Russian Revolution:Provisional Government


A Brief

After the Dumas come to power a Provisional Government was formed which lasted for only eight months. The key mistake done by this Provincial Government was to carry on with the war. The idea of continuing war proved to be disastrous because it faced threat from the Bolshevik Communists. Bolshevik Communists were executing their plans through the Soviet people and the plan was to bring down the government.

The February Revolution of March 1917 was a wide spread and popular rebellion which brought the active middle class to power. The Duma took over the power and set up a ‘Provisional Government’ which consisted of an interim 12 man executive committee headed by Alexander Kerensky.  Even though they faced many problems to run the government, it was a modest government which tried to rule Russia in a not so revolutionary manner.

Events in the Provisional Government

It was an eventful eight months for the Provisional Government.

  • In the month of March the government faced huge problems like starvation, price rise, peasant unrests, war, and Tsarist and Bolshevik revolutionaries.
  • The Petrograd Soviet issued a directive which demanded that the workers and soldiers should obey the interim government only after approval from the Soviet.
  • But Soviets were controlled by the Mensheviks, who were the reasonable communists.  So there was fairly goo d support for the government.
  • In April, Bolshevik leader Lenin was brought back into Russia by the German government and he published his manifesto called the “April Theses”.
  • Russia’s military offensive against Austria miserably failed in June.
  • In July, the Bolshevik’s riots called July Days were defeated but the Bolshevik Party, which had extremists’ views, was not banned.
  • In August General Kornilov revolted against the Bolshevik’s but was defeated by them.
  • In September, the Bolsheviks took control of Petrograd Soviet and Leon Trotsky became its President.
  • In November Bolshevik Revolution happened.

The Main Issues of the Provisional Government

There were many issues with the provisional government.

  • The Petrograd Soviet was powerful and they built a nation-wide network of Soviets which took order from them.
  • The order number no 1 prohibited soldiers and workers to listen to the provisional Government’s order unless the Soviet agreed.
  • Inflation and starvation never ended because the war did not come to an end and people stayed hungry and angry.
  • Peasants and farmers took over the aristocrat’s land.
  • The Provincial government continued with the wars. It tried to attack Austria. But they were soon defeated.
  • Soldiers began to leave the army and there was a mutiny in the navy.
  • Bolshevik leader Lenin retuned to Russia and brought out his plans for Russia called ‘April Theses’. It meant Peace, Bread and Land for the people and they tried to take command of the government by rioting in ‘July Days’.
  • Kornilov started a right wing group and tried doing a pro-Tsar army coup in the month of August1917 which kept the provisional government under attack.

Actions Taken/Not Taken on the Issues

In some cases action were taken and in some other aspects nothing could be done

  • The Provisional government did not do a thing to end inflation or food shortage
  • The provisional government did nothing to try and end the power of the Soviets.
  • In case of attack on Austria even though there was some initial success for the Russians, the Germans moved in full force and defeated the Russian.
  • Land usurp by the peasants was thwarted by sending troops which created chaos in the countryside and made the peasants very angry.
  • The Provisional Government set up a ‘death squad’ which executed the soldiers who deserted the army.
  • The Provisional government permitted freedom of speech and the press and freed political detainees.
  • After July days the government arrested the leaders but let the Bolshevik Party continue. This move by the government actually helped the Bolsheviks.
  • The provisional government could not control the army and had to ask Bolsheviks to help them when the coup took place.

A Weak Provisional Government

After the February Revolution, in October when the deserters were being killed, there was actually more deserting and the land lords were being killed and their lands were taken. By getting the help of Bolsheviks during the coup they thought that was the right opportunity for the Bolsheviks to show the people that the provisional government was weak and Bolsheviks became popular and took control of the Soviets.

Right from the beginning the Provisional Government was weak. There were many political groups that were trying to control this government. So it was difficult to reach upon a consensus on many issues. This government was unwilling to take firm decisions and they were waiting until the new government was formed. Crucial matters like redistribution of land to the peasants were kept in abeyance.  As already mentioned in spite of its weakness it still wanted to wage war and annexe places. The Petrograd on the other hand were well organised and knew what they wanted and had a clear plan to achieve it. So they finally won over the people and the government.