Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Kornilov Revolt: Straw that Broke the....

...Camel's Back?

In1917, then Russian Prime Minister
Alexander Kerensky, head of Russia's Provisional Government, put General Lavr Kornilov in charge of the Red Army (then engaged in the Eastern Front). As riots and disorder became commonplace in Petrograd (St. Petersburg), Kornilov demanded that Kerensky step down. When Kerensky dismissed Kornilov from his duties, Kornilov attempted to carry out a coup by marching on Petrograd and restoring order. However, Kerensky called on opposition Bolshevik organizations (the Red Guards & Soviet councils) to help defend the city. In the face of 25,000 armed Bolshevik recruits, Kornilov's 7000 troops eventually backed down.

Question: Could Lenin have succeeded otherwise? Sometimes coups have a magnificent way of backfiring (witness 1991 coup against Gorbachev) and this maybe the case here (or is it just counterevolutionary coups?).

“Kornilov had all chances of seizing power in the country,” historian Pyotr Deinichenko insists. “The officers and a major part of the Cossacks, entrepreneurs and intellectual elite were on his side. Kornilov could also rely on the support of the allies in Antanta, who nurtured hopes he wouldn’t allow Russia to step out of the war. (
Voice of Russia..)

However, I'm inclined to believe that the ever-increasing famine (as a result of a food glut brought on by a wartime blockade, resulting in destructive price controls) left Russian peasants thinking they had nothing to lose.

Nonetheless, Kornilov's failure as a counterevolutionary meant that,
The Bolsheviks derived maximum benefit from their participation in the anti-Kornilov movement. Jailed Bolsheviks were released from custody. They cashed in not only on the failure of the Kornilov coup but also on the vacillation and indecision of revolutionary democracy that had brought the country and the Revolution to the point of "Kornilovism"
The Moscow News...)

“Radical leftist sentiments... started to spread among the workers and soldiers. On September 1st, the day when General Kornilov was arrested, the Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ deputies adopted a bolshevist resolution calling for a transfer of power to the revolutionary proletariat and peasants, and the proclamation of a democratic republic. The resolution also contained a call to confiscate the lands from the landowners and for nationalization of leading branches of industry.
Voice of Russia..)

“After the Kornilov uprising the officers had lost all authority,” historian Pyotr Deinichenko writes. “The soldiers refused to obey orders and left the front, homeward bound. Only the massive advance of the allies on the Western front saved Russia from a military catastrophe.
(Voice of Russia..).

Kornilov certainly affected the course of events. Was he courageous or stupid? (his chief of staff once called him "a man with a lion's heart and the brain of a sheep")

---Incidentally, "The fall of communism has elevated remembrance of White commanders. In the Cossack town of Krasnodar, a statue of General Lavr Kornilov was erected in 1994." (
Anti-Bolshevik photos (soldiers of the White Movement)
--- a research paper:
An Analysis of Alexander Kerensky's Handling of General Lavr Kornilov (in pdf) published in the Concord Review (interesting).
---if you have a full-text periodical database, you maybe able to find a Sept. 3, 1932 Saturday Evening Post article, "Kerensky and Kornilov" by Leon Trotsky that is highly detailed.
---Amazon offers a book,
The prelude to bolshevism,: The Kornilov rebellion (not reviewed)


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