Comrade KerenskyThe Revolution Against the Monarchy and the Formation of the Cult of ‘the Leader of the People’ (March–June 1917)
Comrade Kerensky
The Revolution Against the Monarchy and the Formation of the Cult of ‘the Leader of the People’ (March–June 1917)
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
  • 152 x 229 mm / 6 x 9 in
Available Formats
  • Hardback $35.00
  • 9781509533640
  • Open eBook $16.99
  • 9781509533664
Table of Contents
Chapter I. Revolutionary Biography and Political Authority
1. Biographies and Biographers
2. The Youth of the Leader
3. ‘Tribune of the People’
4. ‘Hero of the Revolution’
5. ‘Champion of Freedom’ and the Cult of Champions of Freedom
Chapter II. ‘Revolutionary Minister’
1. The Great Conciliator
2. The Omnipresent ‘Minister of the People’s Truth’
3. ‘Democratic Minister’
4. ‘Minister of Revolutionary Theatricality’ and ‘Poet of the Revolution’
5. ‘Great Martyr of the Revolution’
6. Kerensky as Louis Blanc: Features of the Bolsheviks’ Political Propaganda
7. ‘Rebellious Slaves’ and the ‘Great Citizen’
Chapter III. ‘Leader of the Revolutionary Army’
1. The Iron Discipline of Duty
2. The Visit to Helsingfors
3. The ‘Kerensky Declaration’
4. ‘Tireless Victor’: Kerensky at the Front
5. ‘Wanted: a Napoleon’: Kerensky and ‘Bonapartism’
6. The Bolshoy Theatre and the Birth of the New Man
7. Kerensky and the Socialist Revolutionary Party
Chapter IV. The ‘Kerensky Offensive’
1. ‘Commender-in-Chief’: Rhetorical Preparations for the Offensive
2. ‘Kerensky’ and ‘Lenin’
3. The June Crisis and the June Offensive
4. A Popular ‘Brand’ and Symbol of the Revolution
About the Author
Boris Kolonitskii is Professor of History at the European University at St. Petersburg.
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