The Red Riflemen

comi 080219 
This article dated August 2nd, 1919 is interesting. Bolshevik forces crossed into Latvia from Russia in December, 1918 and quickly controlled all of Latvia except for small sliver in the southwest. These quick gains were reversed in relative short order. The article conveniently explains these military setbacks by blaming commanders, the command structure and undisciplined troops.
The explanation for this reversal is political not military. The Lettish sharpshooters, also known as the Red Riflemen (sarkanie Strēlnieki) noted in the article had demonstrated a high level of effectiveness during the Communist take-over and following civil war in Russia. The Latvian troops were legendary for their discipline and skilled officer corps. So what happened? Soviet Communism happened.
Instead of consolidating their military gains and tacticly introducing the new order they chose a different path. This period became known as the Red Terror: summary executions, property confiscation, confiscatory taxes and concentartion camps were quickly introduced. Support for the nascent Latvian Socialist Soviet Republic evaporated both within the civilian population and armed forces. What is described as lack of discipline, were in fact mass desertions and extremely low morale as the troops began to realize what they had wrought. Many of the Red Riflemen were attracted to Lenin’s promises to end WWI and a guarantee of ethnic autonomy. Evolving events were in stark contrast to their aspirations and in many cases they crossed over and fought against Soviet control.
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