Kronstadt and Petrograd in 1917: the memoirs of Fyodor Raskolnikov

Fyodor Fyodorovich Raskolnikov was a key Bolshevik activist and a principal organiser amongst the Kronstadt Sailors, who would prove so pivotal in the Bolsheviks' seizure of power. In these remarkable memoirs, which cover the period between the February and October Revolutions in 1917, Raskolnikov gives a first-hand account of how the Bolsheviks built their forces in the navy, describes the setbacks of the July Days (during which he, alongside Trotsky, was imprisoned by Kerensky's Provisional Government), and paints a vivid picture of the October insurrection and its immediate aftermath.

Reading these recollections, one gets a sense of how the Bolshevik's patient propaganda, timely slogans and ability to point the way forward at crucial moments, won over the masses in the dramatic year of 1917, and put them on the road to revolution. Talented and committed revolutionaries like Raskolnikov were instrumental in the Bolsheviks' momentous achievements, which required much courage and sacrifice on their part.

1. The February days

The February Revolution found me attending the Special Classes for Naval Cadets. It cannot be said that the revolution happened unexpectedly. Quite apart from the professional revolutionaries, who clearly heard the muffled underground tremors of revolution, even among casual colleagues of mine, pupils at the ‘privileged’ naval school; there had been more and more frequent talk in the preceding period about an inevitable armed rebellion, and a possible victory for the rebels.

Naturally, the young naval cadets who had been allowed to enter the caste milieu of the Navy only because of their noble origins looked upon themselves as a ’blue-blooded’ estate of society destined to enjoy the good things of this world. These beardless ’scions of the nobility’, who reflected in their anxious conversations the mood of the noble salons, had no reason to rejoice at the mutterings of the approaching storm.

‘Today is Women’s Day’, it flashed through my mind on the morning of February 23. ‘Will something happen in the streets today?’ As things turned out, ‘Women’s Day’ was fated to be the first day of the revolution. Working women, driven to despair by their hard conditions, a prey to the torments of hunger, were the first to come out on to the streets demanding ‘bread, freedom and peace’.

On that day, when we were shut up in our quarters, we were able to look out from the window upon a most unusual scene. The trams were not running, which meant the streets were uncharacteristically empty and quiet. But at the corner of Bolshoi Prospekt and Gavanskaya Street groups of working women kept assembling. Mounted policemen tried to disperse them, roughly pushing them apart with the muzzles of their horses and hitting them with the flats of their drawn swords. When the Tsarist oprichniki [1] rose on to the pavement the crowd would, without losing its composure, break up for the moment, heaping curses and threats upon them; but as soon as the mounted policemen had returned to the roadway, the crowd would close up again into a solid mass. In some of the groups we could see men, but the overwhelming majority consisted of working women and workers’ wives.

On Saturday February 25, when I went on leave, the trams were not working. On Vasily Island everything seemed normal. The inhabitants were peacefully bustling about in the streets just as usual. Carts loaded to the very top rumbled clumsily along the cobbled street.

But when we came out into Nevsky Prospekt the first thing that struck us was the huge number of people who were gathered in front of the Kazan Cathedral. When Cadet V and I had passed Bolshaya Konyushennaya Street and wanted to proceed further along the Nevsky, policemen on foot and on horseback roughly blocked our way and obliged us to turn in to one of the side streets. Further on, from the columns of the Kazan Cathedral to the Singer building, [2] a large crowd occupied the whole width of the Nevsky. It seethed, murmured uttered protests: individual cries of anger rang out from the midst of it. Against it stood a solid wall of policemen preventing the crowd from reaching the Admiralty. From time to time mounted gendarmes, their swords drawn, would drive into the crowd, evoking cries of protest from the demonstrators. In Bolshaya Konyushennaya Street a detachment of armoured cars came quickly towards me. These fearful mobile boxes fitted with heavy armour on every side and with the muzzles of machineguns sticking out in all directions, produced a terrifying impression, like some sort of sinister, furious monster. The sharp, alarming and abrupt sounds of their horns added to this disagreeable sensation.

Soon sporadic volleys of rifle-fire were heard coming from the direction of the Nevsky...They resounded loudly in the frosty February air...

On the following day, February 26, I was walking along the deserted streets on my way to my detested classes. Our company’s quarters looked like an armed camp. Cartridge-pouches were laid out on the desks and everywhere stood rifles with bayonets fixed. I found that the commanders of the classes had armed all the cadets. The official reason for doing this was the need to defend ourselves in the event of attacks by violent criminals.

I went up to Cadets V and I, with whom I was more friend than with the rest. They assured me categorically that they would in no case fire on the crowd, that all their shots would be aimed into the air. In the order of battle their allotted post were right up in the vanguard, out in the street, whereas being politically unreliable in the eyes of the commanders, we assigned to the topmost landing of the building, that is to the deepest rear.

On the morning of the 27th we had examinations, but during the evening the Deryabinsk barracks, adjacent to our building was suddenly invested by a regular line of armed workers. Facing them in the yard of the barracks, another line of men lay directly on the snow: a line of armed sailors, recruits from the last autumn call-up. Now and then one of the comrades would emerge from among the workers to try and approach the sailors to negotiate, but no result could be observed so far: the young recruits were at a very low level of political consciousness.

The cadets crowded round the window and gazed with interest at the scene taking place before their eyes. So as to be able to see better we put out the electric light in the room. The more extrovert of the young men proceeded to give expression to their feelings. It became clear at once that most of them sympathised with the recruits, the defenders - that is, their attitude was counter-revolutionary.

“Look at them, the swine!“ exclaimed the Greek Ipotimatopoulo, referring to the workers. “Now they should be given the punishment they deserve!”

A group of comrades who favoured the revolution and sympathised wholeheartedly with the attacking workers reacted sharply to these words and launched into a brisk argument with Ipotimatopoulo. Diplomatic parleying between the workers and the young sailors went on until a late hour, when, at last, the workers said that they would give the sailors the whole night to make up their minds and would approach them again in the morning. There had been no exchange of fire between the two sides.

Soon, however, the sound of rifle fire began to reach us from the city. It was clear that a struggle was going on in the streets of Petrograd. I went to the telephone and rang Comrade Stark. His wife answered. To my question about what the situation was in the streets of Petrograd she replied: “Wait a moment, I’ll just go and see.” She did not keep me waiting long, but soon came back, to say: “I must tell you that we have decided that it’s not convenient to talk about this matter over the telephone.” There was nothing to do but say goodbye and hang up the receiver. Nevertheless, burning with impatience, I rang my old acquaintance Professor Semyon Afanasyevich Vengerov. He told me, excitedly, that a Duma Committee had been formed in the State Duma, that not a single police man was to be seen in the streets of Petrograd, and that motorcars containing groups of armed workers and soldiers were rushing about the city in all directions. From what he said it was obvious that the situation had not yet become defined, but that, all the same, at that moment, the revolutionary, anti-government forces had the upper hand. With profound emotion I passed on all I had heard to the cadets gathered round me. Just then someone phoned from Cadet V’s home to tell him that the police had killed, in Basseinaya Street, someone he knew, the wife of the barrister I.I. Tarkhovsky. She was one of the first casual victims of Protopopov’s executioners, shooting from their attic lairs. Despite the lateness of the hour, V was quickly sent off on leave. In the frosty silence of the February night the sound of firearms rang out more and more frequently, and more and more loudly both bursts and single shots. The fight to overthrow the old regime had not yet finished. Soon the officer commanding the Special Classes for Naval Cadets was telephoned by the commander of the Second Baltic Sub-Depot, [3] Girs, who said to him: “Sergei Ivanovich, do you know what’s happened? Armoured cars came up to the building of our Depot and aimed their machineguns at the windows. Well, what was there to do? I surrendered.” This put everyone in a cheerful mood. The cadets began exchanging their impressions. This was when I was first struck by the ease with which many inveterate Tsarists gave up and disowned their old monarchist views at once after suffering the first setback. In these cases, the course of ideas was determined in the twinkling of an eye by the course of events. “After all, if it all takes place painlessly, without bloodshed, that will be a very good thing,” said the Pole K, who liked to spend his free time reading the works of Adam Mickiewicz. Nevertheless, there were to be found among the cadets a few fervent monarchists who were unwilling to give up their positions.

Next morning the building occupied by the cadet classes was approached by an enormous crowd, many thousands strong, among whom the khaki-coloured greatcoats worn by soldiers especially caught the eye. We could not see where this crowd ended, stretching as it did a long way down Gavanskaya Street. The commanding officer of the Special Classes for Naval Cadets, Frolov, went to the entrance to meet them. The crowd told him that they wanted all the cadets to be sent home forthwith, and all weapons, firearms and side-arms alike, to be surrendered unreservedly.

“Gentlemen, that’s not possible,” Frolov tried to object. “We are holding examinations, the cadets are taking their examinations.” “What examinations are being held here?” someone in the crowd shouted in a loud voice: “All Russia is now taking an examination.” Such pointed, unusually apt expressions, tossed from the very depths of the crowd and uttered nobody knows by whom, are often a feature of historic, revolutionary moments.

Meanwhile, the crowd’s representatives came boldly into the company quarters, seized the rifles without meeting any hindrance, and demanded the keys to the armoury. Sub-Lieutenant Yezhov, who was in charge of the armoury and was drunk as usual, personally conducted them thither. On the whole everything proceeded in an orderly ad peaceful manner, unlike what happened at the Naval College, where Black Hundred-minded Cadets [4] led by Prince Baryatinsky offered armed resistance, barricading the entrances and exits of their building and opening fire from the upper floor.

Joyfully I left the stuffy barracks and joined the risen people. That same day I went to the Taurida Palace. [5] There were an unusually large number of people there: regiments kept coming, one after another, to announce that they had rallied to the revolution. The department responsible for supplying food to the units of the revolted garrison was working at full blast. An energetic part was played, among the first of the political activists to turn up at the Palace, by G. K. Sukhanova. Stark and I were entrusted with a load of bread and tinned goods for the soldiers guarding the premises of the Savings Bank, who had had nothing to eat since the morning, and we took this food to them.

Outside the Palace, in the street and the square, the crush of people was inconceivable. From external impressions one might have supposed that the Duma Committee had huge forces at its disposal. In actual fact, however, the revolutionary troops which had definitely manifested themselves as such were still so disorganised that they could have been dealt with by a single Cossack division, untainted by propaganda, if this had been brought in from the front.

Inside, in the Catherine Hall, ceaseless meetings went on. The orators spoke from the long, wide galleries, which stretched along both sides, in the Catherine Hall and in the conference room. The audience, which was made up mostly of soldiers, received each speaker with unanimous shouts of: “Who’s speaking? What party? What’s your name? What’s the speaker called?” It was clear that the masses were relating quite consciously to the events taking place and did not intend to listen to any speeches unthinkingly.

One day there appeared in the gallery, struck an oratorical pose and began to hold forth, a rather elderly but well-preserved man wearing a tall, light-coloured fur cap such as was worn at that time by military officials of the Army’s medical service and employees of the Union of Zemstvos and Towns. [6] Over his shoulders was thrown a grey officer’s great-coat. In reply to the crowd’s demand for his name he loudly rapped out: “Member of the State Duma Purishkevich.” Despite having heard the hated name of the Black Hundred deputy, the crowd let him speak.

“The Government, having shown itself incapable of coping with disorder, has now been overthrown”: that was how Purishkevich began. The gist of the long speech made by this diehard was that he, too, had rallied to the February Revolution. In the middle of his speech a shot rang out: one of the soldiers had accidentally let off his rifle. Purishkevich went on with his speech, and brought it safely to a close. The soldiers were at that time in festive mood, and Purishkevich’s mere unsubstantiated statement that he had broken with the order that had been overthrown, the order which in reality he was tirelessly to defend to the last day of his life, was sufficient for even him to be received with applause.

On that day also there spoke from the gallery of the Catherine Hall a certain middle-aged, clean-shaven citizen, looking like a barrister, who, having introduced himself as a left-wing Cadet, [7] solemnly announced the decision which had just been taken to call Alexei [8] to the throne, with Mikhail as regent. It is hard to convey the depth of the wave of indignation that rolled through the hall. Instead of the enthusiastic shout of ‘Hurrah’ on which the Cadet speaker had probably counted there broke from the throats of hundreds of soldiers a unanimous cry of protest: “Down with the Romanovs! Long live the democratic republic!” The Cadet, confused and shaken by the unexpected effect of his speech, hastened to explain that he was not expressing the opinion of his party but merely passing on information, and that the Cadet Party would give its opinion on the matter somewhat later. However, this attempt to get out of an awkward situation did not in the least appease the crowd of soldiers, who for a long time after filled the air with their curses addressed to the hated dynasty. From the very first days of the February Revolution the worker and soldier masses were unwilling to hear of anything short of a republic.

In one of the corridors I accidentally encountered my former professor in the economics department of the Petrograd Polytechnic, P.B. Struve. As we passed each other we shook hands. An exultant smile spread like a pancake over his face, and with joyful emotion he said: ‘What a festive occasion!’ At that time it seemed to him that the revolution signified a festive occasion for him and his like.

After registering with the Military Commission I was given a certificate and a special document which entitled me to bear arms. When I left the Taurida Palace I elbowed my way with great difficulty through the crowd gathered on the pavement. While the roadway of Shpalernaya Street was occupied by demonstrators, its pavement was crowded with members of the intellectual and bourgeois public. In those days every philistine saw it as his duty to decorate his breast with a magnificent bow of red silk or calico. And suddenly, amid this motley crowd, I recognised, with amazement, the familiar bulldog visage of a gendarmerie officer who in 1912 had been present, as the unwinkingly watchful eye of authority, at all meetings between political prisoners in the pre-trial detention centre. [9] On the broad chest of this stout gendarme, who had already reached the rank of general, fluttered a red bow of colossal size. I was about to detain him, but the surging crowd swept me up and carried me away.

Right there in Shpalernaya Street, but just a bit further along, nearer to the Liteiny, I managed to deliver, from bollard or a lamp-standard, my first speech against the Cadets who were preparing to call Alexei to the throne and thereby preserve the dynasty and save the autocracy, whereas the working class, backed by the peasant masses dressed in soldiers’ greatcoats, had risen as one man in order to overthrow Tsardom.

A few days later I was summoned to the cadet classes. The commander, S.I. Frolov, came excitedly into the recreation room and said with fervour to the cadets gathered round him: “I consider that a democratic republic must be established, there is no other solution. Only a democratic republic can restore a peaceful situation.” “Aha”, I thought. “It is clear indeed how the revolution has gone when even rear-admirals become fervent champions of a democratic republic.” In the cloakroom some cadets were talking about the killings which had recently taken place at Kronstadt and Helsingfors. [10] In the doorway the orderly officer’s room a hot argument was going on between our company commander, Lieutenant Smirnov, and a handful of cadets. The latter were advocating that we go to the Taurida Palace and swear allegiance to the revolution. Smirnov, however, objected categorically. “Gentlemen, please remember that the Provisional Government is losing its footing. There is continual friction between it and the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies. The Soviet already possesses great influence. What would the point of going to the Taurida Palace?” It was clear that purpose of these arguments was to prevent the proposed march of the cadets to the Taurida Palace. In the end, though, company commander agreed, and even went along with cadets.

I stayed at the Taurida Palace until evening. There, as before, meetings continued without interruption. Suddenly, amidst the orators speaking from the galleries of the Catherine Hall, appeared the figure of Sub-Lieutenant Krainev. “Comrades, the previous speakers have directed some sharp reproaches at the officers,” Krainev began, speaking passionately, almost screaming on the high notes. “But that’s not right. Among the officers there are some who have gone over to the people’s side and who sympathise wholeheartedly with the revolution.” At that time it was so unusual to hear expressions of solidarity with the revolution uttered by officers that Krainev was even carried shoulder-high.

2. The first legal meetings of the Petersburg Committee

The first legal meetings of the Petersburg Committee of our Party, before it settled permanently in Kshesinskaya’s house, were held on Kronverksky Prospekt, in the Labour Exchange building.

In order to get into the premises of the Petersburg Committee one had to go down a lane to the unimpressive entrance to some store, and then mount dusty stairs to the topmost floor, almost the attic, and pass through several offices, full of desks, which seemed crushed beneath the low ceiling. In the middle of the room where the Petersburg Committee met when it first emerged into the open water of legal existence stood a long wooden table, at which the committee members sat. The few visitors usually set themselves down on the benches along the walls, just as in a good old village hut.

As soon as the sound of machinegun fire died down in the streets of Petrograd, and the street fighting, which had absorbed all my time, came to an end, I made my way to the Petersburg Committee, the natural centre for every Party worker.

It was obvious to me that the danger, not yet eliminated, of a counter-revolutionary coup by Tsarist Generals called urgently for the adoption of emergency measures. The struggle in the streets against the police ambuscades had only just finished, and had shown that the revolution still lacked organisation from the military standpoint. Bursts of machinegun fire from a roof or an attic would attract the attention of some brave lad, he would gather round him the first soldiers and workers he happened upon, and this hastily put-together, improvised squad would hurl itself into the attack. In fighting with small gangs of policemen this guerrilla method of waging war was crowned with success, but it was perfectly plain that in the event of a clash with real militia units, welded by organisation and discipline, the Petrograd garrison would not stand up to the test of battle. [11]

And yet rumours were already circulating in the streets of Petrograd that large forces were approaching from the front, to put down the revolution. This potential threat had to be countered by revolutionary organisation, revolutionary solidarity and revolutionary discipline.

The Provisional Committee of the State Duma tried to cope with these tasks of increasing the military capacity of the revolutionary forces, appointing as military commandant for this purpose one Engelhardt: until the appointment of Kornilov he was the de facto commander-in-chief of the garrison Petrograd.

However, this task proved too much for the bourgeois Provisional Committee. The soldiers naturally felt unable to trust it. It seemed to me that we, the Bolsheviks, must at once form our own military organisation both for spreading our ideas among the soldier masses and for organising forces in order to strengthen, defend and further extend the conquests of the revolution. This idea suggested itself so strongly that I think there was hardly any Bolshevik serving in the armed forces who was not filled with it.

It was with this proposal to create a military organisation within our Party that I approached the Petersburg Committee. The chairman of the committee at that time, Comrade L. Mikhailov (Politicus), came out from the meeting to see me. He reacted favourably to my plan for a military organisation and invited me in. I entered the room where the meeting was in progress, at a moment when B.V. Avilov was speaking.

It is funny to recall that this liberal from the ranks of Marxism was then still a member of our Party. Boris Avilov was making a programmatic speech. He unmercifully quoted from old articles of his own, he cited in their support excerpts from the resolutions of Party Congresses, and all this merely so as to substantiate the typically Menshevik proposition that we were experiencing a bourgeois revolution and that therefore the task of the proletariat consisted in giving support, fully and wholly, not from fear but for conscience sake, to the Provisional Government.

Avilov made a strange impression. He seemed to be a Menshevik in the Bolshevik camp, an opportunist who had turned up through some mistake in our Petersburg Committee. He delivered a verbose, doctrinaire speech, equipped with ponderous scientific references, so out-of-place in those days of street fighting and of seething, intense activity, when life had insistently set before the Party’s leading organ a whole series of urgent, pressing problems, and demanded quick and brief answers. And at such a time Avilov (who was, indeed, a theoretician remote from life) was trying to turn the only fighting organ of the proletariat into a scientific-academic society. To do our comrades justice, though, Avilov found no followers among them, and when it came to the vote he was invariably in the minority, and very often alone, in supporting his resolution. The leading nucleus of the Petersburg Committee then shared the view of which the fundamental thesis was that, in so far as the Provisional Government was carrying out the tasks of the revolution and upholding its conquests against counter­revolutionary infringements, to that extent our Party ought to give it support, struggling against it only in so far as it retreated from the programme of the revolution.

This platform thus, unlike Avilov’s, did not bind the Party to anyone, but left its hands free for any method of struggle.

Those views were expounded in their speeches most often by two old Party workers of the underground period, namely, the present chairman of the All-Russia Central Executive Committee M.I. Kalinin (Ivanov), who already at that time enjoyed in the Party the general respect he deserved, and Comrade Vladimir (whose real surname was Zalezhsky), another out-standing activist in the underground struggle.

So far as I could judge by my impressions, this point of view was then the dominant one in our Petrograd organisation, and was shared by the majority of the members of the Petersburg Committee as at first constituted. Comrade L.M. Mikhailov (Politicus) conducted the meeting in a very lively and witty way; but made comparatively infrequent contributions on the substance of the issues being discussed.

Comrade Nikolai (V.Schmidt), now the People’s Commissar of Labour, was then the secretary of the Petersburg Committee. A notable part was played in the committee’s work by Comrade Ariatoly (Antipov). Comrade Zhemchuzhin (who was later shot by the Finnish Whites in Helsingfors) and Comrade Sulimov did not usually speak at the committee meetings. Other district representatives were also not distinguished for loquacity and usually stayed silent, but voted unanimously for resolutions.

It was Comrade Podvoisky who first uttered the phrase: “The revolution is not over, it is just beginning.”

By saying that “the revolution is not over, it is just beginning,” Comrade Podvoisky meant that the proletariat had not yet reaped the fruits of victory and still faced a desperate struggle for power. This gave the Party’s thinking the shake-up it needed, provided a true Marxist prospect of development, and inspired in us a militant, revolutionary mood.

Active support for this standpoint was received from Comrade V.M. Molotov (Skryabin). He was then a member of the Bureau of the Petersburg Committee and gave the report on the current situation at one of the committee’s first meetings. His report was serious and circumstantial, but without Avilov’s unwieldy academicism, and could not have been more to the point.

The theses of Molotov’s report were distinctly Bolshevik. There was no question of support for the Provisional Government, even “in so far that extent”. From a class analysis of the contending forces, Comrade Molotov drew the conclusion that it was necessary for the working class, and consequently for its Party, to continue the struggle against the bourgeoisie which had come to power. The slogan of deepening and broadening the revolution ran like a red thread through his entire report.

While Comrade Molotov was giving his report M.S Olminsky (Aleksandrov) arrived from Moscow. Comrade Olminsky gave a brief account of the development of revolutionary events in Moscow and of the mood of the Moscow workers and the Party’s Moscow Committee. From what he said one could conclude that the comrades in Moscow were more to the Left and the Moscow Committee was working more harmoniously.

After Comrade Olminsky’s contribution, debate began on Comrade Molotov’s report, and when somebody showed an inclination towards theoretical abstractions a la Avilov Mikhail Stepanovich [Olminsky] was unable to control himself and indignantly broke in: “We comrades in Moscow are able to understand each other without a lot of talk, and don’t waste time in idle arguments.” When Comrade Molotov had finished his concluding speech, Comrade Olminsky and I went up to him and discussed the theses of his report.

Essentially, there were no differences between the three of us where fundamentals were concerned. But Comrade Olminsky and I considered that, despite the correctness of the class analysis of the revolution given by the rapporteur, and the Party tactics indicated by him, his conclusions were in need of some rectification. Personally, I held the following views at that time. Our Party could not have the slightest confidence in the Provisional Government, given its bourgeois composition, with only one ‘socialist’ in it, namely, Kerensky – mere hostage in the hands of the bourgeoisie. From this it followed that our Party would be drawn by the objective process of history into a fight for power against the Provisional Government. But, since the revolution was still threatened by the ‘black danger’ of a Tsarist restoration, we should, while not ceasing to struggle against the Provisional Government, give it support insofar as it was combating the survival of Tsardom, but only until the immediate threat of counter-revolution had passed.

Comrade Olminsky advocated more or less the same rectification, and, in general, we backed each other up in the discussion. Such minor differences in shades of opinion were not, of course, of substantial importance.

We were given cause in those very same days to be convinced of the possibility of counter-revolutionary outbreaks by expiring Tsardom. I recall that during one of our meetings we had a visitor from Tsarskoye Selo, [12] one of the local inhabitants who was a member of our Party. She told us that a detachment of Knights of St George [13] was advancing from the front towards Petrograd under the command of General Ivanov. She added that, before their train could reach Tsarskoye Selo, the railway track had been torn up in front of it, and the Tsarskoye Selo area committee of the Party had sent agitators to meet the approaching soldiers. Further information communicated by the comrade from Tsarskoye Selo showed that the Knights of St George had been deceived by stories of anarchy and massacre in Petrograd. These forerunners of the subsequent counter-revolutionary marchers on Petrograd had been deluded by the same methods as were used later. All the political intriguers, all the enemies of the revolution employed, in order to arouse hatred among the soldier masses with a low level of consciousness, against the revolutionary vanguard, the workers of Petrograd, one and the-same set of fables about anarchy in the capital. This was the method used by the Provisional Government on July 3-5, by Kornilov at the end of August, and, finally, by Kerensky during the historic days of the great October Revolution.

Unlike, however, all the other White Guard marches on Petrograd, this first counter-revolutionary deception of frontline soldiers did not give rise to any concern for the fate of the Revolution and did not call for intense effort by the Party. The Petersburg Committee reacted very calmly to the news of General Ivanov’s advance. Evidently, nobody took this threat seriously. The whole affair amounted merely to a few comrades volunteering to go at once to General Ivanov’s echelon in order to explain the political situation to the Knights of St George. Among the volunteers was Comrade Olga Solskaya, who spoke mainly in order to analyse class relations in the countryside and in those days showed a slight tendency towards syndicalism.

Besides despatching these agitators, the Petersburg Committee also took some measures to strengthen work among the men of the Petersburg garrison and to ensure particular vigilance.

It was of course the case that the Petersburg Committee had its living, direct roots among the workers who delegated district representatives to it, while, on the other hand, old worker members of the Petersburg Committee in the underground period, had automatically become members of the new committee when they emerged from prison in the February days. But even then, in the first days of its legal existence, the Petersburg Committee also possessed strong links with soldiers of the city’s garrison.

Almost the first unit to make living contact with us was the 1st Machinegun Regiment, which later became a bulwark of Bolshevism and took the initiative in the demonstration of July 3-5. At this time its political physiognomy was not clear, any more than was that of the other regiments stationed in Petrograd. They were all going through a period of primary ideological formation and greedily devoured the words of speakers of the various parties, straining to understand political differences between them.

One day in this period Comrade Sulimov reported to the committee that that evening there was to be a general meeting of the 1st Machinegun Regiment, for elections to the Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, and he proposed that we draw up a mandate. The Petersburg Committee agreed and the task of drafting the mandate was assigned to Comrade Sulimov and me. We went off into the next room and set to work. Within an hour the mandate was ready. Written in the spirit of ‘Order No. 1’ [14] it went further than that, however, demanding, for example, election of officers. The Petersburg Committee approved our text. Comrade Sulimov went straight from the meeting to the People’s House. There, before an audience of soldiers, our Party gained one of its first victories: the mandate was adopted and Bolsheviks entered the Soviet. At the time we were overjoyed at our success. But actually, it was just an isolated success in a single regiment: to bring about the political arousal of the entire garrison of many thousands a special organisation was needed. I did not manage to promote this idea, however. I did not want to bring it up at a meeting of the Petersburg Committee, until I had discussed the details with leading members of the committee. But current work absorbed all the comrades’ time and soon afterward I left for Kronstadt.

Later on, a military organisation was formed under the aegis of the Central Committee of our Party. Comrade Podvoisky took an active part in its formation and activity. But that was after Comrade V. I. Lenin’s return to Russia. Vladimir Ilyich’s arrival marked in general a decisive turning-point in our Party’s tactics. It must be confessed that before his arrival there was rather a lot of confusion in the Party. There was no definite, consistent line. The task of taking state power was depicted by the majority as a sort of distant ideal and not, as a rule, presented as a close, urgent and immediate aim. It was considered sufficient to support the Provisional Government, using one formula or another, with these or those reservations and, of course, retaining the right to apply the widest criticism. Inside the Party there was no unit of thought: vacillation and disunity were typical, everyday phenomena especially showing themselves at broad Party and fraction meetings. The Party had no authoritative leader to weld it into unity and draw it behind him. In the person ‘Ilyich’ the Party received back its old, experienced leader, who took that task upon himself.

After Comrade Lenin’s arrival I did not see Avilov again even on the threshold of our Party institutions. The Right-wing Bolsheviks were swept away as though by a mop. By the current of life they were cast into the camp of the ‘in-between’ Novaya Zhizn. [15] All the rest of the comrades were quickly united under Lenin’s leadership and the Party became of one mind, gradually and not without internal struggle and wavering, adopting Comrade Lenin’s slogans and tactics. [16]

And yet, when on the day that he arrived Comrade Lenin loudly uttered in his first speeches the words: “Long live the socialist revolution!” I remember that this slogan really alarmed not only the Novaya Zhiznite Sukhanov, who was mortally afraid of the revolution, but also certain Party comrades. At that time not everyone was able rapidly to appreciate this call, which seemed almost Maximalist, [17] for the socialist revolution that was within a few months to create the RSFSR, this call which already at that time Comrade Lenin gave out as a practical slogan, as something for the immediate future.

In a short time, however, all serious opposition had died away. It was then already not difficult to grasp what our Party’s tasks in the revolution were and to understand that without an immediate transfer of power into the hands of the Soviets the conquests won by whole generations of the working class were threatened with inevitable doom. But at the very beginning of the revolution, in the first days of March when the meetings of the Petersburg Committee which I have described were taking place, it was very much harder to find one’s way amid the intricate conjuncture of events.

It is easy to see that those comrades who were on the left wing of the Petersburg Committee were advocating before Comrade Lenin’s return what was essentially his tactical line. This line, as experience showed, was the shortest distance between the two points of the revolution: between February and October 1917.


1. The oprichniki were the praetorian guard of Ivan the Terrible, in the 16th century. Their reputation for atrocities caused their name to be applied ever afterwards as a term of abuse to the ‘forces of law and order’ when these were thought to be acting too severely.

2. The building of the Singer Sewing-Machine Company, which now houses the largest bookshop in Leningrad. The glass globe on the roof (the Singer trademark) was and is one of the city’s landmarks.

3. The word here translated as ‘sub-depot’ means literally ‘half-depot’: the difference from a ‘depot’ is one of size, not of subordination.

4. The Black Hundreds were thugs of the Union of the Russian People, an ultra-nationalist and anti-Semitic group which often attacked revolutionaries. Among the latter the term ‘Black Hundred’ came to be used rather loosely, for any militant reactionary opponents, much as ‘fascist’ is used today.

5. The right wing (literally!) of the Taurida Palace was occupied by the Provisional Committee of the Duma, from which the Provisional Government emerged, while the left wing was taken over by the Petrograd Soviet.

6. The Union of Zemstvos and Towns was a voluntary grouping of leading members of local authorities, in country and town, which came into being during the war in order to supplement by private initiative the deficiencies of the Tsarist administration in relation to the war effort.

7. The Constitutional Democratic Party, which emerged as the principal party of the liberal bourgeoisie, was popularly called the ‘Cadet’ Party, from the Russian initials of its name.

8. ‘Alexei’ was the Tsar's son, then aged 13. ‘Mikhail’ was the Tsar's brother, Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich.

9. Raskolnikov had been arrested in May 1912, when acting as editorial secretary of Pravda.

10. Helsinki was then still usually known to non-Finns by its Swedish name, Helsingfors. In the first days of the February Revolution a number of unpopular officers were lynched by the sailors stationed there.

11. The rank-and-file policemen showed a great deal more devotion in defence of the Tsarist regime than did most of their social ‘betters’ and political masters. Raskolnikov's brother Ilyin-Zhenevsky wrote, in his book From the February Revolution to the October Revolution (partial English translation published in 1931): “Now, when passions have died down somewhat, we can state impartially that the Petersburg police during these days displayed rare though utterly futile heroism. Locked in their attics, they did not leave their posts until they were driven out by force.” (p. 18), Revolutionary banner, March 1917.

12. Tsarskoye Selo was renamed, after the Revolution, Detskoye Seto (Children's Village) and is now called Pushkin.

13. Soldiers who had been decorated with the Cross of St. George for bravery in battle. At this time they were sometimes formed into special units in the hope that they would show more zeal than other soldiers.

14. ‘Order No. 1’, issued by the Petrograd Soviet, provided for the election of rank-and-file committees in all units of the army and navy, for the extension of ordinary civil rights to members of the armed forces, and various other reforms aimed at democratising the latter. The text is given in The Russian Provisional Government, ed. R.P. Browder and A.F. Kerensky, 1961, Vol.II, pp. 845-849.

15. Novaya Zhizn (‘The New Life’), published between April 1917 and July 1918, edited by Maxim Gorky, was the paper of the ‘Menshevik-Internationalists’.

16. Raskolnikov tends to gloss over the resistance to Lenin's ‘April Theses’. At the meeting of the Bureau of the Central Committee on April 6 both Kamenev and Stalin spoke against, and the Petersburg Committee rejected the theses by 13 votes to 2, with one abstention.

17. The Maximalists were a semi-anarchist group, which had broken away from the Socialist-Revolutionary Party. (In the early days of the October Revolution the British Press often referred to the Bolsheviks as ‘Maximalists’ through a misunderstanding of the meaning of their name - ‘majority men’.)

1. On a Party mission to Kronstadt

During one of my frequent visits to the Petersburg Committee I met K.S. Yeremeyev. From him and from Comrade V. M. Molotov I learnt that the following day was to see the publication of the first issue of the post-revolutionary Pravda.

Owing to the insufficient supply of writers in the first period (because the Party’s principal forces had not yet managed to return from exile and emigration) we felt a particular shortage of printed propaganda for our ideas and slogans. The cloudy and vague Liberal-and-SR romanticism of the early days of the February Revolution had to be countered by the clear-cut socialist programme and the uniquely revolutionary tactics of the Bolsheviks. The Bolshevik workers’ newspaper was to serve as the best instrument of this mass-scale propaganda and agitation.

Later in the evening at the conclusion of a meeting of the Petersburg Committee, K.S. Yeremeyev and V.M. Molotov went off to produce the first issue of Pravda. Konstantin Stepanovich [Yeremeyev] boasted that he had already, by armed force, seized for the purposes of our paper the spacious premises of Selsky Vestnik (The Rural Herald).

Two days later, after writing an article on the subject of the bourgeois and democratic republic, I took it along to the editorial department of Pravda. Konstantin Stepanovich certainly had something to boast about. It was clear that Selsky Vestnik (subsidised by the Government) had succeeded in setting itself up rather well under the old regime. It had occupied a huge stone building on the bank of the Moika, splendidly equipped for newspaper work. Within this same building was a large printing press, with rotary machines. From somewhere in the depths one could hear the characteristic heavy sound of these rotaries at work.

In the yard, which gave on to the adjoining lane, bales of agricultural literature lay about. Straight from the embankment I mounted the main staircase to the first floor, where the editorial department of our proletarian newspaper was now established. The narrow corridor was tightly blocked by bulky packages of issues of Selsky Vestnik.

I approached the first door on the right and heard the familiar voice of Konstantin Stepanovich say: “Come in.” In the room, besides him, was M.S. Olminsky, who had recently arrived from Moscow. I handed them my manuscript. Comrade Yeremeyev said that he had just received an article from Maxim Gorky, [1] but that it was absolutely impossible to publish this, because it was permeated from beginning to end with deeply pessimistic sentiments concerning the devastation and killing that had occurred. I expressed frank astonishment that such a major artist as Gorky had proved unable to find the necessary words, and had seen in the revolution nothing but the Russian people’s lack of culture and the destructive element.

This depressed mood of the democratic intelligentsia, stunned by the colossal sweep of the mass revolution, subsequently found sharp reflection in the newspaper Novaya Zhizn. In Gorky’s article the future ideology of ‘Novaya-Zhiznism’ was already latent in embryo. Naturally, the article was not published.

One day, when I met Comrades Yeremeyev and Molotov in the editors’ room they greeted me with the question: “Wouldn’t you like to go and work at Kronstadt?” Comrade Molotov explained: “Some comrades from Kronstadt were here recently and asked us to give them at least one writer to edit their local Party organ, Golos Pravdy (‘The Voice of Truth’). And they mentioned you specifically.” I replied that I fully agreed to the proposal. “But if you are to go you must go at once,” added Comrade Yeremeyev. “They made a point of that because they are in a very difficult situation. Our Party’s influence at Kronstadt is growing, but there is nobody to consolidate it because our paper can’t be what it ought to be owing to the lack of writers.”

On March 17 I was already on my way by the Baltic railway line to Oranienbaum. [2] The train was crowded with officers who had fled from Kronstadt during the stormy days of the revolution and were now gradually rejoining their units. Their conversation revolved around the recent killings at Kronstadt. According to them what had happened was that the wrath of the mob had fallen upon totally innocent persons. The chief blame for these spontaneous settlements of account with the officers was laid, of course, upon the sailors. Together with intransigent bitterness the officers showed personal fear of the fate awaiting them. “No, I don’t want to die,” said one young Lieutenant, giving expression to the thought of all: “It would be interesting to see the new Russia.”

Incidentally, about those killings. The bourgeois newspapers, in frenzied exasperation, ascribed the shootings of officers at Kronstadt to our Party and in particular laid responsibility for them upon me. But I arrived at Kronstadt after the phase of spontaneous settlements of account was over. As for our Party, as soon as it had gained control of the Kronstadt masses, it launched a vigorous struggle against lynch-law. The shootings of officers which took place in the first days of March bore an absolutely spontaneous character and our Party had nothing whatsoever to do with them.

But when later on, having arrived at Kronstadt, I tried to ascertain the origin and nature of these so-called ‘excesses’ which had aroused universal indignation among the bourgeoisie but left the working class wholly indifferent, I came to the definite conclusion that these shootings had not in the least assumed the form of a ‘pogrom’, an extermination of all officers without exception, which was how the bourgeoisie sought to depict the affair. The sailors, soldiers and workers of Kronstadt, having broken through to freedom, took their revenge for age-old humiliation and insult. But to a surprising extent this movement, which was led by nobody, aimed its blows with remarkable precision. From the elemental rage of the crowd only those officers suffered who had distinguished themselves by most cruel and unjust treatment of the sailor and soldier masses under their command.

The first day of the revolution saw the killing of Admiral Wiren, who had won for himself throughout the fleet the reputation of a brute. His entire system was based on harsh repression and insult to the human dignity of the soldier and the sailor. It was not surprising that the universal hatred he had sown should have burst forth at the first possible moment.

No less well-known throughout Kronstadt, and even far beyond it, as a harsh and inhuman officer, was the commander of the 1st Baltic Fleet Depot, Colonel Stronsky. It was against Wiren and Stronsky first and foremost that the anger of the revolutionary crowd was directed. Their fate was shared by the myrmidons of these satraps of the old regime who, adapting themselves to the course followed by the state, had implemented a policy of stick and knout. Officers who had shown themselves just and humane were not merely spared but, as a sign of special trust, were even elected to the highest positions of command. Thus, Senior Lieutenant P.N. Lamanov was from the first days of the revolution placed at the head of all the naval forces in Kronstadt. To the best of my knowledge there were no guiltless victims in Kronstadt. What happened there was not at all an indiscriminate massacre of officers, but only reprisals against particular individuals who had besmirched themselves under the old regime.

In any case, during the subsequent development of the revolution there were no spontaneous shootings. When charges, old or new, were brought against any concealed counter-revolutionaries, they were put under arrest and handed over to Kronstadt’s investigating commission, which was headed at that time by our Party Comrade I.D. Sladkov.

In the first days, however, the February Revolution did develop in violent forms in Kronstadt.

By their cowardly indecision, their vacillation between the old and the new, the supreme administrative authorities, the commander-in-chief of the port, Admiral Wiren, and the commandant of the fortress, Admiral Kurosh, merely rendered the situation more acute, pouring oil on the flames.

It was known to them already on the morning of February 28 that a revolution had taken place in Petrograd, but they did not believe in its success, did not recognise that it was irreversible: secretly hoping for a counter-revolutionary coup, they preferred to remain silent, outwardly preserving their loyalty to the old regime. In the afternoon of February 28 they summoned representatives of the officers of the fleet and the garrison to a conference. The question before the conference was: could the soldiers and sailors be relied on if they were required to go and put down revolutionary Petrograd? Most of the officers said frankly that they could not be relied on, since, given the feeling prevalent among the masses, the sailors and soldiers would at once unite with the revolutionary forces. But even after the general situation had thus been clarified neither Kurosh nor Wiren took any measures at all to make public announcement of the events which had taken place in Petrograd the day before. Instead, fresh measures of constraint were applied. The sailors with families, who were usually allowed to spend the night at home, were on this day given leave only until 10pm.

During the night of February 28 the sound of firing was heard in Kronstadt, from the direction of Oranienbaum. And then Izvestiya [3] arrived from Petrograd and from it the sailors and solders learnt with intense interest the whole course of the revolutionary events.

The night passed in a state of disturbance. In many units nobody slept and the whole night was spent in lively political discussion. Everyone was excited. The movement started to develop when it was well on into the night. One after another, units, led by their bands, began to come out on to the streets, collecting up the rest of the soldiers and sailors as they went. Among the first to rise was the 1st Baltic Fleet Depot. A great impression was made when the 2nd Fortress Artillery Regiment joined in. The entire regiment, including all its officers, came out on to the street. The regimental commander carried a flag and the band played the Marseillaise.

As dawn came, a crowd of sailors approached the house of the commander-in-chief and called for him to come out into the street. Admiral Wiren got dressed and when he had reached the street gave the command: “Attention!” This command, so inappropriate to the occasion, was met with a storm of laughter. The Admiral then immediately lowered his tone and, appealing to the crowd, invited them to follow him to Anchor Square where, he promised, he would make known everything that had happened in Petrograd. In reply cries of “Too late, too late,” rang out. A sailor ran up to the Admiral and tore off his epaulettes. On the way to the Square Wiren began to confess his crimes against the sailors and to beg them to spare his life. When they got to Anchor Square the sailors shot him. [4]

Admiral Butakov died more bravely than Wiren. This Admiral, a man of very small stature, simply refused to repudiate the old regime and did not humble himself, clinging to his life, as Wiren had done.

According to official statements the number of naval and military officers who were killed was 36. Many more ‘dragons’ (as the sailors called the Tsarist officers) were arrested and sent to the preliminary-investigation prison. In this category were those officers who had been known for their excessive severity, or who had been detected in unscrupulous handling of government funds. [5]

Some of these officers could not control themselves and made their situation worse. When one officer was arrested and was being taken to the preliminary-investigation prison, he started to rage at his captors: “Just you wait, you scoundrels – the machinegun regiment is coming over from Oranienbaum, and they’ll skin you alive.”

These threats infuriated the sailors escorting him and he was killed on the spot. It was still too uncertain what the morrow would bring...

The policemen and secret police agents occupied the Golubev house and held out there with machineguns. A six-inch gun had to be brought up and fired, carrying away the roof and smashing the upper part of the building. After that, the policemen and secret police agents surrendered. Six of them were killed and the other eight arrested. The revolutionaries lost seven men altogether.

Processions marched through the streets all day on March 1 while defenders of the old regime were being arrested. On March 2 and 3 the movement began to assume more organised forms. A Kronstadt Bolshevik committee was soon set up and began to play a very important role in the movement. Everywhere, in the squares and in the Naval Drill Hall, our Party set about holding meetings at which responsible Party workers explained the political questions of the day, our attitudes to the war, to the Provisional Government and to the Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies.

On March 15 the Bolshevik daily newspaper Golos Pravdy began to appear.

When I reached Oranienbaum I joined with an engineer who happened to be going the same way to hire a sleigh-cab in which to cross the ice to Kronstadt.

To the questions of my talkative travelling companion about why I was making the journey I replied that I was going to the Naval Economic Society to order an officer’s uniform. As I had not yet been promoted to Sub-Lieutenant and was still wearing cadet’s uniform, my story seemed quite plausible.

Soon after crossing the ‘Marquis’s Puddle’, [6] we emerge from the ice into a deserted street on the outskirts of Kronstadt I had never been to Kronstadt before and tried by looking around me to find some sign of our Party committee. After a few turns from one street into another we soon found ourselves in square where I saw a red flag flying over a small house which bore a prominent signboard on which was written in big letters ‘Kronstadt Committee of the RSDLP’.

By a coincidence it so happened that the Naval Economic Society was also nearby. Either way, therefore, this was my destination. After saying goodbye to my fellow-traveller I made my way to the building of the Party Committee. This single storey house, situated near the Sub-Depot, had previously been the home of the town commandant.

2. Kronstadt – as a revolutionary centre

Kronstadt occupies a special place in the history of the October Revolution. All through 1917 Kronstadt played an outstanding political role, sometimes focusing upon itself the attention of all Russia and evoking around its name the lying, fantastic concoctions and frenzied, hate-laden curses of the bourgeoisie. In their eyes Kronstadt was a symbol of savage horror, the devil incarnate, a terrifying spectre of anarchy, a nightmare rebirth of the Paris Commune on Russian soil. And this panic fear of the bourgeoisie at the mere thought of Kronstadt was no accidental misunderstanding, caused by the lying inventions of the capitalist press. It was a completely natural fear for their interests, a fear dictated by the class instinct of the bourgeoisie.

Quite different, absolutely contrary, were the feelings that Kronstadt inspired in those days among the revolutionary workers, soldiers and peasants. Kronstadt in 1917 was the impregnable citadel of the revolution, the safe stronghold against any sort of counter-revolution. Kronstadt was acknowledged by all as the vanguard of the revolution.

But what were the causes that thrust Kronstadt so far ahead, what factors made it the vanguard of the revolutionary front? Underlying the exceptional revolutionary role played by Kronstadt were some specific social and economic conditions.

Kronstadt was, first and foremost, a military fortress guard in the approaches to Petrograd from the sea, and at the same time the principal rear-base of the Baltic Fleet. The civilian population of Kronstadt, a comparatively small number of persons, had always consisted mainly of workers in the Government factories, the docks and the numerous workshops belonging to the Navy Department. In harmony with the overall Kronstadt scene, a severe, draconian regime prevailed in all these enterprises. Everywhere a military administration was in charge an industry was for practical purposes militarised. The labour movement was so crushed under Tsardom that in Kronstadt there were not even any trade unions. In the process of revolution, however, class consciousness developed in spite of everything; it grew stronger, became hardened, and willy-nilly, brought the workers into the embrace of the Bolshevik Party. As a result, the working class constituted, together with the sailors, a most substantial bulwark of our Kronstadt Party organisation and constantly played an advanced, leading role. The very small and politically insignificant Kronstadt bourgeoisie consisted of house-owners, innkeepers and middle-income merchants. By virtue of the ‘Municipal Statute’ of 1890, which favoured them, this not particularly distinguished group controlled Kronstadt’s Town Council and held full power over the local economy. In their municipal policy they regularly promoted, of course, only such measures as suited their own interests, the predatory interests of the bourgeoisie. And the eye of the supreme authorities, watching keenly over the activity of the municipal government, did not encourage any manifestation of initiative or originality.

The Kronstadt bourgeoisie confined their ‘public’ activity to the town council and some meagre philanthropic and charity work, and never showed their heads politically. A section of this bourgeoisie, grouped around the sanctimonious hypocrite Ioann of Kronstadt, openly adhered to the Union of the Russian People. [7]

On the first day of the revolution the bourgeoisie of Kronstdat was dismissed from the revolutionary scene. Understanding nothing of what had happened, it fled from the arena of contending political forces. No other solution was available to it, anyway: it would inevitably have been swept from the battlefront of the revolution. A very narrow stratum of the petty bourgeoisie tried at first to establish its hegemony over the working class, but this miserable attempt ended in complete failure.

In the revolutionary movement at Kronstadt the hegemony of the proletariat immediately showed itself in clear-cut form.

The overwhelming majority of the population of Kronstadt consisted of sailors and soldiers, the former considerably outnumbering the latter. This numerical preponderance of the sailors, which determined the tone of political life, set an indelible imprint on the entire course of the revolution at Kronstadt.

The Kronstadt sailors were a politically advanced element. The point is that the very conditions of service in the Navy call for persons who possess special technical training, that is, they require skilled workers. Every sailor is, in the first place, specialist: a minelayer, an electrician, a gunner, an engineer and so on. Every special trade presupposes a certain body of knowledge and a certain technical training obtained through practice. Consequently, those accepted into the Navy were in the main workers who had passed through a trade school and had by practical experience mastered some special skill. The Navy was particularly keen to take in fitters, electrician engineers, mechanics, blacksmiths, and so on. [8]

The proletarian past of the immense majority of the ship crews, this link between the sailors and the factories, gave them a distinctive social profile, set upon them a clear-cut proletarian class imprint which favourably distinguished them from the soldiers, who were recruited mostly from the rural petty-bourgeoisie.

A well-defined class spirit, sometimes even a Bolshevik cast of mind, a certain intellectual development, and a stock professional knowledge – that was what the ordinary sailor usually brought with him when he entered the Navy. While in the overwhelming majority of cases it was easy to detect the proletarian under the sailor’s peajacket and duck-blouse, the sailors of Kronstadt were almost all urban workers from only yesterday.

This exceptional situation was due to the circumstances that since far-off, immemorable times Kronstadt had been the seed-plot, so to speak, of specialist naval knowledge for the entire Baltic Fleet.

While on the one hand Kronstadt fulfilled a cultural mission, as school of enlightenment, on the other hand it was also a prison. Even in its outward appearance the town gave a sombre, gloomy impression. It was a sort of uniform, deadly-monotonous barracks of a place. And, indeed, hardly anywhere else were people made to suffer so severely as at Kronstadt.

Here there was a disciplinary battalion, in which those sailors who had been assigned to the ‘penal category’ – that is, who had been de facto put outside the law’s protection – underwent exquisite torture, both physical and mental. Thus, for example, the Tsarist disciplinary regulations permitted the application to them of corporal punishment, whereas everywhere else in Russia this had been abolished. Kronstadt had no less than five prisons, not to mention the numerous cells in the barracks. But that was not all. Throughout Kronstadt, in ships and barracks alike, reigned a ruthlessly severe regime of stick and knout, the most unrestrained oppression by ferocious, so-called ‘service’ discipline.

When the authorities transferred sailors from a vessel and sent them to Kronstadt, they saw this posting as a very heavy administrative punishment. In their minds the island of Katlin was as hateful as the island of Sakhalin, that dismal forced dwelling-place of exiles and convicts. [9]

In order to maintain this regime of the rod in proper working order a reliable ruling apparatus was needed and, above all, a proper selection of the higher commanding personnel. Only such generals and admirals as had over a period of many decades made themselves known as experienced, cold-hearted and calculating practitioners of cruelty, only adherents of harsh repression and the merciless whip could expect to be given high appointments at Kronstadt. Only Wirens and Kuroshes who had shown a taste for human blood were assigned to top administrative jobs in the island fortress. Admiral Wiren, that typical Tsarist satrap, outstanding blockhead and unbridled tyrant, looked upon Kronstadt as his personal estate graciously granted to him for uncontrolled wholesale pillage and predatory exploitation.

This old, hardened bully, who had passed through the whole school of brutal militarism from one end to the other and had absorbed into his blood all the foul poison of command under Tsardom, diligently applied, with a zeal that markedly exceeded his intellect, a regime of slavishly blind, unquestioning obedience, maintaining this regime by means of unwieldy punitive apparatus of the most ruthless repression.

Being excessively zealous, he looked everywhere for derelictions of duty, carrying his stupidly exacting ways to the point of petty, irritating captiousness. Thus, for example, it was habit, when being driven through the town in a motor car, to take with him a sheet of paper and a pencil. If he spotted that some sailor who was standing around had failed to spring to attention when he saw him, or did so only with a slight delay, at once ordered his driver to stop the car, beckoned the sailor over, noted down his name and without curbing his tone proceeded to give him a very severe reprimand. But the matter did not end there. The sailor knew that his biggest punishment was yet to come. For failure to spring to attention Admiral Wiren often sentenced a man to thirty days’ detention. Every journey they made through the town resulted in a long list of sailors caught out in carelessness, who had to pay heavily for their accidental and absurdly trivial blunder.

The savage tyranny of this extravagant oprichnik went so that, for example, to check fulfilment of the order forbidding sailors to wear their own clothes, he adopted the practice personally ascertaining whether a sailor’s clothes were mark on the inside with the Government stamp. This monstrous experiment in which the sailor was made to half-undress was carried out without the slightest inhibition, in the sight of all right there in the street. Even the officers, though in every respect placed in an incomparably more privileged position, oftentimes felt the weight of the Admiral’s wrath. The merest trifle, such as wearing non-uniform clothing, was enough to get oneself arrested.

Even the civil population did not escape this universal bullying militarisation. The boys of Kronstadt high school had to accord expressions of ‘service politeness’ to Wiren, that is, in plain words, to jump to attention when he appeared. Maintenance of his thoroughgoing penal-bureaucratic system, consistently applied from top to bottom, necessitated planned organisation. All the henchmen of the cruel Admiral, all the officers serving under his command, had to apply wherever they were this same ruthless policy of suppression and they mercilessly meted out ‘justice and punishment’ to their subordinates. Every ‘lower rank’ was seen by them as a soulless automaton, created merely in order to obey without question whenever given orders.

The task of controlling the lower ranks was facilitated by the fact that the naval officers constituted, owing to the conditions of their recruitment from the noble estate, an exclusive caste that served the ruling class not from fear but for conscience sake. Those rare individual officers who managed to retain a ‘live soul’ in this stifling cesspit, and looked on the sailors and soldiers as their equals, had to seek out ways of friendly intercourse with them, resorting to careful conspiratorial procedures as though they were daring to commit a serious crime.

Discipline is a stick with two ends. It recalls to us that ‘great chain’ which, in the poet’s words, ‘snapped in two and flew back, striking the lord with one end and the peasant with the other’. On the one hand, crude military discipline crushed subordinates unbearably: on the other, it corrupted the commanders themselves to an incredible degree. Beatings, insults, leading to acts of suicide, carping oppression – all this surprised nobody, aroused nobody’s indignation in old Kronstadt except among the oppressed themselves.

Behind Admiral Wiren, Admiral Butakov and Colonel Stronsky, those certificated despots, trailed, in a greedy pack, a whole string of minor ambitious careerists, prepared to do absolutely anything to promote their selfish interests, to rise in the service, and who in their zeal sometimes eclipsed the inventiveness of their masters.

This oppressive Tsarist regime inflamed with burning hatred the hearts of all who suffered under its weight. Rare was the sailor who lived without a dream of overthrowing the accursed, hateful regime. That was why nowhere were conquests of the revolution so highly valued, nowhere was the loss so greatly feared as in 1917 at Red Kronstadt.

What was it that made the Tsarist regime, which was in general not mercifully disposed, subject Kronstadt to even more convulsive pressure than was applied elsewhere, turning the place into a sort of vicious, sinister and terrifying torture chamber? That question is not hard to answer. One needs only to remember the period 1905-1906. Kronstadt raised the red standard high even in those days. The armed rebellion of October 26-27, 1905, wrote a golden page in the history of the Russian Revolutionary navy. Finally, the inexhaustible and irreconcilable revolutionary spirit of Kronstadt caused it to break in armed mutiny a second time, in the summer of 1906. On occasion too, however, the bold and glorious action of Kronstadters ended, alas, in failure. Kronstadt remained alone: it was not supported by Russia. [10]

The Tsar’s Government could never forgive the men of Kronstadt for these two stormy revolts. It could not reconcile itself to the thought that the garrison of a fortress adjacent to the capital was revolutionary. And so it viciously revenged itself on Kronstadt. It lived in panic fear of revolutionary outbreaks which might serve as a signal summoning all Russia to rise, and swore to force the Kronstadters to knuckle under, to stamp out every manifestation of revolutionary spirit among them and reduce them to meek submission.

This fight against the revolutionary sailors of Kronstadt was carried on not only by means of the most ferocious repression, but also of the most cunning tricks of political detection. The zeal of certain dregs of the officers was such that they formally established on their ships branches of the secret police department, so as to be able to sniff out ‘sedition’ and send the most advanced and revolutionary of the sailors to penal servitude. But the harsher the oppression exerted by Wiren’s excesses, the more rapidly did open discontent increase and the sooner was the idea of armed resistance awakened. Now and then this anger seething underground burst forth into the open. Thus, in 1915 there was a sudden mutiny on the battleship Gangut, caused by discontent with the officers’ behaviour. Needless to say, the sad Iist of sailors executed by the Tsar was lengthened by several more names, and the gates of the hard-labour prisons closed on dozens of living men who had been thrown into them to suffer slow death. This mutiny was a spontaneous outbreak. But, besides such elemental manifestations, persevering and conscious organisational work was being carried on.

After 1905, illegal Party organisations enjoyed almost continuous existence in Kronstadt. Party activity started to find particularly lively expression from 1912 onwards, when the period of reaction began to come to an end, and the upsurge of the working-class movement which was now making itself felt stirred interest in politics and brought about a very big influx of members for the Bolshevik Party. Hardly had one organisation come to grief than another arose to take its place. The excellent training received in the illegal Party cells had created, by time the revolution came, an experienced cadre of Party workers.

In addition to the naval units, several artillery and infantry regiments were stationed at Kronstadt, and also specialist troops – sappers, telegraphists, railway units, and so on.

During the period of reaction a relationship of sullen hostility prevailed between the naval and military units. The Tsarist authorities made every effort to set the soldiers against sailors, sowing irreconcilable dissension between them. In the way they spoke they fostered by every means an attitude of mutual distrust between the two groups. Sometimes fist fights and even real battles occurred in the town, between the ‘men’ and the ‘army men’ as they were commonly called. When this happened Wiren and his like rubbed their hands. ‘Divide and rule’ – that age-old formula was the living principle their base, crafty policy.

The soldiers of the Kronstadt garrison were not very different from soldiers in other localities, but, because of unavoidable contact with the more cultured element of the naval crews, their political consciousness and cultural maturity was nevertheless at a higher level than that of their comrades who were stationed in other parts of Russia.

In 1905-1906, during the Kronstadt rebellions, the regiments acted in solidarity with the naval units. But in the iced-up period of reaction which then followed, the divide between sailors and soldiers reasserted itself, disrupting revolutionary effort, and it was not until the revolution of that this ice was finally broken.


1. For Gorky’s outlook at this time, see his Untimely Thoughts, English translation published in 1970.

2. Oranienbaum (now called Lomonosov) is on the mainland south of Kotlin Island, on which Kronstadt stands. In winter the usual approach to Kronstadt would be by train to Oranienbaum and then by sleigh over the ice, whereas in summer one could sail direct from Petrograd to Kronstadt.

3. Isvestiya was the organ of the Petrograd Soviet.

4. An account of Admiral Wiren’s death, by his widow, is included in H. Graf, The Russian Navy in War and Revolution, (1923), pp. 141-142. See also the account by the Anarchist Yarchuk, included in Kronstadt 1921, compiled by A. Skirda, Paris 1971.

5. About 200 officers were put behind bars.

6. The stretch of water between Kronstadt and the Russian mainland was called ‘the Marquis’s Puddle’ after the Marquis de Traversay, a French emigre who became Tsar Alexander I’s Minister of the Navy (1811-1828).

7. I.I. Sergeyev.

8. The Imperial Russian Navy was recruited by conscription.

9. Kotlin is the name of the island on which Kronstadt stands. Sakhalin, off the Pacific coast of Siberia, was used as a penal settlement, like France’s Cayenne and Britain’s Tasmania ('Van Diemen’s Land').

10. After the rioting at Kronstadt in 1905 nearly 3,000 mutineers were arrested, and many sent to prison or exile, but there were no death sentences. After the renewed trouble in 1906, however, 36 of the ringleaders were executed.

At once I came upon a group of leading comrades in one of the rooms of the Kronstadt Party Committee. Among them were Kirll (Orlov), an old Potemkin mutineer; Semyon Roshal, a student of psychoneurology who had been released from the Kresty prison by the events of the February Revolution; Dmitry Zhemchuzhin; and Comrade Ulyantsev, a former hard-labour convict who had been sentenced at the end of 1916 in the sensational case of the Kronstadt sailors. This trial evoked a wide echo because the harsh sentence passed on him had stirred up a great wave of workers’ protest strikes in Petrograd, [1] Moscow and many provincial cities.

The only one of this group I already knew was Roshal. On December 9, 1912, he had been arrested along with others the ‘Witmer’ affair [2] and after the outbreak of war until arrested again he was a member of a group which met in my flat to discuss the question of the war, other current issues, and also Marxist theory. Needless to say, Comrade Roshal always held the Bolshevik position and like me was a Bolshevik-Leninist.

The Kronstadt comrades greeted me with extraordinary warmth and pleasure. We went together into the editor’s room. Through intimate, friendly talk with them I became briefly acquainted with the state of affairs at Kronstadt. The initial period of spontaneous settlement of old scores with the Tsarist oppressors had already passed, and the Kronstadt committee was applying itself, without losing any time, to organised consolidation of the achievements of the revolutionary victory a clarification of the class consciousness of the working people Kronstadt by means of systematic agitation and propaganda. In that connection it was particularly important that the local Party newspaper should be properly conducted. We agreed that I should edit the paper, with the Polytechnic student P. I. Smirnov, who was also a member of the editorial board, as an assistant. He had already brought out the first three issues Golos Pravdy, but on that day he happened to be in Petersburg.

Without more ado I set to work examining the manuscript submitted for publication and even started to prepare to write leading article and a feuilleton. But just then a loud conversation in the next room distracted my attention. It turned out that the town commandant, N.F. Ogarev, had come to remove his furniture from his flat, which the Kronstadt Committee had taken over. Comrade Kirill Orlov, in heated argument with him, was flatly refusing to let the place be stripped of its tables and chairs.

That evening Roshal and I went to the Soviet of Servicemen’s Deputies.

In the first days of the February Revolution a ‘Committee of the Social Movement’, usually spoken of as the ‘Movement Committee’, had been formed at Kronstadt. Later, however, the worker, sailor and soldier masses had set up their own organs and the ‘Movement Committee’, an organisation consisting only of members of the intelligentsia, was replaced by a Soviet of Servicemen’s Deputies and a Soviet of Workers’ Deputies, which at first existed separately.

When we arrived at the Soviet of Servicemen’s Deputies the meeting was in full swing. The big hall of the former officers’ club, equipped with tables and chairs, was full. We stood at the back. By a decision of the Kronstadt masses officers’ epaulettes had already been abolished and the army officers were distinguishable from the soldiers only by the better-quality cloth of their blouses. The naval officers stood out more noticeably owing to their blue, high-collared jackets with a row of gold buttons down the front. But both the military and the naval officers gave themselves away by what they said in their speeches and I realised at once that the Kronstadt Soviet of Servicemen’s Deputies had not yet outgrown the hegemony of the officers. In the chair was a young officer named Krasovsky, who was either from the fortress artillery or else a representative of some infantry regiment. The secretary of the Soviet was a volunteer [3] named Zhivotovsky, the son of a quite well-known rich man. In this first, casually composed Soviet, great authority was wielded by Colonel Dubov, of the construction unit, who quite often spoke at its meetings.

It was a closed session. When we arrived they were dicussing a scandalous matter. Chairman Krasovsky had reported that the widow of the murdered Colonel Stransky had come to him to complain that two persons claiming to represent the newspaper Golos Pravdy had visited her flat, inspected, found it suitable and requisitioned it as editorial premises. This was confirmed by Dubov, who was present at the meeting.

Comrade Roshal then spoke. Speaking excitedly and quickly he declared that the editors of Golos Pravdy had not authorised anyone to inspect Mrs Stronsky’s flat, and added that comrades whom our paper sent out on jobs always carried with them the appropriate documents bearing our seal. After the clarification supplied by Comrade Roshal, the Soviet of Servicemen’s Deputies resolved to despatch two of its members Mrs Stronsky’s flat to arrest the persons who had pretended to be representatives of Golos Pravdy. The mission soon came back bringing a certain Citizen Chernousov, who stated that he had approached Mrs Stronsky not as a representative of Golos Pravdy, but as a member of the Executive Committee of the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies. The chairman of the Soviet Workers’ Deputies, a technology student named Lamanov, who was present at the meeting, declared with feeling that this was a disgraceful business, that nobody had authorised Chernous to requisition the flat and that after what had happened Chnousov could no longer remain a member of the Executive Committee of the Council of Workers’ Deputies.

Comrade Roshal took advantage of the favourable situation thus created and came down heavily upon Krasovsky for having in the course of his remarks spoken very sharply about Golos Pravdy.

In general, the Soviet concerned itself that day only with matters of minor importance.

From the Soviet of Servicemen’s Deputies we went to spend the night at the barracks of the Naval Sub-Depot, which adjoined the building of the Party committee. The elected commander of the Sub-Depot, a tall, vigorous sailor, gave us an account based on his first-hand impressions of the course of the revolutionary events at Kronstadt. In the cells of the Sub-Depot were several officer prisoners, whom the commander was industriously teaching to sing the ‘International’, the revolutionary funeral march, and other revolutionary songs. Next morning I settled down to current work and began to go through the material for the next issue. In addition, I had to write a whole series of articles.

Generally speaking, I was obliged all this time to stay at my desk from morning until evening. Manuscripts arrived in enormous numbers. The revolution had aroused among the workers, sailors and soldiers a remarkable interest in writing. The sailors in particular supplied many articles, items of correspondence and short notes. They were constantly crowding into my room, demanding that I read their manuscripts while they were present, and give my opinion then and there. Among this material offered to the editors I often encountered articles which called for abolition of the St Andrew’s flag, [4] seen as a symbol of coercion and old-regime insults to the sailors. Other notes received were aimed against ranks and decorations, while a third category heatedly defended the principle of election. The overwhelming majority of these articles written by the sailors concerned matters of everyday life which had come to the sailors’ notice in their routine activities. Besides these, though, there were articles of a broader political character, castigating and abusing the autocratic system which had been reduced to scrap by the flood-waters of the February Revolution. All these articles had to be examined and responded to on the spot – sparing so far as possible the feelings of their authors. If an article was for some reason not suitable, then, while encouraging the writer to persist in his literary work, one had to set out carefully the arguments against, publishing what he had written. It was interesting that the overwhelming majority of contributors to our paper were workers, sailors and, to some extent, soldiers. Apart from the members of the editorial board, intellectuals played no part in the paper. Only twice did we receive some undistinguished articles submitted by a teacher at Kronstadt High School, who very soon went over to the Mensheviks. Also, Dr Konge, a member of our Party, contributed now and then some short but meaty articles. Besides editorials and feuilletons I had to write short articles on historical themes, and even notes about local life. Several times during the day Comrade Petrov, the compositor, would come to us from the press: he was a tall young man who wore pince-nez. One day, when I handed over to him several of my articles, he asked me, in a tone of surprise: “How does this Raskolnikov manage to send us his articles from Petrograd?” I had to dispel his perplexity and explain that Raskolnikov was actually at Kronstadt and at that very moment standing before him.

Every evening the study of Marxism was pursued in the room next to the editorial office. Lectures were given by Roshal, Kirill Orlov and Ulyantsev. A large number of representatives of Party groups from the ships attended these study meetings, which were held regularly and with success. This was our first Party school.

When speaking of the leading group of the Kronstadt Committee, I must not fail to mention also our treasurer, a sailor named Stepanov, an unpretentious comrade who carried out with care his modest task of keeping account of our Party’s ‘capital’.

From morning until late evening our closely united group of comrades was kept busy at the Party Committee and in rare instances also elsewhere, but always exclusively on Party work. I edited the paper and wrote articles. Semyon Roshal, Ulyantsev and Kirill conducted the study-group. Now and again Roshal would contribute an article to Golos Pravdy, signing it with his old Party pseudonym, ‘Doctor’. Besides doing this work, Roshal was our principal agitator and for a certain period even the Party organiser. Day after day he travelled round the ships and the waterfront barracks and workshops, not over-looking even the smallest units. An excellent orator, he made speeches on the most topical political subjects and these always met with enormous success. Every one of his speeches was densely crammed with content and at the same time he knew how to present this in a lively way. Whenever it was appropriate he would introduce a funny story, a witty saying, a pointed sarcastic comparison or a biting allusion. If to this we add his erudition and his fiery temperament, it will be appreciated that Roshal enjoyed immense popularity among the Kronstadt masses.

In the afternoon we usually broke off from work and went to eat, in the same building, in the kitchen which also served as the residence of Comrade Kirill and his wife. Comrade Kirill Orlov’s wife was the solicitous housekeeper who looked after us all. It was she who cooked the meal and hospitably entertained us. During the war, when Comrade Kirill was working in the ‘Aivaz’ factory, and the police carried out a search, this woman cleverly hid her husband in a feather-bed. Comrade Kirill’s wife was helped by an efficient sailor named Zhuravlev, who volunteered to take charge of the obtaining of supplies.

At night we all went together to the barracks of the Naval Sub-Depot. One evening the first ‘stranger’ guest appeared in Kronstadt – the representative of another fleet. This was Comrade Polukhin, who was later shot by the British in the Transcaspian steppe as one of the 26 Commissars. He had arrived directly from Archangel. We had endless talks with him. We were extremely interested in the development of events in the North, among the White Sea sailors, and were sincerely glad that Comrade Polukhin had made this first living contact between us.

One day the comrades dragged me out of the editorial den and took me to a meeting at the Naval Drill Hall. After that I often had to break off my work on the paper in order to make speeches. For example, a meeting for working women was organised in the Naval Drill Hall. The downtrodden working women and workers’ wives of Kronstadt listened with profound interest to the Bolsheviks’ speeches which were new to them. Besides me and Roshal, the sailors Pavlov, Kolbin and others also spoke. When the meeting ended the working women chaired some of the speakers and shook their hands with heartfelt gratitude saying: “Thanks for not forgetting us women.”

When a day was set in Petrograd for the funeral of the heroes of the revolution a special delegation to the Field of Mars [5] was sent from Kronstadt under the leadership of Comrade Kirill. A parade and a meeting were held that day in Kronstadt. The parade was taken, in white gloves and high boots, that is, in full parade uniform, by the first elected commander of the naval forces, P.N. Lamanov. After the meeting I made a short speech from an improvised tribune erected in Anchor Square.

Comrade Kirill returned from Petrograd that evening. Usually expansive, he was on this occasion especially excited: “What a tremendous impression it made! Just think, the procession stretched for several versts,” [6] exclaimed Comrade Kirill loudly and with animation. “Hundreds of thousands of workers and soldiers took part. This will be a good lesson for the bourgeoisie. Let them now realise how strong we are.” And Comrade Orlov went on sharing his impressions with us late into the night.

One day we learned at the committee that Kerensky had arrived in Kronstadt. We went straight to the Kronstadt Soviet. There Kerensky launched into his usual hysterics and as was his habit fell down in a faint. After he had been brought round with the aid of a glass of cold water he flew at once to the Naval Drill Hall. Quite a lot of people were assembled there. Roshal and I also hastened thither. Kerensky was already at the tribune hysterically hurling disjointed words into the air. He wept, sweated, wiped the sweat away with a handkerchief: in short, he emphasised in every way his superhuman exhaustion. Benevolent listeners were supposed to interpret this as a sign of how nobly he overstrained himself in the self-sacrificing performance of government work.

While Kerensky was speaking, Roshal and I consulted together and decided that we would not greet him as a representative of the Provisional Government but only as the deputy chairman of the Petrograd Soviet. Roshal was given the task of making the speech. After Kerensky had burst into tears Roshal rose to deliver his address of welcome. He split Kerensky into two parts, distinguishing the Minister of Justice from the deputy chairman of the Petrograd Soviet. After Roshal had finished Kerensky convulsively rushed up to him and with reddened eyes full of congealed tears quite unexpectedly clutched him in an embrace. So far as Kerensky was concerned this was quite literally a Judas kiss. Then Kerensky made his way impetuously, with big strides, to his motor car, took his seat and went off – he was gone in a flash.

On March 25 I was due to be promoted to Sub-Lieutenant. The ceremony took place in the office of the Minister for Military and Naval Affairs, A.I. Guchkov. ln view of the extraordinarily heavy burden of work I could not go to Petrograd that day to waste my time in empty formalities, and so my promotion was effected in absentia.

Soon after that, Semyon informed me that the crew of the training ship Osvoboditel had elected me officer of the watch. I accepted this responsibility and went to see Lamanov to get my appointment confirmed. Lamanov and his chief of staff, Weiner, known in naval circles as Pitro Weiner, promised to communicate the news of my election to Supreme Naval Headquarters and gave me a categorical assurance that so far as they were concerned they wholeheartedly approved the decision taken by the crew of the Osvoboditel.

“If Supreme Naval Headquarters confirms you, then of course everything will be in the bag,” added Comrade Lamanov, jokingly.

I don’t know whether confirmation was indeed given by the highest authorities of the Navy, but in any case, I continued to be formally registered with Osvoboditel, and received no appointment to any other post. The Petrograd naval authorities had evidently decided to wash their hands of me and leave me to stew in the juice of Bolshevik Kronstadt, considering this to be the lesser evil, since Reval and Helsingfors [7] enjoyed the very best reputation with the supreme command of the Navy.

Every Saturday Semyon and I went to Petrograd, returning on Monday morning. During these visits I always visited the editorial office of Pravda, and sometimes handed in articles there.

This was a hard time for our paper and for our Party in general. The exposure as a provocateur of Chernomazov, who had played some part in the editing of the old, pre-revolution Pravda, was used by our political foes to vilify and blacken Pravda. I remember that once, walking along Nevsky Prospekt, I saw in the window of the newspaper Vecherneye Vremya (Evening Times) a big poster on which was printed in large letters: “Editor of Pravda a provocateur”. To ill-informed readers this would give the impression that the current editor of Pravda was a provocateur.

The bourgeoisie tried to exploit the exposure of Chernomazov in every possible way and mounted a provocation on this basis. Radical organs like Dyen (The Day) did not lag behind the Black Hundred, anti-Semitic Novoye Vremya (New Times) or the Cadet Rech (Speech). The cynical feuilletons contributed by Zaslavsky to Dyen under the pseudonym ‘Homunculus’ could give a hundred yards’ start to any gutter rag. The Mensheviks arid SRs, glancing maliciously in our direction, tried especially hard to increase their political capital at our expense.

One day when I was at the editorial office of Pravda word came in that soldiers of the Moskovsky Regiment, stirred up by our political enemies, were going to smash up our newspaper’s premises. The old Bolshevik Muranov, a former member of the Fourth State Duma, was at once directed to the scene and succeeded without much trouble in preventing any disagreeable incident and dispersing the cloud which had gathered over our heads.

The big event of those days was our receipt from abroad of Ilyich’s first article in the series ‘Letters from Afar’. [8] I read it in the Pravda office. I remember how greatly interested in it were comrades Pylayev and Shvedchikov, who worked in the office. We were very excited at that time about the question of Vladimir Ilyich’s arrival. With what painful acuteness we felt the absence of our leader and how very necessary it was, we realised, that he should be with us in those difficult days of the revolution. I remember that Anna Ilyinishna [9] informed us that Ilyich could not come back yet but must still remain abroad for a time. That saddened us greatly.

On one of my visits to Petrograd I called on Maxim Gorky. My acquaintance with him had begun at a distance, in 1912, when I sent to him at Capri a letter on behalf of the Petersburgers’ Society [10] of the students of the Petersburg Polytechnic requesting that he send us, free of charge, from the Znanie [11] book depot, some literature for our society’s library. Alexei Maximovich had agreed to do this, and as his letter happened to coincide with an intensification of the student movement he added some lines with a political content: “I wish you courage in the difficult days you are now living through. Russia will not rise again until we Russians learn to stand up for our human dignity and fight for the right to live as we want.” This letter from Gorky was included along with my other ‘offences’ when the gendarmes arrested me in the summer of 1912.

I first met Gorky in the flesh in the spring of 1915 in Petrograd, in the Volkov cemetery at the funeral of the historian Bogucharsky. Noticing my naval cadet’s greatcoat, Gorky remarked with friendly sarcasm: “My goodness, what a change of costume for you Pravdists.” That was during the imperialist war.

The present occasion was the first since the revolution on which I had met Gorky. When I arrived, he was busy with a meeting that was being held in his flat. I was shown into a small drawing room and asked to wait. The door into the next room was open and from it fragments of speeches reached my ears. I learnt that the matter under discussion was the establishment of a museum-cum-memorial dedicated to the fighters for the revolution. E. Breshko-Breshkovskaya was speaking. In a trembling old person’s voice she said: “This monument to the fighters for the revolution must be a temple. It must be built in the centre of the land of Russia at the place where all roads cross, so that the peasant with his knapsack and the tired traveller may come there and, resting from the hardships of their journey, learn about the past of their people.” In short, her proposals were absolutely typical Narodnik fantasies, lacking any link with reality. But the participants in the meeting, out of respect for the prestige of her name, listened with bated breath to this speech by the ‘grandmother of the Russian Revolution’.

Soon afterward there hastened into the room where I was awaiting the end of this rather boring meeting the well-known writer I. Bunin, who is now on the run. When he learnt that I had come from Kronstadt, Bunin bombarded me with a whole heap of philistine questions: “Is it true that anarchy reigns in Kronstadt? Is it true that unimaginable excesses are going on there? Is it true that the sailors are killing any officer they come upon in the streets of Kronstadt?” In a tone that permitted no objection I rebutted all these bourgeois calumnies. Bunin, sitting with his legs crossed on the ottoman, listened with great interest to my calm explanations and fixed his sharp eyes upon me. My officer’s uniform evidently gave him confidence, as he offered no objections to what I said.

The meeting in the next room soon came to an end and Gorky, accompanied by his visitors, went into the dining-room, inviting us to follow him. We sat around a tea-table. ‘Grandmother’ felt that it was her nameday. A touching smile never left her wrinkled face. She kissed everyone without exception. When she heard that I was from Kronstadt she joyfully nodded her head, saying: “They’ve already invited me there. When are we down to go to Kronstadt?” – turning to the woman who was with her. This woman, after consulting her notebook, mentioned the day. “There now, they rush me from one place to another. I’m booked for every day for a long time ahead,” said ‘Grandmother’ in a tone of sincere cordiality. In these times she evidently felt she was something like a wonder-working icon. On the whole, though, ‘the king turned out to have no clothes on’. The so-called ‘grandmother of the Russian Revolution’ struck me at my first meeting with her as being rather stupid. Vera Figner had made quite a different impression: lively, quick and energetic, she certainly seemed a clever woman. Not long after this, ‘Grandmother’ said goodbye, kissing everyone present as though they were her children.

At table, Bunin said to Gorky: “But, do you know, Alexei Maximovich, all these rumours about excesses in Kronstadt are greatly exaggerated. Just listen to what an eyewitness has to say.” And I had to repeat my story about Kronstadt’s well-being. Maxim Gorky heard me out with close attention and, although a look of doubt flickered across his face, he gave no open expression of this doubt.

Next day I returned to Kronstadt. In the meantime, our Soviets had merged into a single Soviet of Workers’, Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Deputies. In this new Soviet we organised a Bolshevik fraction, which put me forward as candidate for the Presidium of the Soviet. The Presidium consisted of the chairman, who was the non-party-man Lamanov, and two deput chairmen – one from the Left SRs, Pokrovsky, and one from the Bolsheviks, me. Roshal and I regularly attended all the meetings of the Soviet, which took place three times a week. The plenary sessions were usually preceded by a meeting of the fraction. In our Bolshevik fraction we discussed in advance the various points on the agenda, drafted our resolutions and appointed our official speakers.

At the plenary sessions Lamanov usually took the chair, or if he was away then either Pokrovsky or myself. The secretary was the Left SR, Grimm. Brushvit’s wife took everything down in shorthand. Generally speaking, the overwhelming majority of the items for discussion were topical and mostly local in character and presented no very great political interest. Nevertheless, very often, when one question or another was being discussed, lively disputes developed in which the respective physiognomies of all the parties revealed themselves clearly. Often the meetings became extremely stormy. At that time our enemies had already made a great to-do about Kronstadt, and the progress of Bolshevism in Kronstadt received much publicity. Consequently, Kronstadt was all the time visited by delegations of one sort or another. They came with instruction from their electors to find out on the spot what the situation really was in Kronstadt and to form a judgment about Bolshevism on the basis of its application in practice. Delegations from the front were almost constantly visiting us, one hard on the heels of another. As a rule, after making our official speeches in the Soviet, we invited the delegates to inspect our institutions, giving them full access everywhere, and, in conclusion, we made use of them as speakers at meetings in Anchor Square.

We were particularly pleased to receive a delegation from the workers of the Donbas. These comrades came specially in order to acquaint themselves with the character of political life in Kronstadt and to ask us to send comrades to work in the Donbas. In exchange they promised to supply coal for Kronstadt’s economic needs. We sent to the Donbas a Party comrade named Pavlov, a sailor, who, according to the Donbas workers, rendered great services to the proletarian struggle in that region. About this time, we established very close links with the Petrograd Soviet and its Executive Committee. To this end we sent to Petrograd I. D. Sladkov and Zaitsev. Before he was sent to Petrograd, Sladkov was the chairman of the investigating commission. Intense, energetic and always preoccupied with work, he coped well with his job as investigator. It may be that he had been elected chairman of the investigating commission because, as an old gunner, he had a good knowledge of the fleet and its personnel. Only a short time before this he had returned from penal servitude, to which he had been sentenced in December, 1916 in the much-publicised case of the Kronstadt sailors. Sladkov was replaced as chairman of the investigating commission by Comrade Pankratov, who also proved to be absolutely the right man in the right place. He showed great ability in the most complicated investigations, expertly detecting the guilty.

The Kronstadt Soviet, in which I participated as representative of the local Party committee, took up a great deal of my time because, besides the plenary sessions, it was necessary to attend the meetings of the executive committee of which I was also a member. My work on the paper would have suffered had I not had such a good deputy as P. I. Smirnov. This young Polytechnic student usually looked over the manuscripts we received and sorted out the most useful material. All that I had to do was to examine the most important material and write editorials, feuilletons and political articles...

Breshko-Breshkovskaya kept her promise and came to Kronstadt on the appointed day. The insipid, generalising discourse of this ‘Grandmother’ called for no particular reply. ‘The grandmother of the Russian Revolution’ had in common with her audience only the joy she felt on account of the February Revolution.

Soon after Breshko-Breshkovskaya, we were visited by the commander of the troops of the Petrograd District, General Kornilov. He, too, tried to address the men of Kronstadt Anchor Square. But his address attracted very few people and had absolutely no success. A general’s epaulettes usually produced a very negative impression in Kronstadt.

On one of my subsequent visits to Petrograd I met L. Kamenev, who had just returned from exile at Achinsk. I had known him since 1914, and we embraced like old friends seeing each other after a long interval. Together with him came Comrade I. V. Stalin. Until then the editorial board of Pravda had consisted of Yeremeyev, Olminsky and Molotov. Kamenev and Stalin now joined it, and thereafter began to play the principal role in the editing of our central organ. [12]

Immediately after his return, Comrade Kamenev required me to visit him at his flat every Sunday to give a report on Kronstadt affairs and to receive his directives for the next period. After that, he and I would go either to the regular meetings of the Petrograd Soviet, which was very often held on a Sunday, or to some other meeting. One day, when I met Comrade Stalin along with Lev Borisovich [Kamenev], I complained to him about the extreme shortage of active Party workers in Kronstadt. Comrade Stalin took note of what I said and paid so much attention to it that within a few days Comrade I.T. Smilga was sent to Kronstadt. Thereafter Comrade Smilga took over the organisational work and, from time to time, on the most important occasions, spoke at big mass meetings.

After Comrade Smilga, our ranks were strengthened by Comrade Deshevoy. A young doctor, only recently graduated from Yuriev University, [13] Comrade Deshevoy was assigned to work on the paper and at the same time helped Comrade Roshal with agitational tours around the units. Comrade Deshevoy sent for his old friend at Yuriev, L.A. Bregman, who soon turned up in Kronstadt as well. Comrade Bregman, a serious and well-informed Marxist, was irreplaceable as a lecturer. He was also quite good as a chairman of meetings.

The work of lecturing to Party study-groups was now divided between Roshal, Ulyantsev, Kirill, Smilga, Bregman and Deshevoy. In this way our leading group was enlarged to some extent, and our Party’s success among the Kronstadt masses made considerable progress. We were very soon working well together and formed a harmonious Party family.

Comrade Roshal carried on with his tours of the ships. Our Party’s agitation met with colossal success. Speeches against the war were especially well received. One day the following incident took place. A certain soldier named Shikin, a former trader in Kronstadt who had found himself a place in the rear and was therefore, of course, a notable defencist and patriot, a man alien to clear political consciousness but by nature quite courageous, made a speech in Anchor Square which culminated in the slogan: “War until complete victory.” The crowd who were present at the meeting at once arrested him and took him to the Soviet, demanding that this defencist agitator be once sent to the front. “He is for war to the end. Very well l him set the example and himself go to the Forward Position, to the front line”’ [14] said the sailors who brought him in, explaining why they had arrested him.

The Soviet did not, of course, send him to the front, but the incident was highly symptomatic. The imperialist war enjoyed no credit with the workers, sailors and soldiers of Kronstadt. The parties opposed to us could not show themselves at meetings, being met with unanimous cries of: “Down with them!” When Comrade Roshal went round the ships, there were occasions when entire crews asked to join the Party. According to Roshal, the total number of sympathisers with our Party reached at that time the colossal figure of 35,000, although formally the number of Party members did not exceed three thousand. This atmosphere of sympathy with us was such that even the Mensheviks and SRs were able to work in Kronstadt only by assuming a sort of protective colouring. The only Mensheviks and SRs we had in Kronstadt were of the Left-wing, internationalist tendency. We had no great differences with them on the questions of attitude to the war or even to the Provisional Government. Consequently we sometimes heard after a meeting the question: “So what divides you from the Left SRs?” One then had, of course, to deliver a long lecture on Marxism exposing the idealist theory and useless programme of the Left-SRs, and also their false, wavering and politically inconsistent tactics.

The Left-SR who had the greatest success at broad meetings was Brushvit. A young fellow who always went about in peasant’s coat and with a rather large, dishevelled beard, he earnestly strove to look like a peasant. Possessing a perfect mastery of popular speech, he was not without natural wit and his addresses were listened to with great interest: nevertheless, when it came to the vote, the overwhelming majority of hands were raised for our resolutions, and all that was left to Brushvit, in order to maintain his political prestige, was to support whatever we had proposed. Besides Brushvit, the SRs had working for them the sailor Boris Donskoy, who in 1918 in Kiev assassinated the German General Eichhorn and was hanged for it by the henchmen of German imperialism, and also a soldier named Pokrovsky and an intellectual named Smolyansky.

The SRs were housed in what had been Wiren’s house. They organised a club there, held meetings, delivered lectures on political and theoretical subjects – in short, they tried in every way to win the masses to their side. The Menshevik-Internationalists dragged out an exceptionally miserable existence in Kronstadt. They were headed by a teacher whom nobody had ever heard of and who in the first days of the revolution came several times to the editorial office of Golos Pravdy. The Menshevik-Internationalists formed a group consisting almost exclusively of intellectuals. Touring ‘artistes’ from Petersburg visited them extremely rarely. Martov never came once. Martynov came several times, to intercede devotedly on behalf of the arrested officers, and more than once he spoke at meetings of the Kronstadt Soviet, though without success. Considerably greater success than attended Martynov was enjoyed by the Anarchists. They had an intelligent and talented leader in Comrade Yarchuk, a tailor by trade. He had just returned from emigration in America. The well-known Petrograd Anarchist-Communist Bleichman frequently came to Kronstadt. But he did not get on well with Yarchuk, who adhered to the Anarchist-Syndicalists and was consequently very much closer to us. However, despite the ovations Yarchuk received, the Anarchists were far from equalling the political weight possessed in Kronstadt by the Bolsheviks.

To a large extent our meetings consisted merely of speeches made successively by the representatives of each party. Sometimes, however, vigorous polemics broke out between the speakers from the different parties, these being especially acute when old hands from among the Mensheviks and SRs visited us from Petrograd. Our specialists in debates with the Mensheviks were Comrade Roshal, a caustic and witty polemicist, together with Comrade Entin, who arrived in Kronstadt later than the rest of us.

Our committee soon moved from the house of the former town commandant to new premises in the dacha which had formerly belonged to the late Admiral Butakov. These premises were incomparably more spacious, and the overgrown departments of the Party committee were now able to work in much greater comfort. Some comrades even took up residence in the committee’s building. Adjoining this large wooden house was an extensive, shady garden, in which, in the summer, we held the Party’s general meetings. The secretary was a sailor, Comrade Kondakov. At his desk there was always a very long queue of visitors who had come to seek solutions to a wide variety problems.

Enrolment as a Party member was very greatly simplified at this time. It was enough to give the secretary one or two acceptable recommendations and anyone who wanted would be given a Party card without delay. [15]

There was an immense demand for Party literature. Our paper Golos Pravdy was distributed with hardly any copies left over. In addition, we subscribed to the leading Party papers in both Petrograd and Moscow. We circulated, besides new papers, a large quantity of other Party literature and we also had to bring out pamphlets of our own. The thirst for literature was unprecedented in those days. Every ship, every regiment, every workshop sought to form a library of its own, however small this might be, and in those ship, regimental and work-shop libraries every political pamphlet was read literally to shreds. The February Revolution had aroused tremendous interest in politics and had thereby evoked an unprecedented demand for Bolshevik literature.


1. Petrograd workers to the number of 130,000, in 50 enterprises, went on strike in protest against the death sentences passed on Ulyantsev and others, as a result of which they were commuted to penal servitude.

2. S.G. Roshal, then aged 16, participated in a secret conference of secondary school students held at Witmer’s High School for Girls, in Petrograd, which was raided by the police, who made 45 arrests.

3. Translated here and later simply as ‘volunteer’ is the term used for a man possessing certain educational qualifications who joined the Army as a volunteer, instead of waiting to be called up, or seeking exemption: he was given some privileges during his service - notably, accelerated promotion.

4. The Imperial Russian Navy flew a white flag with a blue saltire - like the Scottish ‘St Andrew's cross’ flag but with the colours reversed.

5. The Field of Mars was a big parade-ground.

6. A verst is 1,067 metres, or about 3,500 feet.

7. Reval (now Tallinn) and Helsingfors were the two other principal bases of the Baltic Fleet besides Kronstadt.

8. Lenin’s first ‘Letter from Afar’ was published in Pravda on March 21 and 22 (April 3 and 4, new style). The editors made a number of abridgements and changes, and the full text was not published until 1949. The omissions included opprobrious mentions of Kerensky and Chkheidze and warnings against “supporting the Cadet-Octobrist imperialism, which abominable as Tsarist imperialism.” Lenin described Kerensky as “a balalaika on which they [the bourgeois heads of the Provisional Government] play to deceive the workers and peasants,” and declared that “he who says the workers must support the new a traitor to the workers”.

9. Anna llyinishna Ulyanova-Yelizarova was Lenin’s sister.

10. It was the custom in the Russian universities for students who came from the same part of the country to form themselves into a society for common undertakings and mutual aid. As Raskolnikov was born in the Petersburg district, he belonged to the Petersburgers’ Society at his institute.

11. The publishing house called Znanie functioned in St Petersburg from 1898 to 1913, and was headed by Gorky down to 1912. Maxim Gorky’s real name was Alexei Maximovich Peshkov.

12. Raskolnikov does not mention that the Bureau of the Party's Central Committee ruled that Kamenev's articles for Pravda should not be signed, in view of his “unworthy conduct” at the trial of the Bolshevik deputies at the beginning of the war. This decision was not consistently carried out, which evoked protests by some Party members.

13. The university of Yuriev (in Swedish, Dorpat; in Estonian, Tartu), founded by Gustavus Adolphus, had a high reputation among the universities of the Russian Empire.

14. The ‘Forward Position’ was the stretch of the Baltic Sea between Hangö (Hanko) and the island of Dago (Hiiumaa) where the Russian Navy directly confronted the Germans.

15. On entry into the Bolshevik Party during 1917, and the Party’s phenomenal growth in this period, see M. Liebman, Leninism Under Lenin (1975). Between the February Revolution and the April Conference membership in Petrograd increased from 2,000 to 16,000.

1. Comrade Lenin’s arrival in Russia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. April 20-21

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

2. Marya Ilyinishna Ulyanova, Lenin’s sister.

3. Z.I. Lilina was Zinoviev’s wife.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This happened on May 17, 1917, when Comrade A.V. Lunacharsky was visiting Kronstadt. As we entered the Soviet they were discussing the problem of the Anarchists, who had arbitrarily seized a building in one of Kronstadt’s best streets. This action of theirs evoked general indignation. Anatoly Vasilyevich [Lunacharsky] asked to speak, and delivered a whole lecture on Anarchism. He distinguished, of course, between the ideological anarchists and those who, arbitrarily and regardless of the local Soviet, seized flats for themselves, but on the whole his speech was filled with love of peace and included an appeal that an attempt be made to reach an amicable agreement. In view of the fact that we had to hurry off to Anchor Square where a meeting had been arranged at which Comrade Lunacharsky was to speak, we left the Soviet without waiting for the end of the session.

The next point on the agenda concerned the Provisional Government’s commissar, Pepelyayev. He was a rather characterless man who led a reserved sort of existence within the four walls of his office and exerted absolutely no influence on the course of political life in Kronstadt, which was seething in the fire of revolution. For this reason the question of Pepelyayev engaged our attention not at all, as lacking any serious significance. We supposed that the discussion of this item of the agenda would not deal with any but particular, concrete questions. Not for the first time in our practical work some friction had occurred between the representatives of the Provisional Government, who embodied the power of the bourgeoisie, and the Kronstadt Soviet, which reflected the interests of the workers, sailors and soldiers.

However, it turned out that from this discussion of an insignificant question flowed a serious decision of principle, which proved to be fraught with major consequences.

The meeting in Anchor Square was in full swing. Comrade Lunarcharsky was delivering with ardent enthusiasm a speech full of passion, when, pushing their way through the dense crowd to the tribune where S. Roshal and I stood, came some comrades who had hurried down from the Soviet to bring news that staggered us by its unexpectedness. We learnt that, after our departure, when the question of Pepelyayev was discussed, a resolution had been passed by the Soviet to say that the office of Government Commissar appointed from above was abolished and that the Kronstadt Soviet took all power into its own hands alone. [1] What first struck us about this decision was its unforeseen radicalism. The point was that, at that time, our Party, which had put forward the slogan of transfer of power to the Soviets on an all-Russia scale, was still in the minority at Kronstadt. The majority was constituted by the non-Party ‘marsh’ [2] which followed its leader, the hundred-per-cent philistine A.N. Lamanov, who at one time busied himself with the absurd idea of forming a ‘party of non-party men’. The relative number of votes and the degree of influence possessed by the Bolshevik fraction were of course considerable, especially when the Left-SRs voted along with us, but all the same, we did not have an absolute majority in the Soviet. Consequently, because we could not count on success, we had never put forward any proposal to abolish, on grounds of uselessness, the post of Government Commissar. And on this occasion the proposal to transfer power to the Soviet had come not from us but from the non-Party element, and our Bolshevik comrades, together with the Left-SRs had merely supported this ‘marsh’ which had plucked up its courage.

When we received the news we reacted to it positively. We regarded the decision taken as being, in essence, correct. We saw in it merely a proclamation, for all to know, of the actual state of affairs which had come about in Kronstadt since the February-March revolution. From the very start our Soviet had been everything and the Provisional Government’s Commissar nothing.

Hardly anywhere in Russia was the deputy of Prince Lvov and Kerensky in such a pathetic situation as Pepelyayev was at Kronstadt. In actual fact he possessed no power: the fate of Kronstadt was controlled by our valiant Soviet. The morning after the adoption of this memorable decision, that is, on May 18, a member of the Central Committee of the Bolshevik party, Comrade Grigory Fyodorov, came quite unexpectedly to see us. A visit from a member of the CC was for us, in general, a notable and rare event. In the given case, Comrade G. Fyodorov’s arrival, without any preliminary announcement, was most unusual.

“What’s happened with you here? What’s going on? What’s the meaning of this creation of a republic of Kronstadt? The CC does not understand and does not approve of your policy. You must, both of you, come to Petrograd and explain yourselves to Ilyich,” said Comrade G. Fyodorov to me and S. Roshal, in the garden adjoining our Party committee’s premises. After consulting together, S. Roshal and I decided that he should remain at Kronstadt while I went to Petrograd...

A fast launch soon brought us to the Nikolaevskaya Quay, and in a short time G. Fyodorov and I were knocking at the door of the editorial office of Pravda, which was then in a building beside the Moika.

“Come in,” we heard, in Ilyich’s well-known, distinctive voice.

We opened the door. Comrade Lenin was sitting close to his desk and, his head bent low over the paper, was hurriedly scribbling his next article for Pravda.

When he had finished writing he laid down his pen and directed at me a gloomy glance from under his brows.

“What have you been up to out there? How could you take such a step without consulting the CC? This is a breach of elementary Party discipline. For such things we shall shoot people,” said Vladimir llyich, giving me a dressing-down.

I began my reply by explaining that the resolution for the, transference of power to the Kronstadt Soviet had been adopted on the initiative of the non-party deputies.

“They should have been held up to ridicule,” Lenin interrupted me. “They should have been shown that declaring Soviet power in Kronstadt alone, separately from all the rest of Russia is utopian, is utterly absurd.”

I mentioned that when the question was decided the leaders of the Bolshevik fraction were not at the Soviet, because they were speaking at a meeting in Anchor Square. I described in detail to Lenin how, essentially speaking, the situation that had been created in Kronstadt had been like that all along – that the local Soviet had wielded full power and the representative of the Provisional Government, Commissar Pepelyayev, had played absolutely no role at all. Consequently, the decision taken by the Kronstadt Soviet had merely formalised and consolidated an actually existing situation. A fact that obtained in everyday practice had been transformed into a regular law. “All the same, I don’t understand why it was necessary to emphasise this situation and remove the harmless Pepelyayev, who actually served as a useful facade,” said Lenin.

I assured him that we had no intention of forming an independent republic of Kronstadt, and matters would go no further than election by the Kronstadt Soviet of a Government Commissar from among its own members.

“Since, in general, we advocate the principle of election of officials,” I said, “why should we not start to carry it out on a partial basis when this becomes possible? This elected commissar cannot of course be a Bolshevik, since he will have to some extent to implement the policy of the Provisional Government. But why, generally speaking, can’t we have an elected commissar? We can always find some honest non-party man to fill such a role. Why do we Bolsheviks have to oppose the principle of electing the commissar when the majority in the Kronstadt Soviet are in favour of it?”

My explanation evidently reassured Ilyich somewhat. His expressive face gradually softened.

“The most serious danger is that the Provisional Government will now try to force you to your knees,” said Vladimir Ilyich, slowly and significantly, after brief meditation.

I promised that we would exert every effort to prevent a victory for the Provisional Government and would not knuckle under to it.

“Well, all right, here’s some paper for you: write, here and now, a short note about the course of recent events at Kronstadt,” said Lenin, in a conciliatory tone, handing me a blank sheet of paper.

I sat down there and then and wrote a couple of pages. Vladimir Ilyich himself examined the note attentively, made some corrections and put it aside for printing.

When we took our leave and he shook my hand, he asked me to tell the Kronstadt comrades that next time they should not take such highly responsible decisions without informing the CC and securing its prior consent. Of course, I readily promised our dear leader that we should observe Party discipline most strictly. Vladimir Ilyich made me undertake to telephone the editorial office of Pravda every day from Kronstadt, to ask to speak to him personally and to report to him the most important facts of Kronstadt’s political life.

I returned to Kronstadt with a lighter heart. It was good that Ilyich had eventually reconciled himself to the resolution of the Kronstadt Soviet, which at first, he had viewed unsympathetically. Comrade Lenin was only afraid that the Provisional Government would force us to surrender, that we should be obliged to rescind our resolution in disgrace. It was interesting that Comrade Lenin had not insisted at all on our rescinding the resolution but, on the contrary, had been afraid that we should be obliged to go back on it. Finally, it was clear that before his talk with me Ilyich had had no precise notion of the state of affairs in Kronstadt and the scale of our intentions. If, of course, we had been trying to form an independent Soviet republic of Kronstadt, such a creation of a state within the state would have been an obvious utopia, a childish prank. But our plans went no further than ensuring the election of the Government Commissar by the Kronstadt Soviet. In this was the Government Commissar, being aware of his responsibility to the electors, would be obliged to reckon with the local Soviet and from time to time to make systematic reports to it, carrying out its instructions and working under its control.

The next task facing us was, on the one hand, not to let ourselves be forced to our knees, that is, to avoid suffering the disgrace of surrender and, on the other, not to give the Provisional Government any excuse to utilise the given conflict for an armed onslaught on Kronstadt. Vladimir llyich’s prognosis proved to be absolutely correct. The Provisional Government did indeed try to force us to our knees. We had not long to wait for the first sign of this development.

The following Sunday, May 21, we were informed by telephone that a delegation from the Petrograd Soviet was coming to see us. At the appointed hour nearly all the members of the Kronstadt Soviet’s Executive Committee and Presidium were at the landing-place. A rumour of the arrival of visitors from Petrograd had spread quickly all over the town and when the steamship drew in there was a large crowd gathered by the Petrograd pier. For lack of room, the more enterprising of the spectators climbed up the lamp-posts.

Not knowing the intentions of our unexpected guests, we welcomed them without making speeches. The delegation from the capital consisted of Chkheidze, Gatz, Anisimov, Verba and some other Mensheviks and SRs. After mutual introductions we led them to the Kronstadt Soviet. The Mensheviks and SRs who had come possessed sufficient tact not to reveal straight away their political hostility to us. They played the role of impartial observers who had come to Kronstadt in order to study objectively the political situation which had taken shape there.

Nearly all the members of our Executive Committee, who had been summoned by telephone to the Soviet, were present at this session. Chkheidze began by greeting the Executive Committee of the Kronstadt Soviet and stating that their delegation had come with no other intention than to seek information in a comradely way. Lamanov, the chairman of the Executive Committee, set forth in detail the facts of the recent days’ events. Chkheidze listened to him attentively, opening wide his unwinking eyes and from time to time stroking his beard. In general, a tone of mutual correctness was fully observed at this meeting of the Executive Committee. But the political passions of the delegates were frankly unleashed at the meeting of the Soviet which followed immediately after that of the Executive Committee. As before, Chkheidze maintained his former tone of courtesy and compliment. But this artificial, strained tone broke down completely when the SR Gatz spoke. An orator not lacking in spirit, he did not refrain in his speech from allowing himself some sharp digs at us. Naturally, these anti-Bolshevik thrusts had no success, but even so, they destroyed the sort of relationship which Chkheidze had tried to establish, with himself in the role of a kindly uncle. As a result, the visit of the Petrograd delegates achieved nothing substantial and in no way contributed to solving the conflict that had arisen between the Kronstadt Soviet and the Provisional Government. The delegates were apparently not armed with any authority and came only to obtain information.

This was the Provisional Government’s first reconnaissance in depth. After this testing step it undertook further measures. One fine day we were visited, without any warning and quite unexpectedly, by the Minister of Posts and Telegraphs, I.G Tsereteli, and the Minister of Labour, M.L Skobelev. At the extraordinary meeting of the Executive Committee which was convened as a result of their visit, Tsereteli declared that Skobelev and he had been sent by the Provisional Government with special instructions to come to a definite agreement with the Kronstadt Soviet.

There and then, he put to our Executive Committee, on behalf of the Provisional Government, the following four questions:

(1) about its attitude to the central government,

(2) about the Government commissar,

(3) about the organs of self-government and the courts, and

(4) about the arrested officers.

Throughout the night, without getting a wink of sleep, we talked with Skobelev and Tsereteli. On the first point we declared at once that we recognised the Provisional Government and, so long as it existed, considered its rulings no less applicable to Kronstadt than to the rest of Russia. Of course, we recognised the Provisional Government and submitted to it only reluctantly, through necessity. At the same time we said that we had no confidence whatsoever in the Provisional Government and reserved our right to criticise it. We stressed that we were going to wage a struggle to ensure that throughout Russia all political power would be transferred to the Soviets. Tsereteli and Skobelev were satisfied with this answer; saying that what was most important for them was that we recognised the Provisional Government and submitted to its orders: confidence or lack of confidence in the Provisional Government was our private affair. On the question of the commissar a very bitter argument flared up between the members of the Kronstadt Executive Committee and the representatives of the Government. The ‘socialist’ ministers insisted warmly on the need for the Government commissar to be appointed from above.

“The Provisional Government must have its own man in Kronstadt, somebody it knows,” said Skobelev and Tsereteli, with one voice. But we insisted that there must be, at the head of civil administration of Kronstadt, a person enjoying the confidence of the Kronstadt Soviet and chosen by it.

After discussion in which the most prominent members of the Executive Committee and representatives of all fractions took part, a special commission was chosen to draw up the text of an agreement. Among others, Roshal and I served on this commission. Late in the night (because the session of the Executive Committee had gone on for a long time) we assembled in one of the officers’ quarters and set about discussing the draft of an agreement. I sat at a desk. Skobelev lounged on a couch. Tsereteli paced nervously up and down the room. I wrote and the delegates of the Provisional Government offered, from time to time, corrections of one sort or another to my text. Sometimes our differences gave rise to fierce arguments, but broadly speaking we managed to reach agreement on most of the questions at issue.

It was decided, regarding the Provisional Government commissar, that he would not be appointed from Petrograd but must be elected by the Kronstadt Soviet and then confirmed in office by the Provisional Government. Similarly, he would be obliged to subordinate himself in his work to the decisions of the Provisional Government and carry them out unquestioningly. When this question was being discussed the delegates of the Provisional Government expressed the fear that an elected commissar would transgress the instructions the central government if he happened to disagree with them “For instance, if the elected commissar should turn out to be Bolshevik, wouldn’t he carry out his Party’s policy?” Tsereteli asked us. We replied that a Bolshevik could not, of course assume the post under discussion owing to his complete disagreement with the policy of the Provisional Government. Consequently, there could be no question of a Bolshevik being elected. This at once considerably appeased the over-excited Tsereteli and provided the basis for agreement on this point.

“Make a handsome gesture,” Tsereteli urged us eloquently. “Transfer the arrested officers to Petrograd and you will thereby cut the ground from under the bourgeois slanderers who are spreading frightful stories about the Kronstadt prisons.” [3]

Tsereteli strove hard to get the officers released, but we could not accept this. Then Tsereteli and Skobelev tried to have the matter decided in a sense favourable to them by proposing that the officers be transferred to one of the prisons in Petrograd. They promised that in Petrograd the officers would be investigated and brought to trial. On the third point there were no differences between us and the ministers, since for the present we were not proposing to introduce any changes in the system of organisation of the courts and the organs of self-government as being institutions common to Russia as a whole.

But the fourth point, about the arrested officers, the ‘subject’, as Tsereteli called it, involved us again in very harsh disputes. Knowing very well the feelings of the Kronstadt masses, we considered that a solution of this matter such as delegates proposed would be received very unsympathetically by them, as the sailors would immediately secure a transfer of arrested officers to Petrograd as a concealed way of setting them free. On this question, as on many others, Tsereteli and Skobelev were forced to retreat. It was decided that a special investigating commission would be sent to Kronstadt to look into all the cases along with our local commission: the guilty would be brought to trial and the innocent released.

Tsereteli and Skobelev were in an excited state the whole time. Tsereteli frequently clutched his head, exclaiming: “Will there really be civil war, will it really not be possible to prevent it?” Along with this, in order to intimidate us, he asserted the soldiers of the Petrograd garrison were acutely hostile to Kronstadt and were even straining at the leash to suppress it. Since we had precise information as to the mood of the Petrograd garrison we were not particularly disposed to share Tsereteli’s fears.

During their brief stay at Kronstadt, Tsereteli and Skobelev tried to establish direct contact with the masses. On their insistence that notice was given by telephone to all the ships that there was to be a meeting at which they would be present. At the appointed hour the two appeared in Anchor Square. The crowd, quite numerous at first, thinned out increasingly as meeting went on until at last only a small handful of people were left near the tribune.

The speeches of the leaders of the Petrograd Soviet made no impression at all on the Kronstadters. The most markedly ‘social-compromiser’ passages in Tsereteli’s speech were loudly hissed. While they were speaking they were continually interrupted by hostile shouts from the crowd. On his return from this meeting, Tsereteli said to me, shaking his head: “Yes the masses are thoroughly on your side.” It was plain that here – perhaps for the first time during the revolution – he had realised that his eloquence was helpless before the conscious masses of revolutionary Kronstadt.

After we had succeeded, at our night session, in achieving an agreement, this draft was submitted for discussion at a meeting of our Executive Committee, and was unanimously approved. It then had to go to the next level of authority, namely, the plenum of the Kronstadt Soviet.

At an extraordinary session of the plenum speeches in favour of the agreement were made both by local activists and by Tsereteli, who delivered with fervour what was essentially conciliatory speech.

That same day Tsereteli and Skobelev, satisfied with the results of their mission, returned to Petrograd. In the evening however, Comrade Roshal said, in a talk with a Petrograd correspondent, that the agreement arrived at did not in the least signify a victory for the Provisional Government, but left the situation unchanged. Comrade Roshal even published this opinion of his in the newspapers in the form of a letter to the editors. In essence it was perfectly correct. We had made no concessions of substance, but on the contrary, had achieved some practical results. Nevertheless it was not, of course, good idea to tease the geese and make a parade of our victory.

This statement of Semyon’s almost caused the whole agreement to break down. As soon as it reached Petrograd a unprecedented uproar arose in Menshevik and SR circles and among the members of the Provisional Government: the Kronstadters, it was said, were repudiating their agreement, they were pursuing a two-faced policy, they were not honouring their engagements. This was said and written in the various bourgeois organs.

In connection with this to-do we were informed that Comrade Trotsky was to make an urgent visit to Kronstadt. I went to meet him in one of the tugs which maintained constant contact between us and Petrograd.

Having picked up Comrade Trotsky on Nikolaevskaya Quay, I withdrew with him to the cabin and explained to him all the events of the previous few days, the details of our negotiations with the representatives of the Petrograd Soviet and the Provisional Government. Lev Davidovich [Trotsky] expressed complete approval of what we had done, but condemned Roshal’s action, as a result of which the Mensheviks and SRs were ready once more to climb up the wall.

When he arrived at Kronstadt, Comrade Trotsky at once summoned an extraordinary meeting of the Kronstadt Executive Committee. His proposal that we issue a manifesto explaining in a concrete way our attitude on all the disputed questions was adopted unanimously. He sketched out a draft of the manifesto [4] there and then.

Next day the manifesto was approved by the Soviet and a meeting was held in Anchor Square at which I read out the text which had been adopted by the Kronstadt Executive Committee. By a show of hands, the entire meeting unanimously voted its acceptance of the manifesto. It was quickly reproduced by our Party printing press in an enormous number of copies, distributed among the proletariat and garrison of Kronstadt and sent out to Petrograd and the provinces.

A few days later the leaders of the Kronstadt Soviet found themselves suddenly invited to attend the next meeting of the Petrograd Soviet. The meeting was held in the huge auditorium of the Mariinsky Theatre. Gangplanks had been laid between the stalls and the stage. Up there, brightly lit by the footlights, Chkheidze, Dan and other members of the Presidium of the Petrograd Soviet sat at a table. From Kronstadt had come Roshal, Lyubovich, me and some others.

When I went up to the Presidium table to put my name down to speak, Chkheidze arid Dan gave me looks full of irreconcilable hatred. This minor circumstance already warned me of the atmosphere that was awaiting us. Soon Kerensky entered the theatre.

He was wearing his military uniform. His right arm was in a sling and with a theatrical gesture he offered his left hand to be shaken. He made a brief but hysterical speech and then, quickly taking leave of the members of the Presidium, he descended by a gangplank into the auditorium and with rapid strides made for the exit, outside which a motor car was waiting for him. In his concluding words he had said that he had come specially to say goodbye to the Soviet before leaving for the front.

This behaviour of Kerensky’s was such a low-down bit of window-dressing histrionics, everything in his speech was so obviously calculated for effect, it was all so permeated with artificiality, that we from Kronstadt, to whom that spirit was alien, felt disgusted.

When Kerensky had gone, the Petrograd Soviet proceeded to discuss the burning question of Kronstadt. Everyone sat up and concentrated their attention. The first speech was made by a worker, the Menshevik Anisimov, who, without mincing words, cursed us for perfidy, duplicity and faithlessness to our undertakings. In reply to him long speeches were made by Roshal, Lyubovich and me. I was the first to speak and they listened to me with attention but also with hostility.

Heavy artillery was brought up against us. One after another the best orators of the Petrograd Soviet took the floor – the ‘Socialist’ ministers Tsereteli, Chernov and Skobelev.

Their speeches were full of the usual attacks on the Kronstadt Soviet and its leaders. Skobelev openly threatened to cut off Kronstadt’s supplies of money and food. Chernov, indulging in his usual equivocations, clowned it on the stage, and his speech was the dullest and most poverty-stricken of all. After the ‘socialist’ ministers we heard from the Anarchist Bleichman. But his misplaced, sick, highly-strung and embittered rhetoric produced the opposite effect to what he intended. It was as though the entire audience had caught fire and blazed up in furious anger as a result of this spark cast by Bleichman.

Comrade Kamenev succeeded brilliantly in relieving the tension in the atmosphere. With immense tact Lev Borisovich dispersed the impression created by Bleichman’s speech and, above all, managed so well to mollify the mood of the audience that the adoption of a resolution abusing us was postponed. It has to be said that throughout the entire meeting we felt as though we were in the dock. The Provisional Government, together with the socialist parties supporting it, had evidently resolved to subject us to ostracism and nail us to the pillory.

We experienced some disagreeable moments, but nevertheless this meeting made no strong impression on us. Knowing the Menshevik and SR majority of the compromiser Soviet, we had expected nothing different from them. When we left the meeting of the Petrograd Soviet, we were still more convinced than before of the absolute correctness of the policy we were pursuing at Kronstadt.

In all these diplomatic negotiations that we were obliged to carry on with the yes-men of the bourgeoisie, we upheld, firmly keeping in mind the behest given us by llyich, the revolutionary dignity of Kronstadt and did not let ourselves be forced to our knees. For this we were to a considerable extent indebted to Ilyich himself who, from the beginning of ‘the Republic of Kronstadt’, personally guided, over the telephone, every move of any significance made by our Kronstadt organisation.


1. Here is the authentic text of this historic resolution: “The sole authority in the town of Kronstadt is the Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, which in all matters of state concern acts in close concert with the Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies.”

2. During the French Revolution the Jacobins called those deputies to the Convention who occupied an intermediate position between the parties of the Left and the Right ‘the frogs of the marsh’, from their habit of hopping in either direction when scared.

3. Morgan Philips Price visited the officers imprisoned at Kronstadt in June 1917 and describes their conditions in his Reminiscences of the Russian Revolution (1921).

4. Though signed by Lamanov, as chairman of the Executive Committee of the Kronstadt Soviet, the manifesto was included in Volume III, Part I of Trotsky’s Works (in Russian) published in 1924. At the extraordinary session of the Petrograd Soviet on May 26, Trotsky made his famous forecast: “When a counter-revolutionary general tries to throw a noose around the neck of the revolution, the Cadets will soap the rope, and the Kronstadt sailors will come to fight and die with us.”

By June 1917 Kronstadt had been firmly mastered by our Party. True, we did not have a majority even in the Soviet there, but the actual influence of the Bolsheviks was, in essentials, unlimited.

The May conflict with the Provisional Government had been outlived without any damage to our Party’s dignity. On the contrary, indeed, our successful struggle against Prince Lvov’s Government, behind which stood the Menshevik-and-SR-dominated Petrograd Soviet, had won us the sympathy of the majority of the non-Party Kronstadters.

As a result of the crisis to which was attached that famous name of ‘The Republic of Kronstadt’, the Cadet Pepelyayev was removed from the post of Government Commissar and replaced by the colourless teacher Parchevsky, who was chosen by us and whom the Kronstadt Soviet at once got under its thumb. In this way the moral and political influence of the Kronstadt Soviet was transformed into real power as the actual master of the situation. From that moment on, that is, long before the October Revolution, all power in Kronstadt was de facto in the hands of the local Soviet – in other words, was held by our Party, which actually guided the Soviet’s current activity. The favourable ‘internal’ situation obliged us to concern ourselves more seriously with ‘external policy’. In particular, we were obliged to pay attention to the Baltic Active Fleet, which constituted essentially a single entity with Kronstadt. Bolshevik sailors came to see us again and again from Reval and Helsingfors, to keep up communication, and they all complained about the oppressive dominance of the SRs in those bases.

Our political enemies strove with all their might to cause antagonism between Bolshevik Kronstadt and the Active Fleet, which at that time had still not emerged from under the influence of ‘compromiser’ sentiments.

The big incident with the Provisional Government, greatly inflated and presented to a credulous public as signifying the formation of an ‘independent Republic of Kronstadt’, added more fuel to the fire. There was no Menshevik or SR agitator or journalist who did not try to make political capital out of it. In the Baltic Fleet the compromiser phrasemongers did not spare their tongues, shouting in all directions about the ‘separatism’ of the Kronstadt Bolsheviks and the Kronstadt Republic, which was supposed to have broken away from the rest of Russia. This injurious lie was spread around by every means among the crews on ship and shore alike with the obvious aim of creating hostility towards us.

We decided to hamstring this slanderous activity of the social-compromisers and inform sailor masses of the Baltic Fleet of the true position at Kronstadt and also at the same time, in the process of acquainting them with the platform of the Kronstadt Soviet, to use this question as the starting point for an extension of our Party’s influence in Helsingfors, Abo and Reval.

With this in view, the Bolshevik fraction in the Kronstadt Soviet adopted, at the morning session of June 6, [1] a proposal by me to send a special delegation to all the principal bases of the Baltic Fleet.

During the interval between the meeting of the fraction and that of the Soviet plenum I telephoned the editorial office of Pravda and getting connected to llyich, told him that the fraction was putting me forward as a candidate for an agitational tour which was likely to last about ten days. I asked for his permission to be absent from Kronstadt for that period. llyich replied that if l guaranteed that the work would not suffer from my absence and if the other comrades undertook to look after my share of responsibility for it, he would have no objection.

Comrade Lenin’s approval pleased me, because the tour seemed both very important and very attractive. The Kronstadt Soviet endorsed the idea of sending a delegation and unanimously approved the personnel for it as nominated by the fractions.

The delegation was to consist of nine persons, of whom three were Bolsheviks, three SRs, two non-party and one Menshevik. However, the non-party men offered their places to the SRs and Mensheviks. This meant that the following were chosen as members of the delegation: for the Menshevik-Internationalists the workers Alnichenkov and Shchukin, from the steamship works; for the SR-Internationalists (in other words ‘Left-SRs’) the paramedic volunteer Baranov, the worker Pyshkin, the worker Leshchov and the diver Izmailov; for the Bolsheviks, the sailors Kolbin and Semyonov and me.

Comrade Roshal also felt a strong desire to go on this tempting tour, but the fraction considered it absolutely necessary that one of us two must stay at home. There was nothing to be done: Semyon had to submit.

I handed over my Party responsibilities to him, and for the running of the paper Golos Pravdy I urgently fetched from Petersburg my brother A.F. llyin-Zhenevsky, who had just arrived there from Helsingfors, where he had obtained some experience as a journalist, editing Volna (The Wave), the organ of the Helsingfors Committee.

We assembled quickly and left Kronstadt next day, June 7. That same evening the Finland-line passenger train took us out of Petrograd. We decided to make our first stop at Vyborg. At midnight we stepped from the train, clutching our travelling bags, on to the platform of Vyborg station and made our way through the deserted, dead-seeming streets of the ancient town [2] in order to find shelter till the morning. After protracted and fruitless visiting of all sorts of hotels we became convinced that there were no vacancies to be found anywhere. Our last call at some shabby boarding-house deprived us of all desire to stay at any institution of that sort. We were given a choice of two rooms at the inordinate price of 20 or 12 marks for the night. Such a sum was beyond the means of us all, even if we were to pool our funds.

After an unsuccessful attempt to lie down and rest on the benches in one of the boulevards and by now feeling weak from lack of sleep, we called, in a state of exhaustion, at the first artillery depot we came to, and there the soldier comrades cordially gave us refuge among the numerous empty bunks. It was a rather dirty place to spend the night, but it was in any case the best they could offer. Worn out by our restless night, we fell asleep without noticing it on the hard wooden planks. When morning came I went to the local Party committee. To my indescribable joy I met there an old comrade whom I had known in Petrograd in the days of illegality, I.A. Akulov. Ivan greeted me very heartily and we embraced and kissed like old friends. I also met there Comrade Melnichansky, who had returned not long before from emigration in America. Akulov and Melnichansky were the most outstanding Leaders of our organisations in Vyborg in that difficult period of the ‘Kerenskiad’.

From the Party committee I proceeded, picking up on the way the rest of my comrades, from the hospitable barracks, to the premises of the Vyborg Soviet. What struck me there was the quiet that reigned. Despite the fact that it was already 10am., there was not a soul in the Soviet building. This seemed to us extremely odd, used as we were to the situation in our Kronstadt Soviet, where life was on the boil from early morning, with the Executive Committee members up to their necks in work and everywhere people preoccupied with their duties bustling around – and now, suddenly, this glaring contrast. Instead of a ferment of activity, deathly hush, and instead of workers busy at their tasks, absolutely nobody about.

We needed to see some member of the Presidium, but a great deal of time had to be lost in waiting before, at last, the deputy chairman of the Vyborg Soviet, the SR Fyodorov, showed himself. He was an elderly, corpulent, dark-haired man, with a broad black beard and wearing the uniform of an ensign in the army. From my first sight of him he seemed very familiar. I began to recall where and under what circumstances I had had occasion to meet him before, and great was my astonishment when as I studied his features I suddenly recognised in them the responsible editor of the pogromist anti-Semitic paper Zemshchina (The Populace). I remembered that in 1911-12 I had encountered this gentleman quite frequently at the printing works of the ‘Associated Press’ company, in lvanovskaya Street. This printing works, which belonged to Berezin, was a huge capitalistically-managed enterprise where a whole number of journals and newspapers were printed, including our Bolshevik Zvezda (The Star) and the notorious Black-Hundred Zemshchina.

“Zvezda and Zemshchina are rocked in the same cradle,” was sometimes said jokingly by our proof-reader and responsible editor (later a member of the editorial staff of Pravda), S.S. Danilov (also known as Demyanov, Dimitri Yanov, Cheslav Gursky, etc.).

Fyodorov was then the responsible editor of Zemshchina, saw to the making up of this pogrom-sheet, received reports of events during the night and checked late-arriving articles. He established ‘diplomatic’ relations with us, that is, he sometimes came to the threshold of our room and asked for a light from one or other of our comrades who smoked. Despite this acquaintanceship, we looked on him as a Black Hundredist and treated him with squeamishness. He had frequently contributed articles to Zemshchina on current topics, signing the with his full name: now he had the incredible cynicism to put that same signature to articles in the Vyborg Soldiers’ Herald which he was editing. This paper, under such an editor, was fact, of course, not a ‘soldiers’ herald’ at all, but an unbridled counter-revolutionary sheet. In the crude, vulgar style of Zemshchina, alien to every literary quality, a most disgraceful campaign was waged in it against Comrade Lenin and all the Bolsheviks and Zimmerwaldites.

This former pogromist and monarchist had succeeded as well in getting trusted that, at the regional congress of Soviets Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, he had wormed himself under the flag of the SR Party, into the position of deputy chairman of congress. He had managed this by means of deception, assiduously concealing his dark past and inspiring approval by his ability to talk fluently, amusing the audience with all sorts of jokes and facetious remarks.

I did not fail, of course, to pass on this information to Comrade Akulov. He at once convened an emergency meeting of the Executive Committee, at which we exposed Fyodorov’s murky background. My communication produced the effect of an exploding bomb. At first they were unwilling to believe it. Then gradually doubt began to spread, and eventually this was followed by general indignation. Especially furious at the way a filthy intriguer had penetrated the Presidium of the Soviet was the Menshevik Dimant, by profession an army medical officer.

Unfortunately, Fyodorov was not present at this meeting. It would have been interesting to observe his embarrassment when the mask he had artfully assumed was torn off. The decision taken was to submit the question of Fyodorov to the strictest investigation. The Bolsheviks applauded triumphantly. Akulov walked about as happy as if it was his name day. He was already visualising how this scandalous incident would be exploited by our Party, and rubbing his hands with satisfaction. But then fear crept into his heart, fear that I might have made a mistake. “But tell me, Fedya, are you sure it really is him?” Comrade Akulov asked me. “You know, he had a lot of influence here.”

Of course I was absolutely sure. As I learnt later, Fyodorov admitted that he had worked on Zemshchina, but tried to justify himself by saying that he had performed merely technical functions. This was of course a lie, because no one is ever made responsible editor who does not enjoy the political confidence of the editorial board. The very nature of the work always goes beyond mere technical functions. This is not the sort of work that a typesetter or a maker-up does. The members of the Vyborg Executive Committee thanked me warmly for exposing Fyodorov. When after that we gave them a report on the events at Kronstadt, it made a good impression on them. “May God grant that something like that happens here!” exclaimed Dimant, sincerely moved by the report.

At that time the Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies of the town of Vyborg consisted of 163 persons, of whom 62 were SRs, 21 Bolsheviks, 17 Mensheviks, and the rest non-party.

The Executive Committee had 16 members, of whom eight were SRs, four Mensheviks, two Bolsheviks and two non-party. There were some internationalists among the SRs, but the overwhelming majority both of the SRs and of the Mensheviks consisted of frantic defencists.

The Soviet was made up predominantly of soldiers, with workers numbering only eleven or twelve. This was due to the fact that the majority of the workers in Vyborg were Finns who at that time manifested a high degree of absenteeism where the local Soviet was concerned. The small number of Russian workers in Vyborg elected Bolsheviks and SRs. The Russian working women unfortunately showed little interest in the Soviet.

This Soviet had developed out of the garrison soldiers’ committee, which came into being during the night of March 3-4 and consisted at first of three men. The committee was soon strengthened by delegates from army units. Eventually, on March 8, elections were held on a proper basis. Units numbering between 50 and 100 men were represented by one delegate, those with more than 100 by two delegates, and so on. Every subsequent 50 men had the right to elect one deputy. I went from the Soviet straight to one of the regiments, where Comrade Melnichansky was holding a meeting. The news that the Vyborg Soviet had been headed by a former pogromist and anti-Semite, if not a member of the Union of the Russian People, angered the soldiers very much. Many of them leapt to their feet. Clenched fists flashed in the air. Cries were heard for an immediate lynching.

Comrade Melnichansky and I managed with difficulty to calm the audience by saying that vigorous measures had already been taken against Fyodorov. Apparently, it was this very regiment that had elected him to the Soviet and so what we encountered was the justified feeling of bitter anger on the part of the soldier masses, against the deputy who had deceived them, deliberately hiding the black secret of his past. Comrades Melnichansky and Akulov were pleased with the results of the brief visit of the Kronstadt delegation, and especially with the elimination of Fyodorov from the field of battle, as a political opponent. They foresaw that this exposure of one of the leaders of the Vyborg SRs would discredit the SR organisation as a whole in the eyes of the masses. By and large, our delegation managed to speak to all the army units that were stationed at Vyborg at that time.

We were received with enthusiasm everywhere. The masses were considerably further to the Left than their compromiser Soviet and the soldiers listened to our reports with fervent interest. It was clear that they knew about Kronstadt only through rumours.

The 1st Vyborg Regiment passed the following resolution: “We, soldiers of the 1st Vyborg Infantry Regiment, having assembled at a meeting on June 8 and heard the report of the representatives of the Kronstadt Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, declare that we consider the decision of the Kronstadt Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies to be correct, and so we express confidence in Kronstadt and promise to support it in all revolutionary actions taken to defend the working masses; we send it our warm greeting; and we call upon the bourgeois press to cease its filthy slandering of Kronstadt.”

At the 2nd Vyborg Infantry Regiment Ensign Baryshnikov, deeply moved, thanked us for our visit, and added: “But we didn’t know what the real truth was about Kronstadt. Only now do we see that the Kronstadters are making fast what we have gained, that the Kronstadters stand behind the people.’ The next stop on our journey after Vyborg was Helsingfors. The chairman of the Vyborg Executive Committee, Ensign Yelizarov, arranged on his own initiative for us to be given a special second-class carriage. The leaders of the Vyborg Bolsheviks saw us off at the station. We left Vyborg on the evening of June 8 and arrived at Helsingfors early next morning.

From the train we walked straight to the Mariinsky Palace where the Helsingfors Soviet was now established. It was my first visit to the capital of Finland and it struck me as being a completely European city. Without any trouble we found on the Esplanade the big building of the Mariinsky Palace. The sentry at the entrance was unwilling to let us in without special passes, but the magic word ‘delegation’ opened the door for us.

We were at once received in his office by the deputy chairman of the Helsingfors Soviet, the sailor A.F. Sakman, [3] who later joined the Communists but was at this time not yet in our ranks.

After a short conversation in which we merely exchanged information, we took our leave of him.

In one of the rooms of the Mariinsky Palace I came upon L.N. Stark, who was at that time editor of our paper Volna.

Comrade Stark was interested in the episode of the exposure of Fyodorov, and at once asked me to write a note about it for the next issue of Volna: this I did and it appeared the following day. From the Palace we walked to the very end of Mariinskaya Street, where the Helsingfors Party Committee had its premises at that time. In the first room we entered, a rather large one which served as both dining-room and sleeping quarters, we found great disorder. On the dining-table in the middle of the room lay the remains, not yet cleared away, of the previous night’s supper. As it was early in the morning we caught some of the comrades still in bed. I greeted M. Roshal where he lay, and was introduced to Comrade Volynsky, who was also involved in work on Volna at this time. In the next room, which was smaller, V.A. Antonov-Ovseyenko was sitting at a desk and writing. He had returned from abroad not long before and was working in the Helsingfors organisation. He played a leading part in the production of Volna and being, unlike Stark, not only a Party writer but also an orator he spoke at meetings both on the ships and in Senate Square.

The comrades we had caught in bed immediately got dressed and we were soon sitting in a friendly group on the benches beside the long table, drinking tea. Our comradely talk proceeded at a brisk pace and within about an hour we had put our comrades in the picture about the state of affairs at Kronstadt and had learnt, in outline, what the political situation was in Helsingfors.

Generally speaking, SR domination prevailed there, being felt even on the ships. Only Respublika and Petropavlovsk had the reputation of being citadels of Bolshevism. On Respublika Bolshevism reigned absolutely, to the extent that the whole ship’s committee was entirely under the influence of our Party comrades, whereas on Petropavlovsk, alongside the Bolshevik tendency, which had gained the support of the majority, an Anarchist spirit was also markedly evident. Most backward of all was the Destroyer Division, in which political work was carried on very feebly and the not very numerous personnel were under the strong, even perhaps exclusive, influence of their officers.

These SR-minded vessels were represented in the Helsingfors Soviet mostly by SRs who had joined that party in March. The Right-SRs had at that time a majority both in the Soviet and in its Executive Committee. But the chairmanship of the Executive Committee was still held by S.A. Garin (Garfield), who had been elected to this post in the first days of the February-March revolution and who worked under our Party’s flag. By profession he was a writer, the author of a play, Moryaki (The Sailors), which had caused a sensation in its time and he had been mobilised from the reserve when the war came as an Admiralty Ensign. At this time he held a good anti-defencist position.

After visiting the Party Committee we called on ‘Tsentrobalt’. [4] This had its headquarters on a ship moored by the sea wall. Here we met the member on duty, Comrade Vanyushin, who at once led us to a large cabin on the top deck, where a session of Tsentrobalt was actually taking place. When we entered, Comrade P.E. Dybenko rose to welcome us and firmly shook our hands. His whole appearance, starting with his big body, the very picture of health, and ending with his characterful, expressive face, compelled attention. He was broad-shouldered and very tall. In complete proportion with his heroic build, he possessed massive arms and legs, which looked as though they had been cast from iron. The impression he made was strengthened by his large head, his swarthy face with big, deep-cut features, his thick and wavy raven hair, and his curly beard and moustaches. His gleaming dark eyes burned with energy and enthusiasm, showing exceptional strength of will. His open Russian face had nothing Ukrainian in it, except that sometimes one noticed that sly, mocking expression of the eyes which is characteristic of some Ukrainian peasants.

We introduced ourselves, and Comrade Dybenko promised, in the name of Tsentrobalt, to give us all the help we needed. We then went on to a meeting of the regional committee of the Soviets of Finland, because our task was not confined to agitation among the masses – we had also to win over the local Soviets.

It was especially important for us to gain the sympathy of the major regional Soviets which were based on real armed strength and were situated geographically close to Petrograd. Our eyes were not closed to the fact that Kronstadt’s active enemies were not only the Provisional Government but also the Menshevik-SR defencist Petrograd Soviet which supported the coalition in power. In view of this, we had to find backing in the provincial Soviets, to secure moral and political support among them and to show all worker-and-peasant Russia that in its fight against the strangling of the revolution Kronstadt was not alone.

We knew that the personnel of these provincial Soviets, and likewise of their Executive Committees, consisted not only of double-dyed political intriguers from the parties hostile to us, but also of honest non-party people who had not yet managed to get their bearings amid the countless mass of political platforms with which they had been swamped since the February Revolution, and of persons who had accidentally attached themselves at the very beginning of the revolution to one or another of the non-Bolshevik parties.

We endeavoured to emancipate all these elements from the yoke of Menshevik-SR influence. We knew that members of the local soviets in the provinces with whom we had made contact possessed only one-sided information about Kronstadt. We wanted to let them hear the other side, to learn the views of the Kronstadt revolutionaries and understand the argument which had guided the Kronstadt Soviet in its recent conflict with the Provisional Government.

At the meeting of the regional committee we at once felt that we were not among friends. The overwhelming majority of the Helsingfors Executive Committee consisted of representative of parties hostile to us. There spoke against us with particular fervour an Ensign named Kuznetsov, who belonged to the SRs and a bearded sailor, getting on in years, who was also of that party. In reply to him one of the Left-SRs from Kronstadt vigorously took up arms. He exclaimed, with spirit: “Comrades what sort of SRs are these? They are March SRs. They are no SRs but ignorant fellows.” It was amusing to observe, from the side, how fiercely the Left-SRs took it out of their own party comrades. However, while waging a war of words, they nevertheless in practice remained members of one and the same party, took part in common conferences, and stubbornly declined to break that link. This meeting brought us absolutely no gains. After a hot battle, the regional committee passed a resolution to hold another meeting where a final decision would be taken. In spite of the fact that individual members of the committee openly showed some interest and even tried to study the documents we had brought with us, it was obvious that the committee as a whole was only trying to gain time, to protract and postpone its final decision, and possibly even to avoid taking any decision at all. The members of the committee really were in an awkward, equivocal position. On the one hand, it was not convenient for them to declare against the Kronstadters, knowing as they did that the immense majority of the ships’ crews were on our side: an open attack on us would, given these conditions, prove to be all too real a symptom of the remoteness of the regional committee from the masses whose interests it was supposed to representrepresent. On the other hand, though, from party considerations, the Menshevik-SR committee could not cease being itself and suddenly, for no apparent reason, render us support by recognising the correctness of our policy. Consequently, the committee sought to drag out all this business for as long as possible.

After the meeting, in the Soviet’s canteen, which was right there in the Mariinsky Palace, I met the Chairman of the Helsingfors Soviet, S.A. Garin, who had not been present at the committee meeting. When I told him about all the vicissitudes of the meeting which had just concluded, I asked him for his opinion. He expressed the view that the ‘marsh’ would in all probability reject us and in any case would not declare in our favour.

So as not to lose precious time, we spent that evening in an agitational tour of the ships. Again, as at Vyborg, we split into two groups, one going to the infantry regiment – the 509th Gzhatsky and the 428th Lodeinopolsky – while the other, led by me, went to the battleships.

To begin with we visited the first subdivision of the battleships, which included Petropavlovsk, Gangut, Poltava and Sevastopol. A steam launch quickly carried us to the deck of one of these ironclad giants, on whose broad stern was painted, in the Old-Slavonic script the name Sevastopol. This vessel had been regarded until recently as one of the most backward. It was Sevastopol that had passed the notorious resolution for all-round support for ‘war to the end’ and full confidence in the Provisional Government. “There are very few Bolsheviks among us,” we were told, not without a malicious smile and with unconcealed pleasure, by a Sevastopol Lieutenant who accompanied us in the launch to his ship. Naturally, it was not without some perturbation that we went aboard Sevastopol. “How will this defencist-minded crew receive us?” was the thought in everyone’s mind.

Here, on the deck, under the open sky and beneath the grimly-protruding muzzles of 12-inch guns, we held our first improvised meeting, with all the officers of the wardroom plainly showing their disapproval. From the very first words of our report, the sailors’ unanimous attention and clearly expressed sympathy showed us that we had an audience of friends. We and the crowd of 1,500 men, the crew of this battleship were linked by strong bonds of mutual understanding and undivided like-mindedness. We exposed the bourgeois slander which had poured floods of filth upon revolutionary Kronstadt because of its burning enthusiasm for the ideas of Bolshevism. With fraternal sympathy, with glowing eyes and with mouth half-open in intense concentration, the sailors of Helsingfors listened to every word spoken by their comrades from Kronstadt. We felt that our speeches were dispersing their doubt and, as it were, removing from their eyes the futile scale formed by the lies of Menshevik-SR demagogy and the calumnies of the yellow press. The officers, who stood out among the sailors’ blouses in their snow-white jackets, paid close attention to what we said.

This attention grew still stronger when we spoke about the fate of the officers who had been arrested at Kronstadt. But their faces showed that they did not believe what we were saying about the mild prison regime, whereas the sailors were quite satisfied by the explanations we gave.

At that time there was scarcely a single sailor in the Baltic Fleet who was not interested in the affairs of Kronstadt. Consequently, our improvised meeting on Sevastopol attracted almost the entire crew. Meetings had not yet palled in those days, and so were marked by exceptionally large attendances.

While we had chosen as the immediate subject of our speeches a review of the events at Kronstadt, we linked these events very closely with the overall political situation, and criticised severely the entire activity of the Provisional Government and of the parties that supported it. In this way we made real Bolshevik propaganda and to our great satisfaction this was unquestionably successful. The Bolshevik slogan which ran through our reports met with enthusiastic approval from Sevastopol’s crew. It was strange and incomprehensible how could a ship where the feeling was so splendid have passed, not long before, a resolution that had delighted all the bourgeois? After we had spoken a member of the regional committee, a sailor named Antonov, addressed the crew to say that they ought to give a clear and definite answer to the questions: “What was their attitude to the Provisional Government? Would they follow the example of the Kronstadters in refusing confidence to the Provisional Government, or would they keep to the standpoint of their recently adopted resolution?”

The social-chauvinist Antonov failed miserably. The only response his speech got was some feeble applause from a small handful of his henchmen.

After Antonov another sailor spoke and on behalf of all the crew thanked us for our visit and asked us to tell the Kronstadters that the crew of Sevastopol was marching with them and would always be ready to support them. To loud and prolonged cheering the delegation from Kronstadt put off from the dreadnought in a light launch.

The comrades who had visited the army units had also encountered unusual sympathy. In one infantry regiment, after the Kronstadters had made their report, the regimental commander, Captain Frank, famous for kissing Kerensky and presenting him with crosses and medals, said that there was only one thing he disliked about the proceedings at Kronstadt, namely, that we sent to the front everyone who was caught drunk.

“After all, is the front a dump, a cesspit,” the zealous Captain exclaimed, with feeling, “that you should send the dregs of society there, as a punishment?”

A Kronstadt delegate who spoke after him hastened to explain that drunkards were sent to the front not as a punishment but in order that “heroes of the rear” might feel on their own skins all the harshness of life in the trenches and get it into their heads that this was no time for indulgence in excesses.

This explanation was received enthusiastically by the mass of the soldiers. Captain Frank became the object of sharp cries and even direct threats. Many soldiers demanded that he be arrested. Our Kronstadters had to speak in the captain’s defence, asking that he be left at liberty and Captain Frank was not arrested.

Next day the entire delegation made a tour of the remaining battleships. Everywhere we met with a joyful reception. The majority of the crews, wholly sympathetic to Kronstadt, expressed readiness to support it in all revolutionary actions and saw us off with even greater enthusiasm. An entire crew, covering the top deck, cheered us for a long time, waving their caps.

On Poltava, as our launch was about to leave, we were asked to wait a few minutes, and when we eventually put off, a band struck up. The comrades on Poltava had specially rounded up the ship’s band to play as we left. The heartiest reception was given us on Petropavlovsk. Among other things, it was here that intense hatred between the officers and the crew was particularly noticeable.

On Petropavlovsk we encountered a delegate from the front, a certain Second Lieutenant. We let him speak first, as we wanted to put ourselves in the most favourable position, expecting as we did a ‘patriotic’ speech from him such as was usual at that time, and getting ready for a sharp polemic with him. To our surprise, however, this Second Lieutenant turned out to be a Bolshevik. He spoke no less sharply than we did against the war, harshly criticised the Provisional Government, and vigorously demanded that power be handed over to the Soviets. At the end of the meeting the sailors, delighted to meet officers who were Bolsheviks, such as they evidently had not had the pleasure of meeting on their own vessel, made speeches of welcome and even carried shoulder-high their co-thinkers from the commanding personnel.

We liked the Second Lieutenant so much that we took him with us when we visited Respublilka (the former Pavel I). Already in the first days of the February Revolution Respublilka had won a firm reputation throughout the Baltic Fleet and even beyond, as a floating citadel of Bolshevism, a steadfast bulwark of our Party.

Naturally, we at once felt at home there. After mounting to the bridge, which had been transformed into a tribune for speakers, we first of all emphasised that it was with particular pleasure that we had come aboard this ship, since Respublika had more than once delighted us with the splendid, firm resolutions adopted by her crew. As we discovered, our Party group on Respublika had grown to an unusually large size – six hundred men.

From there we proceeded to the battleship Andrei Pervozvanny. When we arrived they had just received a wireless message from the First All-Russia Congress of Soviets which was then being held, aimed exclusively against the Bolsheviks. This somewhat damped the ardour of the crew where we were concerned. But Comrade Kolbin then spoke about this appeal “to all”, dissipated the bad impression it had created and restored the general morale.

The next stage in our journey was to be the battleship Slava. It has only just returned from action off Oesel Island. [5] Without losing a moment we took our seats in a steam launch and in a few minutes made fast to the armoured side of Slava. As a general rule we went first to the ship’s committee in order to tell them we were going to call a general meeting. On this ship, however, the procedure was somewhat strange. We were told to apply for permission for our meeting to the captain of the ship, whose name was Antonov. This delicate diplomatic function was entrusted by the Kronstadt comrades to me.

When I entered the captain’s cabin I found him sitting there – an officer of middling height, with greyish hair, who wore a St Vladimir’s Cross, 4th class, on the left breast of his jacket. “What can I do for you?” Antonov asked, suspiciously.

“We want to hold a meeting here,” I answered. “But what do you want to talk about?” the captain muttered in a discontented tone and as though fully on the alert for something. Such a question was highly improper. Nevertheless I replied: “We want to convey to the sailors of this ship what our comrades at Kronstadt, whom we represent, have instructed us to convey.”

Then I briefly enumerated our main political theses. The Captain remained for a short time sunk in thought, as though hesitating whether to permit or to forbid our meeting.

Eventually, faced with our resolute attitude, he realised without much delay that he was quite helpless, appreciating that regardless of whether or not he gave permission, we should hold our general meeting in one way or another and report to everything we had been instructed to report.

“All right, hold your meeting,” he said, reluctantly. “But Bolsheviks can’t get anywhere with our crew.”

Despite the absence of many of our comrades, who were on shore, a fairly large crowd assembled on the deck where religious services were held. The crew of Slava listened with close attention to what we said, and when we had finished the showered us with a mass of written questions. We replied in detail, carefully explaining how the Kronstadters viewed this problem and that.

Everything went well until, at last, I came to the matter of fraternisation, which was then a burning question for the sailors and soldiers. Speaking out decisively against the offensive then being prepared, I counterposed to this the practice of fraternisation at the front and began to defend and justify this slogan.

But my call for fraternisation was not to someone’s liking, “We’ve just come back from Tserel,” [6] shouted one of the sailor hysterically. “Every day the German aeroplanes rained down bombs on us, and you talk about fraternisation! You should be in the trenches! See how you can fraternise there!”

I had to cool down somewhat the passion of this sailor, whose nerves had obviously been shattered by his experiences in action. But the sailors themselves immediately made him shut up and turning to me with a request to go on with my concluding speech, they added reassuringly: “Don’t pay any attention, comrade, he’s a provocateur among us.”

In general the mood of this ship was quite favourable, but nevertheless it considerably lagged behind other ships where speeches had been greeted with much greater sympathy and enthusiasm.

It was clear that during their isolated stationing off Tserel the ship’s crew had been well worked upon by the reactionary officers, led by Antonov himself. On this same battleship Slava, just before our delegation left it, an incident occurred. As we were saying goodbye to our sailor comrades and to the officers who stood nearby, I came upon one young officer who refused to offer me his hand.

“Why didn’t you give me your hand?” I asked.

“On account of your views,” the officer answered defiantly. “But, pardon me, I am a representative of a certain political party and I honestly and sincerely expressed the views which I profess. Tell me why I should deserve to be treated with such contempt that you refuse to shake hands with me?”

“I didn’t intend to insult you,” muttered the young officer, embarrassed. “I acted as my feelings prompted me.”

“But if your feelings had prompted you to hit me in the face,” I replied, “then regardless of your intentions, that would have been an insult.”

“If you consider yourself insulted, I apologise,” the officer whispered, now quite confused.

I advised him to behave more carefully next time, and asked his name, which turned out to be Sub-Lieutenant Denyer. At once I went to see the ship’s committee and told the member on duty that, while a guest on the battleship Slava I had been subjected to insult and considered that in my person the whole delegation, which shared my views, had been insulted. The committee member reacted very sympathetically to my statement, made a note of what happened and remarked about Sub-Lieutenant Denyer: “You have to realise what sort of fellow he is. He has only been one week on the ship.” I named as witnesses the sailor Baranov and a Sub-Lieutenant name Shimkevich. The comrade from the ship’s committee promise to let me know the outcome of this affair.

Generally speaking, we were given an exceptionally good reception by the mass of the sailors on the dreadnoughts and other battleships. Conquest of the big ships, winning the sympathy of their crews for Kronstadt, was politically very important. The point was that the entire Baltic Fleet followed carefully the line adopted by the two battleship subdivision and shared their political sympathies and antipathies, aligning themselves to a significant degree with the attitude of the battleships. Consequently, when we had finished our tour of the battleships, the major part of the Kronstadt delegation’s task could be considered as completed. What now remained was to work on the sailor masses who were scattered among the other vessels. Our next targets were the cruisers Diana and Rossiya.

Here also, just as on the big ships, not only did we meet with no objections but on the contrary all our explanations were received with unfeigned enthusiasm.

As our arrival on Rossiya coincided with the dinner hour we were invited to table. When I found myself in the wardroom surrounded by the ship’s officers, it became clearer to me than ever that the majority of naval officers regarded us – and especially me, being a naval officer myself, formally a member of their caste – with the deepest, most irreconcilable organic hatred. Outwardly the expression of these feelings was fairly restrained, being masked by a cold correctness. Fear of reprisals by the sailors, the sailors’ terror, kept firmly in check for the time being the seething political passions of the reactionary section of the officers.

Contrary to what we had expected, the Helsingfors Executive Committee greeted us with extraordinary warmth and adopted the following resolution of sympathy with us:

The Helsingfors Executive Committee, having heard the report of the representatives of the Kronstadt Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, resolves as follows:

1. We accept the report by the Kronstadt comrades as fully covering the subject and enabling us to judge the events with sufficient completeness and clarity.

2. We consider the hounding of revolutionary Kronstadt being carried on by the bourgeois press, with the support of certain organs calling themselves ‘socialist’, to be deeply disgraceful and unacceptable, and serving the interests of the counter-revolution.

3. We find that revolutionary Kronstadt has in its tactics steadfastly followed the line of genuine democratism, the truly revolutionary line.

4. We recognise that in expressing its attitude to the Provisional Government, the Kronstadt Soviet of Workers and Soldiers Deputies was exercising a right possessed by every organ of revolutionary democracy.

5. While declaring its lack of confidence in the Provisional Government, the Kronstadt Soviet continues to recognise the Provisional Government as a central authority, and so we regard all charges against Kronstadt of ‘secession’ and ‘disorganisation’ as being absolutely unfounded.

6. The Kronstadt Soviet’s demand that all officials be elected, including the Commissar of the Provisional Government, we consider as being correct and in accordance with the fundamental slogans of democracy.

7. We find, on the basis of the foregoing, that the resolution adopted concerning Kronstadt by the Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies is profoundly mistaken and based on an obvious misunderstanding, and we therefore consider it necessary that this resolution be reviewed.

8. We recognise Kronstadt as the vanguard of Russian Revolutionary democracy and consider it necessary to support it.

According to our information, the Helsingfors Executive Committee numbered 65 men. Comrade Sakman said the Bolsheviks made up about half. But that was incorrect. Our comrades were a minority in this committee.

The fact that an Executive Committee which was alien to us being mainly composed of compromisers, passed a resolution in our favour must be attributed to pure chance. Many members of the Executive Committee evidently voted ‘through misunderstanding’. This circumstance may serve as an eloquent illustration of the political thoughtlessness of the strata which after the February Revolution adhered to social-defencism.

Besides addressing the Executive Committee we were given the opportunity to address a plenary session of the Helsingfors Soviet as well. The members of the Soviet listened attentively our report: there was no debate and no resolution was adopted.

The Helsingfors Soviet of deputies from the army, the fleet and the workers numbered 535 altogether, of whom the Bolshevik fraction constituted 125 or 130.

One day during our visit to Helsingfors the local Party committee organised a big meeting in Senate Square. The place played the same role in Helsingfors as our own famous Anchor Square in Kronstadt. The meeting was extremely crowded. The entire square was filled with Finnish and Russian workers, sailors and soldiers. The members of the Kronstadt delegation were asked to speak first.

We all spoke, paying on this occasion more attention to an analysis of the current situation than to a review of the events Kronstadt. After the Kronstadters had finished, local comrades spoke.

Comrade V.A. Antonov-Oseyenko spoke briefly. Comrade Berg, an old sailor who was an engine-room artificer, a Lett by nationality, and who belonged to the Anarchists, shook Senate Square with his booming bass voice. In moments of passion the sound of that voice of his reached as far as the ships lying in the roadstead of Helsingfors harbour. Sailors on watch, whose duty had obliged them to remain on board ship, thought with regret that the routine of the watch had kept them from attending the meeting and, scratching their heads, said to each other with pride: “How our trumpet of Jericho is roaring on the Square today!” On account of his exceptionally loud voice, Comrade Berg was affectionately known as ‘the trumpet of Jericho’. He was an ideal comrade. Unpretentious, unusually straightforward and frank, extraordinarily honest, he belonged to the category of those political workers engendered by the revolution, who though calling themselves Anarchists, were actually in no way different from Bolsheviks. And Comrade Berg was able to prove his devotion to the proletariat.

In the days of the October Revolution, in the early phase of Soviet power, in the most anxious months of its convulsive struggle for existence, Comrade Berg, constantly risking his life, was ready at any moment to sacrifice himself for the triumph of workers’ and peasants’ rule. Unfortunately he ended his life prematurely by shooting himself in a Moscow hospital in the spring of 1918. [7]

Besides Comrades Antonov-Ovseyenko and Berg, other speakers at this meeting were the Helsingfors Left-SRs Ustinov and Proshyan. It cannot be said that they had no success. This they owed to a considerable extent to the content of their speeches, which included not one word of polemic with the Bolsheviks but were, on the contrary, full of expressions of support for the Bolshevik theses. After them the Kronstadters spoke again, delivering, so to speak, the concluding- addresses of the meeting. In all our speeches the centre of gravity lay in our analysis of the current situation, but, nevertheless, we devoted sufficient attention to our own affairs at Kronstadt.

The meeting went on for several hours. After it had finished, all those present, following a proposal by Comrade Berg, went to the brotherhood grave. We formed an orderly procession and marched along singing revolutionary songs. The Finnish bourgeois whom we passed on our way gazed with amazement at this unexpected demonstration and were obliged to take off their hats when we sang the funeral hymn ‘You fell victim.’ We held a civil funeral service at the grave. [8]

In accordance with the programme previously decided on, after Helsingfors we were to go to Abo. [9] The Kronstadt delegation were accompanied in their railway carriage by the Helsingfors Party worker Comrade Sheinman, who was going as far as Hangö on Party business.

We left Helsingfors at 8p.m. and reached Abo at 2a.m. We went straight from the station to the local Soviet. We arrived during a meeting of the Executive Committee, but had to wait a very long time before being received, as a French military mission was with the Executive Committee. Eventually the foreign visitors left and we could be received. The chairman of the Abo Executive Committee, Cornet Podgursky, greeted us in an outwardly quite welcoming manner, and invited us to take seats at a table around which were sitting about ten members of the local Executive Committee. At our request we were called on to speak straight away.

After we had made our report, Cornet Podgursky told us that they would take their decision at once, while we were out of the room.

After some time we were asked to come in again and Podgursky told us that they had put off their resolution on Kronstadt till later. Then, assuming a serious, businesslike air, he solemnly declared that the Abo Executive Committee had discussed our statement that we intended to hold a meeting and had decided that all manner of meetings might be held in a free country, with the exception of obviously provocative ones.

Since, however, we were an official delegation, no suspicion of provocation could arise and we should be allowed to hold our meeting without any hindrance whatsoever.

This solemnly pretentious statement amazed us all. We were frankly startled to hear that the Executive Committee had engaged in a study of the question whether the Kronstadt delegation might hold a meeting. And were quite stunned when we heard their detailed, childishly naive motivation. As we were to learn later, the Abo Executive Committee very often wracked its brains over such trifles, and this was not the first time they had excelled themselves by adopting a resolution with a very verbose motivation concerning an extremely simple matter. Later, we were told that someone had even spoken against permission being given for our meeting.

The Chairman then proceeded to tell us the Executive Committee’s decision regarding the telegrams we had handed to the committee member on duty, asking him to have them despatched. Instead of sending them off forthwith, the member on duty had shown them to the Executive Committee, which had eagerly applied itself to discussing them and adopting a decision about them.

“The content of your telegrams,” the Cornet-Chairman went on, in the same profoundly thoughtful style, “the content of your telegrams is a matter for your own conscience. The Abo Executive Committee has no objection to their despatch.”

At this point our bewilderment became quite boundless. We at once spoke up, saying that we certainly had not intended to submit our telegrams for preliminary censorship by the Executive, Committee, but had simply handed them to the member on duty with a request that he send them off.

“In that case there has been a misunderstanding here,” said the Chairman, in that same imperturbably grave manner of his.

Altogether the people at Abo were evidently not used to political life, and what we saw and heard at the meeting of the Executive Committee made us think of children playing at politics. We learnt while we were there that of the 26 members of the Abo Executive Committee only four or five were Bolsheviks. The Abo Soviet numbered 149 delegates, of whom about 40 were Bolsheviks. The chairman of the Soviet was an ensign from among the warrant-officers of the fleet, named Nevsky, who commanded the fleet sub-depot at Abo.

From the premises of the Executive Committee we went straight to the barracks of the fleet sub-depot and asked the local committee to convene within a few minutes a general meeting of the sub-depot personnel. It was 7p.m. We went out into the yard, and there, in the open air, we held a general meeting of the garrison, which was attended by a considerable number of sailors and soldiers.

The gunboat Bohr was at sea, unfortunately. This was one of the most Bolshevik of the vessels, with a Party group numbering 150. Besides the Kronstadters, two local Party workers spoke – Comrades Sherstobitov and Nevsky. Comrade Sherstobitov, who was short, stocky and thickset, with a serious air, morose and always preoccupied, was in practice the principal leader of the Party there. His speeches were extremely businesslike, and he was at the same time no mean orator. Comrade Nevsky, who was an Ensign, was considerably superior to Sherstobitov in natural gifts.

The meeting began in an unfriendly atmosphere, but by the end it had become very well disposed towards the Bolsheviks. It was clear that Comrade Sherstobitov had done a lot of work here and had prepared the sailors well politically.

We had not planned to stay very long at Abo, which was not a place of great importance, and so on June 13(26) early in the morning, we returned to Helsingfors. Our arrival in Helsingfors coincided with the first congress of the sailors of the Baltic Fleet. At this congress undivided hegemony was wielded by two naval officers: Commander Ladyzhensky and Captain Muravyov, a specialist in wireless telegraphy. At the session to which I dropped in Ladyzhensky was in the chair, while Muravyov gave the report and participated vigorously in the discussion. Our Party sailors headed by Comrade Dybenko, who took part in the work of the congress, did not consider it very important, and, indeed, this congress played no role in the history of the fleet.

The next stage in our journey was Reval.

During our entire, quite lengthy stay in Helsingfors we had absolutely no contact with the commanding personnel. Rear-Admiral Verderevsky, the fleet commander, sat in his flagship Krechel, fussing over the mass of official papers which, from long habit, the industrious staff of the Baltic Command prepared and submitted to him in unlimited quantity. Verderevsky tactfully avoided complications in his dealings with Tsentrobalt and commanded the fleet only in so far and to the extent that he was not prevented by Tsentrobalt from doing so. In short, at that time Tsentrobalt was everything and the Fleet Commander was nothing. Comrade Dybenko once said to those around him: “After all, if need be, we’ll fire a couple of shells at Krechel and nothing will be left of him.” Verderevsky probably appreciated this possibility and feared like fire any conflict with Tsentrobalt. As a result, he possessed no influence whatsoever in the Fleet. We, the newly-arrived delegates, felt that we were masters on the ships of the Baltic Fleet to a very much greater extent than Fleet Commander Admiral Verderevsky. Our practical dealings were with Tsentrobalt alone.

We also applied to Tsentrobalt to arrange for us to go to Reval, and they allowed us to make the trip on the destroyer Inzhener-mekhanik Zverev, which was going to Reval the very next day. This destroyer belonged to the Seventh Division and was based at Reval. They warned us in advance that we might find ourselves up against a lot of misunderstanding.

At about 7a.m. next day we went aboard the destroyer, but departure was postponed until 11. The crew of the destroyer received us very amicably, entering into conversation at once and offering us tea. Our fellows relaxed and settled down, some below in the crew’s quarters and others on the top deck, which was covered with coal-dust.

The Kronstadters and the sailors talked together about politics. My comrades succeeded at once in finding a common language with the aboriginal inhabitants of Zverev, and nothing, it seemed, foreshadowed a storm. I went on shore to attend to some matters, but when I returned, towards 11a.m., I met near the landing-stage the members of the Kronstadt delegation, who had left the destroyer and were downcast, upset and very angry.

It turned out that at about 10 o’clock the flag-officer, Sub-Lieutenant Sevastyanov, had come aboard the destroyer. When he learnt that there was a delegation from Kronstadt on this vessel, he started to go from one destroyer to another, stirring up the sailors everywhere against the Kronstadters. Then, going up to one of our comrades, he asked him: “These are all delegates from Kronstadt?” Receiving an affirmative answer he then shouted in a loud voice: “Get out of here, you scoundrels!” They explained to him, in a reasonable way, that the Kronstadt delegation had been given a pass to board the destroyer by the Central Committee of the Baltic Fleet. “I don’t take any account of those swine,” the Sub-lieutenant shouted, beside himself. “I recognise only one thing, my own physical strength.” This over-excited officer then ran up to one of our comrades and seizing him by the collar, threw him off the deck of the vessel, cursing the while and repeating again and again: “I don’t want anything to do with swine like these.”

Sevastyanov removed from the destroyer, besides the Kronstadters, two members of Tsentrobalt, Galkin and Kryuchkov, who had some mission to fulfil among the sailors at Reval. When he was expelling them from the destroyer, Sub-lieutenant Sevastyanov had the insolence to utter this threat: “Clear off, clear off, or we’ll fasten fire-bars to your feet and throw you overboard.”

There could of course be no-question of our returning to this Black Hundred vessel. We therefore went without delay to the supply-ship Viola where Tsentrobalt was in session, and informed them of the disgraceful doings which had just occurred on the destroyer. The members of Tsentrobalt reacted with extreme indignation to this unprecedented event. They resolved to suspend the departure of the destroyer and to summon immediately to Viola the destroyer’s commander and Sub-Lieutenant Sevastyanov. They duly presented themselves with a downcast and guilty air. Comrade Dybenko, who always had a ready tongue, came down on them with all the fury of his easily-aroused nature. Those officers sat before him like schoolboys who had just been given a beating for getting unsatisfactory marks. Sub-Lieutenant Sevastyanov admitted everything.

When Comrade Dybenko asked Sevastyanov to whom, as he understood it, power belonged on a ship, he replied: “It’s written down in the regulations: first to the commander, then to the senior officer, then to the orderly officer.” He said nothing about the ship’s committees or about the Central Committee of the Baltic Fleet, the supreme organ of authority in the service administration, which actually stood higher at that time than the Fleet Commander. Explaining his conduct, Sub-Lieutenant Sevastyanov added: “I acted in accordance with the old laws; I didn’t know about the new ones.”

This evidence clearly revealed that in the person of Sub-Lieutenant Sevastyanov we were dealing with a definite Black Hundredite, who based himself on the Tsarist regulations and the laws of the old, overthrown regime. He cynically revealed his unwillingness to reckon with the new order. There was no trace of republican psychology in him. In everything he said one sensed contempt for the revolution and the institutions created by it.

The Central Committee of the Baltic Fleet, having perceived that this was a criminal affair, arranged for Sevastyanov’s case to be handed over to an investigating commission formed in association with Tsentrobalt. The commission intended to arrest the criminal Sub-Lieutenant, but the crew of the destroyer asked that he be left at liberty, because he was the divisional navigator and as flag-officer had secret documents in his charge. Since it was difficult to replace Sub-Lieutenant Sevastyanov at once, the commission left him at liberty after obtaining his signed promise to report to Helsingfors as soon as Tsentrobalt should summon him. When we arrived back in Kronstadt we learnt that Sevastyanov had been arrested in Reval a few days later.

This unpleasant incident, which made us deeply angry, held up our departure for a whole day. It was only on the following day, June 15(28) that at last we left Helsingfors. They had found us places on a passenger steamship. There I accidentally encountered someone I had known at the modern secondary school I attended, a man named Vladimir Andreyev. He had just been promoted to Sub-Lieutenant for the duration and wore a naval officer’s uniform. Several other Sub-Lieutenants were travelling with him. From their attitude I formed the impression that these young sailors who had only recently been made officers were not yet filled with the caste spirit and, unlike the old regular officers, looked on the Bolsheviks in an extraordinarily tolerant way. These were already young officers of the revolutionary promotion.

We soon reached Reval. In an antediluvian horse-drawn tram we made our way through the town’s narrow old streets to Ekaterinental, [10] where the local soviet was then housed. Here we were met by the member of the Executive Committee on duty, a sailor named Radzishevsky whose party affiliation was to the Anarchists.

The Reval Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies numbered at that time 311 delegates, of whom 57 were Bolsheviks: when voting was by secret ballot, the number of deputies in favour of the Bolsheviks’ resolutions roe to 70. In addition, there were about 90 SRs and 11 Anarchists in the Soviet. The Executive Committee, which had 20 members, was divided party-wise as follows: two Bolsheviks, two Anarchists, two Mensheviks and the rest either SRs or non-party. The chairman of the Executive Committee was an SR, Sherstnev, who was oddly described to us by Radzishevsky as “a sympathiser with the Bolsheviks”.

After a quick meal in the sailors’ (formerly the officers’) mess, we went to a meeting of representatives of the garrison, which was held under the chairmanship of Sub-Lieutenant A.A. Sinitsyn. At this meeting we were surprised to see a rather large number of naval officers, who cast hateful glances at us. Here we gave a report of a purely informative character. We got no resolutions out of them.

That same day, quite unexpectedly, I was enabled to address a meeting of Estonian workers. Some Estonian Party comrades we met dragged us along to a circus where several hundred Estonian workers were seated on the benches of the amphitheatre. As many of them were ignorant of Russian, I had to speak through an interpreter. The Estonians’ attitude was extremely good. Throughout the meeting their Bolshevik sympathies were shown openly and, so to speak, boiled over. Of all my impressions of Reval that visit to the meeting of Estonian workers has left the most agreeable memory.

Next day we all went to the cruiser Bayan. There I met a comrade who had graduated with me from the cadet class, Sub-Lieutenant Nellis. He invited me to his cabin and told me that the sailors of this ship were extremely hostile to the Bolsheviks and had even talked of throwing us overboard. The meeting was held on the top deck under the guns. Here we really felt an enormous difference from the mood in Helsingfors. Whereas there the sailors had understood us easily and given us fraternal ovations, here they received us with icy coolness. Relations between speakers and audience were strained all the time, and when one of us referred in a sharp way to the Provisional Government and expressed himself in passing against the war, the majority of Bayan’s crew did not like it. Angry shouts and hostile cries began to ring out and we had to be extricated by Comrade Baranov, who was able by his natural gift for making jokes and coming out with funny remarks to put the audience in merry mood and thereby to disperse the lowering clouds. As a result of this meeting we managed all the same to modify the sailors’ attitude a little, make them listen to what we had to say and appreciate to some extent that we were sincere.

From Bayan we moved to the minesweepers, which lay in great numbers by the wall of Reval harbour. Here, however, the attitude was quite different. The harmful influence of the counter-revolutionary elements was felt here to a markedly smaller degree. On these vessels the commander was often a mere naval ensign who did not belong to the closed corporation of naval officers and was therefore more tolerantly disposed towards political ideas that were alien to that body. The crews of the minesweepers listened with great interest to our speeches, displayed full solidarity with us and thanked us endlessly for coming to see them. “Thank you, comrades, for visiting us. Speakers come so rarely,” they shouted as we returned along the gangplank to the shore. Besides Bayan and the minesweepers we also visited the training ship Pyotr Veliky. We were received no less joyfully and hospitably by the naval air detachment stationed not far from Reval. The airmen drove us there and back in their car.

Reval was the last point on our tour around the shores of the Gulf of Finland. With this the Kronstadt delegation could regard its agitational mission as having been completed.


1. Here the author gives, in brackets, the ‘new-style’ (post-February 1918) date as well as the date under the old calendar in use at the time.

2. As compared with Petrograd, created by Peter the Great as the beginning off the 18th century, Vyborg was indeed ‘ancient’: the castle dates from 1293.

3. He died of typhus in Petrograd in 1920.

4. ‘Tsentrobalt’ was the Central Committee of the Baltic Fleet, elected by the sailors.

5. Oesel Island (in Estonian, Saaremaa) stands between the Bal tic Sea and the Gulf of Riga. The Germans were at this time striving, by combined military and naval action, to capture Riga and overrun Russia's Baltic provinces.

6. Tserel (in Estonian, Saare) is at the southern tip of Oesel. Heavy batteries commanded from there the lnbe Strait, the main entry into the Gulf of Riga.

7. A curious mistake for Raskolnikov to have made. E. A. Berg (born 1892) was killed in September 1918 in Transcaspia, as one of the ‘26 Commissars’, along with Polukhin.

8. ‘Brotherhood graves’ were the mass graves of those killed in the revolution. 'You fell victim' were the first words of the song known as the revolutionary funeral march.

9. Abo is now known by its Finnish name, Turku, and Hangö is called Hanko.

10. Ekaterinental is an 18th century palace standing in a park by the sea, on the outskirts of Reval (Tallinn).

1. July 3

On July 3, at about two o’clock in the afternoon, there came from Petersburg to see us at Kronstadt a group of delegates from the 1st Machine-Gun Regiment, [1] which was apparently under Anarchist influence.

On their arrival at the Kronstadt Soviet they were brought to me, as a deputy-chairman of the Soviet. First and foremost I was interested to discover the reason for their visit. Our visitors, who were led by a woman, explained that they intended to organise some public meetings at which they would speak about the current situation and in particular about the attack on Durnovo’s dacha, [2] which was then occupied by an Anarchist centre.

Even before this time Anarchists of a great variety of shades had frequently come to Kronstadt. They appreciated very well the exceptional role played by Kronstadt in the revolutionary movement, its militant mood and immense potential of revolutionary action, and they naturally strove to win Red Kotlin over to their side, to conquer this bastion of Bolshevism.

We had also quite often been visited by the leader of the Anarchist-Communists, the famous Bleichman, who denounced us in the Soviet because we allowed food parcels to be given to the arrested officers, instead of the poison which, in Bleichman’s view, was what they deserved. I argued relentlessly with the Anarchist leader and his friends, but in general our relations with them were good and comradely. At that time the Anarchists had no serious influence and by their attacks on the Provisional Government they often brought grist to our Party’s mill.

There existed at Kronstadt a permanent organisation of ‘Anarchist-Syndicalists’, led by Comrade Yarchuk, but this had no independent significance and hardly ever opposed us. Yarchuk, a tailor by trade, who had only recently returned from America where he lived as an emigrant, was quite favourably disposed towards the Bolshevik Party and always sought to co-ordinate the tactics of his little group with the activities of our Party. Consequently, we were used to the Anarchists, familiar with their methods of political argument and had trained ourselves to combat them. Semyon Roshal was especially good at this: he knew well how, with his characteristic humour, to ridicule the Anarchist ideology and render obvious the futility, the Utopian nature, emptiness and petty-bourgeois essence of their political slogans, in so far as these went beyond the bounds of our own platform. Naturally, the visit of the new semi-Anarchist group came as no surprise to us. But I thought it my duty to warn them that political feeling was excited enough at Kronstadt and it would not do to stir up the masses to still greater excitement as this might lead to a spontaneous, disorganised outbreak.

They promised not to give the masses any concrete slogans and assured me that they were far from wishing to bring disorganisation into the political life of Red Kronstadt. As the first target of their efforts the machine-gunners chose the 1st Baltic Depot, the address of which they did not know. I was going that way and set off along with them, conversing on political subjects: my companions always carefully avoided any dispute or any criticism of our programme and tactics, evidently fearing that a premature revelation of their intentions might ruin all their plans. When I parted with the visitors I telephoned Petersburg. We had a very good custom whereby I rang Petersburg every day and, asking to speak to Lenin, Zinoviev or Kamenev, reported to them everything that had happened at Kronstadt and obtained the instructions needed for our current work.

On this occasion it was Comrade Kamenev who came to the telephone, and he warned me that we might expect some provocation from the machine-gunner delegates who had come to see us, in connection with the fact that in Petrograd the 1st Machinegun Regiment, despite our Party’s opposition, had already come out on to the streets with its machine-guns mounted on trucks. No other units of the Petrograd garrison had joined them so far, and our Party would not support this irresponsible move.

Hardly had I left the apparatus than I was told that a meeting had been called in Anchor Square. It turned out that the initiators of this meeting were the visiting delegates. In this instance they had acted absolutely ‘anarchistically’ by not only refraining from getting agreement from the Soviet but also ignoring the local Anarchist-Syndicalists, who were close to them in spirit.

The Anarchist-Syndicalists’ leader Yarchuk, suspecting nothing, was peacefully giving a talk in the Army Drill Hall on the enormous theme of ‘War and Peace’ when some men rushed in shouting: “Comrades, to the meeting!” The entire audience, as though touched by an electric current, instantly leapt up and pressed towards the exit. The Anarchist lecturer, left alone, followed his audience to Anchor Square.

Almost all the members of our Party’s Kronstadt committee were already there. The first speaker to address the meeting was one of the visitors. In hysterical tones he described how the Anarchists were being persecuted by the Provisional Government. But the central purpose of his speech was to announce that an action by the 1st Machinegun Regiment and other units of the Petrograd garrison was going to take place the day.

“Comrades,” said the Anarchist with tearful emotion, “it may be that our brothers’ blood is already being shed in Petrograd at this moment. Can you refuse to support your comrades, will you not come out in defence of the revolution?”

On the audience of mostly impressionable sailors such speech as this had a powerful effect.

After the visiting speaker had finished Comrade Roshal tried to make a speech that would calm the meeting down. When mounted the improvised wooden tribune the whole of Anchor Square was frozen into silence. Everyone wanted to hear what this popular and witty speaker would have to say. But when Semyon spoke in his usual sharp and direct way, against the demonstration on the grounds that it was untimely, and beg warmly to advocate non-participation in it, thousands of voices shouted “Get down!” and raised such a storm of uproar and hissing that my poor friend had to leave the tribune even before he had finished his speech. This was the first and the last case divergence between Roshal and the masses during his work Kronstadt. As a rule all his speeches enjoyed great success being listened to with profound attention, and if he was interrupted it would only be by applause or by sympathetic laughter. Not surprisingly, this unaccustomed failure deeply up and shook Comrade Roshal.

After him spoke a representative of the Left-SRs, Comrade Brushvit. (He must not be confused with the Right-SR of the same name – possibly a relation – who was a member of the Constituent Assembly and took party in the Czechoslov adventure.) Our Kronstadt Brushvit was at this time quite Left, and had mastered with great talent the colloquial, peasant way of speaking, using jokes and funny catchphrases.

The Kronstadters liked to listen to him. Outwardly he had a fairly benevolent attitude towards us Bolsheviks, and in any case for tactical reasons, fearing to damage his popularity, never let himself oppose us in any way. At that time there were not yet any serious differences in tactics between us and the Left-SRs and their agitation usually only made our work easier. On this occasion Brushvit mounted the tribune in order to expound the same views as we had maintained. He too was against the demonstration. But as soon as the audience realised what he was getting at they at once subjected him to the same hostile treatment as Comrade Roshal had received, and literally stopped him from speaking. Comrade Brushvit, who had a sensitive nature, wiped away tears as he left the tribune.

After this some unknown comrades who had never addressed a meeting before came forward to speak. They made inflammatory speeches and called for the sailors to go immediately to the barracks and arm themselves, and then go to the landing-stage, seize all the steamships present there and proceed to Petrograd. “There is no time to lose,” they insisted. The atmosphere in Anchor Square grew more and more tense.

Concern for the fate of the Petrograd comrades, who had perhaps already taken to the streets and were even then shedding their blood and in need of support, had a magical effect on the crowd. Everyone burned with desire to go and help as quickly as possible. Their aims were unclear. There was no precise notion of why the machine-gunners were demonstrating in Petrograd. It was enough that a demonstration was taking place. An active feeling of comradeship impelled the Kronstadt masses to take direct action, telling them that at such a moment they should be with their blood-brothers, the workers and soldiers of Petrograd. With such a unanimous collective wave of feeling it was very difficult to go against the stream. However, Party duty obliged me to fight to the last ditch. I clearly appreciated that since our Party did not support the demonstration, we Bolsheviks, regardless of our individual views on the matter, must come out against it, doing all we could to hold our Kronstadt friends back from taking part in it.

With this in mind I asked to speak. The audience listened intently. I began by saying that at this moment when revolutionary events were growing, it could only be to the advantage of the Provisional Government and the bourgeoisie standing behind it to arrange for a bloodletting of the working class. It was therefore necessary to approach all problems cautiously and suspiciously. We could expect from any and every direction a carefully-planned provocation by the Provisional Government with the aim of bringing about a premature, insufficiently organised outbreak by the armed workers and the peasants in soldiers’ greatcoats, so as to drown the revolutionary movement and our Party in a deluge of blood. We must not, under the influence of ardent speeches and without being clear about the situation, take decisions of great responsibility which could have tremendous consequences for the course and outcome of the entire revolution. We must first of all ascertain just what was happening in Petrograd, whether the demonstration of which the visitor comrades had spoken was really taking place. At the Soviet we had a direct line to Petrograd, and we ought first to get detailed, thorough information about what was going on there that day. By setting off straightaway without finding anything out beforehand, we might fall into a ridiculous situation. Furthermore, in the event that our participation proved to be necessary, we must ensure that this participation was strictly organised. We must not rush en masse on to the landing-stage and seize the first boats we came upon, but first of all make a survey of all the shipping available and allot the vessels in an organised way: Then, too, we must check on our stocks of weapons, so as to ensure that nobody set off armed with nothing but a stick.

In view of this I proposed: (1) that instead of marching to the landing-stage, an organisational commission be elected and charged with finding out the truth about the events in Petrograd and checking on the arms stores and the shipping: (2) that this commission telephone its decision to all units with the least possible delay.

To my surprise my entire speech, and the practical proposal which followed from it, were listened to calmly. Moreover the audience, which had now sobered up somewhat, apparently realised how senseless it would be to react immediately to events of which nobody had any serious knowledge. My proposal was adopted. Comrade Roshal, myself and some others were elected to the commission. Complete confidence was shown in the old familiar leader of the Kronstadters, the Bolshevik Party.

For reasons of convenience I had to resort to some ‘diplomacy’, concealing from the crowd the fact, which I knew already from Comrade Kamenev, that the demonstration of the 1st Machinegun Regiment was indeed under way. To have told the meeting that the demonstration had started, that it was an accomplished fact, would only have poured oil on the flames.

Furthermore, I did not consider I had the right to communicate news of this event when I had not yet obtained any information about the nature of the demonstration or the circumstances and consequences associated with it. It might easily have happened that finding themselves without support from other units of the Petrograd garrison, the 1st Machinegun Regiment had been obliged to return to barracks. However, even before the meeting began I had managed to whisper to my comrades on the Kronstadt Committee the news I had received from Comrade Kamenev.

After the close of the meeting, when the crowd of many thousands had dispersed and Anchor Square was empty, we made our way to the Soviet building. Our organisational commission at once decided to summon representatives from the units and the workshops so as to establish the closest contact with the masses. The commission went into session at about 12.30. First of all, the comrade delegates from the units and workshops were asked to report on the situation in their localities. These reports gave us a clear picture. It was obvious that while we had that day succeeded in preventing immediate action, putting it off and gaining time by forming the organisational commission, nevertheless, the action would inevitably take place the next day and we should lose control of the masses. I went straight from the meeting to the telephone room, got myself connected with the Petrograd Soviet, and asked for Lenin, Zinoviev or Kamenev. Comrade Zinoviev came to the telephone.

I informed him of the state of feeling at Kronstadt and stressed that the question was not whether to act or not to act, but was of a different order: would the Kronstadters’ action take place under our leadership, or would it flare up in an elemental, disorganised way, without our Party’s participation? In either case the action was quite unavoidable and nothing could avert it.

Comrade Zinoviev asked me to hang on. After a few minutes he came back to tell me that the CC had decided to take part in the next day’s action and turn it into a peaceful and organised armed demonstration. Comrade Zinoviev stressed the words ‘peaceful demonstration’ and explained that the Party insisted absolutely on this condition, and it was therefore our duty to see that it was fulfilled. As I learned afterwards this decision by the Central Committee, in favour of a peaceful but armed demonstration, was taken on the one had under the influence of my report, and on the other under that of a demonstration by workers from the Putilov Works, who came to the Taurida Palace along with their wives and children.

In any case I was very glad that the CC had taken this decision. Kronstadt at that time was not a quantity that could be left out of account without regrettable consequences. Kronstadt and Tsaritsyn were the strongest citadels of Bolshevism, where our Party possessed immense ideological influence. Owing however to its proximity to Petrograd and its plentiful supply of arms, the political and military importance of Kronstadt was incomparably greater than that of Tsaritsyn. Consequently, for our Party to have broken with the spontaneous movement of the Kronstadt masses would have struck an irreparable blow at its authority. On the other hand, an armed uprising would have been doomed to certain defeat. We might have seized power with comparative ease but would not have been in a position to retain it.

The front was not sufficiently prepared at that time. Despite the intense activity that had been carried on there by a number of our comrades – Nakhimson, Sievers, Khaustov, Dzevaltovsky and many others – our Party had managed through an immense amount of organisational and agitational work to win over only a few isolated regiments which had gained the reputation of being Bolshevik-minded units. Particularly distinguished in this respect were the Lettish regiments of the 12th Army on the Northern front. [3] However, apart from them and a few other regiments, all the rest of the front was still in the grip of the Provisional Government.

The CC’s decision was therefore absolutely appropriate. On the one hand it provided a safety-valve for accumulated political passion: on the other, by leading the action into the channel of an armed demonstration, our Party carried out a trial of strength, a review of the forces of the revolutionary vanguard which was inspired by the slogan of transferring power to the Soviets, and by its organised Party leadership saved the spontaneous mass movement from a premature and senseless bloodletting. Finally, in the event that the demonstration should succeed and receive sympathetic support from the front, the Party always kept in hand the possibility of transforming this armed demonstration into an armed uprising. In our striving to overthrow the Provisional Government we should have been poor revolutionaries if we had not kept that possibility in view. Nevertheless, the action was conceived and was conducted from start to finish as a peaceful, though armed demonstration.

I had hardly finished my conversation with Comrade Zinoviev when Comrade Donskoy came up to me and asked excitedly to be handed the instrument. Comrade Donskoy was one of the most likable of the activists of the Kronstadt Left-SRs’ organisation. A mature, very intelligent sailor, he possessed a fighting temperament. Young, not very tall, with lively eyes, energetic, enthusiastic and cheerful, he was always in the front ranks and gazed boldly into the face of danger. Among the Kronstadt Left-SRs he was the closest to us, maintaining good relations with our Party, and he was beloved in our organisation. ‘A fight to a finish’ was his element. During the October Revolution he was commissar at Krasnaya Gorka and in charge of the despatch of formations to the Pulkovo Heights. Later, in the summer of 1918, in Kiev, he killed the German General Eichhorn, and was hanged by the servants of German imperialism. So perished this promising, talented youngster who had emerged from the ranks of the Red Navy.

On this occasion, during the night of July 3-4, Comrade Donskoy, after getting connected with the Taurida Palace asked for Natanson or Kamkov, the Left-SR leaders, to be called to the telephone.

From the second floor, where we had our direct telephone link with Petrograd, I descended again to the first floor, to the meeting-hall, and, asking to address the gathering, I told them that the CC of the Bolshevik Party had decided to take part in a peaceful armed demonstration on the following day. This news was received with a storm of applause.

As I was finishing what I had to say, Comrade Donskoy approached the proscenium which served as the speakers tribune and announced that the Left wing of the SRs had also acceded to the demonstration. These words were again met with applause.

Discussion ceased and the meeting voted. The decision to take part in a peaceful demonstration carrying arms was passed unanimously.

It was curious that even the Provisional Government’s commissar, Parchevsky, who tried to please both Prince Lvov and us, and who was present at this meeting, also voted to participate in the demonstration. During most of the proceedings he had slept peacefully in his chair, his head on his shoulder, and probably raised his hand mechanically, not realising as he woke up what it was all about. In any case this incident gave rise to jokes about the eccentric representative of the Government.

After the vote had been taken we proceeded to check our rifles and shipping. But this work took so long that we had to break off the meeting without having finished it, intending to carry out the allocation next morning in Anchor Square before embarkation.

Orders were issued at once for the ships to get up steam without delay. To the organisational commission for leading the demonstration were elected Roshal, me and a representative of the Left-SRs. Not long before the end of the meeting I was called to the telephone by Comrade Flerovsky. He generally participated closely in the work of the Kronstadt organisation, being a member of the Party committee, but on that day he happened to be in Petrograd. He told me that he had just been at a meeting of the workers’ section of the Petrograd Soviet, which had resolved to take part in the demonstration and had elected 15 comrades to lead it. The workers’ section was at that time the only Soviet organisation in Petrograd that was in our hands. “Hurrah!” I shouted back to him, over the telephone. After we had exchanged information and impressions, we agreed that, on the following day, Comrade Flerovsky would come to meet us at the Nikolai Bridge.

The meeting was closed soon after this. The participants, filled with enthusiasm, dispersed quickly, hastening to their barracks and ships, to inform their comrades of the decision which had been taken. Not much time was left before dawn.

2. July 4

Next day, July 4, at the early hour fixed beforehand the whole of Anchor Square was filled with orderly columns of sailors, soldiers and workers, with bands and red flags, gathered at the assembly point for an organised demonstration in Petrograd. As instructed by the organisational commission, I mounted the tribune and set forth the aims and tasks of our visit to Petrograd. I stressed once more the possibility of a provocation I specially warned against any attempt to draw us into an unorganised clash with supporters of the Provisional Government, and advised everyone to refrain strictly from loosing off their firearms. I pointed out that in circumstances of mass excitement, regardless of the timing of the demonstration, even the accidental discharge of a rifle could lead to serious and undesirable consequences. In conclusion I read out the list of leaders of the demonstration proposed by the meeting of delegates held during the night. All the comrades named were unanimously confirmed.

Voices rang out from the crowd assembled in the square saying that some comrades, especially among the workers, had been unable to obtain guns, and asked what they were to do. I explained that since we had been invited to participate not in an armed uprising but in a demonstration, the unarmed comrades had best join with us and follow us to Petrograd. That met with approval, as nobody wanted to stay behind in Kronstadt. It was, of course, a nuisance to set off without weapons, but all the revolutionary workers of Kronstadt greatly preferred to die with their comrades in the streets of Petrograd rather than stay at home like philistines.

At last, after all the inevitable questions had been answered, I read out the list of steamships earmarked for this enterprise, with their allocation among the service units and the workers. Then we moved down to the landing-stage in an organised way, to the music of our bands.

The group of active leaders, the staff of the demonstration, so to speak, took their places in the steamship Zarnitsa which belonged to the fortress. The rest were assigned to various tugs and passenger boats. There was not a single naval vessel in our escort: of all the ships in the Baltic Fleet, the only one in the port of Kronstadt was one hulk which could not be removed from the sea-wall or taken out of the dock. All the ships that were at all capable of movement had been concentrated at Helsingfors and Reval. Eventually, when embarkation had been completed, we left the harbour.

The navigation of our vessels was in the hands of civilian captains who knew nothing about keeping station, so that our ‘flotilla’ observed no sort of formation; the vessels proceeded separately and higgledy-piggledy.

If the Provisional Government had possessed sufficient resolution of the sort shown by the counter-revolutionary Assistant Minister for the Navy, Dudorov, who ordered the submarines to sink any vessel leaving Helsingfors in those days to go to the aid of Petrograd, it would have been easy, by placing a couple of batteries on the shores of the Sea Canal, [4] to prevent the Kronstadters from entering the mouth of the Neva, and in addition to drown in the muddy waters of the ‘Marquis’s Puddle’ one or two steamships loaded to the gunwales with active, militant enemies of the Provisional Government.

Fortunately, however, this idea did not enter the head of any member of Kerensky’s Government, owing “to its state of panicky confusion. It may be in any case that it lacked the courage to carry out this diabolical plan, from fear of worsening still further its precarious position.”

The preparations to destroy shiploads of men, a measure of exceptional severity, were undertaken at Helsingfors out of panic, fear at the possible appearance before Petrograd of a squadron equipped with long-range naval guns. Although personal responsibility for this disgraceful order was assumed by the SR Lebedev who headed the Ministry of the Navy, it is nevertheless clear that full responsibility for this crime, which was not carried out only because of external circumstances, rests absolutely with the Provisional Government as a whole.

Its agents failed to start civil war between the submarine fleet and the surface fleet in the Baltic only because news of the demonstration was received too late by the Helsingfors sailors and Tsentrobalt was unable to respond to the demonstration as ardently and self-sacrificingly as it was later to respond to the October Revolution. Besides, the feeling amongst the submarine crews themselves was not at all such as to let them lose their heads and move against their own sailor comrades.

We sailed peacefully along the Sea Canal without encountering any obstacles and at last entered the mouth of the Neva. On both banks of the river life was going on at its usual everyday pace, and there was nothing to indicate the events that were taking place in the city. Without hurrying or getting into disorder, our steamships arrived one by one at the landing stage on Vasily Island. Owing to lack of room some of the vessels were made fast at Angliiskaya Quay. [5] Disembarkation, assembly and formation into columns took about an hour. When everything was ready Comrade Flerovsky came running up to me, flushed, out of breath and in a state of cheerful excitement. “I was looking for you on the other bank,” said Ivan Petrovich [Flerovsky], and he told me the route our march was to follow. In accordance with procedure we were to go first to Kshesinskaya’s house, where all our Party institutions were concentrated at that time.

We had hardly managed to form up by Nikolai Bridge, with the band playing a march, when someone from the Left-SRs hurried up to me and proposed that we wait, because Maria Spiridonova wanted to greet the sailors. She had already tried to make a speech to the rear columns, but the sailors had interrupted her and refused to listen, saying that it was time to proceed with the demonstration. For my part, I replied to the Left-SR that there was no time for that now, and we could not halt the march, and if Spiridonova wanted to make a speech to the Kronstadters she had best do it when they got to the Taurida Palace. The Left-SR went away in chagrin.

In orderly ranks, in an organised way, to the music of a ship’s band, thousands of Kronstadters marched along the Neva embankment. The peaceful passers-by, students and professors, those regular habitués of the well-ordered and academically calm University Embankment, stopped in their tracks and stared in amazement at our unusual procession. We crossed from Vasily Island by Birzhevoy Bridge to the Petersburg Side, and proceeded along the main avenue of Alexander Park.

Not far from Kshesinskaya’s house we were met by Pyotr Vasilyevich Dashkevich, who was then a member of the Party’s military organisation, colloquially known as the Voyenka. He went along with us.

As we approached Kamenno-Ostrovsky Prospekt, some of the men marching in the front ranks linked arms and sang the Internationale. The entire crowd of many thousands joined in at once. Barefooted small boys ran skipping after us. The further we advanced the more their numbers grew, like a snowball, thronging to the demonstration from every side.

At last we reached the building occupied by the CC and the Petersburg Committee: The sailors formed up in front of Kshesinkaya’s two-storeyed mansion where not so long before the well-known ballerina and favourite of the Tsar had held luxurious banquets and evening receptions, but where now was housed the general staff of our Party, working feverishly to prepare for the October Revolution and the triumph of Soviet power. On the balcony stood Y. M. Sverdlov, A.V. Lunacharsky and some other prominent Party workers. In his loud and distinct bass voice Comrade Sverdlov gave me his instructions from up there: “Comrade Raskolnikov, see if you can move the front ranks of the demonstration forward and close them up more compactly, so that the rear ranks can get nearer to us.” When all were arranged as was required, Comrade Lunacharsky was the first to speak. The Kronstadters knew Anatoly Vasilyevich [Lunacharsky] well: he had visited Kronstadt twice already and spoken successfully at the Naval Drill-Hall and in Anchor Square. He now delivered, from the balcony, a brief but ardent speech, describing in a few words the essential features of the political situation. When Comrade Lunacharsky finished there was applause.

Although the Kronstadters were in a hurry to get to the Taurida Palace, when they heard that Comrade Lenin was in Kshesinskaya’s house they began insistently to demand that he appear.

Together with a group of comrades I went into the house. When we found Vladimir Ilyich we asked him, on behalf of the Kronstadters, to come out on to the balcony and say a few words. At first Ilyich refused, saying that he was unwell, but after a time, when our request was loudly reinforced by the masses in the street outside, he gave in and agreed. [6]

Comrade Lenin appeared on the balcony, to be greeted with a long undying roar of applause. The ovation had still not abated when Ilyich began to speak. His speech was very brief. Vladimir Ilyich began by excusing himself for being obliged, owing to illness, to confine himself to saying only a few words. He welcomed the Kronstadters on behalf of the workers of Petrograd and, with regard to the political situation, expressed confidence that despite temporary zigzags, our slogan “All power to the Soviets!” was bound to triumph, and would triumph in the end, and for this we needed to show tremendous firmness and steadfastness and very great vigilance. Comrade Lenin’s speech contained none of those concrete appeals which the office of Pereverzev, the Director of Public Prosecutions, subsequently tried to ascribe to him. Ilyich ended his remarks to the accompaniment of a still warmer and more fervent ovation.

After these greetings the Kronstadters again formed up as befitted organised service units and workers’ detachments, and to the music of several of their bands, which ceaselessly played revolutionary tunes, they moved in completely orderly fashion towards Troitsky Bridge. Here we became an object of attention for dandified, elegantly dressed young officers, stout bourgeois, exuding health and repletion, wearing new bowlers, and ladies and young girls of good family, in hats. They were driving along in cabs or walking past arm in arm, but all their faces, as they stared at us with wide-open eyes, bore the imprint of real fear.

From when we left Kshesinskaya’s house some comrades at the front of the procession carried a huge placard bearing the name of the Central Committee of our Bolshevik Party. The Left-SRs noticed this only when we got to the Field of Mars, and then they started to demand that we remove it.

Naturally, we refused. They then declared that in that case they could not take part in the demonstration, and left. However, apart from a few leaders, nobody took any notice of this gesture. The Left-SRs went away, but the entire mass stayed with us.

At last, after crossing the Field of Mars and going along a small stretch of Sadovaya Street, we turned into Nevsky Prospekt and found ourselves in the realm of the bourgeoisie.

Here it was not a matter of just isolated bourgeois strollers, but whole crowds of smartly-dressed bourgeois walking up and down both pavements of the Nevsky. They stared in surprise and alarm at the armed Kronstadters, whom their newspapers had depicted as fiends from hell, the living embodiment of frightful Bolshevism. As we appeared many windows were opened wide, and whole families of the rich and well-born came out on to the balconies of their luxurious apartments. And on their faces was that same expression of unconcealed anxiety and a feeling of personal, animal fear.

The bourgeoisie, which in general is instinctively afraid of any contact with the masses and was now trembling in panic at the sight of ‘the common people’, was unable to hide its bewilderment at all that had happened. I can imagine the curses called down by the parasitic inhabitants of the central districts of the capital upon the head of their class government for having allowed such dangerous (to them) playing with fire as an armed demonstration under Bolshevik slogans. But alas, the Government was at that time so weak, so confused and so uncertain of its own position that it could not permit itself the luxury of firing on the demonstration.

In spite of the fact that the inhabitants and habitués of the Nevsky were for the Kronstadters a symbol of the parasitic and exploiting bourgeoisie, in spite of the fact that at the mere sight of our class enemies terrible hatred seethed in the hearts of many of the sailors, our march down the Nevsky from Sadovaya Street to Liteiny Prospekt passed off without any excesses being committed. Only when we got to the corner of the Nevsky and the Liteiny (now Volodarsky Prospekt) was the rear-guard of our demonstration fired on. Several men fell victim to this first attack.

Our procession was so lengthy that it can be understood that, while its tail was being attacked, those at the head of the procession did not hear any shots being fired. Later, however, a fierce fusillade awaited us at the corner of the Liteiny and Pantaleimonskaya Street.

Already as we neared Basseinaya Street a mysterious truck had appeared ahead of us. A handful of soldiers were sitting in it, and behind them a Maxim machinegun was mounted. This truck, at the head of the procession, moved slowly along in the same direction as us. The men who were in it were unknown to us, and so we asked them to break away from the procession. Smiling cheerfully, they put on speed, but just then the vanguard of the Kronstadters came up to Panteleimonskay Street. Suddenly the first shots rang out: where they came from we did not know. The men in the truck opened rapid machine gun fire, either on us or on the windows of the houses. What indignation, excitement and at the same time confusion swept through our ranks! This provocation, for which in general we were prepared, coming at that particular moment, after we had already traversed in peace Vasily Island, the Petersburg Side and the central districts of the city, was quite unexpected and caused momentary consternation.

What was so disagreeable was the uncertainty. Where is the enemy? From what direction are they shooting?

As soon as they heard the first shots, the Kronstadters instinctively grasped their rifles and began shooting in all directions. The frequent, but in these circumstances, of course disorderly firing made the impression of a real battle, with the difference, that we were totally ignorant of the enemy positions. Having quickly expended their first clips of cartridges and become convinced of the futility of shooting into the air, most of the men, as though in obedience to an order, lay down on the roadway, while another section managed to take cover in the first porches and gateways they came to. Only isolated comrades, standing in the midst of the street, stilll went on firing with their rifles at invisible targets. This was where the first soldier from Kronstadt fortress was wounded. Several men were killed or wounded.

Eventually the firing ceased of its own accord. Then those who were marching in the front rank – Roshal, Flerovsk Bregman, Deshevoy, myself and others – started to calm the Kronstadters down and call on them to carry on further towards our destination, the Soviet, which was still comparatively distant. The comrades responded readily to the appeal. We asked the band to play something cheerful and gay. The drums beat loudly, the brass trumpets gave forth the sharp blare: and the Kronstadters who had been met so inhospitably resumed their interrupted journey. But whatever efforts the vanguard might make to reform proper columns, they had no success. The crowd’s equilibrium had been upset. The enemy seemed to be hidden everywhere. Some continued to march along the highway, but others moved on to the pavement. Rifles no longer rested peacefully on the left shoulder, but were held at the ready.

When groups of people appeared at open windows or on balconies, several barrels were at once pointed at them, with unequivocal orders to “shut the windows!” The bourgeois-philistine inhabitants of the Liteinaya district hastened to get back inside their houses and hastily lock their doors and windows.

The anxiety and nervous suspiciousness of the masses had not passed off even when we turned into quiet Furshtadtskaya Street. Here, too, the Kronstadters continued to demand of the curious, who rushed in groups to their windows, the same guarantees against a fresh onslaught.

The leaders of the demonstration had to go up to the most worried comrades, slap them on the back, calm them down, saying that the danger was already behind us, and persuade them to pull themselves together and stop terrorising the inhabitants. These exhortations achieved their aim in most cases. The comrades abandoned their threatening postures and gestures. In front of the Taurida Palace, in order to maintain the prestige of Red Kronstadt, we even tried to form up, but even so, we were unable to achieve the strict order befitting a demonstration of organised troops of the revolution. The demonstration by the Kronstadters had been sharply divided into two phases –before the provocational shooting, and after. During the first phase, until the first treacherous shots, the orderly march of the Red Kronstadters could be described as exemplary. But after the mysterious bullets descended on their heads, as though from a horn of plenty, order was disrupted. We approached the Taurida Palace in some sort of order, but it was only relative. This circumstance gave rise to the bourgeois and Menshevik-SR legends in which the approach of the Kronstadters to the building of the Petrograd Soviet was depicted as an affair of undisciplined bands composed of miscellaneous rabble. This was of course a monstrous consciously-invented slander.

Order, organisation and discipline were certainly present but naturally were not so complete as the Kronstadters themselves would have wished, and as they had been before the vile, treacherous attack. Despite their natural irritation and the general nervous excitement that prevailed, not a single excess was committed anywhere along the Kronstadters’ route.

When we emerged into Shpalernaya Street we fell into the midst of a flood of revolutionary demonstrators who, like us carried red flags with gold and black slogans on them: “Down with the capitalist ministers!” and “All power to the Soviets!” Another such flood was already surging back towards us. When the first ranks of the Kronstadters entered the small square in front of the Taurida Palace and approached the snow-white columns, Roshal and the other comrades remained outside with the rest of the demonstrators, while I went inside to report our arrival, ask for a speaker, and find out about the further procedure of the demonstration. Coming upon Comrade Trotsky, I went up to him.

But hardly had we managed hastily to exchange our impressions when somebody from the Mensheviks came up to us very agitated, and said: “The Kronstadters have arrested Chernov, put him in a car and want to take him off somewhere. ” [7]

Trotsky and I went at once to the scene of the incident, talking as we went about the need to prevent this arbitrary arrest and, at any cost and without fail, to release Chernov. There were no differences between us on that score. When we reached the entrance we passed through the crowd of Kronstadters, which opened before us, and went straight to the car in which sat Viktor Chernov, hatless and under arrest. The leader of the SR party was unable to conceal the fear he felt in face of the crowd: his hands trembled, a deathly pallor covered his distorted face, and his greying hair was dishevelled.

Trotsky and I jumped into the car and tried by means of gestures to restore silence, so as to be able to address words of friendly admonition to the Kronstadt comrades. A few minutes were not enough to restore calm. The crowd hummed and roared, it was in a ferment, with mutual heckling and shouting down.

We could feel the immense hatred of these peasants in soldiers’ and sailors’ greatcoats for the ‘minister of statistics’ who by all sorts of methods, under a variety of insubstantial pretexts, had delayed and put off until the ‘Constituent Assembly’ the settlement of the agrarian question, which was at that time understood in one sense only, as the transfer of all land into the hands of the peasants.

Subsequently, when we were both in the Kresty prison, Comrade Trotsky pointed out to me a sailor, inside on a criminal charge, whom he remembered as a participant in the arrest of Chernov. He saw in this a confirmation of his view that the arrest had been affected by a dozen or so semi-criminal, semi-provocateur elements. I, however, definitely consider the attempt to arrest Chernov was not an act of provocation but was a spontaneous action by the Kronstadt rank-and-file themselves, in whose eyes the Minister of Agriculture and leader of the SR Party, Viktor Chernov, was sabotaging the solution of the agrarian problem and was the worst sort of enemy of the people and of the revolution.

While a vague buzzing of voices rolled over the crowd, merging into a general hum, I, standing up in the car, succeeded in exchanging a few words with the comrades who were nearest to me.

“Why have you arrested Chernov? Where do you want to take him?” I asked.

“We don’t know,” some of them answered, in a bewildered way.

“Wherever you wish, Comrade Raskolnikov. He is at your disposal,” answered others.

Seeing Chernov’s state of confusion, I whispered to him: “This is a misunderstanding. You’ll be set free.” Chernov gave me a sort of vacant look and made no reply: apparently he had no very clear idea of what was happening. Comrade Trotsky suddenly thought of a plan, in case we should fail to secure Chernov’s immediate release – to set off with him in the car, take him several districts away, and there release him. But I protested strongly against this, saying to Comrade Trotsky:

“That’s impossible, it would be a scandal! If you go off with Chernov, people will be saying tomorrow that the Kronstadters wanted to arrest him. Chernov must be set free immediately.” It is difficult to say how long the turbulent excitement of the masses would have gone on if a bugler had not come to our aid by sounding the call which summons a ship’s crew to complete silence and immobility. Comrade Trotsky then jumped on to the bonnet of the car and with a wave of his arm signalled to the crowd to be quiet.

In the twinkling of an eye everything became silent and a deathly hush reigned. In a loud, distinct, metallic voice, rapping out every word and carefully articulating every syllable, Comrade Trotsky made a short speech more or less on these lines: “Comrade Kronstadters,” he began, “pride and ornament of the Russian Revolution! I do not permit myself to suppose that the decision to arrest the socialist minister Chernov was deliberately taken by you. I am sure that not one of you is in favour of this arrest, and that not a single hand will be raised to cloud our demonstration today, our festival, our solemn review of the forces of the revolution, which calls for no arrests. Whoever is for violence, let him raise his hand.” Comrade Trotsky stopped speaking and cast his eye over the whole crowd, as though throwing down a challenge to his opponents: The crowd, listening with strained attention to his speech, remained frozen in dumb silence. Nobody opened his mouth, nobody uttered so much as a word of objection.

“Citizen Chernov, you are free,” said Comrade Trotsky solemnly, turning right round towards the Minister of Agriculture and with a motion of his hand inviting him to get out of the car. Chernov was half-dead. I helped him get out of the car: with a sluggish, exhausted look and unsteady, irresolute gait he walked up the steps and disappeared into the entrance-hall of the Palace. [8]

After that, I said a few words. It seemed to me important to prevent any repetition of incidents of a character that would transform the demonstration into a direct prelude to a seizure of power. I reminded the Kronstadt comrades of my words that morning in Anchor Square, and stressed that we were guests of the Petrograd workers and could not independently take any responsible decisions off our own bat. In conclusion I pointed out that, if our tasks had exceeded those of a peaceful demonstration, we should of course have made our way not to the Taurida Palace, where only the ‘socialist ministers’ were to be found, but to the Mariinsky Palace, where the capitalist ministers were. [9]

After me somebody else spoke and in this way an improvised meeting took place. I remember that near the car which had served as a place of detention for Chernov and a tribune for us stood Grigory lvanovich Petrovsky, who was watching very attentively everything that went on. Under the influence of our speeches the crowd had noticeably calmed down.

Roshal and I went into the Palace to discover what the Kronstadters were to do next. Upstairs, in the gallery which ran round the meeting-hall, we met Vladimir Ilyich as he came out of the room where a meeting of the leading group of the CC had just concluded. [10] llyich was in a good mood. It was clear that the broad sweep of the demonstration which had been developed under our slogans, the undoubted success won by our Party, was making him profoundly happy.

Semyon and I continued to look for some comrade who could give us instructions regarding the programme of further action.

At last, downstairs, in the premises of the Bolshevik fraction we found Comrades Zinoviev and Trotsky. Comrade Trotsky was at that time not yet formally a member of our Party.

Roshal and I went up to Comrade Zinoviev and asked for instructions. “We must discuss this at once,” he replied. A gathering of active Party workers was soon assembled. Quite a few were present – about twenty altogether. Speeches were made, first by Zinoviev, then by Trotsky, then by me, and last by Roshal. Though they looked at the question from different angles, all came to the same conclusion: the demonstration must be regarded as finished, the participants must be asked to return to barracks. It was decided that the Kronstadters should in any case remain in Petrograd for the time being. Everyone agreed that despite the success of that day’s demonstration, the conditions had not yet matured for an armed uprising and seizure of power. The meeting did not last long.

After that, Semyon and I separated. I remained at the Taurida Palace, so as to attend the meeting of the Central Executive Committee and become au fait with the course of political decisions and sentiments, while Roshal went off to billet the Kronstadters. They had been assigned rooms in Kshesinskaya’s house, the Peter-and-Paul fortress, the Naval College and the Deryabinsk barracks.

I went up to the public gallery and sat down in the front row. Outside it was already dark. The hall of the former State Duma was dazzlingly lit by invisible electric lamps, hidden behind the cornices, which cast their bright, suffused reflection from the glass ceiling. The session was in full swing. They were discussing that day’s demonstration. The right-hand and central sectors of the amphitheatre were full of SRs and Mensheviks, while the left-hand benches were comparatively empty of comrades.

One after another the pillars of the ‘social-traitor’ parties went to the tribune to denounce our Party, which they alleged had broken the unity of the ‘democratic front’. But in all their speeches one sensed great confusion and uncertainty about the morrow. On the evening of July 5, and after, when the troops started to arrive from the front, the ‘social-compromisers’ felt firm ground under their feet, and at once the whole tone of their speeches about our demonstration changed sharply, becoming much more provocative, malicious and aggressive, mingled with a feeling of elemental hatred akin to the pogrom mood, with an aroused thirst for vengeance for their previous confusion. But on July 4, at that evening session of the Central Executive Committee, which went on into the night, when the Provisional Government as yet had hardly any troops in Petrograd on which it could rely and when, despite the lateness of the hour, the Taurida Palace was surrounded by a whole sea of demonstrators coming and going, the tone of the speeches made by the Menshevik and SR leaders was very restrained and cautious.

Avksentiev, Dan and company made long, empty speeches in which one felt no sense of struggle, but which were just flabby criticism and reproaches directed at us. The general mood of the Central Executive Committee was one of apprehension. The events in the street were reflected in the psychology of the SR and Menshevik majority.

During Dan’s speech an episode occurred which vividly reminded me of a scene from the Great French Revolution of which I had read, Dan, who was wearing an army doctor’s uniform, had hardly managed to hand over his chairman’s bell and, descending to the speaker’s tribune, to begin playing his barrel-organ at about 1.30a.m. when suddenly a worker hurried down from the public gallery and shouted in a loud, hysterical voice: “Comrades, out there in the street the Cossacks are firing on the people.”

It was as though an electric spark ran through the entire hall. The deputies became agitated and started to talk among themselves, some rising from their seats.

Tsereteli, who was sitting in the Presidium, jumped up hastily and tried to get to the exit, but he was at once persuaded to stay in the hall. Dan called on the members of the Central Executive Committee not to get excited but to remain seated, while he, breaking off his speech, left the tribune and went out of the hall. A few minutes later he returned and reported that the horse of one of the cavalrymen stationed in front of the Taurida Palace had gone mad, and this had caused a panic, and then immediately shots had rung out and an exchange of fire had begun. “But measures have been taken, and all is well now.” Dan concluded his communication and went on with his indictment of the Bolsheviks.

Shortly before the end of the meeting Roshal suddenly appeared beside me. He said that the Kronstadters had already been settled in their barracks, and he was very pleased with the general mood of our Kronstadt friends. The meeting soon concluded, and Sima and I, exchanging our impressions of that day, so rich in experiences, went out into the street.

3. July 5

First thing next day I went to Kshesinskaya’s house. Working here harmoniously under one roof were the Central Committee, the Petersburg Committee and the Military Organisation attached to the Central Committee. One could always find here a large number of Party comrades, from Vladimir Ilyich himself to a worker who had come on a visit from the provinces.

All the secretariats were also concentrated in this building, which greatly facilitated practical relations and inquiries. Comrade Stasova was working in the Central Committee secretariat at that time and Comrade Bokiy was the secretary of the Petersburg Committee. All the current work of the ‘Voyenka’ was conducted by Comrades Podvoisky and Nevsky.

Here too was housed the editorial department of Soldatskaya Pravda (‘Soldiers’ Truth’), where one could always find Comrade Mekhonoshin, with a heap of manuscripts.

Masses of people were constantly crowding into Kshesinskaya’s house. Some came on business to one or other of the secretariats, others to the bookstore, where agitational literature was sold, yet others to the editorial department of Soldatskaya Pravda, others again to attend some meeting. Meetings were held very frequently, sometimes without a break, either in the spacious room downstairs or in the room with the long table upstairs which had evidently been the ballerina’s dining room.

Agitational speeches were made almost every day. On the more ceremonial occasions and before the broad masses, these were delivered from the balcony. They were made regularly from the stone summer-house at the corner of Kshesinskaya’s garden, at the junction of Bolshaya Dvoryanskaya Street and Kronverksky Prospekt. Comrade Sergei Bogdatyev spoke there especially often. It could happen that when you had come to the Central Committee or the Petersburg Committee and spent a couple of hours there, settling a mass of problems and talk with a dozen comrades, and you were on your way home, would catch sight of Sergei Bogdatyev, nodding his head in a way that was typical of him, still carrying on with his speech the rich, truly inexhaustible subject of “the current situation.” The audience at these small street meetings in from Kshesinskaya’s house was sharply divided as regards its composition into two categories: the first consisted of workers who had come specially from the remote outskirts, or else from somewhere nearby in the obscure streets of the Petersburg Vyborg Sides. They gathered here to learn the ABC of politics and to hear their own Bolshevik speakers. These were regular element in these ‘flying’ meetings. They pressed close to the iron railing, encompassing the speaker with a solid and listened attentively, fearing to miss even one word.

The other section of the audience was made up of our bourgeois philistines, who either happened to be passing by or else were spectators who had come there intentionally, ‘to a look at Lenin’, attracted by the noisy publicity given Kshesinskaya’s house by the bourgeois press ever since Party organs were established there. These people were a fluid element, changing minute by minute: they listened with vacant expressions on their faces, inwardly angry but, as a rule, not daring to raise their voices. This ‘public’ did not remain long before the speaker’s summer-house.

But on July 5 there stood in this summer house, built by Tsar’s favourite for luxury and repose, in place of the usual orator, a machine-gunner with a machinegun. Without going upstairs I proceeded straight to the office of the Military Organisation. There I found the defacto chairman of the Venka, Comrade Podvoisky, Ensign Dashkevich, our Party well-known worker in the trade unions Comrade Tom, Comrade Yeremeyev and several other responsible Party workers. Comrade Dashkevich left soon afterwards for a meeting of the Central Executive Committee, of which he was member.

The comrades at once informed me of the strong rumour that was circulating to the effect that the Provisional Government was preparing to attack us. To illustrate, so to speak, the situation facing us, Konstantin Stepanovich [Yeremeyev] – troubled, yet not hurrying, and not omitting any significant details – told us about the sacking of the office of Pravda which had taken place the previous night, before his very eyes. It was explained that, in view of the generally alarming atmosphere and the real possibility of fresh pogroms and sackings, the CC had decided to propose to the workers, soldiers and sailors that on July 5 they should remain in their quarters, while being ready to come out into the streets at the first summons. The Military Organisation’s most urgent task was to prepare for defence in the event of an attack, and in connection with this, to choose a commandant for Kshesinskaya’s house. The Military Organisation chose me for this responsibility. I immediately set about checking on our armed forces and resources. At the entrance to the house stood a formidably armoured motor-car with a reliable crew. Next, I attended to the ‘machinegun posts’ –one machinegun in the summer-house on the corner, and another on the roof. The field of fire for both of them was wide enough, covering the whole of Troitskaya Square, the Troitsky Bridge, part of Alexander Park, Kronverksky Prospekt and Bolshaya Dvoryanskaya Street. A third machinegun was set up inside the house, on the lower landing of the staircase. I made it my first priority to give instructions to the machine-gunners and to the commander of the armoured car.

Since we ourselves had no aggressive or offensive intentions, our sole task was direct defence of our building, in which were kept all the Party’s documents and records. The machine-gunners were ordered not to be the first to open fire. Even if a mob or a military detachment should appear, they must be allowed to approach, and fire opened only after they had definitely manifested hostile intent.

After going all round the building and making the necessary dispositions, I assembled in the ground-floor hall the internal garrison of Kshesinskaya’s house, which consisted of Kronstadt sailors who had come with us to Petrograd the day before. I explained to them the military tasks that faced us.

The morale of the Kronstadters was excellent. They were all aflame with desire to give battle to the defenders of the Provisional Government. However, having acquainted myself with the state of affairs and the initial preparations, I was convinced that our forces were inadequate and not ready for defence. We needed to liaise with neighbouring units, arrange for them to support us, and make up for the insufficient numbers of our fighting men by strengthening our primitive fortress technically.

I proposed to Semyon Roshal, who arrived just at that time, that, being a good agitator, he go to the barracks of the Grenadier Regiment and the Peter-and-Paul Fortress and raise the morale of these neighbours of ours, so as to make them reliable allies who would be ready to give us a hand at a difficult moment. With a view to strengthening our defences technically I sent an urgent message to the Kronstadt Executive Committee requesting that they at once send us some guns, with a full complement of shells.

Just about this time two sailors from the Naval Firing-Range came to Kshesinskaya’s house and urged me to send a truck to fetch some light guns from their unit. I willingly agreed to their suggestion, since lack of artillery was the most vulnerable aspect of our defences. Armed with a written order from me the comrades from the Firing-Range set off at speed.

The CC’s resolution prescribing that our people refrain from taking to the streets, but stand ready, was distributed by cyclists to the Party’s district committees, with the request that it be passed on to all military units and armed workers’ detachments – those embryos of the Red Guard.

Meanwhile, representatives from the working-class districts kept coming to Kshesinskaya’s house, in order to maintain communication. They told us what was happening in their streets and factories, shared with us their impressions of the feeling among the workers and soldiers, and asked us for advice and instructions. Representatives from regiments also came to see us, though in fewer numbers. One of them told us that machine-guns had been set up in the windows of a large house on the opposite bank of the Neva, and trained on Kshesinskaya’s house. Other comrades said they had seen a column of armoured cars, in line ahead, advancing in our direction. News came in of the approach of Cossack patrols. It was time to warn all the comrades to be on the alert and get everything on to a war footing.

In view of these signs of danger, Comrade Yeremeyev and my brother llyin-Zhenevsky went off to have a talk with the commander of Petrograd Military District, General Polovtsev. [11] Comrade Roshal soon returned from his agitational visit to the Grenadiers and the troops in the Peter-and-Paul Fortress. He was in cheerful mood, and told us, with animation, that the soldiers were all absolutely on our side, we could be confident of their support, and in the Fortress there were even some officers who sympathised with the Bolsheviks.

About this time I happened to see an issue of the anti-Semitic gutter rag Zhivoye Slovo (‘The Living Word’), which specialised in hounding those comrades who had Party pseudonyms. When I opened this hooligan paper I read a disgusting accusation against Comrade Lenin, signed by Alexinsky and Pankratov. This crudely fabricated falsehood made me realise that what was hidden in it was a diabolical plan to blacken our Party morally and kill it politically. But at that time nobody supposed that, on the basis of these counterfeit documents, the liberal barristers Kerensky and Pereverzev, in co-operation with the inquisitors of the Tsarist judiciary, would bring against our Party a stupid and vile charge that would nevertheless ultimately open the eyes of the masses and hasten the coming of the October Revolution.

That afternoon I was visited in the room in Kshesinskaya’ house where I worked, along with other comrades, by a sailor named Vanyushin whom I had met at Helsingfors, and who was a member of Tsentrobalt. He said he was going to Helsingfors that day and asked if l had any messages. I questioned him about the state of feeling at Helsingfors, and after consulting with my comrades, wrote a letter to Tsentrobalt in which I asked them to send to the mouth of the Neva some small naval vessel such as a minelayer or a gunboat. I considered – not without reason, I suppose – that it would be sufficient for one good ship to be brought into the mouth of the Neva and the resolution of the Provisional Government would markedly decline. It would of course be insignificant from the military standpoint, but what was involved here was a psychological game.

Comrade Vanyushin promised to deliver my letter immediately. As a result, having begun work in the capacity of commandant of Kshesinskaya’s house, I was in fact, transformed into an illegal commander of armed forces. Subsequently, in the interrogations that were carried out, the Tsarist inquisitors, men like Mr Alexandrov who had entered the service of Pereverzev and Zarudny, adduced against me these written orders calling for guns and summoning ships, and saw in them sufficient evidence for describing the events of July 3-5 as an armed uprising. It was easy for me to reply to these tricks that, if we had really been engaged in an armed uprising, we possessed enough common sense and knowledge of the tactics of street fighting not to march in orderly columns but to scatter and get into single file. And in that case, too, we should not have liberated ministers but should on the contrary, have arrested them. Of course, I had made military preparations, but only for defence, [12] because there was a smell in the air not only of powder but of pogroms. However, these precautionary measures had not had to be put into practice in actual conflict. When he came back from seeing General Polovtsev, Comrade Yeremeyev told us that the General, who had at once received him and Zhenevsky, had firmly assured them that there were no plans afoot for crushing our Party. And, in fact, General Polovtsev did not attack us on July 5. He preferred to put off his attack until the next day, so that by waiting for fresh reinforcements from the front, which now kept on arriving, he would be able to strike a ‘smashing’ blow at our Party. But nobody was deceived by the General’s lying assurances: he was not believed at all.

When Comrade Yeremeyev returned we received a new directive from the Central Committee stating that the demonstration was now over and calling on all participants to bring it to an end. The tense atmosphere was relaxed somewhat.

Comrade Podvoisky asked Roshal and me to go and see the Kronstadters. We took our places in the motor-car which the Party had recently acquired and set off, laden with tinned goods and bread. We were accompanied by a third Kronstadter, the Anarchist Yarchuk, who happened to be at Kshesinskaya’s house at this time.

We went first to the Naval College and then to Deryabinsk Barracks, in Galernaya Gavan. When our car appeared at the gates, the Kronstadters came running towards us from all directions. The vehicle was transformed into a tribune, from which we gave brief accounts of the political situation and the decision adopted by our Party. The comrades’ morale was excellent. They were ready to begin an armed struggle for Soviet power, but the Bolshevik Party’s authority obliged them to agree to our proposals. It was decided almost unanimously to return to Kronstadt. The greatest difficulties we had to overcome were experienced at Kshesinskaya’s house where, when we had finished our tour, we held a meeting of the Kronstadters. Only sailors were present. Placed as they were at the centre of military preparations and aroused by this atmosphere of a besieged camp, they naturally thirsted for battle, and their revolutionary impatience prompted in them the idea, senseless in the given circumstances, of an immediate seizure of power.

Consequently, at Kshesinskaya’s house we had to face not only the usual and quite natural questions but even outright criticism of our position, and sharply-expressed objections. Our opponents could not understand how they could possibly go back to Kronstadt without having established Soviet power in Petrograd. The Anarchists and non-party men were especially opposed to our line. However, the comrades who belonged to our Party were on our side from the outset, and the Anarchists were given a good ticking-off by Yarchuk, who agreed with us that any decisive action aimed at seizing power would be fruitless and doomed to defeat. While this stormy meeting was in progress and we were arguing hotly with the advocates of excessive Leftism, who took up a position ‘to the left of common sense’, a delegation arrived from the Kronstadt Executive Committee. They told us that when they received my message of that morning, asking for artillery to be sent, the comrades, after making all arrangements for embarking the guns, decided to check precisely what calibre guns were required and in what numbers. The Executive Committee was also interested to know what we intended to do with them, whether we needed any armed men. They had formed a special commission, consisting of Remnev, Alnichenkov and some other comrades, to obtain precise answers to these questions and general information about the events in Petrograd. Having found us engaged in our meeting in Kshesinskaya’s house they asked to speak, and what they said made our task easier, since, before they arrived, Roshal and I had had in the main, to bear the whole burden. As a result, when it came to the vote, the overwhelming majority of the comrades accepted the CC’s directive.

Besides their task of gathering information, our visitors had brought with them a peremptory demand by the Kronstadt Executive Committee for the immediate release of all the Kronstadters who had been arrested in the previous two days. Roshal and I went with the delegation to the Neva embankment, where lay the small launch that had brought the comrades from Kronstadt, and in it we went up the river once more to the Taurida Palace. Tying up beside a barge laden with firewood, we made our way awkwardly over some narrow and shaky gangplanks and at last stepped on to the deserted embankment, from which, through back streets, we came out into Shpalernaya Street, almost opposite the Palace. At the office of the Soviet we learnt that a meeting of the Military Commission was in progress, and from this meeting the Menshevik Bogdanov came out to see us.

I had met him before, in the epoch of Zvezda and Pravda when, on Workers’ Press Day, April 22, 1914, he had spoken as a ‘liquidator’ in opposition to me at the workers’ club called ‘Science and Life’.

Despite our mutual antipathy he met us with a strange, patronising smile. We asked for our arrested comrades to be released. He promised that this would be done, and at once raised, as counter-demand, the question of disarming those Kronstadters who were still at liberty.

Indignantly, we replied that there could be no question of this. With a sham sympathetic air Bogdanov then tried to persuade us to give up our arms because, if the Kronstadters set out for home carrying their rifles, the Petrograd Soviet would not be able to take responsibility for the security of their march to the landing-stage. He hinted at the tremendous hatred felt towards the Kronstadters by certain units of the garrison. Evidently, he meant the counter-revolutionary regiments which had just arrived from the front. As a compromise, Bogdanov proposed that the arms be surrendered in the presence of representatives of the Petrograd Soviet, after a guarantee had been given that, when the Kronstadters had embarked, all these arms would be returned to them.

But this proposal, which included the humiliating procedure of surrendering our rifles, also seemed to us unacceptable. We were able to agree only that the Kronstadters would march through the city to the landing-stage unarmed, their weapons being loaded on carts which would precede them. Bogdanov promised to give us an answer, and went into the next room, where the meeting of his famous ‘Military Commission’ was going on. After a few minutes he came out and said that our conditions had been accepted.

It seemed that the problem had been solved and agreement achieved. Not so, however. We had hardly begun to talk with Comrades Kamenev and Trotsky, who had entered the room, when we were told that the Kronstadters were required to attend before the ‘Military Commission’. We went into the room where the meeting was in progress. There we saw a big U-shaped table, covered with government cloth, at which sat the commission’s chairman, the Menshevik Lieber, together with its members, Voytinsky, Bogdanov, Sukhanov and also some young persons in officers’ uniforms whose names I did not know. Lieber, scarcely hiding his anger, addressed us in official style, demanding the disarmament of the Kronstadters. We referred to the agreement we had reached with Bogdanov, which did not provide for disarmament. But Lieber, paying no attention to what we had said, repeated his demand in still more categorical form. His dark eyes were bloodshot with unconcealed fury. We coolly replied that we had no authority from our comrades to discuss the question of their disarmament, and must first seek the views of those concerned.

Lieber then, all contorted with convulsive hatred of the Bolsheviks, declared that the ‘Military Commission’ was presenting us with an ultimatum: we must notify the commission of our decision by 10 a.m. next day. Without replying, we went into the next room and began discussing the situation thus created with Comrades Kamenev and Trotsky. But we had hardly begun to tell them about our misadventures with the inquisitorial ‘Military Commission’ when we were asked to go back in again, and Lieber now solemnly announced that the time-limit of the ultimatum had been shortened: the ‘Military Commission’ would expect our answer within two hours. We protested angrily, pointing out that this sudden alteration in the time allowed was an insult, and put us in a position where it was physically impossible to obtain the views of the Kronstadters, who were quartered in several different parts of the city.

Hardly had we shut the door behind us when we were called back a third time.

That same Lieber, abandoning his prosecutor’s tone for that of an executioner about to hang his victim, curtly informed us that the time-limit of the ultimatum had been cancelled altogether, and we must give our answer at once. We then repeated our protest, indignantly rejected the ultimatum, and left.

This entire proceeding, carried out amid the mystery and clandestinity of a secret meeting, in the stifling atmosphere of a court from which there was no appeal, and saturated with mortal hatred and mockery of political foes, reminded me of some mediaeval tribunal of the Fathers of the Inquisition. The rapidly-changed decisions suggested sentences arrived at under the pressure of some behind-the-scenes manoeuvres. The time-limit of the ultimatum was evidently reduced in direct proportion to the increase in the number of counter-revolutionary troops coming in from the front. The Menshevik-SR Areopagus was probably connected by an efficient telephone cable with the Provisional Government’s military headquarters. While we were watching, Voytinsky spoke on the telephone to a unit which had just arrived.

It was interesting to see how the Novaya-Zhiznite Sukhanov sat there, quite dumb, with the depressed air of a silent suffering righteous man, and managed not to utter a single word while we were present. [13]

Leaving the meeting of the ‘Military Commission’, we resumed our conversation with Kamenev and Trotsky, the latter advised us immediately and discreetly to send the Kronstadters home. It was decided to despatch comrades round barracks to warn the Kronstadters of the forcible disarmament that was being prepared. Fortunately, however, most of Kronstadters had already managed to get safely away – some of them even during the night of July 4, but principally during July 5, after we had visited the barracks and announced the demonstration was over. The only ones left were those stationed in Kshesinskaya’s house and in the Peter-and-Paul fortress in order to protect the Party’s premises. Kamenev and Trotsky went home. Roshal and I made our way to the room where passes were issued, in order to obtain permission to go about the city.

At first we were refused passes, on the pretext that it was impossible to guarantee our safety, but later, after categorical insistence on our part, the passes were issued after all. Here, in the passes office, we saw Sukhanov again. He was leaning against a tall, tiled stove, in an attitude of gloomy meditation, his face expressing all the burden of tormenting uncertainty.

Knowing the in-between position he had taken up in the final days of the revolution, I nevertheless respected him for his undoubted intellect and for the outstanding role he had played during the war. He was one of the few legal journalists who had proved able, in 1914-1916, to find a channel between the reefs of the censorship and publish powerful, meaty articles against the war. On that basis I had made friends with Sukhanov already at the beginning of 1916, and was eager to meet him in the brief intervals that my naval service allowed.

Now, however, as though burying his past, Sukhanov was acting to the detriment of the revolution. With the obstinacy and perseverance of a Penelope he was unpicking everything he had spun during the war. He there and then peevishly uttered some venomous intellectual-type reproaches concerning the demonstration, and warned us that when we went out into the streets we might be arrested. Maria Spiridonova had given the same warning to Roshal not long before, and sailor comrades told us that Cossacks had been intensively searching for Roshal and me all day, along the Nevsky Prospekt.

Sukhanov shook his head sorrowfully, as though distressed by our sins. Semyon asked Sukhanov to look after his revolver in case he was actually arrested. After some hesitation Sukhanov agreed.

To our surprise, when Roshal and I went out into the street nobody troubled us. We decided that they must have postponed our arrest. After walking a little way together, we separated. Semyon went home, while I made my way to my mother’s flat on the Vyborg Side. However, as I approached the Liteiny Bridge I realised that it had been raised. Since I was not sure about the Troitsky Bridge, I decided to spend the night at L.B. Kamenev’s, at No.9 Rozhdestvenskaya Street, in the Peski quarter.

Liteiny Prospekt was deserted, like a street in a dead town. There was not a soul about. Even the militiamen had gone to ground somewhere. My footsteps gave forth a dull echo from the flagstones of the pavement. Between Panteleimonskaya and Basseinaya Streets, opposite the long building of the artillery barracks, stood a patrol checking documents.

Just ahead of me somebody had been stopped. Assuming an independent air, I walked on by as though nothing was happening. The officer looked at me intently but did not ask for papers. I had been saved by my naval officer’s cap and black uniform cloak.

Arriving safely at Kamenev’s flat, I rang the bell. Everyone was already asleep. The door was opened to me by Ensi Blagonravov. I lay down at once on the first sofa I came to, and in a few minutes, was fast asleep.

4. Return to Kronstadt

When dawn broke we asked Ensign Blagonravov to go out and buy newspapers and to have a look at what was happening in the streets.

He reported that at every crossroads all you could hear was curses on the Bolsheviks. In short it was dangerous to show oneself openly in the street as a member of our Party. Our demonstration had suffered a fiasco, and now even the petty bourgeoisie of Peski, not lagging behind the big bourgeoisie the Nevsky Prospekt, had come out on the streets after their three days of forced seclusion and were desperately denouncing the Bolsheviks in every possible way. O.D. Kamenev, who worked in the secretariat of the Petrograd Soviet, came home soon after this and described the anti-Bolshevik reaction that was beginning.

None of us felt cheerful. While foreseeing that the repressive measures would eventually only serve to benefit our Party, we at the same time did not conceal from ourselves the fact that in the period immediately ahead the Party would have to pass through a phase of savage persecution. This was shown not only in the furious anger of the philistine masses, who were ready to tear any Bolshevik to pieces, but also in the mood of the Mensheviks and SRs, who were up the wall with indignation at our ‘unauthorised demonstration’. Our action was defined by them as a ‘split in the ranks of democracy’, although only a blind man could fail to see that the famous ‘united democracy’, coming apart at every seam, was nothing but a myth of the social-compromisers. Actually, irreconcilable differences had always set a firm barricade between us and the other parties. Much hatred for us had boiled up in the hearts of the social patriots in the stormy months between February and July. They needed only a pretext to sentence our Party to political death. The July demonstration gave them that longed-for pretext.

As I left, I advised Comrade Kamenev to move to another flat. “But do you have anything more suitable?” he asked. I answered that I knew well a young fellow living nearby who would be glad to offer him shelter, but unfortunately the father of the family hated Bolsheviks.

“There’s a safe flat for you!” Lev Borisovich laughed loudly tossing his head in the relaxed way that was typical of him. Eventually he decided not to move, since there was nowhere one could hide from a casual band of pogromists, and if government forces should come to carry out a search, they would not be able to do anything, because their ‘socialist’ master were accountable for them.

At that time we were all still filled with a certain amount of confidence in Kerensky’s cabinet and reckoned on the elementary ‘legal safeguards’ being observed. However, the next few days were to show us plainly that in the Provisional Government we had to do with a rancorous and vengeful counter revolutionary gang.

It was about 3p.m. when I said goodbye to Kamenev and, walking along Basseinaya Street, directed my steps towards the Vyborg Side. At the corner I bought the latest issue of Vecherneye Vremya.

On the front page my eye was caught by a detailed, fantastic story of Comrade Lenin’s having left for Kronstadt under my personal protection. An idle correspondent, filling the whole first half of this bourgeois gutter rag with his sheer inventions, had excelled himself in describing the minutest details, counting on his readers’ innocence and giving his entire story an outward appearance of complete verisimilitude. In the whole history of Russian journalism one cannot find a blacker phase of unbridled mendacity than this period following the July days, when all the bourgeois press and the compromiser press attached to it began a rabid campaign to hound the Bolsheviks, conducted by the practised hands of Alexinsky and Pankratov, Burtsev and Pereverzev, who cast an unheard-of slander upon Comrade Lenin.

No traces of our demonstration were to be seen in Basseinaya Street or Nevsky Prospekt. After the shooting of the two previous days, which had scattered the philistine mob, like crows, to their houses, the streets had recovered from their emptiness and again assumed their peacetime character. Having learnt from their cooks that peace had returned, the bourgeois emerged from their gloomy houses into the streets, which were warmed by the rays of the soft summer sun. To them it felt like the day after a storm, and as a sign that the social flood from which they had just been delivered would not come again the Provisional Government was showing them the multicoloured rainbow of loyal units brought in from the front, together with disarmament of the Bolshevik regiments, and the beginning of repressive measures.

When I got to the Vyborg Side and was turning from Nizhegorodskaya Street into Simbirskaya Street, I had the opportunity to see one of the regiments which had come to subdue Petrograd. It stretched in a long ribbon along Simbirskaya Street, with its baggage-train extending as far back as the Liteiny Bridge. The horses drawing the transports had their forelocks interwoven with some adornments, according to the soldiers’ custom. It was strange to see these dusty, tired, bearded front-line soldiers, not on a bumpy country road but on the stone highway of the workers’ capital. As often happens when a military unit is moving through the streets of a big town, the regiment suddenly came to a halt. Perhaps some obstacle was holding up their advance, or perhaps the front ranks had already passed through the gates of the barracks. With weary gestures the soldiers wiped the sweat from their heated brows. I looked closely at their faces. They expressed extreme physical exhaustion and an indifference close to insensitivity. The Provisional Government had evidently summoned them from a long way off and brought them in very urgently to deal with the Bolshevik sedition. They were typical rank-and-file soldiers. There was nothing specifically counter-revolutionary, nothing of the reckless Cossack style, in their appearance. It was not without reason that the majority of these units soon came over to our side and took part in the October Revolution, having completely merged with the garrison of Petrograd.

In the sight of the soldiers, none of whom, of course, could know who I was, I turned into the yard of the house where I always stayed, in my mother’s flat, when I came in from Kronstadt. On this occasion I found at home Semyon Roshal, L.N. Alexandri and my brother A.F. Ilyin-Zhenevsky. I had met Comrade Alexandri already before the revolution, when he used to go abroad on Party business and bring back the latest issues of Sotsial-Demokrat concealed in the soles of his boots. Since during the war Party literature reached Petrograd only with the greatest difficulty, all the comrades were particularly glad of Alexandri’s precious contraband.

Zhenevsky told me what had happened at the Peter-and-Paul Fortress, from which he had just come: the bloodless occupation of the fortress and of Kshesinskaya’s house by troops of the Provisional Government and the disarmament of those Kronstadters who had not been able to get away and were still in the fortress. A difficult role had fallen here to the lot of Comrade Stalin, [14] who had, in fact, to function not only as a political leader but also as a diplomat. The Menshevik Bogdanov had taken part in the negotiations on behalf of the Provisional Government.

We now faced the question of our future work. I decided to return to Kronstadt, and advised Roshal to go underground, in view of the particularly ferocious hounding of him by the bourgeois press. The philistine public, in its maddened state of those days, might easily recognise Semyon and lynch him. Semyon was there and then transformed, and in place of his usual provocative cap he was given a more respectable hat. A decent overcoat was produced from somewhere. With his outward appearance changed so far as possible, and his unruly black locks smoothed down, Roshal went out along with Alexandri, who undertook to fix him up ‘illegally’ somewhere in Novaya Derevnya.

I spent the night in Petrograd, and next morning, July 7, left for Kronstadt from the Baltic railway station. I deliberately chose this roundabout route, instead of proceeding direct, by boat, so as to evade any checking of documents and possible detention, because the arresting of Bolsheviks was already in full swing. My calculation proved correct, and I managed to get to Kronstadt without difficulty. At Oranienbaum, where one transfers from train to boat, there was actually no cordon at all. Only at the Kronstadt landing-stage was the usual checking of identity papers effected, intended to prevent spies getting in, but nobody dared to touch me there.

Everyone was present at the Party committee-rooms and the editorial office of Golos Pravdy. A certain sinking of the heart was noticeable among the comrades, who had been discouraged by the destruction of our organisation in Petrograd. The intellectuals among the leaders suffered the biggest depression: the workers were steadier and seemed calmer. “Ah, what a pity we returned without Soviet power” – that was how one Kronstadt worker formulated the general mood.

At the press where our newspaper was printed on flat, oily machines, I noticed the absence of Comrade Petrov, the tall, thin typesetter, wearing pince-nez, who usually came to me at the editorial office to collect copy. “But where’s Comrade Petrov?” I asked. “He’s still transferring power into the hands of the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies,” the typesetters replied, grinning. It turned out that he had gone with the others to Petrograd and had been arrested there.

On the spot, at the press, I sat down to write, in all haste, a cheerful article about the demonstration, explaining its political significance. I handed it over for printing, corrected the galleys and read the corrected proofs. I looked over the material for the next issue and handed it straightaway to the printers. In those days, when Pravda had not yet recovered from the vile onslaught by the Cadets, and political conditions in Petrograd prevented a resuscitation of our Party organ, the Bolsheviks of Kronstadt went on calmly bringing out their paper and freely writing in it whatever they liked. Our island situation preserved single-minded Red Kronstadt from attack.

Naturally, the Petrograd comrades, grouped at that time around the Vyborg-side district committee, hastened to make use of the tribune we provided. Articles began to arrive from Petrograd at our free press, which we printed forthwith, without checking. And next day most of the copies which had been printed during the night were on their way by boat to Petrograd. Only a small number were kept back for the needs of Kronstadt itself. Within a few days Golos Pravdy, as the only Bolshevik organ, was circulating widely in the working-class districts of Petrograd.

Late in the evening a meeting of the Executive Committee was held in the building of the former Naval Officers’ Club, which now housed the Kronstadt Soviet. Lamanov, the chairman of the Executive Committee, read a telegram signed by Kerensky which had just been received: it called for the handing over of the ‘ringleaders’ of the demonstration and fresh elections to Tsentrobalt. [15] Here is the text of this telegram:

“From the beginning of the revolution there have been persons in Kronstadt and on some ships of the Baltic Fleet who, influenced by German agents and provocateurs, have called for actions threatening the revolution and the security of our country. At a time when our valiant army, sacrificing itself heroically, was entering into bloody combat with the enemy, at a time when the navy, loyal to democracy, was tirelessly and selflessly fulfilling the heavy task of combat imposed upon it, Kronstadt and certain ships, headed by Respublika and Petropavlosk, stabbed their comrades in the back by their actions by adopting resolutions against the offensive, by calling for disobedience to the revolutionary authority embodied in the Provisional Government established by democracy, and by attempting to exert pressure on the will of the organs elected by democracy, in the form of the All-Russia Congress of Soviets of Workers’, Soldiers’ and Peasants’ Deputies.

During our army’s offensive itself, disturbances started in Petrograd which threatened the revolution and exposed our army to the blows of the enemy. When ships of the fleet were summoned at the demand of the Provisional Government in agreement with the Executive Committees of the Soviet of Workers’, Soldiers’ and Peasants’ Deputies, in order to bring quick and decisive influence to bear on the Kronstadters who were participating in these treasonable disturbances in Petrograd, the enemies of the people and of the revolution, acting through the Central Committee of the Baltic Fleet, brought sedition into the ranks of the ships’ companies by falsely interpreting these measures. These traitors prevented the dispatch of ships loyal to the revolution to Petrograd and the adoption of measures for ending the disturbances organised by the enemy, and incited ships’ companies to arbitrary actions- the replacement of Commissar-General Onipko, the decision to arrest the assistant to the Minister of the Navy, Captain Dudorov, and the presenting of a series of demands to the Executive Committee of the All-Russia Congress of Soviets of Workers’, Soldiers’ and Peasants’ Deputies.

The treasonable and traitorous activity of a number of persons has compelled the Provisional Government to issue orders for the immediate arrest of their leaders. Among these, the Provisional Government has decided to arrest the delegation from the Baltic Fleet which has arrived in Petrograd.

In view of the above, I order:

(1) That the Central Committee of the Baltic Fleet be immediately dissolved and new elections held.

(2) That it be announced to all ships and crews of the Baltic Fleet that call upon them to exclude at once from their midst all suspicious persons calling for insubordination to the Provisional Government and agitating against the offensive, and to bring them to Petrograd for investigation and trial.

(3) That the ships’ companies at Kronstadt and on the battleships Petropavlovsk, Respublika and Slava, whose names have been besmirched by counter-revolutionary acts and resolutions, arrest the ringleaders within 24 hours and send them to Petrograd for investigation and trial, and also give assurances of full subordination to the Provisional Government.

I announce to the companies of Kronstadt and these ships that if my present order is not carried out, they will be traitors to their country and to the revolution, and the most resolute measures will be taken against them. Comrades, our country is on the brink of ruin as a result of treachery and treason. The country’s freedom and the conquests of the revolution are threatened with mortal danger. The German army has already begun an offensive on our front. At any moment we may expect decisive actions by the enemy’s fleet, which is capable of taking advantage of our temporary disarray. Resolute and firm measures are required for eradicating this disarray. The army has taken such measures, and the navy must keep in step with it.

In the name of our country, the revolution and freedom, in the name of the welfare of the working masses, I call on you to rally round the provisional government and the all-Russia organs of democracy and to repel the heavy blows of the external enemy, while protecting the rear from the treacherous blows of traitors.”

A. Kerensky, Minister for Military and Naval Affairs

The telegram was dated July 7.

This hysterically dictatorial order produced at Kronstadt the opposite impression to what was intended. Counting on a deterrent effect, it actually evoked enormous indignation. There could, of course, be no question of arrests or deportations. When discussion began I asked to speak, and launched an angry attack on the Provisional Government:

“This 24-hour ultimatum is the height of counterrevolutionary cynicism and a glaring symptom of the reaction that is now beginning. Relying on the outward submission of Petrograd, the Provisional Government has decided to exploit the favourable moment for a serious struggle against the revolutionary sentiments of Kronstadt and the Baltic Fleet. After Petrograd it wants to crush all the other bases of the revolution. The sharp, vehement tone of the telegram perfectly recalls the insolent orders that used to be issued by the ‘pacifiers’ of Tsarist times. Just as under Tsardom, when there were movements among the workers, they look for ‘ringleaders’ among the masses. They have the cheek to demand of the Red Kronstadters that they arrest the ‘troublemakers’ and ‘firebrands’, bind them hand and foot, and hand them over to the authorities. But that won’t happen. Throughout the entire history of the labour movement in Russia workers on strike have always boldly replied to such demands for their ‘ringleaders’ to be handed over: there are no ‘ringleaders’ among us, we are all ringleaders of this strike. We in the revolutionary movement must follow the example of our predecessors and give the same reply.”

As regards the re-election of Tsentrobalt, I proposed that we re-elect our old delegates.

Is it necessary to say that all Kerensky’s proposals met with a categorical refusal? The supporters of all shades of opinion and all tendencies were unanimous. But then, in our Kronstadt Executive Committee there was nobody to be found who was to the Right of the Left-SRs and the Menshevik-Internationalists.

In those days, on July 8 or 9, a general meeting of the Party organisation in Kronstadt was held in the garden of the Party committee’s premises. All who had led the demonstration were greeted with particularly heartfelt warmth. Reports on the events of July 3-5 were given by Comrade Flerovsky and me. All the comrades expressed great indignation at the shameless behaviour of the celebrated Military Commission presided over by Lieber, which had repeatedly reopened dealings on fresh and much worse conditions for us as soon as agreement seemed to have been reached...

The morale of the mass of the membership was completely satisfactory. The all-Kronstadt meeting encouraged them still further. When it ended, people were smiling and joking. It was clear that the comrades had not fallen into despair and had not lost faith in our Party’s future. Party and Soviet work in Kronstadt was going ahead normally, as before, just as on the eve of the demonstration. Peaceful life had been fully resumed. But no meetings were called. The leaders of the Kronstadt Party Committee realised that the masses must be allowed a few days to rest, and they must be given the chance calmly to sort out the many and various impressions which the demonstration had left with everyone who took part in it. Our committee fixed the first broad meeting for July 13, when I was to give a lecture in the Naval Drill-Hall on the demonstration that had taken place, its political meaning and importance.

However, owing to circumstances outside my control, I did not manage to give that lecture.

5. Arrest

During the night of July 13, when I was already asleep on my ship, Osvoboditel, Comrade Pokrovsky, a Left-SR member of the Kronstadt Executive Committee, summoned me urgently to the Soviet. When I arrived, he showed me a telegram which had just come in. It was addressed to the Commandant of Kronstadt Fortress and required him immediately to arrest Roshal, Remnev and me and send us to Petrograd. The telegram added that, if this order was not obeyed “Kronstadt would be blockaded and would receive neither bread nor money.

Pokrovsky, who had evidently lost his head, excitedly asked my advice. I replied that in my opinion all the Kronstadters subject to arrest should go voluntarily to Petrograd for examination and trial. This was how I justified my decision: the Provisional Government, which was persecuting the Bolsheviks with unbridled ferocity, would probably not hesitate to blockade Kronstadt. Remaining here would mean exposing the local proletariat and garrison to the risk of starvation and the political demoralisation that must inevitably ensue. That solution to the problem was unacceptable to me.

True, it would not be difficult to organise a flight to Finland. But we were the object not only of political accusations – the entire press and so-called ‘public opinion’ were openly making monstrous insinuations about our having collaborated with the Germans, acting as their agents. It was precisely that accusation which prompted me to present myself voluntarily before the court, as a measure of self-defence, the only way to restore my good name.

I realised, of course, that a Party leader like Comrade Lenin had to stay out of prison by all possible means, since if he had been arrested at that time his very life would undoubtedly have been in grave danger from the counter-revolutionary camarilla. The Party had waited too long for Lenin, and wandered long enough in darkness for lack of his clear, firm tactics, to let itself be deprived of his leadership, even for a single day, especially in a period of such difficulty for the revolution. But the rest of us, it seemed to me, ought to appear before the court of the Provisional Government, in order publicly to clear our Party’s name and our own and try to transform our trial into a major political demonstration against the bourgeois regime and expose the disgusting methods it was using in its struggle against the Party and the working class. At that time we still retained some confidence – not a lot, to be sure – in the Mensheviks and Right-SRs, still cherished illusions about them possessing at least a minimum of political decency.

Comrade Pokrovsky, who had at first been embarrassed and upset, cheered up to a marked degree at this convenient solution to the problem. I was interested to know how this secret order for our arrest, instead of going to the authority to which was addressed and being put into execution, had come into our hands. It was explained to me that the telegram had indeed been received by the Commandant of the Fortress, but he, not knowing what to do about it, had passed it to the Kronstadt Soviet.

We decided to convene a plenary meeting of the Soviet the next day. Comrade Remnev seemed depressed and uttered not a single word throughout the entire conversation. He had previously been a Second Lieutenant in the infantry, serving the Ladozhsky Regiment. He had sided with the Bolsheviks at the front and had a big clash with his superiors: he then came to Kronstadt to report on the situation in his unit, as many came to us in those days, looking to Kronstadt as the central focus the revolution.

As I have already mentioned, people were constantly coming to us for help and advice, from the Donets Basin, from the various fronts – indeed, from all corners of boundless Russia Kronstadt could, of course, give no more than moral support. In most cases the relationship established was confined to the exchanging of information. The delegates explained at meetings the situation in their own area and acquainted themselves with the progress of our work at Kronstadt and the views of the activists there. This stream of visitors never ceased to flow: there was nearly always some visiting delegation enjoying our hospitality. Remnev also began by making a report at a meeting in Anchor Square. But he found Kronstadt so much to his liking that he resolved to stay with us and take up permanent work. He succeeded in entering the Engineering School, where he found temporary refuge from the persecutions of the Provisional Government.

After the October Revolution and subsequently, in the early ‘guerrilla’ period of the civil war, he commanded the Second Army, operating in the Ukraine. During one of his visits to Moscow, in April or May 1918, he was arrested on a charge of banditry.

Remnev was an ardent and likeable man, but showed marked features of adventurism and of fear for his personal safety. To me he always seemed unbalanced, with shattered nerves. As a Party member he lacked any theoretical preparation, but until the October Revolution he, as the only Bolshevik officer, enjoyed a certain popularity in the Engineering School.

After our talk with Pokrovsky, Remnev and I went that same night to the Engineering School, to warn the comrades of the impending arrest. The students at the Engineering School were good revolutionary sailors.

They were asleep, and we had to sound ‘Reveille’ to get them out of bed. They leapt up and crowded into a close ring around us. Getting up on a bench, I told the comrades about the telegram which had been received and explained our decision. From their faces and some cries of disagreement it was clear that many of them did not share my view that it was necessary for us both (Remnev and me) to go and offer ourselves for arrest in Petrograd. I had to bring to bear a whole arsenal of arguments, and only then did our opponents, who at first would not hear of our departure, reluctantly abandon their objections to it.

On the morning of July 13 we first of all held a fraction meeting. I began by insisting on going to Petrograd: some comrades objected, but eventually our proposal was approved. Remnev was basically against our surrendering. True, he did not speak out openly against the idea, but he was definitely inclined towards making a run for it. At any rate even after the fraction had taken its decision he still tried to persuade me to flee to Finland: “There’s a launch with a crew of seven already under steam: let’s escape, for they’ll kill us in Petrograd,” he repeated, shaking his head gloomily.

The meeting of the Soviet began soon after this. Pokrovsky outlined the situation created by the receipt of the ultimatum. I then set forth once more my arguments for agreeing to be arrested. A debate began. Opinions were divided. Some spoke in favour of my proposal, others against it. Among other things I remember one curious feature of this debate. Whereas at previous meetings of the Soviet the talking had mainly been done by one and the same group of comrades, well-known speakers, on this occasion there came to the tribune, one after another, fresh, unfamiliar individuals, who attacked our Party, criticised its policy indiscriminately, and condemned the demonstration. Previously these men had sat quiet, never uttering a word, unable to go ‘against the current’, but now all of a sudden they plucked up courage and, sensing our Party’s momentary weakness, advanced in close column to the attack. After five and a half months of the existence of the Kronstadt Soviet, newly-revealed friends of the Provisional Government had for the first time appeared among us from somewhere or other. These last hours before imprisonment I had to spend in polemic with furious enemies of the Bolsheviks. However, these suspect speakers had no success. They constituted only a few voices, without any mass backing. When the debate was over the Kronstadt Soviet let us go off to prison, but declared, for the benefit of the Provisional Government and the All-Russia Central Executive Committee, that it was in complete solidarity with us and shared responsibility for all we had done. At the same time the Kronstadt Soviet demanded our release, and for this purpose sent a special delegation to Petrograd, headed by Comrade Deshevoy.

P.N. Lamanov, the commander of the naval forces of the Kronstadt base, who had been elected to this position and was very friendly with the Bolsheviks, had a special launch made ready for us. Aboard it went the ‘commission for release’, Remnev and I, and the fortress commandant, who had to go to Petrograd on business of his own. Its engine chattering loudly, the launch moved lightly away from the landing-stage. P.N. Lamanov, who came to see us off, wished us success and a speedy return, and, standing on the landing-stage, remained for a long time waving to us as we departed. And yet he was the supreme naval representative of the Provisional Government! What queer times those were!

On the way from Kronstadt to Petrograd the commandant of the fortress, a short, grey-haired general, a typical old warrior who couldn’t stand any sort of politics, complained bitterly about his own desperate situation. “It’s all very well for them to write orders for arrests to be made, but what can I do? On what forces can I rely to carry out arrests, when all Kronstadt supports the Bolsheviks?”

The old man was profoundly correct. And he would not have extricated himself from his absurd situation if we ourselves had not come to his aid. The fact was that, even at the climax of its apparent strength, when it was proclaiming its imaginary victories in high-flown, hysterical orders for the arrest of Bolsheviks, the Provisional Government was actually a colossus with feet of clay.

Before night fell our small but elegant Kronstadt launch arrived at one of the steamship jetties of Admiralty Embankment. The commandant of Kronstadt Fortress; after politely shaking hands with his travelling companions who were due to be arrested, set off on his own business, while we proceeded to the entrance of the Admiralty and sought out Dudorov’s office. Though not yet under surveillance and constraint we already felt in our hearts that we were prisoners.

Remnev and I were accompanied by our friends, Comrade Deshevoy and the sailors who had been empowered by the Kronstadt Soviet to try and get us released. In a waiting room on the second floor we were approached by a short dark man with a clipped black moustache but no beard. This was the first assistant to the Minister of the Navy, Captain Dudorov. We informed him that we had come to put ourselves in the hands of the Provisional Government, which had issued an order for our arrest. We emphasised that, under the old regime, we should have considered it our duty to escape and hide ourselves, but now, after the February Revolution, making a certain distinction between Tsardom and the Provisional Government, we had decided to recognise the court, so as to be able publicly to prove our innocence of the vile charges being brought against us, which linked our ideological activity with the operations of German agents.

Dudorov listened attentively to our explanation and assumed an affectedly sympathetic air. Then he turned his attention to the comrades who had come with us. Comrade V.I. Deshevoy explained the purpose of the commission, which had come on the instructions of the Kronstadt Soviet. This did not surprise the worthy Captain. He, the one mainly responsible for the order for submarines to sink any battleships leaving Helsingfors to go to the aid of the workers of Petrograd, maintained on this occasion an unwaveringly mild, gently benevolent tone. He advised ‘the comrades’ to go to the All-Russia Central Executive Committee. This advice, which was superfluous, and in general Dudorov’s courteous manner, still further strengthened my first impression, namely that he was a powerful, large-toothed wolf in liberal sheep’s clothing.

Summoning a young naval officer and two armed sailors, Dudorov ordered them to escort Remnev and me to the headquarters of Petrograd Military District. An open motorcar was already waiting for us in the street. We sat on the back seat, the officer and one of the sailors, carrying a rifle, sat facing us on the folding seats, and the second armed sailor sat in front, beside the driver. I confess that I found it disagreeable to see sailors in the role of my first jailers. I had worked among them and counted so many friends among them. I looked into the faces of the escort, but they were morose and preoccupied. From their expressions one could not guess what they were like – concealed friends or unconscious foes? Our strange group evoked frank astonishment among all the passers-by, on foot, in vehicles, in this central part of the city. But we did not have to go. After only a few minutes the car stopped in Pa Square, near Millionnaya Street, at the well-known entrance of the headquarters of the Military District. We were asked to come up to the first floor. As is normal when prisoners are escorted, one sailor walked in front and the other behind. On every staircase landing and before every door a cadet with rifle and fixed bayonet stood on guard. A week earlier the same cadets had met every arrested Bolshevik with punches and pistol-whipping. After the first days of thrilling triumph however, their tempers had evidently cooled down. Nobody laid a finger on us. We only heard the whisper pass along: “They’ve brought the Bolsheviks.” We entered a large, dirty room. In this bureaucratic barn there were not even chairs, so we had to stand. The commander of our escort, a smooth-faced Sub-Lieutenant who had hardly come of age, went into the next room to report our arrival. Soon there emerged, one after another, staff officers carrying papers: they stared at us with unconcealed curiosity. At this moment a burly fellow, scarcely sober, and wearing a uniform that was half a chauffeur’s and half an airman’s, barged into the room through the outer doors. He had on a leather jacket and service-cap with an officer’s badge. Looking daggers at us he said loudly: “How is it they haven’t killed you yet? You should have been shot on the way here.” Then he began boasting in a loud voice about his exploits: “I’ve killed thirty-two Bolsheviks with my own hands.”

“There, you see, it was no good our coming here: they’ll kill us,” whispered Remnev, who had gone pale.

“They’re sending you to the Kresty Prison,” we were informed by the naval officer, who now re-entered the room.

The vagrant who had been boasting about the Bolsheviks he had killed turned at once to address the officer. “How dare you talk to persons under arrest? What right have you? Where they are to be sent is a secret. Do you know who’s talking to you? Do you know who I am?”

I learnt that his name was Balabinsky.

The young officer was embarrassed and failed to answer the rascal in the tone he deserved.

Finally, soldiers took over from the sailors, and it was under ‘army’ guard that we were led into the street. Here we were put into a large, tightly-closed prison van with little barred windows placed high up. We could not see where we were going but soon felt beneath the wheels the gently cambered surface the Liteiny Bridge. Then the van stopped, and when the door was opened we saw that we were already inside the Kresty prison.

Dusk had fallen. Electric lights were burning both out and inside the prison. At the desk the soldiers handed us in exchange for a receipt, to the superintendent of the prison.

“Why, you’re not terrifying, not terrifying at all! Judging what was in the papers, we expected you to be quite fervent...’ said the superintendent, a jolly man, when the escort had departed.

On the way to the cell I vigorously denounced the bourgeois yellow press which had striven to depict us as beasts in human shape, adding a few words about the extreme irresponsibility of the bourgeois press in general. The superintendent nodded his head sympathetically, and a warder, rattling his keys and with a peculiar smile on his face, flung open before me the heavy door of the cell.

6. The results of the July days

In the process of development of the events of the revolution, the demonstration of July 3-5 1917 undoubtedly occupies a place of great historical importance. It was the intermediate link between two other mass actions by the proletariat – the demonstration of April 20-21 and the great October Revolution– it followed logically from the demonstration of April 20-21 but surpassed it as a sharper, more distinct posing of questions, by drawing into the ranks of the demonstrators much broader masses of the working class.

On April 20-21, alongside the slogan ‘All power to Soviets,’ put forward by our Party, one still encountered demand for individual changes in the composition of the Government, expressed in placards saying ‘Down with Guchkov and Milyukov’. These naive inscriptions still echoed petty-bourgeois illusions, not yet outgrown, inspired by naive faith, that by replacing one or two individuals the Provisional Government could be made acceptable to the workers and peasants.

By July 3-5 the deepening and sharpening of class contradictions had forced the abandonment of these harmful dreams, the renunciation of all hope in the Provisional Government. In the July demonstration the uniform content of placards varied only between these limits: ‘All power to Soviets’ and ‘Down with the capitalist ministers’. The latter demand, insisting on the removal from the Government of every single representative of the bourgeoisie, to be replaced socialists, representatives of the workers’ Soviets, was merely a different formulation of the former. The slogan of expelling ten capitalist ministers signified not mere replacement of individuals but complete going-over to a new system of government, to a Soviet Republic.

Despite the proved participation of the Anarchists, who senselessly strove to inflame passions, it was not they who initiated the demonstration: that was beyond the power of such an uninfluential group. The July events took place quite spontaneously, without stimulation from outside. The working-class and the peasantry in soldiers’ and sailors’ greatcoats sensed with their sound instinct that the Provisional Government was destroying the revolution, leading it to the abyss.

The criminal offensive of June 18, dictated by the vultures the international stock-exchange and signifying continuation the war for the old aims of imperialism, together with the treacherous policy of being pursued inside the country, opened the eyes of the masses better than any agitators could. And without waiting for any call, on July 3 they surged on to the streets on their own initiative.

How did the Bolshevik Party react to this? On July 2 and 3 it strove with all the influence it possessed to hold back the masses who followed it. In the afternoon of July 3 the Central Committee had printed an appeal to the people to refrain from action. But the electrification of the worker masses and the pressure they exercised were so great, and their collective will was so strikingly manifested in an independent action by some units and the sympathetic attitude of others which had not yet come out but were ready to do so at any moment, that in the evening of the July 4 the Party of the revolutionary proletariat, accurately reflecting the interests and feelings of the worker masses, decided to put itself at the head of the unavoidable movement and, by introducing consciousness into its spontaneity, to transform it into a peaceful and organised armed demonstration.

The class feeling, sound political sense and farsightedness of our Party, its close unity with the broad proletarian and semi-proletarian masses, saved it from the fatal and irreparable mistake which would have been committed if the Party had stood aside from the movement. Its appeals for calm would have gone unheard. The movement, which had risen organically and elementally from the soil of the counter-revolutionary flouting of the masses by the Government of Kerensky and Tsereteli, was unavoidable in any case, but if the Bolshevik Party had passively abstained, this movement would have rolled over the Party’s head, would have broken into a thousand petty, unconnected, uncoordinated and disunited actions, and would have been smashed piecemeal. There was no other Party with influence or an organisational apparatus capable at that time of assuming the leadership of such a crucial revolutionary action.

Our Party shouldered that heavy task, and performed it with honour. There were, of course, individual excesses, quite inevitable in any mass action, but these were quickly liquidated by the energetic intervention of Party members. On the whole, the Party managed to achieve all-round mastery of this spontaneous movement which had arisen independently of its will and to confine it within the channel of a demonstration.

One often heard the objection: if what was proposed was nothing more than a peaceful demonstration, why was it necessary to carry arms? Would it not have been better to leave the rifles at home?

A naive question! It was easy to foresee that an unarmed demonstration would have been dealt with ‘by armed force’. On July 4 the Provisional Government did not unleash against the demonstrators a Russian Cavaignac at the head of some Cossack regiment or cadet troop, that was to a considerable degree because the horny hands of the workers, sailors and soldiers firmly gripped the stocks of loaded rifles.

The Provisional Government feared an armed rebuff, it did not want to start civil war prematurely. Already in May, Tsereteli, when he came to conclude an agreement with the ‘independent’ republic of Kronstadt, which had been invented by the bourgeoisie’s frightened imagination, had said with the air of a martyr, clutching his head: “Will there really be civil war? Will it really be impossible to prevent that?” And nervously wrung his hands in unfeigned despair.

The need for arms, the only means of defence in the event of bloodletting, was also dictated by the circumstance that when announcing a demonstration, we retained the right at a moment to turn it into an armed uprising.

If the front and the provinces had warmly supported our slogans and carried out a similar review of their armed force, we should have been poor revolutionaries if we had not tried to force the pace of events and accomplished October already in July.

Why, then, did we decide at that time not to take the road of insurrection?

Because, despite our undoubted majority in Petrograd, we did not possess sufficient strength on the scale of Russia as a whole to be able not just to take power for a few days but to keep it for a long time. Finally, if we had taken power, we should have had to arrest not only the members of the Provisional Government but also the majority of the Central Executive Committee and the majority of the Petrograd Soviet. That would at once have weakened the Party which had carried out the insurrection, undermining its position and creating contradictory conditions, incomprehensible to the masses, when in the name of the struggle for Soviet power we found ourselves obliged to arrest the Soviets.

The Bolshevik Party acted correctly, refusing to be enticed by the laurels of an easy adventure which might, if it did not ruin the revolution altogether, at least have postponed for a long time the revolution’s October triumph.

The historic days of July 3-5, as they were utilised by the Party, had very great, positive results in their influence on the further development of events.

This first large-scale review of the forces of the proletariat, ready, to the terror of the bourgeoisie, to defend the revolution, arms in hand, was the beginning of the end for the Provisional Government and the inglorious destiny of the ‘defencist’ parties of the Mensheviks and SRs bound up with it.

The events of July 3-5 and the campaign of savage repression which followed them thoroughly exposed the counter-revolutionary and anti-democratic position of the bourgeois government of Kerensky. The Mensheviks and SRs, tangled in the nets of the coalition, discredited themselves finally and irreparably.

But our persecuted Party, surrounded by the aureole of martyrdom, emerged from these trials even better steeled than before, with its influence and the number of its supporters increased to an unprecedented degree. The July days and the sharpening of the class struggle which inevitably followed them provided much experience and taught the Russian working-class a great deal.


1. An important role in the 1st Machine-Gun Regiment was played by Lieutenant Semashko, the only Bolshevik officer. According to Ilyin Zhenevsky he enjoyed great influence in the regiment, and could have held it back from premature action if he had wished. In 1922, when he was First Secretary of the Soviet Embassy in Latvia, Semashko defected. Ilyin-Zhenevsky comments: “It is possible that at that time [i.e. July 1917] he also had some ulterior motive, unknown to us.”

2. Some Anarchists had taken over the dacha, on the Vyborg side, of P.P. Durnovo, a former Minister of the Interior, and made it the centre of their activities, which included the seizure of a printing-works. Action was taken to evict them, and this aroused indignation among the working-class population of the Vyborg side, where the 1st Machine-Gun Regiment was stationed.

3. By ‘the Northern front’, in the context of the war with Germany, was meant the front facing the Germans in the Baltic provinces - the front nearest to Petrograd.

4. The Sea Canal was the deep-water channel linking Kronstadt with Petrograd.

5. Angliiskaya Quay is on the opposite bank of the Neva from Vasily Island.

6. Podvoisky wrote about this incident: “I asked him to speak, and a Kronstadt delegation did the same, but Lenin said that his refusal would show that he was against the demonstration. But he later agreed.” Lenin refers to it in his article, ‘An Answer’, in Collected Works, 4th edition, Vol. 25, English version, p. 210.

7. Some of the Kronstadters outside the Taurida Palace demanded to see Pereverzev, the Minister of Justice, for an explanation of why the Anarchist sailor Zheleznyakov, arrested in the raid on Durnovosdacha, had not yet been released. When told that Pereverzev could not be found, the sailors became angry, and Chernov was sent out ‘to calm them’.

8. Sukhanov gives an account of the rescue of Chernov on pp. 444-448 of his The Russian Revolution 1917 (1955).

9. The Provisional Government had by now established itself in the Mariinsky Palace, which had been used under the Tsar for meetings of his State Council. After the ‘July Days’, the Government moved to the Winter Palace.

10. On the evening of July 4, Lenin attended a joint meeting, held in the Taurida Palace, of the Bolshevik Party’s Central Committee, its Petrograd Committee and its Military Organisation, with Trotsky’s ‘Inter-District’ (Mezhrayontsy) Committee.

11. General P.A. Polovtsev’s own account of the ‘July days’ is given in his Glory and Downfall (1935). For other narratives of these events ‘from the other side’, see also The Fatal Years (1938), by Polovtsev’s intelligence chief, B.V. Nikitin, and Petrograd, The City of Trouble, 1914-1918 (1918) by Meriel Buchanan, daughter of the British Ambassador. A recent historical survey is Prelude to Revolution, by A. Rabinowitch.

12. Trotsky quotes this passage in his History of the Russian Revolution. It is mistranslated in the English version of his book so as to reverse the meaning: “These military preparations were of course made on my part not merely with ‘a view to self-defence.'” (Vol.II, 1933, p. 64).

13. Sukhanov’s own account of this episode is in his The Russian Revolution 1917 (1955), pp. 465-467.

14. Stalin’s account of the July Days (his report to the Sixth Party Congress) is in his Works, Vol.3, English version, pp. 171-179.

15. Raskolnikov writes ‘Tsentroflot’, but this is evidently a mistake for ‘Tsentrobalt’, which is the body mentioned in Kerensky’s telegram. ‘Tsentroflot’ was the committee representing the Navy as a whole: it was situated in Petrograd, and was dominated by the Mensheviks and SRs. Another translation of the telegrams will be found, as Document 1165, in the collection of documents entitled The Russian Provisional Government, edited by R.P. Browder and A.F. Kerensky (1961).

The cell assigned to me was on the ground floor of the huge No.2 Block of the Kresty Prison.

Next day, July 14, I was summoned for questioning. Waiting for me in a special room adjoining the prison governor’s office was Sokolov, an examining magistrate of the naval court, wearing a brilliant uniform jacket. He handed me a sheet of paper and, with an exaggerated politeness which made me recall the Tsar’s gendarmes, invited me to fill in this official form with my deposition.

When I had finished setting forth the role I had played in the July events, the naval examining magistrate gravely informed me that, under the old laws and also under the regulation newly introduced at the front, the crimes imputed to me made me liable to the death penalty.

“The law has no retroactive force,” I replied.

It was the case that at the time when the demonstration took place the death penalty had not yet been formally reintroduced: besides which, my activities were carried on at Kronstadt and in Petrograd, not at the front.

The examining magistrate spread his hands in perplexity. I guessed that the concept of ‘the front’ could be given the widest interpretation. Such elementary legal conceptions as ‘the retroactive force of a law’ existed only in peacetime; in an epoch of revolution they ceased to apply. I began to appreciate that in the ranks of the Provisional Government, drunk with victory and a thirst for revenge, there were not a few advocates of the sternest possible settlement of accounts with the Bolsheviks.

At the beginning of my stay in prison I was subjected to strict solitary confinement. My cell door was kept closed, and even for exercise I was taken out by myself, whereas the other comrades in solitary confinement were allowed to walk round together, which gave them the chance to hold small improvised meetings.

During one of my first exercise periods I spotted, through a basement grating, the familiar face of Comrade P.E. Dybenko. Ignoring the soldiers who were escorting me, and the prison warders too, l calmly stopped in my tracks and in the sight of all had a friendly chat with him. Nobody rebuked me: the revolution had already had a marked effect on prison life.

Comrade Dybenko told me, with his usual humour, about the vicissitudes of his arrest. He could not refrain from laughing as he described to me the unexpected misadventures of the fleet commander, Admiral Verderevsky, a staunch supporter of the Provisional Government. When the Admiral received the coded message from Dudorov for the ruthless sinking by submarines of any ships that might leave the harbour without authority, and head for Petrograd, he naturally passed it to Tsentrobalt, which notified all the ships, causing an unprecedented sensation. Verderevsky, who lacked the physical power to put this barbarous order into effect behind the back of Tsentrobalt, realised perfectly well that even in the highly improbable event that he did manage to carry out the order, he himself would pay for it with his life. It would of course be easy for a submarine to sink a ship or two, but it was quite unthinkable to plunge the Baltic Fleet into civil war, given the complete unanimity and indivisible solidarity of the sailor masses.

Proceeding from mere considerations of expediency and his personal helplessness, and not at all from any partiality towards the sailors’ elected institutions, Admiral Verderevsky, who, though organically hostile to Bolshevism, was intelligent and shrewd, chose the only proper line of action open to him, and communicated with Tsentrobalt.

The supreme naval authority, located beneath the Admiralty spire, was absolutely furious at the publication of this secret coded message which had been sent to the fleet commander as a service order, and the revelation of which evoked tremendous anger among the sailors, and exposed the vile, disgusting methods of struggle which the Provisional Government, stopping at nothing, had resolved to resort to. Lebedev, Dudorov and their henchmen saw in this act an illegal disclosure of military secrets. Verderevsky was charged with nothing less than treason, and, to everyone’s surprise, arrested.

However, not very long after this, the Admiral just as unexpectedly became ‘Caliph for an hour’ and went straight from behind bars to a comfortable chair in the Malachite Hall of the Winter Palace, as the last Navy Minister of the Provisional Government. The officer responsible for arresting him, Dudorov, found himself suddenly transferred to Japan, as naval attaché.

As I was returning to my cell, after my encounter with Dybenko, I met in the corridor a sailor from Aurora, Comrade Kurkov, and a member of Tsentrobalt named Izmailov. The latter had come to Petrograd on a minelayer, with a delegation from the Baltic Fleet to protest against the Provisional Government’s policy, but had been arrested and put in the Kresty prison. However they did not remain there long but were soon released, without any sequel. One day a large, dark eye appeared at my ‘peephole’ and I heard the familiar voice of Semyon Roshal: “Hello, Fedyal”. I learnt that when he heard that I had been arrested he had decided to give himself up. “After your arrest I thought it was pointless to remain in hiding,” Semyon explained. In the Kresty we were allowed to read newspapers, an important innovation as compared with the prisons under the old regime, which I had in my time had occasion to know pretty well. Every morning one of the comrades came to my cell with a huge stack of newspapers. I bought a copy of every paper published in Petrograd, even down to the yellow rag Zhivoye Slovo.

Comrade Roshal sometimes came to my cell to get from me those newspapers which he had not read. At that time the press was given over to a ferocious hounding of the Bolsheviks. Without restraint or shame the hacks of the bourgeois gutter rags hurled abuse not only at the Party but at particular Party members, not hesitating to use the vilest fabrications, such as the charge that Kamenev and Lunacharsky were provocateurs. A fair amount of this filth was unloaded on the Kronstadters, especially Roshal and me. On me personally these attacks made no impression at all. I merely laughed at the accusation of the seven deadly sins that was levelled at me. Nothing else was to be expected of our irreconcilable class enemies, and so I remained indifferent to whatever they said, however disgusting and insulting this might be in itself.

Roshal reacted differently. He felt very painfully every one of their filthy articles, every paragraph that imputed some dirty action to him. I remember that one loquacious fabrication by an idle reporter on Suvorin’s Vercherneye Vremya depressed him for a whole day. Long afterward he could not remember without irritation the monstrous distortion of his biography and the lying calumnies about his relatives. This morbid sensitivity resulted from Semyon’s whole nature. Beneath his fierce exterior, his tousled hair and challenging cap, was hidden a very tender romantic, who was a little naive, touchy and uncontrollably excitable about anything concerned with his Spartan integrity. Besides which, Roshal was a Jew, a Russian student without right of domicile, a citizen of a country whose history was adorned with bloody pogroms against the Jews and the disgraceful Beylis case [1]. In the frenzied hounding by Suvorin’s ‘bully-boys’, who had chosen his modest person as the target for their persecution of the Kronstadters, Semyon divined the rampant spirit of ‘true-Russian’ anti-Semitism.

One day soon after I entered prison my old mother came to visit me. Conversation with visitors took place, as under the old regime, through a double grating and in the presence of a warder. This man had some pleasant characteristics, including open sympathy with the prisoners, and to confirm his long-time closeness to political detainees he showed me one day a photo of Trotsky, taken in the lock-up in 1906, and bearing his autograph. “If that had been found on me under the old regime, you know what I would have risked,” said the benevolent warder, to show how brave he had been.

It cannot be said that he was zealous in the performance of his duties. During visits he often left the room, which considerably facilitated the passing over, in the form of long, narrow, rolled-up tubes, of the manuscripts I sent out for publication in our newspapers.

During one of her first visits I managed to whisper to my mother a request that she go to Trotsky and ask him to take on my defence in court.

On another occasion three Kronstadt sailors came to see me, led by Comrade Panyushkin. They brought bread, tinned goods and money which they had collected among the crews. This mark of attention on the part of my Kronstadt friends touched me deeply. Everything that they brought was most opportune. The money enabled me to purchase every day a complete set of the Petrograd newspapers, so that I kept up with current politics. The food was an extremely valuable supplement to the poor-quality prison fare. In this respect Kerensky’s regime differed somewhat from the prisons of Tsardom, where the prisoners had fed a little more agreeably. We were feeling in our stomachs, of course, the whole burden of the disorder in food supplies in 1917. For dinner we were given some nauseating slops made from rotten salt-beef. One small piece of this tainted meat floating in the soup left in the mouth a sour taste as of some mess just drawn from a cesspool. Often, if one dug into the soup, one discovered bits of bast, human hairs, small twigs and other undissolved fragments of organic and inorganic matter. To crown it all, this filthy liquid, the colour of soapy water, and called soup only through a misunderstanding, was very often slightly burnt, and then it became absolutely uneatable even for pigs – in whose situation we evidently found ourselves. On these occasions, squeamishly pursing one’s lips, one had at once to pour the burnt slops into one’s close-stool. As second course they always gave us gruel, known to the prisoners as ‘shrapnel’. The daily ration of bread was about three-quarters of a pound per person: Together with water, this constituted our principal nourishment. Bread was sometimes even left over, and then we readily shared it with the criminal prisoners, who came to us to ask, in a comradely way, for ‘a bit of bread’. The warders overlooked this illicit intercourse between prisoners. Apparent in all their behaviour was a notable degree of caution and even of fear in relation to the ‘politicals’. The February Revolution, which had overthrown the dignitaries of Tsardom, who then suddenly turned up in the Kresty, and which had put some of the ministerial portfolios into the hands of former exiles and prisoners, gave a great mental shock to the prison officers. One of them explained quite frankly the reason for the courtesy he showed to the Bolsheviks: “Here you are today, in prison, but tomorrow, perhaps, you will be ministers.”

And he really did treat us as though we were ministers sitting incognito in solitary confinement cells and wishing to remain unrecognised for the time being.

I remember that in 1912, in the pre-trial detention centre in Petersburg, exercise took place under the supervision of a certain Alexei Ivanovich. He was an old, experienced warder, with no less than 25 to 30 years’ service behind him. His chest was hung all over with large silver medals. With his thick beard and the service-cap which he always wore and never removed, he was the living embodiment of prison rigour. He never talked or joked with any of the prisoners. That would have been beneath his dignity, and, what was most important, a breach of the orders ‘from above’. No smile was ever seen on that old man’s lips. On rare occasions he expressed inward mirth merely by wrinkles that spread over his face. Not for nothing was he an object of great respect among warders beginning their prison career, who always addressed him by his first name and patronymic. After the revolution these majestic Alexei Ivanoviches, all these important, officially-dry, rude and inscrutable prison officers threw off their stiff icy masks and transformed themselves into affectionate Rosencrantzes and Guildensterns out of Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

This difference in conduct was observable not only among the small fry but also among the higher staff of the prisons. Where they were concerned, however, standards of behaviour towards the prisoners were strictly governed by the fluctuations in the political atmosphere. Keeping their noses to the wind, these aristocrats of the prisons detected exactly which way that wind was blowing. When the chances of victory for the Bolsheviks increased, they became tender, giving us all sorts of indulgences, legal and illegal privileges; but as soon as it began to seem to them that the political situation favoured the Provisional Government, they at once withdrew all privileges, and we were made to feel, in our everyday prison life, the re-establishment of a strict regime.

The governor of the prison was an elderly Ensign, a ‘March SR’, who liked to boast of the revolutionary role he had played in the front garden of the Taurida Palace. From what he said it appeared that he was the chief leader and organiser of the February uprising. Boastful and smooth-tongued, he always seemed to us a morally dirty person. His crude and stupid bootlicking could not deceive anyone. The loathsomeness of the food, and, later, the cold in the damp, unheated cells which we experienced with the coming of the autumn frosts, were to a considerable extent his responsibility. Despite the ‘liberal’ regime he introduced from time to time, the whole prison hated him.

Sometime after July 20 they brought Comrade Trotsky to the Kresty. As soon as the rumour of his arrest spread through the prison I seized a convenient moment to visit him at his cell. He told me the details of his arrest. When he heard from my mother that I wanted him to defend me, he had readily agreed, and telephoned the Ministry of Justice. They replied that they had no objection, and took down his address. That same night the militia came to the address he had given, and arrested him. It was not possible to talk much through the door, and there were many interesting questions I wanted to ask, so I resorted to a stratagem. Taking advantage of my good relations with one of the kindlier, older warders, I arranged with him that during the morning exercise period, when the prisoners were slopping out, and loud noise and hurly-burly reigned in the block, but the higher authorities were still sweetly sleeping in their beds, he would let me into Comrade Trotsky’s cell for a quarter of an hour. The old warder kept his promise, and so, one morning, I suddenly appeared in Comrade Trotsky’s cell. The warder locked us in. During these fifteen minutes Comrade Trotsky managed to tell me what was going on outside.

The Mensheviks and SRs, who had become rabid, were continuing their frenzied hounding of the Bolsheviks. Arrests of our comrades were still taking place. But there was no depression in Party circles. On the contrary, everyone was looking ahead hopefully, reckoning that the repressions would only strengthen our Party’s popularity and, in the end, work to the advantage of the revolution. In the workers’ districts, too, no loss of heart was to be observed. Even those factories that had been politically colourless were beginning to gravitate towards us and passing resolutions of protest against the persecution of our leaders of the proletariat. Among the advanced section of the proletariat there was now a strong tendency in favour of arming the workers. The army units that had marched under our flag remained loyal to it and kept up their capacity to fight. Only the 1st Machinegun Regiment had suffered, being disarmed and disbanded.

In short, despite the harsh repression by the Government and the hounding by the social-traitors, neither among the workers nor among the soldiers was any disintegration observable.

Soon after this, a few releases began. The first to be discharged from the Kresty were Comrade Kurkov and Izmailov. This was good news, as a direct living link with the world outside, where, although Kerensky’s social-reaction was temporarily dominant, the rumbling of the revolutionary storm was resounding ever louder through the country. This was after all, the beautiful year 1917 and not the dead, stifling calm of cheerless Tsarist reaction. We all urgently wanted to get out soon, so as once more to join the active ranks of the working class.

L.B. Kamenev and A.V. Lunacharsky were imprisoned in No.1 Block of the Kresty. The two wings were so far apart that we never met. Only on one occasion, on a visiting day, did I manage to see Lev Borisovich. We rushed towards one another, embraced and kissed. It was a joyful meeting. Comrade Kamenev was waiting to see his wife, Olga Davidovna, through the double grating.

On another occasion I had to experience some disagreeable moments. As I was walking to my cell down a long, wide corridor, I encountered the traitor Miron Chernomazov. His outward appearance had not changed at all: the same grey-streaked black beard and great mass of curly hair, the same dark eyes. I had had the misfortune to know him when working on Pravda in 1913, when I had to bring him my manuscripts, as he was one of the editors of the paper. At the beginning of 1914, when L.B. Kamenev came back from abroad, he was removed from work on Pravda, but he continued his activity in the workers’ insurance movement. Rumours which had long been in circulation about his working for the Tsarist political police were fully confirmed after the February Revolution. Miron Chernomazov’s name was found on the list of provocateurs. In March 1917 he was arrested. The bourgeois press at once set up, a demagogic howl: “Editor of Pravda a provocateur.” It was made to look as though Chernomazov had been an editor of Pravda down to recent times and our Party had taken no steps to render him harmless...

When I now came upon Chernomazov in the prison corridor, our glances accidentally met. I was probably unable to hide my feeling of profound organic contempt, for the traitor became obviously embarrassed and averted his eyes in a cowardly and base way. This brief encounter with one of the dirtiest of the provocateurs left me for a long time with an after-taste of disgust.

On July 22 all the newspapers published a very lengthy communique which contained a great deal of revolting distortion of facts and compelled me to send the following statement to the procurator of the Petrograd high court: “The official communique published on July 22 over your name contains a number of factual inaccuracies and distortions concerning me:

“(1) Delegates from the 1st Machinegun Regiment came to Kronstadt on July 3 quite independently of me. When I learnt that, so as not to excite the masses, they had been temporarily detained in the premises of the Kronstadt Executive Committee, I approved this measure. I did not exchange a single word with them. [2] The first time I saw them was at the meeting in Anchor Square, to which I had been sent by the Kronstadt Executive Committee in order to oppose their call for an immediate move to Petrograd.

“(2) At this meeting, which took place in the evening of July 3, I not only did not call “for an armed action in Petrograd to overthrow the Provisional Government” but, on the contrary, did all I could to hold the Kronstadt comrades back from immediate action in Petrograd.

“In my speech I referred to the unreliability of the reports about the action by the army units in Petrograd, and mentioned the news I had just had over the telephone from Comrade Kamenev, [3] that even if the 1st Machine-Gun Regiment had taken to the streets, our Party comrades at the Taurida Palace were urging it to return to barracks in a peaceful and organised way. In conclusion I stressed that, in any case, what was involved was merely a peaceful demonstration and nothing more than that.

“It became clear to me at the meeting that we could do no more than postpone the action, that we lacked the power to prevent it. The most we could do was to give the movement the form of a peaceful, organised demonstration. “(3) I am not and never have been chairman of the Executive Committee: I am deputy chairman of the Kronstadt Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies.

“(4) At the session of the Executive Committee held that evening and night, when the question of the action was discussed, I was not in the chair, either, but took a very active part in the debate, advocating a demonstration.

“(5) The resolution of the Executive Committee on participation in the demonstration was signed by me as deputy chairman of the Soviet, and circulated to the units in the name of the Executive Committee, but certainly not in the name of the commander of naval forces, who was not privy to this demonstration.

“(6) In the morning of July 4, units of the garrison which assembled in Anchor Square already definitely intended to take action, and there was no need for me, or for Comrade Roshal, to make any ‘speech calling for armed action’. My task consisted merely in explaining to the many thousands gathered in the Square the meaning and purpose of our action. I explained circumstantially that, in accordance with the decision of the Kronstadt Executive Committee, we were going out with as our exclusive aim a peaceful demonstration to express our common political desire that power be transferred to the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies. Arms would be carried only in order to demonstrate our armed strength, to make graphically apparent the immense number of bayonets that stood behind our opinion that power should be handed over to the people.

“These weapons could also serve as means of self-defence in the event of a possible attack by the dark forces. I pointed out, there and then, what harm would be caused by the first shot fired, which always causes general panic. I ordered the comrades not to fire a single shot, and, so as to prevent any accidents occurring, proposed that all the comrades carry their rifles unloaded.

“(7) It is absolutely untrue that ‘the leaders of this action were Raskolnikov and Roshal’. The Kronstadt Executive Committee, followed by the meeting in Anchor Square early in morning of July 4, elected a special organisational commission of ten men to provide overall leadership of the peaceful demonstration. However, the overwhelming majority of the members of this commission asked me, for the sake of unity of comma to assume the principal leadership of the entire demonstration.

“I agreed. Consequently, as I was, defector, the one and only leader, full responsibility for the leadership of the armed action of the Kronstadters must be borne by me alone.

“Comrade Roshal played no greater role in this demonstration than that of any other participant, and therefore all responsibility attributed to Comrade Roshal must be shifted from him to me.

“(8) The official communique speaks of attempts by the Kronstadters to arrest ministers, but it fails to mention that Comrade Trotsky and I took part in the releasing of V. M. Chernov.

“(9) In the concluding section of the official communique, after listing eleven names, including my own, reference is made to our ‘previous agreement together’.

“Only one thing can be said about this. Comrades Lenin, Zinoviev and Kollontai are well-known to me as being honourable and experienced fighters for the cause of the revolution whose absolute irreproachability I do not doubt for a moment. Party work has obliged me to maintain very close and direct relations with them. But Helfand-Parvu, Furstenberg-Hanecki, Kozlovsky and Sumenson are quite unknown to me. Not one of them have I ever even seen and with none of them have I had any communication.

“Our work as leaders of the demonstration, like that of Comrades Lenin, Zinoviev and Kollontai, has been farfetchedly linked with Parvus and his business associates, upon whom I do not wish to cast any shade, but with whom it is quite impossible to link me, since no such link has ever existed.

“(10) I have never entered into any agreements with agents of ‘enemy’ or ‘allied’ states, nor will I enter into such agreements in the future.

“(11) I have not received money for propaganda or for any other purpose from any foreign states or from any private persons. My only source of income is my Sub-Lieutenant’s pay – 272 roubles a month.

“(12) I never called upon anyone ‘immediately to refuse to take part in military operations’. On the contrary, I always and everywhere insisted that this robber imperialist war can be ended only in an organised way, and certainly not by sticking one’s bayonet in the ground.

“(13) I did not take part in an armed uprising on July 3-5, if only for the simple reason that no such armed uprising took place.

“(14) I have not had and I do not have anything to do with any wilful giving up of positions on any front whatsoever. In general, all these statements made in the last part of the communique are without any connection with the preceding part, are utterly unfounded, and are more reminiscent of an article by Alexinsky than of an official document.

“My participation in the preparation and leadership of the peaceful armed demonstration on July 4 I honestly set forth in the statement I gave to the military-and-naval examining magistrate, Lieutenant-Colonel Sokolov, but, unfortunately, the compiler of the official communique has not bothered to make use of this statement.

“Do not refuse, Citizen Procurator, to convey this explanation of mine to the press.

“Vyborg-Side Solitary-Confinement Prison (Kresty), July 22, 1917. Sub-Lieutenant llyin (Raskolnikov).”

At the same time I sent the Procurator a statement concerning another matter:

“In the evening of July 13, when Ensign Remnev and I were taken, as prisoners, to the headquarters of Petrograd Military District, a certain person wearing a leather jacket and officer’s cap, who later turned out to be a technician from tube factory named Vasily Grigorevich Balabinsky, said to in a loud voice: “How is it they haven’t killed you yet? You should have been shot on the way here.” These words, an utter mockery of the prisoners, were spoken in a deliberately low voice, evidently so as to incite against us the soldiers who were standing nearby.

“Fortunately, however, these words met with no sympathetic response from the soldiers. Citizen Balabinsky then added boastfully: “With my own hands I’ve killed thirty-two Bolsheviks.”

“I request you, Citizen Procurator, acting on the foregoing information, to prosecute Citizen Balabinsky.

“Sub-Lieutenant Ilyin (Raskolnikov).”

Soon after this a hunger-strike began in the prison. The reason was that no charge had been brought against a number of the prisoners, in spite of the long time that had passed since they were arrested. A demand was also put forward for greater freedom in our life within the prison.

The decision to start the hunger-strike was taken by the comrades who were allowed to exercise together in the yard, Trotsky, Roshal and I, being kept isolated in our special cell were unable to break through the ring the prison placed round each of us, and so could not take part in good time in the discussion of this matter, but were confronted with the accomplished fact of a hunger-strike which had been declared.

When we heard about it we said that a decision taken without our participation could not be regarded as binding upon us.

Our view was based on our general view of hunger-strikes as an expression of impotent despair, to be resorted to only in extreme cases, when all other means had been exhausted and nothing was left but to appeal to the world outside the prison.

We had too serious an attitude to hunger-strikes, too much respect for this self-sacrificing method of struggle, to treat it as a weapon of ordinary protest, especially as the political situation beyond the prison walls was not at all such as to inspire despair. At that time, that is, in August 1917, our Party was already having to restrain the worker masses, and was not at all calling on them for premature actions such as badly-thought-out prison demonstrations.

The trouble was that the ‘politicals’ of 1917 were very different from the old underground workers who formed the main element among the political prisoners of the period of absolutism.

Whereas in those days before the February Revolution the prisons were filled with staunch, convinced revolutionaries, most of whom were theoretically educated, after the July days the Kresty prison was packed with youngsters. A considerable percentage were there as a result of casual arrests – people senselessly grabbed off the street, accidentally detained on the first denunciation by some volunteer agent, to whom a carelessly dropped word often seemed sufficient proof of Bolshevism.

Even the Party element among the prisoners consisted mostly of young sprigs who had sprung up under the beneficial showers of the Bolshevik agitation which our Party had successfully developed since the first day of the February Revolution.

Comrade Trotsky declared that he would not join in the hunger-strike. Roshal and I, after expressing our view that this demonstration was inexpedient in the given circumstances, nevertheless joined in out of solidarity.

On the first day of the hunger-strike the influence of these casual fellow-travellers for whom participation in it was not a matter of life and death, made itself very clearly felt, and strike lasted only one day: but even in that short period ‘comrades’ were found who, after declaring that they were hunger-strikers, tucked in on the sly to their prison dinner, a good appetite. Given the presence among us of such an unreliable element, of course, our strike ran the risk of becoming a mere scandal. Old Party workers were risking their lives while others, less steadfast, though formally adhering to hunger-strike, were stealthily stuffing themselves with the plentiful leftovers from the plates of their striking comrades.

That same evening this unpleasant crisis solved itself. Hunger-strike by the political prisoners in the Kresty had made an impression ‘in influential circles’. By order from on high the doors of our cells were opened. We all assembled in one of cells on the first floor to discuss the situation which had been created. Present amongst others were representatives of ‘politicals’ held in No.1 Block, including the Left-SRs Usti and Proshyan. On behalf of the prison governor we were told that, next day, the Minister of Justice, A.S. Zarudny, would come to the prison to negotiate regarding the demands we put forward.

As lightly as the decision had been taken to start the hunger strike, so now it was decided to end it forthwith. During discussion that preceded the voting, two opposed positions became defined: one, defended by Comrade Trotsky, Roshal and me, in favour of winding up the strike, and the other defended by V.A. Antonov-Ovseyenko, in favour of carrying through to the end.

Following our discussion, a delegation was elected to negotiate with the Minister, consisting of Antonov-Ovseyen Ustinov and me.

Next day we were summoned to the office of the prison governor, where we were awaited by A.S. Zarudny, a Trudo barrister, who had recently taken over from Pereverzev, who had gone much too far and had fallen into disgrace over our case.

Short and stooped, with a pointed grey beard and the venerable bearing of an ‘honourable’ liberal from the ‘Literary Society’ and Russkoye Bogatstvo, [4] Zarudny received us rather coolly.

We put the prisoners’ demands before him. Plucking nervously at his beard, he listened to us with emotion, and when Trotsky’s name was mentioned, he finally lost all self-control, raised his voice, and almost shrieked, in an old man’s broken falsetto: “I know Trotsky. I was his defence counsel in the trial of the first Soviet of Workers’ Deputies.”

It was obvious that now Zarudny – son of the Imperial authority on jurisprudence and intimate henchman of Alexander II – had become the jailer and hangman of the only consistent revolutionaries, the Bolsheviks, it was highly disagreeable to him to recall, against his will, the best page in his life, when he was not an enemy of the proletarian revolution but the defender of members of the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies, when these were put in the dock by the ‘constitutional’ monarchy.

Altogether, A.S. Zarudny made a most painful impression on us. In his moments of excitement a tone like that of a General, though hidden behind the fig-leaf of outward democratism, showed itself in the worst old-regime style. However, this ostentatious, cheap democratism of his made it easy for him to charm all the prison staff. “Well, now, he’s a Minister, yet he shook us by the hand,” the dumbfounded warders were saying afterwards.

Leaving behind him a fragrance of parliamentary politeness, the Minister departed, having given us only vague promises. As before, no document stating the charge against them was supplied to many comrades who had already been in custody for over a month. But the modest measure of freedom to get together within the prison which we had won was consolidated and strengthened. Thenceforth the doors of our cells were locked only at night, remaining open throughout the day for the closest and liveliest comradely discussions. That was the only real achievement of the hunger-strike.

In itself, the Minister’s visit gave us nothing. But all the more serious were the political conclusions we could draw from the fact that he had come to us in such a hurry. We saw in this one more symptom of the increasing weakness of the Provisional Government, which had lost its footing to such an extent that it took fright at the mere report of a hunger-strike in the Kresty. And yet, if the Provisional Government had had a stronger backbone, it could easily have imposed its will on the political prisoners in the Kresty and forced us into complete surrender. The basic condition for success – heroic morale, unlimited readiness for self-sacrifice – was lacking among the youngsters who made up the majority of the prison’s inmates at that time: that must frankly be admitted. The liberal-bourgeois and pseudo-socialist Council of Ministers granted concessions without having taken the trouble to calculate forces and estimate chances. The most superficial acquaintance with the fortuitous composition and state of feeling of the arrested rank-and-file (who were mostly soldiers of peasant origin) would certainly have soothed the upset nerves of the Provisional rulers so far as the outcome of the prison demonstration was concerned. But all’s well that ends well. On the whole we emerged with honour from that risky hunger-strike, encouraged by our first, partial success. After all, the principle of ‘solitary’ confinement had been breached.

During our daily, now legalised meetings, ardent disputes flared up, most commonly about the prospects of the revolution. There were no pessimists among us. All of us, without exception, believed in the victory of the proletarian cause. Our differences were concentrated only on the question of the of development of the revolution.

Among us there were impatient ‘storm petrels’ who considered that the Party had made a mistake during the July Days in declining to attempt an insurrection. In the course of discussion we who fully approved of the line of the Central Committee said that, in those days of general confusion and disarray in the camp of our foes, it would indeed have been easy to get power, but very difficult to hold on to it. Any such attempt would have been an adventure, foredoomed to failure. Government we set up would have been overthrown by comparatively backward front-line soldiers, among whom here and there, especially in the Cossack regiments, the discipline of the fist still ruled. The working class and garrison of Petrograd would have been subjected to a monstrous bloodletting that would have weakened the proletarian revolution a long time to come. Along with an abundance of starry-eyed liberal idealism the Provisional Government had no shortage of those blood thirsty Cavaignacs and volunteers for bonecrushers who usually accompany a regime of lawyers’ eloquence, democratic swindling and hysterical phrasemongering. “We must first of all get the majority of the working people on our side,” we said, “and only then overthrow the Provisional Government.”

But our opponents objected that there was no need to win sympathy of the majority, that it was quite sufficient for an energetic minority of the revolutionary vanguard to seize power and make a revolution off its own bat, acting in the interest the working class. In this political conception I detected without difficulty the familiar notes of the theory of P.N. Tkac and his Nabat (The Tocsin) in the 1870s. This ideology defended with particular stubbornness by Comrade Sakha on account of which I nicknamed him ‘the Blanquist’.

Relatively young but already bald, with a wrinkled face and lively, bright eyes, the wartime Ensign Sakharov served in 1st Reserve Battalion, and enjoyed immense popularity amongst the soldiers of his unit. It was he who, in the July days, brought his numerous battalion on to the streets and led it from Okht to the Taurida Palace. When the reaction began he was ‘removed’, sent to the Kresty, and associated with our case, appearing on that list of accused in which the place of honour was given to Comrade Lenin.

Sakharov was a fine comrade and a splendid man, but where matters of theory were concerned he was obviously lame.

The criminals were let out for exercise along with us. There were all sorts there, from German spies to young offenders who dreamt, like Robinson Crusoe, of escaping.

One day, when I was sitting on a bench in the prison yard, I was approached by a young man, apparently a worker, who began complaining about the unbearable moral torment caused him by his confinement in prison. Supposing him to be some unstable and faint-hearted comrade, I showed sympathy and was already cheering him up when I thought first to ask the perfectly natural question: “What were you arrested for?”

‘My name was on the list of provocateurs,’ my talkative companion replied.

I hastened to get away from this police agent who was languishing for lack of occupation.

After exercise we dispersed again to our cells, which were left open all-day long. Only late in the evening did we press the bell-push and ask for our doors to be locked till next morning “You don’t want to go out any more?” the warder would ask politely, and with a hollow echo the key would be turned in the rusty lock of the heavy door, which seemed as though covered with armour-plating.

With the establishment of the ‘open doors’ regime our cells became so many Jacobin Clubs. Moving in a noisy crowd from one cell to another we argued, played chess or read the newspapers together. In short, we devoted ourselves to what the Germans call ‘Theorie und Tee’ (‘Theory and tea’).

Comrade Trotsky was the exception. He led a reclusive life in prison, quitting his cell only for exercise, which he never refused to take.

Experienced Tsarist investigators, burning with desire to distinguish themselves and win favour from the new regime, made every effort, using their well-known professional methods, to fabricate forged material for use against us and create a new ‘Beylis case’ on a very big scale. The only difference was that we were accused not of using Christian blood but of using German money...This is to be explained not so much by the difference between the political regimes as by the difference between the purposes of the accusation: in the Beylis case it was the Jewish people who were in the dock, while in our trial it was the Bolshevik Party that was destined for immolation. In the one case there was a festival-orgy of anti-Semitism, in the other one of anti-Bolshevism. Nevertheless, the two cases were essentially similar. In both of them methods of falsified, pogromist justice were frankly applied, with the approval of the highest authorities. In both cases the ruling class (under Tsardom the landed nobility, under the Provisional Government the bourgeoisie) tried too crudely, in pursuit of its class interests, to turn the scales of ‘justice’ into a scaffold. In both cases the setting-up of pompous trials, directed against the Jews and against the Bolsheviks, collapsed in scandal and shame. The end of the era of Russian parliamentarism was accompanied by the end, forever, of experiments in sensational Dreyfus-type trials:

The identification of Bolsheviks with German agents infuriated us. This slander came over us in the stone box of our prison like a wave of asphyxiating gas. We saw in the flood of filth which the bourgeoisie was pouring on our heads one of those campaigns which our home-grown liberals had borrowed from their ‘democratic’ allies, especially from France, where the plutocracy had reigned for decades, and where a venal press was unleashed, like a pack of hounds, upon the fresh scent of Dreyfus, Jaures or the Communists. Our trial, considered as a grand deluding of public opinion, marked the transition from the petty, almost amateur work of Ryech or Birzhevka to the mass production of poisonous newspaper lies and large-scale capitalist machinations on the basis of broad ‘freedom of the press and ‘publicity’. Freed by the February Revolution from petty Tsarist regulations governing the sphere of speculation profiteering, the youthful and victorious Russian bourgeois was getting ready to skim all it could off the sea of blood that had been shed. Our Party had dared to obstruct this process and so down on its head came the whole apparatus of bourgeois press, determined that it would now for the first time operate on a grand scale, with a sweep and an audacity hitherto unheard-of in the history of Russian journalism. All the intellectual prejudices were cast aside, all the good works and approaches inherited by our liberals from the epoch of lofty intelligentsia ‘enthusiasm’, from Lavrov and Mikhailovsky and even – O romantic past! – from Herzen and Belinsky. The conscientiously sensitive tone of the so-called ‘heroic’ of Russian journalism proved inappropriate to these post-July weeks, when the bourgeoisie was ready to defend against the proletariat the milliards it had made out of the war. It was necessary to write in such a way as to bring the heralds of Third International to the gallows in the shortest possible time and without any after-effects. The convict’s patch of treason fastened on them, plastered with lumps of filth from every side and showered with a rain of shameful charges, Lenin and his friends were to be condemned beneath the thunder of scandalous ‘exposures’ and crushed even before the biased investigation had sorted out the case against them and succeeded checking the false evidence about receiving German money. The bourgeois press took upon itself the roles of examining magistrate and judge. It produced mythical witnesses, published answers and ‘testimony’ from them that were unprecedented in their mendacity, itself manufactured the documents needed by the prosecution and, treating these as absolutely convincing, all but demanded the immediate execution of the traitors as German spies. The campaign was waged with skill and vigour, with American audacity, and if it failed, that was not at all the fault of the counterfeiters to whom the bourgeoisie had entrusted the conduct and defence of its case, the protection of its sacred property. The bourgeois journalists had nothing to reproach themselves with, they honestly did their duty by their master, capital: they tore in pieces and dragged through the mud the names and reputations of those who stood in its way. Alas, the Russian people scorned these refined forms of political struggle. The Russian workers and peasants proved to be unconvinced by these skilful methods of hounding by the press. The liberal gentlemen forgot that class consciousness finds its leaders instinctively, despite the most unbridled calumny that aims at political assassination. To the flood of judicial lies, to the jabs with paper darts, the proletariat replied with a mighty blow that swept from the earth the whole complex structure of petty shopkeepers aspiring to be dictators. The great revolutionary upsurge which rolled like the ninth wave over the whole country in October 1917 wiped away without trace the verbal filth with which they had striven for three months to blot out the Communist Party.

As Trotsky led a reclusive life in prison, nobody got closer than a certain distance to his inner world. Roshal, however, was the embodiment of sociability, permanently the protagonist in all our discussions, leader of the caravans that moved from cell to cell.

Besides current political events, the actual course of which we guessed from the newspapers and other information that reached the prison, Semyon was greatly interested in the history of the revolutionary movement of the working class in Russia and in the West. While in the Kresty he read with enthusiasm Aulard’s Political History of the French Revolution. [5] This wordy and out-of-date book found a very wide circle of readers in the prison, and travelled ceaselessly from one cell to another. Semyon began while in prison to write his memoir about his activity at Kronstadt in the period between February and July 1917. But he managed to complete only the introduction, explaining the role of Kronstadt in the Russia revolution and the reasons why it had played this historic role. Many hours of prison life were relieved by games of chess, of which Semyon was very fond. His spiritual forces always flourished in living struggle, and he was an outstanding strategist on the chessboard. Sometimes rare breezes of sympathy broke through to us in our confinement. Somebody sent some flowers: over this Semyon racked his brains, losing himself romantic conjectures.

One day Sima and I were called to the Superintendent office, where we found a young woman waiting to see us, the representative of some sort of organisation like a political Red Cross.

Introducing herself as the Anarchist Yekaterina Smirnova she handed over to us a whole stack of black bread. She had tried to meet us the previous day, but had not obtained permission. The secret of the mysterious flowers was revealed. One of the first questions Smirnova put to us concerned provisions: “Wouldn’t you like some oranges? I could bring you some.” “Why not?” we replied. “When one’s in prison, every gift is welcome.”

“But we you see, have some very special oranges,” said Smirnova, mysteriously, gazing at me with her light, almost colourless eyes.

There could be no doubt but that she meant bombs.

However, since we were not preparing to escape, we naturally had no need of her black oranges. We had to thank her and decline the politely-offered fruit. Smirnova was sincerely grieved. In her eyes this offer was quite natural, and our refusal incomprehensible.

During the first revolution, in 1905, when she was still in a senior form of a high school in some provincial town, and belonged to the SR Party, she was attracted to terrorism. Her childish hand gripping a revolver, Katya Smirnova fired at the local Governor. The fact that she was under age saved her: the death sentence was commuted to penal servitude for life. The best years of her youth were spent moving about the prisons of Siberia. The grandmother of the counter-revolution, Yekaterina Breshko-Breshkovskaya, who was in those days still called ‘the grandmother of the revolution’, took an interest in the girl and gave her support. In the tenth year of Smirnova’s life in penal servitude the February Revolution broke out and, along with tens of thousands of other prisoners and exiles, the young terrorist returned to freedom. Together with ‘Grandmother’ she came from Siberia to Petrograd. Here, observing the treacherous role being played by the SRs, she began gradually to draw away from them, and was soon wholly in the camp of the Anarchists. Later on, when she had become a Communist, she took part in the civil war.

This sensitive, not quite balanced young woman rendered us great services while we were in prison, leading a life of endless monotony. She was one of our means of communication with the outside world, and brought in to us what she was able to observe of new developments in politics. To the energy and enterprise of the small organisation which Smirnova represented the political prisoners in the Kresty, who then consisted almost entirely of Bolsheviks, were indebted for an improvement in their food. They often sent us provisions that were highly valued in prison conditions – bread, butter, tinned goods and fruit.

Smirnova told us that the resources of her ‘Red Cross’ organisation were drawn mainly from voluntary contributions regularly collected during lectures at the Modern Circus and other workers’ meetings.

We also received through Smirnova some spiritual nourishment – only a modest amount, to be sure. At my request she brought me Burtsev’s historical journal Byloye (The Past), which had resumed publication. That day, in one of our cells, the comrades listened with close attention to a reading of Lukashevich’s article on how the assassination of Alex III was prepared. For many of them, who knew little history of the revolutionary movement, the role played by organisation by Comrade Lenin’s brother, Alexander Ulyanov, came as an unexpected discovery.

One fine day they transferred from No.1 Block to ours Lieutenant Khaustov and Ensign Sievers. Both were well-known by name for their activity in the Military Organisation 12th Army and in editing the excellent newspaper Okopnaya Pravda (Trench Truth), a popular front-line publication for the soldier masses.

Naturally, we became acquainted. Khaustov and Sievers, who were close friends, united by their joint work, were far from similar in character. The only thing they had in common was their fervent and boundless devotion to the revolution and their ardent enthusiastic temperament, which often led into utter selflessness, into a state of revolutionary ecstasy. They were both, in the fullest sense, romantics of the revolution.

From his appearance Khaustov could be taken to be about thirty. Concentrated, always deep in thought, he seemed at first to be colder and more melancholy than Sievers. This impression was strengthened by his distinctive way of speaking. He spoke very slowly, as though carefully weighing every word.

His was one of those natures behind whose reserve and rationality one feels the presence of an inextinguishable inner flame. In a soft and quiet voice he would expound his thoughts, which could not be denied the quality of complete logicality.

But Comrade Khaustov’s ideology was not distinguished by theoretical clarity. What predominated in it was an instinctive rebelliousness that bordered on Anarchism. The influence of Marxism never showed itself in his speeches. The revolution had come upon him unexpectedly, when his world-outlook was still unformed. But his theoretical weakness was to some extent compensated for by the boldness and radicalism of his practical conclusions. A natural revolutionary by temperament, Khaustov was always on the Left wing. It was not arguments worked out in the study but an instinctive feeling of the rightness of their cause that led Khaustov, who was basically a non-Party officer, to work closely with the Bolsheviks. And, in fact, no irreconcilable differences arose between us in our practical work.

Comrade Sievers was already a Bolshevik at this time. Young – not much more than twenty – and cleanshaven, with a bright hectic flush on his cheeks, he knew his way around considerably better than Khaustov did where questions of programme and tactics was concerned. Later on he was able to prove his devotion to the Party and the revolution through heroic participation in the civil war and a valiant death in battle with the White-Guard Cossacks on the Southern Front.

Comrade Sievers was all impulse and striving. He spoke quickly and jerkily, choking on his words in his excitement, losing his train of thought and getting distracted in a pile-up of long clauses. What triumphed in him was revolutionary zeal, which, however, did not prevent him from being sounder and more thorough in his judgments than his friend Khaustov. If, for example, some demonstration was mooted in the prison, one could prophesy with confidence that Khaustov would, as a matter of principle, cast his vote in favour, whereas Sievers decided every question in accordance with circumstances.

Khaustov’s outward melancholy coldness hid his revolutionary impatience, whereas Sievers for all his outward and inward ebullience preserved inviolably a living spring of thought, cold-blooded good sense and Marxist calculation, the actual relation of actual forces.

Among the soldiers of the Petrograd garrison who had be thrown into prison after the July days it was the representatives of the 1st Machinegun Regiment who were outstandingly revolutionary-minded. Especially typical of them were Ilyinsky and Kazakov. Absolutely conscious and intelligent, a member of the Petrograd ‘Voyenka’, Comrade Ilyinsky had been, before joining the Army, a typesetter in a printing-press, and had become a Party member already in the period of illegality. His authentically proletarian origin showed itself in his approach to every question. He considered every proposal in a practical way and was not in a hurry to express his opinion – which when given, was always characterised by cogency and good sense. Comrade Kazakov, on the other hand, was a young member of the Party, who had joined our ranks after the February Revolution. A tall, ungainly lad, in his spiritual make-up he was a typical countryman, with all the peasant unreasoning, instinctive fears and easily aroused panickiness. When Kornilov’s action took place, or when an examining magistrate came to the prison to interrogate someone, he was filled with fear, and looked for calamity and disaster from every quarter. While the representative of petty-bourgeois intellectual radicalism, Khaustov, constituted the Left wing, the machine-gunner Kazakov, who expressed the aspirations of the petty-bourgeois peasantry, always embodied in his opinion the most moderate and cautious sentiments.

Besides the Petrograd and Kronstadt leaders of the July action, and representatives of the front in the shape of Sievers and Khaustov, we had among us a prominent member of our organisation at Peterhof, Comrade Zhernovetsky, teacher by profession and an old Party member, a soldier from the Peterhof garrison named Tolkachev, and Comrade Medvedev, [6] a soldier in the 176th Reserve Regiment who was a close assistant to Comrade Levenson in the work at Krasnoye Selo.

Finally, apart from the Kronstadters, the Navy was represented by two other sailors, Lyubitsky and Kanunnikov. Lyubitsky, an intellectual, became a sailor after the revolution and, knowing nothing about service at sea, was posted to the 2nd Baltic Depot. In his political convictions he belonged with the internationalists. A young man with a clean-shaven, actor’s face and with long black hair that usually hung over his brow, he was as a rule frowning and discontented, and by nature morose and unsociable. Kanunnikov, a sailor from Respublika, was a complete contrast to him. A cheerful, sprightly lad, straightforward but not without a shrewd mother-wit, he was always in a good humour. Prison sometimes got him down and he would often sigh for freedom. Kanunnikov was arrested in the street near the Finland station, when, after the July days, he had come in from Helsingfors bringing bales of the Bolshevik newspaper Volna to sell retail in Petrograd. The drive against the Bolsheviks which was then beginning made him a victim of the campaign of repression –especially as he did not think of concealing his membership of the Bolsheviks. Kanunnikov and Lyubitsky volunteered to deliver newspapers to the cells, and when later on a small shop was opened in one of the unoccupied cells to serve our needs (supplying mainly tinned goods) Kanunnikov undertook the running of this ‘co-operative’.

Thus, the Baltic Fleet was represented pretty comprehensively in the prison, in the shape of the two Kronstadters, Roshal and me, a large number of men from Helsingfors (Antonov-Ovseyenko, Dybenko, Kanunnikov, Ustinov and Proshyan) and a few from Petrograd (Kurkov, Lyubitsky and others). With such an exceptionally complete selection of representatives of all the local organisations of the Petrograd area we could at any moment have held, in one of cells of the Kresty, a good provincial conference, with delegates even from the army and the navy.

Of the alien element mention must be made of the Ukrainian Stepakovsky and millionaire Weinberg. Stepakovsky, a young man of bourgeois aspect, had lived for a long time in Switzerland, where he helped bring out a Ukrainian journal in French, entitled L’Ukraine. Supplied with a visa by the diplomatic representative of the Provisional Government, he had entered Russia only to find himself inhospitably arrested at the first after the frontier. He attributed his arrest to the separate activity he had carried on abroad, and was especially annoyed about the provocational way he had been granted a visa which turned out to be really an order for his arrest.

Stepakovsky spoke with enthusiasm about the Ukrainian activist Skoropys-Ioltukovsky, for whom we felt no esteem at all, however Pereverzev’s Department of Public Prosecutions might try to link us with him. We felt suspicious of Stepakovsky, and tried to keep our dealings with this ‘Ukrainian activist’, suspected of being a German spy, within my carefully defined limits.

The millionaire Weinberg, a short, lively bourgeois of indeterminate age and belonging to the nouveau-riche type, having grown wealthy during the war, embellished his cell with multicoloured carpets and made himself a sort of cosy den. To complete the illusion of homeliness he walked about in slippers and a soft coat all day, and brewed cocoa from morning till night. Although not stupid by nature, he led a purely vegetable sort of life, not caring in the least to develop his mind. Weinberg had been imprisoned on account of some speculative activities about which he preferred not to talk. Displaying pretended sympathy with the Bolshevik cause, he even promised that, in the event of his release, he would dedicate part of his capital to our Party’s use. However, despite his generous projects of benefaction, he did not manage to win any confidence among us. Every time we briefly met him we kept very carefully on the alert. In a still worse situation, bordering on a boycott, was Oskar Blum, who, like Stepakovsky, had been arrested at the frontier, when he returned from Stockholm. We suspected him of being a provocateur. All the same, he took part in our meetings and voiced his views in long, literarily-rounded periods which seemed to come from the pages of some German university textbook of philosophy. We all held aloof from him and hardly ever encountered him except at infrequent meetings. He did not stay long in the Kresty, but was soon released.

Our case was proceeding. One day I was called in again for interrogation. Downstairs I was met by the examining magistrate for especially important cases, one Stsepura, a man with an absolutely frog-like face. It turned out that my case had been transferred from the naval court to the civilian prosecutor’s department and linked with the cases of Lenin, Zinoviev, Trotsky, Kollontai, Hanecki, Kozlovsky and others. By way of introduction Stsepura, a brisk, talkative person, told me with pride about his career in the service. Before the revolution he had been examining magistrate for especially important criminal cases somewhere in the Western Territory. [7] He admitted quite frankly that he had never had occasion before to deal with political cases. He asked me to make a statement about my role in the affair of July 3-5. I replied that I had already supplied an exhaustive account to the examining magistrate of the naval court, two days after my arrest. However, apparently having no confidence that he could obtain the material through inter-departmental communications, the civilian examining magistrate wished to obtain a second statement from me. In his presence I again composed a literary exercise on the subject: ‘July 3-5’. About a month later I was again summoned for interrogation, and asked to make a supplementary statement. On this occasion, I was confronted with the note which I had sent to Helsingfors on July 5 by the member of Tsentrobalt, Vanyushin. This note consisted of a request that they send to Petrograd, just to be on the safe side, a warship of small displacement, such as a minelayer or a gun boat. I was extremely astonished that this secret document sent by a reliable comrade, should have fallen into the hands the prosecutor’s department...

At last, on September 1, after dinner, all of us who were associated in the one case, namely, Roshal, Kolobushkin, Bogdatyev, Sakharov, Trotsky and Polyakevich, were called to the prison office to be informed of the material which had been ‘obtained’ by the preliminary investigation.

We sat down on bentwood chairs and a shabby, worn-out sofa. Some examining magistrate I did not know – he behaved as though he were Alexandrov himself [8] – took his place at a desk on which lay a big pile of uniformly-bound books of large format, bearing an inscription neatly written on the government label: ‘Case of Lenin, Zinoviev and others’. The examining magistrate picked up one of the volumes of this ‘complete collected works’ of the anti-Bolshevik legal liars, and started to read in a loud voice the testimony of Ensign Yermolenko. We had to endure an account, burdened with superfluous details, of this man’s life at the front and in captivity, of his entry into the service of the German General Staff, of his despatch to Russia as a German agent, and, finally, of the instructions allegedly received by him to maintain relations and links with Lenin.

Yermolenko’s entire testimony revealed the incredibly base personality of a repentant spy. While it was being read we interjected from time to time some ironical comments. But when the impassive voice of the examining magistrate came to speak the name, so dear to us, of Comrade Lenin, our self-control vanished and, being unable to restrain our anger in face of this barefaced falsity, declared that we refused to go on listening to such lying and base testimony. A record was at once made of our refusal to continue with the reading of the material from the investigation. I said that I wished to have nothing to do with the examining magistrate, and even refused to sign the record. Loudly and sharply voicing our protest against the ‘justice’ of the Provisional Government, we left the room and dispersed to our cells.

On October 2 the judicial authorities repeated their attempt to acquaint us with the materials of the preliminary investigation. Evidently by way of precaution, only two of us were summoned this time –Comrade Roshal and me. But this second attempt ended as unsuccessfully as the first, and I was impelled to appeal to the public opinion of the working class, in the following letter:

“On the methods used in investigating the ‘case’ of the Bolsheviks.

“Dear Comrades:

“Today, October 2, an examining magistrate working under Alexandrov’s direction made a second attempt to acquaint Comrade Roshal and me with the completed material from the investigation of the ‘case’ of the Bolsheviks – material which fills (what a joke!) twenty-one volumes.

“The reading of the material having begun this time from the other end, we soon had to break off our studies, being angered to the depths of our souls. We were finally convinced that the crudely one-sided and falsifying method used in the deposition by the repentant spy, the scoundrel Yermolenko, was not an isolated accident.

“On the contrary this method of deliberately ignoring the contradictions and inadequacies in testimony constitutes the general rule, the calculated system of the entire investigation which is destined to immortalise the name, already well enough known, of Mr Alexandrov.

“When interrogating witnesses Mr Alexandrov deliberately refrained from subjecting the most interesting parts of their testimony to the most obviously-arising questions. An outsider might suppose that Mr Alexandrov was a young, inexperienced servant of Themis at the outset of his career. Alas, though, Mr Alexandrov is an old examining magistrate, rich in experience. Already several years ago in the accursed time of Tsardom, Mr Alexandrov’s name was branded in connection with forgeries used in evidence, even in the columns of the moderate Cadet newspaper Ryech, along with the name of another notable rogue in the Tsarist judiciary, examining magistrate Lyzhin.

“For example, certain witnesses who were prisoners in Germany made statements of this order: “Rumours circulated to the effect that Lenin had visited the concentration camps to agitate there in favour of separation of the Ukraine’; ‘I heard that, while travelling through Germany to Russia, Lenin left his carriage and made speeches supporting the conclusion of a separate peace.

“When he obtained answers like this, containing unattributed references to third persons, the investigator should have asked: ‘Witness, from whom did you hear this?’ And when that question was answered, he should at once have recorded the answer, even if the witness said he had forgotten. It is obvious that if the original source of a piece of information, the eyewitness of an event, cannot be found, then the entire testimony of a witness who refers to unproved rumours is not worth a damn.

“Either Mr Alexandrov deliberately refrained from asking questions about the ultimate source of these rumours, or he received answers that did not suit the prosecution, and so destroyed the entire value of these testimonies. “One witness, Staff-Captain Shishkin, said that, when he was a prisoner, he heard one day that Zinoviev had come to his camp and said: ‘All Germans are our friends and all Frenchmen and Englishmen our enemies.’ But this witness inadvertently blundered. He kept saying that he had himself observed the arrival of ‘the old man Zinoviev’. Yet everyone who knows anything at all about Comrade Zinoviev can testify that nobody, with the best will in the world, could call him an ‘old man’, since he is only 33.

“Another source used to ‘convict’ Comrade Lenin of serving German imperialism is a document bearing the fanciful title ‘Report by the chief of the counter-espionage department of the General Staff concerning Lenin’s party.’

“This apology for an ‘important’ document is really something quite unimaginable. It gives a list, compiled from counter-espionage agents’ reports, of ‘German agents’ who are members of ‘Lenin’s party’. In this remarkable list we find the following names: ‘Georgy Zinoviev, Pavel Lunacharsky, Nikolai Lenin, Viktor Chernov, Mark Natanson and others.’

“This list which has been introduced into our case is really a masterpiece. The counter-espionage service which, coming to Mr Alexandrov’s aid in order, along with him, to set the scene for political trials, has undertaken the moral assassination of prominent revolutionaries, has done its work so badly that it has not even given correctly the names of the political leaders who are to be mortally discredited.

“It is well-known that Comrade Zinoviev has never called himself Georgy: his real name is Yevsi Aronovich, and his Party name Grigory. Comrade Lunacharsky’s name is Anatoly Vasilyevich. The names of Chernov and Natanson are given correctly – but they, so far as is known, have never belonged to ‘Lenin’s party’. And, of course, it is as clear as day to everyone that none of the politicians in this list has ever been a ‘German agent’.

“This is the inimitable way the ‘republican’ counter-espionage service works, absorbing such a lot of public money. These are the sort of illiterate, utterly fantastical, muddled documents that are adduced as constituting ‘incontrovertible’ evidence.

“All that remains is to await impatiently the coming of the court that will do justice to the creators of this scandalous, unprecedented case, and to the whole of the ‘renovated’ and ‘republican’ judiciary.

“Raskolnikov, Vyborg-Side Solitary Confinement Prison (‘Kresty’), October 2, 1917.”

In conclusion I must say something about how the political life that was stormily seething all over Russia in those days was reflected in our everyday life in prison.

The main difference between our conditions and solitary confinement as it had been under the old regime was that we were not isolated from the outside world, but could always keep up with the political events, experiencing them no less keenly than our comrades who were free. As is well-known, news from outside penetrated the Tsarist prisons rarely and only by accident. Newspapers were not allowed at all, and only back numbers of magazines. The gendarme who was present at meetings with visitors made sure that conversations did not get on to political subjects.

During the revolution, in Kerensky’s prison, we learned in a thousand ways, from newspapers and from relatives, friends and comrades who visited us, all the political news right down to the tiniest details and the secret resolutions of the Central Committee. We were able to observe attentively the speed with which the Party and the working class were recovering from the defeat they had suffered.

We felt acutely, through the thick walls of our prison, all the growing influence of our Party. The mass resolutions demanding our release which constantly appeared in the columns of Pravda, Rabochy (The Worker), Rabochy i Soldat (Worker and Soldier) and Rahochy Put (Workers’ Way) filled us with joy, as echoing the sympathy of an ever-growing number of persons who thought as we did. Our morale, which in general was not coloured by either gloom or pessimism, was raised still higher by the news of the Sixth Party Congress. We saw in this a symptom of the revival and unification of the forces of our vital Party. And this congress did indeed see the formal unification of the Mezhrayontsy with the Bolsheviks. [9] The Sixth Congress laid down quite correctly the tactics of the struggle for power, and drew sound conclusions from the setback suffered in the July events, showing with irrefutable clarity that there was no way forward without armed overthrow of the Provisional Government. This congress at once set a firm course towards the October Revolution. Together with the basic aim of winning Soviet power it posed the task, conditioned by this aim, of winning the Soviets for the Bolsheviks.

The Party congress picked up the challenge thrown down by the bourgeoisie. Sentence of death was passed on the Provisional Government and war to the end declared against the Mensheviks and SRs. We, in our accursed Kresty, ardently welcomed the decisions the Party had taken with such straightforward consistency and unbending boldness.

When the theatrical ‘State Conference’ opened in Moscow [10] we followed all the speeches and debates with interest. Even from our prison one could not fail to notice the split that divided that gathering: on the one hand, Kornilov, Kaledin and the whole of the bourgeoisie in power, seething with hatred against the so-called ‘democracy’ and, on the other – that same democracy. It was impossible not to see in this a foreboding of the Kornilov adventure: the impression created could not be effaced even by the ceremonial handshake between Tsereteli and Bublikov, [11] which struck us as laughable. The next event which agitated us in prison was the capture of Riga by the Germans. I remember that the news of this reached us while we were at exercise. The criminal prisoners reacted to it with unconcealed gloating. “If the Germans take Petrograd we shall be set free,” they said, quite uninhibitedly.

We estimated this military defeat in a different way. As internationalists and convinced opponents of the war, we had no reason to rejoice in victories won by either coalition. Our efforts were directed towards transforming the imperialist war into civil war in all countries. But the Russian bourgeoisie looked on us as stooges of the Germans. We had no doubt that the fall of Riga would be blamed on the Bolsheviks, [12] to whom every philistine in those days ascribed responsibility for the notorious disintegration of the army. We foresaw that the next setback at the front would serve as the starting-point for renewed onslaught of baiting and calumny against our long-suffering Party. Furthermore, the capture of Riga by the Germans deprived the revolution of one more piece of territory. Consequently we were angry with the ignorant criminals who openly rejoiced in the victory won by the army of German imperialism.

Moreover we frankly suspected General Kornilov of having deliberately counted on and prepared for the surrender of Riga – which suspicion was soon to receive indirect confirmation in the Kornilov adventure. [96]

The Tsarist general, who had from the first days of the revolution pursued his own reactionary aims, advanced his deceived troops against the working class and the garrison of the rebellious capital. We learnt of Kornilov’s action from the newspapers. The anger we felt was very great, and with it went anxious concern for the fate of the revolution. It was then that awareness of our physical constraint became unbearable, since this was preventing us from taking an active, direct part in the defence of the cause which gave meaning to the life of every one of us. We seethed with indignation against the Provisional Government, which in those anxious days when the fate of the Republic was at stake, when a real Black-Hundred danger, clothed in general’s stripes and with restoration in its pocket, was advancing on Petrograd, continued to leave Bolsheviks to rot in the Kresty. The confused, indecisive actions taken by the Provisional Government against the furious, counter-revolutionary oprichnik evoked unanimous condemnation by the Party cell located in the Kresty.

At that time we still did not know about the involvement of Kerensky himself in Kornilov’s plot against the revolution. This emerged only some days later.

But now we began to breathe a little more easily: the workers had taken up arms. We followed feverishly the process of forming the young Red Guard, and literally totted up the number of rifles concentrated in the hands of the proletariat. All our hopes were focused on the fighting power of the working class of Petrograd.

The arming of the workers seemed to us to be exceptionally important, not only as the means for crushing Kornilov’s mutiny but also in a wider sense: in this spontaneous self-arming one could not fail to see the embryo of the mass military organisation of the workers – the Red Guard, which, we considered, must ensure that it remained in existence so as to prepare the forthcoming, historically inevitable battle for the proletarian revolution. We thought it quite right that our Party went into action against Kornilov, developing colossal energy the like of which was to be seen again only in the wealth of events of the October Revolution and the civil war.

But it was not from the newspapers alone that we learnt of the development of the Kornilov saga. We observed careful preparations for an approaching defence going on around us.

An armoured car entered the yard of the Kresty and took up a position under our windows. The machine-gunners often lay on the roof of their vehicle when resting and then readily conversed with the inmates of the prison. Patrols both inside and outside the prison were strengthened, and some Cossacks appeared. Cossack officers paced up and down in the yard as though at home there.

The reactionary Kornilov movement ended as suddenly as it had begun. One day the pages of the newspapers which arrived in the morning, smelling of fresh printers’ ink, told us of the break-up of the Savage Division [13] when it had barely reached Pavlovsk, and of the suicide of General Krymov, the commander of the forces that had been sent against Petrograd.

The ‘Kornilov days’ constituted a Rubicon after which our Party grew so strong that it was soon able to put on the agenda the decisive proletarian attack. The Party’s standing among the workers increased with fantastic speed. The very word ‘Bolshevik’, which after the July days had been a swear-word, was now transformed into a synonym for an honest revolutionary, the only dependable friend of the workers and peasants. Our Party’s growing influence was not slow in producing its effect on prison life. The comparative ‘freedoms’ won by the hunger-strike, which had been taken away from us bit by bit, were restored to us all at once during the ‘Kornilov days’. The regime of open doors and freedom of meeting again became a feature of our everyday vegetation in prison. The prison governor, a typical chameleon who sniffed the way the wind was blowing, assumed the mask of a solicitous friend defending our interests, almost our protector. The criminals contrived to exploit the impetuous rise in our stock, and succeeded in escaping from the prison under our cover. One day, after their bath, when they were being taken through the yard to their block, at an agreed signal they started running as fast as they could towards the gates. The sentries barred their way. “We’re politicals, we’re Bolsheviks,” the prisoners shouted with one voice. The guards silently stood aside. About twenty criminals got through the gates successfully, under their Bolshevik signboard. Nobody chased after them. Only the prison governor, when he heard about the escape, ran out into the street, brandishing in martial fashion his revolver, which was attached to his leather belt by a long, twisted cord, like a policeman’s. To save his honour and clear his conscience he fired a few shots down the embankment, after which, vexedly fingering his large, protruding moustaches, he went back into his office.

Our Party’s bridgehead grew steadily bigger. Soon we were transformed from a solid minority in the Soviets into the ruling majority. The cadres of our supporters all over Russia now numbered several tens of thousands. The ideas of Bolshevism had penetrated the remotest places.

The Provisional Government, committing mistake after mistake and crime after crime, lost its last adherents to both Left and Right. Never having possessed ties with the masses, it became ever more isolated in the Malachite Hall of the Winter Palace, soon to be its grave. The worker and soldier masses ground their teeth when they spoke of the Provisional Government. The military-monarchist clique forsook it immediately after Kerensky’s treacherous conduct in first inciting and then betraying Kornilov’s march on Petrograd. Only the bourgeoisie, which saw in Kerensky an hysterical, whining and verbose expression of itself, supported him fully.

At last the process of broadening and deepening the revolution reached the point of forcible overthrow of the government. Immediate revolution, not putting off for a moment the overthrow of the bourgeois Provisional Government, and with it the entire rule of capital, became an urgent task, as unavoidable as fate. The proximity of a proletarian rising in Russia, as prologue to the world socialist revolution, became the subject of all our discussions in prison. It was amazing how correctly, fully in step with what was happening outside, we in the Kresty perceived the problems of tactics and made up our minds about them. If there was something we did not know, we managed to fill that gap by our instinctive flair. And, generally speaking, our conclusions always agreed with the corresponding decisions of the Party centres.

Even behind prison bars, in a stuffy, stagnant cell, we felt instinctively that the superficial calm that outwardly seemed to prevail presaged an approaching storm, and that somewhere deep down in the Party underground they were counting and concentrating their forces.


1. The mutilated body of a 12-year old Christian boy was found in a wood near Kiev in 1911. In 1913 M. M. Beylis (1874-1934), a Jew, was tried on a charge of ritual murder ('the blood-libel') and found not guilty. In 1926 he published, in America, The Story of My Sufferings. Bernard Malamud’s novel The Fixer is based on the Beylis case.

2. Raskolnikov did not tell the truth here, if we are to believe the account of his conversation with the delegates from the 1st Machine-Gun Regiment given on pages 141-143 above.

3. Again, Raskolnikov made a point, in his account of his speech on pages 147-148 above, of the fact that he withheld from the audience the news he had received from Kamenev.

4. Russkoye Bogatstvo (‘Russia’s Wealth’) was a liberal-populist journal published between 1876 and 1918.

5. Aulard’s book was published in 1901. His hero was Danton. Mathiez had already at this time begun to challenge Aulard’s interpretation, with his own ‘pro-Robespierre’ version of the story.

6. Subsequently, in 1920, he was sentenced to be shot by the Revolutionary Military Tribunal of the Volga-Caspian Flotilla.

7. The ‘Western Territory’ embraced the provinces of Vilna, Kovno, Grodno, Minsk, Mogilev, Vitebsk, Podolsk, Volhynia and Kiev.

8. Alexandrov was a senior examining magistrate to whom especially important cases were entrusted. In the English translation of Trotsky’s History of the Russian Revolution the phrase “an investigator into the especially important affair of Alexandrov” (Vol.II, p.100) is one of the absurdities which abound in that translation.

9. The ‘Mezhrayontsy’ (Inter-District Group) called themselves the ‘United Internationalist Social-Democrats’. The group existed in Petrograd only, and in July 1917, when they merged with the Bolshevik Party, had about 4,000 members. The leading figure in the group was Trotsky.

10. Between August 12 and 15 (old style) a conference was held in Moscow to which the Provisional Government had invited “all the influential political, social and economic forces in the country”. At this conference speeches attacking the Soviets were made by General Kornilov and by the Don Cossacks’ Ataman Kaledin.

11. A.A. Bublikov was a railway magnate, and his public handshake with Tsereteli was supposed to signalise the reconciliation of capital and labour.

12. An account of the circumstances of the fall of Riga is given by Woytinsky, who was the Government’s Commissar for the Northern Front, in his autobiography Stormy Passage (1961), pp. 338-347.

13. See G. Katkov, The Kornilov Affair (1980).

14. The so-called ‘Savage Division’ was a cavalry division of volunteers from the (mainly Moslem) peoples of the Caucasus, who were exempt from conscription. The Bolshevik Party mobilised a delegation of Moslem notables who visited the advancing troops and explained that they had been misled as to the real situation in Petrograd. Pavlovsk, known for a time as Slutsk (in honour of Vera Slutskaya, who was killed near there in October 1917), has now reverted to its original name.

As the October Revolution drew nearer, Kerensky’s government, losing its head in proportion to the increase in pressure from the working class, began releasing, one after another, the Bolsheviks arrested during the ‘July days’. One day in September Comrade Trotsky was released, quite out of the blue.

...At last, on October 11, my turn came. The prison governor, that SR Ensign, came in person to gladden me with the order of release. Comrade Roshal was rather surprised, and sorry that on this occasion he was being separated from me. After our harmonious joint work at Kronstadt our names had been so inseparably linked together in the trickery of the ‘July 3’ case and the campaign in the bourgeois press that even our Party comrades sometimes got us mixed up. I was no less surprised than Roshal that they were separating me from my political twin, against whom, moreover, the investigation had assembled less material for an indictment than against me. I tried to reassure Semyon, promising him that I would do all I could to restore the truth which had been trampled on.

Awaiting me in the entrance-hall of the prison was a Kronstadt sailor, Comrade Pelikhov, who had personally brought to the prison the order for my release, and had already managed to obtain from Party sources the sum of 3,000 roubles to be paid as surety, since, formally, like the other comrades who had been released before me, I was regarded as having been released ‘on bail’.

But our ‘case of July 3-5’, plentifully adorned with the slander of the repentant German spy Yermolenko and the falsification of the Tsarist examining magistrate Alexandrov, not being closed, and Messrs Alexinsky and Co. were continuing to weave their monstrous web around it. Exactly a fortnight later, however, the revolt of the working class shut the file of the ‘case of July 3-5’ and consigned it to the history archives as a glaring example of judicial bias and forgery. Stepping out of the prison on to the Vyborg-Side embankment and breathing in deeply the cool evening breeze that blew from the river, I felt that joyous sense of freedom which is known only to those who have learnt to value it while behind bars. I took a tram at the Finland station and quickly reached Smolny. It was already dark and lights were on everywhere. At the entrance, between the columns, I was met by Comrade P. Dybenko. “I’m off to Kolpino, to smash the Mensheviks,” boomed my naval comrade, rejoicing in anticipation of a victory soon to be won. Comrade Dybenko’s cheerful excitement came across to me from his big, strapping figure, filled with political enthusiasm. We were both in a hurry and so parted at once.

Smolny made a strange, unusual impression on me. I felt that the atmosphere was incandescent, that there was thunder in the air. In the mood of the delegates to the Congress of Soviets of the Northern Region which was taking place at the time, and in that of the central Party workers, an unusual elation, an extreme animation was noticeable. Comrades were excitedly discussing, in groups and pairs. They told straightaway that the CC had decided on armed insurrection. But there was a group of comrades, headed by Zinoviev and Kamenev, who did not agree with this decision and regarded rising as premature and doomed to defeat. There, in the dining-room, they gave me to read a typescript statement of the reasons for this view, signed by the two CC members mentioned, which was intended for the information of Party workers.

Already while in prison, during our recent lengthy discussions about the prospects before the Russian Revolution, we had all ultimately come to the conclusion that the revolution’s fate depended on an armed uprising, and that it was hard imagine a more favourable moment for this than now, when the Party, strengthened to some degree by the Kornilov revolt, had at last gained colossal influence among the worker, soldier and even the peasant masses. In prison we had not been able to visualise graphically the actual scale of the movement, but my very first day at Smolny and the numerous talks I had with comrades, finally convinced me that the mood of the masses had reached boiling point, that they were truly ready for battle, and the Party must at once put itself at the head of the movement, calling on the working class and the peasantry for a new revolution, so as not to let slip and lose for a long time an exceptionally favourable moment.

When I met my old friend L.B. Kamenev I immediately launched into a discussion with him about our differences. The starting point of Lev Borisovich’s argument was that our Party was not yet ready for insurrection. True, we had large masses of various kinds behind us, and they readily passed our resolutions, but there was still a long way to go from paper voting to active participation in an armed uprising. It was uncertain that the Petrograd garrison would show itself resolute in battle, ready to conquer or die. When the first critical circumstances arose the soldiers would desert us and run away.

“The Government, on the other hand,” said Comrade Kamenev, “has splendidly organised troops at its disposal, devoted to its cause – Cossacks and Cadets who have been worked up against us and will fight desperately to the end.” Drawing from all this depressing conclusions about our chances of victory, Comrade Kamenev had arrived at the view that an unsuccessful attempt at insurrection would result in defeat and downfall for our Party, which would throw us back and delay for a long time the development of the revolution. I could not share his opinion and frankly expressed my own to Comrade Kamenev. However, as always happens between convinced people, we separated with our respective convictions unchanged.

Comrade Pelikhov, who was still with me, had already for some time been insisting that we leave, because he had promised the Kronstadt Committee to bring me straight from prison to Kronstadt, and, in fact, the ‘lads’ had by now been waiting for quite a long time at the landing-stage. We left Smolny and, going aboard the launch that stood ready, set out for Kronstadt.

What a splendid fellow that Pelikhov was! An ardent, quick tempered, resolute and courageous sailor with an honest revolutionary heart. The February Revolution had found him in penal servitude, to which he had been consigned after one of the many trials of Kronstadt sailors. His health had broken down in the Tsarist prison and that was probably the reason for the feverish brightness of his eyes, his sunken cheeks, thin body and consumptive cough. He was elected to the Kronstadt Soviet in the first days of the revolution. An impetuous enthusiast, he could not sit still for one moment when some stirring topic was being discussed. He would get excited, start to speak, and deliver an agitated speech, but, at last, his voice would break, he would choke and, unable to express all the feelings that had him in their grip, would helplessly wave his fist, clutching his sailor’s cap, and irritably resume his seat.

Comrade Pelikhov was looked upon among us as one of the Lefts, so that comrade Roshal sometimes jokingly called him ‘the Anarchist’. Now, on the boat, Comrade Pelikhov informed me of the state of feeling at Kronstadt, which had reached the highest level of revolutionary intensity, and supplemented what I knew already about Party affairs. He gave me to read Comrade Lenin’s letter addressed to Party members.

This letter finally strengthened to the full my conviction of the correctness of my views on the urgency of insurrection. [1] Comrade Lenin defended this idea very convincingly, starting from an analysis of the actual relation of forces. In support of his view he not only adduced logical arguments but also backed them with the figures of the elections to the Soviets and the municipal councils. His final argument was that the overwhelming majority of the working class and a substantial section of the peasantry were decisively for us. The yearning for peace ensured a majority for us among the soldier masses. The political atmosphere was extremely incandescent. The time had come for a proletarian revolution, for overthrowing the hated government of Kerensky and establishing the dictatorship of the working class and the peasantry. This moment must not be let slip. It was not possible to wait any longer. Danger threatened the revolution. Certain victory awaited us.

Ilyich’s brilliant letter, this revolutionary call to rise in revolt, this ardent summons to the barricades, lifted my morale as nothing else could have done.

Our little launch was now approaching Kronstadt. The lights of the Red island sparkled from afar, they became ever nearer and brighter, and at last the launch crept into the Naval Harbour.

Despite the late hour, a large crowd of sailors and workers were standing on the summer landing-stage and in the park, before the monument to Peter the Great. The comrades had prepared a welcome for me. The familiar sound of a ship’s band rang out. The launch tied up.

Comrade Entin, standing on the landing-stage, spoke a few warm words of greeting. Still under the impression of Comrade Lenin’s stimulating words, I delivered a fervent speech, dotting all the i’s. After a brief, annihilating characterisation of Kerensky’s regime, I concluded thus: “The Provisional Government convicted me of calling for an armed uprising. That was an impudent lie. At that time I called you, men of Kronstadt, not to an uprising but merely to an armed demonstration. But today I say to you: rise up and overthrow this hated bourgeois government of Kerensky, which lets Bolsheviks rot in prison, forces Lenin to remain in illegality, and, stopping at nothing, strangles the revolution.”

I noticed at once that the sharper, more resolute and more determined were the words spoken, the more sympathetic was the response they received. Even for Kronstadt, which literally seethed in the spring and summer months of 1917, this atmosphere of extreme revolutionary elan was exceptional. I felt that hatred for the Provisional Government had reached its highest pitch, and the notion of overthrowing that government was banging away in the brain of every conscious worker, sailor and soldier.

When the speeches were over we went to the building of the Party committee. In accordance with established Kronstadt custom, the comrades who had arranged my welcome now picked me up and carried me along, high above the crowd. I had not collected myself when strong, muscular sailors’ arms laid hold of me from several directions and slowly lifted me in the air. I must confess that I did not feel quite comfortable: the awkward sensation was something like what I felt in Japan when I once had occasion to travel by rickshaw.

Fortunately, the Party’s premises were very near, only a few yards from the landing-stage. The Kronstadt committee had comparatively recently moved into the building of the former Naval Court. We went up to the first floor. The huge courtroom, in which the red cloth that ceremonially covered the long table had been preserved, together with the high-backed, stately judges’ chairs, was full of people. There, where not so long ago they had sat in judgement on revolutionary sailors and passed merciless sentences on them, now sat those same revolutionary sailors, but with the proud, independent air of judges of the bourgeois class and masters of the fate of the revolution.

I had to make a long speech. Having enjoyed extensive leisure in prison, and used it to read conscientiously almost all the Russian newspapers, I possessed a fair amount of material, and it was not difficult for me to spend an hour and a half acquainting the comrades with it, in spite of the physical fatigue that was coming over me at the end of this tiring first day of freedom.

At the end of my report, when it was already late at night, we old friends of the Kronstadt committee gathered in a separate room, round a tea-table. Here were nearly all the active workers of Kronstadt, with whom I had lived for only a short time but with whom I had experienced so much in the four stormy months between February and July.

All the ‘old guard’ of Kronstadt were present.

The young doctor L.A. Bregman, who had just graduated from Yuriev (Dorpat) University, was shy, with a cordial smile and soft, kind eyes: he was a general favourite among us. Though he spoke little at meetings he took part in leading the Party’s work, and the Kronstadt Committee frequently assigned him tasks of various sorts, mostly organisational. In addition, Comrade Bergman carried on political activity among the crew of the training ship Zarya Svobody, the former Alexander II, which, though by that time she had declined to the condition of an old coffin, still retained her armament, consisting of eight 12-inch 40 calibre guns.

This archaic vessel was our principal armed force, and primary importance was attributed to the morale of its crew. To the credit of Zarya Svobody, it must be said that her crew always gave staunch and unwavering support to the Bolshevik Party. Later, during the October Revolution, Zarya Svobody was sent into the Sea Canal, in order to open fire on the bands of Kerensky and Krasnov if they should get close to Petrograd.

Another Kronstadt activist, Comrade VJ. Deshevoy, spoke at meetings in Anchor Square, wrote articles for Golos Pravdy, the organ of the Kronstadt Committee edited by Smirnov and me, and also conducted scientific and propagandist study-groups among the workers and sailors of Kronstadt.

Comrade P.I. Smirnov, a student from the Polytechnical Institute, took great pleasure in literary work: he read through the material we received, wrote articles, looked after the technical side of our paper, and spent his nights at the printing-press. Comrade I.P. Flerovsky took a direct part in the work of the Party Committee, attended the meeting of the Kronstadt Soviet in which he led, along with other comrades, the activity of the Bolshevik fraction, and also did propaganda work, regularly giving lectures.

Comrade Entin functioned as an agitator at meetings, speaking on behalf of the Kronstadt Committee whenever our Party’s participation was required: as a result of his frequent speeches he became well trained in polemic with the Mensheviks and Anarchists. In addition, Comrade Entin helped with Golos Pravdy, for which at one time he provided the ‘Review of the Press’.

To complete our close-knit company of friends that night we needed only one more comrade – S.G. Roshal, a first-class agitator at meetings who was extremely popular with the Kronstadters.

We sat talking till long after midnight, and when, at last, we decided to break up, I went off to my ship, Osvoboditel (formerly Rynda), where I was listed as officer of the watch. When I got to the ship I learnt that while I had been in prison the crew had elected me Senior Officer. This was, of course, merely a gesture of sympathy, since, in view of my burden of political work, I was physically incapable of serving on the ship in that or any other capacity. The ward-room, which under the old regime had been a closed, unattainable place for the sailors, was quickly filled with members of the ship’s committee and other sailors from the crew of Osvoboditel, who made me once again spend a long time telling them about the Kresty and sharing with them my views of the political situation.

I slept on Osvoboditel and next morning returned to Petrograd, accompanied by the inseparable Pelikhov.

At Smolny the session of the congress of Soviets of the Northern Region was already in full swing. The Mensheviks and SRs, having become convinced that the decisive majority was not on their side, had just left the congress. This was a dress-rehearsal of that treacherous tactic which they used later on at the All-Russia Congress of Soviets. But this walk-out proved to be symbolic: it signified the departure of the Mensheviks and SRs from the historical scene on which, during the whole of the first period of the revolution, they had played such a miserable and shameful role.

Comrade Lashevich was speaking. In the loud, booming voice of a good cathedral archdeacon, accompanying his words with vigorous gesticulations, he delivered a vigorous condemnation of the traitors to the revolution. It sounded like an anathema.

Finally, Comrade Trotsky spoke. He drew the balance-sheet of the moribund regime of Kerensky and of the Menshevik and SR parties which had linked their fate with it. He devoted particular attention to the Kornilov adventure and Kerensky’s involvement in this shameful plot against the Revolution.

While denouncing the compromisers, Comrade Trotsky at the same time carefully stressed that he meant only the Right wing of the SRs, thereby distinguishing between them and the Left-SRs.

Soon after he had spoken, a break was announced. I put on my coat and left Smolny. Having found the Ministry of Justice, in Yekaterinskaya Street, I entered a large, typically bureaucratic entrance-hall, with chairs formally arranged along the walls. On these chairs sat lonely suppliants and petitioners with downcast looks. At the door opposite the entrance stood a sleek young man, a paper in his hand, writing something down with a preoccupied air. This was the Minister’s secretary, a barrister named Danchich. Without hurrying, I went up to him and announced that I had to see the Minister Malyantovich. “Would you be so good as to tell me your name?” this dyed-blond fellow asked me, his face displaying the obsequious smile he kept ready-prepared for every visitor.

I gave him my name. The smile on Danchich’s face was replaced by a look of astonishment. “Are you the Raskolnikov from Kronstadt?” he asked, with searching curiosity, looking me straight in the eye.

I replied that, before my arrest, I had been working at Kronstadt.

“But what is it you want to see the Minister about?” Danchich asked me, inquisitively.

“I shall tell that to the Minister himself,” I said, and broke off our undesirably prolonged conversation.

Danchich wrote my name on his list, and asked me to wait.

A small boy of about ten came in from the street, wearing a greatcoat that was awkwardly puckered; being too big for him. Weeping and sobbing, he began to relate his sad family history: his father had been killed at the front, and he himself had just returned from there, to learn that his mother had died in poverty. He had already been to see Kerensky, but had met with neither sympathy nor help. In search of truth and justice he had now come to the Ministry of Justice. Danchich coldly redirected him to some other bureaucratic institution and the boy, dazed with grief, wiped the tears from his dirty face, and with a helpless look disappeared into the corridor. After waiting for about two hours I was at last invited into Malyantovich’s office.

This former Bolshevik, who had once readily given shelter in his Moscow barrister’s chambers to illegal Party workers, had, as a Menshevik, become a ‘socialist minister’ in Kerensky’s government.

As I crossed the threshold of this spacious but dark and loamy office, its walls lined with safes and bookshelves laden with many-volumed collections of laws and stout legal reference-books, Malyantovich politely came towards me, extending his hand.

“What can I do for you?” he asked, more in the manner of a barrister than a minister.

I explained that I had come to see him not to ask for anything but merely in order to find the explanation of a fact which I did not understand: why was Roshal being kept in prison, when I had been released? Pointing out that we had been involved in one and the same case, which meant that there were no grounds for putting me in a more privileged position than him, I particularly stressed that my comrades in the leadership of the demonstration, including Roshal, had asked me, as a serviceman, to assume one-man command during the march in Petrograd, which I had done. Consequently, I bore greater responsibility than the other Kronstadt comrades, and all the more so because I had become commandant of Kshesinskaya’s house, and had used armed force in its defence, whereas no such charge could be brought against Roshal.

Malyantovich, fixing upon me his lively eyes, which had seen much in their time, and stroking his greying hair, replied in an unhurried way, carefully weighing his words, that on the basis of the testimony we had given, the Provisional Government had become convinced that I would not try to evade trial, whereas where Roshal was concerned, the Minister emphasised, “we have no such confidence”.

I said that this mistrust was refuted by the fact that Comrade Roshal had voluntarily presented himself at the Kresty. The Minister spread his hands in a suave gesture and repeated his last phrase.

Having established that Comrade Roshal was not to be released, and realising that, having served throughout as a bogey for the bourgeoisie, he was now to be made a scapegoat, I considered my mission at an end, said goodbye to the Minister, and returned to Smolny.

In the Institute’s long corridors I encountered Comrade L.B. Kamenev.

“There’s the one to go instead of me: Raskolnikov,” said Comrade Kamenev to the military men who surrounded him, as he impetuously seized me by the arm, smiling broadly.

But the comrades, while agreeing with his proposal as it affected me, nevertheless went on insisting that Kamenev must go along with me, because the Chemical Warfare Battalion had already been told that he would speak to them, and they had even printed posters and stuck them up. Lev Borisovich tried hard to get out of this assignment, but the representatives of the Chemical Warfare Battalion remained implacable. There was nothing to be done about it: Lev Borisovich had to submit.

“Very well,” he said, “but wait a minute. I’ve got to talk to somebody about something.” He quickly returned and, seating ourselves in S.Ya. Bodgatyev’s car, we set off to the Reserve Flamethrowing and Chemical Warfare Battalion.

Arriving on the Petersburg Side, we proceeded to a large drill-hall. It was half-occupied by benches on which were already seated the men of the Chemical Warfare Battalion, soldiers from neighbouring regiments and members of the working-class public. Many were standing, for lack of anywhere to sit down. We went up on to an improvised stage, in the midst of which stood the chairman’s table. Comrade Kamenev asked me to speak first.

I began by saying that the iron doors of the prison had opened for me only the day before. Then, after describing the whole crying scandal of our case, the rascally tricks payed by the Tsarist examining magistrates and prosecutors, who had dragged into our case, which arose from a political demonstration, the exploits in speculation and spying of some Citizeness Sumenson, who was unknown to us, the dirty doings of the dubious Ukrainian activist Skoropys-Ioltukhovsky and the lying, provocational testimony of the repentant German spy Yermolenko, I passed from this particular question to a general criticism of Kerensky’s political regime. I concluded my speech with literally the same words I had spoken at the Kronstadt landing-stage, that is, with a call to insurrection.

From my opening words I felt close contact with my audience, the closest interaction between us. The speech evidently found an echo in my listeners, and their mood in turn influenced me. Consequently, the tone of the speech steadily rose, and the conclusions grew sharper and sharper.

I was amazed at the militant mood of revolutionary impatience I found at this meeting. I felt that every one of these thousands of soldiers and workers was ready at any moment to take to the streets, arms in hand. Their ebullient feelings, their seething hatred of the Provisional Government was not at all disposed towards passivity. Only at Kronstadt, on the eve of the July affair, had I observed a similar ferment of revolutionary passion yearning for action. This still further strengthened my profound conviction that the cause of the proletarian revolution was on the right road.

Comrade Kamenev rose after me. He at once began to speak with great fervour. The sharpness of his speech met with marked success. From outside, judging by what he said, it was hard to realise that, actually, he was against an immediate insurrection; On the contrary, sparks of revolutionary fire flashed from his inflammatory speech.

What followed logically from all his critique, from his entire estimate of the situation was the inevitability and expediency of immediate armed struggle. All that was left to his listeners was to draw the practical conclusions. By his speeches, which were truly revolutionary both in content and tone Comrade Kamenev rendered very great services to the cause of the proletarian revolution, and in face of their grandeur the mistake he made, and which he quickly repudiated, fades into insignificance.

The circumstances were stronger than the men, and even the supporters of more cautious tactics were obliged at this time to make most trenchant speeches. Besides, regardless of their subjective feelings, Party discipline compelled them to do this. I went straight from the meeting to spend the night on the Vyborg Side, and on the morning of October 13 proceeded to the Central Committee, which was then housed in quiet, gentlemanly Furshtadtskaya Street.

After passing through large rooms filled from top to bottom with packages of literature I went down a few steps and, passing along a corridor, found Ya. M. Sverdlov in a small room on the left. [2]

He greeted me with that organic, inward goodwill which was in general characteristic of many old Party workers, who had learnt the value of comradely relations in prison, exile and penal servitude. Without wasting time, Yakov Mikhailovich took me at once into the thick of practical matters. After first acquainting me with the latest decisions of the CC Comrade Sverdlov explained that all the Party’s work was now concentrated on preparing the overthrow of the Provisional Government.

“At Kronstadt, of course, there’s nothing for you to do: everything’s already well in hand there,” said Comrade Sverdlov, in his deep voice, and in a tone that brooked no objection, as he removed his pince-nez and wiped them with his handkerchief. “So what you must do is go at once to Luga: not everything is as it should be there.”

Comrade Sverdlov then described to me the situation at Luga, where the Soviet was in the hands of the compromisers and where a concentration of troops loyal to the Provisional Government had recently been observed. He emphasised the outstanding strategical importance of Luga, as the most important intermediate point on the railway between Petrograd and the front. I was charged with the task of carrying out a deep reconnaissance mission to ascertain the state of feeling among the Luga garrison, and of creating there an atmosphere favourable to us.

Hardly had we finished our conversation, so far as the main points were concerned, than into the room came a group of leading members of the Novgorod Party Committee, headed by Mikhail Roshal, Semyon’s young brother. The Novgorod comrades said that in a day or two a provincial congress of Soviets was to be held in their town, and they needed to have present a speaker “from the centre”.

“Go on, give us Raskolnikov,” they asked.

At first Yakov Mikhailovich would not agree, on the grounds that I had another responsible job to do, but eventually, after pondering awhile, he gave in – but only on condition that, after spending two or three days at Novgorod, I should go from there to Luga.

I still had to see Semyon Roshal, to tell him both about the general political situation and about his personal position. I went to the Kresty, and was shown into the prison governor’s office. The post of governor was still held by that long-moustached ensign, a member of the SR party, whom the prisoners definitely suspected of acts of embezzlement. Whether or not that was so, he certainly left the cells unheated despite the October cold, and fed the inmates such stinking food that one sniff of it was enough to nauseate even a hungry man.

At this time the governor, taking note of the growth in the Bolsheviks’ political influence, was trying in the most shameless fashion to ingratiate himself with us. Drawing over his mean rascal’s face a mask of unctuous politeness, he summoned Roshal to his office, although as a rule, visits were supposed to take place in a special room and through a double grating. Nor was that all. He courteously left the office, so that we were on our own. This, of course, made it much easier for me to convey my secret information. Semyon seemed despondent and even hinted at suicide. It was clear that during the last two days he had become very discouraged.

I initiated him into what the Party was doing, told him of the latest decisions by the Central Committee, and shared with him my impressions and observations, not concealing my own optimistic estimate of what lay ahead. Semyon, in whose spiritual life mood usually played a major role, cheered up noticeably.

Regarding his personal fate, I could not hide it from Semyon that, in all probability he was destined to be used as the scapegoat, but, as against that, I assured him that within a few days the proletarian revolution would set him free.

And in fact, on October 25, with the first shot from the Aurora, Semyon was freed, and at once threw himself into the intense militant activity of an energetic devoted revolutionary – soon, alas, to be tragically broken off by the shooting of Comrade Roshal on the Romanian front. [3]

From the Kresty I went to Smolny, to a meeting of the Bureau of the Soviets of the Northern Region, to which I had been elected at the concluding session of their congress. Before the meeting began I was approached by Filippovsky, a naval engineer-mechanic, a Right-SR who made a more agreeable impression than other members of his party, but who had undeservedly and unexpectedly become one of the leaders of the Petrograd Soviet and its Executive Committee. Filippovsky began to ask me, in my capacity as a Kronstadter, whether I agreed with the removal of the heavy artillery from the ‘Obruchev’ fort, in view of the fact that strategic considerations required the placing of these guns in the Rear Sea Position.

I replied that I did not agree, making the point that, at the given moment, any attempt at partial disarmament of Kronstadt had a political character and might be interpreted by the masses, not without reason, as a counter-revolutionary move on the part of the Provisional Government. Other Kronstadters who were present – I.P. Flerovsky and Lyudmila Stal – warmly supported me.

Filippovsky tried to argue with us. Breaking off this fruitless dispute, I went over to the table where the members of the Bureau of the Soviets of the Northern Region were sitting – Comrades Krylenko, Breslav and others. The first question to come up was the election of a presidium for the Bureau. Two candidates were nominated for the post of chairman: Comrade Krylenko and me. But Nikolai Vasilyevich (Krylenko) categorically refused the nomination, because of his very great burden of work, and so I was elected. We then had to allot the areas of responsibility among the individual members of the Bureau. I mentioned that the Party’s CC had already entrusted me with a mission to Novgorod and Luga. The Bureau of the Soviets, for their part, directed me to look into the work of the Soviets in those same two towns.

Our meeting did not take long, all the straightforward questions on the agenda being quickly disposed of.

Next day I set off with Roshal junior and other comrades on my mission to other towns. We travelled in a great crush of people, and on arrival at Novgorod went at once to the Bolshevik commune where lived Mikhail Roshal, Valentinov and other members of the Novgorod Committee. There I found a Bolshevik soldier who had just arrived from Staraya Russa. I was thus able to get information about Party work both in Novgorod and in Staraya Russa. In Staraya Russa the local Soviet had 36 members, but there were so few Bolsheviks among them that they did not even constitute a fraction. However, the four delegates who had been sent to the provincial congress at Novgorod were Bolsheviks, which meant that there had recently been a sharp increase in sympathy with the Bolshevik Party.

Generally speaking, the scene was identical at Staraya Russa and at Novgorod. The sympathies of the overwhelming majority of the soldiers and workers definitely inclined towards us. The officers and the bourgeoisie, together with the well-to-do section of the intelligentsia, favoured the Provisional Government, and these strata found support among the Cossacks and the Shock Battalions. Outside the town boundaries, among the peasants, very little work had been done.

All the information about Party work, about the numbers in organisations, about the fighting capacity of the Red Guard, about the attitude of the units of the Novgorod garrison, about the number of troops ready to defend the Provisional Government or to oppose it – all these figures I carefully recorded in my notebook.

On the whole, the relation of forces in Novgorod province seemed to be in our favour. The 177th Reserve Regiment, quartered in Novgorod itself, was pro-Bolshevik. The Cossacks and Shock Battalions were for the Provisional Government, but among them, too, there were Bolsheviks. At Krechevitsy Bolsheviks and SRs contended for influence over the Reserve Regiment of Guards Cavalry. At Staraya Russa the garrison was emphatically pro-Bolshevik. Stationed there were the 178th Reserve Regiment and the motor-car workshop of the Fifth Army (300 men – all Bolsheviks). The two squadrons of Cossacks at Staraya Russa were hostile towards the soldiers. In the village of Medved the 175th Reserve Regiment and at Borovichy the 174th Reserve Regiment were on our side. In Novgorod itself the Party organisation consisted of 176 members (ten days before my arrival it had had only 102). As regards social composition, 150 of the Party members were soldiers and the rest workers. No groups had so far been organised in the enterprises. The provincial Executive Committee consisted of 30 members, who were almost all SRs or Mensheviks, with only three Bolsheviks. It was clear that this Executive Committee did not reflect the actual relation of forces at this moment.

The comrades decided to lose no time, and that very day called a meeting of the 177th Reserve Regiment of Infantry, which was stationed in the town. We went to the barracks to convene the meeting. The place was filthy and stuffy, and smelt of soused herrings. The soldiers were eating their dinner off dirty wooden planks. Comrade Roshal went to find the members of the regimental committee. After a few minutes he announced that the meeting would be held in the open air.

We went out into the yard and on into the square adjoining the barracks. Here there was a small tribune which had evidently been improvised in a hurry at some time. When we arrived there was not a soul about. Soon, though, apparently in response to some call or signal, soldiers began to hurry into the square, individually and in groups. There were several hundred of them altogether. That was enough for one regiment. Nearly all who were free from work or duties had assembled to hear the Bolshevik speakers. I mounted the tribune and began to speak.

The audience listened attentively, but without any special enthusiasm. Only when I came to the question of war and peace, which closely touched the feelings and thoughts of every peasant in a grey soldier’s greatcoat, did my listeners wake up, and their faces at once expressed the profound inner experiences that each of them had suffered in connection with that painful subject. The danger of being suddenly sent to the front hung over the head of every one of these soldiers like the sword of Damocles, and their natural, healthy revulsion from the monstrous imperialist slaughter created favourable soil for the reception of anti-militarist ideas. This attitude was not a matter of mere concern for their own skins, which was how the bourgeois press accounted for the success of the Bolshevik propaganda. Individuals may be egoistic, self-seeking cowards, but not the enormous masses involved in a tremendous revolutionary movement.

Several local activists spoke after me. On the whole we managed to clarify the situation and raise the morale of the soldier masses. We felt that, even if this military unit did not show great enthusiasm for the struggle, at least it would never act against us. The entire meeting lasted a little over an hour.

Next day we went to a meeting at the quarters of the cavalry regiment, which were a long way out of town, in the Krechevitsy barracks. We travelled to meet this regiment in a lorry, over a bad, bumpy road which had had no maintenance for a long time and had been washed away by the rains. While we were waiting for the comrades to assemble for the meeting, the chairman of the regimental committee invited Mikhail Roshal, Valentinov and me to come into the officers’ mess, and we agreed.

In the officers’ mess everything exuded the specific aroma of the old regime. Clean, neat curtains hung before the windows, the tables were covered with snow-white, starched tablecloths, and at the tables sat tightly-corseted captains and cornets, in riding breeches and jackets with golden epaulettes. Attentive waiters were offering elegantly-served zakuski. [4]

Our group alone, with its lively and informal behaviour and democratic air, brought in a discord, roughly disrupting the illusion of the old regime so assiduously cultivated in these cosy rooms, which seemed to have been licked clean. We caught sidelong malevolent looks directed at us from the neighbouring tables. Then there walked past, moving his hips in a dashing way, with the gait of a self-confident fool, an officer who wore riding-breeches that were so fantastically wide, they looked like something in a caricature.

Mikhail Roshal, being a volunteer, was in army uniform. When he saw this stallion in gold epaulettes a sense of discipline made him rise from his chair. But the officer in question was not satisfied with that. Turning about in military style, he fixed his eyes, normally impassive but now suddenly bloodshot with anger, upon Roshal, and with his habitual intonation, developed during long years of service in barracks and on parade grounds, shouted angrily: “Volunteer, how dare you keep your hands in your pockets when in the presence of an officer? I’ll teach you discipline ...” – and so forth.

We hastened to intervene and put an end to this disgraceful scene, reminding the over-excited officer that the days of the old regime had passed and we had fortunately had a revolution. He shut up at once, but, going over to a group of his gold-epauletted friends, continued for a long time to voice his indignation at the sacrilegious undermining of the very foundations of military discipline. I decided to bring this relapse into officers’ tyranny to the attention of the soldier masses.

Soon, we were called to the regimental theatre, where the meeting was to be held. This was a quite separate building, a great barn of a place, with a stage and long rows of benches. The hall was full of soldiers.

I spoke for about two hours. After characterising Kerensky’s entire regime, I dwelt particularly on the Kornilov affair, and showed in detail the role which Kerensky had undoubtedly played in this adventure. The soldiers of this neglected and out-of-the-way regiment had evidently not been spoiled by too many visits by speakers from Novgorod. They hung with amazing interest on every word. Some generally-known facts I mentioned were fresh news to them, and almost sensational, and Kerensky’s participation in Kornilov’s counter-revolutionary plot, which out of cowardice he had betrayed when it had gone half-way, was for this audience an unexpected discovery, arousing extraordinary anger against the Provisional Government and passionate outcries against Kerensky: “Shame on the traitor to the revolution!”

After I had finished, the Novgorod comrades, Roshal and Valentinov, spoke. The atmosphere of the meeting was at white heat. Rarely had I seen such a violent upsurge, such passionate anger and furious political hatred. There was no doubt that men in the grip of such burning enthusiasm were ready to go into battle, ready to conquer or die in struggle against the hated Provisional Government. To the indescribable joy of the Novgorod Party organisation, the cavalry regiment had proved by its reaction to be not only fully reliable but even, perhaps, a better support for the proletarian revolution than the other army units, which were stationed in the town. As regards the latter there were also neither doubts nor suspicions. Our Party could expect only support from the entire garrison of Novgorod.

It was interesting that we had met with no opposition at either meeting. The Mensheviks and SRs had thought it best not to go up to the tribune.

At the end of the political speeches, I took the floor again and told the meeting about the ‘dressing-down’ that had occurred in the officers’ mess. This produced great excitement. Soldiers jumped up and, brandishing their fists and shouting angrily, were ready to go to the officers’ mess and punish the offender. We had great difficulty in calming them down and persuading them not to lynch the upholder of Tsarist discipline. When we left to return to Novgorod in our lorry, the cavalrymen came out of the meeting to see us off, cheerfully waving their caps.

The provincial congress of Soviets opened next day in Novgorod. A Novaya-Zhiznite from Petrograd was elected chairman: A.P. Pinkevich, a writer of popular-science books on natural history. The Bolshevik fraction had put my name forward, but we did not have a majority in the congress and, having come second in the voting, I joined the presidium as deputy-chairman.

The election of a Novaya-Zhiznite as leader of the congress defined very clearly the physiognomy of the majority therein. These were mostly peasant delegates from various uyezd and volost soviets. The working class, which in any case formed a comparatively small element in this province, was poorly represented. The soldier delegates were to an overwhelming extent also peasants. In this respect, the Novgorod provincial congress was fairly typical of the mood of the peasants in the pre-October period.

The Mensheviks and SRs, who had supported the Provisional Government, were by this time utterly bankrupt. The question of the land, the burning concern of all the peasants of the former Russian Empire, had been postponed till the Constituent Assembly, and the convening of the Constituent Assembly had, in its turn, been postponed indefinitely. Yet the invincible striving to enlarge their land-holdings, the ancient yearning for land, the passionate yet timid desire to divide up the estates belonging to the landlords and the state, was the intimate dream of the entire peasantry. The scientific-statistical activity of Chernov, the Minister of Agriculture, engaged in investigations and calculations concerning agriculture, filled the peasants with a sense of disappointment and acute, oppressive discontent. This fruitless marking-time of the Provisional Government, this fear to undertake a final solution to the agrarian problem, depressed the peasants’ hopes and put them in an oppositional mood.

On the other hand, however, the middle peasants still at times held aloof from the working-class, instinctively though unjustifiably fearing the sharp, uncompromising tactics of its political party, and fearing too, that it would nationalise small and medium-sized landed property. Consequently, apart from the village paupers, the poor peasants who owned no horses and little land, and the representatives of the agricultural proletariat, the countryfolk at that time had little sympathy for Bolshevism and were not yet drawn towards the Party of working-class.

It was natural that the most suitable embodiment of the sentiments of the peasantry should be the in-between groupings, the Novaya-Zhiznites and Left-SRs, and they did indeed enjoy influence among the peasants of Novgorod province, giving a particular colouring to the whole congress.

After the reports from the localities, which drew more or less uniformly a cheerless picture of ruin in the province, political struggle began.

It was I who gave the report on the current situation. Pinkevich, the Left-SR, Romm and others joined in the debate. Pinkevich, who made, on the whole, a very good impression, argued moderately. Objecting to our tactics, he particularly blamed the Bolsheviks for preparing an insurrection which threatened to lead to civil war. When I replied to him I ended my reply with the slogan: “Long live civil war!”

The leader of Novgorod’s Left-SRs, the volunteer Romm directed his speech mainly against the policy of the Provisional Government, and carefully refrained from making any thrusts at us. At that time the Left-SRs were adjusting their line to that of the Bolsheviks and deliberately avoiding disagreement with us. The Right-SRs and Mensheviks, who were represented in very small numbers, kept absolutely quiet.

The congress lasted two days. Before it closed, elections were held for delegates to the second All-Russia Congress of Soviets. During the preliminary meeting of the Bolshevik fraction, the comrades nominated me as a candidate for the delegation to this congress, but I declined and proposed that they choose Novgorod activists.

In the elections to the All-Russia Congress our Party obtained a quite decent minority representation. We made up about one-third of the Novgorod delegation, and if the Left-SRs were to be counted in with us, we commanded a good half of the votes.

At that time, though, the Left-SRs were still formally united with the Right-SRs under the aegis of a common central committee, and this stubborn unwillingness of theirs to break with the Right-SRs and form themselves into an independent party, together with their continual vacillations, gave us serious reason to doubt the reliability of these allies, in whom we always saw only temporary petty-bourgeois fellow-travellers. Given these conditions, it was difficult to make a precise calculation of our forces, and on my return to Petersburg I considered it more prudent to report to our Party leadership that Novgorod province would be represented at the Congress of Soviets by a majority consisting of parties alien to us, though there would be a substantial percentage of Bolshevik delegates. Late in the evening of the day after the Novgorod congress I returned to Petrograd. The train had come from Staraya Russa and was crowded with passengers. I managed to squeeze into the first third-class carriage that came along, and therein, amid a frightful crush, dragged out my existence on the platform at the end of the corridor. Later, however, as the carriage’s population decreased, I was able to make my way into the corridor, and at last found a place on an upper bunk, where I spent the whole night in a sitting position.

When I arrived in Petrograd, early in the morning, I decided to set off for Luga that same day. I went to the Warsaw railway station and fixed myself up in a fourth-class carriage with broken windows. That evening I was in Luga, and went first to the local soviet, which was located in the station building.

In a small, typical railway-station room the members of the Soviet’s presidium sat at a table. They were army doctors and officers, all wearing their uniform jackets with epaulettes. When they learnt that I was a Bolshevik they treated me very coldly, but nevertheless tried to remain within the bounds of decorum. When I was telling them of my intention to give a report on the tasks and tactics of the Bolsheviks, I was informed that a session of the Luga Soviet was just about to begin. Naturally, I did not miss this opportunity to sound local attitudes. The members of the Soviet assembled in the hall of the railway station. They were mostly representatives of the Luga garrison. I spotted several Cossacks, with their caps on the side of their heads and thick locks of hair sticking out from under them. These Cossack deputies vividly reminded me, by their appearance, of those figures of stone which, under the old regime, constantly stood on guard outside the Tsar’s palaces.

I began my report. The audience listened with expressions of morose and indifferent lack of interest in the most stormy and burning problems. It seemed that the Luga Soviet was, philistine-like, little concerned with political questions. Instead of the uproar I had expected, with angry interruptions to my speech, and perhaps even bigger trouble, even the Cossacks maintained a grave-like silence. I concluded my speech in unbroken tranquillity. There was meagre applause: we had few supporters in the Luga Soviet.

Kuzmin, a Right-SR from Petrograd, got up to reply to me. A member of the Congress of Peasants’ Deputies, he gave the impression of being an intellectual of the old school, who had spent a fair amount of time in prison and exile. Tall and thin and already getting on in years, he answered me in a quiet, even voice and calm, imperturbable tone. Lacking the quick-tempered sharpness which was usually characteristic of SR speakers, he tried to weaken my criticism of the Provisional Government by referring to our inability, in the given circumstances, to improve the state of affairs. “If,” said Kuzmin, “the Bolshevik Party were to take power, would it succeed in making peace with Germany and putting an end to the decline of the economy? I answer – no!” Altogether, his defence of the Provisional Government was flabby. It seemed that he himself sensed that power would inevitably pass to the Bolsheviks.

After Kuzmin some unknown sailor spoke. Beating his breast with his fist, he hysterically screamed out disconnected phrases: “I was on Oesel Island...I’ve been under attack by German aeroplanes...I escaped from captivity in Germany” and so on and so forth. From this brief narrative of his personal misfortune in the war he quite illogically drew the defencist conclusion that it was necessary to continue to fight the war “to a finish,” “until complete victory over Germany”. Yet the bash-your-teeth-in chauvinism of this defencist sailor’s speech did not prevent him from coming up to me on the following day and conversing in the friendliest of tones.

When the bloodthirsty defencist had sat down I asked to speak again. In this concluding speech I hit back at both the speakers from the compromiser camp. What struck me most strongly was the way this hostile audience constituted by the Luga Soviet preserved a phlegmatic silence. Even in the most ‘Bolshevik’ passages of my speech, when I touched sharply on the most sensitive and topical matters, nobody tried to interrupt me or to make an angry, venomous retort. This mood of despondency, this absence of any feeling of struggle, this lack of confidence in their own strength, which bordered on despair was extremely noticeable in our opponents.

Whereas an audience that was sympathetic to us always expressed its political feelings noisily and passionately, the elements hostile to us somehow stayed quiet, and even in assemblies where they were sure of being in the majority they preferred to keep silence. I am not, of course, talking about particular leaders of the compromiser parties, who continued in all circumstances to sustain one and the same note, but about the rank-and-file of the Mensheviks and SRs who felt more closely than did their leaders the breath of the approaching storm. One sensed among them a morbid sinking of the heart which prevented them from giving vigorous expression to their disagreement with the speeches made by Bolsheviks. There was a smell of decay and death in that hall where the overwhelming majority of the benches were occupied by SRs and Mensheviks. My speech was heard amid a silence as of the tomb, and sounded like a funeral epitaph on these parties that were living out their last days.

After spending the night in the Luga Party comrades’ hostel, I went with them next morning to the outskirts of the town, where the gunners were stationed. A la guerre comme a la guerre.

While waiting for the meeting to assemble, I withdrew along with the Bolshevik leaders of this unit and took down in my notebook the information they gave me about the number of weapons, the relation of forces and the attitude of the soldiers. We were preparing for a serious, decisive battle, and so we greatly needed a calculation of our own forces and a precise notion of the numbers of men and of weapons at the disposal of our adversary, the Provisional Government.

At the Tillmans factory there were 80 Party members. Among the army units the most Bolshevik reputation was that of the 1st Reserve Artillery Battalion (No. 1 Battery – 1,200 men: No.2 Battery – between 1,200 and 1,300 men: No.3 Battery – 400 men).

There were Bolsheviks in all three batteries, but no Party groups had been formed. Among the trench-based gunners of the mortar regiment (1,500 men) the majority were for us, but, again, no group had yet been formed, although premises for this had already been got ready and it was intended, any day now, to hold a Party organisation meeting. Among the officers of this mortar regiment Ensign Krutov was considered to be a Bolshevik sympathiser. In the light-draught horse detachment of the 1st Cuirassier Regiment (100 men) more than half of the soldiers were for our Party. The armoury and the light-draught horse detachment (100 men) of the 5th Dragoon Regiment were also ours. The armament of the 5th Dragoons consisted of 20 machineguns and 2,500 rifles, but its attitude was still undefined and vacillating. The Provisional Government might find some support there. The 4th Rear Motor-Car Workshop of the Northern Front (800 men) was half pro-Bolshevik and half pro-SR. Organised members of our Party in this unit numbered 35. The Labour Battalion of the 12th Army, which had recently returned from the Riga front, had already elected two Bolsheviks to the Soviet. Only the previous Sunday a meeting of gunners and motor-car drivers had been held at Luga at which the defencists were routed. Besides the units mentioned there were at Luga two mortar battalions, each with five batteries, each battery having eight mortars – 80 mortars in all, firing 2 V2-pood shells. The attitude of these units was of immense importance, but their political physiognomy had not yet been clarified. Anyway, we did not include them in the list of our own forces. The permanent complement of the artillery battalion numbered 1,303 men, of whom No. 1 Battery (300 men, with six three-inch guns) was definitely on our side. After all, our position in the Luga garrison was not a hopeless one.

Soon we were called to the meeting. In the big wooden barn all the benches were filled with soldiers clad in khaki. Many, for lack of room, stood at the back, in the aisles and at the sides, by the doors. The meeting was opened by that same phlegmatic SR, Kuzmin, who gave, in a weak voice, a brief report on ‘the current situation’. His address was followed by applause. Then I spoke. The mood of the audience was stormy. At any rate, when some members of the soldiers’ committee who were sitting on the tribune – volunteers who were SRs – tried to interrupt my speech with hostile exclamations uttered from where they sat, the audience called them to order in such an unfriendly way that they were obliged to shut up.

There was clearly observable an irreconcilable difference between the ‘committee-men’, who were almost all compromisers, and the broad mass of the soldiers, who were already beginning to sympathise wholly with the Bolsheviks. When the SR ‘committee-men” asked me the provocational question: “On what day does your Party intend to make its revolution?” I replied that nobody could forecast the day and the hour of the revolution. I drew an analogy with the February Revolution, regarding which also it was impossible to say with certainty on what particular day it would break out, though even philistines sensed its inexorable approach. Similarly, now, certainty that the Provisional Government must fall was in the air, but nobody was in a position to fix precisely the date of that happy event.

The frankness and sincerity with which we Bolsheviks dealt with the question of the forthcoming revolution won the sympathy of the soldiers to a very great extent. The Bolshevik speakers were loudly applauded after every one of their speeches. The feeling of the audience was, beyond any doubt, wholly on our side.

The SRs tried to instil distrust and suspicion towards me by asking about the purpose of my visit to Luga. But this was an attempt made with inadequate resources. We did not even have to answer. Every soldier understood perfectly well at that time the purpose for which the Bolsheviks were developing their campaign. For my night’s rest I was taken to the home of a worker who had a small flat in a one-storey house. He was an elderly man with a family, a good, staunch Bolshevik, an old Party member. He understood very well what was going on, and a talk with him gave me great satisfaction.

On my return to Petrograd next morning I went first to the Central Committee, and made a detailed report to Comrade Sverdlov on both my trips into the provinces. Yakov Mikhailovich listened with close attention to what I had to say, disregarding the passage of time and going into the smallest details with me. He was particularly interested in the figures I gave him, which depicted the actual relation of actual forces. In that period of active preparation for the armed insurrection, both through the Military Organisation and directly through the CC, all the separate threads of the work came together in the hands of Comrade Ya.M. Sverdlov.

He was an outstanding organiser – one can say, without exaggeration, that he was a genius at organisation. With a rare psychological flair, he quickly grasped what the individual capacities of every activist were and directed each one into the work that best corresponded to his powers. Comrade Sverdlov’s apt characterisations, delivered sometimes in just two or three words, would provide an exhaustive description of any comrade.

His power of observation and knowledge of people never let him down. Exceptional strength of will, shrewdness, Communist nobility and unlimited devotion to the cause of the workers’ struggle made him one of the best of our Party workers.

After seeing Comrade Sverdlov I went on to the Military Organisation. This was located at that time on Liteiny Prospekt, between the burned-down building of the district court and the Liteiny Bridge, in a big house looking out on one side to Shpalernaya Street and on the other to the Neva embankment.

Having found Comrade N.I. Podvoisky, I began telling him enthusiastically about my impressions of the situation in the provinces, which had still further reinforced my optimism. Nikolai Ilyich listened with interest to what I said, but then told me, with a worried and gloomy air, that the military activists in Petrograd who had connections with the local regiments held to a pessimistic view of the way things were. Comrade Podvoisky asked me to wait for the meeting of the Military Organisation, which was about to take place. I agreed, and was thus able personally to appreciate the gloomy mood of the leaders of the Petrograd garrison. Only a few comrades sounded a cheerful note amid the generally rather diffident estimation of the immediate prospects. It may be that, fearing to take responsibility for hopeful declarations, the Bolshevik leaders of the army units unconsciously tended to lay it on thick, depicting the situation in colours darker than corresponded to reality. In any case, this mood of the ‘military’ Bolsheviks in Petrograd was typical.

From the Voyenka I went straight down Shpalernaya Street to Smolny. In those days, on the eve of the October Revolution, I had occasion to take part in the numerous meetings which were held, almost without a break, both in the assembly hall and in other rooms of the former Smolny Institute. Especially deeply engraved in my memory are three of these meetings.

The great hall of Smolny was flooded with light from the huge chandeliers. The regular meeting of the All-Russia Central Executive Committee was in progress. Gotz was in the chair. Instead of a discussion of the items on the agenda, instead of speeches by the official party spokesmen, delegates from the front-line soldiers came to the tribune, one after the other. Their entire appearance, their unshaven faces, their heads overgrown with uncut hair, their thread bare, dirty greatcoats and muddy, long-uncleaned boots, bore the imprint of the trenches. In their speeches they all called for one and the same thing – for peace, whatever the cost, peace at any price. “Let’s have even a foul peace,” said one soldier, worn out and exhausted by the war.

Gotz jumped up, snatched his bell and rang it agitatedly, but it was already too late. The deputy from the trenches had succeeded in saying everything he had been empowered to say by the tens of thousands of front-line soldiers who stood behind him.

Some of the soldiers’ representatives read out brief resolutions, written in pencil on dirty, half-torn bits of paper, worn at the folds. The resolutions demanded peace and gave a dead-line for the soldiers’ patience: the front-line soldiers threatened that when winter began they would all, en masse, leave the trenches of their own volition. It was obvious that the army could no longer fight, and that the Provisional Government, being bound by ties of alliance with the Entente, was unable to make peace. The speeches of the delegates from the front indirectly confirmed the expediency of an immediate insurrection.

Another meeting. The same hall, but with less grand illumination. In the chairman’s seat, instead of Gotz, Comrade Trotsky. A briefcase under his arm, the secretary of the Petrograd Executive Committee, L.M. Karakhan, hurries past with a business-like air, greeting me as he goes.

The chairs are occupied exclusively by soldiers in greatcoat and blouses – a sea of khaki. A meeting of representatives of the garrison is in progress. All the speakers without exception take our line. Rarely do we glimpse at the tribune the shadow of a compromiser, who meets with general disapproval. The mood of the Petrograd garrison eloquently testified that it had matured for the proletarian revolution and is ready to stand up for it.

A third meeting. One of the spacious rooms which evidently used to be either the apartment of a teacher or a dormitory for the pupils of the Institute. Today, however, it is the scene of secret meeting of responsible district representatives. Entry to this room is subject to strict control. Behind the table, close to the wall, stands A.A. Joffe. He is making a fervent speech. He takes up a position on the Left wing and, as a supporter of the insurrection, supports the line of the Central Committee. Comrade Volodarsky is evidently uncertain: his point of view is not quite clear to me. But the ardent temperament of the speaker urges him Leftward, in favour of an immediate revolutionary fight with the stranglers of the revolution. Then Comrade Chudnovsky speaks – that heroic soldier of the revolution who fell on the Red front soon after the October Revolution. Supporting his bandaged arm, which had recently been wounded in the war, he sits on the edge of the chairman’s table and in a voice broken with emotion delivers an animated speech. He is doubtful whether an insurrection would succeed.

He brings forward the familiar arguments. But it is clear that the majority of the audience is not with him. Still further to the Right is Comrade D.B. Ryazanov. He is definitely against an armed uprising. At last I ask to speak. While declaring in favour of overthrowing the Provisional Government, I recognise the seriousness of the obstacles in our path. Briefly reporting the state of affairs at Novgorod and Luga, I say that the Luga Soviet’s attitude is counter-revolutionary and, if Luga were to be occupied by the troops of the Provisional Government, would willingly put its Soviet banner at the disposal of the enemies of the proletarian revolution. In this way our enemies would be able to mislead the masses by exploiting the glamour of the Soviet. Other comrades spoke after me, and the meeting went on late into the night.

On October 20 the Central Committee directed me to give a talk at the Modern Circus on the subject: “Prospects before the proletarian revolution”. The subject gave me plenty of scope for raising sharply the question, which had matured, of overthrowing the Provisional Government. I made extensive use of this fortunate opportunity and, without any inhibition, after criticising the policy of the Provisional Government, I concluded by calling on the proletariat and garrison of Petrograd to launch an armed uprising. The great crowd of workers, working women and soldiers who filled the ancient building from top to bottom were wholly with me.


1. The letter shown by Pelikhov to Raskolnikov was Lenin’s letter of October 8 (21) 1917: ‘To Bolshevik comrades participating in the regional congress of Soviets of the Northern Region’. The text is in Lenin’s Collected Works, 4th edition, English version, Vol.26, pp. 182-187.

2. In his brief biography of Sverdlov, Lunacharsky wrote, about the period following the ‘July days’: “For some strange reason, when the order was issued for the arrest of Lenin and Zinoviev, and when Trotsky, myself and many more Bolsheviks and Left SRs were put in prison, Sverdlov was not arrested - although the bourgeois press had directly indicated his leading role in what they called the ‘uprising’. At all events, this made Sverdlov the effective leader of the Party at that fateful moment, the man who braced its spirit despite the defeats that it had suffered.” (Revolutionary Silhouettes, 1967, p.104).

3. Soldiers of the Pavlovsky Regiment broke into the Kresty prison and released Roshal. He went to the Romanian front to agitate among the Russian troops there, which were under the command of General Shcherbachev. He was arrested and executed at Jassy on the orders of the local Romanian governor.

4. Zakuski are the savoury snacks - like canapes or hors d’oeuvres - which Russians eat when drinking.

During my talk at the Modern Circus on October 20, I caught a heavy cold and had to take to my bed. “Congratulations! The revolution has begun! The Winter Palace has been taken and all Petrograd is in our hands.” This was the greeting brought to me on the morning of October 26 by one of the comrades who came to my room. At once I leapt out of bed, mentally sending my medicine to the devil, and, though feeling physically unwell and running a high temperature, I hastened to Smolny. The headquarters of the proletarian revolution was more crowded than ever. Despite the thrill of the initial victories, all those who took part in the October insurrection felt acutely that the revolution was only beginning and a hard struggle lay ahead. Kerensky had run off to the front: it was obvious that he would not stay quiet but would try to mobilise those regiments which had remained immune from the stormy ferment embracing all the rest of revolutionary Russia. Furthermore, an attempt at a White-Guard revolt from inside the city was to be expected. Consequently, all revolutionaries capable of bearing arms had to get their cartridges ready. It was these military preparations that mainly occupied the crowd of workers’ and soldiers’ representatives with which Smolny was inundated. The Institute was transformed into an armed camp. Outside, in the colonnade, cannon stood ready to fire. Near them machineguns were placed. There was a machinegun inside the building, with its barrel aimed at the entrance. On nearly every landing stood similar Maxims, looking like toy cannon. And in all the corridors, instead of the suppliants, wearily dragging their feet, with whom the walls of Smolny were familiar, there was a brisk, noisy, cheerful coming and going of soldiers and workers, sailors and agitators. Like revolutionary surf they swept through the wide mouth of the entrance, broke up as they reached the upper floors, rushed right and left along the immense, straight corridors, and spilled into hundreds of rooms; after making the contact they needed by telephone, or finding the information they wanted, or receiving their instructions, or liaising with the neighbouring revolutionary armed unit, they returned to the common channel, and, waving hurriedly written mandates, the ink not yet dry, banging behind them the door which was never shut for one minute together, leaping down the three steps of the marble person, they jumped on to their horses, or on to the footboard of an overloaded truck, or into the comfortable, velvet-lined coupe of a covered Fiat, ready to carry its chance passengers, clad in torn greatcoats and leather jackets, through Petrograd’s streets, covered in watery mud, to every corner of the proletarian capital.

Along those same corridors crept, barely audibly, vague rumours of the approach to Petrograd of troops loyal to the Provisional Government. Philistine gossip in the city had already created monstrous legends about the near and inevitable downfall of the new rulers, and these fantastical rumours, darting like lightning all over the city, intoxicated all the counter-revolutionaries with hopes – especially the Cadets of White-Guard outlook. The counter-revolutionary youngsters of the military schools and the two Cossack regiments quartered in Petrograd focused tense attention on themselves, as inflammable, spontaneously-igniting retorts of internal revolt. By a staircase which was decorated with our posters and slogans I made my way to the top floor, where, turning down the corridor to the right, I found in one of the side rooms Comrade V.A. Antonov-Ovseyenko. He was sitting bent low over a desk, his short-sighted eyes almost touching the paper as he hastily scribbled something. His long, thick, slightly-greying hair hung over his forehead, sometimes getting in his eyes, so that he frequently pushed it back with a quick, impatient gesture. When he had finished this brief note – one of the countless orders he had to write out personally and sign in those historic days – he briskly jumped to his feet and dashed out to hand it to someone for despatch. As he passed, adjusting his spectacles, he greeted me. His weary eyes told of the nervous tension of his work and betrayed his superhuman fatigue, caused by sleepless nights.

“Oh, hello, it’s good that you’ve come: I was already beginning to think ...” – and, without finishing his joking remark, he stifled, a smile at the tips of his drooping moustaches.

Comrade Lenin suddenly appeared. He was without moustache or beard, having shaved in illegality, though this did not stop one from recognising him at first glance. He was in a good mood, but seemed even more serious and concentrated than usual. After briefly conversing with Comrade Antonov, Vladimir Ilyich left the room.

In came Bonch-Bruevich, panting and ruddy-cheeked from the frosty weather. “There’s a smell of pogroms in the air. I have a special nose for them. There’s a particular smell of pogroms in the streets today. We must take the necessary measures, send out patrols.” [1]

Ilyich came back. He asked me in passing, as though incidentally: “What measures would you take where the bourgeois press is concerned?”

This question caught me unprepared. However, quickly gathering my thoughts, I replied in the spirit of one of Vladimir Ilyich’s own articles, which I had read not long before in the Kresty, that I thought we should first make a survey of stocks of paper and then distribute those among the organs of the different tendencies, in proportion to the numbers of their supporters. At that time I did not realise that this was a measure that had been advocated under Kerensky’s regime, but which now, after the revolution, was already out-of-date. Lenin made no reply, and went out again.

News came in from somewhere that cyclist troops were advancing on Petrograd. The Military Revolutionary Committee ordered me to go and meet them, explain the situation to them, and call on them to join with the workers and soldiers of Petrograd who had risen in revolt. It was proposed that we give the cyclists a ceremonial welcome, so as, by our cordial, comradely reception, to win them to our side. In the next room, where a secretariat had already been set up, the following mandate was written out by hand on the headed paper of the Military Section of the Executive Committee of the Petrograd Soviet: “The Military Revolutionary Committee delegates Comrade Raskolnikov to meet the troops arriving from the front at the Warsaw Station, and appoints him Commissar for these troops.” The mandate was signed by Comrade N. Podvoisky.

I went to the Warsaw station and took a passenger train which brought me quickly to Gatchina. [2] There were no cyclist troops there. In search of these mysterious cyclists I then went to the Gatchina station of the Baltic Railway. As I approached the station I noticed circling in the sky a couple of aircraft from the Gatchina School of Aviation. But the tracks were empty. I cautiously sounded a railway guard about echelons that had passed through. He calmly replied that no military trains had passed through in the direction of Petrograd. At the goods and passenger stations nobody had any knowledge of troop-movements, either. All Gatchina gave me the impression of being a more than peaceful place – it was a town asleep. The alarm seemed to have been false. After waiting about an hour, I took the first train that came along, and was back in Petrograd as dusk fell. I reported the results of my journey and then hurried to the large assembly hall, to a meeting of the Congress of Soviets. All the chandeliers and wall-lamps were burning brightly. The first thing that struck me was the specifically popular, worker-and-peasant make-up of the Congress.

Whereas at the meeting of the Menshevik-and-SR Soviet and at the First Congress of Soviets it was the intelligentsia that ‘stuck out’, with the gleaming epaulettes of officers and the army doctors, and the sound of foreign words and parliamentary turns of phrase, here there was nothing but a black and grey mass of workers’ overcoats and soldiers’ camouflaged greatcoats. I had never see a more democratic assembly.

In an interval, strolling with Semyon Roshal in one of the endless corridors, I noticed that he exchanged nods with a comrade who had a black moustache and a small, pointed beard. “Who’s that?” I asked, never having seen before this comrade who was nodding politely to Roshal.

“Why, don’t you recognise him? It’s Comrade Zinoviev.”

I was astonished at the extraordinary change in Comrade Zinoviev’s appearance. Whereas even when Lenin was clean-shaven one could still recognise his well-known features, Zinoviev was literally unrecognisable. Had I met him in the street looking like that I should not have known him.

When Semyon and I left Smolny and went out into the yard to look for our car, Comrade Volodarsky hurried up to us and taking us by the arm, said excitedly: “I’ve got a job for you – come along.” He led us to a covered motor-car in which sat Comrade Shatov, an Anarcho-Syndicalist who had worked harmoniously with us from the first days of the revolution. We took our seats in this car, and set off for the barracks of the Jaeger Regiment. On the way, Volodarsky told us that the Jaeger Regiment had to go at once to the Tsarskoye Selo front, and our job was to “stir them up”.

At the barracks we sought out the orderly officer and asked him to rouse the members of the regimental committee and the representatives of the companies, without delay. As a result of our victory in Petrograd the situation was such that, whatever the political sympathies of the orderly officer on duty that night, he could not refuse to carry out this instruction. The clock showed that it was a.m. In spite of the lateness of the hour, however, about fifty comrades quickly assembled. The first to address this small audience was Comrade Volodarsky. He gave one of his most brilliant and talented speeches. This raised the spirits of the soldiers’ delegates no end and created favourable atmosphere for the speaker who followed him, Comrade Volodarsky described the political situation, indicated how precarious was the position of the revolution’s gains, informed the comrades of the first decrees of the Soviet Government, explained their tremendous significance for the workers and peasants, and, in conclusion, called on the glorious Jaeger Regiment to defend the Revolution. After Comrade Volodarsky, Comrade Shatov spoke, also very fervently. Finally, the meeting closed with speeches from Roshal and me.

The comrades who were present at this meeting, inspired by the speakers’ heartfelt emotion, dispersed to their companies vowing to lead the regiment without delay to the outposts of the revolution. And they kept their word. Early in the morning the regiment set off for the front.

On October 27 I went to the headquarters of the Petrograd Military District. Here the main work was concentrated in the hands of Chudnovsky. With his arm in a sling, owing to the wound he had received at the front, restless and unusually lively, he did not stand still for one moment. As soon as he had written down some message he would hurry to the telephone, to toss it to the caller who was waiting to collect it. Chudnovsky was a hero of the revolution, a chevalier sans peur et sans reproche. Without ever ceasing to be a thoughtful and prudent Party worker, and never losing his sobriety and level-headedness as political fighter, at the same time Chudnovsky was aflame with a sort of romanticism. I shall always remember Chudnovsky’s face, pale from incessant inner turmoil, with beads of sweat on his highbrow, not yet cooled down from his creative conflagration, tired out and happy. As is well-known, in 1918 G.I. Chudnovsky died a hero’s death on the Southern front.

On the morning of the 27th I had to find out from Comrade Chudnovsky the situation at the front, where, rumour had it, Kerensky was forming an expeditionary force to march on Petrograd. However, at the district headquarters they still had no more precise information about this than at Smolny. Some young officer from the lzmailovsky Regiment was making arrangements with Comrade Chudnovsky about a visit to Gatchina. He had been ordered there so as to ascertain the military situation and organise the defence of the place. He was to set off at once, a motor-car had already been made ready. I too was inclined to go to the front, since it seemed to me there was nothing more to be done in Petrograd. I volunteered to go with the lzmailovsky officer, to organise the political work at Gatchina. I also had it in mind that, if Kerensky’s troops were not staunch, it might be possible, by explaining to them what the situation in Petrograd really was, to bring them over to our side. Comrade Chudnovsky responded favourably to my offer. We went first to the barracks of the Izmailovsky Regiment.

In the premises of the regimental committee Guards officers were wandering about by themselves, like drowsy flies, in a state of complete bewilderment. The members of the regimental committee were not there. One had the impression that there was no committee. It may be, though, that this was not the case: the old members had fled, and Bolsheviks had not yet been elected. The lzmailovsky Regiment had the reputation of being one of the most backward. After quickly completing our simple business, the lzmailovsky officer and I went straight from the barracks to the Narva Gate and set off, past the Putilov factory, towards Gatchina.

My travelling companion made a strange impression on me. In appearance and interests he was a typical Guards ensign of the old regime, but this had not prevented him from plunging headlong into the revolution, a thirst for exuberant activity. I do not know how and from what angle the movement had gripped him. Most probably this had happened in a purely accidental way: he might have worked with the same enthusiasm for the White-Guard cause. But there was something childishly naive in this service to the proletarian revolution given by a young, elegant officer who, hardly understanding the meaning of what had happened, was working selflessly against his own class. Such glorious eccentrics, men who had come over to us from the enemy class, were rare individuals in those days.

Near Krasnoye Selo soldiers ran out into the road signalling for the car to stop. Comrade Levenson, an intellectual from among the Mezhrayontsy, who led the Bolshevik movement in Krasnoye Selo, and in particular in the 176th Reserve Regiment, in which he was serving as a volunteer, came up to us and told us that Gatchina had been taken by the troops of the Provisional Government. We had no forces in Krasnoye Selo, apart from the locally-stationed 176th Reserve Regiment, which was wholly on guard for the October revolution and ready at any moment to give battle to Kerensky’s bands.

Except for the permanent Party, Soviet and regimental organisations in Krasnoye Selo there was no headquarters capable of assuming leadership of military operations on any large scale. On Comrade Levenson’s advice we went on to Tsarskoye Selo, where we might most likely expect to find some sort of operational centre. But there, too, there was no organisation. At the local military headquarters sat, all alone, Colonel Walden, a pleasant, elderly officer, giving orders over the telephone that were scarcely obeyed. A severe wound received in the war made it impossible for him to get about except with a stick. Comrade Walden was one of the first of the military specialists who honourably served the Soviet power. His name did not become well known either before or after the October Revolution, but at that very grave moment when we were tormented by our momentary setbacks, which threatened to ruin our entire cause, this modest military worker selflessly and disinterestedly helped us with his military knowledge and his experience as a staff-officer.

At that moment, however, we found Colonel Walden on his own: there was absolutely no organisation around him. Leaving the lzmailovsky officer to help him, I set off back to Petrograd to report, in Comrade Ulyantsev’s car. Comrade Ulyantsev, a Kronstadt sailor and an old penal-servitude convict, had been at Tsarskoye Selo on the instructions of the Military Organisation, and was now returning to Petrograd. We drove through the darkness, in an atmosphere permeated with grey slush, under a close mesh of thin rain. The bad weather and the gloomy news we had collected at Krasnoye Selo and Tsarskoye Selo did not dispose us to optimism, but neither of us had lost confidence that the enigmatic morrow would bring victory for the Russian proletariat. Comrade Ulyantsev, who was in general a great enthusiast, had no doubts about the future, although, of course, the defects in our organisation did not escape him. His subsequent fate was a tragic one. In 1919, when Soviet power was established in Mugan, in the rear of bourgeois-nationalist Mussavatist Azerbaijan, [3] Comrade Ulyantsev was one of its most active leaders. Shortly before the fall of Mugan, Comrade Ulyantsev, who was in command of the Red forces, died valiantly in action in the struggle for the world revolution.

After journey lasting half an hour, the car pulled up at the headquarters of the Military District. Despite the lateness of the hour, all the windows were brightly lit. In one of the rooms of this spacious centre of military administration a meeting of active workers in the Voyenka was going on, with Comrade NJ. Podvoisky in the chair. Ulyantsev and I reported on the unhappy situation at the front. It was decided at once to send some armoured cars without delay. At the same time, appreciating that this measure was not sufficient, it was decided to speed up the formation of workers’ detachments and send workers’ regiments to the front.

As soon as the meeting ended I was summoned by Comrade Lenin. Vladimir Ilyich was sitting in a large room in the district headquarters, at the end of a long table which was usually covered with a green or red cloth but which now gaped with its crude wooden nakedness. This gave the whole room the uninhabited, bleak look of a dwelling that had just been abandoned by its owners. Besides Lenin, Trotsky was also present in this empty cheerless room. On the table in front of Ilyich lay, opened out, a map showing the environs of Petrograd.

“What vessels of the Baltic Fleet are armed with heavy artillery?” This question was suddenly shot at me by Vladimir Ilyich.

“Dreadnoughts of the Petropavlovsk type. They each have twelve 12-inch, 52 calibre, turret-mounted guns, besides smaller artillery.”

“Good,” Ilyich went on, impatiently, almost before I had finished. “If we should need to bombard the outskirts of Petrograd, where can these vessels be stationed? Can they be brought into the mouth of the Neva?”

I answered that, in view of the deep draught of the battleships and the shallowness of the Sea Canal, such big vessels could not be brought into the Neva, since this operation would have a chance of success only in the extremely rare event of a very big rise in the water in the Sea Canal.

“So, then, how can we organise the defence of Petrograd by vessels of the Baltic Fleet?” asked Comrade Lenin, looking fixedly at me and concentrating his attention still further.

I said that the battleships could lie at anchor between Kronstadt and the mouth of the Sea Canal, approximately in line with Peterhof, [4] where, besides providing direct defence of the approaches to Oranienbaum and Peterhof, they would command a considerable field of fire extending into the coast. Comrade Lenin was not satisfied with my reply, and made me show him on the map the approximate limits of the field of fire of guns of various calibres. Only after that did he calm down a little.

That day Vladimir Ilyich was altogether in an unusually high-strung state. The capture of Gatchina by the White Guards had evidently made a big impression on him and filled him with fear for the fate of the proletarian revolution. Throughout this conversation Comrade Trotsky did not utter a word.

“Ring up Kronstadt,” said Comrade Lenin, turning to me, “and make arrangements for another detachment of Kronstadters to be formed at once. We must mobilise everyone, to the last man. The situation of the revolution is one of mortal danger. If we do not now show exceptional energy, Kerensky and his bands will crush us.”

I tried to call Kronstadt, but could not get through, owing to the lateness of the hour. Vladimir Ilyich suggested that I contact the Kronstadt comrades by means of the Hughes machine. We went into the telegraph room, where the direct wires were buzzing away indefatigably. Comrade Podvoisky was there, leaning on the table occupied by one of the numerous machines, and we went up to him. My thoughts were focused on the front, where the fate of the revolution was now being decided. No substantial information had reached us from the front since the news that Kerensky had captured Gatchina. Everyone took the fall of Gatchina very hard. However, we all knew that the next few days must see unlimited tension, colossal activity at organising staunch armed resistance, and a mass departure to the front by all the able-bodied elements in Petrograd and neighbouring towns.

“Yes, the situation is now such that either they are going to hang us or we them,” said Comrade Podvoisky. Nobody contradicted him.

My attempt to get in touch with Kronstadt by the direct wire also failed to come off. “Well, all right,” replied Vladimir Ilyich, when I told him. “Go to Kronstadt tomorrow morning and personally see to arrangements for the immediate formation of a strong detachment, with machineguns and artillery. Remember that time will not wait for us. Every minute is precious.”

Early in the morning of October 28 I arrived at Kronstadt. The deserted streets of this city of barracks revealed that Petrograd and the Gatchina front had already drawn off a considerable mass of fighting men from Kronstadt. At the Kronstadt Soviet I found Left-SRs in charge. No plenum of the Soviet, in which the overwhelming majority consisted of members of our Party, was convened in those days. But the Soviet’s executive apparatus was working feverishly. And just because all the active Communists had gone off to the front, the Left-SRs found themselves, to their own surprise, the chief figures in this apparatus. Although they were in a minority in the Executive Committee, in those days of revolution they made a great deal of noise. They telephoned with enthusiasm, fervently issued orders, talked with visitors complacently and not without pretentiousness, and were altogether lost in rapture at their new role. Gorelniko and Kudinsky especially bustled about. Gorelnikov, a rather portly sailor of more than average height, cleanshaven and with curly hair, played the role of ‘man at the centre of things’ and took care of supplies for the Kronstadt detachments. The other Left-SR, Kudinsky, looked like a staff clerk. His devil-may-care, upward-twisted black whiskers, his gleaming dark eyes, his greatcoat theatrically thrown over his shoulders and his tall fur cap cocked to one side gave him the dandified air of a chocolate soldier. He made a great parade of his requisitions for the front, carried on some sort of military preparations, and called himself the commander of a detachment.

These semi-comic personages could not be regarded as suitable executants of the responsible assignment entrusted to me by Comrade Lenin. I therefore decided to make use of my personal connections and proceeded to give orders direct to the forts. The morale and armament of the various units were well enough known to me for me to be able to cope independently with my task and send off the best forces to the front.

First of all I rang Krasnaya Gorka. The commissar of this major fort, Comrade Donskoy, came to the telephone. I informed him of the critical situation on the front against Krasnov, and asked him to send all available reserves to Petrograd, strengthening them with sufficient heavy artillery. I gave the same order over the phone to the commissar of Fort Ino, on the Finnish shore of the Gulf. Both commissars promised to fit out as quickly as possible the detachments of infantry and artillery that I required.

When I had finished my work at Kronstadt I wasted no time in hastening back to Petrograd. Lyudmila Stal travelled in the same launch. I remember that she showed me the latest issue of the SR newspaper Dyelo Naroda (The People’s Cause), which printed the threatening order issued by the Cossack General Krasnov, announcing his march on Petrograd and calling on the garrison of the capital to submit unconditionally to the authority of the Provisional Government.

As we passed through the Sea Canal I made out the bulky silhouette of the training ship Zarya Svobody. When I drew alongside, the ship’s commissar, the sailor Kolbin, descended a ladder to meet me. I asked him what tasks had been allotted to Zarya Svobody. He replied that the vessel had been ordered to open fire on Kerensky’s bands if they approached Petrograd. It became apparent, however, that there was no firing table aboard. Since fire would have been directed at an unseen target and without any observation being possible, it was clear that this fire would be quite ineffective. This training ship Zarya Svobody, moreover (it was the former coastal-defence battleship Imperator Alexander II), despite its twelve 12-inch, 40 calibre guns, was such an old hulk that its firing at the shore could possess no military significance. The only point in having the incredibly ancient vessel stationed in the Sea Canal was that its grim aspect might stimulate the morale of the workers and soldiers in Petrograd. In any case, Kronstadt could offer nothing better, as the principal forces of the Baltic Fleet were at that time concentrated at Helsingfors.

Arriving in Petrograd, I went first to the dispatch-boat Yastreb which had only that very day been moored by the quay of Vasily Island. The command of the Kronstadt detachments was on Yastreb. Here were J.P. Flerovsky and P.I. Smirnov. Along with them was a volunteer named Grimm, a youngish Left-SR who was subsequently to play an active part in the revolt of Krasnaya Gorka against the Soviet power during Yudenich’s first offensive, in the spring of 1919. In October 1917, however, he made a good impression, and still stood on the platform of the October Revolution. Also present on Yastreb was the Anarcho-Syndicalist Yarchuk, so impassioned in discussion. He generally worked very harmoniously with us. He supported with enthusiasm the overthrow of the bourgeoisie, seeing this event as an “inevitable stage on the road to the reign of anarchy.” I gave the comrades a brief account of the result of my visit to Kronstadt. Sima Roshal turned up from somewhere soon after this and, taking Yarchuk with us, we set off to Smolny in a covered car.

There, the immediate proximity of the front was to be felt even more distinctly than before. Everything told of feverish, martial tension. Along the whitewashed, vaulted corridors of the former Institute for ‘well-born’ girls dashed unbroken lines of armed workers who, though wearing civilian overcoats, were in full battle-gear, with machinegun cartridge-belts crossed over their backs and chests. The serious, thoughtful concentration on their tense faces, their impenetrable taciturnity and convulsive grip on their rifles bore witness to the anxious, uncertain situations of the new-born Soviet republic.

And indeed, hardly had we entered the first room we came to than we heard the terrifying news: “Tsarskoye Selo has been taken by the bands of Kerensky and Krasnov.” The fate of the revolution was in mortal danger. This news was given us by Comrade N.I. Podvoisky, whose emotion made him paler than usual. I went into the next room, which was quite bare, with just one small table at which Comrade N.V. Krylenko was bending over a map and pointing out to the commanders of the detachments leaving for the front the sectors that had been assigned to them: After leaving the Red Guard commanders to hurry off to their battle positions, Nikolai Vasilevich [Krylenko] turned to me. I told him that I was impatiently awaiting the arrival of the Kronstadters, so as to set off with them to defend Petrograd.

Comrade Krylenko again bent over the map of the environs of Petrograd and showed me a point marked in black. “That’s the place for you. It’s near the Tsarskoye Selo railway. Here’s the bridge you’ve got to defend.” I warned the commander-in-chief that it was not yet known exactly when the Kronstadters would arrive, so that, until they took up the positions assigned to them, there would be a yawning gap in that sector. Comrade Krylenko nodded. His look and his speech, which obeyed him only with difficulty, testified to the superhuman fatigue he was suffering. In those days we all moved and worked like sleep-walkers and if you had looked at us from outside you would probably have taken us for semi-lunatics. From Smolny I returned in a car with Colonel Muravyov.

Under Kerensky he had formed Shock Battalions, and later, in the summer of 1918, he commanded the Eastern front, but he betrayed the Soviet power and was killed at Simbirsk. In the October days he shared in the command of the Red forces. Muravyov did not stay long with me, only going as far as Sergievskaya Street where his flat was, but it was long enough for me to detect his state of mind. When I spoke to him about the situation on the Tsarskoye Selo front he answered me in a depressed tone, showing utter dismay and lack of confidence in our victory: “Yes, things are in a very bad way. Petrograd will probably be taken.”

I spent the night of October 28-29 with the Kronstadters, on Yastreb. In the morning I went to Smolny to warn Comrade Krylenko that, contrary to my expectations, the composite detachments I had ordered from the Kronstadt forts had not yet arrived. I learnt of the Cadets’ revolt when I was already in the car. News came in that officers and Cadets had occupied the Hotel Astoria and were firing on our people from there with machineguns and rifles. Roshal and other sailors at once volunteered to go and storm the Astoria. Arriving at Smolny, I met Podvoisky, who told me that the Cadets’ revolt was spreading, and also mentioned that Smolny had no communication with District Headquarters, so that he wanted me to go there and telephone to him what was happening.

There seemed nothing in the streets to indicate that the Cadets had revolted. Everywhere I went, peaceful everyday life was going on. But when I came to District Headquarters, in Palace Square, I noticed at once a sort of ominous silence. The square in front of the Winter Palace was like a desert. Not even one of those chance individual pedestrians who were usually infrequent at this hour was to be seen. At District Headquarters a Maxim gun stood inside the entrance, with a group of soldiers bustling around it. I went up the stairs. The huge building, with its endless succession of rooms, was completely empty, like a desolate or deserted house. Only here and there loitered a few messengers and staff clerks, with inert and gloomy looks. I found none of the responsible workers. Just then somebody who had been walking along Morskaya Street reported that the Cadets had taken the telephone exchange, and that he had seen Antonov-Ovseyenko arrested as he was driving by in a car. I telephoned Smolny, called Comrade N.I. Podvoisky to the apparatus and gave him my news. From what he said I could gather that he had already had this information. Nevertheless, he told me that things were going well and the revolt would soon be liquidated. It seemed to me that someone was listening to our conversation, and so, when Comrade Podvoisky hung up the receiver, I still kept mine to my ear. And I distinctly heard a faraway voice officiously telling someone:

“Raskolnikov has just telephoned Podvoisky” – after which followed a precise repetition of our conversation. There could be no doubt but that the Cadets, having captured the telephone exchange, were allowing us to continue communicating with one another so as to be able to listen in to what we said. I had agreed with Comrade Podvoisky that, for the time being, I would remain at District Headquarters. I collected up a few clerks, sat them down at typewriters, appointed the brightest of them as my secretary, and got work going. Unexpected visitors appeared, commanders of units turned up, and they had to be given oral instructions, orders had to be signed and documents prepared. In view of the proximity of District Headquarters to the telephone exchange I expected a visit from the Cadets, and so took measures to ensure the defence of the building. As soon as I had a free moment I telephoned my brother, Ilyin-Zhenevsky, who was then commissar with the Grenadier Regiment. I wanted to know what the situation was on the Petersburg Side, in his regiment’s area, because the Vladimirskoye and Pavlovskoye military schools were there. My brother replied that he had just returned from a siege of the Vladimirskoye School, that the revolt had been liquidated, and the Cadets arrested and sent to the Peter-and-Paul Fortress.

Soon after this a young Second Lieutenant reported to me and introduced himself as representing the detachment which had just arrived from Fort Ino. He had come to District Headquarters for instructions. This was one of the detachments whose arrival I had been awaiting with such great impatience. Handing over command of District Headquarters to a comrade, I hastened with the officer to the Finland Station, to meet his detachment. Dusk was already gathering when we came upon the long-awaited detachment from Fort Ino, in one of the sidings.

The barrels of guns, pointing skyward, stood out sharply from the open goods-trucks. The comrades had brought two 3-inch field batteries, eight guns in all. What a happy sight! The commissar of the detachment was a young but sensible soldier from the fortress artillery, serving at Fort Ino, whom I had met at the Kronstadt Soviet, where he was a member of our fraction. The detachment commander was an Ensign from the reserve, middle-aged, cheerful and good-natured, who gave the impression of being a ‘fatherly’ commander. He knew absolutely nothing about politics, but followed his soldiers honestly, and they were very fond of him. He was on his way to fight the Cossack bands of Kerensky and Krasnov in that same mood of excited elation in which regular officers had gone to the front in the imperialist war. I said that I was accompanying the detachment to the front, and ordered that the echelon be switched on to the Moscow-Windau-Rybinsk line. For a long time we could not obtain a locomotive. This was evidently a case of sabotage by ‘Vikzhel’. [5] At last, late in the evening, a locomotive was coupled to our echelon, and we set off. Very slowly and with frequent halts our train moved along the connecting line which linked the Finland line with the rest of the Russian railway system. In the dead of night we reached Bolshaya Okhta and came to a halt in front of a big railway bridge. [6] The train had to be taken across to the other bank of the Neva.

Into our third-class carriage, dimly lit by candles, came a railway employee who asked to see the commander of the echelon. He was directed to me. “We have just received by telegraph an official message with a categorical order to raise the bridge, so as to hold up your train,” said the railwayman, “but I haven’t obeyed it. I know that you are for the workers. Even if l hang for it later I’m going to let you cross the bridge.” We firmly shook this honest comrade’s hand and thanked him cordially for his devotion to the cause of the proletariat.

Hardly had we dozed off when we were woken up. The echelon had reached the junction of the connecting line with the line that leads to Tsarskoye Selo. Outside the windows all was still, dense darkness. Leaving the carriage, we made our way to the Moscow Gate district committee. Despite the earliness of the hour – for dawn had not yet broken – brisk activity was in progress at the committee’s premises. Nearly all the committee members were up and about. They were distributing weapons, issuing cartridges, forming Red Guard units, sending out orders – in short, it was a big rear headquarters. We learnt that the situation at the front was unchanged. Krasnov’s Cossacks still occupied Tsarskoye Selo, but we still held Pulkovo, where our military headquarters was situated at present. l asked for a means of conveyance so that I could get to Pulkovo for my battle orders. The committee readily offered me a small lorry. I had no cartridges for my revolver. The elderly worker in charge of the armoury at once fetched from a cupboard two neat, cubical boxes, each containing 25 cartridges. The commissar stayed with the detachment while the commander clambered into the lorry with me. Two members of the district committee came with us.

The road was muddy and slippery, and sticky clods of earth flew in all directions from under the car’s wheels. Dawri found us still on our way. Field headquarters was in a one-storey, wooden house, within which a large room was divided in two by a low partition. The building had evidently been a government office of some sort, or a post office. On the floor lay soldiers and Red Guards, their heads resting on their greatcoats and sheepskin jackets, and around them stood their rifles, leant against the walls. Stepping over a whole row of sleeping bodies, we passed through the partition and came to a wooden table on which smoked a wretched paraffin lamp, and scraps of black bread were scattered in disorder – the remains of a meagre, hastily-swallowed supper. At this table, in the midst of which a map was spread out, sat Walden, wide awake. Opposite him, leaning his head on his arm, Comrade Dzevaltovsky was dozing. As we came in he started up. It was hard to say what role he played at this headquarters. Perhaps he had been attached to Walden as commissar, but as the functions of commissar and commander had not yet been demarcated, he often intervened in operational matters. When that happened, Walden fell into an embarrassed silence. Most probably he had been appointed by the Military Revolutionary Committee as an assistant to Walden, or his chief of staff.

In any case, they were both overjoyed at the news of the arrival of two batteries at the front. There was evidently a great shortage of artillery. After getting detailed information about our unit, its fighting capacity and its stock of shells, Walden issued an order for the guns to be placed on the Pulkovo Heights. We got back into our car and set off on the return journey. On our way we had our baptism of fire. Just as we were leaving the village for the open country an enemy battery started to fire at us. The first shells passed well over the target, but they gradually shortened the range, and then a cloud of shrapnel appeared beside the road, indicating a slight shortfall. It was clear that we were caught in a ‘bracket’. The firing was being accurately controlled by sight. I began to expect a direct hit. But at that moment the gun fell silent. “One more shot and we’d have been done for” said the ensign who commanded the detachment.

While exchanging our impressions we entered the workers’ suburbs of Petrograd, before realising it. All the inhabitants of Moscow Gate were up and about. The workers’ wives were hurrying to do their shopping or else quietly standing at their doors, observing the unusual activity with curiosity. Red Guard detachments with flags unfurled were hastening, one after the other, to the front. Only elderly workers were to be met in the streets, with young lads a rarity. Almost all the able-bodied young men were before Tsarskoye Selo.

We were at the district committee again, with its business-like, un-fussy pace of work. They asked us how things were at the front. The members of the committee expressed the view that, if Kerensky’s troops got into Petrograd, they would be met with barricades: the struggle would be transferred to the streets of the city.

The comrades from Fort lno who had been assembled to go off to war had not brought with them a single change of underwear, and were suffering acutely from that circumstance. They appealed to me. I went to the huge quartermaster’s stores which stood at the Moscow Gate, but the chief commissar of the stores, Comrade Lazimir, was away. It was not possible to procure clean underwear in his absence, unfortunately, and so the comrades had to go to the front in what they had on. Meanwhile, our guns started out along the highway to Tsarskoye Selo. Our hearts felt lighter with every turn of the wheels of their carriages.

Sima Roshal turned up soon after this at the workers’ headquarters of Moscow Gate. We had to get to Pulkovo quickly. We started off in our old lorry. On the way, not long before dusk, we encountered the Volynsky Regiment, which had wilfully abandoned its position. The soldiers were moving back in disorder, strung along the side of the road. “In the February Revolution they were the first, but now they are the last,” flashed through my mind. As Sima had no definite job to do, he at once left the lorry and stayed behind to try and get the soldiers to return to their posts. I learnt later that his mission had been successful.

We reached Pulkovo. The batteries were set up on the slopes of the Pulkovo Heights, which descend quite steeply towards Kuzmin and Tsarskoye Selo. Even as we were settling in, our artillery came under enemy gunfire. We had to unharness the horses from the limbers as quickly as we could and get the three-inch guns into action. All these operations, including control of the firing of the guns, were directed by the dashing commander of the batteries. The successful hits scored by these experienced gunners from Fort lno, on the one hand, and the onset of darkness on the other, soon put an end to this untimely duel. The ensign in command became very cheerful, rejoicing animatedly in the successes achieved in the day that had ended. While I was there at the front I heard tales of the heroic exploits of a detachment of sailors who fought under the command of one of our old Kronstadters, a sailor from the signalling service, V.M. Zaitsev. There, too, somebody passed on to me a very disturbing rumour which persistently circulated that evening on the Pulkovo front. It was said that Trotsky and Lunacharsky had recently come to Pulkovo, even such details being given as that their car was covered with hurdles of plaited straw. On their way back, it was said, a shell had burst near the car, and Comrade Lunacharsky had been killed outright by a splinter which struck him in the head, though Comrade Trotsky had managed to get away with nothing worse than the loss of his hat.

A wealth of colourful details gave the story verisimilitude. Like many others, I believed this rumour, and mourned a fallen comrade. Great was my joy when, next day, I saw with my own eyes that Lunacharsky was alive. Such legends as this were apparently invented on purpose by the enemy in order to create alarm and despondency in our ranks. Under the gloomy impression caused by this rumour we left our positions on the Pulkovo Heights and entered a peasant’s hut. The coming of night gave us a breathing-space till early morning. After a supper of the soldiers’ tinned meat we lay down side by side on the floor or on the peasants’ sleeping-benches. Early in the morning of October 31 the famous batteries from Fort Ino had to withstand an attack by enemy cavalry. Krasnov’s Cossacks not only failed to take our positions but had to retreat, with losses, to their starting point.

About mid-day I met one of the artillery officers from Kronstadt, Comrade Yuriev. He invited me to drink tea with him in the peasant’s hut where he had his quarters. The old peasant who owned this well-built structure, muttered, grunting, at the sight of the shells bursting nearby: “Lord God, how terrible this is. And just when will it end?” “Why, let’s smash Kerensky, then it’ll end,” I answered sharply. The old man shook his head sadly. This ‘petty kulak’ evidently had little understanding of politics but, trembling for his skin and for his property, he sincerely wanted military operations to end, or, at least, to be shifted to some other, more distant spot. However, we did not observe any hostility on the part of the peasants – possibly because they were afraid of our armed force. On the contrary, indeed, in those days the kulaks of the countryside adjoining Petrograd, concealing their true feelings, went all out to show us hospitality. Needless to say, the poor peasants, especially their younger generation, were on the side of the Soviet power not just from fear but for conscience’s sake.

In the afternoon Comrade Podvoisky arrived from Petrograd. Dank rain was falling. The highway was covered with slippery mud. I met Comrade Podvoisky as, stepping between puddles, he entered our headquarters. Nikolai Ilyich was accompanied by some Bolshevik officers, active members of our Military Organisation. He had come to Pulkovo to observe how operations were going, because about this time he had been appointed commander of our forces by the Military Revolutionary Committee. After spending some time at our headquarters Podvoisky had to return, owing to the urgency of the matters awaiting him at Smolny. A little later I too went to Petrograd. At Smolny I saw that very great contributions to the current work of the Military Revolutionary Committee were being made by A.A. Joffe and by M.S. Uritsky, who died before his time, at the hands of an SR murderer. Early in the morning of November l I was back at Pulkovo.

While on my way there I learnt that, during the night and early morning, Krasnov’s Cossacks had evacuated Tsarskoye Selo on their own initiative. We therefore had to make haste and exploit our victory. I went to see how our batteries were getting on. I found them still in their former positions. I ordered them to move forward at once and take up positions on the other side of Tsarskoye Selo, in the direction of Pavlovsk. “Aye-Aye;” replied the battery commander, navy-style. On the road to Tsarskoye Selo I saw a great number of dead Cossack horses lying beside the road. There were no corpses: evidently the enemy had succeeded in carrying off their dead. I found our headquarters in Tsarskoye Selo itself, working at full blast in its old premises.

Owing to the shortage of workers the comrades asked me to remain at headquarters. In those days there were not yet any well-defined appointments and strictly delimited functions, and everyone had to do several jobs at the same time. If a ‘gap’ appeared somewhere, the first comrade who came to hand was automatically sent there, and, despite this absence of proper organisation, despite the fact that none of us had any administrative experience, the work went ahead smoothly and harmoniously. Political instinct and revolutionary enthusiasm prompted us to take this decision or that, even in matters we knew nothing about. And despite the fact that our work often overlapped to such an extent that sometimes several comrades were carrying out, quite unproductively, one and the same task, no misunderstandings occurred.

I have difficulty in categorising the nature of my work and the range of duties I had to perform, given the undefined scope of the powers assigned to me: it was not exactly the work of a chief of staff. Yet many comrades, contrary to the basic principles of military science, were then performing similar duties, which approximated to those of a chief of staff. Perhaps it would be truer to say that this was a headquarters under collective direction. It would certainly have been hard to designate by any precise military-technical term the appointment then held by any one of us.

A comrade might be placing in position some artillery newly arrived at the front, and taking command of it: the next moment, he would be checking trenches dug by the infantry: then he would rush back headlong to headquarters, and if he was urgently required there he would stay for some time, in the capacity of a staff officer. Finally, at the head of some hastily-formed unit, he would set off to a new sector of the front, to fight. Every Party member literally seethed in those days, and never had a moment to himself. The activity of every Bolshevik at the front was volatile indeed. Wherever some discrepancy made itself felt more seriously than elsewhere, wherever some yawning gap appeared, Bolsheviks rushed in with lightning speed, and by their energetic, intense, one might say superhuman work, they rapidly restored the position that had been shaken.

That afternoon a numerous delegation came to our headquarters from Petrograd. Among others it included Comrade Antselovich, a prominent trade-union worker, and Comrades Sherstobitov and Lyubitsky, who were both Baltic Fleet sailors. This delegation had been elected by the workers, sailors and soldiers of Petrograd to go and explain to the deceived Cossacks the real political situation in Petrograd, to instil into them sympathy with the aims and tasks of the struggle of the proletariat, and to call on them to put an end to the fratricidal civil war. The delegation asked us what we thought about the expediency of the mission with which they had been entrusted by the Petrograd workers. The views of the comrades working at our headquarters were divided. Some, pointing to the hasty withdrawal from Tsarskoye Selo by the bands of Kerensky and Krasnov, saw in this a sign that the counter-revolutionary troops were disintegrating, and thought it would be useful to deepen this moral breakdown by boldly despatching the Petrograd delegation into the enemy’s camp. Others, on the contrary, were strongly opposed to that idea, openly voicing their fear that the delegation might get shot. They justified their view by pointing to the fact that despite the degree of disintegration that did exist, the Cossacks attacking us were still wholly in the power of their officers, who, taking revenge for their defeat in open battle, might be ready at any moment to deal in a blood-thirsty way with the elected delegates of the Petrograd workers. While awaiting a favourable moment for crossing the line of the front, the members of the delegation wandered about through all the rooms of our headquarters.

Evening descended. Dybenko, Roshal and I set out in a car for Krasnoye Selo, to tour our positions and ascertain how things were in the adjoining sector. Rain was pelting down and the hood of our car was raised. On all sides we were shrouded in dense, impenetrable darkness. We bowled along the deserted highway. However, despite the downpour, which gradually changed to thin autumn rain, we were stopped at nearly every verst by our own revolutionary patrols, who carefully checked our documents.

At the headquarters in Krasnoye Selo I met some friends – those recent inmates of the Kresty, Sakharov and Sievers, and also the young officer from the lzmailovsky Regiment with whom on October 27 I had set off for Gatchina, to end up in Tsarskoye Selo.

The comrades explained to us the military situation on their sector of the front. Generally speaking, all was quiet, but the situation was recognised to be uncertain, owing to the dubious steadfastness of our troops in position there. After we had ascertained their needs and promised to do what we could to meet them, we set off on the return journey.

The sailors, Red Guards and soldiers of the Petrograd garrison at the checkpoints frequently halted our car to verify the identity of the passengers. It was immediately obvious that the organisation of the outposts and the alert vigilance of the sentries was irreproachable.

On our return to Tsarskoye Selo we held an operational conference to discuss plans for further action. In the course of heated debate two quite well-defined schools of thought emerged. A group led by Comrade Dzevaltovsky were against an immediate offensive, claiming that we must first concentrate our forces and by reconnaissance find out the situation and numbers of the enemy.

Roshal and I, on the other hand, categorically demanded an immediate offensive, in hot pursuit of the enemy, considering that our chief task was not to allow him to pull himself together and obtain fresh reserves. As we saw it, we possessed sufficient strength, and our men not only were not tired but, on the contrary, were literally bursting to go into action. The majority sided with us, and it was resolved that at dawn we would launch a decisive offensive all along the front. The conference ended very late at night. Not much time was left before dawn – a few hours only. We had to take urgent measures to implement our decision to prepare for an offensive.

No good system for military orders existed at that time. Orders were given either by word of mouth or in the form of notes that were often dashed off hastily in pencil. Our Kronstadt batteries were already standing in the forward positions of Tsarskoye Sela. I made ready to go to them, so that we might march off at dawn. But the participants in the conference had not yet dispersed when suddenly two young men wearing soldiers’ greatcoats came almost running into our smoke-filled room. One of them, a volunteer with a well-cared-for, upper-class face, introduced himself as Prince something-or-other, giving a famous name. “Gatchina is in the hands of the Soviet power. The Cossacks have surrendered. Krasnov has been arrested. Kerensky has fled. Dybenko is in Gatchina.” In these short, broken sentences did the titled volunteer, all out of breath with excitement, make his report to us. Who was he? One of ours or one of theirs? A sympathetic or frightened intellectual, or a concealed White Guard? At that moment it did not matter. A joyful sigh of relief broke from many of those present. Everybody felt in holiday mood. Frank exultation could be read on all our faces. Owing to the lack of shelter available, D.Z. Manuilsky (‘I. Bezrabotny’) and I went to spend the night in the Alexandrovsky Palace. Everything in the spacious chambers of this palace still breathed the recent presence of Nicholas Romanov’s family. The visiting cards of highly-placed persons lay around. A torn-off desk-calendar showed a day now long past. Perhaps nobody had torn off the pages since the Tsar’s family departed. We lay down to sleep on sofas placed at our disposal by the hospitably obliging commandant of the Palace, who had been appointed by the Soviet power.

On the morning of November 2, sitting comfortably in a railway carriage, I returned to Petrograd. In the office of the Military Revolutionary Committee I found K.S. Yeremeyev, NJ. Podvoisky and others. They had slept right there, in their chairs.

“It’s good that you’ve come,” said Comrade Podvoisky, getting up. “You must this day take command of a detachment of sailors and bring help to the comrades in Moscow. Fighting is still going on there and things aren’t too good. Konstantin Stepanovich [Yeremeyev] will accompany you,” Nikolai Ilyich added after a moment’s pause.

In S.I. Gusev’s room I met A.V. Lunacharsky, who looked anxious. “How glad I am to see you among the living, Anatoly Vasilevich! You know, there was a persistent rumour going round at the front that you had been killed,” I said.

“Never mind that,” replied Comrade Lunacharsky, speaking with emotion. “Of what importance is the life of an individual when cultural values are perishing here? In Moscow the church of Vasily Blazhenny has been destroyed by shellfire. That’s very much worse...” There was genuine bitterness in his words. [7]

That evening I was at the Nikolai Railway Station with Ilyin-Zhenevsky. Already present were Yeremeyev, Dr Veger (Senior), Comrade Prigorovsky and others. Besides the detachment of sailors they were sending to Moscow one of the regiments stationed in Vyborg, under the command of Colonel Potapov – the 428th Lodeynopolsky Regiment. The composite detachment had already been got aboard and the whole echelon stood beside the passenger platform absolutely ready to set off: but no locomotive had yet been provided.

I entered the third-class carriage which was the headquarters of the sailors’ detachment and told the Bolshevik sailor from Helsingfors, Comrade Khovrin, that I had been appointed their commander. He willingly handed over the ‘reigns of government’. We agreed that he should act as commissar of the detachment. At that time the duties of the military commissar were not clearly defined: a commissar was regarded as simply the closest assistant of a commander. When a commissar was attached to a non-Party specialist, he not only exercised political supervision but, in the event of disagreement, considered himself entitled to interfere in the commander’s operational dispositions. Conflicts often arose from the vagueness of the relationship. But when a commissar was attached to a commander who was a Party member he constituted a perfectly definite quantity, and performed to the full the functions of a direct assistant to the commander.

Besides Khovrin, among the more outstanding sailors in the detachment were the Anarchist Anatoly Zheleznyakov, famous in connection with Durnovo’s dacha and, later on, through the role he happened to play in the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly; a Kronstadt member of our Party, Alexei Baranov; and the sailor Berg.

It has to be said that Anarchism had almost no influence in the Navy, and even those few sailors who called themselves Anarchists were – at least so far as their best representatives were concerned –Anarchists only in words, while in their deeds nothing distinguished them from Bolsheviks. In practice they defended the Soviet Government self-sacrificingly in armed struggle. For example, the glorious, amazingly attractive Comrade Zheleznyakov died a hero’s death on the Southern front, fighting for the power of the workers and peasants. Already before my appointment, Anatoly Zheleznyakov acted as adjutant of the detachment, and he continued to perform this function after I took command. Actually, however, he was an equal member of the leading group in our collective headquarters.

With him were joined A.F. Ilyin-Zhenevsky and a Left-SR, Ensign Neznamov, with whom in 1912 I had been locked up in the pre-trial detention centre.

After consulting with the sailor comrades about organisational matters, I went out on to the platform. The locomotive had still not been coupled on, and our train looked like a caterpillar without a head. The aristocracy of the railwaymen, concentrated in the Vikzhel, did all they could to hinder the departure of our detachment. We were even compelled to arrest the traffic-controller and apply threats of repression to other members of the administration. Suddenly a railway worker whom I did not know came up to me, introduced himself as an engine-driver (I think his name was Mashitsky), declared his wholehearted sympathy with the proletarian cause, and explained that the hold-up in the provision of a locomotive resulted from sabotage by railwaymen who were under the influence of the compromiser-dominated Vikzhel. This comrade, who was devoted to the revolution, eagerly offered his services as our engine-driver. “I’m going to get a locomotive. Even if l don’t sleep all night, I’ll get you to Moscow,” he said in a resolute tone that expressed profound conviction. Naturally, I accepted with enthusiasm his precious offer, which rescued us from an uncertain situation and an extremely tedious wait.

And, to be sure, before an hour had passed, a locomotive, belching thick smoke and fully ready to start off, appeared at the front of our train. The moment the coupling was completed, a gentle jerk was felt; and the platform, with the station buildings and railway installations, swam slowly towards us.

The sailors’ detachment was at the front on the train. Two armed sailors took up positions in the locomotive. With every minute we drew nearer to Moscow, which was in the grip of revolt – Moscow, where the fate of the proletarian revolution had not yet been fully decided. Awareness of this put us in a fighting mood. All the sailors were impatient to smash the resistance of the supporters of the bourgeois regime and, in anticipation of the inevitable battles ahead, our talk revolved around the revolutionary events already behind us. Great was the anger and hatred felt by every one of the sailors against the enemies of the proletarian order. Literally every sailor was bursting to go into action and looked forward with tremendous, scarcely controllable impatience to the decisive encounter with the enemy. Talking with the sailors really gave me indescribable pleasure: their every word was densely saturated with a joyous spirit of inflexible courage and struggle, bearing the aroma of a heroic revolutionary epoch. Ardent revolutionary enthusiasm, boundless devotion to the working class and passionate desire to win victory at any cost, along with highly developed class consciousness and a clear, correct sense of the interests of the proletariat and the meaning of the sharpened political struggle. All this, taken together, made the sailors splendid fighting material. Not for nothing was it that, in the first period of the October Revolution, before the formation of the regular Red Army, on all the fronts of the Republic it was detachments of sailors, shoulder to shoulder with young factory workers, that constituted the kernel of the Red Guards and the basic bastion of the young, unconsolidated power of the Soviets.

After unburdening my heart in talk with the sailors, I went into the carriage in which Comrades Yeremeyev and Veger were travelling. They were our ‘high command’, because they had been put in charge of the entire composite detachment, which consisted of my sailors, plus the 428th Lodeynopolsky Infantry Regiment, specially recalled from Finland, which was commanded by the military specialist Potapov. However, our relations with each other were not reminiscent of any ‘table of ranks’. [8] We formed one single close, harmonious company: we understood each other without the need for many words, and took all decisions collectively. Nobody gave orders to anybody else: everyone knew his Party duty and hastened, without any coercion, to perform it as quickly and as well as he could. Not military subordination but bonds of comradely solidarity and collective authority determined the whole structure of our relations. This system was possible, of course, only in the initial period, that of amateurish construction of guerrilla detachments, before the time came when millions of men were drawn into the civil war, and needed to be given proper and precise organisation in strict accordance with the principles of military science.

At every station we rushed to the telegraph office to collect all the telegrams, both incoming and outgoing. It was K.S. Yeremeyev who mainly saw to the sorting out of these messages, after which he would pass on to us whatever news worthy of attention he had extracted from them. At the telegraph office at Tosno Station we intercepted in this way a very important in-service message reporting the movement of an armoured train from Novgorod to Chudovo. We left Tosno at once, in order to intercept this train. But when our detachment reached Chudovo it turned out that the armoured train, which had left the Novgorod branch line for the Nikolai railway [9] and headed for Moscow, was far ahead of us. We forthwith sent a telegram to Okulovka and Bologoye, for the enemy train to be halted. At the same time we ourselves had to hurry along at incredible speed, for we were unexpectedly faced by a new task – to seize this armoured train which was evidently hastening to the aid of our enemies.

We asked the engine driver to put on maximum speed, so that we could catch up with the enemy. But the Provisional Government’s armoured train was also not wasting any time. Making only short stops, and those only at the major stations, it was flying at full speed towards Moscow.

At Okulovka Station we learnt that they had not managed to stop the armoured train, that it was carrying soldiers from the Shock Battalions, and that it had on board a maintenance squad, well equipped with all the necessary materials for maintenance. And here a curious fact became clear – that these White Guards were fleeing in panic from us. At any rate they had anxiously told the people at the station that they were being pursued by 5,000 sailors who were out to slaughter them. (Actually we sailors numbered only 750.) “Shall we get to Moscow soon?” they asked the railwaymen, agitatedly. At Okulovka, a station employee, evidently a Vikzhelite, complained to me, with unconcealed irritation, that our pursuit of the armoured train was disrupting the normal movement of rolling-stock and upsetting the established traffic-schedule. I could not avoid smiling at this naive grumbling at the fact that the revolution did not fit into the traffic-schedule of the Nikolai railway and firmly demanded that he hasten the departure of our echelon.

It was already dark when we arrived at Bologoye. Here, because of the presence of large railway workshops, the attitude taken towards our echelon was much more friendly. They told us that the White-Guard train had been halted at Bologoye, but had broken out not very long before, and turned into the Polotsk branch-line. After discussing the matter, we unanimously decided to continue our pursuit, especially as the distance between the two trains was markedly shortening all the time. The Bologoye railwaymen made every effort not to delay our train. Almost without stopping at this large junction we were switched to the Polotsk branch-line, and pushed on. After we had gone a few versts, Comrades Yeremeyev, Veger and others got out at a halt and organised a field headquarters there. We continued to chase the enemy armoured train. It was now late – a starry night. We advanced in warlike fashion, with lights extinguished. For the better safety of the locomotive we had it coupled at the rear, so that it pushed our carriages from behind. At the front of the train we put two open goods-trucks, each carrying two 75-millimetre naval guns. The sailor gunners, straining to go into battle, were as though frozen to their loaded guns. Slowly we drew closer. To the right of the track rows of telegraph wires hung down. “Ah, the rascals, they’ve decided to cut off our communication with our rear,” I thought. It was obvious that the thick cable had been skilfully cut through by someone who knew what he was doing and had used special tools. We were now fourteen versts from Bologoye. Standing on the front gun-platform and peering into the darkness that surrounded us, I suddenly perceived that just ahead, at a bend in the track, a long, shapeless silhouette was looming up. I signalled to the driver to slacken speed. Our train approached the sinister spot, going slower and slower. At last, when we were only a few hundred paces from the vague silhouette, which had now assumed the quite distinct outlines of a train, I ordered our driver to stop. Some of our men volunteered to go and reconnoitre. I formed a delegation of three and sent them into the enemy’s camp, while I waited impatiently for our main forces to come up. We in the vanguard, in our improvised armoured train, were an insignificant handful. The detachment of sailors who were following in our other echelon were stuck somewhere behind us. Their absence gave no cause to worry.

Eventually the reconnaissance party returned. It turned out that soldiers from the village of Kuzhenkino, which lay ahead of us, had torn up a long stretch of track and thereby prevented the shock-troops’ armoured locomotive from proceeding. They were caught in a trap, for behind their locomotive stood a train formed only of passenger coaches, with the crew, and close up to them now was our armoured train, which consisted, as I have mentioned, of two open goods-trucks, armed with four cannon and six machineguns. Together with our returning reconnaissance party came a delegation from the shock-troops, consisting of two soldiers, led by an officer. I accompanied the delegation into a carriage and entered into ‘diplomatic’ negotiations with them. Our entire task consisted in gaining time while the sailors’ detachment came up, and not starting military operations till then. Hardly able to speak for emotion, the delegates from the shock-troops, prompting and interrupting each other, told us that their train had set out from Gatchina for the German front, as they had decided to observe ‘neutrality’ and abstain from participation in the civil war. It thus emerged that this armoured train was the very one that had taken part in the fighting near Alexandrovskoye and had inflicted serious losses upon us. It was probably one of its shells that had killed Vera Slutskaya. [10] The shock-troops said that they had been sent to the Tsarskoye Selo front on the pretext that they were to put down disorders by ‘rabble’ and hooligans. “But when we saw that it was soldiers like ourselves who were facing us,” said the officer, “when we saw the soldiers’ great­coats, we realised at once that we had been deluded, and decided to return to the front, to get on with the war against the Germans.” However, the choice of the Nikolai railway as the shortest route between Gatchina and the front seemed suspicious to us, and we saw through this story of theirs without difficulty, though the shock-troops tried to dispose of the glaring contradiction in it by means of the very far-fetched and unconvincing explanation that the track near Dno station had been torn up, so that, willy-nilly, they had had to take the line leading to Staraya Russa and Novgorod. Passing to concrete proposals, the shock-troops asked for only one thing – to be allowed free passage to the front, to continue the fight against the Germans. I did not oppose their demand in so many words: on the contrary, I said that they probably would be enabled to return to General Headquarters, which was where they claimed to be heading.

Meanwhile, to our inexpressible joy, the sailors’ detachment came up. [11] The situation now altered sharply. I immediately ordered the sailors to get down from the carriages and then, taking with me Comrade Berg and another sailor, I went with the shock-troops’ delegates to their armoured train. When we were not far from it one of the shock-troop who was standing on guard called out to us. I examined the train with interest. It consisted entirely of passenger coaches. “Oho, the shock-troops live well,” I thought, comparing their echelon with ours, in which only the staff occupied a third-class carriage, while all the rest of the sailor comrades were in mere heated goods-vans, without any comfort.

At last we came alongside the military carriages. These were luxurious affairs, equipped with the last word in technique and protected with gigantic ‘tortoise-shells’ of thick armour. From their apertures peered out the muzzles of two three-inch cannon and sixteen Austrian-type machineguns. Between the two formidably-towering armoured carriages stood the locomotive, itself sheathed in armour. An open battle fought under equal conditions with such a Leviathan-like monster was, of course, quite beyond our power. It could have reduced to splinters our amateurishly-armed goods-trucks. I went back to the detachment, where I was impatiently awaited. The shock-troops did not try to hinder me. Altogether, it was clear that they were in great confusion.

Since the wires had been cut, we had no means of communication with our headquarters, that is, with Comrades Yeremeyev and Veger, and so we had to decide for ourselves what to do next. What was of vital importance, of course, was that the soldiers of the army unit stationed in Kuzhenkino village, having received warning of the approach of the shock-troops’ armoured train, had torn up the rails over a stretch of several versts. Consequently, the enemy train could not get away by pushing on, and behind it, right up against its last carriage, stood our ‘armoured’ goods-trucks, with the barrels of our 75-millimetre guns aimed at it. This unfortunate situation of the splendidly equipped White-Guard armoured train, caught between two fires, had reduced its personnel to panic. The sailors insisted that the armoured train must not be let slip, and I fully agreed with them. To lose such a prize, and to allow the armoured train to commit excesses somewhere else, would have been an unforgivable mistake.

Comrade Berg volunteered to undertake ‘diplomatic’ negotiations. I attached two other lads to him, and the ‘peace delegation’ was ready. Before Berg set off I gave him his instructions: he was to address the military crew of the armoured train and get them to surrender. If the shock-troops resisted, he was to present them with an ultimatum: either they laid down their arms or, within half-an-hour, we would open fire on them, and their train would be taken by force. “Oh, I’ll show them. In a case like this you have to terrorise them,” boomed Berg in his cheery way, and from excess of warlike feeling rolled up the right sleeve of his pea-jacket, displaying a strong, sinewy arm. We laughed, and saw Berg off, until his stocky, thickset figure was lost in the darkness of the night. I returned to the carriage and, from weariness, stretched out at full length on the wooden bunk of this third-class carriage, resting my head on a comrade’s knee. I had scarcely managed to sink into a deep sleep when I was suddenly awakened by a loud thump. It was Alexei Baranov, whom joy had caused to break into a dance. Berg had just come back, excitedly stroking his moustaches, to tell us, in a tired, hoarse voice that the Whites had accepted our ultimatum and surrendered.

We hastened to the armoured train and at once disarmed all the officers and put them under arrest. Then; stooping to get through the doors, we entered the armoured cupolas and appointed a crew for the cannon and machine-guns. Many men wanted this job: it was flattering to anyone to work on such a splendid armoured train. We were amazed by the perfection of its technical equipment. The locomotive, especially, attracted our interest. It was clothed all over in armour, like a mediaeval knight. We learnt that, when the soldiers had decided on voluntary surrender, the commander of the armoured train and some of his officers had at once, like cowards, fled into the forest. They made a bad choice. Nearly all the officer fugitives were caught by the soldiers of the Kuzhenkino garrison, and shot, whereas all those who had unquestioningly submitted themselves to the mercy of the victors were sent under escort to Petrograd, to be handed over to the Military Revolutionary Committee, and their lives were not in danger. The railway shock-battalion which had formed the crew of the armoured train numbered about 150, of whom 30 were officers.

It was already light when, with our captured trophy attached to our own train, we returned to Bologoye. At the halt where we had established our headquarters we picked up Comrades Yeremeyev and Veger and the others. They congratulated us heartily. I travelled to Bologoye in the armoured train. The sailor comrades counted the rifles we had captured, of which there were a great number. During this trip a group of sailors from our echelon came to me in my armoured carriage and presented me with a weapon – a beautiful sabre in a silver scabbard, which they had found in the coupe of the runaway commander of the armoured train. Those who had till recently been his subordinates said that he had been given this sabre by Nicholas in person, because he had once shot down a German aeroplane with one of his guns.

We did not stay long in Bologoye. We had to send the White-Guard prisoners to Petrograd and change locomotives in order to continue our journey to Moscow. The railwaymen of Bologoye, whose attitude was excellent, did their best not to delay us. To have my sleep out I chose one of the heated goods-vans, where an iron stove was burning, and lay down side by side with the comrades. I was awakened at Vyshy Volochok, where they told me that Comrade Ryazanov was telephoning me from Petrograd. I went to the station telephone booth. Speaking loudly and clearly and pronouncing every word slowly, Comrade Ryazanov gave me the latest political news concerning the events in Moscow. He said that an agreement had been reached between the Soviet forces and the White Guards, on the basis of which military operations had been stopped and the White Guards disarmed. It was clear that the October Revolution had triumphed not only in Petrograd but in Moscow as well. I almost shouted ‘Hurrah’ into the telephone. Then I ran back to the train to pass on the glad news to the comrades.

They all received it enthusiastically, although it was not yet certain how firmly our victory had been consolidated in Moscow and to what extent the prospect of renewed fighting in that city’s streets had been eliminated. At Klin Station, when it was already well on into the evening, somebody in an army greatcoat informed us triumphantly that a soldier named Muralov had been appointed commander of the troops in Moscow District. Although his name meant nothing to any of us at that time, this news caused general exultation. Confidence was inspired not by the name of Muralov but by the fact that he was a soldier. Moving on slowly, we reached Moscow only as dawn was breaking.

Our train had not long got in at the passenger platform of the Nikolai Station when I was told of an unhappy event. One of our sailors had left the train and gone into the town, but, on the bridge not far from the station, as a result of careless handling on his part, a grenade he was carrying had exploded and blown him to pieces. We were deeply saddened by this first, accidental loss we had suffered in the streets of Moscow.

The city seemed peaceful and calm. Only the numerous groups of passers-by who were heatedly arguing about politics showed that the situation was abnormal. The first and second-class passengers’ hall was crowded. Not only were all the tables taken, but even in the aisles and along the walls a great number of travellers were sitting or lying on the ground. In the buffet every table had its queue of candidates, who dashed to occupy any seat as soon as it was given up. I sat down at a table at which Yeremeyev, Veger and Potapov were already sitting, ordered tea, and the old-regime waiter swiftly disappeared behind the counter on which huge pink hams were displayed. In short, everything testified – with the plump hams offering their silent confirmation – that life had returned to normal. Only the great number of passengers who had been obliged, before they could get away, to spend the night in the station, in the waiting room and even in the buffet, served as eloquent proof of the prolonged interruption in traffic.

We had to report for orders to the Moscow Military Revolutionary Committee. There were no means of conveyance available, so we had no choice but to walk. In Myasnitskaya Street we were struck by the numerous traces of bullets, the walls and windows riddled with holes. The Metropole presented an even bigger scene of destruction, for here could be observed the effects of accurately-aimed shells, with whole window-frames knocked out, cornices broken off and the mosaic decorations of the facade badly damaged. Some Muscovite passers-by obligingly explained to me that during the recent fighting the Cadets had held the Metropole, and had had to be ‘dispersed’ by gunfire.

At the Military Revolutionary Committee, which was housed in the building of the Moscow Soviet, I spotted first Comrade V.P. Nogin, talking with visitors in the large, light room which served as both secretariat and reception-room. In the room where the committee held its meetings I found Comrade G.I. Lomov (Oppokov) who was in charge of all current business. He kept having to dash into the Secretariat next door to hand over for typing some document he had got ready and formed the impression that he, in Moscow, was doing the same sort of organisational work as V.A. Antonov-Ovseyenko had undertaken in Petrograd in the first days of the Revolution Comrade Lomov looked extremely tired: his face bore the obvious marks of nights without sleep. However, this physical fatigue did not show itself at all in his work, which bowled along quickly and accurately. Comrade Lomov supplied me without delay with all the documents I needed. From the Military Revolutionary Committee I went to Prechistenka Street, where Moscow Military District had its headquarters. Without having to wait my turn I was shown into Muralov’s office. “Ah, hullo, comrade,” said Nikolai lvanovich [Muralov], in an unusually cordial tone. “Are you Raskolnikov-Roshal?” was his first question. I had to explain that I was only Raskolnikov, and that Roshal was a great friend of mine with whom I had worked at Kronstadt and who had suffered equally with me the frenzied hounding of the bourgeois press, which had turned us into twin brothers.

Comrade Muralov expressed great pleasure at the arrival of our detachment. Acquainting me with the political situation that had been created in Moscow, he said that, despite the victory won by the Soviet forces, there were still many hostile elements at large in the city, and one could not rule out the possibility of a renewed White-Guard outbreak, or, even more probably, of hooligan rioting. We agreed to go that evening to the Military Revolutionary Committee, to plan the next tasks for our detachment. As I left Muralov’s office I met in his waiting-room – where there were a great many visitors to see him, mostly former officers – Comrade A.Ya. Arosev, one of Muralov’s closest military assistants. I remembered him from the April Party Conference and from Kronstadt, which he had visited not long before the July days. He took me by the arm and led me into his office. Outside it stood a queue even longer than the one outside Muralov’s office. Most of the former officers who wanted to see him had come to obtain new, Soviet documents, to get written authority giving them the right to bear arms, or to ask for permission to go on leave. Arosev had frequently to interrupt talk with a visitor because the staff adjutant brought him from time to time a weighty stack of papers and certificates to be signed. Besides Comrade Arosev, who looked after the technical side of the staff work, N.I. Muralov’s closest assistants were, for the political work, Comrade Mandelshtam (‘Odissei’), an old Party worker, and, for troop movements, a young officer, a Left-SR named Vladimirsky, who held the post of chief of army communications: For special tasks Muralov used Comrade Chikolini. There were also some other responsible workers at his headquarters.

From Prechistenka Street I returned to our echelon. The sailor comrades complained of their hard conditions in the goods-vans and asked to be quartered in the city, Khovrin, Zheleznyakov and I went off to find billets. Not far from the Nikolai Station, in Krasnye Vorota, we came upon the large three-storeyed building of an ‘Institute for Young Ladies’. We went into the office and asked to see some member of the administrative staff. The Principal soon appeared, surrounded by her schoolmistresses. They all looked very alarmed. To their question: “What can we do for you?” we replied by explaining that we represented a detachment of sailors which had arrived from Petrograd, and said that, as we needed billets, we wanted to inspect the premises of the Institute. The ladies protested and the Principal, a short, thin, elderly woman with greying hair, kept repeating: “But, you see, we have girls here...we have girls here...” We reassured the distressed old lady that the inmates of the Institute could remain serenely in their own accommodation, as we would take only the unoccupied rooms on the ground floor. “We will protect you,” said the sailors who accompanied me, not without pride. The schoolmistresses reacted to these words with definite, clearly-expressed lack of confidence. We proceeded to carry out our inspection. The building was extremely large. On the ground floor there was a handsome, spacious lobby, an office, a teachers’ room and other work-rooms. On the first floor there was an assembly-room of colossal dimensions, and some classrooms. We did not even go up to the second floor: it was clear that we did not need it. We announced that, to start with, we would require to occupy the ground floor only. The Principal and the schoolmistresses, who were in despair, did not even try to protest.

Our entire detachment was soon moved into this building. We managed to obtain only a few beds: those who did not get them would have to sleep on the floor. After a couple of days we found that we did need to occupy the first floor, after all, mainly so as to make use of its great hall, which was transformed, for the time being, into a common-room.

That evening I attended the meeting of the Moscow Revolutionary Committee. Present were M.N. Pokrovsky, G.I. Lomov (Oppokov), G.A. Usiyevich and many other comrades. Comrade Pokrovsky was one of the outstanding leaders of the military revolutionary organisation in Moscow. On every question that came up he gave his opinion in a thorough and business-like way, and this was in most cases adopted by the meeting as the basis for its decision. Mikhail Nikolayevich [Pokrovsky] clothed all his thoughts in finished, literary sentences, and their clear, severely logical formulation greatly facilitated mutual understanding and the whole progress of the committee’s work. Our problem was disposed of very quickly. The Muscovites welcomed the arrival of the detachment from Petrograd and resolved to keep it in Moscow so as to deal with the White-Guard outbreaks that were expected, and to combat pogromist and criminal banditry.

Next day I had to go to Military District Headquarters again. According to information received, hidden somewhere in Bolshoi Chernyshevsky Lane, a street immediately adjoining the building of the Moscow Soviet, was the secret centre of a big organisation of White officers who possessed a quantity of arms. The sailors’ detachment was asked to carry out a general search of this neighbourhood. The Cheka had not yet been formed and so, owing to the absence of any division of labour, Cheka-type functions were performed by military detachments. In strict march formation we proceeded to the place mentioned and surrounded the suspect block. The search was begun at the end of the lane farthest from the Moscow Soviet. I personally led the detachment which carried out all the searches. The first house turned out to be a church house, in which the clergy of the nearby parish church lived with their families. Here the search passed off quickly and happily, without any incidents.

In the entrance of the next house, over the glass front door, hung a printed notice stating that the whole house was under the protection of the Swedish Embassy. This bit of paper, which may have been put there as a cover for the White Guard organisation, had the magical effect on us that it was supposed to have. We avoided this small stone house which had been so prudently placed under the protection of international law, and passed on to its less fortunate neighbour. What faced us now was a one-storey building which was occupied by the editorial and business offices of Russkie Vedomosti. On the premises of this liberal-professorial newspaper we found several venerable old men of distinguished appearance, who smelt of the lamp-oil of Cadet ‘love for the people’.

Our sailors, loudly banging the butts of their rifles on the floor, to the unfeigned anger of the liberal populists, marched in lengthy single file through the ill-proportioned and half-empty rooms, peering into all corners and rummaging in the cupboards and drawers. Only behind the door of one small room, which we had to break into because it was locked, did we find one rifle, of an archaic type. The cunning old men of Russkie Vedomosti proved to have been so farsighted that they had prepared in good time for our visit and had even cleared all papers out of the drawers of their desks. Naturally, we did not have the luck to find anything interesting there. From the premises of Russkie Vedomosti we went on to make a general search of a multi-storeyed stone house. We invited the chairman of the house organisation to be present during our search. This house consisted mainly of rich, luxuriously-furnished apartments. Here we managed to collect a considerable number of rifles, revolvers and fowling-pieces. We had no orders regarding the latter, and carried them off ‘just in case’, telling their owners to come and see us next day, when they could recover them if the Military Revolutionary Committee agreed. Our search of this house took several hours and it left us all pretty tired. When we had finished, we went into the apartment of the chairman of the house organisation and there drew up a statement and put the confiscated weapons in a basket, to which we affixed a seal. Some of the occupants of the house counted on getting their weapons back so as to organise a guard for the house. But these hopes were vain. Next day, the chairman of the house committee called on us to express the gratitude of all the occupants for the conscientious way we had carried out the search. Evidently these gentry, whose ideas about the sailors had been formed on the basis of the fantastic inventions of the bourgeois newspapers, had expected that our detachment would leave not one stone upon another of their bourgeois setup. We answered that we were only doing our duty and no gratitude was called for on their part. A few days later our sailors’ detachment was ordered by Military District headquarters to organise a raid on Khitrov Market.

The sailor comrades complained about their lack of clean underwear and asked for their worn-out boots to be replaced. I was sent to see Comrade Obolensky (Osinsky). I found him in one of the government buildings in the Sadovaya. Without any delay he issued an order for us to be given everything our detachments needed. We set off in a car to Zamoskvoreche, where there was a very big quartermaster’s stores, and had no difficulty in getting the underwear we wanted. For boots we had to go to Khodynka, where thousands of pairs of soldiers’ high boots lay about on the floor of a big shed. On another occasion Potapov and I needed to get some money for our detachments. After a series of ordeals, our Soviet chits were at last accepted by the semi-sabotaging officials, and we succeeded in getting the sum we needed from the revenue office in Vozdvizhenka Street.

One day I saw a strange procession. A funeral cortege was moving slowly through the streets of Moscow. A whole succession of elegant catafalques with rich baldachins was accompanied by crosses and banners, and priests arrayed in white vestments. Behind the coffins walked Cadets, officers and well-dressed bourgeois. They were burying the White Guards who had fallen in the fighting. They really did things in an original way in Moscow: one day they buried our men, and the next day the Cadets. Naturally, the White Guards did not fail to turn the funeral of their dead into a religious-clerical and counter-revolutionary demonstration.

Although our stay in Moscow was brief, our men succeeded in holding a ‘Sailors’ Meeting’. Posters two feet long were hand-painted, and Comrade Berg went out personally to stick them up at street-corners. The place for the meeting, Theatre Square, was not very well chosen. The idea was Comrade Berg’s: he anticipated with relish how, in the centre of the bourgeois quarter, the sailors would ‘thunder against the bourgeoisie’ in their speeches.

Few workers, indeed, came to the meeting. Instead, richly dressed passers-by were attracted by the spectacle, most unusual in Moscow’s squares, of sailors making speeches. The comrades explained the significance of the proletarian revolution and then, with all their fervour, denounced the sabotage being carried on by the intelligentsia. Many of the audience that had gathered were probably touched on the raw by this, but none of them let it show. The public remained silent and, when the speeches ended, expressed their approval in quite noisy applause. Comrade Berg’s powerful bass growled with particular force all across the square. I also spoke that day. The ‘Sailors’ Meeting’ passed off without any incidents. The bourgeois listeners were so terrorised by the mere sight of the Red sailors that none of them even dared to heckle.

Soon it became known that Kaledin was assembling Cossack regiments on the Don in order to attack the Soviet power. At a meeting of the Moscow Military Revolutionary Committee the decision was taken to send our detachment to the South, to combat the White-Guard Cossacks and rescue the Donets coal-basin. All members of the sailors’ detachments assembled at a meeting in the great assembly hall of the ‘Institute for Young Ladies’. Speeches were made by Comrades Pavlunovsky and Khovrin and by me.

The comrades responded with tremendous enthusiasm to the idea of going south. I, unfortunately, was not able to accompany the detachment, as I had just received a telegram calling me back urgently to Petrograd to work in the Commissariat of the Navy. I therefore asked the detachment to elect a command. Comrade Khovrin was unanimously chosen as commander, with Comrade Pavlunovsky as commissar and Comrade Ilyin-Zhenevsky as chief of staff.

The detachment applied itself feverishly to preparations for its faraway campaign. A month later, when I was in Petrograd, I was glad to hear that the detachment had heroically undergone its baptism of fire in Byelgorod district of Kursk province.

I left for Petrograd, to take part in building the Red Navy. A new stage in the proletarian revolution was beginning. We had entered the period of the civil war...


1. Bonch-Bruevich’s office in the Smolny Institute (which had replaced Kshesinskaya’s house as the Bolshevik headquarters) became the centre from which a Soviet intelligence service was organised, a sort of ‘pre-Cheka’ which was given the name of ‘Committee to Combat Pogroms’. He handed this work over to Dzerzhinsky’s newly-formed Cheka when the Soviet Government moved to Moscow in March 1918. See George Leggett, The Cheka (1981).

2. In his telegram sent from Pulkovo in the early morning of October 31 (old style), 1917, Trotsky wrote: “Revolutionary Russia and the Soviet power can be proud of their Pulkovo detachment, acting under the command of Colonel Walden. Eternal memory to those who fell in Glory to the warriors of the Revolution, the soldiers and officers who were faithful to the people!” John Reed, Ten Days That Shook The World, ed. Bertram D. Wolfe, 1960, pp.278279). In an article in Proletarskaya Revolyutisya, No. 10, 1922, Trotsky wrote that he thought Walden, like some other officers at this time, was inspired not so much by sympathy with Bolshevism as by hatred of Kerensky.

3. The district of Mugan, in the south-east corner of Russian Azerbaidjan, near the Iranian border, was settled by Russians. In 1919, after the withdrawal of the British troops, Soviet power was established in this area, but was quickly suppressed by the Musavatist (Moslem nationalist) Government which dominated the rest of the country. Soviet power was not finally established in Russian Azerbaidjan until 1920.

4. Peterhof is now called Petrodvorets.

5. ‘Vikzhel’ was the acronym standing for the railway workers’ union, whose leadership was at this time in the hands of SRs and Mensheviks.

6. Actually the railway bridge is much further up the Neva, beyond Malaya Okhta.

7. Lunacharsky’s letter of resignation from the Council of People’s Commissars, written when he heard that the Kremlin was being bombarded, is given by John Reed in Ten Days That Shook The World (ed. Bertram D. Wolfe, 1960, p. 326). He retracted his resignation soon afterward, and Reed also gives this statement (op. cit, p. 342). In it he said: “It is particularly terrible in these days of violent struggle, of destructive warfare, to be Commissar of Public Education...On me weighs the responsibility of protecting the artistic wealth of the people...Not being able to remain at my post, where I had no influence, I resigned. My comrades, the other Commissars, considered this resignation inadmissible. I shall therefore remain at my post...And, moreover, I understand that the damage done to the Kremlin is not as serious as has been reported.”

8. The ‘table of ranks’ was the hierarchical system created by Peter the Great, in which the ranks of all officials and officers in the Tsar’s service were strictly defined.

9. The Nikolai Railway was the line joining Petrograd to Moscow - Russia’s first railway, built in the reign of Nicholas I.

10. John Reed mentions being told, as he was being driven to Tsarskoye Selo: “Here was where Vera Slutskaya died. Yes, the Bolshevik member of the Duma. It happened early this morning. She was in an automobile, with Zalkind and another man. There was a truce, and they started for the front trenches. They were talking and laughing, when all of a sudden, from the armoured train in which Kerensky himself was riding, somebody saw the automobile and fired a cannon. The shell struck Vera Slutskaya and killed her.” (Ten Days That Shook The World, ed. Bertram D. Wolfe, p.306).

11. Raskolnikov’s narrative implies that the Bolsheviks’ train had been divided into two echelons, so that they must have acquired a second locomotive from somewhere, though he does not mention this specifically. Two other accounts of the incident, by llyin-Zhenevsky and Kolbin, say nothing of any splitting of the train. When the train arrived at a small station about 14 versts from Bologoye they were told by the station staff that the enemy train was held up only about half a verst - say, 500 yards - ahead. The placing of the locomotive at the rear of the train had presumably been done already at Bologoye. The accounts by Kolbin and Ilyin-Zhenevsky differ on a number of points from Raskolnikov’s.