White Defeat in the Russian Civil War

Weapons and Warfare

The Red versus White struggle was decided on the battlefield, but the outcome of civil wars also depends on the contenders’ ability, through politics and propaganda, to convince people to fight for them (or at least not to raise arms against them). In this field, governance, the Whites were a spectacular failure. Consequently, no matter how successful their main military thrusts were, when the tide turned and advances morphed into retreats, the Whites had nothing to fall back on. Hence the precipitous collapse of the AFSR, the North-West Army, and Kolchak’s Russian Army.

This is not to say that the Whites did not try to compete with the Bolsheviks on the political plane—however much their background in the Russian military tended to incline them to regard “politics” as a dirty word (a feeling amplified by the disasters of 1917). Both Kolchak and Denikin actually elaborated political programs in 1919 that…

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