Red dawn

The Red Army pursued Denikin nearly 800 kilometres, arriving, exhausted, at Rostov in January. There, in early February, the Caucasus Army Group was established, consisting of the 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th Armies and the 1st Horse Army under the overall command of Tukachevsky, Only a third of the combined ration strength of 215,000 were combatants, including 23,000 cavalry. The 1st Horse Army, having completed formation in mid-November 1919, had led the way. With 15,000 cavalry, 19 pieces of artillery and eight armoured trains, it was now a formidable tool of war.

These forces completed the defeat of the southern Whites in April and extended their operations Into the Caucasus. The civil war seemed over.

Suddenly, however, Poland began advancing into the Ukraine on 25 April, Understanding that Denikin, if victorious, had intended to reincorporate their country into a new (White) Russian Empire, the Poles had waited until his destruction before beginning their own offensive. Polish troops entered Kiev on 6 May. Not intending to occupy the Ukraine indefinitely, but merely to round out their borders, the Poles were counting on the Directory forces of Petlyura, with whom they were in alliance, to raise a large Ukrainian army in support against the Reds. In the end, they were disappointed.

The Bolsheviks, on the other hand, had long-term plans for the Ukraine, Believing themselves attacked by the Allies through their surrogates, the Poles, they determined to reconquer the Ukraine and then advance into Poland. In the Bolshevik worldview, the conquest of Poland might conceivably lead to a general revolution throughout Europe. As for the Allies, they had indeed been supplying Poland, but were taken completely by surprise by the invasion themselves.

Two Red Army groups formed in response. Pushing Petlyura and the Poles out of Kiev on 12 June, they prepared for the invasion of Poland itself. Egorov, commanding the Southwest Army Group, consisting of (from north to south) the 14th, 1st Horse and 12th Armies, moved south of the Pripet Marshes on l.vov. T he Western Army Group, under Tukachevsky, contained (from north to south) the 4th, 15th, 3rd and 16th Armies. Tukachevsky advanced north of the Pripet Marshes on Warsaw. Owing to the immense barrier posed by the marshes, the groups acted independently. After major successes, both groups were repulsed, failing to take their end objectives.

In a major patriotic outpouring against the Red invasion, the Poles had assembled an army of 740,000, counting militia, reserves and non-combatants. The head of the Polish Army, General Joseph Pilsudsky, counter-attacked Tukachevsky from the Vistula River line near Warsaw in August. Both sides opened diplomatic talks that led to an armistice on 12 October.

Meanwhile, a weakened 13th Army had stood against a White resurgence in the south, in the Crimea. In September, Mikhail Frunze began preparing the assault on the Whites' positions on the Dnieper River line in the Northern Tauride. Under his command was the newly established Southern Army Group. By the end of October, five armies were concentrated against Wrangel in a 400-kilometre arc: (from west to east) the 6th Army, the 1st and 2nd Horse Armies, then the 4th and 13th Armies. These armies contained the highest number of Bolshevik Party members yet seen in a Red campaign, approximately one in eight, a proportion high enough to be classed, by their own accounting, as 'elite'.

Frunze's main strategy involved pinning the Whites along the eastern Tauride long enough for the 1st Horse Army to cut a swathe across their rear and sever their retreat into the Crimea. The majority of White forces would be caught in the open and annihilated. Failing to block the Whites from retreating into the Crimea, Frunze had no choice but a battle of attrition.

For the main attack on the Turkish Wall at Perekop, Frunze chose Vasily Blyukher's elite 51st Division, a division that had well proven itself against Kolchak, To achieve extra firepower, Blyukher fielded one machine gun for every 17 men. just before this attack, the cavalry component of the 51st crossed the Sivash Marshes on the night of 7/8 November along with the 15th and 52nd Rifle Divisions. According to Anarchist literature, Makhno's elite tachanka machine-gun regiment also crossed, an event that later Soviet history chose to ignore. Success in both sectors, at Perekop and the Sivash, resulted in the enemy's evacuation of the Crimea and the end of the major campaigns between Red and While.

The growth of the Red Army had been phenomenal in 1920. By October, the ration strength stood at 5,498,000. Only 1,780,000,

Red Dawn Art

Reds at Kakhovka stand triumphantly beside a captured MarkV tank autumn 1920. Painting by F. G. Krichevsky. (Soviet art card, c. 1931)

however, were at the front and of these only half a million were combat effectives. Approximately 159,000 were in the Labour Army, 391,000 in the Reserve Army, while half a million served In transportation, railway and administrative departments. A further 2,600,000 were stationed in the rear in military districts. These could be called upon for a host of duties pursuant to achieving a new 'socialist' future.

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