Smoot. 1919 year. 100 years ago, in December 1919, the Soviet troops of the Southern and Southeastern Front inflicted a heavy defeat on the Armed Forces of the South of Russia. Denikin’s army left Kharkov and Kiev, and the whites continued their retreat south. The main forces of the Don army were defeated and driven back beyond the Don.
General situation at the front
Having suffered a serious defeat in the Kursk-Oryol and Voronezh directions (Battle of Voronezh; Oryol-Kromsk battle), White abandoned the offensive, suffered heavy losses (up to half the composition of the Volunteer Army), lost their strategic initiative and went on the defensive. On the flanks, VSYUR troops relied on Kiev and Tsaritsyn, and in the center they kept the Kharkov region.
The Kiev group of General Dragomirov defended on the left flank. The 12-I Soviet Army broke through to the Dnieper left bank, broke the link between the troops of Dragomirov and the Volunteer Army. By November 18, the Reds occupied Bakhmach and began to threaten the left flank of the Volunteer Army. In the center, leaving Kursk, the Volunteer Army fought, which, replacing Mai-Mayevsky, was led by Wrangel. He took the army in disaster. On the left flank of the 12-I Soviet army marched south along the Dnieper, on the right - Budyonny's cavalry broke through. White troops lost half of the squad in heavy battles, retreated. The retreating rear and refugees blocked all roads. Parts that had previously switched to self-supply were increasingly engaged in robbery, speculation and looting. Wrangel himself made the following conclusion: “There is no army as a fighting force!”
Next was the front of the Don army of General Sidorin. 9-I Red Army defeated the White Cossacks. The 2-th Cavalry Corps Dumenko took Uryurinsk, deeply wedged into the enemy’s defense between the 1 and 2 Don Cases. The defense of Horpe was broken. Don Cossacks retreated to the Don. There was a deep gap between the Volunteer and Don armies, into which Budyonny's cavalry cut through.
The Caucasian army of Pokrovsky was defending on the right flank in the Tsaritsyn area, which, due to its small number, pulled all forces into the Tsaritsyn fortified area. With the beginning of the ice drift, the Volga parts were transferred to the right bank. Their place was immediately taken by the 50-I rifle division of the 11-th Soviet army. Tsaritsyn began to undergo regular artillery shelling. From the north and south, White’s defense was regularly checked by units of the 10 and 11 Soviet armies.
"Trumpeters of the First Cavalry Army." Artist M. B. Grekov. 1934. Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow
By mid-November 1919, the troops of the red Southern Front, pursuing the enemy, reached the line of Novograd-Volynsky, Zhytomyr, northwest of Kiev, Nizhyn, Kursk, Liski and Talovaya. The Soviet armies of the Southeast Front were located south of Talova, Archedinskaya, north of Tsaritsyn and along the left bank of the Volga to Astrakhan, having bridgeheads near Black Yar and Enotaevsk. The Southern Front, under the command of A. I. Egorov, included the 12th, 14th, 13th, 8th and 1st Cavalry armies. The Southeast Front under the command of V. I. Shorin included the 9th, 10th and 11th armies, and the forces of the Volga-Caspian flotilla. In total, Soviet troops totaled about 144 thousand people., About 900 guns and over 3800 machine guns.
Plans of the Soviet command
Having defeated the main forces of the Volunteer Army in the battles for Oryol and Voronezh, and defeating part of the forces of the Don Army, the Red Command continued the offensive without a pause. The commander-in-chief of the Red Army, Sergei Kamenev (a graduate of the General Staff Academy, a former colonel of the tsarist army), proposed delivering three cutting blows to the enemy. The troops of the 13 and 14 red armies delivered the first blow in the Kursk-Kharkov direction with the task of dissecting the Volunteer Army into two parts and, in cooperation with the units of the neighboring 12 Army and the 1 Horse and 8 Army, destroy the enemy army.
The 2nd strike was delivered by the adjacent wings of the Southern Front (1st Cavalry and 8th Armies) and the South-Eastern Front (9th Army, Consolidated Cavalry Corps) at the joint between the Volunteer and Don Don Army in order to complete the division, defeat separately, liberate the Donetsk region and go to Taganrog and Rostov-on-Don. Thus, the Reds from the Voronezh region had to break through to the Sea of Azov, dismember the troops of the FYUR, cutting off volunteers fighting in the Kharkov, Donbass and Little Russia regions from the Cossack regions of the Don and Kuban. The Soviet command calculated that, having lost contact with the volunteers, the Cossack front would quickly stagger and collapse. Therefore, the 1st Cavalry Budenny corps on November 17, 1919 deployed to the 1st Cavalry Army. The Budyonny strike group initially consisted of: 4th, 6th and 11th cavalry divisions, the 9th and 12th infantry divisions of the 8th army were operatively subordinate, in cooperation with it they had to advance, cover the flanks , 40th and 42nd divisions. The group also included a detachment of armored trains, an armored squad of trucks with machine gun mounts and aviation squad.
The third blow was dealt by the left wing of the Southeast Front - the 10 and 11 I Soviet armies. The main objective of the operation is the liberation of Tsaritsyn, the separation of the forces of the Don and the Caucasian army, their defeat and access to Novocherkassk, the liberation of the Don region.
White Command Plans
The general idea of White was to go on the defensive, to keep the flanks - Kiev and Tsaritsyn, to keep the borders of the Dnieper and the Don. Use the right wing of the Volunteer Army and the left wing of the Don Army to counter-attack the enemy strike group, which broke through in the Voronezh-Rostov direction.
For this blow, an equestrian group was formed - the 4th cavalry corps of Mamontov, the remains of the 3th cavalry corps of Shkuro. The 2th Kuban Corps of Ulagai was transferred, which was taken from the composition of the Caucasian Army, the Plastun brigade of the Don Army and other units. The general command was carried out by Mamontov. The new commander Wrangel immediately came into conflict with Shkuro and Mamontov, whom he considered the main culprits of the disorder of the horse corps. Skin dropped out due to illness. Wrangel, who had earlier sharply criticized Mamontov, decided to take the command of the group away from General Mamantov, leaving him the commander of the 4 horse corps and subordinate General Ulagay. Offended Mamontov left the troops. This intensified the decay of the Kuban and Don people, who refused to fight and sought to leave for their native villages.
Angry Denikin gave the order to dismiss Mamontov from command. However, he met the resistance of the Don Ataman Bogaevsky and the command of the Don Army. The Don leadership indicated that the removal of Mamontov had a negative impact on the army, and the 4th Don Corps was generally scattered and only Mamontov could assemble it. Indeed, when the 4 Corps was transferred back to the Don Army, Mamontov led it again, gathered a significant number of fighters, and subsequently the Don Mammoths dealt several strong blows to the red cavalry. As a result, Denikin had to give in to the Cossacks and give the Don units from the horse group back to the Don Army.
Thus, a full-fledged equestrian group was never formed. White decomposed. Military failures, mistakes and discord among the command could not but affect the troops. General Ulagay on 11 of December reported on the complete lack of combat capability of his group: “... Don units, although of large composition, do not at all want and cannot withstand the lightest pressure from the enemy ... There are absolutely no Kuban and Tere units ... There is almost no artillery machine guns, too ... ". The desertion of the Kuban took on a massive scale. Army commander Wrangel, instead of collecting regiments somewhere in the rear of the army in order to put them in order, gave the order to withdraw the "personnel" of the Kuban divisions to the Kuban for reformation. As a result, Cossacks and deserters evading the battle moved to a legal position and masses reached the rear. For Don, whole regiments went home, on good horses, armed, which caused bewilderment and bitterness among the remaining Cossacks. The flight only intensified. Returning to their native villages, the Cossacks finally decomposed and lost their combat effectiveness.
With the collapse of the equestrian group, the position of the Volunteer Army became even more difficult. Volunteers subsequently had to make the most difficult flank march under attacks from the right flank of the powerful Soviet 1th Cavalry Army.
In addition, the discord continued in the supreme command of the All-Union Socialist League. General Wrangel believed that the situation on the right flank of the Volunteer Army forces him to break off ties with the Don Army and withdraw troops to the Crimea. Referring to the inevitability of breaking ties with the Headquarters, he requested the appointment of a commander of all of the Kiev region, New Russia and the Volunteer Army. Denikin was categorically against the departure to the Crimea. If the volunteers did not resist, then it was necessary to retreat to Rostov in order to maintain contact with the Don army. The departure of volunteers to the Crimea, according to the commander in chief, would immediately destroy the Cossack front, would cause the loss of the Don and the entire North Caucasus. Cossacks would react to such acts as betrayal.
Objective reasons for a strategic change in favor of the Red Army
The White Movement was not able to achieve support from wide sections of the population (Why did the White Army lose?) So the peak of the victories of Denikin’s army in September - October of the 1919 of the White was about 150 thousand people, Kolchak had about 50 thousand soldiers, and Yudenich, Miller and Tolstov - 20 thousand people each. The Red Army at that time already numbered up to 3,5 million people (in the spring there were about 1,5 million).
Despite the introduction of mobilization, the principle of the formation of the armies of the All-Union Socialist League remained half voluntary. Mobilization was effective only where they met the support of the population, that is, they were on the verge of volunteering - mainly in Cossack regions. In the bulk of the people mobilization caused a negative result. The peasants in their mass met news they were hostile about mobilization and preferred to go to the red partisans, rebels and "green" gangs. This led to the formation of a "second front" in the rear of the whites, which became one of the main reasons for the defeat of the White Army. The townspeople, even in such large cities as Kiev and Odessa, were either neutral or hostile to Denikinists, supported the Bolsheviks, Socialist Revolutionaries, Mensheviks, nationalists, anarchists, etc. The bourgeoisie and the intelligentsia (wealthy urban strata) did not want to go to the front, they preferred debate about the future of Russia, fled abroad. Cities did not give White powerful support. The officers who were hostile to the Bolsheviks fought for a long time, and by the fall of 1919, their mobilization resource had been exhausted. Many officers joined the Red Army, while others preferred fleeing abroad, biding, or joining nationalist regimes.
Another reason for the defeat of the White Army is the central position of Soviet Russia regarding white formations. The Bolsheviks retained the most industrialized, populated part of Russia. Provinces with the most developed communications. With capitals - Moscow and Petrograd. This made it possible to maneuver forces, from one front to another, the successive defeat of the white armies.
Also, the Red Command was able in the shortest possible time to create a new army of Russia - the Red Army. If at first it was a semi-partisan formation, with the voluntary principle of manning, now the regular army has fought. The Bolsheviks skillfully used up to a third of the tsarist officers and generals, general staff, military experts. If the white armies at first had complete superiority in the quality of the units, they beat the more numerous enemy. Now the situation has changed radically. In the Red Army appeared elite, special units, with high fighting spirit, disciplined, well-armed and with combat experience. Skilled, brave and experienced commanders, generals advanced. The White Army, on the contrary, was greatly degraded, decomposed.
Thus, the Bolsheviks won because they offered the people a draft of the future in the interests of the majority. They had faith, an image of the future and a program. They had an iron will and energy. Finally, the Bolsheviks had a powerful organization, and not a “swamp” like the whites.