In principle, both estimates have the right to exist. Wrangel was a really ambitious, tough person, and the Civil War in Russia made it possible to implement the most ambitious designs. However, the soldier who does not dream of becoming a general is bad, the desire for career growth and the rigidity typical of the military. This is their distinguishing feature. Wrangel graduated from the Mining Institute in the Russian capital, and was an engineer by education. He entered as a volunteer (a man who entered the military service voluntarily) in the Life Guards Horse Regiment, received the rank of Cornet Guard. During the Russo-Japanese War, Baron volunteered for the army. He served as a centurion and was noted for his bravery by the Orders of St. Anne 4-th degree and St. Stanislav 3-th degree. In 1910, he graduated from the Nikolaev Imperial Academy of the General Staff, in 1911, the course of the Officer Cavalry School. World War I met in the rank of captain, commanding a squadron. Under the tsarist government, he rose to the rank of major general and became the commander of the 2 brigade of the Ussurian horse division. Under the Provisional Government, he became commander of the 7 Cavalry Division, and then commander of the Consolidated Cavalry Corps.
At the beginning of the Civil War, he wanted to cooperate with the Hetman regime of P. P. Skoropadsky, who held out on German bayonets. But seeing his futility, he entered the Volunteer Army. Commanded 1-th horse division, and then - 1-m horse corps. In November, 1918 was promoted to lieutenant general. In 1919, he successively commanded the Volunteer Army, the Caucasian Army. During this period, he came into conflict with A. I. Denikin, believing that the main attack should be directed eastward — to join the army of Admiral A. V. Kolchak. Denikin also wanted to take Moscow. Denikin’s “Moscow directive,” according to Wrangel, “was a death sentence to the troops of southern Russia.” In December of the year 1919, Wrangel was dismissed from the command of the troops because of disagreements with the Commander-in-Chief of the All-Soviet Union of Armed Forces, and in February 1920 left for Constantinople.
White's attack on Moscow failed. The remnants of the Volunteer Army retreated to Novorossiysk, and from there 26-27 March 1920 was evacuated by sea to the Crimea. The main grouping of the Armed Forces of the south of Russia suffered a defeat. After the evacuation, Denikin reorganized the remnants of forces and brought them into three corps: the Volunteer, Don and Crimean, as well as the cavalry division and the Kuban brigade. The Crimean Corps took up positions at Perekop. Defeat, retreat, often simply flight, heavy losses, mass desertion and surrender - have seriously affected the state of the army. The army was heavily decomposed, in a state of extreme moral and physical exhaustion. This has led to the growth of various unhealthy moods. Actually, the Crimea was previously the center of various intrigues. As usual, after any catastrophe, they were looking for perpetrators or rescuers who would offer a way out of this situation.
Many officers accused the head of staff, General Romanovsky, of failure. General Sidorin believed that “Don betrayed” and suggested that the Cossacks leave Crimea and make their way to the Don region. He suggested that one could drive the Reds out of the Don and restore the autonomy of the Don region. In favor of Wrangel came representatives fleet. Others offered the role of leader - Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich, although he lived abroad and did not intend to participate in the White movement. Confusion and reeling were commonplace. Some senior officers moved from one group to another. There was an idea to convene a meeting of representatives of the army, navy, clergy and the population in order to discuss the current situation and select a new leader. The army was based on the Volunteer Corps led by Kutepov, so he was regularly approached with various projects. But Kutepov refused to support anyone and suggested that Denikin take urgent measures against the troublemakers.
However, Denikin has already decided to resign. Defeats and years of relentless tension broke him, and the general decided to leave. Denikin issued an order to convene a military council in Sevastopol to elect a successor. It included representatives of the army, navy, commandants of fortresses and representatives of the military opposition who were out of work, candidates for power - Wrangel, Pokrovsky, Borovsky, and others. General Dragomirov was appointed chairman. The council passed 3 on April 1920. Representatives of the Volunteer Corps unanimously asked Denikin to remain in power and expressed his full confidence. When Kutepov and Dragomirov explained that the decision of the commander was invariable, they began to demand that Denikin himself appointed a successor. Volunteers supported and Kuban. Slashchev spoke out against the election, calling them "rally". Sailors supported the candidacy of Wrangel. 3 April to select a new commander could not. They sent a telegram to Denikin, suggesting that he single-handedly indicate his successor.
Denikin remained firm, demanding military advice to fulfill his duty and elect a new commander-in-chief. April 4 Dragomirov, to reduce the likelihood of disputes, divided the council, allowing only senior bosses to take part in the elections. The rest had to approve or reject the candidacy. On the same day, Wrangel arrived from Constantinople. He brought an ultimatum to the British, who proposed stopping the struggle and, through their mediation, enter into negotiations with the Bolsheviks, subject to the inviolability of the population of the Crimea and the troops of Southern Russia. In the case of rejection of this proposal, the British abandoned all responsibility for the future of the whites, refused any help and support.
The discussion of this telegram delayed the meeting. Slashchev reported that he was against any election, and went to the front. General Bogaevsky proposed Wrangel’s candidacy, no one wanted to delay the matter, so there were no objections. In order to avoid conflict with the younger commanders, Dragomirov cheated - he informed Denikin about the choice of senior commanders and asked to send a written order on the appointment of Wrangel. Lieutenant-General Wrangel was appointed commander-in-chief of the All-Russian Union of People's Defense. Denikin himself on the same day departed on the British battleship "The Emperor of India", together with his associate and former chief of staff, General Romanovsky, to England with a stop in Constantinople.
The question of the future of the army
When Wrangel took command, he was 42 of the year. At the time of taking office, the baron saw his main task not to continue the war (the army was simply not ready for this), but to stabilize the situation. After the catastrophe, the combat capability of the troops was extremely low. Only volunteers who brought machine guns and even a few guns to the peninsula retained relative combat effectiveness. A significant part of the Donians arrived at all unarmed. But the most important thing is the morale of the soldiers. Someone banged, drunkenness, discipline plummeted. In the cities, there were cases of spontaneous unbridled behavior, disorderly conduct, and in the countryside, looting.
The command itself was shocked by the UK ultimatum. There was a question about keeping the Crimea. Many believed that the troops in the peninsula were trapped. Crimea itself was a dubious fortress, vulnerable places were from the side - Taman, Perekop, the Arabat Spit, Chongar, and the shallow water Sivash was often passed. In addition, the peninsula was a bad military, economic and food base as a revival of the White movement. Compared with the Kuban, Don, Ukraine, Siberia and the Volga region, its resources were minimal. Due to the evacuated troops and refugees, its population increased to a million people, and food problems began. There were no horses to replenish the cavalry. The main part of the refugees were women, children, the elderly, civilians who were not ready to fight, therefore, there were not enough human resources for the formation of large military units in Crimea. There was no serious industrial base. In principle, the Crimea could not fight with Soviet Russia.
Therefore, the new commander-in-chief first of all had to decide the question - what to do next? They did not even think about peace with the Soviets, Britain’s ultimatum was rejected. There was still a variant of the evacuation of combat-ready units with the help of the Western powers to the existing front - to Poland, the Baltic states or the Far East. Or the deployment of troops until better times in a neutral country - Bulgaria, Serbia or Greece.
There was no time for reflection; the course of events itself determined the solution. A few days after Wrangel took command, intelligence reported that the Red Army was preparing an offensive. Artillery pulled in aviation, prepared 4 infantry and one cavalry division. The selected Latvian division and other formations also arrived. Wrangel had about 35 thousand people, but only 5 thousand survived. The Crimean corps of Slashchev, who defended the isthmus and the Volunteer Corps, were moved to strengthen the defensive order.
13 April Latvian riflemen on Perekop knocked over the advanced parts of Slaschov and occupied the Turkish rampart, continuing their movement. The 8 Cavalry Division crossed over to Chongar. The Crimean Corps counterattacked and was able to stop the Reds. But the Latvian division stubbornly held on the Turkish shaft, supported by other parts. Both sides suffered heavy losses. The units of the Volunteer Corps came up and after a stubborn battle, the red units were dislodged from Perekop. The white cavalry under the command of Morozov beat off a blow in the Chongar direction.
On April 14, the Sugar bandit, the Kornilov and Markovites, reinforced by a squad of armored cars and cavalry, launched a counter-offensive. The battle went with varying success, and Wrangel decided to strike from the wings - dropping two troops. One landing force (Alekseevites) landed in the Kirillovka area, in 60 km east of Chongar; the other (Drozdovskaya division) - near the village of Khorly. 20 km west of Perekop. Both assault forces failed. They even before disembarking found red aircraft. Alekseevtsy managed to get through to Genichevsk with large losses, where they were evacuated. Drozdovtsy also after two days of fighting broke through to Perekop. However, the Perekop assault was foiled. The Soviet command realized that the degree of decomposition of the whites was overvalued and suffered the next blow to May. It was decided to lock the whites on the peninsula, extra forces, artillery were built, fortifications and barriers were built.
The reflection of the assault, despite the high losses, increased the morale of the whites. Belief in herself was returning to the troops. The army and the population realized that Crimea, at least, could be protected. Bore the fruits and measures aimed at restoring order. Discipline was rebuilt severely, right up to court-martial and executions for robbery and violence. Violators were demoted or sent to the ranks. The very name of the army was changed - it began to be called the Russian army. Suppressed and obvious schemers. The generals Sidorov and Kielsky, who had muddy the water with statements about the departure of the Cossacks to the Don, and the “treachery of the Cossacks” by the command of the Volunteer Army, were removed from the command and sent abroad. The commander of the corps was appointed Abramov. Duke Sergei Leichtenberg, intrigued in favor of Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolayevich and trying to create an "officer fronde", was expelled along with accomplices.
Changed and external situation. London was still ready to cooperate with the Bolsheviks, but Moscow was in no hurry to take steps towards the British. The British continued to de facto help the whites. They delivered coal, which helped revitalize the white fleet. France, which followed the British government in the winter, leaning towards negotiations with Moscow, has now again changed course. Firstly, the allies of the French were Poland and Petliura, who were enemies of the Reds. Secondly, France feared the cancellation of the royal debts. There were uprisings in Russia itself, the Soviet-Polish war continued. As a result, the white command gave birth to the hope of creating a new united anti-Soviet front.
The right-wing circles, the monarchists, who hoped that with the change of commander-in-chief there would be a sharp change in the political course, were mistaken. In general, Wrangel pursued the same policy as Denikin, both in domestic and foreign policy. He continued the "non-partisan" policy, trying to unite all forces. The form of government remained the same. The ruler and commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces in the South of Russia assumed full civil and military power.
Under the commander in chief, a government was formed headed by Alexander Krivoshein. In general, the government was composed of moderate figures, of a liberal kind. In particular, the Minister of Foreign Affairs was Peter Struve (member of the Central Committee of the Cadet Party in 1905 — 1915). Before the revolution, Krivoshein was the Head of Land Management and Agriculture, one of the leading participants in the implementation of Stolypin's agrarian reform. In 1914, he proposed a number of economic measures - the active development of industry and agriculture (including through large-scale land reclamation work and the construction of elevators), increasing the scale of railway construction, and the construction of a number of power plants (the so-called New Deal). Krivoshein’s ideas were supported, but the “New Deal” was not implemented due to the start of the war. After the revolution, he headed the “Right Center” in Moscow, uniting conservative politicians, then hiding from his arrest, went to Kiev, where he became one of the organizers of the right organization - the Council of the National Association of Russia. For some time he was the head of the government’s supply department under commander-in-chief Denikin. Then he went to Constantinople, then to France, and returned at the invitation of Wrangel, becoming his closest assistant.
One of the first steps of Wrangel in foreign policy was the rejection of the British ultimatum to begin negotiations with the Soviets. In May, Britain made an official announcement, refusing to support whites. At the same time, France officially recognized the Government of the South of Russia. The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs notified Krivoshein that until Wrangel received guarantees to ensure his army, France would make efforts to supply his army with food and military materials. The French fleet was supposed to protect the coast of Crimea from the landing of the Red troops. If it was impossible to continue the struggle, the French promised to promote the evacuation of whites. It is clear that the point was not in the love of white and Wrangel personally, but in the Polish policy of France. Poland was an ally of France, an instrument against Russia and Germany. The Russian army of Wrangel was a real ally, who could divert considerable forces of the Red Army. The head of the French military mission, General Mangen, assumed the role of coordinator of the actions of the forces of Pilsudski and Wrangel. However, this coordination was very conditional, the Poles solved their problems.
Wrangell agreed to an alliance with Poland, but, like Denikin, did not make any political or territorial promises. He told the French that he was ready for an agreement of a purely military nature, not involving political issues. A formal agreement between Poland and the Government of the South of Russia was never concluded. Pilsudski avoided serious contacts with the White movement, was evasive in the “Russian question”. This is not surprising - whites advocated a “united and indivisible” Russia, and the Polish elite dreamed of a “Greater Poland” from “sea to sea”, with the inclusion of Poland — Belarus, Ukraine, and part of the Baltic states. So, if the British, French and American missions under Wrangel were headed by generals and admirals, the Polish one was a lieutenant. Only in July-August of 1920, when the smell of pots was hot for the Poles and the Polish troops suffered a serious defeat, Pilsudski began to take real steps towards cooperation.
French politics was extremely inconsistent. On the one hand, the French helped and supported the whites, on the other hand they argued over trifles, hindered the implementation of their plans. Under Wrangel, Americans began to help white in the south. United States supplied weapon, medicines, food. In the conditions of Anglo-French hesitation, and is it worth helping when the white matter is actually failed, the United States has bent its line.
To be continued ...