Kerensky on the February Revolution (1917)

The following account of the first days of the February Revolution comes from the memoirs of Alexander Kerensky. Here, Kerensky describes being summoned to the Tauride Palace after the mutiny of the Petrograd garrison, where the Provisional Committee – the forerunner to the Provisional Government – and the Petrograd Soviet are both formed:

“At about 8 o’clock in the morning, I was awakened by a voice saying, “Get up! Nekrasov is on the telephone… the Volinsk Regiment has mutinied and is leaving its barracks. You are wanted at the Duma at once!” I jumped up, dressed quickly and hurried to the Duma, a five-minute walk…

As soon as I appeared in the hall, I was surrounded by people and Lombard with questions. I told them that there were riots all over the city, at the insurgent troops were on their way to the Duma and that I knew the revolution had begun. I said that… it was our duty to welcome them and to make common cause with them…

The decision was made to form a Provisional Committee with unrestricted powers… By 3 o’clock that afternoon, the Duma was unrecognisable. It was packed with civilians and soldiers… The reports came in at a bewildering rate. Hundreds of people wanted attention, gave advice and ask for work… We had to keep our heads for it would have been disastrous to waste precious time or show any lack of self-confidence. We had to decide on the spot what answers to give, what orders to issue, went to encourage, where to send troops and reinforcements, how to find room for the hundreds of people being arrested…

At 4 PM, someone came to see about finding space in the Tauride Palace for the Soviet of Workers Deputies, which had also just been formed… Room 13 was turned over to them and they convened their first meeting there without delay…

By sundown, the entire city of Petrograd was in the hands of the insurgent troops. The former government machinery had ceased to operate and some of the Ministry buildings and government offices have been occupied by revolutionaries. Other buildings, such as the headquarters of the secret police, the police stations and the law courts had been set on fire. Inside the Duma, we had by now set up a central body to control the troops and the insurgents.”