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Ukraine Offensive (1919)
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Ukraine in March 1919
DateJanuary 7 - June 16, 1919
LocationUkraine
Result initial Red Army victory. Red Army conquers most of Ukraine, but is forced to retreat from mid-June onwards.
Belligerents
Red Army Ukrainian Front Ukrainian People's Republic
Commanders and leaders
Antonov-Ovseyenko Symon Petliura
Strength
unknown unknown
Casualties and losses
unknown unknown



The Offensive of the Ukrainian Front (January 7 - June 16, 1919) was a major offensive of the Soviet troops of the Ukrainian Front against the Army of the Ukrainian People's Republic during the Ukrainian–Soviet War, in the context of the Russian Civil War.

Prelude[]

By the autumn of 1918 it became obvious that Germany was close to defeat in Western Europe. Therefore, the Soviet leadership began an early deployment of regular forces of the Red Army to establish its power in Ukraine. In the so-called neutral zone, the 1st and 2nd Insurgent divisions, united in the Kursk Group of Forces, were formed.

After the surrender of Germany, Soviet Russia declared the Brest-Litovsk Treaty null and void. On November 18, the 1st and 2nd Rebel (Ukrainian Soviet) divisions launched an offensive. On November 26, Yampol, Rylsk, Korenevo, Sudzha, Miropolie, etc. were taken. On November 30, all Ukrainian Soviet troops were united in the Ukrainian Soviet Army, which in December launched an offensive on Chernigov, Sumy, Kharkov and Kiev, fighting against Ukrainian troops but maintaining neutrality in respect of the units of the German army, which were preparing to return home.

In December Novhorod-Siverskyi, Shostka, Belgorod, Vovchansk, Kupiansk, Novozybkov and Horodnia were occupied. The Provisional Workers' and Peasants' Government of Ukraine moved from Kursk to Belgorod. The offensive of the Soviet troops continued on to Kharkov. On the night of January 1 to January 2, 1919, a Bolshevik uprising began in Kharkov. The Council of German soldiers supported the uprising and put forward an ultimatum to the Directorate, to withdraw all troops from the city within 24 hours. On January 3, 1919 the troops of the Ukrainian Soviet Army entered Kharkov. Since that time, the Provisional Workers' and Peasants' Government of Ukraine was located here.

On January 4, according to the resolution of the Revolutionary Military Council of the Republic, the Ukrainian Front was established on the basis of the Ukrainian Soviet Army troops. At the end of January, by decision of the Provisional Workers 'and Peasants' Government of Ukraine, the Revolutionary Military Council of the Ukrainian Soviet Army was formed, consisting of Vladimir Antonov-Ovseyenko, Yuriy Kotsiubynsky and Efim Shadenko.

The alignment of forces[]

Red Ukrainian Front
Operationally, the Front forces were initially divided into two groups:

  • the Kiev Direction, which faced the task of seizing Kiev and Cherkassy,
  • the Kharkov Direction, with the task of seizing Poltava and Lozova.
  • later a group of troops destined for Odessa was separated from the Kharkov direction.

On April 15, 1919 these groups of troops were transformed into the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Ukrainian Soviet armies, respectively. On April 27, the 2nd Ukrainian Soviet Army was transferred to the Southern Front. On May 5, an extra Crimean Soviet Army was formed in the Ukrainian Front.

Troops of the Directorate
On January 16, 1919, the Directorate of the UNR declared war on Soviet Russia. In connection with the outbreak of war, the Directorate handed Symon Petliura sole control over all military affairs. Petliura divided the active army of the UNR into

  • the Right-Bank Front (Commander A. Shapoval), with the task to cover Kiev from Polissya,
  • the Eastern Front (commander Yevhen Konovalets), with the task of conducting a counter-offensive against Poltava and Chernigov,
  • the Southern Group of Forces (Commander Andrei Guliy-Gulenko), with the task to keep the area of Ekaterinoslav.

The battle[]

The first stage of the offensive (January 7 - March 9, 1919)[]

During the first stage of the offensive (January 6-March 9), Soviet troops of more than 15,000 men, with the assistance of rebels and guerrillas, defeated UNR troops in the Left Bank Ukraine (up to 20,000 men under the command of Petro Bolbochan) and crossed the Dnieper. Kiev fell on February 5, 1919. The Directorate of the UNR fled from Kiev to Vinnitsa. On March 9, Soviet troops crossed the line Korosten - Zhitomir - Uman - Olviopol - Kherson - Melitopol. In Polesia, which belonged to the UNR according to the Brest-Litovsk Peace, parts of the Western Army were advancing. In Northern Ukraine, Soviet troops took Ovruch and Chernigov.

The second stage of the offensive (March 14 - mid April 1919)[]

On March 14, the troops of the Ukrainian Front resumed their offensive in three directions: in the West against the army of the UNR, in the Southwest against the French interventionists, in the South against the White army of the South of Russia. The number of troops of the front reached 50.000 soldiers. By the middle of April, the troops of the Ukrainian Front defeated the army of the UNR and crossed the Novohrad-Volynsky-Shepetivka-Proskurov-Mogilev-Podolsky line, where they came into contact with Polish troops in Volhynia and Galicia. The authorities of the UNR fled from Lutsk to the area of the Zbruch River.

In the South, the 2nd Ukrainian Soviet Army broke through the fortifications of the Whites on Perekop and captured a significant part of the Crimea. Sevastopol was taken on April 29, a few days after the French and Greek had evacuated the city. Then, the Army occupied the coast of the Azov Sea from Genichesk to Mariupol.

in the South-West, the 3rd Ukrainian Soviet Army had cleared the entire left bank of the Dniester from the enemy from Transnistria to Tiraspol, and were ready to cross the river and advance towards Chisinau.

The third stage of the offensive (May - June 1919)[]

By the end of April - early May 1919, the initial positive mood of the Ukrainian peasantry towards the Red Army had changed dramatically under the influence of the policy of War communism and the activities of Cheka executions squads. This led to rebellions all over Ukraine of which the most serious was the Grigoriev Uprising.

Aftermath[]

Antonov-Ovseyenko had badly overstretched his resources and was pushed into the defensive on all fronts.
In mid-June 1919, under the pressure of a White Army advance, the Red Army was forced out of the Crimea.
By August 1919, almost the entire Ukraine was lost and Kiev captured by the White Army.

Sources[]

  • This is a translation of an article in the Russian Wikipedia, Наступление Украинского фронта.
  • The Civil War in Ukraine 1918-1920. Collection of documents and materials in three volumes, four books. Kiev, 1967.
  • V. Antonov-Ovseyenko. Notes on the Civil War (in 4 volumes). M.-L .: Gosvoyazdat, 1924-1933.
  • Civil war and military intervention in the USSR. Encyclopedia. Moscow: Soviet Encyclopedia, 1983.

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