The Red Terror was a period of political repression and mass killings carried out by Bolsheviks after the beginning of the Russian Civil War in 1918. The term is usually applied to Bolshevik political repression during the Civil War (1917-1922), as distinguished from the White Terror carried out by the White Army (Russian and non-Russian groups opposed to Bolshevik rule) against their political enemies (including the Bolsheviks). It was modeled on the Terror of the French Revolution. The Cheka (the Bolshevik secret police) carried out the repressions of the Red Terror. Estimates for the total number of people killed during the Red Terror for the initial period of repression are at least 10,000. Estimates for the total number of victims of Bolshevik repression vary widely. One source asserts that the total number of victims of repression and pacification campaigns could be 1.3 million, whereas another gives estimates of 28,000 executions per year from December 1917 to February 1922. The most reliable estimations for the total number of killings put the number at about 100,000, whereas others suggest a figure of 200,000.
Historian I.S Ratkovsky argues that the establishment of the Red Terror regime in September 1918 was caused by various factors. There was economic and political disorganization in the country, the radicalization of the masses, the devaluation of life and polarization of society that intensified during the First World War, leading to the emergence of mob justice, banditry, and riots. Increasingly, a violent solution to political and social problems were emphasized. Ratkovsky notes that the use of coercion was inherent to all parties to the conflict.
Ratkovsky places emphasis on the role of foreign countries in intensifying the civil war, involving German, Czechoslovakian, American, British, French, and Japanese forces. The use of repression was justified by the State on the basis of the foreignness of its enemies. There was the suppression of revolutions in Hungary, Germany, and especially Finland, which pushed for more decisive action by the Soviet state against its adversaries. Believing that its foes were diametrically opposed to it, the Soviet forces aimed at suppressing them, including their social basis. Thus, the repression was directed against ancien regime officials and military officers, policemen, and members of the upper classes 
In addition to clearing the old state apparatus, the Red Terror had a purpose in strengthening the Soviet state. According to Ratkovsky, the situation demanded the Bolsheviks retain power not only by suppressing rebellion, but also to prevent it at all costs, as well as signs of anarchy. The Red Terror sought to fix the problem of the spontaneous, individual terror. 
The Red Terror in Soviet Russia was justified in the Soviet historiography as a wartime campaign against counter-revolutionaries during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1921, targeting those who sided with the Whites (White Army). Bolsheviks referred to any anti-Bolshevik factions as Whites, regardless of whether those factions actually supported the White movement cause. Leon Trotsky described the context in 1920:
The severity of the proletarian dictatorship in Russia, let us point out here, was conditioned by no less difficult circumstances [than the French Revolution]. There was one continuous front, on the north and south, in the east and west. Besides the Russian White Guard armies of Kolchak, Denikin and others, there are those attacking Soviet Russia, simultaneously or in turn: Germans, Austrians, Czecho-Slovaks, Serbs, Poles, Ukrainians, Roumanians, French, British, Americans, Japanese, Finns, Esthonians, Lithuanians ... In a country throttled by a blockade and strangled by hunger, there are conspiracies, risings, terrorist acts, and destruction of roads and bridges.
He then went on to contrast the terror with the revolution and provide the Bolshevik's justification for it:
The first conquest of power by the Soviets at the beginning of November 1917 (new style) was actually accomplished with insignificant sacrifices. The Russian bourgeoisie found itself to such a degree estranged from the masses of the people, so internally helpless, so compromised by the course and the result of the war, so demoralized by the regime of Kerensky, that it scarcely dared show any resistance. ... A revolutionary class which has conquered power with arms in its hands is bound to, and will, suppress, rifle in hand, all attempts to tear the power out of its hands. Where it has against it a hostile army, it will oppose to it its own army. Where it is confronted with armed conspiracy, attempt at murder, or rising, it will hurl at the heads of its enemies an unsparing penalty.
We are not fighting against single individuals. We are exterminating the bourgeoisie as a class. Do not look in the file of incriminating evidence to see whether or not the accused rose up against the Soviets with arms or words. Ask him instead to which class he belongs, what is his background, his education, his profession. These are the questions that will determine the fate of the accused. That is the meaning and essence of the Red Terror.
The bitter struggle was described succinctly from the Bolshevik point of view by Grigory Zinoviev in mid-September 1918:
To overcome our enemies we must have our own socialist militarism. We must carry along with us 90 million out of the 100 million of Soviet Russia's population. As for the rest, we have nothing to say to them. They must be annihilated.
The campaign of mass repressions officially started as retribution for the assassination (17 August 1918) of Petrograd Cheka leader Moisei Uritsky by Leonid Kannegisser and for the attempted assassination (30 August 1918) of Vladimir Lenin by Fanni Kaplan. While recovering from his wounds, Lenin instructed: "It is necessary - secretly and urgently to prepare the terror".
On August 5, 1918, a revolt led by wealthy peasants broke out in Kuchkino district in the Penza region. The rebellion was suppressed on August 8, but the situation in the region remained tense. On August 18, another revolt broke out, led by the Socialist-Revolutionaries. The Penza regional leaders were seen as not responding firmly enough against rebellion, which prompted Lenin to send several telegrams urging them to be more resolute in fighting against the rebels: "Essential to organise a reinforced guard of selected and reliable people, to carry out a campaign of ruthless mass terror against the kulaks, priests and whiteguards; suspects to be shut up in a detention camp outside the city."
On August 11, 1918 Lenin instructed the following action:
"Comrades! The insurrection of five kulak districts should be pitilessly suppressed. The interests of the whole revolution require this because 'the last decisive battle' with the kulaks is now under way everywhere. An example must be demonstrated.
- Hang (absolutely hang, in full view of the people) no fewer than one hundred known kulaks, filthy rich men, bloodsuckers.
- Publish their names.
- Seize all grain from them.
- Designate hostages - in accordance with yesterday's telegram.
Do it in such a fashion, that for hundreds of verst around the people see, tremble, know, shout: "strangling (is done) and will continue for the bloodsucking kulaks".
Telegraph the receipt and the implementation. Yours, Lenin.
P.S. Use your toughest people for this."
The first official announcement of a Red Terror, published in Izvestia, "Appeal to the Working Class" on 3 September 1918, called for the workers to "crush the hydra of counterrevolution with massive terror! ... anyone who dares to spread the slightest rumor against the Soviet regime will be arrested immediately and sent to a concentration camp". There followed the decree "On Red Terror", issued on 5 September 1918 by the Cheka.
On 15 October, the leading Chekist Gleb Bokii, summing up the officially ended Red Terror, reported that in Petrograd 800 alleged enemies had been shot and another 6,229 imprisoned. Casualties in the first two months were between 10,000 and 15,000 based on lists of summarily executed people published in newspaper Cheka Weekly and other official press. A declaration About the Red Terror by the Sovnarkom on 5 September 1918 stated:
...that for empowering the All-Russian Extraordinary Commission in the fight with the counter-revolution, profiteering and corruption and making it more methodical, it is necessary to direct there possibly bigger number of the responsible party comrades, that it is necessary to secure the Soviet Republic from the class enemies by way of isolating them in concentration camps, that all people are to be executed by fire squad who are connected with the White Guard organizations, conspiracies and mutinies, that it is necessary to publicize the names of the executed as well as the reasons of applying to them that measure.
Opponents of the Soviet government, particularly the government of White army leader A Denikin, claimed that significant numbers of prisoners, suspects and hostages were executed because they belonged to the "possessing classes", including between 2000 and 3000 in Kharkov in 1919 and 1,000 in Rostov in 1920.
According to Prof. Ratkovsky of Petersburg University, the number of executions carried out during the Red Terror amounted to 8000 people: 2000 executions occurred from August 30 to 5 September 1918, and another 3000 during the remaining days of September. 3000 more were executed during October-November 1918. 
There were claims among Russian emigres of large-scale repression in the Crimea after the Soviets established control of the region in 1920. Emigrant B.L. Solonevich wrote about 40,000 executed in the first three months alone, and S.P. Melgunov, who readily quotes eyewitness accounts and the white emigrant press, gave estimates of 50, 100 and 150 thousand people. These estimates are considered to be exaggerated. In the book "The Last Hermitage", which contains reports on the executions of captured officers and gendarmes, there are 4,534 executed. Of these, there were 2,065 in Simferopol, 624 in Kerch, and 53 in Sevastopol. The report of P. Zotov, the head of the Special Division of the 9th Division, was published, in which out of 1,100 whites registered in Feodosia there were 1,006 people were executed. All the people who were executed belonged to officers, military officials and police officers of the White Army. A resolution was also issued on the execution of 320 officers in Dzhankoy on November 28, 1920. The scale of repression in Crimea was considered extraordinary, and there was no similar wave of repression against the captured armies of Denikin and Kolchak.
The author of an article in Crimean newspaper "Sevastopol Pravda" doubted claims of atrocities in Crimea in 1920, writing "I could not believe in the "Red atrocities" that Melgunov wrote about, because having lived in Sevastopol since 1948, I had not heard anything like this from the locals. Less than 30 years had passed by that time, and witnesses were alive... In addition, during and after the civil war, my grandfather lived with his family in the village, and my father, who was then 14 years old, lived in Simferopol. I did not hear anything about "Red atrocities" from them either. Moreover, in Sevastopol, two elder brothers of my father, privates who served with the White Army, were captured. One of them was wounded at Perekop and was in the hospital. None of them were subjected to violence and were not exiled to the North." 
On 16 March 1919, all military detachments of the Cheka were combined in a single body, the Troops for the Internal Defense of the Republic, which numbered 200,000 in 1921. These troops policed labor camps, ran the Gulag system, conducted requisitions of food, and put down peasant rebellions, riots by workers, and mutinies in the Red Army (which was plagued by desertions).
One of the main organizers of the Red Terror for the Bolshevik government was 2nd-Grade Army Commissar Yan Karlovich Berzin (1889-1938), whose real name was P?teris ?uzis. He took part in the October Revolution of 1917 and afterwards worked in the central apparatus of the Cheka. During the Red Terror, Berzin initiated the system of taking and shooting hostages to stop desertions and other "acts of disloyalty and sabotage".[page needed] As chief of a special department of the Latvian Red Army (later the 15th Army), Berzin played a part in the suppression of the Russian sailors' mutiny at Kronstadt in March 1921. He particularly distinguished himself in the course of the pursuit, capture, and killing of captured sailors.[page needed]
The Internal Troops of the Cheka and the Red Army practised the terror tactics of taking and executing numerous hostages, often in connection with desertions of forcefully mobilized peasants. According to Orlando Figes, more than 1 million people deserted from the Red Army in 1918, around 2 million people deserted in 1919, and almost 4 million deserters escaped from the Red Army in 1921. Around 500,000 deserters were arrested in 1919 and close to 800,000 in 1920 by Cheka troops and special divisions created to combat desertions. Thousands of deserters were killed, and their families were often taken hostage. According to Lenin's instructions,
After the expiration of the seven-day deadline for deserters to turn themselves in, punishment must be increased for these incorrigible traitors to the cause of the people. Families and anyone found to be assisting them in any way whatsoever are to be considered as hostages and treated accordingly.
In September 1918, in just twelve provinces of Russia, 48,735 deserters and 7,325 bandits were arrested, 1,826 were killed and 2,230 were executed. A typical report from a Cheka department stated:
Yaroslavl Province, 23 June 1919. The uprising of deserters in the Petropavlovskaya volost has been put down. The families of the deserters have been taken as hostages. When we started to shoot one person from each family, the Greens began to come out of the woods and surrender. Thirty-four deserters were shot as an example.
This campaign marked the beginning of the Gulag, and some scholars have estimated that 70,000 were imprisoned by September 1921 (this number excludes those in several camps in regions that were in revolt, such as Tambov). Conditions in these camps led to high mortality rates, and "repeated massacres" took place. The Cheka at the Kholmogory camp adopted the practice of drowning bound prisoners in the nearby Dvina river. Occasionally, entire prisons were "emptied" of inmates via mass shootings prior to abandoning a town to White forces.
On 16 March 1919, Cheka stormed the Putilov factory. More than 900 workers who went to a strike were arrested, of whom more than 200 were executed without trial during the next few days. Numerous strikes took place in the spring of 1919 in cities of Tula, Oryol, Tver, Ivanovo and Astrakhan. Starving workers sought to obtain food rations matching those of Red Army soldiers. They also demanded the elimination of privileges for Bolsheviks, freedom of the press, and free elections. The Cheka mercilessly suppressed all strikes, using arrests and executions.
In the city of Astrakhan, a revolt led by the White Guard forces broke out. In preparing this revolt, the Whites managed to smuggle more than 3000 rifles and machine guns into the city. The leaders of the plot decided to act on the night 9-10 March 1919. The rebels were joined by wealthy peasants from the villages, which suppressed the Committees of the Poor, and committed massacres against rural activists. Eyewitnesses reported atrocities in villages such as Ivanchug, Chagan, Karalat. In response, Soviet forces led by Kirov undertook to suppress this revolt in the villages, and together with the Committees of the Poor restored Soviet power. The revolt in Astrakhan was brought under control by 10 March, and completely defeated by the 12th. More than 184 were sentenced to death, including monarchists, and representatives of the Kadets, Left-Socialist Revolutionaries, repeat offenders, and persons shown to have links with British and American intelligence services. The opposition media with political opponents like Chernov, and Melgunov, and others would later say that between 2,000 and 4,000 were shot or drowned from 12 to 14 of March 1919. 
However, strikes continued. Lenin had concerns about the tense situation regarding workers in the Ural region. On 29 January 1920, he sent a telegram to Vladimir Smirnov stating "I am surprised that you are taking the matter so lightly, and are not immediately executing large numbers of strikers for the crime of sabotage".
At these times, the media of the Soviet government's opponents, including Denikn's Commission to Investigate Bolshevik Crimes, published numerous reports that Cheka interrogators used torture. The commission claimed that, at Odessa the Cheka tied White officers to planks and slowly fed them into furnaces or tanks of boiling water; the commission claimed that in Kharkiv, scalpings and hand-flayings were commonplace: the skin was peeled off victims' hands to produce "gloves"; the commission claimed that the Voronezh Cheka rolled naked people around in barrels studded internally with nails; victims were crucified or stoned to death at Dnipropetrovsk.
Claims were made by the Soviet state's opponents among the White regimes such as Denikin's Commission to Investigate Bolshevik Atrocities as well as political opponents like S. Melgunov about lurid tortures committed by Soviet forces.  At the head of the Commission was a member of the Kadet Party G.A. Meyngard. The tasks of this commission was to publicize the alleged crimes committed by the Soviet forces, mainly intended for a Russian emigre audience. However, the results of the Commission's work was met with controversy. Orenburg University professor L. Futoryansky argues that "the nature of these so-called documents is questionable" according to modern standards and are not suitable for a place in a scientific publication. Futoryansky notes that the commission engaged in exaggerations and instructed witnesses to emphasize negative aspects of the Soviet state and the Cheka. Another skeptical historian, Y. Semyonov, wrote that "As for the material created by the Denikin Commission to Investigate the Crimes of the Bolsheviks, this institution was least interested in the truth. Its purpose was anti-Bolshevik propaganda. The White Guard propagandists were so overdone with the exposure of Bolshevik atrocities that when the falsity of much of what they said became clear, western public opinion was inclined not to believe bad things about the Bolsheviks." 
Executions took place in prison cellars or courtyards, or occasionally on the outskirts of town, during the Red Terror and Russian Civil War. After the condemned were stripped of their clothing and other belongings, which were shared among the Cheka executioners, they were either machine-gunned in batches or dispatched individually with a revolver. Those killed in prison were usually shot in the back of the neck as they entered the execution cellar, which became littered with corpses and soaked with blood. Victims killed outside the town were moved by truck, bound and gagged, to their place of execution, where they sometimes were made to dig their own graves.
According to Edvard Radzinsky, "it became a common practice to take a husband hostage and wait for his wife to come and purchase his life with her body". During decossackization, there were massacres, according to historian Robert Gellately, "on an unheard of scale". The Pyatigorsk Cheka organized a "day of Red Terror" to execute 300 people in one day, and took quotas from each part of town. According to the Chekist Karl Lander, the Cheka in Kislovodsk, "for lack of a better idea", killed all the patients in the hospital. In October 1920 alone more than 6,000 people were executed. Gellately adds that Communist leaders "sought to justify their ethnic-based massacres by incorporating them into the rubric of the 'class struggle'". However, despite estimates of tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of people killed, data from both the Soviet government and its White Cossack opponents demonstrated that about 300 people were killed by the Soviet state. The emigrant P. Grigoryev cited data in the White emigre press: 87 people were shot in the Kazan stanitsa, 64 in Migulinskaya, 46 in Veshenskaya, and 12 in Elanskaya. The former district chieftain Z.A. Alferov confirmed that in Veshenskaya 10 people were shot. The Denikin government's media later alleged that the Soviet side executed 5,598 people in the Kuban, 3,442 in the Don region, and 1500 in Stavropol, figures which are considered to be deliberately falsified by historians.
Alexander Yakovlev, claimed that priests, monks and nuns were crucified, thrown into cauldrons of boiling tar, scalped, strangled, given Communion with melted lead and drowned in holes in the ice. He claimed that an estimated 3,000 were put to death in 1918 alone. However, according to church data, which are considered exaggerated, the number of clerics executed did not exceed 300 people.  I.S. Ratkovsky in 1918 published data on the social status of 5,381 people that were executed, of which 83 were priests. A.L Litvin summarized data published in the Cheka Weekly indicating that out of 2,212 executions, there were 79 of them that were among the clergy.
Some Russian historians such as L. S Gaponenko argue that the Red Terror was a forced measure of the working-class, aimed at protecting the country from the encroachments of its adversaries. He argues that the repression of counter-revolutionaries in fact helped to save the lives of thousands of workers, and that those executed were the organizers and managers of armed resistance. I. Korbalev states that, "The punitive policies of the Soviet regime, including terror as an instrument of policy, were directed against the vanquished, beaten, but still resisting class of exploiters, and against the White Guard. However, the White Terror was directed by the bourgeoisie, monarchists, and their lackeys against workers and peasants, that is, against the majority of the people." Historian A. S. Velidov also wrote about what he saw as the appropriate measures of the Soviet forces, "The question arose: was the Soviet Government to be or not to be? In such a difficult, critical situation, the Cheka was to direct repression against the organizers and active participants in the armed conspiracies and revolts. At the same time, it was granted the right to take hostages from among the former landlords, capitalists, police officers, and dignitaries. [...] The Red Terror was a forced emergency measure of self-defense of the proletarian state, introduced in response to white terror."
Some historians such as Stéphane Courtois and Richard Pipes have argued that the Bolsheviks needed to use terror to stay in power because they lacked popular support. Although the Bolsheviks dominated among workers, soldiers and in their revolutionary soviets, they won less than a quarter of the popular vote in elections for the Constituent Assembly held soon after the October Revolution, since they commanded much less support among the peasantry. Although the Constituent Assembly elections predated the split between the Right SRs, who had opposed the Bolsheviks; and the Left SRs, who were their coalition partners, consequentially many peasant votes intended for the latter went to the SRs. Massive strikes by Russian workers were "mercilessly" suppressed during the Red Terror.
According to Richard Pipes, terror was inevitably justified by Lenin's belief that human lives were expendable in the cause of building the new order of communism. Pipes has quoted Marx's observation of the class struggles in 19th century France: "The present generation resembles the Jews whom Moses led through the wilderness. It must not only conquer a new world, it must also perish in order to make room for the people who are fit for a new world", but noted that neither Marx nor Engels encouraged mass murder.Robert Conquest was convinced that "unprecedented terror must seem necessary to ideologically motivated attempts to transform society massively and speedily, against its natural possibilities".
Orlando Figes' view was that Red Terror was implicit, not so much in Marxism itself, but in the tumultuous violence of the Russian Revolution. He noted that there were a number of Bolsheviks, led by Lev Kamenev, Nikolai Bukharin and Mikhail Olminsky, who criticized the actions and warned that thanks to "Lenin's violent seizure of power and his rejection of democracy", the Bolsheviks would be "forced to turn increasingly to terror to silence their political critics and subjugate a society they could not control by other means". Figes also asserts that the Red Terror "erupted from below. It was an integral element of the social revolution from the start. The Bolsheviks encouraged but did not create this mass terror. The main institutions of the Terror were all shaped, at least in part, in response to these pressures from below."
The German Marxist Karl Kautsky pleaded with Lenin against using violence as a form of terrorism because it was indiscriminate, intended to frighten the civilian population and included the taking and executing hostages: "Among the phenomena for which Bolshevism has been responsible, terrorism, which begins with the abolition of every form of freedom of the Press, and ends in a system of wholesale execution, is certainly the most striking and the most repellent of all".
The Bolshevik policy of terror was more systematic, better organized, and targeted at whole social classes. Moreover, it had been thought out and put into practice before the outbreak of the civil war. The White Terror was never systematized in such a fashion. It was almost invariably the work of detachments that were out of control, and taking measures not officially authorized by the military command that was attempting, without much success, to act as a government. If one discounts the pogroms, which Denikin himself condemned, the White Terror most often was a series of reprisals by the police acting as a sort of military counterespionage force. The Cheka and the Troops for the Internal Defense of the Republic were a structured and powerful instrument of repression of a completely different order, which had support at the highest level from the Bolshevik regime.
Yuri Semyonov argues that "apologists for the Whites, trying to justify them, often say: the White Terror simply amounted to the excesses of individuals wronged by the Bolsheviks, while the Red Terror was a deliberate policy of the Bolsheviks in general and particularly Lenin. This, however, is not true." Semyonov cites documents from Siberia stating "it's forbidden to arrest the workers, you're commanded to shoot or hang them." Kolchak himself issued an order to "I order you to shoot all captured Communists. Now we rely on the bayonet." Kolchak's governor for Yenisei region Lieutenant-General S. Rozanov issued an order stating "The villages, whose people meet government troops with weapons, burn them down and shoot the adult males without exception. Confiscate property, horses, wagons, and grains in favor of the treasury."
James Ryan points out that Lenin never advocated for the physical extermination of the entire bourgeoisie as a class, just the execution of those who were actively involved in opposing and undermining Bolshevik rule. He did intend to bring about "the overthrow and complete abolition of the bourgeoisie", but through non-violent political and economic means.
Leszek Ko?akowski noted that while Bolsheviks (especially Lenin) were very much focused on the Marxian concept of "violent revolution" and dictatorship of the proletariat long before the October Revolution, implementation of the dictatorship was clearly defined by Lenin as early as in 1906, when he argued it must involve "unlimited power based on force and not on law", "absolutely unrestricted by any rules whatever and based directly on violence". In The State and Revolution of 1917, Lenin once again reiterated the arguments raised by Marx and Engels calling for use of terror. Voices such as Kautsky calling for moderate use of violence met "furious reply" from Lenin in The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky (1918). Another theoretical and systematic argument in favor of organized terror in response to Kautsky's reservations was written by Trotsky in The Defense of Terrorism (1921). Trotsky argued that in the light of historical materialism, it is sufficient that the "violence is successful" for it to justify its "rightness". Trotsky also introduced and provided ideological justification for many of the future features characterizing the Bolshevik system such as "militarization of labor" and concentration camps.
The Red Terror was significant as the first of numerous Communist terror campaigns that followed in Russia and many other countries. It also unleashed the Russian Civil War according to historian Richard Pipes.Menshevik Julius Martov wrote about Red Terror:
The beast has licked hot human blood. The man-killing machine is brought into motion ... But blood breeds blood ... We witness the growth of the bitterness of the civil war, the growing bestiality of men engaged in it.
The term 'Red Terror' came to refer to other campaigns of violence carried out by communist or communist-affiliated groups.
Examples of the usage of the term "Red Terrors" include the following:
...the best estimates set the probable number of executions at about a hundred thousand.
In 1977, Leonid Futoryansky was awarded the title of professor. He worked for more than 40 years at the Orenburg State Pedagogical University History Department.
Thanks to the impressive labours of Soviet historians such as V.I. Miller, L.S. Gaponenko, and many others, the ordinary Russian soldier is emerging from the cloak of anonymous history seemed to have thrown over him.... argue that the Red Terror was a forced measure of the working-class, aimed at protecting the country from the encroachments of its adversaries. He argues that the repression of counter-revolutionaries in fact helped to save the lives of thousands of workers, and that those executed were the organizers and managers of armed resistance.