Attempted Military Coup in Russia – The Kornilov Affair I THE GREAT WAR Week 164


We’ve seen revolution in Russia this year;
we’ve seen the July Days with the renewed threat of it, and now, Russia sees an attempted
coup- the Kornilov Affair. I’m Indy Neidell; welcome to the Great War. Last week, there was major fighting in Italy
and Romania, but far to the north, the German army took Riga with little resistance. This week sees an attempt to turn the Russian
army on its own people. Okay, Prime Minister Alexander Kerensky said,
in a radio telegram to the whole country September 9th by our calendar, “I hereby announce… General (Lavr) Kornilov sent to me… a demand
for the surrender by the Provisional Government of all civil and military power, so that he
may form, at his personal discretion, a new government to administer the country.” He went on to say he had been authorized to
remove Kornilov as commander of the army and to place Petrograd under martial law. Kornilov sent a telegram in response, which
said this is all a lie. He believes that – under Bolshevik pressure
– Kerensky’s provisional government “acts in complete harmony with the plans of the
German general staff”, and was killing the army. Kornilov sends three cavalry divisions to
capture Petrograd. Kerensky declared Kornilov a traitor, and
was now forced to appeal to the Bolsheviks of the Petrograd Soviet for support. From jail, Bolshevik leader Leon Trotsky advocated
supporting Kerensky. The Bolsheviks began arming the Petrograd
workers for self-defense. The bourgeois think Kornilov will win; the
British military mission declares its support of Kornilov. The next day, when part of Kornilov’s army
reaches Petrograd by train, though, the locals delay the train and some soldiers are “mistakenly”
sent in the wrong direction. Workers fraternize with the Cossacks, and
Alexander Krymov, their commander, afraid of Bolshevik propaganda, orders his men out
of Petrograd to a nearby village. Even there, though, agitators spring up and
the Cossacks begin holding Soviet-style meetings. The same thing happens to Kornilov’s famed
“savage division”, which consisted of soldiers from the Caucasus regions, and they
even raise a red flag and arrest their commander. By the 11th, there are now 40,000 armed workers
in Petrograd – Red Guards who had been given back the arms confiscated during the July
Days – with thousands more support personnel. Rail workers tear up tracks to prevent Kornilov’s
advance, telegraph workers slow down or halt military communications, sending copies to
the Bolsheviks. Bolshevik soldiers begin arriving from Kronstadt
and Vyborg, even as those garrisons mutiny and shoot officers loyal to Kornilov. On the 12th, the Soviet announces that Kornilov’s
army has been defeated; it simply became demoralized and quit. Krymov commits suicide the 13th. Kornilov is arrested and jailed. Florence Harper, the first American woman
journalist in Petrograd, had this to say of the situation, “I was filled with blind
rage. We all knew it was the last chance. The Bolsheviki were armed; the Red Guard were
formed. The split was definite; Kerensky was doomed.” Embassies in the city began making plans to
evacuate their staff and their expats; foreign nationals were just leaving. “There is no fear of the Germans coming
soon, but a serious Bolshevik uprising is anticipated, and its success means ANARCHY.” Just wanna point out that though there were
some anarchists who had joined the Bolsheviks, that wasn’t their agenda at all. Anarchy in that quote meant simply chaos. And a side note here – a man arrived in Petrograd
this week after travelling from San Francisco and overland from Vladivostok. He was an Englishman, a writer, who had been
sent by British Secret Intelligence Service – which is now MI6 – to prevent a Bolshevik
Revolution and keep Russia in the war. Tall order. His name was Somerset Maugham. There was some minor disturbance in a western
army this week. On the 9th, at Étaples in France behind the
lines, British soldiers retraining after hospital stays had some fights with the military police. The skirmishes spread and a bunch of officers
were thrown in the river. More disturbances happened the 12th, again
with the MPs, but order was restored when the rigors of the retraining were to be relaxed. When the Chinese Labor Corps there also demanded
better conditions, the troops suppressed them firmly with no concessions. Something that you could call a “disturbance”
happened in the skies over the Western Front, as the legendary French flying ace Georges
Guynemer, a national hero with 54 aerial victories to his credit, disappeared during a mission
over Belgium. He never returned. And in France, as the second battle of Verdun
came to an end with a French victory, a new infrastructure is being developed. General John Pershing, the commander of the
American forces, who plans American active participation in the field for next summer,
was setting one up, including a communications line linking his bases with the forward depots
and the ports. He also created a purchasing board, whose
first act was to order 5,000 aircraft and 8,500 trucks from the French to be delivered
by June. And it wasn’t just Verdun II – Electric
Boogaloo which came to an end. The 11th Battle of the Isonzo River came to
an official end September 12th. It was the deadliest of those battles, with
casualties exceeding even those of the 10th. The Italians took over 150,000 casualties
and Austria-Hungary around 30 or 40 thousands fewer. The Empire had lost the Bainsizza Plateau,
but they had kept their hold on their new defensive lines and managed to regain positions
this week on Monte San Gabriele with vicious counterattacks. Different source have different answers to
the question, “who won?” but John MacDonald calls it an unequivocal Austrian victory in
“Caporetto and the Isonzo Campaign”. “First, the Italians missed two opportunities
for a breakthrough and total victory. At the start of the battle, General Caviglia’s
brilliant tactics… caught (Austrian General) Boroevic completely by surprise. By the morning of 20 August the Austro-Hungarians
were in chaotic retreat… on 22 August the defense fell apart and on a mile-wide front
all that faced the Italians was dead and wounded Austrian soldiers… the greatest opportunity
of the war was lost… Secondly, the Italian High Command’s view
that they had won a great victory with the capture of the Bainsizza established a mindset
of “one more push and we will have won the war”, and this clouded their vision on other
issues… they largely ignored the need to organize their own defenses… Thirdly, the deadly cost of attritional warfare…
had very seriously damaged the morale of the Italian soldiers… the 10th Battle had cost
the Italian army more than the previous 9 battles put together, and the number of dead
in the 11th battle would exceed that of the 10th. The infantry had fought one battle too many.” Morale was indeed plummeting. In the Italian army, like the other armies,
the majority of capital sentences were given for desertion, but punishment was harsher
there. First, it was more widely defined, and included
draft dodging, so of the 189,000 soldiers in total accused of desertion, not much over
5% of that was desertion in the face of the enemy, and a lot of it was things like returning
home late from leave. Unlike, for example, British military law,
Italian didn’t allow you to use your intention as a defense, the prosecutor simply had to
show that you were not with your unit. Capital sentences were by now mandatory, and
for a while you got the death penalty if you were more than three days late from leave,
but last month that was cut to one day. In other countries, military censors read
soldiers’ letters to gauge their moods, in Italy it was for repression. It was a crime to write negatively about war
operations, mention news that had not been made public, or write anything which might
“lower public spirits”. It wasn’t just that you had to leave out
info that might be sensitive, all criticism was suppressed and a lot of soldiers got long
prison terms from this. You complain about your rations? You might get a year in jail. One private got four years for writing that
the newspaper stories about troop morale were full of lies. By now, Generalissimo Luigi Cadorna and his
High Command believed that responsibility for low morale at the front was solely because
of socialists and pacifists, who wanted Italy to lose the war, and somehow infiltrated the
front with propaganda. He wrote to Prime Minister Paolo Boselli accusing
him of letting Italy’s internal enemies go merrily about their business, and to match
the extreme severity of military justice with the rest of the country. This was sort of meaningless, since Italy
had been pretty much a martial state for a couple years and since just this spring, civilians
living outside the war zone could be tried by courts martial. And the week ends, and with it that 11th battle
at Isonzo River, the second battle at Verdun, the life of Guynemer, and Lavr Kornilov’s
hopes for control of Russia. Kornilov made three mistaken assumptions that
ended his coup before it even began. 1) He assumed his soldiers were interested
in a revolution in the first place. 2) He assumed they would not have conflicting
political ties to parties that opposed a military dictatorship. 3) He assumed that his soldiers were as nationalistically
driven as his command. “These incorrect assumptions led to dissent
in the ranks that turned into all out desertion, leaving General Kornilov without muscle when
he arrived in Petrograd.” He may not have had muscle, but you can see
who now did – the Bolsheviks. Thousands upon thousands of the Red Guard
were now armed and in Petrograd. That does not bode well. If you want to learn more about the Italian
Front in 1917, I highly recommend the book by John MacDonald I quoted earlier, there
is an affiliate link to that in the description. Our Patreon supporter of the week is Basil
S. – well, I am hoping it’s not Basil Z. aka. The Merchant of Death. Wouldn’t want to owe him a favor, no nope. Anyway, support us on Patreon if you want
to help our show become better and better. See you next time.

Maurice Vega

100 Responses

  1. What's the civilian situation like in Austro-Hungary at this point? It might be just my memory failling me, but I feel we haven't heard of them in a while.

  2. I'm surprised there were not widespread violent mutinies in the Italian Army. Seeing a 'battle buddy' with whom you have shared the great bonding experience of battle and hardship threatened with capital punishment for telling the truth would push many men to rebel.

  3. Cadorna is perhaps my most hated major figure in this whole mess. At least Conrad had some class, and wasn't a murderous psycho, Cadorna enjoyed punishing his troops for failing at his headstrong strategical failures.

  4. Wow, the italians really went nuts, 1 day late and you getting executed ? I can see why nationalism socialism got a foothold in Italy after the war.

  5. The part on Kornilov
    AND the part on Italy's repressive government and army= both fascinating!
    With Italy's leftist traditions I would have expected more "action" on the home front (strikes etc)- I guess not!
    danke schoen!

  6. Hello Indy and crew, I have a question for out of the trenches, was it common for soldiers during the Great War to commit suicide to escape the horrors of the war in the trenches ?
    Ps, loving the show keep up the good work.

  7. Kerensky was tottaly incapable to rule that large country, and this week 100 yrs ago was turning point bolsheviks sized power. He didnt realise from where realy threat is comming and he lost chance to establish democracy in Russia.

  8. Hi Indy, best show ever made about world war one by far.
    Time for me to ask a question: we all know about the trenches but i would really be interested in knowing more about the defensive structures built and used in high mountain warfare, i'm thinking about italy and Austria asking this and the forts built on high mountain or the structures caved right inside the rocks of such mountain. I would be interested in details about the types, the use and the construction of these structures, even those who were actually never used during the war like the Chaberton artillery Battery between Italy and France, wich was a structure built at more than 3000 meters of altitude with 7 149mm cannons over it, imagine what it means to build such a structure. thank you.

  9. I wonder what happened to President of the Military-Revolutionary Comitee, Chief Commander Podvoisky after the Red Revolution? After all – he worked with the Kerensky gouvernment, so he must be an traitor and Alien spy, or not? 😉 And were the Cossack Regiment that raised the red flag at that village and formed a soviet by the way Don Cossacks or Kuban Cossacks?

  10. I'm sure the prospect of missing the next brilliant Isonzo River offensive and a few more, and spend up to four years in a solid cell hundreds of kms behind the lines would actually dissuade soldiers from complaining about the food.

  11. Did Italy use their colonial soldiers in the war in Europe? Did soldiers from Libya, Eritrea or Somalia fight on the Italian front?

  12. HELLLLLO GUYS!!!! How do you do? (For OOTT)My greatgreat grandfather was a Soldier in the Gordon Highlanders from 1905-1928. He was a sergant when the war started, but was promoted and promoted and was a major by the wars end. I want to ask: How common was it that old regulars who had survived the bloody battles of 1914 and early 1915, was promoted to officers? He was also got  the distinguished service  cross with two bars, so my next question: Did officers and and the common rankers the same medals? Best of luck, and since I was sleeping during the history lessons I am realy excited who will win ( Just kidding )

  13. Wow I had no idea about Somerset Maugham! What a ludicrously ambitious assignment, akin to today talking sense into Kim Jong Un and getting him to relinquish all arms. It's a frightening world today.

  14. So it WAS the cossaks….lol,…that you felt the need to "dumb down" the explaination of "anarchy" and its context….priceless…..i can see the new generation of historyically bereft sjw-rouge….being ear prick confused…lol.
    Do an episode on sir John Monash…..worth the knowing.

  15. serving prison sentence for writing letters wasn't so bad when the alternative was following Cadorna & fighting to death in the Alps.

  16. Actually, Indy, the organisation you mentioned as 'the Secret Intelligence Service, now MI6', was the Secret Intelligence BUREAU during the Great War. The name 'MI6' was a nom de guerre if you will. The SIB became the SIS (Secret Intelligence Service) in 1920, and has never been officially known as MI6, tho' that name has been used in common parlance since the Great War.

  17. Watched the first episode in April this year and hammered the weekly episodes until I've just got up to date now. Just want to say thanks to the whole great war team for creating this amazing show.

    Can I make a suggestion (though I'm sure someone else has already done so), please start a new show in 2019 using the same format for the second world war. No doubt it would be just as successful!

    Thanks again, really looking forward to finding out how the allies turn the war in their favour.

  18. Did the Russians capture and use the Gewehr 98 or 95? PLEASE ANSWER with estimated number of them used by the Russians if they did use them.

  19. I'm glad to see Indy made the distinction between the Bolsheviks and Anarchists @3:40. Especially since Trotsky would later attack and kill Makhno's anarchist movement in Ukraine.

    On a different note… It really sickens me how little these generals care for the lives of their soldiers. They use honor and hyper-masculinity to push young people into killing others in similar conditions because they had been born in another country… it's all such an injustice.

  20. For OotT's. Indy when you are pronouncing non-English words, are you pronouncing them as a native does or do you butcher them pretty badly?

  21. I just finished a huge Week By Week binge, and am now free to dive into all the tons of other stuff on the channel. What an amazing piece of work.

  22. On the Eleventh Battle of the Isonzo, my true love gave to me
    Eleven avalanches
    Ten frontal charges
    Nine gangrene cases
    Eight MPs gunning
    Seven shells exploding
    Six boulders tumbling
    Fi-i-i-ive swollen lesions
    Four cardboard boots
    Three head lice
    Two rifle jams
    And Benito Mussolini

  23. Kornilov was not trying to launch a coup. This was all in Kerensky's paranoid mind. See the wiki bios of both men. Also see the book "The Russian Revolution" Richard Pipes

  24. Hello, I own an Austrian Gewehr 95 rifle, and I noticed some Japanese or Chinese inscription on the stock, which matches the gun, which is dated 1917. Were any Gewehr 95's shipped to China or Japan in ww1? Thanks!

  25. I found this channel a few months ago. I finding that my knowledge of the first World War is seriously lacking. That might have something to do with my pacifist ancestry. (Amish and Mennonite.)

  26. idk getting a year for complaining about rations doesn't sound too bad. Sounds like that could be an easy way to get out of fighting at the front

  27. 40000 armed Bolsheviks? That sounds like a recipe for trouble. It also sounds like Kornilov showed up with maybe a few hundred, and had to quietly fold his tent and try to steal away. I bet the provo govt lived to regret passing out all those rifles to the Bolsheviks…….

  28. They had learned the lessons of 1905. If you sit down and negotiate with the officers, and wait for concessions from civil authorities in response to coming out into the streets and occupying workplaces, you get shot or sent to Siberia. You have to kill the officers to make sure they don't regain control.

  29. Oh yes Kornilov even his Shock Regiments have a deep understanding even their Black uniforms show their sadness about Russia this is why their go to die on the Battle

  30. Thanks for differentiating between chaos and anarchy. It would be interesting to hear about anarchist activities in the ukraine during the russian civil war especially Nestor Machno. The anarchists first fought together with the red army against the white army but were later betrayed by the red army in the Ukraine under the command of Leon Trotzky. He said it is harder for the people to recognise the anarchists as counter revolutionary as opposed to the royalist white forces. Maybe a special episode in 2018?

  31. About Kornilov here is a March song about him in RUSSIAN Civil war /watch?v=XfyF8SBYTUQ&list=LLjn43U6K-XHEWL-Av3uCPvA&index=122

  32. Tomorrow will be the 101th anniversary of Kornilov’s coup, I like Kornilov. And his coup was/is 2 days after my birthday ( today a day ago 12 sep was my b-day ) Overall,Great video!!

  33. Typical: England soldiers ask for better conditions=they get it.
    chinesse working for brits ask better conditions=they get the fist.
    Nothing new in UK foreign politics.

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