Books

When the Russians killed Mother Russia

5 March 2016

9:00 AM

5 March 2016

9:00 AM

On the 24–25 October 1917 (according to the Julian Calendar, or 7–8 November according to the Gregorian) the political disputes which had shaken the Russian empire reached a peak. The provisional government, or All-Russian Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies (which had been formed in the wake of the February revolution and abdication of Tsar Nicholas II) was stormed by the Bolsheviks. These men and women — whom Churchill later described as ‘swarms of typhus-bearing vermin, vampires, troops of ferocious baboons’ — quickly consolidated power in Petrograd, now St Petersburg. Their leader, Vladimir Lenin, believed that Europe’s workers would soon rise in violent struggle against their bourgeois oppressors; and ‘Red’ October is rightly considered one of the seminal moments of modern times.

But there’s much more to Russian history than one evening of sabre-waggling pomp and rambunctious gaiety at the Winter Palace. As Jonathan Smele makes clear, the October revolution fell within a decade of internecine carnage, trans-continental torture and picaresque chaos —broadly defined as the Russian civil wars.

The conflict which raged in Russia and central Asia was effectively a ‘world war condensed’, he writes:

Few would dispute that the ‘scope’ of what has been traditionally termed the ‘Russian civil war’ was stupendously extensive: after all, it was waged across (and beyond) the borders of a collapsing and then reconfiguring empire that enveloped fully one-sixth of the land surface of the globe; and it involved not only the 160 million or so inhabitants of that multitudinous and multinational imperium, as well as millions of inhabitants of neighbouring states into which the conflicts leached.

Between 1917 and 1921, 10.5 million people died and millions more were maimed, orphaned or widowed. An additional two million former subjects of the Tsar were forced into exile. Upheaval wrought by war led a further five million perishing in famines across the Volga, Urals, North Caucasus and Ukraine between 1921 and 1922.


Professor Smele dates the beginning of Russia’s civil war to one year before the October revolution when, in 1916, the Tsar’s Muslim subjects in Turkestan protested against enforced enlistment in the Russian army’s labour battalions. The then governor of Vernyi, General P.P. Ivanov, dealt with the revolt with spectacular cruelty, inflaming anti-colonialist feeling in central Asia and beginning an insurrection against the Russian empire which began to resemble a ‘holy war’ against infidels and invaders.

The revolution of October 1917 led Lenin to promise ‘peace, bread and land’ to Russia’s people — a popular prospect in the midst of the Great War — but his ‘Decree for Peace’ ultimately led Russia to cede the (now) Baltic countries, alongside Finland, Poland and Ukraine, to the Central Powers at the humiliating 1918 Treaty of Brest-Litovsk.

Here began what might be called Russia’s civil war proper — as Lenin’s Bolsheviks came under attack from a diverse group of domestic opponents whose membership included disenfranchised peasants and Bolshevik deserters, as well as elements of the old ruling classes. Operating from isolated outposts in the Urals and Siberia, the ‘Whites’ launched particularly effective attacks in 1919. The moustachioed anti-Semite General Anton I. Denikin pushed to within 250 miles of Moscow, while the pre-revolutionary colonialist General Nikolai N. Iudenich, based in modern Estonia, twice reached Petrograd’s outskirts.

Ultimately, though, the Whites lacked the industrial complexes which the Reds held in western Russia. They were also torpid, cruel and greedy, and never successfully mastered the soft-power play of propaganda. Admiral Kolchak, their supreme ruler, was in 2008 the subject of the most expensive motion picture Russia has ever made; but during a PR visit to Omsk in 1919, his administrative secretary could not find a single individual who recognised his photograph — though some peasants did offer the view that he was ‘probably an Englishman’. Meanwhile, Lenin and family were canvassing: Lenin’s wife travelled Russia’s river system on a floating propaganda ship called the Red Star, ‘which toured the Volga in 1919 and 1920, towing a barge that contained an 800-seat cinema’.

As the Red army grew, the Whites were steadily pushed to the edges of the empire. Despite millions in aid from the Allies, their troops were gradually eliminated. Denikin was routed at Orel in 1919, while Iudenich beat a retreat to modern Estonia, and was nabbed as he tried to flee for western Europe with a sack of foreign currency —including £227,000 in sterling.

When exactly Russia’s civil wars ended is difficult to determine — and a recurrent point of discussion throughout the book — but Smele concludes that it was probably with the Red army’s closure of its last active front in Turkestan in June 1926.

Analytical, colourful and not only clearly researched but beautifully written, Smele’s work is vivid and important, expounding as it does the acute significance of the Russian civil war for the history of the world today.

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  • Uncle Brian

    The decade of internecine carnage that followed the 1916 October revolution …

    Wrong year. Not 1916 but, as Will Nicoll correctly states in his first paragraph, 1917.

    On the 24–25 October 1917 (according to the Julian Calendar, or 7–8 December according to the Gregorian)…

    Wrong month. Not December but November. You ought to be aware, Will Nicoll, that some of your readers are old enough to remember the military parades that were held in Red Square every 7 November.

  • Father Todd Untious

    How is it that young journos make so many basic errors? Are there no editors? Have the editors no basic general knowledge?
    The Revolution was 24/25 October 1917. This is 7/8 November in the Gregorian calender. Not 1916 not December.

  • Hegelman

    England had its civil war, too, that destroyed about a fifth of the population of Ireland and about a tenth of England’s. No-one calls it “Englishmen killing Mother England”. Stop patronising the Russians. Nations sometimes have to fight civil wars, for perfectly sensible reasons.

    In “A Concise History of the Russian Revolution” by the very anti-Soviet US historian Richard Pipes, he records that the number killed in the Red Terror was some scores of thousands – between 50,000 and 140,000. Far more were slaughtered in the White Terror: 200,000 Jews in the Ukraine alone. The Red Terror was peanuts in comparison with Winston Churchill’s killings in Kenya in the 1950s.

    Even at a very low estimate of 20,000 (the records were nearly all DESTROYED by the British) the Kenya killings by Churchill in the 1950s amount to 1 million dead in Russian terms, taking population sizes into account.

    Pipes records that Soviet concentration camps were on a very small scale in Lenin’s time: 315 camps with 70, 000 prisoners. In a country as large as Soviet Russia that is not a big level of incarceration. Today’s US has far, far, far larger scale imprisonment.

    • “England had its civil war, too. No-one calls it “Englishmen killing Mother England”.”

      That’s because Englishmen weren’t killing Mother England and its institutions, both sides were killing to determine which English institution would be supreme, Parliament or Monarchy. The English Civil War wasn’t about destroying all English institutions and replacing those institutions with alien institutions, but that was precisely the case with the Bolsheviks during the Russian Civil War.

      “In “A Concise History of the Russian Revolution” by the very anti-Soviet US historian Richard Pipes, he records that the number killed in the Red Terror was some scores of thousands – between 50,000 and 140,000.”

      ‘Estimates for the total number of people killed in the Red Terror range from 50,000[5][6] to 140,000[6][7] to over one and a half million.[8]’

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Terror#cite_note-5

      You left out the last part, where it says “over one and a half million”!

      In 1922 alone Lenin had summarily executed “tens of thousands” of Russian Orthodox clergy and more than 100,000 believers (see page 161)…

      https://books.google.com/books?visbn=0300103220&id=ChRk43tVxTwC&pg=PA165&lpg=PA165&ots=ICIxg28Jud&dq=a+century+of+violence+in+soviet+russia+the+Russian+Orthodox+clergy&ie=ISO-8859-1&sig=C9k9Hr7Vn222WCHf_1iSJOHVsgo#v=onepage&q=a%20century%20of%20violence%20in%20soviet%20russia%20the%20Russian%20Orthodox%20clergy&f=false

      The Red Terror also includes the millions who died from famine/disease due to Lenin’s sabotage of the economy, the sabotage meant to break the back of Russian nationalist resistance to the Bolshevik coup.

      By the way, would that be the same Richard Pipes who has refused to alert the world to the fake ‘collapse’ of the USSR?

      “Far more were slaughtered in the White Terror: 200,000 Jews in the Ukraine alone.”

      You’re referring to Bolsheviks pretending to be Whites.* Those are the same Whites that refused to overthrow the Bolshevik coup on November 8, and obeyed Lenin’s order on the 23rd to demobilize the Russian Army!

      “…the Kenya killings by Churchill in the 1950s amount to 1 million dead in Russian terms, taking population sizes into account.”

      And who was Churchill? He was one of the Marxists that refused to galvanize the Allies to mount a naval expeditionary operation to overthrow the weak Bolsheviks in Petrograd, and bring Russia back into the war, Russia’s involvement in the war being a key variable in the Allies’ victory strategy. But no one in the West cared to overthrow the Bolsheviks and ensure the Allies win the war! In fact, there was a 60,000 man anti-Bolshevik force already in Russia (located outside Kiev) that on its own could have destroyed the Bolsheviks in Petrograd – the Czechoslovak Legion* – but instead of sending the formidable legion 700 miles north to Petrograd, the Allies instead sent it on a 6,000 mile odyssey across Russia to Vladivostok for evacuation back to Europe!
      ———————————–
      * Marxists utilize the tactic of employing false oppositions, more commonly referred to by Marxists as the ‘Scissors Strategy’, in which the blades represent the two falsely opposed sides that converge on the confused victims, neutralizing true opposition to socialism, thereby allowing the advancement of socialism to the bewilderment of the true opposition…

      http://www.attacreport.com/ar_archives/art_na_china.htm

      ** http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/9650?msg=welcome_stranger

  • Hegelman

    “These men and women — whom Churchill later described as ‘swarms of
    typhus-bearing vermin, vampires, troops of ferocious baboons’

    Oh yeah? You don’t say? Let’s learn a bit more about this fat pink bugger Winston Churchill.

    In proportion to population Winston Churchill was a far bigger killer than Stalin.

    His refusal after years of taking food out of India to alleviate a
    famine in the Indian province of Bengal in 1943 (British rule in India
    was replete with famines each killing millions, so one has to specify
    the place and year) killed one tenth of its population – about 3 million
    people.

    Despite desperate pleas for famine relief from the British Viceroy in
    India, Lord Wavell, Churchill refused aid until millions were dead.
    This was after he had been draining food from India for years, and when
    millions of Indians were fighting on the side of Britain.

    What is more, Churchill forbade the US and Australia to send famine
    relief to Bengal either, as they offered to do. So Australian ships
    filled with grain by-passed a starving Bengal whose fields and roads
    were lined with the dead and dying.

    In the Whites Only clubs of Calcutta the British ate and drank without stint, as did Churchill
    at
    home. (One of his ministers, Lord Reith, seeing the food bill for a
    Churchill-Roosevelt summit, commented,”I wonder how much Roosevelt
    got.”)

    Wavell wondered in his published diaries if the Churchill Cabinet was
    not the most contemptible Britain had ever had. (See “The Viceroy’s
    Memoirs”, London, 1970).

    Other colleagues of Churchill were disgusted by his Bengal famine
    policy, too. Lord Alanbrooke, his Chief Military Adviser, remarked,
    “Winston seems content to starve Indiawhile using it as a military
    base.” See Patrick French’s well known book on India’s transition to
    Independence, “Liberty or Death”.

    Desperate famine victims thronged the streets of Calcutta while the
    British were feasting in their clubs and hotels; some tried to get into
    the hospitals but were thrown out by British staff who pointed out that
    they weren’t ill but merely starving. A distinction that would have
    pleased Iain Duncan Smith.

    Churchill forbade India to use its own ships and money to bring in
    food; later British rulers stopped India from applying to the UN for
    famine aid; so Indian contributions to the UN
    went to feed Europeans while Indians starved.

    A highly praised history of this appalling episode in the life of
    Britain’s supposed greatest man is Madhusree Mukerjee’s “Churchill’s
    Secret War”. It has been lauded by the leading Churchill authority, Sir
    Max Hastings. His review of the book is in the The Sunday Times.

    • “Despite desperate pleas for famine relief from the British Viceroy in India, Lord Wavell, Churchill refused aid until millions were dead.”

      The British establishment had long before World War I been co-opted by Marxists, otherwise naturally a non-Marxist would have allowed the United States to ship the needed grains volunteered. Only a Marxist would want to cause animosity between India and Britain, thereby speeding the Indian desire for independence from British rule.

  • Yet more errors… “The provisional government, or All-Russian Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies…”
    Surely these were two completely separate organisations- one, as Prince Lvov stated, which had legitimacy but no power, the other with power but no legitimacy.

    • “Surely these were two completely separate organisations- one, as Prince Lvov stated, which had legitimacy but no power, the other with power but no legitimacy.’

      As the December elections showed the Provisional Government did have power (as well as legitimacy), since the election was won by those candidates advancing the Provisional Government’s policies. The only real power the Petrograd Soviet had was thanks to the protection the 3,000 Red Latvian regiment gave to the Petrograd Soviet after the November 7 coup. The Petrograd Red Guards were only good for scaring civilians, and the sailors from Kronstadt naval base had neither naval battle experience nor infantry ground battle experience. Kerensky ordered the Russian Army to overthrow the Bolshevik coup, but inexplicably the aristocratic leadership that still controlled the Russian army refused to move on Petrograd! In fact, the Russian Army leadership were following Lenin’s orders, including the order on the 23rd to demobilize!

  • The World War I Allies failure to mount a naval expeditionary force to overthrow the weak Bolsheviks in Petrograd and bring Russia back into the war, the Allies’ war strategy for victory dependent on Russia’s continued presence in the war, casts a glaring spotlight on the Marxist co-option of the West’s political establishments. In fact, there was a 60,000 man anti-Bolshevik force already in Russia (located outside Kiev) that on its own could have destroyed the Bolsheviks in Petrograd – the Czechoslovak Legion* – but instead of sending the formidable legion 700 miles north to Petrograd, the Allies instead sent it on a 6,000 mile odyssey across Russia to Vladivostok for evacuation back to Europe!

    That being said, what does the Russian Army leadership (which is still headed by supposedly Russian Orthodox officers) do when it’s ordered to demobilize on November 23? The leadership obeys the Bolshevik order! In fact, between November 7 – 22, the Russian Army leadership did nothing to overturn the Bolshevik coup, even though Kerensky ordered them to!

    World War I is an obvious fake war, where both sides for five years continue to make monumental basic blunders that even a child of the time, versed in basic military doctrine, would laugh at. The race to the North Sea coast is one of the hilarious and obviously staged spectacles of World War I, where we see both sides intentionally prolonging the war. For the Allies, the obvious solution at the beginning of the war for a quick victory is to not follow the German lines, but to outflank and destroy the Germans, and since it was the Germans who had to move men and arms into France, the Germans were always at a strategic disadvantage being so far away from their source of combatants, armaments and other supplies.

    Analysis:

    (1) How did the Bolshevik Central Committee know that the Allies wouldn’t send a naval expeditionary force to overthrow the Bolsheviks in Petrograd, thereby returning Russia to the war?

    (2) How did the Bolshevik Central Committee know that the Allies would send the Czechoslovak Legion 6,000 miles across Russia to Vladivostok instead of sending the legion 700 miles north to Petrograd to topple the Bolshevik coup?

    (3) How did the Bolshevik Central Committee know that the leadership of the Russian Army – which was still entirely made up of aristocratic, Russian Orthodox, officers – would obey Bolshevik orders and (1) not topple the Bolshevik coup; and (2) obey the order to demobilize the Russian Army?

    The Bolshevik coup would never have taken place UNLESS the Bolshevik Central Committee was assured those three questions were taken care of.

    Read more on this subject at…

    https://sites.google.com/site/deanjackson60/the-marxist-co-option-of-history-and-the-use-of-the-scissors-strategy-to-manipulate-history-towards-the-goal-of-marxist-liberation

    My blog…

    https://sites.google.com/site/deanjackson60/

    ———————————

    * http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/9650?msg=welcome_stranger

  • Hegelman

    The West had its revolutions and civil wars, too. Every nation pays a price for history. Don’t patronise Russia.

    Russians did not kill Mother Russia. They killed the old, bigoted, racist, anti-Semitic Russia.

    “You know what the fellow said – in Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace – and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock. So long Holly.”

    Orson Welles in “The Third Man”

    • “Russians did not kill Mother Russia.”

      Of course Russians didn’t kill fellow Russians and destroy Russia’s institutions, it was the alien Bolsheviks that did. Being Marxists Bolsheviks naturally hated the concept of nations and nationalities, which brings Marxism into direct confrontation with the People, hence the necessity for Marxists to terrorize the populations that fall under its jackboots.

      “They killed the old, bigoted, racist, anti-Semitic Russia.”

      Your history, as usual, is incomplete. The Bolshevik coup of November 7, 1917 overthrew the liberal Provisional government headed by Alexander Kerensky…

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Kerensky

      For eight months – March to November – the Jews of Russia enjoyed a flowering of Jewish life not imagined under the old regime…

      ‘When the Bolsheviks took control over the lives of approximately 3,000,000 Jews, they found a Jewish people which had just been liberated from all restrictions of settlement and cult and culture by the democratic republic. They found a rich network of democratically administered autonomous communities with hospitals, orphanages, old folks’ homes, Hebrew and Yiddish schools, scientific and cultural and religious institutions, and multiple organs of Jewish opinion ranging from the Zionists to the Bundists, the Social Democratic labor organization that exercised predominant sway in the Jewish gass—the Jewish “street” or quarter.’

      https://www.commentarymagazine.com/articles/the-jews-in-the-soviet-union-by-solomon-m-schwarz/

      But that Jewish flowering ended with the Bolsheviks, including the end Czarist policy of allowing Jewish communities to enjoy self-government…

      ‘The Jewish section of the Communist Party, known as the Yevesektsia, was ruthless and fanatical in its treatment of Jewish society and Judaism. The Jewish Bolsheviks persecuted observant Jews, closed the religious schools and synagogues, exiled and executed leading rabbinic and lay persons, confiscated religious artifacts. and made it almost impossible to adhere to a halachically acceptable lifestyle. By 1919 all local religious kehillos, which were the agencies for Jewish sefl-government for centuries, were abolished, and their assets and functions taken over by the Yevesektsia. Religion was characterized as “superstition and cant.”‘

      https://books.google.com/books?id=11f9xBbOBBEC&pg=PA284&lpg=PA284&dq=bolsheviks+closed+Jewish+synagogues&source=bl&ots=wUDBlDBLAM&sig=s1DeWUaftZrO9lRqPPF_8E7PA6Q&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiGjp6z-rLLAhUMFT4KHUKUAJAQ6AEIUzAJ#v=onepage&q=bolsheviks%20closed%20Jewish%20synagogues&f=false

      Under the Bolsheviks the Jews lost everything, including those few privileges granted them by the old regime.

    • ataturkey

      “Russians did not kill Mother Russia. They killed the old, bigoted, racist, anti-Semitic Russia.”

      You must not know many Jews who lived through Soviet times.

  • For those few non-Marxists that read The Spectator and its comment threads, have you noticed the illuminating dearth of replies to my groundbreaking comments below? Proof positive that these comment threads are in-house repositories for Marxist agitprop regurgitation.

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