Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Did Geography Allow the Reds to Win the Russian Civil War?

Lenin and Trotsky Led the Winning Side

At the start of the Russian Civil War, the White forces held many advantages: more experienced military commanders, the control of huge areas of Russia, effectively surrounding the Bolsheviks, and the active support of foreign countries, which intervened on their behalf.  

The Bolsheviks had in Lenin and Trotsky, on the other hand, stronger political and strategic leaders. They also used ruthless tactics and propaganda to great effect.  However, their greatest advantages might have been the geography and stupendous size of Russia.

At the start of the Civil War, the Bolsheviks controlled the key central area of Russia between Petrograd and Moscow, giving them a number of advantages. Most of Russia's railways were in this area. This made communication between the various battlefronts much easier. Trotsky was able to move troops and supplies quickly to positions under attack. As commissar for war, he was able to visit the battlefronts in an armored train and take personal command.

Maximum Advance of the White Forces in the Heart of Russia

The large population of the major cities was a key resource for the Bolsheviks. The cities provided fresh recruitment for the Red Army. Much of Russia's industry and raw materials was located in these areas. This made it possible for the Bolsheviks to keep their troops supplied and equipped with weapons, ammunition, and supplies.

The sheer size of Russia worked against the White Armies. They had to move their forces and supplies over huge distances. This made it difficult to maintain effective control. The lack of effective railways was an added complication to the existing communication difficulties between the different White Armies and their leaders.

White Troops of the Siberian Army

By the end of the Civil War in 1921 the Bolsheviks had succeeded in securing their grip on power in Russia. The White Armies and the foreign powers fighting on Russian soil had been defeated. Just as important, rival political parties had been outlawed. Thanks to the Cheka (secret police), dissenting voices had been silenced. Lenin had achieved his ultimate goal of steering his small Bolshevik party to total control of Russia.

Sources:  BBC and Wikipedia (Map and Images)


  1. Exactly.
    Plus having the RR workers on their side.

  2. And the desertion of the White cause by Allied powers. The war relied on material which the Reds had in abundance thanks to late war supplies. The Whites had no resupply.