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Was the Provisional Government doomed to failure?

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Introduction

Was the Provisional Government doomed to failure? In February 1917 a revolution took place in Russia, resulting in the abdication of the Tsar and the rise to power of the new Provisional Government which was made up members of the old Duma. However, the Provisional Government came to power at a time of great unrest within the country, and further events led to its downfall within a matter of months. It is necessary to discuss whether the Provisional Government was doomed from its inception as a result of the situation it was placed in, or if it was responsible for its own demise. It is important, first of all, to examine the Provisional Government itself. As stated already, the Provisional Government was in fact the last remaining Duma before the tsar was forced to step down from power. Unfortunately, by this time, the tsar had taken control of who became members of the Duma and it was now made up of 'yes-men' who agreed with the tsar and were willing to fulfil his needs. This immediately rendered the Provisional Government quite weak, as they were clearly inexperienced in decision-making, and did not understand, nor sympathise with, the cares and needs of the people of Russia. When the Provisional Government came to power, there were large areas of difficulty it had to contend with, and its handling of these matters had a large effect on the authority it exercised over the country, and both lost and gained support from the people. Possibly the largest problem was the fact that the Provisional Government was made up of so many different groups and parties, all of which had their own sub-divisions. These groups all had their own opinions and policies, and views which stretched from the far right wing, to the far left, and everywhere in between. The liberals included groups such as the Kadets, who were the dominant liberal force in the Provisional Government, and the Octobrists, who were slightly more right wing. ...read more.

Middle

This issue emphasised the split in the Provisional Government as the liberals did not want the old empire to be broken up, maintaining the integrity of the state, while the Socialists wanted to accede to the national aspirations of non-Russian people, offering more self-government and local control; in particular, they wanted to grant self-government to the Ukraine. While other nationalities such as the Poles and the Finns called out for independence after the abdication of the Tsar, the biggest problem lay in the Ukraine, an area of immense value to the Russians, containing the most valuable farmland in the old empire and very near the Front. The Ukrainians demanded self-determination and the moderate socialists in the government made concessions to them, which out raged the liberals who saw it as the first step towards the break up of Russia. They believed that for Russia to remain a great power, it had to keep all the regions together as one centrally governed state. The true problem here stems all the way back to time of the Tsar, when the practice of Russification was enforced. As a result of this oppression, where people of different nationalities were forced to live as Russians, speak Russian, and support the Russian Orthodox Church, and many were prosecuted (especially the Jews and Muslims) a great deal of resentment had built up among the different minorities. Possibly the best decision would have been to hold a plebiscite for each of the different regions, asking the people whether or not they wished to become independent, or remain part of the Russian empire. If they had chosen to become independent, they would be given a five-year trial to prove they could survive both economically and politically without Russia's influence. However, because of the fact that the Provisional Government was split over the issue, and different sides were making decisions without informing the others, it only succeeded in pulling the government further and further apart, and losing the confidence of the Russian people. ...read more.

Conclusion

Lenin swiftly gained support, taking away from the provisional government what little support and authority it had left. The October Revolution highlighted the Provisional Government's complete demise as the Bolsheviks were able to seize the city of Petrograd in the face of sparse opposition. The failure of the Government to rally effective military support in its hour of need was symptomatic of its much deeper political failure over the past eight months. Kerensky's government could not generate any genuine enthusiasm - its support had evaporated. The Bolsheviks were pushing at 'an already open door'. It is clear from all the points listed above that the Provisional Government were not going to survive for long. However the question is whether or not it was doomed from the start. The Provisional Government started out on very shaky ground as a result of severe rifts within the government parties, and factions within the political groups themselves, as well as the fact that it came about at a time when there was much discontent among the Russian people for various reasons, and most of the peoples' support was going towards the Petrograd Soviet. Later events did make things worse but if the government had not been so guilty of procrastination, and had held the elections for a Constituent Assembly straight away, it would have made the decisions necessary to keep the people happy. This though, was obviously not achieved. It must be remembered that the Provisional Government was never meant to last. As its very name implied, it was a temporary body, to be approved or removed at an early date by a Constituent Assembly which was to settle the country's permanent form of government and constitution. At its formation the Government already suffered from two main weaknesses - that being the fact that it lacked legitimate authority and also that any authority it had was limited by its unofficial partnership with the Petrograd Soviet. This, therefore, is firm evidence for the fact that it was doomed from the outset and events further along the line certainly supported this. ...read more.

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