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Crimes and Mass Violence of the Russian Civil Wars (1918-1921)

Last modified: 3 April 2008
Nicolas Werth

March 2008

Cite this item

Nicolas Werth, Crimes and Mass Violence of the Russian Civil Wars (1918-1921), Online Encyclopedia of Mass Violence, [online], published on 21 March 2008, accessed 28 July 2014, URL : http://www.massviolence.org/Crimes-and-mass-violence-of-the-Russian-civil-wars-1918, ISSN 1961-9898

 "Red Terror" in the Ukraine (May-August 1918)*

In the few months of 1918 during which the Red Army occupied the larger towns of the Ukraine (whilst the countryside mostly escaped Bolshevik stronghold), the precarious position of the Bolshevik power in the Ukraine called for repressive policies against the elite of the Old Regime who had not had time to flee. Tremendous "compensations from the bourgeoisie" were decreed: while waiting to receive payments, the Bolshevik authorities imprisoned great numbers of "bourgeois hostages," humiliating others (in Odessa, Kiev and Kharkov, "bourgeois women" were requisitioned to clean public latrines or military camps where rapes frequently took place). Many massacres and summary executions of "bourgeois hostages" occurred during the summer of 1919, in particular in the days before Bolshevik retreat in front of the White Army’s progress. Among the most important:

1919; June 8-11: Mass executions of "bourgeois" in Kharkov prisons before the White Army gained control over the city (June 12, 1919). Estimated victim figure: 500 to 1,000.

1919; June-August: Mass executions of "bourgeois hostages" in Odessa. Estimated victim figure: approximately 2,000.

1919; August: Mass executions of "bourgeois hostages" in Kiev. Estimated victim figure: approximately 1,800 "bourgeois" were killed in the two weeks before the White Army took control over the city (August 28). During the Bolshevik occupation of the city (February-August 1919) a total of 3,000 people were killed (Brovkin, 1994: 119-126).

 Pogroms in the Ukraine (1919-1921)*

During the civil war, the Jewish populations of the Ukraine (and Belarus, to a lesser extent) were struck by the worst pogroms ever to take place in regions where the 1903-1906 pogroms had already severely harmed the Jewish populations. Approximately 150,000 Jewish victims (125,000 in the Ukraine, 25,000 in Belarus) died between 1918 and 1922. 1919 was undoubtedly the deadliest year. Pogroms were carried out by various armed units: by the White Army under General Denikin, by troops of the Ukrainian People’s Republic under S. Petliura, by detachments of various warlord "Ataman" (Sokolovski, Kozyr-Zyrka, Hrigoriyv, Zelenyi), by detachments of "Greens" (insurgent farmers), and even by Red Army units (in particular the famous Konarmya, the 1st Cavalry Army under S. Budienny). In some townships of the Ukraine and Belarus different units would be simultaneously responsible for pogroms. Towns (Kharkov, Ekaterinoslav) were not spared, notably after their recapture by the Whites who systematically identified Jews as Bolsheviks following the "Judeo-Bolshevik" amalgam used by all pogrom perpetrators, regardless of their affiliation. Among the most important pogroms:

1919; February 15-17: Proskurov (Podolsk province): Massacres, rapes, looting by armed units of the Ukrainian People’s Republic. Estimated number of victims: around 1,500

1919; March 22-26: Jitomir (Volhynia province): Massacres, rapes, looting by armed units of the Ukrainian People’s Republic. Estimated number of victims: between 500 and 700.

1919; May 11-12: Gorodishe (province of Kiev): Massacres and looting by the Hrigoriyv Ataman detachment.

1919; May 13: Tal’noie (province of Kiev): Massacres and looting by the Hrigoriyv Ataman detachment.

1919; May 12-14: Uman’ (province of Kiev): Massacres and looting by the Hrigoriyv Ataman detachment. Estimated number of victims: between 800 and 1,200.

1919; May 18-19: Smela (province of Kiev): Massacres and looting by the Hrigoriyv Ataman detachment.

1919; May 15-20: Elizavetgrad (province of Kiev): Massacres, rapes, looting by the Hrigoriyv Ataman detachment. Estimated number of victims: between 1,300 and 3,000.

1919; May 26-28: Trostyanets (province of Podolsk): Massacres and looting by local farmers and deserters ("Greens"). Estimated number of victims: 400.

1919; June 15-18: Kharkov: Massacres and looting after the town’s recapture by units of Denikin’s army. Estimated number of victims: between 800 and 2,500.

1919; June 24: Alexandria (province of Kherson): Massacres and looting by the Hrigoriyv Ataman detachment. Estimated number of victims: 300 to 700.

1919; August 16-18: Pogrebishe (province of Kiev): Massacres and looting by the Zelenyi Ataman detachment. Estimated number of victims: 400 to 500.

1919; September 2-8: Fastov (province of Kiev): Massacres and looting by White Army detachments. Estimated number of victims: 1,000 to 1,500.

1919; September 28-29: Smela (province of Kiev): Massacres and looting by White Army detachments. Estimated number of victims: 112. 1919; December 14-15: Smela (province of Kiev): Massacres and looting by detachments of the 1st Cavalry Army (Red Army). Estimated number of victims: 107 (Heifetz, 1922; Miliakova, Rozenblat & Elenskaia, eds, 2006).

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