North-Western Army

​The White Army in the Russian Civil War in North-Western Russia

At the beginning of the Estonian War of Independence in December 1918, the Russian Whites’ Northern Corps, a few thousand strong, retreated from Pskov to Estonia. On 6 December the Estonian government signed a cooperation agreement with the Corps, thus including the latter in the Estonian army and supplying it with provisions. With this agreement, the Estonian government wished to supplement its armed forces, which were still in the early stages of organisation.

Until May the Corps fought in Estonia, reinforcing its troops mainly with prisoners of war. On 13 May 1919 the Estonian commander in chief despatched the Corps (5600 men) to attack the area towards Petrograd. As a result, a larger area beyond Estonia’s eastern border was invaded, thus forming a buffer zone between Estonia and the Bolsheviks. On 19 June the Corps left the Estonian army command and, under the new name of North-Western Army, continued fighting under the leadership of General Nikolai Yudenich with the aim of conquering Petrograd.

Yudenich in turn was subordinated to Admiral Aleksandr Kolchak, head of the Russian movement of Whites. Like other leading White politicians, Kolchak did not recognise Estonian independence. For that reason, a large number of civilian Estonians, and the military, during the War of Independence were hostile towards the North-Western Army and did not support any cooperation with it. However, the Estonian army with Lieutenant General Johan Laidoner as commander in chief, supported the Whites’ army as much as possible, hoping to use it as a buffer in defending Estonian borders.

All attempts of the North-Western Army to conquer Petrograd failed. In November 1919, the Red Army managed to force the already 50 000-strong North-Western to retreat to Estonia, where it was finally disbanded. Part of the North-Western Army continued fighting together with Estonian troops at the Narva front until the end of the war.

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