Volunteer Army

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Volunteer Army


the attack troops of the counterrevolution in southern Russia during the Civil War.

The Volunteer Army began to be formed in November 1917 in Novocherkassk by General M. V. Alekseev and in early December also by General L. G. Kornilov and his supporters. Its formation proceeded initially on a volunteer basis from among officers, Junkers, cadets, university students, Gymnasium pupils, and the cossack elite. The creation of the Volunteer Army was officially announced on Dec. 27, 1917 (Jan. 9, 1918); Alekseev became its supreme commander, Kornilov its commander in chief, General A. S. Lukomskii its chief of staff, and General A. I. Denikin the commander of the 1st Division. A so-called council was created under the command (P. B. Struve, M. M. Fedorov, A. S. Khripunov, G. N. Trubetskoi, B. V. Savinkov). The leadership of the Volunteer Army was oriented toward the countries of the Entente. In early January 1918 the Volunteer Army numbered about 4,000 and was operating against Soviet troops jointly with Kaledin’s units. In late February the Volunteer Army, under the onslaught of Soviet troops, left Rostov and launched a drive to the Kuban’ (“the icy march”) in order to link up with the Kuban’ cossack counterrevolution. However, the majority of the Kuban’ cossacks did not support the Volunteer Army. Only a 3,000-man detachment from the Kuban’ Rada (Council), under General V. L. Pokrovskii, joined on Mar. 26, 1918, with the Volunteer Army, whose numbers had grown to 6,000. An attempt by the Volunteer Army on April 9-13 to capture the center of the Kuban’—Ekaterinodar (now Krasnodar)—ended in failure; Kornilov was killed. The command of the remnants of the Volunteer Army was taken over by Denikin, who went off to the remote cossack villages across the Don. In June 1918 the Volunteer Army was joined by a 3,000-man detachment under Colonel M. G. Drozdovskii. On June 23, the Volunteer Army (8,000-9,000 men), with the aid of the Don ataman P. N. Krasnov, began the so-called Second Kuban’ March with four nominal regiments (Kornilov, Alekseev, Markov, and Drozdovskii), which were later turned into divisions. By September 1918 the Volunteer Army had grown to 30,000-35,000 men through the mobilization of the Kuban’ cossacks and counterrevolutionary elements who had gathered in the Northern Caucasus, and began to be called the Caucasus Volunteer Army. In the fall of 1918 the governments of Great Britain, France, and the USA started to step up material and technical assistance to the Volunteer Army. With the support of the Entente, the forces of the southern Russian counterrevolution were united into the so-called Armed Forces of Southern Russia (VSIuR), headed by Denikin. In late 1918 and early 1919, Denikin succeeded in defeating the Soviet llth Army and capturing the northern Caucasus. In January the Caucasus Volunteer Army was divided into two armies: the Caucasus Army and the Volunteer Army proper, which was later joined by the Don Army, recreated from the remnants of Krasnov’s cossack army. After capturing the Donets Basin, Tsaritsyn, and Kharkov in June 1919, Denikin on June 20 (July 3) launched a march on Moscow, in which the main thrust was carried out by the Volunteer Army (40,000 men) under the command of General V. Z. Mai-Maevskii. A terrorist regime was being established in the territory captured by the White Guards. The White Guard troops were notable for their brutality and looting, and the Volunteer Army among the people was called the “looter army.” Militarily, some units and formations of the Volunteer Army possessed relatively high combat qualities, since it had a large number of officers who fanatically hated Soviet power, but in the summer of 1919 its combat capacity began to decline because of large losses and the incorporation into the Volunteer Army of mobilized peasants and even captive Red Army men. During the Red Army’s counteroffensive (beginning October 1919), the Volunteer Army suffered a decisive defeat and reeled southward; in early 1920 it retreated beyond the Don and, as a result of huge losses, was reduced to a corps (5,000 men) under the command of General A. P. Kutepov. On Mar. 26-27,1920, the remnants of the Volunteer Army were evacuated from Novorossiisk to the Crimea, where they joined the army of General P. N. Wrangel.


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