Source: The Catastrophe
Transcriber: Jonas Holmgren
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2008). 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.
ON Monday, March 12, 1917, at about eight o'clock in the morning, I was awakened by a voice saying: "Get up! Nekrassoff is on the telephone. He says the Duma has been dissolved, the Volinsk Regiment has mutinied and is leaving its barracks. You are wanted at the Duma at once."
Eight o'clock was an early hour for me, as I was in the habit of working until three or four o'clock in the morning. The political situation had grown ominously stormy during the preceding days and several minutes passed before I grasped the full significance of the news transmitted by Nekrassoff. It came to me with a jolt, but I soon perceived, or rather felt, that the decisive hour had struck.
I jumped up, dressed quickly and hurried to the Duma—a five-minute walk.
My first thought was to keep the Duma in session and to establish close contact between the Duma and the army and the people.
I am not sure whether I asked my wife to telephone to Sokoloff, a friend who lived near the barracks, or whether I sent a message by some one I met on my way to the Duma, but I did my best to get in touch with the Volinsk Regiment, which had mutinied without any apparent plan or purpose. I tried to get the regiment and other insurgents who had flocked around it to assemble at the Duma. Later Miliukoff told me that, passing the barracks at about nine o'clock that morning, he had seen some of our political friends calling upon the Volinsk Regiment as it was pouring out of the barracks to join us at the Duma.
The stage had long been set for the final crash, but, as is usually the case in such events, no one expected it to come precisely on the morning of March twelfth. How could I, for instance, have guessed as I rushed out of my apartment in what a different position I would be when I returned to it? How could I have imagined that I would never return to my home again but for two or three hours!
At about half past eight I arrived at the small side entrance (the library entrance) of the Tauride Palace, seat of the Duma, and here I was swept up by the whirlwind in which I was to live for eight months. From that moment on I lived in the center of those amazing events, so momentous and so terrible, in the very heart of the tempest which in the end was to cast me out, in exile, to a distant foreign shore.
As I recall the events of that day—Russia standing at the parting of the ways—I feel again the tense anxiety which animated me then. As I approached the Duma, every step seemed to bring me closer to the quivering forces of newly awakened life, and when the aged doorkeeper, as usual, closed the door of the palace behind me I felt this time as if he were barring behind me forever the way back to the old Russia, the Russia that had still existed the day before and even in the early morning of that glorious, awe-inspiring Monday.
The door closed. I threw off my overcoat. There was no more day or night, morning or evening. Only by the ebb and flow of the crowds, by the coming and going of the human tides could we feel that night had come or the day returned. For five days we hardly ate anything, and none of us slept at all. But we did not feel the need of food or sleep. We had suddenly become endowed with extraordinary mental clarity. We were able to grasp and understand everything in a flash. Nothing escaped our minds and nothing seemed to interfere with anything else in the adjustment and readjustment of our perceptions and ideas. Afterwards, looking back at these events from a distance, one could scarcely believe that all this chaos of happenings had been crowded into four days, and it was difficult to understand how our group in the Duma, without sleep or food, could have dealt with such a kaleidoscopic complexity of affairs.
It was an extraordinary time, an inspired time, a time of bold daring and great suffering. It was a time unique in the pages of history. All the small daily preoccupations of private life and all party interests vanished from our consciousness. One common devotion and anxiety united us. We had one common inspiration—Russia! Russia in peril, struggling through blood and chaos, Russia betrayed by the old regime, Russia a prey to the blind, raging, hungry mob. Between these two gulfs—on the one hand the decaying, tottering government and, on the other, the anarchic sweep of the people in revolt—a new light appeared. Russia became conscious of a new purpose, a new will. Inside the old walls of the Tauride Palace this devotion to the state and the nation burst forth in clear form, expressed in a tremendous effort and determination to save the country from anarchy and to shape the life of the people along new lines of law, freedom and social justice.
Representatives of nearly all classes rallied around the Duma in those first days of the Revolution. In those first days of the Revolution the Duma became the symbol of the state and the nation. By a determined, united effort a new authority and the rudiments of a new national structure were set up. I saw new forms of government shaped by men who the day before would have turned in horror from what they did that day with their own hands. They did it because something inexplicable, mysterious, miraculous had happened—that which we are accustomed to call revolution. This something lit up the souls of men with a purifying fire and filled them with love and readiness for boundless self-sacrifice.
We forgot everything that was merely personal, all that was a matter of class or caste, and became for the moment simply men conscious of our common humanity. It was a moment when every man came into touch with what is universal and eternally human. It was most exhilarating to see about me these men, so transformed, working together with sublime devotion for the common good. Historians, sociologists and theorists of all kinds will describe learnedly and wisely the events of March 12, 1917, in Russia, in Petrograd, in the Tauride Palace. They will find scientific, historical (and very prosaic) explanations to account for the performance of every actor in the first scene of this great tragedy of death and rebirth. They may label the drama and the actors in any way they please, but they will have said nothing that is essential if they forget to say that the Revolution was a miracle, an act of creation performed by the will of humanity, an epic sweep towards the eternal and universal ideal.
I, who witnessed and participated in all these events, can testify that the so-called bourgeoisie, the members of the Temporary Committee of the Duma and, later, of the Provisional Government, who were at the center of affairs in those first days of the Revolution, showed not less but, if possible, more idealism and sacrifice than the representatives of the democracy, especially the so-called "revolutionary democracy." I can testify that in those great days the bourgeoisie was the very one who stood fearlessly for the salvation of the nation against the narrow, selfish interests of its class. The representatives of the bourgeoisie made their renunciation joyfully as the greatest, holiest and happiest act of their lives.
As a matter of fact this government was neither bourgeois nor of any special class, but genuinely representative of the whole people. It was dominated solely by the consciousness of the ideal of liberty and social service, which is the essential thing in a revolution. Later everything changed. The same people who had been associated fraternally in the government could hardly recognize their own actions of two or three months before. The deeds they had been proud of they apologized for as mistakes and tried to lay the responsibility for them upon others. They gradually returned to their former week-day state of mind. The common task of national regeneration, begun with a universal, heroic, creative impulse in those great days when men's souls became transfigured and were raised above themselves, was gradually forgotten and those who had shown themselves heroes and social prophets became more and more concerned about their private interests. One side began to think in wrathful misgiving: "We conceded too much." The other side, relying on the blind, elemental force of the masses, cried: "We took too little." They could not understand that precisely in that first hour of the Revolution, in the hour of common inspiration and common effort, they had unconsciously seen things in their true proportions and realized what was necessary for the whole nation.
The power of the Revolution lay not in the material forces at its command but in the common will, in the solidarity of the whole people. This common will recreated the life of the nation and filled it with a new spirit. The principles which Russian culture and civilization had been evolving and accumulating for centuries assumed concrete form—those principles for which the whole Russian intelligentsia, the whole Russian people had fought for decades. It was not physical force, still less the organized force of the revolutionary democracy or of any party which overthrew the autocracy and the dynasty. The revolutionary democracy appeared as an organized force only when the first stage of the Revolution was over. This is an indisputable fact which history will establish beyond contradiction.
I assert emphatically that no one class can claim to be the author of the great Russian Revolution, nor arrogate to itself alone the honor of bringing about that upheaval. The Russian proletariat (especially the proletariat of Petrograd) is peculiarly unjustified in making this claim. On March eleventh, the day before the crash, the so-called Information Bureau of the Parties of the Left (i.e., the Social-Revolutionaries, Social-Democrats, Bolsheviki, Populist-Socialists and Labor party) held its regular meeting between 6 and 7 P.M. in my apartment. At that meeting men who a few days later became the most uncompromising revolutionaries asserted emphatically that the revolutionary movement was losing strength; that the workers were quite passive in their attitude towards the demonstrations of the soldiers; that these demonstrations were unorganized and without purpose or direction; that it was impossible to look for a revolution of any kind in the near future, and that we should concentrate our efforts on propaganda alone as a means of preparing a serious revolutionary movement later on. Such was the attitude and the opinion of the spokesmen of the most extreme revolutionary elements only the day before the outbreak of the Revolution.
In the same way, the bourgeois majority of the Duma, on the day before the Revolution, was still seeking a loyal compromise out of the impasse into which Russia had been driven by a government that had lost its head together with its sense of duty to the nation. But the next day, when the dissolution of the Duma and the spontaneous uprising of the Petrograd garrison showed clearly the abyss to which Russia had been brought by the Czarist regime, all doubt concerning the reality of the situation vanished, people ceased to judge by their usual standards, and the Revolution became a fact as a result of the joint effort of all the sound political forces of the nation. I cannot emphasize any too often that the great Russian Revolution was accomplished by the whole people, that the achievement belongs to the nation as a whole, that all had a share in it and none can lay exclusive claim to it.
But let us resume our narrative:
I ran down the long, deserted corridor and at last found some deputies in the Catherine Hall. I remember that Nekrassoff, Efremoff, Vershinin and some one else were there. From them I learned that Rodzianko, President of the Duma, had received an order from Nicholas II dissolving the Duma at midnight on March twelfth; that he sent an urgent telegram to the Czar at General Headquarters at Mohileff, and to the generals in command of the various fronts, saying that the revolt in Petrograd was spreading, that, in addition to the Volinsk Regiment, the Engineer Battalion of the Guards had mutinied, that the Preobrajensk Regiment was restive and was about to come out into the streets, etc.
I rushed to the telephone and urged some friends to go to the barracks of the insurgent regiments and direct the troops to the Duma. The deputies were rapidly filling the lobbies, although the so-called "unofficial" session of the Duma was not to convene before two o'clock in the afternoon. The meeting of the council of party leaders was to begin only at noon. There was an atmosphere of increasing tension.
During the preceding days the deputies had come to look to us of the Left wing for reliable information as to the state of mind of the masses and the developments in the city. We had succeeded fairly well in establishing a scouting and news-gathering organization all over the capital. Every ten or fifteen minutes reports came to me by telephone. On my appearance in the chambers of the deputies of the Right and Moderate parties, where an atmosphere of alarm prevailed, I was surrounded and bombarded with questions as to what was going on, what was likely to happen and what would become of us. I replied frankly that the decisive hour had struck, that there was a revolution in the city, that the troops were on their way to the Duma and that it was our duty as the representatives of the people to receive them and make common cause with the army and the populace in revolt.
The news that the troops were well under way to the Tauride Palace at first alarmed the deputies, but the fear and anxiety disappeared in the thrill of expectation of their arrival. We of the opposition spoke to the leading members of the Duma, all of whom soon joined us, and we insisted that the Duma go immediately into official session, in defiance of the imperial order of dissolution. We demanded that the Duma take into its hands the direction of events and, if necessary, proclaim itself the supreme authority in the land. These proposals would have met with indignation the day before from the loyal majority of the Duma, but now they were received quite calmly and, by some members, even with evident sympathy. New voices were constantly added in approval.
Meanwhile developments in the city were gathering explosive momentum. One regiment after another had come out into the streets without the officers. Some of the officers had been arrested and there were even isolated cases of murder. Others had slipped away, deserting their units in view of the obvious mistrust and ugly temper of the soldiers. Everywhere the population was making common cause with the troops. Masses of workmen were pouring into the center of the city from the suburbs, and there was lively firing in many quarters. Soon news was brought to us of skirmishes with the police. The government machine guns were firing on the people from roofs and belfries. The throngs of soldiers and civilians in the streets gave no indication, however, of being moved by any clear aim or purpose. Animated by revolutionary indignation and dazed by the dramatic spectacle of which they were such a conspicuous part, the multitudes had to be given an aim and a point of concentration. It was difficult to see as yet what would become of the movement. It was quite clear, on the other hand, that the government intended to take advantage of the growing chaos and anarchy for its own dark purposes. Of this there could no longer be any doubt. The hunger riots of the preceding days, the military disintegration, the alleged need of dissolving the "disloyal" Duma—all this was obviously intended by the government to serve as proof that the position of the country and of the government was desperate and that it had become impossible to continue the war. This was the path along which the government was moving and this was clearly its aim—a separate peace.
The dissolution of the Duma coming as the autocracy's reply to the numerous attempts of the majority to find a loyal way out of the crisis was so striking and eloquent a move that the loyalists no longer had a single plank to stand upon. They were prepared for a dramatic change and only needed to be encouraged. With each passing moment the deputies were becoming increasingly aware of the fact that the Duma was the only center of authority commanding respect and that it was essential to take a final, decisive, irrevocable step.
The anxiety and alarm concerning the populace gradually subsided and the deputies began to go more frequently to the windows of the palace, scanning the empty streets which now seemed to have taken on an air of portentous mystery. Would the troops come to the Duma? Would there be an outlet to the growing tension which was rapidy becoming intolerable?
"Where are your troops? Are they coming?" many of the deputies asked me in a tone of anger and irritation. "My troops!" It had seemed in the last few days as if every one in the Duma had begun to look to me and to my closest associates as the center upon which the whole course of events depended. Soon the atmosphere within the Tauride Palace began to change, as inside the Duma the relative strength and disposition of the various parties had changed by the pressure of events outside. Realizing this the deputies of the Right and Moderate parties began to approach the future leaders, men whom they had hardly deigned to notice the day before. "My troops!" Most of the deputies called them mine. Perhaps it was because I had unbounded confidence that the troops would come. I was waiting to lead them into the Duma and by doing so to bring about the union of the mutinous soldiers and the representatives of the people, in which alone lay salvation. I kept on telephoning, running to the windows, sending messengers into the street to see whether the troops were coming. Still they did not come. Time was passing with terrible speed.
The council of party leaders met long before the appointed hour to consider the situation and to work out a plan of action to be submitted for approval to the unofficial meeting of the Duma. Those of us who met in the council laid aside all differences of party, class and age. We were dominated by one thing only: the realization that Russia was on the brink of ruin and that we must do our best to save her. Rodzianko, very excited, opened the meeting and informed us of the steps he had taken within the last forty-eight hours. He read the telegrams he had sent to the Czar the day before and told us of his telephonic conversation with the Czar's ministers. What was to be done? How were we to determine what was really happening outside the Duma walls and what should be our attitude towards these events? The Duma majority had a great deal to forget before it could range itself on the side of the Revolution, embark upon an open conflict with the Czarist power and raise its hand against the traditional authority.
We, representatives of the opposition, Nekrassoff, Efremoff, Tcheidze and I, now officially proposed what might be termed the revolutionary course. We demanded that the Duma go immediately into official session, taking no notice whatever of the order of dissolution. Some wavered. The majority and Rodzianko did not agree with us. Argument, persuasion and passionate appeals were in vain. The majority still believed too much in the past. The crimes and follies of the government had not yet succeeded in rooting this faith out of their souls. The council rejected our proposal, deciding that the Duma convene in "unofficial" session. Politically and psychologically this meant that there was to be a private meeting of a group of private individuals, many of them men of great influence and authority, but still only private individuals. The meeting was not one of a state institution and it had no formal authority for which it could claim general recognition.
This refusal to continue in session formally was perhaps the greatest mistake of the Duma. It meant committing suicide at the very moment when its authority was supreme in the country and it might have played a decisive and fruitful part had it acted officially. This refusal revealed the characteristic weakness of a Duma composed in its majority of the representatives of the upper classes, and which inevitably gave a distorted reflection of the country's opinions and state of mind. And so the Imperial Duma, born as a result of Stolypin's counter-revolutionary coup d'état of 1907, which destroyed the more democratic electoral law of 1905, wrote its own death warrant at the moment of the revolutionary renaissance of the people. The majority deliberately put the Duma on a level with other self-appointed organizations, like the Council of Workmen's and Soldiers' Deputies, which was just then making its appearance. Later there were efforts to revive the Duma as an official institution, but these came too late. The Duma died on the morning of March twelfth, the day when its strength and influence were at the highest.
Next day, March thirteenth, there were already two centers of authority, both of which owed their existence to the Revolution: the Duma in unofficial session, with its Temporary Committee, named as a provisional body to direct events, and the Council or Soviet of Workmen's and Soldiers' Deputies, with its Executive Committee.
I cannot now remember all the discussions that took place that day in the council of party leaders and afterwards at the "unofficial" sitting of the Duma. I remember that the Duma, which met between noon and two o'clock in the afternoon, decided to form a Temporary Committee invested with unlimited powers. The members of the committee were Rodzianko, Shulgin, Miliukoff, Tcheidze, Nekrassoff, Karauloff, Dmitriukoff, Rjevsky, Shidloffsky, V. Lvoff, Engelhardt, Shingarioff and myself. All parties were represented, except the extreme Right and Government Nationalists. These members of the Right wing, who not long before had behaved with contemptuous arrogance in the Duma, suddenly disappeared from the scene. Nominees of the government and some of them its paid agents, these outcasts of the nation melted away like wax in the sun, in the first rays of freedom dawning upon Russia.
The meetings in the Tauride Palace come back to me in a kind of mist. We were all in a curious state of mind, which cannot be understood by any one who has not experienced it. We were in a dream, a terrible and beautiful dream and, as one does in a dream, we performed our parts accurately, without wavering. It was not so much my reason which perceived what was happening, as my whole being, which felt and grasped instinctively that the great moment had come.
I was much disturbed by the delay in the arrival of the people and soldiers before the Duma, and when at last, as I was passing through Catherine Hall, some one called to me from the main entrance of the palace, saying, "The soldiers are coming!" I flew to a window to convince myself that it was actually so. I had no thought of what I would do next. I think it was just after I P.M. From the window I saw soldiers, surrounded by a throng of civilians, lining up on the opposite side of the street. They were forming their ranks rather undecidedly, evidently finding it difficult to proceed outside their normal surroundings and without the guidance of their regular officers. I gazed at them for a moment through the window and then, just as I was, in the black jacket which I wore during the entire Revolution, without hat or overcoat, I ran out through the main entrance to the soldiers for whom we had waited and wished so long. Behind me was a group of deputies. Startled attendants stood on the porch, and there was a sentinel at the entrance. I ran to the center gate that led from the garden into the street and welcomed the troops and the people in the name of the Duma and in my own behalf. They rushed towards me in confusion, surrounded me in a mass and listened.
Almost at the same moment Tcheidze, Skobeleff and other deputies came up behind me at the palace gate. Tcheidze also spoke some words of greeting, and then I addressed the troops and asked them to follow me into the Duma, to replace the guard and take over the defense of the building from the Czarist troops. The whole throng pushed after me towards the main entrance. Somehow the soldiers separated themselves from the throng and, drawing up in disciplined form, followed me. We proceeded with some anxiety to the guardroom, on the left side entrance of the Duma, not at all sure that we would not have to fight the regular watch on duty, of whose possible unfriendly sentiments I warned the soldiers. We went off to "take" the guardroom. However, it turned out that the guards were not there. They had left before we came. I explained to a noncommissioned officer where and how sentries should be placed and returned to the main hall of the Duma, which by this time was filled to capacity by deputies, soldiers and civilians. In the evening a detachment of troops from the Preobrajensk Regiment undertook the task of guarding the arrested ministers and dignitaries of the old regime who had meanwhile been brought to the Duma. The troops performed their task with excellent discipline and remarkable tact.
On my return from the guardroom I again stopped to address the throng which remained outside the entrance. The mood of the people, who had come from all parts of the city, was very significant. They evidently had not the least doubt that they were in the midst of a revolution. Boldly they raised the question as to how to deal with the representatives and supporters of the old'regime, suggesting severe measures. My advice was asked and I said that those who were particularly dangerous should be arrested forthwith, but that under no circumstances should the people take the law into their own hands, and that bloodshed should be avoided. They asked who should be arrested and I named first Scheglovitoff, former minister of justice and president of the Imperial Council. I ordered Scheglovitoff brought directly to me. It developed that some men of the Preobrajensk or Volinsk regiments had already gone with some others, at about eleven o'clock in the morning, to seize Protopopoff, the Minister of the Interior. He had managed to get away in time, however. But everywhere in town dangerous men of the old regime were being arrested.
After 3 P.M. the Duma was unrecognizable. The building was filled with civilians and troops, principally privates. From every direction people were coming to us for advice and instructions. The Temporary Committee of the Duma, which had just been established, was compelled immediately to assume the functions of executive authority. At midnight, March thirteenth, there was no more wavering on the part of the committee. It became for the time being the sovereign power of Russia, and Rodzianko agreed to head it as such.
I think it was about 3 P.M. when some one had come to ask me about arranging quarters in the Tauride Palace for the Soviet of Workmen's and Soldiers' Deputies, then just founded. With the consent of the Duma, the Soviet was given Room 13, the meeting place of the budget commission of the Duma. The Soviet then set to work organizing the Petrograd garrison and proletariat. At the same time Tcheidze and I signed a permit for the publication of the first revolutionary newspaper, The Bulletin of the Duma Reporters, for all the printers in the city were on strike and the capital, deprived of newspapers, had no proper idea of what was happening. I remember I laughed when a Duma reporter asked me to sign the permit.
"Why are you laughing, Alexander Feodorovitch?" asked one of the reporters. "Don't you know what a great power you are now in Russia!" At the time I took this as a joke.
Later (about 4 P.M., I think), when the Temporary Committee was meeting in Rodzianko's room, some one came in to announce that Scheglovitoff had been brought in under arrest. The news made a great impression in the Duma, both on the public and the deputies. Scheglovitoff, the all-powerful Czarist grandee, under arrest! The deputies got quite excited about it. The Moderates pressed Rodzianko not to permit the arrest. "We must let him go," they insisted. "We cannot arrest the President of the Imperial Council in the very halls of the Duma. What about the immunity of members of legislative bodies?" They turned to me. I replied that I could not release Scheglovitoff. "What!" they cried with indignation. "You want to turn the Duma into a prison?" This was indeed a strong argument, but what could one do? To release Scheglovitoff would have meant handing him over to the mob to be lynched. Besides, it would have given rise to a profound distrust of the Duma among the masses. Such a step was quite impossible. It would have been sheer madness.
I went out to see Scheglovitoff and found him in charge of a hastily improvised guard, surrounded by a group of people. Rodzianko was already there together with a number of deputies. I saw Rodzianko greet Scheglovitoff amicably and invite him into his rooms as "our guest." I interposed myself between Rodzianko and Scheglovitoff and said to the former: "No, Michael Vladimirovitch, Mr. Scheglovitoff is not a guest here, and I refuse to have him released." Turning to the President of the Imperial Council I asked: "Are you Ivan Grigorievitch Scheglovitoff?" "Yes." "I must request you to follow me. You are a prisoner. Have no fear. I guarantee your safety." Every one obeyed and fell back. Rodzianko and his friends, somewhat confused, returned to his rooms, while I led Scheglovitoff to the ministerial chambers, known as the Government Pavilion.
The Government Pavilion was a separate building, consisting of several comfortable rooms, connected by a glass-roofed passage with the main hall of the Duma, the hall where the Duma held its sittings. These rooms were used by the ministers when they came to the Duma. The Pavilion being outside the Duma proper was under control of the government. It had its own staff of servants, independent of the Duma. The deputies had no unrestricted right of entry to it. By using it as a place of incarceration we avoided turning the Duma into a prison. The government leaders and dignitaries were thus imprisoned in their own apartments. Scheglovitoff was the first prisoner, but he was followed soon by a whole galaxy of shining lights of the old bureaucratic world. They were brought in on foot and in carriages from all parts of the capital, and they found temporary lodging in these comfortable rooms where so recently they had waited in majestic seclusion for their turns to appear before the Duma, which they so despised, and where they had so often cynically spoken of it as a "pack of troublesome chatterboxes."
By sundown, March thirteenth, all Petrograd was already in the hands of the revolutionary troops. The old government machinery had ceased to function. Some of the ministries and government buildings were already occupied by the revolutionists. Others, such as the office of the secret police, the police stations, the law courts, etc., were on fire. In the Duma we had created a central authority to control the troops and head the revolt. At times the multitude seemed about to swamp the Duma. Then again it would recede and give us respite. The Tauride Palace groaned, shook and seemed about to collapse under the pressure of the mighty human wave. From the outside the palace looked more like an armed camp than a legislative institution. Boxes of ammunition, hand grenades, stacks of rifles and machine guns had been sent from all quarters and stored in the palace yard and garden. Every available corner was occupied by soldiers, although, alas, there were few officers among them.
During all those first days of the Revolution I did not go into the streets and so I never saw the city in insurrection. Only once, on the night of March fifteenth, I hurried home for a few hours before dawn. I saw patrols at street corners and excited groups of people who had evidently been up all night, the watch bivouacs around the Duma and the burning headquarters of the gendarmerie to which I had once been brought from prison for examination.
In those days my work did not take me outside the walls of the Tauride Palace. Here we were like the general staff of an army in battle. We did not see the battlefield nor hear the groans of the wounded and the dying. We saw everything through reports, telephone messages and eyewitness accounts. We did not see the details of the operations, but we had before us the whole picture of events. We tried to direct the movement to a definite goal, to give it form, and systematize the revolutionary forces.
Looking back, I can disentangle the events of the first hours of the upheaval and determine the time of most of the individual episodes. But at that time everything seemed to weld into one ecstasy of intense, continuous and uninterrupted action. Reports came to us in bewildering succession. They seemed to flow into our midst as if into a magic circle. Hundreds came to demand instructions and ask to be given work to do. They wanted attention, they gave advice, they got excited and shouted. Sometimes they raved or became ecstatic. We had to keep our heads, for we could not afford to lose a minute nor appear to lack confidence. We had to decide in a moment what to answer, what orders to issue, when to dissuade, where to send these soldiers or that armored car, what to do with certain troop detachments, and where to send reenforcements; how to find room for the hundreds under arrest, how to make use of the people who were ready for the revolutionary struggle and, finally, how to feed and house the thousands of people working at the Duma. There were innumerable minor questions and petty details to be settled. And at the same time we had to think of organizing our forces, of finding a program acceptable to all parties by devising compromises, of following the course of events outside of Petrograd, particularly at General Headquarters and around the Czar.
It was almost impossible to tackle the fundamental questions during the daytime in the chaos of men, reports and events. We had to wait for the night, when the wave ebbed and the halls and lobbies of the palace grew empty. As soon as silence and calm were restored, endless discussions and passionate, nerve-wracking disputes ensued in the rooms of the Temporary Committee of the Duma. There, in the silence of the night, we began to sketch the outlines of the New Russia.
Besides all this work, I had on my hands the Government Pavilion with its ever growing number of dignitaries. Order had to be established there and a stern watch kept, so that the Revolution might not be disgraced by vengeful bloodshed. I had to be everywhere. I was summoned and sent for from all sides. As in a trance, regardless of day or night, now pushing through a wall of human beings, now passing through the silent twilight of the empty corridors, I rushed about the Duma. Sometimes I almost lost consciousness for fifteen or twenty minutes, until a glass of brandy was forced down my throat and I was made to drink a cup of black coffee. Sometimes one of my intimate friends would catch me on the run, or seize me in the midst of a conversation, and make me swallow something hastily. Every one who was at the center of these great events had much the same experience.
I shall never forget the atmosphere in the Tauride Palace in those tense, critical days. Every one was animated by the spirit of unity, fraternity, mutual confidence and self-sacrifice, welding all of us into a single fighting body. Afterwards, when the Revolution had conquered, when our victory had become secure, more and more among us turned out to be men with personal ambitions, men with an eye to the main chance, or mere adventurers. But during those first two days and the first night all of us at the Duma were running grave risks. If it took courage and determination to run to the Duma through the rifle and machine gun fire in the streets, much strength of mind was needed by those men who had spent their lives in the customs and traditions of old Russia to turn wholeheartedly to the Revolution. It must have cost them a great deal to break with their whole past and stand out against everything for which they had lived the day before and without which they thought the country could not endure. For they turned against the Czar, demanded his abdication and summoned and fraternized with the mutinous troops. This was very painful for them, and I saw clearly the profound suffering and genuine tears of those men who were burning all that they had worshiped, for the sake of the salvation of Russia.
I think it would be well for men of different views to do each other justice, and I feel obliged to say that men like Gutchkoff, Shulgin and Rodzianko showed the courage of true patriots and a genuine revolutionary spirit in those critical days. They really fought for the Revolution, and they probably felt things more intensely, suffered more anxiety for Russia and viewed with more pain the terrible situation that preceded the Revolution than many of the revolutionary proletariat who afterwards arrogated to themselves all the honor of and responsibility for the Revolution. These men felt more profoundly and suffered more because during the period preceding the Revolution they had known more about the affairs of state and what was going on in the army, at court and in the ministries, and had seen what others only surmised—the abyss opening before the country. I have no hesitation in repeating that they felt these things more profoundly than the men who afterwards claimed to have brought about the Revolution.
As a matter of fact the Petrograd Council of Workmen's and Soldiers' Deputies was not yet completely organized at this time, and while the Duma was acting as a national center for all Russia, the proletariat was only just beginning to form its organizations. The Temporary Committee of the Duma communicated with the Czar and the army, gave orders to the railways, sent out that first telegram about the events in Petrograd, which, like an electric current, united all Russia with the revolutionary capital. The Temporary Committee of the Duma did all this without any special pressure from the "revolutionary democracy." It set the Revolution going simply because the time was ripe for it. We must remember, too, that information about the Duma proceedings constituted the first news of the Revolution that reached the army at the front and that the success of the upheaval was due, to a very large extent, to the fact that the whole army in the field, with nearly all its officers, at once recognized and welcomed the Revolution. The men who were on the fighting line (with the possible exception of the Baltic Fleet) realized more clearly than any one else that Russia stood on the brink of a catastrophe and it was with them that the authority of the Duma stood highest.
Those leaders of the Soviet who had suddenly risen to their positions simply because they had taken part in the revolution of 1905 perceived the dominating role of the Duma so clearly that they immediately decided that this 1917 Revolution was a "bourgeois" movement. They declared dogmatically that, according to all the rules of "scientific" socialism, the revolutionary democracy must not enter this bourgeois government. These would-be leaders were far from knowing the real state of affairs. Not only did they take it for granted that the bourgeois government would have monarchist tendencies, but they thought it was strong enough to put them into practice and, therefore, hastened to take what measures they could to prevent this. So, the leading members of the first Executive Committee of the Soviet quite seriously introduced the following amazing clause into the manifesto which they outlined for the new government:
"The government binds itself to abstain from all acts defining in advance the form of the future Russian government."
As far as I remember, the Temporary Committee of the Duma did not accept this clause and it did not appear in the final draft of the first manifesto of the Provisional Government. What scant power the Soviet leaders must have attributed to the revolutionary democracy, which they claimed to represent, since, instead of demanding the immediate proclamation of a republic in Russia, they made this feeble effort to limit the power of those whom they considered masters of the situation!
The events as viewed from our vantage point in the Duma showed that the Revolution was victorious, but we were not quite certain what forces the old government still may have had at its disposal. We did not even know where the government was, what it was doing and what strength it had outside of Petrograd. We heard that that same evening the government was to meet at the Maryinsky Palace. We sent a detachment of soldiers with armored cars to the palace to arrest the government, but our messengers returned about midnight saying that they had been fired upon by machine guns in Morsakaya street and that they had not been able to make their way to the palace. Afterwards it was rumored that the government was sitting at the Admiralty, under the protection of troops and artillery from Gatchina. There was a report that loyal troops were approaching from Finland, and we hastily organized a defense on the Viborg side of the capital, along the tracks of the Finland railway.
We knew nothing of what was being done at General Headquarters, where the Czar was. It developed that he had sent General Ivanoff, the hero of the first campaign in Galicia, with an army to take Petrograd and restore order there. This detachment arrived at Tsarskoye Selo at dawn on March fourteenth, and there it simply melted away in the fire of the Revolution. The general himself, however, succeeded in making his escape in time.
It appeared necessary to organize a serious defense for emergencies and to take charge of the troops of the Petrograd garrison. But on the first day we had scarcely any officers or any one with sufficient technical experience at our disposal. I think it was only on the evening of March thirteenth or fourteenth that Gutchkoff began issuing orders. But on the evening of March twelfth the Temporary Committee of the Duma organized a military commission which at first consisted of civilians with some knowledge of military affairs, a sprinkling of officers and privates and myself. Later Engelhardt, a colonel of the General Staff and a conservative member of the Duma, was appointed head of the commission. By a strange irony of fate this military commission that was directing the struggle against Protopopoff's police was quartered in the same room which was so recently the abode of Protopopoff, who had worked and temporarily lived there as vice-president of the Duma, before his appointment as minister of the interior in 1916.
Our military difficulties were further complicated by the fact that the masses of soldiers at our disposal were almost entirely without officers in those critical days. I remember how impatiently all of us in the Duma awaited the arrival of officers and members of the higher command, for we realized that the breach between the men and the officers of the Petrograd garrison was a great misfortune for the army. On the evening of March twelfth the First Reserve Infantry Regiment marched up to the Duma. It was the first regiment to arrive with its personnel complete, headed by its colonel and officers. The bad effect produced on the entire army by the unfortunate and only too obvious enstrangement between the officers and soldiers of the Petrograd garrison will become more evident later in my narrative. One may say, with reasonable certainty, that if the officers in Petrograd had placed themselves at the head of the movement immediately, as did the officers at the front, the Russian Revolution would have escaped many calamities.
But in the first days of the Revolution the Petrograd officers were not to be seen. Nevertheless, we managed somehow to deal with the military questions before us, although we were quite aware that we could not resist any serious attack and that two or three well disciplined regiments would have sufficed to dispose of us. But during those days the old regime did not command a single soldier who would have fixed his bayonet against the people, against the Duma or the Soviet. In this lay our strength, the strength of our spirit and our authority. It rested upon the common will, common love and common hate.
The temporary absence of the officers made it easier for the Soviet to penetrate into the barracks. The Soviet leaders quickly grasped the advantage of subordinating to their influence the 150,000 men of the Petrograd garrison. One must do them justice and say that they made full and even excessive use of this advantage.
The Executive Committee of the Soviet formed its so-called military section on the night of March thirteenth. This military section soon established close contact with the garrison in all parts of the capital, and during the first two months of the Revolution, while Gutchkoff was war minister and Korniloff military commander of the city, it competed successfully with the official military authorities.
On March twelfth, in the evening, the Temporary Committee of the Duma sent Bublikoff, a deputy, with a detachment of revolutionists to capture the central railway-telegraph station. This was a timely and very important move, which immediately gave the Duma control of the entire railway system and made it impossible to dispatch trains without the approval of Bublikoff, who had been appointed Duma commissioner in charge of communications. Bublikoff also telegraphed the first news of the Revolution to all parts of Russia, and it spread immediately throughout the whole country and the army. The railway men accepted the Revolution without hesitation and with great enthusiasm. At the same time, they showed excellent discipline and it was due to their efforts that military trains were kept going regularly and general traffic suffered no interruption.
In short, by the night of March thirteenth, we had made such great strides that a return to the past was no longer possible. A compromise or amicable solution of the conflict between the old regime and the people had already become out of the question. The Temporary Committee of the Duma was competing with the old government for supreme authority, although the Duma as a whole was slow to realize what had happened. It had not yet decided to recognize formally the decisive rupture between the people and the old regime. There were lingering hopes that the old government would finally realize the situation and call to power men who had the confidence of the people, etc. But as events succeeded each other with lightning rapidity it became impossible and intolerable to remain undecided any longer.
All that night we argued and disputed in the room of the president of the Duma, and every piece of news, every fresh rumor was greedily seized upon. In the formation of the Soviet we perceived a most important development. In a short time another body might proclaim itself the supreme authority of the Revolution. The man who wavered longest was Rodzianko. We all tried to convince him and at last he asked us to give him time to think it over. It was just before midnight. After some deliberation Rodzianko returned to the Temporary Committee and declared that he was willing to remain president of the committee provided it assumed the functions of a provisional government until the formation of a new government. So that when the clock struck midnight on March thirteenth Russia already possessed the embryo of a new national state. It was a representative body, though chosen from a Duma elected mainly by the upper classes, and it based its authority on the will of the people, as far as this had been expressed through the limited electorate of the Duma.
The fourth Duma laid the foundations of the new power in Russia. This is an undeniable, historical fact and shows the strength of the mere idea of representative government. Of course it would have been a hundred times better for the Duma, and especially for the country, had the new national authority been born on the preceding afternoon at a solemn, official session of the Duma. But unfortunately most of the deputies had not, and could not have been expected to have, sufficient revolutionary audacity to take control of the march of events at once, and by strong and deliberate action create a single All-Russian center for the popular movement.
On the night of March thirteenth, after Rodzianko had given his affirmative answer, we drew up a proclamation to the people announcing the formation of the new provisional authority. We also delegated certain deputies as commissars of the Duma, to take charge of all the ministries and central government offices.
The same evening the first session of the Soviet was held in Room 13. Of course, the representatives of the workmen and soldiers had been chosen more or less casually, as it was quite impossible to organize a regular election in a few hours. The Soviet elected a temporary executive committee, of which Tcheidze was president; Skobeleff and I were chosen vice-presidents. I heard of my election by chance, for I did not attend this meeting of the Soviet and I do not remember even looking in at the meeting for a moment. In fact, even after my election I rarely attended the Soviet meetings or those of its Executive Committee. From the first days of the Revolution my relations with the Soviet leaders were strained. They could not abide me, as I was compelled to fight continually against the academic, dogmatic socialism of the Soviet, which from the very beginning tried to thwart the normal development and sound forces of the Revolution. I speak here of the Executive Committee of the Soviet as it was constituted during the first weeks of the Revolution. Later, the personnel and conduct of the Executive Committee changed considerably for the better.
But I will deal with the Soviet later. For the present I simply record the definite creation of this second center of the Revolution, which was soon to swallow up the first. I repeat that the suicidal conduct of the Duma majority in refusing to take part officially as the Duma in the events comprising the outbreak of the Revolution, in submitting to the Czar's decree of dissolution on March twelfth, and turning its session into a private meeting (as it had done every time it had been prorogued during the War) threw away all chances of preserving a single center of authority in the Revolution.
On proclaiming itself the supreme administrative authority, the Temporary Committee of the Duma began to issue orders and instructions to the Petrograd garrison. But by what right? It could claim no better right than the Soviet, which soon also began issuing orders and instructions to the garrison. The Temporary Committee of the Duma acted as a private, self-appointed revolutionary organization.
So, two centers of authority, each of which elected its own executive committee, were established on the very first day of the Revolution (though I doubt whether the Soviet Executive Committee had much power), and this division finally led to the decay of all authority and to the anarchy of Bolshevism.
On the first night of the Revolution the city was lit up by the glow of fires. Inside the Duma there was dead silence and emptiness, and one could collect one's thoughts a little. Our minds were occupied chiefly with wondering what would be the result of the conflict between the Duma and the still living authority of Czarism. Only the day before Rodzianko had telegraphed to the Czar:
The situation is serious. There is anarchy in the capital. The government is paralyzed. General discontent is growing. There is desultory firing in the streets. One portion of the troops is firing on the other. It is absolutely necessary to appoint some one possessing the confidence of the country to form a new government. Delay will be fatal. I pray God that a share of the responsibility may not fall upon the Monarch.
A day later Rodzianko had adopted revolutionary methods and was heading the temporary central organ of the Revolution, while the representatives of the "revolutionary democracy" were proclaiming the Revolution in the Soviet and publishing the first appeal to the people to fight for a Constituent Assembly. Our minds could not keep pace with the events. They were bewildered and overwhelmed by the peculiar glowing atmosphere of intense popular emotion. And those who, in spite of everything, wished to keep to their ordinary way of thinking at this extraordinary time of mysterious revolutionary creation, those who hastened to build up in nice and well laid out designs their respective political schemes and systems in order to set themselves above the events and to direct their course —those people sometimes managed to look extremely silly. I have already mentioned how the wise men of the Left formulated a declaration intended to counteract the monarchist tendencies which by all the rules of revolutionary theory must be inherent in a bourgeois government. But they were not the only ones who made such miscalculations. On March twelfth, one of the wisest members of the Moderate Progressive Bloc in the Duma majority, when asked what would be the program of the new government, replied quickly and authoritatively: "Of course, its program will be the program of the Progressive Bloc." Moreover, on the morning of March fifteenth, Miliukoff proclaimed to the throng collected in the halls of the Tauride Palace:
"The power will pass to the Regent. The despot who has brought Russia to complete ruin will either abdicate or be deposed. The power will be transferred to the Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovitch. Alexis will be the heir to the throne."
He was interrupted by cries: "It is the old dynasty," etc. But he continued:
"In my opinion we ought to have a parliamentary, constitutional monarchy. Perhaps others are of different opinion, but if we discuss this point now instead of deciding it at once, civil war will break out in Russia and she will return to the regime that has just been destroyed."
But by the evening of March twelfth it had already become quite evident that any attempt to save the monarchy or the dynasty was doomed to failure. The monarchy was bound to be swept away in two or three hours. Many impractical plans were put forward and it was extremely trying to listen to the endless discussions of lifeless, academic programs. These plans were put forward by the representatives of the upper classes as well as by the revolutionary democracy. I did my best to avoid these meetings, not deliberately but because such interminable and impractical discussions have always been repugnant to my nature. Political programs rarely interested me at that time. I was absorbed entirely by the vast and mysterious development of events which was sweeping us along so swiftly and so inexorably. One felt that programs and discussions could neither speed nor prevent that which had come about.
The Revolution was not the product of mere human reason. It came from the depths of the soul and conscience of humanity. Indeed, all these programs and theories were shelved and forgotten even before the authors had had time to try them out, while the authors themselves followed a course precisely the opposite of that which they had advocated the day before. But how much time, energy and intelligence were wasted during those months of the Revolution in discussing academic schemes and manifestoes and in working out formula; to conciliate opposing views! These were the heritage of long centuries of autocracy, during which the Russian people had had no opportunity to acquire political acumen and the art of practical government. Neither the Left nor the Moderates nor the Right had any experience of government, with the possible exception of the bureaucrats. One must not blame them for this unhealthy tendency to settle everything by resolutions. They had learned to reason well, but they had never been able to try out their theories in practice. Much paper was wasted during the Revolution! Many decisions were taken, only to be forgotten the next day by those who had urged and defended them. It would be unjust to attribute this lack of efficiency to the revolutionary democracy alone, for it was common to the whole Russian intelligentsia. The first night of the Revolution passed, but it seemed to us that all eternity had gone by. On the morning of March thirteenth, the military schools and almost all the Guard regiments with their officers came to express their allegiance to the Revolution. Reports arrived that the troops and the people in neighboring towns were joining the movement. It was becoming clear that the Revolution was approaching decisive victory. Rodzianko received telegrams from the commander-in-chief and the commanders at the front which dissipated all anxiety about the attitude of the army in the field. Tsarskoye Selo joined the movement the very same day that Nicholas II left General Headquarters for the imperial residence. In the midst of the anarchy in Petrograd newly founded organizations began to appear. Resistance to the revolutionaries diminished rapidly and, in fact, disappeared almost entirely. We were now concerned only with the possible opposition on the part of the old regime in other parts of the country. The events at Tsarskoye Selo, however, had foredoomed all such efforts to failure. We heard that General Ivanoff had begun his advance on Petrograd. For what object? With what forces? What relation had this enterprise to the departure of the Emperor from General Headquarters? We did not know as yet.
But such questions troubled us only at night, for all day long we lived in happy, feverish activity. We had to meet and welcome the various sections of the garrison as they arrived. As a rule the procedure was as follows:
An army unit—let us say the Semenoffsk Guard Regiment—came in. The soldiers poured in noisily and gayly, like a great wave, through the main entrance into the Duma, lining up along the walls of the long Catherine Hall. Then Rodzianko was sent for to greet them in the name of the Duma. He said what was expected of him. He spoke of the great joy of liberation, of the dawn of a new life and of the solemn, patriotic duty that lay before us at the front. He pointed out that it was essential to have confidence in the men in authority, to observe military discipline, etc. His last words were usually drowned in thunderous cheers. Then some one from the regiment, usually the officer in command, would reply. And there were more cheers and joyful shouting. Then the regiment would want to hear other speakers. Usually the soldiers asked for Miliukoff, Tcheidze or me. It was a great happiness to make these first speeches of freedom to a free people, to speak freely and openly for the first time to the army.
I remember particularly one incident. The Michailovsk Artillery School and several army units were in Catherine Hall, while all the adjacent rooms and passages were thronged with soldiers and people. They called for me and lifted me on their shoulders in the center of the hall. I saw a sea of heads, of gleaming, enthusiastic faces. I felt as if we all had one emotion, one heart, one will. I felt that this throng was capable of great self-sacrifice, of great devotion. I tried to express this in my speech. I spoke of the free man that was born in every one of us in this hour of the new, free Russia; of the great deeds that lay before us and of the call that had come to every one of us to serve our country in complete sacrifice and without reserve. I said that a double service was required of them, that they must carry on both the War and the Revolution; that this was a difficult task, calling for all the energies of every man and of the entire nation. I spoke of the generations of heroic revolutionists who had died unflinchingly for the liberty of future generations. I pointed out that representatives of all classes had perished for this cause and that all classes must now trust each other. Again I called for generous, heroic sacrifices in the name of our motherland that was reborn.
Thousands of hands were raised and all swore to serve their country and the Revolution to the very end. It was indeed a new life that sprang up within the walls of the Duma. New fires of hope and aspiration were kindled and the masses were drawn together by mysterious bonds. We have lived through many beautiful and terrible events since then, but I can still reel the great soul of the people as I did in those days. I can feel this terrific force which may be led to perform great deeds or incited to horrible crimes. As a flower turns to the sun, so the newly awakened soul of the people longed for light and truth. The people followed us when we tried to raise them above material things to the light of high ideals. I hold, as I did then, what now seems to many an absurd faith: I believe in the spirit of the people, whose wholesome, creative forces will come out victorious in the end, vanquishing the deadly poison that has been poured into them during these long years, not, alas, by the Bolsheviki alone. There have been so many poisoners —the Bolsheviki are only more logical, more persistent, more daring and more shameless than the rest.
We had a great deal of trouble in those first days of the Revolution with the prisoners in the Government Pavilion, the ministers, dignitaries, bureaucrats, generals and police officials assembled there. Certain episodes come back to me. I recall the arrival of Goremykin, a small and very old man, who had twice been premier. It was morning; some one stopped me and told me of Goremykin's arrest. I went to Rodzianko's room, to which he had been taken. In a corner sat a very old gentleman, with exceedingly long whiskers. He wore a fur coat and looked like a gnome. Deputies, priests, peasants, officials stood around him. They could not take their eyes off the famous Goremykin with his chain of the Order of St. Andrew the Apostle. The old man had found time when he got up to put it around his neck, over his old morning waistcoat. Goremykin's arrest made perhaps even more impression on the deputies than Scheglovitoff's the day before. The Moderates were alarmed, wondering whether it would not be better to release him. They were all interested to know how I would deal with this man who held the very high title of "privy councilor of the first class." I put to him the customary question: "Are you Ivan Loginovitch Goremykin?" "Yes," he answered. "In the name of the revolutionary people I declare you under arrest," I said, and turning to those about me, I added: "Please call the guard." Two soldiers appeared. I placed one on each side of Goremykin. Some deputies anxious about the fate of his "highest excellency" surrounded the crestfallen and confused old man more closely, tried to enter into conversation with him and seemed to express their sympathy. I asked them to move away. At my request the old man got up, his chain jingling mournfully, and I led him to the Government Pavilion, amidst the respectful silence of the deputies.
I should mention that at this time many Duma deputies did not realize how deep were the wrath and indignation of the masses in Petrograd against the chiefs and representatives of the old regime. They failed to understand that only by arresting and showing a certain degree of severity to the former dignitaries could we keep the crowds from lynching them. I remember that in my absence the deputies, in the kindness of their hearts, released Makaroff, former minister of the interior, minister of justice and member of the Senate. While he had been minister of the interior, on April 17, 1912, there had been a massacre of workmen in the Lena goldfields in Siberia, which provoked the indignation of the whole of Russia. In accounting for this incident to the Duma, Makaroff had unwittingly uttered the hateful phrase, which became proverbial: "Thus it has been and thus it always will be."
It is not difficult to imagine what would have happened if such a minister had graciously been allowed to remain at large. What would have happened if the agents-provocateurs and demagogues who were already trying to excite the populace to rash and bloody acts had taken advantage of the news? This unwise and unjustifiable release took place in the evening. When I entered the study of the Duma president, Makaroff had just left it with the good wishes of the kind deputies. I demanded that I be told where I could find him and was informed that he had probably gone to an upper apartment in the Duma building because he was afraid to return home at night. I immediately took two soldiers and hurried upstairs to the apartment. I rang the bell. A lady opened the door and screamed with terror at the sight of the bayonets of my soldiers. I calmed her and asked: "Is Makaroff here?" She replied that he was, and I said: "Take me to him, please." The minister was sitting in a comfortable room—as far as I remember it was a dining room. I explained that his release was a misunderstanding, apologized for having to trouble him again and conducted him to the Pavilion.
Again, later in the evening on March thirteenth, I was passing along the corridor to the small entrance leading to the rooms of the Temporary Committee of the Duma. At the door of what had been Protopopoff's office some one approached me. He was uncouth and untidy, but his face was familiar. He called me "Your Excellency." There was a familiar ring in the voice. "I am coming to you of my own accord; do arrest me," was his next statement. I looked more closely and, behold, it was Protopopoff! It appeared he had been in hiding in the suburbs for two days and was trembling with terror. But when he learned that the prisoners at the Duma were being treated kindly and that I was in charge of them, he came to give himself up. At least, that was how he explained the matter to me. We were standing at the door of his former office, and no one had as yet taken notice of him. I knew that if his arrival became known it would end badly for him. For this wretched man was perhaps more hated at that time than any other, not excluding the Czar himself. I said softly: "You have done quite well in coming, but be silent. Come along quickly and do not show yourself more than you can help." When the door of the Government Pavilion closed behind us, I drew a deep breath of relief.
I think it was on the evening of March fourteenth, while I was attending a meeting of the Military Commission, that some one pale and terrified ran up to me and said:
"Sukhomlinoff[1*] is being brought along to the Duma. The soldiers are terribly excited. It looks as if they might tear him to pieces."
I ran out into the corridor. The throng was pressing forward, unable to restrain its wrath, muttering ominously. They were staring intently at the repulsive old man who had betrayed his country, and seemed ready to pounce upon him to tear him to pieces. I cannot recall the nightmare of this scene without horror. Sukhomlinoff was surrounded by a small guard, manifestly inadequate to protect him from the infuriated crowd. But I was determined there should be no bloodshed. I joined the guard and led it myself. We had to walk for several minutes through the ranks of the enraged soldiers. I had to use all the power of my will and all possible tact to restrain the raging human flood which was about to overflow all bounds. I thanked Heaven when we had passed through Catherine Hall. The narrow corridor that we still had to cross between Catherine Hall and the side door leading to the main meeting hall of the Duma was almost deserted, but in the semicircular hall near the door of the Government Pavilion there were more soldiers. It was there that we passed the most terrible moments. Seeing that their prey was about to escape, the throng made a determined movement in our direction. I quickly covered Sukhomlinoff with my body. I was the last barrier that separated him from the pursuers. I shouted that I would not permit them to kill him, that I would not allow them to disgrace the Revolution in this way. Finally, I declared that they would lay hands on Sukhomlinoff only over my dead body. I stood thus, shielding the traitor, alone against the furious crowd. It was a terrible moment. But they began to hesitate and I won. Gradually the crowd receded. We succeeded in pushing Sukhomlinoff through the door that opened behind us. We shut it and barred the way with the bayonets of the guard. In the Pavilion the appearance of Sukhomlinoff aroused tremendous indignation among the arrested dignitaries. Not a single one of them would sit near him, and all showed their objection to being in the same room with him.
It was, indeed, very difficult to protect these prisoners from the fate that might have befallen them. At first they were terrified at what might become of them in this "accursed" Revolution, for they were thoroughly conscious of their guilt. Some of them, like Beletsky, Protopopoff and Beliayeff, the former minister of war, inspired repugnance by their cowardly conduct. Others, like Scheglovitoff, Makaroff and Bark, on the contrary, behaved with courage and dignity. The calmness and self-possession of Scheglovitoff especially struck me. All of them were, of course, prepared for the worst. But they soon saw that our Revolution was not to be a parody of the autocracy, and they not only calmed themselves but accepted with complete confidence the assurance of myself and my associates that their lives were safe in our hands and that no harm would come to them.
People from the Right have blamed and are still condemning me for my leniency towards the Left, i.e., towards the Bolsheviki. They forget that on the principle they put forward I should have been obliged to begin by applying terror not to the Left but to the Right, that I had not the right to shed the blood of the Bolsheviki unless I had first shed streams of blood in the early days and weeks of the Revolution, when I risked my authority and prestige with the masses by fighting against the demand that the Czar and all the members of the fallen dynasty and all its servants should be atrociously punished.
I remain a decided adversary of every form of terror. I shall never renounce this "weakness," this humaneness of our March Revolution. The real soul of the Russian people is one of mercy without hatred. This is the heritage of our Russian culture, which is deeply humane and tested by long suffering. Looking back upon the Decembrists, upon Vladimir Solovieff, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Turgenieff, upon the noble, stubborn fight of the entire Russian intelligentsia against the henchmen and hangmen of Nicholas II, how could this Russian Revolution have begun with capital punishment, the characteristic habit of autocracy, by setting up "Her Majesty the Guillotine"?
It was with faith in the justice of our cause that we launched the Revolution and sought to create a new Russian commonwealth founded upon human love and tolerance. Some day our hopes will be realized, for in those days we all sowed seeds which will bear fruit. Just now our eyes are blinded by mists of blood, and people have apparently ceased to believe in the creative power of love, in the power of mercy and forgiveness, which alone foster the growth of national life and culture. People say now this humaneness was simply a sign of weakness of the revolutionary government, but as a matter of fact great determination and strength were needed to prevent and curb bloodshed, and to suppress in oneself and others the impulses of hatred and vengeance, which were cultivated by the centuries of autocracy.
The strength of our Russian Revolution lay precisely in the fact that it did triumph over its enemies, not by terror and bloodshed, but by mercy, love and justice, even if only for one day, for one hour. Perhaps I dreamt all this. Perhaps this Revolution never existed, except in my imagination. But it seemed to exist then. Now every one in Russia is dazed by blood. One hates the other to the extent of mutual annihilation. But this will pass, or if it does not pass, if the Russian people never come to understand the beauty and greatness of their first impulse, then we have been mistaken and our Revolution was not the prelude to the new life of which we all dreamt but the epilogue of the dying culture of a people about to vanish forever into history.
I remember how the first group of Czarist dignitaries was transferred from the Government Pavilion to the Fortress of SS. Peter and Paul. It was during the night of March sixteenth. We did not want to place these prisoners in the cells hallowed by the sufferings of many generations of Russian revolutionists, from the Decembrists and Novikoff to those of our own days. But the other prisons had been destroyed on March twelfth, so that the Fortress of SS. Peter and Paul was the only place where these new and unexpected guests could be lodged with safety. The very walls of the old fortress must have shuddered to receive those who only yesterday were sending here the noblest and most courageous fighters for liberty, to suffer and to die.
The city was by no means calm when we found ourselves confronted with the necessity of removing the ministers of the Fortress of SS. Peter and Paul. It would have been highly unsafe to make the transfer during the day or with any publicity. I, and my immediate associates in charge of the Government Pavilion, determined, therefore, to make the transfer during the night, without even giving notice to the guard. All preparations had been completed by midnight and I myself notified the prisoners to make ready for departure, without telling them where they were going and why. These were Scheglovitoff, Sukhomlinoff, Kurloff, Protopopoff, Goremykin, Beletsky, Maklakoff and Beliayeff.
The secrecy of the removal and the hostile faces of the soldiers filled the dignitaries with terror. Some of them lost the last shreds of self-possession. Scheglovitoff was very calm, but inwardly probably he was comparing his sensations with those of his many victims, carried off in the same manner in the dead of night and driven from the Fortress of SS. Peter and Paul or some other prison to the place of execution. Protopopoff could hardly keep on his feet and some one else—I think it was Beliayeff—implored me in a low voice to tell him at once whether he was being led away to execution.
I thought of Goremykin and went up to him. He had not yet donned his fur coat and I noticed that the chain of his order was no longer around his neck.
"What has become of your order?" I asked him.
The old man became excited and confused like a schoolboy before his master, but he kept silent.
"Was it taken away from you?" I asked.
"No," he answered.
"Then, where is it?"
At last the poor man tremblingly unbuttoned his coat and waistcoat and began pulling out his chain from under his shirt. He knew that he would not be permitted to take superfluous things to prison but could not bear to part with his toy. I made an exception and allowed him to take his precious chain with him.
The removal of the ministers brought back to my mind my conversation with Scheglovitoff on March twelfth, immediately upon his arrival at the Government Pavilion. He was still quite alone and I suggested to him that if he had any love for his country, if he wanted to atone for the past or wished to perform one decent service for Russia at least at this hour, he should telephone to Tsarskoye Selo, or to any one else he deemed proper, to inform the authorities that further resistance was useless and urge them to surrender to the people. But this he firmly refused to do.
I will now return to the events of March thirteenth.
I have already indicated that the arrival of the garrison troops, of all the Guards, including the Czar's own bodyguard, had strengthened the position of the Tauride Palace. The resistance of the police in the streets was diminishing, although frequent firing continued in the suburbs. This gave us no ground for anxiety, but our position in the provinces was still uncertain, particularly in Moscow, from which we had as yet received no news at all. The situation in general was not yet definite, and the movements and conduct of Nicholas
II were still a riddle to us. Why had he left General Headquarters for Tsarskoye Selo? I believe now that he departed for Tsarskoye without realizing the absolute hopelessness of the situation, hoping perhaps to placate the Duma with concessions, or he may have gone to see his family, to which he was devoted, for most of its members were ill at that time.
It did not seem so simple then, however. In any case, we were obliged to take action, for we could not permit the Czar to come to Tsarskoye Selo, so near the capital. If he could not or would not undertake to organize any resistance himself, there were others who might have sought to make use of him. The Temporary Committee of the Duma decided not to permit the Czar's train to proceed to Tsarskoye but to detain it on the way and negotiate with him en route. Every one realized that his abdication was essential and inevitable. Already at the beginning of the winter, plans for a coup d'état had been launched among the upper classes. Some of these plans were known in the army, and all of them involved the abdication of Nicholas II.
Our Commissar Bublikoff was keeping a close watch on the Czar's train. The shortest route from Mohileff to Tsarskoye Selo lies through Vitebsk and Dno, a trip of fourteen to sixteen hours. The Czar left Mohileff in the morning of March thirteenth. The Temporary Committee of the Duma ordered the train stopped at Dno. Time was passing. It was midnight. We had heard that the train was on the way to Pskoff, the Main Headquarters of the Northern Front. This meant that the Czar was intending to throw himself upon the army. I do not remember how many hours this cat-and-mouse game lasted, but the "mice" of yesterday showed considerable skill in catching their "cat." Finding the road barred at Dno, the Czar ordered the train to proceed to Bologoye, a junction point from which two roads were open, one to Moscow and the other to Petrograd. We ordered the road cut at Bologoye. For the first time the Czar and his suite found they could no longer go where they wished and felt the power that now lay in the hated Duma's hands. From Bologoye the imperial train turned back to Dno, whence it proceeded to Pskoff. I do not remember whether the Czar's train arrived at Pskoff at dawn on March fourteenth or fifteenth. I think it was on the fourteenth, although I recall vaguely that during that day Rodzianko made some efforts to get in touch by telephone with the Czar's train. But perhaps it was the Czar who tried to get into communication with Rodzianko from Pskoff. However, this is not a point of great importance, for by the morning of March fifteenth General Roussky, commander of the Northern Front, had not only received a telegram from Rodzianko declaring, in the name of the Duma, that the Czar must abdicate, but he had already discussed this question by telephone with General Alexeyeff at General Headquarters. The army did not oppose the Czar's abdication. In spite of the formal proposal that the Czar abdicate in favor of his heir and that the Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovitch, the Czar's brother, become regent, the fate of the dynasty was already sealed. I do not mean to suggest that Rodzianko and the other members of the Temporary Committee were deliberately deceiving Nicholas II when they asked him to abdicate on these terms. On the contrary, I believe that on the morning of March fourteenth they were sincerely convinced that it would be possible to make common cause with Michael Alexandrovitch for the salvation of Russia. But they were deceiving themselves. I, for one, did not believe for a moment that this plan could be realized, and so I did not go to the trouble of raising any objections for the time being. The logic of events showed itself stronger than all plans and suggestions.
I wish to point out here that all measures taken to intercept the Czar's train and to communicate with the front for the purpose of forcing his abdication were taken without any pressure from the Soviet, although by the evening of March thirteenth the Soviet already felt it had sufficient strength to begin functioning as an authoritative organization, on a basis of equality with the Temporary Committee of the Duma. The military section of the Soviet was already competing with the Military Commission of the Duma, issuing various independent orders. In answer to Colonel Engelhardt's orders to the garrison, it issued the famous "Order No. 1," which was written on the night of March fourteenth. I shall discuss this order in detail later but, for the present, I merely note the time it was issued. I must point out, also, that this order was applicable only to the Petrograd garrison and it had neither more nor less authority than the orders of Colonel Engelhardt. I emphasize these facts because "Order No. 1" has been used as a strong weapon of attack against the Provisional Government and myself in particular. Without entering at this juncture into a discussion of its contents, I should like to say once and for all that neither the Provisional Government (which had not yet been formed) nor I had anything whatever to do with this order. It may be noted as a matter of interest that I personally read the text of this order for the first time in London, in December, 1918. This order was one of the effects of the peculiar state of disintegration and lack of authority in the Petrograd garrison, and by no means the cause of it, as has been charged.
On March thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth the lack of officers made the situation very difficult. The soldier mass, released from the bonds of discipline and daily routine, became willful and unmanageable. It was further aroused by innumerable rumors about alleged counter-revolutionary plots by officers (most of whom had gone into hiding) and on the part of the high command of the army. Agitators contributed their share to inciting the rank and file against the officers. I must say, however, that all the responsible elements, from Rodzianko and the Executive Committee of the Duma to Tcheidze and the Executive Committee of the Soviet, strove hard to put an end to the discords in the Petrograd garrison and to save the officers from being lynched. Tcheidze, Skobeleff and other members of their Executive Committee repeatedly appeared before the soldiers to counteract the false rumors concerning the counter-revolutionary tendencies of the officers and to urge the need for unity and confidence. Tcheidze and I addressed a communication to the garrison, pointing out that a certain proclamation against the officers issued ostensibly by the leaders of the Social-Democratic and Social-Revolutionary parties was a deliberate forgery, perpetrated by agents-provocateurs. The officers of the Petrograd garrison soon adopted a resolution expressing their allegiance to the Revolution and to the Duma. The resolution was countersigned by Milinkoff, Karauloff and myself. The resolution was widely distributed, and I concluded my first speech as minister of justice by calling upon the soldiers to obey their officers and submit to discipline.
In short, to say that any member of the government was spreading discord between the officers and soldiers is either downright calumny or a complete misunderstanding of the facts. Colonel Engelhardt, Gutchkoff, Karauloff, Rodzianko, Tcheidze and I, and all who had to deal with the Petrograd garrison in the first days of the Revolution, were obliged by the peculiar circumstances in Petrograd to speak not about the officers in general but only about the officers who were faithful to the people and the Revolution. It was not we but the situation which compelled the distinction. Soon all these misunderstandings disappeared, but they left scars which could not be erased.
From the very first days of the Revolution, agents-provocateurs, German agents and liberated criminals began to stir up feeling against us. To understand the danger and effectiveness of this agitation, it should be remembered that the police department alone had several thousand agents and agitators, spies and informers operating among the workers, the troops and the intelligentsia in Petrograd. And there was a considerable number of enemy agents. These gentry were hard at work spreading anarchy and disorder. They printed and distributed incitements to massacre, they sowed hatred, accentuated misunderstandings and spread rumors which despite their falsity had no inconsiderable effect on the population. I was informed (I think it was on March fourteenth) that bales of proclamations of the most preposterous character, calling for massacre and anarchy, and purporting to be signed by the Social-Democratic party, had been brought to the quarters of the Soviet. Having previously observed a number of suspicious individuals lurking about the Soviet quarters I went there and actually found a quantity of the most disgraceful proclamations, in good print and on good paper, which had obviously come from the police. Of course, I immediately confiscated them, but we could not intercept all such documents in time, as there were too many scoundrels at work distributing them.
At the same time "reliable" information was spread about a revolution in Germany, together with an appeal to hold out a fraternal hand to the insurgent German proletariat. A revolution in Berlin in March, 1917! How many simple-minded folk accepted this news in good faith! Even honest people went about town in automobiles, distributing announcements of this mythical revolution. The masses believed this rumor because the hearts of many thousands were already aglow with the faith that the Russian Revolution would kindle the fires of fraternity in the hearts of all the working people of the world, and that by common impulse the workmen and peasants of all belligerent countries would put a stop to the fratricidal war.
It would be a great mistake to attribute this pacifist movement entirely to the ignorance of some and the treachery of others. For there was much candid faith in the international solidarity of the working classes, which was highly desirable but had no basis in reality. The imagination of the Russian socialist, whether he be workman or intellectual, created a composite "French-British-German socialist workman" who did not exist anywhere in sober, practical, materialistic Europe. This imaginary European proletariat was simply an idealized image in the likeness of the ordinary Russian workman and intellectual, i.e., of a hungry dreamer who does not possess a corner on earth where he can lay his head. But in reality there is a great deal of satiety and of comfort at the disposal of the plain working man in Western Europe. It may seem paradoxical but it is true: the Russian proletariat would hate and fight the bourgeois and the intellectual at home a hundred times less if he knew that the whole of Europe, the whole of nature, does not contain such socialists and such socialism as he and his creed. But he did not know this, and so he burned with fanatical faith in the immediate realization of the socialist millennium throughout the world, until the flames of his belief destroyed him and his unfortunate country. All the tragic phenomena which developed in Russia after the great Revolution were not the expression of the primitive forces of barbarism, as some distinguished foreigners and even many of the Russian "cultured" classes believe, but were in reality far more complex in their material and spiritual causes.
On the morning of March twelfth, Rodzianko had sent his second wire to Nicholas II. It contained the following words: "Steps must be taken immediately, for by to-morrow it may be too late." This prophecy was accurately fulfilled. On the night of March thirteenth it became quite clear that it was too late to save the dynasty and that the Romanoff family had disappeared forever from Russian history.
By the night of March fourteenth there was but one tragic problem confronting us: how to save Russia from the rapidly spreading disintegration and anarchy. In the face of this situation and of the task confronting the nation at the front it was imperative to give the country a new government. It could not afford to drift along without a government even for an hour, and yet three days had already passed without a supreme authority, the government of Prince Golitzin and Protopopoff having become paralyzed by the morning of March eleventh. It was impossible to delay any longer, for the process of disintegration was proceeding with meteoric speed, threatening to destroy the whole administrative machine. With the administrative apparatus wrecked no government would have been able to cope with the situation. What happened came very close indeed to such destruction. One longed to speed the necessary action, to force quick decisions. The task demanded creative work instead of discussions. It called for risk instead of calculation. One had the painful feeling that every minute of delay, indecision and unnecessary calculation was an irretrievable loss. Every minute in those days was worth months and years of ordinary time and yet many minutes were wasted. Mere human reason was overwhelmed by the whirlwind, and the march of events left it behind at an ever widening distance.
However, by the morning of March fourteenth the main features of the new government and its program had already been sketched in bold outline, and thereupon the representatives of the upper classes and the bourgeoisie began to parley with the democracy, as represented by the Executive Committee of the Soviet. I cannot give an account of these pourparlers, as I took little part in them. On the rare occasions when I was present I sat quite passive and hardly listened. A provisional government was projected, composed almost entirely of "bourgeois" ministers, with two portfolios reserved for the Soviet. The Temporary Committee of the Duma proposed Tcheidze as minister of labor and me as minister of justice. This rather one-sided arrangement was brought forward because of the still prevalent illusion that for some time to come the Duma majority and the governing upper classes in general would retain power and authority in the country.
The invitation of the Temporary Committee of the Duma to send two representatives as members of the projected government was discussed by the Executive Committee of the Soviet in the course of the day, March fourteenth. It was on this occasion that the resolution I have already briefly mentioned was carried, declaring that the representatives of the revolutionary democracy "could not take office in the Provisional Government because the government and the whole Revolution were bourgeois." What reasons did the scribes and pharisees of socialism bring forward to persuade the Executive Committee to this decision? I do not know. But when I heard of it, it seemed to me to be utterly absurd, for it was obvious that all the real power lay in the hands of the people themselves. It seemed clear to me that the Revolution was a revolution of all the people, of the whole nation, and that the questions of the governing authority had to be solved in a broad spirit, on a national scale and in a spirit of constructive statesmanship.
On March fourteenth I was confronted by a painful question, having to choose between leaving the Soviet and remaining in the government or remaining in the Soviet and refusing to take part in the government. Both alternatives seemed impossible to me. The dilemma buried itself deep in my mind and the decision ripened somehow by itself, for there was no time or opportunity to think over the problem in the turmoil of the day.
On the same day the general situation again gave cause for anxiety. Obscure reports were in circulation about some catastrophe at Kronstadt. In Petrograd hooligans attacked the officers' hotel (Astoria), broke into the rooms, molested women, and committed depredations. At the same time news of the arrival of General Ivanoff and his troops at Tsarskoye Selo spread rapidly throughout the capital and in the Duma, and although there was no cause for fear on this score the throng in the Duma was obviously nervous and agitated by the uncertainty of the situation. At about eleven o'clock in the morning the Grand Dukes came to pledge allegiance to the Duma, including Cyril, the present "pretender" to the throne, Nicholas Michaelovitch and others. The troops continued to fraternize with the people. The firing slackened and in spite of isolated acts of violence some sort of order had been restored. A city militia and even the office of a revolutionary prefect were created. People were working hard to restore discipline in the garrison, and Gutchkoff, who next day became minister of war, took part in the work.
Meanwhile the Revolution in its sweep had spread to the provinces. Good news came from Moscow, where, as one eyewitness reported, "everything went like clockwork." Moscow said good-by to the past gladly and unitedly. I remember how on my arrival in Moscow, on March twentieth, I felt as if I could not drink in enough of the pure, fresh air of Russia, which Petrograd, infected with intrigue and treachery, needed so badly.
News kept pouring in from all parts of Russia, from towns big and small, telling of the advance of the Revolution. The movement was already nation-wide. There was, therefore, all the more reason to make haste in organizing the new government and clearing up the remnants of the old one. By the evening of March fourteenth we were hard at work composing the manifesto of the Provisional Government, which on the morrow was to take up the reins of government. We were concerned only with setting up the executive departments. The question of the supreme executive authority was not discussed by the Temporary Committee, for the majority of the Committee regarded it as settled that the Grand Duke Michael would assume the regency during the minority of Alexis. However on the night of March fifteenth all, without exception, had agreed that the Constituent Assembly was "to determine the form of government and the constitution of the country," so that even the Constitutional Monarchists, who on the morning of March sixteenth still favored a regency, had already agreed that the people alone were supreme and had the sole right of determining the future Russian constitution. Thus the monarchy was discarded and by unanimous consent relegated to the archives of history.
The contents of the first declaration of the Provisional Government was the subject of heated discussion. Agreement almost broke down completely over some points. There was much passionate dispute between the representatives of the Temporary Committee and those of the Executive Committee of the Soviet on the point concerning the rights of soldiers. As far as I can remember the Soviet's original draft of this point was altered entirely. The original draft of the declaration or, at least, the fundamental points and clauses, were drawn up, if I remember aright, by the Executive Committee of the Soviet. Every item provoked sharp disagreement, but not a word was said about the War and its aims. It is indeed remarkable that this subject, which only a fortnight later became the most painful and, one may say, the fatal question of the Revolution, was not alluded to by a single word in the working out of the program of the Provisional Government. On this question of the War and its aims the Provisional Government was left absolutely free, taking upon itself no formal obligations, being at liberty to act as it wished and proclaim, whatever war aims it deemed proper and necessary. And yet later no other question led to such furious attacks on the Provisional Government from the Left, which declared that precisely on this point the government had somehow betrayed the Revolution and violated its pledges. What may perhaps seem even more incredible is that this inaugural manifesto of the Provisional Government did not refer in a single line or word to the social and economic grievances of the working classes. In fact, this initial declaration of the Provisional Government was altogether so general in its character that I was quite indifferent to its contents. The Provisional Government, as first constituted, not only fulfilled the obligations it had taken upon itself but went far beyond this declaration, unfolding a wide and comprehensive program of social reform. But that did not deter people from assailing it, accusing it of having failed to live up to its obligations and inspiring the masses with deep mistrust of the government created by the Revolution.
Does not the absence of a social program from the declaration of the Provisional Government show that the "leaders" of the Soviet were quite accidental to the Revolution? Does it not show how they misunderstood the nature of the profound upheaval, of this turning point in the life of the Russian people? I have no doubt there will be many ingenious efforts to explain away the fact that the Soviet draft of the government's declaration contained no reference to the War and the economic needs of the workers and peasants. Some people pretend this silence was deliberate, that these questions were deliberately ignored for tactical reasons, so as not to frighten the upper classes at the beginning of the Revolution. Very well, let them find whatever consolation they can from such specious argument!
The cabinet list of the Provisional Government was completed by the night of March fifteenth. I cannot say what considerations influenced the Temporary Committee of the Duma in choosing the ministers, for I did not take part in the consultations on this question. I do not remember when Prince Lvoff, the first premier of the Provisional Government, appeared among us for the first time, but I think he arrived by the evening of March fourteenth. I know that Rodzianko's candidacy for the premiership found no support among the influential deputies. I know also that in Duma circles it was considered imperative that I be included in the Provisional Government. I learned later that some of the ministerial candidates made my inclusion in the government a condition of their acceptance. No one seemed to think that the decision of the Executive Committee of the Soviet against participation in the government would necessarily prevent my taking office.
This night of March fifteenth was perhaps the most painfully difficult period I had yet experienced. I was on the verge of a breakdown. The superhuman tension of the previous two days had begun to tell on me. I was often on the point of fainting and sometimes I would fall into a semiconscious state for ten or fifteen minutes. But it was up to me to find a way out of the difficult situation, which seemed to be impossible of solution. I must say that even in Soviet circles it was considered by some necessary and inevitable that I should enter the Provisional Government. Some Soviet members even sought to persuade me to leave the Soviet in order to do so. But this was an important question for me. It was essential that the Provisional Government include a formal representative of the second center of the Revolution, in order that it might have the character and authority of a popular government.
It mattered not how many seats in the cabinet were allotted to the respective parties, for even if the revolutionary democracy had only one representative his influence was bound to be determined by the weight of public opinion behind him. I was, therefore, not in the least embarrassed at finding myself alone in the cabinet, when Tcheidze had refused categorically to enter the government. I felt that if the masses were to be left to the haphazard leadership of the Soviet and had no official representative in the Provisional Government, serious danger and trouble were ahe ad. I could not permit this to come to pass. Moreover, I felt that without a hold on the Left, without direct contact with the masses, the Provisional Government was foredoomed to failure. Yet, the immediate and essential need of the Revolution was a strong government, able to organize the dissolving structure of the country.
It is very difficult at this time to express in words all these considerations, which did not come to me at that time one by one through the process of reasoning, but forced themselves upon me painfully and instinctively in a mass. I was face to face with an excruciating dilemma. My friends urged me to have done with the Soviet and enter the government. I felt this was impossible, but on the other hand it was equally impossible to make the Soviet leaders change their minds.
Unable to bear the thought of this difficulty any longer, I determined, before dawn, to go home. I do not know why, but I could no longer listen to all these discussions regarding the question settled irrevocably by the Executive Committee of the Soviet.
How strange it was now to come out into the street which I had so often traversed on my way to the Duma, followed by spies of the Czarist secret police! How strange it was to pass the sentinels, to see the sinister flames from the building of the district gendarmerie, to which the people had set fire. It was all so unreal, so fantastic.
Only on my return home did 1 perceive fully the significance of what had happened. I broke down and fell into a faint. It is difficult to describe the state of mind through which I was passing during all these days. One's very nerves, one's entire organism felt extraordinarily quick and vibrant. One lived under what seemed unendurable tension. Yet one felt strong enough to vanquish even death. It is worth living to experience such ecstasy.
For two or three hours I lay in a semiconscious, semi-delirious state. Then, suddenly, I sprang up, for the answer to that question which I seemed to have forgotten had come to me at last. I determined to telephone immediately my acceptance of a post in the Provisional Government and to fight it out later not with the Executive Committee but with the Soviet itself. Let the Soviet decide between the Executive Committee and myself! Strangely enough, my final decision to ignore the ruling of the Executive Committee was not prompted by the reasons mentioned above but simply by the sudden thought of the prisoners in the Government Pavilion and elsewhere. Could any one else, could any bourgeois minister of justice save them from lynching and keep the Revolution undefiled by shameful bloodshed? I felt sure that, under the circumstances, no one but myself could do this. I telephoned to the Temporary Committee and announced my decision. I think it was Miliukoff who answered the telephone. He seemed pleased, and congratulated me heartily. My weariness disappeared. I began immediately to lay plans for the organization of my department, to pick my nearest associates. I sent for Zarudny, who was to be my assistant minister, etc. One might have thought that I was in no doubt as to whether the Soviet would approve my decision. To tell the truth, I was not.
I returned to the Duma, where every one had meanwhile learned of my decision and was waiting to see how my conflict with the Executive Committee of the Soviet would be settled. I proceeded at once to the Executive Committee and found nothing but stern faces and great anger. A plenary session of the entire Soviet was already in progress. I said I would go there and announce my decision immediately. "No, no, no!" was the advice of some. "Do not go. They will attack you and tear you to pieces. Give us time to prepare them beforehand."
"I myself will go and tell them," I replied.
In the adjoining large hall I heard Stekloff making his report on the pourparlers with the Temporary Committee of the Duma on the organization of the government. When he had finished, the chairman (Tcheidze) was told that I was waiting to appear before the Soviet, and he granted me the floor.
I climbed on to a table and launched upon my speech. I had hardly begun when I realized that I was winning. I only needed to look at this crowd, to watch the reaction of their eyes and faces to realize that they were with me. I declared that I appeared before the Soviet as minister of justice in the Provisional Government, that it had been impossible for me to await the decision of the members of the Soviet, and that I must now ask for their vote of confidence. I spoke of the program of the Provisional Government, saying that it was to the interests of Russia and of the working class that the revolutionary democracy be represented in the government, so that the government might be in close and constant touch with the will of the people, etc. I no longer remember the details of my address, but I recall that nearly every sentence was punctuated by the acclamation of the audience.
On descending from the table I was lifted on the shoulders of the Soviet delegates and carried across the Duma to the very door of the Temporary Committee's room. I entered it not only as minister of justice but also as vice-chairman of the Soviet of Workmen's and Soldiers' Deputies and the formal representative of the working class. I led the way in the revolt against the absurd veto of the Executive Committee, but so many others followed suit that very soon a whole coalition had been established. But in the midst of the ovations accorded me by the Soviet members, in the unbounded enthusiasm of the throng, I had already observed the faces of the angry leaders, foreboding vengeance. The fight had begun, the battle against me, against my influence and my authority with the masses. This battle was waged obstinately, systematically, unscrupulously.
Incidentally, the same day, the first conference of the Social-Revolutionary party also gave its approval of my inclusion in the Provisional Government, as did the members of the Labor party, with whom I had been intimately associated during my career in the fourth Duma.
By ten o'clock, March fifteenth, the Provisional Government was definitely formed.
By the evening of March fifteenth the manifesto of the Provisional Government was made public. The Provisional Government became, until the convocation of the Constituent Assembly, the only sovereign power in the country, and all the subsequent changes and appointments in the Provisional Government were made by cooption, the Provisional Government itself choosing new ministers.
On the morning of March fifteenth, Miliukoff, in an address before the throng in Catherine Hall, concerning the composition of the Provisional Government, declared that the Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovitch would become regent and that we had decided to establish a constitutional monarchy in Russia. On the very same morning and almost at the same hour the Emperor Nicholas II, at Pskoff, was drawing up a manifesto appointing a new government. Both Miliukoff's declaration and the Czar's manifesto were quite useless under the circumstances. The Czar, however, understood soon that it was no longer a question of changing the cabinet and, by the evening of the same day, before the arrival of the Duma delegation dispatched to demand his abdication, he decided to abdicate for himself and for his son. Miliukoff, on the other hand, defying the iron logic of events, affirmed over and over again, up to the last moment, that it was possible and necessary to establish a regency under the Grand Duke Michael.
Miliukoff's declaration aroused the ire of all the democratic elements in the Tauride Palace. The Executive Committee hurriedly called a special meeting, at which I was subjected to hostile cross-examination. I refused to be drawn into a dispute and merely replied:
"Yes, that is the plan, but it will never be carried into realization. It is impossible and there is no reason to be alarmed. I have not been consulted about the regency and I took no part in the discussion of it. As a last resort, I can ask the government to choose between abandoning this plan and accepting my resignation."
This question of a regency did not trouble me in the least, but it was difficult to transmit my own confidence to others.
The Executive Committee launched its own measures against the project of the regency. It wanted to send its own delegation to Pskoff, together with Gutchkoff and Shulgin, who were leaving that day, or, failing that, to prevent our delegates from getting a train. But it all came out right in the end.
The delegation of the Temporary Committee of the Duma, consisting of Gutchkoff and Shulgin, a conservative deputy, left for Pskoff at about 4 P.M., to demand the Czar's abdication. On their arrival they found everything already settled and in a manner contrary to their expectations. The Czar had abdicated not only for himself but also for his son, naming his brother, Michael Alexandrovitch, his successor. At the same time Nicholas appointed the Grand Duke Nicholas Nicholayevitch (who had filled the post in the early part of the War) his successor as commander-in-chief of the Russian armies.
We learned of all this only on the night of March sixteenth, but in the meantime, while we were waiting for news from Gutchkoff and Shulgin, there were many things to be attended to. I made arrangements for removing the ex-ministers to the SS. Peter and Paul Fortress and appeared for the first time in my capacity as minister of justice before the Council of the Petrograd Bar. I wanted to salute the members of my own profession, in which I had learned to fight for right and liberty under law. In spite of the autocracy, the Bar was the only independent state organization, for which the autocracy and the Czar himself hated it. I wanted to tell the members of my profession, which had played so great a part in the struggle for the liberation of Russia, of my projected reforms in the Ministry of Justice and to enlist their support.
By evening we succeeded in restoring normal telegraph communication between the capital and the provinces. There was a special telegraph office in the Duma. As soon as the apparatus was restored I sent out my first orders as minister of justice. The first wire instructed all public prosecutors throughout the country to visit immediately all prisons, to liberate all political prisoners and transmit to them the greetings of the new revolutionary government. The second wire went to Siberia, ordering that Catherine Breshkovsky, "grandmother of the Russian Revolution," be immediately released from exile and conveyed with all due honors to Petrograd. I sent similar wires ordering the release of the five Social-Democratic members of the fourth Duma, who had been condemned to exile in 1915.
Meanwhile a grave situation developed at Helsingfors. A massacre of officers and the destruction of the fleet were expected at any moment. I was hurriedly summoned to the Admiralty, where I spoke by long distance telephone with the representative of all the naval crews. In response to my pleas this man promised to use all his efforts and the influence of his associates to calm the crews. The massacre was averted. The same evening a delegation of all Duma parties left for Helsingfors to restore discipline. For a time we had no more trouble at the naval base. The disturbances did not end without tragedy, however, for on March seventeenth, Admiral Nepenin, a gentleman and an excellent officer, was killed in Helsingfors. He was killed by a civilian whose identity was never discovered.
The affair at Kronstadt, to which I have already alluded, and which threatened the destruction of the entire Baltic Fleet, took place on March fourteenth. The news of these riots arrived somewhat late. Several scores of people were killed, including thirty-nine officers. Admiral Viren, the Commander-in-Chief at Kronstadt, was literally torn to pieces. About five hundred persons, including more than two hundred officers, were arrested by the soldiers and sailors, put into prison and subjected to humiliating treatment. The notorious Kronstadt chamber of horrors is the gloomiest page of the Revolution.
At last, night ended this hectic day. The members of the Provisional Government gradually threw off the anxieties of the day and met to talk over more fundamental questions. We were waiting impatiently for news from Gutchkoff and Shulgin. It was becoming clear to every one that it was too late to think of a regency, that it would be almost impossible to transfer power to such a government and that any attempt to do so would lead to grave consequences.
In those days the opinions and attitudes of men were adapting themselves rapidly to the changing situation. I learned in private conversations with members of the Provisional Government and of the Temporary Committee of the Duma that they were prepared for news that the regency was doomed and that they were ready to accept this fact with equanimity. Miliukoff alone (Gutchkoff being absent) failed to comprehend the changed circumstances. Every one felt we were approaching the decisive moment.
The night of March sixteenth remains unforgetable in my memory. That night brought the members of the Provisional Government close together and made them understand each other (at least that was how I felt) better than would have been possible through months of intimate association. At this critical moment each one acted and spoke only according to his conscience. They revealed themselves to each other and established that mutual confidence, those imperceptible bonds between soul and soul, without which it would have been quite impossible to bear the burden of government at this most acute crisis in the history of the nation. The night of March sixteenth made it clear that the Provisional Government, as first constituted, would be a strong, compact nucleus and that the great majority would work in complete solidarity, abandoning once and for all class, party and personal tastes and sympathies.
I think it was about three o'clock in the morning, or at any rate very late, when the long expected communication from Gutchkoff and Shulgin arrived. "Abdication has taken place, but in favor of Michael Alexandrovitch, who is already proclaimed Emperor," read the message. We could not understand it. What had happened? Who had inspired this move? Who was backing the new Emperor? What had our envoys done about it? Michael as Emperor! It was impossible, preposterous!
The first problem before us was to prevent this news from becoming known to the country and in the army. I think it was Rodzianko who rushed to the direct telephone line at the War Ministry to communicate with General Alexeyeff at General Headquarters. Other urgent measures were taken. Then we began to discuss the situation. Michael Alexandrovitch was in Petrograd, so that the question could be decided one way or the other by morning. In any case, we had to settle the problem immediately, for the country could not any longer be kept in this condition of uncertainty and anxiety. Either we must take the oath of loyalty to the new Emperor or we must compel him also to abdicate, and that immediately.
The decision of Nicholas II had really cut the Gordian knot. Every one felt with great relief that once the direct and rightful succession to the throne was broken, the immediate question of the dynasty was settled. Fate had decided that it was to leave the stage at least until the Constituent Assembly had spoken. It became evident immediately upon the opening of our discussion that a majority in the Provisional Government would be in favor of the abdication of Michael Alexandrovitch and of the assumption of supreme power by the Provisional Government. These men were not confirmed republicans seeking a convenient pretext to get rid of the monarchy. Most of them had not been republicans up to the last hour. Not theories but life, not their personal preferences but the force of circumstances, not trivial considerations but a sense of duty brought them gradually and after painful hesitation to this truly patriotic decision. Even Rodzianko understood at once that Michael Alexandrovitch could not possibly become Emperor at that moment.
But Miliukoff still refused to admit this and Shingarioff gave him half-hearted support. The night hours passed in long, fervid dispute, for Miliukoff defended his position with tremendous perseverance and tenacity. He seemed to misunderstand the situation completely. He thought we were all faint-hearted and were losing our heads. It seemed to him, as he said next day to the Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovitch, that we had all "fallen under the influence of the mob" and lost control of ourselves. He simply could not understand that the monarchists had perhaps even more reason than the republicans for opposing the proclamation of Michael Alexandrovitch as Emperor at that time. It would have been absurd under the circumstances and could not have lasted more than a few days, and perhaps even a few hours.
We continued our argument with Miliukoff until close to the approach of dawn. We did not know how much Michael Alexandrovitch knew of what had happened. At any rate, it was clear we had to warn him and prevent whatever steps he was planning to take until we had come to a decision.
The Grand Duke was living with friends in a private apartment at 12 Millionnaya street. We looked up the telephone number and early in the morning, shortly before dawn, I rang up. There was an immediate reply. As I had surmised, the household, excited by the developments, had not been to bed all night.
"Who is speaking?" I asked.
It was the aide-de-camp of his Royal Highness.
I revealed my identity and asked the aide-de-camp to inform the Grand Duke that the Provisional Government would come to consult with him within a few hours, requesting him in the meanwhile to take no decision.
The aide-de-camp promised to transmit my message at once.
It was still quite early when we finally decided to go to the Grand Duke, without waiting for the return of Gutchkoff and Shulgin, who were delayed at some point on their return from Pskoff to Petrograd. We had decided that the Grand Duke must abdicate, transferring the supreme power to the Provisional Government until such time as the Constituent Assembly should finally settle the form of government. Miliukoff declared that he would immediately leave the Provisional Government unless he were permitted to state the case of the minority before the Grand Duke. We agreed to this.
At about ten o'clock in the morning we drove unguarded, in an automobile, to 12 Millionnaya street, accompanied by ovations and cheers from the populace. We were met by the aide-de-camp, who showed us into a drawing-room. The Grand Duke entered almost immediately and seemed much perturbed. We shook hands and exchanged courtesies. There was an awkward pause. Then Prince Lvoff and Rodzianko laid the opinion of the majority of the Provisional Government before the Grand Duke. The latter was extremely excited and restless. He would ask the speakers to repeat certain things and would repeat single words to himself. Then Miliukoff's turn came. He launched upon a veritable lecture. He spoke coldly and calmly. He continued for more than an hour, apparently in the hope that Gutchkoff and Shulgin might turn up to support him. Just as he was about to conclude, Gutchkoff and Shulgin came in, and we called a short recess.
We told them what was going on and they gave us the details of what had happened at Pskoff. After some consideration, Gutchkoff decided that he must support Miliukoff, declaring that should Michael Alexandrovitch side with the majority of the Provisional Government he, Gutchkoff, would not remain in it. Finally the conference with the Grand Duke was resumed. Gutchkoff spoke, but in a manner quite different from Miliukoff's. He spoke clearly and briefly. The Grand Duke seemed to grow more weary and impatient. When Gutchkoff had finished, the Grand Duke suddenly declared that he would like to consult privately with two of us and then think the matter over by himself before making his final decision. I thought it was all over now, fearing he would ask for Miliukoff and Gutchkoff. But he said: "I should like to speak with Prince Lvoff and Michael Vladimirovitch Rodzianko." A weight fell from my mind, as I thought to myself: "If he wants to speak with those two it means that he has already decided to abdicate.
Rodzianko objected, saying that we had agreed to discuss the matter collectively and that he did not think it proper to permit private consultations. He looked questioningly at me, however, as if seeking my permission. I declared that we trusted one another and that we could not refuse to allow the Grand Duke to consult with those in whom he had most confidence, before deciding on a matter of such extreme importance. "I think we cannot very well decline the Grand Duke's request," was my final statement.
The Grand Duke, Prince Lvoff and Rodzianko retired, and we remained behind. We tried to persuade Gutchkoff not to leave the Provisional Government for a few days, in the event of the Grand Duke's abdication, until we should find a substitute for him. As a matter of fact he remained for good and apparently came to the conclusion that it had become quite impossible for the Romanoffs to take any further part in Russian history.
Finally, Prince Lvoff and Rodzianko returned. They were followed soon by the Grand Duke, who announced that he had determined not to take upon himself the burdens of government and asked us to draft the form of abdication.
"Your Royal Highness," I said, "you have acted nobly and like a patriot. I assume the obligation of making this known and to defend you."
We shook hands. From that moment we were on good terms. True, we met only once afterwards, on the night of the Czar's departure for Tobolsk, but we knew all about each other through our aides-decamp, and I occasionally helped the Grand Duke, trying to make his life easier under the new conditions.
Following the Grand Duke's declaration, Rodzianko and most of the ministers left, but Prince Lvoff, Shulgin and I remained to draft the act of abdication. It read as follows:
Inspired, in common with the whole people, by the belief that the welfare of our country must be set above everything else, I have taken the firm decision to assume the supreme power only if and when our great people, having elected by universal suffrage a Constituent Assembly to determine the form of government and lay down the fundamental law of the new Russian State, invest me with such power.
Calling upon them the blessing of God, I therefore request all the citizens of the Russian Empire to submit to the Provisional Government, established and invested with full authority by the Duma, until such time as the Constituent Assembly, elected within the shortest possible time by universal, direct, equal and secret suffrage, shall manifest the will of the people by deciding upon the new form of government.
(Signed) MICHAEL ALEXANDROVITCH
Petrograd, March 16, 1917.
The abdication of Nicholas II and that of Michael Alexandrovitch were published simultaneously, and we thus succeeded in settling the question of the dynasty quickly and without further complications. These acts of abdication marked the close of the most difficult and most inspiring period of the Revolution. The Czardom was definitely superseded by a new revolutionary power. Amidst the chaos appeared the outline of a new state—the Provisional Government—around which as a central point the new order developed. The first act in the drama of the Revolution—the death of the old and the birth of a new, popular government —lasted one hundred hours.
When one recalls what Russia was on the evening of March sixteenth, one feels that some divine spirit swept our country from end to end, leaving not one stone upon another of the old regime. One realizes that it was beyond the power of human reason to direct these events, which marked the turning point in the destiny of the Russian people. One can almost see the huge edifice of the old regime, built on the blood and tears of millions, crumble and fall into dust. One can almost hear the noise of its fall and the groans of those who perished with it. One almost feels again one's own struggle against suffocation in the debris and dust of that fall, which seemed to fill the universe.
Small human creatures try to measure with their tiny foot rules this immense upheaval, which was made possible only by divine grace, by the breath of fate itself. They try to prove, with the satisfied air of experts, that everything would have happened differently if so and so had acted thus and not otherwise, that everything would have been perfect if some one else had not been half an hour late in making up his mind. Perhaps everything would have been different if the Duma had found courage to act in its official capacity and to place itself as a recognized, parliamentary body at the head of the movement on the morning of March twelfth. Perhaps this or that mistake might have been averted if in those first days of the Revolution the Soviet had not been guided by men like Stekloff, Sukhanoff, Bonch-Bruyevitch, Sokoloff, Tcheidze, etc. Perhaps Russia would have been saved from the calamity which overtook her eight months later if some one else had been in Kerensky's place, or if Kerensky had never existed. But it is easy to prophesy after the event!
No one wanted a revolution of the kind we have had. No one expected it or wanted it to turn out as it did. No one wanted a revolution accompanied by blood and the tumult of anarchy. The increasingly chaotic condition of Russia between March twelfth and sixteenth was brought into some kind of order by a great, nation-wide impulse of love for the motherland, by an intense devotion to the welfare of the country. The credit for this is due largely to the Duma and to the upper classes generally, who acted conscientiously for the good of the whole nation, as they understood it. History will recognize their merit in this. But the working classes, too, regardless of all their mistakes and of the crimes of isolated individuals, devoted all their revolutionary ardor to organizing themselves and converting a formless mass of humanity into an ordered revolutionary body. They, too, acted in accordance with their conscience and worked for the welfare of Russia as they understood it.
Who would have thought that the fourth Duma, representing the aristocracy and the middle classes, could rise at last above all considerations of class to such great heights of patriotic devotion? Its members were able to do this because they felt that they represented the whole country. It was this idea which inspired them and made them look beyond the needs and interests of their own class to those of the entire commonwealth. For the mere idea of representative government implies an institution which, in its very essence, is consecrated to the welfare of the whole people. It is true that whatever class has the upper hand is apt to use its power to further its own aims, but where it is vigorous and endowed with creative force its rule may be an advantage to the country as a whole. Moreover, every kind of government considers itself acting for the common good and believes that its rule is best for the country. Even the autocracy used to affirm its right to govern by alluding repeatedly to the traditional formula: "Regarding the welfare of our subjects," etc. At times of peril and upheaval this intention of acting for the common good becomes the leading inspiration of all public-spirited men and especially of such institutions as can lay claim to represent, even if only partially, the interests of the nation. Even a totally reactionary class government will sometimes act for the good of the whole people.
The fourth Duma, which consisted mainly of government servants, of men belonging to a past era of Russian statesmanship, was transfigured at the moment of its death by such an impulse to save the country, and passed it on to the new Russia, to a more democratic generation. The Provisional Government, which contained the new and regenerated elements, carried on the same idea of governing the people as a whole and was for long months the only real national institution in the general disintegration and decay of the old political and social world, until it, too, was swallowed by the advancing chaos. Then, even the symbol of unity disappeared and it seemed as if Russia had utterly fallen to pieces. But the fire of devotion to the commonwealth, which once shone so brightly, cannot be wholly extinguished. Deep down in the heart of the nation it still flickers and some day it will flare up again and shine with an undying light.
In judging the career of the Provisional Government one should remember that it had to undertake the guidance of a state practically devoid of the machinery of government. Even the army came to it without leaders, for the authority of the superior officers vanished as quickly as that of the central and local administrations. It inherited nothing from the autocracy but a terrible war, an acute food shortage, a paralyzed transportation system, an empty treasury and a population in a state of furious discontent and anarchic disintegration. One thing alone enabled it to govern— faith in the good sense, the conscience and the creative forces of the people. It may have been folly to undertake to govern under such conditions, but it would have been criminal to refuse, to consider only oneself and to stand aloof.
In one hundred hours, hours of continuous anxiety and rapture, the old government, which had been destroying Russia, was wiped off the face of the earth. At the same time, however, the forces that had fought together against the common enemy and worked together for the creation of new forms of government began to divide. Some ranged themselves on the side of the new government, others on the side of the Soviet. But many returned to their private affairs and merely began to grumble at everything that was being done.
The new ministers entered their ministries on March sixteenth, and on the following day the Provisional Government left the Tauride Palace for good. For a few days we held our meetings in the council room of the Ministry of the Interior. After that, until July, we had quarters in the Maryinsky Palace, where the Czar's government and the State Council had formerly met.
I left the Tauride Palace with a heavy heart. Here I had struggled for five years, as a member of the Duma, against the Czarist regime, and here I had lived through the few hours of revolutionary creation which were worth years of ordinary life. It was difficult to break, perhaps forever, with all its associations.
I have tried to describe the great collapse and the swift unfolding of events as we saw them within the walls of the Tauride Palace and as I myself took part in them. For the moment I have ignored other features of the situation. But, as I have already indicated, time did not exist for us then, so that in attempting to follow the sequence of days and hours in reconstructing the events in chronological order I have probably made mistakes. In order to understand the tension of those hours one must keep in mind that we had to deal with all the kaleidoscopic developments at once, so that the separate events seemed interwoven into one.
But what enthusiasm, what faith, what devotion we found among the thousands who crowded the Tauride Palace! How quickly everything was organized! How many threw themselves wholly into the common cause! How many were ready to live and die together! Those innumerable delegations, processions, greetings, those bright, shining faces, those outbursts of delight and faith seemed to prove to us all that the people had found themselves at last, that they had cast off the accursed yoke and were advancing joyfully, in festal garments, towards the new day that was already dawning. A mighty living impulse, a divine spirit, a transfiguring ecstasy descended upon the land.
It is in such moments that people really live.
[1*] Minister of war under the Czar's regime, condemned by a court for treason during the War.
Last updated on: 2.17.2008