Volunteer Army

The Volunteer Army (Russian: Добровольческая армия, romanizedDobrovolcheskaya armiya, abbreviated to Russian: Добрармия, romanizedDobrarmiya)[1] was a White Army active in South Russia during the Russian Civil War from 1917 to 1920. The Volunteer Army fought against Bolsheviks on the Southern Front and the Ukrainian War of Independence. In 1919 it was made part of the Armed Forces of South Russia, becoming the largest force of the White movement until it was merged with the Army of Wrangel in March 1920.

Volunteer Army
Добровольческая армия
Volunteer Army Insignia.svg
ActiveNovember 1917 – March 1920
AllegianceRussia VSYuR
BranchArmed Forces of South Russia
Size3,000 (December 1917)
3,348 (February 1918)
8,500–9,000 (June 1918)
40,000 (June 1919)
5,000 (March 1920)
EngagementsRussian Civil War
Mikhail Drozdovsky 
Anton Denikin
Pyotr Vrangel
Mikhail Alekseyev
Lavr Kornilov 
Vladimir May-Mayevsky
Alexander Kutepov
"Why aren't you in the army?" Volunteer Army recruitment poster during the Russian Civil War.



The Volunteer Army began forming in November/December 1917 under the leadership of General Mikhail Alekseyev and General Lavr Kornilov in Novocherkassk, shortly after the Russian Civil War began following the October Revolution. It organized to fight against the Bolsheviks in South Russia. Alekseyev and Kornilov enlisted supporters, which initially included volunteering officers, cadets, students, and Cossacks. Of the first 3,000 recruits, only twelve were ordinary soldiers; the rest were officers, some of whom resented having to serve as privates.[2]

Official creationEdit

On December 27, 1917 (January 9, 1918), the creation of the Volunteer Army was officially announced, with Alekseyev becoming its overall leader, Kornilov as its Commander-in-chief, General Alexander Lukomsky as its Chief of Staff, General Anton Denikin commander of the 1st Division, and General Sergey Markov as commander of 1st Officers regiment. They also created the so-called "Special Council" at the headquarters, which included prominent civilian politicians such as Peter Struve, Pavel Milyukov, Mikhail Rodzianko, Sergey Sazonov and Boris Savinkov.


In early February 1918, the Volunteer Army numbered more than 3,600 men.[3] It fought against the Red Army together with units of General Alexey Kaledin's forces.

First Kuban CampaignEdit

In late February, the Red Army's advance forced the Volunteer Army to retreat from Rostov-on-Don to Kuban in order to unite with the Kuban Cossack formations, a retreat known as the Ice March. However, most Kuban Cossacks did not support the Volunteer Army, and only a small unit (3,000 men) led by General Viktor Pokrovsky joined the Volunteer Army on March 26, 1918, increasing its number to 6,000 troops. The Volunteer Army's attempt to capture Yekaterinodar between April 9–13 was a disaster, with Kornilov being killed in battle when he was hit by an artillery shell. Denikin took over command of the remnants of the Volunteer Army and left for the remote stanitsas beyond the Don River region.

Second Kuban CampaignEdit

In June 1918, 3,000 men under Colonel Mikhail Drozdovsky's command joined the Volunteer Army, strengthening it to between 8,000 to 9,000 men. On June 23, the Volunteer Army began the Kuban Offensive, with General Pyotr Krasnov's support. By September 1918, the Volunteer Army was up to 30,000 to 35,000 men thanks to the mobilization of the Kuban Cossacks and what the Bolsheviks classified as "counterrevolutionary elements" gathered in the North Caucasus, taking the name of Caucasus Volunteer Army.

General Anton Denikin's Volunteer Army and regional armed forces after Armistice of Mudros.

In the autumn of 1918, Great Britain, France and the United States increased their material and technical assistance to the Volunteer Army. With the Entente's support, the forces of the South Russian Whites combined to form the so-called Armed Forces of South Russia (Вооружённые силы Юга России, Vooruzhenniye sily Yuga Rossii) led by Denikin. In late 1918 to early 1919, Denikin defeated the 11th Soviet Army and captured the North Caucasus region.


In January 1919, the Caucasus Volunteer Army was divided into the Caucasus Army and the Volunteer Army, which would later be joined by the Don Army, created from the remnants of Krasnov's Cossack Army. After capturing Donbass, Tsaritsyn, and Kharkov in June 1919, Denikin began advancing towards Moscow on June 20 (July 3). According to his plan, the main blow to Moscow was to be inflicted by the Volunteer Army (40,000 men) under the command of General Vladimir May-Mayevsky.

Some of the Volunteer Army's units and formations possessed good military skills and fighting strength due to large numbers of officers in its ranks, who hated and despised the Bolsheviks. However, the Volunteer Army's fighting efficiency decreased in the summer of 1919 in light of significant losses and conscription of mobilized peasants and even captured Red Army soldiers. During the Red Army's counteroffensive in October 1919, the Volunteer Army suffered a decisive defeat and retreated south.


In early 1920, it retreated to the areas beyond the Don region and was reduced to a corps of 5,000 men under the command of General Alexander Kutepov. On March 26 and March 27, 1920, the Volunteer Army's remnants were evacuated from Novorossiysk to the Crimea, where they merged with the Army of Wrangel under General Pyotr Wrangel.

Nomenclature timelineEdit

The term "Volunteer Army" is often used as a shorthand description for all the White Russian forces in the South Russia area, the actual names of the formation are:

  • From its inception until January 23, 1919, this formation was named the Volunteer Army.
  • From January 23, 1919, until May 22, 1919, this formation was named the Caucasus Volunteer Army.
  • On May 22, 1919, this formation was split into two formations:
    • Caucasus Army, disbanded on January 29, 1920 and replaced by the Kuban Army, the remnants of which surrendered on April 18–20, 1920.
    • Volunteer Army, the remnants of which were evacuated March 26/27, 1920.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Glossary of Russian Abbreviations and Acronyms. Washington: Washington, Library of Congress; [for sale by the Supt. of Docs., U.S. Govt. Print. Off.] 1967. p. 221. LCCN 68-60006.
  2. ^ Orlando Figes, A People's Tragedy, page 560.
  3. ^ "Volunteer Army | International Encyclopedia of the First World War (WW1)". encyclopedia.1914-1918-online.net. Retrieved 2021-10-30.

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