Sergey Chudanov. Great Siberian Ice Camp
Smoot. 1919 year. 100 years ago, on 14 on November 1919 of the year, the Red Army occupied Omsk. The remnants of the defeated armies of Kolchak began their retreat to the east - the Great Siberian Ice Campaign.
After the defeat on the Tobol River, the Kolchak army suffered heavy losses that could no longer be restored and non-stop retreated to Omsk. The organized resistance of the Kolchakites was broken. Soviet troops without a pause continued the offensive. After the capture of Petropavlovsk and Ishim (October 31 and November 4 1919), the Red Army on November 4 1919 began the Omsk operation. In the main direction, along the line of the Petropavlovsk-Omsk railway, three divisions of the 5 Red Army moved. To attack Kokchetav, where part of the Whites led by Ataman Dutov retreated, a special group of troops (54-I rifle and one cavalry division) was allocated. The 30th Infantry Division of the 3th Red Army operated along the Ishim - Omsk railway line. In the valley of the Irtysh River, the 51 Division was advancing upstream to Omsk. The 5-I and 29-I divisions were withdrawn to the front reserve.
In Omsk was the Headquarters of Kolchak and his government. From here came the control of the front. The city was the main base of the white army, supplying troops weapons, ammunition and equipment. Therefore, Kolchak made the last desperate attempts to keep the city. There was no consensus among the white command on this issue. So the front commander Diterichs considered the defense of Omsk a hopeless affair and proposed retreating further east. But the supreme ruler did not want to hear about the abandonment of Omsk. “Omsk is unthinkable to pass. With the loss of Omsk, everything is lost, ”Kolchak said. He was supported by Sakharov. On November 4 on November 1919 there was a final break: Kolchak was furious with the stubbornness of the commander in chief, accused him of mediocrity, defeat, and ordered him to surrender his command to Sakharov. Diterikhs left for Vladivostok.
Kolchak asked for help from the commander of the allied forces, General Janin. He proposed moving the Czechoslovakians to the front line (their number reached an entire army - 60 thousand fighters). Jeanne refused under the pretext of the complete decomposition of the Czechs. It was true, the Czechs, controlling the Siberian Railway, did not want to fight, but only guarded their echelons with riches stolen in Russia. At the same time, they negatively reacted to the Kolchak government. The only thing that kept the Czechs from a new uprising, already against the Kolchakites, was greed. The railway protection service was well paid and gave them the opportunity to accumulate many echelons of trophies, ownerless and looted goods. On the other hand, the Entente has already written off Kolchak as a used tool.
Kolchakites began to hastily prepare the city for defense. In 6 km from the city, they began to build a defense line, dig trenches and install wire fences. The position was convenient: the bends of the Irtysh narrowed the front, covered from the flanks by the river and swamps. In Omsk itself there was a large garrison. The troops of the defeated Kolchak armies retreated to the city. The defense was led by General Wojciechowski. Kolchakovo newspapers and the church raised another campaign to raise the spirit of the army and population. They called on citizens to join the army, power to defend the "Orthodox faith against the Antichrist." However, all these attempts were futile. A large number of combat-ready men gathered in the city — employees of the Kolchak government, rear officers, former tsarist officials, representatives of the bourgeoisie, Cossacks, etc., but they were not eager to take up arms. Representatives of the wealthy classes had already packed their bags and thought about how to escape further east. Officials of the current government from the beginning of November went to the service in full readiness and tried at the first opportunity to jump on the train and go deep into Siberia.
The fall of Omsk
The city’s defense plans collapsed. The large Omsk garrison has completely decomposed. It covered a large part of the officers, who indulged in rampant drunkenness and revelry. There was no one to take a position. Under these conditions, the Kolchak government had no choice but to abandon Omsk’s defense plans and begin the evacuation. The command hoped that it would be possible to assemble troops, including the 1 th army of Pepelyaev, withdrawn earlier to the rear and give battle on the line of Tomsk-Novonikolaevsk. Belated evacuation began. The Czech regiment standing here escaped one of the first - on November 5. Western diplomats invited Kolchak to take the gold reserve under international protection. The supreme ruler, realizing that he was interested in the Entente only as long as he had gold, refused. The capital was transferred to Irkutsk. On November 10 the Siberian government left there. Suppressed by the setbacks, the head of government Vologda resigned. The formation of a new government was entrusted to a former member of the State Duma, a prominent cadet V. N. Pepelyaev (brother of General A. Pepelyaev). After the February Revolution, Pepelyaev was the commissar of the Provisional Government, the chairman of the eastern section of the Cadet Party Central Committee, and became one of the main organizers of the coup in favor of Kolchak.
The retreat took on a general character. The retreating troops, not having a solid support in the rear, lost the remnants of combat capability. The situation was aggravated by late and prolonged rains. Despite the late season, the turbulent and deep river has not yet frozen. Irtysh spilled, floods began in Omsk. The lower part of the city was flooded, the streets became rivers. In the retreating units, seeing that the escape routes were cut off, panic broke out. Soviet troops would easily destroy the remnants of the White Guard divisions retreating north and south of Omsk, there were no river crossings there. The White Command even considered the possibility of turning the army retreating east to the south, with the aim of withdrawing it to Altai. 10 - On November 12, unexpected frosts chained the river with ice. A general escape for the Irtysh began. In addition, the position in front of Omsk became vulnerable, now the Reds could easily get around it. Evacuation took the character of total flight. Kolchak remained in the city until the last to take out the gold. 12 November, he sent a train with gold. Sam left Omsk on the night of 13. In the afternoon, the rear guards of the White Guards and the headquarters of Commander Sakharov left through the city. Thus began the Great Siberian Ice Campaign, an almost 2500-kilometer horse-foot trek to Chita, which lasted until March 1920.
Meanwhile, the advanced units of the Reds approached the city. November 12 27-I division was 100 km from Omsk. Three brigades of the division, one from the west, the other from the south and north, forced march approached the white capital. On November 14 1919 in the morning the 238 Bryansk Regiment, having overcome almost 100 km on supplies per day, entered the city. Other regiments came up behind him. Omsk occupied without a fight. Several thousand White Guards who did not manage to leave the city laid down their arms. The 27 I rifle division of the Red Army was marked by the revolutionary Red Banner and received the honorary name Omsk. Kolchakites fled in great hurry, so the Reds captured large trophies, including 3 armored trains, 41 guns, over 100 machine guns, more than 200 steam locomotives and 3 thousand wagons, a large number of ammunition.
Palace of the Russian (Omsk) government of Kolchak
After the liberation of Omsk, Soviet troops advanced east for another 40 - 50 km, then stopped for a short rest. The Soviet command was pulling up troops, rear and preparing to continue the offensive. A special Kokchetav group in mid-November liberated the city of Kokchetav and began moving to Atbasar and Akmolinsk. In the Omsk region, units of the 5 and 3 red armies merged. Due to the reduction of the front line and the defeat of the main enemy forces, the persecution of the remnants of the Kolchak army and their elimination was assigned to one 5 army under the command of Eikhe (Tukhachevsky left for the Southern Front in late November). The 3th Army was withdrawn to the reserve, with the exception of the powerful 30th and 51th Rifle Divisions, which merged into the 5th Army. November 20 1919 The Red Army resumed the offensive in the depths of Siberia, beginning the Novonikolaev operation. By this time, the 5 Army numbered 31 thousand bayonets and sabers, not counting reserves, garrisons and rear units.
The retreating white troops totaled about 20 thousand people, plus a large mass of refugees. The retreating armies of Kolchak were divided into several groups. South moved along the highway Barnaul - Kuznetsk - Minusinsk. The middle group, the largest and somewhat more stable, moved along the Siberian Railway. The northern group departed along river systems north of the Siberian Railway. The main forces of Kolchak in the 3 and 2 armies retreated along the only line of the railway and the Siberian highway. The remnants of the 1 Army, previously assigned to the rear for restoration and replenishment, were located in the area of Novonikolaevsk (now Novosibirsk) - Tomsk. After the fall of Omsk, the control of the Kolchak troops was disrupted. Everyone was saved as they could. The government, torn away from the army and Kolchak, essentially collapsed. The front commander, Sakharov, along with his headquarters, lost control and retreated on the train, lost among the many trains that went east. In the middle of this huge convoy, echelons of Kolchak marched on. As a result, in November, the entire railroad from Omsk to Irkutsk was packed with echelons, which evacuated civilian and military institutions, officers, officials, their entourage, families, military and industrial cargoes, and valuables. On the same road, starting from Novonikolaevsk, Polish, Romanian and Czech legionnaires fled. Soon all this was mixed into one continuous line of large-scale flight of Kolchakites, and civilians who did not want to remain under the rule of the Bolsheviks.
The Trans-Siberian Railway at that time was controlled by Czechs, who received orders not to let Russian military trains pass east of Taiga station until all Czechoslovakians with their “acquired” good passed. This exacerbated the chaos. The lack of control over the Siberian railroad deprived Kolchakites of even minimal chances to hold on for some more time. If the Kolchak government controlled the Trans-Siberian Railway, then White could still carry out a quick evacuation, save the core of the army, cling to some point, use winter to gain time. Partisan raids on the railroad even more complicated the organized retreat of the Kolchakites.
Meanwhile, a harsh Siberian winter came. On both sides of the Siberian Railway and the Siberian Highway, along which troops moved, there was a dense taiga. There were few villages. Troops and refugees began to mow cold, hunger and typhoid. Half of the Kolchak army was ill with typhus. At dead ends, and sometimes right on the tracks, there were entire trains with patients or with corpses. The epidemic mowed the local population and Soviet troops. Thousands of Red Army fell ill, many died. Almost all the members of the Revolutionary Military Council of the 5 Army and its commander Eihe suffered the disease. The army chief of staff, Ivasias, died of typhus.
In conditions of almost panic flight of the whites to the east, the Kolchak command could not even think of organizing any resistance to the red. The whites tried to use the vast expanses of Siberia to break away from the enemy as far as possible and save the remnants of the troops. But this could not be done. The Red Army, taking advantage of the complete decomposition of the enemy, quickly moved forward. The main forces advanced along the railway line. One brigade of the 26 division from the Omsk region was sent south - to Pavlodar and Slavgorod to liquidate the enemy units located there and ensure the right flank of the 5 army. At the end of November, Soviet troops, with the support of the rebels, liberated Pavlodar. Two other brigades of the division launched an attack on Barnaul to help the partisans there. Here Kolchakites had considerable strength to defend the railway Novonikolaevsk - Barnaul. The defense was held by Polish legionnaires, who maintained their combat readiness. But in early December, the partisans struck hard at the enemy, captured two armored trains (Stepnyak and Sokol), 4 guns, a large amount of ammunition and equipment.
It is worth noting that the partisans greatly helped the Red Army. The interaction of the partisans with the advancing parts of the Red Army began back in late October 1919, when the rebels in the Tobolsk province, when the Reds approached, liberated a number of large settlements. At the end of November, a close relationship was established between the 5 Army and the Altai partisans. Altai partisans at that time created an army from 16 regiments, numbering about 25 thousand people and launched a major offensive. In early December, the rebels united with the Soviet units. To communicate with the partisans and coordinate actions, the command of the 5 Army sent its representatives to the main headquarters of the partisans. In addition to resolving military issues, they were also involved in political affairs and seized control of partisan detachments, often led by Socialist-Revolutionaries, Anarchists, and other opponents of the Soviet regime.
The partisan movement also intensified in the area of the Siberian Railway. Here the partisans put a lot of pressure on Kolchakites. In areas remote from the front, the popular movement acquired even greater dimensions. In the regions of Achinsk, Minusinsk, Krasnoyarsk and Kansk, whole armies of partisans operated. Only the presence of the Czechoslovak corps and other intervention troops did not allow the rebels to capture the Trans-Siberian Railway.
To be continued ...