|2nd Minister-Chairman of the Russian Provisional Government|
21 July 1917 – 7 November 1917
[8 July – 26 October 1917 Old Style]
|Preceded by||Georgy Lvov|
|Succeeded by||Office abolished|
|Prime Minister of Russia|
21 July 1917 – 7 November 1917
|Preceded by||Georgy Lvov|
|Succeeded by||Vladimir Lenin (as Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars)|
|Born||Alexander Fydoch Kerensky
4 May 1881
Simbirsk, Russian Empire (today Ulyanovsk, Russian Federation)
|Died||11 June 1970 (aged 89)
New York, New York, United States
|Resting place||Putney Vale Cemetery
London, United Kingdom
|Political party||Socialist Revolutionary (Trudovik Parliamentary breakaway group)|
Alexander Fyodorovich Kerensky (Russian: Алекса́ндр Фёдорович Ке́ренский, IPA: [ɐlʲɪˈksandr ˈkʲerʲɪnskʲɪj]; 4 May [O.S. 22 April] 1881 – 11 June 1970) was a major political leader before and during the Russian Revolutions of 1917.
Kerensky served as the second Prime Minister of the Russian Provisional Government until it was overthrown by the Bolsheviks under Vladimir Lenin in the October Revolution. He spent the remainder of his life in exile, dying in New York City in 1970 at the age of 89.
Life and career
Early life and activism
Alexander Kerensky was born in Simbirsk (now Ulyanovsk) on the Volga River into the family of a secondary school principal on 2 May 1881. His father, Fyodor Kerensky, was a schoolmaster. His mother, Nadezhda née Adler, was the daughter of a nobleman, Alexander Adler, head of the Topographical Bureau of the Kazan Military District. Her mother, Nadezhda Kalmykova, was the daughter of a former serf who had bought his freedom before serfdom was abolished in 1861, allowing him to become a wealthy Moscow merchant.[unreliable source?]
Kerensky's father was the headmaster of Vladimir Ulyanov (Lenin) at a secondary school for boys in Simbirsk, and members of the Kerensky and Ulyanov families were friends. In 1889, when Kerensky was eight, his family moved to Tashkent, where his father had been appointed the main inspector of public schools (superintendent). Kerensky graduated with honors from a Tashkent secondary school in 1899. The same year he entered St. Petersburg University, where he studied history and philology in his first year. The next year he switched to the Law Department and received a law degree in 1904, getting married in the same year to the daughter of a Russian general. He worked as a legal counsel to victims of government violence in early December 1905. At the end of the month he was jailed on suspicion of belonging to a militant group. Afterwards he gained a reputation for his work as a defense lawyer in a number of political trials of revolutionaries.
He was elected to the Fourth Duma in 1912 as a member of the Trudoviks, a moderate labour party who were associated with the Socialist-Revolutionary Party. He was a brilliant orator and skilled parliamentary leader of the socialist opposition to the regime of the ruling Tsar, Nicholas II.
February Revolution of 1917
When the February Revolution broke out in 1917, Kerensky was one of its most prominent leaders: he was a member of the Provisional Committee of the State Duma and was elected vice-chairman of the Petrograd Soviet. He simultaneously became the first Minister of Justice in the newly formed Provisional Government. When the Soviet passed a resolution prohibiting its leaders from joining the government, Kerensky delivered a stirring speech at a Soviet meeting. Although the decision was never formalized, he was granted a de facto exemption and continued acting in both capacities.
After the first government crisis over Pavel Milyukov's secret note re-committing Russia to its original war aims on 2–4 May, Kerensky became the Minister of War and the dominant figure in the newly formed socialist-liberal coalition government. On 10 May (Julian calendar), Kerensky started for the front, and visited one division after another, urging the men to do their duty. His speeches were impressive and convincing for the moment, but had little lasting effect. Under Allied pressure to continue the war, he launched what became known as the Kerensky Offensive against the Austro-Hungarian/German South Army on 17 June (Julian calendar). At first successful, the offensive was soon stopped and then thrown back by a strong counter-attack. The Russian army suffered heavy losses and it was clear from the many incidents of desertion, sabotage, and mutiny that the army was no longer willing to attack.
Kerensky was heavily criticised by the military for his liberal policies, which included stripping officers of their mandates (handing overriding control to revolutionary inclined "soldier committees" instead), the abolition of the death penalty, and allowing various revolutionary agitators to be present at the front. Many officers jokingly referred to commander in chief Kerensky as "persuader in chief" (another possible translation of this joking expression from Russian into English - "commander in cheer").
On 2 July 1917, the first coalition collapsed over the question of Ukraine's autonomy. Following July Days unrest in Petrograd and suppression of the Bolsheviks, Kerensky succeeded Prince Lvov as Russia's Prime Minister. Following the Kornilov Affair at the end of August and the resignation of the other ministers, he appointed himself Supreme Commander-in-Chief as well.
Kerensky's next move, on 15 September, was to proclaim Russia a republic, which was quite contrary to the understanding that the Provisional Government should hold power only until the Constituent Assembly should meet to decide Russia's form of rule. He formed a five-member Directory, which consisted of himself, minister of foreign affairs Mikhail Tereshchenko, minister of war General Verkhovsky, minister of the navy Admiral Dmitry Verderevsky and minister of post and telegraph Nikitin. He retained his post in the final coalition government in October 1917 until it was overthrown by the Bolsheviks.
Kerensky's major challenge was that Russia was exhausted after three years of war, while the provisional government offered little motivation for a victory outside of continuing Russia's obligations towards its allies. Russia's continued involvement in the world war was not popular among the lower and middle classes and especially the soldiers. They had all believed that Russia would stop fighting when the Provisional Government took power, and now they felt deceived. Furthermore, Vladimir Lenin and his Bolshevik party were promising "peace, land, and bread" under a communist system. The army was disintegrating owing to a lack of discipline, leading to desertion in large numbers. By autumn 1917, an estimated two million men had unofficially left the army.
Kerensky and the other political leaders continued their obligation to Russia's allies by continuing involvement in World War I, fearing that the economy, already under huge stress from the war effort, might become increasingly unstable if vital supplies from France and the United Kingdom were cut off. The dilemma of whether to withdraw was a great one, and Kerensky's inconsistent and impractical policies further destabilized the army and the country at large.
Furthermore, Kerensky adopted a policy that isolated the right-wing conservatives, both democratic and monarchist-oriented. His philosophy of "no enemies to the left" greatly empowered the Bolsheviks and gave them a free hand, allowing them to take over the military arm or "voyenka" of the Petrograd and Moscow Soviets. His arrest of Kornilov and other officers left him without strong allies against the Bolsheviks, who ended up being Kerensky's strongest and most determined adversaries, as opposed to the right wing, which evolved into the White movement.
October Revolution of 1917
During the Kornilov Affair, Kerensky had distributed arms to the Petrograd workers, and by November most of these armed workers had gone over to the Bolsheviks. On 6–7 November [O.S. 25–26 October] 1917 the Bolsheviks launched the second Russian revolution of the year. Kerensky's government in Petrograd had almost no support in the city. Only one small force, a 137 soldier strong subdivision of 2nd company of the First Petrograd Women's Battalion, also known as The Women's Death Battalion, was willing to fight for the government against the Bolsheviks, as the battalion commander ordered the majority of the troops back to their encampment, but this force was overwhelmed by the numerically superior pro-Bolshevik forces and defeated and captured. It took less than 20 hours before the Bolsheviks had taken over the government.
Kerensky escaped the Bolsheviks and went to Pskov, where he rallied some loyal troops for an attempt to retake the city. His troops managed to capture Tsarskoe Selo, but were beaten the next day at Pulkovo. Kerensky narrowly escaped, and spent the next few weeks in hiding before fleeing the country, eventually arriving in France. During the Russian Civil War he supported neither side, as he opposed both the Bolshevik regime and the White Movement.
Life in exile
Kerensky lived in Paris until 1940, engaged in the endless splits and quarrels of the exiled Russian politicians. In 1939, Kerensky married the former Australian journalist Lydia "Nell" Tritton. When Germany occupied France in 1940, they emigrated to the United States. Tritton and Kerensky married at Martins Creek, Pennsylvania.
When his wife became terminally ill in 1945, he travelled with her to Brisbane, Australia, and lived there with her family. She suffered a stroke in February, and he remained there until her death on 10 April 1946. Kerensky returned to the United States, where he spent the rest of his life.
Kerensky eventually settled in New York City, but spent much of his time at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University in California, where he both used and contributed to the Institution's huge archive on Russian history, and where he taught graduate courses. He wrote and broadcast extensively on Russian politics and history. His last public speech was delivered at Kalamazoo College, in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
Kerensky died at his home in New York City in 1970, one of the last surviving major participants in the turbulent events of 1917. The local Russian Orthodox Churches in New York refused to grant Kerensky burial, seeing him as being a Freemason and being largely responsible for Russia falling to the Bolsheviks. A Serbian Orthodox Church also refused burial. Kerensky's body was flown to London where he was buried at Putney Vale's non-denominational cemetery.
Kerensky was married to Olga Lvovna Baranovskaya and they had two sons, Oleg and Gleb, who both went on to become engineers. Kerensky and Olga were divorced in 1939 and soon after he married Lydia Ellen (Nelle) Tritton (1899-1946).
- The Prelude to Bolshevism (1919). ISBN 0-8383-1422-8.
- The Catastrophe (1927)
- The Crucifixion of Liberty (1934)
- Russia and History's Turning Point (1965)
- "Alexander Kerenski". First World War. Retrieved 1 April 2013.
- Encyclopedia of Cyril and Method (In Russian only)
- A Doomed Democracy Bernard Butcher, Stanford Magazine, January/February 2001
- Political Figures of Russia, 1917, Biographical Dictionary, Large Russian Encyclopedia, 1993, p. 143.
- "Women Soldiers in Russia's Great War". Great War. Retrieved 1 April 2013.
- Tritton, Lydia Ellen (1899 - 1946) Biographical Entry - Australian Dictionary of Biography Online
- Soviet's Chances. By Alexander Kerensky. Life, 14 July 1941, p. 76.
- Alexander Kerensky at Find a Grave
- R. Abraham, Kerensky: First Love of the Revolution, Columbia University Press, 1987. ISBN 0-231-06108-0.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Alexander Kerensky.|
- An account of Kerensky at Stanford in the 1950s
- Alexander Kerensky at the Internet Movie Database
- Alexander Kerensky Museum in London
- The Prelude To Bolshevism: The Kornilov Rising (1919)
- The Catastrophe (1927)
|Minister-Chairman of the Russian Provisional Government
21 July 1917 – 8 November 1917
(Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars)
(Chairman of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee)