3769 THE TWENTIETH CENTURY-THE GREAT WAR.
accounts that had reached the headquarters
of the General Staff nor my own observations had led me to expect so desolating a
situation. It is easy to explain this fact:
As long as the soldiers merely had to maintain a passive attitude they gave way to
no important excesses. But when the
moment arrived for them to do their
duty, when they were ordered to prepare
for attack, then the animal instinct spoke
and the veil was lifted.
"There were as many as ten divisions
that did not take their positions for departure, as ordered. An enormous turmoil
arose among the officers of all ranks, the
committees, the agitators. There were
endless requests, conversations, persuasions. To take even the least decisive
measure it was necessary before all to
diminish the number of troops in revolt.
Almost a whole month passed in this way.
Only a part of the divisions obeyed the
order to go into battle. In particular,
the 2d Corps, from the Caucasus, and the
160th Infantry Division revolted. Many
detachments lost not only their former
appearance, but even all human semblance.
I shall never forget the hour I passed in
the 703d Regiment. In certain regiments
there were from eight to ten distilleries of
alcohol! Drunkenness, gambling, assault
and battery, pillage, sometimes murder
The Commander in Chief, Brusiloff, himself visited this front and, after discussions
with the committees and delegates of the
two corps, went away with the impression
that the soldiers were dependable and
that the officers were unduly alarmed.
Unknown to him, the meeting of the 1st
Siberian Corps, which had welcomed his
speech with enthusiasm, was prolonged
after his departure, and other orators
came who demanded that the soldiers
should not listen to "the old bourgeois"
and loaded his name with gross insults.
These speeches were greeted with frantic
In the course of a tour of inspection
Minister of War Kerensky made an eloquent patriotic appeal and received an
enthusiastic welcome from the 28th Infantry Division, but, half an hour after
his departure, two regiments resolved that
they would not attack. When the flag
was given to the commander of the regiment from Poti, he received it kneeling,
while three orators and the men of the
regiment vowed, with loud outbursts,
that they would die for their country.
Yet on the first day of the attack, without
even going to their trenches, this regiment
made a half-turn and retired six or seven
miles to the rear of the battle line. General Denikine continues:
"Among the factors which should have
sustained the morale of the troops, but
which in reality led them into complete
demoralization, were the political commissaries and the soldiers committees.
Perhaps there were among the commissaries a few 'black swans,' who, without
meddling in what did not concern them,
were really of some use. But the very