The Beginning of a Tsar-less Russia

Following the abdication of Nicholas II and Grand Duke Michael turning down the crown which his brother left him, the Duma found themselves with much more power than ever before. With this newfound power the Duma published its goals in Isvestia, a Soviet newspaper at the time, to make clear the plans they had for Russia under the new First Provisional Government.

It first set out to appease the masses by listing off members of its ministers. In doing so they hoped to show that they had trustworthy men leading the country who would not continue down the path that Tsar Nicholas II created. The First Provisional Government then goes on to list what it actually hopes to accomplish with the power they have. A list is formed which includes new socialist ideas such as freedom of speech, the ability to unionize, elimination of the hierarchy that has restricted the rights of peasants, suffrage, and a more unified government police which is held accountable by elections. Besides adopting all of these ideas socialist ideas, there are also goals on the list that show the First Provisional Government’s desire to wipe the slate clean for past political revolutionaries. Its first initiative is immediate amnesty to all people who are involved in various forms of revolution, including violent acts. They want a unified and progressive Russia. Ultimately, the First Provisional Government acts as the first step to the Russia that becomes run completely by the Soviets.


The Abdication of Nicholas II

The Emperor of Russia, Nikolai II and the Imperial Duma agreed that in order to reach a rapid victory against the central powers, Nikolai needed to resign which he did on March 15, 1917. The Duma and Nikolai believed that his abdication would create a more unified Russia who at the time was undergoing internal civil unrest because people were looking for change within the government and were unhappy. Therefore, Nikolai believed that by stepping down from the throne, he would abolish the threat that the civil unrest had on the progression of the war. In Nikolai’s eyes, his resignation would not only benefit the outcome of the war, but protect the welfare of the people and serve in their best interest as well. Additionally, his son originally was next to capture the throne, but because Nikolai did not want to be separated from his son, he abdicated for him and instead, had his brother Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich succeed him. On March 16, 1917, Mikhail accepted his brother’s decision to have him become the next Supreme Power under the condition that the Russian people truly wanted this and would accept the duty of picking their form of government and law system for a new Russian state. Until this happens though, he establishes a Provisional Government in which he expects everyone to follow.


Promises and Principles: The New Provisional Government


With the famed abdication of Tsar Nicholas II on the fateful day of March 15, 1917, Russia experienced a drastic paradigm shift in the manner of political atmosphere and public perception of the socioeconomic status quo that had previously prevailed for centuries. The Tsar relinquishes his omnipotence as the autocratic ruler of the state with a charismatic speech venerating “the destinies of Russia, the honour of her heroic Army, the happiness of the people, and the whole future of our beloved country” ((The Times, Abdication of Nikolai II, March 15, 1917)). His declaration is a notion of nationalism; an appeal to the people to lead the country onto a noble path of wealth and power so that it may become transfigured into a prosperous utopia freed from the “obstinate war” ((The Times, Abdication of Nikolai II, March 15, 1917)) that had so dreadfully plagued the nation. The culmination of the speech is veiled with a sense of desperation and subservience to fate, as it ends with a single note of hope encompassed within the phrase: “May God help Russia” ((The Times, Abdication of Nikolai II, March 15, 1917)).

The cataclysmic prostration of the autocracy before its own people is further exemplified by the refusal of the Tsar’s heir, Grand Duke Mikhail, to take over the throne. He states that he is “firmly resolved to accept the Supreme Power only if this should be the desire of our great people” ((The Times, Abdication of Nikolai II, March 15, 1917)) and acknowledges the pressing need for implementing political change and widespread popular suffrage. This thus allowed for the bold entry of the First Provisional Government, also known as the Temporary Committee of the State Duma. The first provisional government set the stage for what would be known in the future as democratization and an attempt to establish popular sovereignty. The doctrines that it placed forth and advocated were interwoven with liberalism and bordered upon the early principles of communism, and included the desire to “abolish all restrictions based on class, religion, and nationality” as well as “an immediate and complete amnesty in all cases of a political and religious nature” ((Izvestiia, The First Provisional Government, 1917)). This legislation envisioned a blissful yet unrealistic system that consisted of sharp implementation of the fundamental rights to freedom of speech, press, and assembly, while simultaneously embodying peace. The framework of ideologies that the Duma mapped out was much to feeble to counter the strain of the political perturbation the nation underwent in such a short period of time. The Duma eventually failed in its quest to craft an immense revolution and to enforce each and every one of its progressive reforms, yet also allowed for an eruption of a new form of government that would be capable of embodying the true radical spirit of change: the Bolsheviks of 1917.

NIcholas II: The Last Tsar

Tsar Nicholas II

Tsar Nicholas II ruled during time of great conflict and upheaval, ultimately concluding not only with the end of the Romanov dynasty, but also the end of tsarist rule over Russia. During the 1917 February revolution in Petrograd, the people protested the food shortage as a result of war, directing their anger towards the tsar and his regime. After power struggles, Nicholas lost the people’s trust and patience. After the people gained the support of the royal army, Nicholas II was forced to abdicate the throne to his brother, Grand Duke Mikhail. In Nicholas’s declaration of abdication he stated that he did not want to “separate [myself] from [my] beloved son” ((The Times, Abdication of Nicholas II, 1917)) which may be true, but Nicholas also was protecting Alexander by keeping his identity as a hemophiliac secret by refusing to abdicate the throne to him. In Nicholas’s written abdication he believes that the war must come to an end “at all costs” ((The Times, Abdication of Nicholas II, 1917)), one of which was ending the centuries long reign of his Romanov legacy.

Even as Nicholas gave up power he still managed to make a request of his citizens to “obey[ing] the tsar at the painful moment of national trial” ((The Times, Abdication of Nicholas II, 1917)). Directly after inspiring this final moment of trust, Nicholas goes on to say “May God help Russia” ((The Times, Abdication of Nicholas II, 1917)) , which appears to give up responsibility and convey that fate is taking the lead of the situation, a contradiction to his previous statement. As power is transferred to Grand Duke Michael, he soon passes it along to the Duma and the First Provisional Government in the hopes of creating a “more stable executive power” ((Izvestiia, The First Provisional Government, 1917)). The Provisional Government, consisted of Kadets and revolutionists, is led by Prince L’vov. In such a tumultuous time the Provisional Government attempted to enact many principles, some of which were too abrupt of an ideological shift to be truly successful. While the Provisional government was one step in a new political order, a lack of cohesion and realistic principles created an environment which was not se tup for success, leaving the Russian people without a strong government once again and vulnerable to the next shift of power.

Abdication and Creation of a New Russia


After almost two hundred years of expanding a nation that would be respected as an equal to the Western European states, the Russian Empire fell. The 1917 Revolution in March called for the abdication of the Tsar, Nicholas II, as well as the need for a government of the people to take its place. When Nicholas abdicated though, he appointed his brother, the Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich, as his heir; he was the next to rule what was left of this grand Empire. But the citizens weren’t calling for a different monarch, but a new form of government altogether. Mikhail seemed to sense this, since in his response to his new title, he declared that he would rule until the “will of the nation regarding the form of government to be adopted.” (( )) He wanted for the people to choose what they wanted out of a government and was willing to take charge just until that moment.

The First Provisional Government based itself on the principles that one sees in a democratic government’s ideals, such as freedom of free speech, press and assembly, anti-discrimination, universal suffrage, and elections for positions of governments. (( )) But there are some surprising conditions that appear too in their Statute. They promise immediate amnesty to acts such as terrorism and revolts and protection for those in the military that took part in the revolution. While these may seem surprising at first, they make sense in terms of the goals of the new provisional government. These ten men were presumably at the heart of the revolution, or at least in favor of what the revolutionaries were doing, or else they would not have gotten such high positions in the cabinet, so it makes sense that they would pardon men who were arrested by the old government if they were on the same side. Both the fall of the centuries-long monarchy and the beginning of a new government were new experiences for the Russian people that changed their lives for better or worse.

The First Provisional Government

Russia was going through great turmoil in the year of 1917. Pressure was increasing drastically for the Russian tsar, Nikolai II. The people of the nation demanded change and Nikolai could not provide it, drastic change had risen in the years before, culturally and socially. The people of Russia felt great pressure from the way things were being handled; the war had brought economics issues as well as a drastic loss of casualties. The abdication of Nikolai II was a move forward to the future where many thought life would prosper and the First Provisional Government was a critical/crucial opportunity to move forward into the future and to push forward the change that had began to rise years before. The first provisional government was truly beneficial to the social need at the time, Although the First Provisional Government only lasted about eight months, could have it been what the nation needed if it had ran longer, was the future of Russia on the right track with this kind of authority and government. This new government did offer what the people needed; it offered the type of change and innovation to a new way of life. The first cabinet to represent the public guaranteed freedom of speech, amnesty, the removal of restrictions on class, religion, and nationality, arrangement for a Constituent Assembly, a substitution for a people’s militia, and universal and equal elections. The continuation of the First Provisional Government could’ve opened many different doors to the people of Russia as well as a new and different future.

The First Provisional Government

Author: The Temporary Committee of the members of the State Duma established the First Provisional Government of Russia. It was first led by Prince Georgy Lvov and later led by Alexander Kerensky.

Context: Formed in Petrograd in March 1917. This was after Nicholas II’s abdication of the throne to his brother, Grand Duke Michael, who deferred the power to what became the First Provisional Government of Russia.

Language: The language is straightforward and clear-cut. The document itself is logically organized and easy to read.

Audience: The audience includes every citizen in Russia as this document represents a change in governance and outlines new individuals and guiding principles.

Intent: The intent of the First Provisional Government was to establish elections to the Assembly in order to create a more stable executive power while sustaining the necessary components of government services after Nicholas II’s abdication.

Message: The First Provisional Government informed the people of Russia the current situation of their government. The Temporary Committee of the State of Duma lists the appointed ministers of the first cabinet. The following section outlined the principles that guided the actions of the cabinet. These principles included freedom of speech, press, and assembly, abolition of all restrictions based on class, religion, and nationality. Also stressed was the immediate action called upon the Constituent Assembly for an equal, direct, and secret ballot election that will determine the type of government and constitution of Russia.