Kerensky Halts Offensives, Reinstates Death Penalty at Front
Austrian prisoners captured during the Romanian offensive, whose success was now threatened by the general Russian halt.
July 25 1917, Petrograd–At least nominally, Kerensky had more power than ever, with the collapse of the uprising in Petrograd and his elevation to Prime Minister. But the ultimate, spectacular failure of the Kerensky Offensive put him in a difficult position, as he had staked so much of his reputation on it. He was already maneuvering Brusilov to take the blame for it, and in the meantime was trying to make sure the army did not collapse further.
On July 25, he announced that the death penalty would be restored within the Russian Army along the front, along with a more general system of courts martial. This greatly pleased the generals, especially Kornilov, who felt that a stern hand was needed to restore order. Within days, Kornilov began shooting deserters en masse.
There was a worry, of course, that such harsh measures would turn the Army against the Provisional Government. As an ameliorating measure, Kerensky called a complete end to all offensive action. In most areas, this did not matter; the armies that conducted the Kerensky Offensive were now falling back precipitately along a 150-mile front. The brief attack near Vilnius had petered out nearly two days prior.
Where this latter order did matter, however, was in Romania, where Russian troops were participating in a offensive alongside their Romanian allies. On July 25, the Romanians and Russians had continued and expanded their successful advance, pursuing the retreating Germans with cavalry and armored cars. However, with Kerensky’s order, the Russians had to stop. The head of the French mission told the Russian commander that if he had received such an order, “I would have simply put it in my pocket.” But the message had been sent by unencrypted wireless precisely for this reason; in fact, his soldiers knew of it before he did. The Russians ceased their attacks that evening, and the planned attack by the Romanian First Army along the Siret was called off at the last moment.
Averescu, commanding the Second Army, with little but fleeing Germans ahead of him, was determined to continue the advance, and did so despite orders to the contrary, though even he was forced to stop most of his advance within two days. A final push by the Romanian 8th Division failed, while nearby Russian units (including some of their elite shock troops) stood by and watched–or even in some cases fell back.
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Today in 1914: Serbia Accepts All But One Demand in Austrian Ultimatum
Sources include: Glenn E. Torrey, The Romanian Battlefront in World War I; Orlando Figes, A People’s Tragedy.