Harvest of Despair



The Red Army (in Russian – Krasnaya Armiya, in Ukrainian – Chervona Armiya) was established by a decree of the Soviet government on 28 January 1918 out of Red Guard detachments. Its full name was the Workers’ and Peasants’ Red Army. The vast majority of troops in the Red Army that brought Ukraine under Soviet control during the Civil War of 1918-20 were of Russian nationality. However, they did receive support from Ukrainian military units – the Red Cossacks, the Tarashcha Division and the Bohun Regiment were composed mostly of Ukrainian troops.

The Red Army was under the control of Leon Trotsky, who was the War Commissar during the Civil War. The Communist commander of the Red Army’s Ukrainian front, Volodymyr Antonov-Osviienko answered not to the Ukrainian Bolshevik government in Kharkiv but to the government in Moscow and to Trotsky personally. The Peoples’ Commissariat for Military Affairs in Kharkiv had no real power and was abolished in 1919.

After the Civil War, the Red Army became a more multinational force, with all republics represented in its ranks. In 1937 Russian became the official language of command in the Red Army, and old tsarist traditions – decorations, insignia, and an officer corps – were reintroduced in the same year. In 1946 the name of the Red Army was changed to the Soviet Army.