Back to Index

Herbert Hoover, the Russian Revolution and Kerensky



     The criticism of Herbert Hoover's role in the Russian Revolution seems to me unfair. The charge was made by his enemies, but Bertrand Patenaude, now at the Navy Postgraduate School, has examined all the evidence and says it is not true. The aid given to the White Russians was after the war, when they like many others needed help. His representative in Budapest did cut off aid when the extremist Bela Kun seized power, but Hoover disapproved of this. While I would be delighted to receive any informed rebuttal, my reading of Hoover's role is this:
     The American administration supported Aleksandr Kerensky, I think properly, since he was a moderate, opposed by both the radicals and the reactionaries. He was a thoughtful, well-educated person, the author of Prelude to Bolshevism (1919), The Catastrophe (1927), The Crucifixion of Liberty (1934), and Russia and History's Turning Point (1965). When he was overthrown, the United States found itself supporting the White Russians. If they had won, the history of Russia would not have been so sad. U.S. support for them was appropriate. A key person in the Siberian expedition was General David Prescott Barrows, who later became Professor of Political Science and President of the University of California at Berkeley. It was there that I knew him in 1937.
     In The Soviet Union, Kerensky was a non-person. When I visited the Museum of the Russian Revolution in Moscow, I was given a long lecture with no mention of him. When I raised his name, the woman giving me the lecture looked shocked and simply said "He was mad!"
     In exile, Kerensky was a forgotten man in the West. The U.S. government has little use for exiles, and was confronted with the Soviet Union. The U.S. Government and the Communist left both now had a cause. Kerensky spent some years at the Hoover Institution without attracting much attention. With support from Herbert Hoover, he organized the papers of his regime, which need for money forced his family to sell to the University of Texas after his death.
     I got to know Kerensky in a strange way. When I denounced the foolishness of the proposed Bay of Pigs invasion, he came to my office uninvited to congratulate me. Despite his cold demeanor, he had a warm personality. Shortly after that I organized a meeting of Latin American newspaper leaders at Stanford. I invited them to my house to meet Kerensky. They were fascinated.

Ronald Hilton - 10/1/99


Webmaster