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The Russian Civil War 1918-20
The Bolsheviks' crushing of the Constituent Assembly, January 18918 showed they
were not prepared to share power. The bid for power made Civil War highly likely as
the Bolsheviks had a limited grip on Russia after the October Revolution.
Lenin was the convinced that his destructive forces could win and so wipe out all
military and political opponents. Lenin thought a shirt fight would be better than
many years of challenges from Anti-Bolsheviks who were a large majority shown via
the Constituent Assembly.
If the Bolsheviks chose to create a coalition with all the other revolutionary parties in
1918, it would have had 2 consequences:
I. Would have made a successful counter-revolution as they would have had a
popular authority to govern.
II. The Bolsheviks would have been unable to dominate the government as they
were a minority in comparison to the SR's.
Reds, Whites and Greens
The conflict in the summer was about the Bolsheviks (Reds) facing their political
enemies (Whites) in military struggle, it involved another; (Greens)
The Bolsheviks showed he struggle as a class war, but it was not just this. Russia's
size tells us that the local or regional considerations predominated over larger issues
The national minorities of Russia fought to establish their independence from Russia
who became The Greens.
Although most of the leading Bolsheviks were non-Russian, their rule was seen to
take control of the country-the very situation that had prevailed under the Tsars.
A War about Food
The fighting was a desperate struggle for food as the famine provided the backdrop
to the Civil War.
The breakdown in food supplies that occurred during the war against Germany
persisted. Until this was remedied, whole areas of Russia remained hungry.
The failure to end hunger was an important factor in creating military opposition to
the Bolsheviks in 1918.
Lenin's government was faced with a loss of their main wheat supply area to
In March 1918, the month of the Brest-Litovsk signing, the bread ration in Petrograd
reach an all-time low allocation of 50 grams a day.
Hunger forced workers out of the major industrial cities and by June 1918, the overall
population declined from 2m to 3m with the Petrograd workforce having shrunk by
Challenge from the SRs
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The SRs organised an anti-government coup in Moscow. The Civil War therefore,
could not have begun as a counter revolution but as an effort by one set of
revolutionaries to take over power.
So, it was an attempted revenge by the majority party; SRs against the minority
party; The Bolsheviks for having usurped the authority that they claimed was properly