Red Guards (Russia)

"For other uses of the term see Red Guard"

In the context of the history of Russia and Soviet Union, Red Guards (Russian: "Красная Гвардия") were armed groups of workers formed in the time frame of the Russian Revolution of 1917. They were the main strike force of the Bolsheviks. They 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, 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. Therefore the term is often used as just another English name for the Red Army in reference to the times of the Russian Revolution and Russian Civil War.

In Petrograd, the head of the Red Guards (30,000 personnel) was Konstantin Yurenev. At the moment of the October Revolution, 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 Soviets, 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 horsemen 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". While successful at local conflicts (e.g., with ataman Alexander Dutov in Orenburg guberniya), 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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