A. I. Denikin on the day of his resignation from the post of Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the South of Russia
Troubles. 1920 year. The armed forces of the South of Russia fell. The core of the White forces was evacuated by sea to the Crimea. But throughout the Caucasus, the wreckage of Denikin’s army and various autonomous and “green” formations were in agony.
The retreat of the Kuban people
The troops, which could not get onto the transports in Novorossiysk, moved along the coastal road to Gelendzhik and Tuapse. However, at the very first clash with the “greens” who were located in Kabardinskaya, they did not dare to engage in battle, they held out and fled. Some of them were able to pick up ships and took them to the Crimea, others went to the mountains and themselves became “green” bandits or went over to the side of the Reds.
Parts of the Kuban army were concentrated in the area of Maikop and Belorechenskaya. She was pressed against the mountains. The Reds pursued the Kuban with small forces, apparently believing that the remnants of the Kuban army would disperse anyway. Retreating, the Kuban troops continued to grow in numbers. True, the army’s combat power did not increase. The 4th Don Corps, cut off from its army in the Yekaterinodar region, joined the Kuban. Deserters and rear units poured in. In total, up to 30 thousand people gathered. Apart from refugees. A sea of carts with property and livestock. All this mass was sent to Tuapse. Only in the vanguard and rearguard was it possible to locate more or less combat-ready units. At the same time, there was not even a general leadership. The Kuban ataman Bukretov, the government and the Rada declared a break with Denikin and complete independence. They were inclined towards an armistice with the Bolsheviks. Most of the commanders considered themselves part of the Armed Forces and was against an agreement with the Reds. Most of the common Cossacks simply fled, without “politics.”
As was usual at this time, there were many ideas. Most of the military commanders and officers wanted to get to the coast, board ships and evacuate to Crimea. The Kuban government hoped to sit out in a closed area of the coast, block the passes and the coastal road, and restore order in the army. Conclude an alliance with Georgia and the Black Sea Republic. And then launch a counteroffensive, recapture the Kuban. Others dreamed of fleeing to Georgia, hoping that they would be welcomed there.
A stream of many thousands moved on Tuapse. A part of the Black Sea Red Army (about 3 thousand people) was moving towards the Kuban people through the mountain passes in the direction of Maikop. And at the village of Khadyzhenskaya, the opponents unexpectedly met each other. The Black Sea army, the former “greens”, have not abandoned their habits. Therefore, they walked as if through enemy territory. Which led to clashes with local Cossacks. And then the Kuban army appeared. She completely decomposed and almost completely lost her combat effectiveness. But the Black Sea army consisted of deserters, defectors and green insurgents. Finding large masses of the enemy, she hastily retreated to the passes. From there she was easily shot down. On March 20, 1920, the Black Sea Army fled to Tuapse, then to the north, to Gelendzhik. Fearing that the Kubans would follow and crush them, the Red-Greens fled further north, towards Novorossiysk, to join the 9th Soviet Army.
Kuban residents are located between Tuapse and Sochi. The situation was dire. There were no reserves of food and fodder for such masses of people, horses and livestock. The main task was to find food and fodder in the coastal villages. Hopes for help from the “green” Black Sea republic did not materialize. The Green Democrats had even weaker forces and could not help in the fight against the Reds. True, the Kubans and the Black Sea residents entered into an agreement. The Kubans promised not to interfere in the internal life of the “republic”, recognized the local “government”, and stopped traffic in Sochi. The Kubans asked for help with food and pledged to defend the Black Sea Republic from the Red Army. However, it was not possible to improve the food situation. The narrow coastal strip at that time was very poor in bread, it was imported. The grain sown by local peasants was barely enough for their own needs. Winter had just ended, and accordingly, all supplies were running out. And the war stopped the supply from the former white regions of the South of Russia. From the Crimea (also not rich in food), the supply did not have time.
The death of the army
On March 31, 1920, Soviet troops, pursuing the Kuban and lagging behind them, forced the passes and reached Tuapse. The Kubans were never able to put their troops in order, to restore discipline. Kuban units abandoned the city without a fight and fled south. The agreement with the Black Sea people collapsed. The vanguard commander, General Agoev, was ordered to occupy Sochi. The 60-thousandth mass of refugees did not care about the agreements concluded by the Kuban government with the Black Sea Republic. The functionaries of the Black Sea Republic, its militia and part of the population fled to the mountains, taking away the available goods and provisions.
By April 3, 1920, the entire coast up to Georgia was flooded with Kuban refugees. The Kuban government, the Rada and the chieftain settled in Sochi. Here the Kuban people got a little respite. The fact was that the 34th Infantry Division of the 10th Soviet Army, which was pursuing the Kuban Army, was bled out of blood as a result of a long march and a typhus epidemic, leaving only about 3 thousand people in it. There were indeed many Kubans. The Reds stopped in Tuapse and went over to the defensive, putting up a screen on the river. Chukhuk.
True, almost a month’s pause did not save the Kuban army. It was not possible to restore its combat effectiveness. Actually, they did not try. Political squabbles and disagreements continued. The leaders of the Black Sea Republic did not want any more agreements. The Kuban government tried to conclude an alliance with the Georgians, but negotiations with Georgia were unsuccessful. The military command tried to establish contact with Wrangel (on April 4, Denikin handed over the post of commander-in-chief of the All-Soviet Union to Wrangel). Troops and refugees were busy looking for food. All coastal villages were completely devastated. Attempts to get food in mountain villages ended in failure. Local peasants blocked the mountain paths and paths with rubble and small detachments of the militia with machine guns. Cattle and horses were dying of lack of food. Then came the real famine. People ate already dead animals, bark and slaughtered horses. The typhus epidemic continued, and cholera was added to it.
In Crimea, they doubted: what to do with the Kuban and Don people who remained on the Caucasian coast? Information reached the Crimea about the complete decomposition of the Kuban people, about skirmishes and throwing. Ataman and Rada announced a complete break with the volunteers. General Pisarev, who led the army, asked for export to the Crimea. However, the Headquarters and the Don command doubted the need for such a step. The high command wanted to transfer only those who had not abandoned their weapons and were ready to fight. The Don commanders were even more cautious, and suggested refraining from evacuating the 4th corps to the Crimea. They say that the Cossacks have completely decomposed and will only intensify the turmoil on the peninsula. The Don units already evacuated to Crimea created problems. On the other hand, the Don command has not yet discounted such an option – to return the Cossacks from the Crimea to the Caucasian coast and, together with the Kuban, to launch a counteroffensive, liberating the Kuban and Don. And in case of failure of the offensive, retreat to Georgia.
In addition, the position of Crimea itself in March and April 1920 was uncertain. The possibility of its long-term defense and supply was questioned. Many believed that the Bolsheviks were about to transfer forces from the North Caucasus and break through the defenses. Crimea is a “trap”. Therefore, soon you will have to evacuate yourself. As a result, the transports for the evacuation of the Don-Kuban corps were not sent on time. In addition, as before, there was not enough coal for the ships.
Meanwhile, the 34th rifle division stationed in Tuapse was reinforced by the 50th division. They were now part of the 9th Soviet Army. The number of the Soviet group was increased to 9 thousand soldiers. On April 30, 1920, the Reds again went on the offensive in order to finish off the enemy. The Kubans were unable to resist and fled. The government and the Rada again asked for help from Georgia, the command – from the Crimea. The Georgian government refused to let the Kubans through for fear of provoking a war with Soviet Russia. Then Ataman Bukretov and General Morozov began negotiations with the Reds about surrender. The ataman himself and members of the Kuban Rada fled to Georgia, and then to Constantinople. Most of the Kuban army laid down its arms and surrendered (about 25 thousand people). Part of the troops, led by General Pisarev (12 thousand people), rolled back from Sochi to Gagra and were put on ships sent by Wrangel. Later, the Kuban corps was formed from the exported Cossacks.
Then, in a few days, the “green” Black Sea republic fell. Its leaders were arrested, and some fled to Georgia. The “green” insurgents were quickly dealt with. They were not allowed to take liberties as under the Denikin government. The families of the bandits who had gone to the mountains were exiled, their property was confiscated. The previous chaos was a thing of the past. A new Soviet (Russian) statehood set in.
Commander of the Group of Forces of the Kuban Army Pyotr Konstantinovich Pisarev
The death of the North Caucasian and Astrakhan groups
The Terek Cossacks and the troops of the North Caucasian group of General Erdeli were cut off from the main forces of Denikin and retreated to Vladikavkaz. From there, white units and refugees (about 12 thousand people in total) moved to Georgia along the Georgian Military Highway. On March 24, 1920, the Red Army occupied Vladikavkaz. In Georgia, white units were disarmed and placed in camps in the Poti region, in a swampy, malaria-affected area. Erdeli later left for Crimea.
Local autonomous “governments” fell after the Whites. The White South was a buffer that covered the various “governments” of the North and South Caucasus. As soon as the ARSUR fell, it immediately became obvious that all Caucasian state formations were illusory and unviable. During the movement of the 11th Soviet Army, the North Caucasian Emirate (on the territory of Dagestan and Chechnya) Uzun-Khadzhi fell. His 70,000-strong army collapsed. Part of the troops from the communists and former Red Army soldiers led by Gikalo and the “left Islamists” who joined them went over to the side of the Red Army. Others, immediately tired of the “holy war”, fled to their homes. The troops remaining loyal to the imam could not resist the Reds, they were pushed back into the mountains. The seriously ill Uzun-Khadzhi himself died on March 30, 1920, according to another version, he was killed by rivals or agents of the Bolsheviks. Soon it was the turn of Georgia and Azerbaijan.
On the Caspian coast, the white detachment of General Dratsenko, who had previously fought in the Astrakhan direction, was retreating. The Astrakhan group retreated under the pressure of the 11th Soviet army. The highlanders also became more active. The White Guards retreated to Petrovsk (Makhachkala), where the White Caspian Flotilla was based, on March 29 they embarked on ships and headed to Baku. Here General Dratsenko and the commander of the flotilla, Rear Admiral Sergeev, concluded an agreement with the Azerbaijani government: the whites were allowed into Georgia, and they handed over all their weapons to Azerbaijan. The military flotilla took on the task of defending the Azerbaijani coast. However, the Azerbaijani authorities, as soon as Sergeev left for Batum to contact the Headquarters from there, and the ships began to enter the port, canceled the agreement. They demanded unconditional surrender.
The Caspian Flotilla refused to surrender. Captain 1st Rank Bushen took the ships to Persia, to Anzeli. The White Guards asked for refuge from the British who were stationed there. Previously, the British supported whites in the region. However, the British, whose government had already changed their course, interned the White Guards.
Thus, the Armed Forces of the South of Russia fell. Their remnants in the North Caucasus were eliminated and captured. A small part fled abroad. Part joined the Red Army. On the small Crimean peninsula, everything that was left of the Armed Forces of South Russia gathered. Denikin brought the remnants of his forces into three corps: Crimean, Volunteer and Donskoy, Consolidated Cavalry Division and Consolidated Kuban Brigade. The Crimean corps continued to cover the isthmuses, the rest of the troops were stationed in reserve for rest and recovery.