The Kornilov Affair of 1917 can be quickly summarized as an event with significant miscommunication riddled with unanswered questions and actions. Lavr Kornilov was the Commander in Chief of the army for the Russian Provisional Government, which was headed by Alexander Kerensky. At first, the policies of the provisional government, for the most part, were everything that the citizens had wanted, which most importantly, consisted of more liberal reforms for the citizens. Although, much sooner then expected, there was a resurgence for increased order and a move towards more right winged policies. This was due to the continuous participation and poor performance of the Russian army in World War I and the economic toll it was taking on the Russian economy and industry. Several events took place, which eventually became known as the July Days, where both soldiers and industrial workers protested the actions and policies of the Russian Provisional Government that they thought were failing them. In these demonstrations, the Bolsheviks tried to take a leading roll in encouraging and directing the protests. These demonstrations were the sparks that ignited the idea that a movement back towards more right winged and disciplinary policies were in order, and Kornilov, among many other Russian officers, Businessmen, and Politicians felt the same way.
Kornilov was appointed Commander in Chief of the Army by Kerensky, despite his fear of Kornilov becoming too powerful, in order to appease the right winged and conservative activists who’s influence was becoming more and more prominent in Russians politics. Once Kornilov had this position, he made aggressive requests, such as being relieved of his “government” position so that he can operate independently with no red tape or bureaucratic road blocks, but of course, it was denied. But this request laid the seeds for the tense relationship to come between Kornilov and the Provisional Government. As mentioned before, Russia’s continued participation in WWI and the economic and social unrest resulting as a consequence made Kornilov fear that another revolution was in the near future. Due to this belief, he sent troops close to Petrograd, where many of the demonstrations were taking place, without getting permission, or even asking for it, from the Government and Kerensky. It took close to a month and increased social unrest for Kerensky to give official approval.
Following the government approval, Vladamir Lvov, and ex procurator, arrived where Kornilov was stationed to see what ground he was making Kerensky’s strategies that were meant to strengthen the government. The three strategies were a dictatorship under Kerensky, an authoritative government that would put Kornilov in a significant position of power, and a military dictatorship that Kornilov would be the commander of.
The debate still stands as to whether Kerensky actually sent Lvov or if Lvov arrived to Kornilov by means of his own actions. Either way, Lvov informed kerensky that the only strategy that has made significant progress was the establishment of Kornilov’s military Dictatorship. Taken back by this startling news, Kerensky started a dialogue with Kornilov via telegraph where he posed as both himself and Lvov to figure out if Kornilov was seeking to over throw him. Kerensky concluded that Kornilov was indeed trying to take power over the entire Provisional Government and relieved him of his position. After Kornilov received this news, he believed Kerensky was being pressured by the Bolsheviks to make this declaration, and he responded Kornilov reacted by sending troops into Petrograd to put down the believed Bolshevik Coup.
As a result of this failed coup and overall miscommunication, Kornilov was removed from his position permanently and sentenced to jail, which he served at the Bykhov Fortress, along with other Army Officers that were believed to be cooperating with him. Truth would have it that Kornilov only sent troops to attack Petrograd because he legitimately thought the Soviets were staging a coup to take over the Provisional Government, but obviously, Kornilov was incorrect in his beliefs. With all of this being said, it is quite clear that not only was there blatant miscommunication, but more than likely, to some degree, a planned conspiracy to permanently remove Kornilov from power, which after all was said and done, ended up being the case.