With the return of Vladimir Lenin, leader of the Bolshevik party, to Russia in April 1917, the new provisional government was under increasing pressure to withdraw from the war. Meanwhile, the Allies were urging Kerensky, the Minister for War, to attack the Central Powers and divert vital manpower away from the western front. Hoping for the legitimacy a successful campaign would confer, Kerensky ordered the Galician offensive on 1 July. Initial gains were achieved by fierce artillery bombardment and rapid follow-up attacks by tight groups of cavalry under General Kornilov. But when the advancing infantry encountered German rather than Austro-Hungarian opposition, and began to suffer heavy losses, they disintegrated and a counterattack quickly turned into a rout. By 4 August the Austrian-German front line stretched deep into eastern and central Europe. Discipline within the Russian army was eroded from within by revolutionary orders to transfer decision-making from officers to ‘soldiers’ committees’. Insubordination was becoming increasingly commonplace.
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