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[Russian Civil War]

  • Author: 'C.A.'
  • Publisher: Unknown, Russia
  • Date: c1919
  • Dimensions: 58 x 40 cms


Pictorial anti-Bolshevik propaganda map of Central and Eastern Russia depicting the events of the Russian Civil War in early 1919

About this piece:

[Russian Civil War]

Separately issued colour-printed broadsheet, with wide borders, the latter incorporating annotations and pointers indicating the principal combatants & protagonists. A nicely preserved example.

Remarkable satirical & pictorial propaganda map depicting Russia, the Caucasus and Central Asia dating from the period of the Russian Civil War [1918-1920] and from an unusual & extremely interesting White Russian perspective.

Lenin’s Bolshevik October Revolution of 1917 offered to deliver “Peace Bread & Land” to the beleaguered & war-weary peoples of Russia. However events conspired to make that an impossible ideal as rapid advances by Germany on its Eastern Front in Feb 1918 forced Trotsky to sign a punitive Treaty of Peace with the Central Powers at the Polish town of Brest-Litovsk in March 1918.

It marked the beginning of two chaotic years of political unrest & internal military conflict within the borders of the former Russian Empire.

Brest-Litovsk ceded large tracts of territory to Germany including parts of Finland, Poland, the Baltic provinces, Ukraine and Transcaucasia with the loss of perhaps a third of the old Russian Empire’s population & agricultural land and three-quarters of its industries.

Bolshevik Russia was itself reduced to a hammer-shaped tract of territory stretching northwards from the Black Sea. Here identified as the government of Lenin & Trotsky, it is prominently labelled in red “Sovdepiya“. On all sides it is surrounded by threatening anti-Bolshevik forces and their allies.

A well-to-do Russian couple, laden with suitcases & baggage, uncertain of the direction in which they should now flee, watch with bemusement the antics of two ragged & shoe-less Red Army peasant soldiers, who turn & flee at the sight of enemy forces advancing from the South and East, one of them curiously grasping a new, perhaps looted, pair of white spat boots.

Brest Litovsk undermined the fragile support base of the new Bolshevik regime of Lenin & Trotsky forcing a breach between it and its former allies, the Leftist Social Revolutionaries, who subsequently moved closer towards the regime’s other principal opponents, the Rightist Whites.

Shortly before Brest-Litovsk, with increasing pressure on the Western Front, small British and American military missions had landed in Murmansk and Archangel with the aim of providing support for White Russian forces & in the hope of re-opening an Eastern Front against Germany. These appear in the guise of two caricatured figures of a British and American soldier (wearing amusingly furry sheepskin chaps) seen standing below the White Russian flagpole adjacent to Archangel.

The Whites principal assets were three armies, denoted by the three white, blue & red tricolour flags which fly from flagpoles located in the upper left, lower centre and upper right of the image:

The Baltic and North Western Army commanded General Nikolai Yudenich was located in Estonia on Russia’s Western border and is represented by the middle (dark green) of the three armed figures on the extreme left of the map (alongside a nationalist Finn (white) and Pole (khaki), both now intent upon gaining independence from Bolshevik Russia). By September 1919 Yudenich’s forces were some 17000 in number and were backed by 53 artillery guns and 6 British tanks (supplied with their own British crews).  In November 1919 Yudenich would reach the outskirts of Petrograd (St.Peterburg) in November 1919 before being driven back by  its desperate Bolshevik defenders, now under the personal command of Leon Trotsky.By November the 7th & 15th Red Armies had driven back the Whites to their original Estonian lines

A second White Army, known as the Volunteer Army and including numerous Cossack units was located in the Kuban steppes on the north-eastern shores of the Black Sea. By  early 1918 it had come under the overall command of General Anton Denikin. It was a well-trained force, small in number but significantly under-equipped.

Interestingly it is here shown receiving much-needed support from the British – represented by a fleet of Black Sea ships tethered by a pipe-smoking British sailor who passes over an artillery field gun to the Don, Terek & Kuban Cossacks at the port of Novorossiysk, the main headquarters of Denikin’s Army.

To the East, a kilted Scotsman, stands over the Georgian port of Batumi, holding a steam train in his left hand, whilst across the Caucasus, further British forces oversee the rich oilfields of Baku and patrol the waters of the Caspian Sea.

The kilted Scotsman undoubtedly references the recent British military occupation of Batumi & Adjara in January/February 1919, which established the British governorship of the region under General James Cooke-Collis, following the region’s secession to the Turks and having earlier been granted a measure of autonomy & self-determination by the nascent Bolshevik regime. The British were concerned about the danger of the Baku oilfields falling into Bolshevik hands and also considered it vital to take control of the strategically important Batumi-Baku railway – which provided an important link from the Black Sea to the land-locked Caspian – this is the train in the Scotsman’s left hand.

On the Caspian, following the November 1918 Armistice, which had seen the Turks withdraw from Baku, it was decided to deploy a British military & naval force to the region to support the White Russians and prevent Bolshevik incursions.  Troops, tanks and an RAF squadron of aircraft were sent to Baku. It was also decided to form a naval squadron to control the land-locked Caspian Sea. A number of local merchant ships were requisitioned and fitted with armour & guns. This fleet was further enhanced by a dozen CMBs (Coastal Motor Boats) shipped out from Britain via the Black Sea & Batumi-Baku railway. Commodore David Norris was in charge of the British Caspian flotilla which had British officers and a few British ratings. Opposing Bolshevik naval forces were based at Astrakhan and  Fort Alexandrovsk on the northern shores of the Caspian. Once the winter ice melted in April 1919, Norris’ naval flotilla were able to inflict severe damage on the Bolsheviks at Alexandrovsk in a surprise attack in May 1919, destroying several vessels and handing out what Norris described as “a pretty good thumping”, with the effect that the Bolshevik naval forces retreated to the safety of the lower Volga River where they remained bottled up for the rest of the summer. ,British naval forces would also be asked to provide support for Denikin’s unsuccessful assault on Astrakhan, but growing pressure from home eventually forced the final withdrawal of British forces in late 1919.

The third White Army, which had its headquarters in Omsk, in Southwestern Siberia, was under the control of a former Russian polar explorer and naval commander, Admiral Alexander Kolchak [1874-1920]. Kolchak effectively established an anti-Bolshevik government in Siberia and for much of the Civil War was recognized amongst anti-Bolsheviks as “Supreme Ruler and Commander-in-Chief of All Russian Land and Sea Forces”. Kolchak’s forces were supported by a disparate array of foreign elements, including Americans (of which there were some 7000 troops in Siberia, here represented by a heavily armed pipe-smoking Doughboy wearing cowboy chaps & spurs), British, the infamous Czech Legion (former POWs who remained in Russia after World War One and would take control of much of the Trans-Siberian railway from the Bolsheviks during the initial stages of the Civil War) and the Japanese, some 70000 men, and by far the largest foreign military contingent deployed in Russia during this period, their purpose mainly to further Japanese territorial claims in the Russian Far East.

Given the close grouping of Kolchak’s forces in the centre of the map, it seems possible to tentatively date the map quite precisely to March-April 1919, when Kolchak’s Army first began its Western offensive through the Urals, one force directed northwards to try and link up with Yudenich and invest Petrograd, the other advancing across the Volga at Kazan & Samara in order to threaten Moscow. After initial successes, by late May & early June Kolchak’s forces were being pushed back. Further setbacks witnessed their eastward retreat beyond the Tobol River until Omsk itself was finally captured by the Red Armies in November 1919, a final & definitive blow which destroyed Kolchak’s government & wiped out any further White Russian resistance in Siberia.

A printed annotated key in Cyrillic in the blank borders around the periphery of the map identifies the principal protagonists with pointers & arrows, with a boxed caption at the bottom centre reading “Armed Forces in the South of Russia”.

In all an exceptionally rare and fascinating White Russian propaganda piece.