May Day

From a report on the 1918 May Day celebrations on the streets of Moscow, in the newspaper Izvestiya

3 May 1918

Source: Street Art of the Revolution: Festivals and Celebrations in Russia 1918-33, ed, Vladimir Tolstoy, Irina Bibikova, Catherine Cooke, Iskusstvo, 1984;
HTML: for in April, 2002.

The streets

Lubyanka Square was swamped in red. The countless silk, velvet and other banners, embroidered with sequins and glass beads were quite dazzling to the eye. One focus of attention was the metal workers vehicle, draped in red material and bearing a huge globe with a portrait of Marx on it.

The vehicles of the workers' collective were also striking. On one a band played, while the other was covered in greenery and flowers arranged in the shape of an arch.

Another wonderful spectacle was the Sokolniki District lorry, decked out from top to bottom in flowers. Invalids walked on crutches behind the maimed soldiers' lorry.

Next came the machine-gunners, on foot with their guns loaded onto horses. They were followed by the Alexandrovsky College Training School. A detachment of sailors, smartly dressed in black, marched past, followed by firemen and then a float displaying emblems of agricultural work. Children paraded past all holding little red flags. ... Detachment after detachment of the army of labour, the army of the Revolution....

Speeches were given and a series of meetings held on Skobelev Square in front of the Moscow Soviet. [This square, with the former Dresden Hotel, was decorated by a group of artists under A. I. Ivanov.] The column of the stage workers' trade union was particularly interesting; on the front lorry, beneath a poster reading 'Free Worker', representatives of the most important kinds of labour stood at their machines; on the second lorry was a band, and behind it an allegorical group depicting Russia heralding peace to all peoples.

There were performers in the costumes of all nationalities, a peasant woman with a sheaf of rye in her arms, boys holding rakes and sickles, and nearby the courageous figures of soldiers holding red banners. And above them all stood Russia with a palm sprig in her hands.

In front of the Moscow Soviet, the participants in these pictures sang the 'Internationale', the 'Marseillaise' and other revolutionary songs to the accompaniment of the band.

Red Square

The Kremlin wall was hung with nags from Nikolsky Gate to Spassky Gate. An obelisk, draped in red and black canvases, towered above the communal grave of victims of the October Revolution.

A rostrum was erected nearer Spassky Gate, on which stood the members of the Central Executive Committee and representatives of the Moscow Soviet. The Place of Execution (Lobnoye Mesto) was covered in black canvas and an enormous crimson flag fluttered on top.

The columns of people streamed endlessly along the wall, past the communal grave and the rostrum, the bands and banners at the head of each column. As they passed the grave, they lowered their banners and the bands played solemnly....

Other districts

In the Presnya District, which is mainly inhabited by workers, the people generally responded very enthusiastically to this proletarian festival, and the small houses were painted red and covered with workers slogans, summoning people to fight for the happiness of all...

All the railway stations were beautifully decorated: Alexandrov Station looked grand, Ryazansky Station, still under construction, was colourful, and Nikolaev Station was rigidly austere in accordance with its style.

The decoration of the Yaroslavl Station was particularly splendid with the words 'Peace and the brotherhood of peoples!' printed in large white letters on a red background right above the entrance. A long red banner with the inscription: 'Long live the Third International!' hung on the pediment. A vast red sheet with the inscription:'Long live the Soviet Federative Republic!' was wrapped round the station's tower.

The festivities continued on the streets and in the theatres of Moscow until late in the evening. ...

The lights on the House of Soviets and the House of Unions shone bright against the darkness.

The fountain on Theatre Square looked most effective, bedecked with garlands of electric lights.

Izvestiya VTsIK, no, 88, 3 May 1918