From 4 A. M. until dawn Kerensky remained at the Petrograd Staff Headquarters, sending orders to the Cossacks and to the yunkers in the Officers’ Schools in and around Petrograd — all of whom answered that they were unable to move.
Colonel Polkovnikov, Commandant of the City, hurried between the Staff and the Winter Palace, evidently without any plan. Kerensky gave an order to open the bridges; three hours passed without any action, and then an officer and five men went out on their own initiative, and putting to flight a picket of Red Guards, opened the Nicolai Bridge. Immediately after they left, however, some sailors closed it again.
Kerensky ordered the print-shop of Rabotchi Put to be occupied. The officer detailed to the work was promised a squad of soldiers; two hours later he was promised some yunkers; then the order was forgotten.
An attempt was made to recapture the Post Office and the Telegraph Agency; a few shots were fired, and the Government troops announced that they would no longer oppose the Soviets.
To a delegation of yunkers Kerensky said, “As chief of the Provisional Government and as Supreme Commander I know nothing, I cannot advise you; but as a veteran revolutionist, I appeal to you, young revolutionists, to remain at your posts and defend the conquests of the Revolution.”
Orders of Kishkin, November 7th:
“By decree of the Provisional Government…. I am invested with extraordinary powers for the reestablishment of order in Petrograd, in complete command of all civil and military authorities….”
“In accordance with the powers conferred upon me by the Provisional Government, I herewith relieve from his functions as Commandant of the Petrograd Military District Colonel George Polkovnikov….”
Appeal to the Population signed by Vice–Premier Konovalov, November 7th:
“Citizens! Save the fatherland, the republic and your freedom. Maniacs have raised a revolt against the only governmental power chosen by the people, the Provisional Government….
“The members of the Provisional Government fulfil their duty, remain at their post, and continue to work for the good of the fatherland, the reestablishment of order, and the convocation of the Constituent Assembly, future sovereign of Russia and of all the Russian peoples….
“Citizens, you must support the Provisional Government. You must strengthen its authority. You must oppose these maniacs, with whom are joined all enemies of liberty and order, and the followers of the Tsarist régime, in order to wreck the Constituent Assembly, destroy the conquests of the Revolution, and the future of our dear fatherland….
“Citizens! Organise around the Provisional Government for the defence of its temporary authority, in the name of order and the happiness of all peoples….”
Proclamation of the Provisional Government.
“The Petrograd Soviet…. has declared the Provisional Government overthrown, and has demanded that the Governmental power be turned over to it, under threat of bombarding the Winter Palace with the cannon of Peter–Paul Fortress, and of the cruiser Avrora, anchored in the Neva.
“The Government can surrender its authority only to the Consituent Assembly; for that reason it has decided not to submit, and to demand aid from the population and the Army. A telegram has been sent to the Stavka; and an answer received says that a strong detachment of troops is being sent….
“Let the Army and the People reject the irresponsible attempts of the Bolsheviki to create a revolt in the rear….”
About 9 A. M. Kerensky left for the Front….
Toward evening two soldiers on bicycles presented themselves at the Staff Headquarters, as delegates of the garrison of Peter–Paul Fortress. Entering the meeting-room of the Staff, where Kishkin, Rutenburg, Paltchinski, General Bagratouni, Colonel Paradielov and Count Tolstoy were gathered, they demanded the immediate surrender of the Staff; threatening, in case of refusal, to bombard headquarters…. After two panicky conferences the Staff retreated to the Winter Palace, and the headquarters were occupied by Red Guards….
Late in the afternoon several Bolshevik armoured cars cruised around the Palace Square, and Soviet soldiers tried unsuccessfully to parley with the yunkers….
Firing on the Palace began about 7 o’clock in the evening….
At 10 P. M. began an artillery bombardment from three sides, in which most of the shells were blanks, only three small shrapnels striking the facade of the Palace….
Leaving Petrograd in the morning of November 7th, Kerensky arrived by automobile at Gatchina, where he demanded a special train. Toward evening he was in Ostrov, Province of Pskov. The next morning, extraordinary session of the local Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Depulies, with participation of Cossack delegates — there being 6,000 Cossacks at Ostrov.
Kerensky spoke to the assembly, appealing for aid against the Bolsheviki, and addressed himself almost exclusively to the Cossacks. The soldier delegates protested.
“Why did you come here?” shouted voices. Kerensky answered, “To ask the Cossacks’ assistance in crushing the Bolshevik insurrection!” At this there were violent protestations, which increased when he continued, “I broke the Kornilov attempt, and I will break the Bolsheviki!” The noise became so great that he had to leave the platform….
The soldier deputies and the Ussuri Cossacks decided to arrest Kerensky, but the Don Cossacks prevented them, and got him away by train…. A Military Revolutionary Committee, set up during the day, tried to inform the garrison of Pskov; but the telephone and telegraph lines were cut….
Kerensky did not arrive at Pskov. Revolutionary soldiers had cut the railway line, to prevent troops being sent against the capital. On the night of November 8th he arrived by automobile at Luga, where he was well received by the Death Battalions stationed there.
Next day he took train for the South–West Front, and visited the Army Committee at headquarters. The Fifth Army, however, was wild with enthusiasm over the news of the Bolshevik success, and the Army Committee was unable to promise Kerensky any support.
From there he went to the Stavka, at Moghilev, where he ordered ten regiments from different parts of the Front to move against Petrograd. The soldiers almost unanimously refused; and those regiments which did start halted on the way. About five thousand Cossacks finally followed him….
I do not mean to maintain that there was no looting, in the Winter Palace. Both after and before the Winter Palace fell, there was considerable pilfering. The statement of the Socialist Revolutionary paper Narod, and of members of the City Duma, to the effect that precious objects to the value of 500,000,000 rubles had been stolen, was, however, a gross exaggeration.
The most important art treasures of the Palace — paintings, statues, tapestries, rare porcelains and armorie — had been transferred to Moscow during the month of September; and they were still in good order in the basement of the Imperial Palace there ten days after the capture of the Kremlin by Bolshevik troops. I can personally testify to this….
Individuals, however, especially the general public, which was allowed to circulate freely through the Winter Palace for several days after its capture, made away with table silver, clocks, bedding, mirrors and some odd vases of valuable porcelain and semi-precious stone, to the value of about $50,000.
The Soviet Government immediately created a special commission, composed of artists and archæologists, to recover the stolen objects. On November 1st two proclamations were issued:
“CITIZENS OF PETROGRAD!
“We urgently ask all citizens to exert every effort to find whatever possible of the objects stolen from the Winter Palace in the night of November 7–8, and to forward them to the Commandant of the Winter Palace.
“Receivers of stolen goods, antiquarians, and all who are proved to be hiding such objects will be held legally responsible and punished with all severity.
“Commissars for the Protection of Museums and Artistic Collections,
“G. YATMANOV, B. MANDELBAUM.”
“TO REGIMENTAL AND FLEET COMMITTEES
“In the night of November 7–8, in the Winter Palace, which is the inalienable property of the Russian people, valuable objects of art were stolen.
“We urgently appeal to all to exert every effort, so that the stolen objects are returned to the Winter Palace.
“G. YATMANOV, B. MANDELBAUM.”
About half the loot was recovered, some of it in the baggage of foreigners leaving Russia.
A conference of artists and archæologists, held at the suggestion of Smolny, appointed a commission of make an inventory of the Winter Palace treasures, which was given complete charge of the Palace and of all artistic collections and State museums in Petrograd. On November 16th the Winter Palace was closed to the public while the inventory was being made….
During the last week in November a decree was issued by the Council of People’s Commissars, changing the name of the Winter Palace to “People’s Museum,” entrusting it to the complete charge of the artistic-archæological commission, and declaring that henceforth all Governmental activities within its wall were prohibited….
Immediately following the taking of the Winter Palace all sorts of sensational stories were published in the anti-Bolshevik press, and told in the City Duma, about the fate of the Women’s Battalion defending the Palace. It was said that some of the girl-soldiers had been thrown from the windows into the street, most of the rest had been violated, and many had committed suicide as a result of the horrors they had gone through.
The City Duma appointed a commission to investigate the matter. On November 16th the commission returned from Levashovo, headquarters of the Women’s Battalion. Madame Tyrkova reported that the girls had been at first taken to the barracks of the Pavlovsky Regiment, and that there some of them had been badly treated; but that at present most of them were at Levashovo, and the rest scattered about the city in private houses. Dr. Mandelbaum, another of the commission, testified drily that none of the women had been thrown out of the windows of the Winter Palace, that none were wounded, that three had been violated, and that one had committed suicide, leaving a note which said that she had been “disappointed in her ideals.”
On November 21st the Military Revolutionary Committee officially dissolved the Women’s Battalion, at the request of the girls themselves, who returned to civilian clothes.
In Louise Bryant’s book, “Six Red Months in Russia,” there is an interesting description of the girl-soldiers during this time.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:12