The son of a frontier guard, he rose from the ranks. After the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 he joined General Kornilov, whom he succeeded (1918) as commander of the anti-Bolshevik forces in the south.
He gained control of a large part of Southern Russia, but failed (1919) to capture Moscow. He was driven back by the Soviet army, and his forces were demoralised. In 1920 he resigned his command to General Wrangel.
Denikin lived in France until 1946, when he moved to the United States, where he died.