Provisional Government

When Nicholas II abdicated on 13th March, a Provisional Government, headed by Prince George Lvov, was formed. Members of the Cabinet included Pavel Milyukov, leader of the Cadet Party, was Foreign Minister, Alexander Guchkov, Minister of War, Alexander Kerensky, Minister of Justice, Mikhail Tereshchenko, a beet-sugar magnate from the Ukraine, became Finance Minister, Alexander Konovalov, a munitions maker, Minister of Trade and Industry, and Peter Struve, Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Ariadna Tyrkova commented: "Prince Lvov had always held aloof from a purely political life. He belonged to no party, and as head of the Government could rise above party issues. Not till later did the four months of his premiership demonstrate the consequences of such aloofness even from that very narrow sphere of political life which in Tsarist Russia was limited to work in the Duma and party activity. Neither a clear, definite, manly programme, nor the ability for firmly and persistently realising certain political problems were to be found in Prince G. Lvov. But these weak points of his character were generally unknown."

Prince George Lvov allowed all political prisoners to return to their homes. Joseph Stalin arrived at Nicholas Station in St. Petersburg with Lev Kamenev on 25th March, 1917. His biographer, Robert Service, has commented: "He was pinched-looking after the long train trip and had visibly aged over the four years in exile. Having gone away a young revolutionary, he was coming back a middle-aged political veteran." He immediately joined the Pravda editorial board.

The Petrograd Soviet recognized the authority of the Provisional Government in return for its willingness to carry out eight measures. This included the full and immediate amnesty for all political prisoners and exiles; freedom of speech, press, assembly, and strikes; the abolition of all class, group and religious restrictions; the election of a Constituent Assembly by universal secret ballot; the substitution of the police by a national militia; democratic elections of officials for municipalities and townships and the retention of the military units that had taken place in the revolution that had overthrown Nicholas II.

When Lenin returned to Russia on 3rd April, 1917, he announced what became known as the April Theses. Lenin attacked Bolsheviks for supporting the Provisional Government. Instead, he argued, revolutionaries should be telling the people of Russia that they should take over the control of the country. In his speech, Lenin urged the peasants to take the land from the rich landlords and the industrial workers to seize the factories. Lenin accused those Bolsheviks who were still supporting the government of Prince Georgi Lvov of betraying socialism and suggested that they should leave the party. Some took Lenin's advice, arguing that any attempt at revolution at this stage was bound to fail and would lead to another repressive, authoritarian Russian government.

Stalin was in a difficult position. As one of the editors of Pravda, he was aware that he was being held partly responsible for what Lenin had described as "betraying socialism". Stalin had two main options open to him: he could oppose Lenin and challenge him for the leadership of the party, or he could change his mind about supporting the Provisional Government and remain loyal to Lenin. After ten days of silence, Stalin made his move. In the newspaper he wrote an article dismissing the idea of working with the Provisional Government. He condemned Alexander Kerensky and Victor Chernov as counter-revolutionaries, and urged the peasants to takeover the land for themselves.

Soon after taking power Pavel Milyukov wrote to all Allied ambassadors describing the situation since the change of government: "Free Russia does not aim at the domination of other nations, or at occupying by force foreign territories. Its aim is not to subjugate or humiliate anyone. In referring to the "penalties and guarantees" essential to a durable peace the Provisional Government had in view reduction of armaments, the establishment of international tribunals, etc." He attempted to maintain the Russian war effort but he was severely undermined by the formation of soldiers' committee that demanded "peace without annexations or indemnities".

As Robert V. Daniels, the author of Red October: The Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 (1967) pointed out: "On the 20th April, Milyukov's note was made public, to the accompaniment of intense popular indignation. One of the Petrograd regiments, stirred up by the speeches of a mathematician who happened to be serving in the ranks, marched to the Marinsky Palace (the seat of the government at the time) to demand Milyukov's resignation." With the encouragement of the Bolsheviks, the crowds marched under the banner, "Down with the Provisional Government".

Ariadna Tyrkova, a member of the Cadets, argued: "A man of rare erudition and of an enormous power for work, Milyukov had numerous adherents and friends, but also not a few enemies. He was considered by many as a doctrinaire on account of the stubbornness of his political views, while his endeavours to effect a compromise for the sake of rallying larger circles to the opposition were blamed as opportunism. As a matter of fact almost identical accusations were showered upon him both from Right and Left. This may partly be explained by the fact that it is easier for Milyukov to grasp an idea than to deal with men, as he is not a good judge of either their psychology or their character."

On 5th May, Pavel Milyukov and Alexander Guchkov, the two most conservative members of the Provisional Government, were forced to resign. Mikhail Tereshchenko replaced Milyukov as Foreign Minister and Alexander Kerensky moved from Justice to the War Ministry, while five Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries from the Soviet stepped into the cabinet to share the problems of the administration.

Kerensky appointed General Alexei Brusilov as the Commander in Chief of the Russian Army. He toured the Eastern Front where he made a series of emotional speeches where he appealed to the troops to continue fighting. On 18th June, Kerensky announced a new war offensive. Encouraged by the Bolsheviks, who favoured peace negotiations, there were demonstrations against Kerensky in Petrograd.

Joseph Stalin, like most Bolsheviks, took the view that the Russian people were not ready for a socialist revolution. He therefore called for conditional support of the Provisional Government, declaring that at this time it "would be utopian to raise the question of a socialist revolution". He also urged policies that would tempt the Mensheviks into forming an alliance. However, he disagreed with Molotov, who was calling for the immediate overthrow of Prince Georgi Lvov. The historian, Isaac Deutscher, has suggested his "middle-of-the-road attitude made him more or less acceptable to both its wings."

The Provisional Government made no real attempt to seek an armistice with the Central Powers. Prince Lvov's unwillingness to withdraw Russia from the First World War made him unpopular with the people and on 8th July, 1917, he resigned and was replaced by Kerensky. Ariadna Tyrkova, a member of the Constitutional Democrat Party, commented: "Kerensky was perhaps the only member of the Government who knew how to deal with the masses, since he instinctively understood the psychology of the mob. Therein lay his power and the main source of his popularity in the streets, in the Soviet, and in the Government."

Kerensky, like George Lvov, was unwilling to end the war. In fact, soon after taking office, he announced a new summer offensive. Soldiers on the Eastern Front were dismayed at the news and regiments began to refuse to move to the front line. There was a rapid increase in the number of men deserting and by the autumn of 1917 an estimated 2 million men had unofficially left the army. Some of these soldiers returned to their homes and used their weapons to seize land from the nobility. Manor houses were burnt down and in some cases wealthy landowners were murdered. Kerensky and the Provisional Government issued warnings but were powerless to stop the redistribution of land in the countryside.

After the failure of the July Offensive on the Eastern Front, Kerensky replaced General Alexei Brusilov with General Lavr Kornilov, as Supreme Commander of the Russian Army. The two men soon clashed about military policy. Kornilov wanted Kerensky to restore the death-penalty for soldiers and to militarize the factories. On 7th September, Kornilov demanded the resignation of the Cabinet and the surrender of all military and civil authority to the Commander in Chief. Kerensky responded by dismissing Kornilov from office and ordering him back to Petrograd.

Kornilov now sent troops under the leadership of General Krymov to take control of Petrograd. Kerensky was now in danger and so he called on the Soviets and the Red Guards to protect Petrograd. The Bolsheviks, who controlled these organizations, agreed to this request, but in a speech made by their leader, Lenin, he made clear they would be fighting against Kornilov rather than for Kerensky. Within a few days Bolsheviks had enlisted 25,000 armed recruits to defend Petrograd. While they dug trenches and fortified the city, delegations of soldiers were sent out to talk to the advancing troops. Meetings were held and Kornilov's troops decided to refuse to attack Petrograd. General Krymov committed suicide and Kornilov was arrested and taken into custody.

Kerensky now became the new Supreme Commander of the Russian Army. His continued support for the war effort made him unpopular in Russia and on 8th October, Kerensky attempted to recover his left-wing support by forming a new coalition that included three Mensheviks and two Socialist Revolutionaries. However, with the Bolsheviks controlling the Soviets, and now able to call on 25,000 armed militia, Kerensky was unable to reassert his authority.

At a conference of the Constitutional Democratic Party on 22nd October, 1917, Pavel Milyukov was severely criticized. Melissa Kirschke Stockdale, the author of Paul Miliukov and the Quest for a Liberal Russia (1996) has argued that delegates "lashed out at Miliukov with unaccustomed ferocity. His travels abroad had made him poorly informed about the public mood, they charged; the patience of the people was exhausted." Miliukov defended his policies by arguing: "It will be our task not to destroy the government, which would only aid anarchy, but to instill in it a completely different content, that is, to build a genuine constitutional order. That is why, in our struggle with the government, despite everything, we must retain a sense of proportion.... To support anarchy in the name of the struggle with the government would be to risk all the political conquests we have made since 1905."

The Cadet party newspaper did not take the Bolshevik challenge seriously: "The best way to free ourselves from Bolshevism would be to entrust its leaders with the fate of the country... The first day of their final triumph would also be the first day of their quick collapse." Leon Trotsky accused Milyukov of being a supporter of General Lavr Kornilov and trying to organize a right-wing coup against the Provisional Government.

Alexander Kerensky later claimed he was in a very difficult position and described Milyukov's supporters as beings Bolsheviks of the Right: "The struggle of the revolutionary Provisional Government with the Bolsheviks of the Right and of the Left... We struggled on two fronts at the same time, and no one will ever be able to deny the undoubted connection between the Bolshevik uprising and the efforts of Reaction to overthrow the Provisional Government and drive the ship of state right onto the shore of social reaction." Kerensky argued that Milyukov was now working closely with General Lavr Kornilov and other right-wing forces to destroy the Provisional Government: "In mid-October, all Kornilov supporters, both military and civilian, were instructed to sabotage government measures to suppress the Bolshevik uprising."

On 24th October Lenin wrote a letter to the members of the Central Committee: "The situation is utterly critical. It is clearer than clear that now, already, putting off the insurrection is equivalent to its death. With all my strength I wish to convince my comrades that now everything is hanging by a hair, that on the agenda now are questions that are decided not by conferences, not by congresses (not even congresses of soviets), but exclusively by populations, by the mass, by the struggle of armed masses… No matter what may happen, this very evening, this very night, the government must be arrested, the junior officers guarding them must be disarmed, and so on… History will not forgive revolutionaries for delay, when they can win today (and probably will win today), but risk losing a great deal tomorrow, risk losing everything."

On the evening of 24th October, orders were given for the Bolsheviks to occupy the railway stations, the telephone exchange and the State Bank. The following day the Red Guards surrounded the Winter Palace. Inside was most of the country's Cabinet, although Kerensky had managed to escape from the city. The Winter Palace was defended by Cossacks, some junior army officers and the Woman's Battalion. At 9 p.m. the Aurora and the Peter and Paul Fortress began to open fire on the palace. Little damage was done but the action persuaded most of those defending the building to surrender. The Red Guards, led by Vladimir Antonov-Ovseenko, now entered the Winter Palace and arrested the Cabinet ministers. On 26th October, 1917, the All-Russian Congress of Soviets met and handed over power to the Soviet Council of People's Commissars.

Primary Sources


(1) Robert Bruce Lockhart, report sent to the British government (27th March, 1917)

So far the people of Moscow have behaved with exemplary restraint. For the moment, only enthusiasm prevails, and the struggle which is almost bound to ensure between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat has not yet made its bitterness felt.

The Socialist Party is at present divided into two groups: the Social Democrats and Soviet Revolutionaries. The activities of the first named are employed almost entirely among the work people, while the Social Revolutionaries work mainly among the peasantry.

The Social Democrats, who are the largest party, are, however, divided into two groups known as the Bolsheviki and the Mensheviki. The bolsheviki are the more extreme party. They are at heart anti-war. In Moscow at any rate the Mensheviki represent today the majority and are more favourable to the war.

(2) Harold Williams, Daily Chronicle (17th March, 1917)

The composition of the new government is extraordinarily moderate in the circumstances. There has been, and still is, danger from extremists, who want at once to turn Russia into a Socialist republic and have been agitating amongst soldiers, but reason has been reinforced by a sense of danger from the Germans and the lingering forces of reaction gaining the upper hand.

In numberless talks I have had with soldiers I have been struck by their fundamental reasonableness, their sense of order and discipline. They wish to be free men, but very strongly realize their duty as soldiers. The more moderate Socialists, the so-called Plekhanov party, who stand for war, are very useful as mediators, and as soon as the new Government secures its ground the influence of the extremists will be diminished.

(3) John Reed, Ten Days That Shook the World (1919)

The policy of the Provisional Government alternated between ineffective reforms and stern repressive measures. An edict from the Socialist Minister of Labour ordered all the Workers' Committees henceforth to meet only after working hours. Among the troops at the front, 'agitators' of opposition political parties were arrested, radical newspapers closed down, and capital punishment applied - to revolutionary propagandists. Attempts were made to disarm the Red Guard. Cossacks were spent order in the provinces.

In September 1917, matters reached a crisis. Against the overwhelming sentiment of the country, Kerensky and the 'moderate' Socialists succeeded in establishing a Government of Coalition with the propertied classes; and as a result, the Mensheviki and Socialist Revolutionaries lost the confidence of the people for ever.

Week by week food became scarcer. The daily allowance of bread fell from a pound and a half to a pound, than three-quarters, half, and a quarter-pound. Towards the end there was a week without any bread at all. Sugar one was entitled to at the rate of two pounds a month - if one could get it at all, which was seldom. A bar of chocolate or a pound of tasteless candy cost anywhere from seven to ten roubles - at least a dollar. For milk and bread and sugar and tobacco one had to stand in queue. Coming home from an all-night meeting I have seen the tail beginning to form before dawn, mostly women, some babies in their arms.

(4) Statement issued by the Petrograd Soviet (9th April, 1917)

We are appealing to our brother proletarians of the Austro-German coalition. The Russian Revolution will not retreat before the bayonets of conquerors and will not allow itself to be crushed by military force. But we are calling to you, throw off your yoke of your semi-autocratic rule as the Russian people have shaken off the Tsar's and then by our united efforts we will stop the horrible butchery which is disgracing humanity and is beclouding the great days of the birth of Russian freedom. Proletarians of all countries unite.

(5) Maxim Gorky, letter to his son (April, 1917)

Remember, the revolution just began, it will last for a long time. We won not because we are strong, but because the government was weak. We have made a political revolution and have to reinforce our conquest. I am a social democrat, but I am saying and will continue to say, that the time has not come for socialist-style reforms. The new government has inherited not a state but its ruins.

(6) Pavel Milyukov, Foreign Minister of the Provisional Government, letter sent to all Allied ambassadors (18th April, 1917)

Free Russia does not aim at the domination of other nations, or at occupying by force foreign territories. Its aim is not to subjugate or humiliate anyone. In referring to the "penalties and guarantees" essential to a durable peace the Provisional Government had in view reduction of armaments, the establishment of international tribunals, etc.

(7) Harold Williams, Daily Chronicle (22nd March, 1917)

Kerensky is a young man in his early thirties, of medium height, with a slight stoop, and a quick, alert movement, with brownish hair brushed straight up, a broad forehead already lined, a sharp nose, and bright, keen eyes, with a certain puffiness in the lids due to want of sleep, and a pale, nervous face tapering sharply to the chin. His whole bearing was that of a man who could control masses.

He was dressed in a grey, rather worn suit, with a pencil sticking out of his breast pocket. He greeted us with a very pleasant smile, and his manner was simplicity itself. He led us into his study, and there we talked for an hour. We discussed the situation thoroughly, and I got the impression that Kerensky was not only a convinced and enthusiastic democrat, ready to sacrifice his life if need be for democracy - that I already knew from previous acquaintance - but that he had a clear, broad perception of the difficulties and dangers of the situation, and was preparing to meet them.

(8) E. H. Wilcox was very impressed with Alexander Kerensky and praised him in his book, Russia's Ruin (1919)

Kerensky became the personification of everything that was good and noble in Russia. He was no longer the leader of the political Party, but the prophet of a new faith, the high priest of a new doctrine, which were to embrace all Russia, all mankind. Whatever he may have been before or after, during this dazzling and intoxicating interlude he had in him true elements of greatness.

(9) Robert Wilton, The Times (19th March, 1917)

I regret to have to say that some students of both sexes are blindly cooperating in this anarchistic propaganda. However, today the outlook is distinctly more hopeful and it is possible that a breach between the extremists and the moderates may be avoided, both agreeing to support the present Temporary Government until a Constituent Assembly decides the fate of Russia by the votes of all her 170 million people. The organization of this gigantic general election will naturally take time.

(10) General Peter Wrangel went to St. Petersburg after the February Revolution and the creation of the Provisional Government.

The first thing I noticed in Petersburg was the profusion of red ribbon. Everyone was decorated with it, not only soldiers, but students, chauffeurs, cab-drivers, middle-class folk, women, children, and many officers. Men of some account, such as old generals and former aides-de-camp to the Tsar, wore it too.

I expressed my astonishment to an old comrade of mine at seeing him thus adorned. He tried to laugh it off, and said jokingly: "Why, my dear fellow, don't you know that it's the latest fashion?"

I considered this ridiculous adornment absolutely useless. Throughout my stay in the capital I wore the Tsarevich's badge, the distinguishing mark of my old regiment, on my epaulettes, and, of course, I wore no red rag.

(11) Albert Rhys Williams described the arrival of troops to put down the Bolshevik uprising in July, 1917, in his book, Through the Russian Revolution.

On the third day the troops arrive. Bicycle battalions, the reserve regiments, and then the long grim lines of horsemen, the sun glancing on the tips of their lances. They are the Cossacks, ancient foes of the revolutionists, bring dread to the workers and the joy to the bourgeoisie. The avenues are filled now with well-dressed throngs cheering the Cossacks, crying "Shoot the rabble". "String up the Bolsheviks".

A wave of reaction runs through the city. Insurgent regiments are disarmed. The death penalty is restored. The Bolshevik papers are suppressed. Forged documents attesting the Bolsheviks as German agents are handled to the press. Leaders like Trotsky and Kollontai are thrown into prison. Lenin and Zinoviev are driven into hiding. In all quarters sudden seizures, assaults and murder of workingmen.

(12) In his book, My Reminiscences of the Russian Revolution (1969), Morgan Philips Price described the demonstrations that took place in Russia on 1st May, 1917.

I do not think I ever saw a more impressive spectacle than on this occasion. It was not merely a labour demonstration, although every socialist party and workmen's union in Russia was represented there, from anarcho-syndicalists to the most moderate of the middle-class democrats. It was not merely an international demonstration, although every nationality of what had been the Russian Empire was represented there with its flag and inscription in some rare, strange tongue, from the Baltic Finns to the Tunguses of Siberia. The First of May celebration, 1917, in Petrograd and throughout the length and breadth of Russia was really a great religious festival, in which the whole human race was invited to commemorate the brotherhood of man. Revolutionary Russia had a message to the world, and was telling it across the roar of the cannons and the din of battle.

(13) Edward T. Heald, letter to his wife (2nd May, 1917)

The sudden burst of radical propaganda, which has developed during the past week, is attributed to a man named Lenin who has just arrived from Switzerland. He came through Germany, and rumour is that he was banqueted by Emperor Wilhelm. As he entered the country through Finland, he harangued the soldiers and workingmen along the way with the most revolutionary propaganda. One of the Americans who came through on the same train told us how disheartening it was. Lenin's first words when he got off the train at Petrograd were "Hail to the Civil war." God knows what a task the Provisional Government has on hand without adding the trouble that such a firebrand can create.

(14) Arthur Ransome was in Russia during the October Revolution.

Before the end of August it was obvious that there would be a Bolshevik majority in the Soviets that would be reflected in the composition of the Executive Committee. During the 'July Days' the weakness of the Government had been manifest. Kerensky had been weakened by the double failure, military and diplomatic, disasters in Galicia and failure to bring the warring powers together in conference at Stockholm. Both these failures had brought new strength to the Bolsheviks, and a swing to the left was inevitable.

(15) Alfred Knox believed that Alexander Kerensky was a vital member of the Provisional Government.

There is only one man who can save the country, and that is Kerensky, for this little half-Jew lawyer has still the confidence of the over-articulate Petrograd mob, who, being armed, are masters of the situation. The remaining members of the Government may represent the people of Russia outside the Petrograd mob, but the people of Russia, being unarmed and inarticulate, do not count. The Provisional Government could not exist in Petrograd if it were not for Kerensky.

(16) Morgan Philips Price, My Three Revolutions (1969)

The fall of Miliukov caused Prince Lvov to reconstruct the Provisional Government. A coalition government was formed of moderate Socialists from the Soviet and seven Liberals. The Socialists were Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries. The Liberals were from the Cadets and other groups. Kerensky became War Minister. He was a lawyer who made a great name for himself in defending victims of Tsarist oppression and was generally very popular. The Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries believed that at that stage of the Revolution the workers and soldiers of the Army were unable to run the country alone and needed the co-operation of the middle-class Liberals.

(17) Alfred Knox, diary entry (20th July, 1917)

Events have moved with dramatic quickness. Kerensky returned from the front last night and, in a stormy meeting of the Ministry, demanded dictatorial powers in order to bring the army back to discipline. The socialists disagreed. Lvov and Tereshchenko did their utmost to reconcile the diverging views. While addressing the men he was handed a telegram telling him of the disaster on the South-West Front, where the Germans have broken through. He took back the telegram to the Ministerial Council and the attitude changed. Lvov has resigned and Kerensky will be Prime Minister and Minister of War.

(18) In her book The Red Heart of Russia (1919), Bessie Beatty described how the Russian people left their factories in order to defend the Bolshevik Revolution from the threatened attack by troops led by Alexander Kerensky.

The factory gates opened wide, and the amazing army of the Red Guard, ununiformed, untrained, and certainly unequipped for battle with the traditional backbone of the Russian military, marched away to defend the revolutionary capital and the victory of the proletariat. Women walked by the side of men, and small boys tagged along on the fringes of the procession. Some of the factory girls wore red crosses upon the sleeves of their thin jackets, and packed a meague kitbag of bandages and first-aid accessories. Most of them carried shovels with which to did trenches.

(19) Robert V. Daniels, Red October: The Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 (1967)

Monday September 25 saw a crystallization of leadership on both sides, government and revolutionary. Kerensky was finally able to announce the formation of a new provisional cabinet, more than half new men, largely from the Kadets and other moderate groups, plus three Mensheviks and two SRs. The same day the Petrograd Soviet resumed business, now that its leaders were no longer involved in the Democratic Conference, and finally elected a new Executive Committee to replace the body that had resigned September 9. The results, reflecting six months of revolutionary upsurge, were as follows: Workers' Section -Bolsheviks, 13; SRs, 6; Mensheviks, 3; Soldiers' Section-Bolsheviks, 9; SRs, 10; Mensheviks, 3. Bolsheviks held exactly half the total, and with the support of the left-wingers among the SRs, had a good working majority. The first step of the new majority was to install Trotsky as chairman of the soviet. (A week or two later the Soldiers' Section elected as its leader Andrei Sadovsky, an activist of the Bolshevik Military Organization.) Predictably the soviet passed a resolution offered by Trotsky condemning the counterrevolutionary nature of Kerensky's new coalition cabinet, and calling on the masses to struggle through the soviets for revolutionary power.

(20) Alexander Kerensky, order issued on 24th October, 1917.

I order all military units and detachments to remain in their barracks until further orders from the Staff of the Military District. All officers who act without orders from their superiors will be court-martialed for mutiny. I forbid absolutely any execution by soldiers of instructions from other organizations.

(21) During the summer of 1917 George Buchanan became concerned about the survival of the Provisional Government.

The Russian idea of liberty is to take things easily, to claim double wages, to demonstrate in the streets, and to waste time in talking and in passing resolutions at public meetings. Ministers are working themselves to death, and have the best intentions; but, though I am always being told that their position is becoming stronger, I see no signs of their asserting their authority. The Soviet continues to act as if it were the Government.

The military outlook is most discouraging. Nor do I take an optimistic view of the immediate future of the country. Russia is not ripe for a purely democratic form of government, and for the next few years we shall probably see a series of revolutions or counter-revolutions. A vast Empire like this, with all its different races, will not long hold together under a Republic. Disintegration will, in my opinion, sooner or later set in, even under a federal system.

(22) Alexander Kerensky, speech made at the Council of the Republic ( 24th October, 1917)

I will cite here the most characteristic passage from a whole series of articles published in Rabochi Put by Lenin, a state criminal who is in hiding and whom we are trying to find. This state criminal has invited the proletariat and the Petrograd garrison to repeat the experience of 16-18 July, and insists upon the immediate necessity for an armed rising. Moreover, other Bolshevik leaders have taken the floor in a series of meetings, and also made an appeal to immediate insurrection. Particularly should be noticed the activity of the present president of the Petrograd Soviet, Trotsky.

The policy of the Bolsheviki is demagogic and criminal, in their exploitation of the popular discontent. But there is a whole series of popular demands which have received no satisfaction up to now. The question of peace, land, and the democratization of the army ought to be stated in such a fashion that no soldier, peasant, or worker would have the least doubt that our Government is attempting, firmly and infallibly, to solve them.

The Provisional Government has never violated the liberty of all citizens of the State to use their political rights. But now the Provisional Government declares, in this moment those elements of the Russian nation, those groups and parties who have dared to lift their hands against the free will of the Russian people, at the same time threatening to open the front to Germany, must be liquidated.

(23) Nikolai Sukhanov, The Russian Revolution of 1917 (1922)

Antonov-Ovseenko's plan was accepted. It consisted in occupying first of all those parts of the city adjoining the Finland Station: the Vyborg Side, the outskirts of the Petersburg Side, etc. Together with the units arriving from Finland it would then be possible to launch an offensive against the centre of the capital.

Beginning at 2 in the morning the stations, bridges, lighting installations, telegraphs, and telegraphic agency were gradually occupied by small forces brought from the barracks. The little groups of cadets could not resist and didn't think of it. In general the military operations in the politically important centres of the city rather resembled a changing of the guard. The weaker defence force, of cadets retired; and a strengthened defence force, of Red Guards, took its place.

(24) Pavel Manlyantovich was Minister of Justice in the Provisional Government. He was arrested by Vladimir Antonov-Ovseenko and the Red Guards on 25th October, 1917. He later wrote about the incident in his book, In the Winter Palace (1918)

There was a noise behind the door and it burst open like a splinter of wood thrown out by a wave, a little man flew into the room, pushed in by the onrushing crowd which poured in after him, like water, at once spilled into every corner and filled the room.

"Where are the members of the Provisional Government?"

"The Provisional Government is here," said Kornovalov, remaining seated."What do you want?"

"I inform you, all of you, members of the Provisional Government, that you are under arrest. I am Antonov-Ovseenko, chairman of the Military Revolutionary Committee."

"Run them through, the sons of bitches! Why waste time with them? They've drunk enough of our blood!" yelled a short sailor, stamping the floor with his rifle."

There were sympathetic replies: "What the devil, comrades! Stick them all on bayonets, make short work of them!"

Antonov-Ovseenko raised his head and shouted sharply: "Comrades, keep calm!" All members of the Provisional Government are arrested. They will be imprisoned in the Fortress of St. Peter and St. Paul. I'll permit no violence. Conduct yourself calmly. Maintain order! Power is now in your hands. You must maintain order!"