Kerensky, Alexander


Kerensky, Alexander
(1881–1970)
   Head of the Russian Provisional Government at the time of the Bolshevik revolution in October 1917, Alexander Kerensky was born in Simbirsk in 1881, 11 years after the birth in the same town of Vladimir Lenin, the future Bolshevik leader. He attended law school in St. Petersburg and participated in student demonstrations and other protests, activities that eventually resulted in his suspension from the bar. In 1914, Kerensky was elected to the Fourth Duma and was the leader of the Trudoviks, a socialist peasant party. When war broke out in August, he led the radical faction that refused to support a war budget, and throughout the war he continued to push for more responsible government. When the February Revolution overthrew Nicholas II in 1917, Kerensky was involved in the formation of both the Provisional Government and the Petrograd Soviet.
   During the next months, Kerensky’s friendly relationship with both the socialist and the liberal camps strengthened his reputation as the only man who could hold the fragile Provisional Government together; consequently, he was chosen as Prime Minister in the summer of 1917. Once appointed, however, Kerensky assumed many of the trappings of the old regime, moving into the Winter Palace and taking over the luxurious quarters of the tsars. These actions exacerbated the growing unpopularity of the Provisional Government as it faced insurmountable challenges and threats from both the left and the right. The fragility of the Provisional Government became even more evident when recently appointed army commander-in-chief, General Lavr Kornilov, staged an apparent attempted coup d’état. Kerensky was forced to appeal to the Bolsheviks for help, releasing leaders like Lev Trotsky from prison and arming the workers militia, the Red Guard. Kornilov was stopped and captured, but the position of the Provisional Government was greatly weakened by this event. Lenin took advantage of this weakness to press his fellow Marxists for immediate revolution. During the fateful coup d’état, Kerensky escaped the Winter Palace and attempted to amass loyal troops from the northern front to fight the Bolsheviks. He remained in hiding in Russia and Finland until May 1918, when he left for London and Paris in an effort to garner Western support for the creation of a democratic Russia. He spent the next two decades in Paris, working against communism and moved to the United States during World War II.
   See also <>.
   FURTHER READING:
    Abraham, Richard. Alexander Kerensky: The First Love of the Revolution. New York: Columbia University Press, 1987;
    Figes, Orlando. A People ’ s Tragedy: The Russian Revolution, 1891–1924. New York: Penguin, 1996;
    Kerensky, Alexander. The Catastrophe. New York: Appleton, 1927.
   LEE A. FARROW

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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