In the summer of 1917, Russia was in a deep political, socio-economic, and military crisis. The Westernist feudalists destroyed the autocracy and successively destroyed the main bonds holding back the huge building of the empire, trying to make Russia a part of European civilization and lead it along the western path of development. However, the pro-Western bourgeoisie, the Western Masons who seized power in Russia, only aggravated all the contradictions that had been accumulating in Russia for centuries, and caused the beginning historical troubles. This is a special mechanism characteristic of Russian civilization, which is launched during the peak of social contradictions, social injustice, when the interests of civilization and the people are at odds with the interests of the "elite". The feudalists wanted to introduce a Western development matrix in Russia, but such a direct “transcoding of Russian civilization turned out to be impossible.
Thus, the pro-Western bourgeois-liberal Provisional Government was unable to solve the main tasks facing Russia. Land (peasant), labor, national, economic and other problems have only become aggravated. Began a breakaway national suburbs. Due to the mass amnesty and the collapse of the law and order system, a real criminal revolution began. In the countryside, the peasants burned landlords' estates, they themselves divided the land - a real peasant war began. The summer offensive of the Russian army ("the offensive of Kerensky") ended in complete failure. The army decayed, the soldiers did not want to fight. In the capital, radical forces intensified, including anarchists and Bolsheviks.
Clashes around the key issue of Russia's participation in the First World War led to another shock - the July crisis, which put an end to the dual power of the Provisional Government and the Petrograd Soviet. In the conditions of a difficult and chaotic situation in the country, right-bourgeois forces increasingly began to look for a strong personality capable of doing away with "anarchy." The right wing of the feminists believed that the revolution was complete, the autocracy was destroyed, preventing the bourgeoisie from taking all power into their own hands and building a bourgeois republic, where all power belongs to the owners - landowners, capitalists, bourgeoisie. Now stability is needed, “the West will help” to solve the main problems. But Pandora’s box was open, the unrest was just beginning.
The split among the feudalists
After the defeat of the Bolsheviks and the anarchists in the course of the uprising, a struggle unfolded between the two camps of the feudalists — moderate socialists and liberals. The Cadets and other liberal forces staked on the Commander-in-Chief, General Kornilov. The July 26 (August 6) II coalition government formed under the chairmanship of A. F. Kerensky tried to pursue a policy of maneuvering between the main political forces of the country, which, however, caused discontent in both camps. In order to finally get rid of the control of the Soviets, to make a favorable impression on conservative forces and to provide broad support to his government, criticized both left and right, Kerensky accelerated the formation of new state institutions.
On August 12-15 (25-28), the State Meeting was held in Moscow. A kind of review of political forces was held at the State Conference, where each direction could present its own program. But it was not planned to make any decisions at the meeting. The interim government did not want to limit its power to representative bodies, but only to consolidate the turn to the "order" that emerged after the July crisis. About 2500 people were invited to the State Conference: deputies of the State Duma of all convocations, representatives of Soviets of peasant deputies, Soviets of workers and soldiers' deputies, city duma, army and fleet, cooperatives, commercial and industrial circles and banks, trade unions, zemstvos, intelligentsia organizations, national organizations, clergy and others. The Bolsheviks were expelled from the meeting.
The meeting was opened by Kerensky himself with a pompous speech, who declared: “At a great and terrible hour, when a new free great Russia is born and created in torment and great ordeals, the Provisional Government has called you here not for mutual infighting, the citizens of a great country, now forever cast off chains of slavery, violence and arbitrariness. " Kerensky called on everyone to rally around the Provisional Government and declared that "and whatever the whoever gives me ultimatums, I will be able to subordinate it to the will of the supreme power and to me, its supreme head." Kerensky attacked the threats left and right: “This is an anarchy on the left, this Bolshevism, whatever it is called, in our Russian democracy, imbued with the spirit of love for the state and the ideas of freedom, will find its enemy. But once again I say: every attempt of Bolshevism inside out, every attempt to take advantage of the weakening of discipline, it will find the limit in me. ” Enough collapse, now "everything will be put in place, everyone will know their rights and responsibilities ...".
The main intrigue of the State Conference was the speech of Kornilov, who was already perceived as the second political center in the country. In the 1917 year, Kornilov made a rapid career, having gone from being the commander of an army corps to actually the second person in the state. For a month and a little as Commander-in-Chief (Kornilov replaced Brusilov, after the crushing failure of the summer offensive of the Russian army), he managed to somewhat restore the fighting ability of the demoralized army. His actions found wide support among the officers and Cossacks, among the nobility, representatives of the bourgeoisie and the intelligentsia. 13 (26) August general solemnly arrived in Moscow to take part in the State Meeting. Kornilov met as a hero. A member of the Cadet Central Committee, Fyodor Rodichev, said: "Come, leader, and save Russia." St. George soldiers threw bouquets under Kornilov’s feet. Then he was picked up by the arms and carried to the car. Arriving in Moscow, Kornilov met with right-wing leaders (the “Black Hundreds” -the right were already completely defeated, now the Cadets have become “right-wing”), as well as with financial tycoons.
14 (27) August Kornilov spoke at the State Meeting. The ascent of Kornilov to the podium was accompanied by scandal. The right side of the hall met Kornilov with an ovation and rose from their seats. And representatives of the Soviets, including the soldiers, did not rise. Thus, the camp of the february revolutionaries, who destroyed the autocracy and the “old Russia,” finally split. The “Right”, henchmen of the bourgeois class, wanted “order” (having destroyed all the foundations of the old order!) And a “strong hand” that would calm the country. They wanted stability, the creation of a “European” Russia, where power and money belong to the bourgeoisie, capitalists and landowners, but formally there is a “democracy”. It is clear that "reassure" Russia, in which the unrest began, could only be blood. Therefore, they relied on the generals loyal to the bourgeoisie. The other part of the feudalists, the left wing, wanted to continue the transformations until the complete “liberation” of Russia, fulfilling the “order” of the masters of the West. At the head of this group was the Freemason Kerensky and his associates. They thought to completely "rebuild" Russia, bringing it to collapse, with the separation of national suburbs, the emergence of troops of "Western partners" in key, strategic points of the empire, total plunder of national wealth, etc.
The ideas of establishing a strict regime in Russian society have been going since April 1917. “The country was looking for a name,” General Anton Denikin recalled in his book “Essays on the Russian Troubles” close to Kornilov. - Initially, unclear hopes, not yet clothed in any concrete form, both among officers and among liberal democracies, in particular, among the [constitutional democrats] parties of the party were combined with the name of General Alekseev. ... Later, perhaps at the same time, certain organizations made certain offers to Admiral Kolchak during his stay in Petrograd. ... But when General Kornilov was appointed commander-in-chief, all searches ceased. The country, alone with hope, others with hostile suspicion, called the name of the dictator. ”
Speaking at the State Conference in Moscow, Kornilov called the main reason for the collapse of the army legislative measures taken after the overthrow of the monarchy. The general and those close to him had already prepared a program of reforms in the country: it included measures to restore the disciplinary authority of commanders in the army and navy, to limit the rights of soldiers' committees; a ban on rallies in the army and strikes at military factories; the transfer to the martial law of all railways, factories and mines working for the needs of the front; the extension of the death penalty law to the rear. At the head of the country was supposed to put the Council of National Defense, whose chairman was to be Kornilov, and his deputy - Kerensky.
Similarly to Kornilov, ideas were advanced by the ataman of the Donskoy forces, Aleksey Kaledin, who reduced them to six points of requirements for restoring order: 1) The army should be out of politics, completely prohibiting meetings and assemblies with their party struggle and divisions; 2) All councils and committees should be abolished, with the exception of regimental, company, centurion and battery, with strict restriction of their rights and duties to the area of economic regulations; 3) The declaration of the rights of a soldier must be revised and supplemented with a declaration of his duties; 4) Discipline in the army must be raised and strengthened with the most decisive measures; 5) The rear and the front are a single whole, ensuring the combat capability of the army, and all measures necessary to strengthen discipline at the front must be applied in the rear; 6) The authorities' disciplinary rights must be restored, and the leaders of the army must be given full power.
Supporters are in the hands of General Lavr Kornilov, who arrived in Moscow at the State Conference
Meanwhile, the situation in the country and on its borders was heating up. At the end of July, 1917, the counterattack Austro-German troops occupied a significant part of Galicia and Western Ukraine, winning almost all the territories they lost in the 1916 year as a result of the Brusilov breakthrough. All the heroic efforts of the Russian army, the blood of many thousands of people were in vain. The front stabilized along the lines of the towns of Brody - Zborov and the River Seret. Kerensky’s offensive ended in a crushing failure. The Russian army could not attack. “The unbearable over-exertion of the forces of the sick body of the old army, demanded by this attack, had one main result — the acceleration of the further disintegration of the entire Russian front. Attempts to organize an offensive on the Northern and Western Fronts led to nothing, ”noted the military historian, General A. Zayonchkovsky. Heavy fighting with varying success went on the Romanian front.
The process of the collapse of old Russia was developing. In Finland, the Diet during the July uprising in Petrograd adopted an act of independence of the Grand Duchy from Russia in internal affairs, and on limiting the competence of the Provisional Government to military and foreign policy. After the insurrection was suppressed, Finnish independence law was rejected by the Provisional Government. In Riga, the local council of workers' deputies passed a resolution on the creation of a "united and indivisible autonomous Latvia" in areas with a predominantly Latvian population. True, half of these areas have been occupied by the German army for more than two years.
On August 14 (27), 1917, Kazan experienced one of the largest man-made disasters in Russia - an explosion at a powder factory, a fire from which spread to other enterprises, including weapons and oil refining and residential areas. Fire in the city burned for about 10 days. As a result, huge stockpiles of weapons for the front were destroyed. As the investigation found out, the cause of the disaster was not sabotage, but the usual sloppiness - a soldier’s cigarette butt. It all started with a carelessly thrown off guard stub at the Porokhovaya railway station. Grass caught fire from him, then scattered boards. The watchmen tried to put out the fire, but could not. Then the fire spread to the boxes of ammunition, explosions began, which set fire to the nearest railway depot and oil storage on the banks of the Kazanka River. Further, the fire spread through the industrial zone to military depots, which caused new explosions, and as a result, the fire spread to a powder factory located to the side. The terrible fire, accompanied by explosions, lasted several days, tens of thousands of residents fled in panic from the city. Fortunately, the number of victims for such a large-scale catastrophe was small: 21 people died or died of wounds, 172 (including 30 children) were injured. However, material losses were colossal: a large batch of machine guns was destroyed - 12 thousand million shells, about 30 thousand tons of oil. 152 buildings were destroyed or burned out completely, 390 - partially.
19-24 August (1-6 September) 1917, the Russian army was defeated during the Riga operation. The 8 units of the German army attempted to break through the front in a narrow sector in the Riga area in order to encircle and destroy the main forces of the Russian 12 army. For the Russian command, the enemy offensive was not unexpected - since the beginning of August the air reconnaissance reported on the transfer of fresh reserves and artillery by the enemy, which was confirmed by the defectors. However, no countermeasures in the Russian headquarters could not be taken. There is an opinion that Kornilov deliberately gave the Germans a chance to develop an offensive, since at that time he was preparing his speech. By deliberate surrender of Riga, he wanted to cause a panic in Petrograd (they were already preparing to evacuate the government to Moscow), put pressure on the government and create an excuse for insurrection.
However, there were objective reasons for the defeat of the Russian army. Most of the troops of the 12 Army covering Riga were decomposed by left propaganda, and the soldiers openly refused to obey the commanders, most of the time they spent in rallies and meetings. The executive committee of the soldiers' deputies had no influence on the soldiers. In order to somehow remedy the situation, the commander of the 12 army, General Dmitry Parsky, even declared himself a Social Revolutionary, but that did not help much either. The military historian Zayonchkovsky described the general condition of the troops near Riga in those days: “Replenishments from the rear did not come, older people were fired home for field work; Ukrainians went to Ukraine; the number of rows in companies was small. The command staff lost influence on the soldiers' mass. Headquarters were sitting in the rear. ” It is clear that the decomposed troops did not even think about the fierce resistance to the enemy.
So, when the German troops began forcing the Western Dvina in the defense zone of the 186th division, its soldiers almost completely abandoned their positions and fled. As a result, the Germans erected pontoon bridges without interference and began crossing. Having received a report on the Germans forcing the Western Dvina, the army commander, General Parsky, fearing encirclement, ordered to leave Riga. Only the 2nd Latvian rifle brigade manned by local residents had stubborn resistance. Latvian arrows, although they were not alien to revolutionary ideas, maintained in their units iron discipline and fought especially fiercely, as they defended their homes. However, after all the neighboring Russian troops withdrew, the Latvian brigade was also forced to retreat in order to avoid encirclement. On August 21, German troops occupied Riga. On the same day, the Headquarters ordered the 12th Army to retreat. The retreat was poorly organized and erratic. Often, troops fled, dropping artillery and carts. The Germans pursued the retreating rather weakly, only the German aviation actively pursued columns of retreating troops, delivering sensitive blows to clusters of troops and refugees. At the same time, the 12th Army had significant reserves prepared for counterattacks, but due to poor management and the reluctance of soldiers to fight, they could not be used.
Interestingly, during the Riga operation, the commander of the 8 of the German army, General Oscar von Gutier, first applied the new offensive tactics he had developed, which was later named after him. The infantry units were attacked after a very short but strong artillery preparation, during which enemy positions, among other things, were fired at by smoke and gas projectiles, while blinding defenders for a while. At the same time, special assault groups were ahead, which, avoiding frontal attacks, penetrated deep into the defense, occupying and destroying headquarters, communications centers and firing points. This tactic was so successful that until the end of the war it was used everywhere by both sides.
By 24 (August) 6 September 1917, the Russian troops stopped their retreat and took up defensive positions in the Venden position. The defeat was heavy. German troops captured the Riga region, strengthening their positions in the Baltic States and threatening Petrograd. True, the Germans failed to completely destroy the 12 th Russian army. Russian troops lost up to 25 thousand people, of which up to 15 thousand prisoners and missing persons. The material losses were heavy: the Germans seized 273 guns (including 190 light and 83 heavy), 256 machine guns, 185 bombers, 48 mortars, and a significant number of other military assets. The losses of the German army amounted to about 4-5 thousand people killed, wounded, captured and missing.
German troops in Riga
To be continued ...