White Resistance Organizes on the Don


Alexey Kaledin (1861-1918), ataman of the Don Cossacks and former commander of the Eighth Army.

January 10 1918, Rostov–The Cossacks were long feared as loyal soldiers of the Czar, present in the vanguard of any counterrevolutionary effort.  General Kaledin, the leader of the Don Cossacks, was no friend to the Bolsheviks, but was reluctant to take direct action.  In part, this was because he knew the Don Cossacks’ weaknesses.  A large proportion of their region’s population was Russian peasants, who had strained relations with the Cossacks.  Furthermore, many Cossacks had served at the front for the last three years and were in no mood to continue fighting.  In an attempt to rectify at least the former, on January 10 Kaledin declared the Don Cossacks’ independence under a “United Host Government,” including representatives from the Russian peasants and workers.

Kaledin also had help, of a sort, from Alexeyev and Kornilov, who, the previous day, had officially formed their Volunteer Army, pledged to resist both the Bolsheviks and the Germans.  However, it only numbered a few thousand at most, mainly young officers.  The presence of Kornilov was possibly a disadvantage, mainly serving to attract Bolshevik attention to both the Volunteer Army and to their Cossack hosts.  Although the Red Army did not truly exist yet, the Bolsheviks had begun sending what forces they could gather south to the Don to fight the Cossacks and the Volunteer Army.

The forces in the Don did receive something of a reprieve the same day as well, as the Germans and Austrians recognized the independence of Ukraine, in an attempt to put pressure on the Bolsheviks in peace negotiations.  This turned the Bolsheviks’ attention to the Ukraine; they hoped to crush the government there before any formal peace deal was signed at Brest-Litovsk.  This gave the White forces in the Don at least a few weeks’ worth of breathing room.

Today in 1917: German Consul in San Francisco Convicted of Conspiracy

Today in 1916: Russians Launch Surprise Caucasus Offensive
Today in 1915: Russians Press Counterattacks in the Caucasus

Sources include: Evan Mawdsley, The Russian Civil War.