Reading Guide: Kornilov's counterrevolutionary uprising of 1917

Below are various texts informing the dramatic events of the July-September period. Kornilov’s failed coup brought the direct action of the masses into play again, and proved to them once and for all that they were the only force in society capable of transforming their own living conditions. For the first time, the mass insurrection of October came into focus. Stay tuned for the October reading guide, coming soon.  You can find our general reading guide on the Russian Revolution here.


Kornilov and the Counter-Revolution in 1917 | Dejan Kukic

This introductory article briefly covers the Kornilov Affair and its consequences for the Revolution.

Counter-Revolution and the State Conference

The Political Situation (Four Theses) | V I Lenin

Lenin explains in these theses how the political situation has changed after the July Days, how they were the death knell for a peaceful way forward, and how the Bolshevik Party must work from this point on.

The History of the Russian Revolution Volume 2: Chapters 28-30| Leon Trotsky

These chapters of Trotsky’s volume first examine the different elements of the counter-revolution:  the ultra-reactionary army generals, the bourgeois Cadet Party, and pro-repression compromisers grouped around Kerensky. They then examine the relation between these elements, and the events of the Moscow State Conference.

Crisis is Approaching, Dislocation Is Increasing | V I Lenin

Lenin outlines the deepening economic crisis in Russia which accompanied the political upheavals of the summer, and call for expropriation of the banks and big businesses as the only solution.

How and Why the Peasants Were Deceived | V I Lenin

Lenin points out the failure of the reformists in government to carry out the land reform for the peasants as they promised to at the June Congress of Soviets.

Lessons of the Revolution | V I Lenin

A pamphlet written by Lenin at the end of July but only published in September 1917, Lenin underlines the lessons of the revolution up to that point, especially concerning the failure of dual power and class collaboration.

Our Thanks to Prince G Y Lvov | V I Lenin

This article points out the hypocrisy of bourgeois politicians calling for national unity and patriotic self-sacrifice on the one hand and then admitting that their biggest enemy is a class enemy – the Bolsheviks – on the other.

Constitutional Illusions | V I Lenin

In this pamphlet Lenin argues forcefully for the rejection of illusions sown by the Mensheviks and SRs in the constituent assembly.

What Next? After the July Days: Parts III-VI plus Appendix | Leon Trotsky

Here Trotsky discusses the real face of the compromisers, the potential for a concentration of power in the hands of Kerensky and what tactics revolutionaries should adopt at this point in the Revolution.

Memoirs of a British Agent: Book 3 Chapter 9 | Bruce Lockhart

In the last part of the chapter Lockhart mentions the farce of the Moscow conference and the beginning Kornilov putsch.

The Plot

The History of the Russian Revolution Volume 2: Chapter 31 | Leon Trotsky

Trotsky here sheds light on the conspiracy that led to Kornilov’s attempted coup, condemning with evidence in particular the Prime Minister, Social-Revolutionary Alexander Kerensky.

Rumours of a Conspiracy |V I Lenin

Lenin addresses a rumour being spread by provocateurs that the Bolsheviks are leading units of Cossack soldiers to Moscow in mid-August.

Six Red Months in Russia: Chapter 2: From the Frontier to Petrograd | Louise Bryant

Louise Bryant’s contemporary account of the October Revolution recalls the fear and uncertainty on the train to Petrograd as Kornilov’s coup was being prepared.

With Blood and Iron | Leon Trotsky

Trotsky brings another perspective to the actions of the plotting and oppressive forces of reaction. In this speech from August he talks optimistically about the retribution the workers and peasants will soon be taking.

Kornilov Attacks

The History of the Russian Revolution Volume 2: Chapters 32-34 | Leon Trotsky

These chapters of Trotsky’s History cover all aspects of the coup attempt, from the attack itself and its subsequent collapse to the respective strengths of the bourgeoisie and the working class at the time.

To the Central Committee of the RSDLP | V I Lenin

Lenin explains here to the leading Bolshevik what approach the party must take to the threat of a coup in the context also of a vacillating, more passively counter-revolutionary government.

History of the Russian Revolution to Brest-Litovsk Part One: Kornilov’s Rising| Leon Trotsky

This part of Trotsky’s booklet summarily describes the coup and its immediate consequences.

Letter over the Publication of ‘Leaflet on the Capture of Riga’ | V I Lenin

This letter explains the conditions under which the Bolsheviks were having to work when the coup plot began to move. The tone of the leaflet itself also gives an indication of the tactics of the party before the coup began.

On Compromises | V I Lenin

In this piece Lenin explains the question of the united front, and the difference between principles and tactics.

Bolshevism: The Road to Revolution: Part 6 Section 6 – The Kornilov Rebellion | Alan Woods

This segment of Bolshevism discusses the historical importance of the Bolshevik Party in defending the Revolution from Kornilov’s offensive.


The History of the Russian Revolution Volume 2: Chapters 35-37 | Leon Trotsky

Trotsky closes the second volume of his magnum opus with three chapter of various content. Chapter 35 describes how the revolution had in fact recovered from the end of the July Days by the middle of August (old calendar); he then charts the Bolshevik Party’s setbacks and progress in the July-September period; and he finally returns to the chronology of the Revolution, setting the scene for October by introducing ‘The Last Coalition’.

Ten Days That Shook the World: Chapter 2: The Coming Storm | John Reed

Reed’s invaluable historical document gives a eyewitness’ perspective on the overcoming of Kornilov.

My Life: Chapter 26 | Leon Trotsky

This chapter covers Trotsky’s time in prison during the months of repression, and his view of the Kornilov coup.

The Lessons of October: The July Days – The Kornilov Episode – The Democratic Conference and Pre-parliament | Leon Trotsky

This instructive 1924 pamphlet goes into detail about internal discussions within the Bolshevik Party during the July-September period, which were resolved by the course of events as well as Lenin’s implacable leadership.