What was the First Winter Campaign (1919-1920)?

Introduction

The First Winter Campaign was a campaign between the army of the Ukrainian People’s Republic (UPR) and Bolshevik forces in Ukraine during the Soviet-Ukrainian War (1917-1921).

Refer to Second Winter Campaign (1921).

It began on 06 December 1919 and lasted until 06 May 1920. The main task of the Winter Campaign was to maintain the presence of the Ukrainian army on Ukrainian territory and in enemy territory, through guerrilla action. At the end of November 1919, the remnants of the UPR Army were surrounded (Lyubar-Chortoria-Myropil). The Galician Army, due to Petliura’s appeasement with the Poles (which some researchers interpret it as treacherous), was forced to join General Denikin’s Russian Volunteer Army after 06 November 1919. The Ukrainian People’s Army troops were surrounded by three enemy armies:

  • The Red Army;
  • Volunteer Army;
  • Polish Army (with which reconciliation was achieved at that time); and
  • In addition, Ukrainian units suffered from the typhus epidemic.

On 06 December 1919, at a military meeting in Nova Chortoria, it was finally decided to carry out a winter campaign by units of the UPR and the rear of the Volunteer Army. About 5,000 people took part in the campaign against the Red and Volunteer Armies. However, the composition of the combat-ready units numbered 2,000 bayonets, 1,000 sabres and 14 guns.

The leader of the Ukrainian forces was General Mykhailo Omelianovych-Pavlenko.

Background

The First World War saw tremendous upheaval in Ukraine, and in the short period between the spring of 1917 and late 1919, three governments had taken shape in the capital, Kiev. However, the political situation was difficult because of the international pressure from Poland, and especially the Bolsheviks.

By late 1919, it became clear that conventional warfare against Bolshevik forces in Ukraine had become impossible, so the Ukrainian People’s Republic had decided to demobilise its military and conduct partisan warfare behind Bolshevik lines.

Participating Units

There were three main Ukrainian units – they were renamed divisions in February 1920.

  • “Zaporizhia”, commanded by General Andrii Huly-Hulenko;
  • “Kiev”, commanded by General Yurii Tiutiunnyk; and
  • “Volhynia”, commanded by General Oleksander Zahrodsky.

Main Battles

During the entire raid, 2,500 kilometres were covered by the enemy, more than 50 successful battles were fought.

Because of the nature of the campaign, the armies covered much territory. Originally the main theater of war was the Yelizavetgrad region, but as the Bolshevik-Denikin front moved south, so did the campaign.

The route of the First Winter Campaign passed through the territories of the present Zhytomyr (Romaniv, Lyubar, Chudniv districts), Kyiv (Tetiiv district), Cherkasy (almost all districts), Kirovohrad (almost all districts), Mykolaiv (Vradiyiv, Domaniv, Voznesensky, Novobugsky, Kazan districts), Odessa (Nikolaev, Lyubashivsky, Ananiyevsky, Baltic districts), Vinnytsia (in 1919 – Khmilnytsky, Kalynivsky, Kozyatynsky, Lipovetsky, Pogrebyshchensky, Orativsky, the end of the campaign – Chechelnytsky, Bershadsky, Trostya , Tomashpilsky, Yampilsky, Tulchinsky, Pishchansky districts).

The main battles of the First Winter Campaign took place at Lypovets, Zhashkiv, Uman, Kaniv, Cherkasy, Smila, Zolotonosha, Olviopol, Holovanivsk, Haisyn, Voznesensk, Ananiv, and Balta.

Aftermath

According to military historians, the First Winter Campaign of the Army of the Ukrainian People’s Republic is a significant page in the period of the Ukrainian Revolution (1917-1921), for the first time, the Ukrainian Army successfully used guerrilla methods to fight numerous enemies. All returning Winter Campaign participants were awarded the Order of the Iron Cross of the Ukrainian People’s Republic.

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