In 1905 Tsar Nicholas II faced a series of domestic problems that became known as the 1905 Revolution. This included Bloody Sunday, the Potemkin Mutiny and a series of strikes that led to the establishment of the St. Petersburg Soviet. Over the next few weeks over 50 of these soviets were formed all over Russia.
Sergi Witte, the new Chief Minister, advised Nicholas II to make concessions. He eventually agreed and published the October Manifesto. This granted freedom of conscience, speech, meeting and association. He also promised that in future people would not be imprisoned without trial. Finally he announced that no law would become operative without the approval of a new organization called the Duma.
Pavel Milyukov, who had been living in exile, decided to return to Russia and establish a new political party, the Constitutional Democratic Party (Cadets) in October 1905. Members included George Lvov, Ariadna Tyrkova, Peter Struve, Sofia Panina, Vladimir Dmitrievich Nabokov, Nikolai Nekrasov, Sergey Oldenburg, Alexander Kornilov, Nikolay Gredeskul, Vasily Maklakov and Vladimir Vernadsky. The Cadets demanded universal suffrage and a Constituent Assembly that would determine the country's form of government.
The American journalist, Louise Bryant, commented: "The Cadet party is the party of the propertied classes; it has no force of arms and no great mass of people. At one time the only accredited legal party which stood for fairness and reform, as the revolution progressed it lost in influence and fell rapidly into ill repute." Catherine Breshkovskaya agreed: "As regards our capitalists, great and small, I must tell you that upon them rests a great, bloody sin. I am impartial - you know the class I come from - I repeat our enemy at home is just this merchant and capitalist class."
Marie Spirodonova, a member of the Left Socialist Revolutionary Party, also dismissed the Constitutional Democratic Party as an important political force: "It is impossible at the present moment to be anything more reactionary than a Cadet. The reason is simple. No one dares to come out openly in favour of a monarchy or to say he is hostile to Socialism, so naturally all these people hide behind the Cadet party-claim to be Cadets, although they are not actually members and they do their best to destroy it. That is why the party that was once an honest, liberal party has become the Black Hundred organisation - hated and despised."
The Cadets won over 30% of the seats in the First State Duma in February 1906. The first meeting of the Duma took place in May 1906. Several changes in the composition of the Duma had been altered since the publication of the October Manifesto. Tsar Nicholas II had also created a State Council, an upper chamber, of which he would nominate half its members. He also retained for himself the right to declare war, to control the Orthodox Church and to dissolve the Duma. The Tsar also had the power to appoint and dismiss ministers. Under Milyukov's leadership, the party criticized this restriction of freedom.
The First Duma had a left majority consisting of Cadets, Socialist-Revolutionaries, Mensheviks, Bolsheviks, Octobrists. At their first meeting, members of the Duma put forward a series of demands including the release of political prisoners, trade union rights and land reform. Nicholas II rejected all these proposals and dissolved the Duma in July, 1906. As a result Pavel Milyukov drafted the Vyborg Manifesto. In the manifesto, Milyukov called for passive resistance, non-payment of taxes and draft avoidance.
Elections for the Second Duma took place in 1907. The Tsar's chief minister, Peter Stolypin, used his powers to exclude large numbers from voting. This reduced the influence of the left but when the Second Duma convened in February, 1907, it still included a large number of reformers. After three months of heated debate, Nicholas II closed down the Duma on the 16th June, 1907.
Stolypin now made changes to the electoral law. This excluded national minorities and dramatically reduced the number of people who could vote in Poland, Siberia, the Caucasus and in Central Asia. The new electoral law also gave better representation to the nobility and gave greater power to the large landowners to the detriment of the peasants. Changes were also made to the voting in towns and now those owning their own homes elected over half the urban deputies.
The Third Duma met on 14th November 1907. The former coalition of Socialist-Revolutionaries, Mensheviks, Bolsheviks, Octobrists and Constitutional Democrat Party, were now outnumbered by the reactionaries and the nationalists. Unlike the previous Dumas, this one ran its full-term of five years.
On the outbreak of the First World War the Cadet leader, Pavel Milyukov began promoting patriotic policies of national defense, insisting his younger son volunteer for the army (he was later killed on the Eastern Front). In 1914 the Russian Army was the largest army in the world. However, Russia's poor roads and railways made the effective deployment of these soldiers difficult. By December, 1914, the army had 6,553,000 men. However, they only had 4,652,000 rifles. Untrained troops were ordered into battle without adequate arms or ammunition. In 1915 Russia suffered over 2 million casualties and lost Kurland, Lithuania and much of Belorussia. Agricultural production slumped and civilians had to endure serious food shortages.
In September 1915, Nicholas II replaced Grand Duke Nikolai as supreme commander of the Russian Army fighting on the Eastern Front. This failed to change the fortunes of the armed forces and by the end of the year there were conscription riots in several cities. Milyukov and other Cadet leaders now began criticizing the government for its inefficiency.
General Alexei Brusilov, commander of the Russian Army in the South West, led an offensive against the Austro-Hungarian Army in June, 1916. Initially Brusilov achieved considerable success and in the first two weeks his forces advanced 80km and captured 200,000 prisoners. The German Army sent reinforcements to help their allies and gradually the Russians were pushed back. When the offensive was called to a halt in the autumn of 1916, the Russian Army had lost almost a million men.
On 26th February Nicholas II ordered the Duma to close down. Members refused and they continued to meet and discuss what they should do. Michael Rodzianko, President of the Duma, sent a telegram to the Tsar suggesting that he appoint a new government led by someone who had the confidence of the people. When the Tsar did not reply, the Duma nominated a Provisional Government headed by Prince George Lvov, a member of the Cadet Party. Pavel Milyukov was appointed Foreign Minister and Peter Struve, Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Prince 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.
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, 1917, Milyukov was forced to resign. He was now unpopular with the party and at a conference on 22nd October, 1917, he 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 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.
The Constitutional Democratic Party only won 17 seats in the Constituent Assembly in November, 1917. The election was won by the Socialist Revolutionaries. The Bolsheviks were bitterly disappointed with the result as they hoped it would legitimize the October Revolution. When it opened on 5th January, 1918, Victor Chernov, leader of the Socialist Revolutionaries, was elected President. When the Assembly refused to support the programme of the new Soviet Government, the Bolsheviks walked out in protest. Later that day, Lenin announced that the Constituent Assembly had been dissolved. Soon afterwards all opposition political groups were banned in Russia.
Ariadna Tyrkova and her husband, Harold Williams, now fled the country. The following year she published her account of the Russian Revolution in her book, From Liberty to Brest-Litovsk (1918). In 1919 she returned to Russia as a supporter of the White Army in the Russian Civil War. She had now moved to the far-right and had completely rejected the idea of democracy. She wrote: "We must support the army first and place the democratic programs in the background. We must create a ruling class and not a dictatorship of the majority. The universal hegemony of Western democracy is a fraud, which politicians have foisted upon us. We must have the courage to look directly into the eye of the wild beast -- which is called the people."
After the Russian Revolution most members of the Constitutional Democratic Party supported the White Army in the Russian Civil War. The Red Army victory forced most of its leaders into exile. Most of its leaders now moved to the far-right and had completely rejected the idea of democracy. Ariadna Tyrkova wrote: "We must support the army first and place the democratic programs in the background. We must create a ruling class and not a dictatorship of the majority. The universal hegemony of Western democracy is a fraud, which politicians have foisted upon us. We must have the courage to look directly into the eye of the wild beast -- which is called the people."
At the head of the Government stood Prince George Lvov. He was known to all Russia as a Zemstvo worker, as the President of the Zemstvo Union. This organisation, which united all the provincial Zemstvos (local government councils), came into being during the war and rendered important services in the task of caring for the sick and wounded soldiers. 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.
All rejoiced at having got rid of mercenary, dishonest nonentities, like the Ministers Sukhomlinov or Protopopov, and were glad to see an irreproachably honest patriot, such as Prince G. Lvov always was and will be, placed at last at the head of the Russian Government. Among the members of the Government Paul Milyukov was the one who possessed the most strongly marked political individuality. He was a historian, and his works on the history of Russian culture are still looked upon as leading studies in the subject. But his academic career was soon ended. The Tsar’s Government regarded P.N. Milyukov with great suspicion, and he was forbidden to lecture or to reside in university towns. He himself gradually abandoned scientific research and gave himself up to politics, preferring to make history rather than to study it. Milyukov took an energetic part in the Constitutional movement, when it still bore a conspirative character (before the Treaty of Portsmouth), and after the first revolution in 1905 became one of the leaders of the newly formed Constitutional-Democratic (Cadet) party.
He became the leader of the opposition in the Third and Fourth Dumas, and his speeches caused far greater irritation in Government circles than did the sharper but narrowly Socialistic speeches of the extreme Left orators.
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.
Not merely able but honest and courageous, he was one of the first who in the days of boundless revolutionary dreams and raptures uttered warnings against the dangers lurking on all sides, and even had the temerity to declare aloud that it would be better to settle on a constitutional monarchy, without being carried away by the idea of a republic which Russia as yet was incapable of realising.
These words, as well as his persistent and constant reminder that Russia would become free and powerful if only she, together with her Allies, succeeded in completely defeating Germany, gave Milyukov’s enemies the opportunity of raising a campaign against him from the very outset. He also added strength to the enemy’s position by emphasizing in his statement of war aims that the possession of the Dardanelles was Russia’s vital need. This gave the Revolutionary Democracy occasion to clamour about Milyukov’s predatory aspirations and imperialism. During the Revolution all those to the right of him rather supported him. Those to the left feared or even hated him.
The Cadet party is the party of the propertied classes; it has no force of arms and no great mass of people. At one time the only accredited legal party which stood for fairness and reform, as the revolution progressed it lost in influence and fell rapidly into ill repute....
In trying to compare the deep chasm between the mass of the people in Russia and our own people where lines are hardly discernible, we must remember that in Russia over 80 per cent. of the people are proletariat or semi-proletariat. That is, they are either entirely without property or they have such small holdings that they are unable to exist from them. On the other hand-after the revolution the propertied classes refused to co-operate in any way with the democratic organisations of the masses. They bent every effort to break down those institutions.
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.
A.F. Kerensky and P. Milyukov presented the two most characteristic and influential figures of the Cabinet. Unfortunately they were divided not merely by a divergence of views, but also by personal ill-will. Kerensky, as the more emotional and impulsive of the two, gave way to this sentiment of enmity and made no endeavours to conceal it even at Cabinet meetings. On his part P. Milyukov lost no opportunity of emphasizing the logical unsteadiness and political immaturity of the Revolutionary Democracy, and incidentally of Kerensky himself, as its gifted representative.
A.F. Kerensky was considerably younger than P.N. Milyukov. In a revolutionary epoch this is an important privilege, as the stormy vacillations accompanying each upheaval claim great versatility and flexibility from revolutionary leaders. A lawyer by education, A. Kerensky possessed the pleader’s superficial eloquence. His speeches in the Duma - he was a member of the Third and Fourth Dumas - were neither profound nor original, yet nevertheless Kerensky occupied a prominent place upon the Left benches, for in both these Dumas the Socialists were rather feebly represented and lacked prominent members. Although a member of the Social Revolutionary party Kerensky officially belonged to the party of Toil. This was a compulsory conspirative camouflage, for members of the Social Revolutionary party, which employed terroristic methods, were cruelly persecuted by the Tsarist Government. Even before the Revolution A. Kerensky was extremely popular in Socialist circles of various shades. Later, as Head of the Provisional Government, he exhibited the meagreness of his political outlook and the instability and levity of his character. But at the beginning of the Revolution it seemed as if some inner fire had been kindled within him, and he at once became enormously popular. In those early days Kerensky, protecting the honour of the Revolution at the risk of his own life, saved the Tsarist Ministers, whom he hated, from the ever-growing wrath of the mob. This was a magnanimous and daring act. He gave proof of a similar courage when at the risk of losing his rapidly increasing popularity he consented to enter the Provisional Government without asking permission of the Soviet. This was an act of temerity. The Socialists grouped around Cheidze preferred that Prince Lvov’s Cabinet should remain a purely bourgeois one, so that they might assume the position of an irresponsible opposition. But Kerensky first consented to accept a portfolio and then placed before the Soviet a fait accompli, forcing their approval of his act by a short but powerful and skilfully framed speech.
In those days his speeches were full of an infectious revolutionary passion. Amid the roar and clamour of the ever-growing popular movement Kerensky rose to heights of real eloquence. And he did not become a tribune, only because he lacked what seems to be the primary and absolutely necessary quality - the intellect of a statesman. And, it may be, also a more delicate conscience.
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.