Why dId Kerensky government fail

The clatter of the jugglers

The judgment of Leon Trotsky on the request of the Provisional Government formed after the overthrow of the Tsar in February / March 1917 to intervene again in the First World War was devastating: “The democrats prepared with all their might the offensive, the great catastrophe of the February Revolution . ”But not only the bourgeois Democrats, the Social Revolutionaries and Mensheviks had not learned their lesson from the February Revolution. This had broken out not only because of displeasure with the autocratic regime of Nicholas II. Workers, peasants and soldiers were fed up with being sacrificed on the battlefield to the interests of the Russian elite and the Entente.

So in the summer the new rulers wanted to show "loyalty to the alliance" and "patriotism" in Petrograd. Russia should go on the offensive in support of the Entente. For weeks the emissaries from Paris and London had been handing each other over to the Provisional Government, but also to the Soviets in the Russian capital; it was the time of dual rule in Russia. Again and again they argued that Russia had a duty to fulfill.

As early as April 1917, the then Foreign Minister Pavel Miliukov had announced loyalty to the allies and affirmed the adherence to the old Russian war aims in the Balkans and the straits. When this became known, he had to resign. The popular masses saw themselves betrayed and betrayed in their longing for peace. That should all be forgotten by now. With the USA a new ally against the Central Powers had entered the war; Washington promised millions of dollars to the Provisional Government of Russia. In this constellation it turned out that the political beneficiaries of the February Revolution only wanted to eliminate one incompetent commander in chief, namely the Tsar, in order to prove themselves as heroic "defenders of the fatherland".

In fact, they managed to shake the anti-war mood in the country. The press, government commissioners in the troops and the ministers of the Provisional Government were constantly on the move in the country, swearing one last effort for a Russian victory. In particular, the Minister of War and the Navy, Alexander Kerensky, who had risen to become the new star of the government, worked hard and was convincing. Quite a few soldiers believed his assurances that the enemy was weak and that victory and peace were near. Kerensky and his "left" allies succeeded in winning the Soviet Congress over to a new offensive and renouncing the demand for immediate peace.

Only the Bolsheviks under Vladimir Ilyich Lenin saw things differently and ensured that hundreds of thousands of party members and sympathizers were active in the army and on the home front. In Pravda, unless the sheet was confiscated, the soldiers could read the truth about the offensive that began on July 1 (June 18 according to the Julian calendar) and was supposed to lead "by the quickest route to peace," such as claims of the rulers: "This procedure, which is common among all imperialists, has been draped by the Russian 'socialist' ministers with resounding phrases in which words such as socialism, democracy and revolution sound like the rattling of bells from a skilled juggler." It could not disguise that "the revolutionary army of Russia has been chased into fire for the purposes of the imperialists of England, France, Italy, Japan and America ... as long as the secret treaties linking Russia with the imperialists of other countries have not been revised ... is." and the offensive of the Russian troops remains a service rendered to the imperialists. "

If continuing the war was a crime, preparing the offensive was a disaster. Kerensky had to laboriously replace incompetent, old tsarist military leaders, the troops were poorly supplied, the hoped-for supplies from England remained scarce, the situation of the Central Powers was misjudged, as they were well entrenched in their positions. The chief of staff at the German Commander-in-Chief for the East, Major General Max Hoffmann, noted humorously on the day before the start of the attack: "I sit and wait like children for the holy Christian to see whether the Russians finally want to attack ... It is a pity it could be so beautiful. We had come up with such a nice surprise for Mr. Brusilov (one of the Russian commanders; d. A.). "

The Russian forces marched with three armies, i. H. 221 infantry and 37 cavalry divisions. They faced 126 infantry and 21 cavalry divisions, which were briefly reinforced by six powerful divisions from the western front. After the Russian offensive began after heavy artillery fire on the southwestern front, territorial gains were initially achieved. It reached the Galician Front with their k. U.K. associations that were poorly trained and inadequately equipped than the Germans and were additionally weakened by ethnic tensions, nonetheless no lasting success. A lack of equipment in the Russian units too, the conflict of competence among officers and, above all, the troops' displeasure caused the offensive to stumble and disintegrate into less coordinated partial operations.

In mid-July the Central Powers launched a counter-offensive in the south. Russia lost 60,000 men, the Central Powers 40,000. Russian soldiers deserted en masse despite threats of punishment and attempts at discipline, including the reintroduction of the death penalty. Short-term courage to fight gave way to concern for bare survival. The British war premier David Lloyd George admitted in retrospect: “Each of the armies, the French, the English and the Italian, in turn had to give up their plans simply through exhaustion War ... To continue the war meant useless bloodshed for them. "

After this "great catastrophe" Russia was changed. But the rulers in Petrograd refused to admit this. The blame for the failure of the offensive was sought and found in others. Kerensky lamented "the soldiers' low awareness, the ease with which cowardice and base instincts hide behind the perverse slogans of Bolshevism, the impunity for inciting non-fulfillment of combat orders under the guise of ideological agitation, the unfinished development of the Soldiers 'organizations, their blurred condition as well as the inconsistencies in the commanders' base ”.

Despite the defeat, Kerensky was now the new strong man in Russia. In the course of another government reshuffle, he became Prime Minister. He appointed General of the Infantry Lawr Kornilov as the new Commander-in-Chief. He was supposed to hold the army together with a hard hand, but soon developed ambitions beyond that. The conflicts came to a head. The unclear balance of power and the shift in public opinion against the war favored the half-spontaneous, half-Bolshevik rioting in July, in which government troops shot at unarmed demonstrators, killing hundreds. The Bolsheviks, who were accused of making pacts with the Germans, were blamed for the violent clashes - the Russian version of the stab in the back legend, which a year later is used against German democrats, pacifists and Marxists. But this time the masses had understood the lesson.

Our author, a member of the historical commission on the DIE LINKE party executive, has just published »October Revolution on the book market. Uprising against the war 1917-1922 «(Edition Ost, 224 p., Br., € 14.99).

nd journalism from the left thrives on the commitment of its readers

In view of the experience of the corona pandemic, we have decided to make our journalism permanently freely accessible on our website and thus make it available to everyone who is interested.

As with our print and epaper editions, our work as an author, editor, technician or publishing employee is part of every published article. It is what makes this journalism possible.

Volunteer now with just a few clicks!