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White Movement
Белое движение
Participant in the Russian Civil War
Flag of Russia.svg
Flag of the White Movement
Active 1917—1923
Ideology Anti-Bolshevism
Leaders
Strength 2,400,000 troops
Became White émigré
Allies Entente
Opponents  Russian SFSR
Nationalist movements
Battles/wars Southern FrontNorthern FrontEastern FrontYakut Revolt

The White movement (Russian: Белое движение, tr. Beloye dvizheniye), whose military arm was the White Army (Белая Армия, Belaya Armiya) aka the White Guard (Белая Гвардия, Belaya Gvardiya), and as the Whites (Белые and белогвардейцы “White Guardsmen”) comprised some of the politico-military Russian forces who unsuccessfully fought the Bolsheviks after the October Revolution and later the Red Army in the Russian Civil War (1917–23).

Contents

Structure and ideology

In the Russian context, White connoted three designations: (i) political contra-distinction to the Reds, whose revolutionary Red Army supported the Bolsheviks and Communism; (ii) historical reference to absolute monarchy, specifically united Russia’s first Tsar, Ivan III (1462–1505), styled “Albus Rex” (“White King”); and (iii) sartorially, that some White Army soldiers wore the white uniforms of Imperial Russia.

The White Army: The flag of the Battalion of Death, later integral to the Volunteer Army.

The White Army was a loose confederation of counter-revolutionary forces; besides being anti-Bolshevik Russian patriots, being professional soldiers, most White Army officers had no ideology. Among White Army leaders, neither General Lavr Kornilov nor General Denikin were monarchists, yet General Pyotr Nikolayevich Wrangel was a monarchist willing to soldier for an elected, democratic Russian government. In the event, despite most White Army officers being monarchists, the White Army was not monarchist in purpose, despite publicly presenting itself as such; however, the White Army generally believed in a united multinational Russia, and opposed separatists wanting to create nation-states instead of the Tsarist Russian Empire. The White Army’s rank-and-file comprised active anti-Bolsheviks, such as Cossacks, nobles, and peasants, as conscripts and volunteers.

Moreover, other political parties supported the anti-Bolshevik White Army, among them the democrats, the Socialist-Revolutionary Party, and others opposing Lenin’s Bolshevik October Revolution; yet, according to the time and place, those White Army supporters also exchanged right-wing allegiance for allegiance with the Red Army.

Some White leaders, especially General Wrangel, formulated ideology based on Russian traditionalism, the concepts of which were assumed and developed by the White émigrés, at Civil War’s end (1923), by intellectuals such as Ivan Ilyin; it philosophically resembled the Slavophiles’ beliefs. That became the “White Idea”, either developed or formulated as doctrine after the civil war; most organised veterans (i.e. the Russian All-Military Union), did believe it.

Imperial insigne: The Kolchak Government in Russia.

Although monarchism peaked among the White Movement, liberal republicanism was rarer. The liberal policies of Alexander Kerensky and his socialist-democratic provisional government were mostly responsible for preparing Imperial Russia for the October Revolution in 1917. In August 1922, two months before being defeated, the Far Eastern White Army of General Mikhail Diterikhs convened the Zemskiy Sobor of Preamursk, and elected (without his participation) the Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaievich Romanov as Tsar of all Russia.

There also existed the independent militaries such as the Green Army and the Revolutionary Insurrectionary Army of Ukraine aka the “Black Army” of Nestor Makhno, officially against the Communist Reds and the Monarchist Whites — although they did establish opportunistic alliances with either nemesis.

At times, the Western Allies, the Central Powers, and other foreign governments supported and armed White Army units, which allowed the Bolsheviks to accuse the White Army of anti-Russian treason, of representing the interests of foreign powers. Moreover, the White movement’s anti-Semitism embarrassed its Western sponsors, given the Bolshevik’s outlawing of anti-Semitism in Russia. Winston Churchill personally warned General Denikin, whose forces effected pogroms, that “my task in winning support in Parliament for the Russian Nationalist cause will be infinitely harder if well-authenticated complaints continue to be received from Jews in the zone of the Volunteer Armies“; General Denikin ignored Churchill’s warnings, and the pogroms continued. [1] In the event, White Army General Konstantin Sakharov, Adolf Hitler’s advisor about the USSR, acknowledged that “the White Movement was, in essence, the first manifestation of fascism”. [2]

Theatres of operation

                     Frontiers, 1921                      Bolshevik control, November 1918                      Maximum White Army advances

The Whites and the Reds fought the Russian Civil War from November 1917 until 1921, and isolated battles continued in the Far East until 1923. The White Army — aided by the Allied and (sometimes) the Central Powers forces such as Japan, Britain, Canada, France, Italy, United States, Germany, Australia, Greece, and Czechoslovakia, fought in Siberia, Ukraine, and the Crimea, but failed for being militarily and ideologically disunited — thus were defeated by the Red Army.

The main White Army war theatres were:

  • The Southern front: Started on November 15 1917 by General Mikhail Alekseev and commanded by General Lavr Kornilov, later headed by General Denikin and named the "Armed Forces of the South of Russia". The Southern Front featured massive-scale operations and was the most dangerous threat to the Bolshevik Government. At first, it was based entirely upon volunteers in Russia proper, mostly the Cossacks, among the first to oppose the Bolshevik Government. In 1919, after General Denikin’s attack upon Moscow failed, the Armed Forces of the South of Russia retreated. General Wrangel reorganized the army in Crimea, established a provisional government (recognised by France), and renewed his attacks, which quickly failed when the Polish chief-of-state Józef Piłsudski separately made peace with Bolshevik Russia to withdraw Poland from the Russian Civil War.
  • The Eastern (Siberian) front: Started in spring 1918, as a secret movement among army officers and right-wing socialist forces. In that front, they launched an attack in collaboration with the Czechoslovak Legions (then stranded in Siberia by the Bolshevik Government who barred them from leaving Russia). Admiral Kolchak headed that counter-revolutionary army and a provisional Russian government; despite some significant success in 1919, they were defeated and repelled to far eastern Russia, where they continued fighting until October 1922.

Post–Russian Civil War

The defeated anti-Bolshevik Russians congregated in Belgrade, Berlin, Paris, Harbin, Istanbul, and Shanghai, and established military and cultural networks that lasted through the Second World War (1939–45), e.g. the Russian community in Harbin and the Russian community in Shanghai); afterwards, the White Russian’s anti-Communist activities established a home base in the United States. Moreover, in the 1920s and the 1930s, the White Movement established organisations, outside of Russia, meant to depose the Soviet Government with guerrilla warfare, e.g. the Russian All-Military Union, the Brotherhood of Russian Truth, and the National Alliance of Russian Solidarists. Russian cadet corps were established to prepare the next generation of anti-Communists for the “spring campaign” — a hopeful term denoting a renewed military campaign to reconquer Russia from the Soviet Government. In the event, many cadets volunteered to fight for the Russian Corps during the Second World War, the White Russian participation in the Russian Liberation Movement.

Soviet historiography portrayed the White Movement’s anti-Bolshevik Russian Civil War as a war of foreign intervention against Russia; the White Army as composed of nobles and upper-classmen, and conscripted peasants; and White Army generals as monarchists financed by foreign governments and businessmen, (expelled) Russian landlords, and the Russian Orthodox Church.

Prominent persons of the White movement

See also

External links

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