Kolchak Regime

Kolchak Regime

 

the White Guard regime that was established by A. V. Kolchak in Siberia, the Urals, and the Far East during the Civil War of 1918–20 and which was a dictatorship of bourgeois and landowning counterrevolution.

The coup that led to the establishment of the Kolchak regime was carried out under the leadership of the so-called Siberian Constitutional Democratic (Cadet) Government, and its direct organizers were Colonel Lebedev, a representative of the White Guard general Denikin; General Andogskii; and Colonel Volkov. The coup was carried out with the active support of the commanders of the Entente troops in Siberia—the French general M. Janin, American general W. Graves, American admiral A. Knight, British generals A. Knox and Ward—and British troops. On the night of Nov. 17, 1918, members of the Socialist Revolutionary-Menshevik Ufa directory were arrested, and in the morning the directory’s council of ministers turned over full power to Kolchak, conferring on him the title of “supreme ruler.” Kolchak was appointed supreme commander in chief of all White Guard armed forces in Russia. On the instruction of the Entente a number of other counterrevolutionary governments and atamans of cossack hosts recognized Kolchak as head of the internal counterrevolution in Russia.

Kolchak’s main base was Siberia. The Urals, Orenburg Province, and Ural’sk Oblast were frontline and near-frontline zones. The Far East was only nominally under Kolchak’s authority; in actuality American and Japanese interventionists ruled there. In January 1919 an agreement was signed that General Janin, a representative of the Supreme Allied Command, would take on the duties of commander in chief of the troops of the allied powers in eastern Russia and Western Siberia. Kolchak, as commander in chief of the White Guard armies, was required to coordinate all operations with Janin. At the same time Knox was put in charge of the administration and supply of Kolchak’s armies.

By the spring of 1919, Kolchak had created an army of up to 400,000 men (including about 30,000 officers), putting 130,000 to 140,000 infantry and cavalry troops on the front. The US government turned over to Kolchak credits that had previously been designated for the bourgeois Provisional Government and granted 600,000 rifles on these credits’ account; Great Britain gave 200,000 sets of uniforms, and France provided 30 airplanes and more than 200 motor vehicles. Kolchak had possession of Russia’s gold reserves, which had been seized in the summer of 1918 by the command of the Czechoslovak Corps in Kazan, in the sum of 651.5 million rubles in gold and 100 million rubles in credit notes. For deliveries of armaments and other materials in 1919, 2,883 poods (47,223.54 kg) of gold was turned over to Great Britain, 2,672 poods (43, 767. 36 kg) to Japan, 2,118 poods (34,692.84 kg) to the USA, and 1,225 poods (20,065.5 kg) to France—a total of more than 9,200 poods (150,696 kg) of gold.

The Kolchak regime had the active support of the Urals and Siberian bourgeoisie, the cossack leadership, kulaks and the urban petite bourgeoisie, and Bashkir and Buriat bourgeois nationalists and feudal lords, as well as capitalists, landowners, officials, and officers who had fled from central Russia to Siberia. At the beginning of the Kolchak regime the Siberian peasantry, discontented with the food policy (surplus appropriation system) of Soviet power, remained neutral.

Kolchak acknowledged all of Russia’s foreign debts (more than 12 billion rubles), returned factories and plants to capitalists and subsidized them on a wide scale, granted concessions to foreign capitalists, dispersed trade unions almost everywhere, brutally persecuted Communists and revolutionary workers and peasants, and liquidated the soviets. The agrarian policy of the Kolchak regime was directed toward restoring private landownership and strengthening the kulaks. Under the Declaration on Land (April 1919), which was intended for all of Russia, both khutor (privately owned homestead) and otrub lands (allotted to peasants withdrawing from the village commune) that had been taken away were subject to be returned to their owners. The policy on nationalities was conducted under the slogan of a “unified and indivisible Russia.” The administration was headed mainly by cadets and monarchists. Besides a council of ministers, a council of the supreme ruler was created (Vologodskii, Pepeliaev, Mikhailov, Sukin, and Lebedev). Governors were put in charge of the provinces, and old tsarist laws were restored. Revolutionary actions were brutally suppressed; in Ekaterinburg Province alone more than 25,000 people were shot.

Siberia’s working class, despite its small numbers, was the leading force in the struggle against the Kolchak regime. The Central Committee of the RCP (Bolshevik) gave Siberian Communists help through the special Siberian Bureau. Underground party organizations led a number of uprisings, including those in December 1918 in Omsk and Kansk and from January to April 1919 in Bodaibo, Eniseisk, Kol’chugin, Tiumen’, Krasnoiarsk, and Omsk. In November 1918 the Siberian Oblast committee of the RCP(B) was created in Tomsk (A. Neibut, M. Rabinovich, and others). The peasantry at first refused to fulfill obligations and taxes, failed to appear when called into Kolchak’s army, and then progressed to a partisan struggle, which by mid-1919 had encompassed a large part of Altai, Tomsk, Eniseisk, and Irkutsk provinces. Large partisan units sprang up (those of I. V. Gromov, E. M. Mamontov, and others). In September 1919 the executive committee of the Western Siberian Oblast Soviet was elected, with P. K. Golikov as chairman, and in September and October, 12 regiments were created for a partisan army in Western Siberia (up to 25,000 people in December).

Defeats on the front in the summer and fall of 1919 and the upsurge of the revolutionary partisan movement in the rear led to a crisis for the Kolchak regime. The army’s fighting capacity declined sharply, and the Czechoslovak Corps, under the influence of revolutionary propaganda and defeats, refused as early as late 1918 to fight against the Red Army and began to demand that it be sent out of Russia. By the autumn of 1919 the Entente countries (except the USA) had drastically reduced the supply of war matériel to Kolchak.

On Nov. 14, 1919, Soviet troops liberated Omsk. On December 27, on the instruction of the Supreme Council of the Entente, Kolchak was taken into international custody. On Jan. 4, 1920, Kolchak issued a decree turning over his rights as “supreme ruler” to Denikin. On January 15, at the demand of insurgent workers in Irkutsk, the Czechoslovaks turned Kolchak over to the political center that had formed in Irkutsk and that had pledged to surrender him and turn over the gold reserves to the Soviet command. On Feb. 7, 1920, Kolchak was shot by sentence of the revolutionary committee. The remnants of Kolchak’s troops dispersed to the Transbaikal region.

REFERENCES

Istoriia grazhdanskoi voiny v SSSR, vol. 4. Moscow, 1959.
Dopros Kolchaka. Moscow-Leningrad, 1925.
Poslednie dni kolchakovshchiny: Sb. dokumentov. Moscow-Leningrad, 1926.
Papin, L. M. Krakh kolchakovshchiny i obrazovanie Dal’nevostochnoi respubliki. Moscow, 1957.
Spirin, L. M. Razgrom armii Kolchaka. Moscow, 1957.
Spirin, L. M. Klassy i partii v grazhdanskoi voine v Rossii (1917–1920 gg.). Moscow, 1968.

S. N. SEMANOV

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