What were the roles of the Soviet advisors in China’s Nationalist Revolution (1923–1928)?

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Soviet advisers played an important role during the Nationalist Revolution. This was all part of an attempt by the USSR to foment radical change in a country which, because of its geographical location, had immense strategic significance for Moscow.

Russian involvement with Chinese affairs during the 1920s represented the entry of the Soviet Union into world politics, and although this first foray into the geopolitical arena ultimately ended in failure, it proved to be vital learning experience nonetheless.

As part of Moscow's involvement in the Revolution, Soviet military advisers were sent to South China, where they helped organize and carry out the Northern Expedition, the military campaign that extended the Revolution into the Yangtze River basin of central China. The Soviet military adviser Blyukher worked with the nationalist Kuomintang (KMT) to draw up an ambitious military plan, which was subsequently submitted to Moscow with the request that it receive political backing and funding from the Soviet government.

Before long, Soviet advisers were taking on an ever more expansive role in the Nationalist Revolution, much to the dismay of leading figures in the KMT such as Chiang Kai-shek, for whom the alliance between Chinese nationalists and the Soviets was purely tactical, not strategic as the Soviets envisaged the relationship. After Chiang launched his successful coup, he immediately set about dispensing with the services of Soviet advisers, removing some from politically significant positions within the leadership of the National Revolutionary Army (NRA) and deporting others.

Despite this, the Soviets would continue to support the NRA and the nationalist Revolution until Chiang turned against the Chinese Communist Party, killing them in large numbers along with anyone else suspected of opposition to the new nationalist regime.

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