Polish-Ukrainian troops enter Kiev. Khreshchatyk, 1920
100 years ago, in April 1920, the Polish army went on the offensive. The Polish army, with the support of the Petliurists, occupied Right-Bank Ukraine and captured Kiev.
In the early spring of 1920, it seemed that Soviet Russia defeated its main opponents. All the main opponents were defeated, almost all the white armies were destroyed. There was only the Wrangel’s army in the Crimea, which at that time was not considered a strong threat, the small forces of the Petliurites in the Kamenetz-Podolsk area, and the troops of the Kappelites and Semenovites in Transbaikalia. Finland’s attempts to capture Karelia have already failed.
Thus, the remnants of the anti-Bolshevik forces were no longer taken seriously. It was only necessary to concentrate forces in order to extinguish the last foci of unrest. True, the peasant war was still blazing, but it was already a matter of restoring order and the rule of law within the country.
Excessive compounds began to be disbanded or transferred to the so-called position. labor armies, which were used to overcome the devastation, to restore the national economy. Some units were engaged in the fight against banditry. The most combat-ready units, if necessary, were transferred to dangerous directions. The first labor army was formed in January 1920 on the basis of the 3rd Soviet Army on the Eastern Front (1st Revolutionary Labor Army). Then began the formation of the Ukrainian labor army. In February, from the units of the 7th Army they began to create the Petrograd Labor Army, in March the 8th Army of the Caucasian Front was reorganized into the Caucasian Labor Army, etc.
To avoid the recurrence of mass uprisings in the Cossack regions, the Soviet government began to pursue a more flexible policy. Ordinary Cossacks were transferred from the "reactionary" class to the "working people". During the new arrival of the Red Army in the Don, Kuban and Terek, mass genocide no longer repeated. Cossacks were allowed to preserve some traditions and decals. Cossacks have already been mobilized into the Red Army to fight the Wrangel and Poles.
Front line on January 28, 1920
From the very beginning of the restoration of the Polish state, it took an extremely hostile position towards Soviet Russia. Polish ruling circles planned to use the turmoil in Russia to create a new Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, to capture the eastern regions up to the Western Dvina and the Dnieper. In January 1919, the Poles and the Reds clashed in a battle for Vilna. In February 1919, a continuous Soviet-Polish front arose in Belarus, from the Neman River to the Pripyat River. In March 1919, Polish troops captured Pinsk and Slonim. Then negotiations began, the Polish side proposed to establish a border on the basis of self-determination of the population of the disputed territories. Moscow agreed. In April 1919, Polish troops again went on the offensive, captured Lida, Novogrudok and Baranovichi. In August, the Poles captured Minsk, the Red Army withdrew beyond the Berezina River. Here the front has stabilized.
While the Entente supported the white generals, Kolchak and Denikin advanced, Pilsudsky paused. Although the moment for the campaign of the Polish army in Kiev and Moscow was the most favorable. The main and best forces of the Red Army were connected by battles with the white armies. However, Warsaw was afraid that if the White Guards took Moscow, they would pursue a policy of "united and indivisible Russia." That is, Poland will not receive anything. Therefore, the Polish leadership was waiting. In the winter of 1919, it became clear that the White Army had lost. When the White Guards retreated from the territory of Podolia, Polish troops quietly captured Proskurovsky, Mogilev-Podolsky and Starokonstantinovsky districts (Kamenetz-Podolsky Uyezd was occupied in November 1919).
Pilsudski decided that the most opportune moment had come for the offensive of the Polish army. Poland prepared a powerful, well-armed army, the backbone of which were experienced World War II soldiers. Formed strong cavalry. The Entente, especially France, actively helped the Poles. 1500 guns, about 2800 machine guns, hundreds of thousands of rifles, about 700 aircraft, 200 armored cars, 3 million outfits, trucks, ammunition, etc. were handed over to the Polish army. French officers helped train the troops. At the beginning of 1920, mobilization was carried out, new volunteers from abroad arrived, the total number of the Polish Army was brought up to 700 thousand people.
Pilsudski needed a victorious war to strengthen his role as “leader of the nation”, to distract the people from internal problems. In Warsaw, it was believed that Soviet Russia, although it defeated the White Movement, had emerged from the Civil War as greatly weakened, bloodless. A peasant war was fought in the rear of the Red Army, in White and Little Russia, the Petliurites, the Makhnovists, and the Wrangel army were “splintering”. You can speak with Moscow in the language of ultimatums, use the law of power. In Ukraine, they wanted to create a dependent buffer state, a raw materials appendage and a sales market for Greater Poland. Completely dependent on the mercy of Warsaw, the Ukrainian regime, which cannot exist without the help of the Poles and will always be afraid of Soviet Russia. Petlyura promised Pilsudsky that he would form 200 thousand in Ukraine. the army. Warsaw also wanted to bring Romania and Latvia to the war with Russia, but these states took a wait and see attitude.
Jozef Pilsudski in Minsk. Xnumx
In early 1920, the Polish Front intensified. In the northern direction, between Pripyat and Dvina, there were three armies (1st, 4th and reserve, operational group). In the south direction, from the Dnieper to Pripyat, there were three armies (6th, 2nd and 3rd). In January 1920, Polish troops under the command of Edward Rydz-Smigly took Dvinsk with an unexpected blow. The city was handed over to the Latvian authorities. Then came a new lull. Rare skirmishes and skirmishes occurred when some dashing Polish nobleman wanted to show dare.
In March 1920, the Red Army was planning an offensive, but the Poles were the first to strike. March 5-6, the Polish army went on the offensive in Belarus, captured Mozyr, Kalinkovichi, Rogachev and Rechitsa. Poles intercepted strategic communications Zhytomyr - Orsha. The attempts of the Western Front under the command of Gittis (the 15th Army of Cork and the 16th Army of Sollogub) to counterattack were unsuccessful. Failed to recapture the mozyr. The 12th and 14th Soviet armies under the command of Mezheninov and Uborevich, who were part of the South-Western Front under the command of Egorov, tried to attack in Ukraine, but without success.
At the same time, Soviet-Polish contacts continued. The Polish side demanded that Moscow abandon all claims to the lands that belonged to the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth before its first partition in 1772. Agree to establish a “security line." A precondition for starting peace negotiations with Moscow near Warsaw was the withdrawal of the Soviet armies from the lands that were part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth until 1772. The Poles agreed to start negotiations on the borders on April 10, 1920 in Borisov, but they did not take place.
Meanwhile, the situation in the rear of the Red Army worsened. A new wave of uprisings began in Little Russia (Ukraine). On the one hand, the former freemen did not want to return to peaceful life. On the other, the Bolsheviks again began a tough surplus-appraisal, began to disarm the peasants. Again went on a detachment of various chieftains and batiks. In the camps near Vinnitsa, Galician arrows, dissatisfied with their position, rebelled, who in the early 1920s switched over to the Reds. The uprising of the Galician army led to the intensification of the local rebel movement. To suppress the rebellion and riots, part of the forces of the 14th Soviet Army and front reserves were sent to the rear.
The moment for the offensive of the Polish Army was the most favorable. On April 21, 1920, Pilsudski entered into an agreement with Petliura on joint actions against the Red Army. The conditions were difficult. The leadership of the UNR at that time had neither its territory nor a full-fledged army (Ukrainian divisions were formed in the Polish occupation zone), so there was no choice. In fact, the border of 1772 was affirmed. Behind Poland remained Volyn, Galicia and Kholmshchina. In military operations against Soviet Russia, Ukrainian troops had to obey the Polish command. The agreement provided for the inviolability of Polish land tenure in the future territories of the Ukrainian People’s Republic. The Polish side recognized the Ukrainian state (in a very circumcised form) under the leadership of the ataman Petlyura. The Poles promised military assistance in the capture of Kiev, the supply of Petlyura troops. By military agreement, the Poles promised to conduct an offensive on their own only to the Dnieper. Further to Kharkov, Yekaterinoslav, Odessa, Donbass, the UPR troops had to advance independently. Ataman Tyutyunnik, the commander of the "Rebel Army", (former commander of the "army" of Ataman Grigoryev) also joined the Union of Poles and Petliurists. He recognized the primacy of Petliura and received the rank of general-coronary army of the UPR.
The commander of the 2nd Army, Polish General Anthony Listovsky (left) and Simon Petliura (right) after the conclusion of the alliance of Poland with the Petliurists
On April 17, 1920, the Commander-in-Chief and First Marshal of Poland Pilsudski issued a secret order on the Kiev offensive operation. They planned to start the operation on April 25th. Seven infantry divisions and one cavalry division advanced in the Kiev direction, and three infantry divisions in the Odessa direction. On April 25, 1920, the Polish army and Petliurites launched an offensive against Kiev. In Belarus, the Poles did not advance, the front remained along the Berezina.
The Polish campaign against Kiev began under the loud slogan "For our and your freedom!" Pilsudski declared that the war is being waged against the "invaders, robbers and robbers" and for the "liberation" of Ukraine. About 65 thousand Poles participated in the offensive (there were about 140 thousand people in the Ukrainian direction) and 15 thousand Petliurites. In the Chernobyl region, the offensive was supported by the detachments of ataman Bulakh-Balakhovich (2 thousand soldiers) and Struk (1 thousand). Polish troops were advancing under the direct command of Pilsudski: the 6th army attacked from Proskurov on Zhmerynka, Vinnitsa and Mogilev-Podolsky; The 2nd Army attacked Kazatin-Fastov-Kiev, cutting off parts of the 14th Soviet Army from the 12th, 3rd Army delivered the main blow to Zhytomyr and Korosten.
Soviet troops were greatly inferior in number - only about 15,5 thousand people directly at the front (only about 55 thousand people). The Red Army was seriously inferior in the number of guns, machine guns and armored vehicles. In addition, the Reds were weakened by uprisings in the rear and did not expect a large-scale invasion. The main miscalculation of the Soviet supreme command was that its strategists were waiting for the Polish strike together with the Latvian army in the northeast. Therefore, the main forces were concentrated in Belarus (over 70 thousand bayonets and sabers), reinforcements from Siberia and the Caucasus went there. In late April, the Red Army planned to strike in Belarus in the direction of Lida - Vilna. However, by the beginning of the Polish offensive, the troops had not yet been transferred; they were on the march.
Therefore, the Poles quite easily broke into the red front, which was not continuous. Selected Polish units, soldiers who previously served in the German army, attacked in the main directions. Another selected part of the Polish Army was the part of the general army of General Galler (“Gallerchiki”), which the Entente formed in France and in 1919 transferred to Poland for the war with Soviet Russia. In the auxiliary areas, Petliurists and local “green” rebels joined them.
The red front collapsed. Soviet troops retreated with virtually no resistance. Parts scattered at a great distance from each other lost communication and control, it was necessary to withdraw and rearrange them. The victorious march of the Polish army began. On April 26, the Poles occupied Zhytomyr, on the 27th - Berdichev and Kazatin. In the southern sector, the 6th Polish Army of General Vaclav Ivashkevich captured Vinnitsa, Bar and Zhmerynka. In the northern section, the Poles captured Chernobyl and reached the Dnieper at Pripyat. As a result, the Polish army entered the line Chernobyl - Kazatin - Vinnitsa - the Romanian border. In the very first days 10 thousand Red Army soldiers were captured. True, the Poles failed to encircle and completely destroy the 12th Soviet Army. Separate parts fell into the "cauldrons", but the Poles did not have the strength and ability to create a stable environment ring. So, the 58th and 7th rifle divisions were blocked, but they were able to successfully break out of the surrounding areas.
In the very south the cavalry of the chieftain Tyutyunnik was advancing. The rebels occupied Balta, allied with the rebel Galician cavalry regiment Sheparovich. Then Tyutyunnik's cavalry took Voznesensk and began to threaten Odessa and Nikolaev. Those Galicians who were in the zone of attack of the Polish units fell from the fire and into the fire. Supporters of independent Galicia Pilsudski was not needed. They were disarmed and sent to Polish concentration camps, where most died of starvation, disease and abuse.
Soviet troops continued to withdraw with little or no resistance. Polish troops during the invasion suffered minimal losses. May 6, 1920 the Poles occupied the White Church, went to Kiev. The command of the 12th Army planned to give battle for the capital of Ukraine and wait for the approach of units of the 1st Cavalry Army from the North Caucasus. However, the demoralized troops at the sight of the evacuation of command and command structures panicked and began to withdraw. The advanced Polish units, boarding ordinary trams, entered the center of Kiev, sowing a great panic among the garrison of the city. The Reds left Kiev without a fight. On May 7, the Poles and Petliurists occupied Kiev. The Poles crossed the Dnieper and captured a small bridgehead on the left bank, up to 15 km deep. On May 9, Pilsudski held a Polish victory parade in Kiev with emphasized pomp. Thus, the Polish army captured Right-Bank Ukraine.
On the Dnieper, Polish troops stopped. They planned to gain a foothold in the occupied territory, to tighten the rear. It was also necessary to resolve the issue of further actions. In early May, Britain again proposed, through its mediation, to begin peace negotiations on peace, to establish the Polish border of Soviet Russia according to the so-called. Curzon lines. Soviet troops were supposed to stop the offensive in the Caucasus, preserve the independence of Georgia and Armenia, stop the hostilities against Crimea. The question of Crimea was to be resolved through negotiations with Wrangel, with the future honorary surrender of the peninsula, the free travel abroad of all comers and the amnesty of those who stay in Russia.
Meanwhile, the Soviet leadership was conducting a new mobilization. The Polish front became the main one. New formations, units, and reserves were transferred here. The Soviet command began preparations for a counteroffensive.