The Red Army’s cavalry commanders (or the Red Cavalry commanders), a group of military personnel who played an influential role in the victory of the Red Army during the Russian Civil War and formed the Soviet military elites after the war, have been almost entirely neglected by previous historiography. The belief that these commanders were more conservative from the military point of view and thus were unable to meet the technological challenges of modern warfare has been prevalent. In a broader context, however, this fallacy mainly stems from a lack of understanding of the complexity inherent in military doctrine and the process of making military policy.
This article examines the 154 Red Cavalry commanders in the Russian Civil War, analyzing their socio-economic, demographic, and former military profiles. Based on the database built with approach of collective biography, the article demonstrates who the commanders were, why they joined the Red Army, and the strategic culture stemmed from their social background and the Imperial Russian Army.
The Red Cavalry commanders were primarily from the poorest segment of southern Russia. Their socio-economic status was a strong factor in motivating inogorodnie and poor Cossacks to form the Red Cavalry against the White Army in southern Russia. They were also the same ‘generation’ who shared social-political experiences from the 1861 Emancipation Reform until the Civil War. It is clear that their opposition to the status quo disinclined them to join the White Army, at the very least. Furthermore, this certain tendency helped the Red Cavalry commanders take a very different stand on military innovation and strategic culture. Unlike the White Cavalry, the Red Cavalry was the strategic culture bearer of the Imperial Russian cavalry, inheriting many features such as the attitude toward new military technologies and the combination of fire power and mobility.