My grandad was Russian Prime Minister

A.F. Kerensky during the send-off of the troops going to the front on June 18 1917.
A.F. Kerensky during the send-off of the troops going to the front on June 18 1917.

Morecambe resident Steve Kerensky has a keener interest in Russian history than most.His grandfather Alexander Kerensky was prime minister of Russia in 1917 until the Provisional Government was overthrown by Lenin and the Bolsheviks during the Russian Revolution. Here, Steve gives his thoughts about Russia’s involvement in the Great War.

Who won the Great War? Who lost?

Alexander Kerensky.

Alexander Kerensky.

The answer to both is Russia. Russia had the biggest army – 12-13m men. Its frontline ran 2,500 miles from the Baltic to the Chinese borders. In July 1914, Russsia`s rapid mobilization forced Germany to scrap their victory plan and fight on two front, event though this was a known recpe for disaster: Rescue 1 of the Western Front by Russia.

The shady Alexander Helphand brought news of an exile called Lenin who wanted to bring Russia down.

He was signed up in April 1915 in Switzerland. His total subsidy? 86m gold marks.

In July 1916, Ludendorff told Hindenberg it was money wasted. Nicholas II made Russians feel they were fighting him as well as the Germans.

Alexander Korensky.

Alexander Korensky.

All Russia’s military plans were being anticipated because, not wanting to fight Cousin Kaiser Bill, German agents were all over his palace, probably including by Rasputin and Russia took 7 million casualties by 1917, dead and wounded.

The country and Army were demoralised and about to collapse. It was keeping a lot of Germans occupied.

Rescue 2 came on February 27. Troops in St Petersburg (war name: Petograd) shot their officers when ordered to shoot demonstrators demanding bread: the Revolution began.

92 years of struggle were celebrated. People wanted the country defended properly.

AF Kerensky, the human rights lawyer turned politician, forced the “provisional committee” of the Duma (parliament) into existence.

Without government a civil war would start.

Sir George Buchanan, British Ambassador told London only the Russian Provisional Government (RPG) could stop it.

The Powers-That-Be in Britain and Russia didn`t like it, but Russia kept going, even though the government had no mandate. Rescue 3 was decisive. President Wilson, disgusted by Nicholas killing thousands of Jews in pogroms and rejected him as an ally. If the RPG had not removed Nicholas, the Allies could not have won.

No one questions that. What followed is hard to explain. The Allies just kept patronising and bullying the Russians.

The war was at a difficult stage for everyone but they took no account of the mess Nicholas had left.

Half the French Army mutinied in May. Funds were running out and there was panic. The losers would be economically ripped to bits.

For 98 per cent of Russians, the Revolution was delivering enough of their demands through the RPG because it was being guided by the Petrograd Soviet (council) of Workers & Peasants Deputies. They sustained the war effort that way for eight months, while Americans trained in trench warfare.

The ruling class did not like it up ‘em! Russian bankers, industrialists and Lloyd George backed General Kornilov to take over.

Lloyd George wanted the Russians to start shooting shell-shock victims, as we did. To Russians, this was tsarist oppression. Russia abolished the death penalty in 1864.

Ambassador Buchanan could see all this and spoke bluntly to the banker Putilov, who came to him seeking British support for Kornilov.

But the British Military Attache complied his report avoiding anyone who saw good in the Revolution.

The plan was a dead parrot, but it caused enough uncertainty to ruin everything.

Both Kornilov and Bolsheviks claimed RPG involvement. Lenin emerged from hiding, offering “peace” which actually meant civil war. He also wanted to attack Germany “suicidally” , to start the World Revolution.

The Bolsheviks’ violence did not have mass support but when Trotsky captured the telephone in October, they got a grip.

Lenin surrendered all of European Russia to Germany. Germany fought desperately for victory, costing perhaps 250,000 British lives.

For Russia much worse was to come. All this has been cut from the commemorations.

I think the sacrifices of Russia equal those on the Western Front and deserve more respect.