Primary Documents - Manifesto of Russian Council of Workmen and Soldiers, 23 July 1917
Reproduced below is the text of a manifesto issued by the influential Russian Council of Workmen and Soldiers dated 23 July 1917.
In the manifesto the Council attempted to shore up dissipating support for the newly installed Provisional Government (following Tsar Nicholas II's abdication in the wake of the February Revolution), specifically among deserting soldiers on the front lines. This followed military setbacks - which finally broke the cohesion of the Russian Army - following the failure of the so-called Kerenski Offensive planned by War Minister Alexander Kerenski and Commander-in-Chief Alexei Brusilov.
Click here to read an address by War Justice Alexander Guchkov dated 10 May 1917 and here for another by Kerenski four days later pleading the same cause. Click here to read an earlier statement by the Council of Workmen and Soldiers dated 15 May 1917; and another dated 25 July 1917.
Manifesto of 23 July 1917 by Council of Workmen and Soldiers
Fellow-soldiers: One of our armies has wavered, its regiments have fled before the enemy. Part of our front has been broken. Emperor William's hordes, which have moved forward, are bringing with them death and destruction.
Who is responsible for this humiliation? The responsibility rests with those who have spread discord in the army and shaken its discipline, with those who at a time of danger disobeyed the military commands and wasted time in fruitless discussions and disputes.
Many of those who left the line and sought safety in running away paid with their lives for having disobeyed orders. T he enemy's fire mowed them down. If this costly lesson has taught you nothing, then there will be no salvation for Russia.
Enough of words. The time has come to act without hesitation. We have acknowledged the Provisional Government. With the Government lies the salvation of the revolution. We have acknowledged its unlimited authority and its unlimited power. Its commands must be law.
All those who disobey the commands of the Provisional Government in battle will be regarded as traitors. Toward traitors and cowards no mercy will be shown.
Fellow-soldiers: You want a durable peace. You want your land, your freedom. Then you must know that only by a stubborn struggle will you win peace for Russia and all nations. Yielding before the troops of the German Emperor, you lost both your land and your freedom. The conquering, imperialistic Germans will force you again and again to fight for your interests.
Fellow-soldiers at the front: Let there be no traitors or cowards among you. Let not one of you retreat a single step before the foe. Only one way is open for you - the way forward.
Fellow-soldiers in the rear: Be ready to advance to the front for the support of your brothers, abandoned and betrayed, fleeing from their positions in the regiments. Gather all your strength for the struggle for a durable peace, for your land and your freedom. Without wavering, without fear, without disastrous discussions, carry out all military commands. At the time of battle disobedience and wavering are worse than treachery. Your ruin lies in them, the ruin of Russia.
Fellow-soldiers: You are being watched by those who work for Russia and by the whole world. The ruin of the Russian revolution spells ruin for all. Summon up all your manhood, your perseverance and sense of discipline and save the Fatherland.
Source: Source Records of the Great War, Vol. V, ed. Charles F. Horne, National Alumni 1923
A sandbag was a sack filled with earth from which defences were built.
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