Individual and Mass Terror during the Civil War

Individual and Mass Terror during the Civil War

On September 5, 1918 the Council of People's Commissars of the RSFSR adopted a decree “On the Red Terror”, which sanctioned repressive measures against “class enemies” of the Soviet Republic. It was stipulated that “all persons associated with the White Guard organizations, conspiracies and mutinies” were liable to be shot dead. In order to strengthen the work of the All-Russian Extraordinary Commission (known as ‘Cheka’) and make it more methodical it was decided to send “a greater number of responsible party comrades to it”. The document highlighted that in the present situation the safeguarding of the rear by means of terror was necessary. “Present situation” referred to the so-called ‘White Terror’ campaigns in the spring and summer of 1918, as well as anti-Bolshevik revolts, which were ruthlessly suppressed by the Soviet government. Thus, 61 participants of the Tambov rebellion were shot in June 17-18. In late July, more than 400 participants in the Yaroslavl uprising, organized by the Union for the Defense of the Motherland and Freedom, were murdered in accordance with the sentence imposed by the Special Investigation Commission. After the rebellion of Livny, Oryol Governorate, on August 14-17, more than 300 people were sentenced to capital punishment. In addition to the executions of the Cheka, the Revolutionary Tribunals and other emergency judicial bodies launched their activities in the summer of 1918. In particular, on June 22 the Revolutionary Tribunal of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee imposed a death sentence on the commander of the Baltic Fleet, A. M. Shchastny, who was charged with counterrevolutionary activities.

The immediate reason for adopting the decree “On the Red Terror” and thereby legalizing the use of repressive measures by the Soviet government were assassination attempts on Bolshevik officials in the summer of 1918: on June 20, N. Sergeev, member of the Central Combat Unit of the Socialist Revolutionary party murdered V. Volodarsky, Commissar for Press and Agitation in Petrograd; on August 30 Leonid Kannegisser assassinated Petrograd Cheka leader Moisei Uritsky. On the same day in Moscow Fanni Kaplan tried to assassinate V. I. Lenin, the Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars of the RSFSR. In connection with the assassination attempts on August 30 the Cheka also uncovered a so-called "ambassadors’ plot". According to the official version, the head of the special British mission R. Lockhart in cooperation with the French Ambassador J. Noulens and the US Ambassador D. R. Francis, were plotting a military coup in Russia.

The largest campaign of the Red Terror was in September, when 512 representatives of the elite (former dignitaries, ministers, professors) were shot dead in Petrograd. On November 3, 1918, 59 “hostages and persons associated with counterrevolutionary organizations” were shot in Pyatigorsk, including: Princes Sergei, Fyodor and Nikolay Urusov, Prince Leonid and Vladimir Shakhovskoy, Prince Tumanov, Count Kapnist, Count Bobrinsky, Minister S. V. Rukhlov, and some military men. On November 13, 47 people were sentenced to capital punishment. Most of them were hacked to death.

In the spring and autumn of 1918 both the Reds and the Whites intensified repressive measures. In April, in the Urals the troops of ataman A. I. Dutov destroyed the Orenburg Bolshevik detachment of 300 men commanded by S. M. Tsvilling, carried out a raid on Orenburg, where 129 people were killed. On May 9, 675 people were shot and buried alive in Aleksandrov-Guya village. In total, 3 thousand people were killed in the spring of 1918 by Dutov's detachments. In all, 2.500 people were killed in Maikop by order of General V. A. Pokrovsky during the Second Kuban campaign in the autumn of 1918.

The White and Red Terror were equally merciless. Their only difference was that the Red Terror was more organized and was aimed against the “class enemies”, while the White Terror was more spontaneous. Moreover, along with executions, the Bolsheviks used such "preventive measures" as the registration of officers and the fine system. Formally, the Red Terror ended on November 6, 1918. Many researchers, however, use this term to describe Bolshevik repressions during the entire period of the Civil War.

The collection devoted to the history of the White and Red Terror includes publications dating from the 1910s, 1920s and 1930s and archival materials, which cast light on the history of anti-Bolshevik revolts during the Civil War, the establishment and activities of the All-Russian Extraordinary Commission; collections of decrees and resolutions of the Soviet government, which regulated the Red Terror; as well as cards, which show the victims of the White Terror and F. E. Dzerzhinsky - the Chairman of the All-Russian Extraordinary Commission.

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