The Military Writings of
Leon Trotsky

Volume 2, 1919

How the Revolution Armed

The Fight for Petrograd


Transcribed and HTML markup for the Trotsky Internet Archive by David Walters

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Today was the critical day. Our troops had retreated to the Pulkovo Heights – that is, to the last line before Petrograd itself. Retreat from there would have meant that the battle would have been carried inside the walls of the city, that is, it would have become a defence of the city from within.

Statements by soldiers who come over to us, and also other sources, confirm that the enemy issued an order during the night of 20-21 October for the capture of the Pulkovo Heights. However, the White Army has not carried out that order. [80] Not only have we not abandoned this very important line but, on the contrary, we have launched a fighting offensive all along the front. We have taken prisoners and captured machine-guns and other trophies. Even the weakest of our units have shown resilience and power of resistance. The first tanks produced in Petrograd have taken part in the fighting, with undoubted success. The Red troops greeted with delight the appearance of the first armoured caterpillar.

The outcome of today’s battle can be considered as entirely favourable to us. Thanks to the fresh reserves, on the one hand, and, on the other, the refreshed composition of the commanding personnel and the body of commissars, the Seventh Army underwent an unquestionable inner turn: the units have recovered their self-possession and are striving to push ahead. The supply service has worked more than satisfactorily. Morale is absolutely assured. The cadets are especially keen to make up for the series of defeats that they suffered.

Nevertheless, by virtue of the very circumstances, the situation remains tense: the enemy is within a day’s march of Petrograd. Consequently, in order to ensure ourselves against accidents, we must untiringly persist with the work of fortifying Petrograd, organising its internal defence. A Petrograd safeguarded from within will be, at the same time, a splendid rear for the reconstructed front.

The turn has taken place. In the next few days this will have to be admitted by the lying Anglo-French wireless.

October 21, 1919
En Route, No.99


80. By the evening of October 20 the units of the Seventh Army had fallen back to the line of the Pulkovo Heights. The decisive battle was fought on this line. After taking Dyetskoye Syelo, during the night of October 20-21 the enemy attacked the Pulkovo Heights with the aim of breaking through into Petrograd. By that time, thanks to our retention of the Nikolai Railway line, we had been able to concentrate Comrade Kharlamov’s reserve group in the area of Kolpino and Tosno. At 2300 hours on October 20 the Seventh Army was ordered to advance. The enemy did not take the Pulkovo Heights, and he suffered his first defeat in the bloody battles of October 21-22.

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Last updated on: 23.12.2006