Page 3765


The great question that remained was

whether the Russian people would know

how to use their new freedom. The

revolution had been effected with surprisingly little bloodshed, and peace and

order had been restored quickly in most

places. Here and there individuals or

factions seemed disposed to take advantage

of the downfall of authority, but, at first,

the general feeling among the people

seemed to be that all must cooperate to

keep the peace and to labor for the common

good. However, the great mass of the

people were ignorant and had little or

no experience in self-government. Observers who knew the course of past

revolutions in such countries feared that

a long period of disorder and turmoil lay

before the land of the Muscovites.

The Central Powers desired to take

advantage of Russia's weakness, either to

strike a blow when it could not be parried or

to negotiate a separate peace. The German Kaiser, in his extremity, condescended

to employ his own Social Democrats as

peace agents, and an effort was made to

create peace sentiment in Russia. Through

Teutonic management a sort of Socialist

peace conference was arranged to meet

at Stockholm. Many Russians grasped

the idea that liberty and victory were

inseparable, and that the Hohenzollerns

and Hapsburgs were the natural foes of

freedom, but others were too blind to see

the barbed hook concealed in the bait.

The Duma and the Provisional Government were too moderate to suit the Soviets,

or councils of Workmen's and Soldiers'

delegates, who desired radical measures

and a speedy peace. The councils meddled

with governmental affairs and weakened

the authority of the Provisional Government. They were especially hostile to

Foreign Minister Miliukoff, who wished

to respect Russia's engagements with her

Allies and conduct a victorious war.

Discipline in the army practically broke

down, and the soldiers even fraternized

with the Germans, who cunningly made

every effort to win their favor. Finland

and other provinces began to demand

independence. Workmen struck for enormous wages and absurdly short hours.

There were bloody riots in Petrograd and

elsewhere. General Korniloff, the Petrograd commandant, and Generals Brusiloff

and Gurko resigned, as did also War

Minister Gutchkoff. Finally the Socialist

Minister of Justice, Kerensky, a man of

great oratorical ability and the idol of

the masses, made an impassioned appeal

to the people, picturing the dark road

down which the country was plunging

and declaring that he wished that he had

died two months before when the revolution was still a golden dream rather than

to have beheld the reality of Russian

freedom. A coalition Cabinet was agreed

upon. Miliukoff resigned as Foreign Minister and gave way to M. I. Terestchenko,

the Minister of Finance. Kerensky became

Minister of War. A number of other

Socialists entered the Cabinet.

The main figure in the new Government

was Kerensky, and to his efforts was

largely due the fact that complete

Russian collapse was temporarily postponed. Kerensky was born in Simbirsk

on the River Volga in 1881. His father

was the head of a school at that place,

but, in 1889, was transferred to Tashkent,

which is the gate to Siberia. In 1899,

the boy entered St. Petersburg University

and studied law. He early adopted liberal

views, and soon after his graduation suffered arrest and imprisonment. He took

an active part in the political struggles in

the revolutionary years 1905-06 and won

a reputation for boldness and fiery eloquence. During the period of reaction,

he devoted much time to the defense of

prisoners accused of political offenses.

He was himself sentenced to a month in

prison, but escaped through being a member of the Fourth Duma. About this

time, the shooting down of gold miners

in the Lena district of Siberia caused him

to go to Lena and make an investigation,

the results of which he brought before the

Duma and also published in a pamphlet,

which was immediately confiscated by

the Government. He was kept under

close surveillance by the police, and one

of his own proteges furnished information