Orenburg Defense of 1919
Orenburg Defense of 1919
the heroic defense of Orenburg by Soviet troops and workers’ regiments of the city against White Cossack troops from April to June during the Civil War of 1918–20.
In March 1919, Kolchak’s troops passed to the offensive and began pressing the armies of the Soviet Eastern Front. By mid-April, General M. V. Khanzhin’s Western Army reached the approaches to the middle Volga. General G. A. Belov’s Southern Army Group and the White Cossack Orenburg and Ural’sk armies of Generals A. I. Dutov and V. S. Tolstov were approaching Orenburg and Ural’sk. Their mission was to capture the cities, stir up the counterrevolutionary segment of the cossacks against Soviet power, gain the rear of the southern wing of the Soviet Eastern Front and thereby aid the offensive of Khanzhin’s army, and link up with General A. I. Denikin’s troops. Orenburg was to be captured by strikes from three corps of Whites: the IV Corps of the Southern Army Group from the north and two corps of Dutov’s army from the east and south (about 21,000 infantrymen and cavalrymen, 223 machine guns, and 56 artillery guns).
The plan of the counteroffensive of the Eastern Front of 1919 was worked out by the front command with the participation of M. V. Frunze, commander of the Southern Group, and was approved by the Central Committee of the Party. It provided for a flank attack on Kolchak’s main forces along the Buguruslan-Ufa axis and the rout of the Western Army of the Whites while firmly maintaining the defensive in the Samara-Orenburg-Ural’sk triangle. The defense of Orenburg was entrusted to the Orenburg Army Group under the command of M. D. Velikanov (the 277th and 224th rifle regiments of the 31st Division and the 216th and 218th workers’ regiments, a total of about 6,000 infantrymen and cavalrymen, 84 machine guns, and 11 artillery guns). Three reserve workers’ regiments, each from 1,000 to 2,000 men strong, were hastily formed in the city.
On April 20 fierce fighting began against Kolchak’s troops, who tried to capture the city. To the superiority of the Whites in men and materiel, the defenders of the city opposed courage and wide maneuvering of troops along the most threatening axes of the enemy’s advance with a view to repulsing the enemy’s offensive with successive counterblows. The first counterblow was struck north of Orenburg on the Salmysh River. In bitter fighting that lasted from April 20 to 26, the 277th and 216th regiments, jointly with the 20th Rifle Division of the First Army, routed the IV Corps of the Whites, which tried to bypass Orenburg from the north, and then repulsed the II Corps of the White Cossacks, which was advancing from the east. On April 29 a counterblow was struck at the White Cossacks’ I Corps, which attempted to break into the city from the south. This corps attempted to bypass Orenburg from the west in early May. Supported by kulak mutinies, the White Cossacks occupied Iletskii Gorodok, but their further advance was halted by a counterattack of the 224th Regiment and the workers’ regiments. By mid-May the White Guards enclosed the city in a half circle and started besieging it. The workers asked V. I. Lenin for help. In telegrams of May 12 and 22, Lenin advised the staff of the Southern Group to find ways of rendering such help, and reinforcements began arriving in Orenburg on May 26.
The stubborn struggle of Orenburg and the rout of Khanzhin’s army, which began in the area of Buguruslan, Bugul’ma, and Belebei, forced the White Cossacks to pass to the defensive. In July the Orenburg Group of Soviet Forces passed to the offensive and liberated Iletskii Gorodok. Dutov and Belov’s White Cossack armies were totally routed in August during the Aktiubinsk operation of 1919. The Orenburg defense was an example of a heroic active defense along an auxiliary axis to promote the success of offensive missions along the axis of the main strike.
REFERENCESGrazhdanskaia voina v Orenburzh’e (1917–1919 gg): Dokumenty i materialy. Orenburg, 1958.
Vorob’ev, V. F. Oborona Orenburga (Aprel’-mai 1919 g.) [Moscow] 1938.
Obertas, I. L. Nachdiv dvadtsatoi Velikanov. Moscow, 1964.
A. M. AGEEV