Off With Their Heads!

It took almost five years (October 1917-October 1922) for the Bolshevik Red Army to finally defeat and trump their rivals, the former officers of the Tsarist state, the White Army and interested foreign countries. However, the Bolsheviks prevailed in a civil war that in hindsight was inevitable that they would win. The first advantage of the Red Army was their strong organization structure and overall nearness of supplies and necessary provisions including, access to communication lines, control cities and capitals, and railways. The White Army contained a weak organizational structure and in respect to invading foreign countries, they were often far from home and were put at a disadvantage. The Red Army other advantage included a strong feeling of nationality and national preservation. Many fighters were communists and believed that what they were fighting for was worth it which gave them strength and enthusiasm to fight, while the participants of the White Army were often being ordered/forced to fight.

The Soviet Union strived to educate and persuade its people, the Russian population to fully support and care for the wellbeing of their state. Propaganda, new revolutionary laws and the increasing strength of the Red Army made it easy for citizens to follow the Soviets blindly. Bolsheviks and the church were always on edge with each other. Bolsheviks who would later form the Soviet Union believed that the church was in fact working against them. Lenin’s newly enforced NEP’s (New Economic Policy) soon gave way to the quick dissolution of relations between church and state. In order to strengthen the state and weaken the church, Lenin and his adamant followers set out to divide the church from within while also draining the Orthodox Church of their wealth. The 1921-22 famine was the perfect opportunity for their plans to unfold. With a starving population, the Lenin decided to place blame on the church: “demanding that the church surrender the rich collection of gems and precious metals represented by its ceremonial implements, and blaming the church for the starvation” (Geldern). This accusation was the last push that the Bolsheviks needed in order to separate them from the church, while also causing the population of Russia to take sides as well.

With the rise and assumed power of the Bolsheviks, Russia soon became the most progressive nation in the world in relation to genders, women and men. In the realm of women, they achieved many victories in the beginnings years of Bolshevik rule. One victory was that of divorce, as discussed on class on Thursday during our movie of Bed and Sofa, we recognized that at this time in Russia women could file for a divorce without negative backfire. The recognized importance of women gave way to a new holiday in Russia: International Women’s Day, which would ultimately lead to the February Revolution.

Towards the end of Lenin’s rule came the term Komsomol club for young girls and boys. However, this organization brought to light “Revolutionary Manliness”. This is a concept that described the transformation of young girls to better fit into these often anti-female clubs. Male members of the Komsomol often took up a more mature/adult behavior: drinking, fighting, smoking, gambling. Though this was organization open to girls as well they struggled to fit in. Because of this, many young girls shed their femininity in order to fit in properly and to be treated with respect.

The New Economic Policy (NEP) was introduced by Lenin in 1921. These new policies introduced new approaches to running the country such as the tax-in-kind policy. This tax, rather than paying taxes with money, it was to be paid with services or goods. Lenin’s choice of Russian “kindness” was in the form of food and provisions. Under, the new policies, Russia did experience a comeback in relation to economic difficulties but with a price: the loss of individual and small-scale industry.

“Card Soldiers.” Disney Wiki. Accessed February 23, 2018.

Clare, John D. “Why Did the Bolsheviks Win the Civil War?” Bolshevik Civil War. Accessed February 23, 2018.

Freeze, Gregory L. Russia A History. New York: Oxford University Press Inc., 2009), 309-312.

Geldern, James Von. “Confiscating Church Gold.” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History. WordPress. January 4, 2016. Accessed February 23, 2018.

Geldern, James Von. “The New Woman.” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History. WordPress. December 29, 2015. Accessed February 23, 2018.

Guillory, Sean. “Revolutionary Maniless.” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History. January 4, 2016. Accessed February 23, 2018.

Siegelbaum, Lewis. “The New Economic Policy.” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History. January 4, 2016. Accessed February 23, 2018.

18 thoughts on “Off With Their Heads!

  1. The role nationalism plays in a revolution and how strongly it can influence the tides of victory is really interesting. The one really key trait of Russian History is how complex and confusing it can be to place pieces together. Excellent post!


  2. Nice post! You brought up a lot of interesting points. Particularly, I liked when you said it was easier for the Red army to win, because they had a cause worth fighting for. I also found your part about the Komsomol to be very interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The Russian Civil War is a great topic. Despite losing, the Whites still effect the Soviet Union and Europe in an important way, but that is for later. I like that you mention that the Red’s had the advantage of nationalism/national preservation on their side. It is a very unique to see nationalism playing a part in a civil war.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I really liked your post and how you explored multiple different aspects. The comparison between the Red and White armies was especially interesting and really showed how different they were, and how much the differences allowed the Reds to win.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. It’s interesting how even with the combined support of the world’s capitalist democratic nations the White army was still effectively crushed. They had many advantages including a nationalist drive, but they were not ready to press the advantage due to their lack of military leadership. This last civil war was the last step in the dying Russian regime to total Soviet dominion, and its passing would enable socialism/communism to spread for the rest of the century. Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I like the contrast between the Red and White Armies. The White Army had lots of foreign aid but was overcome by the Red Army which was supported by nothing but it’s resolve. It’s like the Vietnam War.

    Liked by 1 person

    • And in this comparison of course the United States would be the White Army. I wonder if their was any real way to convince both the White Army during the Russian Civil War and the United States during the Vietnam war that it was worth fighting?


  7. I thought it was very interesting to see, how the Bolsheviks used events like the famine of 1921-22 to not only secure their power but also turn the population against their enemies, and gain their trust. It was also interesting to me that even though they were the most “progressive” nation in the world, and gave women a lot of new freedoms and right, that in the end they actually inadvertently discouraged feminism with the Komsomol clubs, which forced women to give up those freedoms just to be treated with respect.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I actually never really made that connection, in regards to female rights along with the decrease in feminism. I wonder if that was an objective of the Bolshevik party or if it was just an unforeseen product?


  8. I liked your commentary on Lenin in contrast with the Church establishment at the time! I think it really shows the disconnect between the new and old ruling bodies. Because your next paragraph was on Russia becoming the most progressive nation at the time (which I agree with) do you believe that this blatant schism between church and state inspired or caused that? Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I believe that the divide undoubtedly gave more power to the Lenin and his government, which ultimately weakened any influence of the church. I think the split allowed more space for nationalism rather than a split between national pride and church duties. So yes, I believe that split between church and state increased the amount of nationalism among the population which led to their progression as a nation.


  9. Yes I really liked reading about the Reds vs the Whites. I agree that the Whites had an advantage with international support, but they didn’t seem able to harness it. One thing I thought was really interesting was Soviet relations with western Europe in the early years.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Everyone is focusing on the Red Army, but I like your discussion of the Komsomol! How does what Guillory have to say about “revolutionary manliness” square with what we saw in the film, “Bed and Sofa” last week? It seems like contradictions abound!
    The transition from War Communism to NEP is also important (and also a contradiction!). Check out Maura’s post about that as well:

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Looking back at the Russian Civil War it’s easy to see why the Bolsheviks won the war, a unified message and party, the advantage of having control of the available Russian infrastructure and all that. But the Whites had numbers on their side and the huge benefit of foreign aid from many different countries that wanted communism to fail.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Its interesting the dynamic between the White and the Red Armies. In particular that the White Army was aided by foreign countries such as the US, it was a starting place that stemmed a lot of hatred between the USSR and the US. The motivations between them also played a large role in how effective they ended up being. The Red Army was passionately fighting for a cause they believed in while the White Army was more forced into service.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I really enjoyed your comparison of the Red and White Armies. The strong feeling of nationality among supports of the Red Army surely aided in their success. The White Army’s lack of organization only further helped the Red Army’s appeal. Your discussion of these differences really helped solidify why the Red Army was so successful for me. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

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