100 years ago, February 23 (March 8) 1917, the revolution began in the Russian Empire. Spontaneous rallies and strikes of the end of 1916 - the beginning of 1917 of the year, caused by various socio-economic reasons and the war, escalated into a general strike in Petrograd. The beating of the police began, the soldiers refused to shoot at people, some with weapons supported the protesters. 27 February (12 March) 1917, the general strike turned into an armed uprising; the troops that had gone over to the side of the rebels occupied the most important points of the city, government buildings. On the night of February 28 (March 13), the Provisional Committee of the State Duma announced that it would take power into its own hands. 1 (14) March The Provisional Committee of the State Duma received recognition from Britain and France. 2 (15) March Nicholas II’s abdication occurred.
In one of the latest reports of the Security Department, from the police provocateur Shurkanov, introduced in the RSDLP (b), February 26 (March 11), it was noted: “The movement broke out spontaneously, without preparation, and solely on the basis of the food crisis. Since military units did not impede the crowd, and in some cases even took measures to paralyze the beginnings of police officials, the masses gained confidence in their impunity, and now, after two days of unimpeded walking through the streets, when revolutionary circles put forward the slogans “Down with the war” “Down with the government,” the people became convinced that the revolution had begun, that the masses had success, that the power was powerless to suppress the movement because the military units would openly stand on the side of the revolutionary forces, that the movement that has begun does not subside any longer, but will grow without a break until the final victory and a coup d’état. ”
In the context of riots, the fate of the empire depended entirely on the loyalty of the army. February 18 from the Northern Front was divided into an independent unit of the Petrograd Military District. General Sergei Khabalov, appointed commander of the district, was given broad powers to combat the "unreliable" and "troublemakers". This decision was made because of the threat of new strikes and riots against the background of increasing universal discontent with what is happening in the country. At that time, there were only a few thousand policemen and Cossacks in Petrograd, so the authorities began to force troops into the capital. By mid-February, their number in Petrograd was about 160 thousand people.
However, the troops did not become a factor of stability, as, for example, during the First Revolution 1905-1907. On the contrary, the army at that time had already become a source of distemper and anarchy. The recruits, having heard a lot of horrors about the front, did not want to go to the front line, as did the wounded and sick who had recovered. The staff of the tsarist army was knocked out, the old non-commissioned officers and officers remained in the minority. The new officers, who had been called up during the war, were mainly from the intelligentsia, who for the most part traditionally held to liberal and radical positions, were hostile to the tsarist regime. It is not surprising that in the future a significant part of these officers, as well as junkers and cadets (students), supported the Provisional Government, and then various democratic, national and white governments and armies. That is, the army itself was a source of instability, all that was needed was a fuse for the explosion.
The government foresaw the inevitable unrest, having developed in January-February 1917, a plan to combat possible riots. However, this plan did not envisage a mass insurrection of the reserve battalions of the guard regiments stationed in Petrograd. According to Lieutenant-General Chebykin, commander of the military guards and guards spare parts of Petrograd, to quell the unrest, it was planned to highlight "the best, the best parts - training teams consisting of the best soldiers trained as non-commissioned officers". However, these calculations turned out to be erroneous - the uprising began with the training teams. In general terms, the plan for suppressing the oncoming revolution was made by mid-January 1917, its basis was taken experience successful suppression of the revolution 1905 year. According to this plan, the police, the gendarmerie and the troops stationed in the capital were painted in the districts under the unified command of specially appointed staff officers. The main support of the government was to be the Petrograd police and training teams of the reserve battalions, numbering about 10 thousand from the 160-thousandth garrison. If the police as a whole remained loyal to the government, then the hope for the training teams of the reserve battalions did not materialize. Moreover, with the beginning of the revolution, the insurgent soldiers began to massively seize weapons, cracking down on officers and guards who tried to prevent them and easily put pressure on the police. Those who had to crush distemper themselves became sources of chaos.
February 21 (March 6) street riots began in Petrograd - people standing in the cold in long lines for bread began to smash shops and shops. In Petrograd, there have never been any problems with the supply of basic products, and the long standing in the “tails”, as the queues were then called, because of the bread amid talk of the possible introduction of cards, caused sharp irritation among the citizens. Even though the shortage of bread was observed only in certain areas.
Bread riots in Petrograd became a logical development of the crisis situation in grain procurement and transport. 2 December 1916 of the Year “Special Meeting on Foodstuffs” introduced a surplus. Despite tough measures, instead of the planned 772,1 million pounds of bread, only 170 million pounds were collected in state bins. As a result, in December, the 1916 standards for soldiers at the front were reduced from 3 to 2 pounds of bread per day, and in the front line to 1,5 pounds. Cards for bread introduced in Moscow, Kiev, Kharkov, Odessa, Chernihiv, Podolsk, Voronezh, Ivanovo-Voznesensk and other cities. In some cities, people were starving. Rumors about the introduction of cards for bread in Petrograd.
Thus, the food supply of the armed forces and the population of cities has sharply deteriorated. So, for December 1916 - April 1917, the Petersburg and Moscow districts did not receive 71% of the planned amount of bread cargo. A similar pattern was observed in the supply of the front: in November 1916 of the year the front received 74% of the necessary food, in December 67%.
In addition, the transportation situation had a negative impact on the supply. Severe frosts, which covered the European part of Russia since the end of January, put the steam pipes out of more than 1200 locomotives out of operation, and there were not enough spare pipes due to the mass strikes of workers. Also a week earlier, heavy snow fell in the vicinity of Petrograd, which piled up railroad tracks, as a result of which tens of thousands of cars were stuck on the outskirts of the capital. It is also worth noting that some historians believe that the grain crisis in Petrograd did not go without conscious sabotage of some officials, including from the Ministry of Railways, who supported the overthrow of the monarchy. The conspiratorial Februaryists, whose coordination went through the Masonic lodges (subordinate to the Western centers), did everything to call the population’s discontent and provoke mass spontaneous unrest, and then to take control of the country into their own hands.
According to the newspaper "Exchange Gazette", February 21 (March 6) on the Petrograd side began the destruction of bakeries and small shops, which then continued throughout the city. The crowd surrounded the bakeries and bakeries and shouting: “Bread, bread” moved through the streets.
February 22 (March 7) amid growing riots in the capital, Tsar Nicholas II left Petrograd for Mogilev to headquarters of the Supreme Commander. Before that, he held a meeting with Interior Minister A. D. Protopopov, who convinced the sovereign that the situation in Petrograd was under control. February 13 police arrested a working group of the Central Military Industrial Committee (the so-called “Working Group of the Military Industrial Committee”, led by the Menshevik Kuzma Gvozdyov). The military-industrial committees consisted of organizations of entrepreneurs united to mobilize Russian industry to overcome the supply crisis for the army. In order to promptly solve the problems of workers, in order to avoid the downtime of enterprises due to strikes, their representatives were also included in the committees. The arrested workers were charged with “preparing the revolutionary movement, with the aim of preparing the republic”.
The “working group” really pursued a dual policy. On the one hand, the “workers' representatives” supported the “war to a victorious end” and helped the authorities maintain discipline in the defense industry, but on the other hand, they criticized the ruling regime and spoke of the need for the early overthrow of the monarchy. 26 January The working group issued a proclamation stating that the government uses the war to enslave the working class, and the workers themselves were called upon to be prepared for "a general organized demonstration in front of the Tauride Palace to demand the creation of an interim government." After the arrest of the Working Group, Nicholas II asked former Interior Minister Nikolai Maklakov to prepare a draft manifesto on the dissolution of the State Duma, which was supposed to resume meetings in mid-February. Protopopov was sure that with these measures he was able to remove the threat of new unrest.
February 23 (March 8) in Petrograd, a series of rallies dedicated to the Day of Workers (the so-called International Women's Day). As a result, rallies turned into mass strikes and demonstrations. Total 128 strikes thousand people. Columns of demonstrators marched with the slogans “Down with the war!”, “Down with the autocracy!”, “Bread!” In some places they sang “Workers' Marseillaise” (Russian revolutionary song to the melody of the French anthem - “Marseillaise”, also known as “Denounce the Old World”) . The first clashes of workers with the Cossacks and the police took place in the city center. In the evening, a meeting was held between the military and police authorities of Petrograd under the command of General Khabalov, Commander of the Petrograd Military District. Following the meeting, responsibility for maintaining order in the city was assigned to the military.
In a report to the Security Department, it was reported: “February 23 workers from the Vyborg district who came to the factories and plants gradually began to stop working and go out in crowds, expressing protest and dissatisfaction with the lack of bread, which was especially felt in the named factory district, where, according to observations local police, in recent days, many absolutely could not get bread. ... When dispersed by an ever-growing crowd heading from Nizhegorodskaya Street to the Finland Station, the junior assistant bailiff of the first section of the Vyborg part was knocked down by collegiate secretary Grotius, who tried to detain one of the workers, and the collegiate secretary Grotius suffered a cut wound on the back of the head, five injured head wounds and nose wounds. After providing initial assistance, the victim was sent to his apartment. By the evening of February 23, by efforts of police and military officials, order was restored everywhere in the capital. ”
February 24 (March 9) began a general strike (over 214 thousand workers at 224 enterprises). To 12.00, the Petrograd mayor Balk reported to General Khabalov that the police were not able to "stop the movement and the gathering of people." After that, the soldiers of the Guards reserve regiments - Grenadiers, Kexholm, Moscow, Finland, 3-rifle rifle regiments - were sent to the city center, and the security of government buildings, the post office, the telegraph and bridges across the Neva was strengthened. The situation was tense: in some places the Cossacks refused to disperse the protesters, the demonstrators beat the police, etc.
February 25 (March 10) strike and demonstrations continued and expanded. The 421 enterprise and more than 300 thousand people have already been on strike. The French ambassador to Russia, Maurice Paleologue, recalled this day: “[The workers] sang to Marseillaise, wore red banners on which was written:“ Down with the Government! Down with Protopopov! Down with the war! Down with the German! ... ”(Empress Alexandra Feodorovna was to blame). There were cases of disobedience of the Cossacks: the departure of the 1 Don Cossack Regiment refused to shoot at the workers and put the police squad to flight. The police were attacked, shot, thrown firecrackers, bottles and even hand grenades.
Tsar Nicholas II demanded by telegram from General Khabalov a decisive cessation of unrest in the capital. At night, security officers made mass arrests (over 150 people). In addition, the emperor signed a decree on the transfer of the beginning of the regular session of the State Duma on April 14. On the night of February 26 (March 11), General Khabalov ordered to post ads in St. Petersburg: “Any crowds of people are forbidden. I warn the population that they renewed the permission for the troops to use weapons to maintain order, without stopping at anything. ”
February 26 (March 11) unrest continued. In the morning, bridges over the Neva River were made, but the demonstrators crossed the river on ice. All the forces of the troops and the police were concentrated in the center, ammunition was distributed to the soldiers. There were several clashes of protesters with the police. The most bloody incident took place on Znamenskaya Square, where a company of the Volynsky Life Guards regiment opened fire on demonstrators (only here were 40 killed and 40 injured). The fire also opened at the corner of Sadovaya Street, along Nevsky Prospect, Ligovskaya Street, at the corner of 1-th Rozhdestvenskaya Street and Suvorovsky Prospect. The first barricades appeared on the outskirts, workers seized enterprises, pogroms of police stations took place.
The report of the Security Department on that day noted: “During the riots, there was observed (as a general phenomenon) an extremely defiant attitude of tumultuous assemblages to military outfits, in which the crowd, in response to an invitation to disperse, threw snow from the streets with stones and clods. With the preliminary firing of troops up, the crowd not only did not disperse, but met similar volleys with laughter. Only by the use of live ammunition in the midst of the crowd was it possible to disperse the assemblies, the participants of which, however, most of them hid in the courtyards of nearby houses and, after stopping the shooting, went outside again. ”
Unrest began to cover the troops. There was a revolt of the 4 Company of the reserve battalion of the Life Guards Pavlovsky regiment, which participated in the dispersal of workers demonstrations. The soldiers opened fire on the police and on their own officers. On the same day, the rebellion was suppressed by the forces of the Preobrazhensky regiment, but more than 20 soldiers deserted with weapons. The commandant of the Peter and Paul Fortress refused to accept the whole company, the composition of which was greatly inflated (1100 people), stating that for such a number of prisoners he had no place. Only 19 assailants were arrested. The Minister of War Belyaev offered to hand over the perpetrators of the mutiny to the tribunal and execute, but General Khabalov did not dare to take such harsh measures, confining himself to arrest. Thus, the military command showed weakness or it was a conscious sabotage. The spark of rebellion in the troops had to be crushed in the most decisive way.
In the evening, at a private meeting with the chairman of the Council of Ministers Prince N. D. Golitsyn, it was decided to declare Petrograd under siege, but the authorities did not even manage to glue the relevant announcements, as they were being torn down. As a result, the authorities showed their weakness. It is obvious that in the military-political top of the Russian Empire there was a conspiracy and high-ranking officials played the “give-away” to the last, giving the opportunity for a “spontaneous” uprising to flare up. Nikolai did not have complete information and thought that this “nonsense” could easily be suppressed. Thus, in the first days, when there was still an opportunity to restore order, the highest military-political leadership of the empire was practically inactive or consciously indulged in a coup.
In 17.00, the king received a panicked telegram from the chairman of the Duma, M.V. Rodzianko, who claimed that "in the capital there is anarchy" and "parts of the troops are shooting at each other." The king said this to the Minister of the Imperial Court, VB Fredericksch, that “this fat man Rodzianko again writes nonsense to me”. In the evening, the chairman of the Council of Ministers, Prince Golitsyn, decided to announce a break in the work of the State Duma and the Council of State until April, reporting on this to Nicholas II. Late in the evening, Rodzianko sent another telegram to the headquarters demanding to cancel the decree dissolving the Duma and form a "responsible ministry" - otherwise, he said, if the revolutionary movement moves into the army, "the collapse of Russia, and with it the dynasty, is inevitable" . Copies of the telegram were sent to the front commander with a request to support this appeal before the king.
The crucial day for the revolution was the next day, February 27 (March 12), when soldiers began to join the uprising en masse. The first to revolt was the training team of the reserve battalion of the Volynsky regiment among the 600 men led by the senior non-commissioned officer T. I. Kirpichnikov. The headquarters command, captain I. S. Lashkevich, was killed, and the soldiers took possession of the arsenal, dismantled their rifles, and ran out into the street. Following the pattern of the striking workers, the rebel soldiers began to "shoot" the neighboring units, forcing them to join the uprising as well. The rebel battalions of the Lithuanian and Preobrazhensky regiments joined the rebellious Volynsky regiment, along with the 6 sapper battalion. Part of the officers of these regiments fled, some were killed. In the shortest possible time, the Volyns managed to attach to themselves about 20 thousand soldiers. A large-scale military uprising began.
To be continued ...