Counteroffensive of the Eastern Front of 1919
Counteroffensive of the Eastern Front of 1919
offensive operations of the troops of the Eastern Front from April to June against Admiral A. V. Kolchak's White Guard troops in the Civil War of 1918–20. (The commander of the Eastern Front was S. S. Kamenev, then A. A. Samoilo from May 9 to 25, and then again Kamenev; its Revolutionary Military Council incuded S. I. Gusev, M. M. Lashevich, and K. K. lurenev.)
By spring of 1919, Kolchak had created, with material support from the USA, Great Britain, France, and Japan, a strong army, of which 143,000 men, 1,330 machine guns, and 210 artillery guns operated against the Soviet troops of the Eastern Front (about 100,000 men, 1,882 machine guns, and 334 artillery guns). In February 1919 the Soviet troops of the Fifth, Turkestan, and First armies of the Eastern Front continued to press Kolchak's troops, but the advancing troops, especially the Fifth Army, were greatly under strength. On February 15, Kolchak ordered his troops to take up favorable positions for an offensive set for late spring of 1919.
On March 4, General R. Gaida's Siberian Army (48,500 men) opened an offensive against the Soviet Second and Third armies (42,000 men) and occupied Okhansk and Osa. Resisting stubbornly, the Soviet troops were forced to abandon Votkinsk on April 7 and Izhevsk on April 13 and then to retreat beyond the Viatka River in May. On March 6, General M. V. Khanzhin's Western Army (50,000 men) opened an offensive against the troops of the Fifth Army. The Western Army, which outnumbered the Fifth Army four to one in men and two to one in artillery and machine guns, occupied Ufa on March 14. The counterblow undertaken south of Ufa by the forces of the First and Fifth Armies failed. The Whites moved up reserves, broke through the front south of Ufa, and, developing the offensive, captured Belebei on April 7, BuguPma on April 10, and Buguruslan on April 15. The Ural and Orenburg White cossacks began active operations against Orenburg and Ural'sk. The Southern Group of the White Guard general G. A. Belov (14,-500 men) attacked at the juncture of the First and Fifth armies. The main forces of the Western Army reached the distant approaches to Samara and Simbirsk. The Eastern Front had no reserves and the situation became extremely grave.
The Theses of the Central Committee of the RCP (Bolshevik) on the Situation in the Eastern Front, written by Lenin and published on April 12, was a combat program for the party to mobilize the country's manpower and material resources for the defeat of Kolchak's troops. Reinforcements arrived on the Eastern Front—17,500 men by May 1 and 40,500 more men later in the month, including 7,500 Communists. The Eastern Front took priority in the shipment of arms, ammunition, and equipment. By May 1 the strength of the Eastern Front had reached 143,000 men, 2,455 machine guns, and 511 artillery guns, and superiority in forces had passed to the Red Army.
In early April the command of the Eastern Front worked out a plan for a counteroffensive that would deliver a flank strike from the south at the Whites' Western Army, which had extended itself over 450 km. On April 10 the Fifth and First armies were placed under the command of the Southern Group (which was formed on March 5 and which was composed of the Fourth and Turkestan armies) under M. V. Frunze. The Northern Group under the command of V. I. Shorin was composed of the Second and Third armies.
On April 28 the Soviet troops passed to the counteroffensive. The main blow was delivered by the 26th Division (division commander G. Kh. Eikhe) and the 25th Division (division commander V. I. Chapaev), which was transferred on May 4 from the Turkestan Army to the Fifth Army (army commander M. N. Tukhachevskii). The Whites passed to the defense and then began a retreat toward Bugul'ma. Buguruslan was liberated on May 4, Sergievsk on May 5, and Bugul'ma on May 13. As a result of the successful offensive, the Sixth Ural Corps of the Whites was routed, and the Second Ufa Corps and the Third Ural Corps were severely beaten. Between May 15 and 19 the Turkestan Army defeated the corps of General V. O. KappeP before it could deploy and liberated Belebei on May 17. The success of the counteroffensive of the Southern Group and the advance of the Fifth Army to the Kama and Belaia rivers forced the Siberian Army to withdraw part of its forces from the sector of the Second Red Army on the Viatka River to counteract the southern threat from beyond the Kama. This made it easier for the Second Army to pass to the counteroffensive on May 25, and the Second Army liberated Elabuga on May 26 and Izhevsk on June 7.
On May 29, Lenin established the goal of liberating the Urals before winter. The Whites' Western Army tried to create a defense line on the Belaia River; three groups of troops were formed—the Urals, Ufa, and Volga troops. During the night of June 4 units of the Fifth Army forced the Belaia River, defeated the enemy's Urals Group, and captured Birsk on June 8. During the night of June 7 the Belaia River was forced north of Ufa by the main forces of the 25th Division, which liberated Ufa on June 9.
The grave situation that arose at that time on other fronts compelled the Chief Command to withdraw some forces from the Eastern Front and to send them to Petrograd, to the Southern Front, and to the Ural'sk region. Nevertheless, the Fifth Army forced the Ufa River on June 25 and reached the Ufa plateau by July 1. At Orenburg the situation became stabilized. On the northern wing of the front the Whites, initiating a counterblow at the Third Army, took Glazov on June 2, but this did not change the situation. The Third Army passed to the counteroffensive on June 7 and routed the enemy. The threat to the rear of the Siberian Army by the Fifth Army forced the Whites to start a general retreat, and Perm' was liberated on July 1. Kolchak's troops were decisively defeated. The Soviet troops pursued the demoralized enemy, which retreated deep into its own territory. As a result of the subsequent Zlatoust, Ekaterinburg, and Cheliabinsk Operations, the whole Ural region was liberated by early August.
REFERENCESIstoriia grazhdanskoi voiny v SSSR, vol. 4. Moscow, 1959.
Eikhe, G. Kh. Ufimskaia avantiura Kolchaka. Moscow, 1960.
Boltin, E. A. Kontrnastuplenie luzhnoi gruppy Vostochnogo fronta i razgrom Kolchaka (1919). Moscow, 1949.