Military Wiki
Advance on Moscow
Part of the Southern Front of the Russian Civil War
Denikin's Moscow Offensive.svg
Southern Front of the Russian Civil War (summer 1919)
DateJuly 3 - November 18, 1919
LocationDon Host Oblast, Donbass, Northeastern Ukraine, Lower Volga region, Central Russia
Result After initial succes, the failure of the campaign and the defeat of the AFSR. The beginning of the catastrophic retreat of the AFSR, resulting in the evacuation of their remnants to the Crimea peninsula.
Russia AFSR Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic Red Army
Commanders and leaders
Russia Anton Denikin
Russia V. May-Mayevsky
Russia Pyotr Wrangel
Russia Vladimir Sidorin
Russia K. Mamontov
Russia Alexander Kutepov
Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic Vladimir Yegoryev
Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic Alexander Yegorov
Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic Vasily Shorin
Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic Vladimir Selivachyov
Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic Semyon Budyonny
70,000 (October 15) 115,500 (October 15)
Casualties and losses
unknown unknown

The Advance on Moscow was a military campaign of the White Armed Forces of South Russia (AFSR), launched against the RSFSR in July 1919 during the Russian Civil War. The goal of the campaign was the capture of Moscow, which, according to the chief of the White Army Anton Denikin, would play a decisive role in the outcome of the Civil War and bring the Whites closer to the final victory. After initial successes, in which the city of Oryol (Orel) at only 360 km from Moscow was taken, Denikin's overextended Army was decisively defeated in a series of battles in October and November 1919. The Moscow campaign of the AFSR can be divided into two phases: the offensive of the AFSR (July 3 - October 10) and the counteroffensive of the Red Southern Front (October 11 - November 18).


By the beginning of July 1919, the situation on the Southern Front of the Russian Civil War was drastically in favor of the White Guards. An important cause of this situation were the anti-Bolshevik uprisings in the territories controlled by the Bolsheviks in reaction against the Red Terror. This meant that in the rear of the Red Army the Soviets only controlled the cities and some concentration areas, while the rest the territory was controlled by numerous rebel Atamans or local self-governments.

The Battle[]

Moscow directive[]

After a series of victories in Spring 1919, the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the South of Russia, Lieutenant-General Anton Denikin proclaimed Directive No. 08878 (the Moscow Directive) on July 3, 1919 in Tsaritsyn. This directive defined as operational and strategic target of the White Guard armies, to seize Moscow then controlled by the Bolsheviks and the capital of the RSFSR.

Early stage. July–August 1919[]

During July 1919, the AFSR carried out the plan of the Moscow directive and advanced North. From the middle of the month, the Red Army tried to launch some counterattacks. Although these attempts were unsuccessful, they stopped the advance of the White forces to Moscow.
The main White successes were achieved in the western and south-western directions. In the west, Poltava was taken on July 31, and In the south-west, Red forces were defeated in Northern Tavria and west of Yekaterinoslav. By the end of July, the troops of the AFSR had reached the line Verkhnodniprovsk - Nikopol - Dnieper River. In the East, General Wrangels Caucasian army took Kamyshin on July 28 and advanced to the north, while the Cossack division of the Caucasian army crossed the Volga, creating an extensive bridgehead in the Tsaritsyn area. At the same time, the Don Army was not able to advance and was even forced to withdraw to the Don after fierce fighting, losing Liski and Balashov. The historian Alexander Nemirovsky writes that the offensive operations of the AFSR in July were developing intensely but slowly, nothing like the rapid advance observed in June. The reasons for this, in his opinion, was the continuous flow of reinforcements into the Red Army, far exceeding the number of reinforcements for the White Army. The second half of July had been very difficult for the Eastern front of the AFSR, and in fact showed the futility of a further advance in the direction of the Tambov - Saratov line.

Corrected directive. August–September 1919[]

The events of the first decade of August 1919 are determined by Denikin’s stubborn desire to fulfill the first part of the Moscow directive (taking Balashov and Saratov). But all attempts of the Don and the Caucasian armies to advance eastwards of the Don were thwarted. In the west, the Volunteer Army pursued the enemy defeated in July without much resistance, and reached the Hadiach - Kremenchuk - Znamianka - Yelisavetgrad line on 11 August. It was discovered that the combat capability of the western part of the Southern Front of the Red Army was unexpectedly low. This led to the correction of Denikin's combat plan: without formally canceling the previous tasks of the Moscow Directive in the east, Denikin proclaimed on August 12 a new Directive, ordering the Volunteer Army and the 3rd Separate Corps to immediately launch a general offensive towards the west, regardless of the situation on other sectors of the front. A special Kiev Group under General Bredov was created to attack Kiev.

A. Nemirovsky writes that the main goal of Denikin in this period was still to provide a wide, straightened front for subsequent actions on Moscow, only this time with a extension to the west. The construction of such a front was further facilitated by the good prospect of connecting with the Poles and creating a common anti-Bolshevik front with them. On August 18, the Bolshevik front in Ukraine collapsed and the Red forces this region, the 12th army were surrounded. On August 23–24, the AFSR took Odessa and on August 31 captured Kiev.

By mid-August, the Soviet troops in the central Chernozem Region launched a counter offensive. The breakthrough of the Reds was stopped by the end of August. The Red Army Selivachev Group suffered a complete defeat and retreated under the general onslaught of the AFSR to their original positions. The Caucasian army also defeated a Bolshevik attack on Tsaritsyn, and at the same time, the Don Army crossed the Don and pushed back the Bolsheviks towards the Khopyor River.

General offensive. September–October 1919[]

The complete failure of the Bolshevik August offensive by the middle of September prompted Denikin to issue a new directive to launch a general offensive by all AFSR forces. A. Nemirovsky writes that now the implementation of the Moscow directive as such should have begun: the broad front necessary for this, combined with the initiative in the hands of the AFSR, was finally available.
The offensive was to be carried out along the shortest, central route and take place in two stages: first reaching the line (Dnieper - in cooperation with the Poles) - Bryansk - Oryol - Yelets and from there the concentric attack on Moscow. At the Don and around Tsaritsyn the strategy was to defend. During September 12 - October 19, Denikin’s plan was carried out with exceptional success. The Southern Red seemed to be falling apart. In particular, the first two weeks of the offensive (September 12–24) were a genuine triumph for the AFSR, which met with practically no serious resistance. On September 17, Sumy, Oboyan, and Stary Oskol fell in the central direction, on September 20–21 the Volunteers captured Kursk, and Fatezh and Rylsk fell on September 24.

The Bolsheviks were close to disaster and were preparing to go underground. An underground Moscow party committee was created, government agencies began evacuating to Vologda. On September 27, the Southern Front was spli into the Southern and South-Eastern Front. On October 5–8, the Komsomol announced the mobilization for the Southern Front at the II Congress of the RKSM.

The collapse of the general offensive. October–December 1919.[]

But by mid-October, the position of the White armies has noticeably deteriorated. In the rear of the AFSR, the Black Army of Nestor Makhno won the Battle of Peregonovka and advanced some 600 km through the Uman region towards Taganrog, the base of Denikin's headquarters. This forced Denikin to send some of his best troops to the South to parry Makhno's Army, which was also blocking his supply lines. To make matters worst, the Bolsheviks were able to conclude an armistice with Poland and the Ukrainian People's Army, freeing up forces to fight the White Army. Denikin had refused to recognize Poland's and Ukraine's independence, thus destroying any possibility of an alliance against the Reds. On October 11, numerically superior Red Army forces (62,000 men against 22,000 for the Whites), reinforced by Latvian, Estonian and Chinese national units, launched an offensive in the Oryol-Kursk sector. Initially, the Whites held their ground in unusually fierce battles, and by 20 October the Volunteers occupied the Novhorod-Siverskyi - Dmitrovsk - Oryol - Novosil line south of Yelets. But by this time, their offensive was halted everywhere.

By the end of October, the Volunteer Army was defeated in fierce battles south of Oryol by the troops of the Southern Front of the Red Army under command of Alexander Yegorov), and then began to retreat all along the front line. In the winter of 1919-1920, Denikins troops were pushed back all the way to the Black Sea.

Major Battles[]


  • This is a translation of an article in the Russian Wikipedia, Поход на Москву.

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