In This Review

Comrade Kerensky
Comrade Kerensky
By Boris Kolonitskii
Polity, 2020, 450 pp

For a few months following the fall of the Russian monarchy in 1917, Alexander Kerensky, the minister of justice and then the military minister of the provisional government, was extolled as “the Leader of the People,” “the Minister of People’s Truth,” “the Champion of Freedom,” and “the Hero of the Revolution.” His public speeches attracted huge audiences that greeted him with standing ovations. Women threw flowers at him; soldiers and officers gave him their medals and jubilantly lifted him in the air. Kolonitskii examines Kerensky’s brief but cultish popularity through his speeches and contemporary accounts. Kerensky was a savvy politician and indefatigable coalition builder, but Kolonitskii credits his skill as a newsmaker to his keen sense of popular moods and his talent as a public speaker. The book’s narrative ends before the Bolshevik takeover in late 1917 and Kerensky’s subsequent escape from Russia. But the “cult” of Kerensky, Kolonitskii argues, provided a useful model for those who later created—and forcefully inculcated—the cults of Vladimir Lenin, Leon Trotsky, and Joseph Stalin.