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Group of forces in fight with counter revolution in the South Russia
Country Soviet Russia
Branch Red Guards
Service history
Active 1917–1918
Part of Task force
Battles Russian Civil War
Commanders Vladimir Antonov-Ovseyenko

Group of forces in fight with counter revolution in the South Russia (Russian: Группа войск по борьбе с контрреволюцией на Юге России) was a military formation of the Soviet Russia government created in the beginning of December 1917 for fight against autonomous state formations (Don Host Oblast and Ukrainian People's Republic) with a goal to establish the Soviet regime.

The formation mainly consisted of the Red Guards troops from Petrograd and Moscow under the command of Vladimir Antonov-Ovseyenko and Mikhail Muravyov as the chief of staff. The group accounted for some 20,000 of troops.

Historical backgroundEdit

The group started to arrive to Kharkiv on December 21, 1917 and on December 22–23, 1917 with the help of the local squads of Red Guards established the Soviet power in the city. On December 24–25, 1917 in Kharkiv took place the First All-Ukrainian Congress of Soviets that proclaimed the Ukrainian People's Republic of Soviets. The group included squads of Rudolf Sivers, Yuriy Sablin, Alexander Yegorov, Grigory Petrov and others as well as the local squads of Red Guards.

In the beginning of January 1918 without any official declaration of war the group initiated military actions around Kharkiv (Lozova, Synelnykove, Pavlohrad, Sloviansk). By that time the Soviet government of Russia concluded a provisional armistice agreement with the Central Powers seeking to end its participation in the World War I (see Treaty of Brest-Litovsk). On January 2, 1918 Sovnarkom appointed Sergo Ordzhonikidze the provisional extraordinary commissar of the Ukrainian region who arrived to Kharkiv on January 8. In January 1918 under pretense of helping the Bolsheviks of Ukraine in establishing the Soviet power, the group launched an offensive from multiple directions (Kharkiv and Katerynoslav, Bryansk, Homel) onto Kiev. A cover to military actions against the Ukrainian People's Republic was a call of the People's Secretariat to an armed struggle against the "counter-revolutionary" Central Council of Ukraine. The command of the offensive was handed to the acting People's Commissar Yuri Kotsiubynsky (acting for Vasyl Shakhrai). On February 8, 1918 the group occupied Kiev and the government of Ukraine relocated to Zhytomyr. On February 9, 1918 it signed a military protection pact with the Central Powers (see Treaty of Brest-Litovsk (Ukraine–Central Powers)).

In the eastern direction the group managed to occupy the Donets basin and territory of the Don Host Oblast downing the authority of General Alexey Kaledin. At the occupied territories were established such political formations as the Don Soviet Republic and the Donetsk-Krivoi Rog Soviet Republic.

Kiev OffensiveEdit

On January 15, 1918 the formation occupied Oleksandrivsk (Zaporizhia) and on January 21, 1918 Kharkiv received a message from Katerynoslav: "Pass it to the Red Guard headquarters. We attacked Poltava ... the station is occupied, there is a fighting in the city. Send urgently to Konstantinograd (Krasnohrad) 1000 Red Guards to connect with Yegorov". The Moscow Red Guards squads led by Yegorov while traveling from the Lozova Rail Station intercepted a heavy siege battery of the opponent that was sent to Poltava from Novocherkassk. At the same time Vladimir Antonov-Ovseyenko reported to the Narkom of Military Affairs (Soviet Russia): "Yesterday in the evening Poltava was occupied by us through the offensive from Lozova and Kharkiv... Anticipating the report about occupation of Bakhmach".

On January 28 the 1st Minsk Revolutionary Troops led by Reinholds Bērziņš occupied Bakhmach. Berzins' unit consisted of 3,500 Red Guards and soldiers, four artillery batteries, an armored train (Putilov plant) with a team of 77 people and 16 machine guns. The same day the revolutionary forces met some resistance at the Kruty Rail Station where they were held off for another day by a few hundred cadets. Another commander of the Moscow Red Guards was Andrei Znamensky who led the special assignment unit of Blagushe-Lefortovo.

At the Extraordinary All-Russian Railway Congress on January 26, 1918 Lenin stated that the Rada "living out its last days". On January 29 in Kiev started an uprising of workers at the Arsenal city factory. To their help rushed the squads of P.Yegorov, G.Kudinsky, Vitaliy Primakov, Reinholds Bērziņš and others. In the fierce fighting on the outskirts of Kiev and in the city were widely used artillery and armored trains. On February 6, 1918 the command of Soviet forces reported back to Lenin in Petrograd that in Kiev takes place street fighting and Red Guards suffer great losses. And further stated: "We have cleared all the stations in Kiev, as well as the Rail Terminal. Armored trains of the latest technology push out the enemy from the city center. Our artillery shells the city day and night. Request urgently to send 1,000 Red Guards. But no reinforcement were really needed as the Ukrainian forces withdrew from the city. On February 8, 1918 Kiev finally became Soviet.

With securing situation in Ukraine and Lower Don river region, the group of forces was redirected to the South Ural region against General Alexander Dutov and then Józef Dowbor-Muśnicki in the eastern regions of Belarus.

Order of battleEdit


Initial compositionEdit

  • 1st Minsk Revolutionary Troops
  • Blagushe-Lefortovo Red Guards
  • Bryansk Red Guards
  • 3rd Bryansk artillery battery
  • Moscow Red Guards (Moskva River neighborhood)
  • Putilov Factory Red Guards
  • 1st Petrograd [Free] Red Guards (Nikolai Khovrin)
  • Petrograd Red Guards (Moscow district)
  • 11th Siberian Regiment

Later additionsEdit

  • Kharkiv Red Guards (Aleksandr Belenkovich)
    • few soldiers of the 2nd Ukrainian Reserve Regiment
  • Red Cossacks (Vitaly Markovich Primakov)
  • Donbas Red Guards (Dmitry Zhloba)
  • 30th Reserve Regiment (Nikolai Rudnev)
  • Kharkiv Red Guards
    • VEK Factory Red Guards
    • Dynamo Factory Red Guards
  • Synelnykove Red Guards
  • Bryansk Factory Red Guards
  • Orlyk Serdiuk Regiment
  • Anarkhists of Maria Nikiforova and Nestor Makhno
  • Oleksandrivsk Red Guards
  • Kiev city garrison soldiers (Shevchenko, Sahaidachny, Khmelnytsky regiments)
  • Arsenal Factory Red Guards
  • Matisson Factory [Podil] Red Guards
  • Demiyivka Red Guards
  • Shuliavka Red Guards
  • Kiev Locomotive Depot Red Guards

Further readingEdit

  • Antonov-Ovseyenko, V. Notes about the civil war. Moscow 1924.
  • Khrystyuk, P. Notes and materials to the history of Ukrainian revolution 1917-1920. Vienna 1921.
  • Doroshenko, D. History of Ukraine: 1917-1923. Uzhhorod 1932.
  • Civil War in the USSR. Moscow 1980.
  • Ukrainian Central Council. Documents and materials. Kiev 1997.

External linksEdit

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