J. V. Stalin

The Military Situation in the South

January 7, 1920

Source : Works, Vol. 4, November, 1917 - 1920
Publisher : Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1953
Transcription/Markup : Salil Sen for MIA, 2009
Public Domain : Marxists Internet Archive (2009). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit "Marxists Internet Archive" as your source.


In the spring of 1919 a combined Kolchak-Denikin-Yudenich campaign was conceived against Soviet Russia. The main blow was to be delivered by Kolchak, with whom Denikin hoped to link up in Saratov for a joint advance on Moscow from the East. Yudenich was to strike an auxiliary blow, at Petrograd.

The aim of the campaign, as formulated in Guch-kov's report to Denikin, was "to crush Bolshevism at one stroke, by depriving it of its basic vital centres — Moscow and Petrograd."

The plan of the campaign was sketched by Denikin in a letter to Kolchak which fell into our hands when we seized Grishin-Almazov's headquarters in the spring of 1919. "The main thing," Denikin wrote to Kolchak, "is not to stop at the Volga, but to drive forward to the heart of Bolshevism, Moscow. I hope to meet you in Saratov. . . . The Poles will do their work, and as to Yudenich, he is ready, and will strike at Petrograd without loss of time. . . ."

That is what Denikin wrote in the spring, when Kol-chak's offensive on the Volga was in full swing.

However, that plan failed. Kolchak was thrown back beyond the Urals. Denikin was halted on the River Seim-Liski-Balashov line. Yudenich was pressed back beyond Yamburg.

Soviet Russia remained safe and sound.

But the Entente cannibals did not lose heart. By the autumn of 1919 a plan for a new crushing campaign was conceived. Kolchak, naturally, was ruled out. The centre of operations was transferred from the East to the South, whence Denikin was to strike the main blow. As in the spring, Yudenich was to deliver an auxiliary blow — another march on Petrograd. General Mai-Mayevsky, the former commander of the Volunteer Army, stated in a speech on the day after Orel was captured that he would be in Moscow with his troops "not later than the end of December, by Christmas 1919."

The Denikinites were so self-confident that already in October Donets capitalists were offering a prize of one million rubles (in tsarist money) to the regiment of the Volunteer Army which first entered Moscow. . . .

But it was the will of fate that this plan, too, should fail. Denikin's troops were hurled back beyond the Poltava-Kupyansk-Chertkovo line. Yudenich was routed and thrown back beyond the Narva. As to Kolchak, after his defeat at Novo-Nikolayevsk, nothing but a memory had remained of his army.

This time, too, Russia remained safe and sound.

The failure of the counter-revolutionaries this time was so unexpected and sudden that the vanquishers of imperialist Germany, the old wolves of the Entente, were obliged publicly to declare that "Bolshevism cannot be conquered by force of arms." The confusion of the imperialist fakirs was such that they lost the faculty of discerning the real causes of the defeat of the counter-revolution, and began to compare Russia, now with "shifting sands" where even the "very best general" was sure to fail, now with a "boundless desert" where even the "best armies" were sure to perish.


What are the causes of the defeat of the counterrevolution, and of Denikin in the first place?

A) The instability of the rear of the counter-revolutionary forces. No army in the world can be victorious without a stable rear. Well, Denikin's rear (and Kol-chak's too) is quite unstable. This instability of the rear of the counter-revolutionary forces is due to the social character of the Denikin-Kolchak government which mustered these forces. Denikin and Kolchak bring with them the yoke not only of the landlords and capitalists, but also of British and French capital. The victory of Denikin and Kolchak would mean the loss of Russia's independence, would turn her into a milch cow of the British and French plutocrats. In this respect the Denikin-Kolchak government is a supremely anti-popular, anti-national government. In this respect the Soviet Government is the only popular and only national government, in the best sense of the words, because it brings with it not only the emancipation of the working people from capitalism, but also the emancipation of the whole of Russia from the yoke of world imperialism, the conversion of Russia from a colony into an independent and free country.

Is it not obvious that the Denikin-Kolchak government and its armies cannot command either the respect or the support of the broad strata of the Russian population?

Is it not obvious that the Denikin-Kolchak armies cannot possess that passionate desire for victory and that enthusiasm without which victory is altogether impossible?

The Denikin-Kolchak rear is falling to pieces, and is sapping the foundations of the front, because the Denikin-Kolchak government is a government which spells bondage for the Russian people, a government which arouses the maximum distrust among the broad strata of the population.

The rear of the Soviet armies grows stronger and stronger and nourishes the Red front with its sap because the Soviet Government is a government which is emancipating the Russian people and which enjoys the maximum confidence of the broad strata of the population.

B) The peripheral position of the counter-revolution. Even at the beginning of the October Revolution a certain geographical demarcation between the revolution and the counter-revolution was to be observed. As the civil war developed, the areas of revolution and counter-revolution became sharply defined. Inner Russia, with its industrial and cultural and political centres, Moscow and Petrograd, and with its nationally homogeneous population, principally Russian, became the base of the revolution. The border regions of Russia, however chiefly the southern and eastern border regions, which have no major industrial or cultural and political centres, and whose inhabitants are nationally heterogeneous to a high degree—consisting, on the one hand, of privileged Cossack colonizers, and, on the other, of subject Tatars Bashkirs and Kirghiz (in the East) and Ukrainians, Chechens, Ingushes and other, Moslem, peoples—became the base of counter-revolution.

It will be easily understood that there is nothing unnatural in this geographical distribution of the contending forces in Russia. For, indeed, who else could constitute the base of the Soviet Government, if not the proletariat of Petrograd and Moscow? Who else could constitute the backbone of the Denikin-Kolchak counterrevolution, if not that ancient tool of Russian imperialism, the Cossacks, who are privileged and organized as a military caste, and who have long exploited the non-Russian peoples of the border regions?

Is it not clear that no other "geographical distribution" was possible?

But the consequence of this was (and is) a number of fatal and inevitable disadvantages for the counter-revolution, and an equal number of inevitable advantages for the revolution.

For the success of troops operating in a period of bitter civil war it is absolutely essential that the human environment whose elements nourish and whose sap sustains them should be solid and united. This unity may be national (especially in the early phase of civil war), or class (especially in the developed phase of civil war). Without such unity, prolonged military success is inconceivable. But the fact of the matter is that for the armies of Deni-kin and Kolchak, the border regions of Russia (eastern and southern) do not, and cannot, either from the national or the class standpoint, represent even that minimum unity of the human environment without which (as I have already said) serious victory is impossible

For, indeed, what national unity can there be between the national aspirations of the Tatars, Bashkirs and Kirghiz (in the East) and the Kalmyks, Chechens, In-gushes and Ukrainians (in the South), on the one hand, and the essentially-Russian autocratic administrations of Kolchak and Denikin, on the other?

Or again: what class unity can there be between the privileged Cossacks of the Urals, Orenburg, the Don and the Kuban, on the one hand, and, on the other, all the other inhabitants of the border regions, not excepting the Russian "inogorodnie," who have always been oppressed and exploited by their neighbours, the Cossacks?

Is it not obvious that armies composed of such heterogeneous elements are bound to break up under the first serious blow of the Soviet armies, that every such blow is bound to increase the gravitation of the non-Cossack elements of the border regions of Russia towards the Soviet Government, which categorically rejects dominant-nation ambitions and willingly meets their national aspirations?

In contradistinction to the border regions, inner Russia presents an entirely different picture. Firstly, it is nationally united and solid, because nine-tenths of its population consist of Great Russians. Secondly, achievement of the class unity of the human environment which nourishes the front and the immediate rear of the Soviet armies is facilitated by the fact that this environment includes the proletariat of Petrograd and Moscow, which is popular among the peasants and is rallying them solidly around the Soviet Government.

This, incidentally, explains that striking contact in Soviet Russia between rear and front, a contact of which the Kolchak-Denikin government has never been able to boast. The Soviet Government has only to issue a call for assistance to the front for Russia instantly to put up a whole array of new regiments.

It is here, too, that we must seek the source of that amazing strength and unparalleled resilience which Soviet Russia usually displays at critical moments.

Here, too, must be sought the explanation of the fact, so incomprehensible to the civilized witch doctors of the Entente, that "when the counter-revolutionary armies reach certain boundaries (the boundaries of inner Russia!), they inevitably sustain disaster. . . ."

But besides these deep-seated causes of the defeat of the counter-revolutionaries, and of Denikin in the first place, there are other, more immediate causes (we are referring chiefly to the Southern Front).

They are:

1) Improvement in the matter of reserves and replenishments on the Soviet Southern Front.

2) Improvement in the matter of supply.

3) The flow to the front of communist workers from Petrograd, Moscow, Tver and Ivanovo-Voznesensk, who have joined our southern regiments and completely transformed them.

4) Repair of the machinery of control, which had been completely shattered by Mamontov's raids.

5) Skilful resort by the command of the Southern Front to flank blows during the offensive.

6) Methodical character of the offensive itself.


Of all Denikin's units, the force that must be regarded as the most serious is the Volunteer Army (infantry), because it is the most competent and has a large reserve of regular officers in its regiments, and Shkuro's and Mamontov's Cavalry Corps. The task of the Volunteer Army was to capture Moscow; that of Shkuro's and Mamontov's cavalry was to pierce our southern armies and disrupt their rear.

The first decisive successes of our infantry were scored in the battles at Orel, in the Kromy-Dmitrovsk area. Here our infantry routed the First (the best) Corps of the Volunteer Army, General Kutepov's Corps, with its Kornilov, Drozdov, Markov and Alexeyev Divisions.

The first decisive successes of our cavalry were scored in the battles at Voronezh, in the area of the rivers Ikorets, Usman, Voronezh and Don. Here Comrade Bu-dyonny's cavalry group first encountered the combined forces of Shkuro's and Mamontov's Corps face to face, and overthrew them.

Our successes at Orel and Voronezh laid the foundation for the subsequent southward advance of our armies. The successes at Kiev, Kharkov, Kupyansk and Liski were only a sequel and development of our basic successes at Orel and Voronezh. The Volunteer Army is now retreating in disorder under the pressure of our units, with its communications and control disrupted, and having lost not less than half its old effectives in killed, wounded and captured. It may be confidently of-firmed that unless it is withdrawn to the rear and thoroughly overhauled, it will soon cease to have any fighting capacity.

As to Shkuro's and Mamontov's cavalry group, although it has been reinforced with two new Kuban corps (General Ulagay's and General Naumenko's) and General Chesnokov's Composite Division of Uhlans, it cannot present any serious threat to our cavalry. This was demonstrated in the recent fighting at Lisichansk, where the reinforced Shkuro-Mamontov group was utterly routed by our cavalry, abandoning seventeen guns, eighty machine guns and more than a thousand dead.

Of course it cannot be said that Denikin's armies are already smashed. Denikin's armies have not yet reached the degree of decomposition of Kolchak's armies. Denikin is still capable of certain tactical, and maybe even strategic, ruses. Nor should it be forgotten that in ten weeks we have succeeded in capturing from Denikin in all only about 150 guns, 600 machine guns, 14 armoured trains, 150 locomotives, 10,000 railway wagons, and 16,000 prisoners. But one thing is indubitable: Denikin's armies are irresistibly following Kolchaks down the inclined plane, while our armies are growing stronger from day to day, both qualitatively and quantitatively.

Therein lies the guarantee of Denikin's ultimate destruction.

Serpukhov, December 26, 1919

Signed: J. Stalin

P. S. 1 This article was written before Denikin's front was breached by our troops at Taganrog. That, in fact, explains its cautious character. But now, when Denikin's front has been pierced, when the Volunteer divisions are cut off from Denikin's Don and Caucasian armies, when in two days' fighting at the approaches to Taganrog (January 1 and 2) our forces have captured from the enemy over two hundred guns, seven armoured trains, four tanks and masses of other trophies, and when our forces, after liberating Taganrog, are besieging the seats of counter-revolution, Novocherkassk and Rostov—now it may quite confidently be said that the destruction of Denikin's armies is in full swing.

Another blow, and complete victory will be ensured.


January 7, 1920

The magazine Revolutsionny Front, No. 1, February 15, 1920

Signed: J. Stalin


1.The postscript was added by J. V. Stalin when the article was reprinted in Revolutsionny Front, a magazine published by the Revolutionary Military Council of the South-Western Front and the Council of the Ukrainian Labour Army.