Chita Operations of 1920

Chita Operations of 1920


during the Civil War of 1918–20, combat operations conducted from April to October 1920 by the People’s Revolutionary Army (PRA) of the Far East Republic and partisans against the White Guards and interventionists for the liberation of Chita. The western and eastern parts of the Far East Republic were separated by the “Chita plug”— the region including Chita, Karymskaia, Sretensk, and Nerchinsk occupied by White Guards (groups led by G. M. Semenov and V. O. Kappel’) and the Japanese interventionists. In order to eliminate the Chita plug, three operations were launched, during which the PRA command, in adhering to Lenin’s directive on the impermissibility of military actions against the Japanese forces, was compelled to avoid clashes with the Japanese at all costs.

By the end of March 1920, the White Guard forces under the command of Lieutenant General G. M. Semenov numbered approximately 20,000 men, 496 machine guns, and 78 guns. The activities of the eastern Transbaikalia partisans forced the White Guard command to tie up more than half of its forces in the Sretensk and Nerchinsk areas; west of Chita and in the city itself, the White Guards numbered 8,500 men, 255 machine guns, and 31 guns. Also here were units of the Japanese Fifth Infantry Division, which numbered 5,200 men and 18 guns. The PRA, then in the organizing stage (commander in chief G. Kh. Eikhe; members of the Military Council N. M. Goncharov and A. A. Shiria-mov), numbered, including the partisan detachments, approximately 9,800 men, 72 machine guns, and 24 guns.

In the first Chita operation (April 10–13), the PRA launched the main attack on Chita from the north across the Iablonovo Range and a secondary attack from the southwest. The main forces—V. I. Burov’s column—managed to reach the outskirts of Chita but were soon pushed back by the Japanese forces. In the west, E. V. Lebedev’s column advanced after the withdrawing Japanese forces to the Gongota station, where its advance was halted by the enemy.

In the second Chita operation (April 25 to May 5), a lack of coordination in the operations of three small columns of PRA forces and partisans (who had formed the Amur Front on April 22) enabled the enemy, strengthened by reinforcements, to halt the attack with a maneuver in the interior operational sectors and to throw the main PRA forces back to the west between May 3 and May 5. In the summer of 1920, the Far East Republic’s position became firmly established and, on July 17, the Japanese command was compelled to sign the Gongota agreement on the cessation of hostilities and to begin the evacuation of its forces from Chita and Sretensk on July 25. A neutral zone was established west of Chita. As a result, the focus of the struggle between the PRA and the White Guards was shifted to the Amur Front (commanded first by D. S. Shilov and then by S. M. Ser-yshev; members of the Military Council Ia. P. Zhigalin and S. G. Velezhev), where the PRA forces numbered approximately 30,000 men, 35 guns, two tanks, and two armored trains. The White Guards had approximately 35,000 men, 40 guns, and 18 armored trains.

In the third Chita operation (October 1–31), the partisans to the north and south of Chita launched various military actions, while the forces of the Amur Front passed to the offensive on October 15 and took the Karymskaia railroad station and Chita on October 22. Counterattacks by the White Guard forces were repulsed. On October 30, PRA units occupied the stations Byrka and Oloviannaia, and the remaining White Guards fled to Manchuria.

The crushing defeat of the White Guards made possible the unification of the Transbaikalia and Amur oblasts, forced the Japanese to hasten the evacuation of their troops from Khabarovsk, and paved the way for the liberation of the Far East.