Written by Vladimir Moss



     After signing his shameful truce with the Germans at Brest-Litovsk in March, 1918, Lenin still had major problems. The country was on the verge of economic collapse, and the Germans, angry at Bolshevik violations of the truce, still threatened Petrograd. The anti-Bolshevik White Russians were forming armies under General Denikin in the south, General Yudenich in the North-West and Admiral Kolchak in Siberia. The Western Allies, fearing that Russia was turning into a colony of Germany, finally decided on intervention on the side of the Whites. The SRs and Mensheviks had been forced out of the government, and were now part of the opposition…

     In May, 1918, writes Professor S.A. Smith “the Czech legion, a body of 38,000 men recruited by the Tsarist government from Austro-Hungarian prisoners-of-war, revolted against the Bolsheviks. From this time on, one may speak of full-scale civil war, since armies now fought along clearly defined fronts. Within a few months, the Legion seized control of a vast area east of the Volga and helped the SRs to set up governments committed to overthrowing the Bolsheviks, restoring the Constituent Assembly, and resuming war with Germany. The revolt threw the Bolsheviks into panic. Secret orders were given by Lenin to execute the imperial family in Ekaterinburg lest they be liberated by the insurgents. In fact the SRs proved unable to translate the electoral support they had received in the Constituent Assembly into solid political support and, crucially, into forging a reliable army. Where they remained respectful of democracy and law they were ineffective; where they sought to be firm, they slid into habits not very different from those of the Reds and Whites. Having gone to considerable lengths to secure the cooperation of conservative military men, they ended up in hock to them, compromising what were for the peasants the most important gains of the revolution: land and the devolution of power to the localities. The fate of SR attempts to create a ‘third way’ between the dictatorships of right and left was sealed on 18 November 1918 when Cossack officers arrested the SR members of the Omsk Directory and proclaimed Admiral Kolchak ‘Supreme Ruler’.

     “Henceforward the civil war resolved into a conflict between Reds and Whites. The Whites stood for ‘Russia, One and Indivisible’, the restoration of state-mindedness, law and order, and the values of Orthodox Christianity. They strove to redeem the profaned honour of Russia’s armed forces and presented themselves as being ‘above class’ and ‘above party’. In fact, they were not a class movement in any strict sense, since they were slow to develop programmes that could have assisted landowners and industrialists to regain their property and power. So far as the political regime for which they were struggling was concerned, there was little unanimity concerning the shape it should take…”[1]

     The critical question for the Whites was: were they going to fight under the banner of Orthodoxy and Tsarism or not? “Some such as General Wrangel of the Volunteer Army were committed monarchists but most favoured some type of military dictatorship, possibly paving the way for a new Constituent Assembly. In an effort to keep political differences at bay, the Whites advanced the principle of ‘non-determination’, i.e. the postponement of all policy-making until the war was over. What kept them united in the meantime was little more than detestation of the Bolsheviks and outrage at the ‘German-Jewish’ conspiracy inflicted on the Russian people.”[2]

     Tsarism meant for the Whites, not Tsar Nicholas necessarily, who had abdicated, but the monarchical principle. However, the physical preservation of Tsar Nicholas was important. As long as the Tsar was alive, the possibility of a just and successful war against Bolshevism under the banner of Orthodoxy and Tsarism still existed. That is why the attempts to rescue the Tsar from captivity were not romantic side-shows, but critically important. And that is why the Bolsheviks proceeded to kill the Tsar. As Trotsky wrote: “In essence this decision was inevitable. The execution of the tsar and his family was necessary, not simply to scare, horrify and deprive the enemy of hope, but also to shake up our own ranks, show them that there was no going back. If the White Guardists had thought of unfurling the slogan of the kulaks’ Tsar, we would not have lasted for two weeks…[3]

     And so, on the night of July 17, 1918 Blessed Maria Ivanovna, the fool-for-Christ of Diveyevo, began to shout and scream: “The Tsar’s been killed with bayonets! Cursed Jews!” That night the tsar and his family and servants were shot in Yekaterinburg.[4]On hearing of the Tsar’s murder, Patriarch Tikhon immediately condemned it; he now celebrated a pannikhida for him, blessing the archpastors and pastors to do the same. Then, on July 21, he announced in the Kazan cathedral: “We, in obedience to the teaching of the Word of God, must condemn this deed, otherwise the blood of the shot man will fall also on us, and not only on those who committed the crime…”[5]


     After the murder of the White Tsar there began the Red Terror; not only mass killings for simply belonging to the wrong class, but the taking of hostages to guarantee “good behaviour”. It was proclaimed officially on September 5[6], the same day on which the Great Terror of the French revolution had begun. The excuse given was the attempted murder of Lenin by the SR Jewess Fanya (Dora) Kaplan, who said: “I shot Lenin because I believe him to be a traitor [to socialism]”. However, Dzerzhinsky, head of the Cheka, declared that the real organizers of the plot had been the Bolsheviks’ enemies in the just-beginning Civil War, the English and the French…

     Of course, the Bolsheviks had been terrorizing the population of Russia from the beginning. And only three weeks before Lenin was shot he had written to the Bolsheviks in Penza urging them “to organize public executions to make the people ‘tremble’ ‘for hundreds of kilometres around’. While still recovering from his wounds, he instructed,  ‘It is necessary secretly – and urgently –to prepare the terror… ’”[7] Now the terror assumed was on a vastly greater scale than anything seen before…

     As the intelligence experts Christopher Andrew and Vasily Mitrokhin write, “it is clear that the Cheka enormously outstripped the [pre-revolutionary] Okhrana in both the scale and the ferocity of its onslaught on political opposition. In 1901 4,113 Russians were in internal exile for political crimes, of whom only 180 were on hard labour. Executions for political crimes were limited to those involved in actual or attempted assassinations. During the civil war, by contrast, Cheka executions probably numbered as many as 250,000…

     “Even at a time when the Soviet regime was fighting for its survival during the civil war, many of its own supporters were sickened by the scale of the Cheka’s brutality. A number of Cheka interrogators, some only in their teens, employed tortures of scarcely believable barbarity. In Kharkov the skin was peeled off victims’ hands to produce ‘gloves’ of human skin; in Voronezh naked prisoners were rolled around in barrels studded with nails; in Poltava priests were impaled; in Odessa captured White officers were tied to planks and fed slowly into furnaces; in Kiev cages of rats were fixed to prisoners’ bodies and heated until the rats gnawed their way into the victims’ intestines.”[8]


     The defeat of the Whites has been attributed to many factors – the Reds’ occupation of the centre, the Whites’ difficulties of communication, the fitful intervention of the western powers, the betrayal of the Whites by the Poles…

     Certainly the Reds did not represent a formidable opponent at first. Having destroyed the old Imperial army by their propaganda, it was extremely difficult for them to build up an effective new army. By the spring of 1920 80% of the officer corps was staffed by former tsarist officers, whose services were retained only by blackmail - the threat that their families would be massacred if they did not comply. Even so, there were very many desertions to the Whites – 1.76 million in 1919 alone, the Whites’ most successful year.[9]

     S.A. Smith writes: “Some see the military advantages of the Reds as overwhelming, but that is to make too much of hindsight. A military victory for the Whites was by no means an impossibility: if Kolchak and Denikin had advanced on Moscow simultaneously in 1919, rather than five months apart, or if Kolchak had struck a deal with the Finnish general Mannerheim (both of which were on the cards), the Red Army might well have gone under.

    “If military and strategic factors are paramount in explaining the White defeat, socio-political factors cannot be ignored. By 1919 all the White administrations recognized that they could not simpy shelve the thorny issues of land reform, national autonomy, labour policy, and local government. The policies they concocted, however, offered too little, too late and exposed deep division in White ranks. First, with regard to land, all White administrations accepted that the could be no return to the status quo ante, yet there were enough cases of officers returning former landowners to their estates to fix in peasant minds the notion that a White victory would bring about the return of the landlords. Whenever the White had to deal with non-Russian nationalities, peasants swung behind the Reds. Second, the Whites had to deal with non-Russian nationalities: yet their hatred of what Denikin called the ‘sweet poisonous dreams of independence’ prevented them from making serious concessions. They would not recognize the independence of Finland and the Baltic States; they would not negotiate with J. Pilsudski, President of Poland from November 1918; they would not recognize a ‘separatist’ Ukrainian state. By contrast, the Bolsheviks, however much they alienated nationalists at times, were willing to grant a measure of self-government. Finally, despite trumpeting their devotion to the Russian people, the Whites failed to forge a concept of the nation with which peasants and workers could identify. With the Church on their side, they might have tried to play on the Orthodox faith of the majority, yet they proved too hidebound by a militaristic and narrowly elitish ethos to adapt to the world of mass politics. Ironically, it was the internationalist Bolsheviks who tapped into patriotic sentiment, exploiting the Whites’ dependence on the Allies to portray them as playthings of foreign capital.”[10]

     In the last analysis, however, the Whites failed, not because of any military or socio-political factors, but because, as Elder Aristocles of Moscow (+1918) said, “The spirit [among them] is not right.”[11] For many of them were aiming first of all, not at the restoration of Orthodoxy and the Orthodox tsardom, but at the reconvening of the Constituent Assembly or the restoration of their former way of life.

     Of course, as noted above, if the White armies approaching Yekaterinburg from the East in July, 1918 had managed to rescue the Tsar alive, the task of the Whites would have been easier – which is precisely why the Reds killed them. But even a living Tsar would probably have availed little in view of the fact that in their majority neither the White soldiers nor the populations whose interests they sought to represent were monarchists. Thus in 1919, when the Romanov Great Princes who were in the Crimea approached General Denikin with a request to enter the ranks of the White Army, they were refused. “The reasons,” writes Prince Felix Yusupov, “were political: the presence of relatives of the imperial family in the ranks of the White Army was not desirable. The refusal greatly upset us…”[12]

     Certainly, the White armies could not be described as consciously monarchist, with the possible exception of Wrangel’s towards the end. [13] Thus the leading White General A.I. Denikin said during the war: “You think that I’m going to Moscow to restore the throne of the Romanovs? Never!” And after the war he wrote: “It is not given us to know what state structure Russia would have accepted in the event of the victory of the White armies in 1919-20. I am sure, however, that after an inevitable, but short-lived struggle of various political tendencies, a normal structure would have been established in Russia based on the principles of law, freedom and private property. And in any case – no less democratic than that which the reposed Marshal [Pisludsky] introduced in Poland…”[14]

     Not having firmly Orthodox and monarchical convictions, but rather, as V. Shambarov writes, “a complete absence of a political programme”[15], the Whites were bound to be disunited amongst themselves and weak in opposing Red propaganda in their rear. This was especially evident on the northern front, where Red propaganda was effective amongst both the White Russians and the British.[16] But it was hardly less true on the other fronts.

     As Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky) commented: “Unfortunately, the most noble and pious leader of this [the White] army listened to those unfitting counsellors who were foreign to Russia and sat in his Special council and destroyed the undertaking. The Russian people, the real people, the believing and struggling people, did not need the bare formula: ‘a united and undivided Russia’. They needed neither ‘Christian Russia’, nor ‘Faithless Russia’, nor ‘Tsarist Russia’, nor ‘the Landowners’ Russia’ (by which they will always understand a republic). They needed the combination of the three dear words – ‘for the Faith, the Tsar and the Fatherland’. Most of all, they needed the first word, since faith rules the whole of the state’s life; the second word was necessary since the tsar guards and protects the first; and the third was needed since the people is the bearer of the first words.”

     St. John Maximovich summed up the situation: “If the higher military leaders, instead of beseeching his Majesty ‘on their knees’ to abdicate, had carried out what they were bound to do in accordance with their oath, the artificially incited rebellion would have been suppressed and Russia would have been saved… A terrible sin before God and a state crime was carried out. God only knows the extent to which any of them expiated their sin. But there was hardly any open repentance. After the fall of the Provisional Government, and the loss of the power it had seized, there was a call to struggle for Russia. But although it elicited noble feelings among many and a corresponding movement, there was no expression of repentance on the part of the main criminals, who continued to think of themselves as heroes and saviours of Russia. Meanwhile, Trotsky in his Memoirs admitted that they (the Soviets) feared above all the proclamation of a Tsar, since then the fall of Soviet power would have been inevitable. However, this did not happen, the ‘leaders’ were also afraid. They inspired many to struggle, but their call was belated and their courage did not save Russia. Some of them laid down their lives and shed their blood in this struggle, but far more innocent blood was shed. It continues to be poured out throughout Russia, crying out to heaven.” 

     St. John was once asked: “Is it necessary to pray for the white generals?” He said: “Of course, it is necessary to pray for them. But it is also necessary to remember that they were all traitors to their oath…"[17]

     The importance of a true motivation in the White Cause is well illustrated by one of the very few truly monarchist White leaders, who was counted worthy to receive a martyr’s crown – General Theodore Keller. He was born in 1857 in Kursk into a military family, and had a very distinguished career in the First World War. On hearing of the February revolution, and the text of the new oath, he declared he would not impose it on the soldiers under his command since “he does not understand the essence and juridical basis of the supreme power of the Provisional Government”. Baron Mannerheim, the future ruler of independent Finland, tried to persuade him “to sacrifice his personal political convictions for the good of the army”, but was met with a firm refusal: “I am a Christian. I think that it is sinful to betray one’s oath.” The court commandant V.N. Voeikov, who knew Theodore Arturovich personally, wrote in his notes that he was “truly Russian, a man of crystal purity, penetrated to the marrow of his bones with a sense of duty and love for the Homeland”. He told his troops: “Today I received a despatch about the abdication of his Majesty and some kind of Provisional Government. This is the telegram that I have sent to the Tsar: ‘The Third Mounted Corps does not believe that You, Your Majesty, have voluntarily renounced the Throne. Give the order, Tsar, and we shall come and defend You.’” The troops thundered in reply: “Hurrah! Hurrah! We shall not allow the Emperor to be offended!” It was only when the commander of the Romanian front threatened to declare him a rebel that General Keller was forced to submit to the order, and to the sound of the hymn, “God save the Tsar!” gave up his corps. The general was escorted in profound sorrow and with tears by warriors who sincerely loved him. After the Bolshevik revolution he thought about taking part in the Volunteer Army of Generals Alexeyev and Denikin, but refused because, as a convinced monarchist, he thought that the struggle with the Bolsheviks could be undertaken only “in the name of the Autocratic Tsar of All Rus’ and following the path of repentance by the whole people and the re-establishment of the old Tsarist Army”. He wrote: “The union of Russia is a great work, but this banner is too indefinite. Declare that you are following the lawful Sovereign, and the whole people that pines for firm authority and all that remains in Russia that is best will follow you without wavering.”

     In 1918 there gathered in Kiev those rightist politicians who wanted to create a monarchist Army of the South to struggle against Bolshevism with the aid of the Germans. They suggested to Theodore Arturovich that he head this army. But he refused, saying: “Here a part of the intelligentsia has adopted an Allied orientation, others, the majority, are supporters of a German orientation, but both have forgotten their Russian orientation.”

     Then the Pskov monarchists arrived in Kiev in the name of the Army of the North, which was preparing to introduce an oath “to the lawful Tsar and the Russian State”. In this army they were reintroducing the old rules and uniforms with the addition of a white cross sown on the left sleeve. They suggested that Theodore Arturovich head this army. He agreed, and said that he intended “to raise the Imperial standard above the Kremlin in two months’ time.” In Kiev a monarchist Council of Defence was formed under a new commander. Theodore Arturovich addressed his military comrades with an “Appeal to the Old Soldiery”: “The time has come when I again call you to follow me. Remember and read the prayer before battle – that prayer which you read before our glorious victories. Sign yourselves with the sign of the Cross, and with God’s help we go forward for the Faith, for the Tsar and for our undivided Homeland Russia.” When Theodore Arturovich was about to head the Army of the North, Patriarch Tikhon sent him a prosphora and a little icon of the Reigning Mother of God through Bishop Nestor of Kamchatka.

     In the autumn of 1918 the soldiers of Petlyura (socialists of a primitive kind, headed by Ataman Petlyura) burst into Kiev. They began to capture officers on the street and subject them to torture. The German soldiers, honouring the reputation of Theodore Arturovich, suggested that he go into hiding. But they set a condition: that he must agree to give up his weapons and take off his military uniform. He refused. Theodore Arturovich and two of his adjutants were imprisoned in the Mikhailovsky monastery in Kiev. The followers of Petlyura then appeared at the monastery. The monks suggested that Theodore Arturovich escape by a secret exit, but he refused. On the night of November 25/ December 8, 1918 the three men were shot.


     Another weakness of the Whites was their failure to curb anti-semitic excesses in their ranks, especially among the Cossacks. However, as Richard Pipes writes, “while the Cossack detachments of the Southern Army committed numerous atrocities (none can be attributed to the Volunteer army), a careful reckoning of the pogroms by Jewish organizations indicates that the worst crimes were the work of independent gangs of Ukrainians.”[18 

     Hatred of Jews was common to all classes of society, of all ideological persuasions – except the true Christians. A 1920 estimate put the numbers of Jews killed by Whites and Reds together at 150,000.[19] Now historians have paid more attention to atrocities committed by the Whites than to those committed by the Reds. Nevertheless, the fact remains that shameful acts of plunder, torture and rape were committed by the Whites. And while, as Pipes goes on to say, “it is incorrect to lay wholesale blame for the massacres of the Jews on the White Army, it is true that Denikin [commander of the Volunteer Army] remained passive in the face of these atrocities, which not only stained the reputation of his army but also demoralized it…

     “Personally, Denikin was not a typical anti-Semite of the time: at any rate, in his five-volume chronicle of the Civil War he does not blame the Jews either for Communism or for his defeat. On the contrary, he expresses shame at their treatment in his army as well as the pogroms and shows awareness of the debilitating effect these had on the army’s morale. But he was a weak, politically inexperienced man who had little control over the behaviour of his troops. He yielded to the pressures of anti-Semites in his officer corps from fear of appearing pro-Jewish and from a sense of the futility of fighting against prevailing passions. In June 1919 he told a Jewish delegation that urged him to issue a declaration condemning the pogroms, that ‘words here were powerless, that any unnecessary clamor in regard to this question will only make the situation of Jews harder, irritating the masses and bringing out the customary accusations of “selling out to the Yids”.’ Whatever the justice of such excuses for passivity in the face of civilian massacres, they must have impressed the army as well as the population at large that the White Army command viewed Jews with suspicion and if it did not actively encourage pogroms, neither was it exercised about them…

     “The only prominent public figure to condemn the pogroms openly and unequivocally was the head of the Orthodox Church, Patriarch Tikhon. In an Epistle issued on July 21, 1919, he called violence against Jews ‘dishonor for the perpetrators, dishonour for the Holy Church’...”[20 


     Paradoxically, the population was probably more anti-Bolshevik in the Red-occupied areas than elsewhere – because they had had direct experience of Bolshevik cruelty. As General A.A. von Lampe writes, “the border regions, which naturally attracted to themselves the attention of those Russians who did not want to submit to the dictatorship established in the centre, did not know Bolshevism, that is, they probably did not know the results of its practical application on the skin of the natives. They had not experienced the delights of the Soviet paradise and were not able to exert themselves fully to avoid the trials and torments that were coming upon them.

     “The population of these provinces, of course, knew the war that was exhausting the whole of Russia. The population also knew the revolution, which gave them the so-called ‘freedoms’!… The population, with the complicity of the soldiers, who had known on the front only the declaration of rights, but not the obligations of the soldier, knew only about their rights and did not at all represent to themselves that all these rights were bound up with certain obligations.

     “On the territory of this population a real war was being waged, a civil war with its gunfights that did not always hit only those who were fighting in the direct line of fire; with its repressions, not only in relation to people and their property, but also to the settlements themselves, which sometimes, in the course of a battle, were mercilessly and inexorably razed to the ground… The population had to sacrifice their rights and their comforts. The White army was not that equipped and organized army that we are accustomed to imagine when we pronounce that word; immediately on coming into contact with the population it was forced to take from it fodder, horses, reserves of food and, finally, the people themselves!

     “War on a given territory always brings with it many deprivations and sufferings. War, and in particular civil war, feeds itself and supplements itself! And, of course, the population could not welcome this; it, as I have already said, thought not about its responsibilities, but only about its rights, and it expected from the Whites only the immediate restoration of order and normal conditions of life, not thinking on its side to offer it any help at all. 

     “The whole sum of unpleasantnesses brought by the drawn-out war was very sharply experienced by the population; and at the same time it was being forcibly corrupted by the Red and socialist propaganda promising them deliverance from all these woes, promises of complete prosperity and complete dominion, promises which, as we know, have seduced not only Russia, but are disturbing no small part of the population of the whole world to this day…

     “All this came down to the fact that the inconveniences caused by the Whites ranged the population against them

     “The Reds threatened and threatened very unambiguously to take everything and in fact took a part – the population was deceived and… relieved. The Whites promised legality, and took only a little – and the population was embittered…

     “The Reds promised everything, the Whites only that which was fitting according to the law…

     “The Reds had terror and machine-guns as arguments and measures of persuasion; the Whites threatened – with the law…

      “The Reds decisively rejected everything and raised arbitrariness into a law; the Whites, in rejecting the Reds, of course could not also reject the methods of arbitrariness and violence employed by the Reds…

     “The population demanded nothing from the Reds since the only thing they could wish for once they had fallen into their hands was peace, and they did not, of course, demand that! But from the Whites the population demanded… a miracle, they demanded that the Whites, with one wave of their white hands, should remove all the blood from Russia…”[21]

     Among the Tsarist generals who were forced to serve in the Red Army but later repented was the famous war hero Alexei Brusilov, who wrote: “I firmly believe and know for certain that the Satanist pygmies (the red orators) will not succeed in squeezing the faith of Christ out of us… My eyes were bound, for a long time I considered the Russian revolution to be from the people, an expression of the dissatisfaction of the masses with the old order… Now my eyes are open. This… is a question posed directly concerning the whole of the Christian culture of the whole world! The persecution against the Church, against the best of the clergy, the corruption of children and youth, their artificial vaccination with vices, the teaching of children to spy (asking the little ones at school: do your parents go to church? Do you have icons at home? Do they remember the old times?), the destruction of families  - all this is not necessary to the Russian workers and peasants. (Also unnecessary is the destruction of aold cemeteries and monuments that have stood on the graves there for more than a hundred years). This is necessary for antichristian children, such as are the Bolshevik communists, who are led by still higher levels of the black power of the enemies of Christ… I have one prayer to God: deliver us from antichristian children, one hope: that Christ cannot be conquered by Satan, and this will not happen!.. But we have been strongly punished for our sins and we will have to suffer still more!”[22] 

     As Brusilov correctly intuited, the suffering was only just beginning, and the Lord did not count Russia worthy of deliverance from the Bolshevik scourge as a result of the civil war. For a brief moment, in the autumn of 1919, it looked as if the Whites might break through on three fronts – Kolchak’s in the east, Yudenich’s in the north-west near Petrograd, and Denikin’s in the south on the road to Moscow. However, at this point the Poles decided to abandon their support for the Whites. This, in Denikin’s opinion, was the decisive event that destroyed the Whites’ war effort.

     “In exchange for Polish neutrality,” writes Adam Tooze, “the Bolsheviks ceded much of Belorussia and Lithuania. This arrangement allowed the Bolsheviks to redeploy over 40,000 troops against Yudenich, who was approaching Petrograd along the Baltic. Combined with Trotsky’s radical mobilization, which dragooned 2.3 million men into the Red Army, this was enough to tilt the balance. By mid-November the tide of the battle had turned. The Reds triumphed. Denikin and Kolchak were driven in flight. On 17 November 1919 Lloyd George announced to the House of Commons that London, after having spent almost half a billion dollars, was abandoning the attempt to break the Bolshevik regime by military force. The cost was too great and Britain really had no interest in restoring a legitimate and powerful Russian nation state. Echoing the German Foreign Secretary Richard von Kühlmann in the summer of 1918, Lloyd George reminded the House that a ‘great, gigantic, colossal, growing Russia rolling onwards like a glacier towards Persia and the borders of Afghanistan and India’ was the ‘greatest menace the British Empire could be confronted with’. With the threat of revolution on the wane in Western Europe, the better policy was to quarantine the Soviet regime behind ‘a barbed wire fence’.

     “Lloyd George’s withdrawal had a devastating impact on the morale of the White forces, but it did not mean the end of the threats to the Soviet regime. Over the winter of 1919-20 the Polish Ministry of War began preparing for the definitive settlement of the Russian question. The largest nationalist party in Poland, the National Democrats, were opposed to an offensive, preferring to defend a more compact, ethnically homogeneous territory. But Marshal Joseph Pilsudski, the dominant figure in the fragile Polish state, did not share their limited vision. Pilsudski dreamed of resurrecting the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, which until the ravages of the Thirty Years War had blocked Muscovite expansion to the west. In alliance with an autonomous Ukraine a new Polish super-state would anchor a cordon stretching from the Baltic to the Black Sea. Pilsudski assumed this would appeal to London. But Lloyd George’s government declined to give its backing to Polish aggression. The Poles had to make do with the anaemic support from the French and an alliance with the Ukrainian nationalists, who, following the German retreat from the Brest Litovsk Treaty lines, had taken shelter in Galicia. In exchange for the promise of eastern Galicia for Poland, Pilsudski threw his weight behind Simon Petlura’s bid to establish an independent Ukraine as a permanent part of the new order. It was a high-risk strategy, but Warsaw was convinced that the Red Army was preparing for a push west. Pilsudski would beat them to the punch.

     “On 25 April the Polish-Ukrainian army attacked. On 7 May they took Kiev, enabling the surviving White Russian forces under General Pyotr Wrangel to stabilize a new base in the Crimea. Once more the Bolshevik regime seemed to confront an existential threat from the south. But the past three years had taken their toll on Ukraine. The arrival of Petlura and Pilsudski heralded the fifteenth change of regime in Kiev since January 1917. Hundreds of thousands of people had died at the hands of Germans, Austrians, White and Red Russian occupiers, amongst them 90,000 Jews who had been slaughtered in the worst series of pogroms since the Cossack uprising of the seventeenth century. The survivors were in no mood to raise a popular insurrection. In Russia, by contrast, the idea of Polish Lancers cantering through Kiev unleashed a storm of patriotic fury. With war hero Aleksei Brusilov in the lead, former Tsarist officers flooded into Trotsky’s Red Army.

     “The result was one of the climactic moments in modern European history. On 5 June 1920 the massed horde of General Semen Budennyi’s Red Cavalry, 18,000-strong, smashed through the Polish lines, forcing a precipitate evacuation of Kiev. Only a month later, on 2 July, the brilliant Bolshevik commander and military theoretician Mikhail Tukhachevsky issued the order for the general advance. ‘Over the corpse of White Poland lies the path to world conflagration… On to Vilno, Minsk, Warsaw! Forward!’ Egged on by their front commanders, Lenin and the Bolshevik leadership now believed that they ‘stood at the turning point of the entire policy of the Soviet government’. It was time to ‘test with bayonets whether the socialist revolution of the proletariat had not ripened in Poland…’”[23]

     It had not: in the last twist of this extraordinary war, the Poles surprisingly but decisively defeated the Soviet army on August 31 at the “miracle on the Vistula”. Just as Russia had absorbed and stopped the Mongol advance on Western Europe in the thirteenth century, so the Poles now stopped the newly barbarized Soviet hordes from taking over Central and Western Europe. Another important consequence of the battle is that Stalin, who was Political Commissar of the Red Army in Poland, and partially responsible for the defeat, continued to nurse a grudge against the Poles for the rest of his life…

     And there were other consequences. The Bolsheviks’ defeat suggested to them, as Adam Zamoyski writes, “that the whole world was ranged against them, and that the masses in other countries could not be relied on to support them. This gave rise to a siege mentality, isolationism and the doctrine of ‘communism in one country’, expressed to the outside world in a sulky, defensive aggressiveness. Hurt pride is in evidence in the attitude of most of Russia’s leaders to the rest of the world, beginning with Lenin.

     “The isolation in which Russia spent the 1920s and 1930s undoubtedly assisted Stalin in his seizure of power and his reign of terror, and it ultimately pushed her into the arms of the other regime born of humiliation and fired by a determination to overthrow the Versailles settlement – Nazi Germany. And when his troops marched into Poland in support of the Germans in 1939, Stalin showed that he had learned the lessons of 1919-20 [he served as political commissar in the Russo-Polish war]. There would be no attempt to win the Poles over to communism; his previous experience had taught him that they were not amenable. So he set about extirpating not only nobles, priests and landowners, but also doctors, nurses and veterinary surgeons, and in general anyone who might show the slightest sign of independent thought or even curiosity – the scores of charges which entailed immediate arrest and deportation included possessing a stamp collection. Over 1,500,000 people were caught up in this fine net. Army officers, for whom Stalin felt a particular hatred, were murdered in the forest of Katyn and elsewhere, other ranks and civilians were dispatched to the Gulag, where a majority died. After 1945 he would do his best to extend the same principles to the rest of Poland.

     “How differently things might have turned out in Russia had some kind of peace been negotiated back at the beginning of 1919, and the whole war avoided, it would be idle to speculate. It would be equally pointless, if fascinating, to try to extrapolate the consequences of a Russian victory at Warsaw in 1920: Poland and the Baltic states would have been turned into Soviet republics, followed almost certainly by Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Romania, and very probably Germany, and the rest of Europe would have been profoundly affected; whether this would have led to world revolution or an international crusade leading to the destruction of Soviet Russia is anybody’s guess….”[24]

     Abandoning world revolution went right against one of the central tenets of Leninism. On arriving in Petrograd in April, 1917, Lenin had declared: “I am happy to greet in your persons the victorious Russian revolution, and greet you as the vanguard of the world-wide proletarian army”. The two went together in Lenin’s mind: he thought that revolution in Russia would fail if it were not transformed into world-wide revolution. Nor was it an impossible prospect in the early years after the Great War, when disillusion with western civilization was at its height. For here, as Piers Brendon writes, “was the promise of an end to the capitalist system, which institutionalised greed and exploitation, whose by-products were unjust empires and cruel wars. Instead each would give according to his ability and receive according to his need. The Communist creed tapped the idealism of the generation which mourned the lost generation. Old Socialists like George Lansbury said that the Bolsheviks were ‘doing what Christians call the Lord’s work’ and that Lenin’s devotion to the cause of humanity made his whole life like ‘that of one of the saints of old’ [!]. Communism also appealed to those who craved power. Soon Communist parties were springing up everywhere, encouraged by money and propaganda from Russia (in Britain, for example, the Soviet trade delegation sold tsarist diamonds to subsidise the Daily Herald). In 1919 Red revolution broke out in Germany and Hungary. In 1920 some 35 countries sent delegates to the second Congress of the Communist International (Comintern) at Petrograd. It predictably resolved that ‘The International Proletariat will not sheathe its sword until Soviet Russia becomes a link in the federation of Soviet republics of the whole world.’”[25]

     But the Soviet defeat on the Vistula put an end to those hopes – for the present. And with that defeat the mood of the masses changed, aided not a little by the foolish tactics of the Comintern in refusing to allow alliances with any more moderate socialist party. “The world rejected the revolutionary gospel of the Bolsheviks just as it had rejected that of the Jacobins and for much the same reasons… The German and Hungarian uprisings were suppressed. In America, where Secretary of State Lansing warned that Bolshevik forces ‘are menacing the present social order in nearly every European country and… may have to be reckoned with even in this country’, there was a Red Scare. In England the Labour party repudiated Communism, which was not surprising in view of Lenin’s offer to support their leaders as a rope supports a hanged man. In Japan the authorities passed a law against ‘thought crime’ and the ‘thought police’ (by no means a figment of George Orwell’s imagination) devised new methods of reminding offenders of their loyalty to the Emperor. In France the Right branded Communism as a German aberration and the Left split over whether to embrace it. In Italy fear of Communism helped to bring Mussolini’s Fascists to power…”[26]

     But if the Polish war represented the new regime’s first serious defeat, and Europe as a whole rejected communism, in general Lenin could be well-pleased with himself. He was now in control of almost all of the territory of the former Russian empire. The Whites had effectively lost the Civil War by the winter of 1919-20, and in November, 1920, the last of their forces under General Wrangel were evacuated from the Crimea to Constantinople. The year 1921 was spent in suppressing internal rebellions. And in 1922 Lenin felt strong enough to abolish the hated name of Russia, as St. John of Kronstadt had prophesied; the country was now called the Soviet Union.

     Probably the last open and free manifestation of old, Holy, Monarchist Russia on Russian soil was the Zemsky Sobor that took place in Vladivostok from July 23 to August 10, 1922. It had 207 delegates, including several bishops. Patriarch Tikhon was elected honorary president of the Council.[27]

     “It recognized the cause of the revolution to be the sins of the Russian people and called for repentance, proclaiming the only path of salvation for Russia to be the restoration of a lawful Orthodox monarchy. The Council resolved that ‘the right to establish Supreme power in Russia belongs to the dynasty of the House of Romanov’. That is, the Council recognized the Romanov Dynasty to be still reigning in spite of the troubles, and for a short time re-established the Fundamental laws of the Russian empire in the Amur district (until the final conquest of the region by the Reds).

     “Accordingly it was decided that the Amur State formation free from the Bolsheviks should be headed by a representative of the Dynasty. For the transitional period General Michael Konstantinovich Diterichs was elected as Ruler. Patriarch Tikhon, who was in Moscow, was unanimously elected as the honourable president of the Council. The widowed Empress Maria Fyodorovna wrote a welcoming telegram to the Sobor in reply.

     “In order no. 1 dated August 8, 1922 Lieutenant-General Diterichs wrote: ‘For our sins against the Anointed of God, Emperor Nicholas II, who was martyred with the whole of his Family by Soviet power, a terrible time of troubles has struck the Russian people and Holy Rus’ has been subjected to the greatest destruction, pillaging, torment and slavery by atheist Russians and thieves and robbers of other races, led by infidels of Jewish race who have even renounced their Jewish faith…

     “’Here, at the edge of the Russian land, in the Amur region, the Lord has placed a single thought and faith into the hearts and minds of everyone gathered at the Zemsky Sobor: there can be no Great Russia without a Sovereign, without an Anointed of God of inherited succession. And here in the Amur region, as we, the last people of the Russian land, are gathered in a small body, but one strong in faith and national spirit, we are set the task and the duty and the good intention of directing all our service to preparing the way for him – our future God-seer.’

     “And here are the words of the last order of General Diterichs of October 17, 1922 before his departure from Russia under the pressure of the Reds: ‘I believe that Russia will return to the Russia of Christ, the Russia of the Anointed of God, but I believe that we were unworthy of this mercy from the Supreme Creator…’”[28]


     The Russian Civil War was one of the bloodiest conflicts in history. According to Niall Ferguson, “almost as many people died during the Civil War period as people of all nations during the First World War; one estimate for total demographic losses in the Civil War period is as high as 8 million; around 40 per cent of these deaths can be attributed to the Bolshevik policies.”[29] Simon Sebag Montefiore calculates between 10 and 20 million died.[30] However, even this may be a considerable underestimate: Pipes estimates the human casualties of the revolution – whose essence, as Lenin admitted, was civil strife - as 23 million by 1922. By August, 1920, 29 percent of the age group 16-49 had been eliminated.[31]

     Kirill Alexandrov writes: “I. The general losses through those who died during the years of the Civil War (1917–1920), in the first place as a result of a worsening of the general conditions of under the influence of the Leninist experiments, constituted not less than 7.5 million people. Included in this figure are the victims of the terror, the armed struggle and banditism. Some specialists have given higher figures, proceeding from the difference in the numbers of the population between 1917 and 1920-22…

     “II. The famine of 1921-22 was not only the result of the climatic drought in the Volga region, but also a direct consequence of the destruction of the village economy by the politics of ‘war communism’. The ban on ‘bourgeois’ trade in accordance with Marxist theory, the robbery of the countryside through Leninist food battalions, the annihilation of free entrepreneurship led to a reduction in the area seeded and the destruction of the food reserves of Russia. There were famines also in Tsarist Russia, but the indices of death by famine in the Leninist state look anomalous. Under Alexander III, in 1891-92, about 375,000 people died from famine and the cholera that accompanied it. In 1921-22, according to the estimates of the specialist demographers of the Russian Academy of Sciences more than 4.5 million died.

     “Moreover, even during the introduction of the New Economic Policy, which assisted the reanimation of the tortured country, Lenin had no intention of condemning the practice of ‘war communism’. Speaking at the 9th Congress of the Soviets in December, 1921, the leader of the communists declared that the experience acquired by the party in 1918-20 ‘was majestic, lofty and great, and had a universal significance’…”[32] 


     Why was the Russian people not counted worthy of the mercy of Christ and the return of the Anointed of God? As the holy disciple of Elder Nektary of Optina, Archbishop Andrew (Rymarenko) of Rockland, explained in 1975, the fundamental reason was the people’s loss of God: “In your recent address you said that you were born a slave. That means that you were born after the revolution. But I saw everything that happened before the revolution and what prepared it. It was ungodliness in all forms, and chiefly the violation of family life and the corruption of youth…”[33]

      The roots of the revolution lay in “the mystery of iniquity”, the mystery of rebellion against the God-established authorities from within the People of God. In the early nineteenth century Joseph de Maistre wrote: “There have always been some forms of religion in the world and wicked men who opposed them. Impiety was always a crime, too… But only in the bosom of the true religion can there be real impiety… Impiety has never produced in times past the evils which it has brought forth in our day, for its guilt is always directly proportional to the enlightenment which surrounds it…

     “Although impious men have always existed, never before the eighteenth century has there been, in the heart of Christendom, an insurrection against God.[34]

     De Maistre was speaking, of course, about the French revolution, and his “true religion” was in fact the heresy of Papism. Nevertheless, in essence his words are profoundly true, and apply with still greater accuracy and force to the Russian revolution and the true religion of Orthodox Christianity. It is therefore to the insurrection against God within the heart of Orthodox Christianity that we must look for the deepest cause of the revolution. To this day the Russians tend to point the finger at others than themselves: Jews, Anglo-Saxons, Masons, George Soros… But while non-Russians clearly have to answer before God for their sins, the real cause of the Russian woes lies in the Russians themselves, and this must be recognized before salvation is possible.  For

If My people had heard Me, if Israel had walked in My ways,

Quickly would I have humbled their enemies, and upon their oppressors would I have laid My hand. (Psalm 80. 13-14)


May 26 / June 8, 2018.



[1]Smith, The Russian Revolution. A Very Short Introduction, Oxford University Press, 2002, pp. 49-51.

[2]Smith, op. cit., p. 51.

[3] Trotsky, in Edvard Radzinsky, The Last Tsar, London: Arrow Books, 1993, p. 297.

[4] It has been claimed that the murders were Cabbalistic and ritualistic. Strange cabbalistic symbols were supposedly found on the walls of the room where the crime took place which have been deciphered to mean: "Here, by order of the secret powers, the Tsar was offered as a sacrifice for the destruction of the state. Let all peoples be informed of this." See Nikolai Kozlov, Krestnij Put'(The Way of the Cross), Moscow, 1993; Enel, "Zhertva" (Sacrifice), Kolokol'(Bell), Moscow, 1990, N 5, pp. 17-37, and Michael Orlov, "Ekaterinburgskaia Golgofa" (The Golgotha of Yekaterinburg), Kolokol'(Bell), 1990, N 5, pp. 37-55; Lebedev, op. cit., p. 519; Prince Felix Yusupov, Memuary(Memoirs), Moscow, 1998, p. 249. However, doubt is cast on the ritual murder hypothesis by the fact that when Sokolov’s archive was sold at Sotheby’s in 1990, the critical piece of evidence – the symbols on the wall-paper – were missing (Bishop Ambrose of Methone, personal communication, /June 4, 2010). Other problems with the ritual murder hypothesis are discussed in Dmitri Lyskov, “U Versii o Ritual’nom ubijstve tsarskoj sem’i est’ serieznie problem” Vzgliad, December 8, 2017.

[5] M.E. Gubonin, Akty Sviatejshego Patriarkh Tikhona, Moscow, 1994, p. 143.


[7]Christopher Andrew and Vasily Mitrokin, The Mitrokhin Archive: The KGB in Europe and the West, London: Allen Lane 1999, p. 34.

[8] Andrew and Mitrokhin, op. cit., pp. 37, 38. The Cheka in 1918 outnumbered the old Police departments by a factor of 20; later they were 200 times larger, later still – 1000 times. KGB numbers reached one million. Their informants numbered three to five million. (Sergei Fedulov, "А razve v tsarskoj Rossii ne bylo analoga KGB?” (Was there really no analogue to the KGB in Tsarist Russia?))

[9] Pipes, Russia under the Bolshevik Regime, 1919-1924, London: Fontana, 1995, p. 60.

[10]Smith, op. cit., pp. 53-54.

[11] Udivitel’nij Moskovskij Podvizhnik i Tselitel’ Starets Aristoklij (The Wonderful Moscow Ascetic and Healer, Elder Aristocles), Moscow, 1997.

[12] Yusupov, Memuary (Memoirs), Moscow, 1998, p. 250.

[13] Thus Protodeacon German Ivanov-Trinadtsaty writes: “Even if the White Army officially supported the principle of ‘non-pre-determination’ in relation to the future political order of Russia, according to the witness of General P.N. Wrangel, 90% of his Russian Army was composed of monarchists, and set itself only one task – the overthrow of the Bolshevik yoke.” (“90 let Velikogo Rossijskogo Iskhoda” (90 Years of the Great Russian Exodus), Nasha Strana, N 2905, December 4, 2010, p. 2).

[14] Denikin, Kto spas Sovetskuiu vlast’ ot gibeli? (Who Saved Soviet Power from Destruction?), Paris, 1937, in A.I. Denikin and A.A. von Lampe, Tragedia Beloj Armii (The Tragedy of the White Army), Moscow, 1991, p. 8.

[15] Shambarov, Belogvardeischina (Whiteguardism), Moscow, 2002.

[16] Anthony Lockley, “Propaganda and the First Cold War in North Russia, 1918-1919”, History Today, vol. 53 (9), September, 2003, pp. 46-53. As Michael Nazarov points out, “there sat in the White governments at that time activists like, for example, the head of the Archangel government Tchaikovsky, who gave to the West as an explanation of the Bolshevik savageries the idea that ‘we put up with the destructive autocratic regime for too long,… our people were less educated politically than the other allied peoples’?” (Tajna Rossii (The Mystery of Russia), Moscow: “Russkaia Idea”, 1999, pp. 85-86)

[17]St. John Maximovich, according to the witness of Protopriest Michael Ardov.

[18] Pipes, op. cit., pp. 109-110.

[19] Ferguson, The Pity of War, p. 392.

[20] Pipes, op. cit., pp. 110, 111.

[21] Von Lampe, “Prichiny neudachi vooruzhennogo vystuplenia belykh” (The Reasons for the Failure of the Whites’ Armed Intervention), Berlin, 1929, in Denikin and von Lampe, op. cit., pp. 28-30.

[22] Reserve Colonel S. Porokhin, «Delo nakhlynulo sovsem inoe – bor’ba antikhristianskaia…’ Pokaianie Alekseia Brusilova” (The Repentance of Alexei Brusilov), Pobeda, pobedivshaia mir (The Victory that has Conquered the World), 7/35, 2005 , р. 6.

[23] Tooze, The Deluge: The Great War and the Remaking of Global Order, London: Penguin, 2010, pp. 411-412.

[24] Zamoyski, Warsaw 1920, London: Harper Press, 2008, pp. 133-134.

[25] Brendon, The Dark Valley. A Panorama of the 1930s, London: Pimlico, 2001, pp. 11-12.

[26] Brendon, op. cit., p. 12.

[27] A. Yu. Bushin, “90 let Priamurskomu Zemskomu Sobory” (90 Years since the Amur Council of the Land), August 8, 2012, Pereklichka,

[28] Anton Ter-Grigorian, “Priamurskij zemskij sobor (kontsa 1922-ogo goda)”,, July 24, 2006. See also Demetrius Anakshin, “Poslednij zemskij sobor”, Pravoslavnaia Rus’, N 21 (1594), November 1/14, 1997, pp. 10-11, 15.         

[29] Ferguson, The Pity of War. 1914-1918, London: Penguin, 1999, p. 392.

[30]Montefiore, Titans of History, London: Quercius, 2012, p. 441.

[31] Pipes, op. cit., p. 509.

[32] Alexandrov, “Stalin i sovremennaia Rossia: vybor istoricheskikh otsenik ili vybor buduschego?” (Stalin and contemporary Russia: a choice of historical estimates or a choice of the future?), report read at the Russian Centre, San Francisco, February 3, 2017.

[33] Archbishop Andrew, “The Restoration of the Orthodox Way of Life”, The Orthodox Word, July-August, 1975, p. 171.

[34] De Maistre, On God and Society; in Fr. Seraphim Rose, Nihilism, Platina, Ca.: St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood Press, 1994, p. 69.

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