What problems did the Provisional Government face?
After the February Revolution which saw the fall of the Tsar, a Provisional Government was set up. Formed from the Duma or representative assembly, which had existed under the Tsar, the new government was a weak and unstable grouping of politicians trying desperately to gain some control over events. Led initially by Prince Lvov and after July 1917 by Kerensky, the Provisional Government faced the same problems as the Tsar and was unable to offer any effective solutions. From the start it lacked both authority and support.
THE FIRST WORLD WAR
The war was the most pressing problem for the Provisional Government, who took the unpopular decision to continue the campaign against Germany, in the hope that they could turn the tide against the Germans and gain land. They also felt that by honouring the alliance with France and Britain Russia would get important financial support. Kerensky launched a major offensive against the Germans in June but the Russians made no headway and morale started to collapse. Desertions reached worrying levels with over two million soldiers returning home in 1917. This decision to continue the war severely weakened the capacity of the Provisional Government to consolidate its position and deal with the other problems it faced. It also showed just how out of touch the government was with the concerns of those suffering the hardships of war: rank and file soldiers, the industrial workers and the peasantry.
THE PETROGRAD SOVIET
What also weakened the government from the start was its lack of credibility and authority. It had not been elected and had no programme for government. The Petrograd Soviet had a better claim to legitimacy having been formed from representatives of the workers. It then expanded its base to include soldiers. The Soviet had considerable power, with its control over the postal service and railways in Petrograd, to the extent that it was difficult for the Provisional Government to do anything without its support. This point was illustrated by the Petrograd Soviet's Order No. 1, which urged the soldiers to only obey the orders of the Government if they did not contradict its own decrees. Kerensky failed to gain any real level of trust from the Soviet and had little choice but to tolerate it. This system of ' 'dual power' between the Government and the Petrograd Soviet added to the chaos of the situation but neither side was in a position to deal effectively with the other.
THE DECISION TO DELAY THE CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY
One area where the Provisional Government could have gained support was through the calling of a Constituent Assembly or parliament to legitimise its powers and to introduce land reform, but Kerensky delayed the summoning of a Constituent Assembly. Although the rights of peasants to the great landed estates were recognised in principle, the Government was in no position to implement this. The grievances over land had long been a concern to peasants and many were unwilling to wait any longer. Many of those peasants who had deserted the army and returned home had done so in order to seize some land for themselves. The Government's failure to take a lead on reform lost it
valuable support from the peasantry. Disorder spread to the countryside with many landowners finding themselves on the receiving end of the peasants' anger. The Government was clearly unable to control what was happening. LEFT: Alexander Kerensky reviewing the troops in 1917
THE 'JULY DAYS'
For many industrial workers the months following the February Revolution were a time of great excitement and those based in Petrograd and Moscow were quickly becoming not only more radical but also more organised. This development posed a danger for the Provisional Government. Sailors at the naval base of Kronstadt organised their own armed demonstration under Bolshevik slogans such as 'All power to the Soviets' and marched into Petrograd in...
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