White movement

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White Movement
Бѣлое движенiе
Белое движение
Participant in the Russian Civil War (1917–1923)
Flag of Russia.svg
Russian pre-war flag,
commonly used by the Whites
ActiveIn Russia: 1917–1923
Abroad: until the 1960s
Ideology Anti-Bolshevism
Russian nationalism
Monarchism (partly)
Liberalism (partly)
Leaders Volunteer Army Insignia.svg Volunteer Army/AFSR :
Lavr Kornilov (1917–1918)
Anton Denikin (1918–1920)
Pyotr Wrangel (1920)
In Transbaikal :
Grigory Semyonov (1917–1921)
Verhovny Pravitel flag.png PA-RG :
Alexander Kolchak (1918–1920)
SZA narukavnyi znak.JPG North-West Army :
Nikolai Yudenich (1919–1920)
Mikhail Diterikhs (1922)
Anatoly Pepelyayev (1923)
Originated as Russian Imperial Army
Became White émigrés
Allies Allied Interventionist Nations:
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg  British Empire
Flag of the United States (1912-1959).svg  United States
Merchant flag of Japan (1870).svg  Japan
Flag of the Republic of China 1912-1928.svg China [1]
Flag of France (1794-1958).svg  France
Flag of the Czech Republic.svg  Czechoslovakia
Flag of Poland (1928-1980).svg  Poland
Flag of Greece (1822-1978).svg  Greece
Flag of Italy (1861-1946) crowned.svg  Italy
Flag of Romania.svg  Romania
State Flag of Serbia (1882-1918).svg  Serbia
Flag of Russian SFSR (1918-1937).svg Russian SFSR
Flag of the Far Eastern Republic.svg  Far Eastern Republic
Red flag.svgFlag of the Ukrainian SSR (1919-1929).svg Soviet Ukraine
Flag of the Soviet Union (1922-1923).svg  Soviet Union

Flag of Latvian SSR 1919.svg Latvian SSR
Flag of the Commune of the Working People of Estonia.svg CWP of Estonia
Flag of the People's Republic of Mongolia (1921-1924).svg Mongolian People's Party
Flag of the Chinese Communist Party (Pre-1996).svg Chinese communists


Black flag.svg Makhnovschyna
Darker green and Black flag.svg Green armies
Red flag.svg Left SR

Flag of the Ukranian State.svg Ukrainian People's Republic
Flag of the Mountain Republic.svg Mountainous Republic
Battles and war(s)1917–1923: Russian Civil War 1921: Mongolian Revolution
1924: June Revolution in Albania [2]
1929: Sino-Soviet conflict
1934: Soviet invasion of Xinjiang [3]
1937: Islamic rebellion in Xinjiang [4]

The White movement (Russian :Бѣлое движеніе/Белое движение, tr. Beloye dvizheniye,IPA:  [ˈbʲɛləɪ dvʲɪˈʐenʲɪɪ] ) and its military arm the White Army (Бѣлая Армія/Белая Армия, Belaya Armiya), also known as the White Guard (Бѣлая Гвардія/Белая Гвардия, Belaya Gvardiya), the White Guardsmen (Бѣлогвардейцы/Белогвардейцы, Belogvardeytsi) or simply the Whites (Бѣлые/Белые, Beliye), was a loose confederation of anti-communist forces that fought the Communist Bolsheviks, also known as the Reds, in the Russian Civil War (1917–1922/1923) and to a lesser extent continued operating as militarized associations insurrectionists both outside and within Russian borders in Siberia until roughly World War II (1939–1945).

Russian language East Slavic language

Russian is an East Slavic language, which is official in the Russian Federation, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, as well as being widely used throughout Eastern Europe, the Baltic states, the Caucasus and Central Asia. It was the de facto language of the Soviet Union until its dissolution on 25 December 1991. Although nearly three decades have passed since the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russian is used in official capacity or in public life in all the post-Soviet nation-states, as well as in Israel and Mongolia.

Romanization of Russian Romanization of the Russian alphabet

Romanization of Russian is the process of transliterating the Russian language from the Cyrillic script into the Latin script.

Anti-communism political position

Anti-communism is opposition to communism. Organized anti-communism developed after the 1917 October Revolution in Russia and it reached global dimensions during the Cold War, when the United States and the Soviet Union engaged in an intense rivalry. Anti-communism has been an element of movements holding many different political positions, including nationalist, social democratic, liberal, libertarian, conservative, fascist, capitalist, anarchist and even socialist viewpoints.

During the Russian Civil War, the White movement was a big tent political movement representing an array of political opinions in Russia united in their opposition to the Communist Bolsheviks, from the republican-minded liberals and Kerenskyite social democrats on the left through imperialist supporters of united multinational Russia to the ultra-nationalist Black Hundreds on the right.

In politics, a big tent or catch-all party is a type of political party that seeks to attract voters from different points of view and ideologies. This is in contrast to other parties that defend a determined ideology and seek voters who adhere to that ideology and convince people towards it.

Alexander Kerensky Russian politician

Alexander Fyodorovich Kerensky was a Russian lawyer and revolutionist who was a key political figure in the Russian Revolution of 1917. After the February Revolution of 1917, he joined the newly formed Russian Provisional Government, first as Minister of Justice, then as Minister of War, and after July as the government's second Minister-Chairman. A leader of the moderate-socialist Trudovik faction of the Socialist Revolutionary Party, he was also vice-chairman of the powerful Petrograd Soviet. On 7 November, his government was overthrown by the Lenin-led Bolsheviks in the October Revolution. He spent the remainder of his life in exile, in Paris and New York City, and worked for the Hoover Institution.

Black Hundreds political movement

The Black Hundred, also known as the black-hundredists, was an ultra-nationalist movement in Russia in the early 20th century. It was a staunch supporter of the House of Romanov and opposed any retreat from the autocracy of the reigning monarch. The Black Hundreds were also noted for extremism and incitement to pogroms, nationalistic Russocentric doctrines, different xenophobic beliefs, including anti-Ukrainian sentiment and anti-semitism.

Following their defeat, there were remnants and continuations of the movement in several organizations, some of which only had narrow support, enduring within the wider White émigré overseas community until after the fall of Communism in the Eastern European Revolutions of 1989 and the subsequent Dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1990–1991. This community-in-exile of anti-communists was often divided between the liberals and the more conservative segments, with some still hoping for the restoration of the Romanov dynasty, including several claimants to the empty throne like Nicholas Romanov, Prince of Russia (1924–2014) living in Italy and Prince Andrew Romanov (b. 1923) in the United States and other exiles, still hopes for a true constitutional democratic republic in Russia.

The Russian All-Military Union is an organization that was founded by White Army General Pyotr Wrangel in the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes on 1 September 1924, initially headquartered in the town of Sremski Karlovci. The organization′s ostensible purpose was provision of aid to the veterans of the Russian White movement, soldiers and officers alike, who now lived outside the USSR; the undeclared aim was to maintain a Russian military organisation with a view to fighting the Bolsheviks.

National Alliance of Russian Solidarists voluntary association

The National Alliance of Russian Solidarists, known by its Russian abbreviation "NTS" (НТС), is a Russian anticommunist organization founded in 1930 by a group of young Russian anticommunist White emigres in Belgrade, Serbia.

White émigré

A white émigré was a Russian subject who emigrated from Imperial Russia in the wake of the Russian Revolution and Russian Civil War, and who was in opposition to the revolutionary Russian political climate. Many white émigrés were participants in the White movement or supported it, although the term is often broadly applied to anyone who may have left the country due to the change in regimes.

Structure and ideology

In the Russian context after 1917, "White" had three main connotations:

  1. Political contra-distinction to "the Reds", whose revolutionary Red Army supported the Bolshevik government.
  2. Historical reference to absolute monarchy, specifically recalling Russia's first Tsar, Ivan III (reigned 1462–1505), [5] at a period when some styled the ruler of Muscovy Albus Rex ("the White King"). [6]
  3. The white uniforms of Imperial Russia worn by some White Army soldiers.


White female officiers in 1917 Women praporshiki 1917 Armiya svobodnoy Rossii.jpg
White female officiers in 1917

Above all, the White movement emerged as opponents of the Red Army. [7] The White Army had the stated aim to keep law and order in Russia as the Tsar's army before the civil war and the salvation of Russia. [8] They worked to remove Soviet organizations and functionaries in White-controlled territory. [9]

Red Army Soviet army and air force from 1917–1946

The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army, frequently shortened to Red Army was the army and the air force of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, and, after 1922, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The army was established immediately after the 1917 October Revolution. The Bolsheviks raised an army to oppose the military confederations of their adversaries during the Russian Civil War. Beginning in February 1946, the Red Army, along with the Soviet Navy, embodied the main component of the Soviet Armed Forces; taking the official name of "Soviet Army", until its dissolution in December 1991. The former official name Red Army continued to be used as a nickname by both sides throughout the Cold War.

Overall, the White Army was nationalistic [10] and rejected ethnic particularism and separatism. [11] The White Army generally believed in a united multinational Russia and opposed separatists who wanted to create nation-states. [12] American historians Richard L. Rubenstein and John K Roth state that 60,000 Jewish members of the Red Army were killed in combat (with 240,000 wounded) against White forces during the Civil War of 1917 to 1923. [13] British parliamentary influential leader Winston Churchill (1874–1965) personally warned General Anton Denikin (1872–1947), formerly of the Imperial Army and later a major White military leader, whose forces effected pogroms and persecutions against the Jews:

In political science, political particularism is the ability of policymakers to further their careers by catering to narrow interests rather than to broader national platforms. It is often characterized by its opponents as the politics of group identity that trumps universal rights and therefore the rights of minorities or any other kind of "other".

A common definition of separatism is that it is the advocacy of a state of cultural, ethnic, tribal, religious, racial, governmental or gender separation from the larger group. While it often refers to full political secession, separatist groups may seek nothing more than greater autonomy. While some critics may equate separatism with religious segregation, racist segregation, or sexist segregation, most separatists argue that separation by choice may serve useful purposes and is not the same as government-enforced segregation. There is some academic debate about this definition, and in particular how it relates to secessionism, as has been discussed online.

Richard Lowell Rubenstein is an educator in religion and a writer in the American Jewish community, noted particularly for his contributions to Holocaust theology. A Connecticut resident, he was married to art historian Betty Rogers Rubenstein.

[M]y task in winning support in Parliament for the Russian Nationalist cause will be infinitely harder if well-authenticated complaints continue to be received from Jews in the zone of the Volunteer Armies. [14]

Parliament of the United Kingdom Supreme legislative body of the United Kingdom

The Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known internationally as the UK Parliament, British Parliament, or Westminster Parliament, and domestically simply as Parliament, is the supreme legislative body of the United Kingdom, the Crown dependencies and the British Overseas Territories. It alone possesses legislative supremacy and thereby ultimate power over all other political bodies in the UK and the overseas territories. Parliament is bicameral but has three parts, consisting of the Sovereign, the House of Lords, and the House of Commons. The two houses meet in the Palace of Westminster in the City of Westminster, one of the inner boroughs of the capital city, London.

Coat of Arms of the Kolchak government Coat of arms of the Kolchak government (unofficial).png
Coat of Arms of the Kolchak government

Many of the White leaders accepted autocracy while remaining suspicious of "politics" (which they characterized as consisting of speeches, elections, and party activities). [15] [ citation needed ] Aside from being anti-Bolshevik and anti-Communist [16] and patriotic, the Whites had no set ideology or main leader. [17] The White Armies did acknowledge a single provisional head of state in a Supreme Governor of Russia in a Provisional All-Russian Government, but this post was prominent only under the leadership in the war campaigns during (1918–1920) of Admiral Alexander Kolchak, formerly of the previous Russian Imperial Navy.

The movement had no set plan for foreign policy. Whites differed on policies toward the German Empire in its extended occupation of western Russia, the Baltic states, Poland and the Ukraine on the Eastern Front in the closing days of the World War, debating whether or not to ally with it. The Whites wanted to keep from alienating any potential supporters and allies and thus saw an exclusively monarchist position as a detriment to their cause and recruitment. White-movement leaders such as Anton Denikin advocated for Russians to create their own government, claiming the military could not decide in Russians' steads. [18] Admiral Alexander Kolchak succeeded in creating a temporary wartime government in Omsk, acknowledged by most other White leaders, only for it to fall with the loss of his armies.

Some warlords who were aligned with the White movement, such as Grigory Semyonov and Roman Ungern von Sternberg, did not acknowledge any authority but their own. Consequently, the White movement had no set political leanings as members could be monarchists, republicans, [19] rightists, or Kadets. [20] Among White Army leaders, neither General Lavr Kornilov nor General Anton Denikin were monarchists, yet General Pyotr Nikolayevich Wrangel was a monarchist willing to soldier for a republican Russian government. Moreover, other political parties supported the anti-Bolshevik White Army, among them the Socialist-Revolutionary Party, and others who opposed Lenin's Bolshevik October Revolution of 1917. Depending on the time and place, those White Army supporters might also exchange right-wing allegiance for allegiance to the Red Army.

Unlike the Bolsheviks, the White Armies did not share a single ideology, methodology, or political goal. They were led by conservative generals with different agendas and methods, and for the most part they operated quite independently of each other, with little coordination or cohesion. The composition and command structure of White armies also varied, some containing hardened veterans of World War I, others more recent volunteers. These differences and divisions, along with their inability to offer an alternative government and win popular support, prevented the White armies from winning the Civil War.


White Army

"Why aren't you in the army?", Volunteer Army recruiting poster during the Russian Civil War Denikin poster.jpg
"Why aren't you in the army?", Volunteer Army recruiting poster during the Russian Civil War
Kornilov's Shock Detachment (8th Army), later became the Volunteer Army's elite Shock Regiment Kornilovzy.jpg
Kornilov's Shock Detachment (8th Army), later became the Volunteer Army's elite Shock Regiment

The Volunteer Army in South Russia became the most prominent and the largest of the various and disparate White forces. [7] Starting off as a small and well-organized military in January 1918, the Volunteer Army soon grew. The Kuban Cossacks joined the White Army and conscription of both peasants and Cossacks began. In late February 1918, 4,000 soldiers under the command of General Aleksei Kaledin were forced to retreat from Rostov-on-Don due to the advance of the Red Army. In what became known as the Ice March, they traveled to Kuban in order to unite with the Kuban Cossacks (most of whom did not support the Volunteer Army.) In March, 3,000 men under the command of General Viktor Pokrovsky joined the Volunteer Army, increasing its membership to 6,000, and by June to 9,000. In 1919 the Don Cossacks joined the Army. In that year, between May and October, the Volunteer Army grew from 64,000 to 150,000 soldiers and was better supplied than its Red counterpart. [21] The White Army's rank-and-file comprised active anti-Bolsheviks, such as Cossacks, nobles, and peasants, as conscripts and as volunteers.

The White movement had access to various naval forces, both seagoing and riverine, especially the Black Sea Fleet.

Aerial forces available to the Whites included the Slavo-British Aviation Corps (S.B.A.C.). [22] The Russian ace Alexander Kazakov operated within this unit.


The White movement's leaders and first members [23] came mainly from the ranks of military officers. Many came from outside the nobility, such as generals Mikhail Alekseev and Anton Denikin (who originated in serf families) or General Lavr Kornilov (a Cossack).

The White generals never mastered administration; [24] they often utilized "prerevolutionary functionaries" or "military officers with monarchististic inclinations" for administering White-controlled regions. [25]

The White Armies were often lawless and disordered. [8] Also, White-controlled territories had multiple different and varying currencies with unstable exchange-rates. The chief currency, the Volunteer Army's ruble, had no gold backing. [26]

Theatres of operation

Russian Civil War in the west Russian civil war in the west.svg
Russian Civil War in the west

The Whites and the Reds fought the Russian Civil War from November 1917 until 1921, and isolated battles continued in the Far East until 1923. The White Army—aided by the Allied forces (Triple Entente) from countries such as Japan, the United Kingdom, France, Italy and the United States and (sometimes) the Central Powers forces such as Germany and Austria-Hungary—fought in Siberia, Ukraine, and the Crimea. They were defeated by the Red Army due to military and ideological disunity, as well as the determination and increasing unity of the Red Army.

The White Army operated in three main theatres:

Southern front

In the summer of 1919, Denikin's troops captured Kharkov Volunteer Army Kharkiv 25 June 1919.jpg
In the summer of 1919, Denikin's troops captured Kharkov

White organising in the South started on 15 November 1917, (Old Style) under General Mikhail Alekseev (1857–1918). In December 1917, General Lavr Kornilov took over the military command of the newly named Volunteer Army until his death in April 1918, after which General Anton Denikin took over, becoming head of the "Armed Forces of the South of Russia" in January 1919.

The Southern Front featured massive-scale operations and posed the most dangerous threat to the Bolshevik Government. At first it depended entirely upon volunteers in Russia proper, mostly the Cossacks (among the first to oppose the Bolshevik Government). On 23 June 1918, the Volunteer Army (8,000–9,000 men) began its so called Second Kuban Campaign with support from Pyotr Krasnov. By September, the Volunteer Army comprised 30,000 to 35,000 members, thanks to mobilization of the Kuban Cossacks gathered in the North Caucasus. Thus the Volunteer Army took the name of the Caucasus Volunteer Army. On 23 January 1919, the Volunteer Army under Denikin oversaw the defeat of the 11th Soviet Army and then captured the North Caucasus region. After capturing the Donbass, Tsaritsyn and Kharkov in June, Denikin's forces launched an attack towards Moscow on 3 July, (N.S.). Plans envisaged 40,000 fighters under the command of General Vladimir May-Mayevsky storming the city.

After General Denikin's attack upon Moscow failed in 1919, the Armed Forces of the South of Russia retreated. On 26 and 27 March 1920, the remnants of the Volunteer Army evacuated from Novorossiysk to the Crimea, where they merged with the army of Pyotr Wrangel.

Eastern (Siberian) front

The Eastern Front started in spring 1918 as a secret movement among army officers and right-wing socialist forces. In that front, they launched an attack in collaboration with the Czechoslovak Legions (then stranded in Siberia by the Bolshevik Government, who barred them from leaving Russia) and with the Japanese, who also intervened to help the Whites in the east. Admiral Alexander Kolchak headed the eastern White counter-revolutionary army and a provisional Russian government. Despite some significant success in 1919, the Whites were defeated being forced back to Far Eastern Russia, where they continued fighting until October 1922. When the Japanese withdrew, the Soviet army of the Far Eastern Republic retook the territory. The Civil War was officially declared over at this point, although Anatoly Pepelyayev still controlled the Ayano-Maysky District at that time. Pepelyayev's Yakut revolt, which concluded on 16 June 1923, represented the last military action in Russia by a White Army. It ended with the defeat of the final anti-communist enclave in the country, signalling the end of all military hostilities relating to the Russian Civil War.

Northern and Northwestern fronts

Headed by Nikolai Yudenich, Evgeni Miller, and Anatoly Lieven, the White forces in the North demonstrated less co-ordination than General Denikin's Army of Southern Russia. The Northwestern Army allied itself with Estonia, while Lieven's West Russian Volunteer Army sided with the Baltic nobility. Adventurers led by Pavel Bermondt-Avalov and Stanisław Bułak-Bałachowicz played a role as well. The most notable operation on this front, Operation White Sword, saw an unsuccessful advance towards the Russian capital of Petrograd in the autumn of 1919.

Post-Civil War

Blagoveshchensky Temple, a Russian Orthodox Church in Harbin Blagoveshchensky Temple in Harbin.JPG
Blagoveshchensky Temple, a Russian Orthodox Church in Harbin
White propaganda poster Thecristisrizenoldrussiancivilwarposter.jpg
White propaganda poster

The defeated anti-Bolshevik Russians went into exile, congregating in Belgrade, Berlin, Paris, Harbin, Istanbul, and Shanghai. They established military and cultural networks that lasted through World War II (1939–1945), e.g. the Russian community in Harbin and the Russian community in Shanghai. Afterward, the White Russians' anti-Communist activists established a home base in the United States, to which numerous refugees emigrated.

Emblem used by white emigre volunteers in the Spanish Civil War Emblem of White Emigre Volunteers (Spanish Civil War).svg
Emblem used by white émigré volunteers in the Spanish Civil War

Moreover, in the 1920s and the 1930s the White Movement established organisations outside Russia, which were meant to depose the Soviet Government with guerrilla warfare, e.g., the Russian All-Military Union, the Brotherhood of Russian Truth, and the National Alliance of Russian Solidarists, a far-right anticommunist organization founded in 1930 by a group of young White emigres in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. Some white émigrés adopted pro-Soviet sympathies and were termed "Soviet patriots". These people formed organizations such as the Mladorossi, the Eurasianists, and the Smenovekhovtsy. A Russian cadet corps was established to prepare the next generation of anti-Communists for the "spring campaign"—a hopeful term denoting a renewed military campaign to reconquer Russia from the Soviet Government. In any event, many cadets volunteered to fight for the Russian Corps during the Second World War, when some White Russians participated in the Russian Liberation Movement. [27]

After the war, active anti-Soviet combat was almost exclusively continued by the National Alliance of Russian Solidarists. Other organizations either dissolved, or began concentrating exclusively on self-preservation and/or educating the youth. Various youth organizations such as the Russian Scouts-in-Exteris became functional in raising children with a background in pre-Soviet Russian culture and heritage. Some supported Zog I of Albania during the 1920s and a few independently served with the Nationalists during the Spanish Civil War. White Russians also served alongside the Soviet Red Army during the Soviet invasion of Xinjiang and the Islamic rebellion in Xinjiang in 1937.

Prominent people

Alexander Kolchak decorating his troops in Siberia Kolchak decorating troops.jpg
Alexander Kolchak decorating his troops in Siberia
The Government of South Russia created by Pyotr Wrangel in Sevastopol, Crimea in April 1920 Government of South Russia 1920 cropped.JPG
The Government of South Russia created by Pyotr Wrangel in Sevastopol, Crimea in April 1920
Sergei Voitsekhovskii (seated center), Major-General in the White movement and later Czechoslovak Army general Homola Vojcechovsky Svatek 1927.jpg
Sergei Voitsekhovskii (seated center), Major-General in the White movement and later Czechoslovak Army general

After the February Revolution, in western Russia, Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania declared themselves independent, but they had substantial Communist or Russian military presence. Civil wars followed, wherein the anti-Communist side may be referred to as White Armies, e.g. the White Guard-led, partially conscripted army in Finland (valkoinen armeija). However, since they were nationalists their aims were substantially different from the Russian White Army proper; for instance, Russian White generals never supported Finnish independence. The defeat of the Russian White Army made the point moot in this dispute. The countries remained independent and governed by non-Communist governments.

See also

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The Kuban Offensive, also called the Second Kuban Campaign, was fought between the White and Red Armies during the Russian Civil War. The White Army achieved an important victory despite being numerically inferior in manpower and artillery. It resulted in the capture of Ekaterinodar and Novorossiysk in August 1918 and the conquest of the Western part of Kuban by the White armies. Later in 1918 they took Maykop, Armavir and Stavropol, and extended their authority over the entire Kuban Region.

The North Caucasus Operation was a strategic offensive conducted by the Caucasian Front of the Red Army against the White Armed Forces of South Russia in the North Caucasus region between 17 January and 7 April 1920. It took place on the Southern Front of the Russian Civil War and was a Soviet attempt to destroy White resistance.



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