Military Review

Defeat of Tukhachevsky on the Neman


Battle of the Neman. Fragment of the painting by V. Kossak

The Western Front lost the battle for Grodno and Volkovysk. This was mainly due to the mistakes of the command and poor intelligence. The enemy's strategic operation was overslept, since Tukhachevsky still dreamed of a "red Warsaw".

Battles on the Lithuanian border. Pruzhany

Before the start of the general offensive, the Polish army carried out several local operations, improving its position and moving forward slightly. In late August - early September 1920, there was a conflict between Poland and Lithuania. While moving to the east, Polish troops reached Augustów, where the Lithuanian border guards were stationed, who had moved into the area during the Red Army's offensive in July. The Poles demanded that the Lithuanians leave. They hesitated to answer, the Lithuanian authorities considered the southern part of Suvalkovshchyna theirs. Then the Poles disarmed the Lithuanian border guards, and on August 30 the 1st division of legionnaires occupied Augustów. Then the operational group of Colonel Nenevsky (4th cavalry brigade and 41st Suwalki infantry regiment) moved to Suwalki and Sejny. On September 1, Polish troops entered Suwalki.

The entry of Polish troops into the territory disputed with Lithuania raised the question of interaction between the Red Army and the Lithuanian. However, the Lithuanian government did not want to transfer its troops to the operational subordination of the Reds. On September 2, the 2nd Lithuanian division (7 thousand bayonets) launched an offensive on Suwalki and Augustow. Lithuanian troops occupied Lipsk, Sejny and went to Suwalki. However, the Polish cavalry went into the rear of the Lithuanian division, and the legionnaires launched an offensive from the front. Having lost only over 400 prisoners, the Lithuanians retreated. On September 7, Polish troops occupied Lipsk, on September 9 - Sejny and Krasnopol. On September 10, the Poles reached the Foch Line, a demarcation line between Poland and Lithuania, proposed by the Entente in 1919.

On September 18, 1920, the 14th Infantry Division of the Polish 4th Army received the task of taking Pruzhany, an important point on the way to Slonim. Having made a night march from the west from Shereshev, in the morning the Poles broke through the defenses of the Soviet 17th Infantry Division of the 16th Army near the city. When the main forces approached, the Polish battalions simultaneously attacked Pruzhany from the north, west and south. The Reds did not expect this attack, after a short battle the city fell. The 17th division retreated in disarray, losing only over 1 prisoners.

Source of maps: Kakurin N. The Civil War in Russia: War with the White Poles. M., 2002

Battle in the region of Grodno and Berestovitsa

On September 20, 1920, the Central Group of the 2nd Army (22nd Volunteer and 21st Mountain Divisions) attacked the positions of the 5th and 6th Infantry Divisions of the 3rd Soviet Army. Not expecting a strong blow, the Soviet units rolled back to the fortifications of the Grodno fortress. Pulling up the army reserves, on September 21, the Red Army counterattacked, but without success. With the approach of Soviet reserves, the forces of the parties became approximately equal. Stubborn positional battles ensued. The same positions passed from hand to hand several times. The offensive of the 2nd Polish Army was stopped, but the main forces of the Western Front in the Grodno direction were shackled.

The 3rd Infantry Division of the Legions of General Berbetsky (about 8 thousand people, 40 guns, including 10 heavy ones, over 200 machine guns), which made up the right wing of the 2nd Army, also successfully advanced, pushing parts of the 11th and 16th divisions ( about 11 thousand people with 60 guns) of the 15th Soviet army. The Poles captured the undamaged bridges in Dublyany and Mostovlyany and crossed the Svisloch west of Berestovitsa. A stubborn battle broke out in the area of ​​Berestovitsa. On September 21, the Poles broke into Bolshaya Berestovitsa, breaking through to the rear of the 11th Division. They defeated the divisional rear units and headquarters, captured about 300 people and captured 4 guns. Divisional Commander Sobeinikov was wounded, but was able to leave. Commander Kork sent the 56th brigade, which had just arrived from the Finnish border (3 thousand fighters), to a counterattack. On the 22nd, fierce battles continued all day, but the Red Army could not recapture Berestovitsa. The Soviet 33rd brigade and 16th division first pushed the enemy's 3rd division, but suffered heavy losses. Then the Poles counterattacked. With the support of neighboring units, by the evening the resistance of the 16th division was broken.

On September 23, the Poles captured Malaya Berestovitsa, but then the Reds again launched a counterattack. Only in the evening the 3rd division of legionnaires broke the enemy's resistance and reached the R. Vereteika, a tributary of the Svisloch. On September 24, the Cork army again counterattacked, but without success and suffered serious losses. In the evening, Polish troops resumed their offensive. The 15th Soviet Army began to withdraw, fearing encirclement due to the deteriorating situation in the north in the zone of defense of the 3rd Army. On September 25, the Poles advanced, almost without encountering serious resistance, and occupied Lunnu and the damaged bridge across the Neman. Thus, the Poles defeated the 15th Army: Soviet troops lost about 3 thousand people killed and captured. However, the Polish troops could not break through the enemy's defenses on the move, reach the bridges on the Neman and capture them. This was done only on the fifth day of the operation.

Breakthrough of the Northern group

The northern group of the 2nd Polish Army (1st Legionnaire Division, 1st Lithuanian-Belarusian Division, two cavalry brigades, a total of 15,5 thousand soldiers, 90 guns), concentrated in the Augustow region, received the task of rapidly advancing north east, bypass Grodno from the north, cross the Neman near the Lithuanian town of Druskeniki and within two days reach the town of Marcinkants (Marcinkonis) on the Grodno-Vilnia railway. The Poles intercepted communications of the Western Front going from Grodno to Mosty and Lida. The Soviet Grodno grouping was under the threat of encirclement.

On September 22, 1920, the Northern Group launched an offensive. Nenevsky's 4th cavalry brigade rushed forward and scattered the advanced units of the Lithuanian army. The 1st Legion Division struck at the 2nd Lithuanian Division near Seiny. Throwing back the enemy, the Poles captured Sejny and surrounded part of the Lithuanian troops. About 1700 people were captured, 12 guns were captured. On the night of the 23rd, the Poles defeated the Lithuanian regiment, capturing 300 people and 4 guns. On September 23, the Polish cavalry reached the bridge on the Neman near the town of Druskeniki. With the support of the approaching infantry, the Poles captured the bridge. On the 24th, the Poles occupied Marcinkants and reached Porechye (northeast of Grodno). As a result, the Polish army opened the road to Lida and received the opportunity to strike into the rear of Lazarevich's 3rd army. The command of the Western Front was so busy with battles in the Grodno and Berestovitsa region that they missed the enemy's breakthrough through Lithuanian territory and the Neman, with access to the rear of the 3rd Army. Tukhachevsky was preparing to repel the enemy's blow in the Grodno direction, and then launch a counteroffensive.

Fall of Grodno

The main forces of the 2nd Polish Army renewed their offensive against Grodno. On September 23, the Polish 21st Mountain Division fought for crossings south of Grodno, and the 22nd Volunteer Division fought to the north. On the night of September 23-24, Major Mond's group captured the damaged bridge on the Neman near Gozha. The Poles began to repair the bridge, part of the group's troops crossed the river on improvised watercraft. The headquarters of the 2nd Polish army ordered the 2nd cavalry brigade from the Northern group to go from the north to Grodno and connect with the Mond group.

In the meantime, the shock Northern group was marching in two columns towards Lida and Vasilishki. The Poles went to the rear of the Grodno grouping of the Red Army. The headquarters of the 3rd Soviet Army only on September 24 received the first data on the advancement of the Polish troops on the northern flank. The headquarters decided that the Poles were heading for Grodno. After negotiations with the front command, Lazarevich ordered to send the 2nd and 21st rifle divisions from the army reserve against this enemy group. This weakened the forces of the 3rd army in the Grodno direction.

The 5th Rifle Division, unable to withstand the pressure of the enemy, began to withdraw. With the support of heavy artillery, the 22nd Volunteer Division captured Fort No. 4 of the Grodno Fortress. Then the Reds themselves left forts No. 1, 2 and 3. In the northern sector, the Mond group captured Fort No. 13. By the evening of September 25, the Red Army lost its positions on the left bank of the Neman. The pressure of the Poles increased. The troops of the 3rd Army were threatened with encirclement from the north and northeast. In the south, the Poles broke through to Volkovysk. Tukhachevsky allowed Lazarevich to leave Grodno. On the night of September 26, Polish troops broke into the city. Soviet troops are retreating east. 3rd army retreats to Lida, 15th and 16th armies to r. Shchara.

Defeat of Tukhachevsky on the Neman
Fort No. 4 of the Grodno Fortress


On September 23, the northern group of General Jung (15th Infantry Division, part of the 2nd Legion Division) of the 4th Polish Army launched an offensive on Volkovysk. She struck at the junction of the 15th and 16th Soviet armies. The 48th Division of the 16th Army occupied the defense here. The Polish offensive here, too, caught the Soviet command by surprise. It was expected that the enemy would throw all its forces on Grodno through the Berestovitsa area. In a few hours, the regiments broke through the Red defenses and in the evening captured Volkovysk. The Soviet command transferred the 48th brigade from the Berestovitsa area to the aid of the 56th division. Also, the commander of the 15th Army, Cork, on September 24 threw the 27th Infantry Division into battle from the army reserve. During a fierce battle that lasted all day, the Red Army recaptured Volkovysk. The delay at Volkovysk, as well as at Mosty, delayed the advance of the Polish troops. This forced the Polish high command to reinforce the 2nd and 4th armies with front reserves.

Meanwhile, Tukhachevsky, fearing the encirclement of his armies, on the 25th ordered the troops to withdraw to the east. Before that evening on September 24, Tukhachevsky held negotiations with the chief of the Lithuanian General Staff, Kleshchinsky. The Soviet command offered the Lithuanians a joint offensive in the Suwalki-Grodno area. However, the Lithuanians again abandoned joint actions. As a result, the troops of the 3rd army were withdrawn to Lida, the 15th army to the rivers Lebeda and Shchara, the 16th to the r. Shchara. The territory had to be sacrificed in order to save the armies.

Thus, the Western Front lost the battle for Grodno and Volkovysk. This was mainly due to the mistakes of the command and poor intelligence. The enemy's strategic operation was overslept, since Tukhachevsky still dreamed of a "red Warsaw". The Poles pinned down the main forces of the Western Front in the Grodno area, struck a strong blow to the south, at Volkovysk, and bypassed the 3rd Soviet Army in the north across Lithuanian territory, aiming at Lida. This destroyed the Soviet front, Tukhachevsky's armies urgently had to retreat to the east again to avoid encirclement.
Photos used:,
Articles from this series:
Smoot. 1920 year

Battle of Rostov
The disaster of white Odessa
How Slashchev Crimea defended
Dono-Manych battle
The death of the Northern Army Miller
Why Western agent Kolchak is turned into a hero and martyr of Russia
The defeat of the army of Denikin in the battle of Tikhorets
How did the Ice Siberian campaign end
The fall of the White Kuban
Agony of White Novorossiysk
The death of the Kuban army
Denikin's resignation
Far Eastern Republic and the Japanese threat
Polish "liberation" campaign in Kiev
Baku “Blitzkrieg” of the Red Army
The battle for Belarus. May operation of the Red Army
War of the Russian Army Wrangel
The first victories of the Wrangel army
The defeat of the 13th Soviet Army in Northern Tavria
Our Kiev!
The battle for Rivne. How Budyonnovtsy smashed the Polish defense
Minsk is ours! The defeat of the Polish army in Belarus
Battle for Lviv. The failure of the Red Army in Galicia
The death of the cavalry group Rednecks
The fierce battle for the Kakhovsky bridgehead
The defeat of the landing group Ulagaya
"Miracle on the Vistula"
How Tukhachevsky destroyed his armies on the Vistula
Battle of Komarov. Defeat of the 1st Cavalry Army
Bukhara Blitzkrieg Frunze
"The danger of Wrangel is becoming enormous ..."
Battle on the Lower Dnieper
The last offensive of the Russian army
Battle of the Neman
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  1. cost
    cost 21 September 2020 07: 12
    Interesting fact : In 1923, Tukhachevsky gave lectures on the topic of the Soviet-Polish war at the Academy of the Red Army and published these lectures in the same year as a separate brochure entitled "A Trip to the Vistula", and Pilsudski in 1924 wrote a detailed commentary on this work, which he called simply "1920 year". Both works were published almost simultaneously both in the RSFSR and in Poland. Prefaces to both of these works were written by the military theory V.K. Triandafill.
  2. Olgovich
    Olgovich 21 September 2020 07: 26
    -11 qualifying.
    The Western Front lost the battle for Grodno and Volkovysk. This was mainly due to the mistakes of the command and poor intelligence.

    The forces and potentials of the sides were incomparable. and not command: an offensive against Poland with the aim of revolutionizing Europe, especially after warning from the West, was a pre-doomed insane adventure.

    on September 20 1920 year

    The whole world has been living without war for two years now and is recovering from the terrible World War, and only the very first "fighters for peace" with their decree on peace as early as 1917 continue it ....
    1. Aviator_
      Aviator_ 21 September 2020 08: 02

      In fact, in Russian it will not be sopоput
      1. Olgovich
        Olgovich 21 September 2020 08: 32
        -16 qualifying.
        Quote: Aviator_
        In fact, in Russian it will be incomparable

        Actually, according to the punctuation rules of the Russian language, introductory words are separated by commas.

        Hack a knot in your nose.
        1. Aviator_
          Aviator_ 21 September 2020 19: 32
          I don’t need Romanian advice on the grammar of my native language
          1. Olgovich
            Olgovich 22 September 2020 06: 44
            Quote: Aviator_
            I don’t need Romanian advice on the grammar of my native language

            This is not advice, ignorant, these are ELEMENTARY rules of my language, which you, out of your ignorance, do not know at all, distorting and humiliating it.

            Shame ...
            1. Aviator_
              Aviator_ 22 September 2020 07: 49
              "inconsistentаdisgrace "
  3. cost
    cost 21 September 2020 07: 38
    IMHO, Tukhachevsky tried to repeat the situation that was characteristic of the Polish uprising of 1830-1831. He wanted to repeat Paskevich's famous maneuver, to enter Warsaw from the west, and thereby force the surrender of Warsaw itself. But since Tukhachevsky was not field marshal Paskevich, such a complex maneuver in that situation failed, and he could not achieve results. Moreover, the Poles discovered the military code and listened to all the negotiations, knew about all the movements of the Red Army.
    1. nikvic46
      nikvic46 21 September 2020 08: 33
      Dmitry. Tukhachevsky did not try anything. He, like every military man, carried out the order of the commander-in-chief. And similar cases have happened more than once in our history.
      1. cost
        cost 21 September 2020 10: 26
        I am ashamed to ask the military - And who has been the commander of the Western Front since April 29? To whom on July 22 does Commander-in-Chief Kamenev set the task of seizing Warsaw? Who, having received the order, is planning the Warsaw operation itself? Commander-in-Chief? belay
        No, dear military man, you are apparently not familiar with such a procedure. Such things are always decided by the executor - the one who performs it. In this case, the commander of the Zapfront, Comrade Tukhachevsky and his headquarters
        Tukhachevsky abandoned the frontal main attack on Warsaw. Assuming that the main Polish forces were retreating north of the capital, he decided to repeat the "Paskevich loop" and delivered the main blow in this direction in order to defeat the enemy north-west of Warsaw. At the same time, the left flank of the front was poorly covered. The decision on the front offensive was taken on August 8. What Tukhachevsky himself writes about in the book "Hike to the Vistula"

        ... The decision to advance the ZF was made on August 8. At the same time, I proposed to create a temporary operational center to control the 1st Cavalry and 12th armies, transferred to the subordination of the ZF from the South-Western Front by the decision of the Politburo on August 2. These troops, as well as the 14th Army, were intended to reinforce the weak Mozyr Group and the 16th Army, directed south of Warsaw, with the further goal of encircling the Polish capital from the south. On August 11, a final agreement was reached on the immediate turn of these armies from Lvov to the Lublin direction ...
        1. nikvic46
          nikvic46 21 September 2020 20: 23
          Dmitry: First of all, I'm not a military man. Thank you for the many clarifications. You understood this issue well. But we do not know what conversation was at the army headquarters. Usually the chief of staff must provide all the information on reconnaissance. And if this data was insufficient, Tukhachevsky still obey the order of the center. Which, by the way, it was infected with the "world revolution". Exactly the same case took place in Grozny (the name of the general remained unknown), when an entire brigade was destroyed. We mastered military science right up to the war.
    2. Sergey Oreshin
      Sergey Oreshin 21 September 2020 11: 13
      Everything is true, but the Russian Empire in 1831, in fact, did not have any other front except the Polish one. While in 1920 significant forces of the Reds fought with Wrangel and a bunch of local rebels throughout the RSFSR
      1. cost
        cost 21 September 2020 12: 58
        Everything is true, but the Russian Empire in 1831, in fact, did not have any other front, except for the Polish
        Why, Sergei? The Caucasian War (1817-1864) with the North Caucasian Imamate was going on throughout.
        In addition, in 1831. Russia fought against the Avar Khanate, the Gazikumukh Khanate, the Mehtuli Khanate, the Kaitag Utsmiy, the Cuban Khanate, the Akushin Dagestan Union, the Tabasaran Maysum, the Ilisu Sultanate. By the way, the Second Polish Asian Legion, created from Polish immigrants in Istanbul, fought on the side of the North Caucasian Imamate. This is an internal theater of operations, so to speak.
        But there were also external ones - in 1831. Russia, in coalition with Austria-Hungary, Sicily and Venice, declared war on the Ottoman Empire. (1831-1835) In 1834, Russian, Austro-Hungarian, Sicilian and Venetian troops laid siege to Istanbul. The city was taken on December 23 of the same year.
  4. Sergey Oreshin
    Sergey Oreshin 21 September 2020 11: 11
    Quote: Olgovich
    The whole world has been living without war for two years

    Not really. In 1920, the following wars are going on (just offhand, perhaps I missed something):
    1. Irish War of Independence
    2. Armenian-Turkish
    3. Greco-Turkish
    4. Civil war in Turkey itself (between the Sultan and Ataturk)
    5, Anti-French uprising in Syria
    6. Anti-British uprising in Iraq
    7. The war of the British with the "dervish state" in Somalia
    8. "Wars of the militarists" in China.
    10. Polish-Lithuanian by the way too
    11. Anti-Serb uprising in Montenegro
    1. Arabfun
      Arabfun 21 September 2020 11: 55
      Precisely, those who arrange these wars live without war. The USA and Britain also live without war, but they are the ones who organize civil wars and coups. And Comrade Olgovich is a deceiver, passing off those sitting in Europe, in palaces, as peaceful citizens only because they are fashionable, rich and cheerful ... only from the courtyards returned lice found out in Buckingham Palace and again to the front of the German gas to smell
      1. Sergey Oreshin
        Sergey Oreshin 21 September 2020 12: 13
        For the sake of justice, we note that the British troops just actively fought in 1920 in different countries (Ireland, Iraq, Somalia) and funerals came to English families. As for the United States, in 1920 their troops took part in the occupation of Nicaragua, Haiti, the Dominican Republic and, accordingly, also suffered losses, American families also received funerals.
        The elite, of course, sat in warm offices, but this was the case in all countries
  5. Sergey Oreshin
    Sergey Oreshin 21 September 2020 14: 37
    Quote: Rich
    The entire Caucasian war was going on

    Yes, I agree about the Caucasian War.
    Quote: Rich
    in 1831. Russia, in coalition with Austria-Hungary, Sicily and Venice, declared war on the Ottoman Empire. (1831-1835) In 1834, Russian, Austro-Hungarian, Sicilian and Venetian troops laid siege to Istanbul. The city was taken on December 23 of the same year.

    And this is some kind of alternative history))) The Venetian Republic has not existed for 34 years already
    1. cost
      cost 22 September 2020 03: 06
      And this is already some kind of alternative history

      Yes, indeed, after the auto translation, we got some kind of alternative: request Auto-translator burns yes:
      I'll try to correct this nonsense in my own words. - we are talking about the support of Russia and Austria Hungary in opposition to France of the Ottoman Empire (1831-1835) Turkey in its conflict with the Egyptian Pasha.
      Austria, as always, feared the growth of Russian influence in Turkey, but above all was interested in maintaining stability in Turkey, Italy, and in itself, where, after 1830, the revival of the national revolutionary movement on the former Venetian territory on the left side of the Eç was again outlined. recently suppressed by Austrian troops. For Russia, Austria and the Kingdom of both Sicilies, defeating Mehmed-Ali, who did not hide his negative attitude towards them and spoke about the need to restore the power of the Muslim empire, was extremely dangerous.
      Lines from the message of the Russian monarch to his Turkish ambassador, Adjutant General N.N. Muravyov: "..This whole war is nothing more than a consequence of the outrageous spirit that has now seized Europe and especially France. The very conquest of Algeria is the action of restless heads that bowed poor Charles X to this. Now they further spread their influence and aroused The Egyptian war. With the conquest of Constantinople by Mehmed-Ali, we will have in the neighborhood a nest of all homeless people, without a fatherland, expelled by all comfortable societies. These people cannot remain in peace; they are now surrounding Megmed-Ali Pasha, filling the fleet and his army. You must show My influence in the affairs of the East. "

      Mahmud II, after a short hesitation, appealed for help to St. Petersburg, Vienna and the kingdom of both Sicilies
      On November 15 (27), 1832, an order followed to bring the Black Sea Fleet “as in a hurry” to readiness to go to sea. Rear Admiral M.P. was appointed commander of the squadron for the campaign to the Bosphorus. Lazarev. The fleet was to be ready for a six-month campaign. The following tasks were assigned to him: if necessary, to protect Constantinople from an assassination attempt by the Egyptians, to prevent the entry of the Egyptian fleet into the Dardanelles, together with the Austrian and Sicilian fleets, to provide any assistance to the Turkish government both in the Black and Mediterranean seas.
      On December 23 of the same year, the Russian squadron entered Istanbul

      1. cost
        cost 22 September 2020 03: 18
        Russian squadron in Istanbul