Partisan Movement of 1918–22

Partisan Movement of 1918–22


during the Civil War in Soviet Russia, the armed struggle of the working people in the rear of the White Guards and interventionists, in defense of the gains of the Great October Socialist Revolution.

The anti-Soviet terrorist regime established by the White Guards and interventionists in the occupied territories, as well as the restoration of the prerevolutionary order, evoked the armed resistance of broad masses of the working people, who waged a partisan struggle. The Central Committee of the RCP (Bolshevik), headed by V. I. Lenin, attached tremendous importance to the partisan movement in the enemy rear and provided general leadership for the development of the movement in many regions, including the Ukraine, the Don, the Northern Caucasus, Siberia, and the Far East. Acting under the guidance of the Central Committee, underground party organizations established partisan detachments. They also attempted to assume the leadership of detachments that had developed spontaneously, hoping to give the partisan struggle organization and purpose and to coordinate it with the combat operations of the Red Army.

The character and scale of the partisan movement varied in different regions of the country, depending on the specific socioeconomic and geographic conditions and the distribution of class forces.

In the Ukraine and Byelorussia the partisan movement emerged in 1918, with the occupation of those regions by the Austrian and German interventionists. The movement was characterized by the combination of an acute class struggle with a national liberation struggle. As early as February 1918, N. A. Shchors’ partisan detachment began active operations in Chernigov Province and in neighboring provinces (the Gomel’-Novozybkov-Chernigov region). By the summer of 1918 the partisan movement had become broad in scope. Uprisings against the occupation forces and Hetman P. P. Skoropadskii’s regime broke out in June, encompassing the entire province of Kiev and the adjacent provinces. (The struggle was joined by about 30,000 partisans, whose leaders included V. S. Balias.) Two German divisions were sent to suppress the uprising. After fierce battles the partisans were forced to retreat in early August to the left bank of the Dnieper and then to a neutral zone between the Ukraine and the RSFSR.

The chief motive forces of the partisan movement in the Ukraine were the working class and the toiling peasantry. However, the well-to-do strata and even the kulaks participated in the movement, providing the main support for the Socialist Revolutionaries (SR’s), anarchists, and nationalists, who tried to subordinate the partisan movement to their aims. Consequently, insurgent detachments were sometimes headed by anti-Soviet elements, such as N. I. Makhno. This led to considerable difficulties and demanded great flexibility in leadership by the Bolshevik Party organizations, as well as skill in properly directing the partisan struggle and unmasking the anti-Soviet character of the ataman movement.

Leadership of the partisan movement in the Ukraine was exercised first by the People’s Secretariat and later by the All-Ukrainian Central Revolutionary Military Committee, which was established in accordance with a decision adopted in July 1918 by the First Congress of the Communist Party (Bolshevik) of the Ukraine (CP[B] of the Ukraine). The congress also adopted a decision calling for preparation for an armed uprising against the occupation forces and Hetman Skoropadskii’s dictatorship. On August 6 an uprising broke out in Chernigov Province, under the leadership of the Central Staff of the Military Insurgency, which was headed by N. G. Krapivianskii. However, the uprising failed, and the insurgents retreated to the neutral zone. A plenary session of the Central Committee of the CP(B) of the Ukraine (September 8–9) analyzed the causes of the failure and criticized the actions of the Central Revolutionary Committee. Without sufficient preparation, and solely on the initiative of A. S. Bubnov and G. L. Piatakov, the Central Revolutionary Committee had issued an order calling for a general uprising at a time when Soviet Russia, bound by the clauses of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk of 1918 (in Russian, the Brest Treaty), could not offer effective military aid to the Ukrainian people. In response to a directive issued by the plenary session of the Central Committee of the CP(B) of the Ukraine, two Ukrainian insurgent divisions of volunteers and partisans were formed in the neutral zone in the Surazh-Novgorod-Severskii-Ryl’sk region. The Second Congress of the CP(B) of the Ukraine, which was held in October 1918, called for the intensification of work among the masses, who were to be prepared for battles in defense of Soviet power. In November 1918, Soviet troops, supported by the partisan movement in the enemy rear, launched an offensive in the Kharkov and Kiev operational axes. Even before the approach of Soviet troops, the insurgents liberated Ekateri-noslav (now Dnepropetrovsk), Konotop, Pavlodar, Poltava, and other cities. In early 1919 the Red Army, in coordinated operations with the partisans, liberated a large part of the Ukraine from the interventionists and from Petliura’s troops.

In Byelorussia in 1918 partisans carried on operations in Minsk, Vitebsk, and Mogilev provinces. Local party organizations played an important role in launching and developing the partisan movement. To provide centralized leadership, a krai committee was established in August 1918 by a conference of Communist organizations in the occupied regions of Byelorussia and Lithuania. Because the Communists used the correct tactics, by the autumn of 1918 large masses of the toiling people had been drawn into the partisan struggle. A. F. Miasnikov played an important role in organizing the underground and the partisan movement. Relying on support from the partisans, Soviet troops liberated Minsk on Dec. 10, 1918, and Vilnius on Jan. 5, 1919. The partisan movement was one of the reasons for the collapse of the Austrian and German occupation in the Ukraine, Byelorussia, and the Baltic region.

During the Denikin occupation the partisan movement in the Ukraine was directed by the Frontline Bureau of the Central Committee of the CP(B) of the Ukraine, established in July 1919 and headed by S. V. Kosior. Direct leadership of the bureau was exercised by the Revolutionary Military Council and the general staff of the insurgent movement. In October 1919 the Frontline Bureau issued a directive to the partisans, calling for the opening of active operations. As a result, a number of cities were liberated, including Novomoskovsk, Poltava, Kazatin, and Kremenchug. In December 1919 more than 50,000 partisans operated in the rear of Denikin’s troops in the Ukraine. Communist activity in the partisan detachments of the Ukraine made it possible to overcome the influence of the SR’s, anarchists, Borot’bysty (a Ukrainian nationalist party of left SR’s), and other petit bourgeois parties. Between late 1919 and early 1920, more than 35,000 men in Makhno’s anarchist “rebel army” went over to the Red Army.

The partisan movement played an important role in the struggle against General A. I. Denikin’s White Guard armies on the Don, in the Northern Caucasus, and in Prichernomor’e. In these regions the organization of a partisan movement was complicated by a high degree of social stratification and by vestiges of social estates among the cossacks, which gave a heterogeneous and often a politically immature cast to the composition of the insurgent movement. The partisan movement on the Don was directed by the Don Bureau, established in the autumn of 1918 and later subordinated to the political section of the Southern Front. In Prichernomor’e the partisan movement was headed by the underground Northern Caucasus Committee of the party in Ekaterinodar. A military revolutionary staff of that committee coordinated the operations of the partisan detachments. The Novorossiisk underground committee of the RCP(B) was very active. In July 1919 the Northern Caucasus and Novorossiisk committees called a secret conference, at which a general staff and regional staffs were formed. This strengthened the party’s influence among the insurgent and partisan detachments around Novorossiisk and Tuapse, lending an organized, purposeful character to the detachments’ operations. In this region the 15,000-man “red and green” army fought successful battles against the White Guards and disrupted transportation on the Maikop-Tuapse railroad. In Stavropol’ Krai the partisan movement grew to considerable proportions under the leadership of the Caucasus Krai Committee of the RCP(B). The struggle of the Dagestan mountaineers was directed by the Dagestan Regional Committee of the RCP(B), headed by U. D. Buinakskii and D. Kormasov. Among those who played an important role in organizing the partisan movement in the Northern Caucasus were N. F. Gikalo, B. E. Kalmykov, S. M. Kirov, F. I. Makharadze, G. K. Ordzhonikidze, and A. Sheripov. The partisan movement in the Northern Caucasus diverted a considerable portion of Denikin’s forces and helped Soviet troops to foil the enemy offensive against Astrakhan.

In the Urals, Kazakhstan, Siberia, and the Far East the partisan movement emerged in the summer of 1918. Detachments of Urals workers and peasants engaged in partisan operations and offered stubborn resistance to the White Guards and mutinous Czechoslovak troops. The most memorable event was the raid by the partisan army under the command of N. D. Kashirin and V. K. Bliukher. Moving from the Orenburg region through the Southern Urals, the partisans joined the Third Army of the Eastern Front (the Urals Army Campaign of 1918). Between late 1918 and early 1919, uprisings of workers and mobilized peasants broke out in Omsk, Kansk, Eniseisk, and Tiumen’. In these regions the character of the partisan movement reflected the social heterogeneity of the peasantry, part of which was under the influence of SR’s and anarchists. The Communists had to work hard to overcome this influence. To help the Communists in Siberia and the Far East, on Dec. 17, 1918, the Central Committee of the RCP(B) established the Siberian Bureau of the Central Committee, whose members included F. I. Goloshchekin, A. A. Maslennikov, and A. Ia. Neibut.

On July 19, 1919, the Central Committee of the RCP(B) adopted a decision calling for the development of the partisan movement in Siberia, the merging of partisan detachments into large units, and the coordination of partisan and Red Army operations. The partisan movement attained its broadest scope in the provinces of Altai and Eniseisk. In the summer of 1919 the partisans of Altai Province united to form the Western Siberian Peasants’ Red Army (about 25,000 men), which, headed by E. M. Mamontov and I. V. Gromov, operated in the Slavgorod-Aleisk-Rubtsovsk region. The Chumysh and Gorno-Altai partisan divisions operated in other parts of Altai Province.

In Eniseisk Province the First Peasant Army was formed in the spring of 1919 under the leadership of A. D. Kravchenko and P. E. Shchetinkin. The Taseev Soviet Partisan Republic was founded southeast of Eniseisk in early 1919. Partisans also fought around Taishet, Tomsk, Cheremkhovo, and Irkutsk, paralyzing traffic on the Siberian Railroad. By the fall of 1919, Kolchak’s rear in Siberia was completely disorganized. About 100,000 Siberian partisans liberated vast regions from the White Guards even before the approach of the Red Army.

In the Far East, which was occupied by the Japanese and American interventionists, the largest partisan units were the Amur Army and the Eastern-Transbaikalia Front. Partisans under the command of P. N. Zhuravlev operated in the autumn of 1919 against Semenov’s troops and the Japanese interventionists in Transbaikalia. In early 1920 the partisan forces were consolidated into two corps, which assisted the People’s Liberation Army of the Far East Republic in the liberation of Chita in October. In the Amur region the partisans’ struggle was led by V. A. Borodavkin and S. S. Shilov. In February 1920, as many as 20,000 partisans liberated the Amur region.

The partisans of Primor’e were led by envoys of the Far East Krai Committee of the RCP(B), including S. G. Lazo, V. M. Sibirtsev, and A. A. Fadeev. In early 1920 the partisans liberated Khabarovsk and Vladivostok, but after the Merkulov counterrevolutionary coup in May 1921 the partisans had to take up arms again. Assistance from the partisan movement was of great importance to the army of the Far East Republic in the liberation of the Far East in 1922.

The partisan movement, in which hundreds of thousands of workers and peasants were involved, played an important role in the Civil War. It disrupted the rear of the White Guards and interventionists and was of considerable help to the Red Army in defeating the enemies. The partisan movement, which was primarily a peasant movement, was a manifestation of the rise and strengthening of the military and political alliance of the working class and the toiling peasantry.


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