By July 1917, Russia was already exhausted from its participation in Europe's great war. Failures regarding the war had already resulted in the overthrow of Russia's monarchy in February. A somewhat liberal but conservative provisional government was in place, including men with commercial interests. They were trying to extend the government's power while anarchy reigned in the countryside and peasant soldiers were deserting to get in on the anarchistic confiscations taking place in the countryside.
The United States and Britain wanted Russia to launch an offensive in July as part of a concerted effort against Germany and Austria-Hungary. The administration of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson had told Russia’s provisional government that aid would be given to Russia only if it pursued a new offensive.
Members of Russia's provisional government were also naive about their country's ability regarding an offensive. There were dreams of the benefits to Russia that would come with an Allied victory. Russia’s Eastern Orthodox clergy looked forward to the defeat of Turkey (Germany's ally) and winning back Constantinople (Istanbul) for Eastern Orthodox Christianity (Constantinople having been taken by the Ottoman Turks and Islam in 1453). The provisional government's Minister of War believed that the overthrow of the tsar made possible a new morale among Russia’s military – as had happened among the French during its revolution and when ancient Athens had become a democracy – another sloppy analog and so called lesson of history.
Russia's offensive in July failed. Russian soldiers turned against the provisional government and threw their weight behind an effort at alternative power: the People's Councils, the Soviets. Rising as leaders of the Soviets were the socialist revolutionaries Trotsky and Lenin. Lenin was leader of the foremost anti-war party, the Bolsheviks.
Copyright © 2013 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.