Uralsk Defense of 1919
Ural’sk Defense of 1919
the heroic defense of Ural’sk by Soviet troops and workers from Apr. 20 to July 11, 1919, during the Civil War (1918–20).
In March and April 1919, the Western Army of A. V. Kolchak rapidly advanced toward Samara. As a result, the Soviet command of the Southern Group of the Eastern Front was forced to withdraw part of the Fourth Army from the Ural’sk and Orenburg axes in order to strengthen the Samara-Ufa axis and prepare a counterattack against the flank of the White Guard’s Western Army. The main forces of the White Cossack Urals Army of General V. S. Tolstov (with approximately 11,500 bayonets and sabers, 78 machine guns, and 21 artillery pieces) took advantage of the weakening of the Fourth Soviet Army on the Ural’sk and Orenburg axes. Having begun combat operations on April 20, Tolstov’s forces defeated the Fourth Army near Lbishchensk and drove it back across the Ural River. On April 25, Tolstov’s men blockaded part of the 22nd Rifle Division (which had 2,500 bayonets and sabers, 27 machine guns, and 19 artillery pieces) in Ural’sk.
On May 9, Ural’sk was completely surrounded by the enemy. The White Guard command sought to take possession of the city and then to assist the advance of the Western Army to the Middle Volga, where the army could join forces with A. I. Denikin’s troops. The commander of the Southern group, M. V. Frunze, assigned the Fourth Army and the Ural’sk garrison the task of holding Tolstov’s army with a sustained defense; he also assigned them, together with the Orenburg Group, the task of defending the flank and rear of the Southern Group until the Western Army of the Whites was completely routed. The Ural’sk defense was led by the provincial revolutionary committee (chairman, P. G. Petrovskii) and the political section of the 22nd Division (military commissar, I. I. Andreev). The ranks of the garrison were filled out by Communists and workers. A druzhina (armed workers’ detachment) was formed, and defensive structures were built. These measures permitted the defenders of Ural’sk to repulse the enemy’s assaults of May 13,17, and 25 and June 1.
In mid-May, however, the White Cossacks managed to frustrate the Fourth Army’s attempt to lift the siege of Ural’sk. In June the White Cossacks lengthened their perimeter of encirclement, so that it extended 120 km to the north and 80–100 km to the west. The position of the besieged was thus worsened. Supplies of ammunition, food, and fodder dwindled in the city. Moreover, the counterrevolutionaries increased their use of sabotage.
Between July 5 and July 11 the Soviet command incorporated a special brigade and the 25th Rifle Division of V. I. Chapaev into the Fourth Army in order to help the army lift the siege of Ural’sk. On July 11 the 25th Division broke through to Ural’sk from the north and liberated the city.
The Ural’sk defense of 1919, having paralyzed a large portion of the enemy’s forces, ensured that the flank and rear of the Southern Group were covered during the counteroffensive of the Eastern Front in 1919.
REFERENCESFrunze, M. V. Izbr. proizv., vol. 1. Moscow, 1957.
Istoriia Grazhdanskoi voiny v SSSR, vol. 4. Moscow, 1959.
Petrovskii, P. G. “Trekhmesiachnaia osada Ural’ska.” In Kazakhstan v ogne Grazhdanskoi voiny. Alma-Ata, 1960.
A. M. AGEEV