By Eric Vandenbroeck and co-workers


Russia, Germany, and Poland 1917-1945 Part One


Because it covered some subjects, we researched in reference to Poland during the first and early second World War and Barack Obama in 2016 to propose a Polish missile defense site we will now proceed with next. We, of course, also were aware of and read the recently published (2021) new book by Sean McMeekin. Whereby, of course, it was known that Sean McMeekin had primarily established himself as a historical, political polemics writer. His previous work has been characterized by making broad-reaching claims based on fragile material, ignoring past scholarship, and presenting himself as if he were personally the sole authority on subjects that have often been written and researched for a century. Also, this time trying to remain polite, the Irish Times titled it a "Distorted history of a complex second World War."


Germany or perhaps Austria-Hungary or perhaps no one caused the first world war. Zap! It was indubitably Russia - as McMeekin argued in another heavily criticized book The Russian Origins of the First World War (2011). The Russian Revolution didn’t happen because the Tsarist regime was bankrupt. Pow! He contended in The Russian Revolution (2017), an accident when the February weather suddenly turned warm, and the crowds came out on the streets in Petrograd.

Similar to the above the Wikipedia entree about McMeekin cites McMeekin's questionable documents showing Russian support for Armenian groups inside the Ottoman Empire during the war, his treatment of the Armenian genocide has also been criticized, with one scholar pointing out that "The mass slaughter of Armenian civilians was in no way justified by the haphazard Russian support for Armenian paramilitary groups in Eastern Anatolia. Whereby  another reviewer noted, "if McMeekin's purpose were merely to exonerate all Ottoman behavior and play down Armenian suffering, he would not have included the observation of a Venezuelan soldier of fortune who saw on a mountainside 'thousands of half-nude and bleeding Armenian corpses, piled in heaps or interlaced in death's final embrace."

As for his 2021 "Stalin’s War," Historian Mark Edele said that the book contains misquotes of Stalin's speeches and included sources refuted decades beforehand, or else long ago shown to be fraudulent. Edele concluded, "A gifted writer and a talented polemicist, he has lowered the historian’s craft to the level of propaganda. The result is a lamentable step back in our understanding of Stalin and his second world war."

Nevertheless, knowing about the author's questionability as described by others, we went through his current 2021 book in great detail and while discovering a few interesting details we also noticed that what is among others missing from McMeekin's current book is  (as we earlier found out during our own research a year before) that the German military leadership, alreay in 1919 sought rearmament and the destruction of Poland as part of a program to overturn the results of the First World War. Bolshevik leaders in Moscow were even bolder, dreaming of a worldwide revolution. Their shared antagonisms produced the partnership at Rapallo that started Europe down the road to renewed war. As has been argued here, many of the key milestones along that path - the Reichswehr’s acceptance of Hitler, the speed of German rearmament, British and French appeasement, the Soviet purges, the inability of the European powers to contain Hitler, and finally, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact - as we shall see can only be fully understood in light of the Rapallo relationship and what led up to this.

Or as we shall see following Germany’s defeat in the First World War, the victorious allies stationed inspectors across Germany to oversee disarmament and the demobilization of Germany’s military. But senior German officers in the Reichswehr - the German military - proved unwilling to accept the terms of German defeat. Instead, they immediately embarked on efforts to retain or revive key aspects of German military power, particularly technologies that the Treaty of Versailles forbade.

Sean McMeekin’s contention that the Second World War was more Stalin’s war than Hitler’s has a long and dubious pedigree reaching back to the war-revolution conspiracy theory of the interwar years. According to this myth, Stalin plotted to precipitate a new world war to foment a global revolution.


The true history that led to World War II

In truth, there was nothing Stalin feared more than a major war. While the first World War had enabled the Russian Revolution, that was followed by foreign military interventions, which came close to strangling Bolshevism at birth. Stalin’s nightmare scenario was the revival of that anti-communist coalition. War did offer opportunities – and Stalin certainly took advantage of them – but war also posed an existential danger to the Soviet state.

Therefore to get in the right direction with this subject is what we first have to do is by taking at the end of World War I, which had left the world with two pariah states, Germany because it had begun hostilities, Russia because of the Bolshevik Revolution had transformed the country from a wartime ally to a postwar menace. Hardly had the ink dried on the punitive peace treaty signed at Versailles in June 1919 than the two pariahs joined forces.

In July 1917, as the First World War raged, the Ukrainian city of Tarnopol reverberated with the death knell of the Russian Imperial Army - one site among many. Those present remembered it glowing a hideous red and orange in the twilight as German artillery pounded the strategic rail hub. As the Russian front collapsed in the face of the onslaught, the flow of deserters grew from a trickle to a flood. One eyewitness recalled, “unimaginable panic” engulfing the town.1 Trains overloaded with civilians, bureaucrats. Red Cross workers and soldiers departed the main rail station headed eastward, illuminated by the light of the burning city. Tens of thousands more took to the roads by foot. Gangs of former draftees roamed the streets, looting and killing. The streets reverberated with the shattering of glass, sporadic gunfire, and the crackling of timber homes ignited either by the bombardment or by those setting fires.

It was a long fall. By the time the Russian Imperial Army had completed its mobilizations in 1914, it was the world’s largest military force, mustering almost six million men.2 However, it was a colossus made of clay, dependent on a weak industrial sector and drawn largely from peasant classes increasingly hostile toward the autocratic Tsarist state. After a series of military disasters in the first twelve months of the conflict. Tsar Nicholas II personally took over management of the war effort, heading to the front in September 1915. He handed over the empire's domestic affairs to his wife and a coterie of hangers-on, including the infamous Rasputin, who wildly mismanaged the home front. At the same time, the Tsar's presence did nothing to end paralysis and incompetence at Stavka (the Army High Command), which failed to adapt to the tactical, technological, and economic demands of modern warfare.3 In part, as a result, the Tsarist army suffered more than any other combatant power in the war—over seven million casualties in three years of intensive fighting against the German, Austro-Hungarian, and Ottoman Empires. In February 1917, soldiers fired into hungry crowds protesting in the Imperial capital, Petrograd. The remainder of the city garrison then mutinied, in some instances killing their officers in the process. Crowds of hundreds of thousands of workers, soldiers, and sailors then occupied the city. As the Russian war effort collapsed amid the ensuing strife, the Tsar’s generals abandoned him or begged him to resign. With the Russian rail system paralyzed by strikes, Nicholas II was unable to even return to his capital, abdicating his crown in the provincial town of Pskov in March.

From that moment, it was clear that the Imperial Russian state had failed to mobilize the country’s vast human and natural resources effectively. Russia called to arms the smallest percentage of its population of any of the combatants of the First World War for two reasons: it did not have enough arms, and it did not have enough officers for a larger army. Addressing these two problems - supply and leadership - was decisive to Imperial Russia’s performance in the war, and as it turned out, the state's survival. They would also be the two greatest tests facing the Red Army in the interwar period.

The Russian Empire failed at both. By the fall of 1914, Russia had 5.1 million men on active duty but 4.5 million rifles. Only with tremendous effort did the state overcome the worst of its industrial and organizational problems by 1916, putting a great strain on the country's economic, political, and social fabric. The decisive blow was self-inflicted: the state had decided to ban the sale of alcohol as a social measure in August 1914.4 With budget deficits skyrocketing to 40 percent in 1914. then to 76 percent the following year, the decision to ban alcohol sales was devastating to the economy. Vodka sales (a state monopoly) had contributed 26 percent of the national budget before the war.5 Facing enormous deficits, the Ministry of Finance began printing money at an alarming rate, triggering hyperinflation.6 As rubles became increasingly worthless, peasant farmers stopped bringing their products to market. Food shortages gripped the major cities, despite rapidly rising industrial output and wages.

Facing the second problem – leadership - the strict class structure of Russian society proved a major handicap. In 1913, less than 1.5 percent of the national population was classified as “noble,” yet they constituted half of the Imperial Army’s officer corps. For social reasons, the army had only 40,000 commissioned officers out of a force of 1.5 million in 1914 (2.6 percent). By comparison, there were 30,739 officers among 761,438 total soldiers (4.0 percent) in the German Army in the same year.9 This shortage turned into a crisis as the war dragged on. The prewar Russian officer corps disappeared into the maw of combat: more than 100,000 officers would become casualties during the war. Less than 10 percent of prewar officers were still serving in 1917.10 Increasing the size of the army required a fundamental change in the social demographics of the officer corps. Even when the willingness to do so existed, there were not enough educated men to meet the need. Huge shortages of NCOs and officers played a major role in the collapse of discipline in the ranks in late 1916 and early 1917; that would prove disastrously decisive in the summer of 1917 when the Russian Imperial Army at last collapsed.

Stemming that disintegration was beyond the capabilities of the new political authorities. For eight months following the abdication of the Tsar, the Provisional Government, primarily composed of moderate socialists drawn from Russia's last elected national legislature, tried to steer the vast Russian Empire through the First World War. The Petrograd Soviet challenged its members throughout its brief reign, a body representing the capital city's workers and soldiers, which claimed popular legitimacy.11 In late September 1917, the Bolshevik faction of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party - revolutionary Marxists led by Vladimir Ilych Lenin - took over the Petrograd Soviet. On November 6 (October 24 by the Julian calendar then in use in Russia), Lenin moved to resolve the conflict of power with the Provisional Government by force. Under orders from the party’s Military Revolutionary Council, Bolsheviks seized the major power centers throughout the Imperial capital. The leadership of the Provisional Government fled to the Winter Palace - the vast palace complex at the heart of Petrograd that had been home to the Tsars for two centuries. Under the leadership of Bolshevik Vladimir Antonov, soldiers and sailors- Ovseenko, a senior Bolshevik, besieged the palace.

That evening at 9:40 P.M., the cruiser Aurora fired the blank shot to signal the beginnings of the attack against the Palace. It was soon followed by thirty rounds fired at the Winter Palace from ancient artillery pieces in the Peter and Paul Fortress across the river. After some desultory shooting, at two in the morning, orders flew down for the final assault. In his History of the Russian Revolution, Leon Trotsky described the scene as one of chaos. Junkers (military cadets) guarded the assembly but were soon overwhelmed. “Workers, sailors, soldiers are pushing up from outside in chains and groups, flinging the junkers from the barricades, bursting through the court, stumbling into the junkers on the staircase, crowding them back, toppling them over, driving them upstairs.” Eventually, the junkers were disarmed. “The victors burst into the room of the ministers. . . . T announce to you, members of the Provisional Government, that you are under arrest!’ exclaimed Antonov in the name of the Military Revolutionary Council.”12

So ended the first military action of the revolution. The image of a maddened mob overrunning the seat of national power was more propaganda than reality. So, too, was the description of intense fighting in the old palace: there had been almost no resistance. The October Revolution was more a military coup than a popular uprising: the conquest of the Winter Palace had been achieved with a daylong siege. The Bolsheviks successfully deployed artillery and armored cars, an array of deserting army units, and a naval detachment of five ships from the Baltic fleet. It was the soldiers and sailors of Petrograd and the nearby Kronstadt naval base, more than anything else, who guaranteed the success of the October Revolution.

What were the aims of Russia’s new leaders? Lenin sought to build a small, tightly disciplined ‘Vanguard” party capable of imposing revolution upon Russia rather than waiting for the forces of history to play out. As such, he tolerated little dissent within the ranks of his party, though a degree of interparty democracy - debate by the twenty-one members of the party's Central Committee - existed. 1' Lenin had many goals, but the most immediate was to answer the rallying cry that had inspired many to support his party: ‘"Peace, Land, Bread!" Before land and bread could be delivered, Lenin had to deliver peace and withdraw Russia from the First World War.

He dispatched Trotsky, the Bolsheviks' new commissar for foreign affairs, to settle with Germany. Trotsky was already one of the giants of the Bolshevik Party in early 1918, even though he was a relative newcomer to the organization.14 When Tsar Nicholas resigned.                                            

Trotsky - then living in New York - had immediately booked passage back to Europe. Returning to political chaos, his outstanding oratory and organizational skills helped win many over to the Bolshevik cause, particularly among soldiers of the city garrison.15 Now Trotsky had to find a way to save the newfound revolution from the German Army. Thanks to the disintegration of discipline at the front, there was little standing between Petrograd and eighty-nine German divisions, numbering over a million men.16 In a position of strength in the East, but desperate to turn to the Western Front on which the war's outcome depended, the German Oberste Heeresleitung (Supreme Army Command) requested a ceasefire on December 4, 1917. Two weeks later, German and Soviet delegates arrived at the charred ruins of the German-occupied town of Brest-Litovsk in modern-day Belarus to begin negotiations. 

Trotsky aimed to drag out negotiations as long as possible in the hopes that revolution or events on the Western Front would force German capitulation. After two months of deflections and delay, German patience was exhausted. On February 10, 1918, Richard von Kuhlmann, the German foreign minister, delivered a speech laden with invective, accusing “the Bolsheviks of inciting the German army to mutiny and the murder of its Emperor, Generals, and officers.”17 Trotsky replied to Kuhlmann’s claims that he had no “knowledge of such an order. But,” he added, in a weighty tone, “the decisive hour has struck. . . . Russia declares, on its side, the state of war with Germany, Austria-Hungary, Turkey, and Bulgaria as ended.”18

The German delegation was stunned. This was entirely unexpected and without precedent. How could Russia unilaterally leave the war? After a moment, the German commander in the East, General Max Hoffmann, shouted, “Unheard of!”19 Kuhlmann tried to save the conference by calling for a new session, but Trotsky refused, replying that their mission was ending and they were now returning to Petrograd.20 With that, Trotsky and the Bolshevik delegation stood and left the conference room. Trotsky had concluded that if Germany resumed its advance eastward, it might destabilize the German home front and lead to the desired communist revolution. Even if the revolution did not happen, should the Germans and their allies resume an advance, they would clearly be the aggressors in the eyes of the world, boosting the Bolsheviks' reputation as the party of peace with Russians at home. In either case, Trotsky concluded, the Imperial German Army would be hesitant to renew the offensive.

The German response shattered these hopes. Nine days after Trotsky's abrupt departure from Brest-Litovsk, General Hoffmann launched Operation Faustschlag (“Fist Strike") with fifty-three divisions.21 They encountered nearly no resistance as they moved eastward, covering 150 miles in seven days; Hoffmann described the “fighting” in his diaries as “the most comical war I have ever known. At one stop, a single lieutenant and six soldiers received the prompt surrender of 600 Russian cavalrymen.23

The reaction in Petrograd was one of despondence. Lenin summoned the Central Committee to deal with the news on February 18. He made it clear that there were only two options: to wage a guerrilla war - which the Bolsheviks might lose - or surrender and accept German terms. He concluded that it would be best for the revolution to cut its losses, which might require territorial and economic concessions, and accept peace terms with the Germans.24 Trotsky still refused to admit he had miscalculated. It took three hours of acrimonious debate in the Central Committee before Lenin received a slim majority - 7 to 4 - in favor of his motion to agree to terms with the Germans.25 Around midnight that evening, the Bolshevik leadership cabled their acceptance of the terms to the German High Command.26

There was a further price to be paid. Hoffmann and his superiors decided to punish the Bolsheviks for their withdrawal from the negotiations: the final terms would be even more onerous than the ones Trotsky had rejected. Trotsky himself refused to attend the signing ceremony in Brest- Litovsk on March 3, 1918.- Under the new agreement, Bolshevik Russia renounced control over the Baltic states, Poland, Finland, Ukraine, and Belarus - territories constituting around a third of Imperial Russia’s population and 54 percent of its industry.28 It would also be forced to pay a massive indemnity, even as the workers of Petrograd were starving. The terms were so harsh that Lenin was met with cries of “German Spy!’' and “Traitor!” when he first announced the terms at a Communist Party meeting a few days later.-9. Outside of the party, Lenin’s surrender triggered the beginnings of violent, organized resistance in Russia to the Bolsheviks, setting off the Russian Civil War.

In this moment of chaos, violence, and revenge, the seeds of the interwar German-Soviet relationship were planted. The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was the first formal diplomatic interaction between the Bolsheviks and a capitalist state.30 The Allies refused to recognize the new government in Petrograd. Since relations had been established, however tenuously, with Berlin, the Bolsheviks turned to Germany for industrial goods they desperately needed, especially locomotives and train cars. A Soviet trade delegation would arrive in Berlin almost immediately after the signing of the treaty. " In exchange, the German High Command dispatched Count Wilhelm von Mirbach to serve as the German ambassador to Soviet Russia.

In late February 1918, Lenin had decided to move the capital of Soviet Russia from vulnerable Petrograd to the more centrally located Moscow. Now settling into the ancient Kremlin, the Bolshevik Central Committee was soon fully preoccupied with growing military revolt across the country. The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk had generated enormous anger among Russian nationalists and military members, who soon rose in open revolt. Lenin and the Central Committee appointed Trotsky the first People's Commissar for Military and Naval Affairs on March 13, 1918, two weeks after signing the treaty; he had fought to deal with the multiple threats to the revolution. Clarifying his objectives in a speech delivered to a session of the Moscow Soviet of Workers’, Soldiers', and Peasants' deputies six days later, Trotsky argued that to survive, the Soviet Republic needed “a properly and freshly organized army!”33

Trotsky found himself in an odd position. He had done everything he could to destroy the Imperial Army, but now that he was in a position of power, he needed to reconstitute it. The Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army (Рабоче Крестьянская Красная Умений,), hereafter Red Army) began in March 1918. Trotsky's first task was to find capable military professionals, recruiting officers from the old army. The process proved easier than expected. Petrograd and Moscow received a steady stream of volunteers from a range of political and social backgrounds. Though not without taking precautions, Trotsky embraced them—they would be accompanied by a “commissar” system of reliable political officers to monitor their behavior. His decision prevented tens of thousands of officers from joining the political opposition. The Red Army would draw the core of its leadership from former Tsarist soldiers: 314,180 of the 446,729 (70.3 percent) officers who served in the Red Army during the Russian Civil War had also served in the former Imperial Army.'

One of the officers who would take advantage of Trotsky's change of policy was Mikhail Tukhachevsky. Born to an impoverished noble family, Tukhachevsky had joined the Imperial officer corps before the war and served with distinction in combat before being wounded and captured by the Germans at the Second Battle of the Masurian Lakes in February 1915.35 Transferred to a prisoner of war camp in Germany, Tukhachevsky would attempt four escapes between 1915 and 1917, once staying at large for a month and hiking in disguise 300 miles from Prussia all the way to the Dutch border before being recaptured.36 He eventually escaped from the supposedly impregnable Ingolstadt fortress and made his way back to Russia.'37 A nobleman, an atheist, and a nationalist, Tukliachevsky was reluctant to pick sides in the Bolshevik Revolution's political chaos. Only the resumed advance of German forces into Russia and Trotsky’s decision to allow former officers full participation in the Bolsheviks’ military force finally convinced Tukliachevsky he could and should join the Red Army.38 Like thousands of other officers, defending Russia against foreigners trumped political concerns about the Bolsheviks.

In addition to recruiting experienced officers like Tukliachevsky, Trotsky began to address other major deficits within the Red Army. In particular, he rolled back earlier Bolshevik proclamations eliminating officer ranks and disciplinary measures, such as soldiers' beating by their commanders.39 Lenin applauded Trotsky’s toughness, writing to him that if it appeared a senior commander seemed to be hesitating in launching an offensive, Trotsky should follow the example of the French Revolution and shoot him.40

The reason for the Bolsheviks’ reversal was the increasingly dire military situation. In the spring of 1918, a host of enemies had appeared to confront Lenin. The first organized opposition came in May when the Bolsheviks attempted to disarm a military formation of Czech and Slovak prisoners of war, the so-called Czech Legion.41 The Czechs refused, repelled the Bolsheviks, then seized control of part of Russia’s primary artery, the Trans-Siberian Railway. They effectively cut off Bolshevik forces in central European Russia from the rest of the country. Their actions emboldened formations of former Tsarist officers who had organized themselves into an anti-Bolshevik resistance. These units soon occupied Siberia, the Urals, and the Lower Volga.42 Despite a motley array of political beliefs and leaders, these forces would become known collectively as the “Whites.”

As the Whites and Czech Legion threatened the Bolshevik hold on power, the Allied powers—Great Britain, France, the United States, Italy, and Japan - decided to intervene. In July 1918, they landed forces along Russia's Black Sea, Arctic Sea, and Pacific Ocean coasts. They aimed to prevent either the Germans or the Bolsheviks from seizing huge stockpiles of military equipment in Russian ports. They also began delivering military aid to the Whites.

Perhaps most dangerously, forces within Soviet territory also threatened Lenin's new regime. The Bolsheviks had held a previously scheduled national election in November 1917 but lost badly to Lenin's great surprise. When members of the new National Assembly arrived in Petrograd in January 1918, the Bolsheviks arrested most elected representatives and outlawed all but one other political party. The one exception was the Left Socialist Revolutionaries (SRs), who had backed Lenin during the October Revolution. On July 6, 1918, the Left SRs rose in revolt against the signing of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. They assassinated Count Mirbach, arrested the Secret Police Feliks Dzerzhinsky, and besieged the Bolshevik leadership, occupying the Kremlin. The Left SRs were eventually beaten back in fierce street fighting led by the pro-Bolshevik Latvian Riflemen.43 Nonetheless, the internal danger remained. One of the Red Army's most experienced military commanders attempted to defect to anti¬Bolshevik forces along with several thousand of his men before being shot by his commissar in mid-July 1918.44

In the midst of this desperate scene, Lenin tried to rally the forces of the revolution in Moscow. On August 30, 1918, he gave a speech to workers at the Michelson Factory, warning them about the dangers of democracy. “Wherever "democrats' rule, you find plain, straightforward theft. We know the true nature of such democracies!" He concluded by shouting, “We have only one way out: victory or death!”45 He then waved and began working his way through the crowd to the exit. Caught in the throng of workers leaving the building, one of his bodyguards. Commissar Baturin fell behind. As he caught up to Lenin, Baturin heard what he thought was a car backfiring. After a moment, he realized the noises were gunshots fired by an SR assassin. He saw Lenin face down next to his car. “I did not lose my head," Baturin recalled, “but shouted, "Catch the killer of Comrade Lenin!'46 Lenin was not dead, however. After being driven back to the Kremlin, he even walked up three flights of stairs to his apartment before collapsing. Doctors summoned to the scene rapidly ascertained that he had been shot twice, in the neck and the shoulder, with the potential for serious complications.

The Bolsheviks faced their most dangerous moment. With Lenin incapacitated, the burden fell on Trotsky to revive the military fortunes of the revolution. He attempted to do that in person at the front. He centralized military administration under the Revolutsionnyi Voennyi Soviet (Revolutionary Military Council, or RVs) and named himself its chairman to make the process easier.47 With this reorganization came new commanders. Trotsky replaced most of the Bolsheviks in command positions with former Imperial Army officers, closely watched by newly appointed communist commissars.48 His goal was to professionalize the Red Army as best he could.

As a result of Trotsky's leadership, the army that young Tukhachevsky, among others, joined during the summer of 1918 was largely composed of peasants, commanded by officers and NCOs who had served under the Tsar and supervised by a relatively small group of Bolsheviks.49 Indeed, workers never made up more than 18 percent of the Red Army’s strength. 50 The wooing of 300,000 Imperial officers and NCOs who formed the core of the Red Army was decisive in sustaining its fighting strength. Arming and maintaining this heterogeneous force, essential to the survival of the new communist state, would require enormous investment. And external help. As the Russian Civil War began in earnest, only one state had established diplomatic relations with Bolshevik Russia and could provide aid: the former archenemy, Germany.


Continued in Part Two.


Apart from the archival documents listed in the footnotes following is a list of published sources that have been used:

1. “Report of July 22, Narrative of M. Lembitch, Chief Russian Observer at the Front,” in Source Records of the Great War; A Comprehensive and Readable Source Record of the World’s Greatest War, ed. Charles F. Horne (Indianapolis: American Legion Press, 1923), 259–260.

2. David Stone, A Military History of Russia: From Ivan the Terrible to the War in Chechnya (Westport, CT: Praeger Security International, 2006), 158.

3. Norman Stone, The Eastern Front, 1914–1917 (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1975), 85–91.

4. David Stone, A Military History of Russia, 167.

5. Jennifer Siegel, For Peace and Money: French and British Finance in the Service of Tsars and Commissars (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2014), 128; Stephen Broadberry and Mark Harrison, The Economics of World War One (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 247.

6. The state first abandoned the gold standard, then began accelerated printing. Hyperinflation would reach 702 percent of 1914 values by mid-1917. Steven G. Marks, “War Finance (Russian Empire),” in 1914–1918: International Encyclopedia of the First World War, ed. Ute Daniel, Peter Gatrell, Oliver Janz, Heather Jones, Jennifer Keene, Alan Kramer, and Bill Nasson (Berlin: Freie Universität Berlin Digital Press, 2014),10., citing Figures on Inflation, The Russian State Archive of the Economy (hereafter RGAE), f. 7733, o. 1, d. 166, l. 11.

7. Norman Stone, The Eastern Front, 1914–1917, 287.

8. Peter H. Lindert and Steven Nafziger, “Russian Inequality on the Eve of Revolution,” The Journal of Economic History, 74:3 (Sept. 2014), 767–798, Table 2; Bryan D. Taylor, Politics and the Russian Army: Civil-Military Relations, 1689–2000 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University, 2003), 58.

9. David Stone, A Military History of Russia, 166–167.

10. Ibid., 167.

11. For an eyewitness account of the brief-lived Republic that the Bolsheviks overthrew see Boris Sokoloff, The White Nights: Pages from a Russian Doctor’s Notebook, ed. Ian Ona Johnson (Tyler, TX: Bowen Books, 2018).

12. Leon Trotsky, The History of the Russian Revolution, trans. Max Eastman (London: Haymarket Books, 2008), 814–815.

13. Victor Sebestyen, Lenin: The Man, the Dictator, and the Master of Terror (New York: Pantheon, 2017), 341–343.

14. Dmitri Volkogonov, Trotsky: The Eternal Revolutionary, trans. and ed. Harold Shukman (New York: Free Press, 1996), 9.

15. Ibid., 70.

16. David T. Zabecki, ed., Germany at War: 400 Years of Military History (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2014), 410.

17. John W. Wheeler-Bennett, Brest-Litovsk: The Forgotten Peace, March 1918 (London: Macmillan, 1938), 226–227; Proceedings of the Brest-Litovsk Peace Conference: The Peace Negotiations between Russia and the Central Powers, 21 November 1917–3 March 1918 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1918).

18. Wheeler-Bennett, Brest-Litovsk, 226–227.

19. Ibid., 227–228.

20. Volkogonov, Trotsky, 111.

21. Ibid.

22. Evan Mawdsley, The Russian Civil War (New York: Pegasus, 2005), 34–35.

23. Wheeler-Bennett, Brest-Litovsk, 244.

24. Ibid., 249.

25. Sebestyen, Lenin, 378.

26. Ibid.

27. Paul von Hindenburg, Out of My Life, trans. F. A. Holt (1920; reprint, London: Forgotten Books, 2013), 334–335. See Wheeler-Bennett, Brest-Litovsk, 477.

28. Sebestyen, Lenin, 378–379.

29. Ibid.

30. Robert M. Slusser and Jan F. Triska, A Calendar of Soviet Treaties, 1917–1957 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1957), 1–3.

31. Anthony Heywood, Modernizing Lenin’s Russia: Economic Reconstruction, Foreign Trade and the Railways (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 76.

32. R. H. Haigh, D. S. Morris, and A. R. Peters, German-Soviet Relations in the Weimar Era: Friendship from Necessity (Totowa, NJ: Barnes and Noble, 1985), 28.

33. Leon Trotsky, “We Need an Army,” 19 March 1918, in The Military Writings and Speeches of Leon Trotsky, Volume I: 1918 (London: New Park Publications, 1979), 23.

34. John Erickson, The Soviet High Command: A Military-Political History, 1918–1941 (London: Frank Cass, 2001), 34.

35. Neil Harvey Croll, “Mikhail Tukhachevsky in the Russian Civil War” (unpubl. diss., University of Glasgow, 2002), 37.

36. Iuliya Kantor, Voina i Mir Mikhaila Tukhachevsogo [Mikhail Tukhachevsky’s War and Peace] (Moscow: Ogonyok, 2005), 53, 64.

37. Ibid., 86–88.

38. Ibid., 92–102, 106.

39. Orlando Figes, “The Red Army and Mass Mobilization during the Russian Civil War 1918–1920,” Past & Present, 129 (Nov. 1990), 196.

40. Mawdsley, The Russian Civil War, 67–68.

41. The Czechoslovak Legion is usually referred to as the Czech Legion, as less than 10 percent of its membership was Slovak. The Tsar had armed them to fight against the Austro-Hungarian government that controlled their homelands.

42. None of the commanders of the White Russian forces demonstrated much political acumen, nor did they come up with coherent political programs. One of the ablest of them, Anton Denikin, infamously allowed his soldiers to kill thousands of Jewish residents of Ukraine in a series of bloody pogroms, which brought international condemnation and also handicapped recruiting efforts. Worse, it made it politically difficult for the British, Denikin’s chief ally, to support broader aid, something Churchill pointedly told Denikin in a letter. And Denikin’s difficulties with the Cossacks, who were essential to his military efforts, also highlight a lack of diplomatic ability. Cossack forces were reluctant to move beyond the borders of their home territories and were often politically divided. During one exchange with the head of the Don Cossack Army, Denikin said that “the Don Host is a prostitute, selling herself to whoever will pay.” In response, the general of the Cossack Army replied that “if the Don Host is a prostitute, then the Volunteer Army [Denikin’s force] is a pimp living off her earnings.” The unified military leadership of the Bolshevik Party proved much more effective in strategic planning. Mawdsley, The Russian Civil War, 165.

43. Earl Ziemke, The Red Army, 1918–1941: From Vanguard of World Revolution to America’s Ally (New York: Routledge, 2001), 95.

44. See Trotsky, “The Socialist Fatherland in Danger,” 29 July 1918, in The Military Writings and Speeches of Leon Trotsky, Volume I: 1918, 286–302.

45. Dmitri Volkogonov, Lenin: A New Biography (New York: Free Press, 1994), 220.

46. Ibid.

47.Erickson, The Soviet High Command, 56.

48. Jonathan D. Smele, “Aleksandr Alekseevich Baltiiskii,” “Tikhon Serafimovich Khvesin,” “Mikhail Mikhailovich Lashevich,” and “Mikhail Nikolaevich Tukhachevsky,” in Historical Dictionary of the Russian Civil Wars, 1916–1926 (New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 2015), 172, 575, 656, 1187.

49. Figes, “The Red Army and Mass Mobilization,” 168.

50. Erickson, The Soviet High Command, 76.


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