White ARmy, Black Baron

This weekend marks the one hundredth anniversary of the evacuation of Crimea by the White Russian Army of General Pyotr Wrangel. Although some sporadic fighting continued elsewhere in Russia for a few months thereafter, the evacuation marked the defeat of the last substantial White military force and so brought an effective end to the Russian Civil War.

Resistance to communist rule began almost immediately after Lenin’s Bolshevik Party seized power in the Russian capital Petrograd in November 1917, although it took a while for the resistance to gather strength. The initial centre of opposition was in southern Russia in the region of the Don and Kuban Cossacks, where Cossack forces allied with former Imperial army officers who formed the Volunteer Army. Together in due course, the Volunteers and Cossacks created the Armed Forces of Southern Russia (AFSR), led by General Anton Denikin. This was one of three main formations in the ‘White’ armies (so-called to distinguish them from the revolutionary ‘Reds’), the others being led by Admiral Kolchak in Siberia and General Iudenich in the Baltic region.

Denikin resigned as commander of the AFSR in early 1920 following a decisive defeat at the hands of the Red Army. He was succeeded by General Wrangel, who renamed the AFSR as the ‘Russian Army’. All that remained under the control of the Russian Army was, however, the peninsula of Crimea. After Poland invaded Russia in 1920, Wrangel was able to slightly expand his territory into southern Ukraine, but his position remained precarious.

General Pyotr Nikolaevich Wrangel

Wrangel had a reputation as a reactionary, being known in Bolshevik propaganda as the ‘Black Baron’. Belying this reputation, as ruler of Crimea Wrangel pursued what were called ‘leftist policies in rightist hands’. Denikin had largely ignored administrative, social, and economic issues, focusing on fighting the war. Historians have much criticized him for this, as this neglect is said to have contributed to chaos behind the White lines, which fatally weakened their cause.

Wrangel learnt from this and set about establishing a sound administration in the Crimea and enacting economic reforms, particularly in terms of giving peasants ownership of the land they tilled. In this he was helped by his Prime Minister, Alexander Krivoshein, who previously as Minister of Agriculture had been considered the most liberal of all the ministers in the pre-war Tsarist government. Other liberals also came to Wrangel’s assistance, an example being the philosopher and economist Pyotr Struve, who in his youth had been on quite chummy terms with Lenin and other Marxists and had even drafted the first manifesto of the Russian Social Democratic Party (which later morphed into the Communist Party). In 1920 he became Wrangel’s foreign minister.

None of this was sufficient to save the Whites. Once Poland and the Bolsheviks made peace, the latter were able to transfer their forces to the south to crush the Whites.  By 4 November 1920, they were ready to attack.

Wrangel was relying on the fact that Crimea is separated from southern Ukraine by only a very narrow strip of land (known as the Perekop) to compensate for his relative military weakness, as it would be difficult for the Red Army to amass many forces in such a confined space. Unfortunately for the Whites, an early onset of winter froze the shallow water of the Sea of Azov on the northeastern side of Crimea, allowing the Red cavalry to penetrate into the rear of the Whites. Within a few days of the start of the Red offensive, the position of the Whites in the Crimea had become untenable. On 13 November Wrangel ordered his troops to start embarking on the vessels of the Russian navy and to abandon Crimea. Over the next five days, nearly the entire army was successfully evacuated, and made sail for Constantinople and a life in exile. The Whites were defeated.

Nikolai Turoverov, an officer in the Life Guards Ataman Regiment, who had served in the White Army throughout the entire length of the civil war, described the final moments before evacuation in his poem ‘Crimea’:

Уходили мы из Крыма
Среди дыма и огня,
Я с кормы все время мимо
В своего стрелял коня.
А он плыл, изнемогая,
За высокою кормой,
Все не веря, все не зная,
Что прощается со мной.
Сколько раз одной могилы
Ожидали мы в бою.
Конь все плыл, теряя силы,
Веря в преданность мою.
Мой денщик стрелял не мимо,
Покраснела чуть вода…
Уходящий берег Крыма
Я запомнил навсегда.


We left Crimea,

Amidst smoke and fire.

From the stern I shot my horse

But missed.

And he swam, exhausted,

Behind the high stern,

Not believing, not knowing,

That he was saying goodbye to me.

How many times in battle

We expected to share a single grave.

The horse kept on swimming, losing strength,

Believing in my devotion.

My batman didn’t miss.

The water turned red …

I’ll remember forever

Crimea’s departing shore.

Nikolai Turoverov

66 thoughts on “White ARmy, Black Baron”

  1. I was chrismated in the metochion here in Belgrade where Wrangel’s body is interred.

    I believe Leninism, the Bolshevik system, was really just a war cabinet with indefinite marshall law and the kind of central command of industry that even Britain instituted during WWII. They were intelligent and more ruthless and well organized than their rivals of the time. Of course, they were deeply misled on the inevitability of the collapse of capitalism from oversupply and of mankind’s ability to use reason and technology to remake the world and society with the predicted and desired outcomes. The latter misconception it shares with liberalism due to their common heritage in the French Revolution.

    I’m not sure what to think about many of these figures and ideals among fans of the whites at this time. Being anti-Bolshevik doesn’t make you really conservative. The world has been utterly torn apart and reshaped by capitalism/liberalism/oligarchy/the bourgeoisie more than by the communist, but many in the ‘conservative’ camp of liberalism project this sin onto the far left and pretend that they are truly traditionalist. I say go back to autocracy and the obshchina in a multi-ethnic continental ‘civilization state’ with regular debt jubilees like the Byzantines had.


    1. “Of course, they were deeply misled on the inevitability of the collapse of capitalism.”

      If you want to keep thinking this, welcome to alt-reality 1.


  2. “After Poland invaded Russia in 1920, Wrangel was able to slightly expand his territory into southern Ukraine, but his position remained precarious.”


    Pilsudski led Poland took advantage of the Russian Civil War in its offensive and defensive instances.


    “Once Poland and the Bolsheviks made peace, the latter were able to transfer their forces to the south to crush the Whites.”


    Sheer BS to say that Poland saved the world from “Russia”, as stated in an article run in The National Interest. See:


    Liked by 1 person

    1. explain:
      In point of fact, US presidents have the power entrusted ability to make some authoritarian decisions on their own, without necessarily having the complete agreement with either US public opinion and/or cabinet appointees – the latter being acknowledged in the recent Jeffrey Goldberg-Barack Obama exchange in The Atlantic.

      First, of all, what are you alluding to here?

      I used to call him Goldie after watching him for a while, not least, admittedly, concerning Caryl Churchill’s Seven Jewish Children. Not sure if that blog still exists….

      Ok, ok, we aren’t speaking of his Point of No Return, but of his 2016 Obama accolade: the interview, the declaration of an Obama doctrine?

      You criticize Kirss by pointing out that Goldie’s articles prove that America has comparable authoritarian means as Russia, if I understand you correctly. What was on your mind? I am not sure I understood.


      1. “I have no sympathy at all for their leaders.”

        Neither do you have sympathy to 90+% of the then Russians, who fail to share your particular class consciesness 🙂


      2. ‘Neither do you have sympathy to 90+% of the then Russians, who fail to share your particular class consciesness’.

        Well, it’s certainly not the case that 90+% of the then Russians supported the Bolsheviks. Despite their name, they always represented a small minority of the people.


      3. “Well, it’s certainly not the case that 90+% of the then Russians supported the Bolsheviks.

        Yes, they were supporting the Bolsheviks, by accepting their authority and, therefore, recognizing them as the only legitimate government.

        Despite their name, they always represented a small minority of the people.”

        They represented the working class of the Russian empire, which [checks the notes] comprised the absolute majority of the country’s population. Huh. Didn’t know that, Professor?


      4. Paul, thanks for your reply. Wow, what a storm this post caused. Clearly it’s still hurting. Good.

        Personally, I feel for both the Whites and the Reds, because the vast majority of both were regular Russian people who’d have preferred to live a full life, rather than die or suffer horribly. When I re-read “Хождение по мукам” recently (not so well translated as “Road to Calvary”), I cried for all of them.

        That said, I am not sure that between the two, there’s a lesser evil to choose. It was the incompetence, the hubris and the rigidity of the ruling class against the fury of the ruled… bad all around.

        My own grandparents, all born around 1910, belonged to the ruled. If not for the Reds, they would have stayed peasants and factory workers, instead of becoming a colonel, a leading newspaper photographer, a school headmistress and a biology professor. I can’t quite imagine a peaceful transition from the tsarist Russia of the 1910’s to a Russia of the 1930’s where people like my grandparents could have gotten a high-quality education and career opportunities matching their abilities. On the other hand, I certainly wouln’t have wanted all those who suffered, died or went into exile to face these tribulations because of having been born into priviliged families and raised loyal to the monarchy.

        I would have also spared the (future) biology professor giving birth in a cold prison cell in 1937, knowing her husband was executed as an enemy of the people.

        But people are people, and show must go on.


    1. “It’s clear you feel for the Whites, Paul. I do, too (as do most Russian people). “

      Source for the “most”, please.


  3. Btw, the Red Army song is still popular, but with an alternative modern wording. Razing prisons and banks isn’t a priority anymore I guess… https://youtu.be/H0WKRSkXFY4

    Красная Армия, Доблестный Флот
    Непобедимы как наш народ,
    Ведь от тайги до Британских морей
    Красная Армия всех сильней!

    Да будет Красная, непобедима,
    На страже Родины родной.
    И все должны мы, неудержимо,
    Идти на справедливый бой!

    Мир мы построим на этой Земле
    С верой и правдою во главе!
    Ведь от тайги до Британских морей
    Русская Армия всех сильней!


  4. Thanks, Professor, for that very stirring revolutionary song, it’s one of my favorites, and I like to sing along.
    I’m exactly the opposite from you: I root for the Bolshevik leaders as well as the rank and file, and I feel no sympathy for the White leaders. They knew that the Romanovs had abdicated, they could have applied their skills to help the new government instead of betraying the Russian people in their quest for personal power.

    Also, stupid question, but why did that idiot Turoverov feel he had to shoot his horse? That wasn’t very nice.


    1. “I’m exactly the opposite from you: I root for the Bolshevik leaders as well as the rank and file, and I feel no sympathy for the White leaders. They knew that the Romanovs had abdicated, they could have applied their skills to help the new government instead of betraying the Russian people in their quest for personal power.”


      The Bolshes (Lenin particularly) betrayed the Russian people in their quest for power.

      Putin has expressed similarly. BTW, although being generally sympathetic to the idea, the Whites didn’t necessarily support a return of the czar. There was the imperfect Provisional Government prior to the Bolshe coup.


      1. As the song of the Kornilov Shock Regiment said: ‘Tsar ne nash kumir’ – ‘The Tsar is not our idol’.


      1. Anyhow, horse killing aside, there are some basic historic facts, and they need to be put in the correct chronological order, because amateurs always get this wrong and put effect before cause, pretending that it was the Bolsheviks who seized power from the Tsar and then launched a civil war.

        (1) Tsar Nikolai led Russia into a suicidal world war (and on the wrong side, to boot) that destroyed the nation in a way that had not been seen since the Time of Troubles.
        (2) When his government and dynasty collapsed, the Tsar was at least man enough to abdicate. It was an admission: “I cannot govern any more. Somebody else needs to step up to the plate.”
        (3) Of all the political parties and forces involved, the Bolsheviks, thanks to Lenin’s leadership, were the only ones that had the guts to say, “Okay, we’ll do it. We have a program, and a plan, to rebuild the country.”
        (4) The October Revolution, although not peaceful, was relatively bloodless, as these things go.
        (4) It was after this that all the White “Heroes” took it upon themselves to split the nation into a hundred pieces, each Warlord launching his own selfish Reign of Terror, with the goal of grabbing some slice for himself. And each also in league with the most virulent foreign enemies of Russia, such as Britain, America, Japan….

        Professor, I don’t think you even realize how damning your own quote is: “The Tsar is not our idol.” If they were actually fighting to put a Romanov back on the throne, then one might even admire such deluded loyalty. Like the English Royalists who opposed Cromwell. But, in the end, each one of these warlords was just fighting for his own power, each wanted to be his own little tsar in his own conquered territory. And didn’t care how many people he had to kill in the process. Not one of these White “heroes” gave a shit about ordinary people, or anything other than their own power. That’s the reality of it. Compared to them, the counter-revolutionaries of the French Revolution were far more principled!


    2. I should imagine he wanted to shoot — better, had to shoot — his mount so that it would not end up with a Red arse on its back.

      He and the rest of the White cavalrymen could not very well take their horses with them to wherever they were bound, and to leave them behind and alive would have simply provided their enemy with valuable materiel.

      Together with a retreating army burning its supplies, the slaughtering of their horses was the usual thing done by retreating cavalrymen about to embark and vacate a zone of hostilities, rather than simply abandoning them: same thing for pack horses and mules — leave the enemy nothing, poison the wells and make everything that would be of value to the enemy unusable, such as the British army did at Corunna, Spain,1809, before its boarding of RN warships and heading off for blighty. Likewise, artillerymen spiked their field pieces.


      1. Thanks for the explanation, Moscow Exile. I understand now why they shot their horses. It was still a horrible thing to do. Shame on them, for murdering innocent animals. I am not being sarcastic, I really think that was quite horrible. And to write a poem about it, as well. Ugh!


      2. I don’t think he was celebrating killing his horse, Yalensis. Rather, it’s a form of pathos, expressing the pain of the moment. Actually, I find the poem quiet poignant.


      3. Also, the point may be that he couldn’t actually bring himself to shoot it, which is why he missed and the batman had to do the job for him.


      4. If it is any consolation to Yalensis, at Ascot race course in England, there is a war memorial to horses that died on “active service”, so to speak, during WWI.


      5. Even so, I still think it was unnecessary cruelty, and also goes to illustrate the destructive nature of these illegal military formations. Who gave them a mandate to destroy any property at all, let alone kill living things? Exactly! They had no mandate, they were just a bunch of illegal warlords killing and looting on behalf of foreign powers.


      6. More projection.

        Who gave the Bolshes a mandate to launch a coup against an internationally recognized government? The Soviets themselves were later linked to a “scorched earth” policy in WW II (something which similarly happened regarding Napoleon), which made strategic sense among the more reasoned of observers.


  5. “Despite their name [Bolsheviks] they always represented a small minority of the people.” Agreed. The Tsars, the nobility, and the landed gentry also represented a small minority of the people. The extent of these minorities varied over time. Thank you for such a clear and concise summary.


  6. What about something more recent, like Chavez (not so much Maduro) in Venezuela?

    Some years ago (12 years, maybe?) I was at a party where I made a mistake telling some young professional from Venezuela that I kinda liked Chavez. Immediately the guy flew off the handle, so that I even thought he might physically attack me.

    Also, I have a good friend who works there now, and she keeps telling me stories about new ‘vertical ghettos’, crime, bydlo local bosses, all the stuff a-la Bulgakov’s Heart of a Dog.

    But then she does understand that all this is a consequence of decades of horrible exploitation, of the ‘elites’ ignoring the most basic needs of a half of the population.

    So, what’s the solution there (or in Russia 100 years ago)? Is it to wait/hope for ‘good’ masters (like, presumably, the ‘Black Baron’) to take control (by some lucky accident?) and organize things in a more acceptable way? Really? Count me unconvinced.


    1. I’m not so unconvinced.

      For all their faults, there’s the comparative examples of Franco’s Spain to the Soviet propped “socialist paradises”, Chiang Kai Shek’s Republic of China in Taiwan versus Maoist mainland China and the South Korean military regimes relative to the DPRK.

      Related, I’ve periodically heard some Soviet raised Russians say positive things about Pinochet.


    2. Excellent comment, Mao. Unfortunately, the Privileged Few will never understand how Reality appears to the Unprivileged Many.
      They live in a bubble of their own making.


  7. An Illusion of Gosudarstvennost’

    What a tearful blogpost, Professor! Applause. No, seriously – it deserves a round of applause. Clearly, it shows how you invested time and effort to promote, once again, the *appropriate* feelings for the Lost Cause so dear to you.

    Everyone, please, pay heed! Professor here is doing a Good Work, by drawing our attention to the “nation building” ™ carried out by the White Movement on the territory under their control. After all, said “nation building” back then (and even now by numerous epigones and apologists) had been presented as a viable “alternative” to the gosh-damned bloody Bolsheviks and their unwholesome deeds. It was Wrangel himself who in late April 1920 announced before the members of the (inlc. international) press:

    “Russia can be liberated not by a triumphal march from Crimea to Moscow, but by creating, at least on a piece of Russian land, such an order and such living conditions that would draw to itself all the thoughts and strength of the people groaning under the red yoke”

    Thus spoke the man forcefully “retired” by Deninkin, and who only arrived back to Crimea from Constantinople on board of the British dreadnaught “Emperor of India” (Iron Duke class) mere days before his “election”. Ballsy, huh? An aspiration to launch a “historical experiment”, which might serve as “Another/Alternative Russia”.

    I feel almost bad to rain on this White (Movement) Pride parade of yours, Professor. Almost.

    Why? Because what I’m about to do is to trounce the rosy propaganda picture liked by the Proper Gentlemen (and some Ladies), by using the White Movement’s own sources.


    1. Part 1. Nature of the reformers.

      Let’s not hang all the dogs on Wrangel alone, who, in many ways, remained merely a figurehead expressor of the political will of the old/former imperial elites, richly represented in his Regime. Pyotr Wrangel first and foremost was a military man, with the specific education and life experience, who, simply, lacked the talents to manage the minutiae of the civilian administration.

      Professor mentions dear to his heart intellectual Struve as one White ministers and… the land reform. That’s not a whole picture of Wrangel’s Regime. You’d better start by elaborating, that the nominal Prime Minister under Wrangel and the mastermind behind his reforms was an economist and former member of the State Council Alexander Vasilyevich Krivosheyin, a creature of Stolypin, who inherited most of his late patron’s worldview. To the success of its implementation what with him becoming a top tier member of the Imperial Russia’s government, solicited nothing but negative comments – even from such shy and conscientious liberals, like KaDet party member from Kiev, lawyer, writer, businessman and mason Emmanuel Sygizmundovich Margulies. In his book published in emigration “The Chronicle of Revolution” (Volume II) he wrote:

      “During the Denikiniad more than 30 of Moscow’s firms, under the initiative of the patriots… self organized into a powerful syndicate, which gained a monopoly on procurement of the foreign currency for the Don region, for which it got a right for unrestricted export of coal and bread and also unrestricted import of the manufactured goods, and also 100 millions of Don’s rubles for the starter capital. As the head of the syndicate as its chairman became A.V. Krivosheyin, Don’s Minister of Trade, who allowed this syndicate’s establishment, got a position of the executive director with a 5 year contract and 125 000 rubles annual salary. After the confirmation of the agreement at the governmental level, he immediately resigned”

      Besides being a crook, after the October Revolution. Krivosheyin participated in formation of the several right-wing conspiracies (they even explicitly called themselves the unions of the “Right”) with pro-German sympathies, got busted, ran away to the Germany controlled Hetmanite Ukraine and from there to France, where he nearly got a plum position in one of the banks… But the Entente high command had other plans for him, what with his numerous ties and wide circle of correspondence, that amounted to the “who’s who” among the (former) Russian Empire reactionaries and old elites.

      So, when in February 1920 Wrangel departed to Constantinople and, by all accounts, was ready to leave for Europe, he had a meeting with Krivosheyin, who arrived thence from the coziness of his Paris apartments… and with the representatives of Entente military command. After a lengthy talk, general Wrangel suddenly changed his decision to move to Europe. Between first abortive attempt to elect a new leader of the Southern White Movement and Wrangel’s arrival back to Crimea (with the subsequent Denikin’s “blessing” of his candidacy) was one day.

      Military Forces of the Russian South have degenerated into a “band of condottiers” with the “idea, that inspired [them] in their fight against the Bolshevism… abandoned in evacuated Novorossiysk”. The White forces began developing a “sense of… moral capitulation before the Bolshevism” (as per the memoirs of White journalist and KaDet Grigoriy Rakovsky, who’ll later emigrate to the USA).

      [Which also meant, that early 1920 was a time, when the Civil War (and foreign military intervention) in Russia could have been brought to an end. Instead, Wrangel and the people behind him chose to prolong this bloody struggle for nearly another year. There can’t be otherwise – it became a symbiotic arrangement between them, what with the need of the external source of supplies needed to restore the White Armed Forces to former fighting capacity… and then send them to do their sponsor’s bidding. This provides a context of the many things, that happened after Wrangel’s ascendancy, including the appointment of Krivosheyin as the head of the cabinet]

      Prior to the “triumph of the military democracy”, when the junta of the White officers elected Wrangel as their new leader, other members of the imperial elite (clergy, senators, landlords, industrialists) lobbied on his behalf. Rakovsky wrote plainly, that “Wrangel’s support amount to the big landowners and industrialists”. Rakovsky’s value as a source is in plain concise pointing out, that Wrangel was in active correspondence with Krivosheyin throughout all his time serving under Denikin – thus, their rendez vous in Constantinople had been preordained long beforehand.

      Now, let provide a historical context, about which, I assume, most of commenters here are simply not aware. Pre War/Revolution(s) population of Crimea was c. 1 mln. people. In spring of 1920, after suffering numerous defeats, the White Movement of Russia’s South evacuated from the Ukraine, Don, Kuban and the Northern Caucasus. This translated into an influx of several hundred thousands of the civilians to the peninsula, most of them family members and dependants of the White Movement’s officers, bureaucrat and Cossacks.

      On its own, the Crimea could not feed itself, as it was wholly dependant on the food supplies from elsewhere – mostly, from the northern uyezds of the Tauria governorate, adjacent to the peninsula.

      It was under this circumstances when Krivosheyin “worked his magic” of reforms. Here comes a handshakable source, that won’t rustle your partisan sentiments, Professor – prince Vladimir Andreyevich Obolensky, an aristocrat, mason, KaDet party member and former MP of the 1st State Duma (from the Tauria aka Crimea governorate), one of the signatories of the “Vyborg Manifesto” in 1906. Also – a key figure in Crimea’s local zemstvo self-rule organization who knew and practiced local administration for years.

      Obolensky dissed Wrangel personally, for he could not successfully “fight against the abuses perpetuating in the military rear, against the desertion from the front of officers seeking to get a job in HQ, against the quartermasters and other rear institutions, against theft, bribery and speculation of these rear officials”.

      But most scathing criticism he saved for Krivosheyin’s administrative reform. He abolished old gubernia administration and installed new at the Ministerial level. As a result, the bureaucratic apparatus became only bloated and the top level administrator wasted most of their time corresponding with their local underlings. Add to that by maintaining more civil servants ruling roughly half of the former Tauria governorate, Wrangel’s administration had to spend more money on it… which miraculously often failed to find their recipients and were simply stolen.

      Georgiy Nemirovich-Danchenko (about this fantabulous personage – later), a literal insider of Wrangel’s government, wrote, that:

      [W]ith the treasury being empty, here in Crimea various chancelleries and bureaus had been multiplying full of third-rank bureaucrats, who led half-famished lives, with their salary amounting to 1-2 Turkish liras… But all of these increased the prestige of the Government of Russia’s South, creating the illusion of gosudarstvennost’, with the meetings of the inter-department commissions, with Krivosheyin and a tight circle of his confidants receiving monetary support in the form of foreign currencies. Krivosheyin attracted with him to Crimea and emplaced in Sevastopol his connections from Paris Russo-Jewish industrial circles. The thirst for entrepreneurship, which unerringly made him a kin to the late Sergey Yuryevich Vitte, tarred all of his activity in Crimea with the seal of the financial scam”.

      The reforms in the industrial sector were no less “breathtaking”. Obolensky writes:

      “Overtaking the high cost of living, the incomes of merchants and artisans grew, who disproportionately raised the prices of their goods, the earnings of workers rose more or less in line with the high prices, keeping entrepreneurs and the government under the eternal fear of strikes. As for the salaries of officers, officials or employees of public institutions, every month they more and more lagged behind the incredibly growing cost of basic necessities”

      And now Nemirovich-Danchenko:

      “Factory owners have been constantly cutting the production, citing the lack of raw materials – which wasn’t true, what with the scrap iron being plentiful in all of Crimea’s ports, and leaf tobacco and leather exported abroad in plain sight. Despite government’s 200 mln rubles in subsidies to the leatherworking factories, throughout the summer it couldn’t force the leatherworking factories owners to channel these funds into production, and not into the currencies exchange speculation. Equally ruined was the salt industry, despite Crimea having all the conditions to start salt’s export to the Danube’s markets. It became cheaper to design unrealistic projects and ship the last valuable assets of the regions abroad and engage in the currency speculation. That’s why the Crimean industrialists decided not to change the habit of the Russian bourgeois’ (sic) under the conditions of the Civil War”.

      Rakovsky gives some everyday examples of Krivosheyin’s policy:

      “13 verskhoks [60 cm] of glass cost for a Crimean merchant 96 rubles. He exchanges it for 1 pood [16 kg] of barley, which real cost was 2000 rubles. This goods exchange operation provided him with 1200% of profit. But that’s not all! Such kind of profit was ordinary for co-ops. Meanwhile the individual entrepreneurs acquired 1 pood of barley not for 13 vershoks of glass, but for a measly 1 [4.5 cm].”

      Goodness gracious! WHO’D THOUGHT that your typical liberal pre-Revolutionary economic policy could POSSIBLY result in catastrophic inflation and currency speculations?! The latter being mega-profitable if you have, saaaaaaaay, quite strong English pound sterling and constantly devalued Russian ruble. Again, WHO’D THOUGHT that by importing DURING A CIVIL WAR lots of manufactured goods, from, saaaaaaay, Entente countries (you know – France and Britain) one could become shamelessly rich. What normal capitalist will start investing in the “real sector” under such conditions?

      So it shouldn’t come as any kind of surprise, that the “economic block” of Krivosheyin (and, therefore, Wrangel’s) government promised to clean up and reform the external trade via monopolization all export from Crimea. As per prince Obolensky:

      “All export from Crimea became regulated. Not even a single pood of bread could be shipped abroad without a special voucher tied to the payment to the treasury of a certain amount of the foreign currency and an obligation of the return import of certain items required to the population or the Army. The law had an aim, first, to concentrate in government’s hands all foreign currency reserves, thus strengthening ruble’s value and, second, to combat the widespread practice, when the exporters left abroad with the goods and then disappeared there with all of their foreign currency [earned in Crimea], or when they’ve returned back to Crimea, suffering from needing a lot of necessities, with he luxury items and such.

      However in practice, introduced export monopoly didn’t gave expected improvements, and, instead, resulted in a deluge of corruption. Export certificates could be hardly acquired without paying a hefty bribe, and… speculating nouveau riches systematically triumphed over honest and respectable people.”

      Rakovsky, writing independently in different time and place, nearly quotes word-by-word Margulies’ opinion about Krivosheyin and his modus operandi:

      “Such representatives of the ruling elite like Krivosheyin, by taking the most crucial offices, had always been members of the influential corporations, which just happen to be suppliers and contractors of the Crimea’s government.”

      Nemirovich-Danchenko, being a top-level insider, had a bit more to say:

      “Krivosheyin once made it slip, that’s it’s no use to fight the speculation. It was indeed so, for many well-known speculators had been visiting daily the cabinet of the Commander in Chief’s head civilian aide [i.e. Krivosheyin].”

      “State monopoly”? What “state monopoly”? 😉


      1. Okay, if this is poetry slam, then I think Mayakovsky gets it righter (poem “Khorosho”):

        тихий еврей,
        Павел Ильич Лавут:
        “Только что
        вышел я
        из дверей,
        вижу –
        они плывут…”
        по Севастополю
        к дымящим пароходам.
        За день
        подметок стопали,
        как за год похода.
        На рейде
        и транспорточки,
        мотня, –
        задрав порточки, –
        чистая публика
        и солдатня.
        У кого –
        у кого –
        кто со шкафом,
        с утюгом.
        Кадеты –
        на что уж
        люди лояльные –
        толкались локтями,
        крыли матюгом.
        Забыли приличие,
        бросили моду,
        кто –
        без юбки,
        а кто –
        без носков.
        в морду,
        сбивает с мостков.

        Наши наседали,
        крыли по трапам.,
        военный эшелон.
        сухой, как рапорт,
        из штаба
        вышел он.

        на ноги,
        в черной черкеске.
        Город бросили.
        На молу –
        у мола.
        И над белым тленом,
        как от пули падающий,
        на оба
        упал главнокомандующий.
        Под пули
        в лодку прыгнул…
        – Ваше
        – Грести!-
        Убрали весло.
        к “Алмазу”
        штандартная яхта.
        А в транспортах-галошинах
        от станка и пахот,
        накручивая за день.
        От родины
        в лапы турецкой полиции,
        к туркам в дыру,
        в Дарданеллы узкие,
        завтрашние галлиполийцы,
        вчерашние русские.
        година на године.
        который в каске.
        коров в Аргентине,
        по ямам африканским.
        качали транспорты,
        с полумесяцем
        бросались в очи,
        и с транспортов
        за яхтой
        сперли казну
        и удрали, сволочи”.
        на рейде
        трубой обвел
        – Ол
        райт. –
        И ушли
        в хвосте отступающих свор, –
        орудия на город,
        курс на Босфор.


    2. Part 2. Neo-liberal land

      But what about the common people of Crimea? Time to talk about the “land question”. Although, agrarian sector is an integral part of any economy, in pre-Revolutionary (and, most importantly, for the Revolutionary) Russia it was a №1 issue, that’s why entire chapter devoted to it… and to neo(old)-liberals, who tried to solve it.

      Southern Russian peasantry was relatively more prosperous compared to their northern brethren, and were much more petite-bourgeois in the outlook (“yay!” to expropriation of the noble lands, “boo!” to its collective tilling and prodrazvyorstka). But even they were not enthusiastic (to put it mildly) with either the White Movement or the prospective “change of guard” initiated by Wrangel. At the same time, neither were they 100% hostile to them (at first).

      If you cut all the boilertape sloganeering, demagoguery and posturing – the side which gains acquiescence or solicits minimal resistance of the majority of population wins the Civil War. De-facto, it means this majority sides with them. In early XX c. Russia this absolute (90%) majority was the peasantry.

      The White Movement under Wrangel fucked up winning their “heart and minds”.

      As described in the previous chapter, Crimea under the Whites became plagued by the illegal speculations, corruption of the officials, deliberate attempts to devalue the ruble by Krivosheyin’s government – these were the sparks, that could ignite already explosive mixture which were the peasant masses. And they were the people, who controlled the future of the peninsula – both in the political sense and its livelihood. Careful and, at first, neutral apprehension after Wrangel’s “ascension” soon changed to bitter disillusionment with the White (Movement).

      As said previously, Crimea could not at that time feed itself. In order to meliorate (pun intended) this problem somehow, there was a plan to simply cultivate more land, using previously unused part of it. Of course, the capitalist interest who were the real power behind the “throne” of Wrangel, had slightly different plans for it. They wanted new previously uncultivated land to either become pastures (for the sheep, which produce could then be exported abroad) or for the cash-crop cultivation (again, for export). What the “Supreme Ruler of Russia” does to achieve that? He addresses with unrestrictive respect and breathless adulation the chief landholders under his authority – *the Church*. It is interesting, how bishop Veniamin and his circle of clergy has always supported him – even in 1919 at height of Wrangel’s conflict with Denikin – and compared in his sermons with the likes of Peter the Great. In his letter, Wrangel touts how his land reform is accepted by the population “with deep satisfaction” and “raises spirits” in the fight against “the Bolshevik oppressors”. “But in some areas held by our Army” writes saddened Ruler of Rus , “we have encountered population’s bewilderment about the fate of the monastery, parish and church land holdings”. As “truly faithful sons of the Orthodox Church”, neither Wrangel nor his underlings considered it “moral” to touch the Church property, “but the interests of the State recreation of Russia” and the general perplexity of the population (you know – the peasantry, also consisting of the “truly faithful sons of the Orthodox Church”) “force me to address Your Eminence with a request to discuss this question”. Wrangel frames it thusly: “Will the Orthodox Church itself, acting in parallel with the State power, take any decisions, so that, on the one hand, protect the needs of the Church, and, on the other, show the Russian people, that the Orthodox Church, like in the ages of yore, always comes to assistance to it’s flock, thinking about the Salvation and the Benefit of the long suffering Motherland?”.

      How the Orthodox Church reacted to that so polite request? With the newfound sense of symphonia between them and the new aspirant “Caesar”? Hah – nope! Temporary Higher Church Authority in the Southeastern Russia passed an official ruling on 17 July 1920 about the transfer of its lands into the common land fund under the White’s Regime (allegedly – “to distribute among the poor and landless peasants”). They decided:

      A) To task professor Pavel Vladimirovich Verkhovsky with compiling a note, taking into account all the historical precedents, whether it is even permissible to transfer the Church land to the lay authorities (spoiler alert – Verkhovsky, famous theologician and Church historian, already did that back in 1919 and found no precedence).

      B) To list all the Church current needs, which the land ownership helps to satisfy in this hard time.

      C) To conclude, therefore, that although the Church *usually* tries to help disadvantaged and needy, all the precedence and traditions preclude them from parting with the Church land, which it considers to be an inalienable property, “as a gift from the faithful to God”.

      TL;DR: The Church said to Wrangel : “There won’t be land, but you hang on there! Best wishes, sound health etc.”

      That was just one instance of the White (Movement) failing to win the support of the peasantry by meeting their demands. On itself, it wasn’t enough to turn them against Wrangel. But then there were various “facts of life” coming from the constant “contact” between the White Army and the civilians. Rakovsky mentions a note, from the court-martial department set up by Wrangel himself:

      “People of the territories taken by the Crimean Army had been treated like a conquered population in the enemy country. Orders to curtail the pillaging amounted to nothing. By viewing what happened in the villages and how the authorities reacted to that, one could come to a singular conclusion – that demands to cease the pillages had been dictated by someone’s desire to convince somebody, that everything is all right… In reality, the populace had been literally groaning due to abuses of the commandants, the administration, from their total lack of protection, from the lecherousness and the unbridled behavior of both the enlisted men and the officers. The village lacked any kind of defenses. The peasant had become totally deprived of any rights and found himself, you might say, beyond the reach and protection of Law.”

      Even peasant kulaks (rich yet unprivileged agrarian bourgeois) didn’t like it. As per Rakovsky’s writings:

      “White Army personnel had been blamed directly [by kulaks] that it became impossible to do business anymore. They complained: «Communists were robbing us, and now you are robbing us. The difference is only that the communists are simply taking from us, while you are taking by paying “big money”… But the prices you assign would mean a ruin for us. We can’t stomach this anymore… One side had been robbing, another is robbing. Only your robbers rob us not just directly, but also through trickery»”

      Nemirovich-Danchenko provides some witness account on various examples of “trickery”, which became commonplace under Wrangel’s Regime:

      “Behind the frontlines held by the Army there was no such thing as “fixed exchange rate” for Frank or Pound, therefore Denikin’s or Wrangel’s Ruble had been plummeting fast without any tie to the successes or failures of the anti-Bolshevik armies. Efforts to heal the state of the Russian finance were hopeless. The currency speculation, like a poison, destroyed the rear.”

      As per him and Rakovsky, it was the Ministry of Finance direct responsibility for the Rubles devaluation. It’s head was Mikhail Vladimirovich Bernatsky, a noble and former Finance minister in the Provisional Government and, later, in Denikin’s “Special Counsel”. Back in 1906 he published the book “On the Agrarian Question”, in which he opposed the nationalization of land and the free expropriation of private land. He was a supporter of the purchase of private land at market prices through government loans and the introduction of a general progressive income tax. Later in life, he became rabidly anti-socialist and (surprise-surprise!) a KaDet party member. So it’s rather funny, when his fellow party member Rakovsky describes him thusly:

      “A truly elastic man remains a Minister of Finance – professor Bernatsky, who since Denikin specialized in catastrophic devaluation of Ruble and in eyewashing [rus. “очковтирательство”] about the shining financial prospects resulting from his wise financial policy”

      If you have a galloping inflation, then soon enough you will have a tremendous hike in prices everywhere. Nemirovich-Danchenko writes:

      “Appalling costliness have assume an unreal character, leaving behind the Soviet prices well behind. Officerdom and bureaucracy had been starving, seeking a solution of their material need in various abuses of authority, from the bribery to the stealing of the state property. Families of the officers fighting at the frontlines led impoverished life and no strict order from the Commander in Chief could help that.”

      Price Obolensky summed up the general mood prevailing in the White (Movement) held Crimea:

      “As of lately the life became so unbearable, that I’ve often heard from the people of rather political right-wing views the phrase «Let the Bolsheviks come – it won’t get any worse»”

      It was under this backdrop, when Wrangel (read – Krivosheyin) began his attempts of the “state regulation” and fights against speculation. These attempts failed. Throughout all 1920 in the White Crimea there were not enough of food to sustain its population, while the black market thrived. Most vulnerable category of the people, suffering from the lack of food and, in some cases, from near famine were the civil servants… and members of intelligentsia. Bureaucrats “combated” the shortages by engaging in all sorts of corruption and outright thievery, while the intelligentsia was not so lucky. And the military, well, they could just rob anyone by the strength of arms.

      But what about the much propagandized “Land Reform”, this trump card that ought to win the peasantry for the White (Movement) once and for all? This excuse of a “reform” was not a real attempt to regain the trust of the peasantry and heal the damage from the past conflicts – only to apply some band-aid. And why should they even try? Krivoshein’s inner circle of his monarchist supporters became convinced (and, apparently, managed to convince the Entente military leadership as well), that “the Russian people won’t follow the Bolsheviks, nor the socialists, nor the liberals, but those who have been ruling them prior to the Revolution” (c).

      Yet Wrangel in his memoir wrote about the reform the following:

      “It was necessary to use psychological impact on the peasant masses, to pluck from the hands of our enemies the chief weapon of propaganda against the White Army and the White Movement. Any suspicion that our aim in fight with the Reds is the restoration of noble landlords rights to the land and revenge for their violation”

      Still, he summoned a very “representative” and quite “respectable” commission. Prince Obolensky describes its members:

      “[Head of the commission] G.V. Glinka – a man known for his conservative views with a certain slavophilic bent. Also – an opportunist, ready to go far in the land radicalism, but only through force and contrary to his views and sympathies.

      Second – general Levashov, a personal friend of Wrangel, head of the “Landowners Union of the Russian South” and a determined enemy of the land reform.

      Third – former governor of Tauria recently elected chairman of the Yalta’s city Duma general Apraksin, also an enemy of the reform.

      Crimean landowner and a principled proponent of the large landholdings former minister of the general Sulkiewicz [during the German occupation in 1918] V.S. Nalbandov.

      Fifth – former deputy Minister of the land resources [Ministry of the State Property] in Czarist government P.P. Zubovsky. Neat, efficient official, more than anyone prone to concessions, but not a militant, always ready to side with the majority.

      Sixth – former land commissioner of the Tauria governorate Schleifer and young economist K.O. Zaytsev.”

      There were, in attendance, several deputies from the peasants – but they were in minority, not enough to form any kind of parity with the landlords. Besides, by Wrangel’s design, this commission had only advisory function. Glinka said to the journalists: “We are talking about upcoming and future arranging of acquisition of necessary land plots for the tenant-farmers. If, instead, the goal was a demand of the tenants for the complete division and payment-free alienation of the land, then the commission would not be created in the first place. Such political rally kind of rubbish is already plentiful in the press and in the Soviets”.

      This commission ought to be supported by the so-called “Peasant Union”. Prince Obolensky (who was indirectly involved in it) gives a description of this august organization:

      “In Sevastopol under Wrangel’s auspices formed the Peasant Union, headed by a certain B., apparently, an active member of a co-op. Rather chaotic man, but very energetic, seemingly sincere and honest one. Union was joined by several rich peasants, who ran away from the Ukraine, and… famous A.F. Alad’yin, leader of Trudoviks [party] in the First Duma, and then “Novoye Vremya” journalist, who, finally, was one of the active participants in the doomed Kornilov’s putsch. He’s been trotting out in the British officer’s uniform, speak only bunkum and boasted his imaginary influence on Wrangel, hinting, that by heading the Peasant Union he will force Wrangel to do his bidding”

      [Given Alad’yin’s well-travelled past, that included enlisting in the British army (as a lieutenant!), it comes as no surprise, that in Denikin’s army he immediately made contacts with the British military intelligence mission and became responsible for the “safe landing” of the British goods in Yekaterinodar and Novorossiysk]

      By May 1920 the Land Reform finally saw the light. Prince Obolensky, a conscientious liberal, judges it thusly:

      “The law was not too “right” or “left”. It was too complicated, suitable only for the peacetime, but not for the civil war. At least I treated it, as an attempt, yet a belated one, to radically steer the political wheel of the Southern Russian government, with great importance. I’m still deeply convinced, that if the Land Law, even in such way that it’s been published by the general Wrangel on May 25, 1920, instead had been by the general Denikin on May 25, 1918, the results of the civil war would be very different.”

      General-major Vladimir Nikolayevich von Dreyer, a member of anti-Bolshevik and pro-German conspiracies, who, due to his German ancestry was not entirely trusted by the Whites, still worked for them in the propaganda corps. He agitated for the necessity of this land law:

      “New law, passed in the severe conditions of the military camp, in a few words could be summed as such – «land to the owners, who till it». This directive thought relies on two main intentions – to protect any and all kind of the land use, as it is designed by the current time, and to give the working on the land owners state and privately owned lands”

      If taken at the face value, that approach would mean an infringement of the “rights” and privileges of the nobles and some kulaks. How Krivosyeyin’s cabinet managed to twist it to the benefit of their patrons? In the Southern Russia only 25% of the landed gentry cultivated their own land, while all the rest were renting it out. The law had to be enforced very quickly. Von Dreyer stresses this out, when talking about p.2 of the Land Law:

      “The allotment lands, acquired through the assistance of the Peasant Bank, and no bigger the fixed rate, as well as the areas allocated to khutors [steadings] and otrubs [thorps], church lands, estate lands, vineyards… strips of land under the industries… are not subject to the alienation”

      Translation from the legalese – the majority of the most fertile land remained inalienable by this law, i.e. in the property of its old owners – the nobility. Thus, Wrangel’s government under Krivosheyin did nothing principally new compared to his predecessors among the Czarist or other White ministers. Krivosheyin’s was the chief mastermind behind the land reform and it became a land reform in vein and interest of the people whom he really represented – “reactionary bureaucrats, pomeshiks and industrial bourgeoisie” as per the words of the liberal KaDet Rakovsky. So it’s a little surprise, that according to another of provisions of this “land reform”, the peasants got the land they’ve acquired anyways thanks to the Bolshevik’s “Decree on Land”… for a buyout of the land with an installment plan of 25 years. Strangely enough, all White (Movement) Pride sympathizers tend to forget/omit this provision!

      Wait, but that’s not all! As per the text of the reform: “Until the conclusion of land’s transfer to new owners they are obliged to annually pay the buyout in grain to the state fund. The full payment of the value of each desyatina [1.09 hectare] of convenient land is recognized as the payment to the state stock of bread in grain of the prevailing sowing in a given area, in the amount of five times the average harvest of this grain for the last 10 years from one government desyatina.

      TL;DR – peasants would have to pay at least 20% of their harvest to the state for quarter century. Imagine what would happen to a small peasant landholding in case of the bad harvest, when the formula calculating his repayment plan relies, instead on abstract “average”. In the very best case scenario, such peasant would be forced to sell his land for a pittance… to the class of the new (and old) latifundia owners.

      Prince Obolensky, a liberal KaDet party member, who, in general, supported this law, paints a mixed reaction to these “wonderful” news:

      “About a third of the Crimean peasant population consisted of landless “copspectors” and tenants, whose long-standing dream – to get ownership of the land they cultivated – finally came true. Of course, the peasants were somewhat worried about the repayment question. It must be said that the redemption payments were really calculated too high, for one-fifth of the harvest per desyatina turned into three-tenths of the sowing desyatina under the three-field system, and half or even more under the fallow system common in Crimea.

      At this time, the market value of land was extremely low. Land was, perhaps, the cheapest commodity, and I know a number of cases of land purchase in Crimea for next to nothing. This circumstance was extremely favorable for the land reform. However, the Wrangel government, engendered by right-wing circles, could not fail to meet them halfway, at least on the issue of the price for the land alienated from the noble landlords. The demand for a “fair”, not market-based, valuation of land, once put forward by the Party of People’s Freedom [i.e. KaDets] in the interests of the peasants, was now being implemented in the interests of the noble landlords.”

      That’s how Wrangel fought “any suspicion that our aim in fight with the Reds is the restoration of noble landlords rights to the land and revenge for their violation”!

      Needless to say, peasants proved to be unenthusiastic and did not rush to make first payment for their land. Rakovsky addresses peasant apprehension:

      “The form, which took the solution of the agrarian question, looked abortive to the peasants, at least, it didn’t promise the immediate guarantee of the land ownership. «It was better before», said the peasants, «You buy the land, pay up its price and done with it. Now you have turn yourself into a bondage for life, for 25 years pay to the landlords». Peasants, by experience familiar with the frailty of any authority, with skepticism treated Wrangel’s, 16th in the row for them, already assuming that the payments, that would be collected from them for the land, are already a lost cause. It’s no wonder that the populace was so negative to this agrarian law”

      So, to sum it up:

      A) Peasants did not get all of the land that they wanted.
      B) Peasants did not get the best of the land they wanted.
      C) Peasants had to pay for the land that they want to get for free.
      D) The price for the land had been artificially and criminally hiked in the interests of the ruling elite.

      *[Slow sarcastic applause]*


    3. Part 3. No Lives Matter.

      “We strived for power to hang, instead we’d had to hang in order to come to power”
      – General Lavr Kornilov, White Movement’s forerunner.

      Dire economic situation, corruption, mismanagement, failure or direct sabotage coming from the people tasked with trying to right all wrongs predictably resulted in the negative reaction to the White (Movement) from the general population. But because said population was very heterogeneous, that reaction came from many angles at different times lacked the “united front”, instead turning into a dispersed protest from below. Such prevailing sentiments always result in the destabilization of the rear and harming the overall war effort and morale.

      Naturally, Powers That Be (any kind of them) strive to suppress that – either by carrots or by sticks.

      Another topic dear to the heart of any shy and conscientious member of the liberal intelligentsia – freedom of speech. Soon after his elections ascension to the vaunted status of the Ruler of Russia, Wrangel summoned the editors of the biggest newspapers in Crimea and offered them two chairs a simple choice: either the retention of military censorship, or complete freedom of the press, but with responsibility for publications that harm the Army in accordance to the laws of wartime. Almost all editors are in favor of maintaining censorship. Lo and behold – after that meeting the press outlets, firmly placed at the service of White propaganda began multiplying, what with them becoming fully dependant on the government subsidies.

      We have plenty of first hand accounts by the White (Movement) Media insiders, of which Rakovsky and Dreyer were prominent members. Another luminary belonging to these cohorts – the official head of the White propaganda machine G.V. Nemirovich-Danchenko, a noble, a mason, a fascist… and a son of Vladimir Ivanovich Nemirovich-Danchenko, a pillar of the theatric scene on par with Stanislavsky. Danchenko Jr. left behind memoirs (e.g. “In der Krim bei Wrangel”), which Professor surely will find, ah, “titillating”. It’s amazing that Wrangel allowed Nemirovich-Danchenko to push his anti-Semitic agenda and publications right till September 1920 (i.e. it was “okay” by the censorship and the “laws of wartime), and it took a huge and ugly scandal involving the Wrangel himself and his Foreign Minister Struve to “retire” his chief propagandist. Surely, the gosh-darn-awful situation of the frontlines and the need to placate the Entente (ergo Struve’s involvement) to help with the impending evacuation, have “nothing” to do with that!

      Georgy Vladimirovich blamed the Jewish conspiracy and local Crimean Jews for his downfall. Soon he relocated to Germany, where he eventually joined early fascist organization «Aufbau», supported Grand Duke Kirill and his circle of Nazis, got published in Völkischer Beobachter. Later he worked for Alfred Rosenberg’s Ministry of Propaganda via Nazi controlled Rus-lang paper “Novoye Slovo”. Surely, such a figure must solicit some sympathy from you, Professor, by the virtue of being a staunch anti-Bolshevik active in White Army veteran organizations!

      It was people like him (and counterintelligence) who were given a task to use “carrots” to combat the Bolshevik propaganda and wield a non-kinetic, soft White (Movement) power. Were they successful? Let’s give a word to the good mensch himself:

      “White repressions could not compare to the Red Terror. One only have to cite the practice of the expulsion of the dissidents to the Soviet Russia, which has been constantly utilized in Crimea. It often took an absurd tone, as was demonstrated by the expulsion to Georgia of the half-Bolshevik Kantorovich, who organized the strikes in Sevastopol’s harbor.”

      [Actually, V.A. Kantorovich was a Menshevik ;). Also, Georgia at that time was not Soviet – it’s been ruled by the coalition of the nationalist social-democrats]

      Rakovsky showed an alternative view on the “incomparable gentleness” of the White approach:

      “Wrangel’s orders of expulsion to the Soviet Russia for different crimes (mostly political), on the amnesty granted to the voluntary defectors from the Bolshevik side, in practice amounted to the execution via a firing squad for those condemned to expulsion, to the arrest and prison sentences for the defectors. So-called «expulsion to the Soviet Russia» became a masked death penalty”

      Nevertheless – some defections to the Whites did happen. Oh, but how they happened! White general Alexander Pavlovich Kutepov had such dialog with the head of Markov’s division general-major N.A. Tretyakov (as per the record, taken by the general Pisarev). Kutepov wondered out loud, if it was true that Tretyakov indeed allowed the would be defectors to pass. Tretyakov “smiling eloquently” assured his colleague, that they were not letting them pass, merely “allowing them to go some distance”. “Well, that’s a way to go” approved his actions Kutepov.

      The power of Wrangel, in Crimea, like Denikin’s before him, was held by violence and terror – White Terror. In April, he issued an order on the creation of “military-judicial commissions” in all uyezds and garrisons, the task of which was to suppress any actions directed against the Wrangelites.

      As the Chief of the Special Department under the Commander in Chief of the White Army, i.e. the head of the counterintelligence, Wrangel re-appointed general-lieutenant Evgeniy Konstantinovich Klimovich, a noble of significant pedigree – and a gendarmes officer, who later became head of the Security Department/Okhrannoye Otdeleniye (aka the State Security) in Moscow and, finally, as Empire’s head of the Police. How did the “civil society” of the White-held Crimea reacted to his appointment and counterintelligence’s tract record?

      Nemirovich-Danchenko, who was a natural ally for such “Law’N’Order” types, wrote:

      “General Klimovich has found a proper place for himself, whose appointment… so riled against Wrangel the left circles. It’s only natural, that KaDets and half-Bolsheviks wanted to see this office taken by some professor of the Police Law, who’d abolish the counterintelligence and who’d try the Bolsheviks before the juries”

      [Spoiler alert – Klimovich had no time for such frivolous thing as “trial by juries”]

      Now quoting from the memoirs of V.A. Obolensky:

      “I started to tell Klimovich about what a deleterious role in organization of the police work, besides the boundless sea of the direct abuses, plays the loose definition of the term «Bolshevism». Thus moderate socialists and even not socialists became accused of «Bolshevism», only because they had a misfortune to serve [previously] in the Bolshevik institutions. I mentioned as examples massacres targeting people having nothing to do with the Bolshevism, etc. In short, I’ve been saying all that I’ve already said to Krivosheyin, and with which he, apparently, even agreed. Klimovich evaded of announcing his program, but became very talkative when describing how he spent time in prison under the Provisional Government and what kind of indignations he had to suffer back then…

      It was also bad under the Bolsheviks, but, at least, they’ve granted him freedom and even gave an opportunity to serve in some bank…

      …His speech amounted to the claim, that all leftists are tarred with the same stick [rus. “одним миром мазаны”]”

      [Under the Bolsheviks, “some bank” could only be the one and only remaining one – the State Bank. I.e. the Bolsheviks were ready to gainfully employ the chief “hound of the Czarist Regime” in one of the crucial institutions – let alone released him from the prison!]

      Nemirovich-Danchenko carries on with his paean:

      “Wrangel needed this office taken by a technician, a specialist of the police craft. General Klimovich justified trust placed onto him completely. Despite enormous resources spent by the Bolsheviks and the Greens [to support the underground] in Crimea… thanks to the energy and persistence of Klimovich, this movement had been bound to be completely eradicated by the autumn”

      Prince Obolensky did not share this view:

      “Prisons under Klimovich, as before him, were full of mostly random people, which not hindered, but, on the contrary, helped the activity of the Bolshevik agitators, who remained free”

      So who’s right here? Here we have a tertiary witness, coming from the memoirs («My service in the Special Corps of Gendarmes», published by the Hoover Institution) of the colonel of the Gendarmes Corps Alexander Pavlovich Martynov (emigrated to the USA in 1923 and since then had been working for the American security agencies). Martynov served under Klimovich way back before the Revolution. That’s how he describes his former boss “solution” to the strike of the tram depot workers:

      “[T]he striking employees demanded some economic changes; There was no “politics”; the strikers elected a strike committee of fifteen people. As verified by my branch, the members of the strike committee were people who had not previously been registered in branch files and, therefore, appeared to be partyless.

      Ye. K. Klimovich, proceeding from the view that “now is not the time for strikes,” gave me an order to arrest the members of this committee, which I did.

      The inquiry that began did not establish the involvement of the “committee members” in the underground revolutionary organizations. In my reports to General Mrozovsky, I had to note, of course, that the members of the strike committee did not belong to any party and the fact that, according to the information of my agents, very knowledgeable in the activities of the Moscow Social Democrats, the revolutionary underground did not organize a strike.

      Since General Mrozovsky needed to take measures against the arrested members of the strike committee, he invited General Klimovich and me to his place. Both of us did not know the purpose of our summons to the commander.

      After a short conversation about current affairs, General Mrozovsky turned to [Klimovich] and asked him to comment on the strike committee.

      To my surprise, General Klimovich began to claim that the demands of the strike committee were inspired by the local Social Democratic underground, that the members of the committee were also Bolsheviks and that they should be treated as such.

      When Ye. K. Klimovich finished his speech, General Mrozovsky turned to me and asked:

      “Does the head of the Security Department have such information?”

      I, of course, understood the danger of my position, but I didn’t want to lie and answered simply:

      No, I don’t have such data at my disposal.

      Then General Mrozovsky, grinning, asked General Klimovich what exactly he was basing his arguments on. Ye. K. Klimovich began to prove his conclusions from the general provisions, saying that the lack of information on this issue from the head of the security department does not mean that the general conclusions are incorrect; that he has sufficient experience in such matters and so on.

      However, he did not convince General Mrozovsky.

      A few days later, General Mrozovsky thanked me for not being afraid to tell the truth, but I, of course, lost my position in Klimovich’s eyes. From then on, he began to treat me coldly.”

      Hmm. “A technician, a specialist of the police craft”, indeed! Obolensky came to the conclusion, that under Wrangel “mass arrests of not only the guilty, but also the innocent were still carried out”. He said that general Klimovich was “full of anger, hatred and personal revenge”, and for Obolensky there was no doubt that in the police work in Crimea “everything remained as before.”

      Prince Obolensky’s claim, that Wrangel had a tendency to always side with the accusers (and the military higher-ups) in his Law’n’Order policy, is confirmed by G. Rakovsky:

      “The prisons in Crimea, as before and now, were overcrowded by two-thirds of those accused of political crimes. Most of them were military servicemen arrested for careless expressions and critical attitude towards the high command. For months, in appalling conditions, without interrogation and often without charges, political prisoners languished in prisons, awaiting the decision of their fate…

      Someone’s property, future and even life depended in Crimea on bribe-takers, thieves, crooks and bandits, united with the organization called “counterintelligence”…

      “I don’t deny that three-quarters of them consist of a criminal element,” Wrangel gave such a comment in a conversation with me about the Crimean counterintelligence service…

      If you’d just read Wrangel’s orders, then you might really think that justice really reigned in the Crimean courts. But it was only on paper… The main role in the Crimea… was played by courts-martial… People were shot and shot…

      Even more of them were shot without trial. General Kutepov said bluntly that ‘there is nothing to start a judicial rigmarole [канитель], just shoot and… that’s all”

      White Terror perpetuated on the fringes of the White (Movement) control zone was no less bloody or macabre. General Ya. A. Slashchov (a prototype of the general Khludov in Bulgakov’s “Flight”), one of the leaders of the Volunteer Army, became famous for his particular cruelty during the military dictatorship of Wrangel. Later, he’d return to the Soviet Union and publish a book of memoirs, which is yet another valuable source coming from the White (Movement) top insider. Since December 1919, he commanded an army corps defending the Crimea, by his own words, “ruined his personal life” with alcohol and cocaine abuse, and also contributed to the White terror. Rakovsky thus describes this general’s activity:

      “You can, of course, imagine what a heavy atmosphere of lawlessness and tyranny the Crimea was shrouded in at that time. Slashchov reveled in his power… literally mocked the unfortunate and downtrodden population of the peninsula. There were no guarantees of personal inviolability. Slashchov’s application of justice… was reduced to executions. Woeful was the fate of one to whom Slashchov’s counterintelligence paid attention”

      In his memoirs Slashchov admits the excess perpetuated by his side:

      “I have to admit, that the refugees [i.e. newly arrived Whites] began inflicting vengeance for their humiliation in Novorossiysk upon the left elements in Crimea. Special zeal has been exhibited by general Kutepov’s corps, whose HQ was in Simferopol”

      Rakovsky, who was living and working in Simferopol, could verify this:

      “In Simferopol there was a general depressed mood of all population stratas, caused by a number of death sentences by the court martial. This depressed increases daily, because the arrests, carried out by the counterintelligence officers are going unabated. There are rumours spreading among the population about extremely reprehensible way and method to conduct the inquiry in the counterintelligence offices and at the courts martial. Intimidated and humiliated organs of the local self-rule have issued protests against the excesses of the White Terror (sic)”

      This obsession to apply the label “Bolshevism” in, ahem, “elastic” way, took truly macabre forms. Here’s what the “intimidated and humiliated” member of local administration Obolensky wrote:

      “One morning, children going to schools and gymnasiums saw terrible dead men hanging from the lampposts in Simferopol with their tongues protruding outward… Simferopol has not yet seen anything like this during the entire civil war. Even the Bolsheviks did their bloody deeds without such scenes. It turned out that it was General Kutepov who ordered to terrorize the Simferopol Bolsheviks in this particular way.”

      Just think about it. Prince Obolensky relocated to Crimea from Petrograd back in December 1917. He witnessed a lot of… stuff… happening there, including phantasmagoric forerunners of the modern post-irony aka the attempts of the Ukrainian nationalists to start up “their own” fleet and spread natsionalna svidomost on the locals. And yet only in 1920 under “proper Russian patriot” Wrangel did he and the rest of the natives witnessed such example of winning hearts’n’minds.


    4. Part 4. “Multi-vector” foreign policy.

      Let’s start with small but telling detail – Krivoshein’s cabinet thought that it would increase their legitimacy and international standing by allocating huge sums of money (at the expense of the institutions in Crimea) on maintaining foreign embassies with the full rosters of employees, with significant salaries paid in full… well through 1920. Yeah… something about fiddling while the Rome burns, huh?

      As for the essence of the policy, what with the “proper liberal” Struve at the helm of the Foreign Ministry of Wrangel’s administration, it surely is curious to look at the White Movement’s external relations in this period.

      For sure – it was different from Denikin’s withering and dithering. Wrangel began by telling everyone what they wanted to hear, i.e. by lying to everyone about his future foreign policy. As per Obolensky, “Wrangel with the “federalist” became a federalist himself, while talking to the “centralist” he argued for the “United and Undivided Rus”, with the monarchist he talked about the Czar, with the republican – about Republic”.

      It was soon after that time when this principled monarchist and defender of Holy Rus (as per his own words) began establishing ties and diplomatic links with e.g. Nestor Ivanovich Makhno, whom they regarded for some time as perspective ally – wily Bat’ka didn’t reciprocate, but milked this turn for all its worth. According to his own writings on multi-vector policy, he planned to use the Whites to attack the Reds… and then betray them, and having his Greens to ally with thus weakened Reds and go after the Whites! 😉 Meanwhile Wrangel became so enamoured with the prospect of the “Grand Alliance” (surely, due to information provided by his minister), that order the release of the anarchists in his custody (including ataman Volodin) – even the ones arrested for the felonies, not for the “political activity”. Upon their release, these “reformed” Makhnovites were tasked with forming a new military unit, which aught to symbolize a future “brotherhood in arms”. Ataman Volodin’s White Movement sponsored gang (consisting of robbers, murderes and lowlifes of all walks and creeds), then “deployed” to the Melitopol’s uyezd, where he proceed to fight against local civilians (curious people might want to check out “Wedding in Malinovka” old Soviet musical comedy).

      Another “diplomatic breakthrough” – under Struve White Crimea established relations with the Ukrainian Directory of Symon Petlyura (the irony… the irony of the situation!). Finally – under liberal FM Struve Wrangel’s administration managed to establish ties with the ethno-separatist movements in the Northern Caucasus. According to V.A. Obolensky memoirs all of these examples of “accepting local samostiynost’” were in lieu of “strengthening of the southern Russian gosudarstvennost’” (see Wrangel’s general army order of 13 May 1920 advising “deconfliction” in contact with anti-Bolshevik military groups). Also according to Obolensky, Wrangel retired the idea of the “war till the victorious end”, instead aiming to use the Entente as mediators to reach a peace deal with (“actually – an armistice”) the Bolsheviks!

      As you remember, Wrangel’s government went FUBAR with their land reform, failing to get a support from the majority of the population under their control. It meant, therefore, that he became more and more at the mercy of the Entente countries. Wrangel still feisty complained in the letter to the UK’s government:

      “Categorical demand of the Great Britain’s government to cease all struggle puts my army in the inability to continue it. Assigning to the Great Britain’s government all the moral responsibility for it’s decision and completely excluding the possibility the direct military talks with the enemy, I give the fate of the Army, Fleet and the populace of the areas under your control to the just decision of the Great Britain’s government”

      I.e. after all attempts to find some kind of support from the Ukrainian nationalists of Petlyura, from the Caucasus nationalists, from the Anarchists – all of these proved for naught. Wrangel only showed himself as lacking any principles, weak and desperate. His only “allies” were France and Britain, who by 1920 were already starting to have second thoughts about the White (Movement) value. Btw – only the French government officially recognized the White government in Crimea.

      In the Whites held territories Entente’s “support” had been mostly viewed negatively by the populace. Nemirovich-Danchenko wrote about it:

      “Nothing had ruined the prestige of the authorities in the eyes of the Army and the populace, as the so-called “foreign policy”. The citizenry of Crimea’s cities hated unanimously both the English and the French, having a vague idea, that they were the culprits of the unsuccessful struggle against the Reds. This hatred got worse by the provoking behavior of the English and French sailors, who, having the currency, led in Sevastopol lives of constant revelry, who bought in the stores jewelry and rode through the half-starved crowds in double carriages”

      He also compares it to the times of the German occupation:

      “German occupation of the Ukraine in the summer of 1918 did not leave even a hundredth of the bitter memories, which already accumulated in the White camp since getting acquainted with the French in Odessa and with the English in Rostov and Novorossiysk. Everyone remembers, how the Germans, coming to the Ukraine, set up a fixed rate of the German Mark, first at 75, and then 85 kopecks. This rate did not change through all period of the German forces presence in Russia’s South, which had a tremendous effect in supporting healthy economic relations between the occupiers and the Russia’s South’s populace.

      That’s why its unsurprising, that when one sunny day in the middle of June a news spread across Sevastopol about the arrival to Crimea of the German delegation, Sevastopol’s society met this with a barely disguised jubilation. Never before had the pull to change the orientation been experienced so forcefully as during the summer month of Russia’s Army being stationed in Crimea”

      All of this made possible (including “sympathy to the Devil”) by the “wise” monetary policy of Krivosheyin and his team! Or, consider this – one wishing to flee Crimea had to buy a ticket on a British steamboat, paying the price in Pounds, of course. But the galloping inflation and the devaluation of Ruble meant that every day it became less and less possible. Did the Brits step on the throat of their greed and attempted to change this? Naaaah!

      It no secret to anyone but particularly dense or dishonest, that both the French and British governments had been using Wrangel’s army in their interests. First of all – they treated it as a bargaining chip in the diplomatic games, aimed, mainly, to distract part of the Red forces from Poland. White Forces under Wrangel successfully tied about 80 000 of the Red Army soldiers. Thus, the Entente leadership did not plan to abandon their client entirely.

      At the same time, the British were already in active talks with the Bolshevik government. 19 April, 1920, vice-admiral Sir Michael Culme-Seymour sent to Wrangel the following notification:

      “Admiralty notifies you, that lord Curzon sent a telegram this Saturday, 19 April, to Mr. Chicherin, in which he said, that despite the defeat of the Armed Forces of South Russia their complete elimination cannot be allowed. That’s why, if Mr. Chicherin won’t agree with the lord Curzon acting as an intermediary and on cessation of all subsequent offensives which might be launch from the Soviet side, His Majesty’s Government would be obliged to send the Naval fleet for the protection of the Crimean Army from the unhindered capture by the Soviets the last refuge of the Russian Army”

      In so few words, Wrangel had been told that without direct assistance of Entente he cannot stand on his own. Rakovsky elaborates on this situation:

      “In late April Wrangel got an official letter from the general Percy, the English representative at the HQ, in which he mentions to him that lord Curzon notified admiral de Robeck, English High Commissioner in Constantinople, that Mr. Chicherin’s answer on his offers does not suggest a favorable resolution of the situation. In July the British government will make a last attempt to achieve a peace between the Bolsheviks and Wrangel on condition, that the Armed Forces of South Russia will immediately return to Crimea and that the areas cleared by them during the armistice would be considered a neutral zone. They decided to invite Wrangel to the London conference to discuss the question about the fate of the Army and the region under his control… however under the condition, that the ruler of Crimea and Commander in Chief would be viewed not as a full-fledged participant of the conference, like the representatives of Poland, Soviet Russia, Galicia (sic!), Siberia and others.”

      SICK. BURN. ;-)))))

      Pyotr Berngardovich Struve, a person much lionized by Professor here, had the stomach to announce, that Wrangel’s government finds the British mediation acceptable as well as the possibility of its representatives participation in the planned conference, with the condition, however, that they’d be granted an equal status with all the rest conference participants. Demanding equal treatment with… ugh… Galicia, that, well, that is something befitting of the person of his station!

      Nemirovich-Danchenko does not mince words as to what was on the British minds at that time:

      “The English had been saying plainly that the presence of the Russian Fleet in the Black Sea prevents the establishment of the correct trade relations between the Constantinople and the ports of the Soviet Russia.”

      Rakovsky writes:

      “In the current situation the White government limited even its usual anti-Bolshevik rhetoric. [within a project of the “Greater Russia”]. Wrangel’s government in Struve’s person suggested a project, which essence amounted to the following concepts:

      – Wrangel’s Army does not exhibit any offensive plans to advancing into the depth of Russia and only wishes to guard it’s right to existence in the areas which it holds.

      – The French government ought to take upon itself the initiative and offer to the Soviet government to set up borders between the Soviet Russia and the territory held by Wrangel, so that the later could peacefully organize economic and social life in Russia’s South without a threat from the Bolsheviks”

      Further, he admits the role of the AFSR was only as “spoiler” during the Soviet-Polish War:

      “Catastrophic situation which faces Poland; English passivity in countering the Bolsheviks and saving Poland from the destruction; Wrangel’s assurances to Krivosheyin and Struve to be ready to pay back Russia’s debts; desire to strike a blow to the sympathetic to the Bolsheviks left movements; political ties of Russian ambassadors abroad; Wrangelites agitation and propaganda… All these and many other reasons force the French government… to finally decide on the necessity of recognition of the de facto existence of Wrangel’s government.”

      Sure, recognition – but not for free. Because the French before the Great War were the chief creditors of the Imperial Russia. Not as much as the fear for Poland’s fate, but the fear for unpaid debts dictated their decision.


  8. The number of Russians leaving Russia after the Bolshevik coup, included a good portion of its most talented individuals. This very point is a tell all on the tragic failure of the Soviet experience and explains why post-Soviet Russia has readopted the pre-Soviet tricolor flag and two headed eagle, in conjunction with offering a more positive accounting of the Russian Civil war era Whites.


    1. Wow, some stories there. This paragraph caught my attention, it’s even worse than the guy shooting his horse:

      Etched in my mind is the image of a captain from the Drozdovsky Regiment, who was standing not far from me with his wife and two children of three and five years old,” recalled an eyewitness of the debacle at Novorossiysk: “Having kissed and made the sign of the cross over them, he shot each of them in the ear, then he made the sign of the cross over his wife and said a tearful farewell. Shot, she fell. The last bullet was for himself…”

      What kind of monster would shoot his own wife and children? And it was completely unnecessary. If he wanted to kill himself, fine. The wife and kids could have continued to survive, maybe even gone on to find some happiness in life. Sometimes thing look really bad at a particular time, but if you hold out you never know, things can get better and life can even turn out to be awesome.

      See, I personally believe that if these illegal formations had reconciled to the new government and not fought so brutally nor started the Civil War, then Russia would have been in a much better place by the mid 1920’s. Still poor and destroyed by decades of Tsarist misrule and the war. But on the mend and busy re-building. The Whites could have reconciled and offered their skills to help the new government instead of launching a White Terror.

      The result would have been: Fewer deaths, less bloodshed, less hatred, less brutalization. I personally believe that the brutalization of masses of people caused by the War and the Civil War had a very deleterious effect for years and decades to come, It “taught” a couple of generations of Soviet citizens that violence was the only way to solve their problems. If the Whites had reconciled instead of launching these illegal wars, then Russia might have become a “normal” socialist country by the 1930’s. Without the brutalization and the excesses.

      Just my personal guess, and no way to prove it of course, since history cannot be re-run under different scenarios.
      But either way, I think it is extremely unhelpful to continue to glorify these violent losers, and to mourn over such a worthless “lost cause” as these warlords present themselves.


      1. Never mind the Reds doing things like working against Russia during WW I for the benefit of seeking power. Likewise, Lenin doesn’t appear to show much if any support for Russia during the Russo-Japanese War.

        “See”, in retrospect, the timing of when WW I started and how Russia decided to fight that war (attacking early into Germany) led to misery, which paved the way for the Bolshes, along with their Machiavellian dealings with Germany and Poland.

        Bolshevik brutality and their coup were other realities, giving credence to the opposition to them.

        Yes, faults can be found among the Whites. Civil wars the world over have had the aspect of faults on both sides.

        FYI, not all of the White supporters fled Russia when the civil war ended. Some remained trying to make the best of things.


  9. Where did you find this video? Perfectly visualizes your point, in combination with the map and the text of course.

    I somehow lost trace of the “visual turn”, that caught my attention around 9/11. Ok maybe slightly before. 😉


  10. Conclusion

    “Wrangel learnt from this and set about establishing a sound administration in the Crimea and enacting economic reforms, particularly in terms of giving peasants ownership of the land they tilled. In this he was helped by his Prime Minister, Alexander Krivoshein, who previously as Minister of Agriculture had been considered the most liberal of all the ministers in the pre-war Tsarist government. Other liberals also came to Wrangel’s assistance, an example being the philosopher and economist Pyotr Struve… In 1920 he became Wrangel’s foreign minister..”

    In this one short paragraph written by out gracious Host there, there is nothing but falsehoods, inaccuracies, lying by omission and distortion of the facts, all in the name of spinning the facts to fit someone’s questionable worldview.

    If the White Crimea was indeed an experiment to create an Alternative Russia, then it should be considered an utter and complete failure. Due to a combination of the objective and subjective reasons:

    – Dire economic situation that grew worse by deliberate actions of Wrangel’s government;

    – Unsatisfactory solution of the land question;

    – Abuses and corruption by the White Regime’s personnel;

    – Total dependency on often fickle foreign “allies”;

    – Unprincipled foreign policy.

    – As a result – weakness of the White Army;

    All these and many factors resulted not only in the tragedy in Crimea, but also protracted the Civil War (and Foreign Intervention) that affected the whole of Russia. White Crimea should serve as an object lesson of that it means to conduct a liberal state policy somewhere (and somewhen) you shouldn’t. This is conclusion to which came independently White Movement’s members themselves. The Soviet government managed to fulfill its obligation much better and secured the support or benevolent neutrality from the absolute majority of the Russians, thus winning the Civil War and saving the country.


    1. With Russia arguably not dong so well in overall terms thereafter, thereby greatly explaining why the USSR is no more, with post-Soviet Russia (readopted tricolor and two headed eagle replacing Soviet symbols) having a more favorable overview of the Whites (sovoks excluded), when compared to the period of Soviet censorship.


  11. From the Russian blogosphere, an extract from:

    Что бы случилось, если бы белые выиграли гражданскую войну?

    What would have happened if the Whites had won the Civil War?

    But let’s pretend it happened, that the White cause turned out to be stronger, and Lenin, Trotsky and other eminent Bolsheviks went into exile. What would have happened then?

    The new government would have faced many difficult questions, the main one of which being the problem of setting up of a government. I remind you that the February revolution was not an uprising of the masses: despite the fact that there were many meetings and popular demonstrations, on March 8, 1917 (according to the Old Calendar), Emperor Nicholas II was arrested at his headquarters by General Mikhail Alekseev; a day earlier, General Lavr Kornilov had already taken into custody the Emperor’s family in Tsarskoe Selo.

    Those who were supposed to be the hope and support of the Emperor rebelled against the Russian monarch, which meant that something was rotten in the “State of Denmark”. Lenin, who was a very shrewd politician, believed that the only alternative to Soviet power would have been a military dictatorship. But Baron Alexei Budberg [Kolchak’s War Minister — ME], one of the most intelligent (though not the most humane) leaders of the White movement, wrote in his diary that the most difficult task after the victory would be making the working people crawl back into their old holes.

    I see no way how this could have been done without the military suppression of peasant riots. But let’s say the Whites would have succeeded. What next?

    Well, since the opponents of the socialists were far from united, a stubborn factional struggle would have begun between them, because I do not really believe that the monarchy would have been restored: the permanently sick Tsarevich Alexei and the disrespectful Kirill Vladimirovich (Nikolai’s cousin) would not have been very suitable for the royal role. Therefore, after the achievement of peace, the State Duma would have become the main organ of government, in which, even after the expulsion or the violent suppression of the Bolsheviks, there would have been no unity.

    In addition, the government would have had to solve many urgent problems: to carry out a purge of the socialists and all who sympathized with them; the need to feed the population of the cities; to somehow cope with the separatism of the outlying provinces (and after all, even the Cossacks rebelled then!); to try to repay military loans to the allies; to eliminate competitors from marginal White generals like Semenov, Ungern and Annenkov; to modernize an almost completely destroyed army.

    The main prize from the successful implementation of this minimum programme would have been a Russia having much better relations with the West and, possibly, becoming a more democratic and stable developing country. Industrialization would have gone ahead more slowly and calmly, communism would never have received such an influence in the world, and the ascent to the status of a superpower would have gone along a completely different path.

    But I repeat again that I really, really don’t believe that the Whites would have been victorious. The writer Alexei Tolstoy said that they had no political programme, except for harsh revenge on their fellow citizens. With such attitudes, they could not have won.

    And the big question is, how would the Whites have coped with the attack of Nazi Germany, which happened just twenty-five years after the revolution. It seems to me that they would never have been able to implement total war, which the Bolsheviks were quite capable of doing.

    Last paragraph my stress.

    I beg to differ.

    If the Bolsheviks had been crushed, there would have been no Nazi attack against the USSR, no USSR even!

    If the Whites had been victorious, there would have been no “Mongol-Tatar-Jewish-Bolshevik” Untermenschen for Hitler and his ilk to rant on about and with which the German reactionary post-WWI nationalists, smarting at their defeat in the West, scared the German bourgeoisie and capitalists shitless; there would have been no Drang nach Osten, no “Crusade” gegen Bolschewismus to launch in order to rescue West European Christendom from the Asiatic fiend.

    Victory or Bolshevism!

    And Hitler would have spent his post-WWI years much the same as he had spent his pre-WWI ones: bumming around Vienna, or, more likely, Munich..

    So if there had been a White victory, post-WWI Europe might very well have been a far happier place.

    However, the use of the subjunctive mood when speaking of history is, in my opinion, a sheer waste of time — but it’s fun!


      1. That’s highly unprofessional of you, Professor. Or, what – you were bitten by a wild Snyder lately?


      2. Not according to MY What-If machine. I have one in my basement, you know. It is finely calibrated for various What-If historical scenarios.
        After I programmed in the proper parameters, it came back with this analysis: “Hitler was mostly caused by the completely unfair way that Germany was treated by England and France, the victor nations of WWI. With or without communism, something like Hitler was inevitable, what with the German people groaning under debt, reparations and a feeling of complete national humiliation.”

        That’s what it said.


    1. For the record. This long time discredited myth, that became mega-popular after Perestroika, deserves some further attention. This ideology (and bias) driven belief, that if not for the October Revolution, then either there wouldn’t be German invasion to Russia, or there wouldn’t be WW2 does not stand up to the basic scrutiny and impartial, honest fact based analysis.

      Let’s start with the most obvious fact – the First World War already did happen without need to frame it as a “crusade against the Bolshevism” (c). Reasons for starting wars, especially for the capitalist states, are simultaneously more complex and more prosaic than that. Thus, one of the driving forces that made the Great War inevitable were the imperialist contradictions and competition between the German and British empires.

      Understanding, that the First World War did not provide a final solution to the complex of problems gripping the capitalist world, was present and widespread right after its end. That was the most horrific and bloody war in the history of planet. Only question was “when” and “against whom”. Marshall Foch famously noted, that the “peace” treaty signed in Versailles was merely an “armistice for 20 years”. The history proved him right.

      Why? Because of the imperialist contradictions did not disappear. The First World War, as one of its aftereffects, resulted in the exhaustion of all of its participants to one degree or another. Several empires (Russian, German, Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian) ceased to exist together with their ruling regimes. The status quo of the 1920-30ss did not really satisfy former opponents solving nothing for good:

      – Germany had been unbelievably humiliated after the War… yet still contained the potential for resurgence and revenge aimed at upsetting that status quo. Under any circumstances, Germany would be one of the future belligerents in the new imperialist war, only this time it’d be striving for a revanche. Even in 1920s German foreign policy concentrated on either revision or violation of the so-called Versailles-Washington system of the international relations for its own benefit. It’s worth noting, that the diplomatic corps did not suffer any significant purge after the Nazis came to power in Germany –there was simply no need for that. Only now Germany could pursue the same policy more forcefully – and it did.

      Germany as a nation had been deeply traumatized by the Great War’s food shortages, deprivations and, most of all, by thy great hunger during the winter of 1916/17. The obsession of acquiring a secure source of food supplies lies behind the concept of the Lebesnarum. For a quick period of time Germany even achieved it – in a fashion. Thanks to the generosity of the Hetmanate Ukraine they were actually invited to occupy the country and serve as its guarantors of independence and, ha-ha, “sovereignty” in exchange for supplies of the grain and other foodstuffs. The precedent was already there, as well as Russophobic (and Slavophobic) attitudes which were already present among certain circles of the German nationalists. You combine the two and get the inevitability of some kind of Drag nach Osten, taken at the expense of the native population.

      – Among the nominal victors of the Great War there was also bitter disappointment at not receiving a just reward to satisfy their imperialist appetites. This meant that both Italy and Japan (and even Romania) could also strive for upsetting status quo. Either country ended up with the rabid right-wing very nationalist regime, whose chief aim was external expansion – with the anti-Bolshevik rhetoric being second- or even third-tier thing in importance.

      Japan participated in the military intervention against Russia in Siberia and the Far East not because of the fear or antagonism to the Bolshevism, but in order to solve its own immediate tasks of eliminating all possible competition in the Eastern Asia. It was the Japanese military contingent which proved to be most brutal in its treatment of the Russian civilians in the areas of its occupation, compared to other invading armies of the Entente. It was also the Japanese militarists who were clinging longer than others to the territory occupied by them. Japan elite’s desire to dominate their region were so apparent, that the results of the Washington treaty (the second half of the Versailles-Washington system of the international relations) made it profoundly clear – Britain and the US now view fellow capitalist Japan as future competitor and enemy in the fight for the Eastern Asia and Pacific.

      – Britain and France, the true beneficiaries of the post Great War world order, wanted by all means to preserve both their existing colonial empires and new gains and conquests (masqueraded as “mandate territories” – with Iraq being the most valuable price). OTOH, the First World War due to its total and exhaustive nature, gave very strong anti-colonial impulse across the world. The Easter Uprising in Ireland wasn’t the work of the “bloody Bolsheviks”, neither was Ghandi’s activity – local nationalists did that. The same process accompanying any capitalist development ensures the rise of the nationalism and, therefore, of the national consciousness both the metropoly and in its national peripheries and colonies. So British Conservatives and their French colleagues understood most keenly, that a new (inevitable) war might bury their Empire and their own powerbase. This combination of two fears – of the new exhaustive war, that will hasten de-colonization process and of the new round of unprecedented violence – forced the ruling elites of the “victors” to appease the “losers” in their desire for revanche.

      Of course, them all being capitalist countries did not trust the Soviet Union – but this lack of trust did not prevent them from trading with it, from gaining concessions, from inviting to the League of Nations, and even from signing internationally binding treaties and security guarantees. Thus, both France and Czechoslovakia had signed a defense treaty with the USSR. If instead of cowardly appeasing the Nazi Germany the so-called “Western democracies” acted upon the letter of these treaties, then Hitler would be prevented from taking the crucial step, which made the Second World War inevitable in the near future with the Germany much powerful and more ready for it.

      That’s why an attempt to boil down the reason for the start of the Second World War to the fact of the USSR’s mere existence as the socialist state is completely false, manipulative and dishonest. People who perpetuate these lies don’t have a problem with the Soviet Union – they have problem with Russia.

      Rosa Luxemburg wrote shortly before her death: “The dictatorship of the proletariat is only a “dictatorship” to the bourgeoisie. To the proletariat it’s a broadest possible democracy”. Soviet Union was a tremendous breakthrough for the Russian civilization and for all the people who populated it. By 1917 about 75% of its populace was illiterate, while in, say, Britain (metropoly) the literacy was already nearly 100%. By late 1930s the illiteracy has been largely gone all across the Soviet Union. It was also this time, when the absolute majority of the Russian (and other!) people, could finally partake of the fruits of its own higher culture, starting to read classics (Pushkin, Lermontov, Turgenev, Dostoyevksy, Nekrasov, Tolstoy etc) en masse, while beforehand only a miniscule elite had access to that. It was the October Revolution, which resulted in the system of the (uninterruptive!) universal education. Bolshevik’s GOELRO plan was an unprecedented economic miracle. Also “the Reds” created the system of the scientific-research institutions, whose achievements were not just for the benefit of the Soviet people – but for all of mankind.


  12. From the Russian blogosphere, an extract from:

    Что бы случилось, если бы белые выиграли гражданскую войну?

    What would have happened if the Whites had won the Civil War?

    But let’s pretend it happened, that the White cause turned out to be stronger, and Lenin, Trotsky and other eminent Bolsheviks went into exile. What would have happened then?

    The new government would have faced many difficult questions, the main one of which being the problem of setting up of a government. I remind you that the February revolution was not an uprising of the masses: despite the fact that there were many meetings and popular demonstrations, on March 8, 1917 (according to the Old Calendar), Emperor Nicholas II was arrested at his headquarters by General Mikhail Alekseev; a day earlier, General Lavr Kornilov had already taken into custody the Emperor’s family in Tsarskoe Selo.

    Those who were supposed to be the hope and support of the Emperor rebelled against the Russian monarch, which meant that something was rotten in the “State of Denmark”. Lenin, who was a very shrewd politician, believed that the only alternative to Soviet power would have been a military dictatorship. But Baron Alexei Budberg [Kolchak’s War Minister — ME], one of the most intelligent (though not the most humane) leaders of the White movement, wrote in his diary that the most difficult task after the victory would be making the working people crawl back into their old holes.

    I see no way how this could have been done without the military suppression of peasant riots. But let’s say the Whites would have succeeded. What next?


      1. Professor, I believe I am in your spam folder as well. I posted a poem by Mayakovsky about the Wrangel/Crimea evacuation.

        I don’t blame you, WordPress tends to quarantine comments which are mostly in Cyrillic.
        No biggie if you already deleted it, but if it’s still there.. well, it’s a pretty good poem!


  13. USSR or no USSR, by that time the spectre of communism haunted Europe for about a century. The way I see it, liberalism (the early variety, now renamed to ‘libertarianism’) entered a deep crisis, and fascism seemed like a good way of deflecting, suppressing the “spectre” in heavily affected regions (central and southern Europe).


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