Attitude of Allied powers toward continuance of the Civil war in Russia after the defeat of the Armed Forces of South Russia. Views of the British; of the French. Foreign and Internal situation in Poland before the launching of the 1920 Campaign. Final diplomatic negotiations between the two governments before the beginning of the Polish-Russian campaign of 1920. Negotiations between the Soviet and British governments concerning the fate of the remnants of the South counter-revolutionary armies. Brief survey of the White Russian and Ukrainian theaters of operations. Characteristics of the Polish army. Concentration and development of opposing forces on the Polish front in the winter of 1919-1920. Plans of belligerent. Disposition, situation and strength of opposing forces before the beginning of the decisive events in the spring and summer of 1920. Internal economic and political situation of the R.S.F.S.R.
The collapse of the counter-revolutionary forces headed by General Denikin served to reveal the course of British policies under the leadership of Lloyd George, which had their inception back in the autumn of 1919. These contemplated an endeavor toward the establishment of trade relations with the Soviet Union in the hope of a gradual peaceful regeneration of the latter under the influence of trade relations with the Western capitalist governments. In view of this dominant policy a continuation of the civil war in Russia and its support no longer coincided with the official views of Great Britain. Consequently, the British hastened to offer to General Denikin their mediation in the capitulation of the latter before the Soviet government.
In so far as France was concerned, the collapse of Denikin's government caused no change in the line of action of France's policy regarding the Russian question. As we have already pointed out, France was compelled back in the spring of 1919 to abandon her armed intervention in the Russian civil war; but this in no way hampered her support of the border states, Poland and Rumania especially, or her aiding of the remnants of the White forces financially and materially. Maintaining as heretofore her irreconcilable, hostile attitude toward the Soviet government, France had hoped with the aid of the buffer states on the one hand, to insure Europe against the "Bolshevist contagion", and on the other hand, with the assistance of their armed strength to bring about a restoration of their economic interests in the South Ukraine and the Donets Basin. Their main purpose remained, as heretofore, the support of that wedge which the Allies, as a consequence of the Versailles treaty, had driven between Soviet Russia and vanquished Germany, as represented by White Poland. It appears as though of special interest and importance to France were now the remnants of the Armed Force of South Russia which had found refuge in the Crimes. The fate of these, however, was considered to have been decided in advance, and their chances were rather doubtful. Consequently, the entire attention of French political thought was now attracted by Poland as constituting the "eastern bastion of the military might of France."
Poland, with the economic and military power of the French, was greatly strengthened during 1919. By the beginning of 1920 the foreign and internal political situation of Poland shaped up quite well. With the support of the Allied powers, Poland resolved all of her misunderstandings with Czechoslovakia to her own satisfaction. Under the yoke of the Versailles peace treaty, Germany was compelled to submit to the Allied demands with respect to any German disputes affecting her boundaries with Poland, and the latter could be quite assured in so far as her German frontier was concerned. Thanks to the military and economic aid of France, Poland succeeded in consolidating her position in Eastern Galicia, the population of which conducted a stubborn struggle for its independence in 1919. The rigid regime of the occupational forces had suppressed in Galicia all semblance of resistance. Thus in her foreign political relationships Poland could be reassured with respect to her rear and to concentrate all of her strength and attention toward the solution of those of her missions which it considered necessary to solve in the East. True, in this almost clear sky there did appear a small dark cloud in the form of Lithuania, but the weakness of the latter from the political and military standpoints precluded any independent active undertakings against Poland. The internal political situation of Poland was characterized by the advent of the petite bourgeoisie; in the war against the Soviets, this petit bourgeois, vociferously patriotic government could count on the support of not only the bourgeois and kulak (wealthy peasant) elements in the rural districts, but also upon that of the pomeshchiks (large land owners).
The World War, the extensive regime of the Austro-German
occupationists, which weighed heavily upon the toiling masses of Poland and on
the land-hungry peasantry, had the effect of scattering and weakening the
latter. The situation now obtaining in Poland caused the leaders of the Polish
government to be especially arrogant and imposing. They believed that the
proper time had come for the establishment of a unified Poland on the lines of
1772, which contemplated the inclusion within her domain, by force, of White
Russia, and Eastern Ukraine and a considerable portion of Lithuania.
At the beginning of 1920, as during the entire preceding year, the Soviet government steadfastly followed her peaceful policy toward the Polish people. Even at the time when the Polish concentration of manpower and materials was in full swing along our frontier the Russian and Ukrainian Soviet governments repeatedly attempted to stretch out their hand of friendship across the line of the front to the Polish people.
In a note addressed on January 28, 1920, to the Poles by the Council of People's Commissars, it solemnly proclaimed to the Polish government and people that "there is not a single territorial, economic or any other question that could not be solved peacefully, by negotiations, by mutual concessions and compromise." On February 2d the Central Executive Committee addressed an appeal to the Polish people stressing the fact that "Peace with Poland is the sincere desire and the profound wish of the workers and peasants," appealing to the Polish people "to put an end to the bloodshed of war in order that both peoples might proceed with the war against the scourges befalling them: cold, famine, typhus and unemployment." These appeals evoked no response from the Polish government; on March 6, 1920, the government of the Union repeated the same, pointing out "the extent to which a state of war would be harmful to the interests of both peoples." Only on the 27th of March did the reply of the Polish government finally arrived, proposing the selection of the city of Borisov as a place for negotiations, and suggesting that hostilities be curtailed not along the entire front, but only in the Borisov area.
In order to understand the whole idea of this proposal, it is necessary to consider the fact that the Polish high command at this particular time while considering the concentration of large Red forces in the Borisov area, was preparing to concentrate a large assault force in the Ukraine against these. Thus it was to the advantage of the Polish high command to immobilize our military forces there by means of diplomatic negotiations in the Borisov area and maintain the freedom of movement of the Polish forces in other sectors of the front, especially in the Ukraine. This the Soviet government could not agree to. It suggested the selection of some point in neutral territory for the negotiations, but the Polish government rejected this. In a note dated April 2, 1920, the Soviet government found it necessary to place upon the Polish government responsibility for all distress and the scourge resulting from a protracted war, and in a note dated April 8 it was compelled to admit the fact that it was confronted by the sad necessity of recognizing the collapse of negotiations with Poland over the question of the place of negotiations."*
* It is quite interesting that our views concerning the purposeful declining by the Polish government to enter peace negotiations with the Soviet government were confirmed in a book by General Shetitsky who was in command of the Polish White Russian front in 1920. This writer bases his work on historical documents; he points out that by his failure to come to a reasonable understanding Marshal Pilsudski lost a favorable opportunity to end the conflict. Instead, rejecting all compromise, the Pilsudski government was contemplating a new venture, a march on Kiev. (Stanislaw Szeptycki, Front Litewsko_Bialoruski 10 marca 1919 - 30 lipca 1920 Krakow. 1925. pp. 13 and 14).
It cannot be said, however, that the efforts of the Soviet government toward peace were entirely in vain. The sincerity and straightforwardness of the Soviet proposals could not help having a sobering effect on some of the Polish political circles, which caused some dissension in the unified front of the Polish bourgeoisie. According to General Sikorski,*
*Wladislaw Sikorski -Nad Wisla i Wkra Studjum Z, Polsko- Rosyjskiej Wojny 1920 roky (Lwow - Warszawa - Krakow, 1928, pp. 215-218).
disputes arose among the different Polish bourgeois political parties concerning the aims of the war. More important than anything, however, was the fact that the voice of the Soviet government addressed directly to the wide masses of the Polish people, found a response among them. General Sikorski confirms the fact that the peaceful proposal of the Soviet government made a powerful impression not alone upon the people but on the bulk of the soldiers within the Polish army as well. There is no doubt but that these same proposals had not passed unnoticed by the public opinion of the masses in the states bordering on Poland. The unwillingness of the Polish government to meet these proposals half way now tended to isolate Poland from her neighbors and brought forth intensified activity on the part of the international proletariat in favor of the Soviet Union.
The inevitability of the campaign in Poland was clearly apparent to the Soviet high command and its strategic preparations were fully made accordingly. As regards their numerical strength, supply and equipment, and training, the Polish armies were to constitute the principal foe of the Red Army in 1920. As regards the other foes, such as the remnants of the Armed forces of South Russia,there were often the prospects of their complete liquidation by their own capitulation. At least the British government was actively engaged in bringing this about. After the fall of Novorossiisk the remnants of the White forces never succeeded in recovering from their consuming panic, and this greatly favored negotiations for their complete capitulation. For the time being the remnants of the Armed Forces of South Russia had no other thought than the possibility of reorganizing and remaining in the Crimea.
The Soviet government would accept nothing but the complete and unconditional capitulation of these forces.
The British government endeavored to arrange conditions for an honorable submission by them on a basis of equality to be worked out between them and the Soviet government. Negotiations were protracted.
Thus in 1920 Soviet strategy had to consider two active adversaries operating independently on one another politically and militarily. The situation of both of these hostile forces in widely separated theaters of operation also rendered the Soviet forces operating against them out of touch with one another. And this called for the provisions of the formation of two completely independent Soviet theaters of operation.
One such theater of operations was in Poland which, in 1920, for the reasons already stated, assumed primary importance. This theater of operations embraced vast distances. Its boundaries may more accurately be defined as extending along the rivers of the Western Dvina, the Dnieper, Dniester and Vistula. Within the lines formed by these water arteries there developed the major events of the Polish-Soviet campaign of 1920. The vast distances involved brought about the organization in turn of two theaters of operation, namely. that of White Russia and the Ukraine. The importance of the White Russian theater of operation consisted in that it was traversed by the shortest and most suitable lines of operation leading to the more important political and industrial centers of the belligerent - those of Warsaw and Moscow. Smaller in extent than that of the Ukraine, this theater of operations had a sufficiently well developed railway system, but was poorer in local resources than that of the Ukraine. It had a more homogeneous population from a national and class standpoint and both of these latter aspects were favorable to the Red Army, which insured the communications of the latter throughout the entire campaign. The nature of the terrain and of the development of the system of communications had been such as to permit the movement and employment of considerable military forces. The more important rivers were situated on the very boundaries of the theater, while the upper course of the Dnieper could be turned in the gap formed between it and the Western Dvina. This gap was given the apt description of the Smolensk gate. In the course of our operations in the Warsaw area the right flank of our forces rested on neutral ground and was secured by the neutral countries concerned.
The Ukraine constituted the second theater of operations, which in the vast areas covered by it and bordering on countries of which one, Poland, was already at war with the Soviet Union, and another, Rumania, maintained a pre-belligerent attitude toward us, might well have assumed greater importance in the event of any active undertakings on the part of Rumania. Rumania did not enter the conflict, though in the struggle with Poland alone it was possible to pursue independent objectives within this theater of operations, such as the invasion of Eastern Galicia. In the circumstances, the objectives involved might have been the principal political and administrative center of Eastern Galicia and the vital communications center of Lembers (Lwow) and the oil fields of Stryj and Drohobycz. The political situation in the Ukraine was such as to attract the particular attention of the Polish government to this theater of operations. The Soviet high command, however, attached no special importance to the Ukrainian theater of operations and regarded it as of secondary importance only. The net of railway communications within this theater of operations was also quite well developed, and there was ample local resources here. From a national or class standpoint, the inhabitants of the Ukrainian theater of operations represented a more variegated picture, than in the case of White Russia. The hostility of certain strata of the population within the Ukrainian theater of operations toward the Soviet government was reflected in the considerable development of brigandage the social roots of which went far into the body of the anarcho- kulak* elements. *(Kulak - wealthy peasant. - Tr) elements. Thus, in so far as the communications and rear of the Soviet forces operating in the Ukraine were concerned, the situation was less favorable than in the case of White Russia, the movements and operations of military forces were not hindered by the terrain involved. Contiguity in the south to unfriendly Rumania made it impossible to consider the left flank of the forces operating in the Lublin and Lemberg areas as secure as the right flank of our forces within the White Russian theater of operations.
The considerable marshy and forest area of the Pripet basin separated the two theaters of operation. By its nature, this area was different from either of the two theaters of operation. In general, it was characterized by close country, huge marshes and meridional streams in the form of tributaries emptying into the Pripet river, by relatively poorly developed communications, sparsely populated areas and a lack of any important local resources. Even though with the improved modern developments this area had lost its inaccessibility yet operations of large forces within the area were confronted by more important obstacles here than in White Russia or in the Ukraine. The peculiar features of this area, known as Polesie, in view of its vast scope, afforded it considerable independence, though only that of a secondary theater of operations in relation to the Ukrainian and White Russian theaters of operations. Northern and Southern Polesie were incorporated by the Soviet high command into the White Russian and Ukrainian theaters of operation, respectively.
Such was the general aspect of the three theaters of operation wherein the principal events unfolded in the Polish- Soviet conflict in 1920. The reader may readily note from this that a special feature of all three of these theaters of operation was their flat terrain. Special importance therefore to both sides was assumed by the local river barriers and the lake and marshy areas which served as support lines and barriers within the general boundaries of the theaters of operation. Considering these from the standpoint of the force advancing into the interior of Poland from the line of the Berezina river, we must first of all consider the systems of the Nieman and Western Bug rivers. The system of these rivers with their tributaries and the thick forests situated between them, such as the Byalistok Woods and the Bieloviezh Forest, on the one hand constituted natural rear boundaries between the eastern theaters of operation in Poland and the interior districts of the country, and on the other hand, served as natural defense lines protecting these districts. This natural defensive eastern line of Poland was reinforced by the fortresses of Grodno, situated on the Nieman river, and by the Brest fortress on the Western Bug river.
The Nieman river represented a powerful barrier not so much by reason of its width and depth as by its valley and banks. The upper course of the river in this valley was marshy and covered with forests, and was thus difficult for military operations. Further on the river traverses hilly and mountainous terrain and the banks of the river, proceeding through the valley, are frequently 20 to 30 meters steep. Only on approaching Lithuania and after leaving the boundaries of the theaters of operation referred to, does the river again flow through a wide valley with sloping banks, and assumes the nature of a smoothly flowing stream. Attaining a width of 200 meters in the middles course, the Niemen, beginning at Lunno (southeast of the Grodno fortress) already presents quite a serious obstacle for a military crossing in the path of forces advancing in the interior of Poland from the direction of the Smolensk gate. The Bieloviezh Forest, occupying an area of 1,500 square kilometers, closes the gap in the area between the middle courses of the Niemen and Western Bug rivers. This thick forest with but few forest trails represents a powerful barrier for military forces that might attempt to get through it. It should be noted, however, that as a result of considerable deforestation in the course of the World War the forest was now more accessible.
The Western Bug, in its middle course, flows calmly through a wide marshy valley. In the Drogichin area the Western Bug changes its course from the north to the northwest and, forming a wide arc, and after absorbing the Nurets tributary, turns due west, maintaining this direction until it empties into the Vistula river. Passing this river line we find ourselves in Poland proper. The terrain in general continues to be level. Only in the south, in the Lublin area, does the terrain become more elevated, hilly and the country more close especially in the area between the upper Bug and the part of the Vistula river from Zavikhvost up to Demblin. This area is known as the Lublin plateau (about 200 meters above sea level). On the northern edge of the plateau, partly beyond the theater of operations referred to by us, the terrain is also more hilly, becoming more so as it comes nearer the area of the East Prussian Lakes ( the elevation of some of the hills on the East Prussian frontier attains 313 meters above sea level). Thus within the Polish proper theater of operations, from the military standpoint, our attention must be devoted primarily to the system of water barriers.
The principal water artery in the Polish theater of operations was the Vistula with its highly developed system of right tributaries among which the principal ones were the Western Bug, the Narev and the Wieprz rivers. All of these are typical flat country rivers. All of them included minor falls, low, marshy banks, wide and soggy valleys, easily inundated during the high water periods in the spring and in rainy seasons. Most of the bottoms of these streams being frequently change their aspect and they often change their course. This was also true with respect to the principal river of the country, the Vistula. With respect to the terrain herein described this river assumes especial importance from the Demblin area. From the latter point it flows through the wide valley with faintly indicated banks and represents a highly important water barrier.
At the city of Warsaw the width of the river extends already to 1,000 meters; below Warsaw, however, the width of the river becomes much narrower, and in the Plotzk - Nieshev sector it is no more than 400 to 600 meters in width, and beyond that, where the bed of the river becomes more regulated, the width all the way downstream does not exceed 700 meters, The bottom of the Vistula river is sandy and highly changeable. The course of the river is winding, erratic and subject to frequent changes of direction. The average depth of the river at Warsaw is not more than 1 1/2 meters, but there are no continuous fords within the river. The current is swift. The width of the valley at Warsaw reaches about 12 kilometers but at the mouth of the Western Bug it narrows down to 3 kilometers.
At Warsaw the river is dominated by the left region of the valley, but below the mouth of the Western But the right of the valley dominated it largely. From Zavikhost up to Modlin the Vistula river flows practically in a straight line due north. The Demblin fortress situated at the mouth of the Wieprz river at the point where the latter empties into the Vistula, block the entire Lublin area at this point leading to Warsaw from the south.
At Modlin the Vistula is joined by the large tributaries of the Bug and Narev and henceforward assumes the form of a huge are protruding westward up to the Fordon area, at which point it gets beyond the theater of operations herein described.
This sector of the river assumes special importance not only because of its particular course, but rather by reason of the number, location and nature of the permanent crossings of the same. These consisted of three bridges in 1920. One of these was situated at Wyszgrod, another at Plotzk, and a third at Vlozlavek. The presence of three permanent crossings, the relatively narrow valley and the narrowness of the river itself, and finally the rather dominant aspect of the right side of the valley with respect to its left - all of these factors rendered the Vistula more approachable for a crossing especially in the sector below Warsaw and Modlin.
To reach the line of the Middle Vistula between Demblin and Modlin, which assumed greater importance owing to the situation of Warsaw, the Polish capital, in this area, two strategic lines were available. The northern direction beginning at Grodno, which was a vital communication center, and leading to the above sector of the Vistula from the northeast; the eastern line led through the Brest fortress directly to Warsaw. This route was shorter but was subject to the flanking threat from the direction of the Lublin heights, which had assumed the importance of an independent small theater of operations of its own. Covered in the north and northeast by the Wieprz river, these heights contained an entire system of roads leading directly due north, i.e., straight against the flank of the Warsaw - Brest strategic area. Such were the routes leading from the Lublin heights through Wlodawa on Brest, via Parchev on Biela and Miedzyrzecz, via Lysoboka on Lukov, from Demblin on Siedlec and Minsk-Mazovetsky (Novo-Minsk).
Warsaw was the political, administrative and commercial center of Poland, in 1920 the city of Warsaw was not only the center of communications but also the center which unified the three principal components of the Polish government into a single political entity which, for a long period of time had up to now formed part of three different empires ( that of Austria- Hungary Russia and Germany).
Let us now take up our consideration of those military forces of the two countries which assumed major importance in the events of 1920.
The Polish military forces were augmented and organized under actual warfare conditions and were made up a great variety of formations.
The presence of three military schools - that of the Austrians, Germans and Russians - naturally could not help having an adverse effect on the unity of the young army.
Thanks to the material aid of the Allied powers, the Poles had an opportunity for a relatively better development of their military forces than the Soviet Union. By the spring of 1920 the total strength of all Polish armed forces amounted to 738,000 men. At the time of the greatest effort made by the Polish miliary forces, in August, 1920, when operations were already carried on by the belligerent on the banks of the Vistula, Poland called to the colors 16 classes of men and brought up her total military strength to 1,200,000 men, which included 164,615 volunteers. Being well supplied and equipped, the Polish army suffered from the disadvantage of being equipped with a great variety of different caliber weapons, owing to the fact that the Polish forces were formed out of the collapsed armies of the Imperialistic countries; Austro-Hungary, Germany and Russia. At the same time France greatly aided the Polish forces in the matter of equipment, and during 1920 alone France sent to Poland 1,494 guns of various caliber, 291 airplanes, 2,600 machine- guns, 327,000 rifles, etc., to say nothing of reserves of equipment and clothing, of which the Polish army was constantly in need.
The tactical training of the Polish forces likewise varied due to the very same basic reasons pertaining to their caliber of weapons ( Russian, Austrian and German schools). The military training of the men of the older classes, most of whom had World War experience, had been quite satisfactory. The training of the men with less service, who had passed through brief courses of instruction in reserve battalions, was far from satisfactory. The methods of control and action of larger tactical units were adversely affected by the habits acquired in the position warfare period of the World War. In view of the lack of experience of the higher commanders, reconnaissance and communications, contact between infantry and artillery units were poor. Defense undertakings were handled passively and maneuver or mobile defense was given little consideration.
In actual combat, the best showing was made by the divisions organized in Posen, followed by the divisions of the former Haller army which, at the close of the World War were organized under French supervision on the World War front of France from Polish emigrants and prisoners of war; next came the divisions of Legionnaires formed from native Poles and soldiers of former Austrian and Russian Poland. The weakest among them from the military standpoint were the so-called Lithuanian-White Russian divisions, of which there were two (1st and 2nd divisions). The greatest percentage of deserters came from among these latter divisions.
The situation of the Polish forces which had penetrated far into White Russia in the latter part of 1919 was rather insecure, considering the distance separating them from their base. Their communications were greatly extended; the railway transport service was frequently interrupted. Efforts toward securing their communications met with difficulties for to the reasons above stated and especially owing to the hostile attitude of the principal mass of the population toward the Polish forces.
In spite of all of these deficiencies, by spring of 1920 the Polish army represented an important military force. In this connection, it is quite interesting to present the description of the Polish army by comrade Tukhachevsky, who commanded the Western Front, after the initial encounters with the Polish forces. Tukhachevsky wrote: "The enemy's control of his forces is excellent, both their staff functions and conduct of war manifest proper training for the conduct of large-scale operations in war of movement. Their tactical training is also good. Their independent units: divisions, regiments and battalions, are operating splendidly. All this tends to indicate smooth tactical functioning of their units and a highly trained staff." In conclusion, the commander of the West Front pointed out that "the Polish Army has every aspect of a European force."
A gradual increase in Polish forces on their Eastern Front began back in the winter of 1919. By January 1, 1920 the strength of the Polish Eastern Front amounted to 121,000 infantry and cavalry troops with 594 guns, 2,910 machine-guns and 95 airplanes. Of this force, 59,800 infantry and cavalry troops were situated in the White Russian theater of operations.
During the months of February and March the Polish Eastern Front was reinforced by three infantry divisions and four cavalry regiments that had been relieved from the disputed districts between Germany and Poland which they had occupied, and in addition there were sent to the front 53,438 replacements. In April additional 60,000 replacements were expected. By the end of April the total strength of the Polish military forces on the Eastern front amounted to 369,887 men*
*Unfortunately, Polish sources fail to give detailed figures on the number of their infantry, cavalry, and general total of their men employed.
The data at our disposal at the time showed the enemy to have on the Eastern Front between May 1 and 15, 1920 a total of 115,700 infantry and cavalry troops disposed, according to our intelligence at the time, mainly in the White Russian theater of operations, namely: in the White Russian theater of operations there being 65,500 infantry and cavalry troops, and 50,200 infantry and cavalry troops in the Ukrainian theater of operations. Considering the fact that on January 1, 1920, the total number of men (including noncombatants) on the Polish Eastern Front amounted to 213,320, of which 121,000 were infantry and cavalry effective, we may estimate with the increase of their total strength, including noncombatants, by April 1, 1920, to 369,887 men, the actual number of infantry and cavalry effective to have been at least slightly augmented. Thus the figures provided by our intelligence services were greatly underestimated. **
** There is also another possibility, namely, that the 113,000 (in round figures) replacements, referred to above, had not yet been incorporated into the units on April 1st.
Subsequent events also indicated that by mid-April, 1920, the center of gravity in the concentration of these forces had been shifted to the Ukraine, rather than to White Russia.*
*In the book by General Sheptitsky, referred to above, the latter points out that at the beginning of April he had received orders to place in G.H.Q. reserve at Baranovice the 1st Legionnaire Infantry Division. This division was shortly thereafter transferred to the Ukraine where, on April 13th the group of Colonel Rybak was organized in the Yelska area, consisting of 9 infantry battalions, 12 cavalry squadrons and 5 artillery batteries. In the Ukraine there were being organized a cavalry division and a group of heavy artillery. Replacements were likewise sent there.
In general, by mid-April, 1920 the Polish high command had completed the concentration of all its forces on the Eastern Front that were intended for employment in its campaign.
The Soviet commander-in-chief embarked upon a systematic strengthening of the Red armies on the West and Southwest fronts only when the inevitability of the continuation of the war with Poland had become apparent. This circumstance, coupled with the general breakdown of the transport system, had been responsible for the delay in the concentration of our main forces on the Polish front. Thus in the space of three months, March to May, inclusive, this front had been reinforced by 6 1/2 infantry and 1 cavalry division, and during June, 1920, the Red forces in the Ukrainian and White Russian theaters of operation, were augmented by 13 infantry and 6 cavalry divisions. **
**The situation on the Polish front once more called for an exertion of every effort by the country and by the Red army and decisive measures looking toward the strengthening of the West Front. On May 12 Lenin telegraphed the Revolutionary Military Council of the Caucasus Front: "The divisions which the commander-in-chief had ordered to be sent west must proceed at once, without any delay. You will personally look after this. You will adopt measures to insure that no units are taken away from these divisions enroute and that the divisions are not deprived of anything by the front prior to their departure. If you think it possible to send any additional units, take the matter up with the commander-in-chief. (Footnote continued next page.) Vigorous efforts must be made to assist the Western Front." It is noteworthy that Lenin long before Pilsudski's action, had foreseen the inevitability of the Polish war, Thus on March 11, 1920 he telegraphed the Revolutionary Military Council of the Caucasus Front ( to Ordzhonikidze): "The Poles, apparently, will render war with us unavoidable. Hence the main problem for the time being is to prepare for a swift transfer of a maximum of forces to the West front; you will concentrate all efforts to this end." This skill in grasping and grappling with new and anticipated problems so effectively demonstrates the genius of Lenin, who was the actual leader in the strategy adopted by the Soviets in the civil war of 1918-1921.
From the very beginning of the concentration of our forces against Poland, the commander-in-chief pursued the main policy of strengthening the White Russian theater of operation, to which primary importance had been attached. *
*From all of the above divisions arriving on the Polish front in May and June, 11 infantry and 1 cavalry divisions were sent to the White Russian theater
By mid-April, 1920 the total strength of our forces on the Polish front had not exceeded 86,338 infantry and cavalry troops; of these the White Russian theater of operation received 70,684 infantry and cavalry effective, while 15,654 infantry and cavalry effective went to the Ukrainian front.
It is thus not difficult to see that at the beginning of the decisive operations on the Polish front the enemy, in view of the reasons stated, enjoyed a considerable numerical superiority over the Red armies. Assuming the main objective of the Polish government of extending, Polish domain to their 1772 boundaries, considering the general public opinion of the peoples in Europe, as well as that of their own country, they could not very well openly declare these objectives as constituting the sole purpose of their continuation of the war. Consequently we find in Polish literature discussions not of the actual Polish plan of campaign as embracing these objectives, but rather a number of pretexts to justify the attack launched by the Polish armies.
Generally speaking, the Polish plan of campaign was as follows: Intending to anticipate a Soviet assault, Pilsudski decided to deliver his attack against the Ukraine, fortifying his plans with the following considerations: In the Ukraine, in his opinion, were situated the principal mass of Soviet forces; the Ukraine afforded a better opportunity for the solution of all problems incident to supply and maintenance; in the conduct of operations in the Ukraine, the right flank of the Polish armies was secured by the territory of Rumania which maintained a policy of benevolent neutrality toward Poland, on which it bordered. Moreover, it was believed that an attack on the Ukraine would complicate the Soviet supply and provisions situation by depriving the Soviet Union of Ukrainian bread, and that it would gain Ukrainian support by extending to the people of Ukraine the offer of independence.
Pilsudski rejected the idea of delivering the main effort against White Russia for the reason that his involved an over- extension of his left flank, while at the same time there was the possibility of an attack by the Lithuanians against the rear of this Polish flank. The Polish armies entered an area that was already devastated and denuded of any supplies or provisions and where the inhabitants were hostile to the Poles. *
* General Sheptitsky doubts that Pilsudski had any definite plan of the campaign at all. At least, the commanders of the Polish armies had no knowledge of any such plan. Sheptitsky's views in this connection are indirectly confirmed by the absence of any definite indications with respect to the general plan of campaign in any Polish sources that have come to light so far.
In view of the above, Pilsudski gave his preference to the secondary Ukrainian theater of operations. In a subsequent chapter we shall consider in greater detail the consequences which this plan involved, dictated primarily by political considerations, and we shall present the views expressed in Polish military writings on the subject. For the time being we shall invite the attention of the reader to the artificiality of the motives supplied by Pilsudski for the adoption of his plan. As we have indicated by our figures above, there was no concentration of main Soviet forces in the Ukraine. A depriving of Ukrainian grain to the Soviet Union in 1920 could not be particularly harmful to the Soviet Union, inasmuch as at this time, there still remained at the disposal of the Soviets the grain-producing districts of Northern Caucasia and Siberia.
The basis of the Soviet plan of campaign against Poland was formed on the considerations derived from a general evaluation by the Soviet government of the foreign political situation in 1920. This estimate listed among our active foes in the west, in addition to the Poles, the Lithuanians and Latvians, inasmuch as no peace had as yet been established with the two latter states. The principal theater of operations was to consist of White Russia. The Red armies of the West Front were to make their main effort against the Igumen - Minsk area, while staging demonstrations and diverting the hostile forces to the Polotsk and Mosyr area. The armies of the Southwest Front, reinforced by the First Cavalry Army, were given the initial mission of actively containing the enemy. The mission of destroying Wrangel's army also devolved upon them. It was assumed that the execution of the latter mission would not involve any special difficulties.
Subsequent events in the campaign emphasized the fact that our high command had quite properly evaluated the importance of the White Russian theater of operations. In its estimates it carefully considered the possibility of Latvia and Lithuania siding with the enemy, but on the other hand, it had underestimated the military importance of Wrangel's forces, which created considerable difficulties for our command during the summer and early autumn of 1920. According to the field headquarters of the Red Army, in order to insure success on the Polish front, it was necessary to concentrate there 225.000 infantry and 16,000 cavalry troops, of which force 122,000 infantry and cavalry troops were to be deployed north of the line Baranowice - Mogilev on the Dnieper. These calculations were not fully realized primarily because of the reasons referred to above. From the subsequent chapters, it will become apparent that only in July, 1920 was the general strength of the forces on the entire Western Front finally raised to 108,000 infantry and cavalry troops.
The plan of action of our commander-in-chief was finally formulated during the latter part of March, 1920. At this time the commanders of both of our fronts undertook a detailed formulation of their undertakings. Tukhachevsky, who assumed command of the Western Front on April 30th, changed the original plans for making the main effort of this front (group of armies). He shifted the center of gravity to his right flank, deciding to deliver the main assault with this flank in the general direction of Vilna, with the ultimate objective of driving the Polish forces opposing him there into the Polesie swamps. In the execution of their plans of action, the opposing forces had developed in the latter part of April, 1920, as follows:
Within the White Russian theater of operation, Polesie inclusive,there operated the First and Fourth Polish armies ( junction of the two armies at Lepel), occupying the line: Drissa (exclusive) - Disna - Lepel - Borisov - Bobruisk, with advance units on the left bank of the Berezina at Borisov and Bobruisk and occupying the gap between these two points on the right bank of the Berezina river; further their line extended along the right bank of the Berezina up to the Yakimov heights (exclusive); thence the line of the Polish front turned due south and proceeded in the general direction of the Khoiniki railway station, passing west of the latter,thence to the mouth of the Slovechin river. The special "Polesie group,"occupying the line of the Slovechin river served as a connecting link between the armies of the White Russian theater of operations and the armies in the Ukrainian theater of operation, of which the Polish Third Army was disposed in Volhynia along the lines of the Ubort and Sluch rivers, and the Polish Second Army on the line; Nov. Miropol (inclusive) - Letichev (exclusive). In Podolia was situated the Polish Sixth Army, on the line: Letichev ( exclusive ) - Kalushik river, up to the mouth of the latter. The Seventh Army which was still in the process of organization, was situated on the Lithuanian boundary line. The Fifth Army had not as yet been organized. *
*On the Lithuanian-White Russian Front the First, Fourth and Seventh armies were organized during the latter part of March, 1920. In the Ukraine the Third Army was organized from units of the Second Army and arriving reinforcements in the latter part of April, 1920.
The center of gravity in the disposition of these forces, as already stated, was shifted to the Ukraine. In the nature of a reserve there were situated in the northern Polish theater of operations (White Russia and Polesie) the following: in reserve of the Polish Fourth Army - the 6th Infantry Division at Osipovichi; in Polesie, the reserve of the forces situated there, the 16th Infantry Division, en route from the interior of the country. At Lida, in G.H.Q. reserve - the 17th Infantry Division. Further behind the lines, in general reserve - the 11th Infantry Division and the 7th Reserve Brigade, which just completing organization.
Against these forces in White Russia and Polesie there were deployed the Red Fifteenth and Sixteenth armies of the West Front on the line: Drissa - Disna - Lepel, farther on Borisov (all points exclusive),thence along the left bank of the Berezina river ( with the bridgehead at Borisov and the Bobruisk fortress in the hands of the enemy) up to Yakimovskaya, inclusive; from the latter line the front turned due south up to the Ukraine developed the Twelfth and Fourteenth armies of the Southwest Front on the line of the rivers Slovechin - Ubort - Sluch - Kalushik, maintaining contact with the above line of the Polish front in the Ukraine. Behind the right flank of the West Front, in the Polotsk - Vitebsk - Tolochin triangle were concentrated the G. H. Q. reserves that had been placed at the disposal of the commander of the West Front. By the 24th of April these reserves consisted of five infantry and one cavalry divisions (4th, 6th, 11th, 29th and 56th infantry and the 15th Cavalry divisions).
Thus on the Polish front the opposite forces had developed with their respective assault forces concentrated on their opposite flanks.
Embarking on the third year of the civil war, the Soviet policy and strategy may have claimed the liquidation of their enemies on the main fronts of the civil war. The internal counter-revolutionary coalition had been crushed; it had only remained to finish with the remnants of these forces represented by Wrangel's detachments. The results of the successes of the Red army on the internal fronts had an indirect effect also upon the foreign encirclement of the U.S.S.R. There were now indications of possible diplomatic and commercial undertakings with certain of the capitalistic countries. The method of direct military action looking toward the crushing of the proletarian revolution now appeared devoid of results for the capitalist governments. The struggle between the Soviet system and that of imperialism after two years of military undertakings which had led to the establishment of the Soviet power on one-sixth of the world was gradually being shifted to purely economic lines of action. In April, 1920, Lenin emphasized in one of his talks that international capitalism would endeavor to penetrate into the domain of the Soviets as trade or commercial visitors. He foresaw that this guest would attempt to make common cause with and join hands with sympathetic groups within the country and place new difficulties in our path, "preparing new traps and snares."
In 1920 the Soviet Union found itself in a rather difficult economic situation. True, the restoration of the economic situation within the Soviet territories - unification of the producing and consuming areas within the country, led to highly favorable prospects for the future. The state of affairs, however, for the time being, was rather bleak. The following figures speak eloquently of the economic situation. The capacity and output of coal mines in 1920 was 27% that of the pre-war period ( in 1919 it was 29%). The production of pig iron was expressed in the insignificant figure of 2.4% (2.7% in 1919). Textiles 38% (45% in 1919). Arable land was cut down to 68% of that of the pre-war period, while the crop of corn fell off to 36.1% of a pood* per desiatin** (38.6% in 1919).
The railway transport system continued its downward state of collapse: in 1920 61% of the total number of locomotives were in need of repairs. Workers in the cities at the same time continued to scatter throughout the Union. The number of workers was reduced to less than one-half, falling off from 3,000,000 to 1,340,000 men And special conditions further aggravated the situation. Draught in the summer of 1920 had a most adverse effect in some of the central governments of the Russian Socialist Federated Republic (Orel, Tula, Ryazan and other governments).
The above figures will suffice to show that in so far as our heavy industry was concerned, we had to rely solely on existing old reserve supplies. Obviously, under such conditions, the military industry was incapable of furnishing sufficient material with which to replenish expended and worn equipment and military materials. Our strategy had thus to be based on the utilization of old military supplies and equipment at our disposal.
There were particular complaints throughout the war in 1920 of a shortage in ammunition. Lacking information with regard to this situation as regards the country as a whole, we shall illustrate the shortage of ammunition by a few characteristic examples. In the summer of 1920, one of the detachments of the Red Thirteenth Army on the Crimea front, whose strength equalled that of an entire army ( the group on the right-coast consisting of 4 infantry and 1 cavalry divisions with about 100 heavy and light field guns), had received for the launching of a highly important attack that was expected to last several days, a total of about 3,000 shells ( amounting to about 50 rounds per gun throughout the battle) and 800,000 rounds of rifle ammunition. The commander of this detachment vainly requested the supply of his forces with a total of 3,000,000 rounds of rifle ammunition and 25,000 shells. *
*Archives of the Red Army Doc. No. 58 - 263, p. 10; Doc. No. 58 - 275, p. 132.
With this shortage in ammunition the maximum number of shells that any single field piece could expect was 90 shells. **
** Id. Doc. No. 80 - 986, p. 36.
Thus the dearth of ammunition deprived the Red Army of one of the most important advantages of modern weapons, their quick fire action.
With this shortage in fire power, great importance was assumed in the strategy of the Red forces by the acquisition of military equipment and material behind the enemy's lines. This was based on the experience of the past; the fighting on the main fronts during the preceding years afforded us considerable such equipment and material. We may recall, for example, that the defeat of Admiral Kolchak and our invasion of the interior of Siberia at once augmented the strength of the Red Army by a flow of partisans, and improved the supply of the country with bread, enhanced the equipment of the military forces by the reserves of arms and equipment obtained from the enemy, etc. This was in a measure also the case on the South and North fronts when these were liquidated. This method of obtaining supplies and materials had thus justified itself in our civil war.
In 1920 certain new aspects became apparent in the mutual relationships between the two principal forces of the revolution, namely: the proletariat and peasantry. With the defeat of the Kolchak and Denikin forces the immediate threat that had confronted the peasantry of a return of the large landowners appeared at an end. The danger presented by Wrangel did not appear very great to the peasantry. Meanwhile the economic policies established during the years of the civil war (the requisitioning of food-stuffs and the entire system of measures related thereto) had a vital effect upon the rural economy (especially among the more wealthy elements). Yielding under pressure of governmental agencies their bread to the cities, the farmers received practically nothing in return from the cities. When there was the danger of a return of the landowners, the principal mass of the peasantry one way or another reconciled itself with the food requisitioning, realizing that, having obtained the land, the peasant must make sacrifices for the war. But when the immediate danger of the landowner passed, the villagers began protesting. As a consequence, the active well-to-do village leaders were able to find a considerable following in their anti-Soviet activity. This was essentially the case with respect to those counter- revolutionary peasant movements which the wealthy peasants endeavored to launch and which had their inception back in 1919 in the Ukraine (the Grigoryev and Makhno movements) and early in 1920, were launched in the black belt area of the R.S.F.S.R. (Antonov movement in Tambov government) and then developed also in Siberia. It is beyond the province of our present effort to present a detailed analysis or examination of these movements. We merely touched upon them in so far as these constituted one of the aspects of the political situation in the war of 1920.
The remnants of the party of social-revolutionaries attempted to head the movement of the wealthy peasants and to formulate it politically already buried in the minds of the social-revolutionaries and in place of it they now advanced the slogan of a peasant union and "Free Soviets." *
* Soviets=Councils. - Tr.
However, neither the change of slogans, nor the alliance with the wealthy peasants could save this party from final collapse.
Before the transition to regular taxation and the abandoning of the requisitioning system throughout the country there were not infrequent political clashes which greatly complicated the military undertakings at the various fronts.
Now we shall briefly describe the functions and military efforts of the Communist party at the beginning and during the actual Polish-Soviet campaign.
Having defeated Kolchak and Denikin and driven Wrangel into the Crimea, Soviet Russia was fully absorbed in economic rehabilitation. It is no exaggeration to state ( and the contemporary press will confirm this) that the problems of war had been cast aside. Subsequently, on June 10, 1920, when Wrangel's offensive was launched, the Central Committee of the Communist Party, in its appeal to the party organizations, stated that "on the Crimean front we are now paying only for our failure in the winter to completely crush the remnants of Denikin's White guards. Famine, the collapse of the transport system and the shortage of fuel will now last longer because of the fact that at the proper time sufficient energy, persistence and resolution were not utilized in carrying to completion the destruction of the southern counter-revolutionaries."
With the beginning of the Polish advance, the party promptly passed from its peacetime to wartime organization. Already on April 24, 1920, the Communist party and Soviet newspapers came out with the slogans: "On with the Western Front." As to the methods employed toward active military service, these varied from those employed in the campaigns against Kolchak and Denikin.
Together with the party mobilization, which immediately got under my, special attention was given to voluntary service. Mobilization was conducted quite successfully. Already on May 4 Petrograd had sent to the Polish front the first detachment of communists (300 men); the Moscow committee of the party furnished 82% of the men called for by the Central Committee; Orenburg mobilized 5% of the Communist party membership; N. Novgorod the city council (Soviet) enrolled 10% of its members.
Voluntary enrolment was given fullest scope. At Moscow the enrolment of volunteers was conducted by the bureau of the Moscow Soviet, the Central Committee and the Moscow Committee of the Communist Party, regional committees and the Central Committee of the Youth League. The number of volunteers increased from day to day. Among the volunteers enrolled at Moscow were about 20% of non-party members, with workers predominating
The campaign for assistance to the Polish front developed throughout the entire country. At Kaluga 200 volunteers immediately enrolled; at Cheliabinsk a guard regiment in its entirety applied to be sent to the Western front; at two meetings there enrolled several hundred men for the front, half of them being non-party members. Announcements poured in from Pyatigorsk Simbirsk, Omsk and other points that workers were ready to enrol at the first call for service at the Western front in the defense of the revolution.
A second important feature of the Polish campaign was the definite change in the relationship between the Communist Party and other parties, as well as the change in the rank and file of the intelligentsia toward the Soviet government. At a solemn session of the Moscow soviet early in May there were among others, Martov who addressed the soviet (council) in the name of the Mensheviks, stating that in general he "considered the Soviet policy on the Polish question to be quite proper", and that action on the Western was of vital importance to the Russian proletariat.
This address, of course, by no means indicated the adherence of the Martov and Abramov followers to the Russian proletarian revolution, yet it served to indicate that the Mensheviks had lost all support among the masses. Various socialist groups, including the Ukrainian groups, dissolved and most of their members now favored the Communist party. This circumstance, as well as the change in the attitude of the intelligentsia, now enabled the communist party to introduce a number of measures on a far wider scale and entirely different than heretofore looking toward raising the military strength of the Soviet Union.
Thus G.H.Q. organized a special council from among the prominent leaders of the old army under the chairmanship of A.A. Brusilov. Then it became possible to utilize on a far wider scale than heretofore former officers who had either concealed their identity or who participated in the White armies and had been kept in concentration camps.
In addition to the proclamation published by the special council of the G.H.Q. on May 30th under the signature of A.A. Brusilov and others and addressed to "all former officers, wherever they may be," on June 2,there was published another appeal along the same lines by the Council of Peoples Commissars signed by Lenin. In Moscow about 1,500 former White officers were inducted into the service and given some hasty political training for eventual employment at the front.
For greater than heretofore during the Polish campaign was the aid received by the Soviet Union from the international proletariat. The initiative of the party and trade unions of the Soviet Union in this respect was very great. The central committee of railway workers and water transport workers appealed early in June to the unions of transport workers in Great Britain, Italy, German, Austria, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Holland. The appeal called for a curtailment in loading and transporting of arms and military equipment for the Polish White legions.
At the close of June there was held at Copenhagen the international congress of metal workers. The central committee of the All-Russian union of metal workers sent a radio to the congress with its greetings in which it also requested "a vigorous, strong rejection of all efforts that were being made to stifle the Russian workers." "Forge your weapons, "said the radio,"only for employment against your own enemies, against the capitalists of all countries."
A wave of foreign workers' delegations swept into Soviet Russia; even a delegation from the British trade unions arrived, whose representatives at the Western Front, at Petrograd, Moscow and a number of other cities came out with statements condemning the Polish attack on the Soviet Union. Of great importance was the arrival of the Italian delegation and its appeal to the international proletariat. And finally, affairs were culminated by the Second Congress of the Communist International, which opened its session at the height of the Polish campaign.