top of page
Inter-Revolutionary Events

Modern History (Year 12) - Internal Divisions and Crises

Ben Whitten

Weaknesses of the Provisional Government


Establishment of Provisional Government


  • The Provisional Government was formed on March 1st, 1917 following the February Revolution – it meant to be a temporary body that would govern Russia in place of the Tsar until elections

  • The Provisional Government was unelected unlike the Petrograd Soviet – many saw it as a dictatorial body of upper-class citizens

  • Elections were delayed and the Provisional Government was in power until later in the year

  • The Provisional Government took major decisions – Russia continued its military action in WWI and land reforms were postponed – both rulings greatly affected Russians

  • This made the government increasingly unpopular and provided ammunition for revolutionaries who called for its dissolution


Establishment of the Soviets


  • The Soviets were councils elected by workers, soldiers and sailors

  • After the February Revolution, the first Soviet appeared in Petrograd – soon Soviets had been elected in Moscow and other cities

  • They were usually chaotic, rowdy and disorganised – but they were elected unlike the Provisional Government

  • Lenin declared “all power to the Soviets” implying that the Soviets should govern Russia in place of the Provisional Government – this became an extremely effective Bolshevik rallying cry


Dual Power


  • The existence of both the Provisional Government and the Petrograd Soviet meant that power was shared – the Petrograd Soviet accepted that the Provisional Government would make decisions for Russia until elections could be held

  • The existence of two political bodies increased potential for political disagreement – this was especially the case as the two bodies held polar views

  • The Provisional Government consisted of Octoberists and Kadets – they only wanted moderate changes to the government of Russia

  • The Petrograd Soviet was made up of Social Revolutionaries and Mensheviks – they wanted to give power to the working classes


Economic Problems


  • Economic difficulties had played a major role in Nicholas II’s fall from power – the Provisional Government had very limited success in dealing with these problems

  • The price of goods continued to increase

  • Food was in short supply

  • Fuel shortages made living conditions unbearable, especially during harsh Russian winter

  • The government could not guarantee enough grain, ammunition or weapons for troops fighting in the war

  • The government did not try to solve the land issue in the countryside and the desire of peasants for more control of land was not met

  • As a result, seizures of land from landowners became widespread

  • The continuing economic crisis discredited the Provisional Government and strengthened the appeal of the Bolsheviks


Continuation of the War

  • The Russian people wanted the war to come to an end, however the Provisional Government decided to continue Russia’s involvement – they feared that foreign investment from Britain and France would cease in the event of a Russian withdrawal

  • In March 1917, the Petrograd Soviet declared that it would no longer support an offensive war against Germany


The June Offensive


  • The Provisional Government persisted with military campaigns

  • Alexander Kerensky, Minister of War, ordered the June Offensive of 1917, an attempt to push the Austrians back

  • This failed and contributed to protests during July

  • The morale of the army declined further and there were huge increases in the level of desertions

  • The Soldiers became more receptive to Bolshevik propaganda and the loyal of a number of units to the Provisional Government was now uncertain


The Petrograd Soviet


The July Days


  • Following the failure of the June Offensive morale in the army fell rapidly – increasing number of soldiers deserted and other lost their loyalty to the government

  • Shortages continued and there was widespread unrest in Petrograd between the 3rd and 6th of July

  • Sailors from Kronstadt protested in the city, soldiers joined them – soon thousands of protesters awaited instructions from the Petrograd Soviet and the Bolsheviks

  • There was little in the form of direction from Socialist Revolutionaries – Lenin did not take advantage of the situation, perhaps because only small numbers of soldiers and sailors actively supported the Bolsheviks

  • The uprising was suppressed by loyal troops who were brought in by the Provisional Government

  • A number of Bolshevik leaders, including Trotsky, were arrested – Lenin fled to Finland


The Kornilov Revolt


  • In August 1917, Lavr Kornilov, a Russian General, made an attempt to seize power for himself

  • His army advanced on Petrograd – the Provisional Government, now under the leadership of Alexander Kerensky, seemed powerless to stop him

  • Kerensky called on the Petrograd Soviet to defend the city – this meant arming the Soviet, a move that would not be easy to reverse

  • Under Trotsky’s direction, the Red Guards organised the defence of the city – Bolshevik agents infiltrated Kornilov’s troops and encouraged them to desert

  • The Bolsheviks also organised strikes by railway workers, disrupting Kornilov’s supplies and communications

  • By the end of the month, Kornilov had been relieved of his command and put under arrest

  • An important result of the Kornilov Revolt was a marked increase in support for the Bolsheviks – they were seen to have saved the revolution from a loyal Tsarist general

  • -  By September, the Bolsheviks had gained control of the Petrograd Soviet

bottom of page