16/10/1917 Enemy at the gates: Germany threatens Petrograd #1917Live

German forces have staged an amphibious landing on the islands of Estonia, outflanking Russian forces defending the approaches to Petrograd. Now the Russians abandon the city of Revel (known to the Estonians as Tallinn), fearing that it has become untenable.

Revel was the last bastion between the Germans and Petrograd. With the Germans threatening the capital, the Provisional Government investigates evacuating itself and key industries to Moscow. But to the Petrograd Soviet and the revolutionary activists in the city, it looks suspiciously like Kerensky’s government is planning to hand them over to the Germans. Perhaps Kerensky would prefer to let the Germans deal with the unruly city.

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Kerensky wonders what to do (1917 portrait by Isaac Brodsky) (Spartacus Educational: Alexander Kerensky)

11/10/1917 Operation Albion: German troops seize the islands of Estonia #1917Live

On the Eastern Front, the Russian military situation continues to deteriorate. German troops have already taken Riga; now they land on Saaremaal in the Estonian archipeligo, crushing Russian resistance there. This is an ominous development: the amphibious operation is outflanking Russian defensive lines, threatening a German advance on Petrograd itself. To those in the capital who fear that the revolution has gone too far, the prospect of the Kaiser’s troops arrival becomes almost something to hope for.

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Riga & the Baltic Islands (Wikipedia: Operation Albion)

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)

3/9/1917 Germany strikes at Riga

Germany has launched a new offensive against Russia, hoping to seize the port of Riga and threaten Petrograd itself. The attack is commanded by General Hutier, who is applying a new tactical approach partly based on the infiltration tactics used by the Russians in the Brusilov Offensive last year.

Hutier’s attack begins with a short but devastating bombardment, designed primarily to stun the Russian defenders. The main assault is then undertaken by lightly armed and fast moving stormtroopers who press forward quickly, leaving any enemy strong points to be mopped up by followup troops.

The Russian army has been in poor shape for some time but even so the offensive succeeds beyond the dreams of the Germans. The attack only began on the 1st but the Russians have already abandoned Riga, desperately retreating to avoid encirclement by the Germans.

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Oskar von Hutier (Wikipedia)

map (Wikipedia: Schlacht um Riga (1917))

16/8/1917 The Bolsheviks adopt an ominous new slogan #1917Live

Since the Provisional Government survived the crisis of the July Days Kerensky has been steadily consolidating his power. He has taken over from Prince Lvov as Prime Minister and formed a new government. This has a majority of socialists but these are mostly from the less radical wings of their parties and they are in the government as individuals rather than representatives of their parties. Kerensky’s government is also no longer tied to the programmes of the Petrograd Soviet.

Kerensky has appointed Kornilov to head the army, now in a chaotic state following the failure of the recent offensive. Kornilov wants to restore order in the army through iron discipline and has become popular in conservative circles. He demands more powers from Kerensky.

The Bolsheviks meanwhile are on the back foot, their leaders in exile or on the run, with Lenin accused of being a German spy. However the party remains active and continues to look to the future. Its congress meets today and discusses the way forward. Following the failure of the Petrograd Soviet to accept power in July, they abandon the slogan “All power to the Soviets”. In its place they are now for “Complete Liquidation of the Dictatorship of the Counterrevolutionary Bourgeoisie”.

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Lenin in disguise (Marxist Internet Archive: Russian Revolution)

3/8/1917 Kerensky shuts down the Finnish parliament but loses Czernowitz to Austria #1917Live

Kerensky has been emboldened by the recent failure of radicals to overthrow the Provisional Government. Now the Russian Prime Minister flexes his muscles, arranging for loyal troops to shut down Finland’s parliament, the Sejm. The Sejm had a socialist majority following elections earlier this year and it recently passed a resolution declaring Finland’s effective independence from Russia. This unilateral separation is unacceptable to Kerensky (and to many on both right and left in Russia); his shutting down of the unruly Finnish parliament is widely supported in Russia. Even in Finland many conservatives support the measure, fearing that without the link to Russia the Finnish socialists would be uncontrollable.
Kerensky finds it harder to bend the army to his will. He has appointed Kornilov as its commander in chief and accepted his demands for the reintroduction of the death penalty for desertion. But Kornilov’s attempts at repression are a failure. The army continues to disintegrate and the Germans and Austro-Hungarians continue their advance that began with their counter-attacks against Kerensky’s offensive. Now they recover the Galician town of Czernowitz, captured by the Russians in Brusilov’s offensive last year. The Russian army looks increasingly unable to prevent further advances by the enemy.

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The Eastern Front (Wikipedia)

Emperor Karl of Austria-Hungary salutes the liberators of Czernowitz (Wikipedia)