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Was The Provisional Government Doomed From Essay

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History Dissertation
Was the Provisional Government Doomed from the Beginning?
word count: 3999

Josh Blake

Candidate No. 031276977


• Introduction P 3

• Chapter 1: Nature of the Provisional Government
and Structuralist opinions. P 4 – 6

• Chapter 2: Structuralist response P 7 – 8

• Chapter 3: Intentionalist response P 9 – 12

• Conclusion P 13

• Bibliography P 14

• Annotated Bibliography P 15 - 16

Was the Provisional Government doomed from the beginning?

After the February revolution on 1917 which saw the abdication of the Tsar, Russia was in turmoil. It had gone (in a matter of days) from being one of the most repressed countries in the world to being totally free with nobody in any real position of power or authority, and this was a massive change for the population of Russia. As a result of this confusion two bodies were set up to temporarily control Russia until a constituent Assembly could be elected. These two bodies were the Provisional government, (made up of leading Liberal parties, and Kadets), and the Petrograd Soviets (made up of workers, soldiers, socialist revolutionaries, and had both Menshevik and Bolshevik members.) However this reign did not last long as in October of the same year the Bolsheviks seized the Tauride Palace overthrowing the Provisional government (PG) in the name of the Petrograd Soviet. There are many reasons to why the PG did not manage to consolidate its power; primarily there were a lot of internal problems that gave them a big disadvantage. However there were also external pressures from the peasants, workers and the war that the PG could simply not cope with. As historians have studied the question in depth different schools of thought have been established. The Structuralist School believes that the PG was doomed from the beginning, because of the problems they faced such as Dual Power, the War and Order No1; however Darby who is a popular Structuralist historian believes that there was a “window of opportunity.”[1] However they failed to use this to their advantage and it cost them dear in October 1917. On the other hand the Intentionalist school believe that the PG was not in fact doomed from the beginning and collapsed due to outside pressure from the peasants, workers and impact of revolutionary leaders such as Lenin. Lenin’s revolutionary slogans such as “peace, land and bread”[2] shifted the support hugely from the PG to the Bolsheviks and other factors such as the July Days meant Lenin could undermine the PG completely. And gain support for the Bolsheviks.

Chapter1: Nature of the Provisional Government and Structuralist opinions

On the 2nd March 1917 the PG was declared and on the 4th minister’s were appointed. The Petrograd Soviet was also declared as a leading body in Russia and this initial system of Dual Power presented an immediate problem for both groups. Having two Bodies trying to run the same country immediately causes difficulties as there would be disagreements between them. This is exaggerated between the PG and Petrograd Soviet because their views and ideologies are so distinctly different. The PG wanted to contain the revolution, whereas the Soviets wanted to deepen it. John Bradley agrees with this, stating: “The Soviet and the PG although coexisting, would never act in harmony, both preferring to follow separate roads in the pursuit of different goals.”[3] This initial rivalry deepened with the introduction of Order No.1 which was granted to the Soviets. Order No.1 essentially gave the Soviets control of the armed forces in Russia. It states that: armed forces are subordinate to the Petrograd Soviet in all their political actions; and one delegate from each company was to be elected to the Petrograd Soviet. Also all weapons were to remain under the control of company and battalion committees, and in no circumstances to be handed over to officers. This meant that, “the armed forces were disabled from enforcing the PG’s will.”[4] Mosley supports this and states that: “The PG has no real power, troops, railroads; post and telegraph are all in the hands of the Soviet.”[5]

The PG’s liberal nature also played a large role in their lack of effective policies and knowledge. When they were appointed the PG immediately: abolished the secret police; abolished censorship; introduced civil liberties; abolished the death penalty; granted civil rights to soldiers; abolished discrimination based on class or religion; and gave amnesty to political prisoners. All these things (contrary to the PG’s beliefs) were seen to be giving to much freedom to the population, to soon and this had a knock on effect throughout their reign. For example, when the state was threatened during April, July and October they were unwilling to use force. Orlando Figes sees this as a major reason for their downfall: “Intoxicated by their own self image as their heirs of 1789, they were deluded into believing that they could resolve the problems by 1917 by importing western constitutional practices and policies, for which there were no precedents, nor the necessary cultural base in Russia.”[6] The PG had destroyed the original bureaucracy under the Tsar and did not replace it with anything; this resulted in the population not really knowing what they were supporting.

Other aspects that cost the PG dearly were internal problems such as the members within the body. After the abdication of the Tsar on the 2nd March 1917 the population expected the Duma to take control of Russia. The Duma was a secondary government set up by the Tsar in reply to the October Manifesto after the 1905 revolution to keep the population of Russia happy. However as the Tsar Nicholas was still sovereign and there was a chance that he could come back into power the Duma felt they could not establish a leading role over Russia because if the Tsar were to return they could be accused of treason. They were simply trying to save their backs in case this was to...

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