December 10, 1917 – Russian Civil War Begins as Bolsheviks Declare War on Don Cossacks
Pictured – The Don and Kuban Cossacks were some of the Bolsheviks’ earliest opponents. Lenin referred to the Don as the “Soviet Vendée.”
Lenin and the Bolsheviks were almost out of one war, but dead-set on starting a new one. Peace with the Central Powers meant that their real objective of creating dictatorship of the proletariat could begin. This meant elimination of the bourgeoisie and the collectivization of farmland. It also meant war with those who opposed the new regime. Around the fringes of European Russia were many groups who opposed Bolshevik rule. Among the staunchest opponents were the Cossacks in the south, an independent-minded people who refused to give up their land and the many privileges they had enjoyed under the Tsars. In December Lenin declared war on the Don Cossack host. By the end of the month, the Kuban Cossacks had also joined the anti-Bolshevik opposition, cooperating with counter-revolutionary officers led by Generals Kornilov and Alexeyev. The Russian Civil War had begun in earnest. It would be even bloodier than Russia’s participation in the World War. From day one it divided families; many young Cossack soldiers returning from the front sided with the Bolsheviks, while their elders resisted them.