Tiflis Operation of 1921
Tiflis Operation of 1921
a Soviet offensive on the Caucasus Front from February 16 to 25 as part of the effort to eliminate the last centers of resistance during the Civil War in Transcaucasia.
From February 12 to 15, a popular uprising against the Menshevik dictatorship flared up in Georgia. The Revolutionary Committee of Georgia, organized on February 16, requested armed assistance from the head of the Soviet government, V. I. Lenin. True to its international duty, the Soviet government issued an order to the troops of the Caucasus Front to support the insurgents in their struggle for the establishment of Soviet power.
On February 16 the Soviet troops assumed the offensive. The Eleventh Army, led by Army Commander A. I. Gekker and members of the Revolutionary Military Council B. D. Mikhailov and Sh. Z. Eliava, advanced on Tiflis from the frontier regions of Armenia and Azerbaijan. Two more simultaneous advances were mounted on Kobi and Kutaisi from the Vladikavkaz area by the Terek group of forces and on Sukhumi from the Gagra region by the 31st Rifle Division of the Ninth Army. The plan of the Tiflis Operation was to mount converging attacks on Tiflis by the troops of the Eleventh Army from the south and southeast to route the Menshevik Army and liberate the city. The Eleventh Army comprised approximately 40,200 bayonets and sabers, 1,065 machine guns, 196 guns, seven armored trains, eight tanks and armored vehicles, and 50 airplanes; the Menshevik Army had approximately 50,000 bayonets and sabers, 1,255 machine guns, 122 guns, four armored trains, 16 armored vehicles and tanks, and 56 airplanes. The Terek group was to divert part of the enemy’s forces, and the Ninth Army was to prevent the Entente from aiding Menshevik Georgia from the sea. In all efforts the Soviet troops were to cooperate with the rebel detachments.
From February 16 to 19, the Tiflis axis group, comprising three rifle divisions and one cavalry division under the command of M. D. Velikanov, mounted the main strike on Tiflis along the Baku railroad and highway. At the same time an auxiliary attack was mounted on Sartachala from Kakhetia by P. V. Kuryshko’s group, comprising one cavalry division and two rifle regiments. The offensive of the main forces of the Eleventh Army developed slowly at first because of heavy snows and the demolition of the Poilu railroad bridge by the enemy, which deprived Velikanov’s group of support from armored trains; other reasons included insufficient cooperation between groups, a preference for frontal attacks, and insufficient concentration offerees in decisive areas. On February 18, Velikanov’s group seized the almost inaccessible Kodzhori and Iagulzheni heights, but the positions gained had to be abandoned because of counterattacks by crack enemy units, which consisted only of Denikin’s officers and cadets. By February 22, the Poilu bridge was restored by the heroic efforts of workers, peasants, and soldiers of the Red Army.
After regrouping, the auxiliary group, now reinforced with one rifle division and one cavalry division from Velikanov’s group as well as with armored trains and aircraft, became the Right Group of the Army, under the command of N. V. Kuibyshev. It was given the task of striking a blow around Tiflis from the east and northeast. The Left Group (formerly the Tiflis axis group) was to assist with an attack from the front and around Tiflis from the west. On February 23 the Eleventh Army resumed the offensive. By the evening of the next day, after stubborn fighting that crushed all opposition, the enemy was forced to abandon the city after being threatened with encirclement. On February 25 forces of the Eleventh Army together with rebel detachments entered Tiflis.
As a result of the Kutaisi and Batumi operations conducted later by troops of the Caucasus Front, all of Georgia was freed of Menshevik troops by late March.
REFERENCESKadishev, A. B. Interventsiia i grazhdanskaia voina v Zakavkaz’e. Moscow, 1960.
Traskunov, M. B. Geroicheskii put’ ll-i armii nafrontakh Grazhdanskoi voiny (1918–1921). Tbilisi, 1958.
A. M. AGEEV