Kornilov Affair

The Kornilov Affair of August 1917 was an attempted coup d’état by the Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Army General Kornilov. The growing discontent due to Russia’s participation in the War and dire economic conditions lead to some believing that a more disciplined and a stronger government was needed. General Kornilov led this movement and wanted greater discipline amongst his troops. He desired measures such as the death penalty for soldiers who did not obey orders and the abolition of soldiers’ committees. This demand for a stronger government was supported by businessmen, industrialists and even some politicians. Kornilov’s sent a list of demands to the Government. However these requests were denied and created a strained relationship between Kornilov and Kerensky. Kornilov sent a letter to Kerensky detailing how to strengthen the government. This would be through an authoritarian dictatorship whereby Kornilov would be a prominent military dictator.

Kornilov ordered troops to advance to a position closer to Petrograd. The Provisional Government gave no consent for this and felt that Kornilov intended to forcibly seize power of Russia. In defiance of the Provisional Government, Kornilov ordered his troops to advance on Petrograd. Due to the movements of Kornilov, Kerensky appealed to the Petrograd Soviet to help put stop the attempted coup. The Soviet used workers and soldiers to help defend the city.  The Soviets measures to protect the city and stop Kornilov were successful, with no casualties suffered. Kornilov was removed from his position and was imprisoned. After the Kornilov Affair the Bolshevik Party enjoyed popular support as they were regarded as saviours of the Revolution. It also led to the severed ties between Kerensky and the military. The military officers despised Kerensky for his treatment of their commander, the arrest of many prominent generals and his believed support of the left side of politics. Thus in October Kerensky found no help from the military elite. In addition, Kerensky’s release of the Bolsheviks and giving them arms led to the formation of the Red Guard which was able to take over power during the October Revolution. Therefore Kerensky and the Provisional Government were stuck in a position of vulnerability once the events of October 1917 occurred.