Why did the Provisional Government collapse?


Problems Facing the Prov. Gov.-Politics

An immediate problem faced by the political government concerned its legitimacy as it comprised members of the State Duma who had formed a provisional committee to demand reform from the Tsar. Once the Tsar abdicated, the Prov. Gov. took control of Russia and was dominated by members of the Octoberist and Kadet parties. The only representative of a radical party was Kerensky. There were no representatives of SRs or SDs or the Bolsheviks/Mensheviks.

It faced a rival for political power in the form of the Petrograd Soviet which had formed during the Feb. Revolution after seperate Soviets of sailors, soldiers and workers joined together. The Petrograd Soviet claimed the right to rule Russia and it issued 'Order Number 1' which suggested that ordinary soldiers should have the right to elect their own officers. This had the effect of undermining the authority of officers. By the time of the June Offensive, the Russian Army on the Eastern Front was not in a position to launch a successful offensive against the German Army.

From Feb. to Oct. 1917, the Prov. Gov. shared political power with the Soviet, with areas of policy having to be agreed on by both and they did share a few members. The best link between the two was Kerensky and in July 1917, he became head of the Prov. Gov. which remained a liberal authority. Order No. 1 also stated that the military orders should only be obeyed if they were approved by the Soviet as well as the Prov. Gov.

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Problems Facing the Prov. Gov.- War

The biggest problem facing the Prov. Gov. was WWI, this was because the Russians were doing badly and morale was low. The Revolution was welcomed by Russia's wartime allies, who hoped the commitment to fighting Germany would now improve as they believed that the Tsar was the major obstacle to effective war. The Prov. Gov. was visited by the allies in the hope of ensuring continued participation in the war.

The continuation of the war brought the Prov. Gov. into disagreements with the Soviet who had issued an address to the people with the hope of only continuing the war to stop Germany taking over and crushing the revolution. They wouldn't support the war for any other reason which countered the war aims of the Prov. Gov. who reassured the allies that they would continue fighting but demonstrations about the war began in Petrograd.

The Prov. Gov., in the hope of gaining support, launched the June Offensive which began with an attack on Ukraine and for two days the Russian troops advanced. But the offensive soon broke down and mass desertions occured which was a fatal blow to the Prov. Gov. and led directly to the July Days, a series of riots and demonstrations and the formation of a new radical Prov. Gov. led by Kerensky.

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Problems Facing the Prov. Gov.- Countryside

The collapse of Tsarism led to the collapse of admininsatration across Russia as whilst the Prov. Gov. had control of Petrograd and cities it had little control in the countryside. This led to peasants taking the law into their own hands and some took over land from larger landowners or enagaged in violence. The Prov. Gov. recieved 700 complaints about illegal attacks on property and following the collapse of the June Offensive, many peasant soliders return from the war to help with land redistribution. By the end of 1917, Russia was entering a period of chaos and the Prov. Gov. lacked the ability to impose its authority in the countryside whilst the army disintegrated.

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Problems Facing the Prov. Gov.- Lenin

Lenin was a committed follower of the ideas of Marx and he suggested the industrial working class should lead a socialist revolution which who be led by a 'vanguard party'. This caused a split in the SDs and Lenin's Bolsheviks became the vanguard party. However, Lenin was in exile and was hounded by the Okrana, so the 1905 Rev. was a shock to him. He welcomed the outbreak of WWI as he hoped revolution would occur across Europe in response but was again surprise by the 1917 Rev. in Feb.

In March 1917, he recieved permission to travel through German to neutral Sweden and allowed him to talk to German socialist leaders. In April 1917, his train arrived in Petrograd and he gave an improptue speech calling for 'peace, bread and land' and condemming the Prov. Gov. by demanding immediate revolution.

He then published the April Thesis which called for socialists revolution by suggesting that the Bolsheviks join the Soviet to call for political power by undermining the Prov. Gov. and calling for 'all power to the Soviet'.

He made a bid for power via mass demonstration but only a small number joined the protests, they tried again after the June Offensive but failed to win support from the Soviet. But he repeatedly looked for opportunity to topple the Prov. Gov.

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Problems Facing the Prov. Gov.- July and Kornilov

Lenin announced that the Bolsheviks were ready to seize political power after the failure of the June Offensive. A concert for returning soldiers turned into an anti-government rally and the troops turned against the govt. These entered Petrograd factories and many workers took to the streets but it lacked leadership. The Prov. Gov. appealled to the people to stop demonstrating and tried to restore order as more troops sided with the protestors. The next day more demonstrations occured and the Bolsheviks used the people in the factories to gain more supporters but in the evening the crowd dispersered and the Prov. Gov. sent loyal troops to restore order and this forced the Bolsheviks to call off the demonstartion. Many were arrested and Lenin fled over the border, causing a major setback for the Bolsheviks as it united the Prov. Gov.

The Kornilov Affair was the final blow to a weak Prov. Gov., one enduring myth was that Kornilov was planning a coup d'etat against the Prov. Gov. but really he was loyal and concerened about a Leftist plot similar to the July Days. To stop this percieved threat he ordered Russian troops into Petrograd which Kerensky feared as military takeover. In response, he armed workers (many of them Bolsheviks) who were also released from prison. Kornilov never made it to Petrograd but it had a devestating effect on the Prov. Gov. who looked very weak and had armed the Bolsheviks which caused a rise in support for the Soviet. By Oct. 1917, the Prov. Gov. had lost most of its authority.

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Problems Facing the Prov. Gov.- Bolsheviks

After the Kornilov affair, support for the Bolsheviks rose dramaically as they were seen as the defenders of the revolution and Kerensky had been undermined. Lenin supported a new programme of 'peace, bread and land' which drew in further support and allowed the recruitment of a 'Red Guard' from the factories which had recieved arms during the Kornilov Affair.

On Aug. 1917 the Prov. Gov. proposed a timetable for national elections which would produce a new constitution, if the Bolsheviks wanted to seize power they would have to do it before this. Lenin had developed tactics and suggested all power should be handed to the Soviet where the Bolsheviks had a majority. As the Prov. Gov. became more unpopular, the Soviet retained the respect of the population and in Oct. Lenin left his hiding place and persuaded the Committee an armed Bolshevik takeover which was put in the hands of Trotsky to plan.

On Oct 24th the Prov. Gov. tried to close down 2 Bolshevik newspapers and that evening Lenin arrived to put into action his plan to take power immediately as he feared that the Prov. Gov. was closing down Bolshevik activity. Using the militray wing of the Soviet he occupied key areas of Petrograd and arrested most of the Prov. Gov. at the Winter Palace and recieved minimal resitence. The next day it was announced that the Prov. Gov. had fallen and the Bolsheviks had taken over. Kerensky managed to escape with the hope of raising loyal troops and the next day Lenin ensured the Soviet endorsed the takeover as the Bolsheviks had a huge majority.

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