The Military Writings of
Leon Trotsky

Volume 2, 1919

How the Revolution Armed

The Fight for Petrograd

ORDER No.166

By the Chairman of the Revolutionary Military Council of the Republic and People’s Commissar for Military and Naval Affairs to the Revolutionary War Council of the Seventh Army, November 3, 1919, No.166, Petrograd

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

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The foreign wireless has reported simultaneously two very important pieces of news:

  1. The imperialists of the Entente have allegedly obtained from Finland, in return for cession of the Aaland Islands, that country’s consent to launch an attack on Petrograd.
  2. The White-Guard government of Estonia, certain of whose regiments are supporting Yudenich, has now announced general mobilisation.

Both of these reports, if confirmed, can possess the greatest military significance for the Seventh Army.

The Soviet Government has declared more than once, and proved its statements in practice, that it has not the slightest intention of going to war against independent Estonia and Finland.

On the contrary, the Soviet Government sees it as very much to its interest to demonstrate in practice to all peoples its policy of genuine respect for the right of all nations to self-determination. But, of course, the Soviet Government cannot in any event tolerate attempts by the bourgeoisie of the small states upon the independence of workers’ and peasants’ Russia. If Yudenich, taking cover from pursuit by the Seventh and Fifteenth Armies, were to be given support by Estonia, the task of the Seventh Army would then be to repulse the attack not only of Yudenich but also of his White Estonian accomplices. In that connection, the Seventh Army must keep it firmly in mind that its purpose is not to violate the independence of Estonia in any respect whatsoever, but only to rout the White-Guard bands: therefore, the Seventh Army will be required to march against the Estonian Army only in the event that and only in so far as Estonian units give active support to Yudenich.

An attempt by the Finnish bourgeoisie upon Petrograd would be such a monstrous and senseless foray that, despite the statement on the foreign wireless, this report must be considered improbable. If, nevertheless, it should be confirmed, then the Seventh Army’s task would be not only to administer the required rebuff to such an attack, but also to cure the Finnish bourgeoisie once and for all of any designs against Soviet Russia. In the event that the Finnish bourgeoisie concentrates forces against Petrograd, it will be necessary first and foremost that commanders and commissars explain to all the soldiers of the Seventh Army the brigand character of the attack being undertaken by Finland, and to lay the responsibility for this crime, in full accordance with the facts, not only upon the Finnish bourgeoisie as a whole but also on every Finnish bourgeois individually. Every Finnish bourgeois will answer with his property and his life for this bloodthirsty challenge to the Russian proletariat, who are ready to live in peace with all peoples.

In accordance with the above I propose:

  1. that the line of the Karelian fortification be developed, giving it a completely finished character;
  2. that adequate forces, drawn from the numerous reinforce ments which have been received by the Seventh Army, be concentrated on the Russo-Finnish frontier;
  3. That the command prepare a complete plan for a quick and powerful blow to be struck at Finland in the event of an obvious challenge from that quarter;
  4. that all necessary preparatory measures be taken so that the pursuit and routing of Yudenich may, without any hold-up, be continued on the far side of the Estonian frontier:
  5. that, in carrying out all these measures, the offering of any sort of challenge to Finland or Estonia be strictly avoided on our part, since we have every reason to suppose that the Finnish and Estonian bourgeoisies will, at the last moment, decline to link their fate with that of Yudenich, who is doomed to complete defeat and destruction. [83]


83. The mistakes on Yudenich’s part which hastened his defeat and rout were:
(a) his refusal to recognise the independence of Estonia and Finland, which made these states unwilling to help him with material resources and manpower, despite the Entente’s prompting, so that the North-Western Army lacked protection on both of its flanks;
(b) the fact that, at the decisive moment, the Allies, too, failed to help the North-Western Army – the British fleet did not turn up before the forts of Kronstadt and Krasnaya Gorka. A major strategic mistake was that, carried away by his drive towards Petrograd, Yudenich failed to concern himself sufficiently with cutting the Nikolai Railway, and so allowed us to concentrate the necessary reserves.

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Last updated on: 27.12.2006