In 1920, Michael, the son of a German laboring man, decides to travel to Russia. As "red horseman" he wants to support the socialist revolution and fight for the welfare of the working class. The journey towards the east turns out to be both a big adventure and a severe ethical test for the young man. He has to escape the German Armed Forces and ends up at a traveling circus where he falls in love with Fanny, a dressage rider. He overcomes the temptation to stay with her at the circus and - after briefly joining a gang of teenage thieves - he eventually boards a ship heading east. Aboard the ship he finds out that the seamen are transporting weapons for the hostile members of the White Army.