In January 1918, the Worker-Peasant Red Army was created under Lenin and his government, The Council of People’s Commissar. Instead of using a draft, the Red Army started with peasant and worker volunteers, who were people Lenin felt were best to defend his government. This army also included former tsarist officers, because the man that constructed this new Red Army felt that they would be helpful in their success as an army because of their loyalty to Russia. They later created a training program and abandoned the volunteer motto, creating more efficient military units.
The Red Army’s numbers went from 700,000 to 3 million, which was partly the result of what was offered to those that served. While the soldiers did receive pay, a bigger incentive was the promise that their families would have rations and help with farming while the soldiers were gone. The Red Army also offered literacy and politics classes, which would have been a big incentive for the peasants who otherwise wouldn’t have had such an opportunity.
With the Red Army under Lenin, those opposed to communism were called the Whites, leading to a civil war in Russia between the two. An advantage of the Red Army was that they were more unified, while the Whites were split between various groups who opposed him and spread farther apart geographically, making it difficult to unite. Another advantage Lenin had was that he was in control of significant cities, both Moscow and Petrograd, which aided in their ending success of the civil war. The significance of this win was that it made the Red Army the “largest, most important institution in the new state” (Freeze, 300). This left the army as not only the state’s military force, but also influenced the government into a military-administrative state (Freeze, 300).
“Dmitrii Moor: Have You Volunteered? (1920)” image source: I. I. Kuptsov: Idushchie vperedi. Moscow: Sovetskii khudozhnik. 1987.
“Dmitrii Moor: Be on Guard! (1920)” image source: Peter Paret, Beth Irwin Lewis, Paul Paret:Persuasive Images: Posters of War and Revolution from the Hoover Institution Archives. Princeton: Princeton University Press. 1992.
“A. (Skif) Apsit: Long Live the Three-million Man Red Army! (1919)” image source: Peter Paret, Beth Irwin Lewis, Paul Paret:Persuasive Images: Posters of War and Revolution from the Hoover Institution Archives. Princeton: Princeton University Press. 1992.
“Russia 1918-1921.” History Learning, accessed September 13, 2014. Site. http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/russia_1918_to_1921.htm.
Freeze, Gregory L. Russia: A History. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.
Siegelbaum, Lewis. “1917: Red Guard into Army.” 17 Moments in Soviet History, accessed September 13, 2014. http://soviethistory.macalester.edu/index.php?page=subject&SubjectID=1917army&Year=1917&navi=byYear.