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This book has often talked about contingency; how small changes can have big effects. The end of Russia’s war is one such example. Even as Russia was falling apart, the Germans had to keep a huge proportion of their military machine on the Eastern Front. In July 1917, after the Russian Revolution had already begun and the disintegration of the Russian army was proceeding apace, the German Army had 146 infantry divisions on the Western Front. Eighty-nine divisions remained in the east—the peak of German commitment to the Eastern Front. Once the Russian war effort collapsed completely at the end of 1917, Germany was slowly able to draw down its presence in the east, but ongoing danger and chaos meant that it still maintained substantial forces there. The number of German divisions dropped from eighty-nine to seventy-four in December and by 1 January 1918 to sixty-five, still a substantial number. By the time of Germany’s lastditch spring 1918 offensives in the west, there were still forty-seven German divisions in the east. Those spring offensives, empowered by troops transferred from Russia, very nearly won the war for Germany before the full weight of American power could be brought to bear alongside the British and the French.1 Had Russia exited the war in March 1917 instead of November 1917, the final German offensive in the west would have been far more powerful; had the Provisional Government survived until March 1918, the German spring offensives would likely never have happened at all. Thus it mattered a great deal how and when Russia left the war. As the Conclusion 305 Stone_The Russian Army in the Great War 5/19/15 9:44 AM Page 305 autumn of 1917 wore on, the authority of both Kerenskii and the Provisional Government continued to slip away. For Russians in 1917, the most positive interpretation of Kerenskii’s role in the Kornilov affair was that he was feckless and ineffective; the most negative was that he schemed toward the dictatorship that he attributed to Kornilov. Left and right alike were increasingly disgusted with him. Popular opinion grew increasingly radicalized, and worker, soldier, and (to a lesser degree) peasant support shifted toward Lenin’s Bolsheviks. They were the most radical party in the Russian political spectrum, and their adamant refusal to participate in the Provisional Government meant that they were untainted by its failures. Clear evidence of this was the increasing election of Bolshevik representatives to worker and soldier soviets. On 8 October, Lev Trotskii, close ally of Lenin and hero of the 1905 revolution, was elected chairman of the Petrograd Soviet. He then began to use its authority to make preparations for a seizure of power, a plan that the leadership of the Bolshevik party approved on 23 October. On 6 November, Kerenskii made one last effort to squelch the communist threat by cracking down on Bolshevik organizations . In response, the Bolsheviks quickly and efficiently used their loosely organized worker and soldier militias, the Red Guards, to seize bridges, railroad stations, and telegraph offices throughout the capital. In this last test of strength, Kerenskii failed, fleeing Petrograd to try to find support from frontline soldiers. On the night of 7–8 November, Red Guards arrested the remnants of the Provisional Government, and on 8 November an allRussian Congress of Soviets retroactively approved Lenin’s seizure of power and the creation of a new, Bolshevik-dominated government. Imperial Russia was gone; a new Soviet Russia was beginning to emerge. After the Bolshevik takeover in Petrograd, Stavka, now located in Mogilev, was the clear center of potential resistance. Dual power had plagued the Provisional Government, but a new kind of dual power now threatened the Bolsheviks. While they now held power in Petrograd and enjoyed the loyalty of substantial numbers of workers and soldiers, the military high command was firmly opposed to them and still commanded real (albeit dwindling) military resources. Kerenskii had fled to Pskov and the headquarters of the Northern Front, where he called on Stavka to use loyal troops to suppress the Bolshevik uprising in Petrograd. On 12 November, a few hundred Cossack cavalry under the command of General Pyotr Krasnov made a half-hearted attempt to occupy Petrograd, but gave up when 306 CONCLUSION Stone_The Russian Army in the Great War 5/19/15 9:44 AM Page 306 confronted with a much larger improvised force of Red Guards. Nikolai Dukhonin, who had been chief of staff...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780700621163
Related ISBN
9780700620951
MARC Record
OCLC
910382597
Pages
368
Launched on MUSE
2015-05-29
Language
English
Open Access
No
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