Russia in Revolution: 1890-1918

In 1893 Sergei Witte was appointed as Minister of Finance. Witte combined his experience in the railway industry with a strong interest in foreign policy. He encouraged the expansion of the Trans-Siberian Railway and organized the construction of the Chinese Eastern Railway. Witte also devalued Russia's currency to promote international trade, erecting high tariffs to protect Russian industry, and placing Russia on the gold standard giving the country a stable currency for international dealings. (1)

Witte also played an important role in helping to increase the speed of Russia's industrial development. He realised that the skills needed for rapid industrial growth could not be found in Russia. Foreign engineers were encouraged to work there, and Witte relied on foreign investors to supply much of the money to finance industrial growth. "This strategy was highly successful and by 1900 Russia was producing three times as much iron as in 1890, and more than twice as much coal." (2)

However, Witte still believed Russia had not industrialized fast enough: "In spite of the vast successes achieved during the last twenty years (i.e. 1880-1900) in our metallurgical and manufacturing industry, the natural resources of the country are still underdeveloped and the masses of the people remain in enforced idleness... To the present epoch has fallen the difficult task of making up for what has been neglected in an economic slumber lasting two centuries." Witte insisted that unless this growth took place Russia would be "politically impotent to the degree that they were economically dependent on foreign industry." (3)

Sergei Witte believed in the need for political reforms to go with this economic growth. This resulted in him making powerful enemies, including Vyacheslav Plehve, Minister of the Interior, who favoured a policy of repression. The two men disagreed on the issue of industrialization."Witte envisioned a Russia in which the autocracy coexisted with industrial capitalism, Plehve a Russia in which the old regime lived on, with the landed nobility holding a place of honor, a regime that had no place for Jews, whom he considered a cancer on the body politic." (4) In August, 1903, Plehve passed on documents to Tsar Nicholas II that suggested Witte was part of a Jewish conspiracy. As a result Witte was removed as Minister of Finance. (5)

Sergei Witte
Sergei Witte

On 28th July, 1904, Plehve was killed by a bomb thrown by Egor Sazonov on 28th July, 1904. Plehve was replaced by Pyotr Sviatopolk-Mirsky, as Minister of the Interior. He held liberal views and hoped to use his power to create a more democratic system of government. Sviatopolk-Mirsky believed that Russia should grant the same rights enjoyed in more advanced countries in Europe. He recommended that the government strive to create a "stable and conservative element" among the workers by improving factory conditions and encouraging workers to buy their own homes. "It is common knowledge that nothing reinforces social order, providing it with stability, strength, and ability to withstand alien influences, better than small private owners, whose interests would suffer adversely from all disruptions of normal working conditions." (6)

Tsar Nicholas II made a speech in January, 1895, denouncing the "senseless dreams" of those who favour democratic reforms. Leon Trotsky later commented: "I was fifteen at the time. I was unreservedly on the side of the nonsensical dreams, and not on that of the Tsar. Vaguely I believed in a gradual development which would bring backward Russia nearer in advanced Europe. Beyond that my political ideas did not go." (7)

Sergi Witte, the Minister of Finance, was one of the few progressives in the government and warned about the problems of ruling Russia in this way. "With many nationalities, many languages and a nation largely illiterate, the marvel is that the country can be held together even in autocracy. Remember one thing: if the tsar's government falls, you will see absolute chaos in Russia, and it will be many a long year before you can see another government able to control the mixture that makes up the Russian nation." (8)

Revolutionary Political Parties

Nicholas II speeches defending the status quo encouraged attempts to form a new revolutionary party. In March, 1898, the various Marxist groups in Russia met in Minsk and decided to form the Social Democratic Labour Party (SDLP). Members included Julius Martov, Lenin, Leon Trotsky, Gregory Zinoviev, Anatoli Lunacharsky, Joseph Stalin, Mikhail Lashevich, Nadezhda Krupskaya, Mikhail Frunze, Alexei Rykov, Yakov Sverdlov, Lev Kamenev, Maxim Litvinov, Vladimir Antonov, Felix Dzerzhinsky, Vyacheslav Menzhinsky, Kliment Voroshilov, Vatslav Vorovsky, Yan Berzin, George Plekhanov, Pavel Axelrod, Leon Trotsky, Lev Deich, Vladimir Antonov-Ovseenko, Vera Zasulich, Irakli Tsereteli, Moisei Uritsky, Natalia Sedova, Noi Zhordania, Fedor Dan and Gregory Ordzhonikidze.

The SDLP was banned in Russia so most of its leaders were forced to live in exile. In 1900 the group began publishing a journal called Iskra. It was printed in several European cities and then smuggled into Russia by a network of SDLP agents. Its programme included the overthrow of the tsarist autocracy and the establishment of a democratic republic. (9)

Another group of political activists, including Catherine Breshkovskaya, Victor Chernov, Gregory Gershuni, Alexander Kerensky and Evno Azef, founded the Party of Socialist Revolutionaries (SR) in 1901. The SR rejected the Marxist idea that the peasants were a reactionary class. Its main policy was the confiscation of all land. This would then be distributed among the peasants according to need. The party was also in favour of the establishment of a democratically elected constituent assembly and a maximum 8-hour day for factory workers. "The Socialist Revolutionaries refused, in fact, to recognize any fundamental distinction between workers and peasants: they organized themselves, and with some success, to work among both." (10)

Father Gapon
Photograph of leaders of the Social Democratic Labour Party (SDLP).
Lenin in the centre and Julius Martov is seated on the right.

At the Second Congress of the Social Democratic Party held in London in 1903, there was a dispute between Lenin and Julius Martov. Lenin argued for a small party of professional revolutionaries with a large fringe of non-party sympathizers and supporters. Martov disagreed believing it was better to have a large party of activists. Leon Trotsky commented that "the split came unexpectedly for all the members of the congress. Lenin, the most active figure in the struggle, did not foresee it, nor had he ever desired it. Both sides were greatly upset by the course of events." Martov won the vote 28-23 but Lenin was unwilling to accept the result and formed a faction known as the Bolsheviks. (11)

Those who remained loyal to Martov became known as Mensheviks. Trotsky argued in My Life: An Attempt at an Autobiography (1930): "How did I come to be with the 'softs' at the congress? Of the Iskra editors, my closest connections were with Martov, Zasulich and Axelrod. Their influence over me was unquestionable. Before the congress there were various shades of opinion on the editorial board, but no sharp differences. I stood farthest from Plekhanov, who, after the first really trivial encounters, had taken an intense dislike to me. Lenin's attitude towards me was unexceptionally kind. But now it was he who, in my eyes, was attacking the editorial board, a body which was, in my opinion, a single unit, and which bore the exciting name of Iskra. The idea of a split within the board seemed nothing short of sacrilegious to me."

A large number of the Social Democratic Party joined the Bolsheviks. This included Gregory Zinoviev, Anatoli Lunacharsky, Joseph Stalin, Mikhail Lashevich, Nadezhda Krupskaya, Mikhail Frunze, Alexei Rykov, Yakov Sverdlov, Lev Kamenev, Maxim Litvinov, Vladimir Antonov, Felix Dzerzhinsky, Vyacheslav Menzhinsky, Kliment Voroshilov, Vatslav Vorovsky, Yan Berzin and Gregory Ordzhonikidze. Trotsky felt he could not follow Lenin over this issue. "In 1903 the whole point at issue was nothing more than Lenin's desire to get Axelrod and Zasulich off the editorial board. My attitude towards them was full of respect, and there was an element of personal affection as well. Lenin also thought highly of them for what they had done in the past. But he believed that they were becoming an impediment for the future. This led him to conclude that they must be removed from their position of leadership. I could not agree. My whole being seemed to protest against this merciless cutting off of the older ones when they were at last on the threshold of an organized party."

Trotsky supported Julius Martov. So also did George Plekhanov, Pavel Axelrod, Lev Deich, Vladimir Antonov-Ovseenko, Irakli Tsereteli, Moisei Uritsky, Vera Zasulich, Noi Zhordania and Fedor Dan. Trotsky argued that "Lenin's behaviour seemed unpardonable to me, both horrible and outrageous. And yet, politically it was right and necessary, from the point of view of organization. The break with the older ones, who remained in the preparatory stages, was inevitable in any case. Lenin understood this before anyone else did. He made an attempt to keep Plekhanov by separating him from Zasulich and Axelrod. But this, too, was quite futile, as subsequent events soon proved." (12)

Vyacheslav Plehve

Nicholas II and Alexandra disliked St. Petersburg. Considering it too modern, they moved the family residence in 1895 from Anichkov Palace to Alexander Palace in Tsarskoe Selo, where they lived in seclusion. In 1902 Nicholas II appointed the reactionary Vyacheslav Plehve as his Minister of the Interior. Plehve's attempts at suppressing those advocating reform was completely unsuccessful. In a speech he made in Odessa in April 1903 Plehve argued: "Western Russia some 90 per cent of the revolutionaries are Jews, and in Russia generally - some 40 per cent. I shall not conceal from you that the revolutionary movement in Russia worries us but you should know that if you do not deter your youth from the revolutionary movement, we shall make your position untenable to such an extent that you will have to leave Russia, to the very last man!" (13)

Plehve also secretly organized Jewish Pogroms. Plehve was hated by all radicals in Russia. Leon Trotsky commented: "Plehve was as powerless against sedition as his successor, but he was a terrible scourge against the kingdom of liberal newspapermen and rural conspirators. He loathed the idea of revolution with the fierce loathing of a police detective grown old in his profession, threatened by a bomb from around every street corner; he pursued sedition with bloodshot eyes - but in vain. Plehve was terrifying and loathsome as far as the liberals were concerned, but against sedition he was no better and no worse than any of the others. Of necessity, the movement of the masses ignored the limits of what was allowed and what was forbidden: that being so, what did it matter if those limits were a little narrower or a little wider?" (14)

Although Nicholas II described himself as a man of peace, he favoured an expanded Russian Empire. Encouraged by Vyacheslav Plehve the Tsar made plans to seize Constantinople and expanded into Manchuria and Korea. Japan felt her own interests in the area were being threatened and on 8th February, 1904, the Japanese Navy launched a surprise attack on the Russian fleet at Port Arthur. Although the Russian Army was able to hold back Japanese armies along the Yalu River and in Manchuria, the Russian Navy fared badly in the opening stages of the conflict. (15)

Sergi Witte claimed that Plehve remarked that Russia needed "a little, victorious war to stem the revolution". There are doubts about the truth of this statement but Plehve's actions definitely precipitated the Russo-Japanese War. However, the war failed in its main objective to win support for Nicholas II and the autocracy. The war was unpopular with the Russian people and demonstrations took place in border areas such as Finland, Poland and the Caucasus. Failure to defeat the Japanese also reduced the prestige of the Tsar and his government. (16)

However, it was Plehve's record on human rights that made him so hated by the Russian people. This was especially true of his hatred for the Jews. Theodore Rothstein pointed out: "Plehve was directly responsible for the horrors of Kishineff and Gomel - horrors that remind one of the darkest period of the Middle Ages. If to this be added the numberless other outrages and acts of terrorism committed against various public bodies as well as single individuals who in any way dared to assert their independence of speech or thought, we may well say that there is in modern times but one name that is worthy to rank along with his, and that is the Duke of Alva. Blood at the beginning, blood at the end, blood throughout his career - that is the mark Plehve left behind him in history. He was a living outrage on the moral consciousness of mankind." (17)

Vyacheslav Plehve was much hated by all those seeking reform and in 1904 Evno Azef, head of the Terrorist Brigade of the Socialist Revolutionary Party, ordered his assassination. Plehve was killed by a bomb thrown by Egor Sazonov on 28th July, 1904. Emile J. Dillon, who was working for the Daily Telegraph, witnessed the assassination: "Two men on bicycles glided past, followed by a closed carriage, which I recognized as that of the all-powerful minister (Vyacheslav Plehve). Suddenly the ground before me quivered, a tremendous sound as of thunder deafened me, the windows of the houses on both sides of the broad streets rattled, and the glass of the panes was hurled on to the stone pavements. A dead horse, a pool of blood, fragments of a carriage, and a hole in the ground were parts of my rapid impressions. My driver was on his knees devoutly praying and saying that the end of the world had come.... Plehve's end was received with semi-public rejoicings. I met nobody who regretted his assassination or condemned the authors." (18)

Praskovia Ivanovskaia who took part in the conspiracy later pointed out: "The conclusion of this affair gave me some satisfaction - finally the man who had taken so many victims had been brought to his inevitable end, so universally desired." Dillon claimed that "I met nobody who regretted his assassination or condemned the authors". Lionel Kochan pointed out that "Plehve was the very embodiment of the government's policy of repression, contempt for public opinion, anti-semitism and bureaucratic tyranny". (19)

Plehve was replaced by Pyotr Sviatopolk-Mirsky, as Minister of the Interior. He held liberal views and hoped to use his power to create a more democratic system of government. Sviatopolk-Mirsky believed that Russia should grant the same rights enjoyed in more advanced countries in Europe. He recommended that the government strive to create a "stable and conservative element" among the workers by improving factory conditions and encouraging workers to buy their own homes. "It is common knowledge that nothing reinforces social order, providing it with stability, strength, and ability to withstand alien influences, better than small private owners, whose interests would suffer adversely from all disruptions of normal working conditions." (20)

Assembly of Russian Workers

In February, 1904, Sviatopolk-Mirsky's agents approached Father Georgi Gapon and encouraged him to use his popular following to "direct their grievances into the path of economic reform and away from political discontent". (21) Gapon agreed and on 11th April 1904 he formed the Assembly of Russian Workers of St Petersburg. Its aims were to affirm "national consciousness" amongst the workers, develop "sensible views" regarding their rights and foster amongst the members of the union "activity facilitating the legal improvements of the workers' conditions of work and living". (22)

By the end of 1904 the Assembly had cells in most of the larger factories, including a particularly strong contingent at the Putilov works. The overall membership has been variously estimated between 2,000 and 8,000. Whatever the true figure, the strength of the Assembly and of its sympathizers exceeded by far that of the political parties. For example, in St Petersburg at this time, the local Menshevik and Bolshevik groups could muster no more than 300 members each. (23)

Adam B. Ulam, the author of The Bolsheviks (1998) was highly critical of the leader of the Assembly of Russian Revolution: "Gapon had certain peasant cunning, but was politically illiterate, and his personal tastes were rather inappropriate for either a revolutionary or a priest: he was unusually fond of gambling and drinking. Yet he became an object of a spirited competition among various branches of the radical movement." (24) Another revolutionary figure, Victor Serge, saw him in a much more positive light. "Gapon is a remarkable character. He seems to have believed sincerely in the possibility of reconciling the true interests of the workers with the authorities' good intentions". (25)

According to Cathy Porter: "Despite its opposition to equal pay for women, the Union attracted some three hundred women members, who had to fight a great deal of prejudice from the men to join." Vera Karelina was an early member and led its women's section: "I remember what I had to put up with when there was the question of women joining... There wasn't a single mention of the woman worker, as if she was non-existent, like some sort of appendage, despite the fact that the workers in several factories were exclusively women." Karelina was also a Bolshevik but complained "how little our party concerned itself with the fate of working women, and how inadequate was its interest in their liberation.'' (26)

Father Gapon
Father Gapon

Adam B. Ulam claimed that the Assembly of Russian Workers of St Petersburg was firmly under the control of the Minister of the Interior: "Father Gapon... had, with the encouragement and subsidies of the police, organized a workers' union, thus continuing the work of Zubatov. The union had scrupulously excluded Socialists and Jews. For a while the police could congratulate themselves on their enterprise." (27) David Shub, a Menshevik, agreed, claiming that the organisation had been set up to "wean the workers away from radicalism". (28)

Alexandra Kollontai, an important Bolshevik leader, did join the union with little difficulty. She was also a feminist and felt the Bolsheviks had not done enough to support the demands of women members. Kollontai believed that any organisation that allowed factory women was preferable to the Bolsheviks' almost total silence about them, and "how little our party concerned itself with the fate of working women, and how inadequate was its interest in their liberation." (29)

1904 was a bad year for Russian workers. Prices of essential goods rose so quickly that real wages declined by 20 per cent. When four members of the Assembly of Russian Workers were dismissed at the Putilov Iron Works in December, Gapon tried to intercede for the men who lost their jobs. This included talks with the factory owners and the governor-general of St Petersburg. When this failed, Gapon called for his members in the Putilov Iron Works to come out on strike. (30)

Father Georgi Gapon demanded: (i) An 8-hour day and freedom to organize trade unions. (ii) Improved working conditions, free medical aid, higher wages for women workers. (iii) Elections to be held for a constituent assembly by universal, equal and secret suffrage. (iv) Freedom of speech, press, association and religion. (v) An end to the war with Japan. By the 3rd January 1905, all 13,000 workers at Putilov were on strike, the department of police reported to the Minister of the Interior. "Soon the only occupants of the factory were two agents of the secret police". (31)

The strike spread to other factories. By the 8th January over 110,000 workers in St. Petersburg were on strike. Father Gapon wrote that: "St Petersburg seethed with excitement. All the factories, mills and workshops gradually stopped working, till at last not one chimney remained smoking in the great industrial district... Thousands of men and women gathered incessantly before the premises of the branches of the Workmen's Association." (32)

Tsar Nicholas II became concerned about these events and wrote in his diary: "Since yesterday all the factories and workshops in St. Petersburg have been on strike. Troops have been brought in from the surroundings to strengthen the garrison. The workers have conducted themselves calmly hitherto. Their number is estimated at 120,000. At the head of the workers' union some priest - socialist Gapon. Mirsky (the Minister of the Interior) came in the evening with a report of the measures taken." (33)

Gapon drew up a petition that he intended to present a message to Nicholas II: "We workers, our children, our wives and our old, helpless parents have come, Lord, to seek truth and protection from you. We are impoverished and oppressed, unbearable work is imposed on us, we are despised and not recognized as human beings. We are treated as slaves, who must bear their fate and be silent. We have suffered terrible things, but we are pressed ever deeper into the abyss of poverty, ignorance and lack of rights." (34)

The petition contained a series of political and economic demands that "would overcome the ignorance and legal oppression of the Russian people". This included demands for universal and compulsory education, freedom of the press, association and conscience, the liberation of political prisoners, separation of church and state, replacement of indirect taxation by a progressive income tax, equality before the law, the abolition of redemption payments, cheap credit and the transfer of the land to the people. (35)

Bloody Sunday

Over 150,000 people signed the document and on 22nd January, 1905, Father Georgi Gapon led a large procession of workers to the Winter Palace in order to present the petition. The loyal character of the demonstration was stressed by the many church icons and portraits of the Tsar carried by the demonstrators. Alexandra Kollontai was on the march and her biographer, Cathy Porter, has described what took place: "She described the hot sun on the snow that Sunday morning, as she joined hundreds of thousands of workers, dressed in their Sunday best and accompanied by elderly relatives and children. They moved off in respectful silence towards the Winter Palace, and stood in the snow for two hours, holding their banners, icons and portraits of the Tsar, waiting for him to appear." (36)

Harold Williams, a journalist working for the Manchester Guardian, also watched the Gapon led procession taking place: "I shall never forget that Sunday in January 1905 when, from the outskirts of the city, from the factory regions beyond the Moscow Gate, from the Narva side, from up the river, the workmen came in thousands crowding into the centre to seek from the tsar redress for obscurely felt grievances; how they surged over the snow, a black thronging mass." (37) The soldiers machine-gunned them down and the Cossacks charged them. (38)

Alexandra Kollontai observed the "trusting expectant faces, the fateful signal of the troops stationed around the Palace, the pools of blood on the snow, the bellowing of the gendarmes, the dead, the wounded, the children shot." She added that what the Tsar did not realise was that "on that day he had killed something even greater, he had killed superstition, and the workers' faith that they could ever achieve justice from him. From then on everything was different and new." (39) It is not known the actual numbers killed but a public commission of lawyers after the event estimated that approximately 150 people lost their lives and around 200 were wounded. (40)

Gapon later described what happened in his book The Story of My Life (1905): "The procession moved in a compact mass. In front of me were my two bodyguards and a yellow fellow with dark eyes from whose face his hard labouring life had not wiped away the light of youthful gaiety. On the flanks of the crowd ran the children. Some of the women insisted on walking in the first rows, in order, as they said, to protect me with their bodies, and force had to be used to remove them. Suddenly the company of Cossacks galloped rapidly towards us with drawn swords. So, then, it was to be a massacre after all! There was no time for consideration, for making plans, or giving orders. A cry of alarm arose as the Cossacks came down upon us. Our front ranks broke before them, opening to right and left, and down the lane the soldiers drove their horses, striking on both sides. I saw the swords lifted and falling, the men, women and children dropping to the earth like logs of wood, while moans, curses and shouts filled the air." (41)

Wojciech Kossak, Bloody Sunday (May, 1905)
Wojciech Kossak, Bloody Sunday (May, 1905)

Alexandra Kollontai observed the "trusting expectant faces, the fateful signal of the troops stationed around the Palace, the pools of blood on the snow, the bellowing of the gendarmes, the dead, the wounded, the children shot." She added that what the Tsar did not realise was that "on that day he had killed something even greater, he had killed superstition, and the workers' faith that they could ever achieve justice from him. From then on everything was different and new." It is not known the actual numbers killed but a public commission of lawyers after the event estimated that approximately 150 people lost their lives and around 200 were wounded. (42)

Father Gapon escaped uninjured from the scene and sought refuge at the home of Maxim Gorky: "Gapon by some miracle remained alive, he is in my house asleep. He now says there is no Tsar anymore, no church, no God. This is a man who has great influence upon the workers of the Putilov works. He has the following of close to 10,000 men who believe in him as a saint. He will lead the workers on the true path." (43)

1905 Russian Revolution

The killing of the demonstrators became known as Bloody Sunday and it has been argued that this event signalled the start of the 1905 Revolution. That night the Tsar wrote in his diary: "A painful day. There have been serious disorders in St. Petersburg because workmen wanted to come up to the Winter Palace. Troops had to open fire in several places in the city; there were many killed and wounded. God, how painful and sad." (44)

The massacre of an unarmed crowd undermined the standing of the autocracy in Russia. The United States consul in Odessa reported: "All classes condemn the authorities and more particularly the Tsar. The present ruler has lost absolutely the affection of the Russian people, and whatever the future may have in store for the dynasty, the present tsar will never again be safe in the midst of his people." (45)

The day after the massacre all the workers at the capital's electricity stations came out on strike. This was followed by general strikes taking place in Moscow, Vilno, Kovno, Riga, Revel and Kiev. Other strikes broke out all over the country. Pyotr Sviatopolk-Mirsky resigned his post as Minister of the Interior, and on 19th January, 1905, Tsar Nicholas II summoned a group of workers to the Winter Palace and instructed them to elect delegates to his new Shidlovsky Commission, which promised to deal with some of their grievances. (46)

Lenin, who had been highly suspicious of Father Gapon, admitted that the formation of Assembly of Russian Workers of St Petersburg and the occurrence of Bloody Sunday, had made an important contribution to the development of a radical political consciousness: "The revolutionary education of the proletariat made more progress in one day than it could have made in months and years of drab, humdrum, wretched existence." (47)

Henry Nevinson, of The Daily Chronicle commented that Gapon was "the man who struck the first blow at the heart of tyranny and made the old monster sprawl." When he heard the news of Bloody Sunday Leon Trotsky decided to return to Russia. He realised that Father Gapon had shown the way forward: "Now no one can deny that the general strike is the most important means of fighting. The twenty-second of January was the first political strike, even if he was disguised under a priest's cloak. One need only add that revolution in Russia may place a democratic workers' government in power." (48)

Trotsky believed that Bloody Sunday made the revolution much more likely. One revolutionary noted that the killing of peaceful protestors had changed the political views of many peasants: "Now tens of thousands of revolutionary pamphlets were swallowed up without remainder; nine-tenths were not only read but read until they fell apart. The newspaper which was recently considered by the broad popular masses, and particularly by the peasantry, as a landlord's affair, and when it came accidentally into their hands was used in the best of cases to roll cigarettes in, was now carefully, even lovingly, straightened and smoothed out, and given to the literate." (49)

The SR Combat Organization decided the next man to be assassinated was the Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich. the General-Governor of Moscow and uncle of Tsar Nicholas II. The assassination was planned for 15th February, 1905, when he planned to visit the Bolshoi Theatre. (50) Ivan Kalyayev was supposed to attack the carriage as it approached the theater. Kalyayev was about to throw his bomb at the carriage of the Grand Duke, but he noticed that his wife and two young children were in the carriage and he aborted the assassination. (51)

Ivan Kalyayev
Ivan Kalyayev

Ivan Kalyayev carried out the assassination two days later: "I hurled my bomb from a distance of four paces, not more, striking as I dashed forward quite close to my object. I was caught up by the storm of the explosion and saw how the carriage was torn to fragments. When the cloud had lifted I found myself standing before the remains of the back wheels.... Then, about five feet away, near the gate, I saw bits of the Grand Duke's clothing and his nude body.... Blood was streaming from my face, and I realized there would be no escape for me.:.. I was overtaken by the police agents in a sleigh and someone's hands were upon me. 'Don't hang on to me. I won't run away. I have done my work' (I realized now that I was deafened)." (52)

While he was in prison he was visited by the Grand Duke's wife. She asked him "Why did you kill my husband?". He replied "I killed Sergei Alexandrovich because he was a weapon of tyranny. I was taking revenge for the people." The Grand Duchess offered Kalyayev a deal. "Repent... and I will beg the Sovereign to give you your life. I will ask him for you. I myself have already forgiven you." He refused with the words: "'No! I do not repent. I must die for my deed and I will... My death will be more useful to my cause than Sergei Alexandrovich's death." (53)

During his trial Kalyayev defended his actions: "First of all, permit me to make a correction of fact: I am not a defendant here, I am your prisoner. We are two warring camps. You - the representatives of the Imperial Government, the hired servants of capital and oppression. I - one of the avengers of the people, a socialist and revolutionist. Mountains of corpses divide us, hundreds of thousands of broken human lives and a whole sea of blood and tears covering the country in torrents of horror and resentment. You have declared war on the people. We have accepted your challenge." (54)

Ivan Kalyayev was sentenced to death. "I am pleased with your sentence," he told the judges. "I hope that you will carry it out just as openly and publicly as I carried out the sentence of the Socialist Revolutionary Party. Learn to look the advancing revolution right in the face." He was hanged on 23rd May, 1905. (55)

After the massacre Father Georgi Gapon left Russia and went to live in Geneva. Bloody Sunday made Father Gapon a national figure overnight and he enjoyed greater popularity "than any Russian revolutionary had previously commanded". (56) One of the first people he met was George Plekhanov, the leader of the Mensheviks. (57)

Plekhanov introduced Gapon to Pavel Axelrod, Vera Zasulich, Lev Deich and Fedor Dan. Gapon told them that he fully shared the views of this revolutionary group and this information was published in the Menshevik's newspaper, Vorwärts. Deich later recalled that they made efforts to give him an education in Marxism. They explained that the course of history was determined by objective historical laws, not by individual actions. Gapon also went to live with Axelrod. (58)

Victor Adler sent Leon Trotsky a telegram after receiving a message from Pavel Axelrod. "I have just received a telegram from Axelrod saying that Gapon has arrived abroad and announced himself as a revolutionary. It's a pity. If he had disappeared altogether there would have remained a beautiful legend, whereas as an emigre he will be a comical figure. You know, such men are better as historical martyrs than as comrades in a party." (59)

The leaders of the Socialist Revolutionary Party (SRP) became upset by this development and used his friend, Pinchas Rutenberg, to try and get him to change his mind. Rutenberg received instructions "to make every effort to win him over". This included persuading him to live with SRP supporter, Leonid E. Shishko. "By inclination and temperament, Gapon was more at home with the Socialist Revolutionaries, who emphasized the force of individual action and revolutionary voluntarism." (60)

Father Gapon saw himself as the leader of the coming revolution and believed that his first task was to unify the revolutionary parties. However, he preferred the SRP approach to politics. He told Lev Deich: "Theories are not important to them, only that the person possesses courage and be devoted to the people's cause. They do not demand anything from me, do not criticize my actions. On the contrary, they always praise me." (61)

Victor Chernov was not convinced that Gapon really supported the SRP: "A party man, no matter what party, Gapon never was, nor was he capable of being one... Even if Gapon genuinely intended to follow a certain line of behavior, he could not do so. He would violate this promise, as he violated every promise he made to himself. At the first opportunity he would find it more tactically advantageous to act in a different manner. If you want, he was a complete and absolute anarchist, incapable of being a regular party member. Every organization he could conceive was only a superstructure of his unlimited authority. He alone had to be in the center of everything, know everything, hold in his hands the strings of the organization and manipulate the people tied to them in whatever manner he saw fit." (62)

Father Georgi Gapon also had meetings with the anarchist, Peter Kropotkin. He also had conversations with Lenin and other Bolsheviks in Geneva. (63) Nadezhda Krupskaya reported: "In Geneva Gapon began to visit us frequently. He talked a lot. Vladimir Il'ich listened attentively, trying to discern in his accounts the features of the approaching revolution". Lenin's conversations with Gapon helped persuade him to alter the Bolshevik agrarian policy. (64)

Gapon's common law wife joined him in exile and in May, 1905, they visited London. He was offered a considerable sum from a publisher to write his autobiography, The Story of My Life (1905). While in the England he was asked to write an appeal against anti-Semitism. He readily agreed and wrote a pamphlet against Jewish pogroms, and refused to accept a share of the royalties offered him. (65)

In June, 1905, Sergei Witte was asked to negotiate an end to the Russo-Japanese War. The Nicholas II was pleased with his performance and was brought into the government to help solve the industrial unrest that had followed Bloody Sunday. Witte pointed out: "With many nationalities, many languages and a nation largely illiterate, the marvel is that the country can be held together even by autocracy. Remember one thing: if the tsar's government falls, you will see absolute chaos in Russia, and it will be many a long year before you see another government able to control the mixture that makes up the Russian nation." (66)

Emile J. Dillon, a journalist working for the Daily Telegraph, agreed with Witte's analysis: "Witte... convinced me that any democratic revolution, however peacefully effected, would throw open the gates wide to the forces of anarchism and break up the empire. And a glance at the mere mechanical juxtaposition - it could not be called union - of elements so conflicting among themselves as were the ethnic, social and religious sections and divisions of the tsar's subjects would have brought home this obvious truth to the mind of any unbiased and observant student of politics." (67)

On 27th June, 1905, sailors on the Potemkin battleship, protested against the serving of rotten meat infested with maggots. The captain ordered that the ringleaders to be shot. The firing-squad refused to carry out the order and joined with the rest of the crew in throwing the officers overboard. The mutineers killed seven of the Potemkin's eighteen officers, including Captain Evgeny Golikov. They organized a ship's committee of 25 sailors, led by Afanasi Matushenko, to run the battleship. (68)

A delegation of the mutinous sailors arrived in Geneva with a message addressed directly to Father Gapon. He took the cause of the sailors to heart and spent all his time collecting money and purchasing supplies for them. He and their leader, Afanasi Matushenko, became inseparable. "Both were of peasant origin and products of the mass upheaval of 1905 - both were out of place among the party intelligentsia of Geneva." (69)

The Potemkin Mutiny spread to other units in the army and navy. Industrial workers all over Russia withdrew their labour and in October, 1905, the railwaymen went on strike which paralyzed the whole Russian railway network. This developed into a general strike. Leon Trotsky later recalled: "After 10th October 1905, the strike, now with political slogans, spread from Moscow throughout the country. No such general strike had ever been seen anywhere before. In many towns there were clashes with the troops." (70)

Sergei Witte, his Chief Minister, saw only two options open to the Tsar Nicholas II; "either he must put himself at the head of the popular movement for freedom by making concessions to it, or he must institute a military dictatorship and suppress by naked force for the whole of the opposition". However, he pointed out that any policy of repression would result in "mass bloodshed". His advice was that the Tsar should offer a programme of political reform. (71)

On 22nd October, 1905, Sergei Witte sent a message to the Tsar: "The present movement for freedom is not of new birth. Its roots are imbedded in centuries of Russian history. Freedom must become the slogan of the government. No other possibility for the salvation of the state exists. The march of historical progress cannot be halted. The idea of civil liberty will triumph if not through reform then by the path of revolution. The government must be ready to proceed along constitutional lines. The government must sincerely and openly strive for the well-being of the state and not endeavour to protect this or that type of government. There is no alternative. The government must either place itself at the head of the movement which has gripped the country or it must relinquish it to the elementary forces to tear it to pieces." (72)

Nicholas II became increasingly concerned about the situation and entered into talks with Sergi Witte. As he pointed out: "Through all these horrible days, I constantly met Witte. We very often met in the early morning to part only in the evening when night fell. There were only two ways open; to find an energetic soldier and crush the rebellion by sheer force. That would mean rivers of blood, and in the end we would be where had started. The other way out would be to give to the people their civil rights, freedom of speech and press, also to have laws conformed by a State Duma - that of course would be a constitution. Witte defends this very energetically." (73)

Grand Duke Nikolai Romanov, the second cousin of the Tsar, was an important figure in the military. He was highly critical of the way the Tsar dealt with these incidents and favoured the kind of reforms favoured by Sergi Witte: "The government (if there is one) continues to remain in complete inactivity... a stupid spectator to the tide which little by little is engulfing the country." (74)

While discussions continued the scale of political unrest grew. Setting fire to the estates of the nobility. There were so many cases that it was impossible to impose on offenders that the punishment decreed earlier in the year, the confiscated of their land. According to one report this action "would have led to the formation of vagabond gangs and, of course, would only have strengthened the peasant movement". Catherine Breshkovskaya, one of the leaders of the Socialist Revolutionary Party, commented, "at night ominous pillars of flame could be seen in all directions". (75)

Later that month, Trotsky and other Mensheviks established the St. Petersburg Soviet. On 26th October the first meeting of the Soviet took place in the Technological Institute. It was attended by only forty delegates as most factories in the city had time to elect the representatives. It published a statement that claimed: "In the next few days decisive events will take place in Russia, which will determine for many years the fate of the working class in Russia. We must be fully prepared to cope with these events united through our common Soviet." (76)

Over the next few weeks over 50 of these soviets were formed all over Russia and these events became known as the 1905 Revolution. Witte continued to advise the Tsar to make concessions. The Grand Duke Nikolai Romanov agreed and urged the Tsar to bring in reforms. The Tsar refused and instead ordered him to assume the role of a military dictator. The Grand Duke drew his pistol and threatened to shoot himself on the spot if the Tsar did not endorse Witte's plan. (77)

On 30th October, the Tsar reluctantly agreed to publish details of the proposed reforms that became known as the October Manifesto. This granted freedom of conscience, speech, meeting and association. He also promised that in future people would not be imprisoned without trial. Finally it announced that no law would become operative without the approval of the State Duma. It has been pointed out that "Witte sold the new policy with all the forcefulness at his command". He also appealed to the owners of the newspapers in Russia to "help me to calm opinions". (78)

These proposals were rejected by the St. Petersburg Soviet: "We are given a constitution, but absolutism remains... The struggling revolutionary proletariat cannot lay down its weapons until the political rights of the Russian people are established on a firm foundation, until a democratic republic is established, the best road for the further progress to Socialism." (79)

The Death of Father Gapon

On hearing about the publication of the October Manifesto, Gapon returned to Russia and attempted to gain permission to reopen the Assembly of Russian Workers of St Petersburg. However, Sergi Witte refused to meet him. Instead he sent him a message threatening to arrest him if he did not leave the country. He was willing to offer a deal that involved Gapon to come out openly in support of Witte and condemn all further insurrectionary activity against the regime. In return, he was given a promise that after the crisis was over, Gapon would be allowed back into Russia and he could continue with his trade union activities. (80)

The Tsar decided to take action against the revolutionaries. Trotsky later explained that: "On the evening of 3rd December the St Petersburg Soviet was surrounded by troops. All the exists and entrances were closed." Leon Trotsky and the other leaders of the Soviet were arrested. Trotsky was exiled to Siberia and deprived of all civil rights. Trotsky explained that he had learnt an important political lesson, "the strike of the workers had for the first time brought Tsarism to its knees." (81)

Georgi Gapon kept his side of the bargain. Whenever possible he gave press interviews praising Sergi Witte and calling for moderation. Gapon's biographer, Walter Sablinsky, has pointed out: "This, of course, earned him vehement denunciations from the revolutionaries... Suddenly the revolutionary hero had become an ardent defender of the tsarist government." Anger increased when it became clear that Witte was determined to pacify the country by force and all the revolutionary leaders were arrested. (82)

Gapon's reputation took another blow when it was reported by the New York Tribune on 24th December 1905 that he had been seen in a casino in Monte Carlo. The following day the newspaper printed a photograph of the workers on the barricades in Moscow with a photograph of Gapon at the casino with Grand Duke Cyril Vladimirovich under the caption: "Grand Duke Cyril faces Father Gapon in Monte Carlo at the same roulette table". (83) Gapon justified his decision by saying that to be on the Riviera and not visit a casino was like being in Rome and not seeing the Pope. (84)

Victor Chernov, Evno Azef, and Pinchas Rutenberg held a meeting to discuss the fate of Gapon. Azef, the head of the organization, that carried out political assassinations for the Socialist Revolutionary Party, argued that Gapon should be "done away with like a viper". Chernov rejected this idea and pointed out that he was still revered by ordinary workers, and that if he was murdered the SRP would be accused of killing him over political differences. (85)

Father Gapon
The death of Father Gapon

Azef disagreed with this view and gave orders to Rutenberg to kill Gapon. On 26th March 1906, Gapon arrived to meet Rutenberg in a rented cottage in Ozerki, a little town north of St. Petersburg. Rutenberg and three other members of the SRP murdered Gapon. "Gapon's hands were tied, and he was hanged from a coat hook on the wall. Since the hook was not high enough, the executioners sat on his shoulders, pushing him down until he was strangled." (86) The cottage was locked, and it was over a month before the body was discovered. (87)

The Duma

The first meeting of the Duma took place in May 1906. A British journalist, Maurice Baring, described the members taking their seats on the first day: "Peasants in their long black coats, some of them wearing military medals... You see dignified old men in frock coats, aggressively democratic-looking men with long hair... members of the proletariat... dressed in the costume of two centuries ago... There is a Polish member who is dressed in light-blue tights, a short Eton jacket and Hessian boots... There are some socialists who wear no collars and there is, of course, every kind of headdress you can conceive." (88)

Several changes in the composition of the Duma had been changed since the publication of the October Manifesto. Nicholas II had also created a State Council, an upper chamber, of which he would nominate half its members. He also retained for himself the right to declare war, to control the Orthodox Church and to dissolve the Duma. The Tsar also had the power to appoint and dismiss ministers. At their first meeting, members of the Duma put forward a series of demands including the release of political prisoners, trade union rights and land reform. The Tsar rejected all these proposals and dissolved the Duma. (89)

In April, 1906, Nicholas II forced Sergi Witte to resign and asked the more conservative Peter Stolypin to become Chief Minister. Stolypin was the former governor of Saratov and his draconian measures in suppressing the peasants in 1905 made him notorious. At first he refused the post but the Tsar insisted: "Let us make the sign of the Cross over ourselves and let us ask the Lord to help us both in this difficult, perhaps historic moment." Stolypin told Bernard Pares that "an assembly representing the majority of the population would never work". (90)

Stolypin attempted to provide a balance between the introduction of much needed land reforms and the suppression of the radicals. In October, 1906, Stolypin introduced legislation that enabled peasants to have more opportunity to acquire land. They also got more freedom in the selection of their representatives to the Zemstvo (local government councils). "By avoiding confrontation with peasant representatives in the Duma, he was able to secure the privileges attached to nobles in local government and reject the idea of confiscation." (91)

However, he also introduced new measures to repress disorder and terrorism. On 25 August 1906, three assassins wearing military uniforms, bombed a public reception Stolypin was holding at his home on Aptekarsky Island. Stolypin was only slightly injured, but 28 others were killed. Stolypin's 15-year-old daughter had both legs broken and his 3-year-old son also had injuries. The Tsar suggested that the Stolypin family moved into the Winter Palace for protection. (92)

Elections for the Second Duma took place in 1907. Peter Stolypin, used his powers to exclude large numbers from voting. This reduced the influence of the left but when the Second Duma convened in February, 1907, it still included a large number of reformers. After three months of heated debate, Nicholas II closed down the Duma on the 16th June, 1907. He blamed Lenin and his fellow-Bolsheviks for this action because of the revolutionary speeches that they had been making in exile. (93)

Members of the moderate Constitutional Democrat Party (Kadets) were especially angry about this decision. The leaders, including Prince Georgi Lvov and Pavel Milyukov, travelled to Vyborg, a Finnish resort town, in protest of the government. Milyukov drafted the Vyborg Manifesto. In the manifesto, Milyukov called for passive resistance, non-payment of taxes and draft avoidance. Stolypin took revenge on the rebels and "more than 100 leading Kadets were brought to trial and suspended from their part in the Vyborg Manifesto." (94)

Stolypin's repressive methods created a great deal of conflict. Lionel Kochan, the author of Russia in Revolution (1970), pointed out: "Between November 1905 and June 1906, from the ministry of the interior alone, 288 persons were killed and 383 wounded. Altogether, up to the end of October 1906, 3,611 government officials of all ranks, from governor-generals to village gendarmes, had been killed or wounded." (95) Stolypin told his friend, Bernard Pares, that "in no country is the public more anti-governmental than in Russia". (96)

Tsar Nicholas II
Tsar Nicholas II with his wife Tsarina Alexandra, the Tsaravitch (2nd from right) and his four daughters

The Russian government considered Germany to be the main threat to its territory. This was reinforced by Germany's decision to form the Triple Alliance. Under the terms of this military alliance, Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy agreed to support each other if attacked by either France or Russia. Although Germany was ruled by the Tsar's cousin, Kaiser Wilhem II, he accepted the views of his ministers and in 1907 agreed that Russia should joined Britain and France to form the Triple Entente.

Peter Stolypin instituted a new court system that made it easier for the arrest and conviction of political revolutionaries. In the first six months of their existence the courts passed 1,042 death sentences. It has been claimed that over 3,000 suspects were convicted and executed by these special courts between 1906 and 1909. As a result of this action the hangman's noose in Russia became known as "Stolypin's necktie". (97)

Peter Stolypin now made changes to the electoral law. This excluded national minorities and dramatically reduced the number of people who could vote in Poland, Siberia, the Caucasus and in Central Asia. The new electoral law also gave better representation to the nobility and gave greater power to the large landowners to the detriment of the peasants. Changes were also made to the voting in towns and now those owning their own homes elected over half the urban deputies.

Peter Stolypin
Peter Stolypin

In 1907 Stolypin introduced a new electoral law, by-passing the 1906 constitution, which assured a right-wing majority in the Duma. The Third Duma met on 14th November 1907. The former coalition of Socialist-Revolutionaries, Mensheviks, Bolsheviks, Octobrists and Constitutional Democrat Party, were now outnumbered by the reactionaries and the nationalists. Unlike the previous Dumas, this one ran its full-term of five years.

The revolutionaries were now determined to assassinate Stolypin and there were several attempts on his life. "He wore a bullet-proof vest and surrounded himself with security men - but he seemed to expect nevertheless that he would eventually die violently." The first line of his will, written shortly after he had become Prime Minister, read: "Bury me where I am assassinated." (98)

On 1st September, 1911, Peter Stolypin was assassinated by Dmitri Bogrov, a member of the Socialist Revolutionary Party, at the Kiev Opera House. Nicholas II was with him at the time: "During the second interval we had just left the box, as it was so hot, when we heard two sounds as if something had been dropped. I thought an opera glass might have fallen on somebody's head and ran back into the box to look. To the right I saw a group of officers and other people. They seemed to be dragging someone along. Women were shrieking and, directly in front of me in the stalls, Stolypin was standing. He slowly turned his face towards me and with his left hand made the sign of the Cross in the air. Only then did I notice he was very pale and that his right hand and uniform were bloodstained. He slowly sank into his chair and began to unbutton his tunic. People were trying to lynch the assassin. I am sorry to say the police rescued him from the crowd and took him to as isolated room for his first examination." (99)

Grigori Rasputin

Grigori Rasputin, the son of a Russian peasant, was born in Pokrovskoye, Siberia, on 10th January 1869. His mother gave birth to seven other children but they all died in childbirth. His father, Yefim Rasputin, was described as "a typical Siberian peasant... chunky, unkempt and stooped". He served as an elder in the village church, and one local spoke of his "learned conversations and wisdom". (100)

Although he briefly attended school he failed to learn how to read or write. As a child he went with his parents to nearby monasteries and it is claimed that he wanted to become a monk. One biographer, Joseph T. Fuhrmann, points out: "Grigori's personality embodied divergent and contrasting strains - the religious seeker and the debauched hell-raiser." (101)

In 1886, Rasputin met the 20 year-old Praskovia Dubrovina. They were married five months later on 2nd February 1887, three weeks after his 18th birthday: "She was plump with dark eyes, small features and thick blonde hair. Though short, she was strong, an important asset in a wife expected to bear children while tackling the harvest." The first child was born the following year, but died at six months of scarlet fever. They then had twins, who both died of whooping cough. Another child also died but three children survived childhood: Dimitri (1895), Maria (1898) and Varya (1900). (102)

Rasputin became a "holy wanderer" and a visitor to holy sites. On his return he developed a small group of followers. He became a vegetarian and argued against drinking alcohol. He also built a chapel in his father's cellar. It was rumoured that female followers were ceremonially washing him before each meeting and that the group was involved self-flagellation and sexual orgies. (103)

It has been claimed that he visited "Jerusalem, the Balkans and Mesopotamia" (104). He claimed he had special powers that enabled him to heal the sick and lived off the donations of people he helped. Rasputin also made money as a fortune teller. In about 1902 he travelled to the city of Kazan on the Volga river, where he acquired a reputation as a holy man. Despite rumors that Rasputin was having sex with some of his female followers, he gained the support of senior figures of the church and was given a letter of recommendation to Bishop Sergei, the rector of the St. Petersburg Theological Seminary. (105)

Soon after arriving in St. Petersburg in 1903, Rasputin met Hermogen, the Bishop of Saratov. He was impressed by Rasputin's healing powers and introduced him to Nicholas II and his wife, Alexandra Fedorovna. The Tsar's only son, Alexei, suffered from haemophilia (a disease whereby the blood does not clot if a wound occurs). When Alexei was taken seriously ill in 1908, Rasputin was called to the royal palace. He managed to stop the bleeding and from then on he became a member of the royal entourage. (106)

Grigori Rasputin
Grigori Rasputin

The Tsarina was completely convinced by the supernatural power of Rasputin. "In their despair at the inability of orthodox medicine to overcome or alleviate the disease, the imperial couple turned with relief to Rasputin... She attached physical power to objects handled by Rasputin. She sent Rasputin's stick and comb to the tsar so that he might benefit from Grigori's vigour when attending ministerial councils." (107)

The Tsarina became very dependent on Rasputin. One one occasion, when he had to spend time outside St. Petersburg, she wrote: "How distraught I am without you. My soul is only at peace, I only rest, when you, my teacher, are seated beside me and I kiss your hands and lean my head on your blessed shoulders... Then I only have one wish: to sleep for centuries on your shoulders, in the embraces." (108)

Alexandra Feodorovna with her children, Rasputin and the family nurse Maria Ivanova Vishnyakova (1908)
Alexandra Feodorovna with her children, Rasputin and
the family nurse Maria Ivanova Vishnyakova (1908)

Ariadna Tyrkova, the wife of the British journalist, Harold Williams, wrote: "Throughout Russia, both at the front and at home, rumour grew ever louder concerning the pernicious influence exercised by the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, at whose side rose the sinister figure of Gregory Rasputin. This charlatan and hypnotist had wormed himself into the Tsar’s palace and gradually acquired a limitless power over the hysterical Empress, and through her over the Sovereign. Rasputin’s proximity to the Tsar’s family proved fatal to the dynasty, for no political criticism can harm the prestige of Tsars so effectually as the personal weakness, vice, or debasement of the members of a royal house." (109)

On 12 July, 1914, a 33-year-old peasant woman named Chionya Guseva attempted to assassinate Grigori Rasputin by stabbing him in the stomach outside his home in Pokrovskoye. Rasputin was seriously wounded and a local doctor who performed emergency surgery saved his life. Guseva claimed to have acted alone, having read about Rasputin in the newspapers and believing him to be a "false prophet and even an Antichrist." (110)

Grigori Rasputin recovering in hospital (July, 1914)
Grigori Rasputin recovering in hospital (July, 1914)

In February 1914, Tsar Nicholas II accepted the advice of his foreign minister, Sergi Sazonov, and committed Russia to supporting the Triple Entente. Sazonov was of the opinion that in the event of a war, Russia's membership of the Triple Entente would enable it to make territorial gains from neighbouring countries. Sazonov sent a telegram to the Russian ambassador in London asking him to make clear to the British government that the Tsar was committed to a war with Germany. "The peace of the world will only be secure on the day when the Triple Entente, whose real existence is not better authenticated than the existence of the sea serpent, shall transform itself into a defensive alliance without secret clauses and publicly announced in all the world press. On that day the danger of a German hegemony will be finally removed, and each one of us will be able to devote himself quietly to his own affairs." (111)

In the international crisis that followed the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, the Tsar made it clear that he was willing to go to war over this issue, Rasputin was an outspoken critic of this policy and joined forces with two senior figures, Sergei Witte and Pyotr Durnovo, to prevent the war. Durnovo told the Tsar that a war with Germany would be "mutually dangerous" to both countries, no matter who won. Witte added that "there must inevitably break out in the conquered country a social revolution, which by the very nature of things, will spread to the country of the victor." (112)

Sergei Witte realised that because of its economic situation, Russia would lose a war with any of its rivals. Bernard Pares met Witte and Rasputin several times in the years leading up to the First World War: "Count Witte never swerved from his conviction, firstly, that Russia must avoid the war at all costs, and secondly, that she must work for economic friendship with France and Germany to counteract the preponderance of England. Rasputin was opposed to the war for reasons as good as Witte's. He was for peace between all nations and between all religions." (113)

The First World War

On the outbreak of the First World War General Alexander Samsonov was given command of the Russian Second Army for the invasion of East Prussia. He advanced slowly into the south western corner of the province with the intention of linking up with General Paul von Rennenkampf advancing from the north east. General Paul von Hindenburg and General Erich Ludendorff were sent forward to meet Samsonov's advancing troops. They made contact on 22nd August, 1914, and for six days the Russians, with their superior numbers, had a few successes. However, by 29th August, Samsanov's Second Army was surrounded. (114)

General Samsonov attempted to retreat but now in a German cordon, most of his troops were slaughtered or captured. The Battle of Tannenberg lasted three days. Only 10,000 of the 150,000 Russian soldiers managed to escape. Shocked by the disastrous outcome of the battle, Samsanov committed suicide. The Germans, who lost 20,000 men in the battle, were able to take over 92,000 Russian prisoners. On 9th September, 1914, General von Rennenkampf ordered his remaining troops to withdraw. By the end of the month the German Army had regained all the territory lost during the initial Russian onslaught. The attempted invasion of Prussia had cost Russia almost a quarter of a million men. (115)

Russian cartoon showing how Rasputin dominated the Royal Court (1916)
Russian cartoon showing how Rasputin dominated the Royal Court (1916)

By December, 1914, the Russian Army had 6,553,000 men. However, they only had 4,652,000 rifles. It has been pointed out: "Untrained troops were ordered into battle without adequate arms or ammunition. And because the Russian Army had about one surgeon for every 10,000 men, many wounded of its soldiers died from wounds that would have been treated on the Western Front. With medical staff spread out across a 500 mile front, the likelihood of any Russian soldier receiving any medical treatment was close to zero". (116)

Tsar Nicholas II decided to replace Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolayevich Romanov as supreme commander of the Russian Army fighting on the Eastern Front. He was disturbed when he received the following information from General Alexei Brusilov: "In recent battles a third of the men had no rifles. These poor devils had to wait patiently until their comrades fell before their eyes and they could pick up weapons. The army is drowning in its own blood." (117)

Alexander Kerensky complained that: "The Tsarina's blind faith in Rasputin led her to seek his counsel not only in personal matters but also on questions of state policy. General Alekseyev, held in high esteem by Nicholas II, tried to talk to the Tsarina about Rasputin, but only succeeded in making an implacable enemy of her. General Alexseyev told me later about his profound concern on learning that a secret map of military operations had found its way into the Tsarina's hands. But like many others, he was powerless to take any action." (118)

Tsar Nicholas II
Russian Officer: Why these fortifications, your majesty?
Surely the Germans will not get this far!.
The Tsar: But when our own army returns....?
K. J. Chamberlain, The Masses (January, 1915)

As the Tsar spent most of his time at GHQ, Alexandra Fedorovna now took responsibility for domestic policy. Rasputin served as her adviser and over the next few months she dismissed ministers and their deputies in rapid succession. In letters to her husband she called his ministers as "fools and idiots". According to David Shub "the real ruler of Russia was the Empress Alexandra". (119)

On 7th July, 1915, the Tsar wrote to his wife and complained about the problems he faced fighting the war: "Again that cursed question of shortage of artillery and rifle ammunition - it stands in the way of an energetic advance. If we should have three days of serious fighting we might run out of ammunition altogether. Without new rifles it is impossible to fill up the gaps.... If we had a rest from fighting for about a month our condition would greatly improve. It is understood, of course, that what I say is strictly for you only. Please do not say a word to anyone." (120)

Russian cartoon of Rasputin (1916)
Russian cartoon of Rasputin (1916)

In 1916 two million Russian soldiers were killed or seriously wounded and a third of a million were taken prisoner. Millions of peasants were conscripted into the Tsar's armies but supplies of rifles and ammunition remained inadequate. It is estimated that one third of Russia's able-bodied men were serving in the army. The peasants were therefore unable to work on the farms producing the usual amount of food. By November, 1916, food prices were four times as high as before the war. As a result strikes for higher wages became common in Russia's cities. (121)

The Assassination of Rasputin

Rumours began to circulate that Grigori Rasputin and Alexandra Fedorovna were leaders of a pro-German court group and were seeking a separate peace with the Central Powers. This upset Michael Rodzianko, the President of the Duma, and he told Nicholas II: "I must tell Your Majesty that this cannot continue much longer. No one opens your eyes to the true role which this man (Rasputin) is playing. His presence in Your Majesty's Court undermines confidence in the Supreme Power and may have an evil effect on the fate of the dynasty and turn the hearts of the people from their Emperor." (122)

Mansfield Smith-Cumming, the head of MI6, became very concerned by the influence Rasputin was having on Russia's foreign policy. Samuel Hoare was assigned to the British intelligence mission with the Russian general staff. Soon afterwards he was given the rank of lieutenant-colonel and Mansfield Smith-Cumming appointed him as head of the British Secret Intelligence Service in Petrograd. Other members of the unit included Oswald Rayner, Cudbert Thornhill, John Scale and Stephen Alley. One of their main tasks was to deal with Rasputin who was considered to be "one of the most potent of the baleful Germanophil forces in Russia." (123)

Russian cartoon showing Rasputin and Nicholas II (1916)
Russian cartoon showing Rasputin and Nicholas II (1916)

The main fear was that Russia might negotiate a separate peace with Germany, thereby releasing the seventy German divisions tied down on the Eastern Front. One MI6 agent wrote: "German intrigue was becoming more intense daily. Enemy agents were busy whispering of peace and hinting how to get it by creating disorder, rioting, etc. Things looked very black. Romania was collapsing, and Russia herself seemed weakening. The failure in communications, the shortness of foods, the sinister influence which seemed to be clogging the war machine, Rasputin the drunken debaucher influencing Russia's policy, what was to the be the end of it all?" (124)

Samuel Hoare reported in December 1916 that poor leadership and inadequate weaponry had led to Russian war fatigue: "I am confident that Russia will never fight through another winter." In another dispatch to headquarters Hoare suggested that if the Tsar banished Rasputin "the country would be freed from the sinister influence that was striking down to natural leaders and endangering the success of its armies in the field." Giles Milton, the author of Russian Roulette: How British Spies Thwarted Lenin's Global Plot (2013) argues that it was at this point that MI6 made plans to assassinate Rasputin. (125)

At the same time Vladimir Purishkevich, the leader of the monarchists in the Duma, was also attempted to organize the elimination of Rasputin. He wrote to Prince Felix Yusupov: "I'm terribly busy working on a plan to eliminate Rasputin. That is simply essential now, since otherwise everything will be finished... You too must take part in it. Dmitri Pavlovich Romanov knows all about it and is helping. It will take place in the middle of December, when Dmitri comes back... Not a word to anyone about what I've written." (126)

Yusupov replied the following day: "Many thanks for your mad letter. I could not understand half of it, but I can see that you are preparing for some wild action.... My chief objection is that you have decided upon everything without consulting me... I can see by your letter that you are wildly enthusiastic, and ready to climb up walls... Don't you dare do anything without me, or I shall not come at all!" (127)

Eventually, Vladimir Purishkevich and Felix Yusupov agreed to work together to kill Rasputin. Three other men Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich Romanov, Dr. Stanislaus de Lazovert and Lieutenant Sergei Mikhailovich Sukhotin, an officer in the Preobrazhensky Regiment, joined the plot. Lazovert was responsible for providing the cyanide for the wine and the cakes. He was also asked to arrange for the disposal of the body. (128)

Yusupov later admitted in Lost Splendor (1953) that on 29th December, 1916, Rasputin was invited to his home: "The bell rang, announcing the arrival of Dmitri Pavlovich Romanov and my other friends. I showed them into the dining room and they stood for a little while, silently examining the spot where Rasputin was to meet his end. I took from the ebony cabinet a box containing the poison and laid it on the table. Dr Lazovert put on rubber gloves and ground the cyanide of potassium crystals to powder. Then, lifting the top of each cake, he sprinkled the inside with a dose of poison, which, according to him, was sufficient to kill several men instantly. There was an impressive silence. We all followed the doctor's movements with emotion. There remained the glasses into which cyanide was to be poured. It was decided to do this at the last moment so that the poison should not evaporate and lose its potency." (129)

Vladimir Purishkevich supported this story in his book, The Murder of Rasputin (1918): "We sat down at the round tea table and Yusupov invited us to drink a glass of tea and to try the cakes before they had been doctored. The quarter of an hour which we spent at the table seemed like an eternity to me.... Yusupov gave Dr Lazovert several pieces of the potassium cyanide and he put on the gloves which Yusupov had procured and began to grate poison into a plate with a knife. Then picking out all the cakes with pink cream (there were only two varieties, pink and chocolate), he lifted off the top halves and put a good quantity of poison in each one, and then replaced the tops to make them look right. When the pink cakes were ready, we placed them on the plates with the brown chocolate ones. Then, we cut up two of the pink ones and, making them look as if they had been bitten into, we put these on different plates around the table." (130)

Lazovert now went out to collect Rasputin in his car on the evening of 29th December, 1916. While the other four men waited at the home of Yusupov. According to Lazovert: "At midnight the associates of the Prince concealed themselves while I entered the car and drove to the home of the monk. He admitted me in person. Rasputin was in a gay mood. We drove rapidly to the home of the Prince and descended to the library, lighted only by a blazing log in the huge chimney-place. A small table was spread with cakes and rare wines - three kinds of the wine were poisoned and so were the cakes. The monk threw himself into a chair, his humour expanding with the warmth of the room. He told of his successes, his plots, of the imminent success of the German arms and that the Kaiser would soon be seen in Petrograd. At a proper moment he was offered the wine and the cakes. He drank the wine and devoured the cakes. Hours slipped by, but there was no sign that the poison had taken effect. The monk was even merrier than before. We were seized with an insane dread that this man was inviolable, that he was superhuman, that he couldn't be killed. It was a frightful sensation. He glared at us with his black, black eyes as though he read our minds and would fool us." (131)

Vladimir Purishkevich later recalled that Felix Yusupov joined them upstairs and exclaimed: "It is impossible. Just imagine, he drank two glasses filled with poison, ate several pink cakes and, as you can see, nothing has happened, absolutely nothing, and that was at least fifteen minutes ago! I cannot think what we can do... He is now sitting gloomily on the divan and the only effect that I can see of the poison is that he is constantly belching and that he dribbles a bit. Gentlemen, what do you advise that I do?" Eventually it was decided that Yusupov should go down and shoot Rasputin. (132)

Yusupov later recalled : "I looked at my victim with dread, as he stood before me, quiet and trusting.... Rasputin stood before me motionless, his head bent and his eyes on the crucifix. I slowly raised the crucifix. I slowly raised the revolver. Where should I aim, at the temple or at the heart? A shudder swept over me; my arm grew rigid, I aimed at his heart and pulled the trigger. Rasputin gave a wild scream and crumpled up on the bearskin. For a moment I was appalled to discover how easy it was to kill a man. A flick of a finger and what had been a living, breathing man only a second before, now lay on the floor like a broken doll." (133)

Stanislaus de Lazovert agrees with this account except that he was uncertain who fired the shot: "With a frightful scream Rasputin whirled and fell, face down, on the floor. The others came bounding over to him and stood over his prostrate, writhing body. We left the room to let him die alone, and to plan for his removal and obliteration. Suddenly we heard a strange and unearthly sound behind the huge door that led into the library. The door was slowly pushed open, and there was Rasputin on his hands and knees, the bloody froth gushing from his mouth, his terrible eyes bulging from their sockets. With an amazing strength he sprang toward the door that led into the gardens, wrenched it open and passed out." Lazovert added that it was Vladimir Purishkevich who fired the next shot: "As he seemed to be disappearing in the darkness, Purishkevich, who had been standing by, reached over and picked up an American-made automatic revolver and fired two shots swiftly into his retreating figure. We heard him fall with a groan, and later when we approached the body he was very still and cold and - dead." (134)

Felix Yusupov added: "Rasputin lay on his back. His features twitched in nervous spasms; his hands were clenched, his eyes closed. A bloodstain was spreading on his silk blouse. A few minutes later all movement ceased. We bent over his body to examine it. The doctor declared that the bullet had struck him in the region of the heart. There was no possibility of doubt: Rasputin was dead. We turned off the light and went up to my room, after locking the basement door." (135)

The Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich Romanov drove the men to Varshavsky Rail Terminal where they burned Rasputin's clothes. "It was very late and the grand duke evidently feared that great speed would attract the suspicion of the police." They also collected weights and chains and returned to Yusupov's home. At 4.50 a.m. Romanov drove the men and Rasputin's body to Petrovskii Bridge. that crossed towards Krestovsky Island. According to Vladimir Purishkevich: "We dragged Rasputin's corpse into the grand duke's car." Purishkevich claimed he drove very slowly: "It was very late and the grand duke evidently feared that great speed would attract the suspicion of the police." (136) Stanislaus de Lazovert takes up the story when they arrived at Petrovskii: "We bundled him up in a sheet and carried him to the river's edge. Ice had formed, but we broke it and threw him in. The next day search was made for Rasputin, but no trace was found." (137)

The following day the Tsarina wrote to her husband about the disappearance of Rasputin: "We are sitting here together - can you imagine our feelings - our friend has disappeared. Felix Yusupov pretends he never came to the house and never asked him." (138) The next day she wrote: "No trace yet... the police are continuing the search... I fear that these two wretched boys (Felix Yusupov and Dmitri Romanov) have committed a frightful crime but have not yet lost all hope." (139)

Post Mortem photo of Rasputin.
Post Mortem photo of Rasputin.

Rasputin's body was found on 19th December by a river policeman who was walking on the ice. He noticed a fur coat trapped beneath, approximately 65 metres from the bridge. The ice was cut open and Rasputin's frozen body discovered. The post mortem was held the following day. Major-General Popel carried out the investigation of the murder. By this time Dr. Stanislaus de Lazovert and Lieutenant Sergei Mikhailovich Sukhotin had fled from the city. He did interview Felix Yusupov, Dmitri Pavlovich Romanov and Vladimir Purishkevich, but he decided not to charge them with murder. (140)

Tsar Nicholas II ordered the three men to be expelled from Petrograd. He rejected a petition to allow the conspirators to stay in the city. He replied that "no one had the right to commit murder." Sophie Buxhoeveden later commented: "Though patriotic feeling was supposed to have been the motive of the murder, it was the first indirect blow at the Emperor's authority, the first spark of insurrection. In short, it was the application of lynch law, the taking of law and judgment forcibly into private hands." (141)

Oswald Rayner
Oswald Rayner

Several historians have questioned the official account of the death of Grigori Rasputin. They claim that the post mortem of Rasputin carried out by Professor Dmitrii Kosorotov, does not support the evidence provided by the confessions of Felix Yusupov, Dr. Stanislaus de Lazovert and Vladimir Purishkevich. For example, the "examination reveals no trace of poison". It also appears that Rasputin suffered a violent beating: "the victim's face and body carry traces of blows given by a supple but hard object. His genitals have been crushed by the action of a similar object." (142)

Kosorotov also claims that Rasputin was shot by men using three different guns. One of these was a Webley revolver, a gun issued to British intelligence agents. Michael Smith, the author of Six: A History of Britain's Secret Intelligence Service (2010), argues that Oswald Rayner took part in the assassination: "He (Rasputin) was shot several times, with three different weapons, with all the evidence suggesting that Rayner fired the fatal shot, using his personal Webley revolver." (143)

The Provisional Government

As Nicholas II was supreme command of the Russian Army he was linked to the country's military failures and there was a strong decline in his support in Russia. George Buchanan, the British Ambassador in Russia, went to see the Tsar: "I went on to say that there was now a barrier between him and his people, and that if Russia was still united as a nation it was in opposing his present policy. The people, who have rallied so splendidly round their Sovereign on the outbreak of war, had seen how hundreds of thousands of lives had been sacrificed on account of the lack of rifles and munitions; how, owing to the incompetence of the administration there had been a severe food crisis."

Buchanan then went on to talk about Tsarina Alexandra Fedorovna: "I next called His Majesty's attention to the attempts being made by the Germans, not only to create dissension between the Allies, but to estrange him from his people. Their agents were everywhere at work. They were pulling the strings, and were using as their unconscious tools those who were in the habit of advising His Majesty as to the choice of his Ministers. They indirectly influenced the Empress through those in her entourage, with the result that, instead of being loved, as she ought to be, Her Majesty was discredited and accused of working in German interests." (144)

In January 1917, General Aleksandr Krymov returned from the Eastern Front and sought a meeting with Michael Rodzianko, the President of the Duma. Krymov told Rodzianko that the officers and men no longer had faith in Nicholas II and the army was willing to support the Duma if it took control of the government of Russia. "A revolution is imminent and we at the front feel it to be so. If you decide on such an extreme step (the overthrow of the Tsar), we will support you. Clearly there is no other way." Rodzianko was unwilling to take action but he did telegraph the Tsar warning that Russia was approaching breaking point. He also criticised the impact that his wife was having on the situation and told him that "you must find a way to remove the Empress from politics". (145)

The Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich shared the views of Rodzianko and sent a letter to the Tsar: "The unrest grows; even the monarchist principle is beginning to totter; and those who defend the idea that Russia cannot exist without a Tsar lose the ground under their feet, since the facts of disorganization and lawlessness are manifest. A situation like this cannot last long. I repeat once more - it is impossible to rule the country without paying attention to the voice of the people, without meeting their needs, without a willingness to admit that the people themselves understand their own needs." (146)

The First World War was having a disastrous impact on the Russian economy. Food was in short supply and this led to rising prices. By January 1917 the price of commodities in Petrograd had increased six-fold. In an attempt to increase their wages, industrial workers went on strike and in Petrograd people took to the street demanding food. On 11th February, 1917, a large crowd marched through the streets of Petrograd breaking shop windows and shouting anti-war slogans.

Petrograd was a city of 2,700,000 swollen with an influx of of over 393,000 wartime workers. According to Harrison E. Salisbury, in the last ten days of January, the city had received 21 carloads of grain and flour per day instead of the 120 wagons needed to feed the city. Okhrana, the secret police, warned that "with every day the food question becomes more acute and it brings down cursing of the most unbridled kind against anyone who has any connection with food supplies." (147)

Harold Williams, a journalist working for the Daily Chronicle reported details of serious food shortages: "All attention here is concentrated on the food question, which for the moment has become unintelligible. Long queues before the bakers' shops have long been a normal feature of life in the city. Grey bread is now sold instead of white, and cakes are not baked. Crowds wander about the streets, mostly women and boys, with a sprinkling of workmen. Here and there windows are broken and a few bakers' shops looted." (148)

Tsar Nicholas II
Tsar Nicholas II

It was reported that in one demonstration in the streets by the Nevsky Prospect, the women called out to the soldiers, "Comrades, take away your bayonets, join us!". The soldiers hesitated: "They threw swift glances at their own comrades. The next moment one bayonet is slowly raised, is slowly lifted above the shoulders of the approaching demonstrators. There is thunderous applause. The triumphant crowd greeted their brothers clothed in the grey cloaks of the soldiery. The soldiers mixed freely with the demonstrators." On 27th February, 1917, the Volynsky Regiment mutinied and after killing their commanding officer "made common cause with the demonstrators". (149)

The President of the Duma, Michael Rodzianko, became very concerned about the situation in the city and sent a telegram to the Tsar: "The situation is serious. There is anarchy in the capital. The Government is paralysed. Transport, food, and fuel supply are completely disorganised. Universal discontent is increasing. Disorderly firing is going on in the streets. Some troops are firing at each other. It is urgently necessary to entrust a man enjoying the confidence of the country with the formation of a new Government. Delay is impossible. Any tardiness is fatal. I pray God that at this hour the responsibility may not fall upon the Sovereign." (150)

On Friday 8th March, 1917, there was a massive demonstration against the Tsar. It was estimated that over 200,000 took part in the march. Arthur Ransome walked along with the crowd that were hemmed in by mounted Cossacks armed with whips and sabres. But no violent suppression was attempted. Ransome was struck, chiefly, by the good humour of these rioters, made up not simply of workers, but of men and women from every class. Ransome wrote: "Women and girls, mostly well-dressed, were enjoying the excitement. It was like a bank holiday, with thunder in the air." There were further demonstrations on Saturday and on Sunday soldiers opened fire on the demonstrators. According to Ransome: "Police agents opened fire on the soldiers, and shooting became general, though I believe the soldiers mostly used blank cartridges." (151)

Morgan Philips Price, a journalist working in Petrograd, with strong left-wing opinions, wrote to his aunt, Anna Maria Philips, claiming that the country was on the verge of revolution: "Most exciting times. I knew this was coming sooner or later but did not think it would come so quickly... Whole country is wild with joy, waving red flags and singing Marseillaise. It has surpassed my wildest dreams and I can hardly believe it is true. After two-and-half years of mental suffering and darkness I at last begin to see light. Long live Great Russia who has shown the world the road to freedom. May Germany and England follow in her steps." (152)

On 10th March, 1917, the Tsar had decreed the dissolution of the Duma. The High Command of the Russian Army now feared a violent revolution and on 12th March suggested that Nicholas II should abdicate in favour of a more popular member of the royal family. Attempts were now made to persuade Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich to accept the throne. He refused and the Tsar recorded in his diary that the situation in "Petrograd is such that now the Ministers of the Duma would be helpless to do anything against the struggles the Social Democratic Party and members of the Workers Committee. My abdication is necessary... The judgement is that in the name of saving Russia and supporting the Army at the front in calmness it is necessary to decide on this step. I agreed." (153)

Prince George Lvov, was appointed the new head of the Provisional Government. Members of the Cabinet included Pavel Milyukov (leader of the Cadet Party), was Foreign Minister, Alexander Guchkov, Minister of War, Alexander Kerensky, Minister of Justice, Mikhail Tereshchenko, a beet-sugar magnate from the Ukraine, became Finance Minister, Alexander Konovalov, a munitions maker, Minister of Trade and Industry, and Peter Struve, Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Ariadna Tyrkova commented: "Prince Lvov had always held aloof from a purely political life. He belonged to no party, and as head of the Government could rise above party issues. Not till later did the four months of his premiership demonstrate the consequences of such aloofness even from that very narrow sphere of political life which in Tsarist Russia was limited to work in the Duma and party activity. Neither a clear, definite, manly programme, nor the ability for firmly and persistently realising certain political problems were to be found in Prince G. Lvov. But these weak points of his character were generally unknown." (154)

Prince George Lvov allowed all political prisoners to return to their homes. Joseph Stalin arrived at Nicholas Station in St. Petersburg with Lev Kamenev and Yakov Sverdlov on 25th March, 1917. The three men had been in exile in Siberia. Stalin's biographer, Robert Service, has commented: "He was pinched-looking after the long train trip and had visibly aged over the four years in exile. Having gone away a young revolutionary, he was coming back a middle-aged political veteran." (155)

The exiles discussed what to do next. The Bolshevik organizations in Petrograd were controlled by a group of young men including Vyacheslav Molotov and Alexander Shlyapnikov who had recently made arrangements for the publication of Pravda, the official Bolshevik newspaper. The young comrades were less than delighted to see these influential new arrivals. Molotov later recalled: "In 1917 Stalin and Kamenev cleverly shoved me off the Pravda editorial team. Without unnecessary fuss, quite delicately." (156)

The Petrograd Soviet recognized the authority of the Provisional Government in return for its willingness to carry out eight measures. This included the full and immediate amnesty for all political prisoners and exiles; freedom of speech, press, assembly, and strikes; the abolition of all class, group and religious restrictions; the election of a Constituent Assembly by universal secret ballot; the substitution of the police by a national militia; democratic elections of officials for municipalities and townships and the retention of the military units that had taken place in the revolution that had overthrown Nicholas II. Soldiers dominated the Soviet. The workers had only one delegate for every thousand, whereas every company of soldiers might have one or even two delegates. Voting during this period showed that only about forty out of a total of 1,500, were Bolsheviks. Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries were in the majority in the Soviet.

The Provisional Government accepted most of these demands and introduced the eight-hour day, announced a political amnesty, abolished capital punishment and the exile of political prisoners, instituted trial by jury for all offences, put an end to discrimination based on religious, class or national criteria, created an independent judiciary, separated church and state, and committed itself to full liberty of conscience, the press, worship and association. It also drew up plans for the election of a Constituent Assembly based on adult universal suffrage and announced this would take place in the autumn of 1917. It appeared to be the most progressive government in history. (157)

When Lenin returned to Russia on 3rd April, 1917, he announced what became known as the April Theses. As he left the railway station Lenin was lifted on to one of the armoured cars specially provided for the occasions. The atmosphere was electric and enthusiastic. Feodosiya Drabkina, who had been an active revolutionary for many years, was in the crowd and later remarked: "Just think, in the course of only a few days Russia had made the transition from the most brutal and cruel arbitrary rule to the freest country in the world." (158)

In his speech Lenin attacked Bolsheviks for supporting the Provisional Government. Instead, he argued, revolutionaries should be telling the people of Russia that they should take over the control of the country. In his speech, Lenin urged the peasants to take the land from the rich landlords and the industrial workers to seize the factories. Lenin accused those Bolsheviks who were still supporting the government of Prince Georgi Lvov of betraying socialism and suggested that they should leave the party. Lenin ended his speech by telling the assembled crowd that they must "fight for the social revolution, fight to the end, till the complete victory of the proletariat". (159)

Some of the revolutionaries in the crowd rejected Lenin's ideas. Alexander Bogdanov called out that his speech was the "delusion of a lunatic." Joseph Goldenberg, a former of the Bolshevik Central Committee, denounced the views expressed by Lenin: "Everything we have just heard is a complete repudiation of the entire Social Democratic doctrine, of the whole theory of scientific Marxism. We have just heard a clear and unequivocal declaration for anarchism. Its herald, the heir of Bakunin, is Lenin. Lenin the Marxist, Lenin the leader of our fighting Social Democratic Party, is no more. A new Lenin is born, Lenin the anarchist." (160)

Joseph Stalin was in a difficult position. As one of the editors of Pravda, he was aware that he was being held partly responsible for what Lenin had described as "betraying socialism". Stalin had two main options open to him: he could oppose Lenin and challenge him for the leadership of the party, or he could change his mind about supporting the Provisional Government and remain loyal to Lenin. After ten days of silence, Stalin made his move. In the newspaper he wrote an article dismissing the idea of working with the Provisional Government. He condemned Alexander Kerensky and Victor Chernov as counter-revolutionaries, and urged the peasants to takeover the land for themselves. (161)

Soon after taking power Pavel Milyukov, the foreign minister, wrote to all Allied ambassadors describing the situation since the removal of the Tsar: "Free Russia does not aim at the domination of other nations, or at occupying by force foreign territories. Its aim is not to subjugate or humiliate anyone. In referring to the "penalties and guarantees" essential to a durable peace the Provisional Government had in view reduction of armaments, the establishment of international tribunals, etc." He attempted to maintain the Russian war effort but he was severely undermined by the formation of soldiers' committee that demanded "peace without annexations or indemnities". (162)

As Robert V. Daniels, the author of Red October: The Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 (1967) pointed out: "On the 20th April, Milyukov's note was made public, to the accompaniment of intense popular indignation. One of the Petrograd regiments, stirred up by the speeches of a mathematician who happened to be serving in the ranks, marched to the Marinsky Palace (the seat of the government at the time) to demand Milyukov's resignation." With the encouragement of the Bolsheviks, the crowds marched under the banner, "Down with the Provisional Government". (163)

Ariadna Tyrkova, a member of the Cadets, argued: "A man of rare erudition and of an enormous power for work, Milyukov had numerous adherents and friends, but also not a few enemies. He was considered by many as a doctrinaire on account of the stubbornness of his political views, while his endeavours to effect a compromise for the sake of rallying larger circles to the opposition were blamed as opportunism. As a matter of fact almost identical accusations were showered upon him both from Right and Left. This may partly be explained by the fact that it is easier for Milyukov to grasp an idea than to deal with men, as he is not a good judge of either their psychology or their character." (164)

On 5th May, Pavel Milyukov and Alexander Guchkov, the two most conservative members of the Provisional Government, were forced to resign. Mikhail Tereshchenko replaced Milyukov as Foreign Minister and Alexander Kerensky moved from Justice to the War Ministry, while five Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries from the Petrograd Soviet stepped into the cabinet to share the problems of the administration. This included Victor Chernov (Agriculture) and Irakli Tsereteli (Posts and Telegraphs). (165)

Kerensky appointed General Alexei Brusilov as the Commander in Chief of the Russian Army. He toured the Eastern Front where he made a series of emotional speeches where he appealed to the troops to continue fighting. On 18th June, Kerensky announced a new war offensive. According to David Shub: "The main purpose of the drive was to force the Germans to return to the Russian front the divisions which they had diverted to France in preparation for an all-out offensive against the Western Allies. At the same time, the Provisional Government hoped this move would restore the fighting spirit of the Russian Army." (166)

Encouraged by the Bolsheviks, who favoured peace negotiations, there were demonstrations against Kerensky in Petrograd. The Bolshevik popular slogan "Peace, Bread and Land", helped to increase support for the revolutionaries. By the summer of 1917, the membership of the Bolshevik Party had grown to 240,000. The Bolsheviks were especially favoured by the soldiers who found Lenin's promise of peace with Germany extremely attractive. (167)

Prince George Lvov was in conflict with Victor Chernov over the changes taking place over land ownership. Chernov issued circulars that supported the actions of the local land committees in reducing the rents of land leased by the peasants, seizing untilled fields for peasant use and commanding prisoner-of-war labour from private landowners. Lvov accused Chernov of going the back of the government and he prevailed on the ministry of justice to challenge the legality of Chernov's circulars. Without the full support of the cabinet in this dispute, Lvov resigned as prime minister on 7th July. (168)

The Russian Revolution

Alexander Kerensky became the new prime minister and soon after taking office, he announced another new offensive. Soldiers on the Eastern Front were dismayed at the news and regiments began to refuse to move to the front line. There was a rapid increase in the number of men deserting and by the autumn of 1917 an estimated 2 million men had unofficially left the army. Some of these soldiers returned to their homes and used their weapons to seize land from the nobility. Manor houses were burnt down and in some cases wealthy landowners were murdered. Kerensky and the Provisional Government issued warnings but were powerless to stop the redistribution of land in the countryside.

After the failure of the July Offensive on the Eastern Front, Kerensky replaced General Alexei Brusilov with General Lavr Kornilov, as Supreme Commander of the Russian Army. Kornilov had a fine military record and unlike most of the Russian senior officers, came "from the people" as he was the son of a poor farmer. "This combination made Kornilov the man of destiny in the eyes of those conservative and moderate politicians... who hoped that through him the Revolution might be tamed. But not only the right pinned its hopes on Kornilov. Kerensky and some in in his entourage hoped to use the general to destroy any future Bolshevik threat and to remove or diminish the tutelage of the soviets over the Provisional Government." (169)

However, the two men soon clashed about military policy. Kornilov wanted Kerensky to restore the death-penalty for soldiers and to militarize the factories. He told his aide-de-camp, that "the time had come to hang the German agents and spies, headed by Lenin, to disperse the Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies so that it can never reassemble." On 7th September, Kornilov demanded the resignation of the Cabinet and the surrender of all military and civil authority to the Commander in Chief. Kerensky responded by dismissing Kornilov from office and ordering him back to Petrograd. (170)

Kornilov now sent troops under the leadership of General Aleksandr Krymov to take control of Petrograd. Kornilov believed that he was going to become military dictator of Russia. He had the open support of a number of prominent Russian industrialists, headed by Aleksei Putilov, owner of the steelworks and the leading Petrograd banker. Others involved in the plot included Alexander Guchkov, a backer of an organization called the Union for Economic Revival of Russia. According to one source these industrialists had raised 4 million rubles for Kornilov's conspiracy. (171)

Kerensky was now in danger and so he called on the Soviets and the Red Guards to protect Petrograd. The Bolsheviks, who controlled these organizations, agreed to this request, but in a speech made by their leader, Lenin, he made clear they would be fighting against Kornilov rather than for Kerensky. Within a few days Bolsheviks had enlisted 25,000 armed recruits to defend Petrograd. While they dug trenches and fortified the city, delegations of soldiers were sent out to talk to the advancing troops. Meetings were held and Kornilov's troops decided to refuse to attack Petrograd. General Krymov committed suicide and Kornilov was arrested and taken into custody. (172)

Kerensky now became the new Supreme Commander of the Russian Army. His continued support for the war effort made him unpopular in Russia and on 8th October, Kerensky attempted to recover his left-wing support by forming a new coalition that included three Mensheviks and two Socialist Revolutionaries. However, with the Bolsheviks controlling the Soviets, and now able to call on a large armed militia, Kerensky was unable to reassert his authority.

Some members of the Constitutional Democratic Party urged Pavel Milyukov to take action against the Provisional Government. He defended his position by arguing: "It will be our task not to destroy the government, which would only aid anarchy, but to instill in it a completely different content, that is, to build a genuine constitutional order. That is why, in our struggle with the government, despite everything, we must retain a sense of proportion.... To support anarchy in the name of the struggle with the government would be to risk all the political conquests we have made since 1905." (173)

The Cadet party newspaper did not take the Bolshevik challenge seriously: "The best way to free ourselves from Bolshevism would be to entrust its leaders with the fate of the country... The first day of their final triumph would also be the first day of their quick collapse." Leon Trotsky accused Milyukov of being a supporter of General Lavr Kornilov and trying to organize a right-wing coup against the Provisional Government. Nikolai Sukhanov, a member of the Socialist Revolutionary Party argued that in Russia there was "a hatred for Kerenskyism, fatigue, rage and a thirst for peace, bread and land". (174)

Alexander Kerensky later claimed he was in a very difficult position and described Milyukov's supporters as being Bolsheviks of the Right: "The struggle of the revolutionary Provisional Government with the Bolsheviks of the Right and of the Left... We struggled on two fronts at the same time, and no one will ever be able to deny the undoubted connection between the Bolshevik uprising and the efforts of Reaction to overthrow the Provisional Government and drive the ship of state right onto the shore of social reaction." Kerensky argued that Milyukov was now working closely with other right-wing forces to destroy the Provisional Government: "In mid-October, all Kornilov supporters, both military and civilian, were instructed to sabotage government measures to suppress the Bolshevik uprising." (175)

Isaac Steinberg pointed out that only the Bolsheviks were showing determined leadership. "The army, exhausted by a desperate thirst for peace and anticipating all the horrors of a new winter campaign, was looking for a decisive change in policy. The peasantry, yearning for freed land and fearing to lose it in incomprehensive delays, was also waiting for this change. The proletariat, having seen lock-outs, unemployment and the collapse of industry and dreaming of a new social order, which must be born of the revolutionary storm, of which it was the vanguard, awaited this change." (176)

John Reed was a journalist who was living in Petrograd at the time: "Week by week food became scarcer. The daily allowance of bread fell from a pound and a half to a pound, than three-quarters, half, and a quarter-pound. Towards the end there was a week without any bread at all. Sugar one was entitled to at the rate of two pounds a month - if one could get it at all, which was seldom. A bar of chocolate or a pound of tasteless candy cost anywhere from seven to ten roubles - at least a dollar. For milk and bread and sugar and tobacco one had to stand in queue. Coming home from an all-night meeting I have seen the tail beginning to form before dawn, mostly women, some babies in their arms." (177)

It has been argued that Lenin was the master of good timing: "Rarely had he (Lenin) displayed to better advantage his sense of timing, his ability to see one jump ahead of his opponents. He had spurred his men on in April, May and June; he held them back in July and August; now, after the Kornilov fiasco, he once again spurred them on." (178) He began writing The State and Revolution, where he called upon the Bolsheviks to destroy the old state machinery for the purpose of overthrowing the bourgeoisie, destroying bourgeois parliamentarism... for the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat." (179)

Lenin now decided it was time to act. On 20th October, the Military Revolutionary Committee had its first meeting. Members included Joseph Stalin, Andrey Bubnov, Moisei Uritsky, Felix Dzerzhinsky and Yakov Sverdlov. According to Robert V. Daniels, the author of Red October: The Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 (1967): "Despite Menshevik charges of an insurrectionary plot, the Bolsheviks were still vague about the role this organisation might play... Several days were to pass before the committee became an active force. Nevertheless, here was the conception, if not the actual birth, of the body which was to superintend the overthrow of the Provisional Government." (180)

Bolshevik Poster (1917)
Bolshevik Poster (1917)

On 24th October, 1917, Lenin wrote a letter to the members of the Central Committee: "The situation is utterly critical. It is clearer than clear that now, already, putting off the insurrection is equivalent to its death. With all my strength I wish to convince my comrades that now everything is hanging by a hair, that on the agenda now are questions that are decided not by conferences, not by congresses (not even congresses of soviets), but exclusively by populations, by the mass, by the struggle of armed masses… No matter what may happen, this very evening, this very night, the government must be arrested, the junior officers guarding them must be disarmed, and so on… History will not forgive revolutionaries for delay, when they can win today (and probably will win today), but risk losing a great deal tomorrow, risk losing everything." (181)

Lev Kamenev and Gregory Zinoviev opposed this strategy. They argued that the Bolsheviks did not have the support of the majority of people in Russia or of the international proletariat and should wait for the elections of the proposed Constituent Assembly "where we will be such a strong opposition party that in a country of universal suffrage our opponents will be compelled to make concessions to us at every step, or we will form, together with the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries, non-party peasants, etc., a ruling bloc which will fundamentally have to carry out our programme." (182)

Leon Trotsky supported Lenin's view and urged the overthrow of the Provisional Government. On the evening of 24th October, orders were given for the Bolsheviks to occupy the railway stations, the telephone exchange and the State Bank. The Smolny Institute became the headquarters of the revolution and was transformed into a fortress. Trotsky reported that the "chief of the machine-gun company came to tell me that his men were all on the side of the Bolsheviks". (183)

The following day the Red Guards surrounded the Winter Palace. Inside was most of the country's Cabinet, although Kerensky had managed to escape from the city. The palace was defended by Cossacks, some junior army officers and the Woman's Battalion. At 9 p.m. The Aurora and the Peter and Paul Fortress began to open fire on the palace. Little damage was done but the action persuaded most of those defending the building to surrender. The Red Guards, led by Vladimir Antonov-Ovseenko, now entered the Winter Palace. (184)

Bessie Beatty, an American journalist, entered the Winter Palace with the Red Guards: "At the head of the winding staircase groups of frightened women were gathered, searching the marble lobby below with troubled eyes. Nobody seemed to know what had happened. The Battalion of Death had walked out in the night, without firing so much as a single shot. Each floor was crowded with soldiers and Red Guards, who went from room to room, searching for arms, and arresting officers suspected of anti-Bolshevik sympathies. The landings were guarded by sentries, and the lobby was swarming with men in faded uniforms. Two husky, bearded peasant soldiers were stationed behind the counter, and one in the cashier's office kept watch over the safe. Two machine-guns poked their ominous muzzles through the entryway." (185)

Louise Bryant, another journalist commented that there were about 200 women soldiers in the palace and they were "disarmed and told to go home and put on female attire". She added: "Every one leaving the palace was searched, no matter on what side he was. There were priceless treasures all about and it was a great temptation to pick up souvenirs. I have always been glad that I was present that night because so many stories have come out about the looting. It was so natural that there should have been looting and so commendable that there was none." (186)

On 26th October, 1917, the All-Russian Congress of Soviets met and handed over power to the Soviet Council of People's Commissars. Lenin was elected chairman and other appointments included Leon Trotsky (Foreign Affairs) Alexei Rykov (Internal Affairs), Anatoli Lunacharsky (Education), Alexandra Kollontai (Social Welfare), Victor Nogin (Trade and Industry), Joseph Stalin (Nationalities), Peter Stuchka (Justice), Vladimir Antonov-Ovseenko (War), Nikolai Krylenko (War Affairs), Pavlo Dybenko (Navy Affairs), Ivan Skvortsov-Stepanov (Finance), Vladimir Milyutin (Agriculture), Ivan Teodorovich (Food), Georgy Oppokov (Justice) and Nikolai Glebov-Avilov (Posts & Telegraphs). (187)

As chairman of the Council of People's Commissars, Lenin made his first announcement of the changes that were about to take place. Banks were nationalized and workers control of factory production was introduced. The most important reform concerned the land: "All private ownership of land is abolished immediately without compensation... Any damage whatever done to the confiscated property which from now on belongs to the whole People, is regarded as a serious crime, punishable by the revolutionary tribunals." (188)

The journalist, Louise Bryant, had difficulty arranging an interview with Lenin. She commented in her book, Six Months in Russia (1918) that it took her several weeks before he agreed to see her. "He is a little round man, quite bald and smooth-shaven. For days he shuts himself away and it is impossible to interview him." She compared him with Alexander Kerensky who she had met several times: "Kerensky has personality plus... one cannot help but be charmed by his wit and his friendliness... On the other hand, Lenin is sheer intellect - he is absorbed, cold, unattractive, impatient at interruption... Lenin has tremendous power; he is backed by the Soviets... Lenin is a master propagandist. If any one is capable of manoeuvring a revolution in Germany and Austria, it is Lenin... Lenin is monotonous and through and he is dogged; he possesses all the qualities of a chief, including the absolute moral indifference which is so necessary to such a part." (189)

The Constituent Assembly

After Nicholas II abdicated, the new Provisional Government announced it would introduce a Constituent Assembly. Elections were due to take place in November. Some leading Bolsheviks believed that the election should be postponed as the Socialist Revolutionaries might well become the largest force in the assembly. When it seemed that the election was to be cancelled, five members of the Bolshevik Central Committee, Victor Nogin, Lev Kamenev, Gregory Zinoviev, Alexei Rykov and Vladimir Milyutin submitted their resignations.

Kamenev believed it was better to allow the election to go ahead and although the Bolsheviks would be beaten it would give them to chance to expose the deficiencies of the Socialist Revolutionaries. "We (the Bolsheviks) shall be such a strong opposition party that in a country of universal suffrage our opponents will be compelled to make concessions to us at every step, or we will form, together with the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries, non-party peasants, etc., a ruling bloc which will fundamentally have to carry out our programme." (190)

On 4th November, 1917, the five men issued a statement: "The leading group in the Central Committee... has firmly decided not to allow the formation of a government of the soviet parties but to fight for a purely Bolshevik government however it can and whatever the sacrifices this costs the workers and soldiers. We cannot assume responsibility for this ruinous policy of the Central Committee, carried out against the will of a large part of the proletariat and soldiers." Nogin, Rykov, Milyutin and Ivan Teodorovich resigned their commissariats. They issued another statement: "There is only one path: the preservation of a purely Bolshevik government by means of political terror. We cannot and will not accept this." (191)

Eventually it was decided to go ahead with the elections for the Consistent Assembly. The party newspaper, Pravda, claimed: "As a democratic government we cannot disregard the decision of the people, even if we do not agree with it. If the peasants follow the Social Revolutionaries farther, even if they give that party a majority in the Constituent Assembly, we shall say: so be it." (192)

Eugene Lyons, the author of Workers’ Paradise Lost: Fifty Years of Soviet Communism: A Balance Sheet (1967), pointed out: "The hopes of self-government unleashed by the fall of tsarism were centered on the Constituent Assembly, a democratic parliament to draw up a democratic constitution. Lenin and his followers, of course, jumped on that bandwagon, too, posing not merely as advocates of the parliament but as its only true friends. What if the voting went against them? They piously pledged themselves to abide by the popular mandate." (193)

Constituent Assembly
Lenin campaigning during elections for the Constituent Assembly in 1917

The balloting began on 25th November and continued until 9th December. Morgan Philips Price, a journalist working for the Manchester Guardian, reported: "The elections for the Constituent Assembly have just taken place here. The polling was very high. Every man and woman votes all over this vast territory, even the Lapp in Siberia and the Tartar of Central Asia. Russia is now the greatest and most democratic country in the world. There are several women candidates for the Constituent Assembly and some are said to have a good chance of election. The one thing that troubles us all and hangs like a cloud over our heads is the fear of famine." (194)

Despite the prevailing disorders and confusion, thirty-six million cast their secret ballots in parts of the country normal enough to hold elections. In most of the large centers of population, the voting was conducted under Bolshevik auspices. Yet twenty-seven of the thirty-six million votes went to other parties. A total of 703 candidates were elected to the Constituent Assembly in November, 1917. This included Socialist Revolutionaries (299), Bolsheviks (168), Mensheviks (18) and Constitutional Democratic Party (17).

The elections disclosed the strongholds of each party: "The Socialist-Revolutionaries were dominant in the north, north-west, central black earth, south-eastern Volga, in the north Caucasus, Siberia, most of the Ukraine and amongst the soldiers of the south-western and Rumanian fronts, and the sailors of the Black Sea fleet. The Bolsheviks, on the other hand, held sway in White Russia, in most of the central provinces, and in Petrograd and Moscow. They also dominated the armies on the northern and western fronts and the Baltic fleet. The Mensheviks were virtually limited to Transcaucasia, and the Kadets to the metropolitan centres of Moscow and Petrograd where, in any case, they took place to the Bolsheviks." (195)

It seemed that the Socialist Revolutionaries would be in a position to form the next government. As David Shub pointed out, "The Russian people, in the freest election in modern history, voted for moderate socialism and against the bourgeoisie." Most members of the Bolshevik Central Committee, now favoured a coalition government. Lenin believed that the Bolsheviks should retain power and attacked his opponents for their "un-Marxist remarks" and their criminal vacillation". Lenin managed to pass a resolution through the Central Committee by a narrow margin. (196)

Lenin demobilized the Russian Army and announced that he planned to seek an armistice with Germany. In December, 1917, Leon Trotsky led the Russian delegation at Brest-Litovsk that was negotiating with representatives from Germany and Austria. Trotsky had the difficult task of trying to end Russian participation in the First World War without having to grant territory to the Central Powers. By employing delaying tactics Trotsky hoped that socialist revolutions would spread from Russia to Germany and Austria-Hungary before he had to sign the treaty. (197)

The Constituent Assembly opened on 18th January, 1918. "The Bolsheviks and Left Socialist Revolutionaries occupied the extreme left of the house; next to them sat the crowded Socialist Revolutionary majority, then the Mensheviks. The benches on the right were empty. A number of Cadet deputies had already been arrested; the rest stayed away. The entire Assembly was Socialist - but the Bolsheviks were only a minority." (198)

Harold Williams, of the Daily Chronicle reported: "When the Assembly was opened the galleries were crowded, mostly with Bolshevik supporters. Sailors and Red Guards, with their bayonets hanging at various angles, stood on the floor of the House. To right and left of the Speaker's tribune sat the People's Commissars and their assistants. Lenin was there, bald, red-bearded, short and rather stout. He was apparently in good spirits, and chattered merrily with Krylenko (Commander-in-Chief of the Army). There were Lunacharsky and Mme Kollontai, and a number of dark young men who now stand at the head of the various Government departments and devise schemes for the imposition of unalloyed Socialism on Russia." (199)

Yakov Sverdlov was the first to mount the platform. He then read a statement that demanded that all state power be vested in the Soviets, therefore destroying the very meaning of the Constituent Assembly. He added: "all attempts on the part of any person or institution to assume any of the functions of government will be regarded as a counter-revolutionary act... every such attempt will be suppressed by all means at the command of the Soviet Government, included the use of armed force." (200)

This statement was ignored and the members of the Constituent Assembly demanded the election of a President. Victor Chernov, leader of the Socialist Revolutionaries, was proposed for the post. The Bolsheviks decided not to nominate their own candidate and instead endorsed Maria Spiridonova, the candidate of the Left Social-Revolutionaries. Spiridonova, since returning to Petrograd from Sibera in June, had become an important figure in the revolution as she believed that fighting a war with Germany meant postponing key reforms. (201)

Maria Spiridonova
Maria Spiridonova

Chernov won the vote of 244 against 151. In his opening address, Chernov expressed hope that the Constituent Assembly meant the start of stable and democratic government. He welcomed the Bolshevik land reforms and was pleased that the "soil would become the common property of all peasants who were willing and able to till it." However, he broke with the Bolsheviks over foreign policy when he stated that his government would strive for a general peace without victors or vanquished but would not sign a separate peace with Germany. (202)

Irakli Tsereteli the leader of the Mensheviks, rose to speak but was confronted with soldiers and sailors pointing rifles and pistols at his head. "The chairman's appeals for order brought more hooting, catcalls, obscene oaths, and fierce howls. Tsereteli finally managed, nevertheless, to capture general attention with his eloquent plea for civil liberty and the warning of civil war... Lenin did not speak. He sat on the stairs leading to the platform, smiled derisively, jested, wrote something on a slip of paper, then stretched himself out on a bench and pretended to fall asleep." (203)

When the Assembly refused to support the programme of the new Soviet Government, the Bolsheviks walked out in protest. The following day, Lenin announced that the Constituent Assembly had been dissolved. "In all Parliaments there are two elements: exploiters and exploited; the former always manage to maintain class privileges by manoeuvres and compromise. Therefore the Constituent Assembly represents a stage of class coalition.
In the next stage of political consciousness the exploited class realises that only a class institution and not general national institutions can break the power of the exploiters. The Soviet, therefore, represents a higher form of political development than the Constituent Assembly." (204)

Soon afterwards all opposition political groups, including the Socialist Revolutionaries, Mensheviks and the Constitutional Democratic Party, were banned in Russia. Maxim Gorky, a world famous Russian writer and active revolutionary, pointed out: "For a hundred years the best people of Russia lived with the hope of a Constituent Assembly. In this struggle for this idea thousands of the intelligentsia perished and tens of thousands of workers and peasants... The unarmed revolutionary democracy of Petersburg - workers, officials - were peacefully demonstrating in favour of the Constituent Assembly. Pravda lies when it writes that the demonstration was organized by the bourgeoisie and by the bankers.... Pravda knows that the workers of the Obukhavo, Patronnyi and other factories were taking part in the demonstrations. And these workers were fired upon. And Pravda may lie as much as it wants, but it cannot hide the shameful facts." (205)

Leon Trotsky continued talking to representatives of the Central Powers at Brest-Litovsk. He hoped that Russia's socialist revolution would spread to Germany. This idea was reinforced when Trotsky heard the rumour on 21st January 1918, that a workers' soviet headed by Karl Liebknecht had been established in Berlin. This story was untrue as Liebknecht was still in a German prison. (206)

Morgan Philips Price, a journalist working for the Manchester Guardian, went to interview Rosa Luxemburg while she was in prison in Germany. He later reported: "She asked me if the Soviets were working entirely satisfactorily. I replied, with some surprise, that of course they were. She looked at me for a moment, and I remember an indication of slight doubt on her face, but she said nothing more. Then we talked about something else and soon after that I left. Though at the moment when she asked me that question I was a little taken aback, I soon forgot about it. I was still so dedicated to the Russian Revolution, which I had been defending against the Western Allies' war of intervention, that I had had no time for anything else."

Price later recalled in My Three Revolutions (1969): "She (Rosa Luxemburg) did not like the Russian Communist Party monopolizing all power in the Soviets and expelling anyone who disagreed with it. She feared that Lenin's policy had brought about, not the dictatorship of the working classes over the middle classes, which she approved of but the dictatorship of the Communist Party over the working classes. The dictatorship of a class - yes, she said, but not the dictatorship of a party over a class." (207)

Lenin still argued for a peace agreement, whereas his opponents, including Leon Trotsky, Nickolai Bukharin, Andrey Bubnov, Alexandra Kollontai, Yuri Piatakov, Karl Radek and Moisei Uritsky, were in favour of a "revolutionary war" against Germany. This belief had been encouraged by the German demands for the "annexations and dismemberment of Russia". In the ranks of the opposition was Lenin's close friend, Inessa Armand, who had surprisingly gone public with her demands for continuing the war with Germany. (208)

After nine weeks of discussions without agreement, the German Army was ordered to resume its advance into Russia. On 3rd March 1918, with German troops moving towards Petrograd, Lenin ordered Trotsky to accept the terms of the Central Powers. The Brest-Litovsk Treaty resulted in the Russians surrendering the Ukraine, Finland, the Baltic provinces, the Caucasus and Poland.

Trotsky later admitted that he was totally against signing the agreement as he thought that by continuing the war with the Central Powers it would help encourage socialist revolutions in Germany and Austria: "Had we really wanted to obtain the most favourable peace, we would have agreed to it as early as last November. But no one raised his voice to do it. We were all in favour of agitation, of revolutionizing the working classes of Germany, Austria-Hungary and all of Europe." (209)

At the end of the First World War, the left-wing socialist, Alfred Adler attempted to apply his psychological theories to the Russian Revolution and the defeat of the Central Powers. Adler welcomed the fall of the German Empire: "The means of power have been torn from us Germans... The victor's laurel that adorns the brow of the strong commander does not lead to anguish in us. We were the infatuated for many years and have now become wiser. Behind the sorrow and the misery of the present our people see the shining glimmer of a new realization. We were never more miserable than in the height of our power! The striving for power is an ill-fated delusion that poisons human fellowship! Whoever seeks fellowship must forsake the striving for power."

Adler went on to argue that defeat of Germany and Austria had created certain advantages: "We are closer to the truth than are the victors. We have behind us the sudden collapse that threatens others... A deep tragedy such as our people experienced must make for vision or else it misses its only sensible purpose. Out of its agonizing experience, the renewed Germany brings us the most deep-seated belief of all civilizations in the final rejection of the striving of people and in the irrevocable raising of the sense of community to be the guiding thought."

However, Adler, like others on the left, had not supported the Russian Revolution. He agreed that the regime of Tsar Nicholas II had been appalling but it had been wrong of the Bolsheviks to overthrow the government. "Under the coercive regime of the Tsars, depravity is inflamed and spreads senseless violence across the land. Whoever, still has any vitality directs his thoughts toward cunning and force in order to overthrow the rule of the tyrant. Driving a resisting multitude of people into an artificial socialist form of government is akin to destroying a costly vase out of impatience."

As a supporter of Karl Marx, Adler believed that the revolution should only take place when it had the support of the majority of the people. He argued that people had to go through an important educational process before socialism could be introduced: "Every form of education must aim for the most favourable conditions for receptiveness... Lasting retention comes about only for what a person has received as a subject and accepted by his own will. The process of Bolshevism shows all the mistakes of a poor, antiquated method. Even if it were to succeed somewhere by subjecting a majority, no one would be happy. Socialism without the appropriate philosophy of life is living like a puppet without a soul, initiative, or talent. If Bolshevism succeeds, it will have compromised and vulgarized socialism." (210)


(1) Jamie H. Cockfield, White Crow: The Life and Times of the Grand Duke Nicholas Mikhailovich Romanov (2002) page 117

(2) David Warnes, Russia: A Modern History (1984) page 6

(3) Lionel Kochan, Russia in Revolution (1970) pages 27-28

(4) Sidney Harcave, Count Sergei Witte and the Twilight of Imperial Russia: A Biography (2004) page 96

(5) Nicholas V. Riasanovsky, A History of Russia (1977) page 446

(6) Ivan Khristoforovich Ozerov, Policy on the Working Question in Russia (1906) page 138

(7) Leon Trotsky, My Life: An Attempt at an Autobiography (1970) page 98

(8) Lionel Kochan, Russia in Revolution (1970) page 19

(9) Joel Carmichael, A Short History of the Russian Revolution (1966) pages 35

(10) Geoffrey Hosking, A History of the Soviet Union (1985) page 27

(11) Adam Bruno Ulam, The Bolsheviks (1965) page 193

(12) Leon Trotsky, My Life: An Attempt at an Autobiography (1970) pages 166-167

(13) Vyacheslav Plehve, speech in Odessa (April, 1903)

(14) Leon Trotsky, 1905 (1972) page 51

(15) P. D. Allan, Russia and Eastern Europe (1983) page 8

(16) Lionel Kochan, Russia in Revolution (1970) page 81

(17) Theodore Rothstein, The Social Democrat (August, 1904)

(18) Emile J. Dillon, The Eclipse of Russia (1918) page 133

(19) Lionel Kochan, Russia in Revolution (1970) page 82

(20) Ivan Khristoforovich Ozerov, Policy on the Working Question in Russia (1906) page 138

(21) Lionel Kochan, Russia in Revolution (1970) page 87

(22) Georgi Gapon, The Story of My Life (1905) page 104

(23) Lionel Kochan, Russia in Revolution (1970) page 87

(24) Adam B. Ulam, The Bolsheviks (1998) page 205

(25) Victor Serge, Year One of the Russian Revolution (1930) page 43

(26) Cathy Porter, Alexandra Kollontai: A Biography (1980) page 91

(27) Adam B. Ulam, The Bolsheviks (1998) page 205

(28) David Shub, Lenin (1948) page 94

(29) Alexandra Kollontai, The History of the Working Women's Movement in Russia (1920) page 43

(30) Victor Serge, Year One of the Russian Revolution (1930) page 43

(31) Lionel Kochan, Russia in Revolution (1970) page 87

(32) Georgi Gapon, The Story of My Life (1905) page 168

(33) Nicholas II, diary entry (21st January, 1917)

(34) Georgi Gapon, petition to Nicholas II (21st January, 1905)

(35) Lionel Kochan, Russia in Revolution (1970) page 90

(36) Cathy Porter, Alexandra Kollontai: A Biography (1980) page 92

(37) Harold Williams, Russia of the Russians (1914) page 19

(38) Victor Serge, Year One of the Russian Revolution (1930) page 43

(39) Cathy Porter, Alexandra Kollontai: A Biography (1980) page 92

(40) Bernard Pares, The Fall of the Russian Monarchy (2001) page 79

(41) Georgi Gapon, The Story of My Life (1905) pages 181-182

(42) Cathy Porter, Alexandra Kollontai: A Biography (1980) page 92

(43) Walter Sablinsky, The Road to Bloody Sunday: The Role of Father Gapon and the Petersburg Massacre of 1905 (2006) page 244

(44) Nicholas II, diary entry (22nd January, 1905)

(45) Lionel Kochan, Russia in Revolution (1970) page 92

(46) Cathy Porter, Alexandra Kollontai: A Biography (1980) page 92

(47) Lenin, Collected Works: Volume 8 (1960) page 87

(48) Leon Trotsky, My Life: An Attempt at an Autobiography (1970) page 172

(49) Lionel Kochan, Russia in Revolution (1970) page 93

(50) Brooke Barnett and Amy Reynolds, Terrorism and the Press: An Uneasy Relationship (2008) page 23

(51) Gérard Chaliand and Arnaud Blin, The History of Terrorism: From Antiquity to ISIS (2016) pages 27-28

(52) Edvard Radzinsky, The Last Tsar: The Life and Death of Nicholas II (1993) page 82

(53) Ivan Kalyayev, letter to Boris Savinkov (February, 1905)

(54) Ivan Kalyayev, speech at his trial (May, 1905)

(55) Edvard Radzinsky, The Last Tsar: The Life and Death of Nicholas II (1993) page 82

(56) Walter Sablinsky, The Road to Bloody Sunday: The Role of Father Gapon and the Petersburg Massacre of 1905 (2006) page 292

(57) Report sent by an agent of the Okhrana (3rd February, 1905)

(58) Lev Deich, Heroes for an Hour (1909) page 133

(59) Leon Trotsky, My Life: An Attempt at an Autobiography (1970) page 173

(60) Walter Sablinsky, The Road to Bloody Sunday: The Role of Father Gapon and the Petersburg Massacre of 1905 (2006) page 295

(61) Lev Deich, Heroes for an Hour (1909) page 143

(62) Victor Chernov, Dela Naroda (3rd May, 1906)

(63) David Shub, Lenin (1948) page 100

(64) Lev Deich, Heroes for an Hour (1909) page 137

(65) Walter Sablinsky, The Road to Bloody Sunday: The Role of Father Gapon and the Petersburg Massacre of 1905 (2006) page 299

(66) Roman Rosen, Forty Years of Diplomacy: Volume II (1922) page 240

(67) Emile J. Dillon, The Eclipse of Russia (1918) page 378

(68) Neal Bascomb, Red Mutiny: Eleven Fateful Days on the Battleship Potemkin (2007) pages 211-212

(69) Walter Sablinsky, The Road to Bloody Sunday: The Role of Father Gapon and the Petersburg Massacre of 1905 (2006) page 300

(70) Leon Trotsky, My Life: An Attempt at an Autobiography (1970) page 180

(71) Sergei Witte, The Memoirs of Count Witte (1921) pages 450-451

(72) Sergei Witte, letter to Nicholas II (22nd October, 1905)

(73) Nicholas II, diary entry (19th October, 1905)

(74) Jamie H. Cockfield, White Crow: The Life and Times of the Grand Duke Nicholas Mikhailovich Romanov (2002) page 116

(75) Catherine Breshkovskaya, The Hidden Springs of the Russian Revolution (1931) page 285

(76) Statement issued by St. Petersburg Soviet (26th October, 1905)

(77) Greg King, The Fate of the Romanovs (2005) page 11

(78) Lionel Kochan, Russia in Revolution (1970) pages 104-105

(79) Statement from the St. Petersburg Soviet (30th October, 1905)

(80) Walter Sablinsky, The Road to Bloody Sunday: The Role of Father Gapon and the Petersburg Massacre of 1905 (2006) page 306

(81) Leon Trotsky, My Life: An Attempt at an Autobiography (1970) page 185

(82) Walter Sablinsky, The Road to Bloody Sunday: The Role of Father Gapon and the Petersburg Massacre of 1905 (2006) pages 307-308

(83) New York Tribune (25th December, 1905)

(84) New York Tribune (29th December, 1905)

(85) Boris Savinkov, Memoirs of a Terrorist (1931) pages 242-243

(86) Pinchas Rutenberg, The Murder of Gapon (1925) pages 77-81

(87) Boris Savinkov, Memoirs of a Terrorist (1931) page 317

(88) Maurice Baring, A Year in Russia (1907) pages 191-192

(89) David Warnes, Russia: A Modern History (1984) page 25

(90) Peter Stolypin, interview with Bernard Pares, published in The Russian Review (1913)

(91) Carol S. Leonard, Agrarian Reform in Russia: The Road from Serfdom (2010) page 54

(92) The New York Times (26th August 1906)

(93) David Shub, Lenin (1948) page 405

(94) Orlando Figes, A People's Tragedy: The Russian Revolution (2014) page 221

(95) Lionel Kochan, Russia in Revolution (1970) page 124

(96) Peter Stolypin, interview with Bernard Pares, published in The Russian Review (1913)

(97) Adam B. Ulam, The Bolsheviks (1998) page 258

(98) Orlando Figes, A People's Tragedy: The Russian Revolution (2014) page 223

(99) Tsar Nicholas II, diary entry (18th September, 1911)

(100) Douglas Smith, Rasputin (2016) page 14

(101) Joseph T. Fuhrmann, Rasputin: The Untold Story (2012) page 12

(102) Frances Welch, Rasputin (2014) pages 35-36

(103) Douglas Smith, Rasputin (2016) page 28

(104) Lionel Kochan, Russia in Revolution (1970) page 171

(105) Joseph T. Fuhrmann, Rasputin: The Untold Story (2012) page 23

(106) Robert K. Massie, Nicholas and Alexandra (1967) page 185

(107) Lionel Kochan, Russia in Revolution (1970) pages 171

(108) Alexandra Fedorovna, letter to Grigori Rasputin (December, 1909)

(109) Ariadna Tyrkova, From Liberty to Brest-Litovsk (1918) page 3

(110) Joseph T. Fuhrmann, Rasputin: The Untold Story (2012) page 108

(111) Sergi Sazonov, letter to the Russian ambassador In London (19th February 1914)

(112) Lionel Kochan, Russia in Revolution (1970) pages 174

(113) Bernard Pares, The Fall of the Russian Monarchy (1939) page 160

(114) Basil Liddell Hart, History of the First World War (1970) page 24

(115) Martin Gilbert, First World War (1994) page 48

(116) Alan Woods, Tsarist Russia and the War (13 March 2015)

(117) Marie Brown, Russia and Revolution (1979) page 41

(118) Alexander Kerensky, Russia and History's Turning Point (1965) page 159

(119) David Shub, Lenin (1948) page 184

(120) Tsar Nicholas II, letter to Alexandra Fedorovna (7th July, 1915)

(121) Brian York, The Soviet Union (1983) page 4

(122) Michael Rodzianko, letter to Tsar Nicholas II (15th March, 1916)

(123) The Times (17th March, 1917)

(124) Michael Smith, Six: A History of Britain's Secret Intelligence Service (2010) pages 198-200

(125) Giles Milton, Russian Roulette: How British Spies Thwarted Lenin's Global Plot (2013) pages 14-15

(126) Vladimir Purishkevich, letter to Felix Yusupov (21st November 1916)

(127) Felix Yusupov, letter to Vladimir Purishkevich (21st November 1916)

(128) Frances Welch, Rasputin (2014) page 161

(129) Felix Yusupov, Lost Splendor (1953) page 241

(130) Vladimir Mitrofanovich Purishkevich, The Murder of Rasputin (1918)

(131) Stanislaus de Lazovert, testimony (undated)

(132) Vladimir Mitrofanovich Purishkevich, The Murder of Rasputin (1918)

(133) Felix Yusupov, Lost Splendor (1953) page 243

(134) Stanislaus de Lazovert, testimony (undated)

(135) Felix Yusupov, Lost Splendor (1953) page 243

(136) Vladimir Mitrofanovich Purishkevich, The Murder of Rasputin (1918)

(137) Stanislaus de Lazovert, testimony (undated)

(138) Alexandra Fedorovna, letter to Nicholas II (30th December, 1916)

(139) Alexandra Fedorovna, letter to Nicholas II (31st December, 1916)

(140) Frances Welch, Rasputin (2014) page 172

(141) Sophie Buxhoeveden, Left Behind: Fourteen Months in Siberia During the Revolution (1929)

(142) Professor Dmitrii Kosorotov, post mortem of Gregory Rasputin (20th December 1916)

(143) Michael Smith, Six: A History of Britain's Secret Intelligence Service (2010) pages 200-201

(144) George Buchanan, My Mission to Russia and Other Diplomatic Memories (1922) page 45

(145) Frank Alfred Golder, The Russian Revolution (1918) page 251

(146) Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich, letter to Nicholas II (January, 1917)

(147) Harrison E. Salisbury, Black Night, White Snow: Russia's Revolutions 1905-1917 (1977) page 321

(148) Harold Williams, Daily Chronicle (28th February, 1917)

(149) Lionel Kochan, Russia in Revolution (1970) page 192

(150) Michael Rodzianko, President of the Duma, telegram to Nicholas II (26th February, 1917)

(151) Roland Chambers, The Last Englishman: The Double Life of Arthur Ransome (2009) page 129

(152) Morgan Philips Price, letter to Anna Maria Philips (13th March 1917)

(153) Nicholas II, diary entry (15th March, 1917)

(154) Ariadna Tyrkova, From Liberty to Brest-Litovsk (1918) page 30

(155) Robert Service, Stalin: A Biography (2004) page 118

(156) Edvard Radzinsky, Stalin (1996) page 89

(157) Lionel Kochan, Russia in Revolution (1970) pages 200-207

(158) Helen Rappaport, Conspirator: Lenin in Exile (2009) page 279

(159) Lenin, speech (3rd April, 1917)

(160) David Shub, Lenin (1948) page 203

(161) Edvard Radzinsky, Stalin (1996) page 97

(162) Pavel Milyukov, letter sent to all Allied ambassadors (18th April, 1917)

(163) Robert V. Daniels, Red October: The Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 (1967) page 33

(164) Ariadna Tyrkova, From Liberty to Brest-Litovsk (1918) page 28

(165) Lionel Kochan, Russia in Revolution (1970) page 226

(166) David Shub, Lenin (1948) page 237

(167) John Simkin, Stalin (1987) page 23

(168) Lionel Kochan, Russia in Revolution (1970) pages 255-256

(169) Adam B. Ulam, The Bolsheviks (1998) page 357

(170) Lionel Kochan, Russia in Revolution (1970) page 258

(171) Harrison E. Salisbury, Black Night, White Snow: Russia's Revolutions 1905-1917 (1977) page 449

(172) Leon Trotsky, My Life: An Attempt at an Autobiography (1970) pages 330-331

(173) Pavel Milyukov, speech at the Constitutional Democratic Party Conferencey (22nd October, 1917)

(174) Nikolai Sukhanov, Russian Revolution 1917: A Personal Record (1922) page 36

(175) Alexander Kerensky, Russia and History's Turning Point (1965) page 432

(176) Isaac Steinberg, From February to October 1917 (1919) page 126

(177) John Reed, Ten Days That Shook the World (1919) page 37

(178) Lionel Kochan, Russia in Revolution (1970) page 268

(179) Lenin, The State and Revolution (1917) page 139

(180) Robert V. Daniels, Red October: The Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 (1967) page 74

(181) Lenin, letter to the members of the Central Committee (24th October, 1917)

(182) Lionel Kochan, Russia in Revolution (1970) page 272

(183) Leon Trotsky, My Life: An Attempt at an Autobiography (1970) page 333

(184) Harrison E. Salisbury, Black Night, White Snow: Russia's Revolutions 1905-1917 (1977) page 512

(185) Bessie Beatty, The Red Heart of Russia (1919) page 79

(186) Louise Bryant, Six Months in Russia (1918) page 87

(187) David Shub, Lenin (1948) page 288

(188) John Reed, Ten Days That Shook the World (1919) page 134

(189) Louise Bryant, Six Months in Russia (1918) page 137

(190) Lionel Kochan, Russia in Revolution (1970) page 272

(191) Victor Nogin, Lev Kamenev, Gregory Zinoviev, Alexei Rykov and Vladimir Milyutinstatement (4th November, 1917)

(192) Pravda (23rd November, 1917)

(193) Eugene Lyons, Workers’ Paradise Lost: Fifty Years of Soviet Communism: A Balance Sheet (1967) page 45

(194) Morgan Philips Price, letter to Anna Maria Philips (30th November, 1917)

(195) Lionel Kochan, Russia in Revolution (1970) page 278

(196) David Shub, Lenin (1948) page 315

(197) Lionel Kochan, Russia in Revolution (1970) page 280

(198) David Shub, Lenin (1948) page 322

(199) Harold Williams, Daily Chronicle (19th January, 1918)

(200) Yakov Sverdlov, speech at the Constituent Assembly (18th January, 1918)

(201) Jane McDermid and Anna Hillyar, Midwives of the Revolution: Female Bolsheviks and Women Workers in 1917 (1999) page 172 (197)

(202) Victor Chernov, speech at the Constituent Assembly (18th January, 1918)

(203) David Shub, Lenin (1948) page 324

(204) Lenin, speech (19th January, 1918)

(205) Maxim Gorky, New Life (9th January, 1918)

(206) Adam B. Ulam, The Bolsheviks (1998) page 392

(207) Morgan Philips Price, My Three Revolutions (1969) page 160

(208) Harrison E. Salisbury, Black Night, White Snow: Russia's Revolutions 1905-1917 (1977) page 556

(209) Leon Trotsky, My Life: An Attempt at an Autobiography (1970) page 406

(210) Alfred Adler, Bolshevism and Psychology (1918)