Troubles. 1919 year. The Battle of Chelyabinsk ended in disaster for Kolchak's army. The defeat was complete. The last reserves of the Kolchakites laid down their heads. Only 15 thousand people were captured. Finally drained of blood, having lost the strategic initiative and most of the fighting efficiency, the Whites retreated to Siberia. Kolchak's government was doomed. Now the time of its existence was determined not by the strength of the resistance of the White Army, but by the huge Siberian distances.
Reorganization of the Eastern Front of the Red Army. Further offensive plan
On July 13, 1919, the commander of the Eastern Front of the Red Army was appointed M. V. Frunze. After overcoming the Ural ridge, the red command, due to the collapse of the white front and its reduction, the significant weakening of Kolchak's army, and the transfer of part of its forces to the Southern Front, reorganized in the center and on the left wing of the Eastern Front. The 2nd Red Army was disbanded after the successful completion of the Yekaterinburg operation. From its composition, the flanking 5th and 21st rifle divisions were transferred to the neighboring 5th and 3rd armies. The 28th division was withdrawn to the reserve and then sent to the Southern Front. The command of the 2-1 army was also transferred to the Southern Front and became a special command of the Shorin group, which was supposed to attack the enemy in the Don direction (in August it participated in the counteroffensive of the Southern Front; in September, the South-Eastern Front was formed on its basis).
As a result, the defeat of the Kolchakites was to be completed by the 3rd and 5th red armies. Tukhachevsky's 5th Army was to capture the Chelyabinsk-Troitsk region. Mezheninov's 3rd army - to defeat the enemy in the Sinarskaya - Kamyshlov - Irbit - Turinsk area. The 3rd Army was supposed to support the further offensive of the 5th Army along the Siberian Railway. Chelyabinsk was an important strategic and economic point - the great Siberian railway began here, there were large railway workshops and coal mines.
White's last attempt to regain the initiative
Kolchak's headquarters also reorganized its defeated armies: the remnants of the Siberian army were transformed into the 1st and 2nd armies (Tyumen and Kurgan directions), the Western army into the 3rd army (Chelyabinsk direction). Dieterichs led the White Front. An attempt to move the Czechoslovak corps to the front did not lead to anything, the Czechoslovakians completely decomposed, did not want to fight and only guarded the looted goods. At the same time, they captured the best steam locomotives, rolling stock, controlled the Siberian Railway, having the priority right to the movements of their echelons.
The Kolchak command brought in the last reserves into the battle - three divisions that did not have time to complete the formation and training in the Omsk region (11th, 12th and 13th infantry divisions). About 500 people were released from military schools and schools ahead of schedule to be sent to the front. The Kolchakites threw everything they had into battle and made a last attempt to wrest the strategic initiative from the Reds on the Eastern Front. The implementation of this plan was outlined in the Chelyabinsk region. The city was important for the whites as the last point of the Yekaterinburg-Chelyabinsk rockade railway in their hands, while the Red troops had already taken Yekaterinburg.
The White Headquarters, headed by Lebedev, developed a new plan to defeat the Red Army. The commander of the Eastern Front, Dieterichs, also liked the plan. The Kolchak command decided to use the fact that after the victorious completion of the Zlatoust operation, Tukhachevsky's army was even more isolated from neighboring armies than before. The 5th Army quickly developed an offensive in the Chelyabinsk direction and crossed the Ural ridge, while the southern flank of the Eastern Front (1st and 4th armies) was on the backward ledge, while the armies located here were advancing south and south -east, away from the operational direction of the 5th Army. Separated at the theater was the 5th Army and the 3rd Army from the northern flank, which from the region of Yekaterinburg (located 150 km from Chelyabinsk) led an offensive in the Tobolsk direction, on the Shadrinsk - Turinsk front.
Considering such a grouping of the Red Army after overcoming the Ural Mountains, the White command decided to defeat the 5th Army. The last reserves were moved to the right flank of the 3rd Army, creating the Northern Shock Group. On the left flank, another shock group was created - the South, in the amount of three divisions of the 3rd Army. To further improve the situation at the front, the White Guards cleared such an important Chelyabinsk junction, luring the 5th Red Army into a trap and exposing it to the blow of the flanking group of the 3rd White Army. The northern strike group under the command of Voitsekhovsky (16 thousand people) was supposed to cut the Chelyabinsk - Yekaterinburg railway and advance south. To the south, Kappel's group (10 thousand people) struck, which was supposed to intercept the Chelyabinsk-Zlatoust highway, break through to connect with the Voitsekhovsky group. The shackling group of General Kosmin (about 3 thousand people) fought frontal battles on the railway line.
If the operation was successful, the White Army surrounded and destroyed the strike forces of the 5th Red Army, defeated the remaining forces of Tukhachevsky, demoralized by the Chelyabinsk pogrom. Further, the whites went out to the flank and rear of the 3rd red army. As a result, the White Guards could return the Zlatoust-Yekaterinburg line, the Ural line, and hold out on it after receiving the help of the Entente, while the main forces of the Reds would be linked by battles with Denikin's army in the South of Russia. Everything was beautiful on paper.
However, the problem was that both white and red were not the same as before. The Kolchakites were defeated and demoralized, their army was at the stage of decay. The Red Army, on the contrary, significantly increased its fighting spirit, combat capability (including with the help of specialists from the former tsarist army), and advanced. The strong 5th Red Army, relying on the resources of a large city - Chelyabinsk, did not panic under the threat of encirclement and did not rush to run away, as it was before with the red units. She took the battle on an equal footing. And the red command immediately took action: Frunze moved the division from the reserve, the 3rd Red Army was immediately turned to the flank of Voitsekhovsky's northern group. In addition, before the start of the Chelyabinsk operation, the command of the 5th Army, due to the fact that the 3rd Army was leading an offensive in the Tobolsk direction, strengthened the grouping of its forces on the left flank and this allowed the troops of Tukhachevsky's army to meet the blow of the Northern group of whites in the most favorable situation …
The offensive of the 5th Army in the Chelyabinsk direction began on July 17, 1919. The White Guards held their defenses at the Chebarkul - Irtyash lakes line. On July 20, the Reds broke through the enemy's defenses and launched an offensive against Chelyabinsk. The whites were retreating, at the same time regrouping their forces and preparing for a counteroffensive. On July 23, units of the 27th division went to the assault on Chelyabinsk and took it on the 24th. The White Serbs regiment fought especially stubbornly for the city. The White garrison of Chelyabinsk lost more than half of its composition, and the White Serbs regiment ceased to exist. In the midst of the battle for the city, workers revolted in the rear of the Kolchakites. So, the railway workers drove one armored train of the white into a dead end, and the other was lowered from the rails. These armored trains went to the red. After the capture of the city, thousands of workers joined the ranks of the Red Army.
On the southern flank of the 5th Army, where the 24th Infantry Division was advancing, hostilities were also fought. The white command took measures to secure the left flank of its 3rd army and maintain contact with the southern army of Belov, since the advance of the Reds to Troitsk, Verkhne-Uralsk threatened to cut off Belov's army from the rest of Kolchak's armies. The 11th Siberian Division was sent to the Verkhne-Uralsk region to help the White units operating there. The commander of the Southern Army, Belov, sent all his forces and reserves to Verkhne-Uralsk to defeat the Reds. Fierce battles took place on the outskirts of the city. Kolchakites repeatedly counterattacked. In the battle on July 20, the Soviet 213rd regiment lost 250 people and the entire command staff. The White Guards suffered even greater losses. In the decisive battle in the Rakhmetov area, the 208th and 209th regiments of the 24th division defeated the 5th division of the whites, captured the division headquarters together with the division commander and chief of staff.
After seven days of stubborn fighting, finally breaking the resistance of the Kolchakites, on July 24, our troops occupied Verne-Uralsk. The defeated enemy retreated to the east and southeast. On August 4, the Reds occupied Troitsk, which created a threat to the rear communications of the White Southern Army. Belov's army was forced to leave the Orenburg direction and begin a retreat to the southeast, losing contact with the rest of the armies of the Kolchak front.
After the fall of Chelyabinsk, the flank strike groups of the Kolchakites launched a counteroffensive. At first, the operation developed successfully. On July 25, Voitsekhovsky's northern shock group struck at the junction of the 35th and 27th divisions, deeply wedged into their location. Stubborn battles were fought in the area of st. Dolgoderevenskaya. On the same day, Kosmin's group began an offensive against Chelyabinsk. The southern group of Kappel, which began the offensive a little later, pressed the 26th division. Two white armored trains, which were supposed to break through in the direction of Poletaevo, could not complete the task and retreated to Troitsk. The Red troops took up the fight. The command of the 5th Army quickly retaliated. The 5th and 27th divisions were to defeat the enemy's northern group. This maneuver depended on the stability of the 26th division, which was holding back the onslaught of Kappel's group. If White had broken the resistance of the 26th Division, the whole offensive would have been thwarted. The regiments of the 26th division selflessly carried out this task for several days, the Kolchak men from time to time broke through to the outskirts of Chelyabinsk. But the Red Army men resisted. Kappel's corps did not fulfill its task.
North of Chelyabinsk, Voitsekhovsky's group broke through the front on July 27 and reached the railway from the Yesaulskaya and Argayash stations. The White Guards turned south. On July 28, the situation was critical, the whites occupied the village of Mediyak (35 km west of Chelyabinsk) and began to go to the rear of the red troops who were in the city. To create a "boiler" in Chelyabinsk, the Kolchak people had to go another 25 km. At the same time, the Whites stormed Chelyabinsk from the east. They went to the northern outskirts of the city. The Red Army men dug in from three sides and repulsed enemy attacks. The Kolchak command threw everything it had into battle. Their parts were simply ground in a Chelyabinsk meat grinder. Both sides suffered heavy losses. But the Reds could compensate for them. Almost an entire division was mobilized in Chelyabinsk alone.
On July 29, 1919, a turning point occurred in a fierce battle. The White High Command hoped it was in their favor. "Today," Dieterichs wrote in the order, "the 3rd Army must strike a decisive blow to the Chelyabinsk group of Reds." This day really became decisive, but in favor of the Reds. The actions of the Soviet command began to affect. Having received news of the enemy's counterattack in the Chelyabinsk region, Frunze ordered the troops of the 3rd Army to strike at the flank and rear of the Ural group of whites in the general direction of Nizhne-Petropavlovskoe. This task was assigned to the 21st Infantry Division. Its advance to Nizhne-Petropavlovskoye eased the position of the 5th Army troops in the Chelyabinsk region.
Also, the command of the 5th Army regrouped the troops and formed a shock group (8 regiments with artillery) to repulse the Voitsekhovsky group. The strike group was assembled in the area of the villages of Pershin, Shcherbaki and Mediyak (10-25 km north-west of Chelyabinsk). On July 29, she went on the offensive and, in a fierce battle, defeated the White regiments, including the shock 15th Mikhailovsky, advanced 10-15 km north. On the same day, the red units to the north and east of Chelyabinsk counterattacked. The Kolchakites wavered and retreated to the east. On July 30, the troops of the 35th, 27th and 26th divisions consolidated and developed this success. White's breakthrough was completely eliminated. Also on the northern flank, the 5th Division was developing an offensive, which struck at the flank and rear of the Voitsekhovsky group. The battle began to turn into the defeat of the Kolchak army. By August 1, the Reds were advancing along the entire front, on August 2, the defeated remnants of Kolchak's troops fled everywhere to Tobol.
Catastrophe of the White Army
Thus, the Chelyabinsk operation ended in complete disaster for whites. Kolchak's plan to create a Chelyabinsk "boiler" collapsed. Apart from the killed and wounded, the Western army lost only 15 thousand prisoners. The 12th Infantry Division was completely destroyed. The last strategic reserves of Kolchak's army - the 11th, 12th and 13th divisions, were used up. White could no longer make up for these losses. In the Chelyabinsk region, the Reds captured large trophies, more than 100 machine guns were taken on the battlefield alone, 100 steam locomotives and about 4 thousand loaded wagons were captured on the railway.
The Whites lost the important Chelyabinsk railway junction and control over the last rockad railway Troitsk - Chelyabinsk - Yekaterinburg. Almost simultaneously with the capture of Chelyabinsk, the Reds took Troitsk (the main base of the Southern Army), that is, the Kolchak front was cut into two parts. The remnants of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd armies retreated to Siberia, the Ural and Southern armies to Turkestan. Kolchak's army was demoralized, drained of blood, lost most of its combat capability and initiative. The Whites lost the Ural line and retreated to Siberia. The Red Army completed the liberation of the Urals. The West's stake on Kolchak's army was beaten.
The liberation of the Urals was of great importance for Soviet Russia. The Red Army occupied a vast territory with a large population, a developed industrial base, sources of raw materials and railways. At that time, the Soviet republic was cut off from almost all sources of raw materials, felt a huge need for coal, iron and non-ferrous metals. The Reds received a powerful industry in the Urals: iron, cast iron, copper, weapons of Izhevsk, Votkinsk, Motovilikhinsk and other factories. The population of the Urals joined the Red Army. From October to December 1919 alone, more than 90 thousand people were put under arms in the Urals. At the same time, the party and trade union organizations provided the army with more than 6 thousand people. The total number of volunteers and mobilized in the Urals from the summer to December 1919 was about 200 thousand people.