• Hi Guest!

    The costs of running this forum are covered by Sea Lion Press. If you'd like to help support the company and the forum, visit patreon.com/sealionpress

WI: No Kerensky Offensive.

Creekmench

A shade of indigo
Pronouns
He/him
The Kerensky Offensive was supposed to be a morale booster for Provisional Government, but it fell apart at the seams to a German counter-offensive which led to the July Days, the Kornilov Affair, and finally the October Revolution later that year, but what if Russia stayed on the defensive as long as possible. While the chain of events leading to Lenin is disrupted I doubt the Government will last until 1919. I'm not saying that the Bolsheviks are inevitable, but I doubt the nascent Russian Republic can build liberal democracy in this environment.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kerensky_Offensive
 

Nyvis

Token Marxist
Location
Paris
Pronouns
She/Her
Russia was losing the war badly even before the offensive, and Germany was going to force their hand. It's going to be a lot less bloody and give them a better fighting chance, but can they really last until the Germans break in the west?

The main impediment remain Kerensky. The best hope Russia has is the right SR and Mensheviks giving up a bit on their hard stageist stance and support for a bourgeois government no one wanted in favour of a socialist unity one. There was quite a call for it within the party ranks. If they can offer that before they bleed support to the Bolsheviks and negotiate a better peace due to the lack of offensive, they would be doing pretty decently. You still have to resolve tension between the SR and Menshevik party heads who will want a parliamentary republic, and the soviets who have they own model. And unlike Weimar, I'm not sure the parliamentary forces will emerge victorious.

Of course, this really depends on how you prevent the offensive and if Kerensky try to remain in power.
 

Ricardolindo

Well-known member
Location
Portugal
Russia was losing the war badly even before the offensive, and Germany was going to force their hand. It's going to be a lot less bloody and give them a better fighting chance, but can they really last until the Germans break in the west?

The main impediment remain Kerensky. The best hope Russia has is the right SR and Mensheviks giving up a bit on their hard stageist stance and support for a bourgeois government no one wanted in favour of a socialist unity one. There was quite a call for it within the party ranks. If they can offer that before they bleed support to the Bolsheviks and negotiate a better peace due to the lack of offensive, they would be doing pretty decently. You still have to resolve tension between the SR and Menshevik party heads who will want a parliamentary republic, and the soviets who have they own model. And unlike Weimar, I'm not sure the parliamentary forces will emerge victorious.

Of course, this really depends on how you prevent the offensive and if Kerensky try to remain in power.
No offensive was necessary. The Germans were not planning one of their own and were already transfering troops to the west. The Russians could have held the line.
 

Ricardolindo

Well-known member
Location
Portugal
I never implied it was necessary, it was a stupid move. But Russia was in a very bad state even before the offensive.
Yes, but I do think the Russians could have held the line until the end of the war. Many soldiers were willing to fight to defend their positions but not to launch offensives.
 

David Flin

A house of larks and owls
No offensive was necessary. The Germans were not planning one of their own and were already transfering troops to the west. The Russians could have held the line.
Well, no offense was necessary if you look at the war from a purely Russian prespective.

The very fact that Germany was transferring troops to the West rather suggests that putting pressure on Germany in the East would relieve pressure in the West.

How much relief, and at what cost are open to debate; whether the relief was worth the cost (it wasn't) is something that can be debated.

However, at the time of launching the offensive, the outcome wasn't clear. One has to judge these things on the information that is available, and not with the benefit of hindsight.

As I understand it, initially the Kerensky Offensive had some success, blowing away the Austro-Hungarian 3rd and 7th armies (not a difficult task, I admit), and opening up a broad gap in the Central Power's position. The German forces stood pretty much firm (the weight of bombardment being inadequate here), and the Russian offensive petered out; when the inevitable German counter-attack came in, the Russians were spread out, low on supplies, and out of range of supporting fire.

It's easy enough to turn a failure into a modest success. The Kerensky Offensive lasts just a week, pushing aside the Austro-Hungarians, and disrupting the position. Then the Russians make like moles, and dig in, and prepare for the counter-attacks, rather than spending a fortnight launching futile assaults. Classic "Bite-and-Hold" tactics, and very familiar to those on the Western Front.
 

Nyvis

Token Marxist
Location
Paris
Pronouns
She/Her
The Kerensky offensive had some early successes due to fighting AH, which was even more spent than Russia, but collapsed once faced with German troops who still had a fight in them. I don't think they could dig in after fighting AH, because by then they were really spent, and their logistic was flaming garbage.
 

Charles EP M.

Well-known member
Published by SLP
So, the problem here seems to be Kerensky thinks he needs a big victory to bolster the government (and he's likely right about this) and Russia is incapable of having one at this point. A defensive plan needs someone to overrule Kerensky and will still probably end with a Bolshevik revolt unless it's delayed until American troops shows up - and I'd assume would have to show up in the East as well.
 

Nyvis

Token Marxist
Location
Paris
Pronouns
She/Her
So, the problem here seems to be Kerensky thinks he needs a big victory to bolster the government (and he's likely right about this) and Russia is incapable of having one at this point. A defensive plan needs someone to overrule Kerensky and will still probably end with a Bolshevik revolt unless it's delayed until American troops shows up - and I'd assume would have to show up in the East as well.
Well, the most likely alternative to Kerensky is a socialist unity government, something the Bolsheviks did in fact call for at the beginning. It also echoes Weimar in that the far left did call from the same and only turned hard against the SPD when they decided to go in coalition with the bourgeois democratic parties. In Weimar, there was no electoral majority for it so it was quite natural for a parliamentary leaning SPD leadership to go that way despite their base being more ambivalent or outright supportive of a full socialist government. But in Russia? There hasn't been elections, and if they were, the overtly bourgeois parties would get utterly destroyed, as they were during the constituent assembly.

A socialist unity government seeking peace on its terms (easier with no disastrous offensive and German push) and doing the land reform it promised as well as working on a constituent assembly would blunt the radicalization for a while. There's still a lot of elements on the right of these parties who will insist on including the bourgeoisie in the constituent assembly despite its anemic numbers, and that's still likely to create a lot of tensions especially once it becomes obvious the leadership does want to use the constitutional assembly as an outright parliament to displace the soviets. Depending on how the assembly is organized, you may have a situation with the pro/anti soviets lines among the socialists are explicit, which could lead to some form of democratic resolution, or like OTL, an awkward one where the pro soviets part of the SR are excluded due to the leadership retaining control of the party lists.
 

David Flin

A house of larks and owls
The Kerensky offensive had some early successes due to fighting AH, which was even more spent than Russia, but collapsed once faced with German troops who still had a fight in them. I don't think they could dig in after fighting AH, because by then they were really spent, and their logistic was flaming garbage.
That's not my analysis of the possibilities.

The first week of the offensive saw significant Russian successes, almost entirely against the AH armies. We seem to be in agreement at this point.

OTL, the offensive continued, with troops advancing out of range of supporting guns. The supporting guns had ammunition, but nothing to shoot at, and while the Russian infantry was being shot to pieces in futile attacks, the artillery was failing dismally to get into a position to support. By the time the German counter-attacks came in, the artillery was still nowhere, the infantry was spent and was far away from supplies and support.

If the offensive had been stopped after the first week, then there is the following: The Russian infantry is not so spent. It's got more in the way of supplies, and its lines of supplies are shorter. Not much shorter, but the bottlenecks in WWI logistical support was always the last mile. The artillery is just about within range of being able to provide support, and would be able to reposition to make sure it was. The Russian forces have some time - how much depends on whether the Germans (we can discount AH forces at this point) want to attack quickly and with limited preparation or take time to prepare, allowing the Russians time to prepare.

The Germans will counter-attack. That's certain. How effective that counter-attack will be is frankly a toss of a coin. What is utterly certain is that the German armies will come up against defences much more capable of resisting, and - win or lose - a lot of German blood is going to be spilt.

Which was, in the end, the strategic objective of the offensive in the first place.

What does it require to make this change? Kerensky giving general directions, but leaving the details up to the chaps on the spot; the chap in charge on the spot being both cautious and flexible, and making a limited offensive with the specific intention of bite-and-hold. God knows, there was enough experience in this from the Western Front available. I've no idea how likely either of those political options are. If that happens, then the Kerensky Offensive fares better than OTL; how much better depends on the details of how it plays out. What it isn't is a disaster. It might be a defeat, but it would be a defeat that was something of a pyrhic victory for Germany.

How does this impact morale in the west? Another open question. I suspect that the French armies, which OTL at this stage were staying with limited offensives with specific achievable goals, would learn from this Russian experience (one more lesson among many), and change to making limited offensives with specific achievable goals.

By mid-1917, the clock is not only ticking for Russia, it's also ticking for Germany. It's something of a race against time to see which is going to collapse first.
 

Nyvis

Token Marxist
Location
Paris
Pronouns
She/Her
I guess this is possible. Though to get a non micromanager, you basically need to oust Kerensky anyway.

A socialist-ish coalition that limps along until Versailles to make Russia the winners would be an interesting circumstance to explore. Suddenly, they would be the ones getting reparations to develop the industry they're lacking.

One problem is that Kerensky was pretty popular before the failed offensive.
 

neonduke

Continuity Amazon Delivery
Who would be the leading contender to be in charge instead of Kerensky? I've always struggled to understand how he took a leading role when there were better candidates available.
 

Creekmench

A shade of indigo
Pronouns
He/him
So, the problem here seems to be Kerensky thinks he needs a big victory to bolster the government (and he's likely right about this) and Russia is incapable of having one at this point. A defensive plan needs someone to overrule Kerensky and will still probably end with a Bolshevik revolt unless it's delayed until American troops shows up - and I'd assume would have to show up in the East as well.
Maybe have Brusilov convince Kerensky that because of General Order No.1 that an offensive is impossible?
 

David Flin

A house of larks and owls
Spectacular Local success followed by crushing disaster and unsustainable losses trying to exploit or hold ground? Sounds kind of familiar.
Although on the Western Front, the disaster and unsustainable losses were (a) predominantly in the first half of the war and (b) accompanied by unsustainable losses inflicted on the German forces during the German counter-attacks.

For example, both Britain and Germany sustained the best part of 500,000 casualties during the Somme; at around 250,000 each at Passchendaele, and so on.
 

Death's Companion

General Ugg Apologist.
Also @David Flin the Russians assumed the Germans were on borrowed time OTL. It led to one of the most one sided treaties in history when their time marking armies got wiped out by a foe that didn't know it was supposed to lose the war due to the inevitable march of history. The waiting out the Germans plan was most popular amongst the people who opposed the offensive altogether.


It seems like it requires a Russian government with either enough popular support to prolong an unpopular war and fight limited unimpressive actions that will still come with a high cost in blood and treasure when its sole justification for existence was to end the war. Or a Russian government that has already collapsed to the socialists who believed that either peace was the overriding goal that needed to be achieved or that the Germans would just fall into socialist revolution themselves in a few months if left alone so no need for more worker blood to be shed.


I think with that attitude at the top and the somewhat shaky morale in the military (elements of which had just mutinied and toppled a government after all and other elements of which were viewed with deep suspicion by the new authorities) meaning the fear would be that settling into limited goals may well evolve into settling into achieving nothing and instead planning a coup. A level headed and limited offensive followed by defensive action seems to appeal to no one and the Western Allies wanted pressure relieved and the provisional government wanted their money and support so its going to want something showy.


I think basically the war being politics by other means issue comes into play. What makes military sense in the context of World War I doesn't really line up with what makes political sense for anyone in charge of Russia in late World War One, and those unlucky persons has to know if they make the wrong choice their days are numbered. Would you settle on a half measure if you thought only a major success would save your neck?
 

David Flin

A house of larks and owls
Also @David Flin the Russians assumed the Germans were on borrowed time OTL.
(And snip most of a perfectly sensible analysis).

To be fair, the Germans were on borrowed time. The Turnip Winter, the likelihood that winter 1918 would be worse, starvation rampant in the German cities - Germany was on borrowed time.

The only problem was that so was Russia, and in the race to collapse first ...
 

Death's Companion

General Ugg Apologist.
Although on the Western Front, the disaster and unsustainable losses were (a) predominantly in the first half of the war and (b) accompanied by unsustainable losses inflicted on the German forces during the German counter-attacks.

For example, both Britain and Germany sustained the best part of 500,000 casualties during the Somme; at around 250,000 each at Passchendaele, and so on.

I think that post war analysis showed that every army suffered most of its losses not taking ground but trying to hold it or take it back because both involved throwing men into the guns whilst your own are by necessity out of position. Those counter attacks often came at a horrific cost but just as often succeeded in blunting a potential breakthrough and inflicting heavy losses on the former attackers. The difference seeming to entirely coming down to luck of the draw over whose artillery was in the right spot at the right time.


I agree the Germans would be better off cutting their losses and focusing on more refined methods but they thought that offense was the best defence and it worked often and well enough and the problems were obvious enough that they figured they just had to get it right rather than drop the idea.


They had the same attitude in World War 2 and again it seemed to work well enough when it worked. It just fell flat when the enemy always has enough men and material to suck up losses and wear down your forces. But that's a strategic problem of fighting the entire world at once rather than the tactical one of counter attacks being a great way to wreck an enemy offensive. And the Germans always went tactical rather than strategic.
 
Last edited:

David Flin

A house of larks and owls
But that's a strategic problem of fighting the entire world at once rather than the tactical one of counter attacks being a great way to wreck an enemy offensive. And the Germans always went tactical rather than strategic.
I must admit, the strategic genius that came up with: "Let's fight the entire fucking world at once" in WWI learned its lesson in time for WWII - oh.
 
Top