My interest in Kerensky was piqued by a remark made by a poster calling himself Doc, who left a post on the US Politics Board as a follow up on my article regarding Samuel Adams, the almost forgotten leader of the American Revolution. We know much less than we should know about Adams and the movement he was associated with, and, of course, first hand accounts of the Russian Revolution have just slipped away. Doc's remarks about Kerensky reminded me that during a stay at the Del Mar during the '60's I asked the head waiter why a figure entering a banquet room was receiving so much attention. He replied that he understood that was a Russian named Kerensky,
Alexander Kerensky was born in Simbirsk, Russia, on 22nd April, 1881. The son of a headmaster, Kerensky studied law at the University of St. Petersburg.
In 1905 Kerensky joined the Socialist Revolutionary Party (SR) and became editor of the radical newspaper, Burevestik. He was soon arrested and sent into exile. He returned to St. Petersburg in 1906 and found work as a lawyer. Over the next few years he developed a reputation for defending radicals in court who had been accused of political offenses.
Kerensky joined the Russian Labour Party and in 1912 was elected to the State Duma. A socialist, Kerensky developed a strong following amongst industrial workers. He also played an important role in the exposure of Roman Malinovsky, one of the leaders of the Bolsheviks, as an undercover agent of the Okhrana.
In February, 1917, Kerensky announced he had rejoined the Socialist Revolutionary Party and called for the removal of Nicholas II. When Alexandra Fyodorovna heard the news she wrote to her husband and demanded that he be hung as a traitor.
When the Tsar abdicated on 13th March, a Provisional Government, headed by Prince George Lvov, was formed. Kerensky was appointed as Minister of Justice in the new government and immediately introduced a series of reforms including the abolition of capital punishment. He also announced basic civil liberties such as freedom of the press, the abolition of ethnic and religious discrimination and made plans for the introduction of universal suffrage.
In May, 1917, Kerensky became Minister of War and appointed General Alexei Brusilov as the Commander in Chief of the Russian Army. He toured the Eastern Front where he made a series of emotional speeches where he appealed to the troops to continue fighting. On 18th June, Kerensky announced a new war offensive. Encouraged by the Bolsheviks, who favoured peace negotiations, there were demonstrations against Kerensky in Petrograd. Leon Trotsky said of him during this period: "His strength in the period of dual power lay in his combining the weakness of liberalism with the weaknesses of democracy."
The July Offensive, led by General Alexei Brusilov, was an attack on the whole Galician sector. Initially the Russian Army made advances and on the first day of the offensive took 10,000 prisoners. However, low morale, poor supply lines and the rapid arrival of German reserves from the Western Front slowed the advance and on 16th July the offensive was brought to an end.
The Provisional Government made no real attempt to seek an armistice with the Central Powers. Lvov's unwillingness to withdraw Russia from the First World War made him unpopular with the people and on 8th July, 1917, he resigned and was replaced by Kerensky. Ariadna Tyrkova, a member of the Constitutional Democrat Party, commented: "Kerensky was perhaps the only member of the Government who knew how to deal with the masses, since he instinctively understood the psychology of the mob. Therein lay his power and the main source of his popularity in the streets, in the Soviet, and in the Government."
The British ambassador, George Buchanan welcomed the appointment and reported back to London: "From the very first Kerensky had been the central figure of the revolutionary drama and had, alone among his colleagues, acquired a sensible hold on the masses. An ardent patriot, he desired to see Russia carry on the war till a democratic peace had been won; while he wanted to combat the forces of disorder so that his country should not fall a prey to anarchy. In the early stages of the revolution he displayed an energy and courage which marked him out as the one man capable of securing the attainment of these ends."
Alfred Knox, the British Military Attaché in Petrograd, also argued that he British should give full support to Kerensky: "There is only one man who can save the country, and that is Kerensky, for this little half-Jew lawyer has still the confidence of the over-articulate Petrograd mob, who, being armed, are masters of the situation. The remaining members of the Government may represent the people of Russia outside the Petrograd mob, but the people of Russia, being unarmed and inarticulate, do not count. The Provisional Government could not exist in Petrograd if it were not for Kerensky.
Lenin is known as the father of communist Russia and he had been in exile from Russia for years before his return to Russia---one that was aided by the Germans. So, as did Washington, Lenin rode into power on the back of a war horse already saddled and bridled and prepared for the fray.
Kerensky, Stalin and others remained in Russia. Kerensky's part in bringing about the revolution has always been somewhat obscured and is now all but forgotten. But, like Adams, Kerensky was a mover and shaker.
To shorten the story, while still in power Kerensky endeavored to aid Nicholas and Alexandra and their family to move to England but despite the close family relationship of the two monarchies --- both descended from Victoria --- the British refused to accept the Tsar and his family---some say because of opposition from the British labor party. And to make that story more interesting there is the story of the great fortune the Tsar was supposed to have had in Britain and what became of it.
Anyway, then came the Brusilov affair followed by the Kornilov affair and finally the revolt against Kerensky, Kerensky's departure in a car bearing an American flag on each of its front fenders, Kerensky's escape to America and finally his death here in America
To add mystery to the story, consider the fact that Kerensky and Lenin were raised in the same city, both had comfortable back grounds, each of their fathers was involved in public education, Kerensky and Lenin both received good educations, Kerensky became a moderate socialist (Cadet)---and Lenin a communist, and, of course, there were other similarities as you doubtlessly know.
Something I have always wondered about is whether the two men knew each other and if so when they first met and if so what their relationship, if any, might have been. What can you tell me?