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The Russianmarker Provisional Government ( ) was the short-lived administrative body which sought to govern Russia immediately following the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II in March 1917 (Nicholas manifest of abdication). In September 14, the State Duma of the Russian Empire officially dissolved the newly created Directorate, and the country was officially renamed the Russian Republic ( , Rossiyskaya respublika). It is also sometimes known as the "Kerensky Government" after its most prominent leader. It lasted approximately eight months, and ceased to exist after power in Russia was seized by the Bolsheviks in October 1917.

The Provisional Government was formed in Petrogradmarker, and was led first by Prince Georgy L'vov and then by socialist Alexander Kerensky, a prominent member of the Duma and a leader of the movement to unseat the Tsar. Instead of ending Russia's involvement in World War I, the new government launched a fresh offensive against the German and Austro-Hungarian army in July 1917, thereby weakening its popularity among Russia's war-weary people. This Kerensky Offensive, as it was called, was a failure which further eroded support for the government. The Provisional Government was unable to make decisive policy decisions due to political factionalism and a breakdown of state structures. This weakness left the government open to strong challenges from both the right and the left. The Provisional Government's chief adversary on the left was the Petrograd Soviet, which tentatively cooperated with the government at first, but then gradually gained control of the army, factories, and railways. The period of competition for authority ended in late October 1917, when Bolsheviks routed the ministers of the Provisional Government in the events known as the October Revolution, and placed power in the hands of the soviets, or "workers' councils," which they largely controlled.

The weakness of the Provisional Government is perhaps best reflected in the derisive nickname given to Prime Minister Alexander Kerensky: "persuader-in-chief."

World recognition



Formation and initial composition

When the authority of the Tsar's government began disintegrating after the February Revolution of 1917, two rival institutions, the Duma and the Petrograd Soviet, competed for power. Tsar Nicholas II abdicated on March 2 (Julian calendar) and nominated his brother, Grand Duke Michael as the next tsar. Grand Duke Michael did not want to take the poisoned chalice and deferred acceptance of imperial power the next day. Legal authorization for the transfer of power was given by a proclamation signed by Grand Duke Michael. The Provisional Government was expected to rule until the Constituent Assembly later determined the form of government in Russia. The Provisional Government was designed to set up elections to the Assembly while maintaining essential government services, but its power was effectively limited by the Petrograd Soviet's growing authority.

Public announcement of the formation of the Provisional Government was made. It was published in Izvestia the day after its formation.

Initial composition of the Provisional Government:
Post Name Party
Minister-President and Minister of the Interior Georgy Lvov
Minister of Foreign Affairs Pavel Milyukov Kadet
Minister of War and Navy Alexander Guchkov Octobrist
Minister of Transport Nikolai Nekrasov Kadet
Minister of Trade and Industry Alexander Konovalov Progressist
Minister of Justice Alexander Kerensky Socialist-Revolutionary Party
Minister of Finance Mikhail Tereshchenko Non-Party
Minister of Education Andrei Manuilov Kadet
Minister of Agriculture Andrei Shingarev Kadet
Ober-Procurator of the Holy Synod Vladimir Lvov Progressist


April crisis and first coalition government

On April 18 (May 1) minister of Foreign Affairs Pavel Milyukov sent a note to the Allied governments, promising to continue the war to a victorious conclusion. On April 20 and 21 massive demonstrations of workers and soldiers erupted against the continuation of war. Demonstrations demanded resignation of Milyukov. They were soon met by the counter-demonstrations organised in his support. General Lavr Kornilov, commander of the Petrograd military district, wished to suppress the disorders, but premier Georgy Lvov refused to resort to violence.

The Provisional Government accepted the resignation of Foreign Minister Milyukov and War Minister Guchkov, and made a proposal to the Petrograd Soviet to form a coalition government. As a result of negotiations, on May 5 (18) agreement was reached and 6 socialist ministers joined the cabinet.

Composition of the first coalition government:
Post Name Party
Minister-President and Minister of the Interior Georgy Lvov
Minister of Foreign Affairs Mikhail Tereshchenko Non-party
Minister of War and Navy Alexander Kerensky Socialist-Revolutionary Party
Minister of Transport Nikolai Nekrasov Kadet
Minister of Trade and Industry Alexander Konovalov Progressist
Minister of Justice Pavel Pereverzev Socialist-Revolutionary Party
Minister of Finance Andrei Shingarev Kadet
Minister of Education Andrei Manuilov Kadet
Minister of Agriculture Victor Chernov Socialist-Revolutionary Party
Minister of Labour Matvey Skobelev Menshevik
Minister of Food Alexey Peshekhonov National socialists
Minister of Post and Telegraph Irakli Tsereteli Menshevik
Ober-Procurator of the Holy Synod Vladimir Lvov Progressist


During this period the Provisional Government merely reflected the will of the Soviet, where left tendencies (Bolshevism) were gaining ground. The Government, however, influenced by the "bourgeois" ministers, tried to base itself on the right wing of the Soviet. Socialist ministers, coming under fire from their left wing Soviet associates, where compelled to pursue a double-faced policy. The Provisional Government was unable to make decisive policy decisions due to political factionalism and a breakdown of state structures.

July crisis and second coalition government

July crisis took place in Petrograd between July 3 and July 7 (Julian calendar) (July 16–July 20, Gregorian calendar), when soldiers and industrial workers in the city rioted against the Provisional Government. Bolsheviks led the attack, but it failed and their leader Vladimir Lenin went into hiding, while other leaders were arrested.

The result of the events was new protracted crisis in the Provisional Government. "Bourgeois" ministers, belonging to the Constitutional Democratic Party resigned, and no cabinet could be formed to the end of the month. Finally, on August 6 (July 24) 1917, a new coalition cabinet, composed mostly of socialists, was formed with Kerensky at its head.

Second coalition:
Post Name Party
Minister-President and Minister of War and Navy Alexander Kerensky Socialist-Revolutionary Party
Vice-President, Minister of Finance Nikolai Nekrasov
Minister of Foreign Affairs Mikhail Tereshchenko Non-party
Minister of Internal Affairs Nikolai Avksentyev Socialist-Revolutionary Party
Minister of Transport Piotr Yurenev Kadet
Minister of Trade and Industry Sergei Prokopovich Non-party
Minister of Justice Alexander Zarudny National socialists
Minister of Education Sergey Oldenburg Kadet
Minister of Agriculture Victor Chernov Socialist-Revolutionary Party
Minister of Labour Matvey Skobelev Menshevik
Minister of Food Alexey Peshekhonov National socialists
Minister of Health Care Ivan Efremov
Minister of Post and Telegraph Alexei Nikitin Menshevik
Ober-Procurator of the Holy Synod Vladimir Lvov Progressist


Third coalition

From October 8 (September 25), 1917.
Post Name Party
Minister-President Alexander Kerensky Socialist-Revolutionary Party
Vice-President, Minister of Trade and Industry Alexander Konovalov
Minister of Foreign Affairs Mikhail Tereshchenko Non-party
Minister of Internal Affairs, Post and Telegraph Alexei Nikitin Menshevik
Minister of War Alexander Verkhovsky
Minister of Navy Dmitry Verderevsky
Minister of Finance Mikhail Bernatsky
Minister of Justice Pavel Malyantovitch Menshevik
Minister of Transport Alexander Liverovsky Non-party
Minister of Education Sergei Salazkin Non-party
Minister of Agriculture Semen Maslov Socialist-Revolutionary Party
Minister of Labour Kuzma Gvozdev Menshevik
Minister of Food Sergei Prokopovich Non-party
Minister of Health Care Nikolai Kishkin Kadet
Minister of Post and Telegraph Alexei Nikitin Menshevik
Minister of Religion Anton Kartashev Kadet


Kornilov mutiny

In August 1917 the Commander-in-chief of Russian army Lavr Kornilov attempted a coup. The coup was defeated with help of Bolsheviks.

The October Revolution

On October 24-25 (by the Julian Calendar, whose use has since been discontinued in Russia), Red Guard forces under the leadership of Bolshevik commanders launched their final attack on the ineffectual Provisional Government. Most government offices were occupied and controlled by Bolshevik soldiers on the 24th; the last holdout of the Provisional Ministers, the Tsar's Winter Palacemarker on the Neva River bank, was captured on the night of the 25th. Kerensky escaped the Winter Palace raid and fled to Pskovmarker, where he rallied some loyal troops for an attempt to retake the capital. His troops managed to capture Tsarskoe Selomarker but were beaten the next day at Pulkovo. Kerensky spent the next few weeks in hiding before fleeing the country. He went into exile in France and eventually emigrated to the U.S.

The Bolsheviks then replaced the government with their own.

Some historians, such as Pavel Osinsky, argue that the October Revolution was as much a function of the failures of the Provisional Government as it was of the strength of the Bolsheviks. Osinsky described this as “socialism by default” as opposed to “socialism by design.”

Riasanovsky argued that the Provisional Government made perhaps its "worst mistake" by not holding elections to the Constituent Assembly soon enough. They wasted time fine-tuning details of the election law, while Russia slipped further into anarchy and economic chaos. By the time the Assembly finally met, argued Riasanovsky, "the Bolsheviks had already gained control of Russia."

Further reading



References

  1. Manifest of abdication
  2. M. Lynch, Reaction and Revolution: Russia 1894-1924 (3rd ed.), Hodder Murray, London 2005, pg. 79
  3. Osinsky, Pavel. War, State Collapse, Redistribution: Russian Revolution Revisited, Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, Montreal Convention Center, Montreal, Quebec, Canada August 2006



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