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About the Petrograd Front
Comrade Stalin, who returned from the Petrograd Front a few days ago, gave our correspondent his impressions of the situation at the front
1. The approaches to Petrograd
The approaches to Petrograd are those points, proceeding from which the enemy, if he is successful, may surround Petrograd, cut it off from Russia and finally take it. These points are: a) the Petrozavodsk sector, with Zvanka as the line of advance; objective – to envelop Petrograd from the East; b) the Olonets sector, with Lodeinoye Polye as the line of advance; objective – to turn the flank of our Petrozavodsk forces; c) the Karelian sector, with Petrograd as the direct line of advance; objective – to seize Petrograd from the North; d) the Narva sector, with Gatchina and Krasnoye Selo as the line of advance; objective – to capture Petrograd from the SouthWest, or, at least, to capture the Gatchina-Tosno line and envelop Petrograd from the South; e) the Pskov sector, with Dno-Bologoye as the line of advance; objective – to cut Petrograd off from Moscow; and, lastly, f) the Gulf of Finland and Lake Ladoga, which offer the enemy the possibility of landing forces west and east of Petrograd.
2. The enemy's forces
The enemy's forces in these sectors are a motley lot and of various strengths. In the Petrozavodsk sector, Serbs, Poles, British, Canadians and a group of Russian white-guard officers are operating, all of them maintained with funds supplied by the so-called Allies. The Olonets sector is held by White Finns, hired on two or three months' contract by the Finnish Government and commanded by German officers who remained behind after the German occupation. The Karelian sector is manned by so-called regular Finnish units. The Narva sector is manned by Russian units, recruited from Russian war prisoners, and by Ingermanland units recruited from the local inhabitants. These units are commanded by Major-General Rodzyanko. The forces in the Pskov sector also consist of Russian units made up of war prisoners and local inhabitants, and are commanded by Balakhovich. Operating in the Gulf of Finland are destroyers (5 to 12) and submarines (2 to 8) – British and Finnish, according to available information.
To judge by all the evidence, the enemy's forces on the Petrograd Front are not large. The Narva sector, where the enemy is most active, suffers no less from a shortage of "man power" than the other, less active, though no less important, sectors.
This, indeed, explains why, in spite of the fact that already two months ago The Times1 was jubilantly predicting the fall of Petrograd "within two or three days," the enemy, far from having attained his general objective – the surrounding of Petrograd – has not in this period scored even a single partial success on any one of the sectors, in the sense of capturing some decisive point.
Apparently, the vaunted "North-West Army" commanded by General Yudenich from his vantage ground in Finland, the army on which that old fox Guchkov reposed his hopes in his report to Denikin, has so far not even been hatched.
3. The enemy's calculations
Judging by all the evidence, the enemy reckoned not only, or, rather, not so much, on his own forces as on the forces of his supporters, the whiteguards in the rear of our forces, in Petrograd and at the fronts. These were, firstly, the so-called embassies of bourgeois states which continued to exist in Petrograd (French, Swiss, Greek, Italian, Dutch, Danish, Rumanian, etc.), which financed the whiteguards and engaged in espionage on behalf of Yudenich and the British, French, Finnish and Estonian bourgeoisie. These gentry scattered money right and left, buying everyone in the rear of our army who was open to be bought. Next, the venal elements among the Russian officers, who have forgotten Russia, have lost all sense of honour and are ready to desert to the enemies of workers' and peasants' Russia. Lastly, the have-beens, the bourgeois and landlords who had suffered at the hands of the Petrograd proletariat and who, as it later appeared, had accumulated weapons and were waiting for a suitable moment to stab our forces in the back. These were the forces upon which the enemy reckoned when he marched on Petrograd. To capture Krasnaya Gorka, the key to Kronstadt, and thus put the fortified area out of action, raise revolt in the forts and shell Petrograd, and then, combining a general offensive at the front with a revolt within Petrograd at the moment of general confusion, surround and capture the centre of the proletarian revolution – such were the enemy's calculations.
4. The situation at the front
However, the enemy miscalculated. Krasnaya Gorka, which the enemy managed to occupy for twenty-four hours thanks to internal treachery on the part of the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries, was swiftly restored to Soviet Russia by a powerful blow struck from sea and land by the Baltic sailors. The Kronstadt strongpoints, which at one moment had begun to waver owing to the treachery of the Right Socialist-Revolutionaries, the Menshevik defencists and the venal section of the officer class, were promptly brought to order by the iron hand of the Revolutionary Military Council of the Baltic Fleet. The so-called embassies and their spies were arrested and removed to less troublesome places. In some of the embassies, moreover, machine guns, rifles (in the Rumanian Embassy even one gun), secret telephone exchanges, etc., were discovered. A sweeping search carried out in the bourgeois quarters of Petrograd unearthed four thousand rifles and several hundred bombs.
As to the enemy's general offensive, far from being crowned with success, as The Times had loudly proclaimed, it never even succeeded in getting started. The Finnish Whites at Olonets, who were trying to occupy Lodeinoye Polye, have been overwhelmed and driven back into Finland. The enemy's Petrozavodsk group, which was stationed only a few versts from Petrozavodsk, is now rapidly retreating under the onslaught of our units, which have turned its flank. The enemy's Pskov group has lost the initiative, is making no headway, and in places is even retreating. As to the enemy's Narva group, the most active, far from having attained its objective, it is continuously retiring under the onslaught of our units and is disintegrating and melting away on the roads to Yamburg under the blows of the Red Army. The Entente's jubilations thus appear to have been premature. The hopes of Guchkov and Yudenich have been disappointed. The Karelian sector is still passive and nothing yet can be said about it, because the Finnish Government, after its reverses at Vidlitsa Factory2, has noticeably moderated its tone and dropped its shrill abuse of the Russian Government, and, what is more, the so-called incidents on the Karelian Front have practically ceased.
Whether this is the calm before the storm, only the Finnish Government knows. At all events, it may be said that Petrograd is prepared for all possible surprises.
5. The navy
I cannot refrain from saying a few words about the navy. It is a subject for congratulation that the Baltic Fleet, which was believed to be non-existent, is being most effectively regenerated. This is admitted by our enemies as well as our friends. Equally gratifying is the fact that the scourge of venality with which a section of the Russian officer class is afflicted has least of all contaminated the commanding personnel of the navy. Here we have men who, to their honour be it said, prize the dignity and independence of Russia higher than British gold. Even more gratifying is the fact that the Baltic sailors have become their old selves again, and by their valorous deeds have revived the finest traditions of the Russian revolutionary navy. Had it not been for these factors Petrograd would not have been safeguarded against the most dangerous surprises from the sea. A most typical illustration of the regeneration of our navy was the unequal engagement fought in June by two of our destroyers against four enemy destroyers and three submarines, from which, thanks to the gallantry of our sailors and the skilful direction of the commander of the detachment, our destroyers emerged victorious, having sunk one of the enemy's submarines.
6. Summing up
Rodzyanko is often compared with Kolchak as a menace to Soviet Russia, being regarded as no less dangerous than Kolchak. The comparison is incorrect. Kolchak really is dangerous, because he has space to which to retire, he has the man power with which to replenish his units, and he has the food with which to feed his army. The misfortune of Rodzyanko and Yudenich is that they have not enough space, man power, or food. Finland and Estland, of course, do to some extent represent a base for the formation of whiteguard units from Russian war prisoners. But, firstly, war prisoners cannot provide either sufficient or fully reliable men for the whiteguard units. Secondly, because of the mounting revolutionary unrest in Finland and Estland, the conditions in these countries themselves are not favourable for the formation of whiteguard units. Thirdly, the territory seized by Rodzyanko and Balakhovich (in all about two uyezds) is being gradually and systematically narrowed, and the vaunted "North-West Army", if it is destined to be born at all, will soon have no room for deployment and manoeuvre. Because – and this must be acknowledged – neither Finland nor Estland, for the present at least, are placing "their own territory" at the disposal of Rodzyanko, Balakhovich and Yudenich. The "North-West Army" is an army without a rear. It goes without saying that such an "army" cannot exist for long, unless of course some new and weighty international factor favourable to the enemy interferes with the chain of developments – which, however, to judge by all the signs, he has no grounds to anticipate. The Red Army at Petrograd should win.
1. The Times – a London daily, founded in 1788, influential organ of the British big bourgeoisie. It urged support of Yudenich's offensive.
2. Vidlitsa Factory, on the eastern shore of Lake Ladoga, was the major base of the Finnish whiteguards operating in the Olonets sector of the Petrograd Front. On June 27, 1919, units of the Red Army, supported by vessels of the Onega Flotilla and the Baltic Fleet, launched a surprise attack and captured Vidlitsa Factory, destroyed the headquarters of the so-called Olonets Volunteer Army and seized rich stores of ammunition, equipment and victuals. The Finnish whiteguards were driven back into Finland.
I.Stalin. Works, volume 44