ALEXANDER KERENSKY Biography - Polititians


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Name: Alexander Kerensky                                                             
Born: 4 May 1881 Simbirsk, Imperial Russia                                           
Died: 11 June 1970 New York City                                                     
Alexander Fyodorovich Kerensky (May 4, 1881 – June 11, 1970)                       
served as the second Prime Minister of the Russian Provisional Government until     
Vladimir Lenin was elected by the All-Russian Congress of Soviets following the     
October Revolution.                                                                 
Kerensky, a son of a headmaster, was born in Simbirsk (now Ulyanovsk), the same     
town as Lenin (then Ulyanov). At one point Kerensky's father, Fyodor, had taught     
the young Vladimir Ulyanov at Kazan University. Kerensky graduated with a degree     
in Law from St. Petersburg University in 1904. He showed his political               
allegiances early on, with his frequent defense of anti-Tsarist revolutionaries.     
He was elected to the Fourth Duma in 1912 as a member of the Trudoviks, a           
moderate labor party. A brilliant orator and skilled parliamentary leader, he       
became a member of the Provisional Committee of the Duma as a Socialist             
Revolutionary and a leader of the socialist opposition to the regime of the         
ruling tsar, Nicholas II.                                                           
When the February Revolution broke out in 1917, Kerensky was one of its most         
prominent leaders, and was elected vice-chairman of the Petrograd Soviet. He         
simultaneously became the first Minister of Justice in the newly-formed             
Provisional Government. When the Soviet passed a resolution prohibiting its         
leaders from joining the government, Kerensky delivered a stirring speech at a       
Soviet meeting. Although the decision was never formalized, he was granted a de     
facto exemption and continued acting in both capacities.                             
After the first government crisis over Pavel Milyukov's secret note re-committing   
Russia to its original war aims on May 2-4, Kerensky became the Minister of War     
and the dominant figure in the newly formed socialist-liberal coalition             
government. Under Allied pressure to continue the war, he launched what became       
known as the Kerensky Offensive against the Austro-Hungarian/German South Army       
on June 17, Old Style. At first successful, the offensive was soon stopped and       
then thrown back by a strong counter-attack. The Russian Army suffered heavy         
losses and it was clear - from many incidents of desertion, sabotage, and mutiny     
- that the Russian Army was no longer willing to attack.                             
Kerensky was heavily criticised by the military for his liberal policies, which     
included stripping officers of their mandate (handing overriding control to         
revolutionary inclined "soldier committees" instead), the abolition of the death     
penalty, and the presence of various revolutionary agitators at the front. Many     
officers jokingly referred to commander in chief Kerensky as "persuader in chief".   
On July 2, 1917, the first coalition collapsed over the question of Ukraine's       
autonomy. Following widespread unrest in Petrograd and suppression of the           
Bolsheviks, Kerensky succeeded Prince Lvov as Russia's Prime Minister. Following     
the Kornilov Affair at the end of August and the resignation of the other           
ministers, he appointed himself Supreme Commander-in-Chief as well. He retained     
his other posts in the short-lived Directory in September and the final             
coalition government in October 1917 until it was overthrown by the Bolsheviks.     
Kerensky's major challenge was that Russia was exhausted after three years of       
war, while the provisional government did not offer much motivation for a           
victory outside of continuing Russia's obligations towards its allies.               
Furthermore, Lenin and his Bolshevik party were promising "peace, land, and         
bread" under a communist system. The army was disintegrating due to a lack of       
discipline, which fostered desertion in large numbers.                               
Kerensky and the other political leaders continued their obligation to Russia's     
allies by continuing involvement in World War I - fearing that the economy,         
already under huge stress from the war effort, might become increasingly             
unstable if vital supplies from France and the United Kingdom were to be cut off.   
Some also feared that Germany would demand enormous territorial concessions as       
the price for peace (which indeed happened in the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk). The     
dilemma of whether to withdraw was a great one, and Kerensky's inconsistent and     
impractical policies further destabilized the army and the country at large.         
Furthermore, Kerensky adopted a policy that isolated the right-wing                 
conservatives, both democratic and monarchist-oriented. His philosophy of "no       
enemies to the left" greatly empowered the Bolsheviks and gave them a free hand,     
allowing them to take over the military arm or "voyenka" of the Petrograd and       
Moscow Soviets. His arrest of Kornilov and other officers left him without           
strong allies against the Bolsheviks, who ended up being Kerensky's strongest       
and most determined adversaries, as opposed to the right wing, which evolved         
into the White movement.                                                             
During the Kornilov Coup, Kerensky had distributed arms to the Petrograd workers,   
and by October most of these armed workers had gone over to the Bolsheviks. On       
November 7 [O.S. October 25] 1917 the Bolsheviks launched the second Russian         
revolution of the year. Kerensky's government in Petrograd had almost no support     
in the city. Only one small force, the First Petrograd Women's Battalion, was       
willing to fight for the government against the Bolsheviks, but this force too       
crossed over to the revolution without firing a single shot. It took less than       
20 hours before the Bolsheviks had taken over the government.                       
Kerensky escaped the Bolsheviks and went to Pskov, where he rallied some loyal       
troops for an attempt to retake the capital. His troops managed to capture           
Tsarskoe Selo, but were beaten the next day at Pulkovo. Kerensky narrowly           
escaped, and spent the next few weeks in hiding before fleeing the country,         
eventually arriving in France. During the Russian Civil War he supported neither     
side, as he opposed both the Bolshevik regime and the White Movement.               
Kerensky's grave in London                                                           
Kerensky lived in Paris until 1940, engaged in the endless splits and quarrels       
of the exiled Russian democratic leaders. In 1939, Kerensky married the former       
Australian journalist Lydia ‘Nell' Tritton. When the Germans overran France       
at the start of World War II, they escaped to the United States. Tritton and         
Kerensky married at Martins Creek, Pennsylvania. In 1945, his wife became           
terminally ill. He traveled with her to Brisbane, Australia and lived there with     
her family until her death in February 1946. Thereafter he returned to the           
United States, where he lived for the rest of his life.                             
When Adolf Hitler's forces invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, Kerensky offered       
his support to Stalin, but received no reply. Instead, he made broadcasts in         
Russian in support of the war effort. After the war he organized a group called     
the Union for the Liberation of Russia, but this achieved little support.           
Kerensky eventually settled in New York City, but spent much of his time at the     
Hoover Institution at Stanford University in California, where he both used and     
contributed to the Institution's huge archive on Russian history, and where he       
taught graduate courses. He wrote and broadcast extensively on Russian politics     
and history. His last public speech was delivered at Kalamazoo College, in           
Kalamazoo, Michigan.                                                                 
Kerensky's major works include The Prelude to Bolshevism (1919),                     
The Catastrophe (1927), The Crucifixion of Liberty (1934) and Russia and             
History's Turning Point (1965).                                                     
Kerensky died at his home in New York City in 1970, one of the last surviving       
major participants in the turbulent events of 1917. The local Russian Orthodox       
Churches in New York refused to grant Kerensky burial, seeing him as being a         
freemason and being largely responsible for Russia falling to the Bolsheviks. A     
Serbian Orthodox Church also refused. Kerensky's body was then flown to London       
where he was buried at Putney Vale non-denominational cemetery.