"Tachanka". Mitrofan Grekov's painting, written by him in 1925
Smoot. 1920 year. 100 years ago, in March 1920, the Red Army carried out the Kuban-Novorossiysk operation. Soviet troops of the Caucasus Front completed the defeat of Denikin’s army, liberated the Kuban, the Black Sea province and part of Stavropol.
During the Tikhoretskaya operation, Denikin’s troops suffered a heavy defeat. The Kuban army virtually ceased to exist as a single force. Part of the soldiers fled, part surrendered. Small detachments retreated to the area of Tikhoretskaya, Kavkazskaya and to Stavropol. The volunteer corps left the Don line, which it had so stubbornly and successfully defended before, retreated to Kushchevskaya and then began to retreat further in the Novorossiysk direction. The Don army retreated beyond the Kagalnik river, and then further, towards Tikhoretskaya.
The White cavalry as an organized force was defeated in the Battle of Yegorlyk and could no longer restrain the Red Army with strong counterattacks. The cavalry of the whites, which at times doubled the enemy (in the main Tikhoretsk direction), hung on the flank of the reds and somewhat restrained their movement. However, as General Denikin recalled,
"Struck by a grave mental illness, devoid of will, daring, not believing in her strength, she avoided a serious battle and finally merged with the general human wave in the form of armed detachments, unarmed crowds and huge refugee camps, spontaneously striving to the west."
Budenny’s group, having defeated Pavlov’s equestrian group, did not pursue the donors and volunteers and again set their sights on Tikhoretskaya. The beginning of slaughter and without fighting delayed the movement of the Reds. On March 9, Soviet troops occupied Yeysk, on the same day Budenny's cavalry occupied Tikhoretskaya. Further, the main forces of the Reds aimed at Yekaterinodar and Novorossiysk. On March 11, 2, troops of the 1920th Soviet Army captured Stavropol and reached the Mineralnye Vody area, cutting off the North Caucasian group of General Erdeli from Denikin’s troops. The remnants of the White Guard troops in the Terek-Dagestan Territory made their way to Georgia.
In addition, a new front arose in the rear of the whites. The army of the Black Sea Republic (“green” rebels, which received military-material support from Georgia), moving from Sochi, took Tuapse on February 25, 1920. Representatives of the 9th Soviet Army showed up here. They teamed up with the “greens,” former prisoners of war or fleeing the Red Army. Armed prisoners and defectors, formed several battalions. The new congress proclaimed the creation of the Black Sea Red Army and elected a revolutionary committee. Army troops launched an offensive in two directions: through mountain passes to the Kuban, and in the north, to Gelendzhik and Novorossiysk.
The collapse of the front quickly took the form of general flight. The commander of the Don Army, General Sidorin, tried to create a new line of defense on the Eya River, but without success. The White Guards rolled back along the railway lines to Yekaterinodar and Novorossiysk. Volunteers departed from Yeysk and Timashevskaya to the lower reaches of the Kuban, Don people - from Tikhoretskaya to Yekaterinodar, the remnants of the Kuban army - from the Caucasus and Stavropol. As Denikin wrote,
“Tens of thousands of armed people walked blindly, walked dutifully, where they were led, not refusing to obey the usual routine of service. They refused to go into battle. ”
Panic spread to the population. On all roads, bogging down in the mud, floods of refugees gushed in, mixing with troops, rear services, infirmaries and deserters. Back in January 1920, regardless of the results of the battle on the Don, it was decided to begin evacuation from Novorossiysk abroad. Britain helped with the organization of the evacuation. By order of Denikin, the wounded and sick military, their families and the families of civil servants were primarily taken out. It was also allowed free travel abroad at their own expense to all women, children and men of non-conscript age.
It is clear that this order was not iron, it was often violated. It was possible to leave for money, bribes, by acquaintance, simply filled everyone with available places, etc. On the other hand, many did not dare to leave. They were afraid of the unknown, they left their homeland, did not want to lose touch with their relatives, did not have the means for a new life. Delayed departure, waiting for good news from the front. As a result, many transports left with a shortage of passengers. The British even temporarily interrupted the evacuation, when White won several victories. British transports drove people to Thessaloniki, Cyprus, from the ports they were transported to Serbia. This wave of refugees, despite all the problems and hardships, was relatively prosperous. White Russia was still reckoned with in Europe. Refugees received a minimum supply, could settle down, find a job.
Thanks to this first wave of evacuation Novorossiysk was able to unload somewhat. About 80 thousand people were taken abroad. The second wave began. But now the evacuation was accompanied by panic (soon commissars and Budenovites would come and cut everyone out ...). Those who rushed earlier but did not want to rush to the steamboats hoped for the best. Persons of military age, a mass of officers who dodged the front line, sat in the rear and buzzed in restaurants and taverns. When the smell of fried, they began to knock together in the "officer organization", trying to forcefully seize places on ships. Many made their way and left. Others were hired to guard the ships, movers, the number of which was two and three times the norm.
Panic seized and rear army institutions. There were reports of dismissal "due to illness" or "disappointment" by the White movement. Others simply disappeared, fled. Civil officials also fled. That is, the rear management system, which was already bad, was completely crumbling. And new ones from the Kuban city and villages arrived at the place taken to the city.
White Command Plans
After the failure of the line of defense on the Don, the White Army could either stay on the line of the Kuban or flee to the Crimea. It seemed that there were chances to continue the struggle in the Kuban. Spring thaw, impassable mud prevented not only the retreating Denikins, but also the red ones. Rivers spread widely. The enemy could be tried to stop at the turn of the Kuban and its tributaries, Laba or Belaya. If the Kuban Cossacks had sobered up, mobilized, it would have been possible to maintain a bridgehead in the Kuban, regroup and replenish formations, and go on a counterattack. If not, evacuate to Crimea. The retreat along the Kuban and the North Caucasus, which had fallen into turmoil, into Transcaucasia, hostile to the whites, led to death.
It was necessary to break away from the enemy, save the most combat-ready units, take them to a safe area and then continue the fight. The only bridgehead that could shelter Denikin’s army was Crimea. For volunteers, such an exit was natural. In general, the Volunteer Corps, despite individual episodes of instability and desertion, retained order and discipline. In a hostile environment, their cohesion only increased. Other business Cossacks. The Don people lost their last connection with the Don region and lost hope of returning to the Don. Don Cossacks quickly lost control, discipline and fighting spirit. The rally began. The Cossacks arbitrarily overthrew the commander of the equestrian group, General Pavlov, and replaced General Secretov instead. The commander of the Don army Sidorin could not resist this arbitrariness and was forced to admit the decision of his subordinates.
In addition, in the conditions of the “Kuban turmoil”, Denikin, the Supreme Commander of the FSSL, began to grow “a sense of estrangement and discord between volunteers and Cossacks.” The Cossacks were afraid that the volunteers would abandon them and leave for Novorossiysk. Therefore, when there was a proposal to transfer the Volunteer Corps to the reserve of the commander in chief, this caused great excitement among the Cossacks. Don generals proposed their plan: to abandon the Kuban, rear, communications, base and lightly break through to the north, to the Don. There they were going to wage a guerrilla war, again raise the Don region. Obviously, it was a gamble, a suicide. Don was already exhausted by the war, and individual flashes of red would have easily suppressed. Denikin gave a categorical refusal. But the hidden excitement among the Don people continued.
The situation in the Kuban army also did not give hope. The army of Shkuro, defeated and almost disappeared at the end of February 1920, began to grow again in the face of retreat. Regiments and divisions poured into it, which were endlessly “formed” in the rear due to all kinds of security and rear units, which did not want to go to the front lines, due to the huge number of deserters that overwhelmed the villages and did not want to fall into the hands of the enemy. True, all these crowds poured into the Kuban army not in order to fight, but in order to drape. In fact, now under the leadership of Shkuro there was no army, but armed crowds, completely decomposed and demoralized.
Volunteers, angered by the behavior of the donors, also began to express their displeasure. The core of the Volunteer Corps of General Kutepov tried to give battle at every convenient line. But due to the withdrawal of the Cossacks constantly fell under enemy flank attacks. Volunteers were bypassed, and they were forced to withdraw due to the weakness of their neighbors. So, on the night of March 15, the right wing of the Don army after an unsuccessful battle near Korenovskaya rolled back to Plastunovskaya (30 versts from Ekaterinodar). Kutepov’s corps at that time restrained the enemy in the Timashevskaya region, and red cavalry had already appeared in its rear. This forced the volunteers to begin the withdrawal. General Sidorin, whose operational submission was the Volunteer Corps, ordered a counterattack to be launched and a return to the position of Timashevskaya. The headquarters of the volunteers believed that it would lead to environment and death. As a result, Denikin reassigned the Volunteer Corps to himself.
On March 12, 1920, the headquarters of the Volunteer Corps sent a sharp telegram to the commander in chief. Kutepov noted that it is impossible to count on the Cossacks anymore, therefore, decisive measures must be taken to save the corps. Under the control of the corps, the Timashevskaya-Novorossiysk railway, several transports ready for the immediate evacuation of the corps and the command of the VSYUR were supposed to go over. All power in the rear and watercraft was transferred into the hands of the corps commander. Denikin sharply answered Kutepov, reminded that everything that is needed for the evacuation is being done. The order has been restored.
Thus, the run continued. All plans, calculations and ideas were broken about the elements. The psychology of a demoralized, decaying mass has broken all the sober and rational calculations of the white command.
Recent Resistance Attempts
First, Denikin wanted to stop the enemy at the turn of the river. Beisug. It was necessary to gain time for the planned crossing of troops across the Kuban, the evacuation of the right bank and Yekaterinodar. General Sidorin received an order to assemble his corps in the Korenovskaya area and counter-attack with the right wing. The Soviet command also concentrated large forces in this direction, including the Cavalry Army, which advanced east of Korenovskaya. Don Cossacks, even under the command of Sidorin personally, did not go into battle. Each time, when trying to attack, they turned back. And when the Reds went on the offensive, they retreated. Volunteers at Timashevskaya also had to give up their positions and break through with battle. The rear guard (Drozdovtsy) had to leave the environment already.
As a result, by March 16, the Volunteer Corps, the Don Army and part of the Kuban Army were in two transitions from Yekaterinodar. The headquarters and the government of Denikin moved to Novorossiysk. The Supreme Cossack circle gathered for the last meeting. Chairman of the Kuban Timoshenko said that the Cossacks are no longer subordinate to Denikin, especially since the Stavka is no longer there, as well as relations with it. The Cossacks finally quarreled again. The Cossack circle has broken up. The Kuban delegation went to their army, the Don - to their own. In Yekaterinodar there were many refugees, sick and wounded, who were not managed to be taken out. The Denikin government agreed with the Bolsheviks in prison, led by Limansky. The Communists were released, and they made a promise to save the wounded and sick. Limansky already played this role in 1918.
On March 16, 1920, Denikin informed the commanders that the last line of defense was the boundary of the Kuban-Laba rivers, in the extreme Belaya. The White Guards failed to organize the defense of Yekaterinodar. Around the city were prepared positions, there were enough troops, but there was no fighting spirit at all. As soon as March 17 the Reds went to storm Yekaterinodar, the Kubans fled. The Don people left behind them. Particularly unstable was the 4th Don Corps, previously the best in the Don Army, the base of the shock mounted group. After heavy defeats and losses, he was demoralized. In addition, the Don people flanked in contact with the Kubans and became infected by panic. When there was a rumor about an uprising in the rear, in a working suburb, the troops were seized with real panic. As Shkuro reported, entire divisions fled, robbing liquor stores and cellars along the way, drunk with looted alcohol and wine:
“Shame and shame on the Cossacks, it is incredibly painful and hard ...”
The Soviet troops, the cavalry corps and two rifle divisions, stood near the city almost all day, firing artillery on the outskirts of Yekaterinodar, not believing that the enemy was simply running. Waiting for a dirty trick, white military cunning. In addition, the streets and bridges across the Kuban were forgotten by running troops and refugees, we had to wait until the crowd subsided. On the same day, March 17, Denikin gave the order to withdraw the army from the Kuban and Laba, to destroy all crossings. In fact, the Kuban and Don units began crossing the 16th and finished the 17th. And the crossings, which no one took care of, were immediately occupied by the Reds. Soviet troops easily crossed the Kuban and cut the enemy’s front in half. The volunteer corps had to break through with battles with a strong red cavalry, which began to be massively replenished by the rebels and the Kuban people who sided with the Red Army. March 18, volunteers crossed the Kuban.
To be continued ...