• The Provisional Government and 1917: The Legitimacy Paradox

      Nickols, Aaron (University of Alaska Anchorage, 2012-05-01)
      The significance of the Russian revolution has been a hitter ongoing argument for historians and political scientists alike. Couched within that debate is the significance and meaning of I bl 7. For some, the significance of 1917 is based around the rise of the Bolsheviks to power and the centrality of class struggle. For others, it is a critical moment of hard political power wielded by Lenin and the Bolsheviks.1 But, behind that debate, lays the meaning of 1917 and the Provisional Government. In the simplest of terms, there was a crisis of legitimacy. To understand the meaning of 1917 it must be recognized that, while the Russian Provisional Government was perceived as a legitimate government externally, internally it was considered almost wholly illegitimate. The events of 1917, and thus the events of the revolution and civil war that followed, hinged upon the legitimacy and sovereignty of the Provisional Government. Thus the Provisional Government represents a critical factor; the understanding of 1917. One must recognize that the Provisional Government failed to survive, at least in part, because its leaders assumed its legitimacy, while the Russian population increasingly rejected it. The leadership utterly failed to obtain a sovereign and legitimate mandate, either through legislation, by the popular consent of the Russian people, or by investit ure of authority through institutional succession. The purpose of this paper is to illuminate some of the points which caused the Provisional Government to fail. In particular there appear three critical reasons for this failure; the internal politics of the Provisional Government, its relation to the Army, and its relation to the Russian population.