Russian Revolution: Provisional Government

Exam task

Section A Question 1/2 – Russian Revolution


“Using three or four points, explain how the policies and decisions of the Provisional Government contributed to the development of the Russian Revolution to October 1917.”

Student response

“The Provisional Government’s primary contribution to the revolution of October 1917 was its inability to to distinguish itself from the tsarist regime. Established by Rodzianko in the movements of February – the government did, initially, present itself as a force for change – and for the better. The introduction of policy legalising freedoms in the areas of speech, press, protest and demonstration genuinely highlighted the governments intentions to move away from the restrictive nature of the tsarist regime they has struggled to change in the constitutional democracy. However, as many revolutionaries would later argue – the Provisional government was of the same class of the enemy – in a very literal sense. The fourth Duma, being made up of middle class politicians, experienced much of the same isolation from the people that had been the downfall of the tsar. In essence, the provisional government inherited the dynasties difficulties, and was unable to overcome them in a manner that would please all of Russia, try as they might. The initial legislation was an obvious appeal to working classes and the peasantry – yet the Government had strong ties in bourgeois circles. This resulted in a continuation in the war – and an inability to therefore properly address the food shortage, fuel deficiency, inflation and land difficulties that had been produced by the war. The failure of the June offensive would highlight this – as the government felt it could not risk the loss of foreign and upper class aid – even at the cost of their legitimacy amongst the lower classes. The German retaliation to the June offensive would see over 200,000 casualties, and further alienation of all classes of Russian society. Having weak ties with the peasantry- the Provisional government did itself no favours in trying to further align itself with this class, and then resultantly loose the brunt of its support amongst the upper class of society. The Provisional government could no longer defend the interest of Russia – or even itself – as the weakness of the Kornilov incident, and the storming of the winter palace displayed – they simply handed the role of governance and protection to the Bolsheviks.”

Teacher feedback

This response suggests that the student has a good to very good understanding of the Provisional Government, its issues and challenges. However the response is too ambitious in terms of its length, organisation and expression. This answer, while it contains some relevant and important ideas, is too discursive and does not articulate three or four clear points. It would still score in the region of 7/10 – however these Section A paragraph response will not reach close to top marks unless they demonstrate structure, clarity and points relevant to the question.

Suggested points for this question might include the composition of the Provisional Government (almost entirely composed of liberal nobility or high bourgeoisie, with Kerensky the only socialist); the government’s March 1917 amnesty, which released political prisoners and allowed the return of exiles; the challenges of the Petrograd Soviet and the ‘dual power’; the continuation of the war effort and the June Offensive in Galicia; the government’s responses to the ‘July Days’ uprising; its inability to defend the capital during the Kornilov revolt; and the government’s failure to deal with the Bolsheviks or increase its public support.

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