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Britain and the Russian Civil War

On 7 November 1917 (25 October according to the Russian calendar of the time) the Provisional Government established by the February Revolution was overthrown by a force led by the Bolshevik party, headed by Vladimir Lenin. More than three years of brutal civil war followed as different interests fought to obtain control of the country. The largest combatant groups in the war were the Bolshevik Red Army, formed to defend the October Revolution, and the White Army, a coalition of anti-Bolshevik groups, led by former Tsarist officers. Other military groups included the Green armies (peasant militias), the Revolutionary Insurrectionary Army of Ukraine (or Black Army, a Ukrainian anarchist force), and various nationalist forces in states fighting for independence from the former Russian empire.

Russia's former allies in the First World War were active in their intervention in the civil war. The Bolshevik administration formally ended Russia's involvement in the First World War on 3 March 1918, with the signing of a peace agreement with Germany (the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk) which ceded territory to Germany in return for an end to the fighting. This allowed Germany to focus its attacks on the Western Front, left the pro-Allied Czechoslovak Legion stranded in Russia, and left military supplies and equipment in Russia vulnerable to German (or Bolshevik) acquisition. Between 1918 and 1920 forces from countries including Britain, France, the United States of America, Japan, Greece, Italy and China were active on Russian territory. Financial support was also provided to sections of the White Army.

Selected sources:

Additional documents on the Russian Civil WarLink opens in a new window are available through our digital collection on the Russian Revolution and Britain, 1917-1928.