January 01, 2011

Pushkin Evenings at the Petrograd House of Writers

One of the most horrible periods in all of Russian history was the winter of 1921. The country was being wracked by civil war, executions, famine, and insurrection. While some still harbored hopes that a return to normalcy was just around the corner, it was already clear that the old familiar way of life was gone forever.

The madness of War Communism* had caused hundreds of thousands to die a cold and hungry death, and there was a sense that at any moment power would slip from Bolshevik hands. Almost all of Tambov Province was up in arms, the Baltic fleet was reaching for its weapons, and the sailors stationed at Kronstadt – one of the mainstays of the revolution – were in a state of rebellion.

In the spring of 1921, a cunning move by the Soviets – the introduction of the New Economic Policy – alleviated the famine and bought the Bolsheviks some time, so that they could consolidate their regime. Their socialist brothers – the Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries, who had long since been forced underground by their open opposition to the Bolsheviks – would soon be put on trial, and in a year the “philosophers’ ships” of tragic fame would carry away the expelled flower of the Russian intelligentsia.

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