Useful Notes / Red October

Arise, awake working class!
Charge the enemy, hungry folk!
Cry out the vengeance of the people!
"Forward forward forward forward forward!"
Refrain of "The Worker's Marseillaise"

The second Russian Revolution of 1917 and the consequent Civil War of 1917-21 between the communist 'Reds', broadly social-democratic and anti-communist 'Whites', village-communitariannote /nationalist 'Greens', Poland, and don't forget the anarchist Blacks, the Central Powers (chiefly Germany), the Entente, the Baltic and Caucasian separatists, etc. - that resulted in c.2 million military and c.8 million civilian dead (contrast the Russian Empire's WWI death-count of 2 million military dead and 3 million captured as POW). It resulted in Bolshevik-Soviet victory. Not to be confused with a fictional submarine, or a hunt for said submarine, which is named after it.

OK, who runs this place?

When Nicholas II abdicated the thronenote  in March 1917 (the 'February Revolution'; by the Julian calendar the Empire still used it was late February), the post of 'Emperor' remained empty, the government being taken over by an unconstitutional government formed of representatives from the Parliament or 'Duma' (which had been an advisory body without any real power). This was the Provisional Government, which was only supposed to stick around until a Constituent Assembly could be elected. Meanwhile, at the same time, all of Russia's unions and left-wing parties had teamed up to revolt en-masse and form democratic councils (or soviets in Russian) in Russia's towns and cities. One of the minor, more radical parties that took part in this was the 'Bolshevik' faction of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (they soon changed the name to the Russian Communist Party), which had about 10,000 members. For comparison, the population of the Russian Empire (minus Poland, which was under German/Austro-Hungarian occupation) was some 150+ million people, of whom about 15% lived in urban centers of more than 10,000 people.

From the start, the Provisional Government proved itself not to be particularly good at governing Russia. The government had not been elected by popular suffrage as would have been expected from a new democratic government; rather, they had more or less appointed themselves in the aftermath of the collapse of the State Duma, and in this way the Provisional government was really little more than a cabinet of some of the more liberal members of the Duma (who were rather conservative by socialist standards) and who had abruptly fallen into immense power without really ever having had it before. Some of these government leaders even had backgrounds in Russia's landed aristocracy; this was particularly jarring because in the quasi-feudal society of pre-Revolutionary rural Russia, the gentry had been the Tsar's local instruments of autocratic power and had enjoyed large tracts of privately-owned land, privilege, wealth, and the power and right to abuse and bully the peasants pretty much at their will in order to maintain their dominance.

Setting aside public perception, the Provisional Government's administrative capabilities were subpar. As the official governing body, the Provisional Government was obligated to keep order throughout the country. However, it had no means of maintaining order in the countryside; the old Tsarist police force, which had been the main law enforcement in rural Russia, had been disbanded. The army was made up mostly of peasants who would not want to enforce the law on their fellow peasants, and in any case, their numbers were insufficient to deal with the populations of entire provinces. Nicolas's preferred bodies of legislative representation—the aristocracy—had been stripped of all class superiority and power almost immediately after the Government was formed. Despite this, the Government was committed to protecting the aristocrats' legal rights as citizens, and so it convened local committees which were meant to keep the established order in the countryside for the time being. However, these committees were soon transformed into peasant assemblies which served the village rather than the government. Many villages even declared themselves "autonomous republics" and started passing their own laws, and you may laugh but there was really nothing stopping them from doing this. Almost inevitably, entire peasant villages stormed the estates of their local aristocrats, destroyed most of their private property (including agricultural equipment which could later have been used to make the harvest easier) and forced them to give up their land for communal use. In some cases, villages even fought skirmishes with other villages over control of the aristocrats' land. By spring of 1917, this rural form of the revolution was beyond government control.

In the industrial cities, things were no better. The workers of the major cities had taken the success of the Revolution as their cue to demonstrate for more rights. When the government stepped in to mediate labor disputes, it only succeeded in gumming the works; the workers, encouraged by small early victories would make unreasonable demands to their employers which would be refused by the government, and the worker would accuse the government of siding with the employers; the employers, meanwhile, believed the new government by its nature was biased towards the workers, and were becoming frustrated with the government's inability to end the disputes. They also noted how the constant meetings and factory closures were beginning to hurt production rates As a result, the factory employers resisted giving in to the demands of the workers, and the conflicts between worker and employer would stalemate, stopping production and further dividing the two classes. In some instances, this tension escalated to full-scale strikes and violence, deepening the veritable class conflict and further weakening the influence of the Provisional Government.

There were actually several complete turnovers and an attempt at finishing the war by the Provisional Government, but they eventually bowed to pressure from the Socialist Revolutionary Party and agreed to hold elections for the Constituent Assembly. As expected, the Socialist Revolutionaries won a plurality (some 40% of the vote)note  to the (Bolshevik-led) Communist Party's 24%, with most of the SR Party's support coming from the countryside and the Communists' from the cities. However, when the Constituent Assembly actually met for the first time in Petrograd the Bolsheviks of the Petrograd Soviet ordered groups of armed soldiers, sailors, and workers loyal to them to arrest all the delegates and imprison the Provisional Government. That done, the Petrograd Soviet then sent word to all the Soviets in Russia that they, the Soviets, were now Russia's new form of government. At the same time, they sent word to the Army that it could stop fighting now, thanks, and in fact it was disbanded so everyone should just go home now because the war was over.

Just a little matter of the First World War

It was a big mistake for Emperor Nicholas II to enter WWI. The administration of the Empire was corrupt, the army badly equipped, the people angry and several revolutionary parties (not only the Dirty Communists) were organizing against the government. Instead of trying to heal the Empire, the Emperor aggravated the problems by throwing his country into the Great War. The corrupt intendants were making money by stealing from army shipments, the soldiers were freezing in trenches, dying, and becoming even angrier at the Emperor and his government, while the dissipated nobles and the unscrupulous merchants were still living luxurious lives-this all angered people further. Finally, they had enough and began to actually listen to the revolutionaries.

And the shit hit the fan. Strikes, mutinies, mass fraggings of officers and peasant revolts broke out. Several high-ranking generals and public officials forced the Tsar to abdicate. That is how the Provisional Government came into power. They were going to elect the Constituent Assembly that was intended to decide the fate of post-Imperial Russia. But there were guys that had some other ideas. You guessed right, the Bolsheviks...

A Sealed Train

Meanwhile the First World War was still going on and the Provisional Government couldn't decide how to end it. On the one hand it was extremely unpopular, on the other Germany was demanding extremely onerous terms since the Russians had no bargaining power.

When Germany saw that the Provisional Government wasn't pulling Russia out of the war, they made a deal with Lenin, then an exile living in Switzerland. The Germans would let him pass through their territory in a sealed train (so he wouldn't try to foment revolution in Germany)-in exchange he would get Russia out of the war. The Germans probably didn't expect him to actually succeed in consolidating power and were just hoping he would cause enough trouble that they could transfer troops to the Western Front.

Not a Korny Love story

Actually, there were several revolutionary parties: the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (a hardline revolutionary communist Bolshevik one and a parliamentary reformist Menshevik one, RSDLP (b) and RSDLP (m) respectively, thanks to a split in 1905), the Socialist Revolutionaries, and many other smaller parties. The left Socialist Revolutionaries (Left SRs) were allies of the Bolsheviks, but the other revolutionary parties were satisfied with the February revolution (except for the anarchists, but they were not really a party of course) and well represented in the Provisional Government. They, and the right-wing parties, formed a loose alliance that later became the White movement.

The first White general was Kornilov, who tried to call dibs on power shortly before the Bolsheviks did it. Fearing a military coup, Kerensky, the moderate socialist Prime Minister and head of the Provisional Government, allowed Lenin to arm the Bolshevik Red Guards to help prevent this (previously carrying arms in Petrograd without permission was a capital crime-the brief abolition of the death penalty didn't last long). He should have known better, since the Bolsheviks, and Lenin in the lead, had risen up earlier that same year (1917) with the July Days, which troops of the Provisional Government put down. This, naturally, made the Bolsheviks and other revolutionary parties more popular while the Provisional Government became much less, particularly with the war still going on, people starving, the promised elections nowhere in sight, etc.

The Bolsheviks, in alliance with the anarchists and Left Socialist Revolutionaries, launched another revolution in October (November according to the West, since Russia still went by the Julian Calendar, before the Bolsheviks changed it). The Provisional Government fell almost without firing a shot, and Kerensky fled. Incidentally, the Bolsheviks took, on Lenin's insistence, popular slogans used by anarchists like "All power to the Soviets (elected workers' councils)", which led to Lenin himself being denounced by fellow Bolsheviks as an anarchist. The Bolsheviks had actually opposed the February Revolution, as they did the Revolution and Soviets of 1905, seeking to control both. Lenin had learned after these experiences. He and the Bolsheviks quickly set about seizing total power in Russia and the other parts of the former empire.

They set up the Sovnarkom (Council of People's Commissars) elected by the All-Russian Congress of Soviets, which they delegated to a secondary role, meeting once a year while they made most decisions, with full legislative powers, their acts simply ratified by the Congress (this was a model for later legislatures such as the Supreme Soviet with no real power, acting merely as rubber-stamp parliaments, also typical of socialist states in general.) The Revolution grew into the Russian Civil War. After Kornilov's rebellion was suppressed, other White generals appeared: Admiral Kolchak, generals Denikin, Yudenich and Wrangel, who were gathering armies to stop Bolshevism.

Among the Sovnarkom's first acts was to create a secret police with the acronym CHEKA and start imprisoning everyone opposing them. Old Imperial prisons were soon filled up with political prisoners once again. The factory committee movement, which began when the striking workers seized their workplaces or forced owners into allowing them a say in management, was sidelined and destroyed slowly by the Bolshevik leadership, who appointed managers with dictatorial powers, often the same ones from before. An All-Russian Congress of Factory Committees, which aimed to federate the entire network to democratically control the national economy, was closed down when it tried to meet. The Sovnarkom nationalized all land and industry, along with other sweeping decrees giving the Bolshevik government control over the whole of life.

Elections for the Constituent Assembly occurred that December, with the Socialist Revolutionaries winning most seats, the Bolsheviks only a much smaller second. When it attempted to meet in January 1918, the Red Guards closed down the Constituent Assembly with force. The Bolsheviks rationalized this as the Soviets were more democratic, representative bodies (as the SRs were popular in the peasantry, still the majority of population, and so won the election, while the Bolsheviks as Marxists believed the industrial proletariat in the cities would spearhead revolution, which of course they would lead). Coincidentally, they had a majority with most Soviets. Even this grew into a problem, so Bolshevik secret police increasingly overthrew results of elections that went against them, shut down presses, closed opposition meeting places, jailed opponents, etc.

The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with the Central Powers was signed in March 1918, giving up the Baltic States (Lithuania, Lativa, Estonia) along with Ukraine (none of these not-yet-countries were consulted). This outraged not only nationalists there but also other socialists and former Tsarist officers who had sacrificed much in the war fighting Germany. The German ambassador was assassinated by Left SRs in hopes of preventing the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk from coming to fruition, but it went ahead despite this. In April CHEKA gunmen raided numerous anarchist centers in Moscow and Petrograd, with dozens killed, hundreds arrested. Increasingly the Bolsheviks squelched all opposition by force. Even dissidents within the Bolsheviks, such as Nikolai Bukharin, denounced such acts. The other factions banded together in the White movement, issuing a manifesto which denounced the Bolsheviks, calling them German agents, in July of 1918 and starting a revolt against them. It is a popular misconception that the White movement was about monarchism: actual monarchists were a minority among the Whites, the majority were of democratic and or socialist persuasion, but on the practical side, they were creating naught more than military dictatorship in the territories they held, because they did not have time to run elections or even to decide on their political course, which would have been difficult given the diverse viewpoints anyway. That's why the Whites never created a common political ideology or a single confederacy of states, and it was their undoing. They DID acknowledge a single provisional head-of-state and a single commander-in-chief (Kolchak, later Denikin, after that, Wrangel), but in practice, every major White leader was his own man.

Finland had already broken away, as had Poland. While the Bolsheviks supported national autonomy in theory, they had set up puppet Bolshevik governments in the countries controlled by the former Russian Empire, regardless of what people desired. In August Lenin was nearly assassinated by a young Left SR woman, Fanny Kaplan, while touring Moscow factories. His health never completely recovered. She was later shot by the CHEKA in the autumn of that year. The Bolsheviks became even more despotic, openly saying a party dictatorship was good and increasing dictatorial measures they already began before the war, that now had this as a greater excuse (Leon Trotsky, for instance, while People's Commissar for Army and Navy Affairs in early 1918 had abolished election of officers in the Army, something that occurred after soldiers mutinied-often shooting their commanders-reinstituting old privileges of rank, such as separate quarters, special forms of address, saluting, along with the death penalty for desertion under fire, etc). The Bolsheviks banned all other parties, the free press, freedom of speech, assembly, etc. sometimes "temporarily" for the war. Freedom of speech, press, and assembly were reinstated eventually (Article 125 of the 1936 Union constitution), but they were dead letters, with dissent prohibited in practice (in 1921 the last free assembly was allowed-a march at the funeral of the anarchist thinker Pyotr Kropotkin. The next one would only come in 1987, with Glasnost-though still illegal, it was allowed, though sadly this demonstration was by the racist group Pamyat).

Enter the Entente! At the same time, between 1917 and 1922, the Entente nation-states—France, Greece, Italy, Japan, Romania, Serbia, the United Kingdom, the United States and new nation-states like Finland and Poland, which had both just gained independence from Russia— scrounged up a few thousand troops to 'intervene' in the civil war, resulting in a fairly unpopular technically-an-invasion of what came to be known as the RSFSR (Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic), kind of but not officially on behalf of the White Army. This was ostensibly done to secure lost matériel at Russian ports, the Russian ports themselves, rescue separated Entente forces and citizens, and hopefully sort out the whole mess in such a way that the Eastern Front could be re-opened against Germany (Germany, incidentally, even after the treaty of Brest-Litovsk still kept a couple of hundred thousand troops camped right across their shiny new border from Soviet Russia). Their actual effect upon the war was nil, but it ended messily for everyone and much more importantly raised suspicions of the Western and Eastern capitalist states (such as Japan) among the Reds and the uncomfortably-frequently-invaded-feeling Russian peasantry as a whole, the latter actually cutting back slightly on their bad habit of shooting Reds on sight. This only made the Bolsheviks popular as they fought the foreigners. However it has been obscured to an extent by the next 'western' invasion, Operation Barbarossa.

The army the Bolsheviks had raised to defend themselves against Germany - the Bolsheviks' disorganized citizen-militias having proven themselves totally useless against the German Army - earned them victory in the protracted conflict that followed, a victory assured by the Bolsheviks' control of the most economically important areas of inner Russia. The unified, fanatical Reds eventually smashed the loose White military states, at first with the help of the Left SRs and the Revolutionary Insurrection Army from Ukraine (or the Maknovist movement, after its leader Nestor Makhno). It was also known as the Black Army since they were anarchist, in contrast to the Red and White Armies. Local groups attempted to fight off all sides, dubbed the "Green" Army, although they were never unified. Additionally was the Blue Army, peasants who fought the Reds in the Tambov Rebellion. Some historians have determined that the Black Army saved the entire war from the Whites at several points, such as stopping Deniken from taking Petrograd. However, they were betrayed three separate times by the Bolsheviks and defeated finally when they could turn their full force onto them. Makhno fled to exile in France.

After the Whites were defeated in the fall of 1921, one last revolt occurred at Kronstadt, with mutinous sailors (the same ones who rose up in February 1917, not, as the Bolsheviks claimed, reactionary replacements) calling for free soviets, civil liberties and worker self-management again, as with the factory committees the Bolsheviks smashed. They were massacred by the Red Army under Trotsky. At the same time strikes were occurring in Moscow and Petrograd, also brutally put down. By 1924, all Russia along with most shards of the Empire (with the exception of Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Finland, who managed to stay independent) were under Bolshevik control. Not everything went quiet; Greens, Separatists and White stragglers continued to fight guerrilla wars in remote areas of the country and along borders. Turkestan (modern post-Soviet Central Asia) was one particular hotbed of guerrilla warfare that resisted pacification well into the Stalinist years; the borders with China and the Baltic States were another, used by the White Emigre remnant unions to sneak terrorists into Soviet Russia.

The Ostern

The Civil War-era Russia was a popular setting for later Soviet action movies - just as the Chinese Civil War has become the most popular setting for Chinese action movies. These movies were very similar to American Westerns: just take a Western, replace the Injuns or Mexicans with Basmaches (Muslim anti-Bolshevik fighters in Central Asia), the Blue with the Red and the Gray with the White, the prairies with the deserts of Turkestan or steppes of Ukraine, the Peacemakers with Nagant Gas-Seals and Mauser Broomhandles, the Winchesters with Mosin-Nagant rifles, the Gatlings with Maxims, the horses... well, let the horses be horses, and you'll get an Ostern (or "Eastern", as they are known in Russia proper).

The most popular Osterns were White Sun of the Desert, about a former Red Army Soldier turned gunslinger who travelled homewards through Basmach-infested Turkestan deserts, At Home Amongst The Strangers, A Stranger Amongst Friends in which a framed CHEKA agent must infiltrate a band of marauders and retrieve several millions in gold, and The Elusive Avengers, about four young guns opposing the anarchist bandit ataman Burnash and his gang. The concept itself became popular enough to be recognized in a parody where Winchester and Colt as they are coexists with a kolkhoz.note 

Tropes present in depictions of the Great October Socialist Revolution (its official name in the USSR) and Russian Civil War in fiction:

  • Apocalypse How: A Regional Societal Collapse.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: You better believe it. Very common in Soviet films about the subject.
  • Angry Mob Song: The "Worker's Marseillaise".
  • Ax-Crazy: Ungern-Sternberg
  • Badass Bookworm: For a guy with no previous military training, Lev Bronstein, AKA Leon Trotsky, proved to be a remarkably skilled military commander, leading the ragtag Red Army to victory at a time when everybody wanted the Bolsheviks dead.
    • The reason the seat of government was moved from St. Petersburg to Moscow was because the Bolshevik leadership feared it would fall into Tsarist hands. In fact, when an approaching White army besieged it, they considered the city as good as lost and planned a general evacuation. Trotsky, however, personally took charge of organizing the defence - and managed to break the siege (a feat later replicated by his archenemy in Moscow against the Nazis. Not So Different?)
  • Badass Longcoat: That was pretty much the dress code for the era, with all those greatcoats.
  • Ballistic Discount: The Red "military communism" was essentially an entire economy using Ballistic Discount instead of money. Redistribution of wealth at gunpoint.
  • Crazy Awesome: Nestor Makhno and his anarchist Black Army.
  • Despair Event Horizon: The Imperial army and Russia as a whole went through this in February 1917, leading to the revolution.
  • Former Regime Personnel: Some former regime officers joined the Red side (reason could be My Country, Right or Wrong, political conviction or simple luck). Most were forced into service, often with their families taken hostage as incentive. They often had to prove their devotion to the Revolution, their unity with their underlings and generally whatever the unit council (soviet) wanted them to prove. A commissar who could override the commander's orders and had to execute his commander in case of (suspected) treason didn't make things easier. This trope is more specific to stories concerning the Red Navy than to stories concerning Red Army. A Determinator old-school Captain who endures this treatment by his crew and later leads them to the victory is almost a must in such stories.
  • Gentleman and a Scholar: Most of the intelligentsia during the era. Also, Gentleman and a Scholar turned Officer and a Gentleman was the "hat" of the Alexeiev's elite regiment of the White army.
  • Glorious Mother Russia: In non-Soviet media.
  • Grey and Gray Morality: Like all revolutions it is usually seen as this.
  • Guile Hero/Magnificent Bastard: Whether you think he was a hero or not, you must admit that Lenin was one hell of a smartass.
  • Hell-Bent for Leather: The Bolsheviks. They used the leather jackets originally made for WWI pilots and drivers which also suited the climate moreover.
    • Trotsky's bodyguards even had red leather longcoats.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade: Usually depends on the political orientation of the author:
    • Lenin. Especially during the 1930s and 1940s, Lenin was seen, especially among the Western left, as one of the great figures of history and a heroic revolutionary against capitalism. His atrocities and incompetence as a ruler, which lead to the Cheka, the Red Terror, the Hanging Order, and the De-Cossackization policies he pursued in the Soviet Southwest were, and to some extent still are glossed over, even in anti-Communist fiction.
    • The House of Romanov. Hardly known for religiosity during their lives, but their violent deaths at the hands of Godless communists made them the object of much veneration in the Russian Orthodox Church. The entire family was canonized by the Orthodox Church in exile in 1981 and by the whole Orthodox Church in 2000.
    • Also, Stalin later re-wrote history and gave himself this treatment.
    • Especially in the West, Trotsky gets this treatment as a result of his opposition to Stalin (combined with the fact that he was a brilliant journalist and a one-man propaganda machine). Trotsky became the poster-boy for the anti-Stalinist Left who condemned Stalin's atrocities and totalitarian regime. Even many non-Socialists thought that Trotsky represented the "democratic", "non-violent" Communist movement. But his behavior in the Civil War was pretty appalling (even given how bad the other sides could be) and he actually agreed with a lot more of what Stalin did than many seemed to realize, opposing him less out of any moral differences and more due to the belief that he was a front-man for an oligarchy of Bolshevik "Rightists" (and the whole "trying to kill me and my family" thing). He was also not as competent a politician as he is remembered and he made a lot of foolish mistakes and tended to make enemies easily. Emma Goldman, the famous American anarchist, wrote a brilliant hit-piece regarding his massacre of the Kronstadt Rebellion, "Leon Trotsky Protests Too Much":
    "In point of truth I see no marked difference between the two protagonists of the benevolent system of the dictatorship except that Leon Trotsky is no longer in power to enforce its blessings, and Josef Stalin is."
    • Nestor Makhno often gets the same treatment as Trotsky, usually with more justification - however, he also placed his cronies in charge of the new anarchist communes as mayors and factory bosses, and bloody reprisals against class traitors and the upper classes. Makhno is admittedly difficult to place, since many of his admirers were illiterate peasants, his followers were quickly rounded up and shot by the Bolsheviks, and many outrageous lies circulated about him in his own lifetime.
    • Despite his dubious record as "Supreme Ruler of Russia," Admiral Alexander Kolchak (head of White forces in Siberia) has become something of a hero in post-Soviet Russia, receiving statuary tributes in St. Petersburg and Irkutsk and a laudatory biopic. Admittedly he had a more impressive pre-Revolutionary career, including time as a polar explorer and decorated military service. Many white generals are given this treatment.
      • The Kolchak cult notably fails to gain a foothold in rural and small-town Siberia, where people still remember the Kolchakist atrocities as way worse than anything the Bolsheviks could cough up.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade:
    • Nicholas II, Emperor and Autocrat of All the Russias, King of Poland, Grand Duke of Finland, etc. from 1894 to 1917. His portrayal in media may be as a tyrant with blood stained hands, or as an ineffective ruler out of touch with the situation of his empire. To be fair, his regime like wasn't blameless in many ways but there was naturally some shades of gray, and some would argue that he was scapegoated for the policies of his predecessors who were stronger rulers than him.
    • Officers who joined with the Whites. Some were heroes of World War I and the Russo-Japanese War, but became vilified because of the side they took in the Civil War. In general, the WWI Russian Army is widely seen as an incompetent, badly-led, rabble who could barely amount to anything. What people forget, is the degree to which they - including the Officer Corps - were badly served by their domestic civilian leadership. The disorganized rabble of popular imagination is also the same force that utterly smashed the Austro-Hungarian armies in the Brusilov Offensive, nearly forcing them out the war, and winning perhaps the most decisive engagement of the entire war and certainly the Triple Entente's greatest victory.
    • Leon Davidovich Trotsky. One of the leaders of the Great October Revolution, President of the Petrograd Soviet in October-November 1917, People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs from November 1917 to March 1918. He was a major figure in the Civil War being People's Commissar for Army and Navy Affairs. But he became part of an opposition faction against Joseph Stalin in the Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks), which was renamed the All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks) in 1925. He was expelled from the party in October 1927, and then exiled in February 1929. Many crimes and conspiracies against the Soviet government were linked to him in the 1930s, true or not, and in histories of the 1917 Revolution/Civil War, his role became downplayed or erased. However, see his entry under Historical Hero Upgrade above.
  • Iconic Outfit: Lenin's newsboy cap and suit, Feliks Dzerzhinsky's cavalry greatcoat.
  • I Have Your Wife: The Bolsheviks made most former Imperial officers (that's the ones who weren't in the White army) work for them by taking their families hostage.
  • Insistent Terminology: The Red Army had "commanders", not officers. "Officer" was a loaded word implying nobility and conviction to the Tsarist cause. Until 1930s Red Army technically had no military ranks (such as sergeant, lieutenant, colonel...), and commanders were addressed by their positions: "platoon commander", "regiment commander", etc.note  Often leading to Acronym and Abbreviation Overload.
  • A Lighter Shade of Grey: The Bolsheviks seized power in October and won the Civil War since they had a program that answered for many people that had been oppressed for centuries by the czarist regime (peasants, workers and oppressed nations such as Tartars, Ukranians, Finns, Poles, etc.). Contrast with the White Army (composed of Mensheviks, liberals, capitalists, royalists and foreign armies), which could only decide (and for a short period of time) who would be their supreme commander. Their lack for a political and economic alternative gave the Bolsheviks the upper hand.
  • Loads And Loads Of Factions: Bolsheviks, Mensheviks, other revolutionary leftists, anarchists, democrats, monarchists, ethnic nationalists, foreign interventionists from the Allied and Central Powers, those just trying to fight their way out... Did we forget anyone.?
    • The Greens, local militias attempting to protect their villages from the marauding forces of both sides, along with bandits.
    • Maybe the Czech Legion? Usually lumped in with the foreign interventionists, but the Czechs were stranded in Russia after having been taken prisoner while serving with the Austro-Hungarian Army and recruited into the scheme to organize them as a military unit to support Allied causes. They never got to fight the Germans and Austrians because of the Revolution, but they had to fight their way out of Russia, by marching EAST! Eventually, they would be picked up by the Entente at Vladivostok and had to sail halfway around the world to get back home.
    • Nationalists of various nations formerly part of the Russian Empire Fighting for a Homeland. Some (Finland and Poland) succeeded. Others (Armenians, Ukrainians, and Georgians) did not.
  • Memetic Mutation: One predating the Internet! Vasily Chapayev, a Red division commander who ended up as a popular Russian folk joke character and repeatedly featured in bad Soviet films after a 1934 film about him became a hit.
  • Montages: Soviet filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein was a pioneer of the development and use of the montage editing and montage was used prominently in some Soviet films of the 1920s.
  • The Mutiny: It happens in revolutions.
  • Officer and a Gentleman: A stereotypical White Guard. Except in earlier Soviet fiction, where they were portrayed as either evil or ineffectual, alcoholic and decadent.
  • The Political Officer: Trope Codifier with the Commisars usually showing in fiction as out of touch, incompetent bureaucrats who harass the military brass. Not all political officers were like this, some were fairly competent and effective.
  • The Remnant: Baron Wrangel's Crimean White remnant. Merkulov's Far Eastern White remnant. General Pepelyaev's last campaign is this IN SPADES. Nestor Makhno's Anarchists. The "Greens".
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Civilised: A country-wide, state-sponsored persecution of the rich classes (i.e. capitalists, nobility, aristocrats, officers) including wealth expropriation, forced labour, and execution. In most cases, the Bolsheviks didn't even need to incite the workers, peasants, and soldiers because the masses were eager to get back at the landowning class; in the soldiers' case, the nobility had sent them to the slaughter in World War One, so why couldn't they slaughter the nobility?
    • Considering how hated the rich tend to be, it's odd their total repression in the years between 1917-1930 in Soviet Russia isn't more well known.
    • The execution of the royal family (not just Tsar Nicholas, his wife, and his children, but most of the Romanovs).
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Vilified: Thanks to Battleship Potemkin and Eisenstein's October, likewise Warren Beatty's Reds, the most famous depictions of the events are fairly positive and sympathetic to the Revolution's initial goals and ideals.
  • Rivals Team UP / Enemy Mine: After the Bolsheviks seized power, the reactionaries (capitalists, liberals, kadets, and even Mensheviks), the Central Powers (chiefly Germany) and the Entente decided to attack the Soviet state and create the White Army.
    • Likewise, the Anarchists teamed up with the Bolsheviks at times to fight back the Whites.
    • Red, White AND Black armies all hated the Ukrainian separatists led by Simon Petlyura with a passion and sometimes ganged up on them.
    • Because it would be too simple otherwise, the Poles sided with Petlyura against the Reds and Blacks, despite being fresh out of a fight with a different faction of Ukrainian nationalists.
  • The Starscream: Stalin
  • State Sec: the CHEKA.
  • Type Casting: 1920s Soviet films on the subject have characters whose appearance often identifies an archetype. Only capitalists wear top hats.
  • We ARE Struggling Together: The various revolutionary factions who formed the White Movement; the only thing that they agreed on was that they weren't Reds. The Reds were capable of allying with the most effective non-Red factions (such as the Black Army) to annihilate the Whites, then turned on the Blacks when the Whites were gone.
    • There were numerous cases where the Whites and their nominal allies actually came to blows. This was particularly prevalent in Siberia, where General Semenov's Cossacks frequently attacked Allied troops guarding the Trans-Siberian Railway. The region's American commander, William S. Graves, stopped supplying arms to Semenov when he realized they were being used to kill his own troops.
    • There was a case when Reds and Whites acted together against Ukrainian nationalist leader Petlyura.
  • Would Hurt a Child: The execution of the Romanovs did not spare the children, all were murdered in cold blood, and yes that included Anastasia, who in sentimental royalist fiction survives the events somehow. The Soviet at Yekaterinaburg cited the arrival of an oncoming White army as justifications for killing the family, since a single royal heir would give them legitimacy. There is still debate among historians if this was ordered by Lenin or merely condoned by him after-the-fact.

Depictions in Fiction

Alternative Title(s): Russian Revolution