Propaganda and the First Cold War in North Russia, 1918-19

Antony Lockley examines the Allied intervention in the Russian Civil War and the propaganda battle between the Bolshevik and British forces on the Archangel front.

Little has been written about British involvement in the Russian Civil War (1918-21). Yet following the Bolshevik seizure of power in November 1917, the British government supplied  ‘White Russian’ forces with millions of pounds of aid, enabling them to fight the Red Army in an attempt to defeat the revolution. In North Russia, British forces actually fought the Red Army from the summer of 1918 until September 1919, when the British evacuated, leaving behind the bodies of over 400 dead servicemen.

The tools of combat in North Russia extended beyond bayonets and bullets. Indeed, psychological warfare, supported and driven by a propaganda battle between Bolshevik and British authorities, was crucial in the unfolding of this forgotten story. As the conflict progressed, Bolshevik propagandists proved themselves masters of their trade, turning the minds of British soldiers and Russians alike, often with devastating consequences. So  successful was Bolshevik propaganda that it influenced decision-making at the highest level of British government, thereby fundamentally shaping the course of the intervention.

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