"General's Council of Deputies" or as chosen by the Commander-in-Chief of Wrangel

"General's Council of Deputies" or as chosen by the Commander-in-Chief of WrangelSpring 1920 of the year could not inspire any optimism to the South Russian white movement. The rollback and decomposition of the White Guards seemed irreversible. Naturally, in such conditions among the warring began the search for the guilty. Willingly, all eyes were turned towards the first figures - the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces in the South of Russia, Anton Denikin and his commander, Ivan Romanovsky. Most of the opponents of the commander-in-chief were inclined to think that such a figure could only be the commander of the Caucasian army, Lieutenant-General Peter Wrangel.

Unlike Denikin, Wrangel did not appear at once in the Volunteer Army. Initially, he deliberately avoided participation in the Civil War and only 25 August 1918 of the year arrived at the location of the Volunteer Army. His appointment as Denikin to the position of interim commander of 1 and the cavalry division was met with disapproval in the military. The army prized first of all the “pioneers” - participants of the famous “Ice” campaign of the Volunteer Army of the winter-spring 1918 of the year, which became a kind of symbol of the White movement.



Volunteers appreciated first of all the “White Guard” experience of one or another military man, and not his previous military achievements. However, Denikin, who was experiencing a shortage of experienced cavalry commanders, took the risk and did not lose. Wrangel became one of the most popular and successful leaders of the White movement, the peak of his success was the taking in August of 1919 of Tsaritsyn, which Trotsky proudly called the “Red Verdun”.

However, as Wrangel grew in popularity in the military, his relationship with Denikin became increasingly conflictual. Each of the generals didn’t like to talk about stories conflict, which Anton Ivanovich in the hearts called the "Russian disgrace." Another thing is more important here: in many ways, this conflict was the background to the events described below. One can argue indefinitely about whether Wrangel was plotting intrigue against Denikin with a view to displacing him, or whether he was immaculately clean in this respect, something else is important: in Denikin’s mind, Wrangel was an intriguer who marked his place. Even his closest comrade, General Pavel Shatilov, agreed that, for Denikin, "Wrangel presented himself as a person ready to use all the ways to get Denikin replaced with himself."

Vtoril Shatilov is also “injured” by Anton Ivanovich at the end of the “Denikinsky” stage of his career, General Alexander Lukomsky. According to him, "there was a definite impression that Wrangel not only awakens against Denikin, but leads a certain intrigue against the latter, pushing himself to replace him." He knew the white commander in chief and the fact that in the army he was rapidly losing popularity and faith in him, and that many people were sure that only Wrangel could straighten the situation, and besides him there were also “shadow” leaders - Yakov Slashchov and Alexander Kutepov.

The general depression, a sense of the inevitability of the collapse of a beloved cause, the loss of faith in the army — all this led to Denikin's decision to leave his post. In addition, Denikin's conversation with the commander of 1 and the army corps Kutepov, which took place on the eve of the news of the convening of a council of senior officers for the selection of the new Commander-in-Chief, was of great importance.

In a conversation with Denikin, Kutepov pointed out that the volunteers no longer want to see Denikin as their leader. This news overwhelmed Anton Ivanovich. His decision to leave the post was inevitable. How subtle the game here was Kutepov, one can only guess. Whether he himself was in the place of Denikin, or whether he sincerely believed that Anton Ivanovich, in the name of a common cause, should give up his post, is unknown. At the same time, we repeat that it was the conversation with Kutepov that predetermined Denikin’s decision.

General Nikolai Shilling, knowledgeable about the events of that time, recalled that: “On March 19, General Kutepov reported to the Commander-in-Chief about his conversation with General Slaschov, who informed him that on March 23 it was planned to convene a meeting of representatives of the clergy, army, navy and the population to discuss the provisions. " According to him, this meeting was supposed to appeal to Denikin with a request to surrender his command.

“All these intrigues and harassment of the authorities that General Wrangel so much led, and with the support of General Slashchov, most of the fleet officials, as well as extreme right-wing elements headed by the Sevastopol bishop Veniamin, known for their intrigues and restlessness,” wrote Schilling. “All this, taken together, clearly showed General Denikin that, under such conditions, it is impossible to work and fulfill duty to the Motherland. The result of this decision also affected the order of the Military Council. ”

General Denikin’s headquarters was in those days in Feodosia, which, during the Civil War, was, in the words of Osip Mandelstam, “a robbery inland land of the sixteenth century”. Early in the morning of 20 in March of 1920, the new chief of staff of the Commander-in-Chief of the All-Soviet Union of People's Defense Administration, General Pyotr Makhrov, was summoned to Denikin. The sight of a pale and tired Denikin did not inspire any optimism. Reaching out a piece of paper written in pencil with a pencil, Denikin said: “You will read it, and I ask you to immediately send it to the destination.” Makhrov began to read a piece of paper on which an order was convened to convene the Military Council on 20 in the evening of March under the chairmanship of cavalry general Abram Dragomirov to select a new Commander-in-Chief.

Makhrov recalled: “For me it was so unexpected and it seemed so dangerous at the moment that it involuntarily escaped:
- Yes, this is impossible, Your Excellency!
General Denikin, usually affable, this time darkly and categorically objected:
- No talk. My decision is irrevocable, I thought it over and weighed. I am morally and physically ill. The army has lost faith in the leader, I have lost faith in the army. Please fulfill my order. ”


To the Military Council, Denikin proposed "electing a worthy one to whom I will pass successively power and command." The order for the appointment of the meeting caused a general surprise. No one could intelligibly answer the question: how can a “worthy” be elected?

All the guests gathered in the palace of the Fleet Commander on the evening of March 21, March 1920. The first thing that struck everyone who arrived at the palace was that the palace was surrounded by drozdovtsy, there were a couple of machine guns at the entrance, nearby streets were cordoned off by soldiers. “We were going to be exactly dangerous conspirators,” the ataman Afrik Bogayevsky recalled the meeting participant.



Considering that the power in Sevastopol in those days actually belonged to the Drozdovites, Mahrov reasonably suggested that they were plotting something, suggesting that in this situation "volunteer bayonets could play the same role as in 1613, the Cossack saber the choice of the kingdom of Mikhail Fedorovich.

“Who could have taken the place of General Denikin? - argued Machrov. - Of course, not General Dragomirov, who lost all authority after Kiev. Kutepov had even less chances, whose mental outlook could not expand as quickly as the ranks were given to him. He could not take the post of commander-in-chief always a half-drunk cretin in a suit like a clown or a Caucasian highlander, Slaschow. No one would have spoken in favor of Pokrovsky ... Ulagay’s immaculate name remained, but he was only a soldier.


There was no unanimous opinion among the audience about what was happening. First of all, the elective principle did not fit in the heads of the generals, reminding them of similar practices among the Bolsheviks. Vividly expressed this position Slashchov, who argued that the deputy commander-in-chief should be appointed by Denikin himself, besides, he sarcastically called what was happening “General Council of Soviets”. “What do we serve - the cause or the people?” - asked the future prototype of General Khludov from the Bulgakov “Run”: “Will we really choose the chief?”

"Not! - Replied the chairman Dragomirov. “The commander-in-chief wants to know the opinion of the senior commanders, but he will choose and appoint him.”


Slashchov didn’t like the fact that his corps, which heroically defended the last piece of white Russia, the Crimea, was represented on the council by fewer military leaders than other corps. Abram Mikhailovich stated that it was necessary, without losing time, to name the new Commander-in-Chief.
Captain I rank Ryabinin, the chief of staff of the Black Sea Fleet who asked for the words, said that from the point of view of the sailors, only the General Wrangel could be a worthy successor to Anton Ivanovich. The commander of the Drozdovskaya division, Vitkovsky, said that the Drozdists flatly refused to participate in the elections. He was supported by the commanders of the Kornilov, Markov and Alekseev divisions. There was a friendly: "Hurray General Denikin!".

Vitkovsky and other senior officers began to prove to Dragomirov the need to immediately report by telegraph to General Denikin about the mood of the Military Council and the request to remain in power. Dragomirov did not agree, but in the end he was forced to send the following message to Denikin: “The Military Council found it impossible to resolve the issue of the Commander-in-Chief’s successor, considering the precedent of the elected authorities impossible, I decided to ask you to single out that one ...”

Soon Denikin's answer came: “Frustrated morally, I cannot stay in power for a single day ... I demand that my Military Council fulfill its duty. Otherwise, the Crimea and the army will be plunged into anarchy. ”


Having gathered the members of the Military Council the next day, Dragomirov read out the text of Denikin’s telegram to them. After much wrangling, it was decided to make two meetings - one of the senior bosses, the other of all the others. The first was to outline a successor, the second was to support or reject an elected person.

By that time, General Wrangel arrived in Sevastopol from Constantinople, delivering the text of an English ultimatum addressed to Denikin, but presented to Wrangel on March 20 in Constantinople. In the ultimatum, the British government offered the White Guards to end the unequal struggle and promised to mediate in negotiations with the Soviet authorities. Otherwise, England disclaimed responsibility and threatened to stop any assistance. “Having familiarized myself with the ultimatum,” Wrangel told to journalist Rakovsky, “I found it imperative to respond to the call to come to the army, which is almost in a hopeless situation.”

Wrangel introduced Dragomirov with the text of the ultimatum, stating that “under the present conditions, General Denikin does not have the moral right to leave that case, which he was still at the head of. He must bring this case to the end and take responsibility for everything that happens. " In response to the views expressed by Wrangel, Dragomirov stated that “the decision of the Commander-in-Chief to leave is final. I am convinced that he will not change it. ” From the hall where the meeting was supposed to take place, "came the noise, the talk, the tramp of numerous legs." Wrangel, who saw through the half-open door "a large crowd of several dozen people," regardless of Slashchev, said that this was "some kind of council."

According to him: “The new Commander-in-Chief, whoever he is, must know with complete certainty that, under these conditions, his comrades will demand from him, and the last, that the new leader can promise them. All this is impossible to discuss in such a crowded meeting, largely consisting of boys. After all, some of the current regimental commanders in normal times would only be lieutenants. I believe that all persons younger than the corps commanders, or their peers in power, should be removed from the board. ”


In the new, reduced composition of the council, twenty names remained, other meeting participants were asked to leave the room, and Dragomirov gave the text of the ultimatum to the senior bosses.

“To all of us, the English sentences seemed so ridiculous and impracticable that the discussion of them, as it were, fell away by itself,” recalled Schilling.

“And again, in our meeting of the senior bosses, there was a lively talk about the choice of the Commander-in-Chief, I repeat that most of the participants pointed to the inadmissibility of the electoral principle, saying that if you are to be left without General Denikin, then who he himself will appoint will be obeyed ...” Since most of us, senior commanders, refused to take part in the elections and did not indicate a person worthy of being the successor of General Denikin, Donskoy Ataman Bogayevsky delivered a lengthy speech that brightly and colorfully blessed the creature. situation, stressed the need for that at all costs to finish the question of the Deputy General Denikin ... and called the name of General Wrangel as the next Commander in Chief ... Who spoke for who - against.

All this talk, reasoning and excitement have weary everyone. To this we must add that the junior commanders, members of the military council, not knowing the reasons for the delay, while remaining isolated in the large hall, naturally became nervous and repeatedly sent to find out if our meeting of senior commanders would end soon and the military council meeting interrupted so unexpectedly. After a lengthy debate, it was still decided to dwell on the candidacy of General Wrangel, who was again invited to our office, where General Dragomirov announced to him our decision.

Agreeing to accept the post of commander in chief, General Wrangel, to our great amazement, made a decisive demand to give him a subscription in that the condition for him to accept the post of commander-in-chief would not be to present an attack against the Reds to him, but only to withdraw the army with honor from the current difficult situation ... was given to him. "


After that, Denikin was immediately sent a telegram informing him of the decision of the Military Council. He inquired about whether Wrangel was aware of the change in the foreign policy situation that had occurred on the eve, and having received an affirmative answer, Denikin gave his last order to the Armed Forces of southern Russia. The order appointed Lieutenant General Baron Wrangel Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Southern Russia. The order ended with the words: “To everyone who walked with me in a grave struggle is a low bow. Lord, give victory to the army and save Russia. ”

Having announced the last order of Denikin to the members of the Military Council, Dragomirov proclaimed “Hurray!” To General Wrangel. “Without enthusiasm and unanimity,” as Schilling recalled, but the Council shouted “Hurray!” To the new commander-in-chief, who bypassed all the members of the Council, shaking each hand.

In the evening of March 22, 1920, Denikin left Russia forever. The Crimean epic of Baron Wrangel began - the final stage of the white struggle in the South of Russia. It did not last long. In November, 1920, the remnants of the once mighty Armed Forces in the South of Russia suffered a final defeat.
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