Alexander Kerensky

Kerensky was born into the Russian educated class in 1881. He became a lawyer specialising in ‘cases for the people’s good’, and became a revolutionary. When St. Petersburg became Petrograd he was a leading member of its Soviet, and moved further upwards by becoming Minister of Justice in the Provisional Government riding high after the February Revolution.

Stopping for nothing or nobody, Kerensky became Minister for War, and then Prime Minister as a result of the July Days. As a politician he was popular with most of the others, and according to chronicles of the day his oratory was superb but he lacked three qualities necessary for any budding socialist revolutionary – resolution, ruthlessness and egotism. His colleague Lenin had these in spades, and knew that Kerensky did not.

In 1917 he was trying to hold together all the different and warring factions in Russia, which proved impossible, though he was himself a good democrat and convinced socialist with the people’s rights and welfare first on his list. But the peasants wanted their own land, indeed they expected it as they had risen against the previous regime seduced by the argument that were entitled to it. The army dreamed of the end of War, not very logically. Everybody wished for an end to the economic chaos that was enveloping Russia. The innocent thought the Bolsheviks would produce Utopia out of a hat, and gave them more and more support.

Kerensky disputed Army commander Kornilov’s decision not to discipline increasingly violent Soviet-backed mobs, and began losing respect and position. When he saw that the Bolsheviks were planning open civil war he became apathetic, though it is true to say that his government had no means to stop it. The October Revolution helped him make up his mind and he went into hiding, before successfully leaving Russia and re-appearing in Western Europe.

By 1940 Alexander Kerensky had arrived and settled down in the United States, where he lived until his death in 1970. There were no ice-picks in the brain for him, as there were for Trotsky (q.v.);  by the time he left Russia he was already a burnt-out case.

February Revolution: On February 23, 1917 women in the streets of St. Petersburg filled the streets demanding bread, calling on factory workers to join them. Bolshevik, Menshevik and Socialist revolutionaries were hard at work stirring an already simmering pot. Soldiers fired at first into the crowds, but later refused to continue, arresting their officers instead. Nicholas II commented in his diary: ‘All around me I see treason, cowardice and deceit’.

The July Days: Bolshevik propaganda was calling for an end to the War. The garrison at St. Petersburg, already being called Petrograd, mutinied in favour of the Bolsheviks. The revolutionaries were in a fix; they did not wish to seize power yet because they thought the bid would be unsuccessful, but if they did nothing the support of the dissident soldiers and workers would be lost. On the 4th July they tried to take control of a movement they could not control.

The October Revolution was the actual Bolshevik seizure of power in Russia. Kornilov had attempted to set up a military dictatorship and failed. By September the Bolsheviks had a majority in the Petrograd Soviet, and soon afterwards in Moscow. Lenin returned from exile, but he knew that the October Revolution was not the end of the Bolshevik Revolution but the beginning.

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    1. Dean Swift Post author

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