A couple of sketchy sources say between 2.3 and 2.4 million, but the books I've looked through are silent on the matter. Nevertheless, the maximum strength of the Red Army at around 5 million during the Russian Civil War (despite only a tenth of those partaking in battle) is indisputable.

I understand that it is difficult to quantify the strength of the White Armies, due to the disjointedness of their attacks, but are there any credible estimates out there?

  • Indisputable? I dispute it, please prove it. (i.e. please show us your prior research.)
    – CGCampbell
    Nov 2, 2017 at 18:02

2 Answers 2


The White Army was never a unified force but rather a number of armies of varying sizes which rarely co-ordinated their efforts. David Bullock, in The Russian Civil War 1918-22 states

Overall, the White armies were middle class in orientation but were amazingly heterogeneous. Their ranks contained the full spectrum of former Russian society, from peasant to noble. They were united only through their opposition to Bolshevism

The lack of unity is what probably cost them the war, and it also contributes to the problem of estimating numbers. Other complicating factors in making an estimate are:

  • the armies were scattered across different regions of Russia
  • numbers fluctuated as soldiers joined then deserted and then re-joined
  • various armies were at times merged and then split up again
  • whole units would change from one side to the other and then back again
  • numbers vary greatly according to the year as casualties were often extremely heavy
  • inaccurate 'numbers on paper' (see example below)

S.A. Smith, in The Russian Revolution: A Very Short Introduction gives a figure of 2 million by the spring of 1920 for the White Army. He also states that the Red Army numbered around 5 million by the autumn of 1920 but that there were never more than 500,000 in the front line.

Mikhail Khvostov in The Russian Civil War (2): White Armies provides probably the most comprehensive data on the various White Armies and this is most likely what you are looking for. As this data is spread across over 40 pages (there is no summary), it is simply too much to include here. However, here are just a few of the armies he mentions:

  • Northern Army – 18,000 (mid to late 1919)
  • North-Western Army – 101,648 (on paper) but estimated to be 56,600 (with only 27,000 under arms) (Sept 1919)
  • South Russia (The Volunteer Army) – 100,000 (Dec 1918)
  • Crimea, Army of General Wrangel – 30,000 (July 1920, created out of soldiers from other White Armies of the south which had been defeated)
  • Army of Turkestan – 9,000 (May 1919)
  • Basmachi (Muslim Freedom Fighters) – 15,000 (circa. 1919, usually co-ordinated with the Army of Turkestan)
  • Army of the Urals – 25,000 (July 1919)
  • Army of Siberia - 7,600 (July 1918, after which it grew but no figures are given)
  • Army of the West – 51,100 (March 1919)

There were also a number of Ukrainian armies which fought the Red Army, but they also fought the Whites and even each other.

During the early years of the war (the Japanese stayed longer), there were also a number of foreign troops fighting for the Whites.

To help the White Army, troops from Britain, France, Japan and the United States were sent into Russia. By December, 1918, there were 200,000 foreign soldiers supporting the anti-Bolshevik forces.

  • The Khvostov figures aggregated seem way below the S.A. Smith figures.
    – Timothy
    Nov 2, 2017 at 18:29
  • As I mentioned in the answer, I haven't listed all the armies. Also, there are many armies for which Khvostov does not state the size. Nov 2, 2017 at 22:04

This book, of dubious reliability due to its underrepresentation of the Red Army, claims 1 million White soldiers at their peak. There are similar concerns about this book, but it corroborates the figure of 2.4 million.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.