The March of the Red Guard

The formation of the Red Guard was critical part of the success and preservation of the new soviet government. The idea of a standing army however was very contradictory to the views of Lenin and his fellow Bolsheviks, who viewed a standing an army as the feature of a “bourgeois” state. They soon realized However that if they wanted to survive they would need a professional army in order to survive against both external and internal threats. The former Russian imperial army and navy, together with other imperial institutions of tsarist Russia, disintegrated after the outbreak of the Russian Revolution of 1917, so there was a need for a new fighting force. By a decree on Jan. 28, 1918, the Council of People’s Commissars created a Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army on an all voluntary basis, Trotsky was to be put in charge of its formation and upkeep. TheRed Army was recruited exclusively from among workers and peasants and immediately faced the problem of creating a competent and reliable officers’ corps. In order to fix this problem Trotsky recruited and defended the use of former tsarist officers, known as “military specialists.” While few officers identified with Soviet power, many were willing to lend their services in the defense of Russia against foreign powers. This gave the new inexperienced soviet officer core it needed. Soviet government also introduced in April, universal military training. During the civil war, the Red Army saw action on a wide variety of fronts, mostly in the south and east. Relying heavily on the Imperial Army’s arsenals of weapons and drawing on food supplies and horses from the interior, it vastly outnumbered its foes. In order to maintain high levels of recruitment the peasant soldiers would receive pay but more importantly, their families were guaranteed rations and assistance with farm work.  This, plus literacy and political education classes, servedto limit desertions and forge an esprit de corps that carried over into the years after the civil war. The army’s uniform, the long overcoat that overlapped at the front and the pointed cloth cap with red-star badge, proved to be among the civil war’s most enduring symbols.


This army was essential to the longevity and survival of the soviet state during and after the Russian civil war, without the army the new state would be almost defenseless. It wouldn’t have been able to defend its self against the whites and it would have been the end of the Bolsheviks and the soviet state.

Siegelbaum, Lewis. “Red Guard into Army”, Accessed 10 Feb. 2018

“Red Army”, Accessed 11 Feb. 2018

Wade, Rex A. (1984). Red Guards and Workers’ Militias in the Russian Revolution. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Snapshot of The Empire: Life of the Peasantry in Russia

It’s the year 1915, the first world war is in full swing. Russia is fighting the Germans and Austro-Hungarian Empire on the eastern front. Death and destruction is everywhere. However, while this is happening a famous Russian photographer, Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii (1863–1944) is commissioned to complete something much more peaceful but no less powerful. What would be one of his last trips Sergei travels with the minister of transportation to photograph the people of Russia. His photos were in color with a special technique he invented himself. The process involved using black-and-white triple-frame glass plate negatives, made with color separation filters in order to produce colored images.


This picture was taken along the he Murmansk Railroad which was built by the Russian government during World War I to connect Petrograd to the ice-free port of Romanov-on-Murman. The construction lasted from 1914 to the spring of 1917 when the line was completed. The photograph shows a wooden hand press for baling hay. Although the caption does not identify the location, according to my research the place is in the vicinity to the town of Kondopoga in the north-western part of Russia. The bearded man wearing a hat seems supervises the operation, while three workers in caps stand ready to operate the baling press. On the other side of the press stands a youth in a semi-military tunic, commonly worn during World War I. Behind him is a group of village children, including girls whose heads are covered in white scarves. The hay is taken from a tall drying rack, which is typical of the region.

The photo is interesting because it shows that for many people in Russia the industrial revolution had not yet come, and that for many, life involved hard, long, back breaking work. I wonder just how long it would take these men to bale all of that hay, and just how much would they get payed for that or was it used on livestock? The people in the picture raise a number of different questions. For instance, why is one man dressed in a kind of military uniform, has he just taken a break from war to help his family or is the war over for him, was he hurt and is this all he can do now? Do the women in photo, do they also assist in baling the hay, if not what are their jobs? These are the questions that intregue me, and that I would have to preform more research on to find out.