Smoot. 1920 year. 100 years ago, in June 1920, the Red Army defeated the Polish Army near Kiev. On June 5, the 1st Budenny Cavalry Army broke through the Polish front and defeated the enemy rear in Zhitomir and Berdichev. Under the threat of complete encirclement and death, the Polish troops left Kiev on the night of June 11.
To fight with the panes
The invasion of the Polish army to the west caused a wave of new mobilization in Soviet Russia. Soviet propaganda was embraced by concepts that until recently, internationalist revolutionaries had been throwing mud: Russia, the Russian people, and patriotism. Formerly tsarist generals and officers were actively involved in the Red Army. So, the former commander of the Southwestern Front and the supreme commander of the Provisional Government, Aleksey Brusilov, chaired a special meeting under the commander in chief of all the armed forces of the Soviet Republic, which worked out recommendations for strengthening the Red Army. Brusilov, together with other well-known generals, appealed to the officers: they were offered to forget the feuds and defend “Mother Russia”.
Thousands of officers who had previously maintained "neutrality", avoided the war, went to the recruiting stations. Some responded to the call of famous military leaders, others out of a sense of patriotism, others - tired of the uncertainty, and finding a reason: the fight against the traditional enemy, Poland. Also, part of the former White Guard prisoners were also attracted to the Soviet troops. At the same time, Trotsky mobilized among the workers and peasants.
In the rear of the Soviet South-Western Front, units of the VOKhR (Internal Security Forces of the Republic) operated under the command of F. Dzerzhinsky. The People's Commissar of Internal Affairs of the RSFSR was the head of the rear of the Southwestern Front and led the fight against the rebel and bandit movement in Ukraine. One of the main reasons for the success of the Polish army in April - May 1920 was the presence of numerous rebel groups and gangs in the rear of the Reds. Among them were Ukrainian nationalists, Socialist Revolutionaries, anarchists, monarchists, etc. Most of the chieftains and batiks were ordinary bandits. Dzerzhinsky declared a number of territories in martial law, emergency commissions received the rights of revolutionary military tribunals. Bandits and persons suspected of banditry were allowed into the expense without further ado. It is clear that many innocents have suffered.
At the same time, Iron Felix launched an ideological and educational work. At the rear headquarters, political and campaign cells were formed. Widely used educational conversations, lectures, rallies, so-called. village weeks. Distributed leaflets, posters, newspapers. The local population was brought up, carried out explanatory work and dragged to their side. As a result, Dzerzhinsky for the first time managed to turn the tide in Little Russia-Ukraine. The rear of the South-Western Front as a whole was "cleaned up" and strengthened. They fought against banditry for more than two years, but overall the situation stabilized.
Polish plane at the Kiev airport. 1920
The forces of the parties. Offensive plan
A pause in active hostilities allowed the Soviet command to restore the front in a southwestern direction. The parts previously broken up were put in order, replenished. Divisions from the Urals, Siberia, and the North Caucasus were hastily transferred to the western direction. Tens of thousands of soldiers arrived on the Western and Southwest Fronts. The most selected formations and units of the Red Army were thrown against the Poles. The 1st Horse Army of Budyonny came from the Caucasus, which was replenished by the Cossacks. The shock equestrian compound made the transition along the route Maykop - Rostov - Ekaterinoslav - Uman. On the way, the Budyonnovites defeated many gangs and Makhno detachments in Gulyaypol. The army consisted of four cavalry divisions (4th, 6th, 11th and 14th) and a special regiment. In total, over 16,5 thousand sabers, 48 guns, over 300 machine guns, 22 armored vehicles, and 12 aircraft. The army attached a group of armored trains.
The 8th cavalry division formed from the Red Cossacks was removed from the Crimean direction. The powerful 12th Chapaev Infantry Division Kutyakov (25 thousand bayonets and sabers, 13 guns and more than 52 machine guns) was transferred to the 500th Army. It was one of the most powerful divisions of the Red Army. Also, the 45th rifle division of Yakir, the cavalry brigade of Kotovsky, the Bashkir cavalry brigade of Murtazin were transferred to the Kiev direction. Additional artillery forces were thrown south aviation. The front received more than 23 thousand rifles, more than 500 machine guns, more than 110 thousand sets of uniforms, a large number of ammunition.
The Southwestern Front was commanded by Alexander Egorov. During World War II, he commanded a battalion and regiment, was a lieutenant colonel of the imperial army. The front consisted of: the 12th Mezheninov’s army (opposite Kiev) consisting of 5 rifle, cavalry divisions and cavalry brigades, the 14th Uborevich’s army (southern section) — three rifle divisions and the 1st Cavalry army. The troops of the front totaled over 46 thousand bayonets and sabers, 245 guns and over 1400 machine guns. The 13th Army, which was part of the Southwestern Front, was in the Crimean direction.
The command of the Southwestern Front planned to deliver powerful converging attacks and defeat the enemy’s Kiev group (3rd and 6th armies). The strike group of the 12th Soviet Army was to force the Dnieper north of Kiev and occupy Korosten, preventing the Polish troops from fleeing to the northwest. On the left flank of the army, the Yakir group (two rifle divisions, Kotovsky’s cavalry brigade) attacked the White Church and Fastov. Yakir's group was supposed to bind and distract the enemy from the direction of the main attack. The decisive blow was to be delivered by Budenny's cavalry. The 1st Cavalry Army attacked Kazatin, Berdichev, and went behind the enemy’s Kiev group. At the same time, the 14th army of Uborevich was supposed to seize the area of Vinnitsa - Zhmerynka.
The Polish Ukrainian Front was led by General Anthony Listovsky (at the same time commander of the 2nd Army). On the left flank, in the Kiev direction, stood the 3rd Army of General Rydz-Smigly; on the right flank, Vinnytsia, the 6th Army of General Ivashkevich-Rudoshansky. Polish troops totaled over 48 thousand people, 335 guns and about 1100 machine guns.
Thus, the forces of the opponents were approximately equal. However, Soviet troops had an advantage in cavalry (1: 2,7), aviation and superiority of forces in the direction of the main attack (1,5 times). In addition, the Red Army struck at the junction of the 3rd and 6th armies of the enemy. Here the Polish army had a weak spot due to the disbandment of the 2nd Army.
The unsuccessful start of the Kiev operation
May 26, 1920 the Red Army went on the offensive. The 12th Mezheninov’s army unsuccessfully tried to force the Dnieper north of Kiev. After six days of fighting, having met strong resistance from the enemy, the Reds stopped attacking. Soviet troops were able to occupy only a small bridgehead. At the same time, the Yakir group (Fastov group) and the 14th Uborevich army tried to break through the enemy’s defenses. However, they also did not succeed. The Polish forces launched a counterattack against the Fastov group and pushed the Reds back to their original positions.
The 1st Cavalry Army, having launched the offensive on May 27, initially also could not find a weak spot in the enemy’s defense. First, the Budyonnovsk soldiers engaged in battle with the rebels of Kurovsky, then on the 28th they advanced significantly and occupied Lipovets. Red armored trains burst into the station, shot Polish positions. The Polish armored train was damaged and barely left. But then the Poles counterattacked, on May 30 they recaptured Lipovets and threw back the Budyonnovites. Thus, the first attempt to advance the Red Army failed. After the unsuccessful May battles, a member of the Revolutionary Military Council of the front, Stalin sent a telegram to Budyonny. In it, the commander was asked to abandon the frontal attacks of enemy strong points, to bypass them.
Anthony Listovsky and Simon Petlyura. 1920
Budyonnovtsy break through the enemy defenses
Regrouping forces, tightening reserves and feeling for a weak spot in the enemy’s defense, the 1st Cavalry Army on June 5, 1920 suddenly broke through the Polish front in the area of Samgorod and entered the operational space. The weather (heavy fog and rains) facilitated the maneuver of the red cavalry. The Poles tried to put up a barrier from the 13th Infantry Division, gathered reserves with several tanks. But the Budyonnovtsy did not get involved in the battle and simply bypassed the enemy. The march was swift, 10 hours after the start of the campaign, the Budyonnovites went to Kazatin, intercepting the railway, vital for the Poles, which connected the Kiev group with the rear. On June 6, Budyonnovtsy began to destroy the railway and eliminate small Polish garrisons at the stations.
Red cavalry wreaked havoc and destruction in the rear of the Polish army. For the first day of the raid, the cavalry marched 40 km, on the subsequent days another 60 km. The 1st Cavalry Army broke through to Zhitomir and Berdichev, on June 7, the 4th and 11th divisions occupied the cities. The headquarters of the Polish front was located in Zhitomir. He was defeated, disrupting communications and command of the Polish troops. In Berdichev, the Polish garrison put up stubborn resistance, but was defeated. In Berdichev, they destroyed a railway station, blew up front-line ammunition depots. Polish artillery was left without ammunition. Budyonny’s troops also liberated 7 thousand captured Red Army soldiers, thereby replenishing their ranks. The Poles tried to counterattack with their cavalry, but there were few of them. The Reds defeated the Polish horse group Savitsky. On June 9, the Budennovites moved east, to Fastov, where the Kotovsky brigade broke through.
Thus, the breakthrough of the Budyonny army led to the collapse of the Polish front. Attempts by the troops of the 3rd Polish Army and the 6th Ukrainian Division to push the enemy away from Zhytomyr and restore the front did not lead to success. The Kiev group of Poles was threatened with a blow from the rear and the environment. Meanwhile, other troops of the Southwestern Front went on the offensive. Fastovskaya group (44th and 45th divisions, Kotovsky’s cavalry brigade, VOKHX brigade) with the support of the Dnieper flotilla struck at the White Church. The Yakir group, covering the right flank of Budenny, on June 7–10 occupied Rzhischev, Tarash, Bila Tserkva, Tripoli and Fastov. Kotovsky’s team established contact with the Budennovites, captured Squira and intercepted the Kiev-Zhytomyr highway. The breakthrough of the Fastov Group was stopped by the Poles only near Vasilkov. Yakir's group was very scattered, lost its striking power.
At the same time, the strike group of the 12th Army crossed the Dnieper near Chernobyl and left the rear to the rear of the Polish troops in the Kiev region. On June 11, Soviet troops cut the Kiev-Korosten railway in the Borodyanka area. On June 9, the 12th Army began the battle for Kiev. The situation for the Polish group was hopeless. The 7th and 58th divisions of the 12th Army attacked in the forehead. Ships of the Dnieper flotilla fired on the city. From the north-west of the Poles, the strike group of the 12th Army — the 25th Division and the Bashkir Cavbrigade — circumvented. The 1st Cavalry Army was advancing from the rear - from the west. The Fast group attacked from the south. On the night of June 8–9, Polish troops began to clear their left-bank Dnieper bridgehead. By the evening of the 10th, the Poles finally left the bridgehead in front of Kiev and destroyed the permanent crossings. On the night of June 11, the Poles left Kiev and began to prepare crossings on the Irpen River. On June 12, the Red Army entered Kiev. Under the threat of complete encirclement and death, the Polish army quickly retreated from the Kiev region.
The Poles went to Korosten, and not to Zhytomyr, as suggested by the Soviet command. As a result of the 10th, the front command sent the red cavalry from the Khodorkov region back to Zhytomyr. Already on June 10, red cavalry again occupied Zhytomyr. Then the Soviet command tried to correct the mistake and moved the 1st Cavalry Army to intercept the enemy, to Radomyshl and Korosten, but it was too late. The 3rd Polish army escaped the "cauldron". From the north, units of two Polish divisions hit the redshields, providing a breakthrough for the 3rd Army. The Poles shot down the barriers of the 12th Army at Borodyanka and Irsha and broke through to Korosten.
On the southern flank, the 14th army of Uborevich defeated the Petliurists, occupied Zhmerinka, Gaysin, Vapnyarka, Tulchin and Nemirov. The 6th Polish Army retreated west. By June 17, the operation was completed. The front stabilized on the line Korosten - Berdichev - Kazatin - Vinnitsa. To the south of this line, in the interfluve of the Southern Bug and the Dniester, the Petliurists went west. The government of the UNR and Petlyura moved their headquarters from Vinnitsa to Proskurov, then to Kamenetz-Podolsky.
Thus, the Polish army suffered a major defeat, the Soviet troops liberated a significant territory of Little Russia. However, the Red Army failed to complete the encirclement and completely destroy the Polish Kiev group. The Polish army retreated successfully - mainly due to the mistakes of the Soviet command.
The Red Army could not develop success in the Kiev operation due to the lack of reserves and the advance of the Wrangel army in Northern Tavria. Possible reserves were directed to the Crimean Front. The failures of the Polish army were caused by the extension of the front, the lack of reserves, especially mobile ones. Part of the Polish troops from the Ukrainian front was transferred to Belarus. In addition, the Polish command refused wide mobilization in the Ukrainian army, which could strengthen the position of the Poles in the Kiev region.