Volunteer Army
The Volunteer Army was an anti-Bolshevik army in South Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

 during the Russian Civil War
Russian Civil War
The Russian Civil War was a multi-party war that occurred within the former Russian Empire after the Russian provisional government collapsed to the Soviets, under the domination of the Bolshevik party. Soviet forces first assumed power in Petrograd The Russian Civil War (1917–1923) was a...

 of 1918-1920.

The Volunteer Army began forming in November-December 1917 by General
A general officer is an officer of high military rank, usually in the army, and in some nations, the air force. The term is widely used by many nations of the world, and when a country uses a different term, there is an equivalent title given....

 Mikhail Alekseev
Mikhail Alekseev
Mikhail Vasiliyevich Alekseyev was an Imperial Russian Army general during World War I and the Russian Civil War. Between 1915 and 1917 he was Chief of Staff to Tsar Nicholas II, and after the February Revolution, March–July 1917 the commander in chief of the Russian army...

 in Novocherkassk
Novocherkassk is a city in Rostov Oblast, Russia, located on the right bank of the Tuzlov River and on the Aksay River. Population: 169,039 ; 170,822 ; 178,000 ; 123,000 ; 81,000 ; 52,000 ....

 and General Lavr Kornilov
Lavr Kornilov
Lavr Georgiyevich Kornilov was a military intelligence officer, explorer, and general in the Imperial Russian Army during World War I and the ensuing Russian Civil War...

 and his supporters. Initially, the Volunteer Army included volunteering officers, cadet
A cadet is a trainee to become an officer in the military, often a person who is a junior trainee. The term comes from the term "cadet" for younger sons of a noble family.- Military context :...

s, students and Cossacks. Of the first 3,000 recruits, just 12 were soldiers, the rest were officers. Some of them resented having to serve as privates. On December 27, 1917 (January 9, 1918), the creation of the Volunteer Army was officially announced. Alekseev became its overall leader, Kornilov - its Commander-in-chief
A commander-in-chief is the commander of a nation's military forces or significant element of those forces. In the latter case, the force element may be defined as those forces within a particular region or those forces which are associated by function. As a practical term it refers to the military...

, General Alexander Lukomsky
Alexander Lukomsky
Alexander Sergeyevich Lukomsky was a Russian military commander, General Staff, Lieutenant-General . He fought for the Imperial Russian Army during the First World War and was one of the organizers of Volunteer army during the Russian Civil War...

 - its Chief of Staff, General Anton Denikin – commander of the 1st Division
Division (military)
A division is a large military unit or formation usually consisting of between 10,000 and 20,000 soldiers. In most armies, a division is composed of several regiments or brigades, and in turn several divisions typically make up a corps...

 and General Sergey Markov
Sergey Markov
Sergey Leonidovich Markov - Russian army general and one of the founders of the Volunteer Army counterrevolutionary force of the White movement in the southern Russia during Russian Civil War.-Biography:...

 – commander of 1st Officers regiment
A regiment is a major tactical military unit, composed of variable numbers of batteries, squadrons or battalions, commanded by a colonel or lieutenant colonel...

. They also created the so called Special Council at the headquarters
Headquarters denotes the location where most, if not all, of the important functions of an organization are coordinated. In the United States, the corporate headquarters represents the entity at the center or the top of a corporation taking full responsibility managing all business activities...

, which included also included prominent civilian politicians such as Peter Struve, Pavel Milyukov
Pavel Milyukov
Pavel Nikolayevich Milyukov , a Russian politician, was the founder, leader, and the most prominent member of the Constitutional Democratic party...

, Mikhail Rodzianko, Sergey Sazonov
Sergey Sazonov
Sergei Dmitrievich Sazonov GCB was a Russian statesman who served as Foreign Minister from September 1910 to June 1916...

 and Boris Savinkov
Boris Savinkov
Boris Viktorovich Savinkov was a Russian writer and revolutionary terrorist...


In early January 1918, the Volunteer Army numbered approximately 4,000 men and fought against the Red Army
Red Army
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army started out as the Soviet Union's revolutionary communist combat groups during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1922. It grew into the national army of the Soviet Union. By the 1930s the Red Army was among the largest armies in history.The "Red Army" name refers to...

 together with the units of General Aleksei Kaledin. In late February, the Volunteer Army had to retreat from Rostov-on-Don
-History:The mouth of the Don River has been of great commercial and cultural importance since the ancient times. It was the site of the Greek colony Tanais, of the Genoese fort Tana, and of the Turkish fortress Azak...

 due to the onset of the Red Army and left for Kuban
Kuban is a geographic region of Southern Russia surrounding the Kuban River, on the Black Sea between the Don Steppe, Volga Delta and the Caucasus...

 in order to unite with the Kuban Cossack
Kuban Cossacks
Kuban Cossacks or Kubanians are Cossacks who live in the Kuban region of Russia. Most of the Kuban Cossacks are of descendants of two major groups who were re-settled in the Western Northern Caucasus during the Caucasus War in the late 18th century...

 formations, a manoeuvre known as the Ice March
Ice March
The Ice March , also called the First Kuban Campaign , a military withdrawal lasting from February to May 1918, was one of the defining moments in the Russian Civil War of 1917 to 1921...

. However, most of the Kuban Cossacks did not give their support to the Volunteer Army. Only a small unit (3,000 men) under the command of General Viktor Pokrovsky
Viktor Pokrovsky
Viktor Leonidovich Pokrovsky - Russian lieutenant general and one of the leaders of anti-communist counterrevolutionary White Army during Russian Civil War.-Biography:...

 joined the Volunteer Army on March 26, 1918, increasing its number to 6,000 people. The Volunteer Army's attempt to capture Yekaterinodar between April 9 and April 13 was a fiasco, costing Kornilov his life. General Denikin took the command over the remnants of the Volunteer Army and left for the remote stanitsa
Stanitsa is a village inside a Cossack host . Stanitsas were the primary unit of Cossack hosts.Historically, the stanitsa was a unit of economic and political organisation of the Cossack peoples primarily in the southern regions of the Russian Empire.Much of the land was held in common by the...

s beyond the Don region. In June 1918, 3,000 men of Colonel Mikhail Drozdovsky
Mikhail Drozdovsky
Mikhail Gordeevich Drozdovsky . Russian army officer and one of the military leaders of the anti-Bolshevik White movement during the Russian Civil War.- Biography :...

 joined the Volunteer Army. On June 23, the Volunteer Army (8,000-9,000 men) began its so called Second Kuban Campaign with the support from Pyotr Krasnov
Pyotr Krasnov
Pyotr Nikolayevich Krasnov , 1869 – January 17, 1947), sometimes referred to in English as Peter Krasnov, was Lieutenant General of the Russian army when the revolution broke out in 1917, and one of the leaders of the counterrevolutionary White movement afterward.- Russian Army :Pyotr Krasnov...

. By September 1918, the Volunteer Army had already had 30,000-35,000 men thanks to mobilization of the Kuban Cossacks and "counterrevolutionary elements", gathered in the North Caucasus
North Caucasus
The North Caucasus is the northern part of the Caucasus region between the Black and Caspian Seas and within European Russia. The term is also used as a synonym for the North Caucasus economic region of Russia....

. Thus, the Volunteer Army took the name of the Caucasus Volunteer Army.
In the Autumn of 1918, the governments of Great Britain
Great Britain
Great Britain or Britain is an island situated to the northwest of Continental Europe. It is the ninth largest island in the world, and the largest European island, as well as the largest of the British Isles...

, France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 and the USA increased their material and technical assistance to the Volunteer Army. With the support from Entente
Triple Entente
The Triple Entente was the name given to the alliance among Britain, France and Russia after the signing of the Anglo-Russian Entente in 1907....

, the forces of the South Russian Whites were combined into the so called Armed Forces of South Russia
Armed Forces of South Russia
The Armed Forces of South Russia was formed on the 8th of January 1919, it incorporated many of the smaller formations of the White army in that area under them, including the Volunteer Army ....

 (Вооружённые силы Юга России, or Vooruzhenniye sily Yuga Rossii) under the command of Denikin. In the late 1918 - early 1919, Denikin managed to inflict a defeat on the 11th Soviet Army and capture the North Caucasus region. In January 1919, the Caucasus Volunteer Army was divided into the Caucasus Army and the Volunteer Army, which would later be joined by the Don Army
Don Army
The Don Army was part of the White movement of the Russian Civil War, operating from 1917 to 1919, in the Don region and centered in the town of Novocherkassk.- History :...

, created from the remnants of Krasnov's Cossack Army. After capturing Donbass, Tsaritsyn and Kharkov in June 1919, Denikin began to advance towards Moscow
Moscow is the capital, the most populous city, and the most populous federal subject of Russia. The city is a major political, economic, cultural, scientific, religious, financial, educational, and transportation centre of Russia and the continent...

 on June 20 (July 3). According to his plan, the main blow to Moscow was to be inflicted by the Volunteer Army (40,000 men) under the command of General Vladimir May-Mayevsky
Vladimir May-Mayevsky
Vladimir Zenonovich May-Mayevsky was a general in the Imperial Russian Army and one of the leaders of counterrevolutionary White movement during the Russian Civil War.-Biography:...


The White Army was accused by the Soviets of cruelty in its conquered territories, usually against the workers, for which the Soviet historiography
Soviet historiography
Soviet historiography is the methodology of history studies by historians in the Soviet Union . In the USSR, the study of history was marked by alternating periods of freedom allowed and restrictions imposed by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union , and also by the struggle of historians to...

 would dub this regime "Denikinschina". Some of the units and formations of the Volunteer Army possessed good military skills and fighting strength due to a large number of officers in its ranks, who hated and despised the Soviets. However, the Volunteer Army's fighting efficiency started to decrease in the summer of 1919 in light of significant losses and conscription
Conscription is the compulsory enlistment of people in some sort of national service, most often military service. Conscription dates back to antiquity and continues in some countries to the present day under various names...

 of mobilized peasants and even Red Army soldiers in captivity.

During the counter-offensive of the Red Army (since October 1919), the Volunteer Army sustained a decisive defeat and rolled back to the South. In the early 1920, it retreated to the areas beyond the Don region and was reduced to a Corps
A corps is either a large formation, or an administrative grouping of troops within an armed force with a common function such as Artillery or Signals representing an arm of service...

 of 5,000 men under the command of General Alexander Kutepov
Alexander Kutepov
Alexander Pavlovich Kutepov was a leader of the anti-communist Volunteer Army during the Russian Civil War....


On March 26 and March 27, 1920, the remnants of the Volunteer Army were evacuated from Novorossiysk
Novorossiysk is a city in Krasnodar Krai, Russia. It is the country's main port on the Black Sea and the leading Russian port for importing grain. It is one of the few cities honored with the title of the Hero City. Population: -History:...

 to the Crimea
Crimea , or the Autonomous Republic of Crimea , is a sub-national unit, an autonomous republic, of Ukraine. It is located on the northern coast of the Black Sea, occupying a peninsula of the same name...

, where they merged with the army of Pyotr Wrangel.


  • "Many of the Cossacks were far from having any ideology. The more educated ones had some ideas, some convictions, and the majority of them were against the Bolsheviks, of course. Though there were also those who believed that you could somehow come to terms with the Reds. By the way, anti-Semitism
    Antisemitism is suspicion of, hatred toward, or discrimination against Jews for reasons connected to their Jewish heritage. According to a 2005 U.S...

     was unknown among the Cossacks. The Cossacks never saw any Jews. Jews weren't allowed to live in Cossack regions. And then later in life when they met up with Jews they'd see they were people like anyone else. In the Crimea I ran into a Lieutenant I knew and asked him, 'What are you doing here?' And he says, 'I'm staying with some Jewish friends.' And I said, 'But you're an officer in the White Army!' It turned out he was a Jew himself, he'd fought with the Volunteer Army, and had been promoted to officer for merit in combat."
    • From an oral history
      Oral history
      Oral history is the collection and study of historical information about individuals, families, important events, or everyday life using audiotapes, videotapes, or transcriptions of planned interviews...

       interview with Nikita Ivanovich Yovich, a Kuban Cossack, former Sotnik
      Sotnik or Sotnyk was a military rank among the Cossack starshyna , Strelets Troops in Muscovy and Imperial Cossack cavalry , the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, the Ukrainian Galician Army, and the Ukrainian People's Army.-Military rank:Literally it means commander of hundred men in most Slavonic...

       in the Volunteer Army, and eventual leader of the Russian All-Military Union
      Russian All-Military Union
      The Russian All-Military Union was founded by White Army General Pyotr Wrangel in the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes on September 1, 1924...


Nomenclature timeline

Although "Volunteer Army" is often used as a shorthand description for all the White Russian forces in the area, the actual names are as follows.
  • From its inception until January 23, 1919, this formation was named the Volunteer Army.
  • From January 23, 1919, until May 22, 1919, this formation was named the Caucasus Volunteer Army.
  • On May 22, 1919, this formation was split into two formations:
    • Caucasus Army, disbanded on January 29, 1920 and replaced by the Kuban Army, the remnants of which surrendered on April 18-20, 1920.
    • Volunteer Army, the remnants of which were evacuated March 26-27, 1920.

See also

  • White movement
    White movement
    The White movement and its military arm the White Army - known as the White Guard or the Whites - was a loose confederation of Anti-Communist forces.The movement comprised one of the politico-military Russian forces who fought...

  • West Russian Volunteer Army
    West Russian Volunteer Army
    The West Russian Volunteer Army or Bermontians was an army in the Baltic provinces of the former Russian Empire during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1920....

  • Russian Civil War
    Russian Civil War
    The Russian Civil War was a multi-party war that occurred within the former Russian Empire after the Russian provisional government collapsed to the Soviets, under the domination of the Bolshevik party. Soviet forces first assumed power in Petrograd The Russian Civil War (1917–1923) was a...

  • Russian Liberation Movement
    Russian Liberation Movement
    Russian Liberation Movement is a term used to describe Russians during World War II who tried to create an anti-communist armed force which would topple the regime of Joseph Stalin...

  • Russian Liberation Army
    Russian Liberation Army
    Russian Liberation Army was a group of predominantly Russian forces subordinated to the Nazi German high command during World War II....

  • Russian Corps
    Russian Corps
    The Russian Corps was an armed force composed of anti-communist Russian emigres that existed during the Second World War in German-occupied Serbia...

  • Allied Intervention in the Russian Civil War
    Allied Intervention in the Russian Civil War
    The Allied intervention was a multi-national military expedition launched in 1918 during World War I which continued into the Russian Civil War. Its operations included forces from 14 nations and were conducted over a vast territory...

External links

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