Wealthy Russians meet with General Kornilov (1917)

In August 1917, a delegation of wealthy bankers and businessmen met Russian military commander General Kornilov, at Kornilov’s request. The following notes were taken by one of the delegation:

“General Kornilov sent his adjutant… to request that Vyshnegradskii, Meshcherskii and I visit him in his train… Kornilov received us in the train and said:

“Gentlemen, you were present at the State Conference; you saw and heard what was going on there. I am not asking you about your political convictions. You are Russian people. The army is falling apart. Everything is going to rack and ruin.

“As long as the Bolsheviks are sitting in the Smolny, nothing can be done… I am not foisting my views on anyone. As soon as the opportunity presents itself, we will convoke the Constituent Assembly. Whatever its decisions … I will submit to them without question. It makes no difference to me whether there is a monarchy or a republic. I only need order and firm authority in the country and the army.

“In agreement with Kerensky, I am dispatching a corps to Petrograd to disperse the Bolsheviks! But it is not enough to disperse them; they must be arrested. In order that the Bolsheviks do not scatter from Smolny, and in order to avoid street fighting, a movement must be organised in Petrograd… This will require funds. Officers and cadets must be gathered together… Money will be needed to accommodate people… Can you give us the money?”

At that moment there was no doubt in our minds that General Kornilov was acting in agreement with Kerensky. We raised no further questions, either about the plan of action or about subsequent intentions. For us, it sufficed that the government and the supreme commander had finally decided to put an end to the dual power in the country. We were ready to make any sacrifices in helping them to restore order.

But if General Kornilov was acting in agreement with the head of the government, didn’t it seem strange that he was turning to us for funds, when he could undoubtedly have received these funds from the government?”