The Military Writings of
Leon Trotsky

Volume 2, 1919

How the Revolution Armed

The Eastern Front

Kolchak’s Offensive (March-April 1919)


By the Chairman of the Revolutionary War Council of the Republic and People’s Commissar for Military and Naval Affairs to the troops on the Eastern front, May 1, 1919, No.92

Transcribed and HTML markup for the Trotsky Internet Archive by David Walters

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After a period of temporary weakness and retreat, the Soviet Eastern front has been reinforced and strengthened. We are holding the enemy’s attack and on certain sectors have begun to go over to the offensive ourselves. Another week or two, and a turn will become apparent along the whole line of the front. Kolchak’s forces will be hurled back.

On the threshold of this new, victorious period in the work of the Eastern armies, I remind them of the need for the strictest fulfilment of my order previously given regarding the attitude to be taken towards deserters from the enemy and prisoners of war:

Deserters from the enemy are to be received in a friendly way, as comrades who have freed themselves from under Kolchak’s lash, or as repentant adversaries. This applies not only to soldiers but also to officers. Whoever comes over to our side is to be welcomed.

Enemies who have surrendered or who have been taken prisoner are in no case to be shot. It is to be kept firmly in mind that in Kolchak’s army there is a section who have been deceived and another section who are fighting under compulsion, and that only a very small section of that army consists of monarchist Kolchakites. Even among Kolchak’s officers it is only the top layer of admirals and generals that consists of sworn enemies of the working class. The majority of the lower-ranking officers were forcibly mobilised and would be glad to shake off the yoke.

When they have seen on whose side truth and power lie, not Kolchak’s soldiers only, but also many of his officers will then work honestly in the Soviet ranks.

Arbitrary shooting of men who come over from the enemy, as also of prisoners of war, will be punished ruthlessly in accordance with military law.

Let Kolchak’s executioners shoot prisoners. The workers’ and peasants’ army will turn repentant enemies into friends.

Commanders, commissars and conscious soldiers are to check strictly on the fulfilment of this order.

The Revolutionary War Councils of the Eastern Armies are instructed to give the widest publicity to this order, to circulate it in all units of the armies of the Eastern front, and to convey it by hand to commanders and commissars of units, so that no-one may excuse himself by pleading ignorance of it. At the same time, measures must be taken to ensure that the order becomes known to all the soldiers and commanders of Kolchak’s counter-revolutionary army. Let them decide their fate for themselves!

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Last updated on: 23.12.2006