Denikin, Anton Ivanovich

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(18721947), general, commander of White armies in Southern Russia during the Russian civil war.

Anton Denikin was born the son of a retired border guard officer in Poland. His own military career began in the artillery, from which he entered the General Staff Academy. He served in the Russo-Japanese War and the World War I, where he commanded the Fourth, or "Iron," Brigade (later a division). Beginning the war with the rank of major general, following the February 1917 Revolution, he received a rapid series of promotions, from command of the Eighth Corps to command of the Russian Western, and then Southwestern, Fronts. In September 1917, however, he and a number of other officers were arrested as associates of Commander-in-Chief General Lavr Kornilov in the latter's conflict with Prime Minister Alexander Kerensky. Denikin was released from prison following the Bolshevik coup. He headed to Novocherkassk, where he participated in the formation of the Anti-Bolshevik (White) Army together with Kornilov and General Mikhail Alexeyev. Following the death of Kornilov in April 1918, Denikin took command of the White Army, which he led out of its critical situation in the Kuban Cossack territory. General Alexeyev's death in September of that year left him with responsibility for civil affairs in the White regions as well. With the subordination to him of the Don and Kuban Cossack armies, Denikin assumed the title Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of South Russia (December 1918).

By early 1919, the White Army controlled a territory encompassing the Don and Kuban Cossack territories and the North Caucasus. During the spring and summer, the army advanced in all directions, clearing the Crimea, taking Kharkov on June 11 and Tsaritsyn (now Volgograd) on June 17. On June 20, 1919, Denikin issued the Moscow Directive, an order which began the army's offensive on Moscow. After taking Kiev on August 17, Kursk on September 7, and Orel (some two hundred miles south of Moscow) on September 30, the overextended White Army had reached the limits of its advance. A Bolshevik counteroffensive initiated a retreat that ultimately resulted in the army's evacuation of all its territory with the exception of Crimea. This retreat was accompanied by epidemics of typhus and other diseases, which decimated the ranks of soldiers and the civilian population alike. Denikin handed over command to General Pyotr Wrangel on March 22, 1920, and left Russia for Constantinople (Istanbul), and then France, where he lived until November 1945. His final year and nine months were spent in the United States. He died on August 7, 1947, in Michigan.

The ill-fated Moscow offensive has colored Denikin's reputation, with some, such as General Wrangel, arguing that the directive initiating it was the death knell of the White movement in South Russia. Wrangel advocated a junction with Admiral Kolchak's forces in the east. Denikin himself felt that the conditions of the civil war were such that only a risky headlong rush could unseat the Bolsheviks and put an end to the struggle.

See also: civil war of 19171922; white army; wrangel, peter nikolayevich


Denikin, Anton I. (1922). The Russian Turmoil: Memoirs, Military, Social, and Political. London: Hutchinson.

Denikin, Anton I. (1975). The Career of a Tsarist Officer: Memoirs, 18721916. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Lehovich, Dimitry V. (1974). White Against Red: The Life of General Anton Denikin. New York: Norton.

Anatol Shmelev

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Anton Ivanovich Denikin

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