Lenin and The Bomb – A Continuing debate (Part I: Lyttenburgh)

Dear Readers:

My trilogy last week about the Putin-Lenin gaffe stirred up quite a debate. To see what I am talking about and/or refresh your recollection, please peruse Part I, Part II, and Part III of my trilogy.

So now I have a special treat for you. Two of my readers, first Lyttenburgh, and then Ryan Ward, both of whom are history students, have an opportunity to give their (often opposing) points of view on this important issue, namely the role played by V.I. Lenin in Russian history.  Lyttenburgh, who has previously posted on my blog on issues of American cultural supremacy, got his mss to me first, so he goes first, although Ryan was not far behind, and I hope to get his (Ryan’s) piece up tomorrow.

So. here, without further ado, is Lyttenburgh’s approach to this issue, and to this controversy.  This is Lyttenburg speaking now:



On comrade Lenin and the atomic bomb


Upon hearing what Putin said about Lenin, and how he characterized his role in the further development and the ultimate fate of Russia, I couldn’t help but think of  Vladimir Vladimirovich [Putin] himself, of his own words, said out clear and loud during the 70th anniversary UN session: “Do you understand what you have done?”.

People in Russia still talk about it.  RuNet has become a Civil War re-enactment battleground between the new Reds and Whites. Western Free and Independent Press ™ already descended on this event like a murder of crows upon a battlefield.

Various people standing on different ideological or political positions are now attacking Lenin, the Great October Revolution and, with them, the entire USSR. They ultimately question the role of Lenin and the Bolsheviks during one of the most hard and crucial periods of Russian history. “Question” here means “denying anything positive”. People doing that are of 2 types:  the only anti-Sovietists [yalensis:  in other words, people who hate the Soviet Union but not Russia herself], or the Russophobes masquerading their true feelings towards Russia, its history and people.

These “doubting” people participating in this lively discussion of Comrade’s Lenin role and his actions as the head of the Soviet State, unleash a barrage of attacks, mainly consisting of half-truths and misconceptions. They are doing it as fiercely and relentlessly, as German artillery at Verdun. These people insist on the exclusively destructive role of the Bolsheviks in Russia – that they had “destroyed” the Russian army via their insidious agitation, and then “stole” an “assured” Russian victory over Germany and its allies. They claim that for Russia the defeat was off the table by late 1917, because (according to them) the frontline was so stable – and that there was no real need to sign the “treasonous” Brest-Litovsk peace. Finally, they propagate the myth that even after that from 1918 onward nothing really threatened Russian statehood and, thus, Lenin and his Bolsheviks

On my part, I offer this small contribution to this debate in hope that something good will come out of this nation-wide discussion after all. That it will serve as a crucible, which would purge all schlag from peoples’ heads, put there for the last 25 years and demonstrate to the powers that be (and certain non-systemic elements) where Russian citizens sympathies really lie.

Part 1.

Who and how ruined Russia in 1917?

For any student of history it’s always important to stay coolheaded and not to allow one’s sympathies and biases to cloud the judgment, or to avoid some things outright. No – let’s discuss them! Bolsheviks surely were agitating soldiers participating in the so-called Great War (in Russia it’s been also called “German War”) to lay down their arms and stop killing each other in this unjust and imperialist war. But not only were they agitating the Russian army, they were agitating soldiers in all fighting armies to do exactly that – and, in fact, there is hardly any “Bolshevik connection” to one of the largest mutinies of the First World War – French mutinies of 1917. But you know what? These uber-evil, baby-eatin’, priests-shootin’, intelligentsia-exilin’, private property-stealin’ Bolsheviks… did not destroy the Russian army! It wasn’t them!

Russian soldiers mobilized in WWI

And you know who was that? Why, it was all thanks to the shy and conscientious intilligents (and also bourgeoisie and nobility) members of the thread-bare legitimate Interim Government – plus, of course, also thanks to the fedora-tippin’, champagne-sippin’, coffee-houses rantin’ revolutionary bohemians of the Petrograd Soviet (nearly 100% of them – men’shevik’s and eSeRs), who did everything in their power to obstruct the government while receiving a hefty gesheft from participating in political rallies and blathering their way from day to day – without accomplishing anything.

If we are to name the first and most destructive event, which ultimately destroyed the Russian army as a fighting force, then we should look no further than the Order №1 of the Petrosoviet (1 March 1917), which its deputies agreed upon with the bourgeois (yes, bourgeois – that’s an absolutely correct term to describe them) Interim Government. This order introduced the “democratic elections” of the officers by the soldiers, soldiers themselves now could form (even on the frontlines) their own quasi-Soviets – committees – with vast authority over them, plus the corporal and death punishments were abolished. Honorific forms of address to officers were also abolished – as well as performing of the military salute and coming to attention in the presence of officers. One of the authors of this Decree №1, men’shevik Iosif Goldenberg said in March 1917:

“Order №1 is not a mistake – it’s a necessity… The very same day when we “made the Revolution”, we also understood, that if we won’t ruin the old army, it would destroy the Revolution. We didn’t doubt: we decided in the favor of the later and employed – I’m claiming that openly – an appropriate measure”.

So, who is more fitting to the “fifth column” mold? Lenin and his Bolsheviks or… this?

And now, a little bit of context.

Imagine that – by February 1917, the Russian army held on the eastern front about half of all German divisions. In 1916 Brusilov’s offensive managed to somehow improve the situation on the South-Western front – before Romania ruined it all by entering the war on Entente’s side and loosing nearly immediately. In Caucasus the Russian army was successful against the Turks. Things were holding – but barely. There was an urgent need for some real reforms and society’s restructuring, otherwise the situation would be unsustainable in the long run. The situation within the country was depressing. After 3 years of war the prices on all goods in the Russian empire had increased 3-4 times. For comparison – in France the price hike after 3 years of war was only by 70%.

President of the Interim Government

And then came the Interim Government – and fucked it all up. Them – not Lenin and Bolsheviks. During their glorious reign these proto-liberasts managed to screw over what little that still remained of the Russian economy, already suffering from the war. During 1917 prices increased 4 times AGAIN. The value of the ruble fell by 4 times. This government couldn’t manage to collect taxes starting from the summer of ’17. Their solution? Why, print more money, of course! And, naturally, take more, and more, and MORE credits from our faithful “allies” – under the promise to participate further in this bloodbath.

And that’s what they did – for the money. Already on 6 March the Interim Government announced that it (read – poor sods in the trenches) will continue the war “till Victory!”. April 20 saw the release of “Milyukov’s note”, named that after the Foreign Minister and leader of the liberal party of Kadets Pavel Milyukov. Here Milyukov on behalf of the Interim Government reaffirmed once again his willingness to keep Russia in the war and be faithful to its “allies”. And even when on 22 May the Commander of the German Eastern front prince Leopold of Bayern radioed an offer to begin peace talks – the Interim Government rejected it. After all, they were “loyal” in a sense of the word – they stood bought.

“War until the final victory!”

I also remind people, that in May 1917 Kerensky was a Military Minister in the government. That after a deliberate sabotage known as the Order №1 (for which also voted members of his own party – the eSeRs) the Russian army in just a couple of months became demoralized and virtually uncontrollable. Fraternizing of Russian and German soldiers became commonplace, officer’s orders were often ignored. Hell – frontline soldiers often forbade the artillery to shell enemy’s trenches, because it would be not “nice” – or just because they didn’t want for the Germans to shell them back.

Everything was ready for a colossal military disaster to break out – and sure enough it did. Staying out of the war was out of the question with such a democratic and warmongering bourgeois government. Another time-honored Russian tactic – simulation of huge activity while doing exactly nothing – was also impossible since the imposition of the political officers – commissars – loyal to the Interim Government and tasked with pursuing governmental objectives in the military units. And our gallant “allies” themselves won’t allow such unseemly things to happen. They held the strings to the purse which kept the Interim Government floating and they demanded another Big Push. And them, our “allies”, were always glad (just like in the early 19th c.) to fight bravely “to the last Russian”.

The summer offensive of 1917 ended in complete disaster just 2 weeks after its beginning. After the Germans broke through the Russian frontlines on 6 July in the area of the town of Tarnopol (now – Ternipil of the Best Ukrajina) and the new, “Revolutionary Army”, which Kerensky had previously morally motivated during his lectures and political rallies held along the frontlines just in May, simply broke and began withdrawing in a complete disarray. The number of deserters (deserting with their army-issued rifles in hands and as much ammo as they could take) skyrocketed. But, hey – it didn’t matter at all! Russian “republican” government just yet again did its duty to the “grateful allies”, by managing to attract to their front another 16 German divisions! Tally ho!

English and German soldiers also started fraternizing in the trenches.

After that the front-line was sooooo incredibly stable that on 20 August the Germans took Riga – which, if you look at the map, was in dangerous proximity to the capital – Petrograd. The frontline proved itself one again “stable” when on 1 October the Moonsund naval battle ended with the sinking of the battleship “Slava” and the destroyer “Grom” – and later that month Germans did capture Moonsund islands just off the Estonian coast. On October 20, a mere days before the October revolution, new Military Minister in Kerensky’s cabinet Alexander Verkhovsky said: “We can’t fight any more. The pull of the Army to the peace is undefeatable right now. Thus, the only thing we must do now – to sign a peace with Germany. This will allow us to save the country from a catastrophe”. But, as we know, “democrats” of the Interim Government were loyal to their allies – they stood bought. Even despite the fact that by now they’ve lost all respect of the people, they were continuing their chant – “War till Victory!”. Verkhovskiy resigned the following day in disgust.

Part 2.

Bolsheviks and rapidly disappearing Russia.

The Eastern front did indeed became “relatively stable” in 1917 only by the mid November, after the October Revolution and when the new government of the Bolsheviks reached out o the Germans and said out loud – let’s sign an armistice. This little thing happened after the “Decree on Peace” – which called all fighting countries to sign the universal peace without annexations and contributions.

And – again – let’s not leave aside some “hard” topics”. Let’s talk about Brest-Litovsk.  When the peace talks began on 9 December 1917, the situation in the whole of the country looked grim.   The Bolsheviks inherited this situation – not created it. There was no army – thanks to the Interim Government and men’shvik Soviets. The country couldn’t physically fight anymore. Were the German conditions hard? Yes! But about 80% of the territory that Germans claimed as their new “own” had not been controlled by the central government anyway – like Poland, Baltics or the Ukraine. Hard, harsh – but survivable terms.

During Russian Civil War, one Czech legion controlled most of Siberia!

Brest-Litovsk had been signed in 3 March 1918, and then – a Czechoslovakian revolt broke out. By May 1918 Bolsheviks lost control of the territory from Urals to the Far East. Now, without the territory behind the Urals, without anything western than Pskov, without Southern Caucasus and Finland, “Russia”, so to speak, shrank to its borders of, say, 16th century.

And then it became worse – the Volga region had been lost. Here, the “crème de la crème” of that era’s “handshakability”, true giants and titans of Russian liberalism (no irony here – they were a real thing, not like the so-called “Russian liberals” of today), former Constitutional Assembly deputies decided to create their own state within Russia, aka the Committee of Deputies of the Constitutional Assembly (КомУЧ) – thus shrinking Russian territory even more. The very existence of Russia as unified and functioning state became threatened.

There is one fundamental historical document that any self-respecting historian studying early XX c. Russia absolutely must read. I’m talking about a note, written by a former Minister of the Interior P.N. Durnovo in February 1914. Here, he predicted with amazing accuracy what would happen in the event of a Russian-German war. Durnovo also prophetically noted that no one of the existing political parties in Russia really represents its people and they won’t be capable to lead the people in the case of the imminent Revolution. He then named one true enemy, threatening the existence of Russia – not just the Russian Empire, but Russia as the independent state.

It was the Anarchy:

The complete and total collapse of all basic institutions of the state and society.

And in 1918 onwards such a threat was real. Due to the general ruin and destruction resulting from the war and revolutions some basic elements of everyday life were unraveling really fast. Some particular people like to badmouth (to put it mildly) Bolsheviks for the Prodrazverstka and the Military Communism system of requisitions. But do they have any idea what happened at that time in the former Russian Empire? The relationships between the city and the countryside collapsed completely. In the spirit of the free enterprise and the Invisible Hand of the Market ™ peasants (especially – kulaks) simply refused to sell the grain to the cities on “unfavorable conditions”. Which usually meant – starving city population while demanding outrageous sums of money. Can you imagine how damaging to the very structure of society was that?

Makhnovshchina. They say peasant anarchy is the worst kind of anarchy.

Besides Reds and Whites, various foreign Intervents and local Nationalists, a constant feature throughout the Civil war, had become various gangs and warbands – not just Makhnovtsi, or the “Revolutionary Seamen” [see youtube video, above] hi-jacking entire trains and travelling across the country to establish their “Anarchic Order” – or even a short lived “army” of the uncrowned king of Odessan gangster Mishka the Jap. All sorts of gangs ruled the vast gaps existing in between the little authority that still remained, not interested in any particular ideology. It all actually began while the Interim Government pretended to be a something, with the hike in criminal rate (thoughtful liberals abolished the Police and Gendarmerie coupled with the wide amnesty… uhm, yay!) and peasants, angered at the constant delays in deciding the “Land Question” capturing the nobles’ land for themselves – and pomesh’iks fighting back.

It was a maddening scenario of the “War of All against All” finally brought to its unholy conclusion.

Part 3.

Alternatives to the Soviet Bolshevik Russia… or the lack of them.

It might come as shock to many anti-Sovietists, but the Bolsheviks and Lenin were the only real alternative to the constantly spreading anarchy and the annihilation of the state. And they did that – they saved their country after 4 years full of constant battles and very difficult political decisions.  The Bolsheviks had a large base of supporters ready to carry out their orders and, when a time was really tight, to endure all hardships and put their trust into them.

“But what about numerous Bolsheviks enemies? Surely, they represented a viable alternative to them and their evil ways!” – claim anti-Sovietists. Usually they say things like that either due to lack of any concrete knowledge about the Russian Civil War and the forces participating in it, or due to their deep-rooted ideological indoctrination, preventing them from seeing clearly.

In 1918 by the most conservative estimates on the territory of the former Russian empire sprang at least 20 “governments” with the pretensions to be the One and Only True One. One of such governments was already mentioned “ComUCH” in Volga region. It was a liberal and democratic dream come true – a government of well-educated professionals, members of mainly liberal parties (plus men’sheviks and Right eSeRs, by that time virtually indistinguishable from them), who had a tint of legitimacy on them by often being a big-cities residents and/or formers of the short lived Uchredilovka.

ComUCH’s political program could be summed up as “For Everything Good and against Everything Bad”. Officially proclaimed were all basic democratic liberties. No persecution of the church and the faithful. 8-hour work day and permission to form trade unions. Finally – full recognition and respect to the private property and private enterprises. Naturally – no requisitions from the populace. A true ideological opposite to what was happening at the time under the godless Bolsheviks! In August, they managed to capture Kazan – and with it large supplies of arms, ammos, medicine, but, most important of all, the gold of Russian Empire. Surely, with such auspicious beginning, they could not lose!

But it all went crushing down. Nearly immediately. Because the capitalism and free entrepreneurship were allowed a full and unrestricted reign the prices for the grain in Volga region – one of the most fertile breadbaskets of Russian Empire – hiked 5 times. Just because rich landowners (kulaks and pomesh’ik) felt that they can demand that much. Or, oftentimes, noble lands were mortgaged to the bank – sometimes, foreign bank from one of Entente countries. Naturally, these lands could not be divided by the villagers, who already heard about Lenin’s “Decree on the Land” – but they did it anyway. And because the cites still needed food – as well as it needed ComUCH’s army – a wave of illegal requisitions swept the countryside. In some cases soldiers used artillery against villages, which refused to hand over their grain to them.

And what about the official “government”, those “aristocrats of the spirit”, people, who were head and shoulders above those, whom they ruled over? They were helpless and just looked impotently on the chaos, ruling over all around them. When their own military couped them after just 4 months of their brand of liberalism running wild, probably, everyone sighted with relief.

Admiral Kolchak

But what about the Whites, who generally replaced such “democratic” governments everywhere by the end of 1918? They didn’t have even a tint of their legitimacy – all of their authority came literally from a barrel of the rifle. Sure, at first they were seen as true bringers of order, a new force, that could bring a stability and act as the antithesis to both bumbling liberals and the bloody Bolsheviks. Their call for the “United and Undivided Russia” seemed to signify a desire to fight for the restoration of the country.

Instead, military juntas established by the Whites were even less stable than what came before them. The level of factionalism, lack of discipline, constant jockeying for power and warlordism were a constant and unredeemable feature of all of them. Yes, at first, when all of them were volunteers-only armies they proved themselves an effective and deadly fighting force – especially against non-existent (yet) Soviet military. On the peak of general Anton Denikin’s “career” as the “Commander of Russian Armies of the South” he controlled a gigantic territory – at least 42 millions citizens, access to the seas, all the grain from Kuban and Novorossiya, coal from Donbass and oil from Baku, plus the assistance and supplies from the Entente. The “Supreme Ruler of Russia” Admiral Kolchak held the enormous territory from the Ural mountains to Kamchatka, he held the golden reserves of Russian empire, he was propped by Czechoslovakian corps plus by American and Japanese intervention expeditionary units. In 1919 it seemed that the days of the Bolsheviks were numbered. That any moment now this or that White Army will march into Moscow unopposed.

Japanese troops invade Vladivostok, 1921

But they also failed. Not only did they fail to defeat the newly created Red Army – they themselves became so corrupt and ineffective, that the large White Movement was all but dying in just one year of its “success”. Territories under their control become true realms of terror – with constant looting, pogroms, requisitions and everything that became known as the “White Terror”, which in its scale and brutality often surpassed the over-hyped Red Terror. Even kulaks dreaded the approach of the Whites. In their inflexibility, they were loath to even discuss the “Land question”, preferring instead to give back to nobles their lands and estates, often already “communized” by the peasantry. Such actions were answered with punitive expeditions and mass whippings – and executions – of the “revolting” peasantry. Yes, bankers, gentry and capitalists were supporting the White movement – but they were too big on demand and too little on actual support. Surely, they were not rushing to join White Army ranks.

And despite their declared support for a “United Russia” the Whites demonstrated time and again their moral flexibility in that question. Some of them like ataman Krasnov openly allied themselves with the Germans. A number of Cossacks still loyal to him and other pro-German commanders would later emigrate and then join ranks with Hitler, when he invaded the Soviet Union. Other White generals stood loyal (i.e. “bought”) to Entente. But this time they were offering more and more to them – concessions and monopolies on virtually everything that still remained useful and salvageable in a dying Russia: gold, from the imperial reserves, entire industries – everything to secure the aid and official recognition from the West. In 1920 the Whites fell so low, that they officially allied themselves with Pilsudski’s Poland. This even was not exactly popular among already factious White movement. A significant number of them openly defected to the Reds (while others defected to Poland). Even members of Romanovs dynasty now in emigration were incensed by this move. The Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich (who lost his brothers to the Red Terror) openly voiced his desire to see the Polacks beaten by the Red commander Budyonniy.

Red Army commanders Timoshenko, Budyonny and Voroshilov.

In the end the White movement degenerated into yet another bunch of warbands, spreading nothing but chaos, destruction and anarchy in their wake. It’s rather telling, who were some of the last White Commanders – Baron von Ungern, whose warband was more like an apocalyptic cult straight out of “Mad-Max: Beyond Thunderdome” style dystopian future, and Bułak-Bałachowicz, a serial traitor, who used the newly independent Baltic countries as a staging ground for his destructive raids deep into the Soviet territories, and who later launched from Polish territory an attempt to “liberate Belarus” , which became a 3 week-long orgy of murders, pogroms and boiling people alive.

Parting words.

Putin said in his original statement

that “Lenin placed a nuclear bomb under the foundation of Russia”. Wrong – but Lenin was responsible for the fact, that we got the atomic bomb later on, saving us from a very glum fate this early on, in an already heating up Cold War. It was Lenin and his Bolsheviks, thanks to whom we got an Academy of Physics and Chemistry of the USSR, which produced amongst its alumni such famous scientists as academicians Kharitonov, Ioffe, Kapitsa, etc. Go ahead and compare the number of higher education institutions in czarist Russia in 1914 to what the USSR had accomplished by 1940.  The Bloody Bolsheviks, who loved nothing better than to pwn mercilessly some rotten ntyuligents (as we are told), these barbarians, who physically annihilated “the Elite of the Nation” (said with screeching falsetto, to show all the outrage) somehow managed unexplainable things! In 1914 there were 91 higher education centers – in 1940 there were 817. That’s 9 times more. And while in the Blessed Nicholaist Russia there were at that moment 114 000 students receiving higher education, in the godless country-wide gulag (as we are told… repeatedly) they numbered 811 700.

Soviet nuclear scientists

I’d like to end my take on Lenin’s role in Russia’s fate by quoting some people, whose opinion on him even the most hardcore anti-Sovietists can’t help but note – his enemies.

Nikolai Berdyaev (exiled by Lenin via “philosophers’ steamship”): “Lenin – a typical Russian man. Lenin was made from a single piece, he is solid … In 1918, when Russia was threatened by chaos and anarchy … he called for elementary things – for work, for discipline, for justice, for knowledge and learning, for the positive construction … He stopped the chaotic disintegration of Russia. In this he has similarities to Peter [the Great]” («Истоки и смысл русского коммунизма», Глава VI, 1938)..

Victor Chernov (eSeRs cheif ideologist, chairman of the Constituent Assembly and one of ComUCH leaders): “Lenin was a great man. Not only the greatest man in his party – he was its uncrowned king, and deserved that. He was its head, its mind, one might even say its heart, if he and the party did not accept the obligation to be heartless. Lenin had a powerful but cool intelligence. Intelligence that was ironic, sarcastic, cynical. For him there was nothing worse than sentimentality… For him, it was something frivolous – a hypocrisy, “the priest’s chatter.” Politics meant to him strategy and nothing else. The desire to win – the only commandment for him. The will to power and uncompromising implementation of the political program – that’s the only virtue. Doubt – the only crime” (“On the death of Lenin”, 1924).

Karl Kautsky (no comments): “You have to be crazy not to recognize the greatness of Lenin. To gather back into one single coherent state structure Russia – steeped in anarchy, beset on all sides by the counter-revolution, exhausted to the death – an achievement the likes of which can hardly be found in the history” (“On the death of Lenin”, 1924).

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22 Responses to Lenin and The Bomb – A Continuing debate (Part I: Lyttenburgh)

  1. Alexey says:

    Two cups of tea to this gentleman!


  2. Mao Cheng Ji says:

    Best Ukrajina”, really?

    Anyway, about Kolchak and stuff, may I recommend America’s Siberian Adventure (1918-1920) by General William S. Graves. Interesting read, even kinda funny at times. You’ll find it at marxists.org

    Also this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SC_EeAUTOvY , if you have an hour and a half to kill.


    • Lyttenburgh says:

      ““Best Ukrajina”, really?”

      Так! If the North Korea is the Best Korea, then it’s only logical that Galicia and Volhynia is the Best Ukrajina 🙂

      I read general Graves book. I think it’s a must read for anyone who have never heard about such things as the White Terror.


  3. PaulR says:

    I think you are a bit harsh on the Provisional Government. I doubt that anybody could have held things together in 1917. State legitimacy derived from the person of the Tsar. Once he was gone, many felt no obligation any more to respect the law, and a process of anarchic dissolution began,which I think was beyond the Provisional Government’s capacity to control. At least, though, the government wanted to restore order. Lenin didn’t, but did all he could to undermine it.

    Next, it needs to be noted that the civil war was a direct product of the way Lenin seized power, exploiting the Bolsheviks’ dominance of Petrograd to proclaim themselves the government despite not having majority support nationwide. This usurpation of power inevitably caused a backlash. This was especially so because whereas other Bolsheviks wanted the Congress of Soviets to declare a transfer of power to the Soviets and a coalition of all major parties in the Soviets, after which the Provisional Government would be overthrown , Lenin insisted on doing it the other way around – first overthrowing the Provisional Government and then going to the Congress of Soviets and presenting it with a fait accompli, including a new government which excluded the largest party in the country – the SRs. Lenin’s purpose in doing things this way was precisely to ensure that the Bolsheviks acquired a monopoly of power (the Left SRs didn’t count for much). The deliberate exclusion of other political forces within the country then caused civil war. So, I don’t think that you can congratulate Lenin for bringing the anarchy of 1917 and the Civil War to an end when he deliberately provoked both in order to pursue his own objective of a state monopolized by the Bolsheviks.


    • Mao Cheng Ji says:

      As I remember from my school days (long time ago, admittedly), the main issue was the war. The Provos wanted to continue, to the victorious end, and Lenin believed that the slaughter needs to be stopped asap, and the only way to end it is to overthrow the capitalist government (April’s Theses).


    • Lyttenburgh says:

      “I think you are a bit harsh on the Provisional Government. I doubt that anybody could have held things together in 1917. State legitimacy derived from the person of the Tsar. Once he was gone, many felt no obligation any more to respect the law, and a process of anarchic dissolution began,which I think was beyond the Provisional Government’s capacity to control. At least, though, the government wanted to restore order. Lenin didn’t, but did all he could to undermine it.”

      You are absolutely right – the Provisional Government could not control the country. Mr. Robinson, actually, I’m incredibly mild in my characteristic of the Vremennoye Pravitelstov, its members and their role in destruction of Russia. I, for example, said nothing about the savage suppression of 3 July protests and uprising.

      As comrade* Mao points out in his comment, the Interim Government had a huge issue before itself. At first, the whole people, members of all Russian soslovia put an enormous trust into them – and from here stemmed their legitimacy. They were trusted to solve 2 Big Questions – about Peace and Land. They decided to postpone the Land Question indefinitely, but, knowing who we are talking about here, it’s a safe bet to assume that they’d stick to the “respect private property” line – especially when said “private property” is owned not even by pomeshiks, but by foreign banks. The same with the Peace question – they stubbornly chanted “War till victory!” while shooting themselves in the foot.

      And the claim that they “wanted to restore order” while Lenin “undermined it” is incorrect. First, the Interim government screwed up the things and then desperately tried to salvage FUBARed situation employing a collection of half-measures and brutality, which only resulted in the complete loss of support from the populace and, thus, its own legitimacy.

      “Next, it needs to be noted that the civil war was a direct product of the way Lenin seized power, exploiting the Bolsheviks’ dominance of Petrograd to proclaim themselves the government despite not having majority support nationwide. This usurpation of power inevitably caused a backlash.”

      This, as you say, “usurpation of power” is called properly a Revolution, and a “backlash” is called a “counter-revolution”.

      “The deliberate exclusion of other political forces within the country then caused civil war”

      This is a simplification of things. What, the Don Cossack host rebelled in the very first days after the October revolution because they loved eSeRs so much? So much did they loved the Interim government and Uchredilovka that ataman Krasnov openly allied with Germans?

      Lenin and Bolsheviks didn’t acquired the power in country for the “lulz” of it. If they were just egocentric megalomaniacs, they’d never pass now famous series of decrees, which addressed the main issues that trouble the country. And the counter-Revolution in many part could be linked to the resistance to these decrees.

      Finally, one of the root causes of the Civil War lied in the unresolved matter of emerging (and, actually, un-defeated) Kornilovshina. A segment of Russian society began viewing a military-dictator figure (think, someone akin to Pinochet) as an effective defender of their interests and the restorer of “Order”. Ever heard about a “Class War”, Mr. Robinson?

      * Is it okay to use it as a form of address to you? 😉


      • yalensis says:

        I believe, from my reading of Russian history, that there is a direct line of causality from the “Emancipation” failure of 1861 to the revolutions of 1905 and 1917.
        At a certain point, without true land reform and redistribution, SOMETHING had to happen.
        The Bolsheviks can’t be blamed for the failed “Emancipation” nor for the Great War, which they opposed in a highly principled fashion.
        The Bolshevik “crime” was that they had worked out their “blueprint” on paper well in advance. Thanks to Lenin’s project-management skills they had a “plan”, when everybody else was just winging it.


  4. Cortes. says:

    Unintentionally funny account of British involvement in the Civil War in



    • Cortes. says:

      PS. Were the two Baku CPC members listed as Civil War casualties among the victims of the British massacre of Commissars?


  5. yalensis says:

    Congrats on wonderful post, Lyttenburgh!
    Here is today’s obligatory musical accompaniment:


    • Lyttenburgh says:

      Thank you 🙂

      Given my family’s history, more approriate would be Through valleys and over hills (По долинам и по взгорьям)


      • yalensis says:

        For my family history, this one is apropos:


      • PaulR says:

        My doctoral supervisor’s father, N.E. Andreev, noted that White emigres he met in Prague in the inter-war period complained that the Reds had better songs than they did. The Reds sang about victory and the bright communist future they were builiding, the Whites sang about dying heroically. ‘No wonder we lost’, said one. Examples:

        Song of the Alexeev Regiment:

        Пусть свищут пули, льется кровь,
        Пусть смерть несут гранаты.
        Мы смело двинемся вперед,
        Мы – русские солдаты.

        В нас кровь отцов-богатырей,
        И дело наше право.
        Сумеем честь мы отстоять
        Иль умереть со славой.

        Не плачьте матери, отцы!
        Мужайтесь жены, дети!
        За благо Родины своей
        Забудем все на свете!

        Не плачь и ты, святая Русь!
        Не надо слез, не надо!
        Молись о павших и живых,
        Молитва нам награда.

        Вперед же, дружно на врага,
        Вперед, полки лихие!
        Господь за нас, мы победим!
        Да здравствует Россия!

        And this one:

        Мы смело в бой пойдём за Русь Святую

        Слышали деды – война началася,
        Бросай своё дело, в поход собирайся.
        Мы смело в бой пойдём за Русь Святую,
        И, как один, прольём кровь молодую.

        Рвутся снаряды, трещат пулемёты,
        Скоро покончим с врагами расчёты.
        Мы смело в бой пойдём за Русь Святую,
        И, как один, прольём кровь молодую.

        Вот показались красные цепи,
        С ними мы будем драться до смерти.
        Мы смело в бой пойдём за Русь Святую,
        И, как один, прольём кровь молодую.

        Вечная память павшим героям,
        Честь отдадим им воинским строем.
        Мы смело в бой пойдём за Русь Святую,
        И, как один, прольём кровь молодую.

        Русь наводнили чуждые силы,
        Честь опозорена, храм осквернили.
        Мы смело в бой пойдём за Русь Святую,
        И, как один, прольём кровь молодую.

        От силы несметной сквозь лихолетья
        Честь отстояли юнкера и кадеты.
        Мы смело в бой пойдём за Русь Святую,
        И, как один, прольём кровь молодую.


        • yalensis says:

          Dear Paul:
          Sorry for the delay in rendering your comment, I just found it in the spam filter! It was in there, along with the standard actual spam ones that start with “Hello Web Administrator!” and promise to get me more clicks for my “wonderful site”.

          Sometimes I think that spam filter has a mind of its own, maybe it doesn’t care for poetry.

          Anyhow, the second song, Смело мы в бой пойдём” is both RED and WHITE, just with slightly different words. The whites were marching “for holy Russia’, whereas the Reds were marching “for the power of the Soviets”! It would have been kind of amusing if both sides met in battle, both singing and playing the same tune on their accordions.

          Here is the RED version:

          And here is the WHITE one:


        • Mao Cheng Ji says:

          Ha, interesting. The second one is known as
          СмелО мы в бой пойдем за власть советов и как один умрем в борьбе за это.
          I always thought it’s a bit too macabre.
          Вот показались БЕЛЫЕ цепи. etc.


        • Lyttenburgh says:

          ArrrghЪ! “Alexeev Regiment” song – really? Our Acting Brigade Commander Lt. Col. Kirilkin (a modern version of a micro-managing maniac akin to czar Paul I… only without any redeeming qualities) had during one of his “brilliant” moments a bright idea to make us learn this song. Thankfully, in just 2 days he totally forgot about it, and later we got a new, much more normal commander.

          As for the Civil War – an absolute “hit song”, popular in literally all armies (and glorified warbands) was “Yablochko”:


  6. yalensis says:

    My all-time favorite Russian Civil War song is Проводы (“Provody”) which I also have no doubt is based on some traditional peasant song. I love the quickness and bouncy music.


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