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The Battle of Tsaritsyn was a military confrontation between Bolshevik forces and the White Army during the Russian Civil War. It was for control of the significant city and port on the Volga River in southwestern Russia. The battle resulted in a Bolshevik victory.

Battle of Tsaritsyn
Part of the Southern Front of the Russian Civil War
Map Tsaritsin 1913.jpg
A 1913 map of Tsaritsyn
DateJuly 1918 – January 1920
(1 year and 6 months)
48°42′N 44°31′E / 48.700°N 44.517°E / 48.700; 44.517Coordinates: 48°42′N 44°31′E / 48.700°N 44.517°E / 48.700; 44.517
Result Initial White Army victory (1919)
Final Red Army victory (1920)

Russia White Army

United Kingdom Royal Tank Regiment
Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic Red Army
Commanders and leaders
Russia Pyotr Krasnov
Russia Anton Denikin
Russia Pyotr Wrangel
Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic Joseph Stalin
Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic Kliment Voroshilov
Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic Dmitry Zhloba
More than 250,000[citation needed] At least 160,000[citation needed]
Casualties and losses
130,000[citation needed] 80,000[citation needed]


The battle started when White forces under Ataman Pyotr Krasnov laid siege to Tsaritsyn in the autumn of 1918, pushing back the Red Army defenders into areas surrounding the town on the west bank. The local Bolshevik leaders desperately called Moscow for reinforcements and arms, but received nothing other than orders to stand firm.


The city was saved by the actions of the local chairman of the military committee, Joseph Stalin. Stalin urged his comrades to continue fighting and disobeyed direct orders from Moscow by recalling forces from the Caucasus, nicknamed Zhloba's 'Steel Division'. These forces were able to attack the White forces in the rear and defeat them, saving Tsaritsyn for the Bolsheviks. Three major engagements then developed around the city afterwards during the entire duration of the battle but were likewise less successful than the first one.

A temporary takeover of the city by White general Anton Denikin's troops occurred in June 1919. Major Ewen Cameron Bruce of the British Army had volunteered to command a British tank mission assisting the White Army. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order[1] for his bravery during the June 1919 battle for single-handedly storming and capturing the fortified city of Tsaritsyn, under heavy shell fire in a single tank; this led to the successful capture of over 40,000 prisoners.[2] The fall of Tsaritsyn is viewed "as one of the key battles of the Russian Civil War" which greatly helped the White Russian Cause.[2] Notable historian Sir Basil Henry Liddell Hart comments that Bruce's tank action during this battle is to be seen as "one of the most remarkable feats in the whole history of the Tank Corps."[3]

However, Red Army forces under both Stalin and Voroshilov, this time aided by supplies and weapons that had recently arrived from Moscow, staged an all-out assault towards the city and retook it by January 1920. As a result, the defeated White Army, now reduced to mere numbers and in danger of destruction, then retreated towards the Crimean peninsula.


For these and later actions in the city of Tsaritsyn region, the city was renamed Stalingrad in 1925 to honor Stalin and his actions.[citation needed] About 17 years later the city would once again be a battlefield, this time for the decisive battle of the Eastern Front of World War II, the bloody Battle of Stalingrad. The city was renamed in 1961 to Volgograd by Nikita Khrushchev during his de-Stalinization reforms.[4]



  1. ^ Distinguished Service Order citation for Bruce in the 1920 London Gazette[permanent dead link]
  2. ^ a b Kinvig, Clifford. "Churchill's Crusade: The British Invasion of Russia, 1918-1920". Hambledon Continuum: 2006, p. 225; ISBN 9781847250216.
  3. ^ Liddell Hart, Basil. "The Tanks: The History Of The Royal Tank Regiment And Its Predecessors, Heavy Branch Machine-Gun Corps, Tank Corps And Royal Tank Corps, 1914-1945. Vol I". Cassell: 1959, p. 211.
  4. ^ "Putting Stalin back on the map: Nationalist leader vows to rename city if elected president". RT. 22 March 2017. Retrieved 22 March 2017.
  • R. Overy, Why the Allies Won, London 1996

The battle of Tsaritsyn appears as part of an operation in the popular game Battlefield 1