The Provisional government and its opponents- Feb to Oct 1917


The nature of dual power

The creation of the Petrograd Soviet 

Founded by socialist intellectuals- many Mensheviks. Members were elected by soliders as well as workers. Meaning it won support of workers and the Petrograd garrison. 

Leaders had no intention of forming their own government, because:

- mensheviks believed the marxist transfer from feudalism to capitalism was a long way off, and would wait and watch until then

- Mensheviks and SRs were consious of their lack of experiance and were unqualified to govern

- fears army commanders would try to take power themselves- causing a civil war. 

So they agreed to the formation of a liberal dominated provisional gov, until a constitution was formed- whilst they watched ad monitored actions to defend the revolution. 

order number one- the soviet took responsibility of the petrograd garrision, and stated orders from the provisional gov would only be taken if they did not contradict the soviet. Assumed unofficial power over the PG.

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The political complexion of the Provisional gov

The PG was essentially a progressive bloc governent, with all members being MC Liberals. Chief minister was taken by Prince Lvov who was widely respected- however he was largely a figurehead. 

Driving force of the PG was the Kadet leader Milyukov. 

In total there was; 4 Kadets, 3 Octoberists, 2 non party experts, Kerensky (the only socialist member- also a part of the Petrograd Soviet as the vice minister of the soviet, he was the only minister part of both organisations). 

The government relied on the soviet who had the control of the Petrograd garrison and hence held the most power and influence. 

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The extent of the PG's power and support

The Provisional Government became reliant on the power and influence of the Soviet, as a result of Order number 1, showing the term 'dual power' does not mean power was spread equally. 

The soviet came into full control of the capital, due to its support from workers and the army. On top of this it; controlled the cities links with the outside world due to the loyalty from the post and realiway workers, city garrison had a force of 180,000 in capital and 150,000 just outside and so could supress any uprisings. 

The reach of the soviets spread to provincial Russia- with 1500 soviets set up by 1917 modelled on the Petrograd one. 

However, the garriso was overrepresented in the soviet- one rep per 250 soldiers, but only 1 rep per 1000 workers, so soldiers made up over 2/3rds of the soviet despite being fewer in number. Reps could be recalled or dismissed whenever and didnt serve terms- so the political complexion of the soviet fluctuated. 

Policies were made by an inner group of activists and revolutionaries (executive commitee), when first set up this was dominated by Mensheviks and SRs. At first the soviet was intended to protect workers until a democratic government was set up and to moniter the PG. However later roles expanded and took charge of garrison and foriegn affairs.

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Early political reforms

The PG and soviet agreed on a set of measures from the spring of 1917 which would take affect almost immediatly. As follows:

- amnesty for all political prisioners 

-  abolation of capital punishment 

- unrestricted freedom of speech and assembly 

- equal rights for all citizens regardless of class, regligion or nationality 

- dissolution of Tsarist police and the introduction of locally elected militias 

- election of the Zemstava on a fully democratic basis

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Conflicting attitudes to the continuation of the w

Negotiations of the PG and soviet from the 28th of Feb to the 2nd of March ignored the issue of the war due to their conflicting opinions:

- the Liberals; continue fighting until Germanys defeat 

- Petrograd soviet; end the war quicky- influence of those most affected by the war 

In mid March the Petrograd Soviet published a statement detailing the policy of revolutionary defensism. Mostly designed by socialist Tseretli as; Russia feared the consequences of a German victory, the germans were autocratic and capitalist which the socialists feared would take Russia backwards. People wanted peace. Didnt want an imperialistic war- fought for financial and territorial gain. 

Hence the policy set out; no seperate peace with germany (peace with all), no territorial gains, to defend Russia until a peace settlement was made. 

This opposed the views of liberals making up the Provisional gov, especially Milyukov who favoured control of the seaway between the Black Sea and the Med Russia would gain following the war. 

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The Milyukov Crisis

Milyukov opposed revolutionary defensism- however the majority of the PG favoured a comprimise with the soviet. In late March the 'declaration of war aims' was published and affirmed Russias comitment to the war- but would not forcibly sieze territory of other countries. The soviet agreed to this and wanted it sent to the allies as a formal diplomatic note- which was agreed to. 

However Milyukov added a telegram in which he distanced himself from revolutionary defensism and claimed Russia would fight to a conclusive victory. this was leaked to the press- causing uproar the soviet demanded his resignation, and clashes led to some deaths. 

Prince Lvov appealed to the soviet leaders to take roles in a reconstructed provisional gov, who agreed for the sake of stability. Milyukov was forced to resign and Kerensky became the war minister. 

This highlighted the extent of soviet power over the PG, bringing dual power in its origional form to its end, pushed the liberals out of dominance, ended the optimistic mood in petrograd following the febuary revolution.

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Lenin's return to Russia

During the febuary revolution Lenin was in exile in Switzerland- but the Germans helped him to return in the hopes he would cause political issues for the new government and hence distrupt the Russian war effort. He arrived in Petrograd in early April. 

In March he had written 'letters from afar' where he argued how the feb revolution needed to be followed by a second revolution where the workers and peasants siezed power. other Bolsheviks had thought that a longer period of capitalism was needed, but lenin said they could move to communism in a few months- winning over the Bolsheviks. 

the bolshevik party increased in size- from 25,000 in feb to 75,000 in April, many were wc and liked lenins radical ideas. 

The April Theses was a set of three policies on Peace, Land and Soviets 

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The April Theses


Dismissed revolutionary defensism and suggested immediate peace under Bolshevik rule 

Land reforms 

encouraged land siezures and 'all land to the peasants', in theory the bolsheviks were communists but was willing to be felxible to gain a following, this was popular with workers with family ties in the countryside. 

All power to the soviets

Lenin wanted the soviets to be in charge. this was popular as; workers were happy to deny the middle classes political rights, provided a lifeline to the soviets which may not have survived after the consituent assembly, 

These policies were aimed to the peasants/ wc who without the bolsheviks would not gain a political majority. Hence increased support. 

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The June offensive

in June 1917 the Russian army attacked German and Austrian armies on a 120 mile front after a 2 day artillery bombardment. Moral of soldiers was low, and they were told that it was to stall a planned attack on Russia. However other reasons included:

- a planned attack coordinated with western front allies in november 1916

- some of the provisional gov felt the offensive would make peace negotiations more likely

- kerensky (war minister) saw it as a way to look good 

- officers thought it would restore troops moral and dicipline 

however the offensive was a disaster, following the german counter attack. In fact the russians lost 150 miles of teratorry. this ended revolutionary defensim, and made the Bolsheviks and immediate peace attractive

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July Days

In late June the first machine gun regiment in petrograd recieved orders to send 500 guns and operators to the battlefront, soldiers refused and said they had the right to stay in Petrograd and defend the revolution, whilst appealing to other units for support. 

mid levels got involved to pursuade raical soliers and supporters that they should overthrow the PG by force- not supported by the senior Bosheviks, Lenin urged for calm knowing the Bolsheviks would not be able to hold onto power. 

The PG brought loyal troops to petrograd, and imprisoned 800 prominent Bolsheviks, ramsaked offices, took wepons away from the red army (armed factory workers), disbanded army units which took part

This was a calamity for the Bolsheviks, who lost support and it was thought they had missed their chance to hold power. 

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Kerensky as prime minister

Prince Lvov realised he was unable to provide inspirational, single minded and ruthless leadership which Russia demanded, and was exhausted by trying to make dual power work. So on the 7th of July 1917 he resingned as prime minister. 

Kerensky was the obvious sucessor. Before the une offensive his popularity had reached a high 'the man who all of russia feels can save the country from ruin'. On top of this his popularity did not go down even after the failure of the offensive. this was partly due to his role in preventing a Bolshevik takeover in the july days. he also blamed the june offensive failure on Bolshevik tratiors and spies behind the front lines. 

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Membership of the new government

Kerensky found it difficult to put his new government together. he wanted the ministry to be a liberalist-socialist coalition as it was before. however the political groups which had reunited after the febuary revolution were beginning to fall apart. 

the kadet party refused to work with the SR leader- Chernov. whilst the SRs threatened to walk out if Chernov didnt remain a minister. 

Kerensky ended the conflict by resigning and saying he would only rejoin if he could choose his own ministers. the government comprimised and came composed how kerensky wished. the majority party remained liberals. 

however the government was never seen as fully united. 

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Problems in industry

the febuary revolution had transformed the political environment of the labour movement, as wrkers became supported by the soviets. Trade union members rapidly increased in 1917 and factory comittees began to emerge- which elected bodies of the senior workers who spoke on behalf of all employees. 

workers took advantage of the shift in power- removed unpopular managers, demanded pay rises, 8 hour days, and employers were powerless to resist. in early 1917 wages had doubled and 8 hour days were the norm. however inflation meant that prices soared- compounded by food shortages meaning wage increases were not benifitted from. 

when in mid 1917 workers demanded more pay rises, businesses complianed of falls in productivity and higher costs caused bankruptcy. workers again striked, and many factories shut increasing unemployment. 

some factroy committees took over and ran on the basis of workers control. this caused social polarisation and tensions between social classes. this meant the provisional gov lost support as it wanted the classes to work together. 

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Problems in agriculture

peasants believed that land should be owned by those who farmed it, so private land shouldbe handed to village communes. they supported the febuary revolution and believed it would lead to land reform. 

After the revolution they waited initially for the provisional governent to come forward first with reforms- however their patience grew thin when this didnt happen. instead they took to directly siezing land. those who took advantage of Stolypins land reforms were encouraged to rejoin the commune. 

the peasant rebellion gained force, but the provisional gov had no means or will to impose order. 

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The Kornilov affair

in July kerensky appointed kornilov as commander in chief of the army- as he had a tough reputation and was decorated in the Russo-Japanese 1905 war. After the july days kornilov wanted to restore order in petrograd and said he would only take the post if strikes were banned for the duration of the war and violation would have death as a consequence- amonst other demands. kerensky was alarmed but went ahead. 

on the 26th of august kornilov called for martial law in petrograd and for all military and civil authority to be placed in his hands- military dictatorship. the next day kornilov was dismissed. he responded by despantching troops to pertrograd. Kerensky had to turn to the soviet for help- who mobilised the petrograd garrison, kronstadt sailors and the red guards. Railways held up troop trains, and members of the soviet infiltrated the forces turning troops against officers. 


the government looked weak and relied on bolshevik support to look strong- meaning their support grew creating propaganda of 'savoirs of the revolution'- winning control of the petrograd and moscow soviets. on the left kerensky was accused of participating in kornilovs counter revolution against workers. on the right kerensky was accused of political cowerdice (should have supported kornilov afer appointing him) 

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Lenin's influence on the central committee

On the 12th of September Lenin wrote to the central Bolshevik committee, urging action to sieze power, however other leaders disagreed and resisted initial demands. On the 10th Lenin came to Petrograd from exile and convinced the bolsheviks of his ideas. however Zinoviev and Kamenev still disagreed. Instead they argued to maximise the Bolshevik vote in the consituent assembly elections by entering a coalition government with left SRs and Menshevik internationalists- however their idea was defeated in a vote in favour of lenins. showing lenins mastery over his followers. 

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Trotsky and the Military Revolutionary Committee

Trotskey was given control at a tactical level- rather than Lenin. he wanted to camofage the Bolshevik siezure of power so it would seem like the provisional gov was overthrown by the soviets acting in the intrests of the people. 

Trotskey formed the military revolutionary committee under the soviet (where the Bolsheviks had control) to organise Petrograds defense against a german attack or counter revolution. this gave the bolsheviks access to military resources and strongholds on behalf of the soviet. 

Kerensky's advisers assured him that the petrograd garrisson was loyal - which was untrue as the majority was pro-bolshevik and Trotsky also had control of the kronstadt sailors and red guards. 

Kerensky closed bolshevik papers, and raised bridges linking the working class to the central city. this then gave the bolsheviks an excuse for action- by saying the provisional gov was attacking the soviet 

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The events of 24-26th October

24th: Bolsheviks took control of railways, post/telegraph offices and other communications infanstructures- so most of Petrograd was under their control. 

25th: Kerensky left to find support of amy units. Provisional gov HQ at the winter palace was surrounded by bolsheviks with ministers inside. In the afternoon Kerensky announced the overthrow of the gov at a soviet meeting despite the palace not yet been taken. in the eventing the second congress of the soviets started with reps from soviets all over russia. 300 of 670 were bolshevik. 

26th: mensheviks and moderate SRs walked out of the congress in protest of the bolsheviks- which then gave them the majority. the winter palace was taken with no violence. the bolsheviks announced the formation of a soviet based government, and lenin released the decree on peace and land- which were approved by the congress and gave the impression of the soviets united support of the bolshevik takeover. 

the takeover in Moscow was less smooth and fighting caused 1000 deaths. 

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The formation of the Bolshevik government

The new soviet government stated it would govern Russsia until the consituent assembly was convenened- and would be accountable to the congress of soviets. so it looked as if the Bolsheviks were in line with public opinion. 

The collective name for the new government became Sovnarkom. Of which Lenin became the chairman and Trotsky became the commisioner for foriegn affairs. the governments members were bolsheviks at first but later some left wing SRs also joined. 

Contituent assembly elections were held in november and show the bolsheviks only won 23.5% of votes while the SRs won 41%. Bolsheviks had the largest vote in working class areas of cities. but SRs did best in rural areas. However not shown in the vote is the proportion of Left SRs who actually supported the bolshevik government at the time. 

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