All power belonged to the Communist Party, members of which occupied all the posts in the Soviet of People’s Commissars and the key posts at all lower levels of the machinery of government. The party itself was governed by its Central Committee, which Lenin dominated.

Second only to Lenin was Trotsky, who as commissar for war not only had supreme command of the armed forces but was also largely responsible for organizing supplies and for the mobilization of manpower. By 1919 the Red Army had become much better than the armies of its White opponents. The victory of the Communists in the civil war is indeed mainly due to this simple fact of military superiority, reinforced by the fact that, holding the central core of European Russia throughout the war, they could plan operations and move men more easily than their enemies, whose bases were on the periphery and cut off from one another.

Encyclopædia Britannica

 
 
 
 

Victims of the famine in Buzuluk, Volga region, next to Saratov
 
 

Victims of the famine, 1922
 
 

Starving Russian girl in Buguruslan, 1921
 
 

Starving Russian children during the famine, c. 1922
 
 

Cannibals with their victims, Samara province, Volga region, Russia, 1921.
 
 

A woman, a man and a child, all three dead from starvation.One of the pictures from Russia in November and December 1921.  Saratov
 
 
Russian famine of 1921
 
 
The Russian famine of 1921, also known as Povolzhye famine, was a severe famine in Bolshevik Russia which began in early spring of 1921 and lasted through 1922. This famine killed an estimated 6 million, primarily affecting the Volga and Ural River regions.

The famine resulted from combined effects of economic disturbance—which had already started during World War I, and continued through the disturbances of the Russian Revolution—and Russian Civil War with its policy of War Communism, especially prodrazvyorstka, exacerbated by rail systems that could not distribute food efficiently.

One of Russia's intermittent droughts in 1921 aggravated the situation to a national catastrophe. Hunger was so severe, it was doubtful that seed-grain would be sown rather than eaten. At one point, relief agencies had to give grain to railroad staff to get their supplies moved.


Origins

Before the famine began, Russia had suffered six and a half years of World War I and the Civil Wars of 1918–20, many of the conflicts fought inside Russia.

Before the famine, all sides in the Russian Civil Wars of 1918–21 — the Bolsheviks, the Whites, the Anarchists, the seceding nationalities — had provisioned themselves by the ancient method of "living off the land": they seized food from those who grew it, gave it to their armies and supporters, and denied it to their enemies. The Bolshevik government had requisitioned supplies from the peasantry for little or nothing in exchange. This led peasants to drastically reduce their crop production. According to the official Bolshevik position, which is still maintained by some modern Marxists, the rich peasants (kulaks) withheld their surplus grain in order to preserve their lives; statistics indicate that most of the grain and the other food supplies passed through the black market. The Bolsheviks believed peasants were actively trying to undermine the war effort. The Black Book of Communism claims that Lenin ordered the seizure of the food peasants had grown for their own subsistence and their seed grain in retaliation for this "sabotage," leading to widespread peasant revolts. In 1920, Lenin had ordered increased emphasis on food requisitioning from the peasantry.

Aid from outside Russia was initially rejected. The American Relief Administration (ARA), which Herbert Hoover had formed to help the starvation of World War I, had offered assistance to Lenin in 1919, on condition that they have full say over the Russian railway network and hand out food impartially to all. Lenin refused this as interference in Russian internal affairs.

Lenin was eventually convinced — by this famine, the Kronstadt rebellion, large scale peasant uprisings such as the Tambov Rebellion, and the failure of a German general strike — to reverse his policy at home and abroad. He decreed the New Economic Policy on March 15, 1921. The famine also helped produce an opening to the West: Lenin allowed relief organizations to bring aid, this time. War relief was no longer required in Western Europe, and the ARA had an organization set up in Poland, relieving the Polish famine which had begun in the winter of 1919–20.

International relief effort
Although no official request for aid was issued, a committee of well-known people without obvious party affiliations was allowed to set up an appeal for assistance. In July 1921, the writer Maxim Gorky published an appeal to the outside world, claiming that millions of lives were menaced by crop failure. At a conference in Geneva on 15 August organised by the International Committee of the Red Cross and the League of Red Cross Societies, the International Committee for Russian Relief (ICRR) was set up with Dr. Fridtjof Nansen as its High Commissioner. Nansen headed to Moscow, where he signed an agreement with Soviet Foreign Minister Georgy Chicherin that left the ICRR in full control of its operations. At the same time, fundraising for the famine relief operation began in earnest in Britain, with all the elements of a modern emergency relief operation — full-page newspaper advertisements, local collections, and a fundraising film shot in the famine area. By September, a ship had been despatched from London carrying 600 tons of supplies. The first feeding centre was opened in October in Saratov.

The main participants in the international relief effort were Hoover's American Relief Administration, along with other bodies such as the American Friends Service Committee and the International Save the Children Union, which had the British Save the Children Fund as the major contributor. Around ten million people were fed, with the bulk coming from the ARA, funded by the United States Congress; the European agencies co-ordinated by the ICRR fed two million people a day: the International Save the Children Union were feeding 375,000 in its centres at Saratov at the height of the operation. The operation was hazardous — several workers died of cholera — and was not without its critics, including the London Daily Express, which first denied the severity of the famine, and then argued that the money would better be spent on poverty in the United Kingdom.

Throughout 1922 and 1923, as famine was still widespread and the ARA was still providing relief supplies, grain was exported by the Soviet government to raise funds for the revival of industry; this seriously endangered Western support for relief, and was one instance of a long-standing Soviet policy of valuing development above the lives of the peasantry. The new Soviet government insisted that if the AYA suspended relief, the ARA arrange a foreign loan for them of about $10,000,000 1923 dollars; the ARA was unable to do this, and continued to ship in food past the grain being sold abroad.

Death toll
As with other large-scale famines, the range of estimates is considerable. An official Soviet publication of the early 1920s concluded that about five million deaths occurred in 1921 from famine and related disease: this number is usually quoted in textbooks. More conservative figures counted not more than a million, while another assessment, based on the ARA's medical division, spoke of two million. On the other side of the scale, some witnesses spoke of ten million lives. According to Betrand M. Patenaude, "such a number hardly seems extravagant after the many tens of millions of victims of war, famine, and terror in the twentieth century".

Political uses
The famine came at the end of six and a half years of unrest and violence (first World War I, then the two Russian revolutions of 1917, then the Russian Civil War). Many different political and military factions were involved in those events, and most of them have been accused by their enemies of having contributed to, or even bearing sole responsibility for, the famine.

Since 1922, Bolsheviks started a campaign of seizing church property. In 1922, over 4.5 million golden roubles of property were seized. Out of these, one million gold roubles were spent for famine relief. In a secret March 19, 1922 letter to the Politburo, Lenin expressed an intention to seize several hundred million golden roubles.

In Lenins's secret letter to the Politburo, Lenin explains that the famine provides an opportunity against the church.[20] Richard Pipes argued that the famine was used politically as an excuse for the Bolshevik leadership to persecute the Orthodox Church, which held significant sway over much of the peasant populace. Pipes also considers the possibility that Lenin actually welcomed the famine as it weakened the peasantry and prevented the peasants from resisting the Bolsheviks.

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evik leadership to persecute the Orthodox Church, which held significant sway over much of the peasant populace. Pipes also considers the possibility that Lenin actually welcomed the famine as it weakened the peasantry and prevented the peasants from resisting the Bolsheviks.

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