The Kornilov Affair

In the years and months leading up to the Russian revolution of 1917, Russia experienced endless political corruption and unrest.  By August of 1917, the Russian government was in shambles.  A provisional government, led by Alexander Kerenskii, was in power, but was very quickly and poorly put together.

Aleksandr Kerensky
Aleksandr Kerenskii

Another powerful person in Russia at the time was the newly appointed Commander of the Russian armed forces, a man named Lavr Kornilov.  Kornilov, appointed in July of 1917, quickly realized that the provisional government that was in place did in fact lack and direction or authoritative voice in Russian affairs.

Lavr Kornilov
Lavr Kornilov

Realizing that the provisional government was little more than a pawn of the soviet, Kornilov decided that he, as leader of the Russian armed forces, should be the one to essentially take control of the country for its own sake.  He decided to lead an invasion into Petrograd and attempted to overthrow the soviet.  He did this under the impression that he had the backing of Kerenskii, but Kerenskii, as Kornilov had said all along, was simply a pawn of the soviet, and revoked his support of the invasion.

Unfortunately for Kornilov, the soviets were ready for the invasion and were easily able to stop his army.  Later, word came out that not only was Kornilov looking to overthrow the soviet, but he was also looking to install none other than himself as the leader of Russia, although some believe this was simply propaganda put out to make Kornilov less popular.

The big winner in this “Kornilov Affair” turned out to be Lenin and the Bolsheviks, which is precisely why this is such a big deal.  Not only did Kornilov fail, but it showed the inability of the provisional government to stop any sort of attempt at an overthrow, opening the door for other groups, including the one lead by Lenin, to stage their own attempts at claiming power.  And as we all know, Lenin was ultimately successful in October of 1917.

Original source for Kerenskii image:

Original source for Kornilov image: /article/alexander-kerensky-130-dies-again.html

Sources about the Kornilov Affair: —

–Hook, S. (1988, Aug 20). Bolshevik coup lacked popular support. New York Times (1923-Current File). Retrieved from

–Freeze, Gregory L. Russia: A History. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. 209-222. Print