J. V. Stalin

The Situation on the South-Western Fornt

Ukrainian ROSTA Interview

June 24, 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.

The day before yesterday Comrade J. V. Stalin, member of the Revolutionary Military Council of the Republic, returned to Kharkov after having spent about three weeks at the front. It was while he was there that the Red forces began and gradually developed the offensive operations which opened with the celebrated breaching of the Polish Front by the Red cavalry.

Interviewed by a Ukrainian ROSTA correspondent, Comrade Stalin said the following:


When speaking of the operation of Comrade Budyonny's Cavalry Army on the Polish Front in the early part of June, many compare it—this breach of the enemy's front—with Mamontov's cavalry raid last year.

But such an analogy is quite incorrect.

Mamontov's operation was of an episodic, guerilla character, so to speak, and was not co-ordinated with the general offensive operations of Denikin's army.

The break-through of the Cavalry Army, on the other hand, is a link in the general chain of the Red Army's offensive operations.

Our cavalry raid began on June 5. On the morning of that day the Red cavalry, compressed into a tight fist, struck at the Polish Second Army, breached the enemy's front, raced through the Berdichev area, and on the morning of June 7 occupied Zhitomir.

The details of the capture of Zhitomir and of the trophies captured have already been given in the press, and I shall say nothing about them. I shall only mention one characteristic thing. The Revolutionary Military Council of the Cavalry Army had reported to front headquarters: "The Polish army looks with utter disdain on our cavalry. We consider it our duty to show the Poles that our cavalry has to be respected." After the break-through, Comrade Budyonny wrote us: "The Polish gentry have learned to respect our cavalry; they are on the run, tumbling over one another, and leaving the road clear for us."


The results of the break-through were:

The Polish Second Army, through which our Cavalry Army passed, was put out of action—over one thousand of its men were taken prisoner and about eight thousand cut down.

I have checked the latter figure from several sources and find it close to the truth, all the more that at first the Poles stubbornly refused to surrender and our cavalry literally had to hack their way through.

That was the first result.

Second result: the Polish Third Army (Kiev area) was cut off from its rear and was in danger of being surrounded, in consequence of which it began a general retreat in the Kiev-Korosten direction.

Third result: the Polish Sixth Army (Kamenets-Podolsk area), left without support on its left flank and fearing to be pressed against the Dniester, began a general withdrawal.

Fourth result: as soon as the break-through was effected, we launched an impetuous general offensive along the whole front.


As the fate of the Polish Third Army is still not clear to all, I shall dwell on this in greater detail.

Cut off from its base, and with its communications disrupted, the Polish Third Army was faced with the danger of being captured to a man. In view of this it began to burn its baggage trains, blow up its stores and put its guns out of action.

After its first unsuccessful attempts to retire in good order, it was forced to take to flight (wholesale flight).

One third of its effectives (the Polish Third Army had about twenty thousand men in all) were taken prisoner or cut down. Another third, if not more, discarded their weapons and took to flight, dispersing through the marshes and forests. Only the remaining third, and even less, succeeded in making their way back to their own side through Korosten. It is beyond doubt that if the Poles had not succeeded in sending timely aid in the shape of fresh units through Shepetovka-Sarny, this part of the Polish Third Army would also have fallen prisoner or would have dispersed through the forests.

At any rate, it may be considered that the Polish Third Army no longer exists. Such remnants as managed to get back to their own side will need thorough overhauling.

To give an idea of how badly the Polish Third Army was smashed, I must tell you that the entire Zhitomir highway was strewn with half-burned baggage trains and all kinds of motor vehicles, the latter numbering about four thousand, according to the report of our chief of communications. We captured 70 guns, not less than 250 machine guns, and a vast quantity of rifles and cartridges, which have not yet been counted.

Such were our trophies.


The present situation at the front may be described as follows: the Polish Sixth Army is retreating, the Second is being withdrawn for re-organization, and the Third virtually does not exist and is being replaced by other Polish units taken from the Western Front or from the far rear.

The Red Army is advancing along the whole front and has crossed the line: Ovruch-Korosten-Zhitomir-Berdichev-Kazatin-Kalinovka-Vinnitsa-Zhmerinka.


But it would be a mistake to think that the Poles on our front have been disposed of.

After all, we are contending not only against the Poles, but against the whole Entente, which has mobilized all the dark forces of Germany, Austria, Hungary and Rumania and is providing the Poles with supplies of every kind.

Moreover, it should not be forgotten that the Poles have reserves, which are already concentrated at Novo-grad-Volynsk, and their effect will undoubtedly be felt within the next few days.

It should also be borne in mind that there is as yet no mass demoralization in the Polish army. There is no doubt that more fighting is still to come, and fierce fighting at that.

Hence I consider the boastfulness and harmful self-conceit displayed by some of our comrades as out of place: some of them, not content with the successes at the front, are calling for a "march on Warsaw"; others, not content with defending our Republic against enemy attack, haughtily declare that they could be satisfied only with a "Red Soviet Warsaw."

I shall not demonstrate that this boastfulness and self-conceit are entirely at variance both with the policy of the Soviet Government and with the strength of the enemy forces at the front.

I must declare most categorically that we shall not be victorious unless we strain every effort in the rear and at the front. Without this, we cannot defeat our enemies from the West.

This is emphasized particularly by the offensive of Wrangel's troops, which has appeared like a "bolt from the blue" and has assumed menacing proportions.


There is not the least doubt that Wrangel's offensive was dictated by the Entente in order to ease the difficult position of the Poles. Only a naive politician could believe that Curzon's correspondence with Comrade Chicherin could have any other purpose than to use talk of peace to cover up the preparations Wrangel and the Entente were making for an offensive from the Crimea.

Wrangel was not yet ready, and it was for that reason (and that reason alone!) that the "humane" Curzon begged Soviet Russia to have mercy on Wrangel's forces and spare their lives.

The Entente evidently calculated that at the moment when the Red Army overwhelmed the Poles and began to advance, Wrangel would appear in the rear of our armies and upset all Soviet Russia's plans.

Undoubtedly, Wrangel's offensive has considerably eased the position of the Poles, but there is scarcely reason to believe that Wrangel will succeed in breaking through to the rear of our Western armies.

At all events, the weight and strength of Wrangel's offensive will be apparent in the very near future.

Kommunist (Kharkov), No. 140, June 24, 1920