Sep/Oct 2018 Current Moscow Time: 17:46:34
22 September 2018

  The world’s biggest country, in a magazine. Since 1956.


Author: Tamara Eidelman
Translation: Nora Seligman Favorov

Sep/Oct 2017
Page 19   ( 6 pages)

Summary: In which we look at the events of 1917 through the words and works of the politicians, artists, and luminaries living through them.


In a popular 1935 Soviet film, Three Comrades, soldiers sing a song by Mikhail Svetlov: “We are a peaceful people, but our armored train is at the depot standing by.” In the fall of 1917, the proverbial armored train was not standing anywhere – it was barreling ahead at full speed toward an uncertain future. Everyone could sense that momentous changes were coming at them fast.

With each passing day, Prime Minister Alexander Kerensky was losing supporters. The ground was giving way beneath the Provisional Government – and beneath Russia itself. As the government’s hold on power faltered, Kerensky turned to society. Throughout September and until the revolution became a fait accompli, he was engaged in meetings, negotiations, and inter-party debates. Little good it did him.

Many years later, in memoirs written from exile (Kerensky spent more than half his life in exile; he died, all but forgotten, in New York in 1970), he looked back on the nightmarish autumn of 1917:

For a while, I lost my faith in humanity. After arriving at Supreme Headquarters, I collapsed and remained in critical condition for several days. It was General Dukhonin who brought me back to my senses, telling me: “Kerensky, you cannot abandon your duties at such a critical time, you don’t have the right. Too much rests on your shoulders.” A day later, I was back on my feet, ready to carry on the struggle, my determination restored.

Kerensky bustled about, trying in vain to make headway against the winds of revolution. He created an odd creature called a “pre-parliament” that was supposed to exercise power until the Constituent Assembly could be convened. The Constituent Assembly did finally convene – in November. “Come on, Alexander Fyodorovich, hurry up, time is of the essence!” Alas, he cannot hear our voice from the future. In Russia, things move at a snail’s pace.

Holed up in Finland, hiding from the Provisional Government, Lenin was also annoyed by the slow pace of events. It is not entirely clear why he was still in Finland, since investigators had already closed his case. But the future leader of the world proletariat was, as usual, consumed by paranoia and moved from one Finnish town to the next, all the while bombarding his party comrades with letters, which, as a body, would later be immortalized as Lenin’s ingenious plan for an armed uprising.

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