White Terror is the violence carried out by reactionary (usually monarchist or conservative) groups as part of a counter-revolution. In particular, during the 20th century, in several countries the term White Terror was applied to acts of violence against real or suspected socialists and communists. A White Terror may be contrasted with its revolutionary counterpart Red Terror.
Historical origin: the French Revolution
The name derives from the traditional use of the colour white as a symbol of the Bourbon monarchy, as opposed to the red used by revolutionaries/republicans as in their Phrygian caps and red flag.
The original White Terror took place in 1794, during the turbulent times surrounding the French Revolution. It was organized by reactionary "Chouan" royalist forces in the aftermath of the Reign of Terror, and was targeted at the radical Jacobins and anyone suspected of supporting them. Throughout France, both real and suspected Jacobins were attacked and often murdered. Just like during the Reign of Terror, trials were held with little regard for due process. In other cases, gangs of youths who had aristocratic connections roamed the streets beating known Jacobins. These "bands of Jesus" dragged suspected revolutionaries from prisons and murdered them much as alleged royalists had been murdered during the September Massacres of 1792.
Again, in 1815, following the return of King Louis XVIII of France to power, people suspected of having ties with the governments of the French Revolution or of Napoleon suffered arrest and execution. Marshal Brune was killed in Avignon, and General Jean-Pierre Ramel was assassinated in Toulouse. These actions struck fear in the population, dissuading Jacobin and Bonapartist electors to vote for the ultras. Of 402 members, the first Chamber of the Restoration was composed of 350 ultra-royalists; the king himself thus named it the Chambre introuvable ("the Unobtainable Chamber"). The Chamber voted oppressive laws, sentencing to death Marshal Ney and general la Bédoyère, while 250 people were given prison sentences and some others exiled (Joseph Fouché, Lazare Carnot, Cambacérès).
Anti-communist White Terrors
The White Terror (Bulgarian language: Бял терор , Byal teror) in Bulgaria occurred during the right-wing government of Aleksandar Tsankov (1923–26). The Bulgarian Communist Party was repressed and martial law was declared. In 1925, after the Sofia bomb attack aimed to assassinate Tsar Boris III, the Communist Party was outlawed and persecution escalated, with many notable figures who had expressed Communist beliefs—for example, writer Geo Milev—being repressed, and many killed without trial. An estimated 5000 people perished in the Tsankovite White Terror.
The White Terror in mainland China began on April 12, 1927, when Chiang initiated a purge of Communists from the Shanghai Kuomintang and began large-scale killings in the "Shanghai massacre of 1927". The White Terror in China took millions of lives, most of them in rural areas, and nearly destroyed the Chinese Communist Party.
After the Finnish Civil War of 1918, the victorious White troops of Carl Gustaf Mannerheim carried out terror against workers and suspected leftists. According to Finnish studies, some 80,000 people and their families were sent to concentration camps, where more than 11,783 died of disease or starvation. About 8500 people were executed. In Helsinki, the White Guards made workers' wives and children walk in front of their troops as they recaptured the city street by street. In Lahti, in one day, some 200 women were shot with explosive bullets. In Viipuri, 600 Red Guards were lined up in three rows and machine gunned to death.
In the aftermath of World War I, Germany tottered on the brink of chaos. In an attempt to suppress the revolution, militias formed out of demobilized World War I veterans. The Freikorps, as they were called, were meant as a replacement for the Kaiser's Army, which had evaporated overnight due to desertion. The Freikorps was used to suppress the Spartacist League on the streets of Berlin and then successfully invaded the Bavarian Soviet Republic. A large number of people were murdered in the subsequent terror. The number of workers who died in the repression of revolutionary developments in Germany from 1918 to 1921 was estimated at 15,000.
During 1945–46, right-wing gangs killed about 1,190 pro-communist and left-wing civilians, and tortured many others. Entire villages that helped the partisans were attacked by those gangs.
Military rulers of Guatemala resorted to white terror since Julio César Méndez Montenegro, initially as a counter-insurgency tactic, but it soon became an unrestrained campaign of murder, kidnapping, and destruction disproportional to a military threat. It was branded a White Terror even in a report of allied U.S. intelligence service, now declassified. Governmental and paramilitary forces killed or disappeared about 15,000 of civilians during the Méndez's rule in 1966–69, especially in peasant communities. The victims included guerrilla sympathizers, labor union leaders, intellectuals, students, and vaguely defined "enemies of the government". Mass extra-judicial terror campaign against leftists, other civil activists, and impoverished indigenous population recurred several times until c. 1992, resulting in several times more deaths.
One of the first such White Terrors outside Russia was the Hungarian White Terror, carried out by irregular and semi-regular detachments in Hungary in 1919–20, after the fall of the Hungarian Soviet Republic in response to the Red Terror. Most of them formally belonged to Miklós Horthy's "National Army", but they were not under direct control, and it is disputed if Horthy had known about their actions. Militias massacred approximately 600-2000 people, mostly communist Jews and alleged traitors.
The White Armies, foreign forces, and other opponents of the Soviet Government carried out mass violence against the population, tortured and shot people suspected of being associated with the soviets, destroyed villages, and tormented Red Army prisoners. After each town was captured, there was a protracted massacre of suspected opponents. Some historians believe that the White terror was premeditated and systematic, as orders for terror came from high officials in the White movement, as well as legislative actions of the White regimes.
In Taiwan, the "White Terror" describes the suppression of political dissidents under the martial law period from May 19, 1947 to July 15, 1987, following the Kuomintang's acquisition of Taiwan and its retreat there. It resulted in part from the 228 Incident (also known as the "228 massacre") in Taiwan in 1947. It included the repression of democrats, communists and Taiwan independence supporters.
Before and during the Korean War, there were a series of reprisal killings carried out by South Korean security forces against suspected communists. The most infamous incident of this type occurred during the Jeju Uprising that took place on Jeju island. In recent years, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Korea revealed many massacres which have been blamed on communist forces/sympathizers. The worst tragedy was the Bodo League massacre. There were various other massacres that also took place, such as the Mungyeong massacre, Geochang massacre, Sancheong and Hamyang massacre and Ganghwa massacre. The governmental research into such incidents began in 2005.
During and after the civil war in Spain the Nationalist side executed an estimated 200,000 people.
Other White Terrors
In February 1977, the EPRP, a communist group, initiated terrorist attacks—known as the White Terror—against Derg members and their supporters (another communist group). This violence immediately claimed at least eight Derg members, plus numerous Derg supporters, and soon provoked a government counteraction – the Red Terror. In comparison to groups that committed other White Terrors, the EPRP was not reactionary or anti-communist.
Memorials to victims of White Terror
In Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and elsewhere, there are a significant number of monuments dedicated to victims of the White Terror. Most monuments were placed on the mass graves where victims of the terror are buried. In the central square in Volgograd there is a "Square of Fallen Fighters", created 1920, where the remains of 55 victims of the white terror are buried. A monument was established in 1957, in black and red granite, inscribed with: "To the freedom fighters of Red Tsaritsyn. Buried here are the heroic defenders of Red Tsaritsyn brutally tortured by White Guard butchers in 1919."
A monument to victims of the White Terror in Vyborg was constructed in 1961 near the Leningrad highway. It is dedicated to the memory of 600 prisoners who were shot with machine guns by the White Guards on the ramparts of the city.
The "In Memory of Victims of White Terror" monument in Voronezh is located in a park near the regional Nikitinskaia libraries. The monument was unveiled in 1920 on the site where public executions were carried out in 1919 by the troops of Mamantov. In Sevastopol on the 15th Bastion Street of December 1920, there is a "Communard Cemetery and victims of white terror". The cemetery is named in honor of the members of the Communist underground, murdered by Whites in 1919–20.
In the city of Slavgorad in Altai, there is a monument dedicated to the participants in the Chernodolsky Uprising and their families who fell victim to the white terror of Ataman Annekov.
Taiwanese composer Tyzen Hsiao wrote his 2001 Ilha Formosa: Requiem for Formosa's Martyrs in memory of that island's victims of anti-communist persecution.
- Red Terror (disambiguation)
- Revolutionary terror
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- Памятники и достопримечательности Волгограда
- Скульптура Выборга
- Кладбище Коммунаров
- Памятник борцам революции, ставшим жертвами белого террора, нуждается в серьёзной реконструкции
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