Alexander Kerensky Museum

 

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Alexander Fyodorovich Kerensky (1881-1970) was the last President of Russia before the Bolshevik coup d’état of October 1917 (often referred as ‘old’ Russia or ‘that’ Russia to distinguish it from Russia of the Soviet and Post-Soviet times).

Kerensky governed the State for only 109 days (from July 8 to October 25, 1917), often associated with the same Hundred Days of Napoleon in 1815.

It is still believed that Kerensky would lead Russia to the era of freedom and justice, something of a golden age, which would be a breakthrough into the civilized world – that has been destroyed by the Soviet regime and never recovered again.

 

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In the days of the Russian Revolution of February 1917 Alexander Kerensky was a MP of the State Parliament (Gosudarstvennaya Duma).

He entered the Provisional Government as Minister of Justice, and in May 1917 he became Minister of War.

His trips to the front and inspiration of the soldiers were remembered by many

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but it was too late: the army was not willing to attack.

Unable to save the state from crisis, Prince Georgy Lvov resigned in July 1917, and Kerensky was appointed Prime-Minister and President of the Government (on July 8, OS [July 21, NS]).

His major deeds were: abolition of the death penalty, universal suffrage, granting equal freedoms to women, promoting the establishment of the Patriarch for the Russian Orthodox Church.

 

The contemporaries used to consider Kerensky as a Russian Napoleon – implying an influential leader who had placed his trust in the love of the people, but who had overlooked the reality of tedious and dirty political games.

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The modern historians prefer to speak about the ‘phenomenon’ of Kerensky and emphasize that for a fleeting moment long, long ago, Russians enjoyed more civil liberties than other nations did.

‘I hate tedious calculations, I prefer to ACT.

Let it increase the risks; but one cannot succeed when he accounts a lot and never deceits to DO it’ – Kerensky explained the ‘mystery’ of his success in 1917.

 

Kerensky belonged to the popular Socialist-Revolutionary Party, although his doctrine implied cooperation with the whole range of political movements and it was often criticized by both ‘right’ and ‘left’ radicals. 

Nevertheless, he was a brilliant orator of his time and the masses admired him.

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His talent to preach was based on sentiments rather than rational speculation, passion rather than deep theory.

It is clear that he was born to an intelligent and religious family (his uncle and grandfather were orthodox priests, his relatives lived in the Penza Region).

Letter to the relatives (text: ‘to be returned to Shura’ - i.e. Alexander; postal stamp – Penza, 1908 or 1903?)

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Kerensky's father, the headmaster of a secondary school in the city of Simbirsk, was known to Lenin’s father Ylya Ulyanov (who inspected the schools of the region). In fact, their families lived in close friendship, but there is no reason to derive the revolutionary zeal of the leaders from their childhood: Vladimir Lenin (born in 1870) was much older than Alexander Kerensky. By the way, Lenin was, of course, an analytic-minded politician, less emotional, less passionate, but deriving his philosophy from rational logic, to whom the ethical principles of humanism implied almost nothing.

Young Alexander Kerensky with his mother (ca. 1884-86)

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Many real facts of Kerensky's life remain almost unknown or shielded with legends, rumors, and fantastic tales.

Among them: his ‘death’ in the Soviet Union around 1947, his Jewish origin and his ‘real name’ of Aron Kirbis, his escape from the Winter Palace dressed in woman clothes – no more than myths invented by the Soviets.

 

Meanwhile, on October 26, Kerensky was in Gatchina with the general Pyotr Krasnov – and they had planned an attempt to retake power from Bolsheviks (Kerensky-Krasnov Uprising’ (October 26 – November 2)

However, the governmental troops were defeated, and Kerensky narrowly escaped the Bolsheviks (dressed in navy uniform) for several months he was hiding himself ‘underground’ until he could leave the country (in summer 1918 Kerensky arrived to Finland).  

Then he lived in Berlin, where together with Mark Aldanov and Vladislav Khodasevich he edited the periodical DEN’ (The Day), and later he settled in Paris.

 

Kerensky’s wife Olga (née Baranovskaya) resided in the UK and they maintained correspondence (that did not cease even after their divorce in 1939).

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After the Bolshevik revolution of October 1917 Olga and their sons Oleg (12) and Gleb (10) were staying in Petrograd.

Only in 1920 they fled to Estonia.

In 1939 Alexander divorced Olga and married Lydia Ellen Tritton.

When the Germans overran France at the start of World War II, Kerensky escaped to the United States.

In 1945, his wife Lydia became terminally ill. He traveled with her to Brisbane, Australia and lived there with her family until her death in February 1946.

Thereafter he returned to the United States, where he lived for the rest of his life.

‘He developed a great circle of friends, loved a good party and mixed well, especially with the ladies’

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Kerensky died at his home in New York on June 11, 1970.

His body was buried in Putney Vale, London.

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Kerensky was also known for reading lectures in Stanford University and, of course, for his books – ‘Russia and History's Turning Point’ (1965), ‘The Crucifixion of Liberty’ (1934), ‘The Catastrophe’ (1927), ‘Gatchina’ (1918) and other.

His two sons of the first marriage Oleg and Gleb succeeded in engineering. His grandson Oleg was a prominent ballet critic and writer on dance, music and theatre.

 

Among the popular myths about Kerensky is that that he had some ‘secret materials’ – in 1967 Texas University acquired some his archives. 

Much more interesting is to find ‘non-secret’ materials – many of them are lost, other are kept in private collections.

For this reason the present Museum is organized.

Since 2001 many antiquaries, letters, photos and personal things related to Kerensky were gathered.

Of course, this work requests much time and expenses, and the Museum is grateful to all our supporters. 

 

Kerensky once joked (it was in October 1917): ‘Why not Alexander IV? Is not ‘AK’ great amongst the Russian Czars? Ah, no… impossible – it would be against equality and democracy.’

However, the golden spoons with his monogram survived.

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Once (in the late 1960s) Kerensky witnessed of himself: ‘my parents believed I would be a theologian, I myself was dreaming on the theatre but… have become a statesman – a pretty mocking of the life…’

Alexander Kerensky Museum and Foundation Ó All Rights Reserved 2006-2008

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E-mail: museum1@kerensky.org.uk