Agony of white Novorossiysk

I. A. Vladimirov. The flight of the bourgeoisie from Novorossiysk. 1920 g.

Troubles. 1920 year.100 years ago, the Red Army liberated the North Caucasus from the White Guards. On March 17, 1920, the Red Army took Yekaterinodar and Grozny, on March 22 and 24 – Maykop and Vladikavkaz, on March 27 – Novorossiysk. Denikin’s troops in the region were finally defeated, their remnants were evacuated to the Crimea.

Retreat to the sea

On March 16, 1920, the troops of the White Don and Kuban armies were concentrated near Yekaterinodar. The headquarters and the South Russian government were evacuated to Novorossiysk. There were prepared positions around Yekaterinodar, and there were enough troops to defend the city. However, the Cossack units completely lost their fighting spirit and fighting efficiency. The Reds began shelling on March 17, and the Kuban people, and the Don people, fled after them. Whole divisions withdrew from their positions, plundered stocks of vodka, vodka and wine, got drunk and fled. The Reds themselves did not expect to see this and stood near the city for almost the whole day. Then, without a fight, they occupied Yekaterinodar and the crossings.

On March 17, 1920, Denikin ordered the withdrawal of troops for the Kuban and Laba, and the destruction of all crossings. In fact, the Cossack units fled on the 16th and completed the crossing on the 17th. The crossings, which were not taken care of during the stampede, were in the hands of the enemy. On March 18, actually breaking through from the encirclement, he forced the Kuban and the Volunteer Corps. The commander of the Don Army, General Sidorin, who arrived at Headquarters, reported on the complete decomposition of the Don units and that they were unlikely to want to evacuate to the Crimea. He offered to retreat to the south, to the mountain passes and further to Georgia. As a result, the meeting of the Don commanders and the Don faction of the Supreme Circle decided to withdraw according to the plan of the Headquarters.

As the situation at the front worsened, it became obvious that all the troops, not to mention their artillery, property, horses, and various supplies, could not be evacuated through the only Novorossiysk port. In addition, the evacuation of the wounded and sick, refugees continued. Denikin decided to withdraw his troops to Taman. Already in the directive on March 17, Denikin instructed the Volunteer Corps not only to defend the lower reaches of the Kuban, but also to cover the Taman Peninsula in the Temryuk area with part of the forces. The peninsula, covered by water barriers, was convenient for defense, the fleet could cover the entire way there with its artillery. The width of the Kerch Strait is insignificant, and the transport flotilla of the Kerch port was large enough and it could be easily strengthened. The commander-in-chief ordered to pull together transports to Kerch.

Withdrawal to Taman was expected in the future, and the Headquarters demanded to hold the line of the river. Kuban. However, the 4th Don Corps (which had previously abandoned its positions at Yekaterinodar), which had previously been the main striking force of the Don army and stood across the river above Yekaterinodar, immediately withdrew and fled to the west. On March 20, the commander-in-chief of the ARSUR gave his last combat order in the Kuban: the Kuban army, which had already abandoned the line of the Laba and Belaya rivers, to hold on to the Kurga river; The Don Army and the Volunteer Corps to defend the line of the Kuban River from the mouth of the Kurga to the Sea of ​​Azov; part of the Volunteer Corps to take Taman and cover the road from Temryuk.

This order could not be carried out by a single unit. The situation is completely out of control. Completely demoralized Kuban units fled by mountain roads to Tuapse. The Kuban Rada and the ataman, on the basis of the latest resolution of the Supreme Circle, demanded a complete break with the white command. As a result, the Red Army crossed the river without a fight. Kuban near Yekaterinodar and cut the front of the Don army. Starikov’s 4th Don Corps fled east to join the Kuban. Two other Don corps (1st and 3rd) fled towards Novorossiysk. Many Cossacks threw down their weapons and went over to the side of the rebels or the Reds. The command of the troops was lost. The echelon of the commander of the Don army simply followed to the west in the crowd of refugees, which the army had turned into.

The volunteers (they were the only ones who more or less retained their combat capability) were extremely annoyed by this situation. They feared that the fleeing Cossacks and crowds of refugees would cut them off from Novorossiysk. They also feared that if they retreated to Taman, the uncontrollable avalanche of refugees would simply crush them and upset any defense. And this is in a situation where the reds were running out. As a result, the volunteers and donors had to abandon the retreat to Taman. The Volunteer Corps weakened its left flank and directed all efforts to control the Crimean – Tunnel, railway line to Novorossiysk. On March 23, the Greens captured Anapa and the village of Gostogaevskaya. The indecisive attempts of the white cavalry to return these points under their control were unsuccessful. On the same day, the red cavalry crossed the Kuban, entered Gostogaevskaya and headed for Anapa. The cavalry was followed by the infantry. On March 24, the Reds cut off the Denikinites’ escape routes to Taman.

On March 22, the Reds occupied Abinskaya station and moved to Krymskaya. All roads were clogged with carts, carts, and various abandoned property. Impenetrable mud obstructed movement. Therefore, both white and red moved along the railroad. The artillery blocking the movement was abandoned. On March 25, volunteers, two Don corps and one Kuban division were stationed in the Crimean area. Whites fled to Novorossiysk under light pressure from the Reds.

It is worth noting that the Red Army, due to the continuous mass of refugees who flooded the roads, and the spring thaw, has lost its mobility. The Soviet command was unable to use the complete decomposition and decline of the enemy’s combat effectiveness in order to completely destroy and capture Denikin’s army. The red cavalry could not maneuver and usually just followed the enemy, gathering the stragglers and surrendering along the way. Some of them immediately joined the ranks of the Red Army.

The situation in Novorossiysk

When the commander-in-chief of the ARSUR moved to Novorossiysk, the city was under the rule of panic and, as Denikin recalled,

“Was a military camp and a rear nativity scene. Its streets were literally crowded with young and healthy soldiers-deserters. They rampaged, staged rallies reminiscent of the first months of the revolution, with the same elementary understanding of events, with the same demagogy and hysteria. Only the composition of the protesters was different: instead of “comrade soldiers” there were officers. “

Thousands of officers, real or self-appointed, of various “governments”, many of whom did not fight, and recently overwhelmed the rear in Yekaterinodar, Rostov, Novocherkassk and other cities, now overwhelmed Novorossiysk. They created their own organizations, tried to seize transports. Denikin ordered the closure of this amateur performance, introduced military courts and registration of those liable for military service. He declared that those who deviate from the account will be left to their own devices. Several front-line units of volunteers were transferred to the city, and they brought relative order.

Meanwhile, new crowds of refugees and Cossacks were pouring into Novorossiysk. Typhus continued to mow down people. So, the Markov division in a short time lost two commanders – General Timanovsky (in December 1919) and Colonel Bleish (in March 1920).


There were still many white troops near Novorossiysk, but they completely lost their combat potential. Denikin decided to concentrate efforts on the evacuation of the most persistent, undecomposed parts. However, even for this limited purpose, there were not enough courts. The steamers that regularly carried refugees abroad were quarantined for a long time and were delayed. The White Fleet with its base in Sevastopol, as during the disaster in Odessa, hesitated to send ships. Referring to the need to repair ships, the lack of coal, etc. In fact, the ships were again held back in case of their own evacuation. The fact was that in the Crimean rear, many did not believe in the reliability of Slashchev’s corps, which defended the passages to the peninsula. If the Reds had managed to overturn the Slashchevites, and the Crimea would have become worse traps for the whites than Novorossiysk, from there it was still possible to escape to the mountains and Georgia.

Salvation for many volunteers was the arrival of the British squadron under the command of Admiral Seymour. The admiral agreed to Denikin’s requests to take people, but said that he could take no more than 5-6 thousand people on warships. The head of the Entente military mission in southern Russia, General Holman, intervened and assured that more would be taken out. At the same time, General Bridge visited Denikin with a message from the British government. According to London, the position of the whites was hopeless, and the evacuation to the Crimea was impracticable. The British offered their mediation in concluding an armistice with the Bolsheviks. Denikin refused.

Holman kept his promise. The British squadron took in about 8 thousand people. In addition, British ships covered the loading of other ships with their artillery, shelling the mountains and preventing the Reds from approaching the city. On the shore, evacuation was provided by the 2nd battalion of Scottish riflemen. At the same time, transports began to approach. The evacuation commission of General Vyazmitinov allocated the first transports for the Volunteer Corps and the Kuban people. The rest of the arriving ships were intended for the Don people. The remaining artillery, horses, supplies and equipment were abandoned. All railroad tracks in the area of ​​the city were jammed with trains, and here the Whites abandoned three armored trains. In Novorossiysk, they burned down warehouses with military equipment, oil tanks and detonated ammunition. It was the agony of the White Army.

Denikin wrote in his memoirs that Novorossiysk, filled beyond measure,

“Flooded with human waves, hummed like a devastated beehive. There was a struggle for “a place on the ship” – a struggle for salvation … Many human dramas were played out on the haystacks of the city during those terrible days. A lot of bestial feeling poured out in the face of impending danger, when naked passions drowned out the conscience and man became a fierce enemy to man. “

There was not enough transport for the entire Don army. Sidorin was asked to take up positions near the city by troops and hold out for a day or two until the ships arrived. Or break through the coast in Tuapse. The road was closed by several thousand soldiers of the Black Sea Red Army (formerly “green”), but their combat effectiveness was extremely low. In Tuapse, there were stores of supplies, it was possible to connect with the Kubans and there it was possible to redirect transports going to Novorossiysk, or to send ships after their unloading in the Crimea. However, Sidorin could no longer lead his troops into battle. Many Don units have already ceased to obey the commanders, lost their organization and mingled into uncontrollable crowds. Some of the Cossacks tried to break through to the transports on their own. Another part fell into prostration, the Cossacks reached the “end”, learned that there was no further way, and dropped their hands. They burned fires, smashed property, shops, warehouses, got drunk. As a result, several thousand Cossacks, led by Sidorin, boarded British ships. Later, the Don commanders will declare “the betrayal of the Don army.”

General Kutepov, the commander of the Volunteer Corps, was appointed head of the defense of Novorossiysk. Volunteers covered the city and held a defense against the crowds of refugees in the port. Many citizens, even those who had the right to board, could not get to the steamers. On March 25, the Red Army, with the help of partisans, pushed the Denikinites away from the Tunnelnaya station and went through the pass to the suburban Gaiduk station. On the 26th, Kutepov reported that it was no longer possible to stay in the city. A spontaneous uprising could begin in the city, the Reds were on the way. The volunteers could no longer hold on. It was decided to leave Novorossiysk at night.

The whole night was loaded onto ships. On the morning of March 27, the ships with the White Guards left Novorossiysk. Almost the entire Volunteer Corps, the Kuban and four Don divisions were loaded onto transports. They took part of the refugees associated with the army. Denikin and his headquarters, as well as the command of the Don Army, were embarked on the auxiliary cruiser “Tsesarevich Georgy” and the destroyer “Captain Saken”. The last to be put on the Pylky destroyer was the 3rd Drozdovsky regiment, which was in the rearguard and covered the evacuation. In total, about 30 thousand people were taken to Crimea. The remaining donors and a small part of the volunteers who did not get on the ships moved ashore to Gelendzhik and Tuapse. Part of the Cossacks surrendered and joined the ranks of the Red Army, which entered the city on March 27, 1920.

British tanks VSYUR (Mk.V and Mk.A.) captured by the Red Army in 1920 near Novorossiysk

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