Fighting of the Armies of the East Front in the Perm area. The fall of Perm. Operation of the right-flank armies of the Red Eastern Front in the Orenburg and Ural districts. New plan of action of the White High Command on the East Front. Analysis of the same. Plan of the Red high command for over-coming the Ural mountain ridge; analysis of the same. The Ufa operation of the enemy and its initial victories. Renewed efforts of the country and party (communist) toward aiding the Red East Front. Inception of the idea for a Counter-maneuver. Line of departure of the south group and its regrouping in view of the penetration of the front of the Red Fifth Army. General conception of the counter-maneuver of the South group and the plan of operations formulated by M. V. Frunze; analysis of the same. Change of the Frunze plan in view of new changes in the situation. The Buguruslan and Sergievsk operations. The Bugulma-Belebeyevsk operation. The North Front. Liquidation of the North Front.
We abandoned the Red East Front at the time when there was apparent a turn of the enemy toward the east, in the direction of Ufa, and the fighting in the Perm-Yekaterinburg area assumed a sanguinary, protracted aspect. By the end of November, 1918, our First, Fifth, Second and Third armies comprised 58,360 infantry, 5,980 cavalry troops and 265 guns. The immediate mission of our four armies was that of reaching the line Cheliabinsk-Yekaterinburg. The enemy, however, leaving in the Ufa area remnants of the disorganized army of the Constituent Assembly and units of the Orenburg Cossacks, continued to accumulate his forces in the Perm area. Here on the 27th of November, 1918, on the line Turinsk factory - Yekaterinburg highway - Kungur (inclusive) the enemy developed General Gaida's army, comprising 40,000 to 42,000 infantry, 4,000 to 5,000 cavalry and 100 to 120 guns, with the mission of capturing the city of Perm and of reaching the line of the Kama river. The Red Third Army was able to muster against these forces of the enemy a total of only 30,000 infantry and cavalry troops with 78 guns.*
* The better to describe the extent of the forces on our civil war fronts, even in the directions of the main efforts, we wish to present the following data: The extent of the hostile White front from Turinsk factory to the Yekaterinburg highway - Kungur (inclusive) was about 240 km; the density of troops per km. of front was 183 1/3 to 195 5/6 men; on the side of the Red forces, over approximately the same length of front, there were about 125 men (infantry and cavalry) per km. of front.
The situation of the Red commander of the East Front was further complicated by the fact that he could not make free use of additional forces that might have been gathered in the Ufa area to reinforce the forces at Perm in view of the fact that since mid-November, 1918 military forces were being shifted to the First Army (exclusive of the 1st Division) on the South Front. Nevertheless, the commander of the East Front, based on the instructions of the commander-in- chief, issued orders at the close of November, 1918, for an attack by the group comprising the Second and Third armies. The Third Army was to penetrate the front of the enemy in the Kungur - Yekaterinburg area, while the Second Army, by an advance against the line Birsk - Krasnoufimsk (both points exclusive), was to assist the operations of the Red Third Army. (See map - original Text).
Thus the fighting of the possession of the line of the Kama river assumed the aspects of a meeting engagement. Obviously, the advance of the Third Army, met by superior hostile forces, could not develop successfully, and this army was compelled to assume a tenacious defense early in December, 1918. The Second Army, situated in the vicinity of the city of Sarapul, a distance of 150 km. from the right flank of the Third Army, was incapable of affording timely assistance to the latter. Finally, the moral and combat resilience of the Third Army came to an end, and on the 15th of December, it began a hasty withdrawal with its left flank and center in the direction of the city of Perm.
The commander of the East Front, in anticipation of the weakness of
the forces in the Perm area, applied to the commander-in-chief, Vatzetis, with
a request for the strengthening of the troops in this area by the assignment of
a "reliable brigade." Vatzetis replied that there was no brigade of
troops that could be spared and suggested that assaults against Perm be held
off by the mobile action of the Second and Fifth Red armies. This reply on the
part of Vatzetis is quite understandable when we recall that at this particular
time he began preparations for a vigorous, decisive campaign on the South and
West fronts, at which points he made every effort to accumulate all available
reserves. In order to reinforce the troops in the Perm area the intervention of
the government was necessary. On December 13th V.I. Lenin called upon Trotsky,
who was the chairman of the Revolutionary Military Council, to assist the
forces in the Perm and Ural Mountain areas. On this same day, December 13th,
the commander-in-chief placed under the control of the Eastern Front the 1st
Brigade of the 7th Infantry Division (directive No. 479/III) stationed in the
Yaroslavl Military District. This brigade, however, was late in arriving there.
The poor combat efficiency of the Third Army had been due to more than the military reasons involved. Under the civil war conditions a military force is particularly affected by the wavering of those social elements which go to make up its organizations. And this applied also to the Third Army. The worker cadres of this, army considerably reduced in the course of the continuous fighting, had been diluted by the mobilized peasants from the immediate rear of this army, from the Perm and Vyatka governments. Throughout the rank and file of the Third Army, during its retreat to Perm, there were apparent the signs of disintegration: desertions, insubordination, and desertion to the Whites. Subsequent attempts to improve the situation of the Third Army by action on the part of the Second Army in the Sarapul - Krasnoufimsk area were devoid of any appreciable results. Abandoned to its own resources, the Third Army, on December 24, 1918, yielded Perm to the enemy, after which it continued a disorderly retreat to Glazov, losing equipment and suffering considerable casualties. In the course of twenty days the Third Army withdrew a distance of 300 kilometers. Its withdrawal created a serious threat to Vyatka and to the entire East Front.
With a view to restoring order within the Third Army and the mobilization of the attention of the party and Soviet organization for the needs and problems of the front, and Central Executive Committee of the Communist Party sent a commission to the Third army area made up of comrades Stalin and Dzerzhinsky.
In the latter part of January, Comrade Stalin already reported to the Defense Council:*
* See Stalin and the Red Army, p. 18, State Publishing House, 1929 By K. E. Voroshilov.
"By January 15th 1,200 reliable infantry and cavalry troops have been sent to the front; within another day, two cavalry squadrons. On the 20th we are sending the 62d Regiment of the 3d Brigade (previously carefully organized). These forces have made it possible to arrest the progress of the enemy; they have changed the attitude of the men in the Third Army and paved the way for our offensive against Perm, which has been successful so far. In the army rear a serious purging is being conducted of Soviet and party (communist) establishments. At Vyatka and in the larger towns revolutionary committees have been organized. An effort is being made to establish strong revolutionary organizations in the rural districts. The entire party and Soviet functions are being organized on a new basis."
The partial failure in the Perm area was compensated for by the success of the Red arms in the principal, Ufa, area and in the Turkestan area. As a matter of fact, several days after the fall of Perm the Soviet forces, in turn, on December 31, 1918, occupied Ufa, and on January 22, 1919 units of the First Red Army (which, however, did not include more than 10,000 men) under comrade Zinovyev advancing from Turkestan. Finally, on January 24, 1919, the units of the Red Forth Army occupied the city of Uralsk. Thus, as a result of the 1918 campaign, the principal mass of forces of the East Front succeeded in approaching nearer to the Ural mountain ridge - to the last local ridge which had to be surmounted by these forces to sweep over the plains of Siberia and to reach the vital and political centers of the enemy. However, its vast distance from the center and the resistance of the enemy prevented the achievement of these aims in 1918. In general, however, the success of the enemy in the Perm area and his failures in the Ufa area served to create on the East Front an unstable situation in so far as both sides were concerned.
The general political and economic situation that had developed early in 1919 both in the camp of the revolutionary forces and in that of the Whites had created a situation favoring the enemy and afforded an opportunity for his exploitation of the same. In one of our preceding chapters we have already covered the Kolchak upheaval. With the internal Kolchak victory, first place on the historical scene was again assumed, quite openly this time, by the bourgeois-landowner reactionaries, supported by the officers of the old army who succeeded in organizing anew.*
* We learn from the book by General Rouquerol that the appearance of Admiral Kolchak on the historical scene as a dictator and, consequently, as full authority over all counter-revolutionary forces, was by no means to the liking of the French government. General Janin, attached to Kolchak's staff, upon reaching Omsk found himself quite out of place and without any particular functions, since the irritable, unrestrained admiral, attempting to interfere in every small detail of command, was in no way inclined to share with anyone the right of supreme military commander. Though Rouquerol asserts in his book that as a result of conversations between Janin and Kolchak the latter suggested to General Janin that he assume command over the forces of the eastern front operating against the Bolsheviks, we believe this hardly probable. At all events, Janin after inspecting the front and gaining an unfavorable impression of it, is supposed to have turned down this offer. Finally, the Interallied Military Council interceded between Kolchak and Janin and the latter was given the function of strategic director attached to Kolchak's staff. Not a single strategic plan of any importance could be undertaken without General Janin's approval. If this were actually the case, the French General Staff was even more responsible for the subsequent failures of the strategic undertakings of the White forces.
The petit bourgeois and democratic counter-revolutionaries of the Constituent Assembly, dispersed and enfeebled, lapsed into the background. While still opposing the government, they found it impossible to disrupt the mobilization of the Siberian youth, which Kolchak succeeded in accomplishing with the aid of officer formations behind his lines. Strong officer cadres at the front had provided a firm organizational nucleus for this youth at the front. Thus, early in 1919 Kolchak had at his disposal a Siberian army the internal class antagonism of which had not yet burst out into the open. In order to enhance his prestige among the Allies, Admiral Kolchak had to "make hay while the sun shined."
The internal situation in the revolutionary camp held out some promise for success of offensive undertakings. We have already mentioned elsewhere the wave of petit bourgeois vacillations within Soviet-held territory, among the outward expressions of which were the social reformist party's rightist demonstrations in the spring of 1919 and the temporary increase in peasant revolts. Both of these manifestations were the result of our increasing difficulties in the matter of food supplies in the spring of 1919. The enemy, however, overlooked one unfavorable circumstance affecting him. The peasantry, in the course of its uprisings, did not show signs of favoring any action against the Bolshevik government, which demonstrated the firmness with which the Soviet principle had taken root among it as against the concepts of the Constituent Assembly. The food shortage was particularly acute among the Volga peasants. Here, in the immediate rear of the Soviet East Front, was a wave of peasant uprisings through the Simbirsk and Kazan governments. This circumstance, together with the failure of the Red Third Army and the transfer of some forces of the East Front to the South Front, temporarily rendered the armies of the East Front rather weak.
Taking advantage of this situation, the commander-in-chief of the Whites decided to continue his efforts for the delivery of a decisive attack against the northern strategic direction through Perm - Vologda. A successful attack in this direction would have led to a junction with the forces of the interventionists on the North Front. Upon establishing contact with the Allied forces, Kolchak might have developed an attack from Vologda against Petrograd - turning the Volga and Kama defense lines. Simultaneously with this assault the White high command aimed a powerful assault against the line of the middle Volga in the general direction of the Kasan - Simbirsk, which would have led it by the shortest route to the vitally strategic Moscow area and afforded them two permanent crossings over the Volga (bridges at Sviazhak and Simbirsk). The latter area was more important because it had covered more populated and opulent governments and brought closer the Kolchak forces to the armies of South counter-revolutionaries.
The conduct of the operation was entrusted to three separate armies under the immediate direction of Admiral Kolchak's staff: The Simbirsk army under General Gayda numbering 52,000 infantry and cavalry and 83 guns was already concentrated in the Vologda - Vyatka area approximately half way between Glazov and Perm; the Western Army under General Khanzhin numbering 48,000 infantry and cavalry, with 120 guns, deployed along the line Birsk (exclusive) - Ufa (exclusive); the Orenburg and Ural Cossacks, numbering 11,000 to 13,000 men. In all the enemy had at his disposal 113,000 men with over 200 guns. Of this number, 93,000 men occupied a front of 450 kilometers long, concentrating the forces into three separate powerful groups in the Vologda, Sarapul and Ufa strategic areas. The strategic reserves of the enemy were made up of General Kappel's corps of three divisions, situated in the Cheliabinsk - Kurgan - Kustania, and three infantry divisions that were being organized in the Omsk area.
In evaluating the plan of the enemy, we must once more consider the political situation. The huge scope of the undertaking as regards distances and the objectives involved precluded the execution of the same in a single undertaking from beginning to end with the forces at the disposal of the White armies. Consequently, the success of the plan was contingent upon the success of successive peasant mobilizations. Yet the political attitude of the Kolchak government with respect to the peasantry precluded any cooperation on the part of the peasantry, which could only result in its own enslavement. Moreover, each and every mobilization of the peasantry served to upset the unstable social balance of the White eastern armies, to the detriment of the Kolchak regime, scattering the officer cadres among the hostile peasant masses and opening the path for an intensified social struggle within the armies themselves. Under the circumstances, the Siberian high command might have counted upon the success of a brief thrust, on an offensive on a limited scale, and the interests of its policy and strategy should have impelled it to select such strategic undertakings which would have afforded it an opportunity for the extension of aid with the least practicable delay to the forces on the White South Front. All of these areas were situated to the south of Ufa. However, the formation of a powerful military White bloc and the possible fusion of the White governments of south Russia and Siberia did not seem to be the liking of the British. The British policy was to continue to push the strategic thought and will of the Kolchak regime in the direction of Vyatka and Vologda. Hence the plan of the spring campaign of the Whites in 1919 assumed a dual character, which is always harmful in military undertakings and in the case of comparatively weak forces is especially bad. This dual aspect was manifest in the endeavor to deliver simultaneously two powerful assaults both against Vyatka and against the front of the middle Volga.
The enemy, however, failed to gain the cooperation of the Ural Cossack forces in the execution of the large-scale offensive. The Red Fourth army commanded by Comrade M. V. Frunze, during February, 1919, succeeded in pushing its way in between the Orenburg military forces and the Ural Cossacks, having reached the line: Lbishchensk - Illtsk - Orsk. Under the circumstance the commander of the Red East Front, in the development of the directives of his commander-in-chief, notwithstanding the poor showing of the Third Army, was making preparations for the crossing of the Ural mountain ridge.
In the latter part of February and the beginning of March, 1919, the disposition of the Red forces was as follows: The extensive line from the Caspian Sea, through Slomikhinskoye, Iletsky-Gorodok, with a deep salient in the direction of Aktiubinsk, held by the enemy, and farther to Orsk, Kananikolsky factory, Bogoyavlensky factory (exclusive), was occupied by the Fourth Army and by the First Turkestan Army,* with a total strength of 82,000 men, 200 guns and 613 machine-guns. Further, extending along the line: Bogoyavlensky factory - Yavgeldin (exclusive), covering in excess of 200 kilometers, were the 10,000 men of the Fifth Army, including 42 guns and 142 machine- guns. In the Sarapul area, about 60 km. from the left flank of the Fifth Army, was situated the Red Second Army with an aggregate strength of 22,700 men, 70 guns and 475 machine-guns; and finally, in the Perm-Vyatka area, astride the main railway line, dispersed over a wide front, was the Red Third Army with 27,000 men (in round numbers), 69 guns and 491 machine-guns. The total strength of the East Front (group of armies) consisted of 111,000 men, 679 guns, 1,721 machine-guns, 5 armored trains and 30 airplanes.*
The general disposition of the Red forces extended over a greater area, and the troops were more scattered than was the case with the White forces, in which connection only one characteristic feature was to be noted, namely: their weak, attenuated center (Fifth Army) in the vital, strategic Ufa area.
The disposition of the opposing forces, prior to the launching of the decisive operations on the East Front, brought about a situation wherein the strong though highly scattered group of the south armies occupying more densely the north sector of the north front: Orsk - Sterlitamak (First Army, 18,000 to 20,000 men), had before its 52,000 men, 19,000 White troops. The weak Fifth Army with its 10,000 men was facing the very strong White group of forces of 49,000 men under General Khanzhin, and finally, in the northern areas the strength of the opposing forces was practically equal on both sides: in the Sarapol - Osinsk area 22,000 Red forces (second Army) had before them 21,000 Whites, while in the Vyatka - Perm area, 27,000 Red forces (Third Army) were faced by 32,000 White forces.
The actual operation for the crossing of the Ural Mountain ridge, with the consequent destruction of the hostile forces to be accomplished in the process, was contemplated by the commander of the East Front to be undertaken as follows.
The right-flank armies of the East Front (Fourth, Turkestan, and First armies) were to complete the destruction of the Orenburg and Ural Cossacks. The first army was then to advance in two columns against the city of Cheliabinsk. The right column (24th Infantry Division) was to proceed against the latter, turning the Ural mountain ridge in the south via Orsk - Troitsk. The left column (20th Infantry Division) was to advance from Sterlitamaka, directing its advance against Verkhneuralsk; it was to cross the Ural mountain ridge and thence turn against Cheliabinbsk. The mission of the Fifth Army included that of overcoming the Ural Mountain ridge within its own sector, the gaining of the rear lines of communication of the hostile Perm group of forces by an advance on Zlatoust - Cheliabinsk, and to assist the right flank of the Second Army. The Second Army was to endeavor to turn the right flank of the hostile Perm group, which was inevitably to lead to an encounter with the equally strong center group of the White forces. Finally, the powerful Third Army was given the passive mission of containing the hostile group of forces situated before it.
The plan of the commander of the Red East Front was also of great scope and involved a huge undertaking; it furthermore, called for a consideration of the possibility of the ultimate collection of forces by means of mobilization to be conducted locally. The existing situation, it would appear, called for a careful estimate of the situation at the time. But it was in this that the power of our political foresight manifested itself, which, in spite of the temporary vacillation of the peasantry our political and military leaders were capable of foreseeing the wave of heavy peasant reserves which ultimately arose behind the enemy lines and came to meet us in the form of Red partisan revolts which developed in a large-scale movement in the various parts of Siberia.
In comparing the plan of operation on both sides and in evaluating them, we wish to point out that both were predicated on inspiring activity; this lent great intensity to the nature of the subsequent fighting. Especially, in considering the White plans of operation, it is to be admitted that the execution of the plans involved had been contemplated along very simple lines: It provided for the delivery of two powerful assaults against the north and against the central strategic areas. The latter assault was to cut the communications of the powerful Red South group of forces, which was menacing the enemy, while this group of forces itself was to be forced back southward. In this manner the Whites were to obtain an opportunity for the development of the counter-revolutionary forces of Orenburg and Ural Cossacks and consolidate and secure their influence in Turkestan. The only thing which the Whites failed to take into consideration was the rather hostile attitude of the local population toward their political aims, along with the incipient discord and dissension which incessantly worked to undermine any unity and cohesion within the White armies.
With regard to the Red plans, there is to be noted the complexity and intricacies involved in a proper consideration of the time and space factors. As a matter of fact, a single glance at the map will suffice to convince one of the fact that a turning movement on the part of the First Army could not, considering the element of time, influence the operations of the Fifth Army, which had before it an enemy four times its own strength. And even if the Fifth Army would have succeeded in defeating this enemy, the influence which it might have brought to bear by gaining the rear of the White forces of the Perm group would have involved much time (a distance of 300 kilometers separated the Fifth Army from Cheliabinsk, and there were another 200 kilometers from the latter point to Yekaterinburg, renamed Sverdlovsk). Finally, the missions assigned to the Second and Third armies led them to an encounter with equally strong forces of the enemy, since the Second Army, in the execution of its mission could not avoid an encounter with the White Osinsk group of forces (mixed corps).
The reasons for the launching of the general offensive by he enemy were based on his partial success in the operation against the right flank of the Second Red Army, after a preliminary assault against its left flank - as a result of which the right-flank division of this army (28th) was driven back to the city of Sarapul in the latter part of February, 1919, drawing the Second Army back with it to the Kama river. Because of this fact, the left flank of our Fifth Army in the Ufa area became exposed, while the right flank of the Third Army remained at Okhansk. Thus, by means of a series of isolated assaults during February, 1919, the enemy succeeded in preparing a favorable line of departure for the launching a general offensive.
The general offensive was launched on March 4, 1919. The Simbirsk army under General Gayda, making its main effort in the area between Okhansk and Ossa, gained a number of partial victories in the sectors of the Third and Second armies. In the course of the 7th and 8th of March this army captured the cities of Ossa and Okhansk and continued to develop its success to the line of the Kama river. Thenceforward this army continued gaining local successes, hampered by the vast expanses of the theatre of operations, by the poor spring conditions of the roads and by the resistance of our troops. Aside from his local successes the enemy also succeeded in inflicting considerable losses in equipment (capturing a number of factories) and casualties among the Red Second Army. Only on the 7th of April did the enemy succeed once more in gaining a foothold in the Izhevsk-Votkinsk area. He occupied the city of Sarapul on the 9th of April. On the 15th of April the units of the Serbian Army on the tip of the right flank entered the roadless and wild Petchora area, in contact with small groups of the White North Front. This, however, produced no strategic results, as might well have been expected.
During the latter part of April the impulse of the advance of Gayda's army slackened, in view of the stronger resistance of the Red Third Army. It still succeeded in gaining some local victories on its left flank, forcing the right flank of the Red Second Army beyond the lower course of the Vyatka river.
Of greater intensity and momentum and of more importance was the development of the army under Khanzhin with the very beginning of its advance on March 6th. The assault group of this army found its way directly against the open gap between the inner flanks of the Fifth and Second armies. Attacking the left flank of the Fifth Army (left-flank brigade of the 27th Infantry Division), the assault group of the White forces repelled the left-flank brigade of the Fifth Army, and, turning abruptly southward and advancing by the Brisk - Ufa highway, began practically unhindered to crush the supply organizations of the two divisions (27th and 26th) of the Fifth Army that had been stretched out over a long thin line. After four days of fighting, cooperation between various units of the Fifth Army ceased, and the remaining forces of this army, divided into two groups, merely attempted to cover the two more important points within their sector, namely: the Menzelinsk and Bugulma areas. The introduction of local reserves in the sector of the Fifth Army, and attempts to assist the Fifth Army by the active operations of the group that had been concentrated on the left flank of the First Army in the Sterlitamaka area by the commander of the East Front, between March 13th to the 31st, failed to restore the situation of the Fifth Army, and, developing his success here the enemy, on April 6th, 1919, already captured Belebei. This compelled the withdrawal of the Fifth Army in two separate directions: toward Simbirsk and Samara. The enemy's advance in the Simbirsk area especially threatened both the city of Chistopol where considerable food supplies had been concentrated (which was so vitally needed at the center) and Kazan itself.
Thus, the advance of Khanzhin's army assumed the aspect of a strategical penetration of the center of the East Front. And while this had no particularly disastrous effect on the state of affairs on the entire front the reasons for it are to be found in the peculiar aspects of the conditions of the civil war itself. The vast spaces involved in the combat areas and the small forces employed within these areas tended to facilitate maneuver with small detachments. Notwithstanding the considerable depth of the penetration effected by the White forces, it failed to exert its influence in the neighboring groups of forces, and this made it possible to organize a proper counterattack. This, however, required considerable time, and for the time being the commander of the East Front had to devote his attention to the maintenance of his positions in the principal areas.
Be that as it may, however, the East Front, as was the case during
the summer of 1918, succeeded in attracting the wide masses of the people of
the country and their leading party throughout the land. The spontaneous
revolutionary actions of the masses, urged on by the appeal made by Lenin, who
called on the mobilization of the labor unions with a view to sending men to
the East Front, and saying that, "in order to consolidate our victory here
new, decisive, revolutionary methods are imperative," soon produced proper
results. Ere long a powerful stream of active and politically conscious
reinforcements, made up of members of the trade unions and volunteer workers
from twenty-two governments of the republic, found its way to the East Front. A
number of telegrams from the different cities of them republic testified to the
great enthusiasm with which the party nd trade unions conducted their
mobilization of men for the East Front. There also were sent the G.H.Q.
reserves, comprising the 2d Infantry Division and two infantry brigades (a
brigade of the 10th Infantry Division from Vyatka and a brigade of the 4th
Infantry Division from Briansk) along with 22,000 replacements. In addition,
the 36th Infantry Division which had completed its organization in Kazan, was
assigned to the East Front, and the 5th Infantry Division was moved up to the
East Front from the Vyatka area.
In the difficult situation that had developed on the East Front decisive efforts developed upon the South group of the Red armies under command of comrade Frunze.* The name of the latter is closely related to the decisive change in the campaign on the East Front, which paved the way for the beginning of the defeat of all general forces of the counter-revolutionaries. It is thus of interest to consider in more detail the numerous operations prepared and executed by comrade Frunze, which in the aggregate constituted the counter-maneuver of the South group.
* This group was organized on the 19th of March, 1919 under the control of comrade Frunze and consisted of the First, Fourth, and Turkestan armies.
For a better understanding of the further course of events we shall turn back somewhat - in order to get a better description of the line of departure of the South group and its regrouping in connection with the breakthrough of the front of the Fifth Army. With this background it will be easier to understand the valuable preparatory work undertaken by comrade Frunze on his own initiative and which was one of the main causes of the favorable development of the impending operations.
In the first part of March, 1919, the general disposition of the forces under comrade Frunze had been as follows. From the Caspian Sea up to Iletsk the front against the Ural Cossacks had been occupied by the Fourth Army (22nd and 25th Infantry Divisions) with the strength of about 16,000 men. From Iletsk through Aktiubinsk up to Orsk, inclusive, was situated the Turkestan army - 12,800 men. The strongest held line was that of the First Army, extending from Orsk (exclusive) to Sterlitamaka. Here were concentrated 20,000 men (20th and 24th Infantry Divisions, the Orenburg and Iletsk groups). The First Army, in conformity with the original intentions of the commander of the East Front, whose instructions had not been revoked at the time of the beginning of the withdrawal of the Fifth Army, was to advance on the front Kustanai - Troitsk, for which purpose it had concentrated on its right flank the entire 24th Infantry Division. The group had practically no reserve of its own.
This was the situation facing comrade Frunze when he was given command of the group of forces. As soon as the poor state of affairs on the front of the Fifth Army began to become apparent about the 15th of March, comrade Frunze instituted measures for the consolidation of his position in the Orenburg area and for the organization of a definite strategic reserve. This was accomplished by partly weakening the Fourth Army, from which he detached one infantry division (25th), but the army was therefore assigned merely a defensive mission. The Turkestan Army was given the mission of protecting the Orenburg area and of maintaining contact with Turkestan. It was reinforced with one brigade of the 25th Infantry Division for the purpose. The two remaining brigades of this division were transferred to Samara - railway junction of the railroads to Ufa and Orenburg. Subsequently the Fourth and the Turkestan armies were called upon to withstand, by means of active defensive undertakings, the renewed offensive undertakings of the Orenburg and Ural Cossacks.
Things were more complicated with regard to the First Army. The right flank of this army (24th Infantry Division) early in April successfully developed its advance against Troitsk whereas the left flank, in order to assist the Fifth Army, was called upon to send first three regiments to Sterlitamaka and then to move a brigade to Belebei. These forces had produced no material effect upon the state of affairs in so far as the Fifth Army was concerned. Particularly, the enemy succeeded in getting to Belebei before the Brigade of the First Army could reach there. In view of the previous weakening of the left flank by the First Army (though with the proper object of assisting its neighbor) the First Army was now in no position to accomplish anything against the enemy's occupation of Sterlitamaka on April 4, 1919. The enemy's occupation of Belebei provided an immediate threat to the rear of the First Army, which made it necessary to curtail the successfully developed offensive on the right flank of the First Army, i.e., by the 24th Infantry Division. Under cover of the vigorous fighting of the remnants of the 20th Infantry Division, withstanding the pressure of the enemy from Belebei towards the south, and gradually establishing itself beyond the Salmysh river, after twelve days of continuous marching, it succeeded in moving back the right flank of the army, which had moved too far in advance of the remainder the army forces, and to move back the 24th Division behind the 20th Division - in the vicinity of the Ivanovka village on the Tok stream. This skillful and highly proper retrograde movement undertaken by the First Army compelled the Turkestan Army also to effect a partial regrouping of its forces and to move backward, and between the 18th and 20th of April, 1919, the new front of this army extended along the line: Akitubinsk - Ilinskaya - Vozdvizhenskaya, which in turn compelled Frunze to consolidate the general situation of his two armies by moving up his strategic reserves to the Orenburg - Buzuluk area. Thus, the skillful regrouping of the forces by comrade Frunze during the period preceding the launching of the decisive operation served to facilitate the strengthening and consolidation of the left flank of Frunze's group as well as the accumulation of a strategic reserve near the decisive point of the impending counterattack.
The general concept of the counter-maneuver of the South group and Frunze's plan of operation consisted of the following. The last regroupings of the First Army and of the left flank of the Turkestan Army were already under way when the concept of the decisive counter-maneuver of the South group had taken on final form. The underlying thought of this plan, evolved gradually and in proportion as it was developed, assumed greater scope. On the 7th of April the commander of the East Front indicated only the concentration of the entire First Army in the Buzuluk - Sharlyk area for an attack against the enemy advancing in the direction of Buguruslan - Samara.* On the 9th of April the Revolutionary Military Council of the East Front broadened the scope of action of the South group, assigning to it the Fifth Army while at the same time allowing almost complete freedom of action to its commander. Frunze, upon the completion of the regrouping of his forces, was to deliver a decisive attack either before the spring weather spoiled the roads or at a later time, the immediate objective being the removal of the left flank of the First Army to the Samara-Zlatoust railway with a view to insuring the placing in reserve of the 26th Division (Fifth Army), wholly disrupted in the previous fighting.*
On the next day, however (April 10th), as a result of the conference held at Kazan between chairman of the Revolutionary Military Council, the commander-in-chief, and the Revolutionary Military Council of the East Front, a directive was issued on the 10th of April in accordance with which the South group was to be "crushed by means of an attack launched from the south against the north, against the hostile forces which continued to exert pressure on the Fifth Army, concentrating for the purpose a striking force in the Buzuluk - Sorochinakaya - Mikhailovskaya (Sharlik) area." Further there was stressed the need for halting the continued withdrawal of the units of the Fifth Army in the Buguruslan and Buzuluk areas, without, however, the use of forces assigned for employment in the decisive attack, but rather with the aid of forces organized in Samara by the local government military committee. Thus, this directive also, in its final form, opened a very wide scope for the independent strategical initiative of Comrade Frunze. Simultaneously with this directive there took place the formation of the "North Group" of forces made up of the Third and Second armies under the general command of Second Army commander (V.I. Shorin), with the mission of defeating of General Gayda's army. The boundary line between the two groups extended through Birsk and Chistopol and the mouth of the Kama (all points to the North Group).
The relative strength of the opposing forces in mid-April, 1919 on the East Front was such as to justify expectations of the successful execution of these missions. Actually, the general disposition of opposing forces in mid-April had been somewhat as follows. In the Perm and Sarapul areas, against the 37,000 men of the Red forces had been arrayed the 33,000 men of the Whites; in the area where the penetration had been effected there were still maintained 40,000 White forces against 24,000 Red troops. Thus the numerical superiority of the forces instead of the four to one at the beginning of the operation had now been reduced to a superiority of about two to one, owing to the skillful regrouping of forces effected by Frunze. In addition, the vastness of the theater of operations also favored the Red forces here.
Khanzhin's army, in proportion as it advance, stretched out its lines. In occupying the city of Buguruslan on the 16th of April, it was already spread out over a front of 250 to 300 kilometers, having its right flank on the mouth of the Vyatka river and left southeast of Buguruslan. On this front there were advancing, fan-wise, five enemy infantry divisions. Considerably refused behind this army was the army group belonging to General Below consisting of part of Dutov's south army that had been immobilized in the Orenburg area by the vigorous action of the First Army under comrade Gai.
Comrade Frunze decided on accomplishing his mission in the following manner. By concentrating his assault group in the Buzuluk area and by attacking with this group the left flank of the enemy, driving it back northward. The Fifth Army was meanwhile to halt the advance of the enemy in the Buguruslan area and along the Buguruslan railway, covering the Buzuluk - Buguruslan - Bugulma highway. Thus, the main objective was the hostile manpower, a destruction of which was to bring about the solution of all other problems. The plan of the counter- maneuver of the South Group, worked out in detail by M.V. Frunze, and constituting an instructive example of a skillful and precise strategic undertaking formulated by a military commander, we believe of sufficient importance to be considered in detail.
The general concept of Frunze's plan, in its practical accomplishment, divided itself into a series of special missions, which he assigned to his armies. The Turkestan and Fourth armies received confirmation of their previously designated missions (of the maintenance of the Orenburg and Ural districts). The main effort developed upon the First Army and the disposition of this army was affected for the purpose in accordance with the direct instructions of M.V. Frunze. The 20th Infantry Division was required to cover the regrouping of the First Army, for which purpose it was to maintain the line: Meleus - Aleshkino - Ratchino. The 24th Infantry Division, less one brigade, transferred to the assault group of the army from the Ivanovka area (north of the Tok stream), by vigorous action in the Bugulchak area, was to contain the enemy with a view to gaining time for the completion of the concentration of the assault group in the Buzuluk area. In the organization of the First Army there were transferred to it from the Turkestan Army: the 31st Infantry Division and a brigade of the 3d Cavalry Division. The leading elements of these units were to arrive in the Buzuluk area not later than the 18th of April. In addition there were assigned to the assault group: one brigade of the 24th Infantry Division, transferred to the Totskaya area, and from M.V. Frunze's strategic reserve there was transferred the 75th Infantry Brigade (2 regiments, shifted to Buzuluk. The remaining units of the strategic reserve were given the following missions: The 73d Infantry Brigade was to be transferred by the 18th of April to the Bezvobdnovka area, for the purpose of covering the concentration of the assaulting group, at the same time being incorporated into that group; the 74th Infantry Brigade remained at Samara in general reserve of the assault group.*
* The 2nd Infantry Division at this time was only arriving by rail in the city of Samara. On the 19th of April there were concentrating at that city a total of five regiments of this division. The division was in need of replacements.
In the distribution of the forces of the South Group there is to be noted, first of all, the relative strength of the forces that were designated for the execution of the active mission and those assigned on passive missions. Among the first were included, in general, the entire Fifth Army (the weakened 16th and 27th infantry divisions, the Orenburg Division and part of the 35th Infantry Division) - 10,700 infantry, 820 cavalry, 72 guns, occupying the appropriate front: N. Kalmykov - Arkhanghelsk;* the M.V. Frunze assault group (which in turn organized an assault detachment of its own), included the entire First Army, less the 20th Infantry Division (the 24th, 25th, and 31st infantry divisions)** and a brigade of the 3d Cavalry Division - 22,000 infantry, 2,000 cavalry, 80 guns - in the Ivanovka - Zimnikha - Buzuluk area.*** Thus, on a front of 200 to 220 kilometers, Frunze had developed for active undertakings, thanks to his skillful regrouping of forces, 36,620 infantry and cavalry forces with 152 guns, leaving for passive missions on the entire remaining front extending over a distance of about 700 kilometers - from Ivanovka up to the Caspian Sea - only about 22,500 infantry and cavalry troops with 80 guns.**** (The 20th and 22d Infantry divisions, units of the Turkestan Army, and local formations at Orenburg, Uralsk and Iletsk).
Further there is of interest, in the organization of the active group, the distribution of forces between those intended for frontal and flanking assaults. The first developed upon the Fifth Army - 11,000 infantry and cavalry forces (in round figures). For the second Frunze designated about 26,000 infantry and cavalry troops. The method adopted by comrade Frunze for the purpose of securing the concentration of his active assault force is also of particular interest: the three brigades ordered to cover this concentration (two brigades of the 24th Infantry Division and the 73d Infantry Brigade of the 25th Infantry Division) were given offensive rather than defensive missions.
Let us now proceed to examine the changes introduced into the plan of Comrade Frunze as a result of the receipt of new information affecting the situation, and first of all, let us analyze the Buguruslan and Sergievsk operations.
Frunze's plan, in its initial stages, contemplated the complete elimination of the hostile salient the head of which was already approaching the middle Volga: the enemy was threatening Chistopol on the Volga river (on the Second Red Army sector),* and in the Fifth Army sector the enemy was driving toward Sergievsk, pushing back units of the 27th Infantry Division to the Chelny railway station. The enemy threat in the Sergievsk area apparently disturbed the commander of the East Front most, in as much as any further successes of the enemy in this direction would have threatened the railway communications to the South Corps in the Kinel area, and the entire development of the group might have been disrupted. Meanwhile, the fall of Chistopol in connection with the unfavorable situation in the sector of the Second Army, which had already withdrawn on April 10th to the right bank of the Kama River, created a direct threat also to Kazan. This is why during the very last days before the decisive counterattack of the South Group, substantial changes were introduced in the distribution of forces and in the designation of missions as well as in the scope of the undertaking itself.
* On the 25th of April a hostile detachment had succeeded in capturing this point.
The front commander did not send the reinforcements that were still en route to the Buzuluk area (elements of the 2nd and 35th infantry divisions), but instead utilized them for the purpose of covering the Volga frontally, in accordance with a decrease of the Revolutionary Military Council of the front (group of armies) issued on the 16th of April, which pointed out that the enemy must under no circumstances be permitted to reach the line of the Volga river (reinforcement of the Fifth Army).* Aside from this two brigades were assigned to reinforce the Fifth Army from the assault detachment of the First Army (25th Infantry Division, less the 73d Infantry Brigade).
* One regiment of the 2nd Infantry Division was transferred to Melekes; one regiment was sent to Simbirsk, where the headquarters of the East Front had been situated, while one regiment, still en route, was sent by Vatzetis, commander-in-chief, to Glazov, to reinforce the Third Army. Later the commander of the East Front sent to Melekes also the brigade of the 4th Infantry Division, immediately upon its arrival.
Thus, the strength of the forces that had been designated for the flank attack was reduced to 3 infantry an 1 cavalry brigades (31st Infantry Division,** 73d Infantry Brigade, and a brigade of the 3d Cavalry Division), which testifies to the changes in the center of gravity of our attack from that of the flank and rear of the enemy to that of his front, and this was emphasized also by the corresponding change in the distribution of our forces: the Fifth Army by April 23d included 24,000 men, the reinforcements coming primarily from the assault group.
** The 31st Infantry Division consisted of two brigades.
The remaining forces of Frunze's assault detachment were given the designation of the Turkestan Army.
The above changes in the disposition of his forces caused Frunze also to effect changes in his original plan of action. These changes were due to the information of the enemy which Frunze succeeded in gaining during April 16 to 20 from intercepted papers and orders of the enemy. In conformity with these orders and reconnaissance data at the disposal at the headquarters of the group, the situation of the hostile forces on April 20 had been substantially as follows.
In the Samara-Sergievsk area was situated a powerful hostile group of forces consisting of the Ufa II Corps, numbering about 15,000 men (the right flank of this group extended up to the city of Chistopol); the III Corps of the enemy (the 6th and 7th Infantry Divisions, a chasseur battalion and three cavalry regiments), with a total strength of 5,000 men, was advancing on Samara from Buguruslan, with one division (6th) to the north and another division (7th) south of the Kinel river, and the cavalry group directed against the Tolkai railway station. On the 16th of April the corps was to reach the line: Podbelskaya - Chapurnovka. Behind this corps and without maintaining contact with the III Corps, on the line: Pokrovskoye - Natallino - Uteyev, there was to arrive on the 19th of April the VI Ural Corps of the Whites, with a total strength of only 2,400 men (18th and 12th infantry divisions).
In the Belebei area was concentrating the hastily organized corps under General Kappel, numbering 5,100 men, with the mission of developing an assault, upon completion of its concentration, in the gap between the III and VI Corps. Finally, farther to the south and also behind the left-flank corps of Khanzhin's Army there advanced the right-flank corps (V) of the South Army group under General Below to the Salmysh river, on the line: Imangulovo - Ratchino. The strength of this corps amounted to about 6,600 men. Behind the left flank of this corps, in the Uralka - Novonikitino area, was the IV Corps, the White reserve, numbering 4,600 men. The Orenburg I and II corps, with a general strength of 8,450 men, operated in the Orenburg area, endeavoring to seize Orenburg by attacks from the east and south, and extending further southward, to establish contact with the Ural Cossacks. In the Ural Steppes operated the Iletsk Cossack Division (1 900 men) along with numerous partisan detachments.
Thus, by April 20th the entire White front had been arrayed in oblique formations to the right, while the various formations involved had no actual contact among them. This was especially true with respect to the white III and VI corps. This particular disposition of the White forces over the vast territories onccupied by them served to suggest to Frunze the highly appropriate objective to be assumed in the premise, namely: the destruction in detail of these various White formations, beginning with those nearest to his own forces, i.e., the VI and III White Corps, delivering the main assault first against the gap separating these two corps. At the same time, the considerably strengthened Fifth Army permitted the assignment of more extensive missions, while the weakening of the forces of the assault detachment made it necessary to coordinate its activity more fully with the operations of the frontal group (Fifth Army),
Because of this Frunze's final decision was formulated on the 19th of April, 1919, as follows. The First Army (under Gai), launching a vigorous attack, was to contain the VI Corps of the enemy and by so doing secure the Turkestan Army on the right. The Turkestan Army was given the mission to defeat the enemy in conjunction with the Fifth Army and to repel his Buguruslan group, i.e., the III Corps, in a northerly direction, cutting it off from communications with Belebei. The army was to occupy for the purpose the line of Zagliadino - Buguruslan railway stations. The cavalry of the Turkestan Army was to reconnoiter the area between the hostile III and VI Corps; it was to maintain contact with the First Army and attack the rear of the III White Corps in the sector of the Sarai Gir -Filippovo railway. The Fifth Army was to launch a vigorous attack against the enemy facing it in the general direction of Buguruslan, with a view to capturing the latter. The execution of all these missions was to begin upon the completion of the concentration of the Turkestan Army.
At the same time, the front (group of armies) commander, distributed by the successes of the enemy, as already pointed out, in the direction of the shortest possible route to the middle Volga, and having weakened the forces of the South Group because of it, by the transfer of forces from its assault detachment, decided, with the aid of delayed reinforcements, sent to the Frunze Group, to undertake two other independent movements. First of all, the commander endeavored to take the hostile II Corps at Sergievsk into a pincer movement, from Melekes and Krotovka; for which purpose use was to be made of the 2nd Infantry Division and units of the 35th Infantry Division originally intended for assignment to Frunze's assault group.*
* Apparently, the front (group of armies) commander counted on the early arrival of the 33d Infantry Division from Astrakhan, and the 4th Infantry Division from the center (Moscow), which the commander-in-chief had transferred to the East Front, intended for the reinforcement of the Frunze group in place of the units that had been transferred away from this group, particularly so in view of the fact that in accordance with the new plan of action of the East Front the advance of the Frunze Group was to begin upon the completion of the maneuver against the hostile group situated at Sergievsk. Subsequent events failed to justify these assumptions. The immediate result, however, as we have already pointed out, was the sending of the brigade of the 4th Division by the commander-in-chief not to Alatyr, as originally desired by the front (group of armies) commander, but to Melekes.
Thus, in the final variant of the plan of operations, in addition to the main effort to be made in the Buguruslan area, another secondary attack was delivered in the Bugulma area (not considering the previously mentioned attack from the Sharly area). In this connection, the 2nd Infantry Division was transferred on the 24th of April to the South Group, though it still remained a few days in the Samara area in order to receive additional troops assigned to it.
The threat to Chistopol compelled the commander of the East Front to seek the protection of Kazan by the means of the active operations of the North Group of his armies, and the Third Army was accordingly ordered to launch an attack not later than the 29th of April, with a view to defeating the enemy situated west of the Kama river.* This was the third contemplated maneuver of the commander of the East Front, and finally, in the Orenburg area there developed and successfully concluded by the Red forces the fourth maneuver, brought against the will of the Red high command, which essentially served as a successful prologue to the principal maneuver of the South Group.
* More extensive operations of the North Army Group was to begin, according to the commander of the East Front, after the spring season of bad roads. Apparently, the North Group was independently to execute a mission with respect to the liquidation of the hostile forces before it, similar to that now undertaken by the South Group. In its reports to the commander-in-chief, the headquarters of the East Front pointed out that for the accomplishment of this mission it was necessary to reinforce the Third Army with an additional brigade, and the Second Army with two brigades of forces. From this it may be concluded that the commander of the East Front, in his estimate of the probable scope of Frunze's operation, contemplated to bring it about to the Ufa parallel and thus contemplated the execution his mission by means of a series of successive operations. Taking into consideration the vastness of the theater of operations and the dispersion of the forces within it, this, of course, was the only possible method to be adopted under the circumstances.
Before proceeding with an examination of the further military events, we shall briefly consider the condition of the morale and political aspects existing on both sides. The worn texture of the Red armies at the time of the launching of the active operations of the Frunze Group had been restored to a considerable extent. A flow of party (communist) and professional men mobilized from among the proletariat poured into the Red armies.
With respect to the first months of 1919, a report submitted to Petrograd in the Vyborg area by a comrade who returned from the East Front is characteristic of the situation existing at the time. This comrade was of the opinion that "at the time the particularly feverish process in the organization of the Red army has already passed. Life within the armies is beginning to settle down in the routine manner." Aside from this, the man reporting was convinced that the communists at the front found themselves out of place there owing to the attitude of the commanders (officers) toward them; that they feel as though "they were unnecessarily there," and that apparently this is due to the wrong policy of the "central military circles." In conclusion he pointed out that it was necessary to send to the front new communist groups in order to "relieve those tired out." The following circumstance was reflected in the situation as it existed at the time. As a result of the triumph of the Soviet arms at the close of 1918, there were many who believed that "the feverish building up" of the army was already completed, whereas, as a matter of fact, the entire work had just been started. Further, the weariness which had been noted among the mobilized communists at the front and the appearance and development of the so-called "leftist" military opposition - all this, naturally, could not help having its effects on the combat efficiency of the military units and was one of the reasons responsible for the initial successes of the kolchak offensive. This offensive had placed the problem in an entirely different light than as if "life within the armies" was beginning "to settle down in the routine manner." On April 10th Lenin addressed a special appeal to the Petrograd workers. In this appeal, Lenin stated that it was up to the Petrograd workers to do everything for the East Front, and mobilize everything, concluding with an expression of confidence that the "Petrograd workers would set an example to the entire country."
On the 11th of April, 1919, there appeared the famed "theses of the Central Committee of the Communist Party on the situation on the East Front." Appealing to the party for utmost effort and the mobilization of forces, the theses demanded the conduct of mobilizations throughout the trade unions. And further: intensified propaganda and agitation among the mobilized personnel; the replacement of all male employees by women;the establishment of an aid bureau or aid committees for cooperation with the Red Army; the extensive introduction, through the trade unions, of peasant elements, especially peasant youth from the governments lacking land ownerships, into the army and into the supply organizations on the Don and in the Ukraine. Among other things, there were being organized back in the latter part of 1918 az Petrograd the so-called indigent peasant regiments, to which each welfare committee sent two reliable peasants for service in the Red Army. As a consequence, there were organized three regiments at Petrograd made up of indigent peasants.
After the publication of Lenin's appeal and the theses of the Central Committee, feverish activity began at Petrograd. The problems of mobilization were taken up at the sessions of the Communist Party and at gatherings of organizers on the 22nd and 23d of April, 1919. It was decreed to mobilize 20% of the members of the Communist Party and 10% of the members of the trade unions for service at the front and in the Don territory, in the latter instance with a view to consolidating the influence of the Soviet government and Soviet organizations. Next it was decided to conduct mobilization among the Youth Organizations and Soviet commissariats the functions of which were placed, as far as possible, into the hands of women workers. In view of the fact that Yudenich had already gathered at Helsingfors "every possible volunteer rogue," it was assumed that if tens of thousands of Petrograd workers were sent to the East Front, the Don territory and the Ukraine, there would still be left at Petrograd more than 100,000 workers, with the aid of whom, "with increased vigilance," Petrograd could well be defended.
At Moscow, in view of the mobilization of the classes of 1890-1886, the presidium of the All-Union Central Council of Trade Unions called upon even such important category of workers as that of the railroaders to mobilize 30% of their qualified workers, while requiring the trade unions to mobilize all responsible workers of the trade union personnel and to leave only those that were absolutely necessary. On the 17th of April at the Moscow conference of factory and shop committees and trade unions, Lenin delivered an address at the conclusion of which a written note was made public by a 50-year old worker who announced that he was taking a rifle in hand and that he would defend the Soviet Union with has blood.
The All-Union Central Council of Trade Unions issued two proclamations to the workers of Soviet Russia. The manner in which the local organizations responded to the appeals of the Communist party may be judged from the fact that at Syrzan there was organized the 1st Communist Regiment, numbering 1,200 men, without outside aid in a period of five days; all members of the Communist party were mobilized at Symbirsk; at Samara the trade unions were placed under martial law; Nizhny--Novgorod conducted a general mobilization, organizing a workers shock battalion.
On the 25th of April there was held at Moscow a conference of the Central Executive Committee at which two extremely important decrees were issued. The first proclaimed the mobilization of the peasantry - each volost was to provide between 6 to 20 men, ex-soldiers as far as possible. The second decree proclaimed an amnesty for all persons arrested for any acts against the Soviet government, excepting those who actually participated in direct action against it.
On the 29th of April, 1919, the Central Committee of the Communist party, in view of the extremely difficult situation at the fronts, made an appeal to organizations calling upon them to organize and send three-fourths of their available members to hastily formed replacement units, to provide them with equipment, etc. The principal slogan adopted was: Give everything possible for the front.
There is no question but that the 1st of May holiday of 1919, celebrated by the use of this slogan and that all of the above-mentioned measures combined, together with the great enthusiasm of the working class and toilers, inevitably brought about a change in the situation at the East Front. As a consequence there was not only a restoration in the combat efficiency of the troops, but also a great improvement in the political class-consciousness of the population as a whole. The masses were ready to withstand new hardships for a triumphant conclusion of the civil war. Matters were quite different on the side of the enemy. By the time of the change effected in the situation at the East Front, the peasant elements in the lines of the White armies began to experience the same aspects of the mass transition of the peasantry to the revolutionaries which had by this time become quite apparent behind the lines of the White forces in Siberia. This process manifested itself in a mass partisan revolt movement and the abandonment of Kolchak's forces by the petit bourgeoisie and the more prosperous intellectual elements. This revolutionary change in the peasant psychology found its direct reflection also in the incipient disintegration of the White armies which had become apparent by most obvious signs. We have already mentioned the preparatory measures adopted by comrade Frunze with a view to the launching of a counterattack on the right flank of the First Army.
In his effort to seize Orenburg as quickly as possible, General Below, after a series of unsuccessful frontal attacks, decided on committing to action his reserves - the IV Corps under General Bakich. This corps, crossing the Salmysk river at Imangulov, on the tip of the right flank of the 20th Infantry Division, was to assist in the capture of Orenburg from the north and, in the event of its success, by advancing on Novo- Sergievsk, effect the envelopment of the Red First Army in conjunction with the V and VI White Corps. Comrade Gai, however, effecting a swift, skillful regrouping of his army, crushed General Below's group of forces in a three-day battle between April 22 and 25 and practically annihilated his 2nd Division, while remnants of the IV Corps deserted to the Reds. The defeat of Below's group was of strategical importance, inasmuch as it served to expose the communications of Khanzhin's forces to Belebei, while the First Army attained considerable freedom of movement.
In considering the circumstances leading to the defeat of General Bakich's IV Corps, we should first note the social aspects of this corps, which manifested a complete upset of the entire unsteady equilibrium which had as yet somehow been maintained among the Kolchak armies between the officers and men. The entire Kolchak policy before this with respect to the peasantry inevitably led to a break with the latter. The crushed IV Corps had been made up of peasants from the Kustania district recruited immediately after the suppression of peasant uprisings by the most cruel methods. The peasant-soldiers of this corps regarded their officers as the persons primarily responsible for the mass executions, and for their misfortunes. The corps under General Bakich, as demonstrated by subsequent events, constituted no exception to the general rule, and merely served as a more vivid example of the general process of disintegration which had set in among the White forces.
But while menacing events were developing for the forces on the left flank of Khanzhin's army, the leading elements of this army, which was by now reduced to 18,000 - 22,000 infantry soldiers, continued its race to the Volga, notwithstanding the apparent disintegration which set in within these forces. On the 25th of April units of Khanzhin's army occupied Chelny, situated not far from the city of Sergievsk, threatening Kinel, the rail junction on the supply line of the entire South Group, along with the base of operations of this group. Chistopol fell on the same day. These events caused the commander of the East Front to order the South Group to launch an attack without waiting for the completion of the concentration of the Turkestan Army. At the same time the forces on the right flank of the Second Army were ordered to attack in the Chistopol area with a view to recapturing Chistopol.
The successes of the front of the First Army permitted the assignment of more extensive missions to this army, namely: the 24th Infantry Division was ordered to advance directly against Belebei; the Turkestan Army (four brigades) was ordered to advance from its 65-km front of Chekalino - Feklino, due north; the Fifth Army attacked in the direction of Buguruslan, Sergievsk and Bugulma, having in rear of its right flank two brigades of the 2nd Infantry Division. The results of this offensive became apparent already on the 28th of April when the hostile 11th* and 6th Infantry Divisions were annihilated in a battle southeast of Buguruslan.
* In support of the reference made to the internal disintegration among the White forces, the details in connection with the route of the White 11th Infantry Division are of particular interest. This began with the desertion to the Red forces of the 41st Infantry, which had slain all of it's officers, with the exception of four, whom the soldiers regarded as their own owing to their peasant extraction and to the fact that these officers had lived for a long time in the localities whence the soldiers of this regiment had been recruited.
On May 1st the front of the Fifth Army extended south of Zagliadino
(southeast of Buguruslan), farther it proceeded along the line of the Kinel
river up to Podbielskoye, thence turning to the southwest via Sarbaiskoye (40
km north of Krotovka, railway junction of the Sergievsk railway branch), thence
again turning northwest to N. Orlianka; the assault group meanwhile remained a
full day's march in rear of the Fifth Army. The line occupied by this group
extended form Troitskoye (Touzanovo) on the M. Kinel river (25 km southeast of
Zagliadino) - Asekeyev; units of the First Army reached the line Komissarovka -
N. Kuzli (40 km southeast of Mikhailovskoye) - Sarai-Chir railway station.
The vastness of the theater of operations, however, somewhat delayed the strategic results of the flanking action of Frunze's forces. This explains why during these days the II Corps of the White was still gaining certain tactical victories, and repelling the units of the Fifth Army to the Cherniavka river and beyond the Shlamka river, while on the 27th of April the enemy seized the city of Sergievsk, and in the Chistopol area forced our troops back to Novo-Spasskoye from Romodana.
In the days that followed the advance of the South group continued to develop successfully. The commander of the East Front (group of armies) in order to bring about a more speedy action of the assault group against the hostile forces in the Simbirsk and Samara areas, ordered the axis of communications of the Turkestan Army to be turned somewhat due west, toward Bugulma, while directing the right flank of the Fifth Army toward the Shalashnikovo railway station, which further contracted the original scope of the turning movement of our flanking group.
In conformity with these instructions, the assault forces of the South Group were to effect a change of front from the northeast to the northwest. As a consequence, Frunze on May 1st decided, by means of a double envelopment, to destroy the group of the hostile forces operating to the southeast of the city of Sereievsk. With this in view, the First Army was, by means of the active undertakings of its left flank, to contain the enemy in the Abdulino area; the Turkestan Army was to advance with its right flank directly against Bugulma, while the Fifth Army, which had received a considerable number of reinforcements, to which we have referred to above (units of the 2nd and 35th Infantry Division), was to provide for a double envelopment of the White II Corps in the area between Buguruslan and Melekes. Upon the liquidation of the Sergievsk group of the enemy it was contemplated, by means of joint efforts, to repel the hostile Bugulma group, to drive it northward and to cut its communications with Ufa.
The Sergievsk operation also developed quite successfully. On the 4th of May units of the Fifth Army seized Buguruslan, and the front of the Turkestan and Fifth Armies extended along the line: Nov.-Toris - Elan - Buguruslan; before them, and in the vicinity of Sergievsk, on the line: Korzhevka - Karmalka - N. Orlianka, there were also present units of the Fifth Army, advancing on the city of Sergievsk from the south. The strategic situation of the White II Corps, threatened from the flank and rear, became precarious and could not be emeliorated by tactical victories in the Bugulma area, which had been brought about as a result of the withdrawal of the left-flank units of the Fifth Army behind the Kondurcha river. Actually, on the fifth of May, the White forces were already compelled to clear the city of Sergievsk and to begin a general, hurried withdrawal on Bugulma. On this same day .he strategical results of the counter-maneuver launched by the South Group also became apparent. This was noted from the fact that the White forces were compelled to abandon their gains also on the right flank of the Second Red Army, i.e., the effects of Frunze's undertaking began showing its results with respect to the situation of our North Group. On the 4th of May the White forces abandoned the city of Chistopol and began withdrawing eastward. In the sector of the Second Army, however, the Siberian Army under Gayda continued to make local gains, exerting much pressure upon the 28th Infantry Division of the Second Army and compelling it to withdraw behind the Vyatka river on May 4th.
Anticipating the successful outcome of the Sergievsk operation, M.V. Frunze, even before the conclusion of this operation, by a directive issued on the 4th of May, indicated a parallel pursuit of the enemy in the Buguruslan area, turning the right flank of the Fifth Army against the Dymka railroad station with a view to cutting off the line of retreat of the enemy from Sergievsk toward Bugulma. The Turkestan Army was to cover this movement from the direction of Belebei. But already on the 6th of May Frunze's plan outgrew these bounds and assumed the aspect of an extensive, new Bugulma-Belebei operation.
The operations which developed upon Frunze's decision which he adopted on the 6th of May, 1919, were closely interrelated, issuing one from the other, and because of this fact we have preferred to refer to them as the Bugulma-Belebei operation. The underlying thought of this operation consisted in cutting off the enemy from his rear communications with Ufa, and involved the same wide scope of strategic creative effort, as in the case of all preceding strategical undertakings by M.V. Frunze. The salient features of the operation were substantially as follows.
The First Army, actively defending Orenburg, was to move up its forces in the Orenburg area to the line: Ostrovnoi - Chernostozhskaya - Murantalovo. The remaining two divisions of this army (the 20th and 24th) were to reach the line Sterlitamak - Shafranovo, and by so doing protect the left of the Turkestan Army against a possible attack from the Sterlitamaka area. The latter was given the mission, upon effecting its concentration in the Sarai-Gir area, to advance directly against the city of Belebei.
The Fifth Army continued on its previously assigned mission, which required it to move up the right flank as quickly as possible to the Dymaka area. This far-reaching and brilliantly conceived operation would have brought about a complete envelopment of the enemy, if the disposition of the forces in the space provided for the same had been properly executed. As a result of the preceding operations, however, and the reduced depth of the turning movement of Frunze's assault group during the very beginning of the new understanding, the line occupied by the three armies under Frunze at the time of the launching of this operation, extended obliquely on the left, owing to the swift action of the Fifth Army. The Fifth Army, constituting the strongest force on the left and situated closest to the enemy, was to deliver a frontal attack against the enemy in the Bugulma area. This army, however, turned the enemy forces here with its right. The assistance of the Second Army to the right flank from the Chistopol area could not be counted upon owing to the considerable distance which separated it from the left of the Fifth Army and the slow progress of the Second Army. Let us repeat, this situation developed against the will of the commander of the South Group. The commander of this group could only gradually correct it, which he did by sending the Turkestan Army to Belebei instead of Bugulma, with the mission of destroying the Corps under Kappel, which was completing its concentration there.
The operation itself developed as follows. As was to be expected, the Red Fifth Army first established contact with the enemy at Bugulma, making its main effort with its right flank. On the 9th of May it deployed on the line: Avdulino - Repyevka -Dymskaya - Durasova. The right flank 25th Division was particularly threatening the hostile communications (the division being situated on the line: Avdulino - Repyevka), and it was ordered to continue its vigorous advance against the railway bridge across the Ik river, with a view to effecting the envelopment of the hostile Bugulma group of forces. In view of this threat, the enemy abandoned Bugulma, and the Red forces entered the town on May 13, 1919.
The advance elements of the Turkestan Army established contact with the White forces in the belebei area on May 11th, and the army developed in the Chegodayevo area on the 13th of May, having behind its right flank in the Birzhbuliakova area the 24th Infantry Division of the First Army, and further in its rear, in the Zildiarovo area, the 20th Infantry Division of that same army. Strictly speaking, the Belebei operations had been conducted without the control of the Fifth Army by Frunze. The new commander of the East Front, A.A. Samoilo, had decided on the employment of the Fifth Army to assist the North Group of the Red forces. On the 10th of May the Fifth Army was transferred to the immediate control of the East Front, (group of armies) and it was ordered, upon the occupation of the city of Bugulma, to re-form its lines facing to the northeast, on the line Rykovo - Bugulma -Kichui river, in anticipation of a further advance to the assistance of the Red Second Army; on the 14th of May Samoilo once more directed the main forces of the Fifth Army against Belebei, ordering there the 25th Infantry Division and placing in his reserve the 2nd Infantry Division, in the Sukkulovo area.
On the 17th of May Samoilo issued new orders calling for an abrupt turn of the main forces of the Fifth Army in a northerly direction. The army was ordered, while fir.protecting the Bugulma -Ufa and the Bugulma - Birsk areas, to cross the Kama river in the sector of the city of Elabuga - mouth of the Vyatka river, and to attack the left flank of the enemy operating north of the Kama river. Simultaneously, the Second and Third armies were to launch attacks against the hostile forces facing their lines. In view of the fact, however, that the hostile center of resistance in the Belebei area had not yet been liquidated, two divisions (the 25th Division in the Avdulino area and the 2nd Division in the Sukkulova area) of the Fifth Army were assigned to Frunze from the Fifth Army. Furthermore, the 1st Division of the Fifth Army was moved up along the Bugulma - Ufa railway line with a view to aiding the South Group. On the 19th of May Samoilo ordered the Fifth army to cross the Belaya river instead of the Kama river, for an attack against the rear of the enemy.
Thus, the Belebei operation was conducted by Frunze only with the indirect assistance of the Fifth Army,* while unified control in the Belebei area was upset. Comrade Frunze had made no changes in the orders issued to the First and Turkestan armies and merely called for most vigorous action in the execution of the same, in view of the clear indications of a disintegration within the lines of the enemy. The 25th Infantry Division received the mission of turning Belebei in the north. The resistance of the units of Kappel's corps, reaching Belebei one at a time, while the latter was threatened by a pincer movement from the north and south, was of rather short duration, and on the 17th of May the corps already abandoned Belebei and withdrew in disorder beyond the Belaya river, in the direction of Ufa. Failing to realize the true extent of the defeat of the enemy, however, in the Ufa area, Samoilo halted his pursuit on the 18th of May with the South Group on the line: Taikai-tay mountain - Shafranova - Lake Leli-Kul - Tiupkildy - Tamianova railway station, prohibiting the crossing of this line without special orders. His decision in the circumstances was based on apprehensions for a defeat in detail of units that may become separated from their base, and an over-extension of their lines in the course the pursuit of the enemy. He desired to conduct the pursuit of the enemy systematically and with concentrated forces.**
The Belebei operation was the final link in that chain of operations in which the South Group undertakings had developed, the beginning of which may be considered that of April 22nd (meeting engagement of the First Army on the Salmysh river). For nearly thirty days Frunze brilliantly executed the difficult mission imposed upon him and successfully wrested from the enemy the initiative. The moral consequences of the counterattack were equally significant: the internal bounds between the Kolchak armies were completely shattered.
While in the center of the Red East Front there was now a favorable
turn in the situation, in the neighboring sectors the enemy continued to gain
temporary successes. In the Orenburg and Ukrainian districts, taking advantage
of the weakened action there, the enemy also manifested greater activity: he
made unsuccessful attempts at the capture of Orenburg and temporarily gained a
foothold in Alexandrov-Gai. On the front of the Second Army the enemy succeeded
in effecting a local penetration in the vicinity of the Vyatskie Poliany
village (on the Vyatka river) on May 13th, though the reserve forces of the
Second Army soon liquidated this penetration. Meanwhile, during the latter part
of May, in the vicinity of Menzelinsk, the pressure of the Fifth Army already
made itself felt, and this caused the enemy to withdraw a part of his forces
from the line of the Vyatka river to the east. The Red Second Army took
advantage of this and on the 25th of May transferred its right flank (28th
Infantry Division) to the east bank of the Vyatka river, after which it crossed
the river with its remaining forces, swiftly moving up in the Izhevsk-Votkinsk
area, which halted any further progress on the part of the Siberian army under
General Gayda was soon required to abandon his active undertakings which he had embarked upon with his right flank in the Vyatka area with a view to paralyzing the action of the Red Second Army. In spite of the fact that early in June Gayda succeeded in forcing back the Red Third Army and in occupying temporarily the town of Glazov, he w soon compelled to begin a withdrawal in view of the general situation that had developed on the front.
It was now possible to proceed with an extension and exploitation of
the success that had been gained in the central sector of Frunze's front. The
commander of the East Front first of all contemplated the launching of an
attack against the hostile group operating north of the Kama river with the Red
Third and Second armies, while the Fifth Army was to prepare itself at the
lower stream of the Belaya for a transfer of two of its divisions to the right
bank of the Kama river with a view to assisting the two armies. The remaining
divisions of the Fifth Army, upon crossing the Belya, were to assist the South
Group in the capture of the Ufa area. The latter, in addition to the mission
referred to, was, by vigorous action, to crush any attempted offensive actions
on the part of the Orenburg and Ural Cossacks. The forces in the Urals, taking
advantage of the material assistance offered them by the British from Persia
via Guriev, laid siege to Uralsk, while the Orenburg Cossacks approached to the
very city of Orenburg. Both of these points found themselves in dire straits.
The successful conclusion of the Belebei operation untied the hands of the commander of the South Group in this connection. The commander of this group now had an opportunity to reinforce the forces that were operating in the Orenburg and Uralsk districts with three brigades of infantry and to launch a vigorous attack against insurgents in the Orenburg - Iletsk area and against the Ural Cossacks in the Novouzensk - Alexadrov-Gai area.
The events on the North Front were also somewhat affected by the situation on the East Front. The North Front, as we already pointed out, had been established by the Allied Powers with a view to assisting the East Front, which was the principal theater of operations. This assistance, however, was not brought about throughout the period of the existence of the North Front. During the time when in the Perm-Vyatka area the Kolchak armies were directing all of their efforts toward the development of their offensive undertakings, the White forces on the North Front found themselves incapable of undertaking any active operations of their own. The severe weather conditions within the northern theater of operations in the Murmansk and Archangel areas retarded any extensive operations during the winter period. Of the most important events there during the winter of 1918-1919 was the battle for the possession of Shenkursk, which was recaptured by the Red forces on February 25, 1919.*
* There were American troops operating in the Shenkursk area. Like the other forces of the interventionists, with the exception of the British, the American troops gradually abandoned the North Front in the course of the spring and summer of 1919.
The relative position of the opposing forces within the northern
theater of operations had not been subjected to any substantial changes during
the early spring of 1918. Attempts on the part of local anti-Soviet forces,
with the support of the Finnish government, in April, 1919, to gain a foothold
in the Olonets area and to extend their influence from there had soon been
crushed by the Soviet forces with the aid of the Ladoga Lake flotilla.
During the summer of 1919 within the principal areas of the theater of operations (Archangel and Murmansk) there was considerable disintegration among the counter-revolutionary forces of the Russian North armies which, per se, precluded any decisive undertakings by these armies. The disintegration in question had assumed the aspect of revolts on the part of entire units, the desertion of these units to the Red forces, and the abandonment of entire combat sectors. As a consequence of one such revolts on July 22, 1919, the city of Onega went over to the side of the Red forces. The disintegration also greatly affected the British forces operating on the North front. On the other hand, voices were heard in England demanding the withdrawal of British forces from the White Sea coast.
The matter was decided in principal in August, 1919. The British high command, however, decided on the delivery of a brief attack against the Red Sixth Army prior to the withdrawal of their forces with a view to facilitating their withdrawal. The relative strength of the opposing forces had been such as to permit such an undertaking. The strength of the hostile forces in the Archangel area was 32,000 men,* and in the Murmansk area, about 14,000 men, against which the Sixth Army could muster only about 22,700 men. The hostile advance was launched on the 10th of August and was directed against the upper stream of the North Dvina river. The Soviet forces were forced back toward Kotlas, whereupon the British halted their further operations and suggested to the Russian counter- revolutionary forces to evacuate the area and to proceed to other fronts of the civil war. The commander of the Russian counter-revolutionary forces, General Miller, rejected this and in turn decided with his own forces to launch an offensive in the Volgda and Onega areas. The regrouping of the White forces consumed the entire month of August; the Dvina area was considerably weakened by the enemy, and the second hostile offensive did not get under way until September. This time the enemy succeeded in gaining certain local victories only, recapturing the city of Onega and seizing the Plesetskoi railway station, whereupon his advance came to a halt, while the British troops meantime abandoned Archangel on the 27th of September and Murmansk on the 1st of October, leaving the hostile North army to its own resources. The numerical strength of this army was not more than 25,000 men, which was now called upon to defend the extensive front from the Finnish frontier up to the Ural mountains. Efforts toward raising the strength of these forces by the mobilization among the local population failed to produce any satisfactory results. The inhabitants of the Karelian Omega even went so far as to stage an armed revolt against any attempts at mobilizing them, and General Miller was compelled to abandon his efforts in this direction.
* These forces consisted of Russian White Guards and British troops. The forces of the other interventionists (American, French and Italian troops) had already abandoned the North Front.
Thus, as a result of the summer campaign on the North Front the complete security of Soviet strategy there now became apparent. It now remained only to wait until its complete abandonment. It was once more the result of that disintegration which had set in, and in ever greater force developed among the forces of the Northern anti-Soviet front early in 1920. The realization of the fruitlessness of any further struggle at this time had become so firmly established among the frontal units of the White forces that when at the district councils (Zemstvos) at Archangel the slogan was put forth of "reinforcing the front for a continuation of the struggle," the response was a series of new uprisings among which a series of gaps were created in the front that could not be filled up for a lack of forces.
The commander of the Red Sixth Army took advantage of this situation for the launching of a vigorous offensive and in the course of one week, from 8th to 15th of February, 1920, all three of the main sectors of the hostile forces were liquidated and the roads to Archangel and Onega were opened. The government of the Northern district fled to Archangel, abandoning its defenders to their own fate. Upon the receipt of information of its flight, control of the city of Murmansk was seized by the local workers on February 19, 1920. As a consequence of this, the group of forces of the enemy that was still maintaining itself in the Murmansk area began a hasty withdrawal into Finnish territory without awaiting the joining of the hostile forces from the Onega area - which were forced to capitulate.
The further advance of the Red forces to the coast of the White Sea and to the Arctic Ocean was carried on without any interference on the part of the enemy. On the 21st of February, 1920, the Red forces entered Archangel; on the 26th of February they captured the city of Onega; and on the 13th of March the Red forces were in Murmansk. Only in Karelia, in the Ukhta area, were there some minor counter-revolutionary forces, which formed the nucleus of the insurgent movement, which in the autumn of 1921 engulfed the Karelian isthmus. Deprived of the sole support that it had been receiving from the foreign troops, the Northern counter-revolutionary front was soon liquidated. This is the best proof of its poor organical relationship with the population, whose interest it was supposed to pursue and defend. As a consequence of its collapse the shores of the Arctic with two ice-free ports, with a territory of 640,000 square kilometers and a population of 640,000 were returned once more to Soviet control.
From the strategic standpoint, the operations of the opposing forces on the North Front, being of secondary importance, were not of any special interest. The scarcity of roads within this theater of operations, its vast stretches of ground that are difficult to traverse, the sparsity of the inhabitants, severe climactic conditions - all those factors served to hamper the freedom of action of military forces. The developments at this front, however, are of considerable interest from the tactical standpoint and a student, in studying the operations in the forests, under winter conditions, will find much of interest.