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The Kornilov Affair Essay

2120 words - 8 pages

The Kornilov Affair
James Joll describes the Kornilov affair as "a failed attempt at a
military Putsch by a right-wing general" (p.230) in his book Europe
Since 1870. This view reflects the official government version at the
time. This essay intends to see how accurate a picture this version
gave of the Kornilov affair. The Kornilov affair officially began on
September 9, when Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Army, General L.
C. Kornilov, brought a corps to Petrograd and disobeyed an order of
dismissal by Alexander Kerensky, head of the Provisional Government[1].
On September 10 a declaration that Kornilov was a traitor and
attempting to overthrow the government led to a majority of the
population united to support the Provisional Government and the
Soviets. Thus Kornilov's venture failed and on September 14 he
surrendered and it was over. Before going into the events, a little
background is needed.

The two main players in this affair are Kornilov and Kerensky whose
relationship was taut over issues regarding how to maintain discipline
in the army and the manner in which Kornilov made demands to Kerensky.
Naturally the tension caused distrust between the two, Kerensky
fearing a conspiracy against him[2], and Kornilov believing that
Kerensky was weak and under the influence of the Soviet[3]. Kornilov
disliked the Soviet immensely as their reforms of disciplinary
regulations giving soldiers' 'civic rights' had spelt disaster to the
army[4]. Most of the information available on this affair has bias
some portraying Kornilov as the villain and others Kerensky. The fact
is the specifics of the events come from interested parties who all
likely had something to hide.[5] Regardless, of Kornilov's actual
position, he was certainly the 'hero' of the right-wing[6], due to his
order reinstating the death penalty before approval of the Provisional
Government was given[7]. It appears Kornilov was quite patriotic,
perhaps he believed it was his duty to save Russia from the Soviet and
the Bolsheviks, but was he planning a coup d'état against the
Provisional Government[8].

Kornilov certainly had plans to send a corps to Petrograd, long before
the actual 'so-called' Putsch occurred which gives some credence to
the idea that Kornilov intended to overthrow the Provisional
Government. Asher states,

"As early as August 19, Kornilov instructed his Chief of Staff,
General Lukomsky, to concentrate the Third Corps in the areas of
Nevel, Novye-Sokolniki, Velikie-Luki, within convenient striking
distance by railroad of both Moscow and Petrograd. After some prodding
by Lukomsky, Kornilov gave as his reason the anticipated Bolshevik
insurrection of September 10-11 and intimated he was prepared to act
to suppress it without the consent of the Provisional...

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