Russia adopts a purely defensive posture after the February Revolution in 1917

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
22,461
SoCal
What if Russia would have adopted a purely defensive posture after the February Revolution in 1917?

This should have seemed like a no-brainer for Russia considering that it was unwilling to fight for its allies' imperialist war aims but at the same time was also unwilling to actually make a separate peace with Germany (until after the Bolshevik coup, that is). Thus, why not remain in the war but make it clear that Russia's own interests lie in protecting its revolution and its honor and that thus while Russia would be willing to defend itself from Germany, it would be unwilling to help its allies wage offensive war?

Would there have been less support for a Bolshevik coup in Russia had Russia's Provisional Government had such a stance in regards to the war? Or would there have still been a lot of idiots in Russia who would have believed that once a Bolshevik coup occurs in Russia, there is going to be a global Communist revolution?
 

MG1962a

Ad Honorem
Mar 2019
2,011
Kansas
What if Russia would have adopted a purely defensive posture after the February Revolution in 1917?

This should have seemed like a no-brainer for Russia considering that it was unwilling to fight for its allies' imperialist war aims but at the same time was also unwilling to actually make a separate peace with Germany (until after the Bolshevik coup, that is). Thus, why not remain in the war but make it clear that Russia's own interests lie in protecting its revolution and its honor and that thus while Russia would be willing to defend itself from Germany, it would be unwilling to help its allies wage offensive war?

Would there have been less support for a Bolshevik coup in Russia had Russia's Provisional Government had such a stance in regards to the war? Or would there have still been a lot of idiots in Russia who would have believed that once a Bolshevik coup occurs in Russia, there is going to be a global Communist revolution?
One of the appeals of the revolution was to get the troops out of the war. A lot of the initial backing came from troops in the field. So regardless of what the Russians thought they could do militarily. Politically anything less than full disengagement would have destroyed the Bolshevik's chances of being successful
 

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
22,461
SoCal
Politically anything less than full disengagement would have destroyed the Bolshevik's chances of being successful
Wouldn't your statement here mean that full disengagement was a bad idea, though?
 

MG1962a

Ad Honorem
Mar 2019
2,011
Kansas
Wouldn't your statement here mean that full disengagement was a bad idea, though?
If the political element was not present, I think the best course of action would have been to fight on. In the last 6 months or so the German offensive was really starting to run out of steam, and the Russians were almost in a position to start counter attacking - sounds a familiar story lol
 
  • Like
Reactions: Futurist

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
22,461
SoCal
If the political element was not present, I think the best course of action would have been to fight on. In the last 6 months or so the German offensive was really starting to run out of steam, and the Russians were almost in a position to start counter attacking - sounds a familiar story lol
Oh, certainly! If it wasn't for Bolshevik defeatism and subversion (along with that of the Petrograd Soviet), Russia should have remained on the defensive but also remained in the war. Then, once a lot of US troops reached Europe, large-scale attacks on Germany from all sides could begin.
 

sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
5,258
Sydney
Certainly , a defensive posture and sending the most unstable troops home would have stabilized things somewhat
hard to tell , Kerensky wasn't a genius there were very vociferous voices for carrying the war
it should be noted that the provisional government crushed the Bolsheviks in July
before , the victories of the Kerensky offensive were helping the government
after , the defeat and routing of the armies hurt his reputation

morality , if you are an unstable government ....avoid defeats
 
  • Like
Reactions: Futurist

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
22,461
SoCal
Certainly , a defensive posture and sending the most unstable troops home would have stabilized things somewhat
hard to tell , Kerensky wasn't a genius there were very vociferous voices for carrying the war
it should be noted that the provisional government crushed the Bolsheviks in July
before , the victories of the Kerensky offensive were helping the government
after , the defeat and routing of the armies hurt his reputation

morality , if you are an unstable government ....avoid defeats
Staying on the defensive would have been a good way to avoid defeats, no?
 
Jun 2017
2,976
Connecticut
What if Russia would have adopted a purely defensive posture after the February Revolution in 1917?

This should have seemed like a no-brainer for Russia considering that it was unwilling to fight for its allies' imperialist war aims but at the same time was also unwilling to actually make a separate peace with Germany (until after the Bolshevik coup, that is). Thus, why not remain in the war but make it clear that Russia's own interests lie in protecting its revolution and its honor and that thus while Russia would be willing to defend itself from Germany, it would be unwilling to help its allies wage offensive war?

Would there have been less support for a Bolshevik coup in Russia had Russia's Provisional Government had such a stance in regards to the war? Or would there have still been a lot of idiots in Russia who would have believed that once a Bolshevik coup occurs in Russia, there is going to be a global Communist revolution?
If Russia had continued the war in any capacity someone else would have replaced them. The logic behind a big offensive was it was a favorable way to end the fighting, people weren't protesting Russian offensives(some of which succeeded) they were protesting the war. War conditions regardless of the military strategy were not going to be accepted by the people.

Marxists have two main distinctions from normal Socialists the first is wanting a revolution rather than reformism but the second is not believing in borders and seeing them as arbitrary dividers for the workers of the planet. The Soviets didn't see Russia as their country the way the Tsars or later Stalin would they just saw Russia as a springboard for a global revolution. So they didn't see any concessions as mattering to the execution of their plan. This mindset was critical to them accepting Brest-Litovsk and why Marxists were able to succeed whereas no other faction viewing Russian interests through a "country" lens could. Of course every other Marxist revolution in that era failed and when Lenin died, the Soviets changed focus from a global revolution to a more traditional great power role or as Stalin called it "Socialism in one country". But that mindset is what enabled them to survive because they were willing to take a deal that would be insane borderline treasonus to people with the traditional one.

Remember Russia had knocked Austria out of the war quite recently at this point. Those offensives didn't go as terribly as the subsequent Russian Revolution would indicate and I don't think the "leave us alone while we sit in the corner dealing with internal issues" approach would have worked without said territorial concessions. France had successfully used Russia as a tool to be able to fight the Germans and much like the French were trying to disable the Germans ability to ever hurt them again after WWI, Germany was trying to do the same to Russia who outnumbered them well over 2-1 in population. Russia had gotten to East Prussia(the home of the Prussian elite) in 1914 rather easily and it's important to note that aside from Kalingrad Brest-Litovsk is pretty close to the modern day Russian borders Russia had expanded quite far west since becoming a great power in the 1700s. If people think NATO freaking out about those borders has basis even in the nuclear age where attack isn't really possible, imagine the Central Power perspective on the 1914 borders? The Civil War in Russia also gave the Germans added negotiating leverage. They could see that no government that didn't end the war would be overthrown, had no reason to settle for a more lenient deal. Much is made of the Germans needing those troops West to end the war, but I've gained the sense that the importance of the Germans spring offensive has been overemphasized by American historians/education because overemphasizing the importance of that is a critical part of making our role in the fighting seem more important.
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: Futurist

sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
5,258
Sydney
yes and no ,
you are right to see the territorial concessions of the Brest -Litovsk treaty was seen as a temporary acknowledgement of reality

The civil war was way more important for the bolsheviks and anyway what had been conceded would be retaken eventually
either through a global revolution or a military advance

moving the German army West WAS important , even as troops were kept East ansd advanced in Ukraine and into Crimea
eventually as far as the Caucasus
the succession of spring offensives were seen as a last throw
Germany couldn't keep fighting ,a decision had to be sought

Ludendorff didn't hold back and the Franco British were severely stretched ,
they were desperately screaming for Pershing to give them the men he had been thoroughly training for months
against his previous policy , considering the danger he relented and send the Marines at Belleau Wood
 
  • Like
Reactions: Futurist