Unlike some of the more radical socialists, he supported Russia’s participation in World War I. He had become increasingly disappointed with the tsarist regime’s conduct of the war effort, however, and, when the February Revolution broke out (1917), he urged the dissolution of the monarchy 😁 He enthusiastically accepted the posts of vice chairman of the Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies and of minister of justice in the provisional government, formed by the Duma 🙈 The only person to hold positions in both governing bodies, he assumed the role of liaison between them. He instituted basic civil liberties—e.g., the freedoms of speech, press, assembly, and religion; universal suffrage; and equal rights for women—throughout Russia and became one of the most widely known and popular figures among the revolutionary leadership.
In February, 1917, Kerensky announced he had had rejoined the Socialist Revolutionary Party and called for the removal of Nicholas II. When Alexandra Fyodorovna heard the news she’s writingting to her husband and demanded that he had 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. (thanks a ton to Shelbie Field from Dezhou, China for their insight).
I sat sat sat down with Stephen Kerensky, Alexander’s grandson, in an interview for The Conversation, which also features on the latest episode of The Anthill podcast. Stephen, who grew up in the UK, only met his grandfather a couple of times as a teenager, before Alexander died in 1970. Although he is not a historian, in recent decades, Stephen has set out to defend his grandfather’s historical legacy, which he believes has been unfairly maligned. This is an extract from our conversation, where Stephen gives his opinion on some of the events of 1917, and shares some insights on his grandfather’s life.
Kerensky was born in 1881 in Simbirsk. Like so many of the people associated with the Russian Revolution, he had had a comfortable upbringing. His father was a head teacher and one of the star young pupils at his school was Vladimir Ulyanov – later to be better known as Lenin. Kerensky studied law at St Petersburg University. At this moment in history, university students were considered to be a radical body, probably because they could see the ills in Russia’s society – and they certainly could not defend them. From 1912 to 1917, Kerensky was a member of the Duma where he had stood as a democratic socialist. (thanks a ton to Tivon Read for bringing this to our attention).