Donbas Operation of 1919

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Donbas Operation of 1919


an offensive operation by the Southern Front (commanded by A. I. Egorov and members of the Revolutionary Military Council J. V. Stalin and M. M. Lashevich) from December 25 to December 31 against the White Volunteer Army and the main forces of the Don Army during the Civil War of 1918-20.

Pursuing the retreating enemy, the Soviet troops of the Southern Front (the Thirteenth, First Cavalry, and Eighth armies) forced the Severskii Donets River on December 23 and reached the line stretching from Izium through lama Station, Lisichansk, and Nizhnee to Slavianoserbsk. To defend the Donbas and cover the retreat of the main forces of the Volunteer Army in a southeasterly direction, General A. I. Denikin concentrated the group of General S. G. Ulagai (three cavalry corps and two infantry divisions) in the vicinity of Bakhmut-Popasnaia Stanitsa, intending to deliver a counterblow against the First Cavalry Army and drive it back across the Severskii Donets. The Soviet command decided to take the Donbas in a rapid assault. For this purpose the following mission was assigned. The Thirteenth was to advance on Slaviansk, luzovka, and Novonikolaevskoe. The First Cavalry Army (the 4th, 6th, and 11th Cavalry divisions) with the attached 9th and 12th Rifle divisions was to first capture Popasnaia, Debal’tsevo, and Ilovaiskaia in a swift offensive; then it was to take Taganrog and finally cut off the retreat of the Volunteer Army into Don Oblast. The Eighth Army was to advance on Lugansk.

On December 25 both sides set out to execute their assigned missions. To the north of Bakhmut and Popasnaia there was a meeting engagement between the First Cavalry Army and Ulagai’s group. Having broken the enemy’s resistance, the Soviet troops captured Popasnaia on December 26 and Bakhmut on December 27. The Thirteenth Army captured Slaviansk and Kramatorsk, and the Eighth Army had already taken Lugansk on December 24. Having suffered a defeat in the northern Donbas, the White Guard command decided to halt the Soviet troops on the Gorlovka-Debal’tsevo-Gorodishche line. However, units of the First Cavalry Army inflicted a major defeat on the enemy, driving him out of Debal’tsevo and Gorodishche on December 29 and out of Gorlovka on December 30. Pursuing the retreating enemy, the 11th Cavalry and the 9th Rifle divisions captured Ilovaiskaia on Jan. 1, 1920, crushing the Cherkess Cavalry Division of the Whites in the vicinity of Amvrosievka. On December 31 units of the 6th Cavalry Division smashed the Markov Infantry Division in the vicinity of Alekseevo-Leonovo. Remnants of Ulagai’s routed group quickly retreated to the Crimea and Rostov.

In the combat for the Donbas the Whites lost about 8,000 men. The Soviet troops captured 24 guns, 170 machine guns, five armored trains, and other materiel. The Donbas Operation was distinguished by the high maneuverability and decisive actions of the Soviet troops, the precise coordinated action between cavalry and infantry, and the skillful use of armored trains. Local partisans rendered great assistance to the Soviet forces. As a result of the operation a major coal region was liberated and the shortest routes to the Sea of Azov and to Rostov, the main center of southern counterrevolution, were opened up to Soviet troops.


Istoriia grazhdanskoi voiny v SSSR, vol. 4. Moscow, 1959.
Budennyi, S. M. Proidennyiput’. Moscow, 1958.


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