Alexander Kerensky in 1914

Alexander Kerensky was born in Simbirsk, Russia, on 22nd April, 1881. The son of a headmaster, Kerensky studied law at the University of St. Petersburg.

In 1905 Kerensky joined the Socialist Revolutionary Party (SR) and became editor of the radical newspaper, Burevestik. He was soon arrested and sent into exile. He returned to St. Petersburg in 1906 and found work as a lawyer. Over the next few years he developed a reputation for defending radicals in court who had been accused of political offenses.

Kerensky joined the Russian Labour Party and in 1912 was elected to the State Duma. A socialist, Kerensky developed a strong following amongst industrial workers. He also played an important role in the exposure of Roman Malinovsky, one of the leaders of the Bolsheviks, as an undercover agent of the Okhrana.

Alexander Kerensky

1. Was highly critical of Nicholas II and the autocracy.

2. Wanted Russia to have universal suffrage.

3. Wanted the Russian government to allow freedom of expression and an end to political censorship of newspapers and books.

4. Thought Russia should support Serbia against the Triple Alliance.

5. Thought Russia should honour its obligations and support the Triple Entente against the Triple Alliance.

6. As the Russian Army was the largest army in the world he was convinced that Russia would defeat Austria-Hungary and Germany in a war.

Primary Sources

(1) As a student Alexander Kerensky was deeply influenced by the writings of Peter Struve.

One day in the fall of 1902, someone brought into the university the second issue of the weekly publication Osvobozhdeniye (Liberation), which had first been published in Stuttgart the year before and was edited by the young Marxist, Peter Struve. We were amazed and excited, because until that moment we had been completely unaware of the secret work that had been going on since the mid-1890s to organize the movement of which this journal was the official organ, a movement which combined zemstvo liberalism with the ideas of the intellectual, liberal, radical, and socialist circles.

(2) Alexander Kerensky was a young man when the Social Democratic Labour Party was formed. He wrote about his impressions of the party in Russia and History's Turning Point (1965)

The Marxists (Social Democrats) propagated their economic doctrine, which demanded alienation from the bourgeois and petty bourgeois student body and called for the marshaling of all efforts to achieve the victory of the industrial proletariat. Very few of the students sympathies with this idea. To most of us in Russia the exclusive regard for the industrial proletariat and the contemptuous disregard for the peasantry was utterly absurd.