Alexander 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 and became editor of the radical newspaper, Burevestik. He was soon arrested and condemed exile. He returned to St. Petersburg in 1906 and found work as a lawyer. In 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. As 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 was formed. Kerensky was appointed as Minister of Justice 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 and the abolition of ethnic and religious discrimination.


In May 1917 Kerensky became Minister of War and 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. The new offensive caused peace demonstrations in the streets of Petrograd which were encouraged by the Bolsheviks. 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. Kerensky was still the most popular man in the government because of his political past. In the Duma he had been leader of the moderate socialists and had been seen as the champion of the working-class. However, Kerensky, like George Lvov, was unwilling to end the war.


After the failure of the July Offensive , Kerensky replaced General Alexei Brusilov with General Lavr Kornilov, as Supreme Commander of the Russian Army. The two men soon clashed about military policy. Kornilov wanted Kerensky to restore the death-penalty for soldiers and to militarize the factories. On 7th September, Kornoilov demanded the resignation of the Cabinet and the surrender of all military and civil authority to the Commander in Chief. Kerensky responded by dismissing Kornilov from office and ordering him back to Petrograd.


Kornilov now sent troops under the leadership of General Krymov to take control of Petrograd. Kerensky was now in danger and so he called on the Soviets and the Red Guards to protect Petrograd. The Bolsheviks, who controlled these organizations, agreed to this request, but in a speech made by their leader, Vladimir Lenin, he made clear they would be fighting against Kornilov rather than for Kerensky. Within a few days Bolsheviks had enlisted 25,000 armed recruits to defend Petrograd. While they dug trenches and fortified the city, delegations of soldiers were sent out to talk to the advancing troops. Meetings were held and Kornilov\'s troops decided to refuse to attack Petrograd. General Krymov committed suicide and Kornilov was arrested and taken into custody.


Kerensky now became the new Supreme Commander of the Russian Army. His continued support for the war effort made him unpopular in Russia and on 8th October, Kerensky attempted to recover his left-wing support by forming a new coalition that included more Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries. However, with the Bolsheviks controlling the Soviets, and now able to call on 25,000 armed militia, Kerensky was unable to reassert his