Lavr Kornilov

Lavr Kornilov

Lavr Georgiyevich Kornilov (Russian: Лавр Гео́ргиевич Корни́лов) (August 18, 1870–April 13, 1918) was a senior Russian army general during World War I and the ensuing Russian Civil War. He is today best remembered for the Kornilov Affair, an unsuccessful endeavor in August/September 1917 that purported to strengthen Alexander Kerensky's Provisional Government, but which led to Kerensky eventually having Kornilov arrested and charged with attempting a coup d'état.

Pre-revolutionary career

Originally a Cossack born in Ust-Kamenogorsk, Kazakhstan (then Russian Turkestan) in a family of Cossack militaryman and his wife of Asian origin, Kornilov was a career intelligence officer in the Imperial Russian army. Between 1890 and 1904 he led several exploration missions in Eastern Turkestan, Afghanistan and Persia, learned several Central Asian languages, and wrote detailed reports about his observations. During the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905 he was awarded the Cross of St. George for bravery and promoted to the rank of colonel.

He served as military attache in China from 1907-11 and with a rank of major general commanded an infantry division at the start of World War I. During heavy fighting he was captured by the Austrians in April 1915, when his division became isolated from the rest of the Russian forces. After his capture, Field Marshall Conrad, the commander of the Austro-Hungarian Army, made a point of meeting him in person. Being a major general he was a high value prisoner of war, but in July of 1916 Kornilov managed to escape back to Russia. Kornilov was critical of the Russian monarchy and, after the overthrow of Czar Nicholas II he was given command of the Petrograd Military District in March 1917. In July, after commanding the only successful front in the disastrous Russian offensive of June, 1917, he became Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Provisional Government's armed forces.

Kornilov Affair

Although critical of the Czar, General Kornilov felt that Russia, as part of the Triple Entente, was committed to continue the war against the Central Powers, and he shared the widespread belief of many Russians that after the February Revolution the country was descending into anarchy and that military defeat would be disastrous for Russia. Lenin and his 'German spies', he announced, should be hanged, the Soviets stamped out, military discipline restored and the provisional government 'restructured'. He thought, thanks to unclear and perhaps deliberately distorted communications from Petrograd, that Kerensky had authorized him to impose order in the capital and restructure the government, and ordered the Third Corps to Petrograd to place it under martial law. Kerensky dismissed his commander-in-chief from his post on September 9, claiming Kornilov intended to set up a military dictatorship. Kornilov, convinced that Kerensky had been taken prisoner by the Bolsheviks and was acting under duress, replied by issuing a call to all Russians to "save their dying land."

Ice March

After the alleged coup failed, Kornilov and his fellow conspirators, Lukomsky, Denikin and Markov, were placed under arrest in the Bikhov jail. On 19 November, a few weeks after the Bolshevik seizure of power in the October Revolution, they escaped from their confinement (eased by the fact that the jail was guarded by Kornilov's supporters) and made their way to the Don region, which was controlled by the Don Cossacks. Here they linked up with General Mikhail Alekseev. Kornilov became the military commander of the anti-Bolshevik Volunteer Army with Alekseev as the political chief. [Evan Mawdsley (2008) "The Russian Civil War": 27] On 24 Feb, as Rostov and the Don Cossack capital of Novocherkassk fell to the Bolsheviks, Kornilov led the Volunteer Army on the epic 'Ice March' into the empty steppe towards the Kuban. Although badly outnumbered, he escaped destruction from pursuing Bolshevik forces and laid siege to Ekaterinodar, the capital of the Kuban Soviet Republic, on 10 April. However, in the early morning of 13 April, a Soviet shell landed on his farmhouse headquarters and killed him. He was buried in a nearby village. A few days later, when the Bolsheviks gained control of the village, they unearthed Kornilov's coffin, dragged his corpse to the main square and burnt his remains on the local rubbish dump. [Evan Mawdsley (2008) "The Russian Civil War": 29] The Kornilov Division, one of the crack units of the White Army, was named after him.



*Richard Pipes, "The Russian Revolution" (Knopf, 1990)
*Orlando Figes, "A People's Tragedy" (Viking, 1996)
*Evan Mawdsley, "The Russian Civil War" (Birlinn, 2008)

External links

* [ Chapter 32 KORNILOV’S INSURRECTION] in "The History of the Russian Revolution" by Leon Trotsky
* [ The Kornilov Rebellion] "Bolshevism: The Road to Revolution" by Alan Woods

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