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Allied intervention in the Russian Civil War
Part of the Russian Civil War
Wladiwostok Parade 1918.jpg
Allied troops parading in Vladivostok, 1918.
Date 1918–1920; 1922 Japanese withdrawal from Siberia
Location North Russia, Siberia
Result Allied withdrawal from Russia
Bolshevik victory over White Army
United Kingdom British Empire

Republic of China Republic of China
France France
Greece Greece
Italy Italy
Empire of Japan Japan
Poland Poland
Romania Romania
Serbia Serbia
 United States

Flag RSFSR 1918.svg Soviet Russia
Flag Far Eastern Republic.svg Far East Republic
Various commanders Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic Vladimir Lenin

Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic Leon Trotsky
Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic Mikhail Tukhachevsky
Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic Fedor Raskolnikov
Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic Joseph Stalin
Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic Dmitry Zhloba
Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic Pavel Dybenko

~ 155,560; See below for a detailed breakdown Unknown
Casualties and losses

The Allied Intervention in the Russian Civil War was launched, in 1918, to rescue the Czechoslovak Legion, secure matériel at Russian ports, and possibly re-establish the Eastern front against Imperial Germany. At the end of World War I (1914–18), fearful of Bolshevism, fourteen Allied countries intervened in the Russian Civil War (1917–23), in behalf of the anti-Bolshevik White Movement forces who earlier had lost the Russian October Revolution in 1917.[1]

Despite Allied support, the Red Army defeated the White Army. Yet, two years later, in 1920, because the intervention had little popular support in the Allied countries and in Russia, no true politico-military strategy or purpose, and the White Army’s military mediocrity, compelled the Allies’ withdrawal from the North Russia Campaign (1918–20) and the Allied Intervention in Siberia (1918–22); however, the Japanese occupied parts of Siberia until 1922.[2]


Prologue to the Allied Intervention


In 1917 Russia was in a state of political strife, support for the war and the tsar was dwindling – Russia was on the brink of revolution. The February Revolution changed the course of the war: under intense political pressure Tsar Nicholas II abdicated and a provisional Russian government was formed under Alexander Kerensky. The Russian provisional government pledged to continue fighting the Germans on the Eastern Front.[2]

The Allies had been shipping supplies to Russia since the beginning of the war in 1914 through the ports of Arkhangelsk, Murmansk, and Vladivostok. In 1917 the United States entered the war, the US President Woodrow Wilson dropped his reservations about joining the war with a tyrannical monarch as an ally, and the US began providing economic and technical support to Kerensky's government.[2]

The war became unpopular with the Russian populace. Political and social unrest increased, with the revolutionary Bolsheviks under Vladimir Lenin gaining widespread support. Large numbers of common soldiers either mutinied or deserted the Russian army. During the offensive of 18 June, the Russian Army was defeated by the German and Austro-Hungarian forces on the Eastern Front as a result of a counter-attack. This led to the collapse of the Eastern Front. The demoralised Russian Army was on the verge of mutiny and most soldiers had deserted the front lines. Kerensky replaced Aleksei Brusilov with Lavr Kornilov as Commander in Chief of the Army. Kornilov attempted to set up a military dictatorship through staging a coup in late August 1917. He had the support of the British military attaché Brigadier-General Alfred Knox, and Kerensky accused Knox of producing pro-Kornilov propaganda. Kerensky also claimed Lord Milner wrote him a letter expressing support for Kornilov. A British armoured car squadron commanded by Oliver Locker-Lampson and dressed in Russian uniforms participated in the failed coup.[3] November 1917 the October Revolution led to the overthrow of Kerensky's provisional government and the Bolsheviks coming into power.

Russia leaves the war

Five months later, on March 3, the newly-formed Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with Imperial Germany, which formally ended the war on the Eastern Front. This permitted the redeployment of German soldiers to the Western Front, where the British and French armies were awaiting US reinforcements.

Czechoslovak Legion

The signing of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk ensured that POWs would be transferred to and from each country. Austro-Hungarian prisoners were of a number of various nationalities. Czechoslovak POWs were conscripted to fight with the Austro-Hungarian army and had been captured by the Russians. However, they had long desired to create their own independent state and special Czechoslovak units were established by the Russians to fight the Central Powers. In 1917, the Bolsheviks stated that if the Czechoslovak Legion remained neutral and agreed to leave Russia they would be granted safe passage through Siberia en route to France via Vladivostok, to fight with the Allied forces on the Western Front. The Czechoslovak Legion travelled via the Trans-Siberian Railroad to Vladivostok. However, only half arrived before the agreement collapsed and fighting between them and the Bolsheviks erupted in May 1918.

Allied concerns

Canadian Siberian Expeditionary Force, 1919

The Allies became concerned at the collapse of the Eastern front and their Russian ally, and there was also the question of the large amounts of supplies and equipment in Russian ports, which the Allies feared might be commandeered by the Germans or the Bolsheviks. Also worrisome to the Allies was the April 1918 landing of a division of German troops in Finland, increasing speculation they might attempt to capture the Murmansk-Petrograd railroad, and subsequently the strategic port of Murmansk and possibly Arkhangelsk. Other concerns were that the Czechoslovak Legion might be destroyed and the threat of Bolshevism, the nature of which worried many Allied governments. Meanwhile, Allied matériel in transit quickly accumulated in the warehouses in Arkhangelsk and Murmansk.

Faced with these events, the British and French governments decided upon an Allied military intervention in Russia. They had three objectives:[4]

  1. prevent the German or Bolshevik capture of Allied matériel stockpiles in Arkhangelsk
  2. mount an attack rescuing the Czechoslovak Legion stranded on the Trans-Siberian Railroad
  3. resurrect the Eastern Front by defeating the Bolshevik army with help from the Czechoslovak Legion and an expanded anti-Bolshevik force of local citizens – and, in the process, stop the spread of communism and the Bolshevik cause in Russia
US troops in Vladivostok, August 1918

Severely short of troops to spare, the British and French requested that President Wilson provide US soldiers for the Intervention Campaign. In July 1918, against the advice of the US War Department, Wilson agreed to the limited participation of 5,000 US army soldiers in the campaign as the "American North Russia Expeditionary Force" [5] (a.k.a. the Polar Bear Expedition) who were sent to Arkhangelsk, while another 8,000 soldiers, organised as the American Expeditionary Force Siberia,[6] were shipped to Vladivostok from the Philippines and from Camp Fremont in California. That same month, the Canadian government agreed to the British government's request to command and to provide most of the soldiers for a combined British Empire force, which included Australians and colonial Indian troops.

The Japanese, concerned about their northern border, sent the largest military force which was about 70,000. They desired the establishment of a buffer state in Siberia[7], and the Imperial Japanese army general staff viewed the situation in Russia as an opportunity for settling Japan's national security "northern problem". The Japanese government were also intensely hostile to communism.

The Italians created the special "Corpo di Spedizione" with Alpini troops sent from Italy and ex-POWs with Italian ethnicity from the former Austro-Hungarian army recruited in the Italian Legione Redenta. They were initially based in the Italian Concession in Tientsin and numbered about 2,500.

Romania, Greece, Poland, China and Serbia also sent small contingents in support of the intervention.

Russian Civil War

After the end of the war in Europe and the defeat of the Central Powers, the Allies openly supported the anti-bolshevik White forces.

Foreign forces throughout Russia

The positions of the Allied expeditionary forces and of the White Armies in European Russia, 1919

Numbers of foreign soldiers who occupied the indicated regions of Russia:

  • 50,000 Czechoslovaks (along the Trans-Siberian railway) [8]
  • 28,000 Japanese, later increased to 70,000 (in the Vladivostok region and north) [9][10]
  • 24,000 Greeks (in the Crimea)[11]
  • 40,000 British (in the Arkhangelsk and Vladivostok regions)[10]
  • 13,000 Americans (in the Arkhangelsk and Vladivostok regions)
  • 12,000 French and French colonial (mostly in the Arkhangelsk and Odessa regions)
  • 12,000 Poles (mostly in Crimea and Ukraine)
  • 4,000 Canadians (in the Arkhangelsk and Vladivostok regions)
  • 4,000 Serbs (in the Arkhangelsk region)
  • 4,000 Romanians (in the Arkhangelsk region)
  • 2,500 Italians (in the Arkhangelsk region and Siberia)[12]
  • 2,000 Chinese (in the Vladivostok region)
  • 150 Australians (mostly in the Arkhangelsk regions)


Northern Russia

Captured British Mark V tank in Arkhangelsk
Memorial to the victims of the intervention in Murmansk
  • British army (6th Yorkshire Regiment, 2/10th Royal Scots, some Royal Dublin Fusiliers 52 Bn Manchester Regt., others?)
  • Royal Navy (plus a detachment of 53 US Navy sailors - including Harold Gunnes - from the USS Olympia during August and September 1918 only)
  • Royal Air Force (Fairey Campania and Sopwith Baby seaplanes along with a single Sopwith Camel fighter)[1]
  • French army (21st Colonial Battalion)
  • Canadian Field Artillery (67th and 68th Batteries of the 16th Brigade, Canadian Field Artillery)
  • Slavo-British Allied Legion (aka SBAL, anti-Bolshevik forces, included Dyer's Battalion, British-trained and led)
  • White Russian Army (previously the army of Kerensky's provisional Russian government, anti-Bolshevik, led by General Evgenii Miller)
  • US army, American North Russia Expeditionary Force (aka Polar Bear Expedition, 310th Engineers, 339th Infantry, 337th Field Hospital, and 337th Ambulance Company)
  • US army, 167th and 168th Railroad Companies (sent to Murmansk to operate the Murmansk to Petrograd line)
  • Miscellaneous Allied troops from Poland, Serbia and Italy
  • British North Russian Relief Force (arrived in late May 1919 to cover the withdrawal of US and Allied troops)

Southern Russia and Ukraine

On the 18th of December 1918, a month after the Armistice, the French occupied Odessa. This began the intervention in Ukraine and Southern Russia which was to aid and supply General Denikin's White Army forces, the Volunteer Army, fighting the Bolsheviks there. The campaign involved French, Polish and Greek troops (I Army Corps, ca. 24,000 men under Major Gen. Konstantinos Nider). By April 1919 they were withdrawn,[11] before the defeat of the White Army's march against Moscow. General Wrangel reorganized his army in the Crimea; however, with the deteriorating situation, he and his soldiers fled Russia aboard Allied ships on 14 November 1920.


A Japanese lithograph showing troops occupying Blagoveschensk.

The joint Allied intervention began in August 1918.[13] The Japanese entered through Vladivostok and points along the Manchurian border with more than 70,000 troops eventually being deployed. The Japanese were joined by British[14] and later American, Canadian, French, Italian and Chinese troops. Elements of the Czechoslovak Legion[15] that had reached Vladivostok, greeted the allied forces. The Americans deployed the 27th Infantry and 31st Infantry regiments out of the Philippines, plus elements of the 12th, 13th and 62nd Infantry Regiments out of Camp Fremont[16]

The Japanese were expected to send only around 7,000 troops for the expedition. The deployment of such a large force for a rescue operation made the Allies wary of Japanese intentions.[17] On September 5, the Japanese linked up with the vanguard of the Czech Legion,[17] a few days later the British, Italian and French contingents joined the Czechs in an effort to re-establish the Eastern Front beyond the Urals; as a result the European allies trekked westwards.[18] The Japanese, with their own objectives in mind, refused to proceed west of Lake Baikal.[18] The Americans, suspicious of Japanese intentions, also stayed behind to keep an eye on them.[18] By November, the Japanese occupied all ports and major towns in the Russian Maritime Provinces and Siberia east of the city of Chita.[18]

The Allies lent their support to White Russian elements from the summer of 1918.[18] There were tensions between the two anti-Bolshevik factions; the White Russian government led by Admiral Alexander Kolchak and the Cossacks led by Grigoriy Semyonov and Ivan Kalmykov which also hampered efforts.

All allied forces were evacuated by 1920, apart from the Japanese who stayed until 1922.


Some British and Indian colonial forces operated in the Southern Caucasus region from 1919 to 1920 after fighting the Ottoman Empire. See also: 26 Baku Commissars

Trans Caspian Campaign

The first instance of allied mediation occurred on 11 August 1918, when General Malleson intervened in support of the Ashkhabad Executive Committee, who had ousted the Tashkent Soviet Bolsheviks from the western end of the Trans-Caspian Railway in July 1918. He sent the Machine Gun Section of the 19th Punjabi Rifles to Baraim Ali located on the Trans-Caspian Railway. After combat at Merv, they were joined by the rest of the regiment. There was further action at Kaka on 28 August, 11 and 18 September. They were reinforced on 25 September by two squadrons of the 28th Light Cavalry. Fighting alongside Trans Caspian troops, they subsequently fought at Arman Sagad (between 9 and 11 October) and Dushak (14 October). By 1 November they had re-occupied Merv and on instructions of the British government, halted their advance and took up defensive positions at Bairam Ali. The Trans-Caspian forces continued to attack the Bolsheviks to the north. After the Trans-Caspian forces were routed at Uch Aji, their commander Colonel Knollys sent the 28th Cavalry to their support at Annenkovo. In January 1919 one company of the 19th Punjabi Rifles was sent to reinforce the position at Annenkovo, where a second battle took place on 16 January. The British Government decided on 21 January to withdraw the force, and the last troops left for Persia on 5 April.[19]

Allied withdrawal

The allies withdrew in 1920. The Japanese stayed in the Maritime Provinces of the Russian Far East until 1922 and in northern Sakhalin until 1925[20], when US economic and diplomatic pressure, internal Japanese politics and the Red Army's military success forced Japan’s withdrawal from Russia.

See also


  1. ^ A History of Russia, 7th Edition, Nichlas V. Riasanovsky & Mark D. Steinberg, Oxford University Press, 2005
  2. ^ a b c Beyer, pp. 152–153
  3. ^ Intervention and the War by Richard Ullman, Princeton University Press, 1961, pp. 11–13
  4. ^ Joel R. Moore, Harry H. Mead and Lewis E. Jahns, The History of the American Expedition Fighting the Bolsheviki (Nashville, Tenn., The Battery Press, 2003), pp. 47–50
  5. ^ E.M. Halliday, When Hell Froze Over (New York City, NY, ibooks, inc., 2000), p. 44
  6. ^ Robert L. Willett, Russian Sideshow, pp. 166–167, 170
  7. ^ Humphreys, The Way of the Heavenly Sword: The Japanese Army in the 1920's, p. 25
  8. ^ Robert L. Willett, Russian Sideshow, p. xxiii
  9. ^ Guarding the Railroad, Taming the Cossacks The U.S. Army in Russia, 1918–1920, Smith, Gibson Bell (accessed 5 July 2007)
  10. ^ a b A History of Russia, 7th Edition, Nicholas V. Riasnaovsky & Mark D. Steinberg, Oxford University Press, 2005
  11. ^ a b (Greek) The Campaign in the Ukraine, at
  12. ^ A History of Russia, 7th Edition, Nicholas V. Riasanovsky & Mark D. Steinberg, Oxford University Press, 2005
  13. ^ Humphreys, The Way of the Heavenly Sword: The Japanese Army in the 1920’s, p. 25
  14. ^ British Army Siberia
  15. ^
  16. ^ Robert L. Willett, Russian Sideshow, pp. 166–167
  17. ^ a b Humphreys, The Way of the Heavenly Sword: The Japanese Army in the 1920's, p. 26
  18. ^ Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named Humphreys.2C_p._26; see Help:Cite error.
  19. ^ Operations in Trans-Caspia, Behind the Lines, accessed 23 September 2009
  20. ^ A History of Russia, 7th Edition, Nicholas V. Riasanovsky and Mark D. Steinberg, Oxford University Press, 2005

Template:Archangel 1918–1919, Field Marshal Lord Ironside, Constable 1953


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