The Southern Front

The Fight Against Wrangel

Don’t Let Them Get Away!

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

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The first serious blows have been struck at Wrangel. [1] Prisoners have been taken, guns and other trophies captured. The offensive by Wrangel’s forces has been broken, and they have now been forced to fall back all along the front. Furthermore, all the signs indicate that the White-Guard command is endeavouring to avoid battle at all costs, to take refuge behind Perekop and there to wait for better days.

Wrangel’s soldiers, especially those from the Don and the Kuban, do not at all want to return to the Crimea. They had hoped by advancing to break through to their homes in the Don and the Kuban, to their stanitsas and their families. That hope proved false. The White command is ordering them to retreat, so as once more to hide behind the fortifications of the Isthmus of Perekop. The Don and Kuban men are discontented, for return to the Crimea means for them both hunger and an end to the hope of getting back to their families.

This is the decisive moment! If Wrangel were to succeed in withdrawing his forces into the peninsula, the successes we have achieved in recent weeks would be almost nullified. Behind the Perekop fortifications Wrangel would restore his forces, with the help of Britain and France, would strengthen them with fresh reinforcements, and then, choosing the right moment, would again launch an offensive towards the North. Even without advancing, Wrangel would inflict very great harm on the Workers’ and Peasants’ Republic, because he would compel it to keep a substantial army in readiness. There could be no question of demobilisation.

The task of the Red regiments of the Southern front is clear and simple: not to allow Wrangel to get away, not to let him out of their grip. He must at all costs be crushed before he reaches the gates of Perekop.

In the Crimea itself Wrangel has hardly any forces. He has thrown all his units that are capable of fighting on to the mainland side of the Isthmus. The Don and Kuban Cossacks, the Kornilov, Markov and Drozdovsky divisions – all are enclosed within the semicircle held by the Red Armies of the Southern front. The Wrangelites can seek shelter in only one direction – through the Perekop neck of the Crimean bottle. They must absolutely not be allowed to do this. They must be overtaken on the way, struck at from North, East and West, gripped in a steel vice, cut off from Perekop, overthrown, disarmed, annihilated. As soon as the enemy’s main forces on this side of the Isthmus have been smashed, the gates of Perekop will open almost by themselves, because the enemy will be unable to find sufficient manpower to defend them.

If we were to let Wrangel escape, he could bar the narrow passage of Perekop with a small force. We should then have to throw in regiment after regiment, division after division, so as to break into the Crimea. Thousands and thousands of fighting men would perish in order to realise this aim.

The simplest and shortest solution is this – to crush Wrangel’s fighting force now. He is retreating, but we must not let him. He hopes to find shelter, but we must surround and destroy him.

Only speed of advance and vigour of attack can bring decisive success. Every needless halt, every delay, every minute lost is a grave crime for which great sacrifices will have to be paid when we reach Perekop.

The next few days will decide the fate of Wrangel and his army.

Do not let the enemy get away, pursue him tirelessly, make every effort – such is now the duty of the warriors of the Southern front. Red Army men, do your duty to the end!

En Route
October 27, 1920


1. After October 15, 1920 the intitiative in action on the front against Wrangel finally shifted to us. The armistice with Poland enabled us to begin reinforcing our troops on the Southern front and advancing towards its complete liquidation. Starting on October 26 our units, moving in from three sides at once, tried to cut off Wrangel’s lines of retreat to the Crimea. After seven days of fighting, in which he lost hundreds of guns and large stores of materiel, and 20,000 of his men were taken prisoner, Wrangel succeeded in withdrawing the bulk of his forces behind the fortifications of the Isthmus of Perekop. Our forces, not allowing the enemy time to prepare a stubborn defence, broke through these fortifications in a valiant attack, and by November 10 the whole of the Crimea was in the hands of the Soviet Republic. Wrangel’s principal cadres managed to get away by sea to Turkey. (See maps Nos.8 and 9, and the chronology.)

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Last updated on: 26.12.2006