On August 14, 1920, at night, the Ulagai group captured Akhtari. On August 17, west of Novorossiysk, a detachment of Cherepov was landed. On August 18, Ulagai's troops took Timashevskaya, on the right flank Shifner-Markevich captured Grivenskaya, Novonikolaevskaya and other villages. Developing the offensive, the White Cossacks reached the distant approaches to Yekaterinodar. It seemed that the Kuban would soon explode with a general uprising.
The need to expand living space
In August 1920, the position of Wrangel's Russian army improved somewhat. The army has grown and strengthened. They managed to repel the blows of the Red Army on Melitopol and in the Perekop direction. On August 11, 1920, when Poland was suffering from the blows of the Soviet armies, France recognized the Wrangel government as the de facto government of Southern Russia. This was the first and only Western recognition of white governments. England decided to resume supplies to the White Guards.
Poland, which had previously been indifferent to the white Crimea, now saw the white allies and allowed the transfer of General Bredov's troops through Romania to the Crimea, which were interned in its camps in February. About 9 thousand soldiers arrived in Crimea from Poland. Negotiations were also progressing on the formation of a White Guard army from the units remaining in the territory controlled by the Poles, subordinate to Savinkov, generals Bredov, Permikin, ataman Bulak-Balakhovich, captured Cossacks from the Red Army.
However, despite some successes, the command of the Russian army did not solve the main task - it did not expand its living space. Crimea and Northern Tavria did not have the resources to pose a serious threat to the Soviet Republic. The Whites needed people, horses, coal, food, fodder, etc. They needed an industrial and agricultural base. The military victories of Wrangel's army were not decisive. Moscow was busy with the war with Poland and dreams of the "victory of the world revolution." As soon as the problem of Poland faded into the background, the Crimean issue was immediately resolved.
The Russian army was blocked in Tavria. The Red Army had a numerical superiority and was able to continuously bring up new divisions and reinforcements. The resources of the whites were extremely limited, they were held only by constant regrouping and transferring the same elite regiments and divisions to dangerous areas. The fighting was intense, leading to heavy losses. It was obvious that such a war would sooner or later lead to a new catastrophe. To achieve a turning point, to seize the initiative, it was necessary to go beyond the Crimea and Tavria, to expand our resource base.
Unable to unite with the Polish army, which had already left Kiev, without having achieved success in attempts to conclude an alliance with Makhno, Wrangel was forced to abandon the development of the offensive in Novorossiya and Little Russia. An attempt to raise the Don again (Nazarov's landing) failed. Therefore, Wrangel drew attention to the Kuban. Here, the hope for success looked more real. Although the policy of the Cossack genocide was no longer carried out by Moscow, it was still far from the complete pacification of the region. The deserters from Denikin's defeated army and the "greens" continued their war. The remnants of the counter-revolutionary forces went to the mountains, forests and marshes, and in the summer they intensified their efforts. Rebellions broke out here and there. In the Kuban, there were about 30 large bandit formations with a total number of about 13 thousand people. Large detachments of Colonels Skakun, Menyakov and Lebedev were operating. The greatest activity of the white-green detachments was shown in the area of the Maikop, Batalpashinsky and Labinsky departments. They united in the so-called. "Army of the Renaissance of Russia" under the command of General Fostikov. Mikhail Fostikov commanded a Kuban brigade and a division in Denikin's army. During the evacuation of the Whites from the Kuban and the North Caucasus, he was wounded, cut off from the sea and with a small detachment left for the mountains. In the summer of 1920, he organized a rebel army and occupied a number of the villages of the Batalpashinsky department (Convenient, Peredovaya, etc.). Under his command there were up to 6 thousand men, about 10 guns and 30-40 machine guns.
To communicate with Fostikov, Wrangel sent Colonel Meckling with a group of officers to him. But the Wrangelites could not organize interaction with Fostikov. On August 4, Wrangel concluded agreements with the "governments" of the Don, Kuban, Terek and Astrakhan (they were in the Crimea), according to which the Cossack troops were provided with full internal autonomy, their representatives were part of the South Russian government.
The coast of the Azov and Black Seas from Rostov-on-Don to the borders of Georgia was covered by the 9th Soviet Army under the command of Lewandovsky. It consisted of 2 rifle and 2 cavalry divisions, one rifle and 3 cavalry brigades. In total, up to 34 thousand bayonets and sabers (according to other sources, 24 thousand), over 150 guns, 770 machine guns. The forces were significant, but they were scattered over a large area, were mainly diverted to fight gangs and carried out garrison service. The area of Novorossiysk and Taman was covered by the 22nd Infantry Division. To the north of the Taman Peninsula and the Akhtari region, units of the 1st Caucasian Cavalry Division were located.
Thus, the situation in the Kuban seemed favorable to the White command. It resembled the Don of 1919, when Cossack uprisings flared in the rear of the Reds and the breakthrough of relatively small forces of the White Guards to them led to a major victory and the capture of vast territories. It seemed that it was enough to transfer a strong detachment to the Kuban, as masses of insurgent Cossacks would rush to it and it would be possible to take Yekaterinodar, and before the Reds came to their senses and gathered large forces, to expand the occupied territory. Create a second strategic foothold for the White Army.
Preparations for the operation began in July, but they dragged on. The landing was postponed more than once. It was necessary to reflect the onslaught of the Red Army and the Kuban people on the front line, there was no one to replace. They waited for the approach of Bredov's units to provide the landing with trained infantry. There was not enough infantry, so the cadets of military schools were attracted to the landing. The secrecy of the operation failed. The natives of the Kuban were given the opportunity to transfer to the airborne units. The Cossacks, going home, took their families with them. Members of the Rada and public figures were loaded onto the ships. Therefore, everyone knew about the landing. True, rumors of such landings were constantly circulating. As a result, the command of the 9th Soviet Army did not take special measures. The Soviet command was more worried about the possibility of a new landing on the Don or in Novorossiya.
The Special Forces Group included the Kuban cavalry divisions of Babiev and Shifner-Markevich, the Kazanovich Consolidated Infantry Division (1st Kuban Infantry Regiment, Alekseevsky Infantry Regiment, Konstantinovsky and Kuban Military Schools). In total, over 8 thousand bayonets and sabers, 17 guns, more than 240 machine guns, 3 armored cars and 8 aircraft. The group was to land in the Akhtari region (Primorsko-Akhtarsk). Also, two separate detachments were created: the first, General A. N. Cherepov - 1,5 thousand bayonets, 2 guns and 15 machine guns carried out a diversionary operation between Anapa and Novorossiysk; the second detachment of General P. G. Kharlamov - 2,9 thousand bayonets and sabers, 6 guns and 25 machine guns, landed on the Taman Peninsula.
The operation was led by an experienced commander, Sergei Georgievich Ulagai, who commanded the Kuban division, corps, group and army. Wrangel recalled: “General Ulagai could alone successfully declare a flash, raise the Cossacks and lead them along. Everyone seemed to follow him. An excellent cavalry commander, versed in the situation, brave and decisive, he, at the head of the Cossack cavalry, could work miracles.
The main forces of the Ulagaya group landed in the area of the village of Akhtyrskaya, had to quickly advance to an important railway junction - the Timashevskaya station, then capture the city of Yekaterinodar. Small detachments landed on the Taman Peninsula (Kharlamov) and between Anapa and Novorossiysk (Cherepov) in order to distract the enemy from the main direction and, if the operation was successful, to capture Taman and Novorossiysk. Next, attack Yekaterinodar, attracting local rebels. After the success of the first stage of the operation, White planned to advance deep into the Kuban.
The ships were loaded in Kerch and at night they went out to the Sea of Azov, scattering there. The concentration of troops and civilians to the landing points, the landing itself, the passage through the Kerch Strait and the passage by sea were organized very skillfully and went unnoticed by the Soviet command. On the night of August 14 (August 1 old style) 1920 white flotilla connected and moved to the village of Primorsko-Akhtarskaya. Having suppressed the weak enemy resistance with naval artillery, the whites began to land. The equestrian vanguard rushed to Timashevskaya to occupy an important railway junction on the outskirts of Yekaterinodar. The red units, dispersed over a large area, could not immediately organize a serious rebuff. At first, only the weak 1st Caucasian Cavalry Division with 9 guns acted against the Whites. She acted hesitantly, swooping. Reinforcements were brought up to it - a cavalry brigade and 2 armored trains.
Meanwhile, the Whites had landed Babiev's cavalry division. In general, the landing of troops dragged on for 4 days. Under the villages of Olginskaya and Brinkovskaya, the Reds were defeated. The 1st Caucasian Division suffered a heavy defeat, one armored train was destroyed. Ulagaya's group began to advance in a wide fan. On the left flank, Babiev's division was marching towards Bryukhovetskaya, in the center, Kazanovich's infantry division, following the vanguard, to Timashevskaya, on the right flank, Shifner-Markevich's division - to Grivenskaya. Primorsko-Akhtarskaya became the rear base of the whites, where there was a headquarters, all civilians and a small guard.
In general, Ulagai and his commanders tried to repeat the tactics of 1918 - early 1919: a swift march forward, the defeat of the enemy, a general uprising. At the same time, they practically did not pay attention to the flanks. However, the situation in 1920 was already different: the Kuban had already "cooled down", there was no mass support (which was counted on in the first place), the Red Army was also already different, knew how to fight. Having transferred reinforcements from the north, the Reds decided to cut the base of the "fan" of the Ulagai group. The Red Army men shot down a weak barrier in Brinkovskaya and went to the Akhtari-Primorskaya railway, cutting off the main forces (they were already 50-80 km from the headquarters) from the rear. Chief of Staff Drantsenko ordered Babiev's division to return and restore the situation. The Kuban cavalry returned, threw back the enemy, again occupied Brinkovskaya, left the garrison and went to Bryukhovetskaya.
On August 17, west of Novorossiysk, a detachment of Cherepov was landed. On August 18, Ulagai's troops took Timashevskaya, on the right flank Shifner-Markevich captured Grivenskaya, Novonikolaevskaya and other villages. Developing the offensive, the White Cossacks reached the distant approaches to Yekaterinodar. Ulagay launched the mobilization of the Kuban Cossacks. In the east, Fostikov's rebels became more active. It seemed that the Kuban would soon explode with a general uprising.
The defeat of the white landing
However, the Soviet command had already managed to come to its senses and pulled additional forces into the landing area of the enemy landing. From the north, after the elimination of Nazarov's landing on the Don, he sewed regiments of the 9th and 2nd Don rifle divisions. The regiments and brigades of the 9th Army gathered, which were garrisoned along the entire Azov-Black Sea coast and the North Caucasus. Troops were transferred from Azerbaijan, spare parts. There was a new mobilization to fight Wrangel. Ordzhonikidze urgently arrived from Baku. The red Azov flotilla has become more active. To prevent the enemy from transferring new troops from the Crimea, the Red Army launched another offensive in Tavria.
The White Command made a number of mistakes. After the capture of the Timashevskaya cavalry Ulagai opened an almost free path to Yekaterinodar. The direction was weakly covered with red. Reinforcements haven't arrived yet. But Ulagai lost a few days, perhaps carried away by an attempt to mobilize the Cossacks, or had already realized that there would be no general uprising and did not want to break away from the base far from the threat of a flank cutting off strike of the enemy. The 9th Soviet Army took full advantage of this respite. The landing forces of Cherepov and Kharlamov were unable to divert the large forces of the 9th Army to themselves. They were poorly coordinated with the offensive of the Ulagaya group. Cherepov's detachment made a late landing. After vain attempts to break through to Novorossiysk, having lost half of their personnel, the White Guards evacuated on the night of August 23-24.
Kharlamov's landing party was also landed late, on August 23-24, when he could no longer influence the general course of the operation. At first, the Whites acted successfully and captured the Taman Peninsula. Further, the Wrangelites were to break through to Temryuk, seize the crossings through the Kuban and establish communication with the Ulagai units. The White Guards, retreating to the west, could gain a foothold on Taman, retaining a large foothold in the Kuban. But when leaving the peninsula, the Reds, the 22nd Infantry Division and the cavalry brigade, using the terrain convenient for defense, stopped the enemy. On September 1, the Red Army, bringing up the artillery, went on the offensive and defeated the enemy on the Taman Peninsula. Having suffered heavy losses, the defeated White Guards evacuated on September 2.
Pulling up troops, 3 rifle divisions, 3 cavalry and 1 rifle brigades, the Red Army went on the offensive. From August 16, stubborn battles were fought on the left flank of the Ulagaya group, in the area of the village of Brinkovskaya. Here was the only convenient crossing over the swamp strip. Babiev's division was tied in this direction. The Reds constantly increased pressure in this sector, trying to cut off the main enemy forces from the rear base in Akhtyrsko-Primorskaya. The village passed from hand to hand several times. The Whites were pushed back to the railroad. Taking advantage of the departure of the white fleet, the red Azov flotilla reached the Akhtyrsko-Primorskaya and began shelling the village. The headquarters, having lost contact with the main forces, and civilians were about to be surrounded. The Whites formed a huge composition, packed with many people, and moved towards Timashevskaya. At Olginskaya, White was almost intercepted. The headquarters had to participate in repelling the enemy's attack. As soon as they got through, the Reds intercepted the railway.
On August 22, Soviet troops recapture Timashevskaya. Ulagay moves the headquarters and base to Achuev. Further actions of the Ulagaya group were already doomed to defeat. White is still fighting, Timashevskaya several times passes from hand to hand. Mobilization failed. The Kubans, even those who sympathize with the White movement, are hiding in the swamps. The Red Army is constantly increasing pressure. In the Akhtarskaya area, an assault force from the Naval Division has landed, which threatens the rear of the white group. On August 24–31, the Reds are attacking from the west, east and south. The Reds captured the village of Stepnaya, where the only way passed through vast swamps. The northern detachment of Babiev was cut off from the main forces and pressed against the swampy coast. Despite stubborn attacks, they failed to recapture Stepnaya.
A river landing of volunteers under the command of Kovtyukh and Commissar Furmanov (about 600 fighters, 4 guns and 15 machine guns) secretly descended on 3 steamers and 4 barges along the Kuban and Protoka rivers and struck the rear of Ulagai near the village of Grivenskaya. At the same time, the Soviet 9th Division attacked Novonikolaevskaya. Parts of Kazanovich and Shifner-Markevich fought here. Kovtyukh's fighters broke into the village, captured a unit. Under the threat of encirclement, White left Novonikolaevskaya. Under the cover of the rearguards, Ulagai's troops began to retreat to the coast and evacuate. At the end of August, the evacuation of the northern group of Babiyev and the rear, civilian and unarmed volunteers from the Ulagai group began. By September 7, the removal of the main forces from Achuev was completed. At the same time, Ulagai, although he was defeated, did not allow his main forces to be destroyed, made a systematic evacuation, took to the Crimea all the units, the sick, the wounded, civilians and mobilized, horses, artillery, armored cars, all property. Ulagai's group left for Crimea stronger (in numbers) than landed in the Kuban.
Thus, the Kuban landing failed. The White command overestimated the possibilities of a large-scale uprising of the Kuban Cossacks. Like the Don people, the Kuban people were tired of the war and were generally indifferent to the White Cossacks. Wrangel's Russian army was still isolated to the Crimea and Tavria. The only positive result is some replenishment of manpower and horse personnel.
Hope for Fostikov's "army" also dashed. The rebels were unable to provide any noticeable assistance to Settle. After the retreat of the Ulagaya group, the Red Army concentrated its efforts on the rebels. Surrounded from all sides, unable to replenish ammunition, losing the support of the population, Fostikov's detachment was defeated in September. The remnants of his troops along mountain paths went to Georgia, where they were interned and taken to the Crimea (about 2 thousand people).