Who's Who - Lavr Kornilov

Lavr Kornilov Lavr Kornilov (1870-1918) was the Imperial Russian general who unsuccessfully attempted to overthrow the Provisional Government established after the February 1917 revolution and replace it with a military dictatorship.

Kornilov was born in Karkaralinsk in Western Siberia on 30 August 1870.  Having graduated from the Mikhailovsky Artillery Training Corps in 1892 he received a commission to Turkestan, before further study at the General Staff Academy from 1892-95.

Thereafter assigned to intelligence duties in Iran and India, Kornilov served as a Russian agent during the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05.  He was Russian military attaché to Peking between 1907-11.

Appointed to command of a division on the Eastern Front with the outbreak of war in August 1914 he was captured by the Austro-Hungarians at Przemsyl in March 1915.  His subsequent escape in 1916 brought him fame and assured him of rapid promotion and command of XXV Corps on the Southwest Front.

With the February 1917 revolution Kornilov was assigned critical command of Petrograd (formerly St. Petersburg) by the incoming Provisional Government.  He was tasked with the restoration of order and disciple among the troops stationed there (which served to bring him unpopularity in the region).

Resigning his post at Petrograd (where he had suggested using force to suppress Bolshevik agitation) Kornilov returned to the battlefield and launched an abortive Russian offensive against the Germans at Galicia.

Despite his turbulent reputation Prime Minister Alexander Kerenski appointed Kornilov Commander in Chief of the army on 1 August 1917, replacing Alexei Brusilov (whom he had earlier served under at the start of the war).

A rift quickly developing between the two men (politically and militarily), Kornilov ordered troops to march on Petrograd towards the end of August and called upon the government to resign and hand control to the Commander in Chief.  Reasonably interpreting this as a potential coup Kerenski dismissed Kornilov and recalled him to Petrograd on 27 August.

Defying Kerenski's order Kornilov's troops (under General Krymov) found their path to Petrograd blocked by massed railway workers, who after discussions persuaded Kornilov's forces to disperse.

In arranging the defence of Petrograd the Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin had agreed to a request from Kerenski for his assistance, although in doing so Lenin stressed that he was doing so simply to thwart Kornilov's ambitions rather than to aid Kerenski's government.

Arrested on 1 September 1917, Kornilov was imprisoned at Bykhov.  Having escaped Kornilov subsequently placed him at the head of the anti-Bolshevik (or "white") forces in the Don region.

He was killed by the Bolsheviks during fighting at Ekaterindar on 13 April 1918.  He was 47.

A respirator was a gas mask in which air was inhaled through a metal box of chemicals.

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