White movement

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White Army links here. For other uses, see White Army (disambiguation)

The White movement, whose military arm is known as the White Army (Белая Армия) or White Guard (Белая Гвардия, белогвардейцы) and whose members are known as Whites (Белые, or the derogatory Беляки) or White Russians (a term that has other meanings) comprised some of the Russian forces, both political and military, which opposed the Bolsheviks after the October Revolution and fought against the Red Army during the Russian Civil War from 1918 to 1921 (as did the Ukrainian nationalist Green Army and the anarchist Black Army).

White Army armoured train's flag with "To Moscow!" slogan inscribed on it, now stored in the Moscow Red Army museum


[edit] Structure and Ideology

The designation White has several interpretations. First, it stood in contradistinction to the Reds—the revolutionary Red Army who supported the soviets and Communism. Second, the word "white" had monarchist associations: historically each Russian Tsar was solemnly called the white tsar.

Strictly speaking, no monolithic "White Army" existed; lacking central coordination, the White forces were never more than a loose confederation of counter-revolutionary forces. The officers who made up the core of the White Army mostly upheld monarchist ideals, and the White Army as a whole generally believed in a united multinational Russia (being opposed to separatists who wanted to create nation-states in the place of the old Russian Empire).

The White Army also drew support from other political movements, including democrats, social revolutionaries, and others who opposed the October Revolution; at other times and in other places, the same groups supported the Red Army instead.

The rank-and-file troops of the White Army included both active opponents of the Bolsheviks (many Cossacks, for example), and spanned a variety of volunteers and conscripts, from nobles to peasants.

Some leaders of the White movement, particularly General Wrangel, formulated political concepts based on Russian traditionalism that were taken up and developed in emigre circles after the end of the Civil War by Russian thinkers such as Ivan Ilyin; who had many philosophical similarities with the Slavophiles. This became known as the "White Idea".

Image:Kolchak gerb.jpg
Emblem of Kolchak government

Monarchist tendencies reached a peak amidst the veterans of the White movement, while republicanism became rarer. The callous liberal policies of Alexander Kerensky and his socialist-democratic oriented provisional government were seen as largely responsible for preparing the country for the October Revolution. In August of 1922, two months before its defeat, the far eastern White Army of General Mikhail Ditterix went as far as to convene the Zemskiy Sobor of Preamursk, and elect (without his participation) Grand Duke Nikolai Nikoaievich Romanov as tsar of all Russia.

There were also external groups such as the Green Army as well as the Black Army of Nestor Makhno, who declared themselves against both the Reds and Whites, although occasionally they sought alliances with one side or the other.

At times the Western Allies, the Central Powers, and other foreign forces provided assistance to several White Army units. This caused the Soviets to accuse the White Army of representing the interests of foreign powers.

[edit] Theaters of Operation

The Russian Civil War between Whites and Reds raged from November of 1917 until 1921, with isolated pockets of resistance continuing in the Far East until 1923. The White Army, with the occasional aid of Allied (and sometimes, Central powers) forces from outside Russia (Japanese, British, Canadian, French, American, German, Greek, Czechoslovak) held sway in some areas (especially Siberia, Ukraine and the Crimea) for periods of time and put considerable bodies of troops into the field. But they failed to unite or to co-operate effectively amongst themselves, and the Bolshevik Red Army eventually gained the upper hand.

The major theaters of the White armies can be grouped as follows:

  • The Southern front: Started on November 15, 1917 by General Mikhail Alekseev and commanded by General Laurus Kornilov, later headed by General Denikin and named the "Armed Forces of the South of Russia". This front had the most massive scale operations and overall posed the most serious threat to the Bolsheviks. In the beginning, it based itself entirely on volunteer support, a significant amount of it coming from the cossacks who were amidst the first to protest against Bolshevik rule. In 1919, after the Denikin offense on Moscow collapsed, the army was forced into a massive retreat. General Wrangel reorganized the army in Crimea, formed a provisional government (recognized by France), and began a new advance. It quickly failed when Polish leader Józef Piłsudski made a separate peace with the Soviets and withdrew Poland from the war.
  • The Eastern (Siberian) front: Started in the spring of 1918 as an underground movement amidst army officers and right leaning socialist forces. The front began a major offensive in collaboration with Czech troops who were stuck in Siberia (the Bolsheviks would not permit them to leave Soviet Russia). Admiral Kolchak headed the resistance and a provisional Russian government. The army made significant advances in 1919, but was pushed back to the far east where it continued to resist up to October of 1922.
  • The Northern and North-Western fronts: Started immediately after the Bolshevik takeover by Pyotr Krasnov, then headed by General Udenich, General Miller, Prince Liven, and others. These fronts had less coordination than the Southern Army of Denikin, including a few problematic adventurists such as General Bermont Avalov and General Bulakh Bulakhovich (the former declared war on neighboring Estonia). The most notable achievement was the attack on Petrograd, then the capital of Soviet Russia.

[edit] Post-Civil War

After the loss of the Russian civil war, most Whites felt that their feat was necessary to "save the honor of Russia", believing that passivity towards the Soviet regime's takeover of their country would have been anti-patriotic of them. Some others, despondent over their loss and exile, began to feel patriotic sentiments towards the Soviet Union and in some cases returned. Many of those who returned were immediately imprisoned or executed despite being promised amnesty, although a few such as General Slaschev-Krimskiy (who taught tactics at a Soviet military school) were spared. A few even collaborated with the Soviet secret police, such as General Nikolai Skoblin.

White activity re-concentrated in White emigre circles. Considerable numbers of anti-Soviet Russians clustered in Belgrade, Berlin, Paris, Harbin, Istanbul, and Shanghai, setting up military and cultural networks, which lasted through World War II. There was also a sizable community of Harbin Russians in China. Thereafter White Russian activity found a new principal home in the United States.

In the 1920's and 30's, several White organizations were formed outside Russia with the intention of overthrowing the Soviet government through guerrilla warfare. These included the Russian All-Military Union, the Brotherhood of Russian Truth, and the National Alliance of Russian Solidarists. Seriously challenged by the Soviet secret police agencies and having limited contact with the Soviet population, such attempts were not succesful and ended up costing lives.

Russian cadet corps were founded in several countries in order to prepare the next generation for the "spring campaign" (a term coined by white emigres meaning a hoped for renewal of their campaign against the Bolsheviks). A significant amount of these cadets volunteered for service in the Russian Corps during World War II, when many white Russians desired to participate in the Russian Liberation Movement.

[edit] Historiographical Perspectives

Soviet historiography has tended to paint the Civil War as primarily a war of foreign intervention, White generals were stereotyped as monarchists who were bankrolled by foreign governments and business tycoons, wealthy Russian land owners, and the Russian Orthodox Church. The White army was portrayed as an army formed of people from the upper classes (the nobility) as well as forced peasant conscripts.

[edit] Prominent persons of the White movement

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

cs:Bělogvardějci de:Weiße Armee el:Λευκός Στρατός es:Movimiento Blanco et:Valgekaartlased fr:Russe blanc it:Armata Bianca fi:Venäjän valkoinen armeija he:הצבא הלבן nl:Witten (leger) no:De hvite pt:Exército Branco ja:白軍 ro:Mişcarea Albă ru:Белая армия sl:Bela garda (Rusija) sv:Vita armén zh:白军

White movement

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