The Red Terror and the Military

V. I. Lenin, 1918.

What was the red terror and why did it come about?

  • A campaign of mass killings, torture, and systematic oppression conducted by the Bolsheviks after their seizure of power. Widely attributed to the attempted assassination on Lenin in the summer of 1918.
  • The Cheka were the secret police, they diversified to a broader security police force in 1918. The change in the duties of the Cheka, and the move to violence, can be seen in these two sources:

Red terror within the military

  • Lenin realised the necessity of terror before it became legalised- necessary to keep the army until control. Did not agree with the abolition of the Kerensky decree.
  • Targeted specific groups such as ex-Tsarist officers serving in the Red Army. Used in the guise of ‘military specialists’ with about 15,000-20,000 ex-Tsarist officers constituting 75% of officer core in Red Army in 1918. To maintain control over the officers terror was used against them.
  • Red army faced huge problems during the civil war- desertion, ill-discipline, supply issues etc. Terror used to impose discipline after emerging out of the chaos of 1917.

Red terror used for military objectives

  • Terror used to defeat the Whites, and other enemy groups, to enforce the grain requisitioning policy necessary to feed to army, to ensure the support of the population even if it was forced.

Below is a link to a powerpoint that explains everything in more depth:

Red Terror and the Military


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