The Russian Ides of March
By Peter Wharton
[The Atlantic Monthly, July 1917]
PETROGRAD, March 17, 1917.
To have supposed a short week ago that the colossal Russian bureaucratic machine, which for three hundred years has withstood assaults from within and without, would to-day be scrapped beside the highway of nations would have been sheer madness. Speculation and dark prophecies foretelling the imminence of a revolution in Russia have been rife since the beginning of the war, but in no circles, high or low, has any one had the temerity to think, even in his most exalted moments, that the spirit of the Russian people could initiate a great revolt against the government, and carry it through to victory with little bloodshed, with a superb display of nobility, and with a breadth of view disconcerting even to an American. During these days of street battles and all-night sittings of the Duma, when the atmosphere was hectic and an onlooker thought he saw chaos, a common voice has spoken, virile with youth, modulated with age, vibrating with righteous indignation and aspiration, a subtle composite of the voices of its children and seers from Pushkin to Tolstoy.
To appreciate the march of present events it is necessary to give a cursory description of the status quo ante. Dissatisfaction with the government was almost universal, ranging from disappointment with the conduct of the war to disgust at the criminal bungling of the food and transport problems.
Although the insufficiency of railways and equipment, and the enormous drafts made by war requirements upon ocean tonnage soon caused prices of food staples to soar in the industrial centres, wages advanced sufficiently in most cases to meet the new conditions. The urban populations did not really begin to feel the pinch of war until the autumn of 1916. Then, owing to the inability of the working classes to procure ample food, sporadic strikes occurred in various government munition factories and arsenals in Moscow and Petrograd. The demands of the workers were not for more money, but for food—in most cases only for more bread. In exceptional cases the government made a half-hearted attempt to cope with the situation and measures were taken to put more food within reach of the operatives; but more frequently the strikers' petitions were unsympathetically received and the workmen were peremptorily ordered by the military to return to work.
From the autumn on, many ominous signs were apparent. Inflammatory speeches and articles were continually being suppressed, and a marked restlessness in the Duma indicated that a great people was becoming wearied of the maladministration of its affairs by the nonentities who held ministerial portfolios.
The situation went from bad to worse. During an exceptionally severe winter all the working and middle-class population had to stand in line anywhere from five to eighteen hours, to receive the commonest necessities of life. These numb shivering lines knew all about the millions of pounds of cheap Siberian beef which were overtaken by spring before being released for consumption, and rotted as a consequence. Few of the munition-workers, whose wives or children spent more than half their time in the queue before a bread-shop, had not heard of the 'fish graveyards' of Astrakhan, where thousands of tons of the spoiled harvest of the Caspian were buried; and all classes had heard of the 'saccharine rivers' which travelers had seen flowing from leaky sugar warehouses in the great beet-growing districts of South Russia and Podolia; while we put jam in our tea and work-people drank it unsweetened. Every one knew that the country was full of grain, and that the provincial towns were full of flour.
Finally, food-riots began, and some bakeries and meat-shops were broken into and ransacked. Small patrols of Cossacks appeared in the restless districts, and the air became charged with a certain tenseness which would subside for a few days, only to reappear with more persistence.
Affairs were in this state on Friday, March 9, when the increasing turbulence of the people brought out great numbers of Cossacks. The following day, March 10, I went to the principal shopping district in and around Nevski Prospect, where I had many errands to do in preparation for my departure on Monday the 12th for the Ural Mountains. Notwithstanding my preparation for coming events, I was shocked when I turned from the Katherine Canal into the Nevski, and beheld it filled with long columns of Cossacks, knout in hand—a forest of lances.
The Nevski is a street apart, with an atmosphere of its own: a thoroughfare for a great human current which undulates over its little bridges, eddies about its tawdry shops, or flows smoothly past the Dowager's red palace, while the gardens in front of Kazan Cathedral form a haven of refuge for those fatigued with midstream. A place of color and life and freedom of movement, it suddenly looked still and bleak. The wide expanse of well-packed snow had never seemed static before; it had been part and parcel of the moving picture, cut in swirls by skidding sleighs or whipped up by motor-wheels; constantly traversed by living things. Now it looked whiter and wider; it glistened, and I thought of the snow on the plains.
The cessation of usual life in the street, the disappearance of the cheery, overcrowded red trams and the subtlety of the snow, all heightened the psychologic effect of impending change, as the blank white certain at a movie drama stands for both the suspense in motions and the rapid transition of events from the black misery and injustice of the first reel to the red revolt and, bright heroics of the second. That Saturday afternoon on the Nevski was the blank between the reels.
After watching it all quietly from afar, I came down into the picture and mingled with the crowds. At the curb, where the people pressed by the solid phalanxes of mounted Cossacks, there was much badinage. The omnipresent woman of the working class, with shawl-covered head and eyes alert, was the voice of all the timid or self-conscious onlookers. She walked right up to these men of her kind and called out, 'You wouldn't really kill us, would you? You know all we want is food. Will you obey those who starve us?'
I watched the faces of the Cossacks intently. Most of them were young men, some of them adolescent; there a few of the ruffian type, but most of the faces were good, while some were gentle and sweet. I know these men hated their jobs. Where three or four of them, separated from their companions, were stationed at corners to deflect the current of pedestrians down side streets, their manner was apologetic, and they prefaced their orders with 'Pajallst' which is the colloquial for 'If you please.' Many persons argued with them and continued along the Nevski. Plainly the Cossacks were feeling the situation, as was evidenced by their vacillation from a military point of view. I hold no brief for them. I simply feel that they are about as good and, about as bad as you or I. You see, only last December I made a journey of several hundred versts by troika through the country of the Ural Cossacks; I've broken bread with the old mothers and fathers of these fellows, trotted their little brothers and sisters on my knee. I've lived in their homes, and I cannot forget that the most important place in each home is that ornate corner which shelters the sacred ikons.
Although the revolution may be said to have started on Saturday, March 10, real concerted clashes between the troops and the people did not occur until Sunday, the 11th. I had an engagement for the early afternoon at a friend's across the river. Leaving the house where Mary and I have lived since autumn, I found no sleighs in circulation. All trams had disappeared. The crowds were immense, representing all classes, and a black stream, like an army of ants, poured over the Liteiny Bridge, from the Viborg manufacturing district beyond. The people were expectant and good-natured—out to see something, like a crowd waiting for a balloon ascension, the hour of which is uncertain. Large bodies of Cossacks were out, either standing at rest or exercising at a walk.
When I had nearly reached the Nevski, sudden commotion ahead and a general scuttling for doorways drew my attention from passers-by. The Cossacks were charging down the sidewalks on both sides of the street. Thanks to the fact that nearly all the buildings have wide entrances for vehicles, every one found refuge. The Cossacks passed with a clatter; they made no attempt to touch any one and for the most part kept their faces averted. After this there was more excitement, but, in my crowd at least, no show of anger, just as if an irresponsible runaway horse had bolted through a densely thronged street.
I soon turned into Nevski Prospect, still rather hoping to find a sleigh and keep my engagement. At that point there were no Cossacks and the situation seemed almost normal except for that evanescent tenseness in the air. As I approached the big crosstown street, Sadovaya, I heard a fusillade of rifle-shots not far off. The pedestrians thinned out miraculously, and what I saw about seventy feet ahead of me riveted my attention. Lying on their backs, with blood running from their mouths, were two young workmen in high boots and black reefers. As I stood over them and looked into their unseeing eyes, a woman stooped, peered into their faces, shuddered and said, 'What a shame! boys, only boys!'
As I left them, I saw the cordon of soldiers which had fired the volley stretched across the street at the corner. I now had to avoid pools of blood every three or four yards. Frantic groups in the doorways of little shops told where the wounded were. I passed six men wearing green students' caps, who were bearing over their heads in the street a corpse on a sign-board. A company of Cossacks whirled past and surrounded them, presumably to prevent a demonstration farther on. A passing limousine was waylaid by men who held the chauffeur and made two occupants get out, after which wounded civilians were put in and hurried away. I also saw this act repeated with two private sleighs.
By this time I had nearly reached the Sadovaya, and was within twenty-five yards of the infantry. A bugle was warning the Cossacks far down the Nevski. I heard a sharp command arid saw the men of the cordon fling themselves forward on their stomachs. Another command rang out; the rifles came up as one, and as I turned the corner into safety, the air was rent with a fratricidal roar.
The mobs in the side streets were on the qui vive with excitement. One began to hear the word c revolution and the people who were being killed were called revolutionists. During the first part of the day the troops were ordered to fire upon the crowds because they would not disperse; but by three in the afternoon the people were firing on the troops—not as parts of a large organization, but as small and independent groups which seemed to spring up from nowhere. By nightfall every one realized that the strikes and food-riots had grown into a thorough-going revolution, and despite the anxiety about the effect of it on the armies at the front, nearly every one was glad.
Monday, March 12, was the crucial day of the revolution. Street-fighting assumed formidable proportions early in the morning, centring around the government arsenal on Liteiny Prospect. Soon the populace was thrilled by the news that five celebrated regiments had joined the people's cause and were actively opposing the loyal troops. Some officers were killed, others mauled, and those who would not come out in open opposition to the government hid themselves away. On Liteiny Prospect a lively engagement was fought between the soldiers, the loyalists lying on their stomachs in the snow while the revolutionists stood erect. Excited crowds in passages and doorways naturally took the side of their protagonists. Even women and children left shelter and walked out calmly under a lively fire to drag back the wounded.
In spite of earnest protests, I went out on foot to keep yesterday's tryst across the river. At the farther end of the Troitsk Bridge I encountered a huge crowd held back by police and troops: the government had decided to stop the influx of people to the centre of Petrograd. But even here privilege overruled authority, and persons arriving in motor-cars or sleighs were allowed to pass over the bridge without question from the authorities; but there was a question in the common mind, and it achieved expression a few moments after I arrived. Bolder members of the throng scattered themselves back along the car-tracks, and as soon as a machine or sleigh slowed down on approaching the crowd, three or four men leaped aboard, rapidly ejecting driver and passengers and appropriating the conveyance to their own ends.
When returning home at dusk, I saw a scene which brought back memories of A Tale of Two Cities. Kamennostrovski Prospect, which is the main artery of that quarter of Petrograd beginning at the Troitsk Bridge, was literally choked with a great surging mass of revolutionists, who had tramped over here from the fighting zone, to proclaim victory and to draw all lukewarm persons to their flaming cause. It was an earnest, serious crowd, devoid of ranting or vandalism; its temper was that of Russian music—strength with pathos, optimism without joy. Gray army trucks throbbed in the midst of it, loaded with soldiers, women, and boys bearing crimson banners. Bayonets were decked with scraps of red bunting, and bonfires lit up pale faces and eager eyes. Now and again a touring car would thread its way nervously through the mob, stopping every hundred yards for a student to make a one-minute speech, or continuing to bore its way while Red Cross nurses threw out handfuls of bulletins. The Socialists got out literature so fast that it seemed as if the pent-up energy and stifled utterances of years were behind their presses strange scraps of paper such as were never seen before in this city floated freely in the air with the headline, 'We asked for bread, you gave us lead.'
Eventually I wormed my way through the crowd, past the beautiful cathedral whose graceful domes looked down with aloof incomprehension upon the drama at their feet, until I came out at the Troitsk Bridge. I hardly noticed that it was open to all and that the police had disappeared, because of the glory of the view that lay before me. Over my right shoulder the turrets and castellated walls of Peter and Paul, fortress and prison, threw their grim silhouette against the dying sun, a dynasty gone to rest. To the left the sky was all molten gold and forked with giant tongues of flame; the High Tribunal, Courts of Justice, and jails, instruments of injustice in the Old Order, were making room for the New. At that moment, however, I did not know just what buildings were burning but I did know that the fire was in our neighborhood, and you can imagine the intensity of my anxiety until I got home. I found Mary full of news. Immediately after I had left in the morning, an officer was beheaded by striking workmen next door. Another officer climbed a twenty-foot wall in record time and took refuge in our yard. Meanwhile the crowd in the street was yelling, ' 'Where is the other pig? Find him! Kill him!' Fortunately a running fight between a rebel armored car and loyal troops drew the mob away, and our dangerous friend sought other sanctuary.
Some one had brought in a copy of the first bulletin of the Provisional Government. It started off this way, in big type:—
ISVETSIA [News] February 27 [March 12, New Style]
THE NEWSPAPERS DO NOT COME OUT!
EVENTS MOVE TOO EAST, AND THE PEOPLE MUST KNOW WHAT IS GOING ON!
DISSOLUTION OF THE DUMA BY NIKOLAI II!
DECISION OF THE DUMA TO REMAIN IN SESSION!TELEGRAM FKOM RODZIANKO, HEAD OF THE NEW GOVERNMENT, TO THE TSAR: —
'The situation is serious. The capital is in a state of anarchy. The government is paralyzed. There is universal discontent. The streets are filled with disorderly shooting. Parts of the army are shooting on each other. [Literally: "friend on friend."]. It is necessary to find a person who has the confidence of the whole country, to establish a new government. Make haste. Procrastination means death. I pray to God that the responsibility will not fall upon the Crowned Head!'
A COPY OF THIS TELEGRAM WAS SENT TO ALL COMMANDERS AT THE FRONT, ASKING THEM TO UPHOLD RODZIANKO IN HIS APPEAL TO THE TSAR.
SECOND TELEGRAM FROM RODZIAKKO TO THE TSAR:—
'Affairs are worse. You must act at once. To-morrow it will be too late. This is the last hour in which to decide the fate of the country and of the dynasty.'
THE REVOLUTIONARY ARMY, ACCOMPANIED BY THE ARMED CITIZENS, APPEARED AT THE DUMA AT 2 P.M. THEY WERE MET BY THE DEPUTIES AND THE LATTER WERE LOUDLY CHEERED. SPEECHES.
CHIEF OF THE ARTILLERY FACTORY, GENERAL MARTUSOV, IS KILLED. THE ARSENAL IS UNDER GUARD OF THE REVOLUTIONISTS.
ARREST OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL OF THE EMPIRE, SCHERGLOVTTOV, FORMER MINISTER OF JUSTICE.
DUMA COMMITTEE FORMED FOR THE MAINTENANCE OF ORDER IN PETROGRAD, FOR THE PROTECTION OF INDUSTRY AND SAFEGUARDING THE PUBLIC.
When we went to bed, the sky from our windows was still bright from the fire. Rifles snapped fitfully, and the yelling of bands of hooligans reached our ears through double panes.
Early Tuesday morning we no longer considered it safe to stay in our house, so we hastily prepared to avail ourselves of an invitation from friends on the French Quay. Mary had been home from the hospital only a week, and was hardly able to walk, and our precious little boy was less than three weeks old. To find a conveyance was out of the question, so we started off on foot, two good friends taking Mary by the arms while I carried the baby. When we went from the house into the street and Mary saw the crowds and the barricades, and field artillery, her nerves gave way at last. Each time a shot rang out she would call ahead to me, 'Don't let them kill my baby; my baby!' while passers-by stared at her tears.
When we reached our friend's house she quickly regained self-control and soon began to watch the progress of the revolution from the front windows, which commanded the quay, a great expanse of the ice-covered Neva, and the two bridges previously mentioned. Motor-cars continually sped past, decked with red banners and bristling with rifles and bayonets. They made a very dramatic appearance, with soldiers lying forward on the mud-guards, and rifles with fixed bayonets protruding in front. Many open cars had machine-guns rakishly trained fore and aft from the tonneaus, and there was a continual procession of thundering army trucks loaded to the guards with soldiers and civilians, armed with drawn revolvers or swords taken from the police.
Later in the forenoon, the Cadets' Corps, with a band, followed by a great crowd, marched down the quay. As the band struck up the Marseillaise, hats came off and hundreds of people from all classes joined hands. Every one wore revolutionary colors. The color impression was that of Boylston Street after a football victory over Yale.
In the afternoon I found a crowd sacking a police station. Windows were smashed, the furnishings knocked about, and jubilant people inside were throwing out armfuls of records and letters on the blazing bonfire by the curb. Later I saw the same thing at the station on Fontanka Canal. Every one seemed to take delight in lugging out his share of the archives. They threw them into the fire with a righteous zest. As soon as the tide of revolution turned in the people's favor, a city-wide police hunt was started. Out of twenty to thirty thousand police, not one was to be seen in the streets. During the first two days they were killed on sight by soldiers and civilians alike; but forgiveness outweighs lust for revenge in the Russian soul, and after the first flash of anger, the people took their erstwhile tormentors as prisoners. The search had many spectacular features, including battles on the housetops, where groups of police armed with machine-guns stubbornly defended their positions against revolutionists on other buildings. Many of the police, in small groups of threes and fours, fired on the people from the upper windows of tall apartment houses where they had taken refuge.
I witnessed an affair of this kind only a short distance from our house. I saw a rifle stuck out of a black window, and an instant later, as I heard the report, a piece of a sign-board splintered away over my head. A passing soldier immediately took up his position at the corner and began firing as fast as he could, while I peeked over his shoulder to observe his marksmanship. By this time, half a dozen soldiers were concentrating on the window from different vantage-points, while a crowd gathered. The police kept up their fire with spirit until an armored car came up and gave the window a hail of bullets. Then a party entered the building, and a few minutes later a soldier brushed past me exultantly exclaiming, 'Five more taken!'
At midnight, March 12, the Executive Committee of the National Duma was organized, under the leadership of Michael Rodzianko, President of the Duma. That committee, which became the executive branch of the government of all Russia for the time being, issued a bulletin Tuesday morning, outlining its policy, admonishing the population to refrain from acts of violence and vandalism and closing as follows: —
'In spite of the deep difference of political and social ideals of the members of the National Duma constituting the Temporary Committee, in the present difficult moment complete unity has been attained among them. Before all stands a task which must not be postponed—that of organizing the elemental popular movement.
'The danger of disorganization is comprehended by all.
'Citizens, organize! That is the call of the moment. In organization lie salvation and force. Hear the Temporary Committee of the National Duma.'
On Tuesday about two hundred portfolio ministers, generals, and other officials of the old regime were arrested by the revolutionists, including I. G. Sheglovitoff, one of the traitors who left the Russian armies without ammunition just before the enemy's advance in Poland, B. V. Sturmer, former President of the Council of Ministers, who intrigued for a separate peace with Germany, and Major-General Balk, Chief of Police of Petrograd.
Also on Tuesday there were great jail deliveries, all prisoners being liberated indiscriminately. "Estimates of the number vary from ten to twenty thousand. All of the prisons except the historic Peter and Paul were burned by the people. A friend of mine met an old white-haired man tottering across the Troitsk Bridge asking questions of all passers-by. It seems that he had just been freed from Peter and Paul after having sat in a dungeon below the level of the Neva for forty years, waiting to come to trial. When a young man he had been put in as a political suspect.
On Wednesday the 14th, I visited the charred and smoking shell of the Courts of Justice. The courtyard, with its trees and walks, was crowded with curious people who wandered in and out, delving for souvenirs of that which was already a thing of yesterday. The grand staircase was entirely wrecked; only the lower third of a marble empress remained on her pedestal. The blackened torso lay at my feet, the imperial head, orb, sceptre, crown, among the debris, and the archives were like the mouth of a live volcano. Going through a dark corridor, I reached an inner court next to the prison. The street entrance to the latter was closed by the soldiers, but I followed a crowd which had just forced an entrance through a high window reached from a wood-pile and he roof of a lean-to.
I shuddered when I found myself inside this great human cage where everything was steel and stone, clanked, and was cold. Think of the delirious joy that flew on wings from cell to cell as the revolutionists battered down the gates and flung wide every door! I went in scores of cells and in each saw a cube of black bread, in each case just a little bitten off; the call to freedom had come at the beginning of this simple meal, which was never to be finished. Most of the bread lay dashed upon the floor, but some prisoners, perhaps hopeless ones, thinking the first alarm too good to be true, had placed theirs on a shelf. I suppose some of us will try to put bread on a shelf when Christ is coming. Those have seen so many overloaded shelves that they have grown skeptical about good tidings.
Eventually I reached the commandant's office, which was gutted and wrecked. Since there were not many bidders for it, I walked off with an oil portrait of the Emperor under my arm. The work-rooms were depressing. It hurt to look at the well-worn tools. I hurried on to the chapel, with its shattered door and its Byzantine fittings in wildest disarray. Books, vestments, and robes were strewn about the floor. The marble altar was damaged and the crowd was curiously handling the ceremonial vessels. Presently a young soldier snatched up a richly embroidered robe and flung it over his shoulders; next, he put on a long embellished collar; and last of all, he jammed a battered mitre on the side of his head. Then he opened the Testament and began to intone in a comic bass voice, while the bystanders laughed and some chuckled. There was nothing vindictive in the young soldier's manner. He was perfectly sober, but having a great lark. A short week ago it would have been indiscreet even to conjure up in one's mind such a picture as that chapel presented. The priesthood, for the most part minions of the government, are conspicuous by their absence during these stirring days.
It seems here as if the whole world must be topsy-turvy. The incredible is becoming a common sight, the commonplace has quite disappeared, For instance, I passed a jolly group of soldiers who were eating and chaffing around a great bonfire on the snow, made of piles of gilded imperial eagles and crests of royalty which they had stripped from government buildings and shops which purveyed to the aristocracy.
In the night of March 13, the Imperial Council sent the Tsar a telegram as follows:—
Your Imperial Highness, we, the undersigned, members of the Imperial Council by election, in recognition of the threatening danger approaching the country, appeal to you, in order to fulfill the duty of our conscience toward you and toward Russia.
n consequence of the complete disorganization of transportation and absence of necessary materials, the factories and mills have stopped. The enforced idleness and the extreme acuteness of the provision crisis. . . have brought the popular masses to the limits of desperation. This feeling has been made still worse by the hatred of the Government and the deep suspicions of the authorities, which feelings have taken such deep root in the soul of the people.
All this has taken the form of popular disorders of great strength and the troops are now beginning to join this movement. The Government, which has never enjoyed the confidence of Russia, has been definitively discredited and is completely helpless to cope with the threatening situation.
Sire, the continuance of the present Government in power will mean complete wreck of the legitimate order and lead to inevitable defeat in the war, the fall of the dynasty, and great misfortunes for Russia.
We consider the last and only means to be the decisive change by Your Imperial Highness of the course of the internal policy, in accordance with the frequently expressed wishes of the representatives of the people, the classes, and public organizations: that is, the immediate convocation of the legislative bodies, the retirement of the present staff of the Council of Ministers, and the entrusting to a person deserving of the national confidence, to present to you, Sire, for confirmation, the list of a new cabinet capable of managing the country in complete accord with the representatives of the people. Every hour is precious. Further delay and hesitation threaten incalculable misfortunes.
Your Imperial Majesty's faithful subjects, members of the Imperial Council.
[There are 21 signatures including Count Tolstoy, Prince Troubetskoy, Guchkoff, Prince Oldenburg, etc.]
The Council of Workmen's Delegates issued a proclamation on the following day, the 14th, in which it said: 'All together, with united forces, we shall fight for full removal of the old government and the convocation of a Constituent Assembly, chosen on the basis of universal, equal, direct, and secret suffrage.'
While order was gradually being restored in some quarters by the hastily organized City Militia, composed mainly of student volunteers, other districts were still being hotly contested. Wednesday afternoon I walked to the Nikolai Station; great crowds surged back and forth in the wide square, like the ground swell of the sea, against the massive base of the equestrian statue of that arch-reactionary, Alexander III. The lower end of the Nevski was in a riotous state. Sniping from windows was still going on, and the police station near by was in flames. I witnessed the exit into the street from the station of some Siberian troops, who immediately went over to the revolutionists amid wild demonstrations of the people. Earlier in the week the Emperor's regiment and the Cossacks who were sent in from Tsarskoe-Selo to quell the rebellion went over to the people without firing a shot; all of which proves how universal was the spirit of discontent, and how deep the longing for a democratic government. Even now, huge crowds are parading the streets, singing and bearing aloft enormous red banners with the legend, 'Great Russia must be a Democratic Republic.'
On Thursday tire 15th, the Temporary Government published a proclamation which is so epochal in character and refreshing in spirit that I copy
The Temporary Committee of Members of the National Duma, with the cooperation of the troops and the population, has now attained such a degree of success over the dark forces of the old regime as permits it to proceed to a more solid structure of the executive authority.
For this purpose the Temporary Committee of the National Duma appoints as Ministers of the first public cabinet the following persons, in whom the confidence of the country is assured by their past public and political activity.'
[The list follows, with Prince G. E. Lwoff as President of the Council of Ministers and Minister of the Interior, former member of the First Duma and President of the Chief Committee of the All-Russian Rzewski Union, and with P. N. Miliukoff as Minister of Foreign Affairs.]
In its present activity the Cabinet will be guided by the following principles:—
I. Full and immediate amnesty in all political and religious affairs, including those convicted of terroristic attempts, military insurrection, and agrarian crimes,
II. Liberty of word, press, assembly, unions and strikes-, with extension of political liberty to those in military service within the confines permissible by military-technical conditions.
III. Abolition of all class, religious and national limitations.
IV. Immediate preparation to convoke, on the principles of universal, equal, direct and secret suffrage, a Constituent Assembly, which will establish the form of administration and constitution.
V. Substitution of national militia in place of the police, with elected leaders and subject to the local administrations.
VI. Elections to local administration on the basis of universal suffrage.
VII. The troops taking part in the revolutionary movement are not to be disarmed or taken away from Petrograd.
VIII. While maintaining strict military discipline in the ranks and in military service, all limitations upon soldiers in the enjoyment of public rights as enjoyed by all other citizens are to be abolished. The Temporary Government considers it its duty to add that it in no way intends to take advantage of the circumstances of war to cause any delay in carrying out the above reforms and measures.
[Signed by President of the Duma, Prime Minister and Ministers.]
History is in flux. The Slav, so long democratic in spirit, has at last thrown off the rotten shackles which have traduced his interests and thwarted the realization of his ideals. He has come through the fire without anger, and with little bloodshed. The difficult path into the future, is obscure and beset with dangers, but this future will be met with high courage and it will be a courage beautiful to behold, for it will have behind it the rich Byzantine tradition, which will reveal to the world, more and more, that Christ who is preeminently the symbol and essence of love—love in action, contagious, omnipresent.
I am happy, very happy, for I believe that one of the great spiritual victories of mankind has been won during this bewildering week. I send you greetings from that old Russia, which gripped my soul and carried me away to her bosom when the first spark of social conscience came into being and struggled toward light; I send you greetings from New Russia, the centre of the culture of the future.
© J. Fred MacDonald, 2013
If you appreciate the articles, read the e-novel informed by them —
THE HEADLONG FURY
A Novel of World War One
By J. Fred MacDonald