Military and Combat Organizations of the Bolsheviks

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Military and Combat Organizations of the Bolsheviks


organizations of the Bolshevik Party that directed the combat detachments, known as fighting druzhinas, of the working class and the revolutionary work among the troops with the goal of creating and strengthening the armed forces of the revolution. The first military and combat organizations were established by the Bolsheviks during the Revolution of 1905-07 in St. Petersburg, Moscow, Ivanovo Voznesensk, Kronstadt, Sevastopol’, Saratov, Krasnoiarsk, Nizhny Novgorod, Tomsk, Warsaw, Vladivostok, Riga, and other cities. The resolution of the Third Congress of the RSDLP (1905), “On the Armed Uprising,” had great significance for the creation of the military organizations. The Party’s military organizations helped the Party’s local organizations in the military and technical preparation of the armed uprising and helped supply weapons and train workers’ druzhinas. On Oct. 16, 1905, V. I. Lenin wrote to the combat committee of the St. Petersburg Committee of the RSDLP: “Form fighting squads at once, everywhere, among the students, and specially among the workers, etc., etc. Let groups be at once organized of three, ten, 30, etc. persons. Let them arm themselves at once as best they can … . Let these detachments at once select leaders and as far as possible contact the Combat Committee of the St. Petersburg Committee” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 11, pp. 336-37).

The military organizations of the Party were initially established for self-defense against the Black Hundreds; then, according to Lenin’s instructions, they organized detachments of a revolutionary army. An important role in the preparation of workers and soldiers for the armed uprising was played by the newspapers Vpered and Proletarii, which were directed by Lenin, and the newspapers of the military organizations of the RSDLP, including Kazarma (St. Petersburg), Soldatskaia zhizn’ (Moscow), Vestnik kazarmy (Finland), Golos sol-data (Riga), and Zhizn’ soldata (Ekaterinoslav). As a result of the work of the military and combat organizations of the Bolsheviks, soldiers and sailors refused to suppress revolutionary manifestations and participated themselves in uprisings in a number of cities and in the navy. Over 50 committees of the RSDLP had so-called voenki, one of the strongest of which was the St. Petersburg voenka, in which I. Kh. Lalaiants, F. V. Gusarov, V. R. Menzhinskii, for a convocation. Em. Iaroslavskii, of the organizational bureau, the Bolsheviks worked with the Mensheviks; they sometimes concluded practical agreements with the socialist revolutionaries. Shortly after the Third Congress of the Party, the Combat Technical Group of the Central Committee of the RSDLP, headed by L. B. Krasin, became the supreme organ of the Bolshevik military and combat organizations; previously (from February 1905) the group had operated under the auspices of the St. Petersburg Committee of the RSDLP. The military and combat organizations of the Bolsheviks had special underground workshops in a number of cities for the manufacture of weapons, primarily bombs. M. M. Litvinov, N. E. Burenin, B. S. Stomoniakov, S. A. Ter-Petrosian (Kamo), and others purchased weapons abroad. The organizations took part in armed actions; there was particularly sustained fighting in Moscow in December 1905. The scope of the partisan actions of the Red Hundreds was broadened in Georgia—directed by M. Z. Bochoridze, G. K. Ordzhonikidze, S. A. Ter-Petrosian (Kamo), S. I. Kavtaradze, and others—and of the Forest Brothers in Latvia—led by I. P. Kazmer, D. S. Beika, I. P. Gaven, I. G. Luter, and others. They controlled entire regions, establishing the power of the people.

The military and combat organizations of the Bolsheviks in St. Petersburg, Moscow, and certain other places initiated a call for a convocation. Em. laroslavskii, of the organizational bureau, visited Lenin, who spoke of the need to place the activity of the Bolshevik military and combat organizations under the command of the Bolshevik center. The first conference of the military and combat organizations of the Bolsheviks was held in Tammerfors (present-day Tampere) during Nov. 16-22 (Nov. 29-Dec. 5), 1906. The conference endorsed the subordination of military and combat work to the political leadership of Party-wide organizations; it reflected the transition from uncoordinated druzhinas to the creation of combat organizations under Party committees. After the defeat of the Revolution of 1905-07, the military and combat organizations of the Bolsheviks were essentially smashed.

With the beginning of World War I (1914-18) the military revolutionary work of the Party acquired major importance. The Party’s military organizations began to act once more, both among the forces in the field and in the garrisons of the rear in Petrograd, Kronstadt, and Tomsk, on the Northern Front, and other areas. The work of the Bolsheviks in the army during the war period prepared the conditions for soldiers and sailors to shift to the side of the revolutionary people in the days of the February Revolution of 1917. After the victory of the February Revolution, during the preparation of the socialist revolution, the Bolshevik Party faced the task of establishing the armed forces of the revolution. A great deal of work was carried out to win the masses of soldiers to the side of the revolution and to multiply the number of Party military organizations among the field forces and in the rear garrisons. The military organization of the St. Petersburg Committee of the RSDLP (Bolshevik) was born in March 1917; in April 1917 it was transformed into the Military Organization of the Central Committee of the RSDLP (Bolshevik), abbreviated Voenka. Active roles in the creation and work of the military organization of the Party were taken by V. A. Antonov-Ovseenko, A. la. Arosev, K. E. Voroshilov, P. V. Dashkevich, P. E. Dybenko, M. S. Kedrov, S. M. Kirov, G. N. Korganov, N. V. Krylenko, K. A. Mekhono-shin, P. N. Mostovenko, A. F. Miasnikov, S. M. Nakhimson, V. I. Nevskii, N. I. Podvoiskii, E. F. Rozmirovich, S. G. Roshal’, la. F. Fabritsius, M. V. Frunze, Em. laroslavskii, and others.

The All-Russian Conference of Frontline and Rear Garrison Military Organizations of the RSDLP (Bolshevik) was held June 16-23 (June 29-July 6), 1917. It was attended by 167 delegates from 43 frontline and 17 rear garrison military organizations representing 26,000 Party members who be-longed to these organizations. Lenin delivered reports on the situation at that time and on the agrarian question. Podvoiskii’s address was devoted to the goals and tasks of the military organization of the RSDLP (Bolshevik). Nevskii’s report concentrated on organizational problems. The conference adopted draft regulations for military organization, defining a clear-cut structure for Party organizations in the army. The conference drew generalizations from the wealth of experience of Party work in military units from 1905 on; it joined the resolutions of the Seventh (April) All-Russian Conference of the RSDLP (Bolshevik). The All-Russian Bureau of Military Organizations was elected at the conference (Antonov-Ovseenko, Nevskii, Podvoiskii [chairman], Krylenko, Kedrov, Dashkevich, Arosev, Rozmirovich, and others). The military organization of the Central Committee of the RSDLP (Bolshevik) published the newspapers Soldatskaia pravda (Petrograd), Rabochii i soldat (subsequently Soldat), and Derevenskaia bednota. An important role in revolutionizing soldiers and sailors was played by the newspapers Okopnaia pravda (Northern Front), Volna (Helsingfors—present-day Helsinki), Zvezda (Minsk), Zvezda (Revel), Znamia bor’by (Vyborg), Kavkazskii rabochii (Tbilisi), Tsinia (Riga), and others.

The military organizations implemented the Party line on strengthening the union of the proletariat and soldiers, and it participated actively in the creation and work of organizations of zemliaki (persons of the same district), peasant Soviets, and soldiers’ committees; they sent agitators to the countryside and propagandized for the Bolshevik agrarian program. The military organizations of the RSDLP (Bolshevik) operated on all fronts and in all garrisons. The strongest military organizations were those of Petrograd, Moscow, Kronstadt, Helsingfors, Saratov, and Krasnoiarsk, as well as the military organizations on the Northern and Western fronts. Representatives of the Voenka took part in the work of the Sixth Party Congress, which charted the course toward armed uprising. The smashing of the Kornilov movement depended to a considerable degree on the activity of the Voenka, which mobilized revolutionary-minded military units and Red Guard detachments for the defense of the revolution. The military organizations expanded their network on the eve of the October Revolution; the number of Communists in the organizations on the front alone reached 50,000.

The work of the Voenka intensified after the resolution of the Central Committee of the RSDLP (Bolshevik) on Oct. 10 (23), 1917, for an armed uprising. The military organizations helped the Party to win over the army and navy. The Voenka took an active part in the creation of the military revolutionary committees. Leading members of the Voenka worked actively on the staff of the armed uprising, the Petrograd Military Revolutionary Committee; Antonov-Ovseenko, Krylenko, and Dybenko joined the first Soviet government. In conjunction with the demobilization of the old army, the importance of the military organizations decreased after the victory of the October Revolution. The Seventh Congress of the RCP (Bolshevik) considered it possible to liquidate the Party’s military organizations.

The military organizations of the Party played an important role in the overthrow of tsarism, the victory of the October Socialist Revolution, the creation of the armed forces of the Soviet state, and the training of military cadres for the Red Army.


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The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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