Civil War


It was attacked by the armies of all the capitalist world. Moscow and Leningrad and the central part of Russia were separated by attacking armies from their chief food and fuel bases for two and a half years. The granary of the Ukraine, the coal of the Donetz, the oil of Baku, the mines of the Urals, the cotton of Turkestan were in enemy hands. At the height of the foreign intervention Soviet Russia was invaded by armies of 14 countries.
Strong, Anna L. The Soviets Expected It. New York, New York: The Dial press, 1941, p. 65

The factories were empty, the land unplowed, transport at a standstill. It seemed impossible that such a country could survive the fierce onslaught of an enemy with large, well-equipped armies, vast financial reserves, ample food, and other supplies.
Besieged on all sides by foreign invaders, imperiled by endless conspiracies at home, the Red Army retreated slowly across the countryside, fighting grimly as it went. The territory controlled by Moscow dwindled to 1/16 of Russia’s total area. It was a Soviet Island in an anti-Soviet sea.
Sayers and Kahn. The Great Conspiracy. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1946, p. 81

By the end of May 1918 only 1/6 of Russian territory was still under Bolshevik rule.
Cole, David M. Josef Stalin; Man of Steel. London, New York: Rich & Cowan, 1942, p. 46


Such a peace they described as a “peace without annexations and without indemnities,” a phrase later made famous by President Woodrow Wilson, who borrowed it from the Bolsheviks.
Strong, Anna L. The Soviets Expected It. New York, New York: The Dial press, 1941, p. 142


But to staff a proletarian class war army with officers drawn from its class enemies without first ensuring their political reliability, was to ask for trouble of a most fatal kind. This Trotsky did not see.
The results were to lead, among other things, to Trotsky’s first big conflict with Stalin. It arose from Stalin’s appointment as Commissar in charge of securing food supplies from the south of Russia.
Murphy, John Thomas. Stalin, London, John Lane, 1945, p. 125

Cautious as ever, Stalin had refrained from commenting on the recruitment of Czarist specialists until he had had time to test the scheme in operation. Two factors convinced him that the small gains in loyal servants did not compensate for the risk of treachery….
Due to the influence of Trotsky and his associates in the War Commissariat, Stalin’s attack upon the military specialists had been ignored. At Trotsky’s recommendation the supreme command of the Red Army was given to the 28 year old ex-lieutenant of the Guards, Mikhail Tukhachevsky.
Cole, David M. Josef Stalin; Man of Steel. London, New York: Rich & Cowan, 1942, p. 104

Nosovich’s treachery, and that of a number of other former tsarist officers, reinforced Stalin’s suspicions of the military experts which he had made no effort to hide.
Volkogonov, Dmitri. Stalin: Triumph and Tragedy. New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1991, p. 40

“Now I understand,” General Chtchadenko said, “how Comrade Stalin succeeded in solving our troubles at Tsaritsyn.
The telephone rang again.
“Who’s bothering us now?” Stalin asked. “Some idiot from the Commissariat, I suppose! Nadia, run upstairs and find out what it’s about.”
As she started up the stairs, Mdvani asked, “Are you going to stay in Moscow for a while, Koba, or are you going to keep on being Lenin’s traveling salesman?”
“I don’t know yet,” said my Uncle Joe. “I don’t ask anything better than to stay in Moscow, but the Old Man [Lenin] doesn’t seem to want me here. That’s Trotsky’s influence. He [Trotsky] hopes that I’ll break my neck in Tsaritsyn some day or that the Whites will capture me and hang me in the public square.”
Nadejda came hurrying down the stairs.
“They need you right away at Lenin’s, Sosso! Trotsky wants Voroshilov and Minin court-marshaled for insubordination to his orders; and he has named Sytin commander-in-chief on the southern front, and you are to take orders from him.”
Stalin’s face flushed scarlet.
“The S.O.B.!” he exploded. “Sytin! One of the Czar’s generals–and one of the shiftiest of them, too! I’m not taking any orders from him! I’m going to tell the Old Man [Lenin] what I think about that!”
How right my uncle’s instinct was history was to demonstrate later, when Sytin was discovered to be linked with the White Russian General Denikin.
Svanidze, Budu. My Uncle, Joseph Stalin. New York: Putnam, c1953, p. 45

To appease Trotsky Lenin had decided that Stalin be sent to the Eastern front to inquire into the question of drunkenness in the army. Kolchak’s army had invaded European Russia and taken Perm. The Third Army had fled in confusion, losing 18,000 men and a vast number of guns, especially machine guns, abandoning stores, ammunition, and transport. Trotsky’s pet ex-officers had deserted en mass to the side where their true sympathies lay.
And so, although going ostensibly to close up vodka shops and patch up discipline, Stalin was in reality setting off to perform the same service to the Soviet as when he went to Tsaritsyn the year before.
Graham, Stephen. Stalin. Port Washington, New York: Kennikat Press, 1970, p. 55

Stalin: Trotsky held to old officers, specialists, who often turned traitor.
We, on the contrary, selected people= loyal to the Revolution, people connected with the masses, by and large, noncommissioned officers from the lower ranks, although we were clearly aware of the enormous value of honest specialists.
Lenin had the impression at first that I did not give a damn for specialists. He called me in to see him in Moscow. Trotsky and Pyatakov tried to prove that and interceded for two specialists who had been fired by me. At that very moment, a report came in from the front that one of them had turned traitor and the other had deserted. Lenin, after reading the telegram, exposed Trotsky and Pyatakov and acknowledged the correctness of our actions.
Dimitrov, Georgi, The Diary of Georgi Dimitrov, 1933-1949. Ed. Ivo Banac. New Haven: Yale University Press, c2003, p. 132


By May 1918 the Soviet government was surrounded within a sixth of the territory of the country. But eight armies were defending the encircled Republic. They were not well equipped armies….
When Stalin was appointed to his new post he had no intention, nor had the government, that he should interfere with military affairs.
He had none of Trotsky’s inhibitions concerning the workers, and rejected outright Trotsky’s ideas about the Army.
Murphy, John Thomas. Stalin, London, John Lane, 1945, p. 126

But, using a plan of attack drawn up by Stalin as a member of the Revolutionary Military Committee, the Red Army initiated a sudden counter-offensive [against Denikin’s sweep toward Moscow].
Sayers and Kahn. The Great Conspiracy. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1946, p. 91

Voroshilov states, “The position became more and more strained. Comrade Stalin exercised enormous energy, and in the shortest possible time developed out of extraordinary plenipotentiary for food supplies, into the actual leader of all the Red forces in the Tsaritsyn front.
Life of Stalin, A Symposium. New York: Workers Library Publishers, 1930, p. 53

Voroshilov states, “And only Stalin, with his magnificent organizational capacities was able, having had no previous military training (Comrade Stalin had never served in any army!) so well to understand special military questions in the then extremely difficult circumstances.
Life of Stalin, A Symposium. New York: Workers Library Publishers, 1930, p. 59


To suggest that he now began to interfere with military affairs because he disliked Trotsky is absurd.
Murphy, John Thomas. Stalin, London, John Lane, 1945, p. 127

On arrival at Tsaritsyn Stalin found a very perilous military situation. The armies of the counter-revolution were investing [infesting] Tsaritsyn; and at the same time the city had become a place of refuge for counter-revolutionary elements. Large numbers of enemies of the Bolshevik Revolution had fled thither–officers of the Imperial army, high officials, and wealthy merchants. The enemy was not only beleaguering the city but within it as well, preparing to strike. Stalin, special plenipotentiary of the party, saw that his real task, the safeguarding of food supplies, could not be achieved unless the military problem was first solved. He assumed full powers for this purpose on his own responsibility. Strictly, in doing this he was incurring the guilt of what amounted to a punishable unauthorized initiative. He appropriated the supreme military authority, without any express instructions to do so from the center.
Within the city he set up a terrorist police organization which ruthlessly pursued the enemies of Bolshevism. Anyone who might be dangerous, anyone who might be open to suspicion, was eliminated. Stalin reported over the head of the local authorities, and over the head of the appointed Peoples Commissar, Trotsky, direct to the party executive and to Lenin. Formally he was infringing the laws of subordination in force even in the Red Army. He intervened also with iron resolution in matters of army personnel, with an energetic purge at the local headquarters. The enemies within the city were destroyed, the staffs of the Red troops subjected to a new and sharp discipline. The military plans came under his influence. And Tsaritsyn was saved. The first round of the civil war was won.
This brought Stalin’s first conflict with Trotsky.
Basseches, Nikolaus. Stalin. London, New York: Staples Press, 1952, p. 69

When he was sent to Tsaritsyn to carry out a commission quite un-connected with the military command, he seized the opportunity for a relentless initiative.
Basseches, Nikolaus. Stalin. London, New York: Staples Press, 1952, p. 85

Trotsky whole behavior showed that he regarded himself as above Stalin. And he made no secret of his displeasure…. Stalin made no attempt at self-defense, bowing before the storm of indignation of the supreme commander of the red army. Stalin maintained throughout a conciliatory attitude. The cause, he considered, mattered more than any personal issue.
Trotsky demanded Stalin’s recall, and protested against Stalin’s interference in military matters. Lenin, as usual, tried to smooth away the trouble. He acknowledged the reports and proposals of both parties, and then did nothing. He simply kept silent. It is stated that Stalin was nevertheless recalled at Trotsky’s instance; but not until he had done his job. In any case, Stalin had shown his military capacity. From then on he held a new post until the end of the Civil War: he was the party’s special plenipotentiary at the fronts.
One thing was clear: Stalin’s activity at Tsaritsyn had brought military success.
Basseches, Nikolaus. Stalin. London, New York: Staples Press, 1952, p. 70

In the summer of 1918 Stalin saved Russia and the Revolution.
British and French troops, united with White Russians, had made common cause with Muscovite counterrevolutionaries in order to destroy the Bolsheviks for all time. The stricken land lay in ruins: no railways, no weapons, and above all not enough bread–for the wheat belts of the Ukraine and Siberia had been cut off by the enemy. The only available wheat came from the Volga and Northern Caucasus, but had to be shipped on this river by way of the town of Tsaritsyn. In that district the small peasants were oppressed by the Kulaks and wheat speculators. Everything depended on the possibility of having Red troops–consisting mostly of badly armed workers with a cap on their head and a gun–transport the wheat into the country’s interior. The fate of the Revolution literally hung for several weeks on the defense of this town.
Stalin, arriving there with a few thousand workers, mistrusted the old Czarist officers who were playing a double game or at least under suspicion. But Trotsky, as Minister of War, opposed Stalin’s strategy and cabled other orders. Stalin threw them into the wastepaper basket or wrote on the top: “To be laid aside.” He saved the town, reconstructed this part of the disrupted army, and hindered the enemy from joining his allies in the Urals and on the Volga….
Ludwig, Emil, Stalin. New York, New York: G. P. Putnam’s sons, 1942, p. 63

Voroshilov states, “The chief work given to Stalin was the organization of food supplies to the northern provinces, and he was possessed of unlimited powers for the carrying out of his task….
Life of Stalin, A Symposium. New York: Workers Library Publishers, 1930, p. 55

On May 29, 1918, in connection with the increasingly grave food situation in Moscow and the central provinces of Russia, the Sovnarkom appointed Stalin general director for food supplies in the south of Russia and granted him extraordinary powers. In this capacity, on June 4 Stalin left for Tsaritsyn. There he found confusion and chaos not only in food and military matters but in transport, finance, and so on. Utilizing the authority granted him, Stalin took full power in the entire Tsaritsyn Region.
There is no doubt that he did significant work in restoring order and supplying food to the industrial centers of Russia….
Gradually Stalin assumed all the main military functions in the Northern Caucasus. He wrote to Lenin:
There’s a lot of grain in the south. In order to get it, we must have a smoothly functioning apparatus that will not encounter any obstacles from trains, army commanders, etc.. Also the military men have to help the food-supply people. The food question naturally gets intertwined with the military question. For the good of the cause I need military powers. I already wrote about this but received no answer. Very well, in that case I myself, without formalities, will remove those commanders and commissars who are ruining the cause. The interests of the cause prompt me to do this and the absence of any papers from Trotsky will not stop me.
Medvedev, Roy. Let History Judge. New York: Columbia University Press, 1989, p. 56

In 1919 Stalin was sent as a special plenipotentiary to the key Volga city of Tsaritsyn. His mission was simply to assure the delivery of food supplies from this entire region. What he found was a disastrous military situation, with the city not only surrounded by the White Army but heavily infiltrated by counter-revolutionary forces. He saw that the food supply could not be safeguarded unless the military and political situations were dealt with. He instituted an uncompromising purge of counter-revolutionary elements within both the officer corps and the political infrastructure, took personal command of the military forces over the heads of both the local authorities and Trotsky, and then proceeded to save the city, the region, and the food supply. Trotsky, furious, demanded his recall. As for the citizens of Tsaritsyn, their opinion became known six years later, when they renamed their city Stalingrad.
After this episode, rather than being recalled, Stalin was dispatched far and wide to every major front in the Civil War. In each and every place, he was able to win the immediate respect of the revolutionary people and to lead the way to military victory, even in the most desperate circumstances. Certain qualities emerged more and more clearly, acknowledged by both friends and enemies. These were his enormous practicality and efficiency, his worker-peasant outlook, and the unswerving way he proceeded to the heart of every problem. By the end of the war, Stalin was widely recognized as a man who knew how to run things, equality sorely lacking among most of the aristocratic intellectuals who then saw themselves as great proletarian leaders.
Franklin, Bruce, Ed. The Essential Stalin; Major Theoretical Writings. Garden City, New York: Anchor Books, 1972, p. 12

It was apart from Lenin, at the front in the Civil War, that Stalin first distinguished himself in a remarkable way.
Stalin saved Tsaritsyn and the wheat. The defense of Tsaritsyn against the Whites has been called in an exaggerated way the “Red Verdun.” It was Stalin who organized it, and for that reason the city bears today the name of Stalingrad.
Graham, Stephen. Stalin. Port Washington, New York: Kennikat Press, 1970, p. 43


With him, Kaganovich, and others whom he knew to be reliable Bolsheviks, Stalin established a cheka or committee to deal with counter-Revolution in the rear…. Nosovitch, the chief of military direction appointed by Trotsky, went over to the enemy.
Murphy, John Thomas. Stalin, London, John Lane, 1945, p. 128


The social Revolutionaries turned again to terrorism. Two Bolshevik leaders, Uritsky and Volodarsky, were assassinated, and Dora Kaplan attempted the assassination of Lenin. He was severely wounded, and undoubtedly the event shortened his life by years.
In the days immediately following the attempt on Lenin thousands were shot for merely looking bourgeois.
Murphy, John Thomas. Stalin, London, John Lane, 1945, p. 129

The masses, enraged that the dark forces of reaction had struck down the man who stood as the symbol of all their liberties and aspirations, struck back at the bourgeoisie and at the monarchists with the Red Terror.
Many of the bourgeoisie had to pay with their lives for the assassinations of the commissars and the attempt upon Lenin. So fierce was the wrath of the people that hundreds more would have perished had not Lenin pleaded with the people to restrain their fury. Through all the furor it is safe to say that he was the calmest man in Russia.
Williams, Albert R. Through the Russian Revolution. Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1967, p. 37

[In 1918] the demise of the Soviet regime seemed imminent, especially as it appeared that open season had been declared on its commissars. In Petrograd, the SR, Kanegisser shot and killed Uritsky; in July, commissar of the Latvian Riflemen, Nakhimson, was killed; food commissar of the Turkestan Republic, Pershin, died at the hands of insurgents in Tashkent; in May 1918, Podtelkov and Krivoshlykov, well known Bolsheviks of the Don Region, were hanged on a Cossack gallows; Lieutenant-General Alexander Taube, who had gone over to the Bolsheviks from the tsarist army to become commander of the Siberian headquarters, fell into White hands and was tortured. But the worst blow fell in Moscow, when, after speaking in front of the Mikhelson factory workers, Lenin were shot by the SR Fannie Kaplan.
Volkogonov, Dmitri. Stalin: Triumph and Tragedy. New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1991, p. 38

But already in July the left Social Revolutionaries provoked the first real outburst of Bolshevik terror. In an attempt to disrupt the peace and to force the Bolsheviks back into war against Germany, the left Social Revolutionary Jacob Blumkin assassinated the German Ambassador Count von Mirbach. A series of insurrections staged by the same party broke out in various places including Moscow, to which the Government transferred its seat after the conclusion of peace. On August 30 Lenin was wounded and two other Bolshevik leaders, Uritsky and Volodarsky, were assassinated by Social Revolutionaries. Trotsky narrowly escaped an attempt on his life. The Bolsheviks officially retorted with mass reprisals; and their self defense was at least as savage as the onslaught to which they had been subjected.
Deutscher, Isaac. Stalin; A Political Biography. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1967, p. 191

When Bolshevik leader Uritsky was assassinated in St. Petersburg, and Fanny Kaplan wounded Lenin, in an effort to assassinate him, a system of hostages was introduced, mass executions of innocent “class enemies” took place as reprisals and a “red terror” regime began.
Fishman and Hutton. The Private Life of Josif Stalin. London: W. H. Allen, 1962, p. 49

Yet we did not interfere with public expression of dissident views, although the Mensheviks deliberately sabotaged vital defense activity through their hold on the railway unions, and others elsewhere–until the assassination of Volodarsky and Uritsky and the murderous attempt on the life of Lenin, August 30, 1918. It was in those tragic days that something snapped in the heart of the revolution. It began to lose its “kindness” and forbearance. The sword of the Party received its final tempering. Resolution increased and, where necessary, ruthlessness, too.
Trotsky, Leon, Stalin. New York: Harper and Brothers Publishers, 1941, p. 338

Having deprived the parties and the Mensheviks and the Social Revolutionaries of the Right and Center of Soviet legality in June, 1918, after their direct participation in the Civil War against the Soviet government had been established not only through acts of individual terror, but sabotage, diversion, conspiracy and other overt acts of war, the Bolsheviks were compelled to add the Left Social Revolutionaries to the proscription list after the latter attempted their treacherous coup d’etat in July.
Trotsky, Leon, Stalin. New York: Harper and Brothers Publishers, 1941, p. 338


Should Kolchak be pursued and his forces completely smashed, or should all attention be diverted to defeat Denikin? Trotsky, who in his memoirs fully admits his blunder, decided on leaving Kolchak to concentrate on Denikin. Stalin was emphatically opposed to this plan, and the central committee supported him in his contention that such a decision would leave Kolchak time to recuperate…. The Red Army, he urged, must advance and “liquidate” him and his Army. It did advance, and Kolchak and his Army were liquidated.
Murphy, John Thomas. Stalin, London, John Lane, 1945, p. 131

Stalin now urged Lenin to remove Trotsky from his position as War Commissar. [Stalin wanted Trotsky out. Trotsky resigned. Lenin and the Central Committee refused his resignation. Stalin agreed and backed down]. But one thing is certain — by this time Stalin had become convinced that Trotsky was a danger to the Revolution.
Murphy, John Thomas. Stalin, London, John Lane, 1945, p. 132

Trotsky was given a new post which suited to his organizational and oratorical talents. He was made War Commissar…. Trotsky repeatedly opposed the military decisions of the Bolshevik Central Committee and flagrantly exceeded his authority. In several cases, only the direct intervention of the Central Committee prevented Trotsky from executing leading Bolshevik military representatives at the front who objected to his autocratic conduct.
In the summer of 1919 Trotsky, stating that Kolchak was no longer in menace in the East, proposed shifting the forces of the Red Army into the campaign against Denikin in the South. This, Stalin pointed out, would have given Kolchak a much needed breathing spell and the opportunity to reorganize and re-equip his Army and launch a fresh offensive. “The Urals with their works,” declared Stalin as military representative of the Central Committee, “with their network of railways, should not be left in Kolchak hands, because he could there easily collect the big farmers around him and advance to the Volga.” Trotsky’s plan was rejected by the Central Committee, and he took no further part in the campaign in the East, which led to the final defeat of Kolchak’s forces.
Sayers and Kahn. The Great Conspiracy. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1946, p. 191

In the fall of 1919 Trotsky drew up a plan for a campaign against Denikin. This plan called for a march through the Don Steppes, an almost roadless region filled with bands of counter revolutionary Cossacks. Stalin, who had been sent to the Southern Front by the Central Committee, rejected Trotsky’s plan and proposed instead that the Red Army advance across the Donetz Basin with its dense railroad network, coal supplies, and sympathetic working-class population. Stalin’s plan was accepted by the Central Committee. Trotsky was removed from the Southern Front, ordered not to interfere in with operations in the South, and “advised” not to cross the line of demarcation of the Southern Front. Denikin was defeated according to Stalin’s plan.
Sayers and Kahn. The Great Conspiracy. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1946, p. 191

Trotsky was trying to form a regular army. That required men of experience; so he enrolled officers of the old Imperial army. But they were unreliable. So were the army commanders who had risen from obscurity. Some of these proved traitors, some changed sides, among these latter the commander in the Caucasus…. The military specialists were also unreliable. At that time the whole Soviet State was decentralized. “All power to the local soviets”, ran the slogan.
Basseches, Nikolaus. Stalin. London, New York: Staples Press, 1952, p. 68

Quoting Nosovich Voroshilov states, “When Trotsky, worried because of the destruction of the command administrations formed by him, with such difficulty, sent a telegram concerning the necessity of leaving the staff, and the war commissariat on the previous footing and giving them a chance to work, Stalin wrote a categorical, most significant inscription on the telegram: ‘To be ignored’!”
Life of Stalin, A Symposium. New York: Workers Library Publishers, 1930, p. 58

The same message in which he [Stalin] asked for military powers gave the first hint of his conflict with Trotsky. It contained the following remark: ‘If only our war “specialists” (the shoemakers!) had not slept and been idle, the [military] line would not have been cut; and if the line is restored this will be so not because of the military but in spite of them.’ This was the point over which the famous Tsaritsyn dispute started.
Deutscher, Isaac. Stalin; A Political Biography. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1967, p. 197

The food transports from the northern Caucasus arrived in Moscow as Stalin had promised. Thus the Council of People’s Commissars had reason to be grateful to its envoy at Tsaritsyn. Stalin, having failed to receive an answer to his first and somewhat timid request for special military powers, insistently repeated his demand in a cable to Lenin dated July 10, 1918. The message, which was first published only in 1947, contained a violent attack on Trotsky, an attack which by implication was also a remonstrance with Lenin. If Trotsky continued to send his men to the northern Caucasus and the Don without the knowledge of the people on the spot, Stalin stated, then ‘within a month everything will go to pieces in the northern Caucasus and we shall irretrievably lose that land…. Rub this in to Trotsky…. For the good of the cause military plenary powers are indispensable to me here. I have written about this but received no reply. All right, then. In that case I alone shall, without any formalities, dismiss those commanders and commissars who ruin the job…. The lack of a paper mandate from Trotsky will, of course, not stop me.’
Deutscher, Isaac. Stalin; A Political Biography. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1967, p. 202

By the end of the summer of 1918 the danger that threatened Moscow from the east had been removed. As long as it existed the General Staff attached only secondary importance to the southern front. But in October the Czechs had been thrown back to the Urals, and Trotsky could turn his whole attention to the south, brooking no interference with his battle orders. The southern front was now too small for both antagonists. One of them had to go, and it was Stalin. Lenin did his best to sweeten the pill. He sent the President of the Republic Sverdlov to bring Stalin back to Moscow in a special train with all the necessary honors. The episode was characteristic of Lenin’s handling of the man: he had a shrewd eye for his weaknesses and was very careful not to offend needlessly his touchiness and amour propre. Trotsky’s manner was the exact opposite. The underrated his opponent, made no allowance for his ambition, and offended him at almost every step. This flowed from his natural manner rather than from deliberate intention. On its way to Moscow the train that carried Sverdlov and Stalin met Trotsky’s train which was bound for Tsaritsyn. Prepared by Sverdlov’s diplomatic labors, the meeting between the antagonists took place in Trotsky’s carriage. According to Trotsky’s version, Stalin somewhat meekly asked him not to treat the ‘Tsaritsyn boys’ too severely. Trotsky’s answer was sharp and haughty: ‘The fine boys will ruin the revolution which cannot wait for them to grow up.’ Subsequently Voroshilov was transferred from Tsaritsyn to the Ukraine.
Deutscher, Isaac. Stalin; A Political Biography. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1967, p. 205

Then Trotsky, in his capacity as War Minister, launched his first serious attack against his enemy Stalin, by ordering the Tsaritsyn comma­nders to obey only the orders of their Superior Sytin, but Stalin refused to accept Trotsky’s order. He left for Moscow to talk over matters with Lenin and six days later returned to Tsaritsyn and, backed by Voroshilov, took over again. The Whites once more managed to encircle the town but the so-called “Steel Division” succeeded in saving Tsaritsyn. Trotsky again, stung by his enemy’s tremendous success, induced Lenin to recall his “Miraculous Georgian” to Moscow, but Stalin stalled, and eventually established his claim to the victory.
Fishman and Hutton. The Private Life of Josif Stalin. London: W. H. Allen, 1962, p. 49

The rising importance and prestige of Stalin may be understood by the fact that before accepting the invitation of the revolutionary council to go to the Southern Front he stipulated that Trotsky should not be allowed to interfere in any way with the campaign there. He also obtained permission to retire the officers of Trotsky’s choice and replace them with men of his own choosing. This was the first great rebuff to Trotsky in the revolution and he received it at the hands of Stalin.
Graham, Stephen. Stalin. Port Washington, New York: Kennikat Press, 1970, p. 63

The Soviet gave Stalin carte blanche. Trotsky’s plan of campaign was shelved. Stalin took matters into his own hands, being nevertheless careful to keep in personal touch with Lenin by telegraph, informing him of his proposed changes and his plan of action. He poured scorn on Trotsky’s pet idea of an attack over the Steppes, calling it stupidity and obstinacy… “what does this cockerel know of strategy?” An advance through Cossack country could have but one effect, that of rousing the whole Cossack population to fury.
The new plan of campaign was for an advance through the center toward Little Russia with Kharkov as an objective, thence to threaten Rostov on the Don. “Here,” he wrote Lenin, “we would find ourselves among a friendly and not a hostile population which must facilitate our advance. We should find ourselves in possession of an important railway artery and cut the line Voronezh– Rostov which has been vital for Denikin’s supplies. We outflank the Cossacks and threaten them from the rear. If we are successful in our advance Denikin will most probably wish to reinforce his center with Cossacks which they will not want to do, and we could count on that breeding trouble among the Whites. Then we should get supplies of coal (from the Donetz Basin) and Denikin would be deprived of coal.”
Stalin urged Lenin to approve this plan of attack as the only one promising success, declaring that his presence on the Southern front would be a waste of time, “futile, criminal, useless” if the plan were over-ridden, and that he would in that case rather go to the devil than remain there.
Graham, Stephen. Stalin. Port Washington, New York: Kennikat Press, 1970, p. 64

On this Voroshilov comments: “The road from Tsaritsyn to Novorossisk might have turned out to be much longer because it went through an environment of class enemies. On the other hand the way from Tula to Novorossisk might prove much shorter because it went through working-class Kharkov and the mining region of the Donetz Basin. In Stalin’s estimation of the correct line of attack can be seen his chief quality as a proletarian revolutionary, the real strategist of the Civil War.”
Lenin signed the order for the cancellation of Trotsky’s instructions and the Central Soviet advised Stalin to go ahead. His judgment was at once confirmed by success.
Graham, Stephen. Stalin. Port Washington, New York: Kennikat Press, 1970, p. 65


Indeed, the whole conception of advancing on Warsaw was an error. For this Lenin was primarily responsible, and time and again he referred to it publicly as his mistake.
Murphy, John Thomas. Stalin, London, John Lane, 1945, p. 135

Lenin had demanded the disastrous Warsaw campaign. Stalin has been blamed for not abandoning Lemberg, but the real mistake was Lenin’s insistence on pushing the Polish invaders back as far as Warsaw.
Davis, Jerome. Behind Soviet Power. New York, N. Y.: The Readers’ Press, Inc., c1946, p. 23

Lenin was carried away by the vision of the Red Army in Warsaw and of a communist Poland giving its full support to the revolutionary movement. He felt acutely the isolation of Russia, which with all its internal problems was bearing the socialist banner alone. This vision was shared by many within the party and gave rise to a wave of enthusiasm, as members rallied to the cry “Onwards to Warsaw!” But there were realists, Stalin foremost among them, who saw the dangers of this policy. In June 1920 he wrote that “the rear of the Polish forces is homogeneous and nationally united. Its dominant mood is ‘the feeling for their native land.’… The class conflicts have not reached the strength needed to break through the sense of national unity.” It was a clear warning against accepting Lenin’s facile belief that the Polish proletariat was ready for revolution.
Grey, Ian. Stalin, Man of History. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1979, p. 136

The issues at stake were momentous. Lenin hoped that the entry of the Red Army into Poland would spur on the Polish working-class to Communist revolution. His main interest, however, was not in Poland but in Germany, which at the time was in a state of revolutionary ferment. His objective was to affect a junction between the Russian and the German revolutions….
Lenin was supported by Zinoviev and Kamenev, who, now as in 1917, saw little hope for communism in Russia without a revolution in the west. Underlying their policy was a gross under-estimation of the resistance which the Polish people, including the Polish working classes, enjoying the honeymoon of their national independence, were to put up to Soviet invasion.
A clearer view of the mood in Poland prompted both Trotsky and Stalin to oppose talk about a march on Warsaw. Even before the recapture of Kiev by the Reds, Stalin warned the party in Pravda that ‘the hinterland of the Polish forces is…to Poland’s advantage, very different from that of Kolchak and Denikin… It is nationally uniform and coherent…. Its predominant attitude is… patriotic…. If the Polish forces were to operate in Poland it would undoubtedly be difficult to fight against them.’ He repeated the warning in much blunter terms after the beginning of the Russian offensive: ‘I think that the bragging and the harmful complacency of some comrades are out of place: some of them are not content with the successes on the front but shout about a “march on Warsaw”; others, not satisfied with defending our republic against hostile aggression, boastfully declare that they could make peace only with “Red Soviet Warsaw”. I need not point out that this bragging and complacency conform neither with the policy of the Soviet Government, nor with the balance of forces on the front.’ After all the sober warnings, he cast his vote with the ‘bragging and complacent’ adherents of the offensive. The opponents of the march on Warsaw, Trotsky and the two Poles Dzerzhinsky and Radek (the famous Polish-German revolutionary pamphleteer who had joined the Bolsheviks) were defeated. As sometimes in the past, so now, Stalin was swayed by his master’s view, this time against his own better judgment.
Deutscher, Isaac. Stalin; a Political Biography. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1967, p. 215

The mutual criticisms were well justified, though the chief cause of the defeat lay not so much in the mistakes committed during the offensive as in the very decision to carry it deep into Poland.
Deutscher, Isaac. Stalin; a Political Biography. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1967, p. 217

The battle turned into a complete Soviet rout, with the Red Armies fleeing in disorder. In October an armistice was signed, in 1921 confirmed as the Peace of Riga. Far from becoming a Soviet republic, Poland now secured frontiers far to the east of the Curzon Line and including substantial Ukrainian and Byelorussian populations-a fact that would be of enormous importance in European politics between 1921 and the end of World War II.
…Who was responsible for this disastrous debacle for the Soviet Army? The primary political responsibility was undoubtedly Lenin’s, since he had persuaded himself that Polish workers and peasants were dying with impatience to greet Dzerzhinsky and his fellow Polish Bolsheviks (many of them also employees of the Cheka), while, as Stalin had correctly predicted, the Communist offensive in fact generated a patriotic upsurge among all classes of the population….
Ulam, Adam. Stalin; The Man and his Era. New York: Viking Press, 1973, p. 188


The intervention war did not the end until the closing months of 1922, when the last Japanese soldier left Vladivostok promising to return. By the end of 1920, however, all Russia in Europe and a part of Siberia were free from the foreign foe, and a counter-Revolution had been mastered…. I saw Regiment’s march through the streets of Leningrad and Moscow in 1920 clad in the uniforms of almost every country in Europe–French, British, Italian, German, Polish, Russian, and many others. If ever there was an Army which fought “with sweat and blood and tears,” clothed in rags and tatters, on a minimum of food, and pan with a minimum of equipment, it was this army of the Revolution between 1918 and 1922…. It is doubtful if at any period during these years the Red Army had rifles for more than 600,000 to 700,000 men, or more than 1000 guns and 3000 machine guns.
But one and all made the same mistake. They supported the forces which were for the restoration of the power of the landlords and for depriving the peasants of their new freedom of possession of their own land. This alone doomed intervention to disaster…. Not one government declared war on Soviet Russia, but 14 governments sent armies to make war or on her, to destroy her administration, to re-establish the landlords in possession of the land and the capitalists in possession of the factories, the mills, the mines, and the State.
Murphy, John Thomas. Stalin, London, John Lane, 1945, p. 138-139

Scarcely was the 1917 revolution concluded than civil war and armed intervention began. British, French, and American troops invaded northern Russia through Murmansk, and the port of Archangel was captured. British, Japanese, and American troops occupied Vladivostok. British armed forces seized the Georgian oil centers of Baku and Batum, where the young Stalin had led the oil workers’ struggles. The French army occupied Odessa. Polish forces invaded and occupied the Ukraine. In the meantime, reconstituted tsarist armies, supported by the imperialist governments, had begun a full-scale civil war. An army of 150,000 led by Gen. Denikin advanced into South Russia, seizing Kiev and Kharkov. Gen. Yudenich menaced Petrograd. In Siberia, Adm. Kolchak, with an army of 125,000, seized Perm and other towns, proclaimed himself Supreme Ruler of Russia, and threatened to advance upon Moscow.
Cameron, Kenneth Neill. Stalin, Man of Contradiction. Toronto: NC Press, c1987, p. 34

Let us draw near to what Mr. Winston Churchill, as Stalin recently recalled, defined as “The invasion of the fourteen nations.”
The Army of the White adventurer, Kolchak, champion of the Tsar, received from the French Government 1,700 machine guns, 30 tanks, and dozens of field guns. In Kolchak’s offensive thousands of Anglo-American soldiers, 70,000 Japanese soldiers and about 60,000 Czechoslovakian soldiers took part.
Denikin’s army of 60,000 men was entirely equipped in arms and munitions of war by England. It received 200,000 rifles, 2,000 guns, 30 tanks. Several hundred English officers acted as either advisers or instructors to Denikin’s Army.
The disembarkation of the Allies at Vladivostock comprised two Japanese divisions, two English battalions, 6,000 Americans, 3,000 French and Italians.
England’s spent in the Civil War in Russia 140 million pounds and (a less important item for the people meddling with the world) the lives of 50,000 soldiers.
From 1918 to 1921 England and France never ceased killing Russians and laying Russia waste. Let us just note, in parentheses, that, at the end of 1927, there were still 450 engineers and 17,000 workmen employed in repairing the damage done in one single oilfield in the Caucasus by the passage of Western civilization. And the destruction wrought in Russia by the monstrous interference of the great European and American countries may be estimated at about 44 billion gold rubles.
Barbusse, Henri. Stalin. New York: The Macmillan company, 1935, p. 112

Let us remember that the Whiteguards were mobilized in France, and made an armed state within the State, developing their various organizations and their military formations under the benevolent eye of the authorities…. These hired desperados of Czarism marched, fully armed, beneath the Arc de Triomphe,…
Barbusse, Henri. Stalin. New York: The Macmillan company, 1935, p. 113

The summer of 1918 brought further threats to Lenin and his government. The Allied intervention, instigated primarily by Winston Churchill, but supported by the United States, France, Japan, and Italy, had led to detachments of British, French, and American troops occupying Murmansk, Archangel, Vladivostock, and other Russian towns.
Grey, Ian. Stalin, Man of History. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1979, p. 120

To these famished, frozen, typhus-stricken Russians sailed no ships of goodwill laden with books, tools, teachers, and engineers but grim ships of war and transports laden with troops and officers, guns, and poison-gas. Landings were made at strategic points on the coast of Russia. Monarchists, landlords, and Black Hundreds flocked to these rallying centers. New White armies were conscripted, drilled, and equipped with hundreds of millions of dollars of supplies. The Interventionists started their drive on Moscow, seeking to plunge the sword into the heart of the Revolution.
Out of the East rolled the hordes of Kolchak following the trail of the Czechs across Siberia. Out of the West struck the armies of Finland, the Letts, and Lithuanians. Down from the forests and snowfields of the North moved the British, French, and Americans. Up from the seaports of the South plunged the tanks, airplanes, and Death Battalions of Denikin. Out of the Estonian marshes–Yudenich. Out of Poland– the veteran legions of Pilsudski. Out of the Crimea–the cavalry of Baron Wrangel.
Williams, Albert. Through the Russian Revolution. Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1967, p. 234


In all the regions that had been overrun by the armies, the richest food-growing regions of Russia, the marching forces of each side had requisitioned the reserves of the peasants, and the peasants had almost ceased producing. Thousands of draft animals had perished. Hospital and medical supplies were gone. There was a universal shortage of consumer goods. The paper roubles were almost valueless. The cities and the towns were in a hopeless state of despair. Nothing could be more drab and colourless than Petrograd as I saw it in 1920. Shop windows were boarded up. Streets were dangerous for vehicles because of their battered condition. Buildings grimly recorded the bespattering of their walls by machine-gun fire. Railways were cluttered with shattered rolling-stock. Not more than a tenth of the locomotives available at the outbreak of the Great War were running. Bridges by the thousand had been destroyed. Coal production was down to 7,000,000 tons per annum. There was a dearth of everything. Hunger stalked town and village alike, and brigandage was rife throughout the countryside. Money payments gave way to payments in kind. Industrial labour had shrunk to half pre-war figures and output was down to 18 per cent of the level of 1913. Ten million peasants were using wooden ploughs.
Murphy, John Thomas. Stalin, London, John Lane, 1945, p. 142


By the summer of 1919, without declaration of war, the forces of 14 states had invaded the territory of Soviet Russia. The countries involved were: Great Britain, France, Japan, Germany, Italy, the United States, Czechoslovakia, Serbia, China, Finland, Greece, Poland, Romania, and Turkey.
Sayers and Kahn. The Great Conspiracy. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1946, p. 79.

Instead of acting with vision and cooperating with revolutionary Russia the Allies decided to attack Russia from all sides, supporting every would-be tyrant and dictator who aspired to rule and could organize a band of mercenaries.
Davis, Jerome. Behind Soviet Power. New York, N. Y.: The Readers’ Press, Inc., c1946, p. 93


The Red Troops, Commanded by General Tukachevsky and War Commissar Leon Trotsky had dangerously over-extended their lines of communications. Now they suffered the consequences, as the Polish counter offensive drove them back along the entire front.
Sayers and Kahn. The Great Conspiracy. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1946, p. 94


There were a few sincere nationalists among them, but the white armies were overwhelmingly dominated by reactionaries who were the prototypes of the fascist officers and adventurers who were later to emerge in central Europe.
Sayers and Kahn. The Great Conspiracy. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1946, p. 100


The former Social Revolutionary terrorist, Blumkin, the assassin of Count Mirbach, became chief of Trotsky’s personal bodyguard.
Trotsky also allied himself with a number of former Tsarist officers whom he befriended and, despite frequent warnings from the Bolshevik Party, placed in important military posts. One ex tsarist officer whom Trotsky became intimately associated with in 1920, during the Polish campaign, was Tukhachevsky, a military leader with Napoleonic ambitions of his own.
The aim of the combined Left Opposition was to supplant Lenin and take power in Soviet Russia.
Sayers and Kahn. The Great Conspiracy. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1946, p. 193


Where the vengeance of the Cheka claimed hundreds of victims, private spite took a toll of thousands and tens of thousands. Just imagine what it meant in practice. If a wife was tired of her husband or he of his wife, if a servant had a grudge against his former master or an employee against his former boss, it meant a few words to the Cheka and then–silence.
Duranty, Walter. Duranty Reports Russia. New York: The Viking Press, 1934, p. 117

In point of fact, is doubtful whether the total number of Cheka executions throughout the whole period up to 1922 surpasses 50,000….
Though lives were cheap in Russia and Cheka leaders pitiless in defending the revolution when in danger, they would have defeated their own object by the wholesale slaughter of workers and peasants on the scale reported abroad. Nor are such men as Dzerzhinsky or Latsis, now head of the State Salt Trust, the bestial butchers they have been depicted.
Duranty, Walter. Duranty Reports Russia. New York: The Viking Press, 1934, p. 118

The “Chekists” soon came and took me off with them. They cross-examined me without any of the tortures or “scientific methods” of which professional anti-Soviet writers abroad have told such alarming stories.
Tokaev, Grigori. Betrayal of an Ideal. Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press, 1955, p. 47


I am certain that the same was true of the Civil War in Russia, and I know, moreover, that when soldiers of any faction were reported in the neighborhood of the average Russian Village, the first act of its inhabitants was to drive their cattle off into Woods or some other place of refuge. After that scouts were sent to report whether the soldiers were red or white. If the former the local priest made himself scarce and the newcomers were “hailed with delight” by the village Soviet. If the troops were white, they received an official welcome from the council of elders led by the priest bearing a holy icon.
Duranty, Walter. I Write as I Please. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1935, p. 195


The desertion of officers from the Red side to the White was an event of daily occurrence in the Civil War. At Tsaritsyn, and again on the Ural front, the Fifth Column was particularly strongly represented among the staff officers of the Red Army and among the population. There was treason everywhere.
Basseches, Nikolaus. Stalin. London, New York: Staples Press, 1952, p. 73

The “Reds”, needless to say, had no such Fifth Column among the “Whites”, the counter-revolutionaries.
Basseches, Nikolaus. Stalin. London, New York: Staples Press, 1952, p. 72


Stalin’s activities at Tsaritsyn and in the Urals, and later on other fronts, were not those of a strategist so much as of the sword of the revolution in the struggle against the Fifth Column. This he himself admitted, half unconsciously, in a letter which will be referred to later. Here in the Urals Stalin’s energy came once more into play; and not only in the struggle against the Fifth Column, or in the reorganization of the staffs. He restored the fighting capacity of the Third Army as an organization. He secured from the central Government the dispatch of reinforcements, and Perm was re-taken by the Reds. But in the course of his fulfillment of this task there came further friction with the actual head of the Red Army, Trotsky. Once more Trotsky demanded Stalin’s recall; and Lenin repeated his tactic of at first completely ignoring this quarrel between Trotsky and Stalin, sending no answer to Trotsky’s demand, and then recalling Stalin when he had done his work.
Basseches, Nikolaus. Stalin. London, New York: Staples Press, 1952, p. 74

In recognition of his activity in defending the town of Tsaritsyn, the so-called “Red Verdun” of the lower Volga, against the troops of the Cossack general Krasnov, the name Tsaritsyn was changed to Stalingrad.
Chamberlin, William Henry. Soviet Russia. Boston: Little, Brown, 1930, p. 90

Moreover at the very time that Stalin was recalled to Moscow he was, at Trotsky’s suggestion, appointed a member of the Revolutionary Military Council of the Republic….
On January 1, 1919, Stalin and Dzerzhinsky were sent to the Eastern Front to investigate setbacks suffered there by the Red Army, particularly the causes of the surrender of Perm. After the situation on the Eastern Front improved, Stalin— and Dzerzhinsky returned to Moscow.
Medvedev, Roy. Let History Judge. New York: Columbia University Press, 1989, p. 59

There is no question that Stalin contributed to the successful defense of Tsaritsyn from the Ataman Krasnov’s Cossack bands in 1918, and thus an extremely important strategic bastion was preserved from the Whites.
Ulam, Adam. Stalin; The Man and his Era. New York: Viking Press, 1973, p. 176

Late in 1918 Stalin was sent on a fact-finding mission to Siberia, where he salvaged a collapsing wing of Trotsky’s Red Army.
Richardson, Rosamond. Stalin’s Shadow. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1994, p. 70


Stalin’s next commission required actual collaboration with Trotsky… It is difficult to tell who contributed the more to the defense of Petrograd, Trotsky or Stalin.
Basseches, Nikolaus. Stalin. London, New York: Staples Press, 1952, p. 75

Stalin evolved a plan for the use of the Red Navy to capture the two forts that threatened the city by an attack on them from the sea. The Naval specialists declared that this was impossible. Stalin nevertheless went on with his plan, and won. His success was a first proof of his strategic gifts. He was no longer simply the “purger”, or the reorganizer of army commands; for the first time he had elaborated a strategic plan and won with it.
Both Trotsky and Stalin were decorated for their defense of Petrograd.
Lenin accordingly wanted to abandon Petrograd for the time. Trotsky, the official commander of the Armed Forces of the Revolution, was against this plan. Stalin at once supported Trotsky.
Basseches, Nikolaus. Stalin. London, New York: Staples Press, 1952, p. 76

The White threat to Petrograd in May 1919 brought him [Stalin] there on a special mission, and, predictably, he discovered there a major plot of treason, found the directives of the commander-in-chief (Trotsky’s protEgE) harmful, and saved the day by his initiative–all of which developments he communicated without inhibition to Lenin.
Ulam, Adam. Stalin; The Man and his Era. New York: Viking Press, 1973, p. 182

And what had saved the day in the field? Stalin’s “indelicate interference” had led to the Reds’ recapture of the crucial forts of Red Hill and Gray Horse. The naval specialists resisted his orders, protesting that they violated the rules of naval science. But, said Stalin, “I feel bound to declare that for all my respect for science, I will act the same way in the future.”
…Stalin displayed real talents in command. He did not panic. He immediately assessed the enemy’s weak points: on the Northern Front the Whites had “neither sufficient rear space, nor adequate manpower, nor food.”…
Ulam, Adam. Stalin; The Man and his Era. New York: Viking Press, 1973, p. 183

It was Stalin who won the Battle of Petrograd; but he won it as an abrek not as a general. On his return to Moscow he was welcomed as a triumphant conqueror.
Delbars, Yves. The Real Stalin. London, Allen & Unwin, 1951, p. 114

It began very successfully for Yudenich. Feeling that we would not be able to manage all the fronts simultaneously, Lenin proposed to surrender Petrograd. I opposed it. The majority of the Politburo, including Stalin, decided to support me.
Trotsky, Leon, Stalin. New York: Harper and Brothers Publishers, 1941, p. 308


There now remained only one threatened front in the civil war, the front held by Denikin’s volunteer army, later commanded in the Crimea by General Wrangel. On that front Stalin met old acquaintances from Tsaritsyn–Voroshilov, Budenny, Frunze, and other revolutionary army leaders. They formed a group in which Stalin felt at home. These commanders were not intellectuals, although Frunze, the son of a non–commissioned officer of the regular army, had studied for a time at a technical college. It was, indeed, the robust lower middle-class environment in which Stalin could let himself go–his own class, among whom he had not to feel the unexpressed sense of superiority of the intellectuals. Before undertaking this new task Stalin made conditions, or, rather, a condition. He openly revealed his opposition to Trotsky. After his successes in the Urals and at Petrograd, he was no longer prepared to put up with Trotsky’s arrogance. He demanded that it should be clearly understood that Trotsky must no longer interfere with his activities. He went further: Trotsky must not even approach a front on which he, Stalin, was serving as special plenipotentiary of the central Government, lest he should upset Stalin’s authority. The whole southern front was to be withdrawn from Trotsky’s sphere. He also demanded the recall of a number of officials, and also the appointment of new commanders, of his own choice, on the southern front. Stalin’s new self-confidence proved to be well justified. Lenin agreed to his demands.


Here on the southern front Stalin’s great strategic talent showed itself unmistakably. For he was no longer content with carrying out his famous purges on the front placed under him: as in Petrograd, he had the military plans submitted to him. His report to the Central Committee of the party was now that of a strategist. He rejected and annulled the plan of the supreme command on the southern front. The plan had provided for a breakthrough from west to east, through the Don basin. As the Red troops had suffered a setback, this plan had not been carried out, but the supreme command had held to the plan. One of the army commanders, Korin, had been ordered to advance over the Don steppes against Novocherkask. Stalin rejected this plan, giving some military reasons for doing so: ‘The steppes are not suited for a crossing by infantry and artillery.’ But his main reason was that the military specialists had paid no attention to the political conditions. In one of his reports to the Central Committee he pointed out that such a thrust would automatically have the effect of an attack on the villages of the Don Cossacks. The advance as planned would lead through a region whose population was strongly opposed to the revolution and the Soviet power. The Cossacks would naturally defend themselves, greatly strengthening the position of the enemy, as it would enable Denikin to assume the role of rescuer of the Don region. Stalin demanded the immediate abandonment of the plan. The attack must not be directed over the Don steppes against Novocherkask, but from Kharkov in the direction of Rostov. The Red troops would then be marching through the Donetz basin, through an industrial, mining region, with a population friendly to Bolshevism. Stalin foresaw that this advance would split the enemy armies into three groups, with a number of political results. In the event, for instance, of a retreat the counter-revolutionaries would require the Cossacks to evacuate their villages, and in view of the mentality of those peasant soldiers this would undoubtedly lead to a conflict between Cossacks and the military leaders of the counter-revolution.
The Central Committee accepted Stalin’s view. The old plan was thrown over, and Stalin’s plan was carried through–to success. Stalin, who had only recently spoken of himself as a ‘civilian’, had revealed his great strategic talent.
Basseches, Nikolaus. Stalin. London, New York: Staples Press, 1952, p. 77-79

On another occasion he formulated conditions to Lenin: he wanted the original plan of operations dropped and his own substituted. “If that is not done, my work on the southern front becomes pointless and criminal. That gives me the right or rather imposes on me the duty, to go to the devil rather than remain here. Yours, Stalin.”
Similarly as in Tsaritsyn, Stalin threw back the Germans in the Ukraine, liberating Kharkov twice in the years 1918 and 1919. To somebody listening today, in the summer of 1942, to the war reports on the radio, the recurrence of the same battles in the same place seems completely dreamlike….
Ludwig, Emil, Stalin. New York, New York: G. P. Putnam’s sons, 1942, p. 65

Denikin was routed and fled to the sea. The great Southern fighting force of the Whites was destroyed and though out of its ruin emerged the puny, bedraggled army of general Wrangel occupying the Crimea, the menace to the Soviet State was definitely lifted.
Graham, Stephen. Stalin. Port Washington, New York: Kennikat Press, 1970, p. 66


Not a little of Stalin’s strategic strength on the southern front lay in the fact that, consciously or unconsciously, he concentrated the troops he had and sent them in this or the other direction. What he did was essentially to restrict the bluffing character of the operations in the south and to lead the attack in an entirely realistic fashion. This was bound to give him superiority over the enemy’s thinned-out front.
History shows over and over again how on the battlefield a clear-sighted amateur who possessed, as did Stalin, strategic ability and a certain courage facing the facts, was able to beat the professional strategists, who were handicapped by their traditional training.
Basseches, Nikolaus. Stalin. London, New York: Staples Press, 1952, p. 81

His success justified his ambition. Tsaritsyn was a success, the Urals were another, and Petrograd and the southern front were yet greater successes.
In Petrograd he had made his first attempt to be his own general as well.
Basseches, Nikolaus. Stalin. London, New York: Staples Press, 1952, p. 86

Taking advantage of the preoccupation of the main Red Army with the pursuit and annihilation of Admiral Kolchak, his ally in the South, Gen. Denikin had commenced a rapid advance in the direction of Moscow. The Soviet armies on this front were under the sole direction of Stalin and his immediate subordinates, Voroshilov and Minin. The campaign against Denikin therefore, serves as a practical illustration of Stalin’s capacities in the military as well as the purely political sphere. We have already seen indications of his inspiring leadership in the heroic defense of Tsaritsyn in face of overwhelming odds; now he was to deal with a problem involving the fate, not only of one city, but of the whole of Soviet Russia.
Reinforced by sections of the victorious Siberian armies, Stalin and Voroshilov brought the advance of the Whites to a sudden halt and, as new divisions continued to arrive, the invader was slowly pushed back towards his base lines around Kiev.
As if to deny Stalin the victory he had so carefully planned, a new enemy appeared in the north. Having recruited a powerful army of White Russians, French, and Poles, Gen. Yudenich crossed the Estonian border into Russia and finding no serious opposition, commenced an advance on Petrograd.
This presented Stalin with a cruel choice at which a lesser man would certainly have balked; should he weaken his own forces by sending them against Yudenich or should he maintain his successful drive against Denikin? Lenin, tremendously impressed by his lieutenant’s military successes, seriously advised the abandonment of Petrograd until such time as Stalin had liquidated Denikin, proposing to eject Yudenich at a later date.
This provoked the one recorded instance were Stalin opposed a decision of Lenin; he demanded that Petrograd be defended to the last as Tsaritsyn had been defended a few months before. To assist in the defense of the city he undertook to detach half the effective strength of his own forces, leaving the remainder to resist Denikin’s counter-offensive as best they might. He found an unexpected ally in this debate in Trotsky who, for once, made no secret of his admiration for what he termed “Stalin’s Revolutionary zeal.”
In face of this unusual combination, and impressed by Stalin’s disinterested loyalty in placing the saving of Petrograd before his own military requirements, Lenin yielded, even going so far as to defend Stalin’s views at the meeting of the Soviet Commissar’s which discussed the problem.
Cole, David M. Josef Stalin; Man of Steel. London, New York: Rich & Cowan, 1942, p. 47

Eleven days later Stalin entered Baku as a deliverer, while Denikin was hurriedly evacuating his broken armies at the Black Sea port of Novorosisk. Having seen his grandiose schemes smashed by the genius of a man who had never received a single day’s orthodox military training, Gen. Denikin gave up his command and fled to Constantinople, leaving his troops to try and reach the White army of Gen. Wrangel in the Crimea as best they could.
On this note of personal triumph for Stalin, the liquidation of the Czarist forces from Russia was completed. The Bolshevik Central Committee was loud in its praise of Stalin’s remarkable achievement, he was twice decorated with the coveted Order of the Red Flag and was unanimously elected to the Supreme Revolutionary War Council. Among the many tributes paid him was one from his old opponent, Karl Radek, who admitted in an article in Pravda of February 23, 1935: “Stalin was the leader of the proletarian army and the military genius of the civil war.”
…it is certainly possible that the abilities of Wrangel might have brought success to Czarism even at this 11th hour, had he not been opposed by a man of the caliber of Stalin.
…with Stalin’s entry into Sebastopol on November 15, 1920, the last vestige of Czarism disappeared forever.
Cole, David M. Josef Stalin; Man of Steel. London, New York: Rich & Cowan, 1942, p. 50

It seems that Stalin also contributed to the decisions on the third and fourth fronts in 1919. On the northern front he, in command of the army, hindered the union of Kolchak’s troops with the Czechs. When General Yudenich, with Finnish and British troops and ships, went against St. Petersburg, Stalin forced him to retreat.
But during those days of the Civil War, Stalin never had the power which the Central Committee entrusted to Trotsky. Lenin’s confidence in a dozen instances gave Trotsky carte blanche by a general approval of all orders issued by Trotsky for a given date. Stalin, on the other hand, was always restricted to specific tasks.
Ludwig, Emil, Stalin. New York, New York: G. P. Putnam’s sons, 1942, p. 66

Voroshilov states, “As he became closer and closer in touch with the military apparatus, Comrade Stalin became convinced of its absolute helplessness, and in certain sections of its direct unwillingness to organize resistance to the ever more insolent counter-revolution.
Life of Stalin, A Symposium. New York: Workers Library Publishers, 1930, p. 52

Voroshilov states, “These were days of great trial. You should have seen Comrade Stalin at that time. Calm as usual, deep in thought, he literally had no sleep for days on end, distributing his intensive work between the fighting positions and the Army Headquarters.
Life of Stalin, A Symposium. New York: Workers Library Publishers, 1930, p. 59

Voroshilov states, “And one more characteristic was shown absolutely clearly on the Southern front–Stalin’s way of working with ‘shock troops,’ his way of choosing the main direction for the army to take, concentrating the best sections of the army, and crushing the enemy. In this respect, and also in the selection of the direction for the army to take, Stalin achieved great skill.
Life of Stalin, A Symposium. New York: Workers Library Publishers, 1930, p. 76

Voroshilov states, “What is most apparent is Comrade Stalin’s capacity of quickly to grasping the concrete circumstances and acting in accordance with them. The most relentless enemy of mental slovenliness, indiscipline, and individualism in warfare, Comrade Stalin, where the interests of the revolution so demanded, never hesitated to take upon himself the responsibility for exceptional measures, for radical changes; where the revolutionary situation so demanded, Comrade Stalin was ready to go against any regulations, any principal of subordination.
Comrade Stalin was always an advocate of the most strict military discipline and centralization in conditions,…
Life of Stalin, A Symposium. New York: Workers Library Publishers, 1930, p. 79

Voroshilov states, “Comrade Stalin always insisted on personal responsibility for work undertaken, and was physically incapable of tolerating ‘departmental red tape.’
Comrade Stalin paid great attention to the organization of supplies to the troops. He knew and understood the meaning of good food and warm clothes for the soldiers. At Tsaritsyn and Perm, and on the Southern front, he left no stone unturned to guarantee supplies to the troops and thus make them stronger and steadier.
Life of Stalin, A Symposium. New York: Workers Library Publishers, 1930, p. 80

He knew the ways of winning men. He has always been a good mixer, with personal qualities that make very few enemies and many loyal friends. During the civil war, on the front near Petrograd, Stalin noticed that one of the soldiers did not cheer him as a commander, which is Red Army custom. He halted and asked why. The soldier said nothing but pointed to his feet. It was December and he was wearing straw sandals. Stalin took off his boots and gave them to the soldier, putting the sandals on his own feet. He wore them for many days.
Davis, Jerome. Behind Soviet Power. New York, N. Y.: The Readers’ Press, Inc., c1946, p. 49

Stalin was not a military man. Nevertheless he coped ably with the leadership of the armed forces. Ably. There was no people’s commissar heading the air force but Stalin. The Navy, led by Stalin, and the artillery, led by Stalin.
Chuev, Feliks. Molotov Remembers. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1993, p. 202

CHUEV: Golovanov, in his memoirs, writes that Stalin, and not the marshal of artillery Voronov, determined the main thrust of artillery at Stalingrad.
MOLOTOV: That’s right.
Chuev, Feliks. Molotov Remembers. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1993, p. 202

He (Stalin) made numerous visits to all the fronts at the request of the Central Committee, and his reports back to them and to Lenin and others show that the same organizational talents demonstrated in the pre-revolutionary period and in the revolution were applied to the war situation. Everywhere he showed his characteristic common-sense realism, unerringly pointing to key weaknesses and proposing practical solutions. He shuttled between the eastern front, against Kolchak, the southern front, against Denikin, and the Petrograd front, against Yudenich. Nor was his role confined to that of organizational specialist. It was his plan for the attack on Denikin–approved by the Central Committee–that resulted in the final defeat of his armies in the freeing of Kiev and Kharkov.
Cameron, Kenneth Neill. Stalin, Man of Contradiction. Toronto: NC Press, c1987, p. 35

Is it true that Stalin really was an outstanding military thinker, a major contributor to the development of the Armed Forces and an expert in tactical and strategic principles?
From the military standpoint I have studied Stalin most thoroughly, for I entered the war together with him and together with him I ended it.
Stalin mastered the technique of the organization of front operations and operations by groups of fronts and guided them with skill, thoroughly understanding complicated strategic questions. He displayed his ability as Commander-in-Chief beginning with Stalingrad.
In guiding the armed struggle as a whole, Stalin was assisted by his natural intelligence and profound intuition. He had a knack of grasping the main link in the strategic situation so as to organize opposition to the enemy and conduct a major offensive operation. He was certainly a worthy Supreme Commander.
Here Stalin’s merit lies in the fact that he correctly appraised the advice offered by the military experts and then in summarized form–in instructions, directives, and regulations–immediately circulated them among the troops for practical guidance.
As regards the material and technical organization of operations, the buildup of strategic reserves, of the organization of production of materiel. and troop supplies, Stalin did prove himself to be an outstanding organizer. And it would be unfair if we, the Soviet people, failed to pay tribute to him for it.
Cameron, Kenneth Neill. Stalin, Man of Contradiction. Toronto: NC Press, c1987, APPENDIX 1
Portrait of Stalin by Zhukov, p. 143

“There were times, especially in October, 1919, at which the new Republic seemed to be on the point of succumbing. But neither the White Armies, nor Poland’s entry into the war, nor the peasant risings, nor famine could overcome its indomitable will-power, and, galvanized by Lenin, it’s ragged battalions triumphed over fourteen nations.” These words appeared in a report by Monsieur Mallet, a reactionary journalist who had the capitalist cause at heart and was, in every respect, very much biased.
At this point I want to reveal the personal part played by Stalin during this period.
Wherever on the Civil War front the danger was greatest, there Stalin was sent.
“Between 1918 and 1920, Stalin was the only man whom the Central Committee kept sending from one front to another, to the point at which the Revolution was in the gravest peril.” ( Kalinin.)
“Wherever the Red Army faltered, whenever the counter-revolutionary forces were piling success on success, when at any moment the excitement and confusion and discouragement might turn into panic, at that point Stalin would arrive. He would not sleep a wink, but would take complete charge and would organize, smash, and drive until the turning point was reached and the situation was in hand.” (Kaganovich)
Barbusse, Henri. Stalin. New York: The Macmillan company, 1935, p. 61

So that, in his own words: “I was turned into a specialist for cleaning out the Augean stables of the War Department.”
This is one of the most astonishing periods of Stalin’s career, and one of which the least is known. The way in which he behaved, and the success which he obtained on the battle fronts during two years, would have been sufficient to make a professional soldier famous and a popular hero.
Here are a few glimpses which Voroshilov and Kaganovich give us into the “military work” during this turbulent time of the man whom Kaganovich calls: “One of the most famous organizers of the victories of the Civil War.”
In the course of two years, Stalin found himself on the Tsaritsyn front with Voroshilov & Minim, on the Third Corps front at Perm with Dzerzhinsky, on the Petrograd front (against Yudenich’s first advance), on the western front at Smolensk (the Polish counter-offensive), on the southern front (against Denikin), again on the Polish front in the west, in the region of Jitomir, and again on the southern front (against Wrangel).
Barbusse, Henri. Stalin. New York: The Macmillan company, 1935, p. 62

Increasingly Lenin had come to rely on Stalin, who was in most things the antithesis of Trotsky. He rarely addressed the troops or meetings of any kind, but when he did he spoke in simple terms. He was the realist, who coldly assessed men and situations, and was usually sound in his conclusions. He remained calm and self-possessed. He was difficult only in his antagonisms towards certain people and when his advice was rejected.
Grey, Ian. Stalin, Man of History. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1979, p. 140

His [Zhukov] relations with Stalin were on occasions stormy, but they were based on mutual respect. From many incidents related by Zhukov in his memoirs, written after Stalin’s death, it is clear that he never questioned Stalin’s authority and that he regarded him as a leader of profound wisdom and mastery of affairs, even in the military field.
Grey, Ian. Stalin, Man of History. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1979, p. 315

Stalin dominated the [ Tehran] conference. He was brief and incisive in his comments, clear about his objectives, patient and inexorable in pursuing them. Brooke considered that he had an outstanding military brain, and observed that in all his statements he never once failed to appreciate all the implications of a situation with quick, unerring eye, and “in this respect he stood out compared with Roosevelt and Churchill.” The head of the U.S. military mission in Moscow had noted that no one could fail to recognize “the qualities of greatness in the man.” Combined with this essential greatness, there was a charm and at times a human warmth….
Grey, Ian. Stalin, Man of History. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1979, p. 388

Taking care not to show surprise at the question, Konev replied after a little thought, “Stalin is universally gifted. He is brilliantly able to see the war as a whole and this makes it possible for him to direct it so successfully.”
Grey, Ian. Stalin, Man of History. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1979, p. 395

It was his victory, too, because he had directed and controlled every branch of Russian operations throughout the war. The range and burden of his responsibilities were extraordinary, but day by day without a break for the four years of the war he exercised direct command of the Russian forces and control over supplies, war industries, and government policy, including foreign policy.
As he himself acknowledged, he had made mistakes and miscalculations, some with tragic consequences and heavy casualties. The first and perhaps the greatest of his mistakes was his political misjudgment of German plans to invade Russia. He had obdurately refused to believe that Hitler would launch his invasion in June 1941, and, seeking to buy time by placating him, he had taken none of the obvious defense measures.
Again he had been held solely responsible for the terrible Russian losses of 1941 and 1942, and criticized for not following the traditional Russian strategy of retreating into the vastness of the Russian plain….
Defenses organized in depth, however, would hardly have halted the surge of the highly mechanized Wehrmacht in 1941. It had effortlessly crushed the Polish Army, which some British military experts in 1939 had rated above the Red Army in efficiency and morale. It had conquered France and expelled the British from the continent. Acutely aware of the inadequacies of the Russian defenses and the weakness of the Red Army in 1941, Stalin knew that they could not withstand a German attack. He gambled for time so that his urgent mechanization and training programs could build up the Red Army’s strength. He lost the gamble.
Stalin knew the military history of his country and well understood the strategy of falling back and using its great spaces. By temperament, however, he was positive and aggressive, eager to attack rather than defend, and this was characteristic of his conduct of Russian strategy throughout the war. He was at the same time capable of tremendous self-control, as he demonstrated in waiting for the Germans to attack in the battle of Kursk, and in general during 1943-45 he was constantly on guard against premature and ill-prepared offensives.
Grey, Ian. Stalin, Man of History. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1979, p. 420

From the first months of the war Stalin gathered around him able senior officers, rejuvenating the High Command. He chose them on merit, and, an astute judge of men, he was constantly raising fairly junior officers to high rank. By the time of the battle of Moscow, he had selected his key commanders in Zhukov, Vasilevsky, Rokossovsky, Konev, and Voronov. To them were added by the time of the battle of Stalingrad Vatutin, Eremenko, Malinovsky, Meretskov, Cherniakhovsky, and others.
Stalin was unchallenged as supreme commander. His most able generals, like Zhukov, Rokossovsky, Konev, and others, who were outstanding among the generals of all countries involved in the war, accepted his authority unquestioningly. In fact, he dominated them not by virtue of office but by force of character and intellect. He inspired deepest respect and also affection. At times he exploded in anger, demanding immediate action; at other times he spoke gently, encouraging and inspiring confidence.
With his disciplined mind and tenacious memory he developed considerable military expertise and technical knowledge. Western officers and engineers present at discussions with him were impressed by his quick and accurate understanding. Alan Brooke, chief of the British general staff, remarked on several occasions on his mastery of military matters. His own commanders considered their reports carefully before submitting them, for he would unfailing way put his finger on any weakness or loose thinking in their presentation…. Moreover, as Zhukov stated, he was always prepared to reverse his own opinions when presented with sound reasons. But he made the final decisions.
Grey, Ian. Stalin, Man of History. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1979, p. 422

It was his victory, above all, because it had been won by his genius and labors, heroic in scale. The Russian people had looked to him for leadership, and he had not failed them. His speeches of July 3 and November 6, 1941, which had steeled them for the trials of war, and his presence in Moscow during the great battle for the city, had demonstrated his will to victory. He was for them a semi-mystical figure, enthroned in the Kremlin, who inspired them and gave them positive direction. He had the capacity of attending to detail and keeping in mind the broad picture, and, while remembering the past and immersed in the present, he was constantly looking ahead to the future.
Grey, Ian. Stalin, Man of History. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1979, p. 424

In examining Stalin’s strategic thinking, I have to say right away that he was superior to many of his advisers in a number fields,…. As Supreme Commander-in-chief his strength lay in his absolute power. But it was not this alone that raised him above the other military leaders. Unlike them, he could see the profound dependence of the armed struggle on an entire spectrum of other, non-military factors: economic, social, technical, political, diplomatic, ideological and national. Better than the other members of the Headquarters Staff, he knew the country’s real possibilities in terms of its agriculture and industry. His thinking was more global, and it was this that placed him above the others in the military leadership. The military facet was only one of many.
Volkogonov, Dmitri. Stalin: Triumph and Tragedy. New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1991, p. 474

It was while the military strength of the Soviets was at its nadir that the revolts of the Social Revolutionaries and the attempt on Lenin’s life took place.
At that moment of supreme danger, nearly all members of the government left Moscow and hurried to the most vital sectors of the front. At the Kremlin Lenin with the few technical assistants directed the entire struggle, keeping in constant touch with the men on the spot. Two men were sent to retrieve the position where it looked most menacing. To try to save the capital from the military threat the Commissar of War, Trotsky, set out in his armored train, which was to become legendary in the civil war, to Svyazhsk, near Kazan. Stalin, accompanied by an armed guard of nearly battalion strength, went to Tsaritsyn on the Volga to try to save the capital from the starvation that threatened it. He was to arrange the transport of grain from the northern Caucasus to Moscow. His assignment, which was essentially civilian, was expected to last a short time, after which he was to proceed further south to Baku. But his stay at Tsaritsyn was prolonged by unforeseen circumstances; and the longer it lasted the deeper did it involve himself in the conduct of the civil war in the south and in a controversy with Trotsky, until in the end his trip to the Volga town became a landmark in his career.
Deutscher, Isaac. Stalin; A Political Biography. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1967, p. 195

The day after his arrival on June 7, 1918, he reported to Lenin on his first moves. He found a ‘bacchanalia of profiteering’ in the Volga area and his first step was to decree the rationing of food and control of prices at Tsaritsyn. The Soviet official in charge of trade would be arrested. ‘Tell Schmidt [The Commissar of Labor] not to send such rascals any more.’ This was the language of the energetic administrator with a penchant for control and repression–both, given all the circumstances, probably justified. He had no liking for the ultra-democratic chaos that was left over from the Revolution. ‘Railway transport has been completely disorganized by the joint efforts of a multitude of Collegium’s and revolutionary Committees.’ After they had deposed the old managements in industry and administration, the Bolsheviks first tried control by committee. They were now engaged in scrapping that ultra-democratic but unworkable system and re-establishing individual management and individual responsibility. The left Communists passionately objected to the change. Stalin left no doubt where he stood. He appointed commissars to overcome the chaos in transport.
After a month at Tsaritsyn he asked for special military powers on the southern front. In view of the operations of Krasnov’s Cossacks, the provisioning of Moscow had become primarily a military matter. In reply to a communication from Lenin on the outbreak of the Social Revolutionary mutinies, he assured Moscow that ‘everything will be done to prevent possible surprises here. Rest assured that our hand will not tremble.’ The rail connection between Tsaritsyn and the farming land of the northern Caucasus ‘has not yet been restored. I am driving and scolding everybody who needs it. Rest assured that we shall spare nobody, neither ourselves nor others, and that we shall deliver the bread….’ In his messages practical soberness mixed with a queer relish for expressions of ruthless determination.
Deutscher, Isaac. Stalin; A Political Biography. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1967, p. 196

The regeneration of the army, of its morale, and of its commanding staff was one of Russia’s most remarkable achievements, for which credit was due to Stalin.
Deutscher, Isaac. Stalin; A Political Biography. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1967, p. 497

It must be admitted that Koba is a first-rate tactician….
Litvinov, Maksim Maksimovich. Notes for a Journal. New York: Morrow, 1955, p. 111

At that time Lenin was continually receiving official military reports from both Trotsky and Stalin simultaneously. Trotsky’s reports are known to us from his published memoirs; but up to the present only a few of Stalin’s reports have been seen in print. One of these, which was sent in the autumn of 1919 and makes only 70 lines on the printed page, threw over the whole official strategic plan and introduced another. This was accepted by the Government in Moscow. The result of Stalin’s 70 lines of print was to change the whole situation in Russia’s favor. Denikin was driven into the Black Sea and the Ukraine was liberated. Here was another proof that successful strategy in war does not come from the plans thought out by the professors in military academies but rather from the practical man-on-the-spot who understands all the immediate circumstances and has the character and insight to seize the decisive moment.
Ludwig, Emil. Leaders of Europe. London: I. Nicholson and Watson Ltd., 1934, p. 362

In the message to Lenin of July 7 already quoted, Stalin had pressed to be given military as well as civilian authority. Three days later, Stalin sent a further message:
“For the good of the cause I must have military powers… but I have received no reply. Very well. In that event I myself, without formalities, will remove the army commanders and commissars who are ruining things. That’s what the interest of the cause bids me do, and naturally the absence of a piece of paper from Trotsky won’t stop me.”
Bullock, Alan. Hitler and Stalin: Parallel Lives. New York: Knopf, 1992, p. 99

Charged with restoring the passage of grain from this turbulent region, Stalin shouldered a weighty burden. But he never flinched; he carried his responsibilities with pride and imparted his determination to his fellow travelers.
Service, Robert. Stalin. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press, 2005, p. 165

he [Stalin] spent the Civil War mainly on or near the fighting fronts. Recalled to Moscow in October 1918, he resumed his work in the Party Central Committee and Sovnarkom. But by December he was off again. The White Army of Admiral Kolchak had swept into the Urals city of Perm and destroyed the Red Army units there. Stalin and Dzerzhinsky were sent to conduct an inquiry into the reasons for the military disaster. They returned and made their report at the end of January 1919. Stalin stayed in Moscow again until being dispatched in May to Petrograd and the Western Front against the invasion by General Yudenich from Estonia. In July he moved on to a different sector of the same front at Smolensk. In September he was transferred to the Southern Front, where he stayed into 1920.
Service, Robert. Stalin. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press, 2005, p. 172

The Central Committee recognized his worth by its successive use of him on the Southern Front, the Western Front, again the Southern Front, the South-Western Front and the Caucasian Front. Qualities which earned him praise were his decisiveness, determination, energy, and willingness to take responsibility for critical and unpredictable situations.
Service, Robert. Stalin. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press, 2005, p. 173

Avoidance of unnecessary risk was one thing, and Stalin took this to an extreme. But it is scarcely fair on Stalin to claim that he was a coward. Probably his behavior stemmed rather from an excessive estimate of his own indispensablility to the war effort. He looked on his military and political subordinates and thought they could not cope without him. Nor was he afraid of personal responsibility once he had got over the shock of 22 June 1941. He lived or died by his success in leading army and government. He exhausted every bone in his body for that purpose. And Zhukov credited Stalin with making up for his original military ignorance and inexperience. He went on studying during the fighting, and with his exceptional capacity for hard work he was able to raise himself to the level where he could understand most of the military complexities in Stavka [the Supreme military command]. Khrushchev later caricatured Stalin as having tried to follow the campaigns on a small globe he kept in his office, and this image has been reproduced in many subsequent accounts. In fact Stalin, while scaring his commanders and often making wholly unrealistic demands upon them, earned their professional admiration.
Service, Robert. Stalin. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press, 2005, p. 457

I would only add that Stalin was just as categorical with other people. He required similar discipline from every representative of the GHQ. We were permitted to move as we thought fit only within the boundaries of the fronts whose actions we were to coordinate. If we wished to move to other fronts we had to obtain special permission from Stalin. My feeling is that the lack of any indulgence to a GHQ representative was justified in the interests of efficient control of hostilities. Stalin very attentively followed the course of events at the front, quickly reacted to all changes in them and firmly held troop control in his own hands.
Vasilevskii, Aleksandr M. A Lifelong Cause. Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1981, p. 285

Pestkovsky writes that Stalin became “Lenin’s deputy in the leadership of fighting revolutionary actions. He was in charge of watching after military operations on the Don, the Ukraine, and in other parts of Russia.
Trotsky, Leon, Stalin. New York: Harper and Brothers Publishers, 1941, p. 246

The front attracted him [Stalin], because here for the first time he could work with the most finished of all the administrative machines, the military machine. As a member of the Revolutionary Council of War who was at the same time a member of the Central Committee of the Party, he was inevitably the dominant figure in every Council of War, in every army, on every front. When others hesitated, he decided. He could command, and each command was followed by a practically automatic execution of his order .
Trotsky, Leon, Stalin. New York: Harper and Brothers Publishers, 1941, p. 295
Not until 1941 was Stalin to participate again in military command. His introduction to this art in 1918-20 had not been without its frustrations and defeats, but Stalin had emerged not only on the winning side, but also as a political-military chief whose contribution to the Red victory was second only to Trotsky’s. Stalin had played a smaller role than his rival in the overall organization of the Red Army, but he had been more important in providing direction on crucial fronts. If his reputation as a hero was far below Trotsky’s, this has less to do with objective merit than with Stalin’s lack of flair, at this stage of his career, for self-advertisement.
McNeal, Robert, Stalin: Man and Ruler. New York: New York University Press, 1988, p. 63

Stalin, although not a trained soldier, absorbed military knowledge in the Russian Civil War, where he moved from one chaotic front to another. His role in civil war strategy is documented in war records and memoirs. In one operation, he mounted an unorthodox seaborne assault, which military professionals opposed, calling it too risky. When it proved successful, Stalin told Lenin that he had lost faith in ‘experts’. He was deeply involved in a series of important military operations and dutifully telegraphed the results to Lenin.
Axell, Albert. Stalin’s War: Through the Eyes of His Commanders. London, Arms and Armour Press. 1997, p. 14


Stalin’s contributions to victory in the Civil War are beyond dispute.
He had had unqualified success in the tasks assigned to him. In accordance with the tradition of the Bolshevik party, his resolution in action, his initiative in emergency, and his independence often to the verge of rebellion against discipline, were credited to him as high virtues. He had been justified by success, and that was the thing that mattered above all.
Basseches, Nikolaus. Stalin. London, New York: Staples Press, 1952, p. 87


It was plain, however, that in spite of all Stalin’s proved ability the intellectual nucleus of the party executive had not the least intention of giving him any high position in the State, or any high military post; and he himself seems to have made no effort to secure one.
Basseches, Nikolaus. Stalin. London, New York: Staples Press, 1952, p. 88


Stalin had given entire satisfaction, carrying out the orders and directives with care and accuracy and without any attempt to push himself forward. This record stood in his favor in connection with the post of secretary of the party.
Basseches, Nikolaus. Stalin. London, New York: Staples Press, 1952, p. 90


Had not Trotsky ordered every tenth man in his troops to be shot when the troops fell back in the civil war?
Basseches, Nikolaus. Stalin. London, New York: Staples Press, 1952, p. 309

Trotsky shot down those sailors whom he had previously called the pride of the revolution. This is why, in his autobiography, he devotes only two lines to this ghastly incident.
Ludwig, Emil, Stalin. New York, New York: G. P. Putnam’s sons, 1942, p. 75

Also Trotsky, though more of a philosopher, did not recoil from terrorism. Trotsky, had he been in Stalin’s place, would have concluded the pact with the Germans, forseeing that one of the parties would break it.
Ludwig, Emil, Stalin. New York, New York: G. P. Putnam’s sons, 1942, p. 111

As the struggle progressed, it was easily dramatized and personified as a fight between Stalin and Trotsky, who did indeed represent opposite poles and had moreover been long on unfriendly terms. I spoke earlier of their clash at the siege of Tsaritsyn ( Stalingrad), and other contemporary stories illustrate their mutual hostility. For instance, Trotsky once was holding a meeting of army commanders at the front, and had given orders to the sentry that no interruptions were permitted on pain of death. Stalin arrived from Petrograd as representative of the Supreme War Committee, brushed the sentry aside and interrupted Trotsky’s conference.
Trotsky greeted him quietly, but when the council was over he had the sentry condemned to death for disobeying the orders. The next day the local Red forces held a parade in honor of Stalin and his colleagues of the Committee. When it was over a firing squad appeared on the parade ground, and sentence of death was read over the unlucky sentry.
Before Stalin could protest, Trotsky made a Napoleonic gesture. “This soldier,” he said, “deserves death for disobedience to orders, because obedience, no matter what be the circumstances, is a soldier’s first duty. But he has a splendid record of courage and devotion, therefore I have decided to exercise my powers as Commissar of War to cancel the verdict of the court-martial and dismiss him with a warning.”
The troops roared applause, but Stalin went back to Petrograd with a sour report for Lenin about Trotsky’s “aping the arrogance of a Tsarist general.”
Duranty, Walter. Story of Soviet Russia. Philadelphia, N. Y.: JB Lippincott Co. 1944, p. 104

As Joel Carmichael writes:
“Trotsky also gave full expression to the ferocity inherent in civil war; in the nature of things anything short of the death penalty can be thought rectifiable by the victory of one’s own side.
Trotsky’s wholehearted identification with an Idea made him implacable–“merciless” was a favorite word of his own. He had a certain admiral (Shchastny) executed on an indictment of sabotage. This admiral had been appointed by the Bolsheviks themselves; he had saved the Baltic Sea Fleet from the Germans and with great difficulty brought it from Helsingfors to Kronstadt and the mouth of the Neva. He was very popular among the sailors; because of his strong position vis-a-vis the new regime he behaved quite independently. This is what annoyed Trotsky, who was, in fact, the only witness to appear against him, and who denounced him without itemizing any charges; he simply said in court that [Shchastny] was a dangerous state criminal who ought to be mercilessly punished….
Trotsky also instituted a savage general measure– the keeping of hostages: he had a register made up of the families of officers fighting at the fronts.”
Medvedev, Roy. Let History Judge. New York: Columbia University Press, 1989, p. 105

Suffice it to say that what the Soviet government did reluctantly at Kronstadt was a tragic necessity; naturally, the revolutionary government could not have “presented” the fortress that protected Petrograd to the insurgent sailors only because a few dubious Anarchists and Social Revolutionaries were sponsoring a handful of reactionary peasants and soldiers in rebellion. Similar considerations were involved in the case of Makhno and other potentially revolutionary elements that were perhaps well-meaning but definitely ill-acting.
Far from spurning the cooperation of revolutionists of all the currents of Socialism, the Bolsheviks of the heroic era of the revolution eagerly sought it on every occasion and made every possible concession to secure it. For example, Lenin and I seriously considered at one time allotting certain territories to the Anarchists, naturally with the consent of the local population, and letting them carry on their experiment of a stateless social order there. That project died in the discussion stage through no fault of ours. The Anarchist movement itself failed to pass the test of actual events on the proving ground of the Russian Revolution. Many of the ablest and sanest of the Anarchists decided that they could serve their cause best by joining the ranks of our Party.
Trotsky, Leon, Stalin. New York: Harper and Brothers Publishers, 1941, p. 337

Another well-known incident was his taking of harsh reprisals against a regiment that abandoned its position without orders. Trotsky ordered not only the commander and the commissar but also every tenth Red Army man in the regiment to be shot.
Through such severity Trotsky accumulated many enemies among party and military workers.
Medvedev, Roy. Let History Judge. New York: Columbia University Press, 1989, p. 105

After the battle [with Wrangel], Trotsky is said to have ordered the execution of the surviving 5000 Makhno followers.
Pipes, Richard. Russia under the Bolshevik Regime. New York: A.A. Knopf, 1993, p. 134

Trotsky had not shrunk from using terror in the Civil War; but he can be said to have been as little fond of it as a surgeon is fond of bloodshed.
Deutscher, Isaac. Stalin; A Political Biography. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1967, p. 292

During the period when Trotsky held power, he was, whatever his personal magnetism, a ruthless imposer of the Party’s will who firmly crushed the democratic opposition within the Party and fully supported the rules which in 1921 gave the ruling group total authority. And the crushing of the Kronstadt rebellion was as much his personal battle honor as the seizure of power had been. He was the leading figure among the doctrinaire Leftist Bolsheviks who were finding it hard to stomach Lenin’s concessions to the peasantry, and preferred a far more rigorous regime, even before Stalin came round to the same view. Trotsky might have carried out such policies less crudely than Stalin. But he would have used, as ever, as much violence as he thought necessary–and that would not have been a small amount.
Conquest, Robert. The Great Terror. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 412

… He [Trotsky] had shown himself no less ruthless than Stalin. Indeed, at the time of the Civil War, he had ordered executions on a greater scale than Stalin or anyone else….
Conquest, Robert. The Great Terror. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 413

After the fall of Kazan, Trotsky left for the front and signed an order with the following warning: no mercy for the enemies of the people, the agents of imperialism, or the lackeys of the bourgeoisie…. Showing his fist of steel, he ordered the commander and the commissar of a regiment shot because they had retreated without orders. The execution of the commander did not produce any commentary; that of the commissar (a man named Panteleev) was a real sacrilege in the eyes of the Communists because one of their own had been shot. The incident was discussed throughout the civil war;…
Nekrich and Heller. Utopia in Power. New York: Summit Books, c1986, p. 81

(The recollection that Trotsky had had a Communist commissar, Panteleev, shot was also very much alive among the Old Bolsheviks.)
Nekrich and Heller. Utopia in Power. New York: Summit Books, c1986, p. 161

Trotsky was also reviled for shooting political commissars for disobedience or cowardice.
Service, Robert. Stalin. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press, 2005, p. 169

To add to the beauty of this system, Trotsky proposed the idea of vast labor camps to build socialism.
Richardson, Rosamond. Stalin’s Shadow. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1994, p. 69

Now that Trotsky was no longer in power, my informant had no reason to hide his feelings. It was astonishing to find so much hatred towards Trotsky in a man so profoundly demoralized. Yet his hatred was as violent as it had been on the first day. To him, Trotsky was neither the hero of the October revolution nor the chief of the victorious Red Army, but only the bloody executioner who had subdued the popular revolt of Kronstadt. He did not like the Trotskyists and had no great liking for me.
Ciliga, Ante, The Russian Enigma. London: Ink Links, 1979, p. 182


The Kerensky Government refused even to recognize the independence of Finland, though Finland had always been an independent State, bound to Russia only by a single constitutional bond, that of a common dynasty.
Basseches, Nikolaus. Stalin. London, New York: Staples Press, 1952, p. 331

Finland’s independence was a direct gift from the Bolshevik Revolution. When the Tsar fell, Finland, then part of the Russian empire, asked for independence. The Kerensky government refused. Neither Britain, France, nor the USA then wanted Finland’s independence, which implied the breakup of the tsarist empire, their ally in the first world war. As soon as the Bolsheviks took power, Stalin, then Commissar of Nationalities, moved that Finland’s request be granted, saying: “Since the Finnish people… definitely demand… independence, the proletarian state…cannot but meet the demand.”
Strong, Anna Louise. The Stalin Era. New York: Mainstream, 1956, p. 74


Much of what has been said about the “lack of morality” of the Bolsheviks gives evidence of a mental narrowness and inability to appreciate the real reasons for the lawlessness which was admittedly used. Lenin, Stalin, Krassin, and many a hundred others gained nothing for themselves from the escapades of their subordinates. Kamo allowed his comrades a mere 50 kopeks a day. Their whole lives were governed by the hope that, by their efforts, a new and better system should sweep the Romanovs into oblivion. Who will lightly condemn the steps they took to achieve that end? Lenin himself summed up the position with admirable fairness: “That man who is afraid to soil the whiteness of his hands should not go into politics.”
Cole, David M. Josef Stalin; Man of Steel. London, New York: Rich & Cowan, 1942, p. 31

The strength of the government is in fact determined by the strength of this group of leaders….
Their private lives are reputedly clean. It is generally admitted that there is no graft in high places. Their habits are relatively simple.
Davies, Joseph E. Mission to Moscow. New York, N. Y.: Simon and Schuster, c1941, p. 404

In one, perhaps unsuspected, respect, many Americans find the Russians a bit stuffy. That is in their moral outlook. This may come as something of a surprise after the deluge of false propaganda, when the Soviets first came to power, about “free love” and “nationalization of women”. There were certain excesses among Russian young people, particularly intellectual groups, after the Revolution, but this was frowned upon by the Communist leaders, who are often almost puritanical in their private lives and attitudes. I saw recent examples of this when I was last in the Soviet Union. Some American relief shipments contained playing cards. The Russians did not like this at all. Cards are, I found out, associated with gambling in their minds.
Davis, Jerome. Behind Soviet Power. New York, N. Y.: The Readers’ Press, Inc., c1946, p. 84

One of the big surprises in these documents is that the Stalinists said the same things to each other behind closed doors that they said to the public: in this regard their “hidden transcripts” differed little from their public ones.
Getty & Naumov, The Road to Terror. New Haven, Conn.: Yale Univ. Press, c1999, p. 22


Because of his acknowledged success as a propagandist and his ability to inspire crowds, Trotsky was given the job of “Commissar for War,” with complete power, subject to the approval of Lenin and Stalin. The drawbacks to this choice were very soon demonstrated.
Cole, David M. Josef Stalin; Man of Steel. London, New York: Rich & Cowan, 1942, p. 45


In the summer of 1918 the territory under Soviet control shrank to a few starving provinces around Petrograd and Moscow; and only the most desperate display of revolutionary energy staved off what seemed to be an inevitable collapse.
Chamberlin, William Henry. Soviet Russia. Boston: Little, Brown, 1930, p. 31

In the second place the Soviet had to cope with a hundred new obstacles–desertion of the intelligentsia, strike of the old officials, sabotage of the technicians, excommunication by the church, the blockade by the Allies. It was cut off from the grain fields of the Ukraine, the oilfields of Baku, the coal mines of the Don, the cotton of Turkestan–fuel and food reserves were gone. “Now,” said their enemies, “the bony hand of hunger will clutch the people by their throat and bring them to their senses.” To prevent supply trains reaching the cities, agents of the imperialists dynamited the railway bridges and put emery into the locomotive bearings.
Williams, Albert. Through the Russian Revolution. Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1967, p. 233

He [Stalin] appealed to the soldiers to draw inspiration from the memories of the civil war, when ‘three-quarters of our country was in the hands of foreign interventionists’ and the young Soviet Republic had no army of its own and no allies.
Deutscher, Isaac. Stalin; A Political Biography. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1967, p. 468


The Civil War in Russia was fought along class rather than territorial lines, the Bolsheviks finding their chief support in the industrial workers, while the motive power in the White movement was furnished by the former propertied and official classes, which had suffered most in the revolutionary upheaval. The peasantry, which constituted the majority of the population, wavered uncertainly in its attitude, now raising insurrections against the ruthless grain requisitions which the Bolsheviks employed to feed the starving cities, now turning sharply against the Whites when they saw that the victory of the latter threatened the return of the hated landlords. If one may judge from the intensity and scope of the insurrections, the peasants regarded the Bolsheviks as the lesser of two evils, perhaps because they felt that some day the requisitions would cease, whereas the return of the landlords would mean the permanent loss of the land which they had seized in the first period of the Revolution.
Chamberlin, William Henry. Soviet Russia. Boston: Little, Brown, 1930, p. 32

Fighting went on with equal violence on both sides of the Kolchak lines. Iron ore production stopped completely. The population was even more impoverished than it had been before. No one knew what historical issues were at stake. They all knew that Kolchak represented the landlords and capitalists while the Red Army gave the land to the peasants and the mines and factories to the workers, that the Red Army drove the hateful tax collectors and epauletted White officers away or shot them.
Scott, John. Behind the Urals, Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1942, p. 61

…There were a little over 200,000 communists in the October Revolution. The more exact figure would be 240,000.
The country’s population was 150 million, more than half illiterate;… We somehow had to find a way to drag the country onto the high road of progress. Nothing could have been achieved had we not utilized the services of temporary allies, even if they were only one-quarter allies. Unaided, we would have been incapable of building socialism.
Chuev, Feliks. Molotov Remembers. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1993, p. 289

In spite of depictions to the contrary, the Bolshevik Party was a democratically run, working-class Party that little by little became a dominant political force. Its power was based on nothing but the trust of the masses, a trust won by months of struggle in the soviets, factories, unions, and streets. When the March revolution broke out, the Party had 24,000 members; in October, 400,000.
Cameron, Kenneth Neill. Stalin, Man of Contradiction. Toronto: NC Press, c1987, p. 31

To what extent did these masses support the new government setup by the Bolsheviks? How wide a following did the Revolution find in the people? The People’s Business said: “A Revolution is a rising of all the people. But what have we here? A handful of poor fools deceived by Lenin and Trotsky.”
True, the membership of the Bolshevik Party was a “handful” among the great populations of Russia–not more than one or two percent. If that was all, the new government might well be stigmatized as “the tyranny of an infinitesimal fraction over the great majority.” But one fact must be borne in mind,: Bolshevik sentiment is not to be gauged by the Bolshevik Party. For every Bolshevik in the official Bolshevik Party there were 30 to 50 Bolsheviks in the general population.
The high standard of admission, the hard duties and drastic discipline of the Bolshevik Party, made the masses unwilling to join it. But they voted for it.
Williams, Albert. Through the Russian Revolution. Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1967, p. 173

Roman Gul, a White Guard officer, wrote in his book Campaign on the Ice, “The people did not want to join the Whites… after all, they were the former masters… The peasant did not trust us. That was disastrous for the peasant and for Russia as a whole.” The same class hatred of peasants for their former masters helped the Bolsheviks. As soon as the “masters” reappeared, the peasants forgot Bolshevik oppression completely. The masters made this easier for them–they tried to reintroduce tsarist laws and took land away from the peasants to restore it to the landowners. As a result, the might of the Denikin’s and Kolchak’s armies was destroyed by the merciless peasant war that flared up in their wake.
Radzinsky, Edvard. Stalin. New York: Doubleday, c1996, p. 165


In the summer of 1918 the Tsar, the Tsarina, their son, and four daughters, were confined in the Ural town of Ekaterinburg. The Soviet power had been overthrown in Siberia and was tottering in the Urals; the combined forces of the Czechs and White Russians were approaching Ekaterinburg, which was actually taken on July 28. Under these conditions the local Soviet authorities decided to take no chances on a rescue; and on the night of July 17th the Tsar, the Tsarina, their children, and a few personal attendants were taken into a cellar and mowed down with bullet fire.
Chamberlin, William Henry. Soviet Russia. Boston: Little, Brown, 1930, p. 33


… Lenin and Trotsky had to a knowledge that they could not manage without the advice of the old officers. They therefore accepted the services of a few of these professionals, and always had them watched by tried and trusted party comrades. …when Lenin gave Stalin his first command at the front, near Tsaritsyn, Stalin discovered a conspiracy among the officers, who were about to turn on the new rulers. Stalin’s reports and telegrams were filled with the bitterest contempt for the professionals, who did everything wrong: “what these fellows call the science of war I can only deplore, though I have the highest respect for science as such.”
Ludwig, Emil, Stalin. New York, New York: G. P. Putnam’s sons, 1942, p. 63

In later years Stalin used to enjoy telling us that he refused to have anything to do with the bourgeois officers whom Trotsky dispatched to Tsaritsyn and that they invariably turned out to be traitors.
Talbott, Strobe, Trans. and Ed. Khrushchev Remembers. Boston: Little Brown, c1970, p. 18

In order to enlist bourgeois officers into the Red Army, Lenin knew he would have to give them the freedom to make decisions on their own. Commissars were to watch over the bourgeois officers but not to interfere with them. Just imagine: a former colonel of the old tsarist army would suddenly be given a command in the Red Army. During the Civil War, I saw many misunderstandings arise between officers and the commissars who were standing over them. As Stalin was later to remind us so frequently, there were many instances of treason among the bourgeois officers. A certain amount of treason had to be expected. These people had been brought up under the old capitalist regime. Some came over to our side out of fear, some came for the novelty, others came because they had no alternative–they had to earn a living. And some came out of treachery.
But the party had no choice. We had to win over as many specialists as possible to our cause. It was part of Lenin’s genius that at such a critical moment he was able to learn some lessons from the capitalists and take advantage of their experience and expertise.
Stalin, for his part, remained a specialist-eater all his life.
Talbott, Strobe, Trans. and Ed. Khrushchev Remembers. Boston: Little Brown, c1970, p. 20

Trotsky, safe at Moscow, became more and more irritated by Tsaritsyn. His policy in creating the new Red Army was to staff it almost exclusively from the ex-officers of the old army. The policy of Stalin and Voroshilov was to consider such officers as unreliable and to staff the army from the young enthusiasts of the revolutionary movement. Trotsky, moreover, did not forgive the ignoring of his telegram. He went to Lenin and insisted upon Stalin’s recall.
Graham, Stephen. Stalin. Port Washington, New York: Kennikat Press, 1970, p. 47

Somewhat weakly, it must be said, Trotsky agreed and allowed Stalin to join the war staff on the Southern front. That was an error if Trotsky firmly believed that it was fatal to allow young communists to run the army rather than ex-officers of the Tsar’s army.
In any case, he proceeded to get rid of all Stalin’s “heroes” in Tsaritsyn. In December he demanded of Lenin that Voroshilov be relieved as he could not work with him. And with Voroshilov the rest of the staff was dismissed and Trotsky had a new staff of his own choosing and a new commander.
Graham, Stephen. Stalin. Port Washington, New York: Kennikat Press, 1970, p. 53


Stalin’s services and the Civil War received special recognition in a decision adopted by the All-Russian Central Executive Committee, on Lenin’s motion, on November 27, 1919, awarding him the Order of the Red Banner.
Alexandrov, G. F. Joseph Stalin; a Short Biography. Moscow: FLPH, 1947, p. 69


Romania occupied Bessarabia after the October Revolution and behaved in a hostile and provocative manner toward the USSR. Romania kept causing trouble along the border. Shots were fired at our bank of the Prut River. In a word, there was always tension in that area.
Schecter, Jerrold. Trans & Ed. Khrushchev Remembers: the Glasnost Tapes. Boston: Little, Brown, c1990, p. 51


The civil war was preventing us from switching over to normal methods of work. That’s why we had the so-called food requisitioning system. Balking at nothing, the state took from the peasants what it needed. If you had more, the state would take more from you; if someone else had a great deal, the state would take everything; if another had nothing, the state would take nothing. There was no other way out.
Chuev, Feliks. Molotov Remembers. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1993, p. 151

There were, however, other reasons for the breach between the countryside and the Bolsheviks. First of all, the cities and towns had to be fed, but they were unable to provide goods for the peasants in return for their produce. The peasants declined to accept paper money, which they found worthless, and this led to a system of unpopular food requisitions. The Bolsheviks seem to have done their utmost to supply the peasants with goods, but the shortages in the cities were already so great that little could be done. They also tried to institute a rationing system of food and commodities in the urban centers, but “speculation” and black markets were so rife that in March, 1918, Lenin founded the Extraordinary Commission (Cheka). Its chief function was at first to combat speculation, but growing clouds in town & country alike dictated its use as an instrument against counter-revolution, which soon became its principal task….
Duranty, Walter. Story of Soviet Russia. Philadelphia, N. Y.: JB Lippincott Co. 1944, p. 46


But fresh terrorist attempts resumed in 1928. Terrorists armed with bombs were apprehended at the border. Terrorists of the socialist-Revolutionary type. They were audacious….
Chuev, Feliks. Molotov Remembers. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1993, p. 214

In Tsarist days the question of individual assassination had been a matter of more than academic discussion between the Bolsheviks and other revolutionary groups. It was practiced consistently by the Socialist-Revolutionaries and the anarchists, but the Bolsheviks had always condemned it, not from humanitarian motives but as ineffective and likely to provoke costly reprisals. Lenin also made it clear that he preferred mass action to individual action, and thought that time and energy were better spent in mass education and preparation for action than in isolated terrorist blows. The Socialist-Revolutionaries, however, thought differently, and on the night of August 30th, 1918, a Socialist-Revolutionary girl named Fannie (or Dora) Kaplan seriously wounded Lenin as he was leaving a factory meeting in Moscow. The next day Uritsky, head of the Petrograd Cheka, was shot dead by another Socialist-Revolutionary assassin. These two acts unleashed the celebrated “Red Terror,” which for once required no exaggeration by the Soviet’s enemies abroad.
Duranty, Walter. Story of Soviet Russia. Philadelphia, N. Y.: JB Lippincott Co. 1944, p. 51

[Excerpts from the Cheka weekly of 1918 concerning the response of the Cheka to an attempt on Lenin’s life and the murder of Uritsky]
You, Comrade workers and rural poor, do not be afraid. View the red terror as a necessity to force the bourgeoisie and its lackeys to be quiet. Furthermore, be aware that the capitalist rulers in the Ukraine, on the Don, are shooting workers and peasants, the number of victims reaching 20,000. They are not standing on ceremony in Finland either, and the jails are full; they are packing our brothers in where there are already as many as 80,000 incarcerated. Remember that we will not move them with our softness and good and will toward them, because they are acting with a purpose, striving to extinguish and deny the rights of the workers and peasants. Thus we answer and we must answer a blow with a blow 10 times stronger.
Koenker and Bachman, Eds. Revelations from the Russian Archives. Washington: Library of Congress, 1997, p. 14

In periods of intense revolutionary conflict tsarist officials and members of the Black Hundreds used the most refined tortures on many revolutionaries, including women. Many embittered counter-revolutionaries revived torture on a mass scale during the civil war. The Bolsheviks, for their part, often shot captives but rarely resorted to other forms of violence.
Medvedev, Roy. Let History Judge. New York: Columbia University Press, 1989, p. 487

The exact number of people destroyed by the Cheka during the civil war will probably never be known, but there can be no doubt that the Whites killed many more Communists, Komsomol members, captured Red Army men, and ordinary workers and peasants. The White armies rarely took prisoners or established concentration camps. The very first campaigns of the Volunteer Army, led by Generals Kornilov and Denikin and resulting in the occupation of most of the Northern Caucasus in 1918, were accompanied by the execution of thousands and thousands of Red Army men, not to mention civilians active in support of the Soviets.
Medvedev, Roy. Let History Judge. New York: Columbia University Press, 1989, p. 655

The proposition “but in end justifies the means” was devised, not by revolutionaries, but by their opponents.
Medvedev, Roy. Let History Judge. New York: Columbia University Press, 1989, p. 661

“But the Red Terror!” someone interjects. That was to come later when the Allied armies were to come to Russia, and under their protecting wing the Czarists and Black Hundreds were to loose upon peasants and workers the White Terror of the Counter-Revolution– a hideous orgy of butchery and lust in which helpless women and children were to be massacred in droves.
Then in defense the workers, goaded to desperation, were to strike back with the Red Terror of the Revolution. Then capital punishment was to be restored and the White conspirators were to feel the swift chastising hand of the Revolution.
There are furious charges and counter charges about Red and White Terrors. Out of the controversy four facts emerge and may be stated here.
The Red Terror was a distinctly later phase of the Revolution. It was a defensive measure, a direct reply to the White Terror of the Counter-Revolution. Both in number and fiendishness the outrages of the Reds pale before the atrocities committed by the Whites. Had not the Allies intervened in Russia and again stirred up civil war against the Soviets, in all probability there would have been no Red Terror and the Revolution would have continued as it began–practically a “bloodless revolution.”
Williams, Albert. Through the Russian Revolution. Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1967, p. 161-162

I should like to speak here with meticulous objectivity. I do not know how the White Guards behaved elsewhere–perhaps in some places they acted nobly as knights, or at least human beings. All I can record is that those I saw behaved like a horde of savages devoid of any ethical sense, plundering, terrorizing, and “punishing” wherever they went. In no sense were they even an army. I have read much about the Tsarist army and believe that there was much that was worthy of respect and praise in its history; but the White Guards I saw merely sullied its name.
They took revenge. They took revenge for our nationalist aspirations, for the coming of the Red Army, for the fall of Tzarism, for their own loss of privileges. They took revenge for it all. The population of Ekazhevskoye and Surkhokhi in Ingushetia was completely wiped out. Scores of places in Ossetia and Kabardia were barbarously pillaged. Local Quislings appeared, betraying those who loved their country. Law and decency vanished. Women were raped, men faced firing squads, innocent civilians were subjected to all manner of degradation. Those who called themselves the White Army in fact did everything they could to make us loathe them with every fiber of our being, and to long for the Red Army.
Tokaev, Grigori. Betrayal of an Ideal. Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press, 1955, p. 13

In the torrent of violence unleashed by the revolution and it’s inevitable companion, civil war, it was natural that the enemies of the regime should identify Lenin as the author of their misfortunes. The SR’s were conspicuous in this regard, and they were also accustomed to the use of terror as a means of settling political problems. Kaplan’s attempt on Lenin’s life was not the first. On 14 January 1918, in Petrograd, his car was fired on as he was driving to Bolshevik headquarters at the Smolny Institute with his sister Maria and the Swiss socialist Fritz Platten, having given a speech in the Mikhailovsky riding school to troops leaving for the front. “They had gone only a few hundred yards,” an anniversary number of Pravda recalled, “when bullets started peppering the back of the car.” Platten grabbed Lenin by the head and pushed him down. When the car was examined at the Smolny, it was found to have been holed in several places, a number of bullets having shattered the windscreen. Platten’s hand was covered in blood, having been grazed by a bullet as he was shielding Lenin.
A year later, Lenin had another close call, this time at the hands of gangsters. On the evening of 19 January 1919, Lenin, his sister, and his bodyguard Chabanov were driving out of Moscow to a forest school at Sokolniki, where Krupskaya was living on her doctor’s advice. As they approached a railway bridge, the car was stopped by three armed men. Lenin and his companions thought it was no more than a routine identity check, but, as Maria recorded, “we were amazed when the people who had stopped the car made us get out right away and, ignoring the pass he showed them, started going through Ilyich’s pockets, holding a revolver to his temple and taking his Browning and Kremlin pass.”
“What are you doing?” Maria cried. “This is Comrade Lenin! Who are you? Show us your permits!” “Criminals don’t need permits.” And with this, they leapt into the car, keeping their revolvers pointed at us, and gave it full throttle in the direction of Sokolniki.”
Lenin was obviously satisfied with the deal he had made with the gangsters, since he referred to it as the precedent for successful compromise. “Imagine,” he wrote in an article entitled “Left-wing Communism, an Infantile Disease,’ “that your car has been stopped by armed bandits. You give them your money, your identity papers, your revolver, and the car itself. In exchange you are excused their pleasant company…. Our compromise with the bandits of German imperialism was just such a compromise. Brest-Litovsk, in other words, was a case of “your money or your life’.”
Volkogonov, Dmitrii. Lenin: A New Biography. New York: Free Press, 1994, p. 229


At Moscow, the Revolutionary-Socialist rising was brewing. To the west, Muraviev was abandoning the cause. In the Ural district the Czech counter-Revolution was developing and consolidating. To the extreme south, the English were advancing on Baku. “Everything was blazing in a circle afire.” Stalin arrived at Tsaritsyn. A continuous stream of telegrams passed between Lenin and him. Stalin had not come to Tsaritsyn as an army inspector, but in order to organize the food supply through southern Russia. The situation at Tsaritsyn was vitally important. The revolt of the Don region and the loss of Tsaritsyn also meant the loss–the disastrous loss–of the whole wheat area of the Northern Caucasus.
From the moment of his arrival: “I am bullying and swearing at all those immediate. Rest assured, Comrade Lenin, that no one is being spared, neither myself nor anyone else–and that whatever happens we will send you wheat. If our military specialists (who are blockheads) had not been idle or asleep, our line would never have been pierced, and if we managed to re-establish it, that will not be thanks to them but in spite of them.”
For Stalin found the whole region in the state of “incredible disorder.” The Soviet organizations–Syndicalist and Communist– and also the military organizations had become completely dislocated and were all at sixes and sevens. On all sides they were confronted by the tremendous spread of the Cossack counter-Revolution which had received powerful reinforcements from the German Army of Occupation in the Ukraine. The White troops had seized, one by one, the districts around Tsaritsyn, putting a complete stop to the “corn collection” awaited by Moscow and Petrograd and, moreover, seriously threatening Tsaritsyn itself.
At the first superficial glance, Stalin realized that he must take over the military command, which was weak and wavering. On July 11th he telegraphed to Lenin: “Matters are complicated by the fact that the Headquarters Staff of Northern Caucasia is absolutely incapable of fighting the counter-Revolution…. Considering themselves to be employees of General Headquarters, and to be charged solely with preparing plans of campaign, they hold themselves quite aloof, like onlookers, and take no interest whatever in the operations….”
Stalin was not the sort of man to be content merely with finding things out. Where action was necessary, he acted: “I do not think I am justified in looking on at such indifference when Kalinin’s front (in Northern Caucasia) has it supplies cut off and when the whole of Northern Russia is cut off from its wheat-fields. I will rectify this weakness and many other local weaknesses too. I am taking and will take the proper measures, even to the extent of removing the regimental and staff officers who are ruining the cause–in spite of any formal difficulties which I will over-ride if necessary. For this, naturally, I take full responsibility on myself with the superior authorities.”
Moscow replied telling him to set the whole Red organization on its feet: “Re-establish order, form the detachments of troops into a regular Army, appoint a proper command, get rid of all insubordinates.” This order came from the Revolutionary War Council, mentioning that “this telegram is sent with Lenin’s approval.”
When this summary order, these two lines of writing in which was compressed a colossal task, arrived at Tsaritsyn, the situation had grown much worse. The remains of the Red Army of Ukraine were pouring in, helter-skelter, retiring before the advance of the German Army over the Don steppes.
It seemed impossible that order could be established in such a situation. But the indomitable will-power of one-man set itself to do so. Out of the earth itself he made a Revolutionary War Council rise which there and then set to work to reorganize the regular Army. Army Corps were swiftly created and divided up into divisions, brigades, regiments. All counter-revolutionary elements were removed from the staff, from the supply system, and from the military formations behind the line–as well as from all the Soviet and Communist organizations there. There were plenty of staunch Bolsheviks of the old kind to give them a firm foundation and set them on their feet. And that is what happened. Everything was put into order again, and at the very edge of the counter-revolutionary canker of the Don there arose a strong and clear-headed Red Staff, presenting an unbroken front to the brigands on both sides of the line.
But that was not all. The whole town was contaminated with White elements. Revolutionary-Socialists, Terrorists, and Ultra-Monarchists, all met together there. (This constant, inevitable collaboration of so-called pure Revolutionaries with the worst enemies of the Revolution–they attacked it together as fiercely as they could–calls for no comment.)
Tsaritsyn served as a shelter for masses of middle-class refugees, who flaunted themselves in the company of White officers, who scarcely troubled to conceal their identity, who monopolized the side-walks, and filled the streets and the public gardens round the orchestras. Tsaritsyn was a center of open conspiracy.
But it suddenly ceased to be so. The local Revolutionary War Council, directed by Stalin, created a special Cheka charged with examining all these people closely. And at the moment when Civil War was re-doubling its fury on all sides, and on all sides the alien enemies of the Revolution were endeavoring to stifle it by every means they could devise, not a day passed without the most dangerous plots being discovered.
A certain Nossovitch –who, from being Chief of the Military Direction of operations, went over to Krasnoff’s Army, gives a full account of this situation in a White newspaper entitled The Surge of the Don (in the issue for February 3rd, 1919). He is obliged to render justice to Stalin who, even though his mission of chief provisioner was gravely compromised by the succession of events in the neighborhood, “was not the sort of man to abandon anything he had begun,” and he shows him taking the whole military and civil administration into his own hands at the same time, and thwarting one by one all the attempts and all the machinations of the avowed enemies of the Revolution.
Stalin took the responsibility, but he wanted the authority too, as all those who use it to good purpose want it. The renegade Nossovitch again bears witness to another interesting event: “When Trotsky, alarmed at the destruction of the existing military commands which had been so painstakingly created, sent a telegram saying that it was necessary for the Headquarters Staff and the Commissars to be reestablished in their offices and given an opportunity of doing their work, Stalin took the telegram and, with a firm hand, scrawled upon it the words: ‘No attention to be paid to this.’ Thus no attention was paid to the telegram and the whole of the Artillery command and a part of the Headquarters Staff remained where they had been put, on a ship at Tsaritsyn.
Moreover, in order to ensure that his orders were carried out, and to consolidate the Bolshevik regime, Stalin personally visited the whole front (a front which measured nearly 400 miles). This man, who had never served in the army, possessed such a comprehensive sense of organization that he was able to understand and to solve all the most intricate and difficult technical problems (especially as the situation became more critical daily and rapidly complicated all these problems still further).
“I remember, as though it had happened today,” said Kaganovich, “that at the beginning of 1918 Krasnoff’s Cossack troops attacked Tsaritsyn, trying by an encircling movement to throw the Red troops back on the Volga. For several days these Red troops, which were under the orders of a Communist Division largely formed of Donetz workers, repelled the attack of the perfectly organized Cossacks with incredible vigor. Those were indeed terrible days. You should have seen Stalin at that time. Calm, as always, wrapped in his thoughts, literally never sleeping at all, he divided his tireless labors between the firing-line and Army Headquarters. The situation at the front was almost desperate. Krasnoff’s Armies…were pressing our exhausted troops hard and causing us immense losses. The enemy front, horseshoe-shaped, with its flanks resting on the Volga, was daily closing in more and more. There was no way out for us. But Stalin did not trouble about this. He had one idea only: they must win. This indomitable will of Stalin’s transmitted itself to his immediate assistants and, in spite of being in a situation from which there was practically no escape, no one for a moment had any doubts about victory.
“And we triumphed. The routed enemy army was thrown well to the other side of the Don.”
The same gloomy situation and the same epic achievements took place on the eastern front at Perm.
At the end of 1918 this front found itself terribly threatened, and almost lost.
The Third Army had fallen back and had been compelled to surrender Perm. Harassed and pressed by the enemy, who were advancing in a half-circle, this Third Army was, by the end of November, completely demoralized. The story of the previous six months, filled with perpetual fighting, was a heart-breaking one; with no reserves, in utter ignorance of what was happening in the back areas, with abominable rations (the 29th Division went for five days without receiving a single mouthful of bread), 35 degrees of frost, the roads absolutely impassable with, an excessively long front–more than 250 miles of it–and a backboneless Staff, “the Third Army was in no condition to resist enemy attacks.”
In addition to this, the officers, ex-servants of the Tsar, went in for wholesale betrayal and whole regiments, disgusted by a command of incompetent carousers, surrendered to the enemy.
A rout followed: a retreat of nearly 200 miles in 20 days, and a loss of 18,000 men, dozens of guns and hundreds of machine-guns. The enemy was drawing closer and was threatening Viatka and the whole of the eastern front.
Lenin telegraphed to the Revolutionary War Council of the Republic as follows: “We have received from the neighborhood of Perm a series of reports from the Party informing us of the drunkenness and catastrophic condition of the Third Army. I am thinking of sending Stalin there.”
The Central Committee sent Stalin and Dzerzhinsky. Stalin temporarily shelved the main object of the mission, which was to “inquire into the loss of Perm,” and substituted for it the question of the steps to be taken to restore the situation. This situation was much more serious than anyone had thought, as he explained to the President of the Council for National Defense (Lenin) in a telegram in which he asked, in order to meet the peril, for immediate reinforcements. A week later he enumerated the various causes for the surrender of Perm and, with Dzerzhinsky, proposed a series of measures for raising the fighting efficiency of the Third Army and for providing for the future. With his extraordinary rapidity of decision he applied these numerous measures of military and political organization–and in the same month (January 1919), the enemy advance was checked, the eastern front took the offensive, and its right-wing seized Uralsk.
And a drama of the same sort occurred during the spring of 1919 in the Seventh Army, before Yudenich’s White Army, to whom Kolchak had issued orders “to seize Petrograd,” and to draw into his sector the Revolutionary troops of the eastern front.
Yudenich, backed by Estonian and Finnish White Guards and supported by the British Fleet, suddenly took up the offensive and actually seriously threatened Petrograd, as will be remembered.
The Central Committee sent Stalin off and in three weeks he reestablished the victorious revolutionary resistance. At the end of 20 days all signs of hesitation and confusion had disappeared from the Army and from the Staff. The workers and Communists in Petrograd were mobilized and the desertion to the enemy ceased. The enemies and traitors were seized and destroyed.
And Stalin even directed operations which were purely military. He telegraphed to Lenin: “Immediately after Krasnaya Gorka, Seraya Loshad had been dealt with…. All the forts and citadels are being rapidly restored to order. Naval specialists assure me that the capture of Krasnaya Gorka has upset the whole theory of naval science. I can only deplore what they call science. The swift capture of Gorka is explained by violent intervention on my part and by that of civilians in general in the operations–intervention going so far as canceling orders issued on land and at sea and insisting upon our own orders being carried out in their stead. I feel it my duty to inform you that in the future I shall continue to act thus, in spite of my respect for science.”
And now the southern front.
“Everyone,” writes Manuilsky, “”remembers autumn 1919. It was the deciding, critical moment of the whole Civil War.”
Manuilsky traces the essential features of the situation, the main one of which was Denikin’s penetration of the entire southern line. Provisioned by the Allies, supported and helped by the British and French General Staffs, Denikin’s White Army advanced upon Orel. The whole vast southern front was falling back in slow waves. Behind the line the situation was no less disastrous. Difficulties of supply grew momentarily greater and greater, and presented almost insoluble problems. Industry, three-quarters of which was destroyed, lacked raw materials, fuel and manpower, and was coming to a standstill. Throughout the whole country and even at Moscow, the activities of the revolutionaries were increasing. Danger threatened Tula as much as Moscow.
What was to be done in this headlong rush towards disaster? The Central Committee sent Stalin to the southern front as a member of the Revolutionary War Council. “Today,” writes Manuilsky, “there is no longer any need to conceal the fact that Stalin, before leaving, insisted on the Central Committee complying with three conditions. First, Trotsky was not to meddle with the southern front and was to remain where he was. Secondly, a number of Army leaders whom Stalin considered to be incapable of restoring the situation in the Army were to be recalled immediately. And thirdly, other leaders, chosen by Stalin and capable of carrying out this task, should immediately be sent to the southern front. These conditions were accepted in their entirety.”
But the colossal war machine consisting of the southern front extended from the Volga as far west as the Polish-Ukrainian frontier, and massed hundreds of thousands of soldiers on the borders of the nation.
Stalin discovered nothing but confusion and deadlock at the front. An atmosphere of mingled storm and despair. The Red Army of the Republic was beaten along the main line of defense: Kursk-Orel-Tula. The eastern flank was uselessly marking time.
What was to be done? There was a plan of operations upon which the Superior War Committee had decided in the previous September. This plan consisted of launching the main attack by the left wing, from Tsaritsyn to Novorossisk across the Don steppes.
The first thing that struck Stalin was that this plan had remained unchanged since September. “The attack is to be launched by Korin’s group, and its task is to annihilate the enemy on the Don and the Kuban.”
Stalin examined this plan carefully and critically–and decided that it was no good. Or, rather, that it was no longer any good. It had been quite good two months before, but the circumstances had altered. Something else must be found. Stalin saw what was wanted and sent Lenin fresh suggestions. Let us read his letter, an historic document which throws a light on the situation in the vast southern sector and, at the same time, on the undaunted clear-sightedness of the man who wrote it:
“…What is there to compel the Higher Committee to keep to the old plan? It can obviously only be the spirit of obstinacy, so short-sighted and so dangerous for the Republic, which is fostered in the Higher Committee by the “Ace of Strategists.” [And allusion to Trotsky].
To sum up: the old plan, which, owing to recent events, is now out of date, must in no case be put into operation, as it would endanger the Republic and would certainly improve Denikin’s position. A new plan must be substituted for it. Not only are conditions and circumstances ripe for this, but they urgently call for such a change…. Otherwise, my work at the southern front becomes meaningless, criminal, and useless, which gives me the right, or, rather, compels me to go no matter where, even to the devil, but not to remain here.” Yours, Stalin.
The Central Committee did not hesitate to adopt Stalin’s plan. Lenin with his own hand wrote to the General Staff of the southern front giving them their change of orders. The main attack was launched towards Kharkov, in the Donetz-Rostov basin. One knows what happened. Denikin’s armies were pushed into the Black Sea. The Ukraine and Northern Caucasia were delivered from the White Guards, and the Revolution won the Civil War.
Stalin’s successes seem, because of their rapidity and completeness, to be little short of magical. What is rare, indeed quite exceptional, is to find such a perfect mixture of all the elements which go to make up successful achievement–both in theory and in practice–in the same man. To be really successful one must have the clear-sightedness to see and the courage to declare that the longest way round is often the shortest way home, and one must also have the power to direct the march of events accordingly.
Another result of Stalin’s transfer to the southern front was the creation of the Cavalry Army, which played so important a part in finally mopping up the Whites. By his pertinacity he succeeded in giving ideas adopted in this respect which were not shared by the whole of the Revolutionary Military Committee, starting with the southern front. To him also is due a certain modification in military tactics, namely the part played by shock troops. Once the main point of attack was decided upon, the best troops were immediately concentrated upon it, with a view to gaining a rapid initial success. At the same time as he was developing his strategy of direct action, Stalin did not lose sight of military organization and of the necessity of subordinating everything to the harmony of military organization as a whole. In 1919 he had written, in agreement with Dzerzhinsky: “An Army cannot act as an independent, self-sufficient and completely autonomous entity; in its actions it depends entirely upon the Armies on its flanks, and above all upon the Revolutionary Military Committee of the Republic. The most aggressive Army, under no matter what conditions, may be defeated as a result of bad leadership from the center and by absence of contact with the neighboring Armies. On each front, a strict system of centralization of the activities of the various Armies must be established as regards carrying out definite and carefully considered strategic orders. Capriciousness or lack of proper care in the issuing of orders, without considering their effect carefully and from every angle, manifested by their being suddenly changed or by their vagueness (as is sometimes the case with the Revolutionary Council of the Republic) makes it impossible to command Armies successfully.”
Meanwhile the Civil War flared up again owing to the activities of Wrangel, lavished with money, soldiers, and munitions by France and England, who insisted at all costs on fulfilling their mission of aiding and abetting the White Russians in their attempt to restore the regime of the knout and of slavery.
Wrangel announced far and wide that he was about to embark upon a Polish campaign, and he left the Crimea and seriously threatened the only recently freed Donetz basin and through it the whole of the South.
The first thought of the Central Committee was once more to have recourse to Stalin and on August 3rd, 1920, it passed the following resolution:
“In view of Wrangel’s success and the alarm over the Kuban, the tremendous and altogether exceptional importance of the Wrangel front must be recognized and it must be considered as an independent front. Stalin must be charged with forming the Revolutionary Military Council; all available forces must be concentrated on that front; Egorov or Frunze must be put in command at the front, as arranged by the Higher Council in consultation with Stalin.” Stalin was told by Lenin: “The Political Bureau has divided up the various fronts so that you may be able to devote yourself exclusively to that of Wrangel.”
Stalin organized the new front. He then had to leave the work temporarily owing to illness, but was back when the Polish campaign began, as a member of the Revolutionary Military Committee of the south-west front. The rout of the Polish Army, the liberation of Kiev and of the Ukraine, and the deep thrust into Galicia, were, in large measure, the result of his direction of affairs. It was he who conceived the idea of the famous raid of the First Cavalry Army.
Stalin was twice decorated with the Order of the Red Flag and elected a member of the War Council of the Republic (on which he sat from 1920 to 1923), following on the masterly way in which he had invariably managed to restore the situation in all the most keenly contested and stormy sections of the Civil War front.
We say “Civil War,” but the term is inaccurate. The Russian Revolution was counter-attacked not only by the Whites, but also by the Great Powers. The Red Army had before it the rank-and-file and the Staffs of the Tsarist, French, and English Armies, and also those of the Japanese, American, Rumanian, Greek–and others.
The qualities which Stalin displayed in these moving circumstances were no revelation to those who knew him. He merely applied in a new sphere of activity his strength and personal resources, namely lightning-like promptness and sureness of action, thorough grasp of the outstanding points of any particular situation, a thorough understanding of the real causes and inevitable consequences of any particular set of circumstances and of the proper place occupied by such circumstances in the general scheme of things, a horror of disorder and confusion, and dogged perseverance in preparing, creating, and coordinating all the conditions necessary for the success of a project once it had been thoroughly examined and it had been decided to embark upon it. All this is true Marxism, transferred to the field of battle.
This leader, who had fathomed the secrets of success and had brought them to such a pitch of perfection, was very severe, even ruthless, towards incompetence, and inexorable in dealing with treachery or sabotage. But a whole series of cases may be quoted in which he warmly intervened in favor of men who seemed to him to have been accused without sufficient proof, for instance Parkhomenko, who was condemned to death and whom he set free.
Barbusse, Henri. Stalin. New York: The Macmillan company, 1935, p. 63-82

Towards the end of May 1918, reports reached Moscow about the desperate conditions, both civil and military, in Tsaritsyn. Stalin was sent there to organize grain deliveries. Accompanied by his young wife whom he had just married, he arrived on June 6, 1918, with two armored cars and an escort of 400 Red guards. On the following day he reported to Lenin that he had found a “bacchanalia of profiteering and speculation” and had taken prompt action. He sacked corrupt and inefficient officials, dismissed unneeded revolutionary committees, appointing Commissars to bring order into labor and transport organization and to ensure grain deliveries to Moscow.
Grey, Ian. Stalin, Man of History. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1979, p. 121

Tsaritsyn was coming under severe pressure. Food deliveries and the city itself were threatened. Stalin began taking a direct part in military operations. On July 7 he reported urgently to Lenin….
Three days later, not having received an immediate reply, Stalin sent an angry message. He objected to Trotsky’s highhanded action in ignoring the Tsaritsyn headquarters and dealing directly with the sectors under its command. In particular Trotsky was not to make postings without consulting the people on the spot. He went on to demand aircraft, armored cars, and six-inch guns “without which the Tsaritsyn front will not remain in being.” Finally he asserted his own authority, stating that “to get things done, I must have full military powers. I have already written about this, but have received no reply. Very well . In that event I myself, without formalities, will remove those army commanders and Commissars who are ruining things. I am obliged to do this in the common interest and, in any case, the lack of a chit from Trotsky will not stop me.” On the following day he sent another telegram, informing Lenin that he had already taken full military responsibility and had removed commanders and military specialists who were dilatory or incompetent.
Stalin’s messages to Lenin were couched in forthright and even rude terms. They were, however, communications to an equal, sent at a time of crisis. Although he had respect and affection for Lenin, he did not treat him with deference. Indeed, far from taking umbrage, Lenin acted promptly. On July 19, 1918, the Supreme War Council created a war council of the North Caucasus Military District, and Stalin was officially appointed chairman of the council.
Grey, Ian. Stalin, Man of History. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1979, p. 122

Since his return to Petrograd in April 1917, Lenin had had occasion to meet Stalin on many occasions, and by now he had evidently come to see him as a reliable executive. The taciturn Georgian rarely asked questions or raised doubts in public about Central Committee decisions, he would take on any job and generally seemed satisfied with the role that had been assigned to him. Just as calmly, he accepted his commission to Tsaritsyn.
…As a result of measures taken by the center and the military soviet, Tsaritsyn was quickly made ready for a siege. The White assault under General Denikin was not successful, despite the support of the former tsarist officer Colonel Nosovich, who had acted as a military expert for the Soviet regime and had now turned traitor. Tsaritsyn, like other locations where Stalin served during the civil war, acquired not merely a legendary name, but virtually a mystical significance in Soviet history.
Volkogonov, Dmitri. Stalin: Triumph and Tragedy. New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1991, p. 39

The Southern Front, whatever the clumsiness of Stalin’s ‘strategic’ letter, had performed handsomely in the final victory over Denikin’s White Army. If Stalin had erred in Poland, so had Lenin–who had ignored advice from Radek and others that the Poles would fight him to the last. And Stalin had, when not intervening in military affairs, managed the vast territories in the fighting areas with the maximum firmness and effectiveness.
Conquest, Robert. Stalin: Breaker of Nations. New York, New York: Viking, 1991, p. 88

That Stalin had not lost Lenin’s confidence is shown by the further missions to the front on which he was employed during the remainder of the civil war. In January 1919 he was dispatched to the eastern front to report on the disastrous fall of Perm; in May he stiffened the defenses of Petrograd against the Whites and had 67 naval officers at Kronstadt executed for disloyalty; later in the year he was switched back to the southern front to block an advance on Moscow by the Whites after Denikin’s capture of Orel.
Bullock, Alan. Hitler and Stalin: Parallel Lives. New York: Knopf, 1992, p. 100

Stalin’s objections to the order detaching some armies from his group were eminently reasonable: the Southwestern Front did indeed have to watch not only the Polish forces around Lvov, but Wrangel’s hundreds of miles to the east, and it was true that they had to be on guard against a possible Rumanian intervention which would have come from behind Lvov.
Ulam, Adam. Stalin; The Man and his Era. New York: Viking Press, 1973, p. 189

Alighting from this train, Stalin went immediately to Bolshevik party headquarters and ascertained that Tsaritsyn was infested with spies, counter-revolutionists and agents of the interventionist powers, plotting to deliver the city to the approaching White Cossack’s….
Stalin’s blunt dispatches to Lenin eased the Leader’S anxiety but infuriated War Commissar Trotsky. Stalin was truly cleaning out the stables, as he so aptly put it; army officers appointed by Trotsky were discharged or court-martialed; some were even shot for disloyalty to the State….
Each day convinced Stalin that victory in the civil war would be won only by cleaning out the rear dangers, which were paralyzing every Red Army in the field. Disruptive political plotting, starvation, inefficiency, corruption, and every other modern ailment of a smashed society were combining to dislocate the Red battle preparations, whereas the British, French, and German troops were coordinating with the White Russians under seasoned Czarist commanders….
One by one, Stalin removed local commanders while Trotsky fumed and raged….
When a Supreme Order from Trotsky reached the North Caucasus Command Headquarters at Tsaritsyn, Stalin boldly posted it with this inscription penned across it: “to be disregarded!”…
Conditions improved steadily after Stalin arrested the entire Ordnance Department and a section of the Headquarters Staff and put them on a barge in the river….
The battlefront then ran 600 km around Tsaritsyn. Stalin personally visited every important sector of the front, solving local problems, tightening up morale and improving the organization of supplies, in readiness for the impending blow.
Barrett, James. Stalin and God. New York: Booktab, Inc., 1943, p. 35-36

The revolution called. Stalin was one of the first to go to the front. He had never been a soldier. He brought to the battle-line, however, an organizing skill, a stubbornness, a resoluteness, and an authority which made him one of the most feared war commissars….
Early in June, 1918, Stalin was dispatched to the lower Volga, to Tsaritsyn,now Stalingrad,the outlet for the rich grain-producing districts of the northern Caucasus. His position there was one of controller of food supplies. Upon his arrival, he found that the Red forces were highly disorganized. The Cossacks were getting close to the city, and the Bolshevist rule was feeble in the region. Stalin immediately applied himself to the job of stamping out all disorganization introducing a state of martial law. He at once came into conflict with the army commanders who were under the orders of the revolutionary war council of which Trotsky was the chief. The first decisive conflict with Trotsky developed here.
Levine, Isaac Don. Stalin. New York: Cosmopolitan Book Corporation, c1931, p. 167


Actually, and obviously, it is one’s duty to strike down a fellow-creature to save a thousand, to save a hundred thousand, to save the future, and to build a better world in which man will no longer be the slave or the victim of man.
Barbusse, Henri. Stalin. New York: The Macmillan company, 1935, p. 83


One says, complacently: “All revolutions are bloody, so I do not want any revolution, because I am too sensitive.” Those preservers of the existing social order who express themselves thus are, unless they are merely playing a part, pitiably shortsighted. The countries which are not Soviet ones are actually in the very midst of a regime of blood. We hear, on all sides, of outrages and massacres. One has only to look around one to see them. But most people cannot see so far. They are incapable of noticing the sufferings of others. And, above all, they did not consider revolution from the point of view of what it brings to man, but from that of the discomforts and worries which it brings to themselves.
Barbusse, Henri. Stalin. New York: The Macmillan company, 1935, p. 84

Sardonic words! But the verdict of history will be that the Russian Revolution–vastly more fundamental than the great upheaval in France in 1789–was no saturnalia of revenge. It was to all intents a “bloodless revolution.”
Take the most exaggerated estimates of the shootings in Petrograd, the three days’ battle in Moscow, the street-fighting in Kiev and Irkutsk, and the peasants’ outbreak in the provinces. Add up the casualties and divide it into Russia’s population–not the 3 million involved in the American Revolution, nor the 23 million of the French Revolution, but the 160 million of the Russian Revolution. The figures will show that in the four months it took the Soviet to establish and consolidate its power–from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from the White Sea on the north to the Black Sea on the south–less than 1 in 3000 Russians were killed.
Sanguinary enough to be sure!
But look at it in the perspective of history. Rightly or wrongly, when the fulfillment of the national destiny of America demanded that we cut out the cancer of slavery, vast property rights were confiscated, and in doing this we did not stop until we had killed one in every 300 people. Rightly or wrongly, the peasants and workers feel it essential to cut out of Russia the cancer of Czarism, landlordism, and capitalism. Such a deep-seated and malign disease called for a major surgical operation. Yet it was performed with comparatively little letting of blood. For, like children, the nature of a great folk is to forgive and forget–not to retaliate. And vindictiveness is alien to the spirit of working people. In those early days they strove hard to conduct a civil war in a civil manner.
In a large measure they succeeded. The death-toll of both Whites and Reds together was not equal to the casualties in a single big battle of the World War.
Williams, Albert. Through the Russian Revolution. Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1967, p. 160-161


And in the midst of all this hatred and all this defeat, in the midst of all this malediction, it was strange to hear the voices of people who, like Bullitt, then an obscure journalist, say things like this: “There will come a day when all the man of our age will be judged by the extent to which they have understood and defended the magnificent effort of Red Russia.”
Barbusse, Henri. Stalin. New York: The Macmillan company, 1935, p. 116


This, then, was the situation which the new government had to face all around it, surrounded as it was by the capitalist menagerie. Everything to be done? It was worse than that: everything had to be re-done. It was a double task.
Barbusse, Henri. Stalin. New York: The Macmillan company, 1935, p. 117


In January 1918 Lenin had said, “Until we use terror against speculators–shooting them on the spot–nothing will happen.”

Koenker and Bachman, Eds. Revelations from the Russian Archives. Washington: Library of Congress, 1997, p. 11

[Letter from Lenin to communist leaders in Penza, August 11, 1918, on dealing with peasant revolts in the province]

Comrades! The revolt by the five kulak volost’s must be suppressed without mercy. The interest of the entire revolution demands this, because we have now before us our final decisive battle “with the kulaks.” We need to set an example. 1) You need to hang (hang without fail, so that the public sees) at least 100 notorious kulaks, the rich, and the blood suckers. 2) Publish their names. 3) Take away all of their grain. 4) Execute the hostages–in accordance with yesterday’s telegram. This needs to be accomplished in such a way that people for hundreds of miles around will see, tremble, know, and scream out: let’s choke and strangle those blood-sucking kulaks. Telegraph us acknowledging receipt and execution of this. PS. Use your toughest people for this.

Koenker and Bachman, Eds. Revelations from the Russian Archives. Washington: Library of Congress, 1997, p. 12


[According to the minutes of a Politburo meeting on Sept. 11, 1919, the following questions were decided within the Politburo.

… 7. The question of expulsion of Communists from Murmansk by the English and executions of some of them.

Proposed that the People’s Commissariats of Foreign Affairs send a radio broadcast to protest the execution of prisoners and the aerial bombing of innocent civilians and declare that imprisoned English officers are to be sentenced to execution. The sentence will be carried out if the English engage in any further such actions.

Koenker and Bachman, Eds. Revelations from the Russian Archives. Washington: Library of Congress, 1997, p. 227


[Letter from Lenin to Gorky, Sept. 15, 1919, about the arrest of intellectuals belonging to the Constitutional Democratic Party]

… The intellectual forces of the workers and peasants are growing and getting stronger in their fight to overthrow the bourgeoisie and their accomplices, the intellectuals, lackeys of capital, who consider themselves the brains of the nation. In fact they are not its brains, but it’s shit.

Koenker and Bachman, Eds. Revelations from the Russian Archives. Washington: Library of Congress, 1997, p. 229


[Letter from Lenin to Stalin, July 17, 1922, on deporting Mensheviks, Popular Socialists, and Constitutional Democrats]

On the matter of deporting Mensheviks, Popular Socialists, Constitutional Democrats (Kadets), etc. from Russia, I would like to ask a few questions, since this operation, which was started before my leave, still has not been completed.

Has the decision been made to “eradicate “all the Popular Socialists? As far as I’m concerned, deport them all. They’re more harmful than any Socialist-Revolutionary because they’re more clever.

Also Potresov, Izgoev and all the Economist contributors. The Mensheviks Rozanov (a physician, cunning),… Radchenko and her young daughter (rumor has it they’re the vilest enemies of Bolshevism), Rozhkov (he has to be deported, incorrigible),… The commission supervised by Mantsev, Messing et al. should present lists and several hundred such ladies and gentlemen must be deported without mercy. Let’s purge Russia for a long while.

As for Lezhnev… lets think it over: shouldn’t we deport him? He will always be the wiliest sort as far as I can judge based on his articles I have read.

Ozerov as well as all the Economist contributors are the most ruthless enemies. All of them–out of Russia. This must be done at once. By the end of the Social Revolutionary’s trial, no later. Arrest a few hundred and without a declaration of motives–get out, ladies and gentlemen!

Deport all authors of Dom literatorov Mysl from Petrograd; ransack Kharkov, we do not know it, for us it is a “foreign country.” We must purge quickly, no later than the end of the Social Revolutionaries’ trial.

Koenker and Bachman, Eds. Revelations from the Russian Archives. Washington: Library of Congress, 1997, p. 232

Lenin’s lists [of subversives] were extensive, and bore such sub-headings as: Professors of 1st Moscow University; Professors of Petrovsko-Razumovsky Agricultural Academy; Professors of Institute of Railway Engineers; [those involved in] the case of the Free Economic Society; anti-Soviet professors of the Archeological Institute; anti-Soviet figures connected with Bereg publishing house; people involved in case No. 813 (Abrikosov group); anti-Soviet agronomists and cooperativists; physicians; anti-Soviet engineers; writers; Petrograd writers; and a special list of Petrograd anti-Soviet intellectuals.

The first contingent numbered 120 people. The document ordering their expulsion was first signed on 31 July 1922 by Kamenev, Kursky, and Unshlikht.

Volkogonov, Dmitrii. Lenin: A New Biography. New York: Free Press, 1994, p. 359

In an extensive memorandum to Stalin in the autumn of 1922, Lenin targeted individuals who were either associated with anti-Bolshevik publications or whom he regarded as especially perceptive opponents of his regime. The memorandum conveys the tone of Lenin’s obsessive concern to rid himself of such people:

“On the question of expelling Mensheviks, Popular Socialists, Cadets, etc., I’d like to ask a few questions, as this matter, which was started before I went on leave, is still unfinished. Has it been decided to ‘uproot’ all Popular Socialists? Peshekhonov, Myakotin, Gornfeld? Petrishchev and the others? I think they should all be expelled. They’re more dangerous than any SR, because they’re more cunning. Also Potresov, Izgoev and all the people on [the journal] Ekonomist, (Ozerov and many many more). The Mensheviks Rozanov (a physician, cunning), Vigdorchik (Migulo, or some such), Radchenko and her young daughter (allegedly the most malicious enemies of Bolshevism); Rozhkov (he has to be expelled; he’s incorrigible); Frank (the author of Methodology), the Mantsev-Messing commission should compile lists and several hundred such gentlemen should be deported from the country without mercy. We’ll cleanse Russia once and for all.

As for Lezhnev… we should think about it: shouldn’t we expel him? He’ll always be utterly crafty, as far as I can judge from his articles. Like all the people on Ekonomist, Ozerov is the most relentless enemy. All of them must be chucked out of Russia. It should be done all at once. By the time the SR trial is over, not later, and with no explanation of motives–leave, gentlemen!

Volkogonov, Dmitrii. Lenin: A New Biography. New York: Free Press, 1994, p. 362


[Memorandum from Lenin to Molotov and Politburo members, March 19, 1922, with instructions for responding to the resistance to the confiscation of Church valuables in Shuia]

… Now and only now, when people are being eaten in famine-stricken areas, and hundreds, if not thousands, of corpses lie on the roads, we can (and therefore must) pursue the removal of church valuables with the most frenzied and ruthless energy and not hesitate to put down the least opposition. Now and only now, the vast majority of peasants will either be on our side, or at least will not be in a position to support to any decisive degree this handful of Black Hundreds’ clergy and reactionary urban petty bourgeoisie, who are willing and able to attempt to oppose the Soviet decree with the policy of force.

… One clever writer on statecraft correctly said that if it is necessary for the realization of a well-known political goal to perform a series of brutal actions, then it is necessary to do them in the most energetic manner and in the shortest time, because masses of people will not tolerate the protracted use of brutality.

… Therefore, I come to the indisputable conclusion that we must precisely now smash the Black Hundreds’ clergy most decisively and ruthlessly and put down all resistance with such brutality that they will not forget it for several decades.

… Send to Shuia one of the most energetic, clear-headed, and capable members of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee…giving him verbal instructions through one of the members of the Politburo. The instructions must come down to this, that in Shuia he must arrest more, if possible, but not less, than several dozen representatives of the local clergy, the local petty bourgeoisie, and the local bourgeoisie on suspicion of direct or indirect participation in the forcible resistance to the decree of the party on the removal of valuables from churches. Immediately upon completion of this task, he must return to Moscow and personally deliver a report to the full session of the Politburo or to two specially authorized members of the Politburo. On the basis of this report, the Politburo will give a detailed directive to the judicial authorities, also verbal, that the trial of the insurrectionists from Shuia, for opposing aid to the starving, should be carried out in utmost haste and should end not other than with the shooting of a very large number of the most influential and dangerous of the Black Hundreds in Shuia, and, if possible, not only in this city but even in Moscow and several other ecclesiastical centers.

… The greater the number of representatives of the reactionary clergy and the reactionary bourgeoisie that we succeed in shooting on this occasion, the better because this “audience” must precisely now be taught a lesson in such a way that they will not dare to think about any resistance whatsoever for several decades.

Koenker and Bachman, Eds. Revelations from the Russian Archives. Washington: Library of Congress, 1997, p. 441


[Summary report on the religious movement among the peasantry, July 2, 1924]

IVANOVO-VOZNESENK Guberniia. The kulaks are employing an original type of religious agitation. They agree to give one or two sheep to a poor peasant if he agrees to pray to God and read the gospel. They also tell him that if he doesn’t meet their conditions they’ll take the sheep back (from a GPU report for July 12, 1924).

Koenker and Bachman, Eds. Revelations from the Russian Archives. Washington: Library of Congress, 1997, p. 458


I do not mean to say by this that the internal situation of the country is such as makes it necessary to have punitive organs of the revolution. From the point of view of the internal situation, the revolution is so firm and unshakable that we could do without the GPU. But the trouble is that the enemies at home are not isolated individuals. They are connected in a thousand ways with the capitalists of all countries who support them by every means and in every way. We are a country surrounded by capitalist states. The internal enemies of our revolution are the agents of the capitalists of all countries. The capitalist states are the background and basis for the internal enemies of our revolution.

Stalin, Joseph. Stalin’s Kampf. New York: Howell, Soskin & Company, c1940, p. 233


… the English bourgeoisie has always been in the front rank of the annihilators of the movements for freedom of humanity….

This was also the case after the October Revolution in the Soviet Union, when the English bourgeoisie, after having attacked the Soviet Union, attempted to set up “an alliance of 14 states,” and, when, in spite of this, it was driven out of the Soviet Union.

Stalin, Joseph. Stalin’s Kampf. New York: Howell, Soskin & Company, c1940, p. 311-212


… The main disagreement [between Stalin and Trotsky] was over the use of military specialists in the Red Army. It can be assumed that Lenin persuaded Stalin not to speak out against Trotsky, and in return Lenin refrained from criticizing Stalin, even approving the executions carried out in Tsaritsyn. “We have had disagreements and made mistakes,” said Lenin. “No one denies this. When Stalin had people shot in Tsaritsyn I thought it was a mistake, I thought that the shootings were incorrect, but the documents Voroshilov has quoted revealed our error. My error was revealed, but still I had telegraphed: Be careful. I made a mistake. We’re all human.”

Medvedev, Roy. Let History Judge. New York: Columbia University Press, 1989, p. 59


For example, the old Bolshevik Trifonov, who was assigned to military duties, wrote the following to his friend Solts:

“In the South, the most shocking outrages have been and are being committed, as well as crimes, about which we should shout from the rooftops and cry out in the city squares at the top of our voice. Unfortunately, for the time being I can’t do that. Given the customs that have been established here, we will never end this war but will meet our own end very quickly–from exhaustion. The Southern Front is Trotsky’s “favored child,” and flesh of the flesh… of this extremely untalented organizer…. It was not Trotsky who built the army but we, the rank-and-file army workers. Wherever Trotsky has tried to work, the most tremendous confusion has immediately arisen. There is no place for a muddlehead in an organism that must operate precisely and efficiently, and the military machine is such an organism.”

Medvedev, Roy. Let History Judge. New York: Columbia University Press, 1989, p. 104

Ordzhonikidze also wrote to Lenin from the Southern Front:

“Something unbelievable, something bordering on betrayal…. Where in the world is order, discipline, and Trotsky’s regular army? How in the world could he have let things fall apart so badly? It is absolutely incomprehensible.”

Medvedev, Roy. Let History Judge. New York: Columbia University Press, 1989, p. 104

With us, the problem was to make a clean sweep of the remains of the old army, and in its place to build, under fire, a new army, whose plan was not to be discovered in any book. This explains sufficiently why I felt uncertain about my military work, and consented to take it over only because there was no one else to do it.

I did not think of myself as in any sense a strategist, and had little patience with the sort of strategist-dilettantism that flooded the Party as a result of the revolution.

Trotsky , Leon . My Life. Gloucester, Massachusetts: P. Smith, 1970, p. 349


…In out-of-the-way places half savages, calling themselves Red Guards, committed heinous crimes. At the front General Dukhonin was dragged from his carriage and torn to pieces despite the protesting commissars. Even in Petrograd some Yunkers were clubbed to death by the storming crowds; others were pitched headlong into the Neva.
The attitude of the revolutionary working classes toward human life, however, is not reflected in these mad, sporadic deeds of the hot-blooded and the irresponsible, but in one of the first laws the Soviet made as it entered into power.
As the ruling-class the workers were now in a position to take vengeance on their former exploiters and executioners. When I saw them rise up and take the government in their own hands, and at the same time take in their grasp those who had lashed them, jailed them, and betrayed them, I feared a savage outburst of revenge.
But there was no dreadful blood-bath. On the contrary, the idea of reprisals seemed to have no hold on the minds of the workers. On Nov. 10 the Soviet passed the decree declaring the Abolition of Capital Punishment. This was not merely a humanitarian gesture. The workers turned to their enemies not only to guarantee their lives but in many cases to grant them freedom.
Many sinister figures of the old regime had been incarcerated by Kerensky in the bastion of the Peter-Paul Fortress. There we met Biletzky, the chief of the Czar’s Secret Service who in his day had railroaded countless victims into these dungeons. Now the old grizzled rat was getting a taste of his own medicine. Here also was the ex-War Minister Sukhomlinov, whose intrigue with the Germans had sent tens of thousands of Russian soldiers to death in the trenches. These two arch-villains received us with the most engaging manners, proclaiming their innocence and protesting against their “inhuman persecution.”
“But the Bolsheviks are more human than Kerensky,” they said. “They give us the newspapers.”
We visited also the ministers of the fallen Provisional Government in their cells and found them taking their misfortunes with good grace. Tereschenko, handsome as ever, received us sitting cross-legged on his cot, smoking a cigarette.
“This is not the life deluxe,” he said in faultless English. “But the commandant is not to blame. Suddenly he had to provide for hundreds of extra prisoners and no extra rations. So we are hungry. But we get the same as the Red Guards; though they scowl at us they share their bread with us.”
Williams, Albert. Through the Russian Revolution. Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1967, p. 160

But up to 1936, preferential treatment of political prisoners could still be claimed even by imprisoned Trotskyites,…
Conquest, Robert. The Great Terror. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990, p. 310


…No privileged class voluntarily resigns any of its privileges. No class steeped in tradition discards the old and gladly embraces the new.
There are of course exceptions to this rule–in Russia some striking ones. The old Tsarist general, Nikolayev, declared himself a Bolshevik and took command in the Red Army. Later captured by the Whites at Yamburg he was called upon to deny his faith. He refused. He was tortured– a red star burned upon his breast. Still he refused to recant. He was led to the scaffold and a noose placed around his neck.
“I die a Bolshevik. Long live the Soviet,” he cried as he was swung out into space.
Williams, Albert. Through the Russian Revolution. Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1967, p. 171


It is said that the rank-and-file were held in line by the iron will of their leaders, that their resolution was just the reflex of the resolution of the men above. The opposite is nearer the truth.
It was the leaders who were irresolute. Three Bolshevik Commissars left their posts at a critical moment. Five others (Zinoviev, Kamenev, Milyutin, Nogin, Rykov) tendered their resignation to the Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party. Lunacharsky, believing all tales of Moscow’s destruction, cried out, “My cup is full. I am unable to endure this horror. It is impossible to work under the pressure of thoughts that drive me mad. I can bear no more. I resign.”
Williams, Albert. Through the Russian Revolution. Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1967, p. 172


This was Jacques Blumkin who, if only he would give free rein to his natural eloquence could unfold one of the most romantic life-stories imaginable.
“By birth I am a Jew and a bourgeois. After passing through college I became a professional revolutionary, and was formerly a member of the Social Revolutionary Party of the Left. Acting on instructions from the Central Committee of my Party, I killed Count Mirbach, the German ambassador, in July 1918.
Barmine, Alexandre. Memoirs of a Soviet Diplomat. London: L. Dickson limited,1938, p. 142

Semenov, who had been involved in Fanny Kaplan’s attempt on Lenin’s life in August 1918, provided some interesting details on this event, but falsely implicated the SR leadership. [This is false] Later he would stand trial as both defendant and star witness for the prosecution.
Pipes, Richard. Russia Under the Bolshevik Regime. New York: A.A. Knopf, 1993, p. 405


…Yekaterinburg, where the murder of the Tsar had taken place, had appropriately been renamed Sverdlovsk; Sverdlov, with Lenin, had ordered the killing (as a Soviet analysis in 1989 makes clear).
Conquest, Robert. Stalin: Breaker of Nations. New York, New York: Viking, 1991, p. 130


At the same time, without foreign intervention on the White side there would have been no Civil War (in the military sense of this word) because the immense superiority of the Bolsheviks in manpower and weaponry would have enabled them quickly to overcome all armed resistance.
Pipes, Richard. Russia Under the Bolshevik Regime. New York: A.A. Knopf, 1993, p. 63

Once decided upon, British intervention took several forms: (1) the provisioning of the anti-Bolshevik forces with military material ranging from uniforms to airplanes and tanks, mostly drawn from surplus stores left over from World War I; (2) the maintenance on Russian soil and off the Russian coast of British military and naval contingents whose main mission was to perform guard duties and enforce the blockade, but which could, when threatened, defend themselves; (3) the training of White officers; (4) help with intelligence and communications; and (5), ultimately, evacuation of the remnant of the defeated White armies. The aid, although far below what Britain could have offered, was vital to the White cause.
Pipes, Richard. Russia Under the Bolshevik Regime. New York: A.A. Knopf, 1993, p. 71-72

Kolchak was in no position to bargain, since nearly all his war material came from abroad: every round of rifle ammunition fired by his troops was of British manufacture. Between October 1918 and October 1919, Britain sent to Omsk 97,000 tons of supplies, including 600,000 rifles, 6831 machine guns, and over 200,000 uniforms. (The French provided Kolchak only with a few hundred machine guns that had originally been destined for the Czechs.)
Pipes, Richard. Russia Under the Bolshevik Regime. New York: A.A. Knopf, 1993, p. 79

The White forces were backed to the hilt by the British and French. Kolchak, who proclaimed himself dictator of Russia, was officially recognized by the Allied Supreme Council in Paris. Denikin was assisted by the Allied navies which had sailed into the Black Sea. French troops occupied Odessa. The British navy helped Yudenich in the Bay of Finland. Churchill in Great Britain and Clemenceau in France were the most determined protagonists of intervention. But neither the White generals–each of whom wished to reserve the role of Russia’s savior exclusively for himself– nor the Western powers were able to concert their actions; and so the Bolsheviks disposed of their enemies one by one.
Deutscher, Isaac. Stalin; A Political Biography. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1967, p. 210


The invasion [by the Red Army] was welcomed by the Armenian government and population alike as offering protection from the Turks. In December Armenia became a Soviet republic;…
Pipes, Richard. Russia Under the Bolshevik Regime. New York: A.A. Knopf, 1993, p. 162


The proportion of the population killed in these two ‘Red Terrors,’ the Jacobin and the Great Purge of the Bolsheviks, pales in comparison with the ‘White Terrors’ perpetrated by the property class either to prevent social revolutions or to take vengeance on those who tried and failed (for example, El Salvador, Guatemala, Indonesia, Germany, Argentina).
Szymanski, Albert. Human Rights in the Soviet Union. London: Zed Books, 1984, p. 244


In any event, on July 5, 1919, one month after privately urging Lenin to remove Trotsky, Stalin was one of the seven to affix his signature to the unanimous declaration which was transmitted to Trotsky, and in which his resignation was declined as “absolutely impossible” and of the “greatest detriment to the republic.”
Levine, Isaac Don. Stalin. New York: Cosmopolitan Book Corporation, c1931, p. 185


Stalin’s health was breaking down. His temper became irritable. He was being employed to stop dangerous gaps, but he never received proper credit for his work. He did the inside jobs. Trotsky garnered the glory.
Levine, Isaac Don. Stalin. New York: Cosmopolitan Book Corporation, c1931, p. 187


But the rapid march of the Reds across Ukraine changed Lenin’s stance and he started to advocate an invasion of Poland….
Stalin was unenthusiastic. He had been warning all summer about the resurgence of White military capacity in the Crimea, and he questioned the wisdom of taking on the Poles while Wrangel remained a threat. Even Trotsky and Radek, who had opposed Lenin over Brest-Litovsk, were disconcerted by Lenin’s position. Stalin’s objections were not confined to his chronic skepticism about European socialist revolution and his concern about Wrangel. He doubted that the Red Army was adequately coordinated and organized. He worried about the length and strength of the lines of supply. From his base with Red forces in Ukraine he had reason to think he knew what he was writing about. The Soviet state was insecure from attack by the Whites. Plans for a military breakthrough to Poland and Germany were unrealistic. Stalin repeatedly mentioned the danger posed by Wrangel from the Crimea. He also reminded Lenin not to underestimate the strength of nationalism among the Polish working class. Stalin was surprised that Lenin, usually his ally on the national question, failed to sense the danger awaiting the Red Army in this respect. He wanted the care used at Brest-Litovsk in 1918 to be applied to the decision on war or peace with Poland.
Service, Robert. Stalin. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press, 2005, p. 177

But he [Stalin] was soon accused of something more serious. It came to be said that an obsession with military glory had caused him to withhold forces from Tukhachevsky. He therefore appeared to be the culprit for the defeat of the Reds. This is too strong a verdict. In fact he did not block the transfer of troops:
Service, Robert. Stalin. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press, 2005, p. 181

Stalin had warned against the whole Polish campaign. He had sounded the alarm about Wrangel. He had been asked to deal with two military fronts as if they had been one and then been asked to cope with yet another front.
Service, Robert. Stalin. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press, 2005, p. 183


There is a riot at every step as one goes through current historical publications: in Brest-Litovsk Trotsky did not carry out Lenin’s instructions; at the Southern Front Trotsky went against Lenin’s directives; on the Eastern Front Trotsky acted contrary to Lenin’s orders; and so forth and so on. In the first place, it should be pointed out that Lenin could not give me personal directives. Relations in the party were not like that. We were both members of the Central Committee, which settled all differences of opinion. Whenever there was disagreement between Lenin and me, and such disagreements occurred more than once, the question was automatically referred to the Politburo of the Central Committee, which made the decision. Hence, strictly speaking, it was never in any way a question of my violating Lenin’s directives. But this is only one aspect of the matter–the formal one. Getting down to essentials, one cannot help asking: was there any sound reason for carrying out the directives of the Lenin who had placed at the head of the War Department a person who committed nothing but errors and crimes; at the head of the national economy–Rytov, a “self-confessed” restorer of capitalism and future agent of Fascism; at the head of the Communist International–that future Fascist and traitor, Zinoviev; at the head of the Party’s official newspaper and among the leaders of the Communist International–that future Fascist bandit, Bukharin?
Trotsky, Leon, Stalin. New York: Harper and Brothers Publishers, 1941, p. 269


Stalin’s assumption of the functions of manager of all the military forces at the front had obtained the confirmation of Moscow. The telegram of the Revolutionary Council of War of the Republic, which bore the notation that it was sent by agreement with Lenin, expressly delegated Stalin “to establish order, unite all detachments into regular formations, establish proper command, after expelling all insubordinates.” Thus the rights given to Stalin were signed, and as far as one is able to judge from the text, were even formulated by me.
Trotsky, Leon, Stalin. New York: Harper and Brothers Publishers, 1941, p. 287


Five years later, speaking of the Trotsky legends in relation to the conduct of the war, Stalin said:
“Among these widely circulated legends is the story that Comrade Trotsky is the ‘only’ or ‘main organizer’ of our victories in the civil war. I must declare in the interests of truth that the story does not at all conform to the facts. I am far from denying the important part played by Comrade Trotsky in the civil war. But I must insist with all resoluteness that the high honor of bringing about our victories belongs not to individuals, but to the great collective of the advanced workers of our country–the Russian Communist Party.” Stalin then recited Trotsky’s failure to perceive the right strategy in the crucial campaigns against Kolchak and Denikin, and concluded with the challenge: ‘Let them try to deny these facts!'”
Levine, Isaac Don. Stalin. New York: Cosmopolitan Book Corporation, c1931, p. 184


Lenin agreed to this incredible holdup because the Russian people were dying by millions of starvation, pestilence, and war. “We will retreat to the Urals if need be,” was Lenin’s decision. Even on these terms the powers at Versailles refused to grant peace to the Bolsheviks, choosing rather to destroy them utterly.
Strong, Anna L. The Soviets Expected It. New York, New York: The Dial press, 1941, p. 144


Lenin said in so far as Trotsky’s tactics were directed towards playing for time, they were correct; they became wrong when the state of war was declared to be at an end and peace was not signed.
Murphy, John Thomas. Stalin, London, John Lane, 1945, p. 120

Trotsky’s attempt to impose the arbitrary dimensions of Europe as a prerequisite of victory within Russia had jeopardized the revolution and cost Soviet Russia a loss of considerable territory and people.
Murphy, John Thomas. Stalin, London, John Lane, 1945, p. 121

Trotsky would not have been Trotsky without a special standpoint of his own. He was the leader of the Russian delegation for the peace negotiations at Brest-Litovsk. He did not comply with Lenin’s desire for the immediate conclusion of peace.
Basseches, Nikolaus. Stalin. London, New York: Staples Press, 1952, p. 124

As was to be expected, the Germans took Trotsky’s declaration as a breaking off of the negotiations. They denounced the armistice and advanced. The result was the occupation not only of the whole of the Ukraine, but of the Baltic provinces, the Caucasus, and southern Russia. Peace had to be signed under new and much worse conditions. Trotsky never admitted his error.
Basseches, Nikolaus. Stalin London, New York: Staples Press, 1952, p. 124-126

Viewed from this angle, Trotsky’s error of judgment [his negotiating delays allowed the Germans to seize ever more Russian territory] was to a great extent the cause of the Civil War and the Allied intervention which plunged a Russia into miseries never before endured by any nation.
Cole, David M. Josef Stalin; Man of Steel. London, New York: Rich & Cowan, 1942, p. 44

The position of the Soviet state was further weekend by Trotsky’s attempt to deal with advancing troops by clever phrases. He refused to sign terms but protested in the formula: “Neither war nor peace”–an appeal to the conscience of the German people. But general staffs are not expected to have a conscience, and no Germans acted to save the Russians. The invading army marched far into the Ukraine and took possession, giving in the end worse terms than those originally offered….
If Germany offered the Bolsheviks only a robber’s… peace, their former allies gave them no peace at all.
Strong, Anna Louise. This Soviet World. New York, N. Y: H. Holt and company, c1936, p. 139

“Never, it seems,” Comrade Stalin says in “On the Opposition,” “did the struggle in the Party among the Bolsheviks reach such a pitch of ferocity as during this period, the period of the Brest-Litovsk peace.”
Yaroslavsky, Emelian. Landmarks in the Life of Stalin. Moscow: FLPH, 1940, p. 100

Trotsky was cunning. During the vote on whether to except the Brest peace treaty, he said he would adhere to his own opinion, non-acceptance. But Lenin said he would resign from the Central Committee and go to the masses to struggle against the Central Committee if it should vote to reject signing the peace. Trotsky said that inasmuch as this would lead to a split in the party, he would abstain. Lenin then got a majority by one vote.
Chuev, Feliks. Molotov Remembers. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1993, p. 142

…Trotsky’s attitude was equivocal. He propounded the formula “Neither peace nor war,” but did not explain what this meant in practical terms. His attitude served only to embitter the discussion, whose memory remained to become a nail in many a coffin.
Duranty, Walter. Story of Soviet Russia. Philadelphia, N. Y.: JB Lippincott Co. 1944, p. 42


Although the government crushed the revolt at Kronstadt, it had to do more than just answer the protest with the gun. It had to retreat from “war communism” to what became known as the “new economic policy.”
Murphy, John Thomas. Stalin, London, John Lane, 1945, p. 142


It was Trotsky, who had rallied to Bolshevism and was an important member of the Government, who carried out the negotiations on the spot. Lenin directed them from the seat of government, with the help of Stalin. To a telegraphic demand for instructions which Trotsky sent him on a private wire, Lenin replied by the following telegram, dated February the 15th, 1918: “Reply to Trotsky, I must first consult Stalin before replying to his question.” A little later, on February the 18th, Lenin telegraphed to Trotsky: “Stalin has just arrived. We will examine the situation together and send you a joint reply as soon as possible. Lenin.”
Barbusse, Henri. Stalin. New York: The Macmillan company, 1935, p. 59

Too little is known of the decisive part played by Stalin at the time of the Treaty of Brest. A large section of the Left of the Party–those who had been most energetic in seizing power–were against the signature of the Treaty; Trotsky was also against it, with his formula of “neither peace nor war” because he believed that the war would not really end except with the world Revolution. Lenin and Stalin alone were for its immediate conclusion. Lenin hesitated to use his personal authority. Stalin decided him to do so. This little conversation of theirs must have weighed heavily on the destinies of the Revolution.
Barbusse, Henri. Stalin. New York: The Macmillan company, 1935, p. 60

Trotsky’s furious sallies made no impression on his German opponents. They knew the weakness of his position. Suddenly, on Jan. 18, they produced a map of eastern Europe, showing the new frontiers, which deprived Russia of extensive territories. The ultimatum enraged Trotsky. He swore he would break off negotiations. Then, having received a telegram, signed “Lenin-Stalin,” instructing him to return to Petrograd for discussions, he agreed to an adjournment until Jan. 29. There is further evidence, cited by Trotsky himself, showing how closely Stalin stood to Lenin at this critical time. A certain Dmitrievsky observed that “even Lenin at that period felt the need of Stalin to such an extent that, when communications came from Trotsky at Brest and an immediate decision had to be made, while Stalin was not in Moscow, Lenin would inform Trotsky: ‘I would like first to consult with Stalin before replying to your question.’ And only three days later Lenin would telegraph: ‘Stalin has just arrived. I will consider it with him, and we will at once gave you our joint answer.’ “
Grey, Ian. Stalin, Man of History. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1979, p. 106


… In March 1921 the Kronstadt sailors’ mutiny issued a national call to overthrow the Bolshevik leadership of the Revolution. The mutiny’s main demands included: the release of all political prisoners; the abolition of the special leading position of the Communist party; the rights of the peasants to do with their land whatever they wanted; the immediate re-election of the Soviets by ‘free and secret ballot’; and the elimination of all restrictions on freedom of speech and of the press.
Szymanski, Albert. Human Rights in the Soviet Union. London: Zed Books, 1984, p. 209


The number who perished from famine and decease in the bitterly cold winters of 1921 and 1922 has been variously estimated between five end ten millions…. Yet there are persons stupid enough to declare that the “War Communism” of these years corresponds to the real aims of the Bolsheviks and to hold them responsible for the sufferings of the country.
Murphy, John Thomas. Stalin, London, John Lane, 1945, p. 140

The middle-class machinery being violently cast aside, “War Communism” was instituted, that is to say the utilization of only a portion of all the economic elements which the state had appropriated to itself: “A clumsy, centralized machine, destined to extract from industry disorganized by war, by revolution, and by sabotage the minimum of produce necessary in order that the towns and the Red Army should not die of hunger.”
It was necessary, so far as wheat was concerned, to proceed with the “compulsory removal of the excess of peasant labor.” It was a system of State rationing, “a besieged fortress regime.”
So that, after the last violent upheaval, the remnants of middle-class power were really definitely eliminated and cast into the past, at the same time that the majority of the Whites and the foreigners were cast beyond the frontiers. The Revolution and peace remained alone on the historical and economic ruins. But public life was in its death-throes. Commerce and industry had gone still further downhill. Then Nature took a hand in the game: one of the most appalling famines of modern times, caused by an exceptional drought, descended on the most fertile Russian territories. The peasants who had, willingly or compulsorily, ensured as much as possible the supply of the gigantic two years’ battle, were everywhere frightened, distrustful, often hostile. At certain points they revolted (1921).
As for the immense reinforcement hoped for and for which the horizon was daily scanned–the World Revolution–there were certainly no signs of it. What was the international proletariat doing? It occasionally stirred a little, but without any real result, or else it was being defeated, like that of Hungary, thrust back, it is true, into the age-old regime by Allied bayonets; and like the one upon which most reliance was placed, the German proletariat, shot down by machine gunfire by Clemenceau.
Barbusse, Henri. Stalin. New York: The Macmillan company, 1935, p. 120


October 6, 1921–The Russian famine, which has brought upward of 15 million human beings to the verge of starvation today,…is perhaps the most important single factor in the internal and external life of Russia at present.
The famine was caused by drought, not communism,…
Duranty, Walter. Duranty Reports Russia. New York: The Viking Press, 1934, p. 18


June 12, 1922–We have conquered the Vogel famine, said Col. Haskell, head of the American Relief Administration in Russia. “The Soviets did their share,” he declared, “and I for one am willing to go on record as an optimist on Russia.”
Duranty, Walter. Duranty Reports Russia. New York: The Viking Press, 1934, p. 31

[Footnote]: It is less apparent why Western scholars should have ignored it [the 1921 famine]. E. H. Carr, for example, in his three-volume History of the Russian Revolution, where he finds space for the most esoteric information, dismisses this calamity in a single paragraph on the specious grounds that “estimates of those who perished are unreliable.”… At the time of writing [1993], there exists not one scholarly monograph on the 1921 famine.
Pipes, Richard. Russia Under the Bolshevik Regime. New York: A.A. Knopf, 1993, p. 410


In 1921, at the beginning of the NEP, there was famine. People began saying that grain should be imported. We needed resources for this. Lenin said the churchmen must help. If we confiscate church valuables, the priests well acquiesce. If they start to resist, this too would benefit us. Clinging to their wealth while the people are starving will undermine their authority.
Chuev, Feliks. Molotov Remembers. Chicago: I. R. Dee, 1993, p. 130

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