The Provisional Government
The Duma leaders
Led by Prince Lvov, the Provisional Government contained just one socialist, the Minister of Justice, Alexander Kerensky. It saw itself as a wartime government of national confidence and salvation, above class or party interests, whose purpose was to see the country through to the ending of the war and the election of a Constituent Assembly, which alone could give a legal sanction to social and political reforms.
With breathtaking speed the Provisional Government passed a dazzling series of reforms in the spring of 1917. Russia overnight was effectively transformed into the 'freest country in the world' (Lenin). Freedoms of assembly, press and speech were granted. Legal restrictions of religion, class, race and gender were removed. Universal adult suffrage was introduced.
These reforms established a new culture of democracy. But the abstract language of political democracy was soon absorbed into ideas of social class. The word 'democracy' (demokratiia) was popularly used as a social category: it was understood to mean the 'common people' or the 'labouring masses' whose opposite was not 'dictatorship' but the 'bourgeoisie' (burzhooi).