Crucible of popular revolt overturned Russia’s dynastic order
THE New Statesman pointed out in February 1917, this “is a year that resonated through the 20th century”.
And the epicentre of that resonant impulse was Petrograd, as St Petersburg, the great imperial capital of Russia, was cast in “de-Germanised” form at the outbreak of World War I in 1914.
Petrograd would later become Leningrad, and remain so for decades until – when the totalitarian edifice built on the foundations of the 1917 revolution finally collapsed – it resumed life as St Petersburg at the end of the 20th century.
A hundred years ago, in one of the coldest winters in years, Petrograd, beset by the war and food shortages, became the crucible of popular revolt.
It was a revolt that overturned Russia’s dynastic order. It divided the world for nearly a century between East and West, with democracy and communism confronting each other in the chilling stalemate of Cold War hostility.
It began in Petrograd in November 1917 with – perhaps typically for revolutions – promises of bread, peace and land for the peasants. November 9, 1917 Coup d’etat in Petrograd – Maximalists in possession
A statement issued by the Petrograd Official Agency, received telegraphically from Petrograd, announces that the Congress of Soviets of All Russia has distributed important proclamations to the Provincial Soviets.
These proclamations give: delegate power to Soviets to relieve government commissaries of their duties; order the release of arrested members of the agricultural committees and the arrest of the commissaries who arrested them; abolish the death penalty; re-establish freedom of political propaganda as at the front; order the release of revolutionary soldiers and officers who were arrested for alleged political crimes, and order the arrest of ex- Ministers Konovaloff, Kischkin, Terestchenko, Malayovitch, Nikitin and others.
It is also announced that M Kerensky escaped from the military, and the Soviets are enjoined to arrest him, and all in complicity with him will be treated for high treason.
A wireless message from Petrograd announces a proclamation by the Soviet of the authority of the Military Revolutionary Committee “until the creation of a Government of Soviets”.
The Soviet considers as the programme of the new authority that: first, there should be about an offer of an immediate democratic peace; second, that there should be the immediate handing over the large proprietorial lands to the peasants; third, that all authority should be transmitted to the Soviets, and fourth, that “there should be an honest convocation of a constituent assembly.
The wireless adjunction concludes: “Soldiers! For peace, for bread, for the power of the people!”
This proclamation is signed by the Military Revolutionary Committee.
A message dated Wednesday was received late from Reuters’ correspondent at Petrograd saying that up to then there had been no bloodshed, and only a few minor street collisions.
Late night Reuters’ Petrograd correspondent telegraphed that the Maximalists have occupied the Winter Palace, also the premises of the General Staff.
A statement received by Reuters from official agency of Petrograd says the Military Revolutionary Committee of the Soviet issued a proclamation stating that Petrograd is in its hands, thanks to the assistance of the garrison, which enabled the coup d’etat to be brought about with bloodshed.
The proclamation declares that the new government will propose an immediate and just peace, will hand the land to the people and form a constituent assembly.
Lenin, whose speech was greeted with prolonged cheers, outlined the three problems before the Russians democracy.
The first was the immediate conclusion of the war, for which the new government must propose an armistice to the belligerents; the second was the handing over the land to the peasants, the third was the settlement of the economic crisis.
The assembly then passed a resolution in favour of the speediest settlement of these problems.
Revolutionary leaders Leon Trotsky, Vladimir Lenin and Lev Kamenev. Under Stalin, Kamenev was executed in 1936 and Trotsky assassinated in Mexico in 1940.