The Russian Revolution week by week
8–14 January 1917
A hundred years ago this year, Russia overthrew a monarchy and started off on a path that eventually led to 70 years of communism.
As publishers of books on Russian culture (www.fontanka.co.uk) we wanted to trace the events of this momentous year week by week, in personal testimony and memoir.
Tsar’s message to his people
In complete solidarity with our faithful Allies, not entertaining any thought of a conclusion of peace until final victory has been secured, I firmly believe that the Russian people, supporting the burden of war with self-denial, will accomplish their duty to the end, not stopping at any sacrifice.
(‘The Tsar’s rescript’: a message from Nicholas II on 8 January, reported in The Times on 9 (22) January)
Diary entry of Georges-Maurice Paléologue, French Ambassador to Russia
The Emperor has told his aunt, the Grand Duchess Vladimir, that in their own interests his cousins, the Grand Dukes Cyril and Andrew, should leave Petrograd for a few weeks.
(Maurice Paléologue, An Ambassador’s Memoirs 1914–1917, London 1973)
Lecture by Lenin to an audience of young workers in Zurich
We the old shall perhaps not live to see the decisive battles of this coming revolution. But I believe I can express with some confidence the hope that the youth, which is working so splendidly in the socialist movement of Switzerland and of the whole world, will be fortunate enough not only to fight, but also to win in the coming proletarian revolution.
(James D. White, ‘Lenin, the Germans and the February Revolution’, Revolutionary Russia 1992)
Diary entry of Olga, eldest daughter of Nicholas and Alexandra
We 2 with Mama went to visit the grave of Father Grigori [Rasputin]. Today is his name day. Had a music lesson with T. In the evening Papa read to us, Chekhov’s ‘Sobytie’ [The Incident] and started ‘Vragi’ [The Enemy].
(The Diary of Olga Romanov, Yardley 2014)
Diary entry of Lev Tikhomirov, revolutionary and later conservative thinker
What a detestable time Russia is going through! The people are generally in an extreme state of nerves and despair of any hopeful resolution. The papers still write of victory, but nobody believes that in truth. The government has lost every last bit of credibility, not to mention respect. And finally people no longer believe each other, everyone thinks they are surrounded by scoundrels.
(L.A. Tikhomirov, Diary 1915–1917, Moscow 2008)
Diary entry of James L. Houghteling, Jr, attaché at the American Embassy, Petrograd
After dinner tonight, old Mr P — of Boston dropped in to borrow some books. We chatted and our talk soon turned to Rasputin, a never-failing topic these days. He remarked with true New England disgust that Rasputin was the most immoral man in Russia; and a man of tremendous magnetic and physical powers. He has heard that the reason for the murder was not politics but involved an intimacy between the self-styled monk and the wife of one of the high persons implicated … Armour tells me that a few days afterwards he drove across the same bridge [Rasputin was killed and dumped in a hole in the frozen river] and that his driver pointed out the hole, crossed himself and said, ‘It has not frozen; he was a saint!’
(James L. Houghteling, Jr, A Diary of the Russian Revolution , New York 1918)
The writer Stepan Skitalets writes in a Moscow paper
About a verst (one kilometre) from the Senate and museums the twentieth century immediately turns into the seventeenth, and for the moment they don’t notice this but at some point they will reap the fruits of this blindness and neglect. Possibly far sooner than they think.
(Skitalets [S.G. Petrov], Rannee utro, 13 January 1917)
[Trotsky] rented a three-room apartment in the Bronx which, though cheap by American standards, gave him the unaccustomed luxuries of electric light, a chute for garbage and a telephone. Later there were legends that Trotsky had worked in New York as a dish-washer, as a tailor, and even as an actor. But in fact he scraped a living from émigré journalism and lecturing to half-empty halls on the need for world revolution. He ate in Jewish delicatessens and made himself unpopular with the waiters by refusing to tip them on the grounds that it was injurious to their dignity. He bought some furniture on an instalment plan, $200 of which remained unpaid when the family left for Russia in the spring. By the time the credit company caught up with him, Trotsky had become Foreign Minister of the largest country in the world.
(Orlando Figes, A People’s Tragedy , London 1996)
14 January 2017
Some other events to mark the anniversary:
The Cambridge Courtauld Russian Art Centre (CCRAC) is organising a conference linked to the Art of the Revolution exhibition at the RA on 24–25 February. From 4 February to 17 September The Hermitage Amsterdam will host an exhibition of items relating to the reign and demise of Nicholas II, and his family. The exhibits are from the Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg, and the State Archive of the Russian Federation, Moscow. Tate Modern is exhibiting its collection of posters, photographs and other graphic works from the David King Collection in an exhibition called Red Star over Russia , opening in November.