V. I.   Lenin

The Russian Tsar Seeks the Protection of the Turkish Sultan Against His People

Published: Proletary. No. 7, July 10 (June 27), 1905. Published according to the text in Proletary.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1962, Moscow, Volume 8, pages 569-573.
Translated: Bernard Isaacs and The Late Isidor Lasker
Transcription\Markup: R. Cymbala
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive (2003). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.README

The foreign press of all countries and all parties is teeming with reports, telegrams, and articles concerning the siding of part of the Black Sea Fleet with the Russian revolution. The newspapers are at a loss for words in which to express their astonishment; they find no terms strong enough to describe the disgrace which the autocratic government has brought upon itself.

The peak in this disgrace was the tsarist government’s appeal to Rumania and Turkey for police assistance against the mutinous sailors. Here is proof positive that the “Turks within” are a greater menace to the Russian people than all the “Turks without”. The Sultan of Turkey is to protect the tsarist autocracy from the Russian people; the tsar cannot rely on Russia s armed forces, and so he begs other powers for help. Better proof of the utter bankruptcy of the tsarist regime can hardly be imagined. Better material to make the soldiers of the Russian army see the role they are playing could hardly be found.

Observe what The Times of July 4 (new style) writes editorially. It should be noted that this is one of the most affluent and best-informed newspapers in the world, and that this mouthpiece of the conservative English bourgeoisie finds even our Osvobozhdeniye liberals over-radical, sympathises with the “Shipovians”, etc. In a word, no one can possibly suspect it of exaggerating the strength and importance of the Russian revolution.

“The impotence of the [Russian] Government at sea,” writes The Times, “receives a striking illustration from the Note it is stated to have sent to the Porte, [i.e., to the   Turkish Government I and to the Government of Rumania. This document [of the Russian Government] calls upon the Governments in question to treat the mutinous sailors of the Russian fleet as common criminals, and warns them that should they act otherwise international complications may follow. In other words, the Government of the Tsar is stooping to beg the Sultan of Turkey and the King of Rumania to be good enough to do for him the police work which he is no longer able to do for himself. Whether Abdul Hamid will condescend to give him the required assistance or not remains to be seen. So far the only result of the mutiny upon the Turkish authorities has been to induce them to exhibit unusual vigilance, and the first exhibition of it has been that they fired a blank shot across the bows of the Russian guardship on Saturday, when she was entering the Bosporus after dark with the Russian Ambassador on board. They would hardly have asserted their watchfulness in that fashion twelve months ago. The Government of Rumania rightly ignored the demand that the mutineers should be treated as criminals, as was to be expected from the rulers of a self-respecting nation. They issued orders that the mutineers were not to be furnished with coals or provisions, but they informed the 700 sailors on board the Kniaz Potemkin that if they choose to land they will be treated only as foreign deserters.

And so the Rumanian Government does not in the least side with the revolution; far from it! Yet it has no desire to stoop to police service for the universally hated and despised tsar of all the Russias. It refuses the tsar’s request. It acts in the only way the “government of a self-respecting nation” can act.

That is how the Russian autocracy is now spoken of in Europe by those who only yesterday fawned on the “great and mighty monarch”!

Now comes confirmation in the German press as well of this new, unheard-of disgrace of the autocracy. A report telegraphed to the Frankfurter Zeitung from Constantinople under date of July 4 (N.S.) states: “The Russian Ambassador Zinoviev handed a Note yesterday [to the Turkish Government] from the St. Petersburg Cabinet stating that about 400 Russian seamen, after sinking a cruiser, had been   picked up the day before yesterday by an English merchant vessel bound for Constantinople. The [Russian] Ambassador demanded of Turkey the detention of the steamer during its passage through the Bosporus and the arrest and extradition of the mutinous Russian seamen. That evening the Turkish Government called a special meeting of the Council of Ministers which considered the Russian request.... Turkey replied to the Russian Embassy that she was unable to comply, since according to her international obligations Turkey had no right to exercise police power on a steamer sailing under the English flag, even when the steamer puts into a Turkish harbour. Besides, there existed no extradition treaty between Russia and Turkey.”

Turkey replied “courageously”, the German newspaper comments on the incident. The Turks refuse to do police duty for the tsar!

It is also reported that when the destroyer Stremitelny[1] and several other warships came to Constanla (Rumania) in pursuit of the Potemkin, the Rumanian Government pointed out to the Russian authorities that in Rumanian waters it was the Rumanian army and the Rumanian police that maintained order, even if the Potemkin was still in Rumanian waters.

Thus, instead of the Potemkin creating trouble for foreign ships (as the tsarist autocracy had predicted in order to frighten Europe), these ships are plagued by a host of annoying incidents caused by the Russian fleet. The English are indignant at the detention and search of their ship Granley at Odessa. The Germans are incensed by reports that, at the request of the Russians, the Turks will stop and search the German ship Pera on her way to Constantinople from Odessa. Perhaps, under these circumstances, it will not be so easy for Russia to secure European assistance against the Russian revolutionaries. The question of rendering such assistance is being discussed by a great many foreign papers, but in most cases they come to the conclusion that it is not Europe’s business to help the tsar fight the Potemkin. The Berliner Tageblatt publishes a report that the Russian   Government has even requested the powers to send their war ships from Constantinople to Odessa to help restore order! How much truth there is in this statement (denied by certain other papers) the near future will show. But one thing is certain: with the Potemkin joining the uprising the first step has been taken towards converting the Russian revolution into an international force by bringing it face to face with the European states.

This fact should not be forgotten in appraising the telegraphic report of M. Leroux to the Paris newspaper Le Matin from St. Petersburg on July 4 (N.S.): “Throughout this [Potemkin] affair,” he writes, “the lack of foresight on the part of the [Russian] authorities has been astonishing; one cannot overstate the lack of organisation of the revolution. The revolution gains possession of a battleship, an event unique in history, but it does not know what to do with it.”

There is, undeniably, a great deal of truth in this report. Without a doubt we are to blame for not organising the revolution sufficiently. We are to blame that certain Social-Democrats are but faintly conscious of the fact that revolution must be organised, that the uprising must be included among the urgent practical problems, and that the necessity of a provisional revolutionary government must be stressed in our propaganda. We revolutionaries deserve the criticism now levelled at us by bourgeois writers for our poor organisation of revolutionary functions.

But whether the armoured cruiser Potemkin deserves this reproach we do not venture to say. Perhaps it was the deliberate aim of the crew to show themselves in the harbour of a European power? Did not the Russian Government keep all news of the events in the Black Sea Fleet from the people until the Potemkin had freely entered the waters of Rumania? In Rumania the revolutionary battleship delivered a proclamation to the consuls with a declaration of war on the tsarist fleet and a statement to the effect that it would commit no hostile acts against neutral ships. The Russian revolution has declared to Europe that a state of open war exists between the Russian people and tsarism. By doing so the Russian revolution has actually made an attempt to speak in the name of a new, revolutionary government of   Russia. Undoubtedly, this is merely a first, feeble attempt, but, as the saying goes, the first step is always the hardest.

According to the latest reports, the Potemkin has arrived at Feodosia, demanding provisions and coal. The local population is in a turmoil. The workers demand that the re quest of the revolutionary battleship be granted. The Municipal Council decided to refuse coal, but to supply provisions. The whole of South Russia is agitated as never be fore. The number of victims of the civil war in Odessa is estimated at 6,000. Telegraphic reports speak of the shooting of 160 insurgents by court martial, and of an order from St. Petersburg “to give no quarter!” But the troops are powerless; the troops themselves are unreliable. In the factory suburbs of Odessa the turmoil has not subsided. Last night (July 4-5, N.S.) thirty-five people were killed. By order of the Governor-General, many of the troops have been withdrawn from the city following the discovery of a serious lack of discipline among them. In Nikolayev and Sevastopol disturbances arose in the government arsenals. Thirteen people have been killed at Sevastopol. Peasant uprisings have broken out in five uyezds of Kherson Gubernia. Nearly 700 peasants were killed in the last four days. “A life-and-death struggle between the people and the bureaucracy has apparently begun,” says a telegram from Odessa to London dated July 5, N.S.

Yes, the real struggle for freedom, the life-and-death struggle, is only beginning. The revolutionary armoured cruiser has not said its last word yet. Long live the revolutionary army! Long live the revolutionary government!


[1] It is said that there are no ratings on the Stremitelny. Its crew consists almost entirely of officers. The aristocracy against the people!—Lenin

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