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Lavr Kornilov Information

Lavr Kornilov

Lavr Georgiyevich Kornilov

Place of birth: Ust-Kamenogorsk
Place of death: near Ekaterinodar
Allegiance: Russian Empire
Service/branch: Imperial Russian Army
White Movement
Years of service: 1892-18
Rank: General
Battles/wars: Russo Japanese War
World War I
Russian Civil War
Awards: Order of St. George (twice)
Order of Saint Anna
Order of Saint Stanislaus

Lavr Georgiyevich Kornilov ( August 18, 1870-April 13, 1918) was a military intelligence officer, explorer, and general in the Imperial Russian Army during World War I and the ensuing Russian Civil War. He is today best remembered for the Kornilov Affair, an unsuccessful endeavor in August/September 1917 that purported to strengthen Alexander Kerensky's Provisional Government, but which led to Kerensky eventually having Kornilov arrested and charged with attempting a coup d'tat.

Pre-revolutionary career

Originally a Cossack born in Ust-Kamenogorsk, Russian Turkestan (now Kazakhstan) in a family of Cossack Chorąży and his wife of Kalmyk origin, Kornilov entered military school in Omsk in 1885 and went on to study at the Mikhailovsky Artillery School in St. Petersburg in 1889. in August 1892, he was assigned as a lieutenant to the Turkestan Military District, where he led several exploration missions in Eastern Turkestan, Afghanistan and Persia, learned several Central Asian languages, and wrote detailed reports about his observations. He returned St. Petersburg to attend the Mykolayiv General Staff Academy and graduated as a captain in 1897. Again refusing a posting at St. Peterburg, he returned again to the Turkestan Military District, where he resumed his duties as a military intelligence officer.

During the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905 Kornilov became the Chief of staff of the 1st Infantry Brigade, and was involved heavily at the Battle of Sandepu and the Battle of Mukden. He was awarded the Cross of St. George (4th class) for bravery and promoted to the rank of colonel.

Following the end of the war, Kornilov served as military attache in China from 1907-11. He studied the Chinese language, traveled extensively researching the history, traditions and customs of the Chinese, which he intended to use as material for a book about life in contemporary China, and regularly sent detailed reports to the General Staff and Foreign Ministry. Kornilov paid much attention to the prospects of cooperation between Russia and China in the Far East and met with the future president of China, Chiang Kai-shek. In 1910 Kornilov was recalled from Beijing, but remained in St. Petersburg for only five months, before departing for western Mongolia and Kashgar to examine the military situation along China's border with Russia. From February 2, 1911 he was made Commander of the 8th Infantry Regiment of Estonia, and was later appointed commander of the 9th Siberian Rifle Division, stationed in Vladivostok.

In 1914, at the start of World War I, Kornilov was appointed commander of the 48th Infantry Division, which saw combat in Galicia and the Carpathians. In 1915, he was promoted to the rank of major general. During heavy fighting he was captured by the Austrians in April 1915, when his division became isolated from the rest of the Russian forces. After his capture, Field Marshall Conrad, the commander of the Austro-Hungarian Army, made a point of meeting him in person. Being a major general he was a high value prisoner of war, but in July 1916 Kornilov managed to escape back to Russia and return to duty.

Kornilov was critical of the Russian monarchy and, after the overthrow of Czar Nicholas II he was given command of the Petrograd Military District in March 1917. In July, after commanding the only successful front in the disastrous Russian offensive of June, 1917, he became Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Provisional Government's armed forces.

Kornilov Affair

Although critical of the Tsar, General Kornilov felt that Russia, as part of the Triple Entente, was committed to continue the war against the Central Powers, and he shared the widespread belief of some Russians that after the February Revolution the country was descending into anarchy and that military defeat would be disastrous for Russia. Lenin and his 'German spies', he announced, should be hanged, the Soviets stamped out, military discipline restored and the provisional government 'restructured'. He alleged, thanks to unclear and perhaps deliberately distorted communications from Petrograd, that Kerensky had authorized him to impose order in the capital and restructure the government, and ordered the Third Corps to Petrograd to place it under martial law. Kerensky dismissed his commander-in-chief from his post on September 9, claiming Kornilov intended to set up a military dictatorship. Kornilov, convinced that Kerensky had been taken prisoner by the Bolsheviks and was acting under duress, replied by issuing a call to all Russians to "save their dying land."

Russian Civil War

After the alleged coup collapsed as his troops disintegrated, Kornilov and his fellow conspirators were placed under arrest in the Bikhov jail. On 19 November, a few weeks after the proclamation of soviet power in Petrograd, they escaped from their confinement (eased by the fact that the jail was guarded by Kornilov's supporters) and made their way to the Don region, which was controlled by the Don Cossacks. Here they linked up with General Mikhail Alekseev. Kornilov became the military commander of the anti-Bolshevik Volunteer Army with Alekseev as the political chief.

Even before the Red Army was formed, Lavr Kornilov promised, "the greater the terror, the greater our victories." He vowed that the goals of his forces must be fulfilled even if it was needed "to setfire to half the country and shed the blood of three-fourths of all Russians." In just the village Lezhanka of the Don region, bands of Kornilov's officers killed more than 500 people.

On 24 Feb, as Rostov and the Don Cossack capital of Novocherkassk fell to the Bolsheviks, Kornilov led the Volunteer Army on the epic 'Ice March' into the empty steppe towards the Kuban. Although badly outnumbered, he escaped destruction from pursuing Bolshevik forces and laid siege to Ekaterinodar, the capital of the Kuban Soviet Republic, on 10 April. However, in the early morning of 13 April, a Soviet shell landed on his farmhouse headquarters and killed him. He was buried in a nearby village.

A few days later, when the Bolsheviks gained control of the village, they unearthed Kornilov's coffin, dragged his corpse to the main square and burnt his remains on the local rubbish dump.

The Kornilov Division, one of the crack units of the White Army, was named after him, as well as many other autonomous White Army formations, such as the Kuban Cossack Kornilov Horse Regiment.


Richard Pipes, The Russian Revolution (Knopf, 1990)
Orlando Figes, A People's Tragedy (Viking, 1996)
Evan Mawdsley, The Russian Civil War (Birlinn, 2008)

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Source: WikiPedia

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