Formation of the Buffer States and their armies. Advance of the Red Seventh Army and of the Latvian Red Army. Outcome of both offensives. Advance of the Western Army. Functions of opposing naval forces in the Baltic. Change in the situation in 1919 on the Western Front. Formation of the Northwest White Army. Summer Campaign of 1919 in the Lithuanian- White Russian sector and in Western Ukraine. Advance of the White forces during May and June, 1919 on Petrograd. Counter Offensive of the Soviet forces in the Petrograd and Pskov areas; results of the same. Operations of the belligerents in the Gulf of Finland during the summer campaign of 1919. General situation on the West Front prior to the launching of the second offensive by the Northwest Army on Petrograd. New counter- revolutionary plot in Petrograd; importance and outcome of the same. Struggle at the approaches to Petrograd in the fall of 1919. Counter- maneuver of the Red Seventh Army; outcome of the same. Liquidation of the White Northwest Army. Conclusions. Naval operations of opposing forces in the Gulf of Finland in the Fall of 1919. Final events of the 1919 campaign in the Lithuanian-White Russian sector of the West Front.
We have already noted the process of the organization of the class
forces which had started in the territory that had been occupied by the Germans
as control over this area began weakening and especially with the abandonment
of the occupied territory by the German forces. While the "legal"
elements, under the protection of the German bayonets, freely organized within
their own territories, proletarian elements scattered throughout Russian
territory and belonging to Esthonia, Latvia, Finland, Lithuania, White Russia
and Poland conducted their own activity under Soviet protection.
Soviet Russia, being the first proletarian government in the world, assisted the workers and peasants masses of the outlying districts who desired to establish Soviet republics within their homelands. The Soviet governments permitted the establishment within the R.S.F.S.R. Soviet peoples armies both for control of the territories of these nationalities and for the maintenance of authority over them.
Soviet Latvia was better situated in this connection, having at its disposal the Latvian Infantry Division of nine regiments which had gained considerable experience in combat and which had been developed into the Red Latvian Proletarian Army. The Latvian government in power lacked any trained and ready military force and was incapable of the formation of such, since it did not enjoy the support of the general masses, while foreign support was not yet forthcoming.
Such were the political antecedents in the creation and establishment of the West Front in the civil war. The strategical direction of this front coincided with the directions leading into Esthonia, Latvia, Lithuania, White Russia and Poland.
The occupation of Esthonia was charged to the Red Esthonian forces;* the main effort was to be made in the direction of Narva. The Red Esthonian forces were to be assisted by the forces of the Red Seventh Army and by the Red navy. Latvia was to be occupied by Latvian infantry units. A decree of the Revolutionary Military Council of the Latvian Republic on January 4, 1919, provided for the organization of a special Latvian army to comprise two infantry divisions and army cavalry. Comrade Vatzetis was appointed commander of the proletarian army of Soviet Latvia, while at the same time remaining commander-in- chief of all military forces of the R.S.F.S.R. The operations in Lithuania, White Russia and Poland developed upon a special army unit designated as the "Western Army." The beginning of the advance was contingent upon the readiness of the forces designated for the purpose, but was to be not later than the end of December, 1918.
* In the Narva area operated the 6th Infantry Division. The Esthonian Red Division was still in the process of organization.
At the beginning of December, 1918, an attempt was made to capture the town of Narva which, according to secret advices, had already been in the hands of revolutionary workmen. It turned out, however, that German troops were still present and occupying Narva positions which, together with troops of White Esthonia, defended the town. The operation against Esthonia assumed a protracted nature. The White Esthonian government, with the assistance of remaining German troops and Russian and Finnish White guards from Finland, quickly organized a sufficiently powerful force* that could not at once be dislodged. The Estonians successfully operated on interior lines, based on two through main railway lines leading from Reval, while making extensive use of armored trains. It became necessary to adopt methodical operations, and to develop these in three directions: (1) Against Narva - Vezenberg - Reval; (2) From Pskov on Verro-Yuriev, and (3) From Verro on Valk- Pernov. This operation called for considerable forces, particularly so in view of the fact that the White guard forces fought stubbornly.
* ??? (can't read off of the copy)...of about 25,000 infantry and ???
And liberation of Latvia likewise proved a difficult undertaking. At
the close of December the red Latvian forces penetrated into three areas: (1)
Pskov - Valk - Riga; (2) Rezhitsa - Kreitsburg - Matava; (3) Drissa - Ponevezh
- Shavli. The workers and peasants here met the Red soldiers as their
liberators from age old oppression. On January 3, 1919, the city of Riga was
occupied (the capture of Riga had been facilitated in large measure by the
successful uprising of the Riga workers that had been staged several days prior
to the arrival of Red forces, and by disorganization in the rear of the White
forces), and was followed by the capture of the city of Mitau within a few
days. In mid-January, 1919, a wide offensive was launched in Courland along the
line Windau - Libau. The German barons in conjunction with the Latvian
bourgeoisie put forth strong resistance. Fortified castles were converted into
feudal citadels. In the fighting against Red forces, along with the local
formations, there joined the mercenary volunteer elements of the remnants of
the German Eighth Army. The economic situation in Latvia had been extremely
difficult. The German army which had occupied the country plundered it
thoroughly upon its departure, taking with it grain, cattle, horses and all
domestic animals, ruining railways and bridges. (The bridge at the city of
Dvinsk over the Western Dvina river was spared by the bribing of German
soldiers). There was a particularly acute shortage of foodstuffs, which the Red
Latvian government had hoped to receive from Russia. This grievous economic
situation had an adverse effect upon the progress of the organization of new
military units that had been provided for by the adopted plan for the
organization of the Red Latvian army.
The fighting for the occupation of Lithuania was conducted under even more difficult conditions. The Soviet government of Red Lithuania, owing to a shortage in forces, found it impossible to organize a military force. The petit bourgeois mass of the people there was under the strong influence of the Catholic clergy, and the process of the liberation of the Lithuanian people from their old life was carried on at an extremely slow pace. It became necessary to place at the disposal of the Red Lithuanian government the 2nd Pskov Division. The situation here assumed the same aspects as in the case of Esthonia. Furthermore, German troops came to the assistance of the Lithuanians.
The advance in the Vistula regions was launched after the withdrawal of the Germans. The missions here involved were: (1) The occupation of Whit Russia; (2) An advance in the direction of Warsaw up to the Western Bug river (inclusive). The advance of the Red army to the designated lines developed quite successfully. Poland was busily engaged in fighting on other fronts and her eastern frontier was poorly protected.*
* At this time in Eastern Galacia, on the Czecho-Slovak frontier, there were disputes between the Poles and Czechs over their respective frontiers, ???? the dispute with the Germans.
After Germany's capitulation, mastery of the Baltic passed to the British, who sent their squadron, which occupied with landing parties the coastal cities of Reval, Ust-Dvinsk and Libau. The Soviet naval fleet of the Baltic Sea, notwithstanding its small size, endeavored to engage actively, and conducted strategical reconnaissance undertaking in the vicinity of the Reval harbor, we lost two destroyers in an encounter with British naval forces.
In the latter part of March, 1919, we had made the greatest gains on the West Front in Latvia and in the Vistula area. We gained control of all Latvia, with the exception of the Libau area, which had been defended by foreign landing parties. The strategical situation of Soviet Latvia, however, was extremely difficult, owing to our failures on the flanks, i.e., in Esthonia and Lithuania, where the Latvian troops were to assist. The army of Soviet Latvia was to assign one brigade for action against Esthonia, for employment on the Verro - Valk - Gainash front, while on its left flank, it was to engage in action against the German volunteer troops in the Ponewezh - Shavli - Telshi - Polangen area. Thus, the relatively weak forces of the Latvian army had been distributed over the extensive line: Verro - Valk - Geinash - Dvinsk - Vindava - Venta river - Telshi - Shavli. The center of the line was greatly extended and weak particularly in the Courland area. No reserve forces were available. Organization of the 2nd Division, which was started in January, encountered considerable difficulties (in spite of the apparent flow of a great stream of volunteers observed in July) thanks primarily to a shortage of provisions. The Latvian Red army, which had assumed the principal role in the occupation of the Baltic states, could come out of this difficult situation only by gaining large-scale victories on its flanks - against Esthonia and Lithuania.
The Esthonian White front had been considerably strengthened during the winter, especially by incorporation of Russian White guard elements, organized by emigrant bourgeoisie. In Esthonia there already appeared the nucleus of the contemplated Northwest Army, in the shape of the Russian Volunteer Corps commanded by Rodzianko. The German bourgeoisie considerably aided the White Esthonians along with the landed aristocracy, which had taken refuge here from Latvia. Attempts on the part of the Whites to launch an offensive from Narva against Yamburg and further proved successful. Their operations against Valk and Verro were likewise successful. This latter instance caused the commander of the Latvian army (to which command Slaven had been appointed in February, 1919) to assign 3 infantry regiments for employment against the Esthonians. The progress made by the Red forces against Lithuania also came to a standstill, in view of the fact that in the Kovno government area there arrived the German volunteer forces, which consolidated the position of the White Lithuanian government.
The fact is to be remembered that the month of March was the beginning of the straining of every effort and available means on the part of the R.S.F.S.R. in the two principal theaters of operation, namely, the Eastern and Southern theaters. Decisive fighting began in both of these theaters of operation, with the result that the commander-in-chief found it difficult to assign greater forces and material for the reinforcement of the West Front. Nevertheless, it should be remarked that in spite of the extremely difficult combat situation on the front of Soviet Lithuania the military victories gained by small forces operating there were quite considerable: the Red forces already occupied the city of Vilna and the right bank of the Niemen. Ultimately they were preparing for a continuation of the operation toward the execution of the main part of the basic directive of January 12, 1919 (No. 649/a), namely, the occupation of the Middle Niemen (Kovno - Grodno, inclusive). According to available intelligence, Kovno was being held by one Polish division under General Haller, with cavalry and tanks; four of its forts had been placed in readiness for action.
The "White" forces continued their concentration against the Red West Front in four principal regions: (1) In Esthonia, (2) In the western portion of Courland, with Libau as center, (3) In Lithuania, and (4) Along the banks of the Middle Vistula. From the Esthonian direction there were expected assaults in three areas: (1) From Narva - against Petrograd, (2) From Yuriev - on Pekov, and (3) From the direction of Valk - against Volmar - Riga. From the Middle Niemen direction there was the possibility of an advance of the main Polish forces against the R.S.F.S.R. in the spring of 1919, there was nothing definite at the time. There was some doubt whether Poland would decide to advance against the R.S.F.S.R. in conjunction with Kolchak, Denikin and Yudenich, who were proceeding with the slogan of a "one inseparable" Russian nation. The situation in the Baltic was greatly complicated by the appearance of new political and military alignments. In Esthonia there was started the organization of the so-called Northwest Army, undertaken by Czarist Russian reactionary elements and headed by General Yudenich, who did not recognize the independence of the very same White Esthonia which had sheltered him. In western Courland, with the city of Libau as center, the White forces organized their general front against the Red Latvian forces. Here were situated the White Latvian forces, the detachments of the Baltic barons, of the Russian bourgeoisie, mercenary forces organized in Germany and financed by Russian financiers, a brigade made up of German regular army soldiers who had hoped to receive land grants from the White Latvian government for their military assistance. Each of the above White military detachments had its individual political platform and specific economic interests, but they were all uniformly opposed to the Latvian proletarian government, and had organized a common military bloc on the basis thereof.
From the above statement with respect to the situation on the front
of the armies of Esthonia, Latvia and Lithuania, it is apparent that the
Latvian troops had been confronted with the mission of not only engaging the
White Latvian forces but that they were required to assist the neighboring Red
republics. Early in April the forces of Soviet Latvia made their utmost effort,
but their lines, after heroic battle, folded up throughout Courland. The
struggle was concentrated on the approaches to Riga: in the west, from the
direction of Libau, and in the north, from the direction of Esthonia.
On May 22, 1919, after a vigorous engagement, the city of Riga was taken by the Whites. The Red Latvian forces withdrew and occupied positions on the line: Sebezh - Drissa. Together with attached Russian forces they constituted the Fifteenth Army, and remained part of the West Front.
The first echelons of Haller's army arriving in Poland from France, where they had been organized out of Polish emigrants with the primary object of fighting the Bolsheviks, greatly revived the activity on the Lithuanian-White Russian army in the latter's section of the front. By mid-April the Polish forces gained possession of the Lida - Baranovice area and on the 19th of April forced their way into Vilna, and after three days of intensive street fighting, compelled the Soviet forces to abandon the city.
The summer campaign of 1919 in the Lithuanian - White Russian sector of the West Front, where the Lithuanian-White- Russian Army had been operating (whose designation was changed in June, 1919, to that of the Sixteenth Army), including vigorous fighting for the purpose of gaining a foothold within the area of so-called "Greater Poland" that existed before the partitioning of Poland in 1772. The operations became particularly intensive in this sector on July 1st; nearly the entire Polish army of General Haller was here concentrated. Early in August all Polish efforts were concentrated against the city of Minsk, capital of White Russia, which they captured after stubborn fighting on the 8th of August. The subsequent operations of the enemy were less intensive, owing to a disinclination on the part of Generals Denikin and Yudenich to assist him.
The commander-in-chief, taking into consideration the imperative need for the adoption of essential measures for the reinforcement of the West Front, and finding it impossible to weaken the Eastern and Southern fronts, decided in June, 1919, on placing under the control of the West Front all of the Ukrainian front. This resulted in an extension of the left flank of the West Front up to the Black Sea, and the West Front acquired an extremely rich source for the reinforcement and replenishment of its manpower and provisions.
The Twelfth Army first of all directed its assaults against the army commanded by Petliura, driving his forces back to Galacia; this served to establish a favorable situation in the area south of Polesie, and served to retard the movement of the Polish forces north of Polesie. The situation, however, changed when against the West Front, in the Kovel and Rovno areas, the forces of the same General Haller, and in the Kamenets-Podolsk area appeared the army of the Eastern Galicia government, which had been driven out of Galacian territory by the Polish armies and which had been absorbed by the Ukrainian Directorate, under the threat of refusing it provisions and materials, and caused to fight within the Ukrainian theater of operations. This took place in the latter part of July, when the influence of the advancing forces of the Volunteer Army from the eastern part of the Ukraine began making itself felt. Compelled at the time to operate on two fronts, the Twelfth Army, passing to the defensive, yielded foot by foot the ground which it had previously occupied.
The end of the winter of 1919 in the maritime parts of the Baltic sector, after the withdrawal of the Red Seventh Army to its line of departure, on the line of the Narova river and Lake Peipus, was characterized by a lull in the fighting. The enemy had succeeded in gaining during the winter only the town of Narva and a small area on the right bank of the Narova river. In this sector there deployed early in May, 1919, the Northwest Corps, preparatory to the launching of an attack. The mission which was originally assigned this corps included only the capture of sufficient ground so as to permit it to undertake the organization of military units on its own territory. The successful development of then operations of this corps permitted it to broaden considerably the scope of its original missions and to include the seizure of Yamburg and Pskov.*
* The composition of the North Corps prior to its offensive was: 4,700 infantry, 1,100 cavalry, 11 light guns. Against these forces the Red high command had provided in the Narva sector 2,700 infantry, 160 cavalry, 12 light, and 6 heavy guns. The weakness of the forces provided in the Narva sector had been due to the fact that the center of attention of the Soviet high command and primarily attention of its forces had been shifted to Finland, where active operations were expected by the spring of 1918.
On the night of the 27th of May, 1919, the Northwest Corps penetrated the lines of the Red forces on the Pliusa river, whence it began developing operations against Yamburg, turning it from the rear via Veimarn, while at the same time advancing on Gdov. Upon his capture of these points, the enemy began, on the one hand, to advance on Gatchin, where he reached the Kikerino railway station, and on the other, to reach Pskov from Grod, against which the right flank of the Esthonian army was advancing from the west and which now enjoyed freedom of movement, in view of the withdrawal of the Latvian Red Army. As the result of their combined efforts the city of Pskov was captured on June 7th.
Immobilized on the other fronts, the Soviet high command only in the first part of June found it possible to concentrate reinforcements against the enemy advancing on Petrograd. These reinforcements were incorporated into the assault group operating in the Yamburg area which consisted of two infantry divisions with an independent infantry brigade and a cavalry brigade. It had been contemplated to develop it on the line: Petergof - Krasnoye Selo - Gatchino, resting with right flank on the line of the "Krasnaya Gorka"; by launching flanking attacks it was to envelop the hostile forces in the Yamburg area. This offensive did not take place owing to unforeseen contingencies. The contemplated operation of this group was adversely affected by the widespread plot among the army leaders which extended to include officers at Kronstadt, Oranienbaum, Krasnaya Gorka, and Krasnoye Selo. The plotters were counting on aid from the British squadron in the Gulf of Finland and on the cooperation of part of the naval vessels of the Baltic fleet. The conspiracy was discovered among the flank units of the Soviet assault group of the Red army. The assault of the left flank had not developed owing to the fact that the former Semenovsky guard regiment deserted to the enemy; the assault of the right flank failed to eventuate because of an uprising of the "Krasnaya Gorka" garrison on this particular line, which uprising was crushed, however, by June 29th. Consequently, all operations of the assault group lapsed into protracted battles with varying successes and the only results that had been obtained was the halting of the advance of the enemy in the Petrograd area, though the enemy succeeded, nevertheless, in extending his control in the Pskov area.
Such was the indecisive aspect of the operation on this front also during the month of July. Only in August was the Seventh Army once more reinforced, while at the same time the Fifteenth Army also completed its reorganization. This circumstance afforded the Red Seventh Army an opportunity to once more embark on offensive undertakings against the Northwest White army in conjunction with the right flank of the Fifteenth Army. The mission assigned to the two armies was the defeat of the enemy, the capture of Pskov and the restoration of its position on the Narova river and Lake Peipus. The operations this time were facilitated by dissension that developed in the ranks of the enemy. At the time when two divisions of the Fifteenth Army launched their attack against Pskov, endeavoring to turn it in the south, the Esthonian army began withdrawing on Izborsk, exposing the right flank of the Northwest Army at Pskov. This withdrawal had been due to political rather than strategic causes. The Esthonian government was apprehensive of the increasing strength of the Northwest Army, whose watchword was "One inseparable" Russian nation and was contrary to the aims and objects of Esthonia.
Threatened with a turning in depth of its right flank, the units of
the Northwest White Army were compelled to abandon Pskov, which was once more
occupied by the Red forces on September 8, 1919, while the enemy withdrew
beyond the Zhelcha river, and in the Petrograd area was driven back of the
Pliusa river. On this narrow strip of territory the Northwest Army again
halted, hastily reorganizing its forces, replenishing its equipment with
material furnished by Great Britain, and prepared for a new assault on
The operations of the opposing naval forces in the Gulf of Finland did not assume any extensive proportions. The Soviet naval forces were weak and in no position to undertake any independent action against the British naval forces there. While the latter assumed a generally passive attitude, pursuing the special mission of crushing all Russian naval power irrespective of its political aspects. Hence all of the British undertakings here amounted to several raids (hardly successful, at that) on the Kronstadt naval base with the object of destroying Soviet naval vessels at anchorage there.
As indicated from the above, Petrograd at one time faced a most imminent threat. At the time of the first advance on Petrograd the city had just completed a large-scale party and trade-union mobilization. Tens of thousands of workers had been sent out to the Urals and the Don. Men were also sent to the Ukraine from Petrograd.
With regard to the particular aspects of the Northwest front, i.e., the weakness of the Seventh Army, the presence of White guard plots and the desertion of old army officers with entire organizations to the enemy, the party (communist) organization and Soviet government faced here an acute situation. The entire organization had to be placed on a firm footing and a series of compulsory and punitive measures had to be inaugurated, all of which had to be coordinated with extensive propaganda and agitation. At the same time the weak political agencies of the Seventh Army had to be consolidated and strengthened.
Already in the early part of May, 1919, the Petrograd soviet (council) of workers and Red Army deputies together with the Petrograd soviet (council) of labor unions, put forth the slogan: "Everything for the defense of Petrograd." The workers defense committee handling desertions was intensified. The wives and adult members of the families of White guard officers who deserted to the enemy from the Red Army were placed under arrest.
Along with the party (communist) mobilization, the party developed extensive work among the personnel of the Red Army. On the 22nd of May a resolution of the Soviet (council) of labor unions and a conference of the women workers of the entire Petrograd area denounced as cowards all those who ran before the Yudenich bands and "boot-lickers of the white guard executioners." Regional Red Army meetings were held, and on the 27th of May a Red Army meeting attended by 10,000 men adopted the terse resolution? "We swear not to surrender Red Petrograd." Replenishments and new reinforcements of political agencies were also vitally needed. By the joint efforts of the party and military and political organizations Petrograd brought about a complete reorganization of the political agencies of the Seventh Army, reinforcing these by ordering there the best available workers, while at the same time filling up to war strength the Fifteenth Army.
Contemporary correspondence from the front properly depicted the existing situation when it stated to the effect that at first there had reigned throughout the Seventh Army a kind of unusual calm and apathy that was soon followed by a desire to drop everything and run. And only "when the tide, after rolling a score or so versts, had reached a point near Petrograd, did it begin breaking against the stimulating efforts of the center, which had turned its attention to what was taking place nearby it."
After stubborn fighting within the entire Western theater of operations throughout the summer and early autumn of 1919, the front of our army had reached by October the line of the Luga and Pliussa rivers on the extreme right flank and extended further to Pskov, Izborsk, Rezhitsa (latter point exclusive), then turning to Polotsk, and again to the Berezina river, along which it extended up to Yakimov and farther south; thence touching the right flank of the Southern Front in the Mozyr area. Along the entire front, excepting the right-flank sector of the Northwestern theater of operations, the operations of our forces involved tenacious defensive actions against numerically superior forces and entailed the yielding of some ground to the enemy. Only in the Northwestern theater of operations did the successful offensive of the Red Seventh Army force the White Northwest Army with its rear to the water system of the Pskov and Peipus lakes and Narova river, while it maintained the narrow strip of land with the cities of Narva and Gdov. The precarious situation of this army was but slightly improved by the fact that its right flank rested on Lake Pskov, with its left on the Gulf of Finland, where the British navy was in control.
In the latter part of September, 1919, the strength of the Northwest White Army had increased to 18,500 infantry and cavalry troops and 57 guns; the strength of the Red Seventh Army had meanwhile been raised to 25,650 infantry and cavalry troops and 148 guns, but the numerical superiority of the Seventh Army was absorbed by the extension of its lines. The latter extended from Koporsk bay through Yamburg and farther along the Luga river, thence turning to the Zhelch river and the eastern shores of the Pskov Lake. Southwest of the latter it rested on the Verduga river, which was the boundary line between this army and the Fifteenth Army. The total length of its lines amounted to 250 kilometers. The enemy, on the other hand, situated on a narrower front of 145 kilometers, was in a position to accumulate mobile reserves. Nevertheless, the commander of the Northwest Army himself did not intend to launch any offensive and decided upon it only in view of the pressure that was exerted upon him by the British military mission -- counting upon the assistance of the Latvian and Esthonian armies and on the aid of the British navy, and hoping to interrupt the armistice negotiations between the Esthonian and Soviet governments.
The plan for the offensive provided for a preliminary attack on the Pskov - Strugi- Belsk and Luga areas, and the maintenance of screening forces in these areas to secure flanking operations, then to effect a turning movement in the north with an assault group and the capture of Yamburg from the rear. In the course of this, all railway lines leading from Petrograd were to be seized. The ultimate objective was the capture of the city of Petrograd.
At the same time remnants of the counter-revolutionary organization of the "Nationalist Center" which had managed to escape destruction in Petrograd during the summer, supported by the underground British committee, prepared for an explosion from within, bringing into their organization several responsible persons belonging to the Seventh Army, including the former chief of staff of that army. The conspirators established contact with the Northwest Army and took part in the formulation of the plans for its attack. The plot was to take the form of an open uprising at the moment when the enemy effected his approach to the capital, and it included the seizure of the battleship Sevastopol. The conspirators found it possible to get together a small force of not more than 500 to 700 men. Their plans, however, were destined to failure: they were exposed and those guilty of the plot received their just punishment.
The operation of the Northwest Army was launched on the 28th of September with a successful assault of the II Corps of this army in the Pskov and Struga-Belsk areas against the two left-flank divisions of the Seventh Army (19th and 10th infantry divisions). On October 4th railway communications between Pskov and Petrograd were cut; on the 8th of October the II Corps had already succeeded in the execution of all missions that had been assigned it. On the 10th of October the enemy proceeded with the execution of the second phase of his plan, which called for the delivery of an assault with his right corps against the center and right flank of the Seventh Army. The I Corps of the Whites accomplished this maneuver, resting its left flank of the Esthonian forces situated north of it while turning the right flank abruptly against Yamburg, with the object of gaining the rear of the latter. This mission was also accomplished by it with success; on the 11th of October Yamburg was occupied, and on the 12th of October the Seventh Army was repulsed along its entire front and was retreating toward Petrograd, while its two left-flank divisions (the 19th and 10th Infantry Divisions) split away and established positions along the right flank of the Fifteenth Army. The greatest pressure of the hostile I Corps had developed in the Gatchin - Mshinskaya area.
Attempts at halting the enemy by the launching of counterattacks failed, and on the 16th of October the enemy already established himself in the Krasnoye Selo - Gatchin - Struga-Beloye area, and the Seventh Army withdrew to the immediate approaches of Petrograd. The enemy intercepted all main railway lines leading into Petrograd, with the exception of the October (Nikolayevsk) railway line. A strong screening force was to be sent to the Tosno railway station by the right- flank division of the White I Corps (1st Infantry Division), but it neglected doing this owing to its haste in getting to Petrograd by the time of its fall. The enemy soon paid dearly for this omission, since it was over this railway line that reinforcements were hastily being sent to Petrograd from Moscow.
The Petrograd proletariat was actively preparing for action both within the capital and at the front. Already on the 10th of October there was announced the local mobilization of workers between 1879-1901. The city was digging in and barricades were being erected. The Seventh Army, in turn, was strengthened by reinforcements from the Karelian sector of the front and by student detachments from Moscow.
The hopes of the enemy on the active cooperation of the British fleet failed to materialize. The British naval vessel attempted the bombardment of the coastal forts of the Kronstadt fortifications from the Coporsk bay but were soon forced to abandon this by the fire of the Red coastal artillery. On the other hand, some naval vessels of the Baltic fleet were brought into action in the defense of the approaches to the capital. All of these measures served to add to the strength of the Seventh Army.
If we are to approach a consideration of the second defense of Petrograd from the political aspects of the situation, it is necessary first of all to take into consideration the following circumstances: Petrograd, in repelling the first attack of General Yudenich, immediately undertook a mobilization of forces for the South front. In addition, a further mobilization was conducted of responsible workers for service in supply and provision detachments, accomplished through the trade unions.
Because of this, the new defense demanded not only the greatest possible effort of the city of Petrograd alone and that of the adjacent governments, but also the assistance of the entire Russian Soviet state. The entire city was converted into a fortress; there had been mobilized and inducted into the armed services all members of the communist party capable of bearing arms; there were organized a large number communist combat detachments in all areas by the council of the trade unions, etc. At the same time a mobilization of forces was instituted in the town of Cherepovets to be sent to Petrograd, whence nearly all workers of the Shlisselburg powder works from the Sestroretskoye factory also found their way there.
Meanwhile, comrade Lenin, addressing the workers and red soldiers of Petrograd, said: "Assistance for Petrograd is near at hand; we have set it in motion. We are much stronger than the enemy. Fight to the last drop of blood, comrades; hold on to every inch of soil; be brave to the end, victory is not far off. We shall be victorious."
On the 20th of October the Petrograd area, armed to the teeth, was aware of the fact that Soviet Russia had come to its assistance. "There were moved up fresh units, new and fresh military leaders were assigned to the various military organizations; men insured to battle were placed in the front lines." The motto adopted for the day was: "to the attack," and on the 21st of October there was a change in the situation on the Petrograd front.
On the 18th of October, the hostile advance began encountering stubborn resistance, which had also been due to a contraction of the army front. At this time the front extended from the Gorovaldaisky railway station up to Tsarskoye Slavianka, and the entire width of it was about 80 km. Nevertheless, by the 21st of October the enemy succeeded in reaching with his left flank the Strelninskoye area, which was already a suburb of the capital; on the 20th of October the hostile forces had occupied Pavlovsk and Tsarskoye (Detskoye) Selo. Only now did he make his effort to sever the Nikolayevsk railway in the vicinity of Kolpino, in which he did not succeed. The hostile advance on Kolpino was halted by the reserves of the Seventh Army, which had been concentrated at that point.
The Red high command was itself preparing to launch an offensive. The plan was formulated whereby the enemy would be continued frontally while he was to be attacked by flanking groups. The principal role in this offensive was to be assumed by the left-flank Kolpino group, numbering 7,470 men and 12 guns, which was to deliver its assault from the Kolpino area against the Detskoye Selo - Gatchin line. The Commander of the Fifteenth Army was to deliver an attack from the Batetskoye - Novoselye - Pskov area with three divisions against the rear of the Northwest Army, endeavoring to capture the cities of Yamburg and Gdov. The 19th Infantry Division was to advance from the line of the Batetskoye railway on the Volosovo - Moloskovice line, in the immediate rear of the main forces of the Northwest forces of the White army. The 11th Infantry Division was to advance from the Novoselye area against the lower course of the Pliusa river; the 10th Infantry Division was to advance from Pskov along the eastern shore of Peipus Lake and capture the city of Gdov.
The counterattack of the Seventh Army was launched on the 21st of October and was at first developed rather slowly. The enemy fought stubbornly to maintain his ground, launching repeated counterattacks. Pavlovsk and Detskoye Selo changed hands several times. The enemy fought most stubbornly to hold the city of Gatchin. Defending the Gatchin railway junction from October 27th to November 2nd, the enemy once more, with the assistance of the Esthonian army (1st Esthonian Division), attempted to launch an attack with his left flank in the Krasnoye Selo area, but without success. The effects of the assault launched by the right flank of the Fifteenth Army soon made themselves felt. On the 31st of October the enemy was driven out of Luga (by the 19th Infantry Division). On the 3d of November the Soviet forces occupied the Mshinskoye railway station, threatening the rear of the Gatchin group of the enemy; thus compelling him to institute a general withdrawal. The advance of the 11th and 10th infantry divisions of the Fifteenth Army was also developed successfully.
On the 14th of November the last resistance of the enemy was broken in the Yamburg area. The Northwest army was forced against the Esthonian frontier; it crossed this frontier and was interned in Esthonia, in conformity with the provisions of the peace treaty between Esthonia and the Soviet Union. The advance of the Northwest army had been a desperate gesture* on the part of the enemy, and henceforward, in view of the unequal task before it, could not be developed into any large-scale offensive. Strategic cooperation among the Northwest White Army and the South White armies was prevented by the great distances separating these armies. The original victories gained had been due to the extension of the lines of the Seventh Army and to the low combat efficiency of some of the units of this army.* With regard to the latter situation, matters changed as soon as the Seventh Army was assigned sufficient class-conscious proletarians from among the working class; the front held by this army was contracted and it was at the same time reinforced considerable.
* We fail to agree with the statements encountered in military literature to the effect that the offensive launched by Yudenich had been due mainly to pressure exerted upon him by the British. Fully appreciating the effects of this pressure, we believe it necessary to emphasize the fact the Yudenich's October undertaking had been the result of a series of circumstances which inexorably impelled him to adopt measures that could only be characterized as a last resort effort. The basic considerations involved were the following:
a. The increasing antagonism between the Esthonian bourgeoisie, fighting for their "independence," and General Yudenic, who was following the idea of "One inseparable" Russian nation. These contradictions could not be reconciled even by the Buffer Northwest Lianozov Government established within 45 minutes upon orders of the British general;
b. The imminent peace between Esthonia and the R.S.F.S.R., which could be disrupted only by a successful offensive by Yudenich. The threat of such a peace had made it vitally important for the Northwest Army to bring about the establishment of a base of operations of its own (at Petrograd);
c. The contradictions and discord within the ranks of the Yudenich forces (for instance: Bulak- Bulakhovich's opposition to Yudenich);
d. The unprepared state of the Northwest army for the lack of sufficient forces in the execution of the missions involved by means of swift assaults and by swift movements. In his hasty advance on Petrograd he was aware of the fact that his flank and rear were not properly secured (the II Corps abruptly proceeded to the aid of the I Corps, leaving in the Pskov and Luga areas only weak screening forces). This hazarding of a swift, sudden attack, the endeavor to get to Petrograd as quickly as possible gives the entire October operation of General Yudenich the appearance of some sort of raid. By adopting this method of action against Petrograd Yudenich abandoned all other plans of action which called for greater time but involved less risk (such as Rodzianko's plan). The confidence of General Yudenich and that of the British in victory was so great that immediately upon the arrival of the units of the I Corps at the Pulkovsky Heights, the British radio announced to the entire world the capture of Leningrad and broadcast a detailed description of the great and triumphant reception given Yudenich by the "grateful" populace.
* The first assault delivered by Yudenich was against the weak 19th Division which was still in the process of organization and against the 2nd Division which was below strength and lacked proper training. The regiments of the latter division, with the exception of the 7th Regiment, which was comparatively strong, according to all available data (including statements of actual participants) comprised at the time 200 to 300 men per regiment, occupying sectors of six or more kilometers. It is also to be remembered that by the time of the beginning of the operation there was also some weakening within the political organization of the army. The attention of Petrograd, as that of the entire country, had at this time been devoted to the South front. It was there that newly mobilized groups of communists and proletariats had been sent from Petrograd, and a number of leaders were also sent there from among the Seventh Army. The unsatisfactory functioning of the political agencies within the army may be seen from the communist "party week" conducted within the Seventh Army, which afforded a total of only 3,000 communist members, obtained primarily from among the Petrograd garrison.
In the course of these operations the opposing naval forces in the Gulf of Finland did not receive much development. The main forces of the British navy here were concentrated at Riga, which had been threatened by the White Bermont-Avalov forces (former von der Goltz detachment operating as part of the Latvian army but which maintained their pro-German attitude. The action of this corps against the Latvian government was in direct opposition to British hegemony in the Baltic provinces, and was supported by Germany and the Baltic barons favoring it. The naval vessels of the British fleet at Riga had made some minor attempts at the bombardment of Kronstadt. Our own Baltic fleet was too weak for independent action within the Gulf of Finland. Immediate participation in the defense of Petrograd had been undertaken only by the battleship "Sevastopol," stationed on the Neva river at the capital, and by the destroyers Vsadnik and Gaidamak, which had entered the naval canal, whence they operated against the enemy situated in the Sergiev and Strelna area.
Taking advantage of the absorption of part of the forces and attention of the West Front by the happenings at Petrograd, the Polish forces launched a series of special operations in the Polotsk and Vitebsk regions, concentrating considerable forces in the Lepel area. Their attempted offensives brought forth the counter-measures of the right flank of the Sixteenth Army, but the fighting did not receive any extensive development, and was restricted to local engagements; and before long a protracted calm settled in this sector also.