The Military Writings of
Leon Trotsky

Volume 2, 1919

How the Revolution Armed

The Southern Front

I. The Red Army’s Offensive
Towards the Ukraine and the Don (January-May 15, 1919)


By the Chairman of the Revolutionary War Council of the Republic and People’s Commissar for Military and Naval Affairs to the ‘N’ Army, May 22, 1919, No.99, Izyum
[Izyum is south of Kupyansk, on another of the lines linking Kharkov with the Doabas.]

Transcribed and HTML markup for the Trotsky Internet Archive by David Walters

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To be read to all companies, batteries, squadrons and task-forces

Comrade soldiers, commanders, commissars!

Your army occupies one of the most important sectors of the whole Soviet front. Against the bands of Denikin and the White Cossacks, you are defending the approaches to the Soviet Ukraine and to Soviet Russia. And at the same tune by your advance you must clear the Donets Basin, unfetter the productive labour of the Donets workers, and give coal to Soviet Russia and the Soviet Ukraine. The whole country follows your struggle with strained attention. You have suffered many casualties. But at the same time you have been able to strike many hard blows. The moment of decision has now arrived. On every front the enemy has assembled all his reserves and thrown them into the final battle. [49] The landlord-bourgeois bands know that if they do not succeed this time in breaking through our front and strangling the Ukraine and Russia, the workers’ and peasants’ power will triumph forever in our country.

Denikin sends his paid agents into our units, to try and bring discord into our military family. Scoundrels, traitors and self-seekers attempt from time to time to violate discipline and bring about disorder and panicky retreat. Be watchful, comrade sol diers of the ‘N’ Army! Remember that upon your endurance, firmness and discipline depends the fate of the, working class and the working peasantry of the whole country for many generations to come.

On behalf of the Council of People’s Commissars and Revolutionary War Council of the Republic I express to all honourable fighters, as well as gratitude, firm confidence in your decisive victory in the near future.

Long live our valiant ‘N’ Army!

Long live workers’ and Peasants’ Russia!


49. As a result of three months of effort by the Red Army, between January and April 1919, to inflicta conclusive defeat on the White Guards in the South of Russia, the jatter were caught between the Northern Donets, the Don and the Sea of Azov, in the rectangle Taganrog-Bakhmut-Lugansk-Novocherkask (see Map 3). In May 1919 Denikin succeeded in bringing up to the Donets Basin a large part of the Volunteer Army from Caucasia, and got ready to launch a general offensive. Taking account of the advantage given by our position on Denikin’s flanks, our command decided to liquidate the enemy in the Donets area. On May 8 our offensive began, and by the middle of that month our Red units had occupied, after stubborn fighting, a large part of the Donbas, cutting the enemy’s communication by rail with Rostov. A cavalry group thrown behind Rostov was on May 6 already only 40 versts from that city. However, success on the flanks, not backed up on the central sector, failed to produce the intended rout of the enemy. On May 16 Denikin’s counter-offensive began. Concentrating forces that were larger and fresher than ours, Denikin struck his blows in two directions: on our right flank, at the southern border of the Donets basin, and at Millerovo. Makhno’s guerrillas, who were stationed on the Thirteenth Army’s right flank, were swept aside without difficulty, and Denikin’s cavalry rushed through the gap thus made. On May 23 the line of our front in that sector had been pushed more than 100 versts to the west. On June 1 the Volunteers had already taken Bakhmut. His superior numbers enabled Denikin to strike a simultaneous blow in the direction of Tsaritsyn, in concert with the rebel Cossacks of the Khoper [In the northern part of the Don country: the river Khoper runs south from near Balashov into the Don.] area. On May 24, Denikin’s units forced a crossing of the Northern Donets at Kamensk station, and on May 29 enemy units were already at Millerovo station. On June 7, they succeeded in linking up with the rebel Cossacks. In June 1919 our entire Southern front fell back. The state of our forces, worn out by their previous battles, and the complete lack of reserves, made it difficult to withdraw units from the fighting in order to reorganise them. (Map 3)

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Last updated on: 21.12.2006