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To Strangle at Birth

January 28, 2010

Czechoslovak Legion making their way through a river

It was not surprising to Paul that the murder of the Czar and the rumored murder of the rest of his family apparently did not sit well with leaders of the free world.  Britain and its Allies were also worried that the significant stockpile of weapons and other war materials they had provided to the Russians would somehow fall into the hands of the Germans.  And in addition, the Allies wanted to help free the 50,000+ Legion members who were stuck in Russia, and so a new plan was hatched (again).

So by August, 1918, under the direction of Winston Churchill, whose desire was “to strangle at birth the Bolshevik State,” the Alliance launched the “Siberian Intervention.” Soon 70,000 Japanese, and a bunch of American, Italian, British, Canadian, Chinese and French soldiers descended upon Russia via the ports at Vladivostok, Murmansk, Archangel, and Odessa, all led by a French General. The Alliance soldiers quickly joined up with the Czechoslovak Legion and various White Russian forces and attempted to force the Bolsheviks from power in the futile hope that the Eastern Front could be re-established and they could all get the heck out of dodge.

Siberian Intervention - Americans, British, French and Japanese in Vladivostok

Bolshevik prisoners held by US forces in Siberia

The Canadian Siberian Expeditionary Force

At first these efforts proved to be successful, with the White Army and its allies controlling over 2/3 of Russia, largely led by the superior efforts of the Legion army. The Legion and White Army forces quickly captured Yekaterinburg, just after the assassination of the Czar and his family there.   They dominated Siberia, and the Legion controlled nearly the entire length of the  Trans Siberian Railway.  The Legion even established a postal system, complete with their own stamps, on this rolling piece of property.  The Legion fought off the Red Army, bombed bridges, tore up railroad tracks (and repaired them), and even fought in the one and only Naval battle on Lake Baikal, one of the deepest and clearest lakes in the world.

Bombing bridges in Siberia

Legionnaires guarding a bridge

One and only Naval battle fought by the Czechoslovak Legion, Lake Baikal

Czechoslovak Legion Stamps, Siberia

Trotsky, the leader of the opposition, responded to this assault by re-organizing the Red Army into a much more capable fighting force.  His army swelled from 300,000 men in May, 1918 to over 1 million men by October of the same year; he reinstituted conscription, and drafted officers and soldiers who previously served in the Russian Imperial Army into the Red Army. To insure their loyalty, he placed a Political Commissar in each unit.  He also persuaded sympathetic German and Austro-Hungarian POWs to join the Red Army and placed the Cheka secret police behind units with orders to shoot any soldier who deserted his post or failed to follow orders.   Things started to get nasty, and the White Russian Army began to fight back in a way the Legion had not seen before, and frankly had little stomach for.

As the tide of the Russian Civil War began to change, and the fighting became more and more ruthless (on both sides), Paul and the rest of the Czechoslovak Legion became less and less inclined to fight (for nothing, really) in someone else’s war.   Plus, two other significant events were about to occur that would change everything.

(The pictures in this article are from the Czechlegion.com website, Wikipedia and the Paper Heritage website in the UK and the Slovak site http://www.Tatranci.SK)

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 28, 2010 6:04 pm

    Nooooo! Im using my iphone and I cant seem to be able to access the page right. I will be back to read this tonight when I get home from lecture. The title seems like something I need to read.

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