5-11 March 1917

  • By Mark Sutcliffe
  • 11 Mar, 2017
Alexander Kerensky, leading member of the Provisional Government

It was Alexander Kerensky who most represented the fraternal and national ideal of the revolution. A member both of the Executive Committee of the Petrograd Soviet and of the Provisional Government … Kerensky was idolized by many as a symbol of the revolution – and with good reason. In the February days, no other member of the Duma so boldly went out into the streets of the city to voice support for the demonstrating workers and soldiers. None was so ready as he to defy the tsar’s order disbanding the Duma. And Kerensky was the most convinced and energetic advocate of the political coalition that united the ‘bourgeois’ liberals and the plebeian soviets … that characterized Russian politics between February and October. He literally ‘personified’ national unity, and he was lionized in just this way: as ‘the genius of Russian freedom’.
(Mark D. Steinberg,   Voices of Revolution, 1917 , New Haven and London 2001)

Memoir by the Menshevik Nikolai Sukhanov
It was a heavy load that history laid upon feeble shoulders. I used to say that Kerensky had golden hands, meaning his supernatural energy, amazing capacity for work, and inexhaustible temperament. But he lacked the head for statesmanship and had no real political schooling. Without those elementary and indispensable attributes, the irreplaceable Kerensky of expiring Tsarism, the ubiquitous Kerensky of the February-March days could not but stumble headlong and flounder into his July-September situation, and then plunge into his October nothingness, taking with him, alas! an enormous part of what we had achieved in the February-March revolution. But it was clear to me that it was precisely Kerensky with his ‘golden hands’, with his views and inclinations, and with his situation as a deputy and his exceptional popularity who, by the will of fate, had been summoned to be the central figure of the revolution, or at least of its beginnings.
(N.N. Sukhanov,  The Russian Revolution 1917: a Personal Record ,  Oxford 1955)

It soon became obvious that Alexander Feodorovich Kerensky, Minister of Justice, was man of the moment. His name seemed to be in everyone’s mouth; in fact, it was rumoured that Kerensky himself was instrumental in bringing about the abdication. So much is rumoured in these exciting days that it is difficult to distinguish truth from fiction. I saw a picture of Kerensky this morning and was surprised to see how young he looked; clean-shaven, with an oval face, his appearance was in striking contrast with those heavily bewhiskered and bearded generals and politicians … All eyes were now riveted on the Provisional Government. Would the power wielded by that handful of brave men spread its kindly influence throughout that vast country, bringing new hope to the despondent, allaying the fears of the pessimistic, and assuring one and all of the advent of a new era of hope, peace and prosperity?
(Florence Farmborough, Nurse at the Russian Front: A Diary 1914-18 , London 1974)

5 March

Diary entry of Georges-Maurice Paléologue, French Ambassador to Russia
I went out to see some of the churches: I was curious to know how the faithful would behave at the Sunday mass now that the name of the Emperor has been deleted from public prayers … The same scene met me everywhere; a grave and silent congregation exchanging amazed and melancholy glances. Some of the moujiks looked bewildered and horrified and several had tears in their eyes. Yet even among those who seemed the most moved I could not find one who did not sport a red cockade or armband. They had all been working for the Revolution; all of them were with it, body and soul. But that did not prevent them from shedding tears for their little Father, the Tsar, Tsary batiushka !
(Maurice Paléologue, An Ambassador's Memoirs 1914-1917 , London 1973)

6 March

Diary entry of Louis de Robien, attaché at the French Embassy
People say that the Emperor is asking to be taken to Tsarskoye selo, to be near the Grand Duchesses, who are ill. From there he would go to England by way of Murmansk.
(Louis de Robien, The Diary of a Diplomat in Russia 1917-1918 , London 1969)

7 March

Report in The Times
A cavalry captain today tried to gain access to M. Kerensky, the Minister of Justice, on the pretext that he had a letter to deliver. As the man’s attitude was suspicious he was searched, and in one of his pockets was a loaded revolver. On being placed under arrest the officer snatched the revolver from one of the officials and shot himself dead.
The Times , ‘The New Regime in Russia’

Diary entry of Georges-Maurice Paléologue, French Ambassador to Russia
This afternoon I went for a walk round the centre of the city and Vassili-Ostrov. Order has been almost restored. There are fewer drunken soldiers, yelling mobs and armoured cars laden with evil-looking maniacs. But I found ‘meetings’ in progress everywhere, held in the open air, or perhaps I should say open gale. The groups were small: twenty or thirty people at the outside, and comprising soldiers, peasants, working-men and students. One of the company mounts a stone, or a bench, or a heap of snow, and talks his head off, gesticulating wildly. The audience gazes fixedly at the orator and listens in a kind of rapt absorption. As soon as he stops another takes his place and immediately gets the same fervent, silent and concentrated attention. What an artless and affecting sight it is when one remembers that the Russian nation has been waiting centuries for the right of speech!
(Maurice Paléologue, An Ambassador's Memoirs 1914-1917 , London 1973)

Diary entry of an anonymous Englishman (Letter to Sir Arthur George)
Oh! Archie we have had a week! As you may imagine, I have been in the streets all through the revolution – constantly on my stomach in the snow with the police machine-guns firing over me. You would have laughed to see me lying in the snow in the middle of a street with a fat woman across my body and the machine-guns raking the street. I am very, very tired. I saw a great deal and also heard a great deal of first-hand news, all of which I have written down from hour to hour … The first firing by the police was in our street at 5.15p.m. on Saturday [25 February]. – Until Wednesday [1st], a complete upheaval. By Thursday the police had been beaten and the Emperor had abdicated. The new Executive Government only wanted a Constitutional regime, but things have gone so far it will probably have to be a Republic; still, Russia is a box of surprises … The fear is that the present Liberal-Radical Government may become Radical-Red.
(The Russian Diary of an Englishman, Petrograd 1915-1917  , New York 1919)

8 March

Memoir of Pierre Gilliard, tutor to the Tsar’s children
At half past ten on the morning of the 8th Her Majesty summoned me and told me that General Kornilov had been sent by the Provisional Government to inform her that the Tsar and herself were under arrest and that those who did not wish to be kept in close confinement must leave the palace before four o’clock. I replied that I had decided to stay with them. ‘The Tsar is coming back tomorrow. Alexei must be told everything. Will you do it? I am going to tell the girls myself.’ It was easy to see how she suffered when she thought of the grief of the Grand Duchesses on hearing that their father had abdicated. They were ill, and the news might make them worse. I went to Alexei and told him that the Tsar would be returning from Mogilev next morning and would never go back there again. ‘Why?’ ‘Your father does not want to be Commander-in-Chief any more.’ He was greatly moved by this, as he was very fond of going to GHQ. After a moment or two I added: ‘You know that your father does not want to be Tsar any more?’ He looked at me in astonishment, trying to read in my face what had happened. ‘What! Why?’ ‘He is very tired and has had a lot of trouble lately.’ ‘Oh yes! Mother told me they stopped his train when he wanted to come here. But won’t papa be Tsar again afterwards?’ I then told him that the Tsar had abdicated in favour of the Grand Duke Mikhail, who had also renounced the throne. ‘But who’s going to be Tsar, then?’ ‘I don’t know. Perhaps nobody now.’ Not a word about himself. Not a single allusion to his rights as the Heir. He was very red and agitated. There was a silence, and then he said: ‘But if there isn’t a Tsar, who’s going to govern Russia?’ At four o’clock the doors of the palace were closed. We were prisoners!
(Sergei Mironenko, A Lifelong Passion , London 1996)

9 March

Sir George Buchanan, British Ambassador to the Imperial Court
The Emperor – who after his abdication had returned to his former headquarters at Mohileff – was now styled ‘Colonel’ Romanoff, according to his official rank in the army. On March [9] he was brought to Tsarskoe, where he and the Empress were placed under arrest. When the news of his abdication had first reached the palace the Empress had refused to credit it... But, when the first shock was over, she behaved with wonderful dignity and courage. ‘I am now only a nursing sister,’ she said. … Though, during their stay at Tsarskoe, Their Majesties were under constant guard, and could not even walk in their private garden without being stared at by a little crowd of curious spectators who watched them through the park railings, they were spared any ill-treatment. Special measures for their protection were taken by Kerensky, as at one moment the extremists, who clamoured for their punishment, had threatened to seize them and to imprison them in the fortress.
(Sir George Buchanan, My Mission to Russia  , London 1923)

Report in the Manchester Guardian
M. Kerensky, one of the Russian Socialist leaders and the new Minister of Justice, in an interview with the ‘Daily Chronicle’s’ Petrograd correspondent, said: - ‘I must tell you frankly that we Russian Democrats have been latterly rather worried about England, because of the close relations between your Government and the corrupt Government we had. But now, thank God, that is over, and our deep, strong feeling for England as the champion of liberty will come into its own again.’
The Manchester Guardian, ‘Russian Democrats and Britain’, 22 [9] March 1917

Sir George Buchanan, British Ambassador to the Imperial Court
The United States Ambassador was the first to recognize the Provisional Government officially on March [9], an achievement of which he was always very proud. I had, unfortunately, been laid up for a few days with a bad chill, and it was only on the afternoon of the [11th] that I was allowed to get up and go with my French and Italian colleagues to the Ministry, where Prince Lvoff and all the members of his Government were waiting to receive us.
(Sir George Buchanan, My Mission to Russia  , London 1923)

Memoir of Princess Paley
The Embassy of England, on the orders of Lloyd George, had become a centre of propaganda. The Liberals, Prince Lvoff, Miliukoff, Rodzianko, Maklakoff, Guchkoff etc, were constantly there. It was at the English Embassy that it was decided to abandon legal avenues and follow the path of Revolution. It should be added that in all of this Sir George Buchanan, the English Ambassador to Petrograd, was satisfying a personal grudge. The Emperor didn’t like him and he was increasingly cool towards him.
Princess Paley, ‘Souvenirs de Russie’, Revue de Paris 1922

Sir George Buchanan, British Ambassador to the Imperial Court
That Princess Paley is gifted with a vivid imagination is no secret to me, and I can but congratulate her on this chef-d’oeuvre … Needless to say, I never engaged in any revolutionary propaganda, and Mr Lloyd George had our national interests far too much at heart ever to have authorized me to promote a revolution in Russia in the middle of a world war … Princess Paley, unlike my other critics, has rendered me one service for which I am grateful. I have often wondered what was the motive that prompted me to start the Russian revolution, and she is good enough to tell me. The Emperor did not like me – he has received me at my last audience standing – he had never offered me a chair. What more natural than that after such treatment I should … try to bring about a palace revolution?
(Sir George Buchanan, My Mission to Russia  , London 1923)

10 March

Letter from Aleksei Peshkov [Maxim Gorky] to his son M.A. Peshkov from Petrograd
My dear friend, my son, You should bear in mind that the revolution has only just begun; it will last for years, a counter-revolution is possible, and the emergence of reactionary ideas and attitudes is inevitable … The events taking place here threaten us with grave danger. We have accomplished the political revolution and now we must consolidate our conquests … And we must remember that Wilhelm Hohenzollern could still play the same role in the rebirth of reaction as was once played by our own Alexander Romanov I. The Petersburg bourgeois is capable of greeting Wilhelm with the same applause with which he once greeted Alexander! … Russia is now a free country and the German invasion is threatening that freedom. If Wilhelm were to win, the Romanovs would be restored to power.
( Maksim Gorky: Selected Letters , Oxford 1997)


11 March 2017

Alexander Kerensky (1881-1970), the son of a school superintendent from Simbirsk, graduated in law in 1904 and specialised in legal aid. In December 1905 he was arrested and imprisoned for four months for possession of illegal literature. For the next six years he devoted himself to the defence of political offenders all over Russia. In 1913 he came to public attention for highlighting the government's antisemitic policies in the trial of Menahem Beilis. For this Kerensky was sentenced to eight months' imprisonment and denied the right to run for public office (though he was already a member of the Duma). He was a highly informed opponent of the Tsarist regime, but surely he could never have anticipated his sudden elevation to the forefront of Russia's revolutionary events. In the words of one historian, 'Kerensky's emergence as a popular leader in the first days of the February Revolution was phenomenal. He was everywhere, in the halls of the Duma, on the streets, in the barracks, voicing with impassioned eloquence the hopes and aspirations of the people. When the decision was taken to form a new government, it was clear to all he would have to be in it.' Kerensky's role in the Provisional Government will form part of the narrative of the coming months; how he saw it all ten years later is clear from the title of his 1927 memoir: 'The Catastrophe'. In the book he makes an interesting, though perhaps rather self-justifying, assertion about the importance of the Revolution in the eventual defeat of Germany: 'The Revolution succeeded in abolishing the autocracy, but it could not remove the exhaustion of the country, for one of its main duties was to carry on the War. It had decided to put the utmost strain upon the country's resources. Herein lay the tragedy of the Revolution and of the Russian people. Some day the world will learn to understand in its proper light the  via crucis  Russia walked in 1916-17 and is, indeed, still walking. I am quite convinced that the Revolution alone kept the Russian army at the front until the autumn of 1917, that it alone made it possible for the United States to come into the War, that the Revolution alone made the defeat of Hohenzollern Germany possible.'

A hundred years ago, Russia overthrew a monarchy and started off on a path that led to 70 years of communism. Follow events here week by week through eyewitness accounts.

By Mark Sutcliffe 18 Nov, 2017

A peculiar atmosphere prevailed at the conferences of the highest administrative councils of Soviet Russia, presided over by Lenin. Despite all the efforts of an officious secretary to impart to each session the character of a cabinet meeting, we could not help feeling that here we were, attending another sitting of an underground revolutionary committee! … Many of the commissars remained seated in their topcoats or greatcoats; most of them wore the forbidding leather jackets. In the wintertime some wore felt boots and thick sweaters. They remained thus clothed throughout the meetings.
(Richard Pipes, quoting the Menshevik Simon Liberman,   A Concise History of the Russian Revolution , London 1995)

12 November

The Bolsheviki are forming councils, committees, sub-committees, courts, leagues, parties, societies; they are talented talkers and gifted orators. The masses of the people flock to their call. Already they have established the nucleus of the Proletarian Republic and drawn up their political programme; and, what is more surprising, they have successfully organised the Red Army – in great part drawn from the disloyal soldiers of the Imperial Army. One and all wage war against the ‘intelligentsia’ and the ‘bourgeoisie’ – nicknames given to the educated people and to the middle-class or ‘idle rich’. There is no doubt that Lenin and Trotsky are intent on exterminating the Russian intellectual classes.
(Florence Farmborough, Nurse at the Russian Front: A Diary 1914-18 , London 1974)

Diary entry of Louis de Robien, attaché at the French Embassy
Alexandre Benois, who is president of the Fine Arts Commission, told me that the damage done to the Winter Palace is not as bad as people thought. It is confined to the theft of a few objects in the rooms of Alexander II and Nicholas I.
(Louis de Robien, The Diary of a Diplomat in Russia 1917-1918 , London 1969)

13 November

Report in The Times headed ‘Bolshevism repudiated at Washington’
M. Bakhmetieff, the Russian Ambassador, has officially repudiated the Bolshevist regime in Petrograd. He has addressed to Mr. Lansing a long letter which explains that he will continue to carry out the duties entrusted to him at the Embassy regardless of the Bolshevists or any other temporary rule of violence in Russia … M. Bakhmetieff declares in his letter his confidence that the sound, constructive element in Russia will soon arise and sweep aside the Bolshevists or any others who, in opposition to the true spirit of the nation, seek to betray the Allies and withdraw from the war.
(From our correspondent, New York, The Times )

In a highly sensational speech, delivered before the Central Executive Committee of the Soviets, Trotsky expressed the hope that General Dukhonin would act in conformity with the policy of the Government … The peace ‘decree’, Trotsky continued, marked the beginning of a new era in history. It came as a surprise to the routine-loving governing classes of Europe, who first regarded it as a mere party manifesto, not as an act of the Russian Government … The greatest hostility was exhibited on the part of England, ‘who plays a leading part at the present juncture and who has suffered least from the war, while she stands to gain most. France, who had suffered most, responded to the Russian revolution with the bourgeoisie Ministry of M. Clemenceau, which was the last effort of French Imperialism. Italy, disillusioned by her losses, welcomed it with enthusiasm. America had joined in the war, not for the sake of ideals, as President Wilson declared, but with a view to financial and industrial advantages.
(Report in The Times )

14 November

Sir George Buchanan, British Ambassador to Russia
In my opinion, the only safe course left to us is to give Russia back her word and to tell her people that, realizing how worn out they are by the war and the disorganization inseparable from a great revolution, we leave it to them to decide whether they will purchase peace on Germany’s terms or fight on with the Allies … It has always been my one aim and object to keep Russia in the war, but one cannot force an exhausted nation to fight against its will.
(Sir George Buchanan, My Mission to Russia , London 1923)

Report in The Times headed ‘Escape of Ex-Tsar’s Daughter’
American audiences are shortly to have the privilege of listening to appeals on behalf of the Russian people from a young woman who will be presented to them under the simple name of Miss Tatiana Nicolaievna Romanoff. She is understood to be the 20-year-old daughter of the deposed Tsar. On the authority of M. Ivan Narodny, of the News Bureau of the Russian Post Office in New York, the American newspapers today publish romantic accounts of the escape of the former Grand Duchess from Tobolsk. Miss Romanoff, according to these accounts, underwent a fictitious ceremony of marriage with a son of her father’s former Court Chamberlain, Count Fredericks, and thereby gained a certain measure of freedom from observation, which she utilized in order to make her escape to Kharbin for Sand Francisco. M. Narodny, who prefaces his narrative with the observation ‘these are strange times in Russia,’ says that the Tsar’s daughter when she arrives here will work for the Russian Civilian Relief Society. She will write short fairy stories, give dance performances, and desires to lecture to American women on conditions in Russia.
(From our correspondent, New York, The Times )

15 November

Diary entry of Alexander Benois, artist and critic
In my heart of hearts I am convinced that in his soul and in his being the Russian is freer than anyone. Even under the tsarist regime there was nowhere in the world with such freedom (even to the level of libertinism) of way of life, conversation, thought, as in Russia. Even our proverbial ‘right to disgrace’ is only an expression of the freedom that is within and inherent to everyone, based on racial characteristics but nurtured in the Christian idea of ‘the kingdom of God being within us’.
(Alexander Benois, Diary 1916-1918 , Moscow 2006)

16 November

Pauline Crosby, wife of American naval attaché, in a letter home
In general the news is: Petrograd is still here; a part of Moscow is no longer there; many handsome estates are no longer anywhere; the Bolsheviki are everywhere.
(Helen Rappaport, Caught in the Revolution: Petrograd 1917 , London 2017)

From somewhere torches appeared, blazing orange in the night, a thousand times reflected in the facets of the ice, streaming smokily over the throng as it moved down the bank of the Fontanka singing, between crowds that stood in astonished silence. ‘Long live the Revolutionary Army! Long live the Red Guard! Long live the Peasants!’ So the great procession wound through the city, growing and unfurling ever new red banners lettered in gold. Two old peasants, bowed with toil, were walking hand in hand, their faces illumined with child-like bliss. ‘Well,’ said one, ‘I’d like to see them take away our land again, now!’
(John Reed, Ten Days that Shook the World , New York 1919)

17 November

Diary entry of Louis de Robien, attaché at the French Embassy
Things are happening fast, and yesterday Trotsky was able to make a triumphant announcement to the Assembly of Soviets (which has been joined by the Council of Peasants, which up to now had remained with the opposition and had rejected all contact with the Bolsheviks). The announcement is to the effect that armistice negotiations have begun.
(Louis de Robien, The Diary of a Diplomat in Russia 1917-1918 , London 1969)

18 November

Diary entry of Louis de Robien, attaché at the French Embassy
The Allies here continue to give an impression of complete confusion … Meanwhile Trotsky keeps the score and no longer misses a single false move on the part of his adversaries. He has become very self-assured and has not hesitated to send a very firm note to Sir George [Buchanan] asking for two Russian anarchists who are being held in England to be released immediately … People say that the Commissars even contemplated shutting up Sir George himself as a hostage in Peter-and-Paul.
(Louis de Robien, The Diary of a Diplomat in Russia 1917-1918 , London 1969)


18 November 2017

The report by the New York correspondent of The Times of the escape of Tatiana, one of Nicholas II’s daughters, must have been one of the first accounts of the Romanov children avoiding their terrible fate at the hands of the Bolsheviks; a fate that was proved decisively through DNA tests only in the 1990s. Such romantic stories – or as we now call them, ‘fake news’ – subsequently became legion, focusing on Anastasia and Alexei in particular. This report is interesting precisely because it is so early, when the family was still alive and reasonably well in Tobolsk and yet to be moved to Ekaterinburg, where they were all murdered in July 1918. It’s also, frankly, bizarre, with mention of the Grand Duchess preparing to give dance performances to the American public. It makes one wonder what would have become of the former imperial family had they been offered asylum by George V or indeed been spirited away from the Crimean coast like many of their circle. In exile the children would no doubt have married, had children of their own – their grandchildren would be easily alive today, perhaps even back in favour with the current regime. Stranger things have happened (are happening).

By Mark Sutcliffe 11 Nov, 2017
The Winter Palace during a spectacular light show to mark the anniversary of the revolution,
as per the Gregorian calendar. 5 November 2017
By Mark Sutcliffe 05 Nov, 2017
Red peasant, soldier and working man to the cossack: 'Cossack, who are you with? Them or us?'
By Mark Sutcliffe 28 Oct, 2017
Students and soldiers firing across the Moika River at police who are resisting the revolutionaries,  24 October 1917
© IWM (Q 69411)
By Mark Sutcliffe 21 Oct, 2017
Revolutionaries remove the remaining relics of the Imperial Regime from the facade of official buildings, Petrograd
© IWM (Q 69406)
By Mark Sutcliffe 14 Oct, 2017
There entered a clean-shaven, bespectacled, grey-haired man, ‘every bit like a Lutheran minister’,
Alexandra Kollontai remembered.
By Mark Sutcliffe 06 Oct, 2017
Masses of Russian prisoners captured in the fighting near Riga, September 1917 © IWM (Q 86680)
By Mark Sutcliffe 30 Sep, 2017
Florence Farmborough at the Russian Front, 1915 (painted from a photograph)
By Mark Sutcliffe 23 Sep, 2017
The man with whom the moderates urged caution, Kerensky, remained pitifully weak, and growing weaker. He struggled, lashed out to shore up his authority. On 18 September he pronounced the dissolution of the Central Committee of the Baltic Fleet. The sailors responded simply that his order was 'considered inoperative'. The Democratic Conference, too, strained for relevance ... The proceedings were outdoing their own absurdity.
(China Miéville, October: The Story of the Russian Revolution , London 2017)

17 September

All power to the Soviets – such is the slogan of the new movement… All power to the imperialist bourgeoisie – such is the slogan of the Kerensky Government. There is no room for doubt. We have two powers before us: the power of Kerensky and his government, and the power of the Soviets and the Committees. The fight between these two powers is the characteristic feature of the present moment. Either the power of the Kerensky Government – and then the rule of the landlords and capitalists, war and chaos. Or the power of the Soviets – and then the rule of the workers and peasants, peace and the liquidation of chaos.
(J. Stalin, ‘All Power to the Soviets’,  The Russian Revolution , London 1938)

18 September

Letter from Sofia Yudina in Petrograd to her friend Nina Agafonnikova in Vyatka
I don’t know much about art, I’d love to know more. If you were here and there was no war, we’d go to the Hermitage, everywhere, and we’d learn. Arkasha would go with us the first few times and teach us how to look, how to see and find the beauty in paintings … But unfortunately, sadly, we can’t do any of this. The Hermitage is closed: it’s being evacuated and only, probably, in about four or five years will it be possible to see pictures in the Hermitage again…
(Viktor Berdinskikh,  Letters from Petrograd: 1916-1919 , St Petersburg 2016)

19 September

Report in the Times headed ‘Good work of Democratic conference’
The conference has lost much of its nervousness and seems to be finding itself. There was a good deal of wandering from the main point, which is to decide the form of government which will be in control until the meeting of the Constituent Assembly. Nor is this to be wondered at when it is considered how little experience the Russian masses have had in conducting politics. There is no doubt that the Conference is realizing the terrible situation in which the country finds itself, and is trying to the utmost to bend its energies in the direction of a solution.
(‘Coalition Probable in Russia’, The Times (from our correspondent))

20 September

Diary entry of Joshua Butler Wright, Counselor of the American Embassy, Petrograd
Yesterday’s conference was typical of the political chaos now reigning in this distracted country. First vote was for coalition, second to eliminate those implicated with Kornilov, third to eliminate Kadets, and fourth (submitted for no perceivable reason) overwhelmingly against coalition! Whereupon the somewhat dazed ‘presidium’ decided to enlarge itself and to adjourn conference until 6.00 PM today. The two outstanding facts were the extreme unpopularity of the Kadets and the quiet power of the Maximalist [Bolshevik] faction. I forgot to say yesterday that a charming piece of German propaganda is to have a cartoon and the Russian words ‘Why fight for capitalistic England’ on every sheet of toilet paper in the Russian latrines at the front.
( Witness to Revolution: The Russian Revolution Diary and Letters of J. Butler Wright , London 2002)

21 September

Sir George Buchanan, British Ambassador to Russia
The Bolsheviks, who form a compact minority, have alone a definite political programme. They are more active and better organized than any other group, and until they and the ideas which they represent are finally squashed, the country will remain a prey to anarchy and disorder ... If the Government are not strong enough to put down the Bolsheviks by force, at the risk of breaking altogether with the Soviet, the only alternative will be a Bolshevik Government.
(Sir George Buchanan, My Mission to Russia , London 1923)

22 September

Report in The Times
Russia is a woman labouring in childbirth, and this is the moment chosen by Germany to strike her down. Whatever may be the strict rights of the case, the spirit of history will never forgive her. The liberty which has been painfully born in Russia will rise to vindicate her in the coming generation, and will become the most implacable foe of a future Germany.
(‘Reprisals’, The Times)

23 September

Diary entry of Louis de Robien, attaché at the French Embassy
In the provinces, the hostility of the peasants towards the workers is increasing and the moujiks are refusing to sell their products to feed the workers, whom they accuse of having caused the economic crisis through their idleness. The workers are doing less and less work because it does not provide them with a living, and because on their part they do not want to do anything for the peasants who refuse to supply them. It is a vicious circle which makes the economic situation more serious every day. The result is armed conflict, pogroms, and disorders of every kind.
(Louis de Robien, The Diary of a Diplomat in Russia 1917-1918 , London 1969)



23 September 2017

Party conference season is upon us and excitement is rising to an almost noticeable level. Actually, that's not entirely fair. There is a good deal of anticipation this year, thanks to Corbyn fever and Maybot uncertainty, with Brexit looming large over everything. The stakes are higher than normal, just as they were for the All-Russian Democratic Conference in Petrograd a hundred years earlier. (Corbyn is no Stalin, but a small amendment to the 17 September quotation has a certain resonance: Either the power of the May Government – and then the rule of the landlords and capitalists, war and chaos. Or the power of the Labour left – and then the rule of the workers and peasants, peace and the liquidation of chaos. ) Nobody really suspected that a month after this conference the country would be in greater turmoil than ever before (though the British ambassador, Buchanan, seems to make a good stab at such a prediction, in a book published six years later). Descriptions of the conference reveal all factions to be in various degrees of confusion and internal strife. Perhaps if its representatives had talked about transitional arrangements that avoided a cliff-edge scenario, leading to a new promised land of fairness and prosperity for all, things might have been different... Soft, not hard, revolution then.

By Mark Sutcliffe 16 Sep, 2017
A half-length portrait of a young female Russian soldier serving with the Russian Women's 'Battalion of Death', 1917. The Battalion was formed by the Provisional Government in Petrograd after the February Revolution. The soldier is carrying a shortened Mosin-Nagant rifle, with bayonet fixed. Her head has been completely shaved (© IWM (Q 106251)
More Posts
Share by: