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100 Years On – Kerensky Offensive

After the fall of the Tsar earlier in 1917, the Russian army quickly deteriorated as defeatist and opportunistic political operatives rotted it from the inside.  Alexander Kerensky, one of the leaders of the new Russian regime, attempted to shore up both the military and the domestic political situation with a new offensive against Austrian and German forces.

Beginning on July 1, a massive Russian bombardment, followed up by infantry and cavalry attacks, pushed Austrian troops back.  Their German allies held their ground more effectively, and Russian casualties piled up at a savage rate.

One factor that exacerbated the issues which had plagued the Russians since the start of the war was a new habit of soldiers holding impromptu meetings to discuss whether or not to obey orders.  Literally, as fighting went on, soldiers would stop to debate and vote on their orders.  Even if this ‘democratic’ process ended with an agreement to do as their officers told them, the time needed to come to that conclusion would usually make these orders irrelevant.

The Russian advance crumbled after a few days, and the counter-offensive pushed them back into the Ukraine.  This disastrous loss of both territory and men further weakened the Russian government, contributing to the conditions that would later lead to the Bolshevik takeover. Never again would the Russians go on the offensive in World War I.

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