Red Guards (Russia)

In the context of the history of Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

 and Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

, Red Guards (Russian: "Красная Гвардия") were paramilitary
A paramilitary is a force whose function and organization are similar to those of a professional military, but which is not considered part of a state's formal armed forces....

 formations consisting of workers and partially of soldiers and sailors formed in the time frame of the Russian Revolution of 1917
Russian Revolution of 1917
The Russian Revolution is the collective term for a series of revolutions in Russia in 1917, which destroyed the Tsarist autocracy and led to the creation of the Soviet Union. The Tsar was deposed and replaced by a provisional government in the first revolution of February 1917...

. Composing the majority of the urban population where Bolsheviks had the strongest support, they were the main strike force of the Bolsheviks in the revolution and the following civil war. Red Guard units were created in March 1917, under the control of Bolsheviks at industrial enterprises by Factory and Plant Committees and by Bolshevik party cells. A number of other militarized formations created during the February Revolution
February Revolution
The February Revolution of 1917 was the first of two revolutions in Russia in 1917. Centered around the then capital Petrograd in March . Its immediate result was the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II, the end of the Romanov dynasty, and the end of the Russian Empire...

, such as "people's militia" (народная милиция), created by the Russian Provisional Government, "groups of self-defence" (отряды самообороны), "committees of public security" (комитеты общественной безопасности), "workers' squads" (рабочие дружины) were gradually unified into the Red Guards.

Red Guards were the base for the forming of the Red Army
Red Army
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army started out as the Soviet Union's revolutionary communist combat groups during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1922. It grew into the national army of the Soviet Union. By the 1930s the Red Army was among the largest armies in history.The "Red Army" name refers to...

. Therefore the term is often used as just another English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

 name for the Red Army
Red Army
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army started out as the Soviet Union's revolutionary communist combat groups during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1922. It grew into the national army of the Soviet Union. By the 1930s the Red Army was among the largest armies in history.The "Red Army" name refers to...

 in reference to the times of the Russian Revolution and Russian Civil War
Russian Civil War
The Russian Civil War was a multi-party war that occurred within the former Russian Empire after the Russian provisional government collapsed to the Soviets, under the domination of the Bolshevik party. Soviet forces first assumed power in Petrograd The Russian Civil War (1917–1923) was a...


In Petrograd, the head of the Red Guards (30,000 personnel) was Konstantin Yurenev
Konstantin Yurenev
Konstantin Konstantinovich Yurenev , also known as Konstantin Konstantinovich Krotovsky , was a Soviet politician and diplomat....

. At the moment of the October Revolution
October Revolution
The October Revolution , also known as the Great October Socialist Revolution , Red October, the October Uprising or the Bolshevik Revolution, was a political revolution and a part of the Russian Revolution of 1917...

, the Russian Red Guards had 200,000 personnel. After the revolution, the Red Guards performed some of the function of the regular army between the time the new Soviet government began demobilizing the old Russian military and the time the Red Army was created in January 1918.


During the revolution, training of the Red Guards was arranged by the Military Organization of the RSDLP.

Enlistment was voluntary, but required recommendations from Soviet
Soviet (council)
Soviet was a name used for several Russian political organizations. Examples include the Czar's Council of Ministers, which was called the “Soviet of Ministers”; a workers' local council in late Imperial Russia; and the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union....

s, Bolshevik party units or other public organizations. The military training of workers was often performed without disengagement from the work at plants. There were both infantry and mounted regiments. At different places the organization was nonuniform in terms of subordination, head count, degree of military training. This state was often called "half-partisan
Partisan (military)
A partisan is a member of an irregular military force formed to oppose control of an area by a foreign power or by an army of occupation by some kind of insurgent activity...

". While successful at local conflicts (e.g., with ataman
Ataman was a commander title of the Ukrainian People's Army, Cossack, and haidamak leaders, who were in essence the Cossacks...

 Alexander Dutov
Alexander Dutov
Alexander Ilyich Dutov , one of the leaders of the Cossack counterrevolution in the Urals, Lieutenant General .Dutov was born in Kazalinsk...

 in Orenburg
Orenburg is a city on the Ural River and the administrative center of Orenburg Oblast, Russia. It lies southeast of Moscow, very close to the border with Kazakhstan. Population: 546,987 ; 549,361 ; Highest point: 154.4 m...

A guberniya was a major administrative subdivision of the Russian Empire usually translated as government, governorate, or province. Such administrative division was preserved for sometime upon the collapse of the empire in 1917. A guberniya was ruled by a governor , a word borrowed from Latin ,...

), this loose organization was inefficient when combating larger, organized forces of the White Army. Therefore when the creation of the Red Army was decreed, Red Guards had become the Army Reserve and the base for the formation of regular military detachments.
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