The Military Writings of
Leon Trotsky

Volume 2, 1919

How the Revolution Armed

The Southern Front

III. The Red Army’s Second Offensive in the Ukraine
(August-December 1919)


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

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Troopers! Cossacks deceived by Mamontov!

I address to you a brief word of explanation and warning.

Led by White-Guard generals, you broke through in the Novokhopersk direction, you temporarily captured Tambov, then you were driven out of it by our infantry, and now you are riding along the line between Kozlov and Bogoyavlensk.

You were assured that by this raid you would save Denikin’s army. But they deceived you. There is no way of saving Denikin. His forces have been exhausted. After routing Kolchak we have concentrated numerous forces on the Southern front which will strike a mortal blow at Denikin in the coming weeks.

In their first thrust they have captured Kamyshin and the important junction of Valuiki, in the Kharkov direction. All along the front the Red forces have gone over to a victorious offensive. Borisoglebsk and the railway junction of Povorino have been taken. [61]

The gate through which your horsemen broke has been closed by great masses of infantry. The Red Southern Front stands as a solid wall from the Volga to the Dnieper. You have no way of escape. Led by your generals you may manage to destroy this bridge or that, knock down some telegraph poles, burn a few storehouses, slaughter some unarmed workers and peasants whom you have captured. But there is no salvation for you. You are caught in a ring.

Your generals’ calculations have not been justified: the Southern front has not wavered in the least as a result of your breakthrough – on the contrary, it has become still more firmly welded, and has gone forward. Communication between your cavalry and the retreating armies of Denikin has been permanently severed. The reserves, both light and heavy, of the Southern front have been set to surround you, and, if you continue to commit outrages, to destroy, set on fire, plunder and violate – to crush you.

Deceived troopers!

There is only one path of salvation for you: renounce this shameful brigand raid against the workers and peasants, your selves arrest your criminal commanders, and stretch out the hand of reconciliation to the workers, peasants and Red Army men of the whole country.

If you do this, then, in the name of the workers’ and peasants’ government, I undertake to provide you with the possibility of a peaceful existence in Soviet Russia or, if you prefer, with unhindered return, when you wish, to your homeland.

The Soviet power does not wage war against workers, peasants and working Cossacks. The Russia of the working people wages ruthless struggle only against the landlords and those former Tsarist generals who want to restore the privileges of the nobles, the tyranny of the officials and the autocracy of Tsar dom. This war of extermination against the oppressors we shall wage to the end.

We have crushed Kolchak. The Red forces are approaching Kolchak’s capital, Omsk. The same fate is in store for Denikin.

Are you, working Cossacks, working men, going to give your lives for the people’s oppressors?

Now when you have learnt the truth, act as your conscience commands and as your own interest demands.

You are inside a ring of steel. An inglorious death awaits you. But, at the last minute, the workers’ and peasants’ government reaches out to you the hand of reconciliation.

August24, 1919
Izv.V.Ts.I.K., No.188


61. On our counter-blow in August 1919, see infra, note 66. The success of this offensive was partly paralysed by the breaching of our front by a large mass of Don Cavalry (7,000 sabres) led by General Mamontov. On August 10, having broken through the front at Novokhopersk, this cavalry force penetrated into our rear as far as Tambov, Kozlov, Yelets and Voronezh. Mamontov moved along from one railway junction to the next, destroying communications and depots and plundering the local inhabitants. This raid seriously disrupted the work of the rear, and some of our forces had to be diverted to oppose the raiding party. After the end of his raid, Mamontov succeeded in rejoining the forces of his front at Voronezh. (Map 3).

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Last updated on: 22.12.2006