Comrade Kerensky
Comrade Kerensky
Translated by Arch Tait
As one of the heroes of the 1917 February Revolution and then Prime Minister at the head of the Provisional Government, Alexander Kerensky was passionately, even fanatically, lauded as a leader during his brief political reign. Symbolic artefacts – sculptures, badges and medals - featuring his likeness abounded. Streets were renamed after him, his speeches were quoted on gravestones and literary odes dedicated to him proliferated in the major press. But, by October, Kerensky had been unceremoniously dethroned in the Bolshevik takeover and had fled to Paris and then to the US, where he would remain exiled and removed from his former glory until his death. The breakneck trajectory of his rise and fall and the intensity of his popularity were not merely a symptom of the chaos of those times but offer a window onto a much broader historical phenomenon which did not just begin with Lenin and Stalin – the cult of the leader. 

In this major new study of the Russian leadership cult, Boris Kolonitskii uses the figure of Kerensky to show how popular engagement with the idea of the leader became a key component of a cultural re-imagining of the political landscape after the fall of the monarchy. A parallel revolution was taking place on the level of creating a resonant political vocabulary where one had not existed before, and it was in the shared exercise of bestowing and dissolving authority that a politicised way of seeing began to emerge. Kolonitskii plots the unfurling of this symbolic revolution by examining the tapestry of images woven by Kerensky and those around him, and, in so doing, exposes his vital role in the development of nascent Soviet political culture. 

This highly original portrait of a revolutionary sheds new light on the cult of Kerensky that developed around this charismatic leader during the months following the overthrow of the tsar.  It will be of value to students and scholars of Russian history and to those interested in political culture.
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  • November 2020
  • 450 pages
  • 153 x 232 mm / 6 x 9 in
Available Formats
  • Hardback $35.00
  • 9781509533640
  • Open eBook $28.00
  • 9781509533664
About the Author
Boris Kolonitskii is Professor of History at the European University at St. Petersburg.
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"In this thoughtful and original study of Russian political culture in 1917, Boris Kolonitskii shows how Alexander Kerensky became the charismatic symbol of the new order.  Forging a cult of the irreplaceable Leader, Kerensky used it as a powerful tool of political legitimation. Lenin and later Stalin followed in his footsteps, helping to embed older authoritarian traditions in post-revolutionary life. Here is a book to savour, full of the ironies of the times."
Jay Winter, Charles J. Stille Professor of History Emeritus at Yale University

"Neither Tsar nor Bolshevik, Alexander Kerensky has tended to fall into a black hole of Russian history. Even his government in 1917 was called provisional. A major historian, Boris Kolonitskii, has now filled that gap not with a standard biography, but with something much more ambitious. This is a study that uses  multiple sources and a range of disciplines to explore and explain the cult of a leader."
Sir Hew Strachan, Professor of International Relations at the University of St. Andrews

"Boris Kolonitskii has done more than any other scholar to explore the political culture of the Russian Revolution of 1917. Here, in sparkling detail, he reveals the democratic hopes, ideas and illusions that attached themselves to the propaganda image of Alexander Kerensky, the 'first love of the Revolution', whose dramatic rise and fall from grace personified the Revolution's destiny. This is the work of a master scholar which demands to be widely read."
Orlando Figes, author of A People's Tragedy: The Russian Revolution 1891–1924

"Comrade Kerensky is a valuable addition to the vast literature on the Russian revolution."
Shepherd Express
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