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Columns

February 9, 2013

Who would you visit if you had a time machine?

(Continued)

In another era, Anna might have been an Elizabeth I or a Catherine the Great. But in a corrupt and poorly organized society that didn’t make the best use of its women, her immense talents were wasted. Fortunately for us, Anna made the best of her boredom by writing The Alexiad, a timeless and insightful work that illuminates an otherwise dim era.

• Alexander Kerensky (May 4, 1881 — June 11, 1970), Prime Minister of Russia, June 1917 to November 1917.

This man has a lot of explaining to do, as his handling of the so-called Kornilov Affair ranks as one of history’s great blunders. After the abdication of Czar Nicholas II of Russia on March 15, 1917, Kerensky rose from relative obscurity to lead the provisional Russian government. But with revolutionary fervor still gripping St. Petersburg, Commander in Chief Lavr Kornilov ordered a troop detachment to move toward the city, he claimed, in case his boss Kerensky faced a sudden emergency. Misreading this and fearing a coup, Kerensky panicked, opening the state arms cache to the Bolsheviks of the St. Petersburg Soviet and begging for help fending off what was probably an imaginary takeover attempt.

This fateful, irreversible step left Kerensky hated by nearly all Russians — the Bolsheviks because they disliked him by default, and everyone else because he enabled the Bolsheviks.

Was Kerensky a fool, or just the type who cracks under pressure? Pack your bags; there’s only one way to find out.

JUSTIN VERNOLD is a copy editor at The Daily Star. Contact him at jvernold@thedailystar.com.

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