Lenin Fires Stavka Chief

The new head of Stavka, Ensign Krylenko, pictured in 1918.

November 23 1917, Mogilev–The Bolsheviks were committed to an immediate peace, and had ordered the Russian Chief of Staff, General Dukhonin, to contact German generals to ask for an immediate ceasefire.  Dukhonin, who wanted to continue the war and was no friend of the Bolsheviks, temporized for as long as possible, asking for official verification of the order.

Early on November 23, Lenin finally got through to Dukhonin by direct telegram (the same means by which Kornilov and Kerensky had talked past each other before the former’s supposed coup attempt). Dukhonin asked for clarifications: was the proposed armistice just with the Germans, or with the Austrians as well?  Was he authorized to negotiate on behalf of the Romanian forces operating on the southern reaches of the Eastern Front?  Lenin, knowing that Dukhonin was just stalling for time, again repeated his instructions to immediately contact the Germans.  Dukhonin said that such an order could only come from a government that had the support of the army and the people, implying that Lenin and the Sovnarkom did not have such support.

Lenin then promptly sacked Dukhonin, as he was prepared to to do, and replaced him with Nikolai Krylenko, a 32-year-old Ensign (but a committed Bolshevik).  Krylenko then duly dispatched the armistice offer to the Germans.  Dukhonin remained at Stavka, however, and maintained the backing of many other generals, as well as the other Allied governments–whether such backing meant anything at this point was unclear.

Sources include: Prit Buttar, The Splintered Empires.

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