Civil War in South Russia, 1918: The First Year of the Volunteer Army

Civil War in South Russia, 1918: The First Year of the Volunteer Army

Civil War in South Russia, 1918: The First Year of the Volunteer Army

Civil War in South Russia, 1918: The First Year of the Volunteer Army

Excerpt

The best book on the Russian Civil War, William Henry Chamberlin's The Russian Revolution, was published in 1935. That this relatively short study has remained unsurpassed for over three decades, while Russian studies were expanding enormously, shows that the Civil War has received little attention from historians outside the borders of the Soviet Union.

The subject is immensely important. The Soviet Union was created as much by the Civil War as by the revolutions of 1917; indeed, the revolutions and the struggle that followed are inseparable. At the end of 1917, few people knew who the Bolsheviks were and what they wanted, and even Lenin and his followers could not have had very clear ideas about the nature of their future system; it was only in the long and merciless war that the foundations of the Soviet regime were laid. Perhaps Russian Communism would have evolved differently had the bitter necessities of the Civil War not forced the regime to develop some features that had nothing to do with Marxist ideology.

Aside from the obvious historical significance of the Civil War, it is also a subject with great intrinsic interest. The country fell apart and almost every village had its own Civil War, sometimes focused on issues that were unrelated to the ideology of either Whites or Reds. A large variety of socialist and conservative ideologies, mutually exclusive nationalistic claims of people living in the territory of the Russian empire, foreign intervention—all of these had a role in deciding the final outcome. In this period of confusion political institutions collapsed, the values of a civilized society almost disappeared, and in some respects the country reverted to a state of fragmentation that had existed several centuries before.

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