The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(Kornilov’s affair), a counterrevolutionary revolt in August 1917, led by the supreme commander in chief of the armed forces of Russia, General L. G. Kornilov, with the aim of defeating the forces of revolution and establishing a reactionary military dictatorship in the country.

The July events signified the end of the peaceful period of the revolution and the end of dual power. State power was now wholly concentrated in the hands of the Provisional Government —the organ of the counterrevolutionary bourgeoisie, which, sensing the precariousness of its victory, moved toward the establishment of a military dictatorship. The Provisional Government, headed by A. F. Kerensky, was continuing to give the people the illusion of constitutional government but was actually clearing the path for a military dictatorship; it was a direct accomplice in the preparations for a counterrevolutionary coup. The party of the Constitutional Democrats (Cadets ), supported by the big bourgeoisie and monarchist generals, played the principal role in the plot against the revolution. The conspirators were supported by representatives of Great Britain, France, and the USA who feared the development of the Russian Revolution and the departure of Russia from the war. The center of the military and political preparations for the coup was concentrated in the Supreme General Headquarters in Mogilev.

Striving to give the imminent coup a “legal” character, the Provisional Government summoned a State Conference in Moscow on August 12 (25), which approved the political program of counterrevolution of the Cadets and generals. Special shock units were formed at the General Staff and at the headquarters of the various fronts. Numerous officers’ organizations in Petrograd, Moscow, Kiev, and other cities were to support Kornilov when the uprising broke out. The principal fighting force for the attack on revolutionary Petrograd was the III Cavalry Corps of General A. M. Krymov, which was to be brought into Petrograd in order to crush the St. Petersburg proletariat, disperse the soviets, and establish a military dictatorship. It was planned at the same time to strike a blow at the revolutionary forces in Moscow, Kiev, and other big cities. Kornilov moved troops on Petrograd on August 25 (September 7), demanding the resignation of the Provisional Government and Kerensky’s departure for General Staff Headquarters. The Cadet ministers resigned on August 27 (September 9), expressing solidarity with Kornilov. In response to Kornilov’s ultimatum, Kerensky declared Kornilov a rebel and removed him from the post of supreme commander in chief.

Kerensky’s shift from participation in the conspiracy to struggle against Kornilov was caused by his fear that Kornilov would move not only against the Bolsheviks but also against the petit bourgeois parties and would remove Kerensky from power. At the same time, Kerensky feared that the indignation of the masses could sweep away not only Kornilov but also Kerensky himself. Coming out against Kornilov, Kerensky counted on bolstering the shaken authority of the Provisional Government among the popular masses. His calculations, however, proved mistaken. The Bolsheviks became the leaders and organizers of the all-democratic struggle against Kornilov. Their tactics consisted of struggling, together with the troops of the Provisional Government, against Kornilov, while at the same time opposing the government and unmasking its counterrevolutionary essence.

On August 27 (September 9), the Central Committee of the RSDLP (Bolshevik) called on the workers and soldiers of Petrograd to come to the defense of the revolution. In the course of three days, 15,000 Petrograd workers joined detachments of the Red Guards. In order to prevent the movement of military trains with troops loyal to Kornilov, barriers were constructed near Petrograd, and railroad workers dismantled the tracks. Soldiers of revolutionary units of the Petrograd garrison, sailors of the Baltic fleet, and Red Guards were sent against the Kornilov troops. Bloshevik agitators explained the counterrevolutionary meaning of the Kornilovshchina to the deceived soldiers and cossacks of the Kornilov units. By August 30 (September 12) the Kornilov movement had been stopped everywhere, and his troops began to disintegrate. General Krymov, convinced of the failure of the revolt, shot himself. Generals Kornilov, Lukomskii, Denikin, Markov, Romanovskii, Erdeli, and others were arrested at the General Staff and front headquarters. The end of the Kornilovshchina was officially announced on August 31 (September 13). A massive wave of Bolshevik takeovers of soviets began under the influence of the revolutionary upsurge of the masses in the course of the struggle against the Kornilovshchina. The Petrograd soviet on August 31 (September 13) and the Moscow Soviet on September 5 (18) adopted the Bolshevik resolution “On Power.”


Lenin, V. I. “Slukhi o zagovore.” Poln. sobr. soch. , 5th ed., vol. 34.
Lenin, V. I. “V TsK RSDRP.” Ibid.
Lenin, V. I. “Proekt rezoliutsii o sovremennom politicheskom momente.” Ibid.
Revoliutsionnoe dvizhenie v Rossii v avguste 1917 g. — Razgrom kornilovskogo miatezha: Dokumenty i materialy. Moscow, 1959.
Ivanov, N. la. Kornilovshchina i ee razgrom. Leningrad, 1965.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.