The Northwestern White Army 1919

Oct 5, 2007Updated 5 months ago

Russian troops in Tallin
The Imperial German Army occupied the majority of the Baltic region during and after the treaty of Brest Litovsk in March 1918. During this time period a former Tsarist army captain, Bokhenskoy, established a volunteer force of White Russians in the ancient city of Pskov under the eyes of the Germans. When the Germans pulled their occupation army out of the region in January 1919 after the end of World War One, the Bokhenskoy battalion began to engage Red units in the region. At the same time a force was assembled from former Russian prisoners of war held in Germany by Ussuri Cossack Colonel PR Bermondt and Prince Liven. This force of 12,000 was armed and equipped by the Germans and even included large amounts of demobilized German troops.

This force, known as "the Bermontians” was seen as a tool to bring the region under German control and soon became embroiled in combat with Latvian rebels. The Bermontians merged with the unemployed troops of German Major General Rüdiger von der Goltz who had been evacuated from Finland, and White Russians under General Rodzianko, to form the 50,000 man "Western Volunteer Army”. By June 1919, after engaging both Reds and Latvians, and at the insistence of the British who had sent a military mission to the Baltic, the German units of this army crossed into East Prussia and were interned. Command of all of the remaining White Russian units passed to General NN Yudenich, a Tsarist front commander who had recently arrived from exile in France with an excellent combat record. Yudencih was confirmed as commander by military dictator Admiral Kolchak in Siberia. His Army, however was too far away to join forces.

With the Germans gone this left only 17,800 infantry supported by 700-mixed horse cavalry which Yudenich’s reformed as the “Northwestern Volunteer Army”. With these men, supported by a few armored trains and a handful of British tanks and airplanes, he invaded Russia from Estonia on September 30, 1919. Yudenich stabbed towards the former Russian capitol of St Petersburg (Petrograd) and reached as far as the city’s outskirts by October 19. Trotsky entered the city and rallied its population against the Tsarist general. By November 1, 1919 Yudenich had to order his force to retreat, pursued by the Reds all the way back to Estonia. On November 14th the force was disarmed and interred. Passing again into exile, Yudenich died in France in 1933.

Sources for this and other articles in this series

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Footman, David. Civil War in Russia. Faber and Faber, 1961.

Kenez, Peter. CivilWar in South Russia, 1918: The First Year of the Volunteer Army. University of California Press, 1971.

Kenez, Peter. Civil War in South Russia, 1919-1920: Defeat of the Whites. University of California Press, 1977.

Luckett, Richard. The White Generals: An Account of the White Movement and the Russian Civil War. Longman, 1971.

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Stewart, George. The White Armies of Russia: A Chronicle Counter-Revolution and Allied Intervention. Macmillan, 1933.

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Alexis Wrangel General Wrangel: Russia’s White Crusader Hippocrene Books, Inc., New York, New York, 1987