January 01, 2020

The Winter of 1920



The Winter of 1920
Victims of famine receive food assistance.

The first months of 1920 was a dark time in Russia. The Civil War was grinding to a grim conclusion. The two main White forces – Denikin’s army in the South and Kolchak’s in the East – were being driven back by the Reds. Kolchak, sensing that he was losing control of the situation, yielded the title of Supreme Ruler of Russia to Denikin. This titular change was of little consequence. Denikin’s forces were losing ground by the day.

Kolchak did not have long to live. By mid-January, the Czechoslovak units that had been fighting alongside the Whites realized they had no desire to die in a foreign land for a foreign cause and decided to get out, at any price. The price turned out to be Kolchak’s freedom. On January 15, they handed Kolchak over to his former enemies: the Socialist Revolutionaries and Mensheviks in Irkutsk. A week later, his situation became even more dire when the city was overtaken by the Bolsheviks. On February 7 Kolchak was executed. (In April, Denikin handed over command to Pyotr Wrangel and, not wishing to suffer Kolchak’s fate, caught a ride out of the country on an English ship.)

By spring, the Bolsheviks had already established control over most of central Russia. A few corners of the former Empire were still out of reach for them – the Caucasus, the Far East, and Poland – but it was only a matter of time before they too would turn red.


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