April 14, 1918 – White Army Disorganized After Death of Leader Kornilov
Pictured – Kornilov, at front. His death on April 13 seemed likely to cap the “triumphal march of soviet power.”
In July 1917 the Russian General Lavr Kornilov led an abortive coup against the Provisional Government. Kerensky put down the revolt with the help of the Bolsheviks. Kornilov was imprisoned as a traitor but escaped jail after Red October and the downfall of the Kerensky government. Alongside fellow Tsarist soldiers Anton Denikin and Mikhail Alekseev, Kornilov organized an anti-Bolshevik military in southern Russia called the Volunteer Army.
The Volunteer Army however was very small and only numbered around 5,000 men in spring 1918, the great majority former officers.The Volunteers depended on the aid of the anti-Bolshevik Don and Kuban Cossacks, but in March a larger Red army swept into and captured the Don. The Volunteers were driven into the steppes in the infamous “Ice March” to escape. Extremeley outnumbered and out-gunned they tried to fight their way to safer territory. Besieging the city of Ekaterinodar on April 13, 1918, a stray shell killed Kornilov.
Denekin took command over the scattered remnants of the Volunteers and retreated beyond the Don. Far away in London, Allied war planners still wondered what to do in Russia. To many the Bolsheviks looked like the most competent potential partners against Germany, even if Lenin had made peace once already. Why not offer aid to the Red Army in exchange for Russian re-entry into the war, proposed Winston Churchill. French generals concurred with Churchill’s plan to “safeguard the permanent fruits of the Revolution” if it meant the Bolsheviks would fight the Germans again.