Allied intervention in the Russian Civil War

Allied intervention in the Russian Civil War

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Allied intervention in the Russian Civil War
partof=Russian Civil War

caption=Allied troops parading in Vladivostok, 1918.
date=1918 - 1920; 1922 Japanese withdrawal from Siberia
place=North Russia, Siberia
casus=Bolshevik Revolution, Treaty of Brest-Litovsk
result=Allied withdrawal from Russia
Bolshevik victory over White Army
combatant1=flagicon|United Kingdom British Empire
*flag|United Kingdomflagicon|Czechoslovakia Czechoslovak Legion
flagicon|Empire of Japan Empire of Japan
flagicon|France France
flagicon|Greece|old Greece
flagicon|Italy Italy
flagicon|Poland Poland
flagicon|Romania Romania
flagicon|Serbia|1882 Serbia
flag|United States|1912
combatant2=flag|Russian SFSR|1918
commander1=Various Commanders
commander2=Vladimir Lenin
Leon Trotsky

The Allied intervention was a multi-national military expedition launched in 1918 during the Russian Civil War and World War I. The intervention involved almost a dozen nations and was conducted over vast expanse of territory. The initials goals were to rescue the Czechoslovak Legion, to secure supplies of munitions and armaments in Russian ports and possibly re-establish the Eastern front. With the end of the war, the Allies, fearful of Bolshevism, openly intervened in the Russian Civil War giving support to the pro-tsarist, anti-Bolshevik White forces. However, oppostion for ongoing campaign became widespread, due to a combination of a lack of public support and war weariness; divided objectives and a lack of an overarching strategy also hampered the effort. These factors, together with the evacuation of the Czechoslovak legion and the deteriorating situation compelled the Allies to withdraw from North Russia and Siberia in 1920. Although, the Japanese occupied parts of Siberia until 1922.

With the end of allied support, the Red Army was able to inflict defeats on the remaining White government forces, leading to their eventual collapse. During the Allied Intervention, the presence of foreign troops was effectively used for patriotic propaganda by the Bolsheviks in their struggle to influence the Russian populace in winning the Civil War.

Prologue to the Allied Intervention


In 1917, Russia was in a state of political strife, support for the war and tsar was dwindling; Russia was on the brink of revolution. In March, events changed the course of war, under intense political pressure Tsar Nicholas II abdicated and a provisional Russian government was formed under Alexander Kerensky. The Russian provisional government pledged to continue fighting the Germans on the Eastern Front.

The allies had been shipping supplies to Russia since the beginning of the war, in 1914, through the ports of Arkhangelsk, Murmansk and Vladivostok. In 1917, the United States entered the war, the American President Woodrow Wilson dropped his reservations about joining the war with an ally ruled by a tyrannical monarch and the Americans began providing economic and technical support to Kerensky's government.

The war was unpopular with the Russian populace and famine caused discontent. Political and social unrest increased, with the revolutionary Bolsheviks under Vladimir Lenin gaining widespread support. Large numbers of common soldiers either mutinied or deserted the Russian army. During the offensive of 18 June, the Russian Army was defeated by the German and Austro-Hungarian forces on the Eastern Front as a result of a counter-attack. This led to the collapse of the Eastern Front. The entire, demoralised, Russian Army was on the verge of mutiny and most soldiers had deserted the front lines. In November 1917, the October Revolution led to the overthrow of Kerensky's provisional government and the Bolsheviks coming into power.

Russian leaves the war

Five months later, on March 3, the newly-formed Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with the Germans; which formally ended the war on the Eastern Front. This permitted the redeployment of German soldiers to the Western Front, where the British and French armies were awaiting American reinforcements.

Czechoslovak Legion

The signing of treaty of Brest-Litovsk ensured that POWs would be transferred to from each country. Austro-Hungarian prisoners were of a number of various nationalities. Czechoslovak POWs were conscripted to fight with the Austro-Hungarian army and had been captured by the Russians. However they had long desired to create their own independent state and special Czechoslovak units were established by the Russians to fight the Central Powers. In 1917, the Bolsheviks stated that if the Czech Legion remained neutral and agreed to leave Russia they would be granted safe passage through Siberia en route to France via Vladvostok, to fight with the Allied forces at the Western Front. The Czechoslovak Legion travelled via the Trans-Siberian Railroad to Vladivostok, however, only half arrived before the agreement collapsed and fighting between them and the Bolsehviks erupted in May 1918.

Allied concerns

The Allies became concerned at the collapse of the Eastern front and their Russian ally, there was also the question of the large amounts of war matérial in Russians ports; which the allies feared might be "commandeered" by the Germans or the Bolsheviks. Worrisome to the Allies was the April 1918 landing of a division of German troops in Finland, increasing speculation they might attempt in capturing the Murmansk-Petrograd railroad, and subsequently the strategic port of Murmansk and possibly Arkhangelsk. Other concerns were that Czechoslovak Legion might be destroyed and the threat from Bolshevism itself, the nature of which worried many allied governments. Meanwhile, Allied matériel in transit quickly accumulated in the warehouses in Arkhangelsk and Murmansk.

Faced with these events, the British and French governments decided upon an Allied military intervention in Russia. They had three objectives: [Joel R. Moore, Harry H. Mead and Lewis E. Jahns, "The History of The American Expedition Fighting the Bolsheviki" (Nashville, Tenn., The Battery Press, 2003), pp.47-50]

:# prevent the German or Bolshevik capture of Allied matériel stockpiles in Arkhangelsk, :# mount an attack rescuing the Czechoslovak Legion stranded on the Trans-Siberian Railroad, and :# resurrect the Eastern Front by defeating the Bolshevik army with help from the Czechoslovak Legion and an expanded anti-Bolshevik force of local citizens — and, in the process, stop the spread of Communism and the Bolshevik cause in Russia.

Severely short of troops to spare, the British and French to request that President Wilson provide American soldiers for the Intervention Campaign. In July 1918, against the advice of the War Department, Wilson agreed to the limited participation of 5,000 U.S. Army soldiers in the campaign as the "American North Russia Expeditionary Force" [E.M. Halliday, "When Hell Froze Over" (New York City, NY, ibooks, inc., 2000), p.44] (a.k.a. the Polar Bear Expedition) who were sent to Arkhangelsk, while another 8,000 soldiers, organised as the American Expeditionary Force Siberia, [Robert L. Willett, "Russian Sideshow", pp.166-167, 170] were shipped to Vladivostok from the Philippines and from Camp Fremont in California. That same month, Canada agreed to Britain's request to command and to provide most of the soldiers for a combined British Empire force, which included Australians and colonial Indian troops.

The Japanese concerned about their northern border, sent the largest military force which was about 70,000. Japan desired to establish a buffer state in Siberia [Humphreys, "The Way of the Heavenly Sword: The Japanese Army in the 1920's", p.25] , the army general staff viewed the situation in Russian as an opportunity of settling Japan's national security "northern problem". The Japanese government also had an intense hostility to Communism. France, Italy, Romania, Greece, Poland, China and Serbia also sent contingents in support of the intervention.

Russian Civil War

The the end of the war in Europe and the defeat of the Central Powers, the allies now openly gave their support to the anti-bolshevik White forces.

Foreign forces throughout Russia

These are the numbers of the foreign soldiers who occupied the indicated regions of Russia:

::*50,000 Czechoslovaks (along the Trans-Siberian railway) [Robert L. Willett, "Russian Sideshow", p. xxiii] ::*28,000 Japanese, later increased to 70,000 (all in the Vladivostok region) [ [ Guarding the Railroad, Taming the Cossacks The U.S. Army in Russia, 1918–1920] , Smith, Gibson Bell (accessed 5 July 2007)] ::*24,000 Greeks (in Crimea)gr icon [ The Campaign in the Ukraine] , at "] ::*13,000 Americans (in the Arkhangelsk and Vladivostok regions)::*12,000 Poles (mostly in Crimea and the Ukraine)::*4,000 Canadians (in the Arkhangelsk and Vladivostok regions)::*4,000 Serbs (in the Arkhangelsk and Vladivostok regions)::*4,000 Romanians (in the Arkhangelsk region)::*2,000 Italians (in the Arkhangelsk and Vladivostok regions)::*2,000 Chinese (in the Arkhangelsk and Vladivostok regions)::*1,600 British (in the Arkhangelsk and Vladivostok regions)::*1,200 French and French colonial (mostly in the Arkhangelsk and Vladivostok regions)::*560 Australians (mostly in the Arkhangelsk regions)


Northern Russia

* British Army (6th Yorkshire Regiment, 2/10th Royal Scots, others?)
* Royal Navy (plus a detachment of 53 US Navy sailors & officers - including Harold Gunnes - from the USS "Olympia" during August & September 1918 only)
* Royal Air Force (Fairey Campania and Sopwith Baby seaplanes along with a single Sopwith Camel fighter) []
* French Army (21st Colonial Battalion)
* Canadian Field Artillery (67th & 68th Batteries of the 16th Brigade, Canadian Field Artillery)
* Slavo-British Allied Legion (aka SBAL, anti-Bolshevik forces, included Dyer's Battalion, British trained and led)
* White Russian Army (previously the army of Kerensky's provisional Russian government, anti-Bolshevik, led by General Eugene Miller, a Russian native)
* U.S. Army, American North Russia Expeditionary Force (aka Polar Bear Expedition, 339th Infantry, 310th Engineers, 337th Field Hospital, and 337th Ambulance Company)
* U.S. Army 167th and 168th Railroad Companies (sent to Murmansk to operate the Murmansk to Petrograd line)
* Miscellaneous Allied troops from Poland, Serbia and Italy
* British North Russian Relief Force (arrived in late May 1919 to cover the withdrawal of U.S. and Allied troops)

outhern Russia and the Ukraine

On the 18th of December 1918, a month after the Armistice, the French occupied Odessa. This began the intervention in the Ukraine and Southern Russia which was to aid and supply General Denikin's White Army forces, the Volunteer Army, fighting the Bolsheviks there. The campaign involved French, Polish and Greek troops(I Army Corps, ca. 24,000 men). By April of 1919 they were withdrawn, before the defeat of the White Army's march against Moscow. General Wrangel reorganized his army in the Crimea, however, with the deteriorating situation, he and his soldiers fled Russia aboard Allied ships on 14 November 1920.


* White Russian Army (anti-Bolshevik, led by Adm. Alexander Kolchak)
* Cossacks (anti-Bolshevik, led by Grigory Semyonov and Ivan Kalmykof)
* U.S. Army, American Expeditionary Force Siberia (27th Infantry and 31st Infantry out of the Philippines plus portions of the 12th, 13th and 62nd Infantry Regiments out of Camp Fremont) [Robert L. Willett, "Russian Sideshow", pp. 166-167]
* Russian Railway Service Corps (a contingent of U.S. railway workers and managers who accompanied locomotives and rolling stock that the U.S. had originally committed to the Kerensky government for improving the Trans-Siberian Railroad).
* Japanese Army
* Czechoslovak Legion []

* British Army []
* Canadian Expedetionary Force (Siberia)
* French Army
* Chinese Army


Some British and Indian colonial forces operated in the Southern Caucasus region from 1919 to 1920 after fighting the Ottoman Empire.See also: 26 Baku Commissars

Allied withdrawal

The allies withdrew in 1920. The Japanese stayed in Siberia until 1922, when American economic and diplomatic pressures, internal Japanese politics and the Red Army's military success forced Japan's withdrawal form Russia.

ee also

*British Campaign in the Baltic 1918-19
*Arthur Percy Sullivan



*cite book
last = Humphreys
first = Leonard A.
authorlink =
coauthors =
year = 1996
chapter =
title = The Way of the Heavenly Sword: The Japanese Army in the 1920's
publisher = Stanford University Press
location =
id = ISBN 0-8047-2375-3

*cite book
last = Willett
first = Robert L.
authorlink =
coauthors =
year = 2003
chapter =
title = Russian Sideshow: America's Undeclared War, 1918-1920
publisher = Brassey's
location = Washington D.C
id = ISBN 1-5748-8429-8


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