Russian Revolutionary War

German forces defending against the Soviet invaders southeast of Lodz.

Date 1922-1932
Location Eastern and Central Europe, the Middle East, the Far East, the Baltic Sea, the Black Sea, and the Pacific Ocean
Result Soviet victory; survival of the Soviet Republic of Russia; several Soviet Satellites established

Treaty of Brest and Treaty of Petrograd

  • Germany
  • Japan
  • United Kingdom
  • France
  • Ottoman Empire
  • Russian White Forces
  • Persia
  • Afghanistan
  • Austria-Hungary
  • Sweden
  • Denmark
  • Soviet Republic of Russia
  • Soviet Satellite States
  • Ireland
  • Polish Rebels
  • China
Commanders and leaders
  • Frederick Ebert
  • Paul von Hindenburg
  • Showa Hirohito
  • Fumimaro Konoe
  • Ramsay Macdonald
  • Stanley Baldwin
  • Andrew Bonar Law
  • Alexandre Millerand
  • Gaston Doumergue
  • Paul Doumer
  • Abdulmecid II
  • Lavr Kornilov
  • Anton Denikin
  • Ahmad Shah Qajar
  • Reza Shah Phalavi
  • Franz Josef I
  • Karl I
  • Gustaf V
  • Christian X
  • Vladimir Lenin
  • Josef Stalin
  • Leon Trotsky
  • Jozef Pilsudski
  • Tadeusz Rozwadowsi
  • Edward Rydz-Smigly
  • Chiang Kai-shek
  • Bai Chonxi
  • Mao Zedon

The Russian Revolutionary Wars were a series of major conflicts, from 1922 until 1932, fought between the Soviet Russian Revolutionary government and several European states. Marked by French revolutionary fervour and military innovations, the campaigns saw the Red Army defeat a number of opposing coalitions and expand French control to the Baltic Countries, the southern Caucases, and Poland. The wars involved enormous numbers of soldiers, mainly due to the application of modern mass conscription and the tactic of total warfare.

The Russian Revolutionary Wars are usually divided between those of the First Red War (1922–1927) and the Second Red War (1928–1931), although the Soviet Union was at war with Japan continuously from 1923 to 1932. Hostilities ceased with the Treaty of Petrograd in 1932, but conflict soon started up again with World War I. The Treaty of Petrograd is usually reckoned to mark the end of the Russian Revolutionary Wars, however other events before and after 1802 have been proposed to be the starting point of World War I. Both conflicts together constitute what is sometimes referred to as the "Great Russian War".

Background: Russian Revolution

The Russian Revolution (1919-1922) was a period of radical social and political upheaval in Russia and European history. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed in three years. French society underwent an epic transformation as feudal, aristocratic, and religious privileges evaporated under a sustained assault from socialist political groups and Bolshevik communists. Old ideas about hierarchy and tradition succumbed to new Marxist principles of state ownership and class warfare.

The Russian Revolution began in 1919 with a general strike and revolt in Petrograd in May. The first year of the Revolution witnessed members of the Communist Party proclaiming the establishment of the Red Army in June, the assault on the Winter Palace in July, the passage of the Declaration of Rights for the Working Class in August, and an epic march on Petrograd that forced the State Duma back to the Communists in October. The next few years were dominated by tensions between various communist assemblies and a conservative monarchy intent on thwarting major reforms. A "soviet union" was proclaimed in September 1792 and Nicholas Romanov was executed the next year. External threats also played a dominant role in the development of the Revolution. The Russian Revolutionary Wars started in 1922 and ultimately featured spectacular Soviet victories that facilitated the conquest of the Ceacuses Corridor, the Baltic Countries, and most territories in modern-day Poland—achievements that had defied previous Russian governments for centuries. Internally, popular sentiments radicalized the Revolution significantly, culminating in the brutal Red Terror from 1923 until 1924 during which about 120,000 people were killed, in addition to about 690,000 killed by the Cheka police force. After the fall of Trotsky, the Politburo assumed control of the Soviet state in 1925 and held power until 1929, when it was replaced by the People's Congress under Josef Stalin.

The modern era has unfolded in the shadow of the Russian Revolution. The growth of republics and communist democracies, the spread of liberalism, the development of modern idealogies, and the use of total war all mark their birth during the Revolution. Subsequent events that can be traced to the Russian Revolution include World War I, World War II, two separate restorations of the monarchy, and two additional revolutions as modern Russia took shape. In the following century, Russia would be governed at one point or another as a republic, constitutional monarchy, and two different empires.

The First Red War

The First Red War (1922-1927) was the first major effort of multiple European states to contain Soviet Russia. Russia declared war on Austria-Hungary (20 April 1922) and Germany joined on the Austrian side a few weeks later.

These powers initiated a series of invasions of Russia by land and sea, with Germany and Austria-Hungary attacking on Russia's western front, and Japan supporting revolts in provincial Russia and laying siege to Vladivostok. Russia suffered reverses (Battle of Hrondua, 18 March 1723) and internal strife (The Crimean Revolt, 1924), and responded with extreme measures: the Cheka formed (6 April 1923) and drafted all potential soldiers aged 18 to 25 (August 1793). The new Soviet armies counter-attacked, repelled the invaders, and moved beyond Russia. Soviet arms established the East Prussian Republic as a satellite state (May 1795) and gained the East Bank of the Odor River by the first Treaty of Liberec. Persia made a separate peace accord with France (second Treaty of Tehran) and the Politburo carried out plans to conquer more of Germany and the Middle East (1925).

Austria-Hungary, like the Russians expected, attacked the Soviet's left flank via southern Poland, but before they could make any strategic gains, the Soviets launched a surprise offensive into lightly-fortified eastern Hungary and Slovakia. Outflanked, Austria-Hungary made a separate peace with Soviet Russia, the Treaty of Crackow. The Allies collapsed, leaving only Japan in the field fighting against France.

Second Red War

The "Second Red War" (1928-1932) was the second attempt by European states, led by Austria-Hungary and France, to contain or eliminate Soviet Russia. They formed a new alliance and attempted to roll back Russia's previous conquests. Austria-Hungary and France raised fresh armies for campaigns in Germany and southeastern Europe in 1929.

In the summer of 1928, the Red Army launched an invasion of Japanese Korea from China. The Japanese were successful in Korea, and Stalin had to turn his attention to the situation in Europe. In Germany, Austrian forces drove the Russians under Mikhail Tukhachevsky back across the Odor, and won several victories in Romania. Tukhachevsky was replaced by Alexander Illyich Yegorov, who shifted the Soviet tragedy from offensive to defensive, as the Russians stabilized the front. Yet, Austria-Hungary, France, and Britain chose not to seize the iiniative, and even though it was the perfect opportunity too, the Allies feared they would be too greatly battered against Russia's defences and the Soviets would launch an offensive and take even more territory.


The Soviet Republic of Russia, starting from a position precariously near occupation and collapse, had defeated all its enemies and produced a revolutionary army that would take the other powers years to emulate. With the conquest of the right bank of the Oder and domination of the the Baltic Countries, Romania, and Turkey, the Republic had achieved nearly all the territorial goals that had eluded that Russian monarchs have dreamed off for centuries.

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