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West Russian Volunteer Army


West Russian Volunteer Army

West Russian Volunteer Army
Only surviving flag of the West Russian Volunteer Army.
Active 1918-1920
Allegiance PA-RG (Officially)
German Empire (Unofficially)
Size 50,000

Russian Civil War

Gen. Pavel Bermondt-Avalov
Gen. Rüdiger von der Goltz
Army Flag

The West Russian Volunteer Army or Bermontians was an army in the Baltic provinces of the former Russian Empire during the Russian Civil War of 1918–1920.

The Western Russian Volunteer Army, unlike the pro-Entente Volunteer Army was supported and in fact created by Germany. The Compiègne Armistice, article 12, stipulated that German troops were to remain in the Baltic provinces to help fight Bolshevik advances and were to withdraw once the Allies determined the situation was under control. The order to withdraw was given after the Treaty of Versailles was signed in June 1919.

However, only a small portion of the Freikorps in the Baltic retired; the rest stayed under the leadership of General Rüdiger von der Goltz. To avoid casting blame on Germany and infuriating the Allies, he withdrew into the background and merged his troops with the "Special Russian Corps", led by Cossack General Pavel Bermont-Avalov. The two generals recruited about 50,000 men: mostly Freikorps, Baltic Germans, as well as some Russian POWs captured by Germany in World War I and then released on the promise that they would help fight against the Bolsheviks in the Russian Civil War. The Army declared that it joined the forces of Aleksandr Kolchak and marched to attack Bolsheviks, but their real goal was to sustain German power in the Baltic region.

In October 1919 the West Russian Volunteer Army attacked the newly independent states of Lithuania and Latvia, to which Germany had granted independence. It briefly occupied the west bank of the Daugava river in Riga and the government of Kārlis Ulmanis had to request military assistance from Lithuania and Estonia. The Estonians sent two armoured trains to aid the Latvians (according to some explanations, in exchange for Latvia ceding the island of Ruhnu and its territorial waters to Estonia) while the Lithuanians were engaged in battles with the Bolsheviks and could only issue diplomatic protests. The Latvians also received assistance from the guns of a British Royal Navy battleship in Riga harbour.

In November the Latvian army managed to drive the Bermont-Avalov forces into Lithuanian territory. Finally, the West Russian Volunteer Army suffered heavy defeats by the Lithuanians near Radviliškis, a major railway centre. After the involvement of the Entente military mission, the remaining elements of the West Russian Volunteer Army withdrew from the Baltics into Germany.

See also



  1. Bischoff, Josef, Die letzte Front. Geschichte der Eiserne Division im Baltikum 1919, Berlin 1935.
  2. Darstellungen aus den Nachkriegskämpfen deutscher Truppen und Freikorps, Bd 2: Der Feldzug im Baltikum bis zur zweiten Einnahme von Riga. Januar bis Mai 1919, Berlin 1937; Bd 3: Die Kämpfe im Baltikum nach der zweiten Einnahme von Riga. Juni bis Dezember 1919, Berlin 1938.
  3. Die Baltische Landeswehr im Befreiungskampf gegen den Bolschewismus, Riga 1929.
  4. Eesti Vabadussõda 1918-1920, Tallinn, Mats, 1997. ISBN 9985-51-028-3.
  5. Kiewisz, Leon, Sprawy łotewskie w bałtyckiej polityce Niemiec 1914-1919, Poznań 1970.
  6. Paluszyński, Tomasz, Walka o niepodległość Łotwy 1914-1920, Warszawa 1999.
  7. Von den baltische Provinzen zu den baltischen Staaten. Beiträge zur Entstehungsgeschichte der Republiken Estland und Lettland, Bd I (1917-1918), Bd II (1919-1920), Marburg 1971, 1977.
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