Kronstadt and Petrograd in 1917: the memoirs of Fyodor Raskolnikov

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 Azerbaidjan, [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.