Great Siberian Ice March

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Great Siberian Ice March
Part of Russian Civil War
Retreat of the White Army (Nov. 1919 - March 1920).
Date14 November 1919 - March 1920
Result Red Army victory. Retreat of the White Army to Chita with heavy losses.
Failure of the Red Army to encircle General Kappel’s Army.
Flag RSFSR 1918.svg Red Army Flag of The Russian Empire 1883.svg Siberian Army
Commanders and leaders
Flag RSFSR 1918.svg Sergey Kamenev
Flag RSFSR 1918.svg Vladimir Olderogge
Flag RSFSR 1918.svg Genrich Eiche
Flag of Russia.svg Alexander Kolchak   Skull and crossbones.svg
Flag of Russia.svg Vladimir Kappel  
Flag of Russia.svg Sergei Wojciechowski

The Great Siberian Ice march (Russian: Великий Сибирский Ледяной поход, Velikiy Sibirskiy Ledyanoy pokhod) was the name given to the 2000-kilometer winter retreat of Admiral Kolchak's Siberian Army from Omsk to Chita, in the course of the Russian Civil War between 14 November 1919 and March 1920.

Russian language East Slavic language

Russian is an East Slavic language, which is official in the Russian Federation, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, as well as being widely used throughout Eastern Europe, the Baltic states, the Caucasus and Central Asia. It was the de facto language of the Soviet Union until its dissolution on 25 December 1991. Although, nowadays, nearly three decades after the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russian is used in official capacity or in public life in all the post-Soviet nation-states, as well as in Israel and Mongolia, the rise of state-specific varieties of this language tends to be strongly denied in Russia, in line with the Russian World ideology.

Siberian Army

The Siberian Army was an anti-Bolshevik army during the Russian Civil War, which fought from June 1918 – July 1919 in Siberia – Ural Region.

Omsk City in Omsk Oblast, Russia

Omsk is a city and the administrative center of Omsk Oblast, Russia, located in southwestern Siberia 2,236 kilometers (1,389 mi) from Moscow. With a population of 1,154,116, it is Russia's second-largest city east of the Ural Mountains after Novosibirsk, and seventh by size nationally. Omsk acts as an essential transport node, serving as a train station for Trans-Siberian Railway and as a staging post for the Irtysh River.


General Vladimir Kappel, who was appointed to this position in mid-December 1919, led the retreat. After his death from pneumonia on 26 January 1920, General Sergei Wojciechowski took command of the troops. Admiral Kolchak travelled ahead by train to Irkutsk but was halted by Czechoslovak troops in December and handed over to Left SR troops in Irkutsk on 14 January, which executed him on 7 February 1920.

Vladimir Kappel Russian general PC SNZ

Vladimir Oskarovich Kappel was a White Russian military leader.

Sergei Wojciechowski Czechoslovak general

Sergei Wojciechowski was a Colonel of the Russian Army, Major-General in the White movement, and Czechoslovak Army general. Russian and Czechoslovakian military commander, Major-General and one of the leaders of the White movement in Siberia. Participant of the Great Siberian Ice March.

Order of the Great Siberian Ice March Za Sibirskii poxod.jpg
Order of the Great Siberian Ice March


In the summer of 1919, the Red Army had gained a great victory against Kolchak's Army. The White forces re-established a line along the Tobol and the Ishim rivers to temporarily halt the Red Army, which was faced by an Advance on Moscow from the South by Anton Denikin's White Army. by the autumn, Denikin had been defeated and the Red Army was able to direct reinforcements back to the Eastern Front. The Reds broke through on the Tobol River in mid-October and by November the White forces were falling back towards Omsk in a disorganised mass. Omsk was conquered by the Reds on 14 November 1919.

Counteroffensive of Eastern Front

The Counteroffensive of Eastern Front was an episode of the Russian Civil War.

Tobol River river in Kazakhstan and Russia

Tobol is a river and the main tributary of the Irtysh. Its length is 1,660 km (1,030 mi), and the area of its drainage basin is 395,000 km2 (153,000 sq mi).

Advance on Moscow (1919)

The Advance on Moscow was a military campaign of the White Armed Forces of South Russia (AFSR), launched against the RSFSR in July 1919 during the Russian Civil War. The goal of the campaign was the capture of Moscow, which, according to the chief of the White Army Anton Denikin, would play a decisive role in the outcome of the Civil War and bring the Whites closer to the final victory. After initial successes, in which the city of Oryol (Orel) at only 360 km from Moscow was taken, Denikin's overextended Army was decisively defeated in a series of battles in October and November 1919.

The Retreat from Omsk to the Baikal Lake

The retreat began after the heavy defeats of the White Army in the Omsk operation and in the Novonikolaevsk Operation in November–December 1919. The army, led by General Kappel, retreated along the Trans-Siberian Railway, using the available trains to transport the wounded. They were followed on their heels by the 5th Red Army under the command of Genrich Eiche.

The 5th Army was a field army of the Red Army during the Russian Civil War. The 5th Army was formed four times. The first formation was between the beginning of March 1918 and April as a reaction to the Austro-German occupation of Ukraine. The second formation was created between April 1918 and 23 June 1918 to defend Tsaritsyn, the third formation between August 16, 1918 and September 6, 1922, as a part of the Eastern Front and the fourth formation between November 16, 1922 and June 1924 in the Far East.

Henrich Christoforovich Eiche — served in World War I as an officer in the Russian Imperial Army, and in 1917 was elected Chairman of the Military Revolutionary Committee of his regiment. He was a Soviet military commander, military historian, and held leading civil posts.

The White retreat was complicated by numerous insurgencies in the cities where they had to pass and attacks by partisan detachments, and was further aggravated by the fierce Siberian frost. After the series of defeats, the White troops were in a demoralized state, centralized supply was paralyzed, replenishment not received, and the discipline dropped dramatically.

In these circumstances, the appointment as commander of the Army of General Kappel, who enjoyed unlimited trust and prestige amongst Kolchak's troops, was the first step to avoid the disintegration of the entire Kolchak army. Only the 2nd Army came under his command, as communication with the 1st and 3rd armies had been lost. Control of the railway was in the hands of the Czechoslovak Legion, as a result of which parts of General Kappel's Army were deprived of the opportunity to use the railway. They were also harassed by partisan troops under command of Alexander Kravchenko and Peter Efimovich Schetinkin.

Czechoslovak Legion

The Czechoslovak Legion were volunteer armed forces composed predominantly of Czechs with a small number of Slovaks fighting together with the Entente powers during World War I. Their goal was to win the support of the Allied Powers for the independence of Bohemia and Moravia from the Austrian Empire and of Slovak territories from the Kingdom of Hungary, which were then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. With the help of émigré intellectuals and politicians such as the Czech Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk and the Slovak Milan Rastislav Štefánik, they grew into a force of over 100,000 strong.

Alexander Diomidovich Kravchenko was a Russian revolutionary, agronomist and partisan who fought against Admiral Kolchak's White forces in Siberia in 1919 during the Russian Civil War.

The pursuing Red 5th Army took Tomsk on 20 December 1919 and Krasnoyarsk on 7 January 1920,

Tomsk City Under Oblast Jurisdiction in Tomsk Oblast, Russia

Tomsk is a city and the administrative center of Tomsk Oblast in Russia, located on the Tom River. The city's population was 524,669 (2010 Census); 487,838 (2002 Census); 501,963 (1989 Census).

Krasnoyarsk City in Krasnoyarsk Krai, Russia

Krasnoyarsk is a city and the administrative center of Krasnoyarsk Krai, Russia, located on the Yenisei River. It is the third-largest city in Siberia after Novosibirsk and Omsk, with a population of 1,035,528 as of the 2010 Census. Krasnoyarsk is an important junction of the Trans-Siberian Railway and one of Russia's largest producers of aluminium.

The March Across Lake Baikal

Vladimir Kappel's 2nd Army came to a halt on the shore of Lake Baikal near Irkutsk in January 1920. With the Red Army in hot pursuit, the White 2nd Army (the Kappelevtsy), had to escape eastwards to Chita across the frozen Lake Baikal in sub-zero temperatures. About 30,000 White Army soldiers, their families and all their possessions as well as the Tsar's gold, made their way across the lake to Transbaikalia.

The bloodiest campaign battles occurred at the villages of Yakovlevka, Birulka, and Gruznovskaya, as well as the city of Barguzin. [1]

As the Arctic winds blew unobstructed across the lake, many in the army and their families froze to death. Their bodies remained frozen on the lake in a kind of tableau throughout the winter of 1919–20. With the advent of spring, the frozen corpses and all their possessions disappeared in 5,000 feet of water. Kappel himself was struck by frostbite and pneumonia while leading his survivors along a frozen river in temperatures of -40 °C (-40 °F); he died on 26 January. [2]

End of the March

The survivors of the March found a safe haven in Chita, the capital of Eastern Okraina, a territory under control of Kolchak's successor Grigory Mikhaylovich Semyonov, who was supported by a significant Japanese military presence.
The Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party issued an order not to advance any further beyond Irkutsk, to avoid a military conflict with Japan, at a moment when the main threat for the young Soviet State was in Europe (Poland).



  1. Ледяной поход 3-го Барнаульского стрелкового полка (Северный путь) (in Russian). Тернистый путь. Однодневная газета. 1 февраля 1921 г. Издание Владивостокского объединенного комитета по устройству недели каппелевцев. Retrieved 2009-11-08.
  2. Evan Mawdsley. The Russian Civil War. Pegasus Books, 2007, p. 211. Retrieved 18 April 2010.

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