The ‘White Idea’ and the ‘White Guard.’ The birth of the Russian white guard movement, its ideology and organizations Cover Image

A „Fehér Eszme” és a „Fehér Gárda”. Az orosz fehérgárdista mozgalom ideológiája és szervezetei
The ‘White Idea’ and the ‘White Guard.’ The birth of the Russian white guard movement, its ideology and organizations

Author(s): Iván Halász
Subject(s): History
Published by: AETAS Könyv- és Lapkiadó Egyesület

Summary/Abstract: This study deals with the so-called white guard of the 1917-21 Russian civil war, focussing on its ideology, intellectual historical background and its power strategy. The Russian white movement is understood here as only one, though quite significant segment of the wideranging anti-bolshevik camp, since the white movement comprised the centre and right of this camp. At the same time, the Russian white guard was not totally homogeneous. A central role was played by the body of officers extremely disappointed by the revolution, the politicians of the Kadet Party as well as the right of various shades. With regard to its ideology, it was characterized principally by the radical anti-bolshevik and anti-revolutionary stance, imperial Russian nationalism, religious and social traditionalism as well as Russian statism with the ambitions of a great power. Yet, the whites of Russia were incapable of creating a unified and consistent ideology. The ‘White Idea’ was rather only reflective in nature, responding to concrete challenges. To the very last, it was characterized by certain indeterminacy, especially regarding the acceptance of the social consequences of the revolution and the question of power. Moreover, the Russian whites even created an ideological theorem out of this indeterminacy, the theory of so-called ‘non-predetermination,’ which was to postpone the solution of every important problem until the period after the presupposed civil war victory. As far as the question of power is concerned, there was more or less consensus on that after the hopeful crushing of the bolsheviks there was a need for a ‘strong power.’ This expression which was originally simply a response to the chaos of the first months of the revolution, started a life of its own in due time, and an ideological system developed around it. The majority of the Russian white guards’ ideologues daydreamed about some authoritarian, more or less dictatorial power structure. Generals leading the white regimes also strove to establish such ‘strong power,’ but ultimately failed, because they were unable to harness their own inferiors’ autocracy and terror. The white camp’s heterogeneity and antipathy to parties also implied that they were never able to establish a unified political movement or party which could have represented the ‘white alternative’ in politics. Most characteristically, the centres or amalgamations that developed on the ‘white’ side united politicians, experts and military officers formerly belonging to various groupings within the movement. These competed with one another for the grace of leading generals, and hence, indirectly, also for power. Throughout, the Russian white guard movement struggled with a great number of internal contradictions which it was unable to manage, and this was also to contribute to its failure to provide an alternative of the Russian revolution and civil war.

  • Issue Year: 2003
  • Issue No: 1
  • Page Range: 53-76
  • Page Count: 24
  • Language: Hungarian