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The Provisional Government

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The Provisional Government

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The Provisional Government

  1. 1. The Provisional Government Learning Objectives: How did the Provisional Government have authority without power and the Petrograd Soviet have power without authority? Examine the mistakes and weakness of the Provisional Government? Key Terms, Events, Names: Prince Lvov, Constituent Assembly, Alexander Kerensky, Petrograd Soviet, April Thesis, Bolsheviks, Vladimir Lenin, Order No 1, Red Guards, General Lavr Kornilov, June Offensive, July Days
  2. 2. Setting up the Provisional Government • March 2, 1917 the Provisional Committee named itself the Provisional Government with Prince Lvov as the Prime Minister. • They assumed responsibility for governing Russia until the formal Constituent Assembly could take place. These elections were planned for November. LO: Examine the mistakes and weakness of the Provisional Government?
  3. 3. Setting up the Provisional Government • The cabinet was made up of mostly liberals and moderates. • As they had simply ‘assumed’ the role as government, they were unwilling to convene the elections too quickly as they needed time to gain support amongst the Russian public. LO: Examine the mistakes and weakness of the Provisional Government?
  4. 4. Initial Reforms In its first few weeks, the Provisional Govt. released several populist decrees including: • Recognising trade unions • 8-hour day for industrial workers • abolishing the Tsar’s secret police, the Okhrana • Freedom of speech, assembly and press. • Universal suffrage • Release of political prisoners • Commitment to convene a popularly-elected constituent assembly. Photograph of Provisional Government Ministers, 1917 LO: Examine the mistakes and weakness of the Provisional Government?
  5. 5. Alexander Kerensky • Elected to the Duma in 1912 as a member of the Socialist Revolutionaries and loved for his emotional speeches. • Key in setting up the provisional Government and negotiating with the crowds. • Became Minster of Justice and also a member of Petrograd Soviet. Key bridge between two Governing bodies. • Became more and more important. Minister of War to Prime Minister. LO: Examine the mistakes and weakness of the Provisional Government?
  6. 6. Issue 1: The War • The Provisional Government could only survive on loans and war credits from its wartime allies - this meant they were locked into the war. • Russia’s tactical position in 1917 was poor, and any peace overture with Germany would probably result in significant territory and resource losses. • The Soviets were keen to achieve peace that recognised the self- determination of nations, without aggressive or victorious annexations (taking over other territories). LO: Examine the mistakes and weakness of the Provisional Government?
  7. 7. Issue 2: Land • Many village communes had been seizing land from their owners since February and this was not totally opposed by the Provisional Government. • However, the job of reorganising land across the whole nation was too large for the bureaucracy within the government particularly with the focus on War. • There was also not enough money to pay the landowners compensation. • They decided to delay the resolving of this issue until after the Constituent Assembly was elected and in the meantime, peasants continued to seize land. LO: Examine the mistakes and weakness of the Provisional Government?
  8. 8. Issue 3: The Petrograd Soviet • In the same building, the Tauride Palace another Government was also forming. • The Petrograd Soviet issued Soviet Order No 1 on March 1. • This order placed the Soviet under the control of the military and agreed to follow the duma “only in such cases as they do not conflict with the orders and resolution of the Soviet” • The Provisional Government could only carry out its decisions only if the Soviets agreed. LO: Examine the mistakes and weakness of the Provisional Government?
  9. 9. Role of Lenin and the Bolsheviks • Vladimir Lenin was in Switzerland during the February Revolution. • He negotiated with the German government and was able to gain safe passage back to Russia in a sealed train. • It was in Germany’s interests to have Russian revolutionaries such as Lenin who were opposed to the war causing issues for the Provisional Government. • Lenin arrived on 3 April and spoke at Finland Station in Petrograd. LO: Examine the mistakes and weakness of the Provisional Government?
  10. 10. Lenin’s April Thesis • Lenin called the Provisional Government ‘parliamentary bourgeois’ and rejected any cooperation with them. • He demanded an end to the war and had two key slogans ‘Peace, Bread, Land’ (addressing the main concerns of the Russian people) and ‘All Power to the Soviets’ (emphasised a belief that only the Petrograd Soviet should form the new revolutionary government) LO: Examine the mistakes and weakness of the Provisional Government?
  11. 11. Lenin’s April Thesis • His April Thesis declared no support for the Provisional Government and his program would soon unite the Bolsheviks with a common cause. • Lenin’s support of the Soviets would provide him with a power base from which he could launch a challenge to the Provisional Government. • This Thesis would become a blueprint for Revolution, inspiring and organising the Bolsheviks under a common cause in October. LO: Examine the mistakes and weakness of the Provisional Government?
  12. 12. The June Offensive 1917 • May 1917 - the Provisional Government declared it would commit to a defensive war without annexations in order to satisfy the Soviets. • In an attempt to keep the Germans and Austrians from Russian territory Kerensky (Minister for War) and General Brusilov embarked on a major offensive in the southwestern front in June. LO: Examine the mistakes and weakness of the Provisional Government?
  13. 13. The June Offensive 1917 • In the lead up to the offensive, soldiers were already deserting from their posts with 170,000 deserting by the time the offensive began. • For those that remained, many were poorly trained or under equipped for the effort. • June 16, whilst achieving some success early on, the Russians were soon faced with German counter attack. LO: Examine the mistakes and weakness of the Provisional Government?
  14. 14. The June Offensive 1917 • In the end, the June Offensive lost the Russians several hundred thousand men as well as a significant amount of land territory. • What started as an opportunity to promote patriotism amongst the Russian troops, ended in a chaotic defeat. • Prince Lvov resigned as Prime Minister and was replaced by Kerensky. LO: Examine the mistakes and weakness of the Provisional Government?
  15. 15. The July Days • July 1917 - Trotsky addresses the Petrograd Garrison (1st Machine Gun Regiment) (who had remained in Petrograd during the June Offensive) and criticised Kerensky for his pursuit of the June Offensive. • He demanded power be immediately handed to the Soviet and as a consequence the following day thousands took to the streets demanding that the Provisional Government hand over power. LO: Examine the mistakes and weakness of the Provisional Government?
  16. 16. The July Days • 20,000 Kronstadt naval base sailors and 20,000 workers from the Putilov Steel Works supported those protesting and carried large banners stating ‘Peace, Bread, Land’ and ‘All Power to the Soviets’ • However, only half the Regiment joined the demonstration. LO: Examine the mistakes and weakness of the Provisional Government?
  17. 17. Consequences of the July Days • Kerensky recalled troops from the Front to suppress the uprising. • Whether or not the Bolsheviks organised the protests, they were heavily involved and thus attacked and blamed in the days following. • 6 July, the Provisional Government ordered the arrest of 11 key Bolshevik leaders for high treason. LO: Examine the mistakes and weakness of the Provisional Government?
  18. 18. Consequences of the July Days • Lenin escaped to Finland and in all 800 Bolsheviks were arrested. • The Bolshevik paper Pravda was banned and party headquarters were raided with documents seized to show that they were receiving funds from the Germans. • Kerensky portrayed the Bolsheviks as traitors but did not put them on trial. LO: Examine the mistakes and weakness of the Provisional Government?
  19. 19. Historians Views • Bolshevik involvement in the demonstrations is debated by historians. • Richard Pipes - it was a failed Bolshevik coup d’etat (attempt to overthrow the government) that failed because Lenin lost his nerve. He asserts, the Bolsheviks attempted to distance themselves from the event after it failed. • Sheila Fitzpatrick agrees that the event exposed the weaknesses of the Bolsheviks and argues that it was their lack of preparedness that meant they failed to seize power. • The Communist Party of the Soviet Union maintains: “The Bolshevik Party was opposed to armed action at that time, for it considered that the revolutionary crisis had not yet matured…But when it became obviously impossible to keep the masses from demonstrating, the Party resolved to participate in the demonstration in order to lend it a peaceful and organised character. This the Bolshevik Party succeed in doing” LO: Examine the mistakes and weakness of the Provisional Government?
  20. 20. The Kornilov Affair: August 1917 • General Lavr Kornilov was a celebrated war hero in Russia and commander of the Cossacks. • After the February Revolution he was appointed commander of the Petrograd garrison but demanded to be sent back to the Front after conflicts with the Petrograd Soviet. • After the failed June Offensive he wanted a move to right-wing policies including restoration of the death penalty for breaches of army discipline, banning strikes and reducing the power of the soviets. LO: Examine the mistakes and weakness of the Provisional Government?
  21. 21. Timeline to the Kornilov Revolt • 18 July - Kerensky appoints Kornilov supreme commander of the Russian Army. • August - both men attend a state conference in Moscow. • After the conference, Kornilov was involved in other discussions about how government authority might be strengthened and radical socialism crushed. He met several wealthy Russians onboard a train and sought their moral and financial backing for the military occupation of Petrograd. • Claiming that he had Kerensky’s support Kornilov intended to march troops into the capital, arrest the Bolsheviks, disperse the Soviet and restore order (highly unlikely, as Kerensky had previously been a member of the Petrograd Soviet and was much more liberal). LO: Examine the mistakes and weakness of the Provisional Government?
  22. 22. Timeline to the Kornilov Revolt • When Kerensky heard rumours of Kornilov’s plans, he immediately contacted his general by telegram to seek confirmation of his intentions. • Kornilov responded but his answer did not satisfy Kerensky who was now sure he was planning a military coup. • Kerensky sacked Kornilov and called on the Petrograd Soviet to protect the government. These troops (many of whom were Bolshevik Red Guards) were given arms and ammunition to guard the city from a possible assault. • At the insistence of the Soviet, several Bolshevik leaders (including Trotsky) were released from prison. • In the end, Kornilov’s troops did not even reach Petrograd as they were stopped by railway workers. LO: Examine the mistakes and weakness of the Provisional Government?
  23. 23. The Bolshevik Red Guard • To defend Petrograd, Kerensky allowed the Bolsheviks to set up a defense force called the Red Guards. • 25,000 Bolsheviks had become armed with rifles and machine guns in a matter of days. • Kornilov’s troops refused to fight fellow workers and Kornilov was arrested. • The Bolsheviks were heroes saving the Provisional Government, how could they by German agents as they were previously accused. • Came away also with an armed fighting force and strengthened positions in Petrograd Soviet. LO: Examine the mistakes and weakness of the Provisional Government?

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