Russian troops on the Romanian Front began to be infected with the Bolshevik virus as early as the spring of 1917. During the summer of that year, during the battles of Mărăști, Mărășești and Oituz, some of the Russian soldiers on the Romanian Front, influenced by Bolshevik propaganda, refused to fight. The events precipitated with the signing on December 9, 1918 of the Armistice of Focșani between the Central Powers and Russia and Romania.
Even before the negotiations for the armistice, many of the units of the Russian army on the Romanian were in chaos. Many Russian commanders were arrested and replaced with young revolutionary officers. General Ragoza, commander of the 4th Army, fell prey to these changes. He was arrested and replaced by revolutionary officers. The same thing happened in Galaţi, where the Revolutionary Committee of the Russian 6th Army dismissed its commander, General Curikov. The Bolshevik revolutionaries tried to do the same with General Keltschewski at the 9th Army headquarters, but they failed because the Ukrainian soldiers defended Kelcevski.
General Shcherbachev, the main target of the Bolsheviks
The real target for the Bolshevik revolutionaries in the Russian army in Romania was General Shcherbachev, the commander of the Russian troops in Romania. On December 15, Senen Roșal, who had been appointed by Lenin commissioner for the Romanian Front, led a Bolshevik action to take control of the Front Revolutionary Committee with the help of Russian troops located in Socola, a suburb of the city of Iași. When the intentions of the Bolsheviks became clear, Shcherbachev requested the intervention of the Romanian troops to stop the action of the Bolsheviks. French General Henri Berthelot, the commander of the French Military Mission in Romania, wanted all Bolshevik agitators from Socola arrested in mass. Romania was in a delicate position. Moreover, the Romanian Prime Minister Ionel Brătianu refrained from taking action fearing that the Russian troops on the Romanian Front would march on to Iași, or other cities. Lenin’s intentions regarding Romania were not clear if the Russian Bolsheviks were arrested by the Romanian army. Lenin could even declare war on Romania. But things deteriorated, the Bolsheviks became more aggressive, and Romania was left with only one choice: to intervene against the Bolsheviks who were producing disorder in the country. On December 22, General Constantin Prezan, the commander of the Romanian army, was ordered to use force against the Bolshevik centres in Socola, but also in other parts of Romania. The Romanian army disarmed 3000 Russian soldiers at Socola “without the slightest bloodshed”. The same action took place in other Bolshevik revolutionary centres in Romania. Following the intervention of the Romanian soldiers, General Ragoza, as well as other Russian generals were reinstated in command positions. Even after this action, the Russian divisions on the Romanian Front were in an accelerated stage of dissolution. More and more Russian soldiers were leaving their positions, and in the front line more and more breaches appeared, forcing the Romanian army to fill in the gaps left by the Russians.
Glenn E. Torrey, România în Primul Război Mondial [Romania in the First World War], Meteor Publishing House, Bucharest, 2014.
I.G. Duca, Memorii [Memoirs], vol. I, Expres Publishing House, Bucharest, 1992.
The Count of Saint-Aulaire, Însemnările unui diplomat de altădată: În România: 1916-1920 [The testimonies of a former diplomat: In Romania: 1916-1920], Humanitas Publishing House, Bucharest, 2016.
Constantin Argetoianu, Memorii [Memoirs], Humanitas, Bucharest, 1992.
Florin Constantiniu, O istorie sinceră a poporului român [A sincere history of the Romanian people], Encyclopaedic Universe Publishing House, Bucharest, 2008.
Translated by Laurențiu Dumitru Dologa