Cru­cible of pop­u­lar re­volt over­turned Rus­sia’s dy­nas­tic or­der

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

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