Chapter 4: The Fall of the Provisional Government
WEDNESDAY, November 7th, I rose very late. The noon cannon boomed from Peter-Paul as I went down the Nevsky. It was a raw, chill day. In front of the State Bank some soldiers with fixed bayonets were standing at the closed gates.
“What side do you belong to?” I asked. “The Government?”
“No more Government,” one answered with a grin, “Slava Bogu! Glory to God!” That was all I could get out of him….
The street-cars were running on the Nevsky, men, women and small boys hanging on every projection. Shops were open, and there seemed even less uneasiness among the street crowds than there had been the day before. A whole crop of new appeals against insurrection had blossomed out on the walls during the night—to the peasants, to the soldiers at the front, to the workmen of Petrograd. One read:
FROM THE PETROGRAD MUNICIPAL DUMA:
The Municipal Duma informs the citizens that in the extraordinary meeting of November 6th the Duma formed a Committee of Public Safety, composed of members of the Central and Ward Dumas, and representatives of the following revolutionary democratic organizations: The Tsay-ee-kah, the All-Russian Executive Committee of Peasant Deputies, the Army organisations, the Tsentroflot, the Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies (!), the Council of Trade Unions, and others.
Members of the Committee of Public Safety will be on duty in the building of the Municipal Duma. Telephones No. 15-40, 223-77, 138-36.
November 7th, 1917.
Though I didn’t realize it then, this was the Duma’s declaration of war against the Bolsheviki.
I bought a copy of Rabotchi Put, the only newspaper which seemed on sale, and a little later paid a soldier fifty kopeks for a second-hand copy of Dien. The Bolshevik paper, printed on large-sized sheets in the conquered office of the Russkaya Volia, had huge headlines: “ALL POWER—TO THE SOVIETS OF WORKERS, SOLDIERS AND PEASANTS! PEACE! BREAD! LAND!” The leading article was signed “Zinoviev,”—Lenin’s companion in hiding. It began:
Every soldier, every worker, every real Socialist, every honest democrat realises that there are only two alternatives to the present situation.
Either—the power will remain in the hands of the bourgeois-landlord crew, and this will mean every kind of repression for the workers, soldiers and peasants, continuation of the war, inevitable hunger and death….
Or—the power will be transferred to the hands of the revolutionary workers, soldiers and peasants; and in that case it will mean a complete abolition of landlord tyranny, immediate check of the capitalists, immediate proposal of a just peace. Then the land is assured to the peasants, then control of industry is assured to the workers, then bread is assured to the hungry, then the end of this nonsensical war!…
Dien contained fragmentary news of the agitated night. Bolsheviki capture of the Telephone Exchange, the Baltic station, the Telegraph Agency; the Peterhof yunkers unable to reach Petrograd; the Cossacks undecided; arrest of some of the Ministers; shooting of Chief of the City Militia Meyer; arrests, counter-arrests, skirmishes between clashing patrols of soldiers, yunkers and Red Guards. 
On the corner of the Morskaya I ran into Captain Gomberg, Menshevik oboronetz, secretary of the Military Section of his party. When I asked him if the insurrection had really happened he shrugged his shoulders in a tired manner and replied, “Tchort znayet! The devil knows! Well, perhaps the Bolsheviki can seize the power, but they won’t be able to hold it more than three days. They haven’t the men to run a government. Perhaps it’s a good thing to let them try—that will furnish them….”
The Military Hotel at the corner of St. Isaac’s Square was picketed by armed sailors. In the lobby were many of the smart young officers, walking up and down or muttering together; the sailors wouldn’t let them leave….
Suddenly came the sharp crack of a rifle outside, followed by a scattered burst of firing. I ran out. Something unusual was going on around the Marinsky Palace, where the Council of the Russian Republic met. Diagonally across the wide square was drawn a line of soldiers, rifles ready, staring at the hotel roof.
“Provacatzia! Shot at us!” snapped one, while another went running toward the door.
At the western corner of the Palace lay a big armoured car with a red flag flying from it, newly lettered in red paint: “S.R.S.D.” (Soviet Rabotchikh Soldatskikh Deputatov); all the guns trained toward St. Isaac’s. A barricade had been heaped up across the mouth of Novaya Ulitza—boxes, barrels, an old bed-spring, a wagon. A pile of lumber barred the end of the Moika quay. Short logs from a neighbouring wood-pile were being built up along the front of the building to form breastworks….
“Is there going to be any fighting?” I asked.
“Soon, soon,” answered a soldier, nervously. “Go away, comrade, you’ll get hurt. They will come from that direction,” pointing toward the Admiralty.
“That I couldn’t tell you, brother,” he answered, and spat.
Before the door of the Palace was a crowd of soldiers and sailors. A sailor was telling of the end of the Council of the Russian Republic. “We walked in there,” he said, “and filled all the doors with comrades. I went up to the counter-revolutionist Kornilovitz who sat in the president’s chair. ‘No more Council,’ I says. ‘Run along home now!#”’
There was laughter. By waving assorted papers I managed to get around to the door of the press gallery. There an enormous smiling sailor stopped me, and when I showed my pass, just said, “If you were Saint Michael himself, comrade, you couldn’t pass here!” Through the glass of the door I made out the distorted face and gesticulating arms of a French correspondent, locked in….
Around in front stood a little, grey-moustached man in the uniform of a general, the centre of a knot of soldiers. He was very red in the face.
“I am General Alexeyev,” he cried. “As your superior officer and as a member of the Council of the Republic I demand to be allowed to pass!” The guard scratched his head, looking uneasily out of the corner of his eye; he beckoned to an approaching officer, who grew very agitated when he saw who it was and saluted before he realised what he was doing.
“Vashe Vuisokoprevoskhoditelstvo—your High Excellency—” he stammered, in the manner of the old regime, “Access to the Palace is strictly forbidden—I have no right—”
An automobile came by, and I saw Gotz sitting inside, laughing apparently with great amusement. A few minutes later another, with armed soldiers on the front seat, full of arrested members of the Provisional Government. Peters, Lettish member of the Military Revolutionary Committee, came hurrying across the Square.
“I thought you bagged all those gentlemen last night,” said I, pointing to them.
“Oh,” he answered, with the expression of a disappointed small boy. “The damn fools let most of them go again before we made up our minds….”
Down the Voskressensky Prospect a great mass of sailors were drawn up, and behind them came marching soldiers, as far as the eye could reach.
We went toward the Winter Palace by way of the Admiralteisky. All the entrances to the Palace Square were closed by sentries, and a cordon of troops stretched clear across the western end, besieged by an uneasy throng of citizens. Except for far-away soldiers who seemed to be carrying wood out of the Palace courtyard and piling it in front of the main gateway, everything was quiet.
We couldn’t make out whether the sentries were pro-Government or pro-Soviet. Our papers from Smolny had no effect, however, so we approached another part of the line with an important air and showed our American passports, saying “Official business!” and shouldered through. At the door of the Palace the same old shveitzari, in their brass-buttoned blue uniforms with the red-and-gold collars, politely took our coats and hats, and we went up-stairs. In the dark, gloomy corridor, stripped of its tapestries, a few old attendants were lounging about, and in front of Kerensky’s door a young officer paced up and down, gnawing his moustache. We asked if we could interview the Minister-president. He bowed and clicked his heels.
“No, I am sorry,” he replied in French. “Alexander Feodorvitch is extremely occupied just now….” He looked at us for a moment. “In fact, he is not here….”
“Where is he?”
“He has gone to the Front. And do you know, there wasn’t enough gasoline for his automobile. We had to send to the English Hospital and borrow some.”
“Are the Ministers here?”
“They are meeting in some room—I don’t know where.’
“Are the Bolsheviki coming?”
“Of course. Certainly, they are coming. I expect a telephone call every minute to say that they are coming. But we are ready. We have yunkers in the front of the Palace. Through that door there.”
“Can we go in there?”
“No. Certainly not. It is not permitted.” Abruptly he shook hands all around and walked away. We turned to the forbidden door, set in a temporary partition dividing the hall and locked on the outside. On the other side were voices, and somebody laughing. Except for that the vast spaces of the old Palace were silent as the grave. An old shveitzar ran up. “No, barin, you must not go in there.”
“Why is the door locked?”
“To keep the soldiers in,” he answered. After a few minutes he said something about having a glass of tea and went back up the hall. We unlocked the door.
Just inside a couple of soldiers stood on guard, but they said nothing. At the end of the corridor was a large, ornate room with gilded cornices and enormous crystal lustres, and beyond it several smaller ones, wainscoted with dark wood. On both sides of the parquetted floor lay rows of dirty mattresses and blankets, upon which occasional soldiers were stretched out; everywhere was a litter of cigarette-butts, bits of bread, cloth, and empty bottles with expensive French labels. More and more soldiers, with the red shoulder-straps of the yunker-schools, moved about in a stale atmosphere of tobacco-smoke and unwashed humanity. One had a bottle of white Burgundy, evidently filched from the cellars of the Palace. They looked at us with astonishment as we marched past, through room after room, until at last we came out into a series of great state-salons, fronting their long and dirty windows on the Square. The walls were covered with huge canvases in massive gilt frames—historical battle-scenes…. “12 October 1812” and “6 November 1812” and “16/28 August 1813.” — One had a gash across the upper right hand corner.
The place was all a huge barrack, and evidently had been for weeks, from the look of the floor and walls. Machine guns were mounted on window-sills, rifles stacked between the mattresses.
As we were looking at the pictures an alcoholic breath assailed me from the region of my left ear, and a voice said in thick but fluent French, “I see, by the way you admire the paintings, that you are foreigners.” He was a short, puffy man with a baldish head as he removed his cap.
“Americans? Enchanted. I am Stabs-Capitan Vladimir Artzibashev, absolutely at your service.” It did not seem to occur to him that there was anything unusual in four strangers, one a woman, wandering through the defences of an army awaiting attack. He began to complain of the state of Russia.
“Not only these Bolsheviki,” he said, “but the fine traditions of the Russian army are broken down. Look around you. These are all students in the officers’ training schools. But are they gentlemen? Kerensky opened the officers’ schools to the ranks, to any soldier who could pass an examination. Naturally there are many, many who are contaminated by the Revolution….”
Without consequence he changed the subject. “I am very anxious to go away from Russia. I have made up my mind to join the American army. Will you please go to your Consul and make arrangements? I will give you my address.” In spite of our protestations he wrote it on a piece of paper, and seemed to feel better at once. I have it still—“Oranien-baumskaya Shkola Praporshtchikov 2nd, Staraya Peterhof.”
“We had a review this morning early,” he went on, as he guided us through the rooms and explained everything. “The Women’s Battalion decided to remain loyal to the Government.”
“Are the women soldiers in the Palace?”
“Yes, they are in the back rooms, where they won’t be hurt if any trouble comes.” He sighed. “It is a great responsibility,” said he.
For a while we stood at the window, looking down on the Square before the Palace, where three companies of long-coated yunkers were drawn up under arms, being harangued by a tall, energetic-looking officer I recognised as Stankievitch, chief Military Commissar of the Provisional Government. After a few minutes two of the companies shouldered arms with a clash, barked three sharp shouts, and went swinging off across the Square, disappearing through the Red Arch into the quiet city.
“They are going to capture the Telephone Exchange,” said some one. Three cadets stood by us, and we fell into conversation. They said they had entered the schools from the ranks, and gave their names—Robert Olev, Alexei Vasilienko and Erni Sachs, an Esthonian. But now they didn’t want to be officers any more, because officers were very unpopular. They didn’t seem to know what to do, as a matter of fact, and it was plain that they were not happy.
But soon they began to boast. “If the Bolsheviki come we shall show them how to fight. They do not dare to fight, they are cowards. But if we should be overpowered, well, every man keeps one bullet for himself….”
At this point there was a burst of rifle-fire not far off. Out on the Square all the people began to run, falling flat on their faces, and the izvoshtchiki, standing on the corners, galloped in every direction. Inside all was uproar, soldiers running here and there, grabbing up guns, rifle-belts and shouting, “Here they come! Here they come!” — But in a few minutes it quieted down again. The izvoshtchiki came back, the people lying down stood up. Through the Red Arch appeared the yunkers, marching a little out of step, one of them supported by two comrades.
It was getting late when we left the Palace. The sentries in the Square had all disappeared. The great semi-circle of Government buildings seemed deserted. We went into the Hotel France for dinner, and right in the middle of soup the waiter, very pale in the face, came up and insisted that we move to the main dining-room at the back of the house, because they were going to put out the lights in the café#233;. “There will be much shooting,” he said.
When we came out on the Morskaya again it was quite dark, except for one flickering street-light on the corner of the Nevsky. Under this stood a big armored automobile, with racing engine and oil-smoke pouring out of it. A small boy had climbed up the side of the thing and was looking down the barrel of a machine gun. Soldiers and sailors stood around, evidently waiting for something. We walked back up to the Red Arch, where a knot of soldiers was gathered staring at the brightly-lighted Winter Palace and talking in loud tones.
“No, comrades,” one was saying. “How can we shoot at them? The Women’s Battalion is in there—they will say we have fired on Russian women.”
As we reached the Nevsky again another armoured car came around the corner, and a man poked his head out of the turret-top.
“Come on!” he yelled. “Let’s go on through and attack!”
The driver of the other car came over, and shouted so as to be heard above the roaring engine. “The Committee says to wait. They have got artillery behind the wood-piles in there….”
Here the street-cars had stopped running, few people passed, and there were no lights; but a few blocks away we could see the trams, the crowds, the lighted shop-windows and the electric signs of the moving-picture shows—life going on as usual. We had tickets to the Ballet at the Marinsky Theatre—all theatres were open—but it was too exciting out of doors….
In the darkness we stumbled over lumber-piles barricading the Police Bridge, and before the Stroganov Palace made out some soldiers wheeling into position a three-inch field-gun. Men in various uniforms were coming and going in an aimless way, and doing a great deal of talking….
Up the Nevsky the whole city seemed to be out promenading. On every corner immense crowds were massed around a core of hot discussion. Pickets of a dozen soldiers with fixed bayonets lounged at the street-crossings, red-faced old men in rich fur coats shook their fists at them, smartly-dressed women screamed epithets; the soldiers argued feebly, with embarrassed grins…. Armoured cars went up and down the street, named after the first Tsars—Oleg, Rurik, Svietoslav—and daubed with huge red letters, “R. S. D. R. P.” (Rossiskaya Partia). At the Mikhailovsky a man appeared with an armful of newspapers, and was immediately stormed by frantic people, offering a rouble, five roubles, ten roubles, tearing at each other like animals. It was Rabotchi i Soldat, announcing the victory of the Proletarian Revolution, the liberation of the Bolsheviki still in prison, calling upon the Army front and rear for support— a feverish little sheet of four pages, running to enormous type, containing no news….
On the corner of the Sadovaya about two thousand citizens had gathered, staring up at the roof of a tall building, where a tiny red spark glowed and waned.
“See!” said a tall peasant, pointing to it. “It is a provocator. Presently he will fire on the people….” Apparently no one thought of going to investigate.
The massive facade of Smolny blazed with lights as we drove up, and from every street converged upon it streams of hurrying shapes dim in the gloom. Automobiles and motorcycles came and went; an enormous elephant-coloured armoured automobile, with two red flags flying from the turret, lumbered out with screaming siren. It was cold, and at the outer gate the Red Guards had built themselves a bon-fire. At the inner gate, too, there was a blaze, by the light of which the sentries slowly spelled out our passes and looked us up and down. The canvas covers had been taken off the four rapid-fire guns on each side of the doorway, and the ammunition-belts hung snakelike from their breeches. A dun herd of armoured cars stood under the trees in the court-yard, engines going. The long, bare, dimly-illuminated halls roared with the thunder of feet, calling, shouting…. There was an atmosphere of recklessness. A crowd came pouring down the staircase, workers in black blouses and round black fur hats, many of them with guns slung over their shoulders, soldiers in rough dirt-coloured coats and grey fur shapki pinched flat, a leader or so—Lunatcharsky, Kameniev—hurrying along in the centre of a group all talking at once, with harassed anxious faces, and bulging portfolios under their arms. The extraordinary meeting of the Petrograd Soviet was over. I stopped Kameniev—a quick moving little man, with a wide, vivacious face set close to his shoulders. Without preface he read in rapid French a copy of the resolution just passed:
The Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, saluting the victorious Revolution of the Petrograd proletariat and garrison, particularly emphasises the unity, organisation, discipline, and complete cooperation shown by the masses in this rising; rarely has less blood been spilled, and rarely has an insurrection succeeded so well.
The Soviet expresses its firm conviction that the Workers’ and Peasants’ Government which, as the government of the Soviets, will be created by the Revolution, and which will assure the industrial proletariat of the support of the entire mass of poor peasants, will march firmly toward Socialism, the only means by which the country can be spared the miseries and unheard-of horrors of war.
The new Workers’ and Peasants’ Government will propose immediately a just and democratic peace to all the belligerent countries.
It will suppress immediately the great landed property, and transfer the land to the peasants. It will establish workmen’s control over production and distribution of manufactured products, and will set up a general control over the banks, which it will transform into a state monopoly.
The Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies calls upon the workers and the peasants of Russia to support with all their energy and all their devotion the Proletarian Revolution. The Soviet expresses its conviction that the city workers, allies of the poor peasants, will assure complete revolutionary order, indispensable to the victory of Socialism. The Soviet is convinced that the proletariat of the countries of Western Europe will aid us in conducting the cause of Socialism to a real and lasting victory.
“You consider it won then?”
He lifted his shoulders. “There is much to do. Horribly much. It is just beginning….
On the landing I met Riazanov, vice-president of the Trade Unions, looking black and biting his grey beard. “It’s insane! Insane!” he shouted. “The European working-class won’t move! All Russia—” He waved his hand distractedly and ran off. Riazanov and Kameniev had both opposed the insurrection, and felt the lash of Lenin’s terrible tongue….
It had been a momentous session. In the name of the Military Revolutionary Committee Trotzky had declared that the Provisional Government no longer existed.
“The characteristic of bourgeois governments,” he said, “is to deceive the people. We, the Soviets of Workers’, Soldiers’ and Peasants’ Deputies, are going to try an experiment unique in history; we are going to found a power which will have no other aim but to satisfy the needs of the soldiers, workers, and peasants.”
Lenin had appeared, welcomed with a mighty ovation, prophesying world-wide Social Revolution…. And Zinoviev, crying, “This day we have paid our debt to the international proletariat, and struck a terrible blow at the war, a terrible body-blow at all the imperialists and particularly at Wilhelm the Executioner….
Then Trotzky, that telegrams had been sent to the front announcing the victorious insurrection, but no reply had come. Troops were said to be marching against Petrograd—a delegation must be sent to tell them the truth.
Cries, “You are anticipating the will of the All-Russian Congress of Soviets!”
Trotzky, coldly, “The will of the All-Russian Congress of Soviets has been anticipated by the rising of the Petrograd workers and soldiers!”
So we came into the great meeting-hall, pushing through the clamorous mob at the door. In the rows of seats, under the white chandeliers, packed immovably in the aisles and on the sides, perched on every window-sill, and even the edge of the platform, the representatives of the workers and soldiers of all Russia waited in anxious silence or wild exultation the ringing of the chairman’s bell. There was no heat in the hall but the stifling heat of unwashed human bodies. A foul blue cloud of cigarette smoke rose from the mass and hung in the thick air. Occasionally some one in authority mounted the tribune and asked the comrades not to smoke; then everybody, smokers and all, took up the cry “Don’t smoke, comrades!” and went on smoking. Petrovsky, Anarchist delegate from the Obukhov factory, made a seat for me beside him. Unshaven and filthy, he was reeling from three nights’ sleepless work on the Military Revolutionary Committee.
On the platform sat the leaders of the old Tsay-ee-kah—for the last time dominating the turbulent Soviets, which they had ruled from the first days, and which were now risen against them. It was the end of the first period of the Russian revolution, which these men had attempted to guide in careful ways…. The three greatest of them were not there: Kerensky, flying to the front through country towns all doubtfully heaving up; Tcheidze, the old eagle, who had contemptuously retired to his own Georgian mountains, there to sicken with consumption; and the high-souled Tseretelli, also mortally stricken, who, nevertheless, would return and pour out his beautiful eloquence for a lost cause. Gotz sat there, Dan, Lieber, Bogdanov, Broido, Fillipovsky,—white-faced, hollow-eyed and indignant. Below them the second siezd of the All-Russian Soviets boiled and swirled, and over their heads the Military Revolutionary Committee functioned white-hot, holding in its hands the threads of insurrection and striking with a long arm…. It was 10.40 P. M.
Dan, a mild-faced, baldish figure in a shapeless military surgeon’s uniform, was ringing the bell. Silence fell sharply, intense, broken by the scuffling and disputing of the people at the door….
“We have the power in our hands,” he began sadly, stopped for a moment, and then went on in a low voice. “Comrades! The Congress of Soviets in meeting in such unusual circumstances and in such an extraordinary moment that you will understand why the Tsay-ee-kah considers it unnecessary to address you with a political speech. This will become much clearer to you if you will recollect that I am a member of the Tsay-ee-kah, and that at this very moment our party comrades are in the Winter Palace under bombardment, sacrificing themselves to execute the duty put on them by the Tsay-ee-kah.” (Confused uproar.)
“I declare the first session of the Second Congress of Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies open!”
The election of the presidium took place amid stir and moving about. Avanessov announced that by agreement of the Bolsheviki, Left Socialist Revolutionaries and Mensheviki Internationalists, it was decided to base the presidium upon proportionality. Several Mensheviki leaped to their feet protesting. A bearded soldier shouted at them, “Remember what you did to us Bolsheviki when we were the minority!” Result—14 Bolsheviki, 7 Socialist Revolutionaries, 3 Mensheviki and 1 Internationalist (Gorky’s group). Hendelmann, for the right and centre Socialist Revolutionaries, said that they refused to take part in the presidium; the same from Kintchuk, for the Mensheviki; and from the Mensheviki Internationalists, that until the verification of certain circumstances, they too could not enter the presidium. Scattering applause and hoots. One voice, “Renegades, you call yourselves Socialists!” A representative of the Ukrainean delegates demanded, and received, a place. Then the old Tsay-ee-kah stepped down, and in their places appeared Trotzky, Kameniev, Lunatcharsky, Madame Kollentai, Nogin…. The hall rose, thundering. How far they had soared, these Bolsheviki, from a despised and hunted sect less than four months ago, to this supreme place, the helm of great Russia in full tide of insurrection!
The order of the day, said Kameniev, was first, Organisation of Power; second, War and Peace; and third, the Constituent Assembly. Lozovsky, rising, announced that upon agreement of the bureau of all factions, it was proposed to hear and discuss the report of the Petrograd Soviet, then to give the floor to members of the Tsay-ee-kah and the different parties, and finally to pass to the order of the day.
But suddenly a new sound made itself heard, deeper than the tumult of the crowd, persistent, disquieting,—the dull shock of guns. People looked anxiously toward the clouded windows, and a sort of fever came over them. Martov, demanding the floor, croaked hoarsely, “The civil war is beginning, comrades! The first question must be a peaceful settlement of the crisis. On principle and from a political standpoint we must urgently discuss a means of averting civil war. Our brothers are being shot down in the streets! At this moment, when before the opening of the Congress of Soviets the question of Power is being settled by means of a military plot organised by one of the revolutionary parties—” for a moment he could not make himself heard above the noise, “All of the revolutionary parties must face the fact! The first vopros (question) before the Congress is the question of Power, and this question is already being settled by force of arms in the streets!— We must create a power which will be recognised by the whole democracy. If the Congress wishes to be the voice of the revolutionary democracy it must not sit with folded hands before the developing civil war, the result of which may be a dangerous outburst of counter-revolution…. The possibility of a peaceful outcome lies in the formation of a united democratic authority…. We must elect a delegation to negotiate with the other Socialist parties and organisation….
Always the methodical muffled boom of cannon through the windows, and the delegates, screaming at each other…. So, with the crash of artillery, in the dark, with hatred, and fear, and reckless daring, new Russia was being born.
The Left Socialist Revolutionaries and the United Social Democrats supported Martov’s proposition. It was accepted. A soldier announced that the All-Russian Peasants’ Soviets had refused to send delegates to the Congress; he proposed that a committee be sent with a formal invitation. “Some delegates are present,” he said. “I move that they be given votes.” Accepted.
Kharash, wearing the epaulets of a captain, passionately demanded the floor. “The political hypocrites who control this Congress,” he shouted, “told us we were to settle the question of Power—and it is being settled behind our backs, before the Congress opens! Blows are being struck against the Winter Palace, and it is by such blows that the nails are being driven into the coffin of the political party which has risked such an adventure!” Uproar. Followed him Gharra: “While we are here discussing propositions of peace, there is a battle on in the streets…. The Socialist Revolutionaries and the Mensheviki refuse to be involved in what is happening, and call upon all public forces to resist the attempt to capture the power….” Kutchin, delegate of the 12th Army and representative of the Troudoviki: “I was sent here only for information, and I am returning at once to the Front, where all the Army Committees consider that the taking of power by the Soviets, only three weeks before the Constituent Assembly, is a stab in the back of the Army and a crime against the people—!” Shouts of “Lie! You lie!”— When he could be heard again, “Let’s make an end of this adventure in Petrograd! I call upon all delegates to leave this hall in order to save the country and the Revolution!” As he went down the aisle in the midst of a deafening noise, people surged in upon him, threatening…. Then Khintchuk, an officer with a long brown goatee, speaking suavely and persuasively: “I speak for the delegates from the Front. The Army is imperfectly represented in this Congress, and furthermore, the Army does not consider the Congress of Soviets necessary at this time, only three weeks before the opening of the Constituent—” shouts and stamping, always growing more violent. “The Army does not consider that the Congress of Soviets has the necessary authority—” Soldiers began to stand up all over the hall.
“Who are you speaking for? What do you represent?” they cried.
“The Central Executive Committee of the Soviet of the Fifth Army, the Second F— regiment, the First N— Regiment, the Third S— Rifles….”
“When were you elected? You represent the officers, not the soldiers! What do the soldiers say about it?” Jeers and hoots.
“We, the Front group, disclaim all responsibility for what has happened and is happening, and we consider it necessary to mobilise all self-conscious revolutionary forces for the salvation of the Revolution! The Front group will leave the Congress…. The place to fight is out on the streets!”
Immense bawling outcry. “You speak for the Staff—not for the Army!”
“I appeal to all reasonable soldiers to leave this Congress!”
“Kornilovitz! Counter-revolutionist! Provocator!” were hurled at him.
On behalf of the Mensheviki, Khintchuk then announced that the only possibility of a peaceful solution was to begin negotiations with the Provisional Government for the formation of a new Cabinet, which would find support in all strata of society. He could not proceed for several minutes. Raising his voice to a shout he read the Menshevik declaration:
“Because the Bolsheviki have made a military conspiracy with the aid of the Petrograd Soviet, without consulting the other factions and parties, we find it impossible to remain in the Congress, and therefore withdraw, inviting the other groups to follow us and to meet for discussion of the situation!”
“Deserter!” At intervals in the almost continuous disturbance Hendelman, for the Socialist Revolutionaries, could be heard protesting against the bombardment of the Winter Palace…. “We are opposed to this kind of anarchy….”
Scarcely had he stepped down than a young, lean-faced soldier, with flashing eyes, leaped to the platform, and dramatically lifted his hand:
“Comrades!” he cried and there was a hush. “My familia (name) is Peterson—I speak for the Second Lettish Rifles. You have heard the statements of two representatives of the Army committees; these statements would have some value if their authors had been representatives of the Army—” Wild applause. “But they do not represent the soldiers!” Shaking his fist. “The Twelfth Army has been insisting for a long time upon the re-election of the Great Soviet and the Army Committee, but just as your own Tsay-ee-kah, our Committee refused to call a meeting of the representatives of the masses until the end of September, so that the reactionaries could elect their own false delegates to this Congress. I tell you now, the Lettish soldiers have many times said, ‘No more resolutions! No more talk! We want deeds—the Power must be in our hands!’ Let these impostor delegates leave the Congress! The Army is not with them!”
The hall rocked with cheering. In the first moments of the session, stunned by the rapidity of events, startled by the sound of cannon, the delegates had hesitated. For an hour hammer-blow after hammer-blow had fallen from that tribune, welding them together but beating them down. Did they stand then alone? Was Russia rising against them? Was it true that the Army was marching on Petrograd? Then this clear-eyed young soldier had spoken, and in a flash they knew it for the truth…. This was the voice of the soldiers—the stirring millions of uniformed workers and peasants were men like them, and their thoughts and feelings were the same—
More soldiers — Gzhelshakh; for the Front delegates, announcing that they had only decided to leave the Congress by a small majority, and that the Bolshevik members had not even taken part in the vote, as they stood for division according to political parties, and not groups. “Hundreds of delegates from the Front,” he said, “are being elected without the participation of the soldiers because the Army Committees are no longer the real representatives of the rank and file….” Lukianov, crying that officers like Kharash and Khintchuk could not represent the Army in this congress,—but only the high command. “The real inhabitants of the trenches want with all their hearts the transfer of Power into the hands of the Soviets, and they expect very much from it!”— The tide was turning.
Then came Abramovitch, for the Bund, the organ of the Jewish Social Democrats—his eyes snapping behind thick glasses, trembling with rage.
“What is taking place now in Petrograd is a monstrous calamity! The Bund group joins with the declaration of the Mensheviki and Socialist Revolutionaries and will leave the Congress!” He raised his voice and hand. “Our duty to the Russian proletariat doesn’t permit us to remain here and be responsible for these crimes. Because the firing on the Winter Palace doesn’t cease, the Municipal Duma together with the Mensheviki and Socialist Revolutionaries, and the Executive Committee of the Peasants’ Soviet, has decided to perish with the Provisional Government, and we are going with them! Unarmed we will expose our breasts to the machine guns of the Terrorists…. We invite all delegates to this Congress—” The rest was lost in a storm of hoots, menaces and curses which rose to a hellish pitch as fifty delegates got up and pushed their way out….
Kameniev jangled the bell, shouting, “Keep your seats and we’ll go on with our business!” And Trotzky, standing up with a pale, cruel face, letting out his rich voice in cool contempt, “All these so-called Socialist compromisers, these frightened Mensheviki, Socialist Revolutionaries, Bund—let them go! They are just so much refuse which will be swept into the garbage-heap of history!”
Riazanov, for the Bolsheviki, stated that at the request of the City Duma the Military Revolutionary Committee had sent a delegation to offer negotiations to the Winter Palace. “In this way we have done everything possible to avoid blood-shed….”
We hurried from the place, stopping for a moment at the room where the Military Revolutionary Committee worked at furious speed, engulfing and spitting out panting couriers, despatching Commissars armed with power of life and death to all the corners of the city, amid the buzz of the telephonographs. The door opened, a blast of stale air and cigarette smoke rushed out, we caught a glimpse of dishevelled men bending over a map under the glare of a shaded electric-light…. Comrade Josephov-Dukhvinski, a smiling youth with a mop of pale yellow hair, made out passes for us.
When we came into the chill night, all the front of Smolny was one huge park of arriving and departing automobiles, above the sound of which could be heard the far-off slow beat of the cannon. A great motor-truck stood there, shaking to the roar of its engine. Men were tossing bundles into it, and others receiving them, with guns beside them.
“Where are you going?” I shouted.
“Down-town—all over—everywhere!” answered a little workman, grinning, with a large exultant gesture.
We showed our passes. “Come along!” they invited. “But there’ll probably be shooting—” We climbed in; the clutch slid home with a raking jar, the great car jerked forward, we all toppled backward on top of those who were climbing in; past the huge fire by the gate, and then the fire by the outer gate, glowing red on the faces of the workmen with rifles who squatted around it, and went bumping at top speed down the Suvorovsky Prospect, swaying from side to side…. One man tore the wrapping from a bundle and began to hurl handfuls of papers into the air. We imitated him, plunging down through the dark street with a tail of white papers floating and eddying out behind. The late passerby stooped to pick them up; the patrols around bonfires on the corners ran out with uplifted arms to catch them. Sometimes armed men loomed up ahead, crying “Shtoi!” and raising their guns, but our chauffeur only yelled something unintelligible and we hurtled on….
I picked up a copy of the paper, and under a fleeting street-light read:
TO THE CITIZENS OF RUSSIA!
The Provisional Government is deposed. The State Power has passed into the hands of the organ of the Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, the Military Revolutionary Committee, which stands at the head of the Petrograd proletariat and garrison.
The cause for which the people were fighting: immediate proposal of a democratic peace, abolition of landlord property-rights over the land, labor control over production, creation of a Soviet Government—that cause is securely achieved.
LONG LIVE THE REVOLUTION OF WORKMEN, SOLDIERS AND PEASANTS!
Military Revolutionary Committee
Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies.
Proclamation of the Fall of the Provisional Government issued by the Military Revolutionary Committee on the night of November 7th (our calendar), which we helped to distribute from a motor-truck just after the surrender of the Winter Palace.
A slant-eyed, Mongolian-faced man who sat beside me, dressed in a goat-skin Caucasian cape, snapped, “Look out! Here the provocators always shoot from the windows!” We turned into Znamensky Square, dark and almost deserted, careened around Trubetskoy’s brutal statue and swung down the wide Nevsky, three men standing up with rifles ready, peering at the windows. Behind us the street was alive with people running and stooping. We could no longer hear the cannon, and the nearer we drew to the Winter Palace end of the city the quieter and more deserted were the streets. The City Duma was all brightly lighted. Beyond that we made out a dark mass of people, and a line of sailors, who yelled furiously at us to stop. The machine slowed down, and we climbed out.
It was an astonishing scene. Just at the corner of the Ekaterina Canal, under an arc-light, a cordon of armed sailors was drawn across the Nevsky, blocking the way to a crowd of people in column of fours. There were about three or four hundred of them, men in frock coats, well-dressed women, officers—all sorts and conditions of people. Among them we recognised many of the delegates from the Congress, leaders of the Mensheviki and Socialist Revolutionaries; Avksentiev, the lean, red-bearded president of the Peasants’ Soviets, Sarokin, Kerensky’s spokesman, Khintchuk, Abramovitch; and at the head white-bearded old Schreider, Mayor of Petrograd, and Prokopovitch, Minister of Supplies in the Provisional Government, arrested that morning and released. I caught sight of Malkin, reporter for the Russian Daily News. “Going to die in the Winter Palace,” he shouted cheerfully. The procession stood still, but from the front of it came loud argument. Schreider and Prokopovitch were bellowing at the big sailor who seemed in command.
“We demand to pass!” they cried. “See, these comrades come from the Congress of Soviets! Look at their tickets! We are going to the Winter Palace!”
The sailor was plainly puzzled. He scratched his head with an enormous hand, frowning. “I have orders from the Committee not to let anybody go to the Winter Palace,” he grumbled. “But I will send a comrade to telephone to Smolny….”
“We Insist upon passing! We are unarmed! We will march on whether you permit us or not!” cried old Schreider, very much excited.
“I have orders—” repeated the sailor sullenly.
“Shoot us if you want to! We will pass! Forward!” came from all sides. “We are ready to die, if you have the heart to fire on Russians and comrades! We bare our breasts to your guns!”
“No,” said the sailor, looking stubborn, “I can’t allow you to pass.”
“What will you do if we go forward? Will you shoot?”
“No, I’m not going to shoot people who haven’t any guns. We won’t shoot unarmed Russian people….”
“We will go forward! What can you do?”
“We will do something,”replied the sailor, evidently at a loss. “We can’t let you pass. We will do something.”
“What will you do? What will you do?”
Another sailor came up, very much irritated. “We will spank you!” he cried, energetically. “And if necessary we will shoot you too. Go home now, and leave us in peace!”
At this there was a great clamour of anger and resentment, Prokopovitch had mounted some sort of box, and, waving his umbrella, he made a speech:
“Comrades and citizens!” he said. “Force is being used against us! We cannot have our innocent blood upon the hands of these ignorant men! It is beneath our dignity to be shot down here in the street by switchmen—” (What he meant by “switchmen” I never discovered.) “Let us return to the Duma and discuss the best means of saving the country and the Revolution!”
Whereupon, in dignified silence, the procession marched around and back up the Nevsky, always in column of fours. And taking advantage of the diversion we slipped past the guards and set off in the direction of the Winter Palace.
Here it was absolutely dark, and nothing moved but pickets of soldiers and Red Guards grimly intent. In front of the Kazan Cathedral a three-inch field-gun lay in the middle of the street, slewed sideways from the recoil of its last shot over the roofs. Soldiers were standing in every doorway talking in low tones and peering down toward the Police Bridge. I heard one voice saying: “It is possible that we have done wrong….” At the corners patrols stopped all passersby—and the composition of these patrols was interesting, for in command of the regular troops was invariably a Red Guard…. The shooting had ceased.
Just as we came to the Morskaya somebody was shouting: “The yunkers have sent word they want us to go and get them out!” Voices began to give commands, and in the thick gloom we made out a dark mass moving forward, silent but for the shuffle of feet and the clinking of arms. We fell in with the first ranks.
Like a black river, filling all the street, without song or cheer we poured through the Red Arch, where the man just ahead of me said in a low voice: “Look out, comrades! Don’t trust them. They will fire, surely!” In the open we began to run, stooping low and bunching together, and jammed up suddenly behind the pedestal of the Alexander Column.
“How many of you did they kill?” I asked.
“I don’t know. About ten….”
After a few minutes huddling there, some hundreds of men, the army seemed reassured and without any orders suddenly began again to flow forward. By this time, in the light that streamed out of all the Winter Palace windows, I could see that the first two or three hundred men were Red Guards, with only a few scattered soldiers. Over the barricade of firewood we clambered, and leaping down inside gave a triumphant shout as we stumbled on a heap of rifles thrown down by the yunkers who had stood there. On both sides of the main gateway the doors stood wide open, light streamed out, and from the huge pile came not the slightest sound.
Carried along by the eager wave of men we were swept into the right hand entrance, opening into a great bare vaulted room, the cellar of the East wing, from which issued a maze of corridors and stair-cases. A number of huge packing cases stood about, and upon these the Red Guards and soldiers fell furiously, battering them open with the butts of their rifles, and pulling out carpets, curtains, linen, porcelain plates, glassware…. One man went strutting around with a bronze clock perched on his shoulder; another found a plume of ostrich feathers, which he stuck in his hat. The looting was just beginning when somebody cried, “Comrades! Don’t touch anything! Don’t take anything! This is the property of the People!” Immediately twenty voices were crying, “Stop! Put everything back! Don’t take anything! Property of the People!” Many hands dragged the spoilers down. Damask and tapestry were snatched from the arms of those who had them; two men took away the bronze clock. Roughly and hastily the things were crammed back in their cases, and self-appointed sentinels stood guard. It was all utterly spontaneous. Through corridors and up stair-cases the cry could be heard growing fainter and fainter in the distance, “Revolutionary discipline! Property of the People….”
We crossed back over to the left entrance, in the West wing. There order was also being established. “Clear the Palace!” bawled a Red Guard, sticking his head through an inner door. “Come, comrades, let’s show that we’re not thieves and bandits. Everybody out of the Palace except the Commissars, until we get sentries posted.”
Two Red Guards, a soldier and an officer, stood with revolvers in their hands. Another soldier sat at a table behind them, with pen and paper. Shouts of “All out! All out!” were heard far and near within, and the Army began to pour through the door, jostling, expostulating, arguing. As each man appeared he was seized by the self-appointed committee, who went through his pockets and looked under his coat. Everything that was plainly not his property was taken away, the man at the table noted it on his paper, and it was carried into a little room. The most amazing assortment of objects were thus confiscated; statuettes, bottles of ink, bed-spreads worked with the Imperial monogram, candles, a small oil-painting, desk blotters, gold-handled swords, cakes of soap, clothes of every description, blankets. One Red Guard carried three rifles, two of which he had taken away from yunkers; another had four portfolios bulging with written documents. The culprits either sullenly surrendered or pleaded like children. All talking at once the committee explained that stealing was not worthy of the people’s champions; often those who had been caught turned around and began to help go through the rest of the comrades.
Yunkers came out, in bunches of three or four. The committee seized upon them with an excess of zeal, accompanying the search with remarks like, “Ah, Provocators! Kornilovists! Counter-revolutionists! Murderers of the People!” But there was no violence done, although the yunkers were terrified. They too had their pockets full of small plunder. It was carefully noted down by the scribe, and piled in the little room…. The yunkers were disarmed. “Now, will you take up arms against the People any more?” demanded clamouring voices.
“No,” answered the yunkers, one by one. Whereupon they were allowed to go free.
We asked if we might go inside. The committee was doubtful, but the big Red Guard answered firmly that it was forbidden. “Who are you anyway?” he asked. “How do I know that you are not all Kerenskys? (There were five of us, two women.)
“Pazhal’st’, touarishtchi! Way, Comrades!” A soldier and a Red Guard appeared in the door, waving the crowd aside, and other guards with fixed bayonets. After them followed single file half a dozen men in civilian dress—the members of the Provisional Government. First came Kishkin, his face drawn and pale, then Rutenberg, looking sullenly at the floor; Terestchenko was next, glancing sharply around; he stared at us with cold fixity…. They passed in silence; the victorious insurrectionists crowded to see, but there were only a few angry mutterings. It was only later that we learned how the people in the street wanted to lynch them, and shots were fired—but the sailors brought them safely to Peter-Paul….
In the meanwhile unrebuked we walked into the Palace. There was still a great deal of coming and going, of exploring new-found apartments in the vast edifice, of searching for hidden garrisons of yunkers which did not exist. We went upstairs and wandered through room after room. This part of the Palace had been entered also by other detachments from the side of the Neva. The paintings, statues, tapestries and rugs of the great state apartments were unharmed; in the offices, however, every desk and cabinet had been ransacked, the papers scattered over the floor, and in the living rooms beds had been stripped of their coverings and ward-robes wrenched open. The most highly prized loot was clothing, which the working people needed. In a room where furniture was stored we came upon two soldiers ripping the elaborate Spanish leather upholstery from chairs. They explained it was to make boots with….
The old Palace servants in their blue and red and gold uniforms stood nervously about, from force of habit repeating, “You can’t go in there, barin! It is forbidden—” We penetrated at length to the gold and malachite chamber with crimson brocade hangings where the Ministers had been in session all that day and night, and where the shveitzari had betrayed them to the Red Guards. The long table covered with green baize was just as they had left it, under arrest. Before each empty seat was pen and ink and paper; the papers were scribbled over with beginnings of plans of action, rough drafts of proclamations and manifestos. Most of these were scratched out, as their futility became evident, and the rest of the sheet covered with absent-minded geometrical designs, as the writers sat despondently listening while Minister after Minister proposed chimerical schemes. I took one of these scribbled pages, in the hand writing of Konovalov, which read, “The Provisional Government appeals to all classes to support the Provisional Government—”
All this time, it must be remembered, although the Winter Palace was surrounded, the Government was in constant communication with the Front and with provincial Russia. The Bolsheviki had captured the Ministry of War early in the morning, but they did not know of the military telegraph office in the attic, nor of the private telephone line connecting it with the Winter Palace. In that attic a young officer sat all day, pouring out over the country a flood of appeals and proclamations; and when he heard that the Palace had fallen, put on his hat and walked calmly out of the building….
Interested as we were, for a considerable time we didn’t notice a change in the attitude of the soldiers and Red Guards around us. As we strolled from room to room a small group followed us, until by the time we reached the great picture-gallery where we had spent the afternoon with the yunkers, about a hundred men surged in after us. One giant of a soldier stood in our path, his face dark with sullen suspicion.
“Who are you?” he growled. “What are you doing here?” The others massed slowly around, staring and beginning to mutter. “Provocatori!” I heard somebody say. “Looters!”
I produced our passes from the Military Revolutionary Committee. The soldier took them gingerly, turned them upside down and looked at them without comprehension. Evidently he could not read. He handed them back and spat on the floor. “Bumagi! Papers!” said he with contempt. The mass slowly began to close in, like wild cattle around a cowpuncher on foot. Over their heads I caught sight of an officer, looking helpless, and shouted to him. He made for us, shouldering his way through.
“I’m the Commissar,” he said to me. “Who are you? What is it?” The others held back, waiting. I produced the papers.
“You are foreigners?” he rapidly asked in French. “It is very dangerous….” Then he turned to the mob, holding up our documents. “Comrades!” he cried. “These people are foreign comrades—from America. They have come here to be able to tell their countrymen about the bravery and the revolutionary discipline of the proletarian army!”
“How do you know that?” replied the big soldier. “I tell you they are provocators! They say they came here to observe the revolutionary discipline of the proletarian army, but they have been wandering freely through the Palace, and how do we know they haven’t got their pockets full of loot?”
“Pravilno!” snarled the others, pressing forward.
“Comrades! Comrades!” appealed the officer, sweat standing out on his forehead. “I am Commissar of the Military Revolutionary Committee. Do you trust me? Well, I tell you that these passes are signed with the same names that are signed to my pass!”
He led us down through the Palace and out through a door opening onto the Neva quay, before which stood the usual committee going through pockets— “You have narrowly escaped,” he kept muttering, wiping his face.
“What happened to the Women’s Battalion?” we asked.
“Oh—the women!” He laughed. “They were all huddled up in a back room. We had a terrible time deciding what to do with them—many were in hysterics, and so on. So finally we marched them up to the Finland Station and put them on a train for Levashovo, where they have a camp…"
We came out into the cold, nervous night, murmurous with obscure armies on the move, electric with patrols. From across the river, where loomed the darker mass of Peter-Paul, came a hoarse shout…. Underfoot the sidewalk was littered with broken stucco, from the cornice of the Palace where two shells from the battleship Avrora had struck; that was the only damage done by the bombardment….
It was now after three in the morning. On the Nevsky all the street-lights were again shining, the cannon gone, and the only signs of war were Red Guards and soldiers squatting around fires. The city was quiet—probably never so quiet in its history; on that night not a single hold-up occurred, not a single robbery.
But the City Duma Building was all illuminated. We mounted to the galleried Alexander Hall, hung with its great, gold-framed, red-shrouded Imperial portraits. About a hundred people were grouped around the platform, where Skobeliev was speaking. He urged that the Committee of Public Safety be expanded, so as to unite all the anti-Bolshevik elements in one huge organisation, to be called the Committee for Salvation of Country and Revolution. And as we looked on, the Committee for Salvation was formed—that Committee which was to develop into the most powerful enemy of the Bolsheviki, appearing, in the next week, sometimes under its own partisan name, and sometimes as the strictly non-partisan Committee of Public Safety….
Dan, Gotz, Avkesntiev were there, some of the insurgent Soviet delegates, members of the Executive Committee of the Peasants’ Soviets, old Prokopovitch, and even members of the Council of the Republic—among whom Vinaver and other Cadets. Lieber cried that the convention of Soviets was not a legal convention, that the old Tsay-ee-kah was still in office…. An appeal to the country was drafted.
We hailed a cab. “Where to?” But when we said “Smolny,” the izvoshtchik shook his head. “Niet!” said he, “there are devils….” It was only after weary wandering that we found a driver willing to take us—and he wanted thirty rubles, and stopped two blocks away.
The windows of Smolny were still ablaze, motors came and went, and around the still-leaping fires the sentries huddled close, eagerly asking everybody the latest news. The corridors were full of hurrying men, hollow-eyed and dirty. In some of the committee-rooms people lay sleeping on the floor, their guns beside them. In spite of the seceding delegates, the hall of meetings was crowded with people, roaring like the sea. As we came in, Kameniev was reading the list of arrested Ministers. The name of Terestchenko was greeted with thunderous applause, shouts of satisfaction, laughter; Rutenburg came in for less; and at the mention of Paltchinsky, a storm of hoots, angry cries, cheers burst forth…. It was announced that Tchudnovsky had been appointed Commissar of the Winter Palace.
Now occurred a dramatic interruption. A big peasant, his bearded face convulsed with rage, mounted the platform and pounded with his fist on the presidium table.
“We, Socialist Revolutionaries, insist upon the immediate release of the Socialist Ministers arrested in the Winter Palace! Comrades! Do you know that four comrades who risked their lives and their freedom fighting against tyranny of the Tsar, have been flung into Peter-Paul prison—the historical tomb of Liberty?” In the uproar he pounded and yelled. Another delegate climbed up beside him, and pointed at the presidium.
“Are the representatives of the revolutionary masses going to sit quietly here while the Okhrana of the Bolsheviki tortures their leaders?”
Trotzky was gesturing for silence. “These ‘comrades’ who are now caught plotting the crushing of the Soviets with the adventurer Kerensky—is there any reason to handle them with gloves? After July 16th and 18th they didn’t use much ceremony with us!” With a triumphant ring in his voice he cried, “Now that the oborontsi and the faint-hearted have gone, and the whole task of defending and saving the Revolution rests on our shoulders, it is particularly necessary to work—work—work! We have decided to die rather than give up!”
Followed him a Commissar from Tsarskoye Selo, panting and covered with the mud of his ride. “The garrison of Tsarskoye Selo is on guard at the gates of Petrograd, ready to defend the Soviets and the Military Revolutionary Committee!” Wild cheers. “The Cycle Corps sent from the front has arrived at Tsarskoye, and the soldiers are now with us; they recognise the power of the Soviets, the necessity of immediate transfer of land to the peasants and industrial control to the workers. The Fifth Battalion of Cyclists, stationed at Tsarskoye, is ours….
Then the delegate of the Third Cycle Battalion. In the midst of delirious enthusiasm he told how the cycle corps had been ordered three days before from the South-west front to the “defence of Petrograd.” They suspected, however, the meaning of the order; and at the station of Peredolsk were met by representatives of the Fifth Battalion from Tsarskoye. A joint meeting was held, and it was discovered that “among the cyclists not a single man was found willing to shed the blood of his brothers, or to support a Government of bourgeois and land-owners!”
Kapelinski, for the Mensheviki Internationalists, proposed to elect a special committee to find a peaceful solution to the civil war. “There isn’t any peaceful solution!” bellowed the crowed. “Victory is the only solution!” The vote was overwhelmingly against, and the Mensheviki Internationalists left the Congress in a Whirlwind of Jocular insults. There was no longer any panic fear…. Kameniev from the platform shouted after them, “The Mensheviki Internationalists claimed ‘emergency’ for the question of a ‘peaceful solution,’ but they always voted for suspension of the order of the day in favour of declarations of factions which wanted to leave the Congress. It is evident,” finished Kameniev, “that the withdrawal of all these renegades was decided upon beforehand!”
The assembly decided to ignore the withdrawal of the factions, and proceed to the appeal to the workers, soldiers and peasants of all Russia:
To Workers, Soldiers And Peasants
The Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies has opened. It represents the great majority of the Soviets. There are also a number of Peasant deputies. Based upon the will of the great majority of the workers’, soldiers and peasants, based upon the triumphant uprising of the Petrograd workmen and soldiers, the Congress assumes the Power.
The Provisional Government is deposed. Most of the members of the Provisional Government are already arrested.
The Soviet authority will at once propose an immediate democratic peace to all nations, and an immediate truce on all fronts. It will assure the free transfer of landlord, crown and monastery lands to the Land Committees, defend the soldiers rights, enforcing a complete democratisation of the Army, establish workers’ control over production, ensure the convocation of the Constituent Assembly at the proper date, take means to supply bread to the cities and articles of first necessity to the villages, and secure to all nationalities living in Russia a real right to independent existence.
The Congress resolves: that all local power shall be transferred to the Soviets of Workers,’ Soldiers’ and Peasants’ Deputies, which must enforce revolutionary order.
The Congress calls upon the soldiers in the trenches to be watchful and steadfast. The Congress of Soviets is sure that the revolutionary Army will know how to defend the Revolution against all attacks of Imperialism, until the new Government shall have brought about the conclusion of the democratic peace which it will directly propose to all nations. The new Government will take all necessary steps to secure everything needful to the revolutionary Army, by means of a determined policy of requisition and taxation of the propertied classes, and also to improve the situation of soldiers’ families.
The Kornilovitz—Kerensky, Kaledin and others, are endeavouring to lead troops against Petrograd. Several regiments, deceived by Kerensky, have sided with the insurgent People.
Soldiers! Make active resistance to the Kornilovitz—Kerensky! Be on guard!
Railway men! Stop all troop-trains being sent by Kerensky against Petrograd!
Soldiers, Workers, Clerical employees! The destiny of the Revolution and democratic peace is in your hands!
Long live the Revolution!
The All-Russian Congress of Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies.
Delegates from the Peasants’ Soviets.
It was exactly 5:17 A.M. when Krylenko, staggering with fatigue, climbed to the tribune with a telegram in his hand.
“Comrades! From the Northern Front. The Twelfth Army sends greetings to the Congress of Soviets, announcing the formation of a Military Revolutionary Committee which has taken over the command of the Northern Front!” Pandemonium, men weeping, embracing each other. “General Tchermissov has recognised the Committee—Commissar of the Provisional Government Voitinsky has resigned!”
So. Lenin and the Petrograd workers had decided on insurrection, the Petrograd Soviet had overthrown the Provisional Government, and thrust the coup d’etat upon the Congress of Soviets. Now there was all great Russia to win—and then the world! Would Russia follow and rise? And the world—what of it? Would the peoples answer and rise, a red world-tide?
Although it was six in the morning, night was yet heavy and chill. There was only a faint unearthly pallor stealing over the silent streets, dimming the watch-fires, the shadow of a terrible dawn grey-rising over Russia….
 Events Of November 7th From 4 A. M. until dawn Kerensky remained at the Petrograd Staff Headquarters, sending orders to the Cossacks and to the yunkers in the Officers’ Schools in and around Petrograd—all of whom answered that they were unable to move.
Colonel Polkovnikov, Commandant of the City, hurried between the Staff and the Winter Palace, evidently without any plan. Kerensky gave an order to open the bridges; three hours passed without any action, and then an officer and five men went out on their own initiative, and putting to flight a picket of Red Guards, opened the Nicolai Bridge. Immediately after they left, however, some sailors closed it again.
Kerensky ordered the print-shop of Rabotchi Put to be occupied. The officer detailed to the work was promised a squad of soldiers; two hours later he was promised some yunkers; then the order was forgotten.
An attempt was made to recapture the Post Office and the Telegraph Agency; a few shots were fired, and the Government troops announced that they would no longer oppose the Soviets.
To a delegation of yunkers Kerensky said, “As chief of the Provisional Government and as Supreme Commander I know nothing, I cannot advise you; but as a veteran revolutionist, I appeal to you, young revolutionists, to remain at your posts and defend the conquests of the Revolution.”
Orders of Kishkin, November 7th:
“By decree of the Provisional Government…. I am invested with extraordinary powers for the reestablishment of order in Petrograd, in complete command of all civil and military authorities….”
“In accordance with the powers conferred upon me by the Provisional Government, I herewith relieve from his functions as Commandant of the Petrograd Military District Colonel George Polkovnikov….”
Appeal to the Population signed by Vice-Premier Konovalov, November 7th:
“Citizens! Save the fatherland, the republic and your freedom. Maniacs have raised a revolt against the only governmental power chosen by the people, the Provisional Government….
“The members of the Provisional Government fulfil their duty, remain at their post, and continue to work for the good of the fatherland, the reestablishment of order, and the convocation of the Constituent Assembly, future sovereign of Russia and of all the Russian peoples….
“Citizens, you must support the Provisional Government. You must strengthen its authority. You must oppose these maniacs, with whom are joined all enemies of liberty and order, and the followers of the Tsarist ré#233;gime, in order to wreck the Constituent Assembly, destroy the conquests of the Revolution, and the future of our dear fatherland….
“Citizens! Organise around the Provisional Government for the defence of its temporary authority, in the name of order and the happiness of all peoples….”
Proclamation of the Provisional Government.
“The Petrograd Soviet…. has declared the Provisional Government overthrown, and has demanded that the Governmental power be turned over to it, under threat of bombarding the Winter Palace with the cannon of Peter-Paul Fortress, and of the cruiser Avrora, anchored in the Neva.
“The Government can surrender its authority only to the Consituent Assembly; for that reason it has decided not to submit, and to demand aid from the population and the Army. A telegram has been sent to the Stavka; and an answer received says that a strong detachment of troops is being sent….
“Let the Army and the People reject the irresponsible attempts of the Bolsheviki to create a revolt in the rear….”
About 9 A. M. Kerensky left for the Front….
Toward evening two soldiers on bicycles presented themselves at the Staff Headquarters, as delegates of the garrison of Peter-Paul Fortress. Entering the meeting-room of the Staff, where Kishkin, Rutenburg, Paltchinski, General Bagratouni, Colonel Paradielov and Count Tolstoy were gathered, they demanded the immediate surrender of the Staff; threatening, in case of refusal, to bombard headquarters…. After two panicky conferences the Staff retreated to the Winter Palace, and the headquarters were occupied by Red Guards….
Late in the afternoon several Bolshevik armoured cars cruised around the Palace Square, and Soviet soldiers tried unsuccessfully to parley with the yunkers….
Firing on the Palace began about 7 o’clock in the evening….
At 10 P. M. began an artillery bombardment from three sides, in which most of the shells were blanks, only three small shrapnels striking the facade of the Palace….
Kerensky In Flight Leaving Petrograd in the morning of November 7th, Kerensky arrived by automobile at Gatchina, where he demanded a special train. Toward evening he was in Ostrov, Province of Pskov. The next morning, extraordinary session of the local Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Depulies, with participation of Cossack delegates—there being 6,000 Cossacks at Ostrov.
Kerensky spoke to the assembly, appealing for aid against the Bolsheviki, and addressed himself almost exclusively to the Cossacks. The soldier delegates protested.
“Why did you come here?” shouted voices. Kerensky answered, “To ask the Cossacks’ assistance in crushing the Bolshevik insurrection!” At this there were violent protestations, which increased when he continued, “I broke the Kornilov attempt, and I will break the Bolsheviki!” The noise became so great that he had to leave the platform….
The soldier deputies and the Ussuri Cossacks decided to arrest Kerensky, but the Don Cossacks prevented them, and got him away by train…. A Military Revolutionary Committee, set up during the day, tried to inform the garrison of Pskov; but the telephone and telegraph lines were cut….
Kerensky did not arrive at Pskov. Revolutionary soldiers had cut the railway line, to prevent troops being sent against the capital. On the night of November 8th he arrived by automobile at Luga, where he was well received by the Death Battalions stationed there.
Next day he took train for the South-West Front, and visited the Army Committee at headquarters. The Fifth Army, however, was wild with enthusiasm over the news of the Bolshevik success, and the Army Committee was unable to promise Kerensky any support.
From there he went to the Stavka, at Moghilev, where he ordered ten regiments from different parts of the Front to move against Petrograd. The soldiers almost unanimously refused; and those regiments which did start halted on the way. About five thousand Cossacks finally followed him….
Looting Of The Winter Palace I do not mean to maintain that there was no looting, in the Winter Palace. Both after and before the Winter Palace fell, there was considerable pilfering. The statement of the Socialist Revolutionary paper Narod, and of members of the City Duma, to the effect that precious objects to the value of 500,000,000 rubles had been stolen, was, however, a gross exaggeration.
The most important art treasures of the Palace—paintings, statues, tapestries, rare porcelains and armorie,—had been transferred to Moscow during the month of September; and they were still in good order in the basement of the Imperial Palace there ten days after the capture of the Kremlin by Bolshevik troops. I can personally testify to this….
Individuals, however, especially the general public, which was allowed to circulate freely through the Winter Palace for several days after its capture, made away with table silver, clocks, bedding, mirrors and some odd vases of valuable porcelain and semi-precious stone, to the value of about $50,000.
The Soviet Government immediately created a special commission, composed of artists and archæologists, to recover the stolen objects. On November 1st two proclamations were issued:
“CITIZENS OF PETROGRAD!
“We urgently ask all citizens to exert every effort to find whatever possible of the objects stolen from the Winter Palace in the night of November 7-8, and to forward them to the Commandant of the Winter Palace.
“Receivers of stolen goods, antiquarians, and all who are proved to be hiding such objects will be held legally responsible and punished with all severity.
“Commissars for the Protection of Museums and Artistic Collections,
“G. Yatmanov, B. Mandelbaum”
“To Regimental And Fleet Committees
“In the night of November 7-8, in the Winter Palace, which is the inalienable property of the Russian people, valuable objects of art were stolen.
“We urgently appeal to all to exert every effort, so that the stolen objects are returned to the Winter Palace.
“G. Yatmanov, B. Mandelbaum.”
About half the loot was recovered, some of it in the baggage of foreigners leaving Russia.
A conference of artists and archæologists, held at the suggestion of Smolny, appointed a commission of make an inventory of the Winter Palace treasures, which was given complete charge of the Palace and of all artistic collections and State museums in Petrograd. On November 16th the Winter Palace was closed to the public while the inventory was being made….
During the last week in November a decree was issued by the Council of People’s Commissars, changing the name of the Winter Palace to “People’s Museum,” entrusting it to the complete charge of the artistic-archæological commission, and declaring that henceforth all Governmental activities within its wall were prohibited….
Rape Of The Women’s Battalion Immediately following the taking of the Winter Palace all sorts of sensational stories were published in the anti-Bolshevik press, and told in the City Duma, about the fate of the Women’s Battalion defending the Palace. It was said that some of the girl-soldiers had been thrown from the windows into the street, most of the rest had been violated, and many had committed suicide as a result of the horrors they had gone through.
The City Duma appointed a commission to investigate the matter. On November 16th the commission returned from Levashovo, headquarters of the Women’s Battalion. Madame Tyrkova reported that the girls had been at first taken to the barracks of the Pavlovsky Regiment, and that there some of them had been badly treated; but that at present most of them were at Levashovo, and the rest scattered about the city in private houses. Dr. Mandelbaum, another of the commission, testified drily that none of the women had been thrown out of the windows of the Winter Palace, that none were wounded, that three had been violated, and that one had committed suicide, leaving a note which said that she had been “disappointed in her ideals.”
On November 21st the Military Revolutionary Committee officially dissolved the Women’s Battalion, at the request of the girls themselves, who returned to civilian clothes.
In Louise Bryant’s book, “Six Red Months in Russia,” there is an interesting description of the girl-soldiers during this time.