100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution
Our children and grandchildren will be totally unable to imagine the Russia in which we once lived, which we did not appreciate, did not understand, – all that might, complexity, wealth, happiness…
The February Revolution
Despite the stable situation at the fronts, in February 1917 practically all of Petrograd awaited a quick revolution. The British historian Bernard Pierce formulated this contradiction with the following words: “The front was healthy, while the rear had rotted through.” Difficulties with bread supplies to Petrograd, caused by the disruption of the cargo transport schedule due to snowdrifts, and rumors of an impending introduction of bread lines led to its disappearance, which had never happened before in the capital. The population, including the lower classes, was used to Petrograd being excellently supplied with provisions. Queues immediately lined up at the bread stores. Thus local disorders of a non-political nature arose on the basis of a deficit of a single product – bread. Actually not only was there no hunger, but there was even no genuine shortage of bread in Petrograd in those days, while at many factories the management itself took care of food supplies, and there were certainly no bread lines there; moreover, the garrison did not experience any shortage of bread whatsoever. According to several researchers, the role of direct organizer of the blockade of bread deliveries belongs to Lomonosov, an active participant in the conspiracy against Tsar Nicholas II and one of the directors of the Ministry of Transportation, who together with railway engineer Bublikov took over control of the railway to Petrograd and ordered the royal train, which had left the Stavka (General Headquarters) for Tsarskoye Selo, to be stopped. The Stock Market Journal reported on 21 February that all bread shops and grocery stores on the Petrograd side were being vandalized, and this destruction subsequently spread all over the city. Crowds surrounded the bakeries and bread shops, and with cries of “bread, bread” moved through the streets.
The 1917 Revolution in Russia
A.I. Guchkov, a smart and capable man, was the author and organizer of the coup-d’état whose purpose was to force Tsar Nicholas II to abdicate. Being an extremely ambitious Russian politician and leader of the “Union of 17 October” Party, Guchkov, bearing a strong grudge against the Tsar, which by 1916 had turned into burning hatred, was ready to unite with any force in his attempt to overthrow the Tsar. After the February 1917 revolution and the Tsar’s abdication, two organs of power emerged in Russia simultaneously: the Workers’ and Military Deputies Councils and the Provisional Government. “The Russians believe that freedom consists of treating things lightly, demanding double salaries, demonstrating in the streets, and voting for resolutions at public meetings,” – wrote the British Ambassador in Petrograd Buchanan. The Bolshevik leaders, who had returned from exile and had become members of the Petrograd Council together with the Mensheviks and the Socialist Revolutionaries, were inclined towards cooperating with the Provisional Government. Lenin, however, insisted from the very beginning on an immediate break with the Provisional Government, in order to actively prepare for a transfer to the “proletarian” stage of the revolution and the termination of the Imperialist war. The tactics of the struggle drawn up by Lenin in his “April theses” presupposed the elimination of the Provisional Government. During the 3-5 July 1917 demonstrations, the Provisional Government issued an order for Lenin’s arrest. A new coalition Provisional Government was formed, headed by Kerensky and composed primarily of the Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries. But Lenin, confirming his unacceptance of a parliamentary republic and the democratic process, began preparing an armed uprising by agitating among the workers and peasants. As a result of the October Revolution of 1917 the Provisional Government was overthrown.
Conspiracies against Tsar Nicholas II
Professor Richard Pipes, the director of the Russian Studies Research Center at Harvard University, wrote: “By the end of 1916 all political parties and groups united in opposing the monarchy. However, this was their only point of contact – in everything else they differed absolutely. In their opinion, it was not the regime itself that was to blame for the Russian crisis, but the people in power, specifically the German Empress and Rasputin. And it was believed that it was enough to remove these latter from the political arena for everything to go well. After Rasputin’s elimination plans began to emerge for a forceful removal of Tsar Nicholas II himself from the throne, with his abdication in favor of one of the Grand Dukes, modeled on 18th century coups-d’état. The head of the Octobrist Party Guchkov said that in the fall of 1916 “the idea of a coup-d’état was born, as a result of which the Tsar would be forced to abdicate and pass on the throne to a legal successor.” Within this framework the plan came together very quickly. On 9 February 1917 a meeting of the leaders of oppositionary Duma factions took place in the cabinet of the chairman of the 4th State Duma Rodzianko. According to plans made at this meeting, the coup-d’état was due to take place no later than April 1917, because an offensive coordinated with the Entente allies was planned for April, which would have inevitably caused an upsurge of patriotism and would have made the coup-d’état impossible. The conspirators’ plan was simple (and was realized on 1 March): during the Tsar’s next trip to the Stavka in Mogilev to try to detain the royal train, arrest the Tsar, and force him to abdicate. Tsar Nicholas II was informed of the conspiracies against him back in the fall of 1916, but he remarked: “The Empress and I know that we are in the hands of God. May His will be done!”
Prince N. Zhevakhov, summing up the events that occurred at the end of February/beginning of March 1917, wrote: “It was not the revolution which caused the abdication, but on the contrary, the act of abdication torn from the Tsar by force caused the revolution. Prior to the Tsar’s abdication it was not a revolution, but a soldiers’ rebellion.” The Army leadership, headed by the chief of staff of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief General Alekseyev and by the commanders of the fronts and the fleets, decided that they had no means of suppressing the revolution. By insisting on the abdication the highest military leaders, Generals Alekseyev, Ruzsky, Brusilov, Sakharov, and Grand Duke Nikolay Nikolayevich, burned their bridges behind them – according to Russian laws their demand itself was the greatest of crimes and merited corresponding capital punishment in the event of their mutiny’s lack of success. Thus the betrayal which made Emperor Nicholas II’s departure inevitable was already committed. “Surrounded by treason, and cowardice, and lies,” – wrote the Tsar in his diary, characterizing with the greatest accuracy this most vile coup-d’état.
According to the historian Oldenburg, “it is too late to guess whether the Tsar could not have abdicated. With the position taken by Ruzsky and Alekseyev, the possibility of resistance was excluded: none of the Tsar’s orders were transmitted, nor were telegrams from his loyal subjects passed on to him.” After his presumed successor, the Grand Duke Mikhail Aleksandrovich, also refused to take the throne, the State Duma took the country under its control, forming the Provisional Government. With the formation of the Councils on a par with the Provisional Government, there began a period of diarchy. The Bolsheviks formed detachments of armed workers (the Red Guard) and, owing to slogans which appealed to the popular masses, gained considerable popularity, primarily in Petrograd, Moscow, in major industrial cities, in the Baltic Fleet, and in the troops of the Northern and Western fronts. And in October the Petrograd Military Revolutionary Committee, headed by Trotsky and Lenin, overthrew the Provisional Government and by the summer of 1918 formed a single-party Bolshevik government.
Destruction of the Royal Family
The murder of the Royal Family by the Bolsheviks on July 17, 1918 forever severed the bond of times, the bond of generations. The Bolsheviks were building their own and new society, in which there was no place for the former Tsar and his family. But in order to build this society it was necessary to finish with the old one – it was necessary to destroy the monarchy, to kill the Royal Family. The Bolsheviks physically liquidated the monarchy by killing all possible pretenders to the Russian throne, as well as other members of the Romanov dynasty who had fallen into their hands. In consequence, in 1918-1919 the Bolsheviks killed eighteen members of the royal dynasty. The Provisional Government was quite aware of the Tsar’s innocence, but this had no influence on his fate. To this was also added the obvious indifference of England and Germany to the fate of the Tsar and his family. Moreover, the monarchists likewise did not have any plan for freeing the Tsar. Thus a chain of betrayals was formed, which subsequently led to the tragedy in Yekaterinburg. The historian Pavel Milyukov speaks of the inevitability of the destruction of the Royal Family: “If not in July, then in the following terrible days of the bloody debauchery of the “Red terror” their death was practically inevitable, since members of the dynasty remained in the power of the Bolsheviks’ unbridled violence.” The American historian Richard Pipes, who widely used sources available not only abroad, but within Russia as well, in studying the reasons for the murder of the Tsar and his family, comes to the following conclusion: “The Bolsheviks had to spill blood, in order to bind their wavering adherents with the bonds of collective guilt. The more innocent were the victims on the Party’s conscience, the more clearly the average Bolshevik had to understand that retreat, vacillation, or compromise were no longer possible… The murder at Yekaterinburg signified the beginning of the “Red terror”…” Together with the Royal Family were executed the members of its retinue.
In the night of July 18, 1918, under the guise of transferring the imprisoned members of the Romanov dynasty from Alapayevsk to the Verkhnyaya Sinyachikha plant, a group of workers from the Nevyansk and Verkhnyaya Sinyachikha plants, headed by Petr Startsev, arrived at the school building. The prisoners were taken out of town to one of the abandoned shafts of an iron ore mine, and after being struck on the head with an axe, they were thrown down into the shaft. The shaft was then filled with grenades, stakes, and logs, and covered with earth. Much later, when the bodies were recovered from the shaft, it was discovered that some of the victims had died practically instantaneously, while others remained alive even after their fall, dying from hunger and wounds. The wound of Prince Ioann, who had fallen on a ledge of the shaft next to the Grand Duchess Elizabeth Fedorovna, was dressed with part of her wimple, while the body of Prince Paley was found in a sitting position. The neighboring peasants recounted how for several days the singing of prayers could be heard from the shaft. On September 28th Alapayevsk was occupied by the army of Admiral Kolchak. A search was begun in the environs of the Sinyachikha shaft and mine, and in the space of four days the bodies were recovered from the shaft. After their discovery the bodies were washed, dressed in clean white clothes, and placed in caskets in the Alapayevsk cemetery church. With the advance of the Red Army in June 1919, it was decided to remove the remains first to Chita, then to Harbin, and finally to Beijing, where they were buried in the cemetery of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission outside the city limits. In November 1920, in fulfillment of her personal wish to be buried in the Holy Land, two caskets (those of the Grand Duchess Elizabeth and nun Varvara) were transferred from Beijing to Jerusalem. In 1938, after China’s occupation by Japan, the caskets of the Alapayevsk martyrs were transferred to the crypt of the church in honor of All Holy Martyrs on the territory of the Russian Ecclesiastical Mission, which in 1954 came under the jurisdiction of the Soviet Embassy. In 1957, on orders from Soviet Ambassador Yudin, the church was demolished, and a children’s playground was built on the site.
Plan for the Russian Revolution
The document was drawn up by Alexander Parvus (real name – Israel Gelfand) in February 1915 and contained a preliminary plan for destroying the existing government regime in Russia by means of a revolutionary movement subsidized with German money. Germany had not counted on the war against Russia on the Eastern front being so protracted. Its economy could not withstand a further continuation of military actions. Therefore, the German leadership strived by all possible means to force Russia into a separate peace agreement. As one of the means of putting pressure on Russia the Germans chose the revolutionary movement, specifically the revolutionaries living in emigration. They were ready to generously finance such subversive activity. And at this precise moment the German leadership was approached by Parvus with a plan for organizing a revolution in Russia. The plan was delivered to the Germans on 9 March 2015, and the latter immediately began to finance its implementation. In reading the document it is easy to note that Lenin in 1917 acted specifically in accordance with this plan. The bringing in of money, weapons, and subversive literature was carried out with German money via the territories of neutral countries. Lenin maintained contact with Parvus through the intermediaries Radek and Gonetsky. It is noteworthy that after successfully seizing power, the head of the first “proletarian” government stopped listening to Parvus and began to deploy exactly the same subversive plan in regard to Germany itself.
Alexander Lvovich Parvus (Gelfand) (1867-1924) was a participant in the Russian and German Social Democratic movement, a theoretician of Marxism, and a publicist. He became friends with Trotsky through the theory of “permanent revolution.” During the First World War he lived in Germany. After the February Revolution he conducted negotiations on the return of the Russian Social Democrats, headed by Lenin, to Russia via Germany.
Doctor Gelfand’s Memorandum
In January 1915 Parvus met with the German Ambassador von Wagenheim and advanced his idea of organizing a revolution in Russia. Parvus convinced the German Ambassador of the full coincidence of the German government’s interests with those of the revolutionaries. At Wagenheim’s request, in March 1915 Parvus submitted to the German government a detailed plan for organizing a revolution in Russia – a document known under the name of “Dr. Gelfand’s Memorandum.” In his plan Parvus assigned a key role to the Bolsheviks, who “had already begun to act,” but he considered success to be impossible without the united efforts of all Social Democrats (including numerous national organizations). The comprehensive document promoted the following actions: preparations for a massive political strike under the slogan of “Freedom and Peace” were to begin in Russia in the spring. The center of the movement would be Petrograd, and in Petrograd itself – the Obukhov, Putilov, and Baltic factories. A railway strike would be conducted primarily in major centers with large labor groups… To expand the scale of the strike, railway bridges would be blown up wherever possible, as had been done during the strikes in 1904-1905. It was necessary to immediately engage in direct propaganda in Odessa, Nikolayev, Sevastopol, Rostov-on-the-Don, Batumi, and Baku. The propaganda was to be aimed at local and professional requirements, and simultaneously was to acquire a political nature. To conduct such propaganda it was necessary to restore the organization of Russian sailors. Impetus was to be given to the Russian Socialist Party, mentioning it in the press and in brochures… The press campaign would have considerable influence on the position of neutral states… The movement among Russian immigrants in America would impact upon the formation of public opinion in America.
A national catastrophe
There is a wide spectrum of assessments of the October Revolution and its consequences for Russia. For many this was a national catastrophe, which erased Russia’s natural course of development and led to a civil war and to the establishment of a totalitarian system of government in Russia. “Yet October was just a brief and rough local military coup according to the plan, and nothing to do with a revolution,” – writes Alexander Solzhenitsyn. And continues: “But there is no doubt that in the 20th century there occurred in Russia the greatest, bloodiest, irrevocable revolution of world significance. A revolution is determined precisely by the irrevocability and radicalism of the changes it brings… Our revolution spread from month to month of 1917 quite sweepingly, and then went on to a Civil War, and to a millionfold Chekist terror, and to quite widespread peasant revolts, and to artificial Bolshevik famines in 30 or 40 provinces – and only ended perhaps with the eradication of the peasantry in 1930-1932 and the shakeup of the entire social order in the first five-year period. Thus the revolution rolled along for 15 years…” As a result of the revolution the Civil War began in Russia, the Provisional Government was overthrown, and a government formed by the Second All-Russian Assembly of the Soviets came to power, wherein the absolute majority of the delegates were Bolsheviks (RSDLP(b)) [Russian Socialist Democratic Labor Party (Bolshevik)] and their allies, the leftist Socialist Revolutionaries, supported also by several national organizations, a small fraction of the Internationalist Mensheviks, and some anarchists. On 12 October the Military Revolutionary Committee – the center for preparing an armed uprising – was created. The government was immediately successfully isolated from the military units loyal to it. On 25 October Lenin arrived at Smol’nyy and personally directed the uprising in Petrograd, seizing the most important facilities, such as bridges, telegraphs, and government institutions.
The Red Terror
The Red Terror was officially declared by a decree of the Council of People’s Commissars, dated 05.09.1918. The concept of the Red Terror encompasses the entire repressive policy of the Soviet power and is a logical continuation of the October Revolution. It was inevitable, since the Bolshevist violence was aimed not against the existing opposition, but against entire social classes, which were declared to be outside the law: aristocrats, landowner, officers, the clergy, kulaks, Cossacks, scientists, industrialists Or, according to Trotsky, “terror is a weapon used against a class doomed to destruction, but which does not want to be destroyed.”
Karl Marx wrote that there is only one means to lessen “the bloody pangs of the birth of a new society, only one means – revolutionary terrorism.” Lenin proposed the method of conducting terror by declaring morality to be a deceit and stressing that everything useful to the revolution was moral. Lenin and the leadership of the Communist Party encouraged mass terror, calling it a “quite proper revolutionary initiative of the masses.” Technically the Red Terror was terminated on November 6, 1918. But with the establishment of Soviet power in Crimea, for example, the Red Terror continued until 1921. According to various data, in 1918 alone 31,000 people were repressed, 6,000 of which were executed. Dzerzhinsky, for example, proposed to the local Cheka (secret police) committees to “accelerate and terminate, that is, liquidate unresolved affairs.” In the spring of 1922, having repelled external threats, the Bolsheviks turned to an active struggle against religious institutions. Using the pretext of the confiscation of Church treasures, Lenin wrote: “The greater the number of representatives of the reactionary clergy and the reactionary bourgeoisie we succeed in executing on this pretext, the better. This public must be taught such a lesson that for several decades they would not even dare dream of any resistance…”
Zemlya i Volya (Land and Freedom), a secret revolutionary society that emerged in Russia in 1861, gave rise to the Narodnaya Volya (People’s Will) organization and to the terrorist group “Freedom or Death,” which set themselves the goal of forcing the government to adopt democratic reforms, after which a struggle could be conducted for the social transformation of society. The attainment of these goals included both organizing means (propaganda and agitation among the peasants and other classes and groups) and disorganizing means (individual terror against government officials and Okhrana agents). Terror became one of Narodnaya Volya’s primary methods of political battle. In particular, members of the Narodnaya Volya’s terrorist faction counted on promoting political changes by the assassination of Emperor Alexander II and, unmollified by the government’s concessions, carried it out on March 1, 1881. This assassination caused not only a government reaction, but a public reaction as well, and to a much greater degree than anticipated by the Narodnaya Volya. Nevertheless, the following years the party continued its activities (assassination of General Strel’nikov, assassination of the Lieutenant Colonel of Gendarmerie Sudeykin). The names of the groups changed, but the means employed against the “pillars of the government” remained the same – terror. The Narodnaya Volya program concisely formulated the dual function of the Red Terror: on the one hand – to disorganize the government, and on the other hand – to incite the popular masses, in order to subsequently incite the agitated population against the disorganized government. Thus the terror was viewed by the authors of the program as a prelude to and a catalyzer of the people’s revolution. Counting from the assassination of the Minister of Public Education N. Bogolepov by the Socialist revolutionary militant Karpovich, from 1901 to 1911 approximately 17,000 people became the victims of this early revolutionary terror.
Mission of the Russian People
“The disaster that has struck Russia is a direct consequence of onerous sins, and its renaissance is possible only after being cleansed of them. However, to-date there has been no real repentance, and the crimes committed have clearly not been condemned, while many active participants in the revolution continue to assert even now that it had been impossible to act otherwise at that time. By not expressing direct condemnation of the February revolution and the uprising against the Anointed Sovereign, the Russian people continue to participate in the sin, especially when they try to vindicate the fruits of the revolution. In punishing Russia the Lord simultaneously indicated to the Russian people the path to salvation, having given it the mission of preaching Orthodoxy to the entire world. The Russian diaspora has acquainted all the ends of the world with Orthodoxy, since the mass of Russian refugees (to a considerable degree unconsciously) has become a preacher of Orthodoxy. Russians abroad have been tasked with projecting the light of Orthodoxy over the entire world, so that other peoples, seeing their good deeds, would glorify our Father who is in heaven and would thus attain salvation… The diaspora should step onto a path of repentance and, by entreating forgiveness for itself and being spiritually reborn, become capable of helping our suffering Homeland to its renaissance.”
“Shake off the sleep of despondence and idleness, ye sons of Russia! Contemplate the glory of its suffering and be purified, be cleansed of your sins! Be strengthened in the Orthodox faith, in order to be worthy of dwelling in the abode of the Lord and of settling on His Holy Mount! Take heart and arise, O Rus’, thou who hast drunk from the hands of the Lord the chalice of His wrath! When thy torments end, thy truth will go with thee, and the glory of the Lord will accompany thee. All people will come to thy light, and kings to the halo around thee. Then look around with thine eyes and see: for thy children will come to thee from the West, and the North, and from the sea, and the East, blessing Christ in thee for ages.”
(Saint John of Shanghai and San Francisco)
Excerpted from the Martianoff calendar for 2017
THE ROYAL MARTYRS’ PROCESSION
17 July 2017
(100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution)
Russia lives, and by the power of the Cross
It is invincible until the end of ages!
The Royal Family’s interceding prayers
Will free it from the fetters of its foes.
To see the wondrous Royal Tsar’s procession –
How emblematic of the people’s strength it is!
It is the mighty march of Holy Russia
Under the glorious ringing of the bells.
Now all around the enemies are raging
And watching how the people rally round,
How earnestly they honor the Tsar-Martyr
And follow his triumphant spiritual lead.
After Russia’s Golgotha will come the Resurrection,
And Holy Russia will arise anew!
A White Tsar will be granted to it by the Lord
For Russia’s fealty to the martyred Tsar and love.
– Natalia Zhenilova