Red Army Heroes

In 1919, playwright and revolutionary Pavel Arsky published his one-act play “For the Cause of the Red Soviets”. The play details one fateful evening in the lives of a family in which the father is a Soviet commander who is currently away from home, fighting in the civil war. It served as a serious piece of propaganda for the Red Army, as it painted the White Army as a group of brutal murderers whose main targets were women, children, and the elderly.

The play focuses mostly on Darya, the wife of the Communist Nikifor Rusanov, and his sister Tanya, who is engaged to another Communist. Nikifor and Tanya’s fiancé are both away fighting with the Red Army, while the women remain home with Darya’s children and Tanya’s grandfather, Agafon. Tanya grows increasingly worried that the White Army will arrive and capture or kill them, while Darya tries to reassure her. However, Tanya’s suspicions were correct, and both Darya and Agafon are killed, while Tanya is flogged and the children are terrorized. Nikifor and members of the Red Army arrive on the scene to late to intervene, and instead swear vengeance on the Whites, while also fighting for the liberation of the lower classes, even if the cost is the price of their own lives.

This play inspires very strong feelings in its audience. The White Army is painted as brutal monsters who like to torture innocents before slaughtering them. The audience empathizes with the Red Army, who seeks only to liberate the oppressed and end up losing everything in the process. The physical violence against Nikifor’s family is symbolic for the crushing oppression that the poor and working class in Russia felt at the hands of the ruling class.   This play would have served as a most important piece of propaganda for the Communist cause, making it a priceless piece of revolutionary culture.

“For the Cause of the Red Soviets” is important to revolutionary culture because it showcases the sentiments that the Communists wanted the common people to feel. It uses art to persuade an audience that the White Army is evil personified, and only through support of the Red Army will they ever feel freedom.

Source: Arsky, Pavel. “For the Cause of the Red Soviets”. In Mass Culture in Soviet Russia, edited by James von Geldern and Richard Stites, 22-29. Bloomington:   Indiana University Press, 1995.