Is the October Revolution a needless tragedy or conformity to the laws of history? Was the Red Terror a response to the resistance of the White Guard? What influence did the bloody events have on the destiny of Belarus and Belarusians?
100 years on, historians and politicians are still looking for the answers.
Felix Dzerzhinsky, one of the initiators of mass repressions and the creator of the Cheka, defined the Red Terror as ‘intimidation, arrests and destruction of enemies of the revolution taking into account their class affiliation’. Independent experts state that the Red Terror is not only punitive measures of the Bolsheviks in the course of the Civil War (1917-1923), but during the whole period of existence of the Soviet regime.
However, according to representatives of Belarus’ opposition leftist movement, the Bolsheviks’ struggle against counter-revolution was a response to anti-Bolshevik terror. Syarhei Vaznyak, editor-in-chief of the newspaper Comrade, does not share the opinion that the Red Terror began almost immediately after the Bolsheviks came to power. According to the Communist, it became possible only after the subversive activity of representatives of the White movement.
But if the so-called anti-Bolshevik resistance hit about 250,000-300,000 persons on Soviet-controlled territories, in the first years after the October Revolution, chekists killed, according to various estimates, 1.5-2 mln people – including priests, intellectuals and scientists.
“There is no excuse and no logical explanation to that. This was terror against their own people,” historian Ihar Kuznyatsou believes.
At the same time, as the best part of present-day Belarus was occupied by Poles and Germans, neither Red nor White terror massively affected Belarusians lands during the first years after the Bolshevik revolution, he stressed. However, the Civil War was over, the Reds defeated the Whites, but the repressive machine continued to warp and take lives of innocent Belarusians.