Kronstadt and Petrograd in 1917: the memoirs of Fyodor Raskolnikov

1. Comrade Lenin’s arrival in Russia

“Lenin is arriving in Petrograd this evening,” said L.N. Stark to me on April 3, 1917. I at once telephoned to L.B. Kamenev. The news was confirmed, and at the appointed hour I went with Lev Borisovich [Kamenev], Olga Davydovna [Kameneva] and Comrade Teodorovich to the Finland Station. There, as always, were many people and much noise.

In the railway carriage Comrade Kamenev talked about Vladimir Ilyich and smiled when he spoke of the reception which the Petrograd comrades had prepared for him: “You need to know Ilyich, he so hates every kind of ceremony.” The journey passed imperceptibly in lively conversation and soon we saw the lights of Byeloostrov [1] shining in the dusk. Quite a large number of persons were gathered at the station buffet: Marya llyinishna, [2] A.G. Shlyapnikov, A.M. Kollontai – in all, about twenty responsible Party workers. All were in an elated mood. For most of them Comrade Lenin’s arrival had been totally unexpected. Knowing the incredible obstacles put by the Entente in the way of the return of extreme-Left emigres to Russia we were very worried about our leaders, and while we felt every day how urgently we needed them, at the same time we had become reconciled to the idea that it was hardly likely we should see them back with us in the near future. For some reason the clever idea of traveling through Germany had never entered our heads: we had got so used to the idea of the impenetrable barriers erected between the belligerent states by the war. And now, suddenly, it turned out that a real possibility had opened up before our comrades to return quickly to revolutionary Russia, where their presence was so badly needed and where their places stood empty.

However, at that time not everyone, even among Party comrades, approved of the journey via Germany. On that very day I heard voices condemning the decision on tactical grounds, foreseeing the monstrous campaign of lies and slander which was indeed not slow to be launched against our Party.

All the same, even if they had lacked that pretext, our enemies would always have found something else. Comrade Lenin’s decision to get back to Russia as soon as possible, by any means available, was absolutely correct and fully corresponded to the feeling of most Party members, who missed their acknowledged leader. The difficult political situation created by the conditions of an unfinished and continuously on-going revolution called for an unwaveringly firm and consistent line.

Now we heard the first bell, heralding the train’s approach. We all went out on to the platform...There, talking together excitedly beneath a broad red banner, the workers of the Sestroretsk armaments works were waiting impatiently. They had come several versts, on foot, to meet their beloved leader.

At last the three blindingly bright lights of the locomotive rushed by us, and behind it the lighted windows of the carriages began to twinkle – more and more gently and slowly. The train stopped, and at once we perceived, over the crowd of workers, the figure of Comrade Lenin. Lifting Ilyich high above their heads the Sestroretsk workers conducted him into the station hall. There, all those who had come from Petrograd pushed their way through to him, one after the other, to congratulate him heartily on his return to Russia. All of us who were seeing Ilyich for the first time kissed him just as his old Party comrades did, as though we had known him for a long time. He was somehow serenely cheerful and the smile never left his face for a moment. It was clear that the return to his homeland, now embraced by the flame of revolution, gave him indescribable joy. We had not all finished greeting Ilyich when Kamenev, excited and happy, came quickly into the hall, leading by the hand a no less excited Comrade Zinoviev. Comrade Kamenev introduced us to him and, after exchanging a firm handshake we all, surrounding Lenin, made our way into his carriage.

Hardly had he entered the compartment and sat down than Vladimir Ilyich turned on Comrade Kamenev. “What’s this you’re writing in Pravda? We’ve seen several issues, and really swore at you...” we heard Ilyich say in his tone of fatherly reproof, in which there was never anything offensive.

The comrades from Sestroretsk were asking that Vladimir llyich say a few words to them. But he was absorbed in his conversation with Kamenev: there was so much to be learnt and even more to be said.

“Let Grigory speak to them: you’ll have to ask him,” said Comrade Lenin, turning back to his interrupted political discussion with Kamenev.

Comrade Zinoviev went out on to the platform of the carriage and delivered a brief but ardent speech, his first on the soil of revolutionary Russia.

Then we all went into his compartment where we were introduced to Comrade Lilina [3] and to Zinoviev’s little son. Comrade Grigory was unusually lively and happy. He told us how the Swiss Socialist Fritz Platten had organised their journey, how they had travelled across Germany and how Scheidemann had tried to make contact with Lenin, but the latter had categorically refused to meet him. [4] “We were on our way to prison, we were prepared to find ourselves arrested immediately as we crossed the frontier,” he said and then recounted to us his impressions of the journey.

The train, meanwhile, had started off again and arrived in Petrograd without our having realised it. Our carriage was now under the awning of the long passenger platforms. Along the platform at which our train had stopped, on both sides of it but leaving a wide passage down the middle, the sailors of the 2nd Baltic Fleet Depot were drawn up. The depot commander, Maksimov, a young officer from among the fleet’s ensigns, who was fervently making a career in the revolution, stepped forward barring Comrade Lenin’s path and delivered a speech of greeting. He ended it with a curious expression of hope that Comrade Lenin would enter the Provisional Government. Smiles appeared on our faces. “Well, now,” I thought, “Lenin will show you what he thinks of participation in the Provisional Government. You won’t like it!” And indeed when, the next day, Ilyich publicly expounded his programme, Maksimov, an upstart and political infant, published a letter in the bourgeois papers in which he disowned his greeting to Comrade Lenin and explained it by saying that he had not known of Lenin’s journey through Germany. But the mass of the sailors had no reason to repent for they already then saw in Lenin their acknowledged leader.

In reply to the wish expressed that he join the Provisional Government Comrade Lenin loudly hurled forth his battle slogan “Long live the socialist revolution”. [5]

There were masses of people in the station – mostly workers. Comrade Lenin went to the ‘ceremonial waiting rooms’ of the Finland Station, where he was welcomed by the representatives of the Petrograd Soviet, Chkheidze and Sukhanov. [6] He replied briefly, again ending his remarks with the cry “Long live the socialist revolution!” Finally he addressed the same slogan to the crowd of thousands who had assembled in the square in front of the station in order to greet the old leader of the Russian proletariat. This speech Lenin delivered standing on an armoured car. A row of these steel-clad motor cars stood outside the Finland Station. The beams of their headlamps cut through the darkness of the evening and cast long shafts of light down the streets of the Vyborg Side. [7]

Comrade Lenin then set off for the citadel of Bolshevism, the former home of the Tsar’s favourite Kshesinskaya, which had been taken over after the February Revolution by the leading institutions of our Party. I followed him to Kshesinskaya’s house. The Novaya-Zhiznite Sukhanov, who travelled in the same train with me, grumbled sourly about Lenin’s speeches. He was particularly unhappy about the call for a socialist revolution. Remembering what Sukhanov had been like during the war, I positively did not recognise him and was unable to understand the change that had taken place in him.

Though it was as a Narodnik that he began his activity as a publicist, N .N. [Sukhanov] drew closer and closer to Marxism until at last, during the war, he took up an absolutely correct anti-defencist position, basing this on arguments drawn from the arsenal of Marxism. When I frankly expressed to Sukhanov my regret that after the February Revolution he had so markedly drawn away from our Party, towards which he had obviously been attracted during the war, I heard him reply, bitterly: “Speeches like those Lenin has made today alienate me still further from you.” Sukhanov’s intransigent and irritated attitude showed that he had finally and hopelessly slipped down into the pit of a philistine interpretation of the revolution and of Gorkyite intellectual whining.

We found a huge crowd of workers and soldiers around Kshesinskaya’s house listening attentively to a speech by Lenin, delivered from the first floor balcony. He was talking about the development and prospects of the world revolution.

“Germany is in ferment. In Britain the Government holds John Maclean in prison” – these sentences reached me. We heard only the conclusion of his speech, which llyich ended on a cheerful, optimistic note, speaking of the Russian Revolution as the beginning of an international uprising of the working people which drew nearer day by day. At the entrance to the house comrades checked my document and Sukhanov went in with me. [8]

We mounted to the first floor, where llyich, having finished his speech, had just started to drink some tea. There were great many Party workers present, among whom one could easily make out prominent members of the Petrograd organisation and responsible comrades who had come in from the provinces. Animated conversation was beginning in all corners of the large room. Ilyich soon went out on to the balcony again, as our comrades from Kronstadt had arrived to greet him. When Semyon Roshal, who was in Kronstadt that day, heard of Lenin’s arrival, he assembled all who wanted to meet him and took them through the melting ice to Petrograd. The thaw had begun and that was the reason for his unintended lateness. Comrade Roshal went up to the balcony and welcomed Lenin on behalf of the men of Kronstadt. Ilyich replied with a brief speech. The slogan of socialist revolution accorded perfectly with the spirit of the Kronstadters and was taken up with a triumphant “Hurrah” and a regular hurricane of applause. After that everyone went back into the room, where, without interruption, old friends who had been separated for years by prison or emigration met each other again, and new Party workers who had matured in the epoch of Zvezda and Pravda made the acquaintance of veterans of the revolution and of Bolshevism. I remember the late A.A. Samoilov going up to Comrade Zinoviev, giving his name, and recalling his contributions to the pre-revolutionary Pravda under the pseudonym ‘A. Yuriev’. Comrade Zinoviev shook his hand warmly. Soon after that, all those present went down into a big room with a piano in it, with an adjacent winter-garden, where previously the ballerina had held her fashionable receptions but which was now usually the setting for crowded workers’ meetings. A celebration in honour of llyich was held here. One after another speakers voiced their feeling of profoundest joy at the return to Russia of the Party’s battle-hardened leader.

Ilyich sat and listened with a smile to all the speeches, waiting impatiently for them to finish.

When the list of speakers was exhausted, Ilyich at once came to life, got to his feet and set to work. He resolutely assailed the tactics which the leading Party groups and individual comrades had been pursuing before his return. He caustically ridiculed the notorious formula of support for the Provisional Government ‘in so far as ... to that extent’, and gave out the slogan, ‘No support whatsoever to the government of capitalists’, at the same time calling on the Party to fight for power to be taken over by the Soviets, for a socialist revolution.

Using a few striking examples, Comrade Lenin brilliantly demonstrated the whole falsity of the policy of the Provisional Government, the glaring contradiction between its promises and its actions, between words and deeds, emphasising that it was our duty to expose ruthlessly its counter-revolutionary and anti-democratic pretensions and conduct. Comrade Lenin’s speech lasted nearly an hour. The audience remained fixed in intense, unweakening attention. The most responsible Party workers were represented here, but even for them what Ilyich said constituted a veritable revelation. It laid down a ‘Rubicon’ between the tactics of yesterday and those of today.

Comrade Lenin posed the question clearly and distinctly: ‘What is to be done?’, and summoned us away from half-recognition, half-support of the Government to non-recognition and irreconcilable struggle.

The ultimate triumph of Soviet power, which many saw as something in the hazy distance of a more or less indefinite future, was brought down by Comrade Lenin to the plane of an urgently-necessary conquest of the revolution, to be attained within a very short time. This speech of his was in the fullest sense historic. Comrade Lenin here first set forth his political programme, which he formulated next day in the famous theses of April 4. This speech produced a complete revolution in the thinking of the Party’s leaders, and underlay all the subsequent work of the Bolsheviks. It was not without cause that our Party’s tactics did not follow a straight line, but after Lenin’s return took a sharp turn to the left.

When Ilyich concluded his speech, which made an unforgettable impression on everyone, he was given a stormy, prolonged ovation.

Comrade Kamenev summed up in a few words the general feeling: ‘We may or may not agree with Comrade Lenin’s views, we may differ from him in our evaluation of one proposition or another, but, in any case, there has returned to Russia in the person of Comrade Lenin the brilliant and acknowledged leader of our Party and we shall go forward together with him, towards socialism.’ Comrade Kamenev had found the unifying formulation, acceptable even to those who were still wavering, unable to find their way amid the flood of new ideas. All present joined with Lev Borisovich in unanimous, warm applause. In any case, regardless of any differences there might be, the unity of the Party was preserved. Under the leadership of its far-seeing leader the Party advanced towards victory, through unavoidable temporary defeats, until at last it triumphed in its heroic struggle for workers and peasants’ power.

2. April 20-21

In the evening of April 20 comrades returning from Petrograd told the Kronstadt Party Committee that there was unrest in the capital. At that moment a Party meeting was in progress. I proposed to one of the Kronstadters who had returned, the sailor Comrade Kolbin, that he make a report on what had been happening in Petrograd. But his account drew no distinct picture. There had been a demonstration of some sort, there had been some incomprehensible shooting in the Nevsky Prospekt and that was all. The other comrades were also unable to clarify the matter.

Our fervent interest in the struggle developing in Petrograd, with which we shared a common political life, was not satisfied on this occasion.

Next day Comrade N.I. Podvoisky telephoned from Petrograd. Indicating that he could not say everything over the telephone, Comrade Podvoisky requested in the name of the Party’s Military Organisation that a reliable detachment of Kronstadters be sent to Petrograd at once. His anxious, staccato way of speaking showed that the situation in Petrograd was really serious. We immediately telephoned the ships and the shore detachments, inviting every unit to appoint some comrades to go, taking their arms, to Petrograd.

When our friends assembled on the spacious terraces of the Party’s headquarters, which not long before had served Admiral Butakov’s comfortable dacha, I said a few words about the sharpening situation in Petrograd. Referring to the lack of detailed information, I called on the comrades to go at once to Petrograd and to be prepared if need be to give their lives at any moment for the revolution, in the streets of the capital the assembly showed itself self-sacrificingly ready to follow to anywhere they might be needed, wherever the slightest danger threatened the precious fate of the revolution.

The mood of the Kronstadters that day was, as always, one of determination and courage, impatient desire to do battle with the forces of counter-revolution. The slightest threat to the revolution from the Provisional Government or the circles close to it made the Red Kronstadters prick up their ears, fiercely grasp their rifles and demand of their leaders an immediate march on Petrograd, to rescue the gains of the revolution already won, which, despite their comparative insignificance, seemed to the Kronstadters to be a real pledge of proletarian triumph close at hand.

The appeal for help sent out by the Bolshevik Party leadership naturally found a sharp echo in the sentiments of revolutionary Kronstadt. The political situation which had taken shape in Petrograd by April 21 did not yet call for large reinforcements. Consequently, the detachment made ready for despatch, which had been formed on the principle of having each unit represented by two or three men, consisted only of between a hundred and a hundred and fifty bayonets. This small detachment was an advanced unit of skirmishers behind which, always ready to follow them up, stood thousands of armed warriors.

Before dark the detachment left Kronstadt in a steamship. At Oranienbaum they entrained and when they turned out at Petrograd’s Baltic Station night had fallen.

Along the lonely embankment of the Obvodny Canal and the unusually deserted lzmailovsky Prospekt where only rarely were isolated pedestrians to be glimpsed, we marched down the middle of the roadway, our rifles on our shoulders and keeping to a measured, marching pace. We attracted no suspicion.

At the narrow bridge which crosses the Fontanka at the Aleksanprovsky Market we overtook a pedestrian whom I recognised by the light falling on his face from a street lamp as Semyon Roshal’s brother Mikhail. I hailed him. He at once left the pavement, came up to me and losing control of himself, in a trembling, nervously choking voice in which one heard insurmountable, burning anxiety, he said: ‘You know, they’ve managed to set the soldiers against the workers ... I was in the Nevsky today ...I saw the shooting myself...It was frightful.’ I tried to the best of my ability to calm and reassure him, cheering him up and persuading him that the day’s shooting had been only an isolated episode, in no way capable of halting or slowing down the progress of the revolution. Mikhail Roshal accompanied us for a short time, then said goodbye and left.

At the corner of the Sadovaya and the Nevsky we were halted by some officers, who had with them some civilians who looked like Mensheviks or SRs. One of the latter, who was wearing a new, spick-and-span overcoat and a fur cap, inquisitively demanded: ‘Have you come by order of the Provisional Government?’ ‘Yes, by order of the Provisional Government,’ I replied in a firm tone.

The outward appearance of our orderly detachment, the naval officer’s cap on my head and the categorical reply I had given inspired this Menshevik or SR with confidence and letting us through, he said: ‘You may proceed. I asked because an order issued today has forbidden anyone to appear in the street under arms without a special permit from the Provisional Government. However, since you have come by order of the Government you may go on your way. Otherwise we should have stopped you.’ And so having by means of a trick passed unscathed through the Menshevik-SR barrier, we crossed the Field of Mars and after traversing the Troitsky bridge entered the Petersburg side of the city. [9] Within a few minutes we were at Kshesinskaya’s house. We went up the stairs to the first floor and into a big room with a long table, where not only meetings of the rank and file but also sessions of all-Petrograd Party conferences were often held.

There were a great many people in the room: some comrades were sitting on benches, others standing by the walls. Comrade Podvoisky was speaking when we entered. As he saw the stream of Kronstadters steadily pouring in he greeted us in the name of the Military Organisation and briefly described the situation created in Petersburg in connection with Milyukov’s cynically imperialist note, [10] which had evoked a demonstration under the slogan ‘All power to the Soviets’, ending in bloody clashes between the workers and a counter-revolutionary demonstration by the bourgeoisie in the Nevsky Prospekt. Putting the Kronstadters in the picture, Nikolai Ilyich [Podvoisky] called for unity and organisation from top to bottom, right down to the factories and regiments, where backward comrades were in very great need of clarification of their class consciousness. Practical conclusions were at once drawn from Comrade Podvoisky’s speech: all the Kronstadters were immediately distributed among the factories and regiments of Petrograd, to engage in direct, comradely discussion. I was assigned to the Preobrazhensky Regiment, one of the most reactionary.

Early in the morning of April 22 all the Kronstadters were at their posts. In the barracks of the Preobrazhensky Regiment, among their dirty bunks, I told the soldiers that I wanted to hold a meeting.

As though emerging from beneath the ground, the orderly officer appeared before me and timidly inquired the subject on which I proposed to speak. When he heard that the subject of my speech was to be political -‘The current situation’ [11] -the young officer asked me suspiciously whether I had it in mind to summon the soldiers to a street demonstration. I reassured the inquisitive subaltern that this was not, for the moment, included in my programme. The officer took heart and blurted out something about an order just received which forbade soldiers to leave their barracks. The officers of the Preobrazhensky Regiment were altogether in a notably perplexed state of mind and, after the street demonstrations that had taken place, awaited coming events with concern and fear.

The soldiers soon assembled for the meeting in the regiment’s huge hall. Most of the audience consisted of soldiers getting on in years, nearly all of them bearded family men. Climbing on to the improvised stage, I began my agitational address. It was devoted to a review of the situation created by the treacherous policy of the bourgeois Provisional Government and an exposition of our aims and tasks.

So long as I was speaking on that subject all went well. The soldiers listened, without enthusiasm, but at least calmly and indifferently as though maintaining their neutrality. However, it was enough for me to mention the name of Comrade Lenin and to start justifying what he had done, for them to interrupt with loud cries of “Down with him, he’s a German spy!” I raised my voice, and almost shouting, went on with my enumeration of Comrade Lenin’s services to the revolutionary movement. A group of irreconcilables then noisily left the hall, stamping their boots loudly. But most of the men stayed to listen and patiently heard me out. When I finished there was even some applause.

A few officers sat on the windowsills, like chickens on a perch and sullenly held aloof from the soldiers and from the speaker’s tribune, as though to emphasise their unwillingness to mingle with the crowd. However, their demonstration did not go further than hostile, killing glances.

The Preobrazhensky Regiment was at that time regarded, and with reason, as one of the bulwarks of the counter-revolutionary Provisional Government. My brief sojourn in its camp showed me that the affairs of the counter-revolution were not going too brilliantly. The counter-revolution possessed no firm support in the Preobrazhensky Regiment: there was no solid sympathy with the bourgeoisie there, and what sympathy there was had its basis only in the unlimited backwardness of those fathers of families, those bearded peasants who had been torn from the plough. I felt that the day would soon really come when the revolution would at last reach their retarded brains and light up even their political consciousness.

The most backward Guards units were gradually beginning to emerge from under the influence of their White-Guard officers and abandon the Provisional Government. This started to become especially clear after the April days. The historic events of April 20-21 played the role of a stage in this complex process. They served as a prototype for July 3-5, just as the July days, in their turn, were a prototype for the October Revolution.

We Party workers in Kronstadt soon learnt that an all-Russia Party conference was to be held before the end of April, and began vigorously to prepare for it. Meetings were arranged in all the units at which the tasks of the Party conference and its significance were explained in the most popular way. After that the all-Kronstadt Party assembly was convened. Comrade Smilga and I gave reports. After a brief discussion, which not only revealed no differences but simply underlined the very close unity of the Kronstadt organisation, it remained to elect our delegates to the Party conference. Those elected were Smilga, Roshal and me. We three soon set off to Petrograd to take part in the work of the April conference.

The first sessions of the April Party conference were held on the Petersburg side, in the building of the Women’s Medical Institute. After long years of underground work, after congresses and conferences held abroad, in London, Prague and Paris, our Party, now legalised and coming out into the mainstream of open political struggle, was holding its first legal all-Russia conference. Here were forged the Party slogans, here were collectively worked out the tactical methods which led within a few months to the October Revolution and ensured its victory. Here met together old Party friends, united by their work, who had been separated by many years of emigration penal servitude, exile and imprisonment.

The mood was one of extraordinary elation. From start to finish the conference proceeded under the inspiration of Ilyich. At the organisational session held in the assembly hall of the Women’s Institute we elected the conference presidium, which was made up of Lenin, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Stalin, Sverdlov Fyodorov and other comrades.

The first item on the agenda was ‘reports from the localities.’ By and large, these reports gave grounds for a fully gratifying impression: our Party had coped exceptionally well with the tremendous historical task that had fallen to its lot and had combated successfully the parties hostile to it. During a break I heard in the corridor the loud voice of Comrade Ivan Rakhiya, who is now dead: “Petrograd comrades, assemble for the organisational session.” We from Kronstadt also formed part of the Petrograd delegation.

On one of the first days of the conference Comrade Fyodorov made a brief communication about the recently held meetings of the Petrograd Executive Committee (of the Soviet) at which the question of forming a coalition government had been discussed and it had been decided on Tsereteli’s initiative that socialists should not enter the Provisional Government.

“They realise,” observed Comrade Kamenev, speaking to a group of comrades crowding round the tribune, “that if they go into that box they’ll never get out of it. So they prefer to support the Provisional Government from outside, while not staining their ‘snow-white’ robes by entering the Cabinet.”

Within a few days of the objective logic of the compromisers’ policy compelled the Mensheviks and SRs to enter the cabinet formed by Prince Lvov, who was the last minister to receive his appointment from the hands of the Tsar. When the reports from the localities were concluded, all the members of the conference, in accordance with a proposal by Comrade Zinoviev, broke up into sections. I went into the section on the International, in which also worked Comrades Zinoviev, Inessa Armand, Slutsky, Roshal and others. All the section meetings took place in Kshesinskaya’s house.

In our section Comrade Zinoviev read out his draft resolution in which the collapse of the Second International was explained, first and foremost, by the formation of an aristocracy of labour detached from the broad masses of the proletariat. No differences of principle were revealed and the discussion produced only editorial improvements. Comrade Inessa Armand, replying to one of the comrades, gave an interesting talk on the various groups in the French labour movement. She spoke with exceptional warmth about the internationalist tendency in France. In this reply she stressed, having noticed a mistake which had been made, that one must not confuse Loriot with the compromiser Jean Longuet. Broadly speaking, the resolution drawn up and put forward by Comrade Zinoviev was adopted without significant changes.

The succeeding plenary sessions of the conference were held not at the Women’s Medical Institute but at the Lokhvitskaya-Skalon school. A rumour circulated persistently among the delegates that when the professors of the Women’s Medical Institute learnt that a conference of Bolsheviks was being held within the walls of their beloved alma mater and with the notorious Lenin participating to boot, they resolutely refused to grant us their hospitality. The lecture hall of the Lokhvitskaya-Skalon school was arranged as an amphitheatre. Comrade Zinoviev spoke here on the question of our attitude to other parties. It was this report which defined the tactical line of the Bolshevik Party in the period immediately ahead. At this session I remember, there were present, among other delegates, Comrade Latsis (‘Uncle’, from the Vyborg-side district), Comrades Yeremeyev, Solovyov, Roshal and others.

The final session of the conference was held in Kshesinskaya’s house. It took place in the big room on the ground floor where Lenin had been welcomed by his Party friends on the day of his return from Switzerland. Comrade Lenin himself gave the report on the national and agrarian questions. [12] He was in good form and brilliantly maintained the thesis of “the right of nations to self-determination, up to and including separation,” ruthlessly describing as chauvinists those who would not accept this or who accepted it only with certain reservations.

That day, from the morning onwards, various lists were passed around among the delegates, with names of candidates for the incoming Central Committee. Among them was the list proposed by Comrade Lenin. This list included the names Comrades Zinoviev, Kamenev, Stalin, Stasova and others.

Comrade Smilga approached me, saying that he had been proposed for membership of the Central Committee and asking whether the Kronstadt delegation would object to this, since if he were elected he would have to say goodbye to Kronstadt. I replied that, since work in the Central Committee was incomparably more important than the activity of the Kronstadt organisation, our committee would not object to his being released from work in Kronstadt.

In accordance with the rule which had been adopted, two speakers addressed the conference regarding each of the candidates – one in favour of his election, the other against. Comrade Zinoviev spoke strongly in support of the candidatures of Comrades V.P. Nogin and V.P. Milyutin. He emphasised that, though these comrades had at one time left us and worked with the Mensheviks, nevertheless, already during the imperialist war they had honourably come back to us and merged with our Party. Comrade Zinoviev insisted that they deserved, on account of their qualities and their many years of service to the proletariat, to be elected to the Party’s leading organ.

The conference agreed with his arguments and elected them both to the new CC. The election was carried out by ballot. A three-man commission was elected to count the votes: it consisted of Comrade Solovyov, me and one other comrade. First among those elected to the new CC were Lenin, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Stalin, Milyutin, Nogin and Stasova. I remember that Comrade Zinoviev was disappointed that Comrade Tcodorovich was not elected to the CC.

After we had sung the ‘International’, the Party’s first legal conference was declared at an end. By dawn the delegates had already dispersed to their homes. The conference had demonstrated the Party’s amazing unanimity. At its head was placed a vigorous Central Committee which proved fully worthy of the historic tasks confronting the Party and brilliantly organised the great victory of the proletariat in the memorable days of October.


1. Byeloostrov was the station at which the train, coming from Sweden through Finland, entered Russia proper. Finland had a separate administration and there was a customs check at this ‘internal frontier’.

2. Marya Ilyinishna Ulyanova, Lenin’s sister.

3. Z.I. Lilina was Zinoviev’s wife.

4. It was not until July 1917 that the German Social-Democratic leader Philipp Scheidemann declared in favour of “peace without annexations or indemnities”. At this time he still supported his Government’s war policy, and it would have been highly compromising for Lenin to meet him.

5. It is perhaps worth noting that what Lenin said on this historic occasion was: “Long live the world-wide socialist revolution!“ (Sec Krupskaya, Sukhanov and others.)

6. Not Sukhanov but M.I. Skobelev came with Chkheidze to greet Lenin at the Finland Station. Sukhanov was present but did not make a speech.

7. The quarter of Petrograd where the Finland Station is situated is called ‘the Vyborg side’ because the main road to Vyborg - 174 km away - runs through this quarter.

8. Sukhanov mentions in his book (p. 275) that he walked from the Finland Station to Kshesinskaya’s house with “an old friend of mine, Raskolnikov”, and adds: “He was unusually amiable, sincere and honest, an unwavering revolutionary through and through, and a Bolshevik fanatic”.

9. The quarter of Petrograd where Kshesinskaya’s house stood was called ‘the Petersburg side’ of the city.

10. On April 18 (May 1, new style), the Provisional Government’s Foreign Minister, the Cadet Milyukov, sent a note to Russia’s Allies assuring them that Russia would carry on the war “until decisive victory has been won”. A street demonstration under the slogan “Peace without annexations or indemnities” was met by a pro-war counter-demonstration, and on April 21 blood was shed on the streets of Petrograd for the first time since the fall of the Tsar.

11. Literally, in the jargon of the time: “the current moment”.

12. Lenin did not, in fact, give the report on the national question at the April Conference, though he spoke in the debate.