Two revolutions began in Russia 100 years ago. The first occurred in March and nearly tore the country in half. Tsar Nicholas II was forced to abdicate his position as emperor of Russia. The whole Tsarist system was destroyed and Russia began to reconstruct their government. A “provisional government,” or transitional government, was created for the time being.
The second revolution, the Bolshevik, overthrew the provisional government. Civil war was generated between the Red Army (Communists) and the White Army (Tsarist Loyalists).
One of the key revolutionary players, Aleksander Fyodorovich Kerensky, visited Utah State University on December 7, 1966. Twenty-five years after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Center for Causes of War and Conditions of Peace was dedicated on campus.
According to past university president Daryl Chase, the building was a “promising attempt to focus the attention of the academic community on the issues and ideas contained in man’s ageless search for peace.”
USU professor Dwight Israelsen was a student when Kerensky visited. He even attended a Russian language class Kerensky guest taught.
“He was 85 years old and he visited us just three months before the 50th anniversary of his Russian Revolution,” Israelsen said. “I remember his visit as if it were yesterday. He spoke to us in Russian, then agreed to answer questions. The usual questions were asked, including what was his favorite food. He responded in Russian, ‘bifshteks’ (beefsteaks). He laughed when one of us said that didn’t sound like a Russian word.”
Israelsen also spoke about the history of Aleksander Kerensky and his importance to worldwide government history.
“I was taking Professor Phil Spoerry’s Soviet government and politics class, and we had studied the Russian Revolutions of 1917. I knew that Prime Minister Kerensky was very lucky to have escaped Lenin’s Bolshevik Revolution,” Israelsen said. “I thought of two questions to ask Mr. Kerensky. My first was, ‘Did you know Lenin’s intentions to overthrow your government when you allowed him to return to Russia?’ He answered, ‘Yes, I did.’ My second question was, ‘Then why did you allow him to return?’ His answer was, ‘We have no choice. The first principle of our new government was political freedom, so we freed all political prisoners and allowed all political exiles to return to Russia.’”
Kerensky’s example of political courage is why he was invited to the dedication of the Center for Causes of War and Conditions of Peace.
Anyone looking to do research on the history of the Center for Causes of War and Conditions of Peace probably won’t find much. Israelsen said the last remnant of the center disappeared with the old Merrill-Cazier Library.
Robert Parson said the center was “a room designated within the former Merrill Library.”
Parson, a university archivist, went into great detail about the ghostlike Center for Causes of War and Conditions of Peace.
“The center was located on the first floor of the library in the southwest corner, in a room named for Joseph M. Tanner, USU’s third president,” he said. “The center’s purpose is pretty much implied in its name. It sponsored lectures and symposia, and began building a library of books and periodicals devoted to the subject of war and peace.”
So what happened to the center?
“The center persisted until the end of (Daryl Chase’s) tenure as president. The books, etc., were dispersed into other collections in the main stacks of the library,” Parson said. “The university eventually dedicated the Tanner Room as the reading room for Special Collections and Archives.”