On the fateful day of the 18th January, the capital looked just as if a state of siege had been declared. A few days previously, the Bolsheviks had created the so-called Extraordinary Command and the whole district around Smolny had been put under the jurisdiction of Lenin’s henchman Bonch Bruevich. The area around the Tauride Palace was put under the supervision of the Bolshevik commandant Blagonravov. The palace itself was surrounded by troops armed to the teeth - Kronstadt sailors and Latvian riflemen, some of them stationed within the building. All the streets leading to the palace were closed off.
New Year. The landlord invited us over: they managed to send all the staff from the house. The next day I was to depart for the capital. Belenky announced that we need to depart without delay. He told me that central committees of anti-Bolshevik socialist parties had spoken against military protest on the opening day of the Constituent Assembly and had suggested organizing only peaceful demonstrations in its favor. See more
The situation is rather absurd. The motto “All power to the Constituent Assembly” has lost all sense. For the lawfully elected Constituent Assembly, it would have been impossible to exist alongside the dictatorship that has rejected the idea of population’s sovereignty. Constituent Assembly would make sense only if it received support from the government that accepted it as the supreme political power. By the end of 1917, there was no such government in Russia. The motto “All power to the Constituent Assembly” now sounded only as a unifying cry of all forces that were willing to continue the fight against usurpers.
Our hosts sent fantastic dishes for our table on Christmas Eve.
No scientist, historian, sociologist, psychologist could have predicted, could have imagined the depth of the psychological shock that Russia has experienced the moment the monarchy fell. See more
The sense of boundless freedom, of liberation from all restrictions, mandatory in any human cohabitation, overwhelmed the population of the empire of 170 plus million people. And here everyone suddenly felt exhausted from the three years of war struggled. It resulted in some paralysis of will.
Russia stopped working at factories and fighting at the front. It’s as if the people lost their ability to follow orders, and the leaders lost their ability to give orders and command. For a moment, Russia’s fate and the war were forgotten. In some villages, peasants started tackling the question of land ownership locally: that is, distributing the landlords’ land and stock. Workers stopped working at factories; they are now trying to get involved in management, removing former directors and engineers from their posts. There’s mass demobilisation at the front.
The revolution, the war, and the restoration of the government were tied into one knot that could not be cut but had to be unraveled. Not one government has born such a triple burden and such a triple responsibility during a war. We were perfectly aware of all the logical incompatibility of war and revolution. See more
Until the collapse of the monarchy, we did everything to avoid letting a revolution happen during the war. Then, we confronted the reality of things: a revolution had happened during the war. What remained was either to desert, to hide in the corner, or, risking everything, to salvage whatever was still salvageable.
From the day of the monarchy’s fall to the day the brief existence of a free and democratic Russia drew to a close, I remained at the very heart of an ongoing tragedy. The merest change in the situation in Russia made an impact within me and upon me. See more
I saw and felt and perceived Russia, struck deaf by the explosion of the monarchy, quickly coming to her senses, gaining in creative strength, beginning to function anew, rejoining battle, issuing orders and obeying them.
I spent six days in a hospital, not experiencing any discomfort at all. The Chief had a great library and received all newspapers. I read during the day, and talked to the Chief in the evening. See more
Fairly soon my friends reappeared, unexpected as always, ready to take me to my next stop. The Chief was away when Belen'ky entered and said curtly:
"Come on. The sleigh is ready."
"Where are we headed now?" I asked.
"Closer to the capital. We'll spend some time at an estate by Bologoe."
My friends left on the same day as we reached Bologoe. The estate was quite big, surrounded by a dense forest. I stayed at a hunting lodge. It had two small rooms: one of them had an iron furnace and a stack of wood. There were no beds, but enough hay.
I declare categorically that the Provisional Government, has carried out its duty in full, drawing on all sound and democratic powers of statesmanship. See more
Within a short space of time, following the fall of the monarchy, the entire governmental, administrative and economic apparatus of the state has been rebuilt on the firm foundations of political and social democracy. It would have been impossible to carry democratization any further. It would have led to an absurd state of affairs and this, in turn, would have led to a dictatorship...
Two sleighs pulled up at the lodge and several astrakhan-hatted soldiers tumbled out, rifles and grenades in hand. These were friends of mine, trustworthy and valiant, and they were here to take me to a secret forest hideout on the road to Novgorod. See more
The forest estate belonged to a rich timber merchant by the name of Belenky. In winter it was completely cut off from the outside world, and the dilapidated house lay buried under mountains of snow. Belenky’s son was serving in the Luga garrison, and it was he who’d orchestrated my escape from Gatchina. Now he had come for me, just as he’d promised. Scared witless by the arrival of the “Bolsheviks”, my dear hosts calmed down only upon learning why my guests were here.
Дмитрий Потоцкий, бывший военный губернатор Ростова.GeneralДмитрий Потоцкий, бывший военный губернатор Ростова. Pototsky came to Novocherkassk and my wife who was in attendance told me that he’d just brought Kerensky with him, who’d gone to Kaledin. Over lunch at Kaledin’s, I personally heard the conversation between his close compatriots: Keresnky had arrived, initially dropping in on Bogaevsky, where he was not well received. See more
He then went to Kalendin, who also refused to take him in. Some detail: supposedly, Bogaevsky’s wife opened the door and looked to see whether Kerensky would return or stay with the chieftan… I was so sure this was true that I forgot to ask Kalendin himself.
In our carriage, which was packed full of soldiers, suspicions were aroused by the fact that I had been lying for so long on the top bunk, and talk started up below. See more
“He’s been lying there half the day. Hasn’t poked his nose out once. Maybe it’s Kerensky himself?” (This was followed by some appalling cursing).
“We should wring his neck!”
Somebody tugged at my sleeve. I turned over and hung my head over the side. Clearly there was no resemblance. The soldiers laughed, and offered me some tea to make up for disturbing me.
Now everyone is blaming Kerensky, that he was weak and did not take steps to counter the Bolsheviks and the impending revolt in time. This is correct, Kerensky in his weakness and his compliance is guilty before Russia—and what had they, all these democrats, done to prevent the revolt? Nothing! See more
It was them, as soon as Kerensky raised his voice and suggested some resolute measures, who started a reckless racket about “counterrevolution” and tied his hands. I will be honest, despite all my hardiness, I sometimes despair and have thoughts of suicide. It is heinous to live among these people.
We reached Petrograd safely, if not on time. Everything there seemed quiet. We drove home to the Nevsky. The minute I was in the house I rushed upstairs to the Laimings to find out what had happened during our absence.At my entrance they both fell a step backwards as if they were seeing a ghost. See more
In Petrograd, as in Moscow, the Bolshevist uprising had succeeded. Kerensky had fled, the members of the Provisional Government had disappeared, but the troops loyal to them had engaged the Bolsheviks in several bloody combats. In this fighting the heaviest losses had been sustained by the Women Battalions and by the youths who were defending the Winter Palace. Petrograd appeared to have had no reports of what had happened in Moscow, and the Laimings could tell me nothing about conditions at Tsarskoie-Selo.
We made inquiries and learned that the passenger service between Petrograd and Tsarskoie-Selo had been discontinued. That terrified me. I had to know at any cost what was happening there. I could not go myself, so again we dispatched the orderly, the only suitable person in this world of grey soldiers' coats. He remained absent the entire day. Upon his return he came into my room, and, with that imperturbability which so often distinguishes people of his mentality, announced: "I am to tell you that everything is all right and that the Grand Duke Paul was taken away to the Smolny Institute two days ago."
My pursuers were looking for me everywhere. They had no idea I was right there, right under their nose, between Gatchina and Luga, and not somewhere around Don or in Siberia. For me, there was nothing left to do but to lay low and change my appearance as much as I could. I grew a mustache and a beard.
We reached the forest and stopped. The officer said, "We're here, you should step out, Mr. Kerensky." Sailor Vanya, who arrived with me, joined me and stepped out as well. It was had to realize where we were - I could only see trees around us. Confused, I asked for explanations. "Farewell," said the officer. "Vanya will explain everything. See more
We have to go." He stepped on the accelerator and vanished. "You see," said Vanya. "My uncle has a cabin here. It's quiet and calm. I haven't been here for two years, but there are no servants in the house, there's nothing to be afraid of. We should take this risk, Mr. Kerensky!"
We took a path deeper into the forest. It was completely silent. I tried not to think about the future, what lies ahead for me. I fully trusted these strangers who risked their lives to save mine. Every once in a while Vanya stopped to make sure we were on the right track. I lost track of time; it felt like the road was endless. Suddenly, Vanya said, "We're almost there." Soon, on a small clearing of the woods, I saw a house. "Wait here, I will check what is going on," Vanya rushed into the house and returned almost immediately. "No servants. The maid left yesterday. My aunt and uncle will be delighted to see you. Follow me."