Ten Days That Shook the World, by John Reed

Chapter 7

The Revolutionary Front

SATURDAY, November 10th. . . .

Citizens!

The Military Revolutionary Committee declares that it will not tolerate any violation of revolutionary order. . . .

Theft, brigandage, assaults and attempts at massacre will be severely punished. . . .

Following the example of the Paris Commune, the Committee will destroy without mercy any looter or instigator of disorder. . . .

Quiet lay the city. Not a hold-up, not a robbery, not even a drunken fight. By night armed patrols went through the silent streets, and on the corners soldiers and Red Guards squatted around little fires, laughing and singing. In the daytime great crowds gathered on the sidewalks listening to interminable hot debates between students and soldiers, business men and workmen.

Citizens stopped each other on the street.

“The Cossacks are coming?”

“No. . . . ”

“What’s the latest?”

“I don’t know anything. Where’s Kerensky?”

“They say only eight versts from Petrograd. . . . Is it true that the Bolsheviki have fled to the battleship Avrora?“

“They say so. . . . ”

Only the walls screamed, and the few newspapers; denunciation, appeal, decree. . . .

An enormous poster carried the hysterical manifesto of the Executive Committee of the Peasant’ Soviets:

. . . . They (the Bolsheviki) dare to say that they are supported by the Soviets of Peasants’ Deputies, and that they are speaking on behalf of the Soviets of Peasants’ Deputies. . . .

Let all working-class Russia know that this is a LIE, AND THAT ALL THE WORKING PEASANTS-in the person of — the EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE OF THE ALL-RUSSIAN SOVIETS OF PEASANTS’ DEPUTIES-refutes with indignation all participation of the organised peasantry in this criminal violation of the will of the working-classes. . . .

From the Soldier Section of the Socialist Revolutionary party:

The insane attempt of the Bolsheviki is on the eve of collapse. The garrison is divided. . . . The Ministries are on strike and bread is getting scarcer. All factions except the few Bolsheviki have left the Congress. The Bolsheviki are alone. . . .

We call upon all sane elements to group themselves around the Committee for Salvation of Country and Revolution, and to prepare themselves seriously to be ready at the first call of the Central Committee. . . .

In a hand-bill the Council of the Republic recited its wrongs:

Ceding to the force of bayonets, the Council of the Republic has been obliged to separate, and temporarily to interrupt its meetings.

The usurpers, with the words “Liberty and Socialism” on their lips, have set up a rule of arbitrary violence. They have arrested the members of the Provisional Government, closed the newspapers, seized the printing-shops. . . . This power must be considered the enemy of the people and the Revolution; it is necessary to do battle with it, and to pull it down. . . .

The Council of the Republic, until the resumption of its labours, invites the citizens of the Russian Republic to group themselves around the. . . . local Committees for Salvation of Country and Revolution, which are organising the overthrow of the Bolsheviki and the creation of a Government capable of leading the country to the Constituent Assembly.

Dielo Narodasaid:

A revolution is a rising of all the people. . . . But here what have we? Nothing but a handful of poor fools deceived by Lenin and Trotzky. . . . Their decrees and their appeals will simply add to the museum of historical curiosities. . . .

And Narodnoye Slovo(People’s Word–Populist Socialist):

“Workers’ and Peasants’ Government?” That is only a pipedream; nobody, either in Russia or in the countries of our Allies, will recognise this “Government” — or even in the enemy countries. . . .

The bourgeois press had temporarily disappeared. . . . Pravada had an account of the first meeting of the new Tsay-ee-kah, now the parliament of the Russian Soviet Republic. Miliutin, Commissar of Agriculture, remarked that the Peasants’ Executive Committee had called an All–Russian Peasant Congress for December 13th.

“But we cannot wait,” he said. “We must have the backing of the peasants. I propose that we call the Congress of Peasants, and do it immediately. . . . ” The Left Socialist Revolutionaries agreed. An Appeal to the Peasants of Russia was hastily drafted, and a committee of five elected to carry out the project.

The question of detailed plans for distributing the land, and the question of Workers’ Control of Industry, were postponed until the experts working on them should submit a report.

Three decrees (See App. VII, Sect. 1) were read and approved: first, Lenin’s “General Rules For the Press,” ordering the suppression of all newspapers inciting to resistance and disobedience to the new Government, inciting to criminal acts, or deliberately perverting the news; the Decree of Moratorium for House-rents; and the Decree Establishing a Workers’ Militia. Also orders, one giving the Municipal Duma power to requisition empty apartments and houses, the other directing the unloading of freight cars in the railroad terminals, to hasten the distribution of necessities and to free the badly-needed rolling-stock. . . .

Two hours later the Executive Committee of the Peasants’ Soviets was sending broadcast over Russia the following telegram:

The arbitrary organisation of the Bolsheviki, which is called “Bureau of Organisation for the National Congress of Peasants,“is inviting all the Peasants’ Soviets to send delegates to the Congress at Petrograd. . . .

The Executive Committee of the Soviets of Peasants’ Deputies declares that it considers, now as well as before, that it would be dangerous to take away from the provinces at this moment the forces necessary to prepare for elections to the Constituent Assembly, which is the only salvation of the working-class and the country. We confirm the date of the Congress of Peasants, December 13th.

At the Duma all was excitement, officers coming and going, the Mayor in conference with the leaders of the Committee for Salvation. A Councillor ran in with a copy of Kerensky’s proclamation, dropped by hundreds from an aeroplane low flying down the Nevsky, which threatened terrible vengeance on all who did not submit, and ordered soldiers to lay down their arms and assemble immediately in Mars Field.

The Minister–President had taken Tsarskoye Selo, we were told, and was already in the Petrograd campagna, five miles away. He would enter the city to-morrow-in a few hours. The Soviet troops in contact with his Cossacks were said to be going over to the Provisional Government. Tchernov was somewhere in between, trying to organise the “neutral” troops into a force to halt the civil war.

In the city the garrison regiments were leaving the Bolsheviki, they said. Smolny was already abandoned. . . . All the Governmental machinery had stopped functioning. The employees of the State Bank had refused to work under Commissars from Smolny, refused to pay out money to them. All the private banks were closed. The Ministries were on strike. Even now a committee from the Duma was making the rounds of business houses, collecting a fund to pay the salaries of the strikers. . . .

Trotzky had gone to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and ordered the clerks to translate the Decree on Peace into foreign languages; six hundred functionaries had hurled their resignations in his face. . . . Shliapnikov, Commissar of Labour, had commanded all the employees of his Ministry to return to their places within twenty-four hours, or lose their places and their pension-rights; only the door-servants had responded. . . . Some of the branches of the Special Food Supply Committee had suspended work rather than submit to the Bolsheviki. . . . In spite of lavish promises of high wages and better conditions, the operators at the Telephone Exchange would not connect Soviet headquarters. . . .

The Socialist Revolutionary Party had voted to expel all members who had remained in the Congress of Soviets, and all who were taking part in the insurrection. . . .

News from the provinces. Moghilev had declared against the Bolsheviki. At Kiev the Cossacks had overthrown the Soviets and arrested all the insurrectionary leaders. The Soviet and garrison of Luga, thirty thousand strong, affirmed its loyalty to the Provisional Government, and appealed to all Russia to rally around it. Kaledin had dispersed all Soviets and Unions in the Don Basin, and his forces were moving north. . . .

Said a representative of the Railway Workers: “Yesterday we sent a telegram all over Russia demanding that war between the political parties cease at once, and insisting on the formation of a coalition Socialist Government. Otherwise we shall call a strike to-morrow night. . . . In the morning there will be a meeting of all factions to consider the question. The Bolsheviki seem anxious for an agreement. . . . ”

“If they last that long!” laughed the City Engineer, a stout, ruddy man. . . .

As we came up to Smolny-not abandoned, but busier than ever, throngs of workers and soldiers running in and out, and doubled guards everywhere-we met the reporters for the bourgeois and “moderate” Socialist papers.

“Threw us out!” cried one, from Volia Naroda. “Bonch–Bruevitch came down to the Press Bureau and told us to leave! Said we were spies!” They all began to talk at once: “Insult! Outrage! Freedom of the press!”

In the lobby were great tables heaped with stacks of appeals, proclamations and orders of the Military Revolutionary Committee. Workmen and soldiers staggered past, carrying them to waiting automobiles.

One began:

TO THE PILLORY!

In this tragic moment through which the Russian masses are living, the Mensheviki and their followers and the Right Socialist Revolutionaries have betrayed the working-class. They have enlisted on the side of Kornilov, Kerensky and Savinkov. . . .

They are printing orders of the traitor Kerensky and creating a panic in the city, spreading the most ridiculous rumours of mythical victories by that renegade. . . .

Citizens! Don’t believe these false rumours. No power can defeat the People’s Revolution. . . . Premier Kerensky and his followers await speedy and well-deserved punishment. . . .

We are putting them in the Pillory. We are abandoning them to the enmity of all workers, soldiers, sailors and peasants, on whom they are trying to rivet the ancient chains. They will never be able to wash from their bodies the stain of the people’s hatred and contempt.

Shame and curses to the traitors of the People! . . .

The Military Revolutionary Committee had moved into larger quarters, room 17 on the top floor. Red Guards were at the door. Inside, the narrow space in front of the railing was crowded with well-dressed persons, outwardly respectful but inwardly full of murder-bourgeois who wanted permits for their automobiles, or passports to leave the city, among them many foreigners. . . . Bill Shatov and Peters were on duty. They suspended all other business to read us the latest bulletins.

The One Hundred Seventy-ninth Reserve Regiment offers its unanimous support. Five thousand stevedores at the Putilov wharves greet the new Government. Central Committee of the Trade Unions-enthusiastic support. The garrison and squadron at Reval elect Military Revolutionary Committees to cooperate, and despatch troops. Military Revolutionary Committees control in Pskov and Minsk. Greetings from the Soviets of Tsaritzin, Rovensky-on-Don, Tchernogorsk, Sevastopol. . . . The Finland Division, the new Committees of the Fifth and Twelfth Armies, offer allegiance. . . .

From Moscow the news is uncertain. Troops of the Military Revolutionary Committee occupy the strategic points of the city; two companies on duty in the Kremlin have gone over to the Soviets, but the Arsenal is in the hands of Colonel Diabtsev and his yunkers. The Revolutionary Committee demanded arms for the workers, and Riabtsev parleyed with them until this morning, when suddenly he sent an ultimatum to the Committee, ordering Soviet troops to surrender and the Committee to disband. Fighting has begun. . . .

In Petrograd the Staff submitted to Smolny’s Commissars at once. The Tsentroflot, refusing, was stormed by Dybenko and a company of Cronstadt sailors, and a new Tsentroflot set up, supported by the Baltic and the Black Sea battleships. . . .

But beneath all the breezy assurance there was a chill premonition, a feeling of uneasiness in the air. Kerensky’s Cossacks were coming fast; they had artillery. Skripnik, Secretary of the Factory–Shop Committees, his face drawn and yellow, assured me that there was a whole army corps of them, but he added, fiercely, “They’ll never take us alive!” Petrovsky laughed weariedly, “To-morrow maybe we’ll get a sleep — a long one. . . . ” Lozovsky, with his emaciated, red-bearded face, said, “What chance have we? All alone. . . . A mob against trained soldiers!”

South and south-west the Soviets had fled before Kerensky, and the garrisons of Gatchina, Pavlovsk, Tsarskoye Selo were divided-half voting to remain neutral, the rest, without officers, falling back on the capital in the wildest disorder.

In the halls they were pasting up bulletins:

FROM KRASNOYE SELO, NOVEMBER 10TH, 8 A.M.

To be communicated to all Commanders of Staffs, Commanders in Chief, Commanders, everywhere and to all, all, all.

The ex-Minister Kerensky has sent a deliberately false telegram to every one everywhere to the effect that the troops of revolutionary Petrograd have voluntarily surrendered their arms and joined the armies of the former Government, the Government of Treason, and that the soldiers have been ordered by the Military Revolutionary Committee to retreat. The troops of a free people do not retreat nor do they surrender.

Our troops have left Gatchina in order to avoid bloodshed between themselves and their mistaken brother-Cossacks, and in order to take a more convenient position, which is at present so strong that if Kerensky and his companions in arms should even increase their forces ten times, still there would be no cause for anxiety. The spirit of our troops is excellent.

In Petrograd all is quiet.

Chief of the Defence of Petrograd and the Petrograd District,

Lieutenant–Colonel Muraviov.

As we left the Military Revolutionary Committee Antonov entered, a paper in his hand, looking like a corpse.

“Send this,” said he.

TO ALL DISTRICT SOVIETS OF WORKERS’ DEPUTIES AND FACTORYSHOP COMMITTEES

The Kornilovist bands of Kerensky are threatening the approaches to the capital. All the necessary orders have been given to crush mercilessly the counter-revolutionary attempt against the people and its conquests.

The Army and the Red Guard of the Revolution are in need of the immediate support of the workers.

WE ORDER THE WARD SOVIETS AND FACTORY-SHOP COMMITTEES:

1. To move out the greatest possible number of workers for the digging of trenches, the erection of barricades and reinforcing of wire entanglements.

2. Wherever it shall be necessary for this purpose to stop work at the factories this shall be done immediately.

3. All common and barbed wire available must be assembled, and also all implements for the digging of trenches and the erection of barricades.

4. All available arms must be taken.

5. THE STRICTEST DISCIPLINE IS TO BE OBSERVED, AND EVERY ONE MUST BE READY TO SUPPORT THE ARMY OF THE REVOLUTION BY ALL MEANS.

Chairman of the Petrograd Soviet of Worker’s and Soldiers’ Deputies,

People’s Commissar LEON TROTZKY.

Chairman of the Military Revolutionary Committee,

Commander in Chief PODVOISKY.

As we came out into the dark and gloomy day all around the grey horizon factory whistles were blowing, a hoarse and nervous sound, full of foreboding. By tens of thousands the working-people poured out, men and women; by tens of thousands the humming slums belched out their dun and miserable hordes. Red Petrograd was in danger! Cossacks! South and southwest they poured through the shabby streets toward the Moskovsky Gate, men, women and children, with rifles, picks, spades, rolls of wire, cartridge-belts over their working clothes. . . . Such an immense, spontaneous outpouring of a city never was seen! They rolled along torrent-like, companies of soldiers borne with them, guns, motor-trucks, wagons — the revolutionary proletariat defending with its breast the capital of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Republic!

Before the door of Smolny was an automobile. A slight man with thick glasses magnifying his red-rimmed eyes, his speech a painful effort, stood leaning against a mud-guard with his hands in the pockets of a shabby raglan. A great bearded sailor, with the clear eyes of youth, prowled restlessly about, absently toying with an enormous blue-steel revolver, which never left his hand. These were Antonov and Dybenko.

Some soldiers were trying to fasten two military bicycles on the running-board. The chauffeur violently protested; the enamel would get scratched, he said. True, he was a Bolshevik, and the automobile was commandeered from a bourgeois; true, the bicycles were for the use of orderlies. But the chauffeur’s professional pride was revolted. . . . So the bicycles were abandoned. . . .

The People’s Commissars for War and Marine were going to inspect the revolutionary front — wherever that was. Could we go with them? Certainly not. The automobile only held five — the two Commissars, two orderlies and the chauffeur. However, a Russian acquaintance of mine, whom I will call Trusishka, calmly got in and sat down, nor could any argument dislodge him. . . .

I see no reason to doubt Trusishka’s story of the journey. As they went down the Suvorovsky Prospect some one mentioned food. They might be out three or four days, in a country indifferently well provisioned. They stopped the car. Money? The Commissar of War looked through his pockets-he hadn’t a kopek. The Commissar of Marine was broke. So was the chauffeur. Trusishka bought the provisions. . . .

Just as they turned into the Nevsky a tire blew out.

“What shall we do?” asked Antonov.

“Commandeer another machine!” suggested Dybenko, waving his revolver. Antonov stood in the middle of the street and signalled a passing machine, driven by a soldier.

“I want that machine,” said Antonov.

“You won’t get it,” responded the soldier.

“Do you know who I am?” Antonov produced a paper upon which was written that he had been appointed Commander-in-Chief of all the armies of the Russian Republic, and that every one should obey him without question.

“I don’t care if you’re the devil himself,” said the soldier, hotly. “This machine belongs to the First Machine–Gun Regiment, and we’re carrying ammunition in it, and you can’t have it. . . . ”

The difficulty, however, was solved by the appearance of an old battered taxi-cab, flying the Italian flag. (In time of trouble private cars were registered in the name of foreign consulates, so as to be safe from requisition.) From the interior of this was dislodged a fat citizen in an expensive fur coat, and the party continued on its way.

Arrived at Narvskaya Zastava, about ten miles out, Antonov called for the commandant of the Red Guard. He was led to the edge of the town, where some few hundred workmen had dug trenches and were waiting for the Cossacks.

“Everything all right here, comrade?” asked Antonov.

“Everything perfect, comrade,” answered the commandant.

“The troops are in excellent spirits. . . . Only one thing-we have no ammunition. . . . ”

“In Smolny there are two billion rounds,” Antonov told him. “I will give you an order.” He felt in his pockets. “Has any one a piece of paper?”

Dybenko had none-nor the couriers. Trusishka had to offer his note-book. . . .

“Devil! I have no pencil!” cried Antonov. “Who’s got a pencil?” Needless to say, Trusishka had the only pencil in the crowd. . . .

We who were left behind made for the Tsarskoye Selo station. Up the Nevsky, as we passed, Red Guards were marching, all armed, some with bayonets and some without. The early twilight of winter was falling. Heads up they tramped in the chill mud, irregular lines of four, without music, without drums. A red flag crudely lettered in gold, “Peace! Land!” floated over them. They were very young. The expression on their faces was that of who know they are going to die. . . . Half-fearful, half-contemptuous, the crowds on the sidewalk watched them pass, in hateful silence. . . .

This pass was issued upon the recommendation of Trotzky three days after the Bolshevik Revolution. It gives me the right of free travel to the Northern front — and an added note on the back extends the permission to all fronts. It will be noticed that the text speaks of the Petersburg, instead of the Petrograd Soviet; it was the fashion among thorough-going internationalists to abolish all names which smacked of “patriotism”; but at the same time, it would not do to restore the “Saint.” . . .

(Translation)

Executive Committee
Petrograd Soviet of
Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies
Military Section
28th October, 1917 No. 1435

CERTIFICATE

The present certificate is given to the representative of the American Social Democracy, the internationalist comrade JOHN REED. The Military Revolutionary Committee of the Petersburg Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies gives him the right of free travel through the entire Northern front, for the purpose of reporting to our American comrades-internationalists concerning events in Russia. For the President
For the Secretary

At the railroad station nobody knew just where Kerensky was, or where the front lay. Trains went no further, however, than Tsarskoye. . . .

Our car was full of commuters and country people going home, laden with bundles and evening papers. The talk was all of the Bolshevik rising. Outside of that, however, one would never have realised that civil war was rending mighty Russia in two, and that the train was headed into the zone of battle. Through the window we could see, in the swiftly-deepening darkness, masses of soldiers going along the muddy road toward the city, flinging out their arms in argument. A freight-train, swarming with troops and lit up by huge bonfires, was halted on a siding. That was all. Back along the flat horizon the glow of the city’s lights faded down the night. A street-car crawled distantly along a far-flung suburb. . . .

Tsarskoye Selo-station was quiet, but knots of soldiers stood here and there talking in low tones and looking uneasily down the empty track in the direction of Gatchina. I asked some of them which side they were on. “Well,” said one, “we don’t exactly know the rights of the matter. . . . There is no doubt that Kerensky is a provocator, but we do not consider it right for Russian men to be shooting Russian men.”

In the station commandant’s office was a big, jovial, bearded common soldier, wearing the red arm-band of a regimental committee. Our credentials from Smolny commanded immediate respect. He was plainly for the Soviets, but bewildered.

“The Red Guards were here two hours ago, but they went away again. A Commissar came this morning, but he returned to Petrograd when the Cossacks arrived.”

“The Cossacks are here then?”

He nodded, gloomily. “There has been a battle. The Cossacks came early in the morning. They captured two or three hundred of our men, and killed about twenty-five.”

“Where are the Cossacks?”

“Well, they didn’t get this far. I don’t know just where they are. Off that way. . . . ” He waved his arm vaguely westward.

We had dinner-an excellent dinner, better and cheaper than could be got in Petrograd-in the station restaurant. Nearby sat a French officer who had just come on foot from Gatchina. All was quiet there, he said. Kerensky held the town. “Ah, these Russians,” he went on, “they are original! What a civil war! Everything except the fighting!”

We sallied out into the town. Just at the door of the station stood two soldiers with rifles and bayonets fixed. They were surrounded by about a hundred business men, Government officials and students, who attacked them with passionate argument and epithet. The soldiers were uncomfortable and hurt, like children unjustly scolded.

A tall young man with a supercilious expression, dressed in the uniform of a student, was leading the attack.

“You realise, I presume,” he said insolently, “that by taking up arms against your brothers you are making your-selves the tools of murderers and traitors?”

“Now brother,“answered the soldier earnestly, “you don’t understand. There are two classes, don’t you see, the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. We —”

“Oh, I know that silly talk!” broke in the student rudely. “A bunch of ignorant peasants like you hear somebody bawling a few catch-words. You don’t understand what they mean. You just echo them like a lot of parrots.” The crowd laughed. “I’m a Marxian student. And I tell you that this isn’t Socialism you are fighting for. It’s just plain pro-German anarchy!”

“Oh, yes, I know,” answered the soldier, with sweat dripping from his brow. “You are an educated man, that is easy to see, and I am only a simple man. But it seems to me —”

“I suppose,” interrupted the other contemptuously, “that you believe Lenin is a real friend of the proletariat?”

“Yes, I do,” answered the soldier, suffering.

“Well, my friend, do you know that Lenin was sent through Germany in a closed car? Do you know that Lenin took money from the Germans?”

“Well, I don’t know much about that,” answered the soldier stubbornly, “but it seems to me that what he says is what I want to hear, and all the simple men like me. Now there are two classes, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat —”

“You are a fool! Why, my friend, I spent two years in Schlüsselburg for revolutionary activity, when you were still shooting down revolutionists and singing ‘God Save the Tsar!’ My name is Vasili Georgevitch Panyin. Didn’t you ever hear of me?”

“I’m sorry to say I never did,” answered the soldier with humility. “But then, I am not an educated man. You are probably a great hero.”

“I am,” said the student with conviction. “And I am opposed to the Bolsheviki, who are destroying our Russia, our free Revolution. Now how do you account for that?”

The soldier scratched his head. “I can’t account for it at all,” he said, grimacing with the pain of his intellectual processes. “To me it seems perfectly simple-but then, I’m not well educated. It seems like there are only two classes, the proletariat and the bourgeoisie —”

“There you go again with your silly formula!” cried the student.

“— only two classes,” went on the soldier, doggedly.

ldquo;And whoever isn’t on one side is on the other . . . ”

We wandered on up the street, where the lights were few and far between, and where people rarely passed. A threatening silence hung over the place-as of a sort of purgatory between heaven and hell, a political No Man’s Land. Only the barber shops were all brilliantly lighted and crowded, and a line formed at the doors of the public bath; for it was Saturday night, when all Russia bathes and perfumes itself. I haven’t the slightest doubt that Soviet troops and Cossacks mingled in the places where these ceremonies were performed.

The nearer we came to the Imperial Park, the more deserted were the streets. A frightened priest pointed out the headquarters of the Soviet, and hurried on. It was in the wing of one of the Grand Ducal palaces, fronting the Park. The windows were dark, the door locked. A soldier, lounging about with his hands in the top of his trousers, looked us up and down with gloomy suspicion. “The Soviet went away two days ago,” said he. “Where?” A shrug. “Nie znayu. I don’t know.”

A little further along was a large building, brightly illuminated. From within came a sound of hammering. While we were hesitating, a soldier and a sailor came down the street, hand in hand. I showed them my pass from Smolny. “Are you for the Soviets?” I asked. They did not answer, but looked at each other in a frightened way.

“What is going on in there?” asked the sailor, pointing to the building.

“I don’t know.”

Timidly the soldier put out his hand and opened the door a crack. Inside a great hall hung with bunting and evergreens, rows of chairs, a stage being built.

A stout woman with a hammer in her hand and her mouth full of tacks came out. “What do you want?” she asked.

“Is there a performance to-night?” said the sailor, nervously.

“There will be private theatricals Sunday night,” she answered severely. “Go away.”

We tried to engage the soldier and sailor in conversation, but they seemed frightened and unhappy, and drew off into the darkness.

We strolled toward the Imperial Palaces, along the edge of the vast, dark gardens, their fantastic pavilions and ornamental bridges looming uncertainly in the night, and soft water splashing from the fountains. At one place, where a ridiculous iron swan spat unceasingly from an artificial grotto, we were suddenly aware of observation, and looked up to encounter the sullen, suspicious gaze of half a dozen gigantic armed soldiers, who stared moodily down from a grassy terrace. I climbed up to them. “Who are you?” I asked.

“We are the guard,” answered one. They all looked very depressed, as undoubtedly they were, from weeks and weeks of all-day all-night argument and debate.

“Are you Kerensky’s troops, or the Soviets’?”

There was silence for a moment, as they looked uneasily at each other. Then, “We are neutral,” said he.

We went on through the arch of the huge Ekaterina Palace, into the Palace enclosure itself, asking for headquarters. A sentry outside a door in a curving white wing of the Palace said that the commandant was inside.

In a graceful, white, Georgian room, divided into unequal parts by a two-sided fire-place, a group of officers stood anxiously talking. They were pale and distracted, and evidently hadn’t slept. To one, an oldish man with a white beard, his uniform studded with decorations, who was pointed out as the Colonel, we showed our Bolshevik papers.

He seemed surprised. “How did you get here without being killed?” he asked politely. “It is very dangerous in the streets just now. Political passion is running very high in Tsarskoye Selo. There was a battle this morning, and there will be another to-morrow morning. Kerensky is to enter the town at eight o’clock.”

“Where are the Cossacks?”

“About a mile over that way.” He waved his arm.

“And you will defend the city against them?”

“Oh dear no.” He smiled. “We are holding the city for Kerensky.” Our hearts sank, for our passes stated that we were revolutionary to the core. The Colonel cleared his throat. “About those passes of yours,” he went on. “Your lives will be in danger if you are captured. Therefore, if you want to see the battle, I will give you an order for rooms in the officers’ hotel, and if you will come back here at seven o’clock in the morning, I will give you new passes.”

“So you are for Kerensky?” we said.

“Well, not exactly for Kerensky.” The Colonel hesitated. “You see, most of the soldiers in the garrison are Bolsheviki, and to-day, after the battle, they all went away in the direction of Petrograd, taking the artillery with them. You might say that none of the soldiers are for Kerensky; but some of them just don’t want to fight at all. The officers have almost all gone over to Kerensky’s forces, or simply gone away. We are-ahem-in a most difficult position, as you see. . . . ”

We did not believe that there would be any battle. . . . The Colonel courteously sent his orderly to escort us to the railroad station. He was from the South, born of French immigrant parents in Bessarabia. “Ah,” he kept saying, “it is not the danger or the hardships I mind, but being so long, three years, away from my mother. . . . ”

Looking out of the window of the train as we sped through the cold dark toward Petrograd, I caught glimpses of clumps of soldiers gesticulating in the light of fires, and of clusters of armoured cars halted together at cross-roads, the chauffeurs hanging out of the turrets and shouting to each other. . . .

All the troubled night over the bleakflats leaderless bands of soldiers and Red Guards wandered, clashing and confused, and the Commissars of the Military Revolutionary Committee hurried from one group to another, trying to organise a defence. . . .

Back in town excited throngs were moving in tides up and down the Nevsky. Something was in the air. From the Warsaw Railway station could be heard far-off cannonade. In the yunker schools there was feverish activity. Duma members went from barracks to barracks, arguing and pleading, narrating fearful stories of Bolshevik violence-massacre of the yunkers in the Winter Palace, rape of the women soldiers, the shooting of the girl before the Duma, the murder of Prince Tumanov. . . . In the Alexander Hall of the Duma building the Committee for Salvation was in special session; Commissars came and went, running. . . . All the journalists expelled from Smolny were there, in high spirits. They did not believe our report of conditions in Tsarskoye. Why, everybody knew that Tsarskoye was in Kerensky’s hands, and that the Cossacks were now at Pulkovo. A committee was being elected to meet Kerensky at the railway station in the morning. . . .

One confided to me, in strictest secrecy, that the counter-revolution would begin at midnight. He showed me two proclamations, one signed by Gotz and Polkovnikov, ordering the yunker schools, soldier convalescents in the hospitals, and the Knights of St. George to mobilise on a war footing and wait for orders from the Committee for Salvation; the other from the Committee for Salvation itself, which read as follows:

To the Population of Petrograd!

Comrades, workers, soldiers and citizens of revolutionary Petrograd!

The Bolsheviki, while appealing for peace at the front, are inciting to civil war in the rear.

Do not dig their provocatory appeals!

Do not dig trenches!

Down with the traitorous barricades!

Lay down your arms!

Soldiers, return to your barracks!

The war begun in Petrograd-is the death of the Revolution!

In the name of liberty, land, and peace, unite around the Committee for Salvation of Country and Revolution!

As we left the Duma a company of Red Guards, stern-faced and desperate, came marching down the dark, deserted street with a dozen prisoners-members of the local branch of the Council of Cossacks, caught red-handed plotting counter-revolution in their headquarters. . . .

A soldier, accompanied by a small boy with a pail of paste, was sticking up great flaring notices:

By virtue of the present, the city of Petrograd and its suburbs are declared in a state of siege. All assemblies or meetings in the streets, and generally in the open air, are forbidden until further orders.

N. PODVOISKY, President of the Military

Revolutionary Committee.

As we went home the air was full of confused sound-automobile horns, shouts, distant shots. The city stirred uneasily, wakeful.

In the small hours of the morning a company of yunkers, disguised as soldiers of the Semionovsky Regiment, presented themselves at the Telephone Exchange just before the hour of changing guard. They had the Bolshevik password, and took charge without arousing suspicion. A few minutes later Antonov appeared, making a round of inspection. Him they captured and locked in a small room. When the relief came it was met by a blast of rifle-fire, several being killed.

Counter-revolution had begun . . .

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Last updated Thursday, March 6, 2014 at 15:33