29/6/1917 The guns fire for Kerensky’s great offensive

Some thought that Russia’s revolution would mean that it would have to drop out of the war. Kerensky, the war minister, hopes to prove them wrong. He has ordered a great offensive against the Germans, with the aim being to capture the Austro-Hungarian city of Lemberg (known to the Russians as Lvov) and show the world what revolutionary Russia is capable of.

The offensive is taking place under the direction of Brusilov, the army’s new commander. Brusilov was one of the few generals who supported the revolution. Initially he was an enthusiastic supporter of Kerensky’s offensive, but he has begun to have doubts. Since he took over as army commander he has seen for himself how discipline has broken down. Officers are unable to make their men obey orders. The rebellious character of the men means that officers are now fearful of being lynched if they try to impose their will. Many officers have fled their posts. Many of their men have followed suit, deserting en masse and either heading home or living as brigands in rear areas.

There are also shocking reports of fraternisation between Russian troops and their German enemies. This seems to be encouraged by German commanders, who want to convince Russian soldiers that the war was forced on Germany by the elites of Russia and other Allied countries.

As preparations continue for the offensive rebelliousness in the army increases. A mutinous mood manifests. As units are moved up the front so many men desert that some lose three quarters of their strength. Soldiers are defiant towards their officers, declaring that the only authority they recognise is that of Lenin, the Bolshevik leader.

All this leads Brusilov towards the conclusion that the offensive will be a disaster. But when he puts his concerns to Kerensky he is ignored. Kerensky is adamant that the great revolutionary offensive must go ahead. And so today the artillery bombardment of the German positions begins.

image source:

Kerensky addresses soldiers (Wikipedia)

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