22/12/1917 As civil war begins in Russia, Soviet and German delegates meet at Brest-Litovsk

At Brest-Litovsk German and Russian delegates are attempting to negotiate a settlement that will bring a final end to the war between the two countries. The Germans are representatives of the Kaiser‘s imperial government, which effectively means that they are the agents of Hindenburg and Ludendorff; the Russians have been sent by Sovnarkom, the Soviet government of Lenin‘s Bolsheviks. The Germans hope that peace with Russia will allow them to send large numbers of troops to the Western Front; they also hope to seize territory and extract resources from the Russians. The Russian delegates however are playing for time, hoping to spin out negotiations until revolution spreads to the other belligerent nations of Europe. They try to advance the revolutionary agenda by making lofty calls for a peace based on no annexations and no indemnities and call for an immediate ceasefire on all fronts in Europe.

At home meanwhile there are signs that the Soviet government in Petrograd may soon have to fight for its survival. Fighting has broken out in the southern Russian city of Rostov, where Bolshevik forces are under attack from the newly formed Volunteer Army, led by Generals Kornilov and Alexeev. This force is top heavy, with a surfeit of officers, and greatly outnumbered by the pro-Bolshevik forces in Rostov. However the military discipline of the Volunteers means that they have the upper hand in the fighting, a worrying portent for the Bolsheviks if this fighting spreads.

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Soldiers of the Kornilov Shock Battalion (World Socialist Web Site: Volunteer Army captures Rostov)

2/12/1917 Using unconventional methods, the Bolsheviks assert their power over the State Bank and the army

The Bolsheviks continue to consolidate their position. Striking civil servants are still a problem for the new regime. Many of Russia’s officials are opposed to the Bolsheviks’ seizure of power and have been on strike in protest. By now though the strikes are declining in effectiveness as enough civil servants return to work in order for some semblance of orderly public administration to progress.

One area where the Bolsheviks have had particular problems is the State Bank, whose staff have refused to obey the orders of Sovnarkom, the Soviet government. This puts the Bolsheviks in an awkward position, as it prevents them from paying their supporters. Finally though the situation is resolved by the removal at gun point of the State Bank’s cash reserves.

Another pole of opposition to the Bolsheviks is the army. Lenin has sent an order to all units to elect their own representatives to conduct local armistice negotiations with the Germans. Dukhonin, the acting army commander, has attempted to prevent this order reaching frontline troops. Dukhonin’s efforts are thwarted by the Germans, who have themselves retransmitted Lenin’s order, hoping to speed the disintegration of the Russian army.

Lenin decides that he has had enough of Dukhonin. He is dismissed and Krylenko, the Sovnarkom war commissar, heads to army headquarters at Mogilev to replace him. But when Krylenko arrives, Dukhonin is dead. An angry crowd of soldiers had attacked the general, accusing him of organising the release from captivity of Kornilov. Dukhonin is beaten to death and his body reportedly used for target practice.
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State Bank employees demonstrate in support of the Constituent Assembly (St Petersburg Encyclopaedia: Constituent Assembly, All-Russian)

Nikolai Dukhonin (World War 1: November 22, 1917 – Bolsheviks Begin Armistice Talks with Central Powers)

14/9/1917 The Petrograd Soviet swings behind the Bolsheviks #1917Live

Kornilov‘s coup against Kerensky‘s government has failed. Alexeev, Kerensky’s new army commander, takes over at the Mogilev headquarters. Kornilov is placed under arrest, albeit in very agreeable circumstances. Krimov, who had led his march on Petrograd, is less fortunate. After a fraught meeting with Kerensky, in which he accuses the prime minister of having betrayed Kornilov, Krimov shoots himself, believing Russia to be doomed.

Kerensky attempts to reassert his authority. In place of his recently dissolved cabinet, he forms a five man Directory headed (naturally) by himself. He declares Russia a socialist republic, formally ending he monarchy that everyone had forgotten about. He orders all militias to disarm. But the workers militias that formed in Petrograd to oppose Kornilov keep their weapons.

Russia is still in a chaotic state, gripped by agrarian and industrial unrest. And the Kornilov affair has weakened Kerensky. Conservatives hate him for failing to support the general. Others suspect him of intriguing with Kornilov before their rupture. With Kerensky’s support ebbing away leftwing groups like the Bolsheviks find themselves in the ascendant. Now the Petrograd Soviet for the first time has a Bolshevik majority. Today it agrees to a motion, proposed by the Bolshevik Kamenev, calling for the establishment of a Soviet government.

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A meeting of the Petrograd Soviet (Awful Avalanche: Biography of Bolshevik Leader Lev Kamenev)

12/9/1917 Bolsheviks in the ascendant as Kornilov’s coup fails #1917live

Kornilov‘s attempt to overthrow Russia’s Provisional Government and establish a dictatorship is unravelling. Thanks to agitators from Petrograd his men are deserting the cause and throwing their lot in with the revolution. In some cases Kornilov loyalists are being arrested by their own men. Krimov, leading Kornilov’s vanguard, narrowly escapes this fate, but he is obliged to travel under escort to Petrograd. Elsewhere generals fall over themselves to disassociate themselves from Kornilov’s failed putsch.

So Kornilov’s counter-revolution is over: there will be no man on a white horse to save Russia. The news is a shock to reactionary elements who had hoped that the general would restore order to an increasingly chaotic country. But the Revolution‘s supporters are jubilant. The Bolsheviks are particularly pleased. Their involvement in the anti-Kornilov militias in Petrograd has rehabilitated them following the unpleasantness of the July Days. It has also put guns in the hands of large numbers of working people who are now effectively under Bolshevik control.

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Men of Kornilov’s Savage Division, which has now turned against him (Wikipedia)

11/9/1917 Kornilov’s coup comes unstuck #1917Live

General Kornilov has ordered his men to march on Petrograd after being dismissed by Kerensky. Now at last the enemies of the revolution have their Bonaparte, a man who will restore order in Russia. In response to the crisis, the Prime Minister has assumed emergency powers. Now he declares himself commander in chief of the army, with Alexeev his chief of staff. But power has ebbed away from Kerensky: with most of the generals supporting Kornilov, he has no men at his disposal to deploy against the rebel general.

But independently of Kerensky, the working people of Petrograd are rallying against Kornilov. Armed militias comprising workers and revolutionary soldiers have sprung into being, often under the direction of Bolshevik activists. The Kronstadt sailors return to Petrograd to defend the city from the general’s coup. Railway workers have sabotaged the line to prevent Kornilov’s men taking the train all the way to the capital. And agitators have gone to meet Kornilov’s men, to persuade them to abandon the general’s putsch.

Krimov leads Kornilov’s vanguard and is under orders to press on to Petrograd at once and establish martial law. But he finds himself stuck at Luga on the city’s outskirts, with revolutionary soldiers and agitators urging his men to disobey his orders. Krimov’s authority evaporates as his soldiers wander off to impromptu meetings and learn that Kornilov was using them for counter-revolution. Krimov’s men turn on their officers, either ignoring their orders to advance or arresting them. Kornilov’s attempted coup appears to be over.

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Workers militia in an electrical factory (Alpha History: The Kornilov Affair)

10/9/1917 The 18th Brumaire of Lavr Kornilov #1917Live

After being sacked by telegram, General Kornilov has ordered his men to march on Petrograd, where he believes that Kerensky is being held prisoner by the Bolsheviks. However as time passes the general realises that Kerensky is not a prisoner and he has indeed ordered his dismissal. This is a shock, as Kornilov and been planning a crackdown on the Bolsheviks and other extremists with Kerensky. But instead of calling off his men he decides that he will have to save Russia himself. Now he is in open rebellion against the prime minister.

Kornilov’s move is greeted with jubilation in conservative circles, where the general is seen as Russia’s best hope of avoiding a descent into chaos or worse. Senior army officers declare their support for him. But in Petrograd working people fear the consequences of a Kornilov coup. Armed militias spring into being to defend the capital, with the Bolsheviks playing a leading role in their organisation.

Krimov leads Kornilov’s vanguard, which is advancing on Petrograd by train. But when they reach the city’s outer limits they find that the railwaymen have torn up the tracks to block their advance. And they also find agitators from the capital waiting to meet them. The agitators urge the soldiers not to lend their support to a reactionary cause. The soldiers begin to wonder what they are doing, to the dismay of their officers.

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Kornilov in Moscow before his coup (Wikipedia)

Militamen in Petrograd (Leftcom: The Kornilov Affair Mobilises the Masses)

9/9/1917 Russia’s Bonaparte? Kornilov marches on Petrograd #1917Live

Kerensky and Kornilov, his army commander, had been planning a crackdown in Russia, to return order to a country wracked by revolutionary chaos. But the prime minister has become afraid of his ambitious general. Now he is convinced that Kornilov is about to stage a coup of his own that will establish him as the Bonaparte of the Russian Revolution.

In the early hours of the morning Kerensky meets with his cabinet in an atmosphere of crisis. Desperate times require desperate measures, so Kerensky secures the resignation of his ministers, taking on emergency powers himself. He telegrams Kornilov informing him that he has been dismissed as army commander.

When Kornilov receives Kerensky’s telegram he is astonished. Despite their tensions, Kornilov had thought that he and Kerensky were working together to save Russia. Now Kornilov decides that there is only one possible explanation for this telegram: Kerensky is now a prisoner of the Bolsheviks, who have forced him to send it.

As a man of action, Kornilov knows what is to be done. He orders his men to march on Petrograd to free Kerensky from the sinister clutches of the Bolsheviks.

News of Kornilov’s move causes a sensation in Petrograd. The Soviet executive meets. Despite the hostility of some (especially the Bolsheviks) towards Kerensky and his government, it passes a motion calling for resistance to Kornilov’s putsch.

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Lavr Kornilov (Seventeen Moments in Soviet History: Kornilov Affair Images)