Don Army

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Don Army aviation insignia.

The Don Army (Russian: Донская армия, Donskaya Armiya) was the military of the short lived Don Republic and a part of the White movement in the Russian Civil War. It operated from 1918 to 1920, in the Don region and centered in the town of Novocherkassk.


Don Army commanders including Lieutenant-General Konstantin Mamontov on the right. (The cross over Mamontov's head was drawn by the photographer after he died.)

After the October Revolution in 1917, a conflict in the Don broke out between the "Red" Bolsheviks and "White" Don Cossacks.

In Novocherkassk, an assembly of Cossacks, the Krug, elected Alexei Kaledin as the first independent ataman since the days of Peter the Great. They refused to recognise the Bolshevik government and declared themselves protectors of Russia.

On December 2 (old style calendar), Kaledin's Cossacks seized Rostov-on-Don, driving out the Bolshevik authorities and setting up a government headed by Mitrofan Petrovich Bogayevsky.

The Bolshevik resistance, centered in the Kamenskaya stanitsa, was joined by an army sent by Moscow.

Kaledin, feeling powerless to oppose the Bolsheviks, shot himself on January 29, 1918. He was replaced by major-general Anatoly Mikhailovich Nazarov. Nazarov requested help from the Volunteer Army, but was refused it. His resignation was turned down by the krug, who insisted that he fulfill his duty as a 'true son of the Quiet Don'.[1] He decided to end the civil war by capitulating to the Bolsheviks and met with the Red representative, Sablin. Sablin refused to recognise the authority of the Ataman and declared that the Cossacks should be destroyed. In the evening of February 1918, a detachment of the Red Army, under Lt. N. M. Golubov, broke up a meeting of the krug, arresting Nazarov and the chairman, Voloshinov. They were shot without trial on March 3. A policy of Red Terror was carried out along the Don.

Several stanitsas revolted and on April 3, 1918 formed a new Don army.

On May 12, 1918, a special krug (the krug for the salvation of the Don) declared the old rights and uniforms restored and declared war upon the Bolsheviks. Pyotr Krasnov, a talented soldier and writer, was elected as the new Ataman.

In the Summer and Fall of 1918, the White Don Army controlled the Don territory, severed Red Army communications between Moscow and the Caucasus (allowing the White Volunteer Army to defeat the Red Army of the Northern Caucasus) and threatened Red Army positions at Tsaritsyn and Voronezh, as well as Rostov-na-Donu.

Much of the Upper Don region, in 1918, had defected to the Bolsheviks, but as a result of the Red Terror, in 1919, rose up in arms against them, in what was known as the Veshenskaya Uprising. The main leaders were Pavel Nazarovich Kudinov and Kharlampii Yermakov. They joined forces with the Don Army centered in Novocherkassk, which was commanded by Ataman Afrikan Bogayevsky. These events form an important part of Mikhail Sholokhov's epic, And Quiet Flows the Don. Indeed, for a long time, Kudinov and Yermakov, who appear in the novel, were considered as fictional by the general public.

In the Winter of 1918-1919, the Red Southern Front, including their Group Kozhevnikov, 8th Army, 9th Army, and 10th Army, counterattacked the Don Army and regained control of the area northeast of the Donets and Manych rivers.

Many Don Cossacks also participated in Kornilov's infamous Ice March.

The Don army was often divided and plagued with indesiciveness, many of the Cossacks not wishing to fight beyond their own territory.

On March 14, 1920, the Don Army dissolved and was succeeded by the VSYuR.

Combat strength[edit]

Generally after Dobrynin, The Participation of the Don Cossacks in the Fight against Bolshevism.[1]

Soldiers of the Don Army in 1919 with a Mark V tank.
Austin Armored Car with "Ataman Bogayevsky" written on the side.
Date Soldiers Field Guns Machine Guns
May 1, 1918 17,000 21 58
June 1, 1918 40,000 56 179
July 1, 1918 49,000 92 272
July 15, 1918 39,000 93 270
August 1, 1918 31,000 79 267
November 20, 1918 49,500 153 581
February 1, 1919 38,000 168 491
February 15, 1919 15,000 N/A N/A
April 21, 1919 15,000 108 441
May 10, 1919 15,000 131 531
June 16, 1919 40,000 N/A N/A
July 15, 1919 43,000 177 793
August 1, 1919 30,000 161 655
September 1, 1919 39,500 175 724
October 1, 1919 46,500 192 939
October 15, 1919 52,500 196 765
November 1, 1919 37,000 207 798
December 1, 1919 22,000 143 535
January 1, 1920 39,000 200 860
January 22, 1920 39,000 243 856
February 1, 1920 38,000 158 687

In literature[edit]

The events of those years, especially those centered in the Upper Don, as well as events leading up to them, are the focus of Mikhail Sholokhov's epic, And Quiet Flows the Don.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Astapenko, pg. 574
  • "Istoriya Donskogo Kazachestva; s drevnejshikh vremyon do 1920" (The history of the Don Cossack Host; from ancient times until 1920) M. P. Astapenko.

External links[edit]