Russian Civil War

multi-sided civil war in the former Russian Empire, November 1917-October 1922

The Russian Civil War was a civil war that was fought from 7 November 1917 to 16 June 1922 among several groups in Russia. The main fighting was between the Red Army and the White Army. The Red Army was a communist, Bolshevik group. The White Army was anti-communist and included many former Tsarist loyalists. Other forces fought both groups or sometimes helped one of them against the other. Foreign countries such as Japan, the United Kingdom, France, and the United States sent troops to help the divided White Army. The Red Army won the war because it was better organized, more united, and held the best territory. After the war, the communists established the Soviet Union in 1922.

Russian Civil War
Part of the Russian Revolution, the aftermath of World War I, and the interwar period

Clockwise from top left:
Date7 November 1917 – 25 October 1922[1][a]
Result Bolshevik victory[2][3][4]

 Soviet Union

Regional socialist forces

Russia White movement

Anti-Bolshevik left: Allied intervention: Central Powers:
Commanders and leaders
Casualties and losses
  • 1,500,000[7]
  • Czechoslovakia 13,000 killed
  • 6,500 killed
  • United Kingdom 938 killed[8]
  • United States 596 killed
  • Romania 350 killed
  • Kingdom of Greece 179 killed
  • Poland 250,000
  • 125,000
  • 5,000
  • 3,000 killed
  • Estonia 3,888 killed
  • Latvia 3,046 killed
  • 1,444 killed[9]
  • German Empire 500 killed
  • 7,000,000–12,000,000 total casualties
  • 1–2 million refugees outside Russia



Tsar Nicholas II, the traditional autocratic ruler of the Russian Empire, had just lost his throne in the February Revolution of 1917. Many regions of the Russian Empire were not stable, and many groups had organized themselves to fight.

The workers and the farmers who supported the communists organized themselves into the Red Army. Those opposing the communists organized themselves into the White Army.

Outside Russia


In Ukraine, some groups fighting for a free Ukraine organized themselves as the Green Army. There were several other groups. The Green Army and the smaller groups fought one another, and they sometimes fought the Red Army and the White Army. Other nationalist armies fought for independence from any kind of Russian control. Finland, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia succeeded in getting their independence.

At the same time, some foreign countries were worried about the communists, who were ruling Russia and feared that communism would come to their countries if the Russian communists were successful and so they helped fight against the Red Army. The main allies of World War I started the Siberian Intervention and otherwise helped the White Army. Their former enemies, the former Central Powers, also fought to get back land that they had lost during World War I. Slowly, the war became very large, and it continued for a few more years.



The Red Army and the White Army fought this war on three main fronts. Those regions were located in the east, the south, and the northwest of what became the Soviet Union. The outbreak of the Russian Civil War and its large scale surprised Vladimir Lenin. There were also three main periods of the war.

Soon after the Russian Revolution of 1917, the first period of the Russian Civil War began. Most of the fighting was then small-scale, but it started in many places.

The second period of the Russian Civil War was very important and lasted from January to November 1919. At first, the White Army was winning on all three fronts and was helped by foreign countries. However, Leon Trotsky reorganized the Red Army and helped it fight back. The White Armies suffered heavy losses and lost most of their fighting power.

The third and final period of the war involved fighting in Crimea. Many soldiers of the White Army had gathered there and had made their position very secure and strong. The Red Army continued to fight against them. After the Polish-Soviet War ended with Polish independence, more soldiers of the Red Army could reinforce their comrades in Crimea. They defeated the White Army in November 1920. In October 1922, Vladivostok fell, the last important city held by the Whites. Fighting continued against nationalists in the Caucasus in the early 1920s.


  • About eight million people died during the Russian Civil War. About one million were soldiers of the Red Army.
  • The anti-communists and the White Army killed at least 50,000 communists.
  • Many millions of people also died from famine, starvation, and epidemics. Many Jews were killed by pogroms.



During and after the Russian Civil War, Soviet Russia suffered great damage. In 1920 and 1921, there was little rain, which caused serious famine in 1921. About one million Russians left Russia and went to other countries permanently. Many of them were very educated and experts.

The economic loss was also very large. The value of Russia’s currency, the ruble, fell. In 1914, a US dollar could be bought for 2 rubles. In 1920, it cost 1,200 rubles. Estimates say that the war cost the Soviet Russia around 50 billion rubles, today worth US$35 billion.

The production of industrial goods fell greatly. For example, the Soviet Union produced only 5% of the cotton and only 2% of the iron ore of the production of 1913. Generally, production had fallen to 20% of that of 1913.

The Russian Civil War was very bad on agriculture as well. Farms produced only 37% of the normal production. The number of horses fell from 35 million (in 1916) to 24 million (in 1920). The number of cattle also decreased, from 58 million to 37 million.

During the war, the Soviet government somehow managed the country. In March 1921, four months after the defeat of the White Army in Crimea, the Lenin administration abandoned its policy of War Communism and instead formulated the New Economic Policy, which allowed denationalisation of agriculture and industry, but most financial institutions retained state ownership with a deregulation in such sectors. On 30 December 1922, the ]Soviet Union was formally created, and by 1928, production returned to pre-war levels. Lenin, however, did not live to see that day since he had died in 1924, when Joseph Stalin became the new leader.

People always remembered the results of the World War I and the Russian Civil War, which were very bad for the life and the society for the new Soviet Union.

  1. Mawdsley 2007, pp. 3, 230.
  2. "Russian Civil War | Casualties, Causes, Combatants, & Outcome | Britannica". 10 May 2024.
  3. Murphy, Brian (2 August 2004). Rostov in the Russian Civil War, 1917-1920: The Key to Victory. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-134-27129-0.
  4. Bullock, David (6 June 2014). The Russian Civil War 1918–22. Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN 978-1-4728-1032-8.
  5. Belash, Victor & Belash, Aleksandr, Dorogi Nestora Makhno, p. 340
  6. Damien Wright, Churchill's Secret War with Lenin: British and Commonwealth Military Intervention in the Russian Civil War, 1918–20, Solihull, UK, 2017, pp. 394, 526–528, 530–535; Clifford Kinvig, Churchill's Crusade: The British Invasion of Russia 1918–1920, London 2006, ISBN 1-85285-477-4, p. 297; Timothy Winegard, The First World Oil War, University of Toronto Press (2016), p. 229
  7. 7.0 7.1 Smele 2016, p. 160.
  8. Wright, Damien (2017). Churchill's Secret War with Lenin: British and Commonwealth Military Intervention in the Russian Civil War, 1918–20'. Solihull, UK: Helion. pp. 490–492, 498–500, 504. ISBN 978-1-911-51210-3.; Kinvig 2006, pp. 289, 315; Winegard, Timothy (2016). The First World Oil War. University of Toronto Press. p. 208.
  9. Eidintas, Žalys & Senn 1999, p. 30.

Cite error: There are <ref group=lower-alpha> tags or {{efn}} templates on this page, but the references will not show without a {{reflist|group=lower-alpha}} template or {{notelist}} template (see the help page).