1922 Encyclopædia Britannica/Denikin, Anton

See also Anton Denikin on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer. In the original, the “n” in Kubañ is written with a macron. “ñ” is the best substitute I could find.

DENIKIN, ANTON (1872-), Russian general, was of humble descent and held democratic views. After going through the usual military training and service he joined the Russian general staff, and in the earlier period of the World War he rose to the rank of lieutenant-general and to the command of a division on the Danube front. During the Russian revolution he followed Kornilov, and was for some time chief of his staff. He was arrested with Kornilov and imprisoned in Bykova. They escaped together and fled to the Caucasian shore of the Black Sea. There he joined Alexeyev, who was forming a small army of volunteers, chiefly composed of officers. On Kornilov's death (March 31 1918) he became the military commander of the army, while Gen. Alexeyev held power as “Supreme Leader” of the Government and organized recruiting and supplies. They collected the army on the southern border of the Don region, at Metchetinskaya, and established coöperation with a Caucasian detachment, led by Erdeli, with the Don Cossacks under Krasnov, and some 2,000 men who had marched right through the southern steppes under Drozdovsky. By June the army counted some 12,000 men and was able to attempt the reconquest of the Kuban territory. Things had changed considerably since March, when Kornilov's invasion came to a standstill in front of Ekaterinodar. The Kubañ Cossacks had had time to ascertain the true character of Bolshevik occupation, and the volunteers moved down the Rostov-Vladikavkaz line and the Black Sea line from Tikhoryetzkaya to Novorossisk. The Reds, in spite of their numerical superiority, melted before this advance and one stanitsa (camp settlement) after the other joined the invaders. On Aug. 5 Gen. Alexeyev entered Ekaterinodar, the capital of the Kubañ, and practically all the resources of the prosperous country were henceforward at the service of the volunteers. By the middle of Sept. the army had increased to 60,000 men. The Germans, whose garrisons had advanced to Rostov at the mouth of the Don, did not look on that extension with friendly eyes; they did their best to disintegrate the volunteer fighting forces, and at the same time tried to induce Alexeyev and Denikin to accept a condition of vassalage, similar to that which had been submitted to them by the Don Ataman, Krasnov. But nothing of the kind was possible in the case of Alexeyev and Denikin: their whole energy was directed towards a patriotic reconstruction of Russia, and they declined all overtures from the crafty foe. On Sept. 25 Alexeyev died after an illness which he had contracted during the World War, but against which he had struggled by sheer devotion to his task, never sparing himself, never relaxing his efforts. It was impossible to replace fully this man, who resembled one of the heroes of antique virtue. Denikin, who had to step into the breach, was not Alexeyev's equal in military genius or in statesmanship, but he was worthy of his predecessor in purity of character and in his sense of duty.

The revolt of Siberia and eastern Russia against the Bolsheviks prevented the latter from concentrating their forces against the dangerous volunteers, and the Germans were at the end of their tether in the struggle with the western Allies, and unable to use their position in Russia to any useful purpose. These favourable circumstances made it possible for Denikin to spread his wings wide. The Don Cossacks joined him, he established communications with Astrakhan and Ural Cossacks and the Orenburg province on the right, while on the left, his lieutenant Schilling moved towards Kiev and Odessa. There was some very heavy fighting in the centre, where Stavropol was taken after a struggle of several days, and 35,000 Reds surrendered or were exterminated. Towards the beginning of 1919 Denikin was master in the S. of Russia, and could begin to organize a base for an attack on the main block of the Soviet Republic. The principal Cossack armies had congregated round the nucleus of the Volunteer army. The latter had unfortunately suffered grievous losses in the ceaseless fights of the Civil War, which it had to conduct in miserable equipment, with hardly any ammunition except that which was taken from the enemy, in hunger and cold; some 30,000 of its best men had fallen, and these could not be replaced either by conscripts, driven in by command, or by the Cossacks, who could fight well when they chose, but who did not always want to do so. The difficulty of the political situation became apparent when the question of an arrangement between the various forces under Denikin was seriously raised. On Nov. 1 Gen. Denikin met the Regional Assembly (Krayevaya Rada) of the Kubañ territory. He made a powerful speech in which he said, among other things:

“Can there be any peace politics on the Kubañ? Will your long-suffering settlement be safe from a new and more cruel invasion of the Bolsheviks when the Red power establishes itself firmly in Moscow, when it throws back by weight of numbers the Volga front, when it presses on the Don from north and east and when it moves towards you? — No! It is time that people should cease to wrangle, to intrigue, to seek precedence. Everything should be sacrificed for the sake of the struggle. Bolshevism must be crushed, Russia must be liberated. Otherwise your well-being will not prosper, you will become the plaything of the enemies of Russia and of the Russian people. . . . There can be no talk of separate armies — the Volunteer army, the Don army, the Kubañ army, the Siberian army. These should be one army — the Russian one, and also one front, one Chief Command, endowed with full power, responsible only to the Russian people, as represented by its future supreme authority.”

The speech did not produce the desired effect. It was criticized in the lobbies by separatists and by Socialists, but it was at least conceded to the Commander-in-Chief that a Government should be formed in which ordinary provinces, like Stavropol or the Black Sea district, should be subjected to an emergency military régime, while the Kubañ and to some extent the Don should be governed by independent institutions, though maintaining a kind of federal allegiance to the High Command. The Kubañ obtained, in fact, political autonomy, but agreed to place its forces under the command of Gen. Denikin. Yet the Ukrainian elements of the Rada contrived to send a special mission to Paris, and negotiated there with representatives of the Allies independently of the Russian “Political Council” and of S. D. Sazonov, the Foreign Minister of the South Russian Government.

For the conduct of the Government Gen. Denikin formed a “Special Council,” which combined legislative and executive functions. It consisted of generals of the headquarters staff and the heads of departments, some 18 or 20 in number (Gens. Dragomirov, Lukomsky, Romanovsky, etc.; the civil members — Neratov, J. P. Shipov, N. Astrov, Stepanov, K. Sokolov, M. M. Fedorov, etc.). Most of the members belonged to the so-called National Centre and to the moderate Right. The Left was represented by four Cadets, of whom, however, two had drifted a good deal to the Right. The weight of authority rested with the generals, but there were long discussions and many compromises. It was attempted to steer a strictly “business course,” politically colourless, but the Government did not succeed in achieving popularity. Gen. Denikin regarded this Assembly as a consultative organization, and gave his decision after listening to proposals and discussions. He insisted on keeping military restoration to the fore until the Bolsheviks had been laid low or at least until Moscow had been liberated. No pronouncement was allowed as to the form of Government, but the authority of the old Constituent Assembly, which was attempting to gather power in Ufa and Omsk, was rejected as the product of popular insanity. On the whole the Government was clearly leaning towards the Right, but Denikin was averse to any kind of acts of violence and oppression; his rule was, however, not free from contradictions and lacked political initiative. He followed the current more than he directed it.

His military plans were based on the idea that if he succeeded in driving the Bolsheviks out of the Russian provinces the population would reform behind his lines and set up compact patriotic levies against the hateful usurpers. With this purpose in view he pushed forward rapidly in all directions, and it seemed at first as if events justified his previsions. The Bolsheviks were driven back everywhere by the Volunteers and the Cossacks. When they rallied in the East and made a determined attempt to retake Tsaritsyn and turn the line of the Don they were repulsed and finally routed by Gen. Wrangel's Caucasian army. The Cossacks of Mamontov and Shkuro made raids deep into the lines of the enemy; officers and soldiers of the Red army deserted in thousands to the Whites; the population met Denikin's hosts as liberators with processions and the ringing of bells. Kursk, Kharkov, Voronezh, were occupied, and in July the advance guard reached Orel, some 200 m. from Moscow.

This rapid progress proved deceptive. The armies of liberation did not bring law and order with them. Not only were Commissars and prominent Bolsheviks given short shrift, but officers who had served in the ranks of the Reds and gone over to the Whites were subjected to irksome investigations and delays before obtaining “rehabilitation.” The badly equipped and badly supplied troops laid hands on all sorts of goods and stores; it was hard to distinguish between requisition and looting. Such administrators as were introduced by the advancing army were more intent on bettering themselves than on looking after the population; the peasants felt themselves menaced by the revenge of the squires.

The people, driven to despair, took to flight, and the more adventurous among them formed “green” bands, which roamed about the country, seized stations, stopped trains, cut off provision columns. The most daring of these brigands, Makhno, made Ekaterinoslav his capital, and nearly overran Rostov in the summer of 1919. The most threatening symptom of all was the lack of union between the various sections of the Whites. The Kubañ was preparing for complete independence and negotiating with the Mahommedan mountaineers for a league. Denikin found it necessary to strike hard against the Separatists; the Rada was dissolved; one of the leaders, Kalabukhov, was shot as a traitor, and a new Government was formed from among the supporters of a closer union with the Russian army (Nov. 1919). The “line” Cossacks were favourably disposed, but the coup d'état did not succeed in uprooting the movement for an independent Kubañ republic in the south-west. On the contrary, the Separatists, though forced for a time to conceal their aspirations, were embittered, and resolved to wreck the combination with the Volunteers.

In the meantime the resistance of the Reds stiffened in proportion as the Whites lost the sympathy of the people. Soviet propagandists had no difficulty in rousing the apprehension of the Great Russian peasants against the advance of the “squires”; officers of the Red army became less keen to desert when they ascertained that they would be treated as suspects by Denikin's lieutenants. The relentless discipline re-introduced by Trotsky in the Red army was backed by the action of select bodies of privileged troops — international contingents of Letts, Chinese, Magyars, etc., picked Communist battalions, large bodies of cavalry trained for rapid marches and sudden concentrations against weak points of the line. In the beginning of Nov. Budenny's cavalry corps broke through the White lines at Kupyansk and threatened to cut off the Volunteer army from its base on the Don. The line rolled back and a general retreat set in. Denikin tried to stem the back flow by appointing Wrangel to command the Volunteer army in the place of Mayevsky, who had been indulging in reckless debauchery in Kharkov. But Wrangel was not a magician who could mend the consequences of errors which he had detected and criticized from the beginning. Town after town fell, and there was no hope of support from the Poles, who were by no means inclined to fight for the restoration of Russia. A British political mission headed by Sir Halford Mackinder, M.P., was more concerned with promoting the interests of Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan than in taking up the cause of Russian centralization. In these dire straits Denikin resolved to abandon his former policy in regard to the Cossacks, and summoned a central “Krug” (circle) of the Cossack armies — Don Kubañ, Terek, Astrakhan — with the object of starting a new Government on federal lines. It was agreed that there should be a Legislative Assembly of the Federation, and that Denikin should act only as Chief of the Executive and Commander-in-Chief. Even this surrender did not help. After a last success of the Volunteer army, which retook Rostov (Feb. 8), the final catastrophe came through a defection of Kubañ Cossacks on the right flank, of which Budenny's cavalry took full advantage. Rostov and Ekaterinodar had to be abandoned. Crowds of refugees gathered in Novorossisk in the first months of 1920; spotted typhus raged among them. The remnants of the Black Sea fleet and foreign ships carried loads of these wretched people to the Prinkipo Is. and to Lemnos, and Denikin himself left for Constantinople.

By way of an epilogue to the drama of discord which had embittered the minds and paralyzed the efforts of the Whites, Denikin's Chief of the Staff, Gen. Romanovsky, was murdered by two officers of the Volunteer army on the steps of the Russian embassy in Constantinople. He was a quiet, industrious man, who had come to recognize that there was no Conservative class in Russia capable of serving as a basis for government. He was therefore in favour of a closer alliance with the Moderate Socialists. This was an unpardonable heresy from the point of view of the Rights, and it was from this side that the shot came which put an end to the life of Denikin's trusty assistant.

(P. Vi.)