The formation of the Red Guard was a 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 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. 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 defense of Russia against foreign forces. This gave the new, inexperienced soviet officer core it needed. The communist 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. 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, served to 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 military new country 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.
(This post earned a spot in “Comrade’s Corner” award from the editorial team.)
Siegelbaum, Lewis. “Red Guard into Army” Soviethistory.msu.edu, http://soviethistory.msu.edu/1917-2/red-guard-into-army/. Accessed 10 Feb. 2018
“Red Army” Britannica.com, https://www.britannica.com/topic/Red-Army. Accessed 11 Feb. 2018
Wade, Rex A. (1984). Red Guards and Workers’ Militias in the Russian Revolution. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.