A. F. Kerensky

Kerensky and Kornilov -
A Reply


Source: The Prelude To Bolshevism: The Kornilov Rising
Transcriber: Zdravko
HTML Markup: Jonas Holmgren
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit "Marxists Internet Archive" as your source.

I MUST commence my observations on Mr. Wilcox's articles "Kerensky and Kornilov" in the September and October issues of the Fortnightly Review with a short introduction which is called for by some of his concluding words. On page 517 he says: "True, the chain of evidence is not yet complete. One of the chief witnesses has yet to be heard Kerensky. So far he has withheld from publication his version of the affair, but by doing so he has left uncontradicted statements by his own colleagues and agents gravely impugning his constancy, stability, and consistency not to say more! Perhaps he will now speak out and fill up the only serious gap that still remains in the story of the Kornilov affair". This only serious gap has long since been filled; my version of the Kornilov affair was published in Russia in June of this year. Immediately upon my arrival in England I took steps to prepare an English translation of my book on the Kornilov affair, and if this English version has not yet seen the light it is only because serious obstacles have crossed its path which could hardly have been expected in free England. However, this English version is due to appear in the near future, and this circumstance allows me to make my remarks about Mr. Wilcox's articles quite short and without detailed arguments.

I do not think there is any need for me to explain why I was silent as long as I was in power, and before the Bolsheviks' coup de main destroyed the possibility of General Kornilov being brought to trial. The Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Armies commits a grave crime of State at the climax of the war; he endeavours to compel the Government by force of arms to "carry out his program", i.e., he openly attempts an armed rising against the governmental authorities of his country. After the failure of this attempt, the Provisional Government appointed a Special Commission of Inquiry to examine the circumstances of the affair and to bring to trial the General who had overstepped his duty, as well as his accomplices. Was it possible for me, the Prime Minister of the Provisional Government and the principal witness in the affair, to infringe the secrecy of the preliminary legal investigation and to announce before the trial my own opinion and my evidence about the affair? Of course not; silence before the trial is the elementary duty of all witnesses, and it was thus that every witness in the Kornilov affair behaved who was not interested in hiding the truth of the matter. But besides this last section of witnesses there were the accused and those who had participated too closely with them, and finally the accomplices of General Kornilov who remained at liberty outside the scope of the inquiry. Some of this group of people who were implicated in the Kornilov affair organized a Press campaign, systematically working upon public opinion for their own purpose. With this aim they at various times published parts of the materials from the inquiry, which were favourable to them, largely declarations of the accused and of witnesses who had grounds for fearing that they, too, would be accused; occasionally they even resorted to falsification. As far as I remember rightly, the President of the Extraordinary Commission of Inquiry into the Kornilov affair had twice to warn public opinion about the necessity of refraining from all judgment and declarations about the affair until the trial. However, the more than biased campaign in the Press continued. But the Government did not resort to reprisals upon those organs of the Press which so rudely abused the young freedom of speech in Russia. The Government considered that a public and independent trial would be the best answer to this campaign of calumny; and that this trial, better than any repressions, would teach the need to use properly the liberty of the Press. But the anarchy which has temporarily enveloped Russia destroyed the possibility of a legal trial in the Kornilov affair. Hence the biased and lying information which had been published in the Press became for the time being the sole source of information about the Kornilov affair both in Russia and in all the rest of Europe.

I make these introductory remarks in order to show whence these fictions arise which are being circulated in all directions as the truth about the circumstances of Kornilov's rebellion and in order to emphasize that, while I shall set out the principal inaccuracies of Mr. Wilcox, I do not wish to cast any doubts whatsoever upon the mistaken good faith of their author.

It is to be confessed, however, that under the influence of the biased materials at his disposal, Mr. Wilcox has been drawn so strongly to the side of his hero Kornilov that he has sometimes been ready even to some extent to "correct" the facts if these did not fit in his scheme of events which is so well disposed towards General Kornilov; but of this I shall speak later.

Mr. Wilcox commences his article with the words: "Kerensky's open conflict with Kornilov" (thus he strangely terms General Kornilov's rising against the Provisional Government) "was the final turning point of the Russian Revolution". With this I am wholly in agreement. I agree also that "From that moment the triumph of Bolshevism and the dissolution of Russia into primeval chaos became inevitable. The Brest treaties, with all they have meant for the Allies, followed as a matter of course, and, for that reason, probably no other single event has had so decisive an influence on the course of the war as the Kerensky-Kornilov imbroglio". Mr. Wilcox continues: "It is, therefore, of considerable importance that we should understand the true meaning of this incident, and be able justly to apportion the responsibility for the disastrous consequences that issued from it".

Mr. Wilcox's whole article, indeed, is an attempt to find this true meaning of the events in order to be able justly to apportion the responsibility, and certainly the true meaning of the events in Mr. Wilcox's version inevitably leads to the complete vindication of General Kornilov, and the whole responsibility for the disastrous consequences justly falls upon his opponents, and chiefly upon me. It cannot be otherwise; by the use of data collected with a previously determined purpose by people who are interested in hiding the truth, one cannot find the truth.

But I am not writing now in order to establish the truth; my task is much more modest. I wish only to show by a few examples the complete inaccuracy of the information upon which Mr. Wilcox founds his "true meaning of this incident". If I succeed in showing this, there will be exposed the complete contradiction between the events as set out by Mr. Wilcox and what actually took place; and if this contradiction is established, any conclusions whatever about the just apportioning of responsibility on the basis of Mr. Wilcox's historical study will be clearly quite impossible. Thus, in commenting on Mr. Wilcox's article, I am setting myself a quite negative task.

Turning to the facts, I must say that it is quite impossible not only to deal with, but even to note all the divergencies from facts of which the articles are full. For this it would be necessary for me to write whole series of articles. I shall, therefore, mention only the chief ones.

The first article in the September issue is of an introductory character. Indeed, it sets out facts which have very little connection with the history of Kornilov's conspiracy. In it Mr. Wilcox writes of the circumstances of Savinkov's acquaintance with General Kornilov, of their activities on the South-Western front, of the reformative work of Savinkov and Kornilov, and of the fate of their memoranda. All these facts precede the rising only in point of time, but they have no internal connection with it whatever. The reformist activities of Kornilov and Savinkov and the conspirative work of Kornilov and Zavoiko, Krimov, and the others, are two quite separate processes, only parallel in time. To prove this, it is enough to say that not only was Savinkov not an accomplice in the conspiracy, but, as will be seen later, the conspirators actually deceived him at the critical moment. However, the history of Savinkov's acquaintance with Filonenko and Kornilov on the South-Western front, their mutual relations, the appointment of Kornilov as Commander-in-Chief, his journey to Petrograd with his memorandum to the Provisional Government, in short, all what happened before the Moscow conference, has a great psychological significance. In his exposition Mr. Wilcox continually assures his reader that everything good that was done in the Russian Army in the summer of last year, and all the initiative for reforms, all the attempts to improve the fighting capacity of the Russian troops and to save the front from disaster were entirely the work of Savinkov and Filonenko; and chiefly of Kornilov and his party. On the other hand, all the events which serve as a kind of prologue to the tragic history of September 8th-12th are made to create the conviction in the mind of the reader that Kerensky and his friends were the whole time applying the brake to the reformers' great undertakings, and that Kerensky was wavering the whole time, so to speak, between good and evil, and only after the Moscow conference did he wish to enter on the path of good, i.e., to come over to the side of Kornilov's party - alas! only in order once more and for the last time to betray this party - by his weakness, at best - and consequently the task of saving the country also.

Unfortunately lack of space prevents me from analyzing the opening portion of Mr. Wilcox's work, and from showing fact by fact that his exposition does not correspond with reality. All his first article is artificially connected by Mr. Wilcox with the events of September 8th-12th by the following phrase:

"When Kerensky returned to Petrograd on August 30th from the Moscow Congress he had perceptibly inclined to the side of the Kornilov party, for he asked Savinkov to continue in office as Acting Minister of War and withdrew his demand for the resignation of the Headquarters Commissary, Filonenko. He also acknowledged that in principle he was in agreement with Kornilov's recommendations, and instructed Savinkov to have the Bills embodying them finally revised and prepared for submission to the Cabinet."

I will commence my examination of Mr. Wilcox's articles with this. It is true that after the Moscow Conference I altered my instructions about Savinkov's resignation and instructed him to complete his preparations for changes at the Ministry of War, but this was not at all because I had "perceptibly inclined" to the side of the Kornilov party, but from quite different motives. On August 31st, i.e., immediately after the Moscow Conference, Savinkov made the following announcement in the Press: "I may inform you that I am remaining at the head of affairs in the War Office, ... and by Kerensky's instructions I can again work in complete agreement with him to bring to life that program which he indicated in some passages of his speech at the Moscow Conference, and with which I and the Commander-in-Chief, General Kornilov, are wholly in agreement ... It would be a mistake to think that I had proposed to impede the functions of the Army organizations, and the news to that effect which appeared in the Press is absolutely incorrect ... Neither I nor General Kornilov ever proposed anything of the sort. Like A. F. Kerensky, we stood for the preservation and strengthening of the Army organizations". It is clear from this statement that Savinkov was remaining at his post after the Moscow Conference only because he had promised beforehand to work in full agreement with me. And thus after the Moscow Conference not only did I not incline to the side of the Kornilov party, but Savinkov's and Kornilov's paths also completely separated. Savinkov returned to his work at the Ministry, where he fully completed his preparations for the projects of Army reforms which had been initiated in the War Office on my instructions long before Savinkov took charge there or Kornilov was appointed Commander-in-Chief. Savinkov, on the one hand, went to Headquarters on September 3rd with these projects to the conference which had been arranged there of the representatives of the War Office with the Staff of the Commander-in-Chief, the Commissaries at the Front, and the representatives of the elective Army organizations. The Commander-in-Chief, on the other hand, and his party, i.e., the group of conspirators, to which Savinkov had never belonged, were steadily engaged in preparing their rebellion. And as it happened those further decisive steps which, according to Mr. Wilcox, were taken by me two days after my return from the Moscow Conference in the same direction, i.e., in the direction of the Kornilov party, were in fact in part directly aimed at liquidating the anti-Governmental movement which had grown up, and were partly called for by the necessity of guarding the Capital and the Provisional Government from all surprises from the Right and from the Left.

I need not tell here how already at the beginning of the year there had sprung up in certain circles of Russian society a notion of strong authority, and how a whole tendency in favour of a military dictatorship had gradually been organized and had spread, and how on this basis there were gradually founded conspirative organizations which set themselves the aim of establishing by force this regime in Russia. I will only mention that at the time of the Moscow Conference this conspirative movement had grown so ripe that its organizers thought even of declaring a dictatorship at the very moment of the Moscow Conference. Thanks to the temper of the great majority of the Congress it was found necessary to put this plan aside, and these people had to concentrate all their energy for the preparation of a real coup d'etat prepared according to all the rules of conspiracy. The chief centre of this conspiracy was Headquarters. This is why I instructed Savinkov when he left for the conference about Army reforms to "liquidate", as Mr. Wilcox puts it, the political department of the Commander-in-Chiefs Staff (page 502) and the Chief Committee of the Officers' League; the intention was not entirely to liquidate the last, but only to remove it from Mohilev to another town. Mr. Wilcox has set out Savinkov's first two instructions correctly; but he has given them a meaning which does not correspond with the facts.

But the other two instructions which Mr. Wilcox gives as if they were from me he expresses quite inaccurately:

"Savinkov states that he was charged by the Minister President: ... (3) to obtain Kornilov's consent to the formation of a distinct military district out of Petrograd and its immediate environs, so that a state of war might be declared in that area separately."

In actual fact, after the taking of Riga, Kornilov himself insisted to the Provisional Government upon the declaration of martial law in Petrograd and upon the handing over of all the troops of the Petrograd military district, including the Petrograd garrison, to the exclusive orders of Headquarters. The Government realized the necessity of handing over to the orders of the Commander-in-Chief the troops of the Petrograd military district, in view of the proximity of the rear of the Army to the Capital after the taking of Riga, but it could not agree to the demand to hand over to the orders of the Commander-in-Chief the troops of Petrograd and its nearest environs, because the Provisional Government, like every Government, could not remain in its residence, especially in such a disturbed time of war and revolution, without any force to defend it which would be entirely and exclusively at its command. The Head of the War Office, together with the Head of my Military Cabinet, was only meant to work out at Headquarters the technical conditions for the temporary exclusion of Petrograd and its surroundings from the composition of the Petrograd military district, and

"(4) To request the dispatch to the capital of a cavalry corps to help the Government to enforce its new policy there, and in particular to suppress a Bolshevik rising, which, according to the reports of the counter-espionage, was to take place almost immediately in conjunction with a German landing and an insurrection in Finland."

Nothing of the sort. The real motive for the summoning of the cavalry corps was published in the Press by Savinkov: "I asked the Commander-in-Chief for a cavalry corps at the demand of the Prime Minister in order to establish martial law in reality in Petrograd. This was called for by the strategic necessity of subordinating the Petrograd military district to the orders of the Commander-in-Chief in view of the last happenings at the front. The plan of declaring martial law in Petrograd was approved by the Provisional Government". It is obvious that this cavalry corps, as it was to be at the disposal of the Provisional Government, was meant to defend it from all the attempts to overthrow it, from whichever side they might come, as, for example, the combined force had protected the Provisional Government at the beginning of July from the attempts of the Bolsheviks.

Thus, of the four "decisive steps" towards the Kornilov party, two were directed directly against his party, and the two others were called for, as I have already said, by the necessity to protect the Provisional Government from all attacks both from the Left and from the Right. Mr. Wilcox would not pervert the meaning of my instructions to Savinkov thus if he had not been dealing with the materials collected by the Kornilovists, or if, at least, he had been able to deal with it critically. But yet, on page 503, our author has a passage which might lead one to doubt his impartiality and the genuineness of his desire to discover the true meaning of the events. Quoting the conversation in regard to my four instructions which took place between Kornilov and Savinkov in the presence of Generals Lukomsky, Baranovsky, and Romanovsky, Mr. Wilcox, entirely on his own account, makes the following addition:

"Of the plan thus outlined only one feature was the result of Savinkov's independent initiative: that was the request that the cavalry corps should not be under Krimov. Also, on his own responsibility, Savinkov urged that the 'wild' or 'savage' division, which was composed of semi-civilized tribesmen, should not be included in the forces sent to Petrograd."

Yet, without doubt, Mr. Wilcox had at his disposal the text of Kornilov's private interview with Savinkov, passages from which are mentioned by the author on pages 502-503, from which it is plain that Savinkov was speaking about General Krimov and the savage division not on his own "independent initiative" and "on his own responsibility", but exclusively by my instructions. Even if Mr. Wilcox had not had before his eyes the text of Kornilov's conversation with Savinkov, even so he need not have spoken of the "independent initiative" of Savinkov, since he will not find any evidence of such initiative anywhere in the published materials about the Kornilov affair. This passage is the result of his own "independent creation".

But why did Mr. Wilcox do this? What serious significance has this suggestion in the explanation of the "true meaning" of the events? I can answer plainly that it is of vast importance, because this invention is an attempt to conceal one of the principal proofs against General Kornilov. We must note the phrase that follows this interesting passage:

"He states that Kornilov promised to fulfil both these requests, which, however, he failed to do."

Trifles, indeed, to which it is not worth while to pay attention! Probably the reader of Mr. Wilcox's articles has simply passed over this phrase "promised to fulfil" but "failed to do" so. Nevertheless, this promise and non-fulfilment have a huge significance in the whole history of the dispatch of the cavalry corps to Petrograd, which in its turn is one of the principal episodes of the affair, without proper explanation of which it is quite impossible to understand the significance of the events of September 8th-12th.

My "agreement" with Kornilov is mainly shown by this call for troops, as if for the purpose of using them in joint activity with Kornilov at Petrograd. Again, my "betrayal" of Kornilov and his party is mainly shown by my sudden stopping of the movement of the cavalry corps which had been summoned to Petrograd by the Government itself in agreement with the Commander-in-Chief.

It is true that the Government, desiring to protect itself from all surprises, wished to have at its complete disposal a fresh and well-disciplined military force. Having reason to mistrust General Krimov and those in command of the savage division, and, moreover, considering this division to be insufficiently disciplined for service in a city, I asked Savinkov to tell General Kornilov from me that in the force sent for the disposal of the Provisional Government the savage division should not be included, and that General Krimov should not be appointed to the command of the force. Knowing that these two restrictions were absolutely necessary conditions for the dispatch of troops to Petrograd, Savinkov twice spoke about it to General Kornilov. Receiving his promise strictly to fulfil both these instructions of mine, Savinkov, "fully satisfied" as Mr. Wilcox himself says, returned to Petrograd and at once on the 7th of September he informed me of the matter and also of General Kornilov's loyal attitude towards him. General Kornilov not only promised not to send Krimov to Petrograd, but at the proposal of the Commander-in-Chief General Krimov was appointed by the Provisional Government as Commander of the 11th Army on the South-Western front. But at the same time, however, that Kornilov was promising Savinkov not to send Krimov to Petrograd, General Krimov at Headquarters was working out a plan for the occupation of Petrograd and for introducing there a state of siege. Moreover, he was appointed Commander of the Petrograd Army without the Provisional Government's being informed, and he left for Petrograd with the cavalry corps, at the head of which marched the savage division.

Krimov left for Petrograd not to put himself at the disposal of the Government, but having with him special instructions from General Kornilov. On September 7th-9th, there approached Petrograd not troops which had been summoned by the Government, but in the guise of these the troops of General Kornilov's force whose aim was hostile to the Government. When these troops were near enough to Petrograd on the evening of September 9th, V. Lvov came to me with General Kornilov's ultimatum. Now, I think, the reader will understand why Mr. Wilcox or his inspirers had to invent the tale of Savinkov's "independent initiative". The whole story of General Kornilov's rising is dark and difficult to understand unless the circumstances of the dispatch of the cavalry corps to Petrograd are explained. It must be said that General Kornilov himself did not conceal his intentions to use force of arms against the Provisional Government. Thus, Mr. Wilcox himself says, on page 514:

"In the Army Orders which he posted in Mohilev on September 10th and 11th, but which he was prevented by the Government prohibition from circulating further, and in the statement prepared by him for the Judicial Commission, Kornilov gives a very full exposition of his motives for refusing to surrender the Chief Command and attempting to compel the Government by force of arms to carry out his program."

On page 515 we find:

"Feeling that 'further hesitation would be fatal', Kornilov, having assured himself of the support of most of the other commanding generals, decided to use the 3rd Cavalry Corps to compel the Government ..."

But the conspirators and, like them, Mr. Wilcox are only unsuccessful in their attempts to represent all this story in such a way as to suggest that the decision to "use" the 3rd Cavalry Corps came into the head of General Kornilov "suddenly" when he was convinced that Kerensky was endeavouring to break his arrangement with him and that the Government had again fallen under the influence of the "Bolshevist majority in the Soviets".

According to the conspirators' version this sudden decision came to General Kornilov only on September 10th after he had received at Headquarters the text of my proclamation to the population of September 9th, where I seemed to declare General Kornilov a "traitor" General Kornilov himself gives the same explanation in one of his own depositions. But this explanation cannot withstand criticism. On September 6th Krimov at Headquarters was already working out his plan of approach upon Petrograd. On September 7th Kornilov's troops in the guise of the Government troops were already moving on Petrograd. On September 8th-9th there took place and were concluded General Kornilov's arrangements with the Generals at the front, by whom he was convinced "of the support of the other commanding Generals". On September 9th General Kornilov sent a proposal to the Commanders of the military divisions at the rear to take orders only from him, and on the same day, September 9th, General Krimov's force began its march upon Petrograd. Finally, already on the evening of September 8th there took place at Headquarters the final conference about the nature of the dictatorship (General Kornilov, Aladin, Zavoiko and Filonenko took part), and General Kornilov by telegraph invited certain prominent politicians to come immediately to Headquarters to discuss "State matters" of extraordinary importance, i.e., to establish a new Government attached to the dictatorship.

It is clear from this short chronology how energetically everything was being prepared for the moment of General Krimov's entry into Petrograd. The measures which I took simultaneously (on the night of September 10th) against the further approach of Krimov's force led to the complete failure of the adventure. "As soon as Kornilov realized that Krimov's expedition had failed he did everything in his power to prevent that civil war" (page 516), says Mr. Wilcox, thus in fact recognizing the significance of General Krimov's force in the events of September 8th-12th. I am sorry to have harped so long on Mr. Wilcox's invention of Savinkov's "independent initiative" in the episode of the dispatch of the Cavalry Corps, "at the disposal of the Government" Every one who has read the articles I am discussing and is now acquainted with my remarks about them will understand how important it is to determine the genuine facts which were connected with General Krimov's name, facts which, thanks to Mr. Wilcox's independent inventions, remained unknown to the readers of his articles, which were supposed to be an attempt to facilitate an understanding of "the true meaning of the incident". These facts destroy every possibility of connecting the summoning of the troops with any sort of agreement I am supposed to have made with General Kornilov's party, and at the same time prove beyond doubt the reality of the quite definite form of General Kornilov's and his party's activity.

But Mr. Wilcox writes mainly of the, so to speak, intimate side of my relations with General Kornilov and his party through V. Lvov (my "friend") whom I instructed "secretly" to conduct the negotiations with Headquarters.

"Lvov is a man of eminently mediocre talents, and the role into which he thrust himself here, on the grounds of his close personal friendship with Kerensky, was merely that of a messenger, but the effects of his intervention shook the political world like an earthquake." (Page 504.)

In the first place, there was never any close personal friendship, or even any friendship whatever, or close relations, between V. Lvov and me. Indeed, not only was there no friendship, but after the compulsory exit of V. Lvov from the Provisional Government in July of last year, he was extremely hostile towards me. He never hid this, and even declared that: "Kerensky, c'est mon ennemi mortel". And on September 8th, late in the evening, he said to one of his friends, in a state of great excitement: "Kerenskydid not want to be a dictator, so we shall give him one". Secondly, V. Lvov never was my "messenger".

"It may be stated here that Kerensky, in his evidence before the Special Commission, admitted that Lvov went to Headquarters at his request" (Page 505.)

says Mr. Wilcox. Nothing of the kind was said. On the contrary, when I gave my evidence before the Special Commission I declared that even the word "Headquarters" was not mentioned during my first conversation with V. Lvov on September 4th. And that I never sent him with any instructions and that all this episode consisted mainly in that V. Lvov, like many others at that time, discussed the weakness of the Government and suggested to me that our authority should be strengthened by the inclusion in the Provisional Government of new elements who had actual strength in the country. This conversation took place immediately after the Moscow Conference, where the question had been raised of a closer union between the democracy and the privileged classes, and therefore this theme of conversation was quite natural on V. Lvov's part, all the more so as precisely at the time there had taken place at Moscow a political conference of the group of public men with whom V. Lvov had been in close connection in the Duma. I would enquire how Mr. Wilcox can affirm that I admitted on examination that which I never said and which is not in the stenographic report of my examination which is about to be published in England? This time Mr. Wilcox is not guilty of "independent initiative". He is only reproducing a phrase from the forged resume of my examination which the Kornilovists published in the Press instead of my original deposition, which was in their hands. Besides this unsuccessful reference to myself, Mr. Wilcox adds that Aladin and Dobrinsky the accused m the Kornilov affair declared that, according to V. Lvov's words: "Kerensky empowered him to negotiate with Headquarters for the formation of a new Government". He said that "Kerensky wished the negotiations to be secret, as he feared that attempts might be made on his life from the side of the parties supporting him if anything was divulged before a definite result had been reached". But Lvov, in spite of all his "invalid condition" does not confirm this rubbish in any way in any of his depositions.[1]

But Mr. Wilcox would probably not have referred to Aladin and Dobrinsky at all if he had considered the matter more seriously. He would have realized in that case that these two gentlemen together with Zavoiko were precisely the organizers of Lvov's journey to me, first on September 4th for reconnaissance, and later, on September 8th, to present Kornilov's secret ultimatum. The point is that, when the conspiracy was sufficiently ripe, when the troops and Krimov's detachment might enter Petrograd any day, the organizers of the whole adventure had to find a means of penetrating to me besides the normal methods of communication between Headquarters and me as Prime Minister and War Minister. At first Aladin personally undertook the attempt, but I categorically refused to receive him. Then he tried with equal unsuccess to penetrate to me with the help of the ex-Prime Minister, Count G. E. Lvov, who, however, refused to help him in this. But Count G. E. Lvov thought it well to inform me of his uneasy surprise that, when Aladin received his refusal and was leaving him, he very significantly asked him to inform me, the Prime Minister, that henceforward no changes in the composition of the Provisional Government ought to take place without the consent of Headquarters. Aladin and Co. after this unsuccess decided to make use of V. Lvov, rightly considering that he, as a Member of the Duma and an ex-Member of the Provisional Government, could at any time easily have an interview with me. Thus, on September 3rd, after a conference with Aladin and Dobrinsky in Moscow, Lvov came to Petrograd, and at once, on September 4th, had an interview with me. On September 5th he was again in Moscow, meeting Aladin and Dobrinsky again. On the same day he left for Mohilev with Dobrinsky, and with Aladin's letter to Zavoiko. On September 6th he reached Headquarters, where he was in the company of the same Dobrinsky and of Zavoiko, and in the evening he was able to have an interview with General Kornilov. At this interview, at the conclusion of which Zavoiko also was present, he was given instructions by the Commander-in-Chief. With the first train after this interview with General Kornilov V. Lvov came to Petrograd, and on September 8th he came to me there almost straight from the station with General Kornilov's "proposal". This haste is quite intelligible when one remembers that at this time General Krimov's detachment was already fairly near to Petrograd.

But let us admit for a moment that I sent Lvov with instructions to General Kornilov. With what instructions? On this question it is impossible to receive any plain and coherent answer from the people in Kornilov's party. Mr. Wilcox refers, on page 505, to General Kornilov's statement in his deposition to the Commission of Enquiry, that Lvov, coming in my name, had only made enquiries, but that he (Kornilov) himself in reply to these enquiries had spoken of the necessity of a dictatorship in some form or another. Meanwhile, on September 9th again, Kornilov himself told Savinkov on the direct wire that Lvov had come to him with a proposal from the Prime Minister to "accept the dictatorship and announce this fact through the present Provisional Government".

V. Lvov declared in all his depositions that he had proposed nothing in my name, but, in the deposition which Mr. Wilcox mentions, V. Lvov actually announces that Kornilov not only did not propose any ultimatum to him, but that

"Kornilov submitted to him 'no kind of ultimatum', and what passed between them was a 'simple conversation', in the course of which various desires in the sense of strengthening the Government were discussed."

And yet on the same September 8th Lvov himself confirmed before a witness that the proposals which he had set out in writing came direct from General Kornilov. Whence does this disagreement come between the two parties to the conversation? Why does General Kornilov report the same conversation with Lvov in a quite different way? Why did he in the course of time deny his own declaration that I myself had proposed to him through Lvov a coup d'etat against myself?

The matter is easily explained. Neither those who sent Lvov to me, nor Lvov himself, knew until afterwards that my conversation with Lvov on September 8th, which they supposed had taken place between us two alone, had in actual fact been overheard, unknown to Lvov, by a third person. This person, the Assistant of the Director of the Militia (Police) Department, gave the following evidence to the juge d'instruction on September 9th, the day after the conversation of Lvov with me. "I happened to be in Kerensky's room, and intended to leave in view of the conversation he was about to have with Lvov. But Kerensky asked me to stay and I remained in his room during the whole period of the conversation. Kerensky brought with him two documents: first, he read out aloud to Lvov the tape of the telegraphic direct wire from Headquarters, which contained Kerensky's conversation with General Kornilov, the same which you are showing me now. And Lvov confirmed the correctness of the conversation set out on the tape. Then Kerensky read aloud to Lvov Lvov's own note, which you are showing me now, and Lvov confirmed also the correctness of this document, declaring that all that was proposed in this note came from General Kornilov ... Further, Lvov said that the public and every one at Headquarters were so roused against Kerensky and the Provisional Government that General Kornilov could not answer for Kerensky's personal safety in any place in Russia, and therefore Kerensky's and Savinkov's journey to Headquarters was essential; and Lvov on his side gave Kerensky 'good advice ' to accept and carry out General Kornilov's conditions. Advising Kerensky to fulfil General Kornilov's demands, Lvov said that General Kornilov offered posts in the new Cabinet of Ministers he was forming to Kerensky - as Minister of Justice - and to Savinkov - as Minister of War and, I think, of Marine."

On September 8th General Kornilov did not yet know of this witness's account, but afterwards he did know of it, and this explains the change. But here is the original text of the document which Mr. Wilcox so disdainfully calls "a few detached thoughts". It is printed on page 106 of the Russian text of my book "The Kornilov Affair":

"General Kornilov proposes (1) to declare martial law in Petrograd; (2) to give all the military and civil power into the hands of the Commander-in-Chief; (3) the resignation of all Ministers, including the Premier himself, and the transfer temporarily of control from the Ministers to their assistants until the establishment of the Commander-in-Chief's Cabinet. (Signed) V. Lvov. Petrograd, August 26th (September 8th), 1917."

Thus, if Mr. Wilcox had made use of all the materials, and not only of the evidence cunningly shuffled by the conspirators, he himself could have shown that Lvov had not simply "jotted down a few detached thoughts", but set out in an accurate form General Kornilov's proposal, that I did not snatch the document and put it into my own pocket in order not to give Lvov the opportunity to become acquainted with what he himself had written, but, on the contrary, that I read him his document and he confirmed its correctness; that although Lvov was arrested, this was not immediately after his setting out on paper General Kornilov's proposal, but only after this had been confirmed on the direct wire by General Kornilov himself.

I would advise the reader now to read again my conversation on September 8th with General Kornilov on the direct wire (October issue, pp, 507-508), and to compare it with these "detached thoughts" of Lvov and with the above declaration made by our witness who was present with us during our conversation. Then every one will see plainly that I had good reason, after all these conversations, to conclude that Lvov was acting as a plenipotentiary for General Kornilov, and that General Kornilov himself confirmed to a sufficient degree what Lvov had said to me. "Yesterday evening during my conversation with the Prime Minister on the direct wire I confirmed to him what I had said through Lvov", said General Kornilov on September 9th to Savinkov on the direct wire.

Even Mr. Wilcox agrees that

"The Minister-President asked for, and received, a confirmation of Lvov's message, but neither of the two speakers indicated what the message was, except so far as the single point of the journey to Headquarters was concerned."

Thus General Kornilov answers the questions, put in a conspirative manner, as only a man would answer who thoroughly knew what significance is contained in these questions, which would be mysterious for outsiders. One may ask why Mr. Wilcox did not think it necessary to give his readers the text of V. Lvov's "detached thoughts". Why does he hide in his pocket the little key to my mysterious conversation with General Kornilov? By the way, on page 508 Mr. Wilcox says that V. Lvov was not present at the apparatus at the time of my conversation with General Kornilov, that he did not know to what abuse his name was being put, and that afterwards he protested against the freedom which the Prime Minister had taken with it. From the evidence given above by the person who was present at my second conversation with Lvov when I had in my hands already the tape record of my conversation with General Kornilov, it is clear that Lvov not only did not protest against the abuse which I had made of his name, but on the contrary confirmed the conversation, i.e., he acknowledged that I had not in my conversation with General Kornilov transgressed those limits which had previously been arranged between me and Lvov. I had to hold my conversation with General Kornilov on the direct wire without Lvov only because the latter arrived nearly an hour later than the time we had arranged, and it was impossible to make General Kornilov wait any longer at the apparatus.

" 'Before the Special Commission', continues Mr. Wilcox, 'Kerensky replied that in view of the gravity of the situation he felt entitled to make use of this ruse in order to induce Kornilov to talk more freely than he might otherwise have done."

I never said anything of the kind to the Commission of Enquiry; I said only what I have just repeated. In this case Mr. Wilcox has been made a victim of the falsification of my deposition of which I have already spoken. This silence of Mr. Wilcox about Lvov's document has served the same purpose as his act of direct creation in regard to the "independent initiative" of Savinkov. Because of this silence about Lvov's document the events of the evening of September 8th, which saw the beginning of the formal liquidation of the Kornilov adventure, remain for Mr. Wilcox's readers unintelligible and obscure. And Mr. Wilcox, following his sources, is able to explain the whole liquidation as a tragic misunderstanding brought about by the unexplainable interference of my "messenger", V. Lvov. All attempts to liquidate this misunderstanding painlessly were in vain, since the Prime Minister, under the influence of this evil counsellor Nekrassov, and of the Petrograd Council of Workmen's and Soldiers' Deputies, after some wavering refused to hold out the hand of reconciliation to General Kornilov, and "by the evening of September 10th the breach between Kornilov and Kerensky was complete and final".

Of course, in reality, this was not at all the case. Lvov's arrival and the answers given to me by General Kornilov on the direct wire on the evening of September 8th, in connection with the approach of the Cavalry Corps towards Petrograd, made the situation absolutely clear to me. Taking into account all that had preceded and all the serious information we had about the preparation of a conspiracy, I had no doubt that only by the most decisive and speedy measures was it possible to smother at the very outset the conflagration which was beginning, and to save my country from the upheaval towards which those short-sighted politicians and bold adventurers wished to drive it.

On the night of September 9th the Provisional Government gave me special plenipotentiary powers to liquidate the revolt. I took immediately the most essential measures in order to stop the further advance of General Krimov's force upon Petrograd, and I proposed to the Government to dismiss General Kornilov from his position and to call him to Petrograd, etc. Mr. Wilcox declares, on page 510, that I received on the night of September 9th "full powers", i.e., that I became in fact dictator, and consequently

"Kerensky must bear the entire responsibility for everything that was done in the name of the Government during those days. In particular his appointment as Commander-in-Chief must have been his own work, and not, as it was officially announced to be, a Cabinet decision."

The responsibility for all that the Government did in those days lies upon me, and I am quite prepared to bear it. But still, I did not ask for full powers for myself on September 9th, nor did I receive the same; but I was given powers only "to take quick and decisive measures to cut off at the roots all attempts upon the sovereign power of the country and upon the civil rights which have been won by the Revolution", as was stated in my official proclamation to the population. Therefore my taking over the duties of Commander-in-Chief was not "my own work", but was the common decision of the members of the Provisional Government, brought about by special circumstances of which this is not the place nor the time to speak.

I think that I have sufficiently established the lack of correspondence between Mr. Wilcox's exposition and the real events which took place in Russia between September 4th and 14th. Therefore I shall only briefly touch upon certain other contradictions, the significance of which is by itself sufficiently plain.

"During the 9th of September", says Mr. Wilcox, "Kerensky took no absolutely irretrievable step", but on the night of September 10th, at the time when General Alexeiev, whom Kerensky asked to resume the Chief Command, came to know in Kerensky's quarters in the Winter Palace of the documents about the Kornilov affair, Kerensky "apparently" received the Executive Committee of the Petrograd Soviet. "We do not know what passed between Kerensky and the Committee", continues Mr. Wilcox, but he hints very plainly that the hostile and uncompromising position of the Petrograd Soviet after this conference acted disastrously on Kerensky's conduct and that the Soviet drove him to the uncompromising step of publishing the proclamation in which the word "treason" was for the first time used and applied to the activities of Kornilov. Not only does Mr. Wilcox not know what took place between me and the Committee on the night of September 10th, but nobody in the world knows, because no conference between me and the Executive Committee of the Petrograd Soviet took place either on the night of September 10th or altogether during the whole time when the Kornilov affair was being liquidated. Not "apparently", but absolutely certainly in this instance, Mr. Wilcox or his inspirers have consciously desired to give their suggestions the appearance of actuality.

So far as the terrible proclamation is concerned with the word "treason", inspired, forsooth, by the Soviet, "It has been admitted by Kerensky", says Mr. Wilcox, "that this proclamation was the work of Nekrassov, the Minister of Finance, and was sent along the railway lines without the Minister President's knowledge". According to Vladimir Bourtzeff, he adds, the text of the proclamation came as a complete surprise to me.

I never confessed anything of the kind, and here, once more, Mr. Wilcox is making a quotation from my forged deposition. The text of my proclamation to the people of September 9th from first to last was revised by me jointly with the Minister of Finance, Nekrassov, and, what is more, there is no word "treason" or declaration of Kornilov as a traitor in this proclamation. Here is the corresponding place in this proclamation: "Considering that in the presentation of these demands to the Provisional Government in my person there was evidenced the desire of certain circles of Russian society to take advantage of the serious position of the country to establish in it a state of Government which was contrary to the conquests of the Revolution, the Provisional Government has thought is necessary ..." and there follows a list of measures taken by the Government and an appeal to the citizens to keep calm. That is all.

Mr. Wilcox again returns to the question of the disastrous influence of the Soviet upon me, and hints transparently why I refused Milioukov and General Alexeiev's request to allow them to interfere in my conflict with General Kornilov and to endeavour to bring the opposed sides to a compromise:

"Bogdanoff, one of the chief Soviet officials, boasted at a meeting that the Political Department of the Petrograd Soviet, hearing of the mediation of Alexeiev and Milioukov, 'acted with all energy and prevented any kind of agreement between Kornilov and the Government.' "

Perhaps Bogdanoff boasted this, although I have never either heard or read anything about this before. But the Soviet could not have any influence upon my refusal to allow Alexeiev and Milioukov to interfere, however much it wanted to, for the simple reason that when I heard Milioukov's and Alexeiev's request, I refused it on the spot decisively and categorically. "At the same time the Soviets usurped to themselves many of the functions of Government", states Mr. Wilcox. Yes, indeed, Kornilov's rising, arousing in the masses a psychology of absolute distrust for the authorities, resuscitated Bolshevism in the Soviets and their tendency to usurp the functions of government, but this happened rather later, and the Government fought against it the whole time. The liquidation of General Kornilov's rebellion was conducted by the Provisional Government so independently of all influences that it was precisely from the side of the Soviet circles that I was reproached for not desiring in those difficult days to lean upon the Soviet and the Soviet organizations. One of the most prominent democratic leaders and my personal friend actually reproached me publicly for this, saying that my "head had been turned'' by power.

At the end of his study Mr. Wilcox says that Kornilov

"wanted to emancipate it [the power] from the illicit and paralyzing influence of the Soviets. In the end this influence destroyed Russia, and Kornilov's defiance of the Government was the last faint hope of arresting the process of destruction".

This quite corresponds with the first words of Kornilov's proclamation on September 9th where he declares war on the Government: "Forced to an open rising, I, General Kornilov, declare that the Provisional Government, acting under the influence of the Bolshevist majority in the Soviets, ..." This is an obvious falsehood, since before the Kornilov rising there had not been a Bolshevist majority in a single Soviet, and, as it happened, in the time preceding Kornilov's rising the political influence of the Soviets was less than at any other time of the Revolution. In the summer the organs of local government which had been created on the basis of universal suffrage had begun to function; the excitement of the first months of the Revolution was wearing off, and the Soviets were losing their exclusive significance in the life of the masses. This healthy and normal evolution was acclaimed in the Press by the most active members of the Central Executive Committee of the Soviets themselves. The absurd attempt of General Kornilov to force matters to a 'crisis destroyed all this intense half-year's labour to construct a national machine, and it again threw the masses on to the path of anarchy and ruin. Within a week after the Kornilov rising the Soviets were captured by the Bolsheviks. Then everywhere Bolshevist majorities came into being, and there began under the motto "All power to the Soviets" the fatal conflict of the unbridled masses with statesmanship and order in Russia.

The Kornilov adventure was the prologue to the Bolshevist's coup d'etat. Had there been no September 9th, there would have been no November 7th.

But Kornilov himself loved Russia deeply in his own way, and it was not bad faith but lack of knowledge and political experience which urged him upon the disastrous path whither certain irresponsible groups of political and financial jobbers and political adventurers enticed him. Zavoiko, Aladin, and the rest were only casual people, and with ambiguous pasts; behind their backs stood influential anonymities who at the decisive moment saved themselves, but abandoned Kornilov.

Permit me in conclusion to make a somewhat long quotation from a letter of General Alexeiev written on September 12th, 1917, to the now new-fledged Germanophil Milioukov; it throws a bright light behind the screens of the Kornilov rebellion:

"The Kornilov affair was not the affair of a group of adventurers, and you know to a certain degree that certain circles of our society not only knew all about it, not only sympathized with the idea, but helped Kornilov as far as they could ... I have one more question: I do not know the addresses of Vyshnegradski, Poutiloff,[2] and the others. The families of the imprisoned officers are beginning to starve, and I insist on their coming to their aid. Surely they will not abandon to their fate and to starvation the families of those to whom they were linked by the common bond of an idea and preparation ... In that case [i.e., if this demand is not immediately satisfied] 'General Kornilov', General Alexeiev continues, 'will be forced to declare in detail before the court the whole plan of preparation, all the conversations with persons and groups and their participation, in order to show the Russian people with whom he was working what real aim he was pursuing, and how, abandoned by all in his moment of need, he had to appear before an improvised court with only a small number of officers.' "

Comment is needless.




[1] Mr. Wilcox, by the way, so blindly follows his favourite sources of information that occasionally he falls into quite humorous situations. Explaining by his invalid condition V. Lvov's "confused and fragmentary" declarations, Mr, Wilcox, without any attempt to be critical, repeats Lvov's words how "his health had been broken and his memory impaired by a month of solitary confinement in the Dowager Tsaritza's room at the Winter Palace, where his sleep was continually disturbed by Kerensky singing operatic roulades in the adjoining apartment".

Could not Mr. Wilcox guess that, even if I had wished to disturb Lvov's valuable health with my arias, with the enormous amount of work which occupied me for twenty hours a day and compelled me the whole time to be with people, I could not have been able to spend whole nights in the neighbouring room to Lvov's singing "operatic roulades" there. I assure Mr. Wilcox that, if I had wished to break Lvov's health in some such manner, I should have placed ten big drums in Lvov's own room. Really, there should be some limits to human credulity.

[2] Well-known Russian financiers who stood at the head of a certain group of Banks. A. K.


Last updated on: 9.1.2007