The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



the White Guard counterrevolutionary regime established by General A. I. Denikin in 1919 in the south of Russia and the Ukraine. In terms of its social content, it was a military dictatorship of the Russian landlords and the big financial and industrial bourgeoisie. Support for the Denikinshchina was provided by a bloc of Constitutional Democrats (Cadets), Octobrists, and other counterrevolutionary forces. In 1918, with the aid of the Entente, Denikin was proclaimed commander in chief of the Armed Forces of the South of Russia. By the beginning of 1919, Denikin had managed to suppress Soviet power in the Northern Caucasus, unite under his command the cossack forces of the Don and Kuban’, and obtain large quantities of arms, ammunition, and equipment from the Western imperialists through the Black Sea ports. In the spring and summer of 1919, after protracted fighting, Denikin’s troops occupied the Donbas and the vast region from Tsaritsyn to Kharkov, Ekaterino-slav, and Aleksandrov. Having begun a campaign against Moscow in July, Denikin’s armies occupied Voronezh on Oct. 6, 1919, and Orel on October 13 and created a threat to Tula. In September 1919, Denikin’s armies had a combined total of more than 153,000 bayonets and sabers, 500 guns, and more than 1,900 machine guns. Contributing to Denikin’s success were counterrevolutionary uprisings in the rear of the Soviet army; the vacillations of the middle peasants in the Ukraine, who were still not aware of the danger posed by Denikin; the weakness of the Soviet apparatus in the provinces; the alignment of forces, which at that time favored Denikin on the Southern Front; the predominance of cavalry in Denikin’s forces; and the fact that the attention of a large part of the forces of the Red Army had been drawn to the decisive battles against the troops of Admiral A. V. Kolchak.

Denikin’s program amounted to the creation of a united indivisible Russia, in which he claimed the role of dictator. However he formally submitted to Kolchak, whom the allies recognized as the “supreme ruler” of Russia. Denikin’s great-power politics encountered opposition from the cossack state formations of the Don and especially the Kuban’, which sought autonomy and a federal structure for the future Russia; it evoked active resistance on the part of the bourgeois nationalist parties of the Ukraine, Transcaucasus, and Baltic region. The political heterogeneity of the Denikinshchina and the contradictions and differences that existed among its various social groupings were reflected in the organization of Denikin’s armed forces, which consisted of three armies: the Volunteer Army and the Don and Kuban’ cossack armies. Absolute power in the region occupied by Denikin’s troops belonged to him as commander in chief. The Special Conference under Denikin existed as a consultative body. The administrative and police authority of the tsarist apparatus was reestablished in the provinces. White terror was carried out in the areas captured by Denikin’s forces, including mass executions, violence, and pillage. One of the first acts of the Denikinshchina was the reestablishment of all the basic laws that existed prior to the October Revolution. Enterprises were returned to their former owners. Speculative trade flourished; supplies of raw materials were exported abroad; and the people’s property was plundered. Workers’ organizations were persecuted. The eight-hour workday promised by Denikin was not implemented. The landlords’ right to property in land was restored. In order to attract the peasantry in July 1919 a draft law by which a portion of the state and privately held lands was transferred to the peasants for a fee was worked out. Alienation of these lands was to begin three years after the establishment of peace throughout Russia.

The Southern Front became the main front in the summer of 1919. On July 9, V. I. Lenin summoned the country: “All out for the fight against Denikin!” The Soviet government worked out and implemented a number of important measures that made it possible not only to halt the onslaught of Denikin’s forces but to smash them as well. In October troops of the Southern Front, aided by the Southeastern Front, moved into a decisive offensive. After protracted fierce fighting, the White Guards began to retreat to the south. The Bolshevik underground and partisan movements began to expand their activity in Denikin’s rear. The middle peasants, having learned from their experience with the Denikinshchina, decisively turned to the side of Soviet power. Demoralization began in the enemy’s camp. On December 12, Soviet forces occupied Kharkov and on December 16, Kiev. The Donbas was liberated by early 1920 and Rostov, on January 9-10. By March, Denikin’s forces in the Northern Caucasus had been routed. Denikin, with a portion of his troops, fled to the Crimea. On April 4, Denikin retired and went abroad. He was replaced by P. N. Wrangel.


Lenin, V. I. Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed. (See reference volume, part 1, p. 195.)
Istoriia grazhdanskoi voiny v SSSR, vol. 4. Moscow, 1959.
Aleksashenko, A. P. Krakh denikinshchiny. Moscow, 1966.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.