Perspective drives psychology.
Tim Garrity

The “storming of the winter palace” as depicted in communist propaganda — masses of starving peasants simply over-whelming it in some kind of sporadic event, and ousting a bunch of rich aristocrats, was a complete myth.

The Winter Palace at the time was occupied not by the Tsar and his family, but by the provisional government under Kerensky. The Palace was guarded by almost 2000 young military cadets who were unsure whose side they were on, and 200 cossacks. The cossacks were experienced and seasoned cavalrymen but they were fiercely loyal to the Tsar and were not about to spill their blood to defend Kerensky’s government, even though Kerensky had been willing to deal with the Tsar. They simply left. The cadets were divided as to whether or not to fire and squabbled amongst themselves. There were about 100 female Mensheivik guards who immediately surrendered.

The palace was stormed by newly formed (and well fed)Red Guard forces directed by the Bolsheviks, not by hordes of angry peasants. The opening shots were fired by a Battleship in the harbour nearby. The ship had been seized by the Bolsheviks and the crew were now ordered to fire on the Palace. Not wishing to do so they fired blank shells instead. But the signal was still given.

The taking of the palace was almost bloodless because most of the defenders had already left. Afterwards though, the Bolsheviks began the mass executions of their more moderate former allies in an orgy of murder that would go on for weeks. Lenin was getting rid of any potential opposition from the centre. He understood that a peaceful transition to a more centrist democracy was what the people wanted, not a brutal Bolshevik dictatorship.

The peasants were mostly still cautiously supportive of the Tsar. They were prepared to accept Kerensky and his provisional government, mostly because it at least appeared to be fairly moderate and had agreed to announce democratic elections before the end of the year. Most expected a transition to some kind of constitutional monarchy on the British or Danish model. The communists were not about to let that happen. The masses did not for the most part support the Bolsheviks.

The storming of the Winter Palace was re-staged for the cameras in 1920 and sold to the western press as authentic footage. The movie was directed by Nikolai Evreinov who would make a big career in Soviet Cinema. It was very much filmed as a documentary. The making of it attracted tens of thousands of spectators who were effectively used as unknowing extras, being themselves depicted as “hordes of angry peasants” egging the Bolsheviks on. In true Bolshevik fashion hundreds of spectators were forced out of the crowd and forced to take part in the staged storming of the Palace by Lenin’s thugs. The movie depicted masses of peasants carrying red flags and it made much of the completely invented “Women’s Battalion” who apparently suddenly became fiercely inspired by soviet ideals and fought alongside the communists instead. It was all pure fantasy, but then again, the Communists did pretty much invent feminism.

The movie was careful to include “treacherous” Cossacks being overcome by brave Red Guards and angry workers, and it was used again as an excuse to try to annihilate the Don Cossacks by both Lenin and Stalin later on.

The Russian revolution was not engineered or led by Lenin. It was pretty much over by the time Lenin arrived and it seemed to be going in a reasonably peaceful and positive direction. It was hijacked and turned into a bloodbath by Lenin.

The talking of the Winter Palace and the subsequent purging of the original revolutionary cadres, was the beginning of the unleashing of a prolonged wave of terror against the rural population and the urban poor, the likes of which Russia had never seen before. The Red Terror, which Lenin had promised in advance, would kill and imprison more people and result in more terrible famine and hardship than any war or disaster in two thousand years of Russian history.

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.