19-25 February 1917

  • By Mark Sutcliffe
  • 24 Feb, 2017
Georges-Maurice Paléologue, French Ambassador to Russia

Discontent among the masses in Russia is daily becoming more marked. Disparaging statements concerning the Government are being voiced – at first, they were surreptitious, and now, more bold and brazen, at meetings and street corners. We feel sorry for the Imperial Family and especially for the Tsar. He, it is said, wishes to please everybody and succeeds in pleasing nobody. As time goes on, rumours of disorder become more persistent. Sabotage has become the order of the day. Railroads are damaged; industrial plants destroyed; large factories and mills burnt down; workshops and laboratories looted. Now, rancour is turning towards the military chiefs. Why are the armies at a standstill? Why are the soldiers allowed to rot in the snow-filled trenches? Why continue the stalemate war? ‘Bring the men home!’ ‘Conclude peace!’ ‘Finish this interminable war once and for all!’ Cries such as these penetrate to the cold and hungry soldiers in their bleak earthworks, and begin to echo among them.
(Florence Farmborough, Nurse at the Russian Front: A Diary 1914-18 , London 1974)

22 February
The Tsar, reassured by Protopopov that he had the situation in hand, left for the front on February 22: he would return two weeks later as Nicholas Romanov, a private citizen.
(Richard Pipes, A Concise History of the Russian Revolution , London 1995)

23 February
On Thursday, 23 February, the temperature in Petrograd rose to a spring-like minus five degrees. People emerged from their winter hibernation to enjoy the sun and join in the hunt for food. Nevsky Prospekt was crowded with shoppers. The mild weather was set to continue until 3 March – by which time the tsarist regime would have collapsed. Not for the first time in Russian history the weather was to play a decisive role.
(Orlando Figes, A People's Tragedy , London 1996)

Diary entry of Joshua Butler Wright, Counselor of the American Embassy, Petrograd
The long threatening disturbances broke out quite suddenly today in the shape of a general strike in the munitions factories – which stopped for the first time since the war. The people paraded the Liteinyi, the Nevsky Prospekt and other principal streets, many women being among them, crying ‘Give us bread!’ The government has been prepared for a long time and the Cossacks appeared as if by magic, driving back the people with the flat of their sabers and with their wicked looking lances. They show great dexterity in the handling of crowds and use their ponies cleverly. Rumor has it that a police officer was killed by the mob. It is not a wicked demonstration but very natural protests against present conditions. Dined at Korostovetz’s. Succeeded in obtaining a Cossack guard for the Austrian embassy.
( Witness to Revolution: The Russian Revolution Diary and Letters of J. Butler Wright , London 2002)

Diary entry of Louis de Robien, attaché at the French Embassy
It is to be feared that revolutionary agitators and German agents are profiting by the conditions. It is said that there is a certain amount of unrest in the suburbs. I went out at about four o’clock to take Friquet for a walk, and went as far as the Nevsky Prospekt. I met a small group of demonstrators who were, however, quite quiet and surrounded by police. Everything is perfectly calm and the passers-by watch them with amused sympathy. In Sadovaya Street the trams have stopped … I don’t know whether it is because of other demonstrations, or simply because of a power breakdown … That evening, a big dinner at the Embassy … After dinner, Alexandre Benois confirms that there have been some incidents in the outskirts. They say that at one place a tram was overturned.
(Louis de Robien, The Diary of a Diplomat in Russia 1917-1918 , London 1969)

Diary entry of Alexander Benois, artist and critic
There was a grand dinner at Paléologue's this evening. Something ominous is brewing! On the Vyborg side there have been some widespread disturbances, the result of bread shortages (the only surprise is that they haven’t happened sooner!) … We wouldn’t have made it to Paléologue's because of the complete absence of cabs had not the kind Gorchakovs sent a car for us … The embassy looked very festive, with chandeliers ablaze and the dining table extended down the whole length of the main dining-room upstairs … For some reason Paléologue had not asked me to bring Prokofiev along again – seems that after the first time he does not believe in the significance of this green-behind-the-ears young man. [Louis] De Robien and I spent a good quarter of an hour in the recess of one of the windows in the drawing room stealthily pulling back the curtains to follow what was going on on Liteiny Bridge … we could see large crowds of people making their way in a constant stream towards the city … The Gorchakovs took us home as well. [Benois added the note: ‘We never imagined that this would be our last visit, that the evening we had just enjoyed was the last gathering of Petersburg society.’]
(Alexander Benois , Diary 1916-1918 , Moscow 2006)

Diary entry of Georges-Maurice Paléologue, French Ambassador to Russia
I had Trepov, Count Tolstoi, Director of the Hermitage, my Spanish colleague, Villasinda, and a score of my regular guests to dinner this evening. The occurrences in the streets were responsible for a shade of anxiety which marked our faces and our conversation. I asked Trepov what steps the Government was taking to bring food supplies to Petrograd, as unless they are taken the situation will probably soon get worse. His replies were anything but reassuring. When I returned to my other guests, I found all traces of anxiety had vanished from their features and their talk. The main object of conversation was an evening party which Princess Leon Radziwill is giving on Sunday: it wall be a large and brilliant party, and everyone was hoping that there will be music and dancing. Trepov and I stared at each other. The same words came to our lips: ‘What a curious time to arrange a party!’ In one group, various opinions were being passed on the dancers of the Marie Theatre and whether the palm for excellence should be awarded to Pavlova, Kchechinskaia or Karsavina, etc. In spite of the fact that revolution is in the air in his capital, the Emperor, who has spent the last two months at Tsarskoie-Selo, left for General Headquarters this evening.
(Maurice Paléologue, An Ambassador's Memoirs 1914-1917 , London 1973)

Letter from Nicholas at General Headquarters to Alexandra
My own beloved Sunny,
Loving thanks for your precious letter – you left in my compartment – I read it greedily before going to bed. It did me good, in my solitude, after two months being together, if not to hear your sweet voice, atleast [sic] to be comforted by those lines of tender love! …. It is so quiet in this house, no rumbling about, no excited shouts! I imagine he [Aleksei] is asleep in the bedroom! All his tiny things, photos & toys are kept in good order in the bedroom & in the bowwindow [sic] room! Ne nado! On the other hand, what a luck that he did not come here with me now only to fall ill & lie in that small bedroom of our’s! God grant the measles may continue with no complications & better all the children at once have it! … What you write about being firm – the master – is perfectly true. I do not forget it – be sure of that, but I need not bellow at the people right & left every moment. A quiet sharp remark or answer is enough very often to put the one or the other into his place. Now, Lovy-mine dear, it is late. Good-night, God bless our slumber, sleep well without the animal warmth.
( The Complete Wartime Correspondence of Tsar Nicholas II and the Empress Alexandra: April 1914-March 1917 , ed. Joseph T. Fuhrmann, London 1999)

24 February
Diary entry of James L. Houghteling, Jr, attaché at the American Embassy, Petrograd
Russia is a great place in which not to do shopping. The salespeople simply don’t want to wait on you, don’t care whether you buy or not. The foreigners leave them far behind in trade and the best shops are manned with English, Belgians, Swedes and Baltickers. Formerly the Germans were the great shop-keepers of Russia.
(James L. Houghteling, Jr, A Diary of the Russian Revolution , New York 1918)

Diary entry of an anonymous Englishman
Drove to the French Hospital. Just after crossing the Nicolai Bridge I met a demonstration singing the ‘Marseillaise’. They were prevented from crossing the bridge, so turned back and went up the 8th Linea Street. I got out of my sledge, and telling the man to wait I joined them and went with them as far as the Bolschoie Prospekt. They were accompanied by Cossacks. They were not harassed at all, and the Cossacks chaffed them and talked to the children: all were on the best of terms. I wanted to see how they behaved and how they were treated. Tout était à l’aimable. When I left them I walked back to my sledge and went on to the hospital.
(The Russian Diary of an Englishman, Petrograd 1915-1917 , New York 1919)

25 February
Letter from Alexandra at Tsarskoe Selo to Nicholas
My own priceless, beloved treasure
8° & gently snowing – so far I sleep very well, but miss you my Love more than words can say. – The rows [disorders] in town and strikes are more than provoking … Its a hooligan movement, young boys & girls running about & screaming that they have no bread, only to excite - & then the workmen preventing others fr. work – if it were very cold they wld. probably stay in doors. But this will all pass & quieten down – if the Duma wld. only behave itself – one does not print the worst speeches but I find that antidynastic ones ought to be at once very severely punished as its time of war, yet more so.
( The Complete Wartime Correspondence of Tsar Nicholas II and the Empress Alexandra: April 1914-March 1917 , ed. Joseph T. Fuhrmann, London 1999)

Memoir of A.P. Balk, Governor of Petrograd
February 25 was a total defeat for us. Not only were the leaders of the revolutionary actions convinced that the troops were acting without spirit, even unwillingly, but the crowd also sensed the weakness of the authorities and became emboldened. The decision of the military authorities to impose control by force, in exceptional circumstances to use arms, not only poured oil on the fire but shook up the troops and allowed them to think that the authorities … feared ‘the people’.
(Ronald Kowalski, The Russian Revolution 1917-1921 , London & New York 1997) 

Extract from a history of the revolution
Whatever chance there was of containing the incipient rebellion was destroyed with the arrival in the evening of February 25 of a telegram from Nicholas to the city’s military commander demanding that he restore order by force. Nicholas, who continued to receive soothing reports from Protopopov, had no idea how charged the situation in the capital had become.
(Richard Pipes, A Concise History of the Russian Revolution , London 1995)

Memoir by the Menshevik Nikolai Sukhanov
During the first revolutionary upsurge, February 24th-25th, my attention was taken up not by the programmatic aspect … of this political problem, but its other, tactical side. Power must go to the bourgeoisie. But was there any chance that they would take it? What was the position of the propertied elements on this question? Could they and would they march in step with the popular movement? Would they, after calculating all the difficulties of their position, especially in foreign policy, accept power from the hands of the revolution? Or would they prefer to dissociate themselves from the revolution which had already begun and destroy the movement in alliance with the Tsarist faction? Or would they, finally, decide to destroy the movement by their ‘neutrality’ – by abandoning it to its own devices and to mass impulses that would lead to anarchy?
(The Russian Revolution 1917: a Personal Record by N.N. Sukhanov,  Oxford 1955)

Alexander Shliapnikov, leading Bolshevik and later first Soviet Commissar of Labour
What revolution? Give the workers a pound of bread and the movement will fizzle.
(cited in Richard Pipes, A Concise History of the Russian Revolution , London 1995)

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25 February 2017
Hisham Matar, the British-Libyan writer, has written a powerful book, The Return , about his family's involvement with the opposition struggle in Libya from before and since independence. 'Revolutions have their momentum', he writes, 'and once you join the current it is very difficult to escape the rapids. Revolutions are not solid gates  through which nations pass but a force comparable to a storm that sweeps all before it.' A hundred years ago, Russia was about to experience the first storm, one that swept away centuries of tsarist rule and left Russia with an opportunity - a genuine democratic moment - that for a few short months it tried to grasp. But the momentum Matar refers to seems inescapable, the consequences can go far beyond those anticipated. And as with his desperate attempts to find out what happened to his father, the personal cost - the tragedy - of revolution is immeasurable. 

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)


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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)

 

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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)
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