March 15, 2017
The corporate media presents Russia as militaristic but ignores Canada’s invasion of that country.
One hundred years ago a popular revolt ousted the Russian monarchy. Enraged at Nicholas II’s brutality and the horror of the First World War, protests and strikes swept the capital of Petrograd (Saint Petersburg). Within a week the czar abdicated. Later in the year the Bolsheviks rose to power in large part by committing to withdraw from the war.
The English, French and U.S. responded to the Bolsheviks’ rise by supporting the Russian monarchists (the White movement) in their fight to maintain power. Six thousand Canadian troops also invaded. According to Roy Maclaren in Canadians in Russia, 1918 – 1919, Canadian gunners won “a vicious reputation amongst the Bolsheviks for the calm skill with which they used shrapnel as a short-range weapon against foot soldiers.”
While a Canadian naval vessel supported the White Russians, Canadian pilots stationed near the Black Sea provided air support.
The war against the Bolsheviks was initially justified as a way to reopen the First World War’s eastern front (the Bolsheviks signed a peace treaty with Germany). Canadian troops, however, stayed after the war ended. In fact, 2,700 Canadian troops arrived in the eastern city of Vladivostok on January 5, 1919, two months after the war’s conclusion. A total of 3,800 Canadian troops, as well as Royal Northwest Mounted Police and 697 horses, went to Siberia, which the Whites continued to control long after losing Moscow, St. Petersburg and most of the western part of the country.
Ottawa maintained its forces in Russia after the conclusion of the First World War partly to persuade the British that Canada merited inclusion in the Paris peace conference that would divvy up the spoils of the war. Prime Minister Borden wrote:
“We shall stand in an unfortunate position unless we proceed with Siberia expedition. We made definite arrangements with the British government on which they have relied … Canada’s present position and prestige would be singularly impaired by deliberate withdrawal.”