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THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION, 1917-1937 R~ FLENLEY I "RUSSIA)" remarked a French traveller in 1607, , "is not an open country, into which one can enter to learn the language') find out this and that~ an'd t}len depart. Fo~ besides the fact that it is shut off, everything there is so secret that it is very difficult to learn the tni th abou t anything, unless one has seen it with one's own eyes," This go12t du secret persisted in Russia down to, and even after, the fall of the Tsarist regime. As recently as 1934 one of the bestknown American corresponden ts in Russia) W. H. Charriberlin, after a dozen years in t~e country, found it impossible to get at the truth regarding the famine in the Ukraine and the Caucasus. Yet the past few years have witnessed the publlcation of a considerable amount of material about both the new and the old Russia, and this; coupled with the [act that it is now just twenty years since the revolution bf 1917 took place, justifies an attempt to chart its course and estimate its meanipg. At two o'clock on the morning of November 8, 1917 (October 26 by the then Russian calendar) hence the uOctober" Revolution), the Bolshevist forces poured like a tide in to the Win ter Palace in Petrograd, the seat of tl}e provisional republican 'government headed by I(erensky, and arrested the members of the cabinet. They had already seized the railway stations, the postal, telegraph) and telephone offices, and the state bank. They held the great fortress of Peter and Paul, and ,had a cruiser stationed on the Neva ready to bombard the 35 THE UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO QUARTERLY Winter Palace if necessary. But the government was defenceless. Its leader, Kerensky, had departed hours before to bring troops to save the capital- and did not" return. It had no ' option but to surrender. On the evening of the same day, Lenin appeared before the' tumultuous Congress of Soviets, which had just' assembled , and announced, "We shall now proceed 'to , construct the Socialist Order." The Bolshevist seizure of Petrograd, though sudden, was not unheralded. Under the grinding pressure of the War, the Tsarist regime had swiftly dissolved, meltiI:Jg away like that great ice palace Alexander I had once built on the Neva to entertain his foreign guests. The abdication of Nicholas II, in March, 1917, gave formal recognition to the dissolution, and was followed by a period of seven-and-a-half mon ths marked above all by a "lack of governance." There was acute party strife, continuous political crisis, and a succession of provisional governments, the latest of them headed by Kerensky. The attempt by Kornilov to end the confusion by the establishment of a military dictatorship failed, and by its failure hastened the victory of Bolshevism. There were days of demonstration, agitations, attempts at insurrection , 'growing disorders in the factories in and, , about the capital. The peasantry began to seize by force the land for which they hungered, The army began to disintegrate, ,and as prices l"Dse and food became scarcer the cry of "peace and bread" became stronger. Sukhanov, whom Trotsky dismisses as "a democratic politician of a socialist colouring," gives in his Memoirs a graphic summary of the growing anarchy: Lynchings, breaking into houses and shops, acts of violence against officers, provincial authorities, private persons, arbitrary arrests) seizures and acts of vengeance were registered daily in dozens and 36 THE RUSSIAN.·REVOLUTION, 1917-1937 hundreds. Burnings and lootings of manor houses increased in the villages. There were not a few excesses amongst the workers against the factory administrators, owners, and foremen.... Masses .of deserters appeared in 'the rear and at the front. Soldiers, without any pennission, poured homewards in enormous floods . .They -filled up all the trains,' attacking the o'fficials, throwing out passengers. . .. And in the cities they overcrowded and destroyed the street-cars and boulevards, filled up all public places. There also one heard of drunkenness and dlso~del·. Itwas th~ great- and growing confusion, approaching to chaos, which gave the Bolshevists their opportuni ty. Trotsky had returned from An1erica in May; Lenin...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 35-55
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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