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Dilemas contemporáneos: educación, política y valores

versión On-line ISSN 2007-7890

Dilemas contemp. educ. política valores vol.8 no.3 Toluca de Lerdo may./ago. 2021  Epub 11-Jun-2021 


Political and World-View Consequences of the Civil War in Russia 1918-1921

Consecuencias políticas y cosmovisivas de la guerra civil en Rusia de 1918-1921

Alexander Chemshit1 

1 Doctor in Political Science. Sevastopol state University, 33, Universitetskaya street, Sevastopol, city of special importance Sevastopol, 299053, Russia. Email:


This article analyzes the phenomenon of the civil war in Russia from 1918-1920. According to this article, the consequences of the civil war are historical events and processes, which to a certain extent are related to it and which are its logical continuation. On the basis of functional, temporal, and structural dimensions, the consequences of the civil war are systematized and subdivided into proximate, direct, and distant. The analysis of the consequences system is limited by the spheres of politics and worldview. It is concluded that the rejection of the old regime even in the most radical way does not eliminate the "Boomerang effect", without excluding the possibility of a political revenge and a return to the past order without prejudice to the time factor.

Key words: Civil War; revolution; political consequences; world view consequences


Este artículo analiza el fenómeno de la guerra civil en Rusia de 1918-1920. Según este artículo, las consecuencias de la guerra civil son acontecimientos y procesos históricos, que en cierta medida, están relacionados con ella y que son su continuación lógica. Sobre la base de las dimensiones funcional, temporal y estructural, las consecuencias de la guerra civil se sistematizan y se subdividen en próximas, directas y distantes. El análisis del sistema de consecuencias es limitado por las esferas de la política y la cosmovisión. Se concluye que el rechazo del antiguo régimen aún de la manera más radical no elimina "el efecto Boomerang", sin excluir la posibilidad de una revancha política y un retorno al orden pasado sin perjuicio del factor de tiempo.

Palabras claves: guerra civil; revolución; consecuencias políticas; consecuencias cosmovisivas


The classic saying "the revolution has a beginning, the revolution has no end" is fully applicable to the civil war as a component of the revolution (Zakharchenko, 2009, p. 128). The final limit of the civil war is not so easy to determine, especially when it comes to cause and effect relationships and dependencies of phenomena and processes of an antagonistic nature that take place both in military and in civilian life. In other words, the civil war ends one way or another, but it does not disappear, there are many social phenomena associated with it in other words - consequences. In this sense, the consequences of the civil war are some or other of consequence that are caused by a civil war without which they either would not have occurred at all or would have had a fundamentally different character.

Figuratively speaking, the civil war in Russia resembles the consequences of a nuclear explosion, which releases a huge number of "free radicals " - chemical elements whose half-life ranges from a few days to several thousand years. Give it in other words, the civil war initially creates a chain of consequences, manifesting in all spheres of public life and even more, accumulating during the time. In turn, contradictions, that do not succeed in resolving, are being formed and on the contrary, are being preserved for a certain time, and as a result, reasons for new conflicts appear.

In Russian and foreign scientific literature, there is a sufficient interest in the consequences of military conflicts, which allow us to talk about the development of a whole system of consequences presented from the point of view of two dimensions: procedural (functional-temporal) and structural (evolutionary-objective) (Zhilyaev, 1996; Mosov , 2007; Siry, 2007). The first dimension of the system of a civil war consequence is characterized by the unfolding developments in time and the functional impact on society. The second dimension of the consequences of civil war is structural. It allows researchers to identify the types of consequences, taking into account the influence of military struggle on all spheres of society.

The author of this article aims to develop his own concept of the consequences of the civil war, taking into account both of the above dimensions. We are to focus on only on political and ideological spheres, without touching on the consequences of the civil war in other areas of public life. In this sense we see such consequences as immediate (contiguous), direct (foreseeable) and long term (delayed) which can be updated in the future.



In research methodology, the author draws on the philosophy of history and bases on the legacy of G. Bolingbroke and R.D. Collingwood. G. Bolingbroke considered history as a school of life, history should teach people how to solve a particular problem, taking into account the experience of past generations. History in the form of science should influence the choice of the near future, solve problems affecting the interests of all humanity (G. Bolingbroke, 1978).

For Collingwood, the historical process is a fact of the past. It can be reproduced if you have a perfect methodology. Only in that way does the knowledge of the past acquire a particular nature. This will be the historical truth in which the past will come to life. Historic reenactment is the final phase of the past history with the claim on that completion which in the relay race of generations declares as its special beginning in accordance with the experiencing period. This approach brings the researcher closer to realizing how and why certain events occurred, beyond the freak of imagination and that view, which is content only with its truth (R.D. Collingwood, 1980).

Result and Discussion

Immediate or contiguos consequences of the civil war

The primary forms of this period (1920s) are as follows. The post-war individual is undergoing a qualitative change. An active participant in the civil war is either a winner, or a defeated. The winner is filled with feelings of triumph, class hatred and political arrogance. Hardened in the crucible of class battles, he demonstrates a willingness to continue to be merciless to his enemies.

The winner psychology is imbued with suspicion of class-aliens and does not know mercy and compassion. The emotional world of winners is still guided by the motto “who is not with us, is against us” thereby narrowing the space of interclass neutrality (Trotsky L.D.; Lenin V.I., v. 12, p. 57). The defeated are demoralized. They have a sensation of humiliation, insult, powerless frustration, and no less hatred for the winner. As E. Echeverria emphasizes, “civil war and conquest bring only death and tyranny; they are a spawn of hatred. Is it worth to adorn victory with laurels if they are sprinkled with the blood of brothers and destitute!” (E. Echeverria, Art. 66).

Contiguous consequences of civil war are mainly the events after the war decade. As we know, the “Red Project” showed economic insolvency from the first days of the Bolshevik government establishment. The policy of “War Communism” promptly went a bankrupt. Therefore, the creative part of the revolution proceeded in a mode of combining offensive and retreat. The Bolsheviks had to retreat in the organization of economic life. Based on tactical considerations, the NEP turns to be on the agenda as a temporary return to traditional forms of management. But retreat is not surrender, it is a period of collecting forces, gaining in time, experience accumulation to develop strategies and tactics for further and more thorough struggle. If you couldn’t take the fortress right away, it can be taken by siege. “There are no such fortresses that the Bolsheviks could not take” (Stalin, vol. 11, p. 58).

The offensive (in other words, the continuation of the civil war in other forms) is carried out in the political and world view areas. The class struggle continues unabated, which is reflected in the privileged position of the working class and in the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat (supremacy of the AUCP(b). This means the oppression of the peasantry, especially toiling one; mobbing old regime intelligentsia out of the country (“Philosophy Steamer”); the cynical use of specialists - military, scientists, engineers, doctors, lawyers, etc. - with an undisguised intention to get rid of them as an unreliable class at first opportunity.

The dictatorship of the proletariat is proclaimed an advanced and progressive form of government, paving the way for a glorious future. The subordinate status of the peasantry, small owners, relict strata, both old and newly emerging intelligentsia is declared the norm due to insufficient revolutionary character, which, in turn, arises from their position in the system of social production. Traditional justice and law enforcement are replaced by socialist legality, religious morality is replaced by communist morality. In other words, everything that promotes communism is declared law and morality. Any disobedience is politicized, technical errors have every chance of being called wrecking, failure to fulfill a production assignment is a sabotage, violation of labor discipline is a counter-revolution.

The proletarian court is extremely politicized with a pronounced prosecutorial bias. The first labor camps (Solovki) appear for the purpose of social reorientation. The fate of a person put on trial is decided soon hard-bitten. The sentences of death are imposed on the basis of class principles, in particular, firing squad formally announced as the “supreme measure of social defense”.

There is a merciless struggle with Orthodoxy and religion in general in the spiritual sphere of society. Churches are destroyed, priests are mocked and physically destroyed. Instead of the Orthodox creed another faith is claimed - faith in a glorious future - a kind of “communist Eden.” Other “sanctuaries” take the place of temples and Ministers of religion where committees of the Bolshevik party of various levels are located. The Party Secretary is the political leader of a district, region, land, union republic, country as a whole.

Direct or forseeable consequences of civil war

Among these are the policy of industrialization and collectivization of the agricultural sector. These processes are the continuation of the civil war by means of economic coercion. Industrialization itself could be carried out at the expense of the agricultural sector, while forced industrialization could be achieved through the merciless robbery of the peasantry and its actual sacrifice. A significant consequence of this stage is the “phenomenon of Pavlik Morozov”, which should be evaluated not in the extreme categories of courage/betrayal, but as a great tragedy. The essence of the tragedy lies in the need to choose between morality (moral commandments) and law (an order of the Soviet government). Such an alternative directly arises from the inhuman rules of the civil war.

Direct consequence of the civil war is the Great Famine, or in another way, Holodomor 1932-1933. The great famine was neither manufactured, nor was it consciously organized by the authorities, but it arose due to poor weather conditions, and over time it spontaneously grow into kind of weapon. In other words, the class struggle led to the use starvation as a weapon.

The authorities, especially in the hinterlands, realizing that there was not enough bread for everyone, took the easiest route - divided the people into “us”, those who work in factories and plants and therefore the builders of socialism, and into “them”, those who opposed socialism or was not in sympathy with it, i.e., the peasants. “Us’” right to life was confirmed but “them” starved to death. Certainly, it can not be called racial genocide as people think in Ukraine, but it is quite legitimate to recognize it as class genocide. Without the “hardening” by the civil war, hardly anyone would have dared to use this type of weapon, but the “civilian front-line soldiers” in the famine were guided by the law of the revolutionary time: either we’re them, or they’re us.

On the one hand, creating a new state and society required reducing social tension, overcoming distrust and suspicion, predominating of constructivism in resolving difficulties and contradictions, raising people's moral mood, creating an atmosphere of well-being, joy, and human happiness. But on the other hand, the laws of class vigilance and intransigence established by the civil war blocked the way to wounds healing inflicted by it.

The question of the repressions of the 20s and 30s and the Great terror of 1937-1938 deserves particular attention. On the one hand, the repressions were directed against the “not annihilated” remnants of the class enemy, in which the partocracy of the second level of power was particularly active (Khrushchev, Eihe, etc.). At the same time, the thesis that the widespread of class violence had an overestimated bar seems to be controversial.

From the victors in the civil war perspective, in the USSR, there were quite a lot of opponents of both real and idealized socialism. Hence, with some caution, we can speak of the legitimacy of the hypothesis that the Soviet people as a monolithic entity, firstly was formed by the end of 1941, specifically, after the defeat of the Nazi forces outside Moscow and the growing belief that “our cause is just, victory will be ours” (Stalin, On the Great Patriotic War p. 31).

The huge numbers of red Army soldiers surrendered to German in the initial period of the war compel us to admit that the motives for surrendering weapons were not only helplessness (injury), desperate situation (encirclement), unwillingness to die “in the Prime”, pusillanimity and cowardice, but also unwillingness to protect a social system alien to their interests.

Among the prisoners who surrendered were indeed the “class survivors” who betrayed their Motherland out of revenge to an ideological adversary. Consequently, the great “cleansing” of unreliable figures before the war was justified from the point of view of the Orthodox Bolsheviks who won the civil war. Another thing is how this campaign was conducted, whether professionally, relevant but not anyhow for the sake of one’s own salvation and maintaining one's official position.

The second factor that caused the Great terror was a long-overdue regularity, which in France was called “the revolution devours its own children”, when it is time to renew the political leadership, to solve urgent economic, cultural, and social problems and not to live in the atmosphere of past revolutionary achievements.

The adoption of the Constitution of 1936 gives reason to believe that Stalin, being aware of the need to update the leadership staff, planned to replace them in a peaceful way - through democratic elections. But fierce resistance to this plan from the Leninist guard and second level of power (Secretary of regional committee, territory committee and republics) and imposed on them (Eihe, Khrushchev and others.) searching for “enemies of the people” forced Stalin to use repression, not only against class enemies, but also against the party leaders at all levels of government. In the large-scale repressions, in the great terror of 1937-1938, the “merciless hand” of the civil war is clearly visible.

The civil war was presented to the Soviet people by means of propaganda, primarily to the younger generation, as an outstanding event in which the character of the builders of the new world was tempered, thanks to that the resistance of the hostile to this world counter-revolution was broken. The civil war was maximally heroized and romanticized. The film “Chapaev” became iconic, it brought up at least two generations of Soviet people. Civil war participants were considered heroes and legends.

The Great Patriotic War put the civil war on the back burner. The most terrible of all warriors, the greatest of all victories focused attention on itself, which objectively turned the civil war into a distant, experienced, and forgotten past.

But civil wars never end with the result that their initiators focused on. The passing of time turns out that in addition to the immediate and direct consequences of civil war, it reveals distant or delayed consequences.

Long term consequences are the resumption of processes that were not completed during the civil war. It's a testament to the fact that the civil war doesn’t have a total winner and the idea of losers has a chance of revival and political revenge. Unresolved issues move to the delayed status and then they are reanimated. The distant consequences differ from direct and indirect ones in that the latter manifest themselves as attenuation of the civil war and ultimately work for the winner; the delayed consequences are a renaissance of unfinished business, resuscitation of the defeated and his chance of revenge.

“Denounciation of the personality cult” should be considered as the beginning of delayed consequences. The overthrow of the “people's Tsar” caused shock, numbness, and stress in society, and later led to ideological heresy (doubt). Doubt about the truth of the “strategic direction” very soon gained momentum, so called "man of the sixties", primarily the creative intelligentsia is the first “heretics”, dissidents in the country of victorious socialism. They, without realizing it, launched the boomerang mechanism of the civil war stopped by the Great Patriotic War. The world view pendulum, which had previously been frozen at the maximum left upper point, was set into motion. Now he moved to the right, hesitantly, slowly, but the most importantly, he moved.

Being well-known in intellectual circles Pasternak, Solzhenitsyn, Voznesensky, Yevtushenko, Ernst Neizvestny, and later Sakharov et al. began to move it. The government resisted only in word, in fact, condoned the growth of liberal and at the same time anti-Communist sentiment. The process of rehabilitation of political prisoners, which was practically an Amnesty, but was called “rehabilitation” should be attributed to the long-term consequences of the civil war that occurred at the level of governance.

After discrediting Stalin, the government, represented by Khrushchev, made at least two strategic mistakes. The first one was in motto “catch up and overtake America”. Although this appeal was based on socio-economic content, but the people understood it so that the USSR, with its advanced state system and scientific ideology, does not go ahead of the whole world, if they need to catch up with someone. Moreover, the main achievement of the Soviet government was called into question - social justice, for which the people made enormous sacrifices, because we are going to catch up and overtake a country that does not have a social state.

The process of “heretical moods” is gaining momentum, the idea of the imminent arrival of communism put on the pedestal not only fail to strengthen the shattered faith of people, but only worsens the situation. Soviet cinema, which successfully coped with the educational function in 30-40 years, is no longer able to maintain the “Mood of Korchagin" among the masses. The last significant event in relation to the educator of the younger generation was the feature film “Dobrovol'cy” (Volunteers), although it does not include the period of the civil war in our history.

Determining the exact end date for the completion of communism was the height of incompetence and irresponsibility, to lower the great idea to the level of a concrete one, even large-scale construction, meant its complete discredit. In the 60s, the belief in communism is vanishing into thin air, while dissident moods are growing, skillfully fueled from abroad.

With the appearance of jokes about Petka and Chapaev, the soul-searching of not only the civil war, but also the Soviet era as a whole begins. During the time, in the minds of young people the heroes of the civil war (Voroshilov, Boudyonny) get gray, insignificant personalities, and this is the first step towards the future heroization of Kolchak, Wrangel, Denikin, the canonization of Nicholas II. Pavlik Morozov from a hero boy turns into a miserable traitor, the NKVD (People's Commissariat of Internal Affairs) and KGB (State Security Committee) is almost reduced to the level of the Gestapo, the army is discredited, the word “patriot” becomes almost abusive, the communist ideology is declared inhuman and even criminal without any court decision.

The civil war influenced the idea of patriotism, it reinforced the idea of Karl Marx, that “The workers have no fatherland”, and that the Fatherland has a class character (Marx K. and Engels F. Set of works. vol.4, p. 444). During the Napoleonic invasion and the First Crimean War, the defense of the country was a common patriotic task for both the nobleman and the serf. For Faith, Tzar and Country is the general formula of patriotism. The civil war created an ambiguous representation of it and there is a socialist Fatherland and there is a United and indivisible Russia. It was Lenin who wanted to defeat the tsarist government, and for the sake of the Communist idea he was ready for any territorial concessions (Lenin, vol. 26, p. 288).

This worldview schizophrenia is a delayed consequence of the civil war. A common case of this schizophrenia is, on the one hand, recognition of the Victory in the Great Patriotic War as the greatest event in history, on the other hand, ignoring the role of the Supreme Commander. Victory is ours, we honor it, and Stalin is not ours, he was not there. The soldier took and won the greatest battle in history without a chief leader. The political pendulum has swung sharply to the right, and the time for ideological revenge is approaching.

From the mid-80's until the end of the century, the government not only fail to prevent, but also encouraged ideological sabotage under the collective name "how not to love your Homeland". A special place here is occupied by “Gorbachev's Perestroika” (literally “restructuring” in Russian).

The process of perestroika is nothing more than a distant consequence of the civil war, the surrender of “the Red Project”, the run up of rehabilitation, and then the revenge of the “White Project”. This revenge took place under Yeltsin. CPSU was under the ban, the Soviet rule was eliminated during the blitzkrieg - a lightning three-day civil war - there are also long-term consequences of the Civil War, since the defeat of the Red Project in 1993 is a mirror reflection of the defeat of the White Project in 1921.


Summing up the study, we will focus on its most important aspects. The civil war leaves behind the inevitable consequences:

  • Contiguous and foreseeable consequences fit themselves in the scheme. A strictly class world view is being formed: “who is not with us, is against us”. "If the enemy does not surrender, he must be destroyed.” Political goal is higher than universal (Orthodox morality); revolutionary duty is higher than family relations. Inevitably, an ideological monism is established. The state ideology is the criterion for dividing into “us” and “them”. Victory over the class enemy results in unlimited power.

  • The civil war opens the gates of totalitarianism. Ideological monism leads to a single-party regime. The beginning of totalitarianism should be considered the recognition of the General line of the party in the struggle for the triumph of this line. General line becomes a criterion for dividing into “us” and “them”, already within the party itself. The use of the Great Famine and the use of the Great Terror against alien elements and the opposition directly arise from the general revolutionary rules of the civil war. Some of the results, composite index of contiguous and foreseeable consequences is the method of managerial decisions in 20-30 years. This method can be called the art of simple solutions and complex problems.

  • As time progressed, political life reveals the delayed consequences of the civil war. The attempts to soften up the extremes of civil strife in hindsight open the way to a revision of the civil war results. The emergence of liberal attitudes within post-classical totalitarianism leads to the formation of stable anti-system tendencies. The pendulum of the political world view is moving steadily from left to right, the thaw (Khrushchev) is replaced by perestroika (Gorbachev), the result of the latter is the dismantling of the political system and the collapse of the Soviet state (Yeltsin). The final and the most remote consequence of the civil war is the political revenge of the white project.

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Received: February 09, 2021; Accepted: March 02, 2021

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