Intelligence reports of unrest in the Russian army (1917)


The following intelligence reports, describing unrest in the Russian army, were filed between October 2nd-13th 1917:


Northern front. The situation in the army has not changed and may be described as a complete lack of confidence in the officers and the higher commanding personnel… The belief is growing among the soldiers that they cannot be punished for what they do… The influence of Bolshevik ideas is spreading very rapidly. To this must be added a general weariness, an irritability, and a desire for peace at any price.

Any attempt on the part of the officers to regulate the life of the army… is looked upon by the soldiers as counter-revolution… and stigmatised as a ‘Kornilov’ move. The soldiers seem to believe that the arrest of Kornilov made void all the orders which he issued reinstating discipline… The army committees are in most cases helpless to guide the mob and are often compelled to follow it so as not to lose completely the confidence of the masses… The Germans are very energetic in using newspapers and leaflets to advocate fraternisation. Considerable numbers of soldiers [are] feigning sickness are leaving the front for the hospital…

12th Army. The press of the political parties is no longer influencing the soldier masses. Again and again one hears the orders of the Provisional Government severely criticised. The committee of the 95th Regiment has declared Kerensky a traitor… Apart from the Bolshevik not a single [political] movement has any popularity. Those who read moderate newspapers are looked upon as “bourgeoisie” and “counter-revolutionists”…

Western front. Because of general war weariness, bad nourishment, mistrust of officers, etc., there has developed an intense defeatist agitation accompanied by refusals to carry out orders, threats to the commanding personnel, and attempts to fraternize with Germans. Everywhere one hears voices calling for immediate peace, because, they say, no one will stay in the trenches during the winter… There is a deep-rooted conviction among the rank and file that fraternisation with the enemy is a sure way of attaining peace… There were recent disturbances at the replacement depot in Gomel. On October 1st over 8,000 soldiers who were to be transferred to the front demanded to be sent home instead… Incited by agitators they stormed the armoury, took some 1,500 suits of winter equipment, and assaulted the Assistant Commissar and a member of the front committee. Similar events… have taken place in Smolensk.

Southwestern front. Defeatist agitation is increasing and the disintegration of the army is in full swing. The Bolshevik wave is growing steadily, owing to general disintegration in the rear, the absence of strong power and the lack of supplies and equipment… Every order, no matter what its source, is met with hostility. There have been instances of officers committing suicide… The cavalry corps of the 2nd Army passed a resolution of no confidence in the majority of officers. The soldiers are engaging in organized armed invasions of the surrounding country estates, plundering provisions… of which there is a scarcity in the army. Not a thing can be done to counteract this restlessness…”