Anton Denikin was a Russian general who fought for the Whites during Russia’s civil war against the reds – Lenin’s Bolsheviks. Denikin had been born into a peasant family – so his rise to army general was remarkable by any standards, let alone the rigid social hierarchy that existed within Russia at the time.
Denikin was born in 1872. He joined the Imperial Army and rose up the ranks as a result of his ability – his social background was not an apparent hindrance. Denikin served during the Russo-Japanese War – a military defeat that was to have far reaching consequences in Russia and was one of the reasons for sparking off the 1905 Revolution.
When World War One broke out in August 1914, Denikin held the rank of Major General and was based in the Kiev region. Appointed to work with Brusilov, Denikin was then given the command of the 4th Rifle Brigade, which fought in Galicia and Carpathians. In 1916, Denikin took part in the 1916 Brusilov Offensive.
Despite the apparent establishment figure that Denikin may have seemed – given his rank in the army – he supported the decision of Nicholas II to abdicate. He saw Nicholas as a weak link and not fit for the position of tsar.
During the time of Kerensky’s Provisional Government, Denikin was Chief of Staff to three Commanders-in-Chief – Alexeev, Brusilov and Kornilov. When Kornilov attempted to seize power, he received the support of Denikin. As this attempt failed, Denikin was tarred with being disloyal and he was imprisoned.
The chaos brought about by the November Revolution gave Denikin the opportunity to escape. He travelled to south Russia where he joined Alexeev and became part of the White Army – the title given to all the forces that wanted an end to the Bolshevik rule in Russia. Kornilov joined Denikin.
In the spring of 1918, Kornilov died and Denikin became the natural leader of the Whites in southern Russia. He was appointed Commander of the Armed Forces of South Russia. However, Denikin had two major problems.
First, the Red Army was superbly led by Leon Trotsky and was a formidable force.
Secondly, the Allies withdrew support for the Whites after November 1918.
In October 1919, Denikin’s forces were severely beaten at Orel. The defeat forced Denikin and his forces to retreat to the Crimea where, by the spring of 1920, they had no option but to evacuate what they could. Denikin had to flee Russia.
He went to live in France but moved to America where he died in exile in 1947.