The troops rallied, agreeing on the opinions of almost every speaker and immediately forgetting about it, listening to the next one who could say completely opposite things. In one and the same division, very often one regiment issued a decree to attack, while another agreed only on defense, in the third, they did not decide anything, they stuck bayonets into the ground and went home on their own, “where the Germans could not reach” participation in the redistribution of land. At the same time, mass desertion could have happened right there after the “unanimous and triumphal” resolution to fight to the bitter end. As a result, the whole army resembled a madhouse. And in these conditions, the Provisional Government, dependent on the West, and the Allies demanded that the Stavka advance.
The main work on the persuasion of troops fell on the committees, which were headed by the former terrorist Savinkov, on the "popular" generals and Kerensky. Kerensky visited the South-Western Front and traveled to the corps designed to attack. He these days received a half-joking, half-prohibitive nickname of the "supreme leader". Kerensky, in one fell swoop by the will of the Masonic "backstage" who took off to the very top of power, clearly admired himself, believed in his "magical influence" and "indescribable popularity" among the people and troops, in the "commander's gift."
The main idea of the offensive, which was postponed from spring 1917 to summer, was adopted before the February Revolution under Alekseev. The main blow should have been delivered by the armies of the Southwestern Front, commanded by General A.Ye. Gutor, by the forces of the 11 and 7 armies in the direction of Lviv, and of the 8 army to Kalush. The rest of the Russian fronts — Northern, Western and Romanian — were to deliver auxiliary strikes in order to distract the enemy and support the armies of the Southwestern Front.
Kerensky at the front
16 (29) June 1917, the artillery of the Southwestern Front opened fire on the positions of the Austro-German troops. In fact, the Russian command was left with one strong argument - numerous artillery. 3 thousand guns destroyed enemy positions, unwittingly raising the morale of the Russian troops. To increase the spirit, General Gutor ordered the artillery preparation to be extended for another two days. On June 18 (July 1), the 11 and 7 armies launched an offensive that attacked Lviv: the first, bypassing from the north, to Zborov, Zlochev, and the second from the front, to Brzezany. 8-I army was to conduct in the valley of the Dniester auxiliary attack on Galich and follow the Carpathian direction.
The first two days brought some success to the advancing troops. Austro-German troops were shocked by the powerful artillery preparation. In addition, the enemy did not expect that the Russians were still capable of organizing such a serious offensive operation. In some areas, 2-3 lines of enemy trenches were captured. The 9 th Austro-Hungarian corps of Zborov, holding the defense of the troops of the 11 th army of General Erdelyi, was defeated and brought into reserve, it was replaced by the 51 th German corps. Particularly distinguished in the battle Zborovskoy Finnish arrows and Czechoslovak units. The Finnish riflemen seized the strongly fortified mountain Tomb, which was considered impregnable. And the blow of the Czechoslovakians shook the Austro-Hungarian troops, which in large part consisted of Czechs.
In the telegram of A. F. Kerensky to the Provisional Government 18 of June (1 July) 1917 of the city of Kerensky declared: "Today the great triumph of the revolution, the Russian revolutionary army with great enthusiasm went on the offensive." However, success was brief. The first successes had nothing to develop - there were no cavalry in the direction of the strikes, and the overwhelming part of the infantry decayed. The selected shock units, which began the offensive, were basically knocked out at this point. The Austro-German command quickly recovered and took steps to eliminate the breakthrough. Instead of supporting the bleeding parts, the reserves rallied and passed resolutions of "distrust" to the capitalist government and "a world without annexations and indemnities." The offensive of the 11 Army stopped, it continued only artillery fighting. On June 22 (July 5), the troops of the 11 army tried to attack again, but without noticeable success. The enemy has already taken measures to strengthen the defense.
A similar situation was on the line of General Belkovich's 7 Army. The shock group of the army (four corps) moved with a big impulse and occupied 2-3 fortified enemy lines. The center of the South German army of Botmer was pressed in the Battle of Březani. However, on the night of 19 and on the day of 19 (July 2), the furious counterattacks of the German-Turkish forces as a whole wiped out our success. The terrain conditions did not allow for full artillery support. And our infantry has already lost its former fighting qualities: the first impulse died away, the troops quickly died down, went over to the defense, but they did not show their former resilience. From the 20 Infantry Divisions of the 7 Army: 8 divisions attacked, 2 - held defense in a passive sector, and 10 - rallied in the rear. No wonder Ludendorff noted: "It was no longer the former Russian."
Commander-in-Chief, General Gutor still hoped to strengthen the army and resume the offensive. The 11 st army reinforced with two corps from Volhynia and the Romanian front, the 7 st army - guards. The auxiliary offensive of the 8 Army of Kornilov should facilitate the conduct of the main operation. The commanders of the armies and corps expressed fear: they saw that in the failed offensive, only those who still maintained their fighting spirit went to the offensive and the best of them died. That a huge exhausted army at any moment is ready to come out of obedience and no one can stop the soldiers' masses. But Kerensky did not see it. He believed that the army was close to a serious victory, which would strengthen the prestige of the Provisional Government in the country and abroad.
23 June (6 July) 1917, the army of Kornilov, attacked the 3 th Austro-Hungarian army of Terstiansky in the Bystritsa valley. In the first two days of the 16 offensive, the corps distracted the enemy’s attention to the south. June 25 (July 8) under the thunder of 300 guns went on the attack 12 corps of General Cheremisov. The front of the Austrian army was broken under Yamnitsa. The 26 th Austro-Hungarian corps was completely crushed (its remnants were disbanded and poured into the 40 th German Reserve Corps). During the day, the enemy lost only prisoners more than 7 thousand people and 48 guns. The whole valley of Bystrica was in our hands. 26 June (9 July), our troops reflected the enemy counterattacks. The German reinforcements and the 13 corps that had come up were discarded. The German Southern Army hastily bent its right flank, exposed after the destruction of the 26 corps. In these battles, the regiments of the 11 and 19 divisions and the new Kornilov shock regiment distinguished themselves.
27-28 June (10-11 July), our troops continued to rush forward. The effect was that the 8 Army inherited the Brusilov and Kaledin traditions. Kornilov continued them, and officers and soldiers loved him and respected him. The impact wedge of the 12 corps broke through to Lomnitsy; on the right flank of the army, Zaumurits took Galich with a quick blow. At the same time, parts of 1 and 4 of the Zaamur divisions took 2 thousand prisoners and 26 guns. 164-division was able to suddenly attack the Germans and took Kalush, the Germans fled. In this dashing attack on Kalush, our troops took 1 thousand prisoners and 13 guns. The commander of the 3 of the Austrian army, Terstiansky, was discharged, and Leopold of Bavaria, commander-in-chief of the Austro-German front, sent Litzmann, who had already saved the Austro-Hungarian troops a year ago, to Lomnitsa. The next two days, Kornilov equaled the front, pulling up the backward troops. The absence of large masses of cavalry in the right place, the constant problem of our army in this war did not allow us to develop a breakthrough. In addition, Lomnitsa strongly spread, hindering the advancement of troops, the enemy destroyed the crossing.
Commander Gutor planned to resume the June 30 offensive (July 13). 11-I army was supposed to attack on Zlochev, 7-I - to hold down enemy forces frontally, 8-I army - to attack Rohatyn and Zhydachyov. Two-sided coverage of the 11 and 8 armies was planned to be pinched by the South German army. In the coming days, at the direction of the Stavka, the Western, Northern, and Romanian fronts were to launch an offensive. However, the troops of the Western, Northern and Romanian fronts who were overjoyed by the “democracy” again took up the rally, voted, did not want to attack, and the operation was postponed for several days. On the South-Western Front, because of the mass rallies of the soldiers, the offensive was also postponed from day to day and waited until the enemy pulled up reserves and launched a counter-offensive.
Kornilov in front of the troops
The Austro-German command did not wait until the Russians had finished their rallies and prepared their counter-attack. In Berlin, they knew that the French army was not planning major operations on the Western Front. On the eve of the Russian offensive from France, the 7 of the selected divisions of the 3 Guard and the 10 Corps were sent to the Russian front. The offices of these corps remained in France, and the troops became part of the 23-th reserve, 51-th and Beskyd corps of the Zlochevsky detachment. These troops arrived in Galicia after the Russian offensive of the 11 and 7 armies choked. Two divisions were sent to rescue the 3 of the Austrian army on Lomnitsa, and the rest went under Zborov, forming the Zlochivsky detachment of General Winkler on the right flank of the 2 of the Austro-Hungarian army. The Austrians strengthened their troops with divisions from the Italian front. The commander-in-chief of the Eastern Front, Prince Leopold of Bavaria, ordered the Zlochevsky detachment to launch a counteroffensive in the general direction of Tarnopol in order to regain lost ground. To this end, the Zlochevsky detachment was brought to the 12 divisions (11 of them German) and aimed at the left flank of the Russian 11 th army.
The regrouping of our troops was not yet complete, as at dawn of 6 (19) in July, the Austro-German forces launched a swift counterattack prepared by the short but crushing blow of 600 guns and 180 mortars. The blow came at the Ashtrays on the 25 body, which did not show even the minimum resistance. Decomposed 6-I Grenadier Division raised a riot and the whole corps ran. From the Grenadier Division, which lost its title, it was possible to gather around 200 people. The corps left the enemy about 3 thousand people prisoners and 10 guns. The Germans were stunned by such success. They attacked the neighboring 5 of the Siberian Corps, but the attack was repelled by the 6 of the Siberian division. The Germans of the Siberians did not touch any more and suffered a blow to the south.
The flight of the 25 Army Corps led to a general collapse. His departure led to the retreat of the 17 corps. General Erdely tried to counterattack with the 49 corps, but he was thrown back and these troops were involved in the general whirlpool of retreat. Following them, the 1 Guards and the 5 Army Corps retreated. The 11 Army fell apart and spontaneously rolled back. The right flank of the 7 Army, exposed by the 11 Army, was under attack, and General Belkovich began to take him behind the Golden Lipa. Desertion has reached simply unimaginable size. Thus, one shock battalion, sent to the rear of the 11 Army as a detachment in the area of the town of Volochisk, detained 12 thousand deserters overnight.
The commissioners of the 11 Army in their telegram to the command described the situation as follows: “In the mood of the units recently moved forward by the heroic efforts of the minority, a sharp and disastrous change was determined. Offensive breakthrough quickly exhausted. Most parts are in a state of ever increasing decomposition. There is no talk of power and obedience, persuasions and convictions have lost their strength - they are answered with threats, and sometimes with shooting ... Some parts voluntarily leave positions, without even waiting for the enemy to approach. For hundreds of miles to the rear stretches of fugitives with guns and without them - healthy, vigorous, feeling completely unpunished. Sometimes whole parts go like this ... ”.
8 (21) July, it was already a disaster of the entire South-Western Front. On the same day, General Gutor was removed from command. Brusilov appointed Kornilov as commander-in-chief of the front. “On the fields that can not be called battle fields, there is continuous horror, shame and shame, which the Russian army did not know from the very beginning of its existence,” - so Kornilov described the position of his front. He ordered the 11 th and 7 th army to withdraw for the Siret. At the same time, the 8 army had to be taken back, only the occupied Galich and Kalush were given without a fight.
Zlochevsky detachment of the enemy, moving, almost meeting no resistance, turned from the east direction almost at a right angle to the south. The rear of the 7 of the Russian army was hit. General Winkler, smashing the 11 army, attacked the 7 army in the flank and rear. Fortunately, the Germans did not have cavalry. The Bavarian cavalry division was previously sent under Galich, to restrain the 8 th army of Kornilov. Otherwise, the situation for the Russian rears would be just awful. The entire group of troops, Bohm-Yermoli (2-I of the Austro-Hungarian Army, South German Army and 3-I of the Austro-Hungarian Army) went over to the offensive. The South German army pushed 7 from the front of the Russian army. The 3 th Austro-Hungarian army carefully followed the 8 th army, not daring to attack it. The Austro-German command, not yet giving itself a report on the size of the catastrophe that befell the enemy, ordered the troops not to dig in further than Tarnopol and the Siret line.
9 (22) July The 11 and 7 armies reached Seret, but could not stay on this line. In the 11 Army, the 45 Corps, which had come to the aid of its left flank, began to rally and also ran. In the 7 Army, the 22 Corps voluntarily left the front. The right flank of the 8 Army, the 3 Caucasus Corps, was bare and began to withdraw. The new commander of the 8 Army, General Cheremisov, ordered the troops to retreat to Stanislav. Meanwhile, Kornilov tried to save the situation from complete collapse by tough and energetic measures. The "death battalions" from the collapsed front line, where they simply sank in the mass of alarmists, protesters and deserters, were taken to the rear, where they began to play the role of barrage units. The running units were detained, deserters were caught, the rebels were shot on the spot. The general and stampede of 10-11 (23-24) in July was transformed into a retreat, albeit hasty and erratic. From the northern front to Bukovina transferred the control of the 1-th army Vannovsky. The new 1 Army received the left-flank corps of the 8 Army. General Erdeli received the Special Army, and the former Commander of the Special Army, General Baluyev, led the 11 Army.
10 (23) July The 11 Army was on the Stryp. During the four days of the military catastrophe caused by the consequences of the “democratic” February Revolution, our troops gave away all that had been gained by immense valor and the blood of hundreds of thousands of Russian soldiers during the four months of the brutal battles of Brusilov's breakthrough in 1916. A detachment of Winkler attacked Tarnopol, but was rejected by the Russian guard. The Russian Guard again defeated the Prussian. Against the background of the general collapse of the regiment 1-th and 2-th Guards Divisions fought valiantly. 11 (24) July were stubborn battles for Tarnopol. After knocking down the 7 Army, the South German Army entered the posts of the 8 Army, threatening it with encirclement. 8 th army had to leave Stanislav. 12 (25) in July, the Germans shot down the 5 th Army Corps, and the guard, which went to the flank, left Tarnopol. 7-I army passed Buchach and Monasterzhisku. The Strypa line was lost. On the same day, the 7 th Austro-Hungarian army launched an offensive, while the Russian 1 Army resisted slowly and began to withdraw due to the general retreat of the South-Western Front.
In the evening of July 12 (25), Kornilov signed an order for a general retreat to the state border. Chervonnaya Rus and Bukovyna yielded to the enemy. On July 13-14 (26-27), our troops finally left Galicia, our troops retreated to Zbruch on 15. As a result, Russian troops stopped at the line Brody - Zbarazh, p. Zbruch. With energetic and decisive measures, Kornilov restored relative order in the rear and made it possible for commanders to restore order in the troops.
Intoxicated with success, Earl Botmer decided to force Zbruch and invade Podolia. 16 (29) in July, the South German army attacked on all fronts, and unexpectedly the Germans and Austrians received a tough response. 17 (30) In July, the Austro-German troops again tried to attack, but met with resistance from the troops of the 7 and 8 armies. The next day, the Southern Army attacked all over the front again, but achieved only local successes. Austro-German and Turkish troops exhausted. Kornilov ordered a general counteroffensive. This was his last order as commander-in-chief of the front. On July 19, he was appointed Supreme Commander and surrendered the front to General Baluev. July 19 (August 1) Russian troops overturned the German Beskyd Corps and the 25 of the Austro-Hungarian. Gusyatin was beaten off, the enemy was rejected for Zbruch. The eight-day battle on Zbruch ended with the victory of the Russian weaponsbut it remained in the shadow of the general defeat and the collapse of the country and the army.
"The offensive of Kerensky," caused by the pressure of the allies and the Provisional Government, who wanted to raise its prestige inside the country and among the Entente powers, failed completely. The warnings of the generals, who pointed out that decomposed troops, who did not want to fight anymore for “bourgeois and capitalists”, were at best able only to defend themselves, were not heard. In the early days, Russian troops, using the accumulated artillery arsenal, weakening the Austro-German troops on the Eastern Front, achieved some success, especially Kornilov's 8 Army. But soon the most combat-ready units, including the death battalions, were drained of blood, cavalry did not exist to develop a breakthrough, the infantry did not want to attack, the soldiers deserted en masse, rallied, left positions even without enemy pressure. As a result, when the enemy command transferred reserves and organized a counter strike, the front of the advancing armies simply collapsed. The Germans more often than not simply went forward without encountering resistance. Those parts that still fought back, just could not resist, as their neighbors fled. Thus, the front fell back to the state border, all the fruits of the heavy, bloody battles of the previous campaigns were lost. Kornilov, appointed commander, with great difficulty brought relative order, and stopped the enemy's counter-offensive.
The Western and Northern fronts, which were to deliver auxiliary blows, found themselves in a similar situation. The troops simply did not want to fight. The Northern Front was “advancing” on 8-10 (21-23) in July, but the attack failed. The front headquarters reported to GHQ: “Only two divisions out of six were capable of operation ... The 36 Division, which took two lines of enemy trenches and marched on the third, turned back under the influence of shouts from behind; The 182 Division was pushed onto the bridgeheads by force of arms; when the enemy opened artillery fire on the parts of the division, they opened indiscriminate fire on their own. From the 120 Division, only one battalion went on the attack. ” Only the Revel Shock Battalion of Death fought bravely. But the seamen were poorly trained and suffered terrible losses.
The offensive of the Western Front was carried out by the forces of the 10 Army. Front commander Denikin knew that the troops would not fight. He invented the only trick, allowed the newspaper to leak information about the attack, so that the enemy would not remove troops from his front to the direction of the main attack. For three days, an artillery preparation was carried out at the front, which in places completely destroyed the enemy's line of defense, in places completely demoralized him. However, from the 14 divisions intended for the offensive, only 7 went to the attack, of which 4 proved to be combat-ready. As a result, the Russian troops who did not want to fight by the end of the day returned to their positions. At a meeting at the 16 General Headquarters (29) in July, the commander-in-chief of the Western Front, General Denikin, reported: “The units went on the attack, marched two ceremonially, three lines of enemy trenches and ... returned to their trenches. The operation was foiled. I had a 19 battalion and 184 guns on the 900-site; the enemy had 17 battalions in the first line and 12 in reserve with 300 guns. 138 battalions against 17 and 900 guns against 300 were brought into battle. ” Thus, our troops had a huge numerical advantage, but could not use it, as they were completely decomposed.
The June offensive noticeably aggravated the situation among the revolutionary units of the Petrograd garrison, who did not want to go to the front. Anarchists and Bolsheviks were gaining popularity among them. July 3-5 (16-18), there were performances of soldiers of the 1 Machine Gun Regiment, workers of Petrograd factories, Kronstadt sailors under the slogans of the immediate resignation of the Provisional Government and the transfer of power to the Soviets. The unrest took place with the direct participation of the anarchists and part of the Bolsheviks. This led to a tightening of the policy of the Provisional Government. Kerensky replaced Lvov as head of government, retaining the portfolio of the military and maritime minister. Kornilov was appointed commander-in-chief. Petrograd and the Petrograd garrison were reassured by the 45-I infantry and 14-I cavalry divisions that had arrived from the front (this shows that Tsar Nicholas had chances for the military liquidation of the February-March coup). The Bolshevik Party was accused of espionage and sabotage in favor of Germany. Trotsky, Krylenko, and some other activists were arrested (albeit, quickly released). Lenin and Zinoviev fled Petrograd and went into hiding. True, convincing evidence of Lenin's espionage activity was never presented.
Rally of the troops of the Petrograd garrison