A. Badayev

The Bolsheviks in the Tsarist Duma


Chapter XXIV
The Arrest of the Fraction

How the Secret Police Made Ready for the Raid – The Raid – The Arrest – Maklakov Reports to Nicholas the Second – The Government Engineers the Trial – The Duma on the Arrest of the Fraction – Proclamation of the St. Petersburg Committee – Action of the Workers – Lenin on the Arrest of the Bolshevik Fraction

The archives of the police department, which are now thrown open to the public, show how the secret police made ready to deal with our conference. The tsarist government, which had been seeking this opportunity for a long time, decided that this was a chance to catch the Bolshevik deputies red-handed. Information concerning the conference was supplied by the agent “Pelageya,” the pseudonym of the agent-provocateur Romanov, a member of the Moscow Party organisation. Romanov was to take part in the conference as the delegate from Moscow, but when they decided to raid the conference, the secret police ordered him to stay away. The police department sent instructions to Moscow to the effect that “the presence of agents at the conference itself is not desirable, but they should remain in close touch with the delegates in order to be able to inform us of the time and place of the conference.” At the same time the Moscow secret police urged their agents to exert themselves to discover these particulars and “wire immediately to the department and to the chief of the Finnish gendarmerie so that the latter can arrange for the suppression of the conference.”

Assuming that the conference would be held in Mustamyaki, Finland, the task of raiding it and arresting the participants was entrusted to the Finnish gendarmerie. The director of the police department advised Colonel Yeryomin, chief of the Finnish forces, that “it is most desirable to discover at this conference members of the Social-Democratic fraction of the State Duma and that the correspondence on the liquidation of the conference be conducted in pursuance of the regulations relating to districts under martial law.”

The police department sent a circular telegram in code to the secret police departments of thirty-three cities instructing them to watch closely delegates from local organisations: “Take all necessary steps to find out the delegates, watch them and wire news of their departure to Colonel Yeryomin at Helsingfors and also to the department.”

Railway stations at St. Petersburg were flooded with spies and a special detachment of the secret police was sent to Finland to reinforce Colonel Yeryomin’s men. In Byeloostrov on the Finnish frontier, spies were posted who knew all the members of the fraction by sight. And, needless to say, the crowd of spies who dogged our footsteps in St. Petersburg increased and became more brazen than ever.

The Moscow agent-provocateur Romanov, informed the police about the conference itself and the date of its convocation, but it was undoubtedly the St. Petersburg agent-provocateur Shurkanov who revealed the place where it was to be held. Shurkanov, who was at that time working for the St. Petersburg Committee, was present at the preliminary meeting when the place was decided on and he hastened to inform his masters. Consequently the police obtained all the information they desired.

The documents of the secret police show that the arrest of our fraction was not a casual affair such as might happen at any time under a widespread system of spying. The government had decided that the Bolshevik fraction should be destroyed and all that remained was to choose the opportune moment and work out a strategical plan of attack. This was made possible through the work of the agents-provocateurs.

At about 5 p.m. on November 4, the third day of the conference, a deafening knock was heard on the door of the Gavrilovs’ house. In a few seconds the door had been forced and our room was invaded by a crowd of police and gendarmes. The police officer in charge drew his revolver and shouted: “Hands up.”

In reply to our protests, the officer declared that he had orders to effect a search and presented a document which, on the basis of Clause 23 of the State of Martial Law, authorised him to search the apartment and arrest all persons found in it.

First all the persons present who were not deputies, including Mrs. Gavrilov, were searched. But when the police attempted to search members of the Duma fraction, we protested vigorously and declared to the officer in charge:

“We shall not allow you to search or arrest us. As members of the Duma we enjoy parliamentary immunity according to Articles 15 and 16 of the State Duma Regulations. No one has the right to search or detain us without an authorisation from the Duma. The police are acting illegally and will be liable for committing this act.”

Our protest was so determined that it had its effect; the officer hesitated and went to telephone for further instructions. While some of us argued with the police, others managed to destroy many of the documents in our possession, first we destroyed all material concerning the conference, including the minutes, so that the police did not obtain a single document which established the nature of the gathering at Gavrilov’s house. We also managed to get rid of a number of papers containing Party addresses and instructions, but we did not have time to destroy all our papers.

The police officer returned with instructions to pay no attention to our protests and accompanied by another high official on whose order the police pounced on us. Each of us was seized by a few policemen and despite our desperate resistance we were all searched in turn. The search was conducted very thoroughly and everything was taken away, all literature, note-books and even our watches.

On Petrovsky they found a copy of the reply to Vandervelde, a copy of the theses on war, the number of the Sotsial-Demokrat containing the manifesto of the Central Committee and several pamphlets published abroad, including the constitution and programme of the Party.

From me the police took a similar collection of literature and a copy of the draft proclamation to the students and a passport in another name, one of the passports used in our illegal work. From Samoylov they obtained a copy of the paper, pamphlets and a note-book containing notes on which his report was based. No documents were found on Shagov.

The most compromising find of the police was Muranov’s note-book, which they discovered the following day in the lavatory, where Muranov had attempted to destroy it. In it, Muranov described with painstaking accuracy all his activity in the Urals, information concerning local organisations, pseudonyms of Party members, results of meetings, certain addresses, etc. Muranov’s book left no doubts as to the nature of the illegal work on which he was occupied.

After the search, all the members of the conference except the deputies were taken off to prison. The officer again telephoned to his superiors as to what he should do with the Duma members, and then he told us that we were free. On our release he returned our deputy-cards and all our possessions except the documents.

Twelve hours had passed since the appearance of the police and it was dawn when we left the house, the entire surrounding district, which was usually deserted, was flooded with police of all descriptions. Spies accompanied us to the nearest tramcar stop and several boarded the same tram.

The way in which the search was conducted and the subsequent behaviour of the police convinced us that the government would no longer respect the parliamentary immunity of the workers’ deputies and that we could expect another police raid at any moment. Therefore we took steps to make the news of the night’s events widely known in working-class districts and then proceeded to “clean up” and “put in order” our apartments.

Secret Party documents were kept in our apartments, which hitherto had been regarded as comparatively the safest place. There we had copies of Party instructions and addresses to which literature was to be sent, also correspondence, reports and lists of names, etc. We had established contacts in almost every city and if the documents fell into the hands of the police, thousands of Party members might be imprisoned or exiled and the entire Party organisation destroyed.

All these papers were hastily collected and burnt, so that there was only a handful of ashes waiting for the police to discover. We also had some account books and registers; I tore a number of pages out and destroyed the most compromising entries.

On November 5, the fraction met in my apartment to discuss the new situation. We decided in the first place to spread the news as widely as possible among the masses and, secondly, to apply to the Duma president for protection against the police infringement of our immunity as deputies. Although we realised that we could not count on any protection from the Black Hundred Duma, we decided to make as much fuss as possible in Duma circles in order to draw public attention to our case. After all Rodzyanko was bound to do something in the matter. The search and detention of deputies by the police was a violation of our Duma privileges and, for the sake of dignity, the president had to make some sort of protest.

It must be observed that although the Duma majority savagely attacked the “Left” deputies within the Duma, they were, in general, very touchy about any violation of their privileges. But, of course, their protests never went so far as a quarrel with the government and at the least threat on the part of the latter they ceased at once.

The fraction charged Petrovsky and myself with the task of conducting negotiations with Rodzyanko. We told him all the facts of our illegal detention and search and demanded that he should take steps to have the guilty persons prosecuted.

We left with him a written protest signed by all five of us. He promised to do everything within his competence, but what he actually did and what were the results of his actions will be seen from what follows.

When we left the Duma, the spies were more numerous and more brazen than in the morning; they appeared at each turning and round each corner and surrounded us in a close ring. Never before, notwithstanding the very close watch kept on us, was the behaviour of the police-agents so impudent. Like wild beasts which have tasted blood, they kept circling round us in expectation of the moment when they would be allowed to fall on their prey. For two years the secret police had been waiting for that moment and they were now rejoicing in their victory. This feeling of victory showed on the face of each spy, each police agent.

The police ring round us was becoming tighter and tighter. It was soon to engulf us.

Closely watched by the police in this way, as if afraid that we might escape at the last moment, we were of course unable to set into touch with workers’ organisations or organise a protest movement. All we could do was to examine and re-examine our documents and papers, so as to prevent anything incriminating falling into the hands of the police.

I was in bed and had just fallen asleep after several days of worry and anxiety when, about midnight, the bell rang and the police appeared at my door. “Mr. Badayev,” said a police officer at my bedside, “I have a warrant for your arrest.”

The long-expected moment had arrived. I dressed, packed a few necessities and said good-bye to my family. The whole house was full of police. I went down and out along the dark streets with the police, who took me to the detention prison in Shpalernaya Street. I was carefully searched and placed in solitary confinement. There I learned that all the other members of the fraction had also been arrested during the same night, November 5–6.

At last the tsarist government had laid our Bolshevik fraction by the heels. The question of parliamentary immunity of Bolshevik deputies, like every other attack on the working class, had been decided by the relation of forces, which at that moment seemed to be in favour of the government.

Maklakov, the Minister of the Interior, one of the most reactionary defenders of tsarist autocracy, hastened to report to Nicholas the Second the results of the police exploits at Ozyorky. The “most humble” report, dated November 5, was written before our arrest and apparently for the purpose of obtaining the necessary authority. In this report, Maklakov wrote:

The Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party exists in the Russian Empire for the purpose of overthrowing the existing regime and of establishing a republic. Since the commencement of the war, it has conducted propaganda for its speedy termination, setting forth as reasons for this course, the danger of the consolidation of the autocratic regime in case of victory and the consequent postponement of the realisation of the tasks of the Party.

Members of the Fourth State Duma who belong to the Social-Democratic Fraction take an active part in the propagation of these ideas and the fraction directs and guides the criminal activity of the party. The most glaring example of the subversive influence of these Social-Democratic deputies was the huge strike movement and street disorders for which they were responsible last year. Unfortunately it has been impossible to produce proof of their work so as to bring them to trial.

At last, however, the detective service which incessantly watches revolutionary groups, obtained information that the Social-Democratic deputies proposed to call a conference with the participation of prominent Social-Democrats in order to work out a programme of anti-war activity and the overthrow of the monarchic regime in Russia.

On November 4, in a private apartment twelve versts from, the capital, in the St. Petersburg District, detectives surprised a meeting attended by the following members of the Social-Democratic Fraction in the Fourth State Duma, Petrovsky, Badayev, Muranov, Shagov, Samoylov, and by six representatives of the Party from various parts of the empire. When the police questioned them as to the object of the meeting, they replied that it was in celebration of the eighth anniversary of their hosts’ marriage. But this explanation was proved to be false by the husband of the hostess who arrived some time later.

The search effected among the participants revealed the following material; several copies of a foreign revolutionary paper, Sotsial-Demokrat, the agenda of the meeting dealing with war questions, thirty-two revolutionary pamphlets, party notes and correspondence; and moreover, Badayev, a member of the State Duma, had in his possession the manuscript of a criminal appeal to the students calling on them to take part in the revolutionary movement, and a passport in another name.

All particulars were at once communicated to the judicial authorities, who have instituted a preliminary investigation for the prosecution of all the participants in this criminal meeting, including also the members of the State Duma.

I consider it my humble duty to submit this report to your imperial majesty.

Minister of the Interior, Maklakov

It must be admitted that with the aid of his very efficient secret police, Maklakov described fairly accurately the activity of the Bolshevik fraction. He reports with annoyance that for a long time the fraction preserved strict secrecy and furnished no facts on which the police could act, and then he tells with glee how at last the deputies were caught.

With the blessing of tsar Nicholas, the government proceeded to stage the trial which was to pass at least “hard labour” sentences. The chauvinist delirium which had swept the country and continued to grow during the first months of the war made the preparation of public opinion more easy. The first public announcement in the Pravitelstvenny Viestnik (Government Messenger) was worded so as to create the impression that a tremendous plot against “the military strength of Russia” had been discovered. The announcement read as follows:

From the commencement of the war the Russian people, conscious of the necessity of maintaining the integrity of the fatherland, has enthusiastically supported the government in its wartime activities. Members of the Social-Democratic associations, however, took up a totally different attitude and devoted their efforts to shaking the military strength of Russia by underground activity and propaganda. In October, the government learned that a secret conference was to be held of representatives of Social-Democratic organisations in order to discuss measures directed against the present regime and for the realisation of their seditious socialist tasks.

This was followed by particulars of the search at Ozyorky

“Since there was no doubt about the seditious purpose of the meeting, the persons caught there were detained, but the members of the State Duma released.”

In spite of the fact that our “five” were already imprisoned in solitary confinement, the Government Messenger cautiouslv informed its readers that the investigating magistrates had decided that all participants in the conference were to be “detained.”

This guarded announcement was a sort of feeler to test what the public reaction would be. The tune was given.

The reactionary press received its instructions and immediately launched a furious attack on our fraction. The language of the Russkoye Znamya was typical; “We should not stand on ceremony with our enemies; the gallows is the only instrument for restoring peace within the country.” This appeal was backed up by the rest of the bloodthirsty reactionary press; the liberal papers were at best discreetly silent, and as to the workers’ press, it was non-existent at that time.

After the ground had been well prepared, the government announced the arrest of the fraction on November 15. The second government announcement read as follows:

During the preliminary investigation concerning the conference held near Petrograd attended by some members of the Duma and persons from various parts of Russia, it was found that the conference was engaged in discussing a resolution which stated that “the least evil is the defeat of the tsarist autocracy and its army” and in which the slogan was advanced “to carry on as widely as possible among the troops propaganda for a socialist revolution” and “the organisation of illegal cells in the army.” All the persons concerned have been arrested.

What effect did this produce on the Duma itself? As I have mentioned, Rodzyanko, after receiving our declaration, promised to “do all he could.” A number of deputies belonging to other fractions admitted the necessity of making some protest, but their protests were wholly insincere. As a matter of fact, the Duma majority was entirely in agreement with the government. In so far as they decided to make a protest, they were guided by the fear that the workers would retaliate to this new governmental provocation by another revolutionary outburst.

Since the Duma was not sitting at the moment, the protest could not take the usual form of an interpellation to the government. Therefore, on the initiative of Chkheidze, who was joined by Kerensky of the Trudoviks, Efremov of the Progressives and Milyukov of the Cadets, the question was raised at a regular sitting of the Duma Committee for the assistance of the sick and wounded, which met daily in the president’s room.

It was on the morning of November 6, when the Duma was not yet aware of the arrest of the fraction, and therefore the Committee only discussed the question of our search and detention in Ozyorky. The deputies who attended the Committee revealed an undisguised fear of a revolutionary outburst in the country. The attitude of the Octobrists was characteristic. Godnyev, Opochinin and Lutz advocated the necessity of protesting against the action of the police and declared that the attack on the workers’ fraction would cause disturbances among the masses and produce disorganisation in the rear of the army. They condemned the provocative action of the government for these purely patriotic reasons.

The result of the discussion was that Rodzyanko sent a letter of protest to Goremykin, the president of the Council of Ministers. The wording of the letter was typical of the falsity of the position of the Duma majority. Although he sent the letter on November 30, almost a month after we had been arrested, Rodzyanko did not say a word about our arrest but confined himself to forwarding our declaration concerning the incidents at Ozyorky. In the covering letter addressed to Goremykin, Rodzyanko referred to the violation of Article 15 of the Duma constitution and then added; “such action by the authorities cannot be tolerated, the more so since this disregard for the law and the reckless, irresponsible behaviour on the part of the administrative authorities is sowing discontent among the peaceful population and exciting it during the difficult period which we are now passing through, when it is already agitated by the hard conditions of the world war.” But what were Rodzyanko’s conclusions? Did he demand that the persecution of our fraction should cease? Not in the least. He wound up his letter with the following words; “I allow myself to hope that your excellency will take the necessary steps in the future to protect members of the State Duma from illegal police activities.” Thus the whole protest was just a formal declaration and a request that the offence would not be repeated, without a word about any protection for our Bolshevik fraction. [1]

This meaningless and unavailing letter addressed to Goremykin was the only action of the Duma majority in connection with the arrest of the workers’ deputies. The attempt made by the Mensheviks and the Trudoviks to call a special conference of Duma members was resisted by Rodzyanko, who declared that no meetings of deputies during a recess were allowed by law and that, in his opinion, there was no necessity for one.

When the Duma met again in January 1915, after a lengthy interval, the majority would not allow an interpellation to be made concerning our arrest. As the Cadets refused it was impossible to collect the required number of signatures. When Chkheidze and Kerensky devoted large parts of their speeches in the budget debate to the fate of the Bolshevik fraction, the Duma president would not allow the press to reprint them.

Quite naturally, the Black Hundred Duma fully endorsed the action of the Romanov government. The arrest of our fraction completed the rout of all revolutionary organisations and entirely corresponded to the desires of the interests represented in the State Duma. While the government distributed rewards to the police and secret service men, the heroes of the home fronts the flower of Russian liberalism, cringed at the feet of the tsarist government.

But what took place in the opposing ranks? In the factories, works and mines? The news of the arrest of the Bolshevik deputies could not fail to arouse the masses. We have seen that even the Octobrists, those miserable props of the government, grasped the fact that the destruction of the Bolshevik fraction was bound to produce a powerful impression on the Russian proletariat. They were not mistaken; the demand for the release of the Bolshevik deputies was advanced along with the basic demands of the revolutionary movement right up to the February Revolution. But at the time of the arrest the working class had not enough strength to undertake any far-reaching movement; the war terror was clutching the country by the throat and all revolutionary activity entailed either death by court-martial or long periods of penal servitude. The arrest of the fraction meant that the chief Party centre in Russia was destroyed. All the threads of Party work had been centred in the Duma “five” and became now disconnected.

The secret police, while it prepared for the arrest of the deputies, took various precautionary measures against any action among the workers in defence of the fraction. The spy service was redoubled in working-class districts and many party members were arrested. Yet in spite of everything, the St. Petersburg Committee managed to issue a proclamation concerning the arrest. The proclamation, hectographed and distributed on November ii, called on the workers to strike and arrange meetings of protest:

Comrades! On the night of November 5, the mean tsarist government, already red with the blood of fighters for democracy, the government of hangmen, which has tortured the exiled workers’ representatives of the Second Duma and imprisoned thousands of the best sons of the proletariat, threw into jail the members of the Russian Social-Democratic Workers’ Fraction.

The autocratic government has treated the Duma representatives of 30 million workers with shameless cynicism. The falsity and hypocrisy of the talk about the unity of the tsar and his people is now exposed. An end has been put to the deceit and corruption of the masses ... The tsarist government has gone to the extreme ... The working class and all the forces of democracy are now confronted with the need for taking up the struggle for genuine representation of the people, for the convocation of a constituent assembly.

Thc war and the state of martial law has enabled the government to carry out their attack on the workers’ deputies, who were so valiantly defending the interests of the proletariat.

To the sound of guns and rifles, the government is attempting to drown the revolutionary movement in rivers of blood, and in driving the workers and peasants to slaughter it hopes to kill their hopes of liberty.

Proclaiming phrases about the liberation of all Slavs, the tsarist government is smashing all working-class organisations, destroying the workers’ press and imprisoning the best proletarian fighters.

But this is not enough for the enemy of the working class. It was decided to launch an attack against the workers’ deputies because they were heroically fighting against the government policy of oppression, violence and iron fetters. The tsarist bandits told the chosen representatives of the working class; “Your place is in prison.”

The whole of the working class has been put in prison. A gang of robbers and exploiters, a gang of pogrom-makers has dared to condemn the entire working class of Russia. A challenge of life and death has been flung at the working class. But even the iron repression of martial law will not prevent the workers from uttering their protests. The cry “Down with the hangmen and murderers” will be shouted by millions of Russian workers, prepared to defend their deputies.

Comrades! The St. Petersburg Committee of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party calls on the St. Petersburg workers to arrange meetings and one-day strikes in protest against the acts of this tsarist-landlord gang.

Down with tsarism!

Long live the democratic republic!

Long live the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party!

Long live Socialism!

November 11, The St. Petersburg Committee of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party

At the same time, the St. Petersburg Social-Democratic students’ organisation issued the following proclamation:

Russian absolutism remains true to itself and continues its work against the nation. Its last deed, the arrest of the Social-Democratic Duma Fraction, is equivalent to a coup d’état. The comedy of the people’s representation is at an end. The autocrats have acted and the actual naked facts now loom before democracy in all their ugly cynicism.

In issuing its proclamation, the St. Petersburg Committee did not count on the possibility of any extensive action by the workers. Its leaflet was intended to inform the workers of this new governmental crime and to explain the events in a way which countered the patriotic agitation of the government and bourgeois press. Pointing out that the arrest of the fraction was equivalent to the imprisonment of the entire Russian working class, our Party prepared the masses to take up the challenge of the tsarist government.

But the appeal had its immediate effect. At a number of factories the workers called one-day protest strikes and at others they were only prevented from striking by the intervention of fully mobilised police forces.

Thus at the “New Lessner” works, when the workers gathered in the morning to discuss the question of strike action, a strong police detachment which had previously been brought into the works fell upon the workers and made a number of “demonstrative” arrests. By the same means strikes were frustrated at other factories.

At places where strikes did occur, drastic punishment was meted out. Those workers considered most dangerous were pounced on and sent out of St. Petersburg, whilst for others a new punishment was found. Workers who were in the reserve, or whose mobilisation had been delayed by agreement with the military authorities, were immediately sent to advanced positions at the front. Of the 1,500 workers on strike at the Parviainen works, ten were exiled and over twenty reservists were sent to the trenches.

In these conditions the strike movement could not grow to any size, but even these strikes showed that the working-class movement had not been altogether stifled and that sooner or later it would rise again in all its strength.

There was a vast field of work for our Party but it was extremely difficult for the Party to function. The arrest of the fraction had completed the destruction of our organisation. The Central Committee, isolated and cut off from Russia, was confronted with the task of creating anew the whole Party organisation. Lenin, greatly alarmed, wrote to Shlyapnikov in Stockholm; “If this is true, it is a great misfortune,” and requested him to find out if the first reports of the arrest of the fraction were correct.

Three days later, when the news was confirmed, Lenin wrote to Shlyapnikov; “It is terrible. Apparently the government decided to wreak its vengeance on the Russian Social-Democratic Workers’ Fraction and stuck at nothing. We must expect the worst; forged documents, manufactured proofs, false evidence, secret trials, etc.” Further on Lenin pointed out the enormous difficulties in connection with Party work, which had increased a hundredfold; “Yet we shall continue. Pravda has educated thousands of class-conscious workers, from whom, in spite of all difficulties, a new group of leaders, a new Russian Central Committee, will arise ...”

As always the words of Lenin were inspired by an enormous faith in the strength of the working class and in the victory of the revolution. He clearly envisaged the difficulties hampering the Party’s work, but this did not for an instant shake that exceptional force and energy which never abandoned him in the hardest and most difficult periods of the revolutionary struggle.


1. This letter was sent to Maklakov, Minister of the Interior, for his consideration. On the letter, which was preserved among the papers at the Police Department, are Maklakov’s remarks which reveal the character of this tsar’s first policeman. Rodzyanko’s letter made Maklakov furious; after a note “File,” he wrote:

“I cannot accept the suggestion that the action of the police in establishing that five members of the State Uuma are criminals is ‘reckless’ or ‘irresponsible.’ This may prove disagreeable to the President of the Duma, but such are the facts. It is not such action that should be described as ‘intolerable,’ but the fact that grave crimes against the state could be perpetrated with impunity under the cover of ‘parliamentary immunity.’ The integrity of the Russian state is more important than any parliamentary immunity and the police will always check Duma members who attempt to break the law. It is not the administrative authorities fighting revolution who are sowing discontent among the people, but those who, in connection with such dastardly behaviour, find nothing better to do than to shout about the recklessness of the authorities. It is time that these habits were discarded. The false pathos of indignation is too cynical and out of place in this connection. I thank again those members of the police force who found out and arrested the Duma members.”

Last updated on 14.9.2011