The turning point of the February revolution was the transition of February 27 (March 12) 1917 of the year to the side of the demonstrators of the Petrograd garrison, after which the rallies turned into an armed uprising. The historian Richard Pipes wrote: “It is impossible to understand what happened [in February-March 1917] without taking into account the composition and conditions of detention of the Petrograd garrison. The garrison consisted, in fact, of recruits and retirees, enrolled in the replenishment of the reserve battalions of guards regiments that had gone to the front, who were stationed in peacetime in Petrograd. Before being sent to the front, they had to undergo general military training for several weeks. The number of training units formed for this purpose exceeded any permissible rate: in some reserve companies there were more than 1000 soldiers, and battalions of 12-15 thousand people met; A total of 160 thousand soldiers were crammed into barracks designed for 20 thousands ”(R. Pipes.“ Russian Revolution ”).
The mutiny of the reserve battalion of the Volynsky regiment led by the senior non-commissioned officer T. I. Kirpichnikov was the first to revolt. Interestingly, the Life Guards Volyn Regiment was one of the most disciplined in the army. He stood out even against the background of other regiments of the 3-th Guards Infantry Division - famous for its "convict" discipline. Iron discipline in the soldiers of the 3 Guards forged at every turn. To do this, they sought from them an exemplary appearance, perfect drill training and strict observance of internal order. Used informal methods, like massacre. The instigator of the rebellion itself, the senior non-commissioned officer Timofey Ivanovich Kirpichnikov, had the corresponding nickname “Mordoboy”. The Volynsky regiment retained discipline at the front and fought, not paying attention to death. "Discipline was visible in everything and manifested itself at every turn," - so, according to the recollections of the then regiment commander, it was still at the beginning of 1917. And in the training team non-commissioned officers were trained, those who had to teach the soldiers order themselves.
Kirpichnikova, on the night of February 26, the head of the training team, staff captain I. S. Lashkevich appointed the 1-th company as sergeant-major (a few days before, two companies had been formed from the ranks of the main training team to suppress possible unrest). 24 - February 26 both companies dispersed protesters on Znamenskaya Square. According to Kirpichnikov’s later narrated story, he slowly ordered the soldiers to target over their heads, and on the night of 26, he suggested that both mouths of both men would not shoot at all. In the evening, 26-th convened platoon and division commanders of the main training team and suggested to refuse altogether to pacify the riots. Those agreed and instructed their soldiers. And in the morning of February 27, the team built for Lashkevich’s arrival defiantly and grossly violated discipline. The rebels refused to follow orders from Lashkevich, and then killed him. After the assassination of the commander Kirpichnikov, I was persuaded to join the main training team and the noncoms of the training teams. Then the 4-i company joined them.
Why did the rebellion raise one of the most selective units of the Russian army? The answer is in the general position of the imperial army to the beginning of 1917 of the year. Almost all of the senior servicemen of the Volynsky regiment died in the 1916 year. The battles of the 1916 campaign of the year, including the famous Brusilovsky breakthrough, finally exhausted the cadre core of the imperial army. By the beginning of 1917, the old staff non-commissioned officers were extremely few. As already noted before, The cadre army of Russia, which was one of the main pillars of the empire, and with which the revolution of 1905-1907 was suppressed, bled to death on the battlefields of the First World War. As the best minds of the empire warned, it was impossible for Russia to enter a big European war. The composition of the Russian army has changed in a radical way. Old cadres (officers and unters), loyal to the throne and the oath, mostly died. The army was joined by millions of peasants who received weapon, but did not see any point in the war, and thousands of intellectuals, basically their liberal, which traditionally disliked the royal regime. And the higher generals, who were supposed to defend the empire and autocracy, decided that the king would not lead the country to victory, so it must be eliminated by supporting the conspiracy. In addition, many generals hoped to seriously improve their position in the country, "make a career." As a result, the army, from the pillars of the empire, itself became a source of distemper and chaos, it was necessary only to ignite the fuse (to destabilize the capital), so that Russia's systemic crisis turned into a general collapse.
All this was reflected in the Volyn regiment. The February "Volyn" were recruits who served only a few weeks and the soldiers in full volume and most of the noncoms of the reserve battalion did not experience. Almost all the old servicemen died. In addition, some recruits had a front-line past. In the reserve battalion, they were already the second time. In the interim were the front and the wound. They went through a wild meat grinder of the offensive battles of the summer and autumn of 1916, when the Russian armies tried to break through the Austro-German defense and literally bled to death, fulfilling the "Allied duty." Those who went through these terrible battles no longer feared God or the devil, and they did not want to return to the front. The soldiers did not see the point in the war, the “straits” and Galicia had no meaning for them. The war, despite the patriotic propaganda, was imperialistic, not domestic. Russia fought for the interests of Britain and France, the ruling elite, which dragged the people into slaughter. Obviously, the soldiers, with their peasant wit, understood all this. Thus, the soldiers who went through the front and the survivors were not afraid to rebel, there will not be more terrible than the front line!
In addition, the soldiers, like other rebels, noticed the inaction of the authorities. Nicholas II was removed from the capital, did not possess the fullness of information and considered the excitement "nonsense." Top management in Petrograd was paralyzed, lacking the will and determination, or participating in a conspiracy of the upper classes. Seeing that there was no decisive answer, several dozen passionaries like Kirpichnikova mutinied, and ensured the success of the uprising.
Raising the rebellion and killing the officers, Kirpichnikov and his comrades understood that there was nothing left to lose and they tried to involve as many other soldiers as possible in the riot. Kirpichnikov and his rebellious team moved to the Parade to raise the reserve battalions of the Life Guards of the Transfiguration and the Life Guards of the Lithuanian regiments stationed in the Tauride Barracks. Here, too, were their brickmen - senior non-commissioned officer Fyodor Kruglov raised the 4 company of the reserve battalion of Preobrazhensky men. Turning to the Preobrazhenskaya, Kirpichnikov raised a spare company of the Life Guards Saperny regiment. At the corner of Kirochnoi and Znamenskaya, the rebels rebelled the 6-th reserve sapper battalion, killing its commander, Colonel V.K. von Goering. Further along Kirochnaya, on the corner of Nadezhdinskaya, the Petrograd Gendarme Division was quartered. The gendarmes were brought to the street, followed by the junkers of the Petrograd school of warrant officers of the engineering troops located diagonally. “Well, guys, now the work has gone!” Said Kirpichnikov with relief. In the second half of the day, the Semenovsky and Izmailovsky regiments joined the uprising. By evening, about 67, thousands of soldiers of the Petrograd garrison, rebelled.
It was a landslide. Thousands of rebellious soldiers joined the workers rally. The officers were killed or fled. The police could not stop the uprising, the police were beaten or shot. Outposts that still held back protesters were crushed or joined the rebels. General Khabalov tried to organize resistance to the rebellion, forming under the command of Colonel Alexander Kutepov, who was one of the few officers who actively spoke out in support of the king during the February Revolution, a consolidated force of up to 1 thousand people. However, due to the enormous numerical superiority of the rebel soldiers, the detachment was quickly blocked and dispersed.
According to the tradition of all revolutions, they smashed prisons, from which the crowd freed the prisoners, which automatically increased the chaos in the streets. Gathered on the Liteiny Avenue set fire to the building of the District Court (Shpalernaya, 23). The rebels seized the investigative prison adjacent to the courthouse - the Pre-Trial Detention Center (Shpalerka DPR) on Shpalernaya Street, 25. On the same day, in the morning, the insurgent soldiers of the Keksgolmsky regiment and the workers of the Putilov factory took another prison by storm - the Lithuanian castle (on the bank of the Kryukov Canal), also released the prisoners, and set the building on fire. The rebels released the prisoners and the largest Petrograd prison "Kresty", which contained about two thousand people. Looting and looting began to spread throughout the city.
Among the released prisoners were KA Gvozdev, MI Broydo, B. O. Bogdanov, and other Menshevik-defencists - members of the Working Group of the Central Military Industrial Committee, arrested in late January 1917 for organizing a demonstration in support of the State thoughts. The crowd enthusiastically welcomed them as real revolutionary heroes. They said that now the main task of the rebels was to support the State Duma, led a huge mass of soldiers and workers to the Tauride Palace - the residence of the State Duma.
In 14.00, the soldiers occupied the Tauride Palace. The deputies found themselves in a difficult situation - on the one hand, they were already dismissed by the king, on the other, they were surrounded by a revolutionary crowd, who saw in them an alternative center for the tsarist government. As a result, the deputies continued the meeting in the form of “private meetings”, the results of which created the Provisional Committee of the State Duma - “The Committee of the State Duma to establish order in St. Petersburg and to communicate with institutions and persons”. The Committee was composed of the Octobrist M. V. Rodzianko, appointed chairman, members of the Progressive Bloc V. V. Shulgin, P. N. Milyukov and some others, as well as the Menshevik N. S. Chkheidze and the "Trudovik" A. F. Kerensky. In the evening, the Provisional Committee of the State Duma announced that it was taking power into its own hands.
On the same day, the bureau of the Central Committee of the RSDLP published a manifesto “To all citizens of Russia”. It put forward demands for the establishment of a democratic republic, the introduction of the 8-hour working day, the confiscation of landlords' lands and the end of the imperialist war. Leaders of the Menshevik faction in the State Duma, representatives of soldiers and workers, “socialists”, journalists announced in the Tauride Palace the creation of the Interim Executive Committee of the Petrograd Soviet, which included K. A. Gvozdev, B. O. Bogdanov (Mensheviks, leaders of the TsVPK working group) , N. S. Chkheidze, M. I. Skobelev (State Duma deputies from the Menshevik faction), N. Yu. Kapelinsky, K. S. Grinevich (Menshevik-internationalists), N. D. Sokolov, G. M. Erlich.
Thus, new centers of power appeared in the capital. As the cadet leader P. N. Milyukov later wrote, “the intervention of the State Duma gave the street and military movement a center, gave it a banner and a slogan, and thus turned the uprising into a revolution that ended with the overthrow of the old regime and dynasty.” The conspiratorial feudalists led in many respects a spontaneous popular protest and soldiers' insurrection in order to realize their main goal — to liquidate autocracy.
In the second half of the day, the insurgent soldiers captured the Kshesinskaya mansion, the Kronverksky arsenal, the Arsenal, the Main Post Office, the telegraph, railway stations, bridges, etc. were also occupied. The Vasileostrovsky district and the Admiralty unit remained under the control of the authorities. The uprising had already begun to spread beyond Petrograd. The First machine-gun reserve regiment in Oranienbaum rebelled and, after killing 12 of its officers, voluntarily moved to Petrograd through Martyshkino, Peterhof and Strelna, attaching a number of units to the road. The crowd burned down the house of the minister of the imperial court, VB Fredericks, as "German." In the evening, the Petrograd Security Division was defeated.
16.00 hosted the last meeting of the tsarist government in the Mariinsky Palace. It was decided to send a telegram to Nikolai Aleksandrovich with a proposal to dissolve the Council of Ministers and create a “responsible ministry”. The head of the government, Golitsyn, recommended imposing martial law and appointing a popular general with combat experience in charge of security. The government also dismissed Interior Minister Protopopov as causing particular irritation to the opposition. In reality, this led only to even greater paralysis of the authorities - during the mass uprising in the capital, the supporters of the monarch were left without the Minister of the Interior at all. In the evening, the members of the Council of Ministers, without waiting for the answer of the monarch, dispersed, and the tsarist government virtually ceased to exist.
The last barrier remains - autocratic power. How will the king act under conditions of a large-scale armed uprising? In 19.00, the situation in Petrograd was again reported to Tsar Nicholas II, who stated that he was postponing all changes in the government until returning to Tsarskoye Selo. General Alekseev suggested that a consolidated detachment headed by a commander with extraordinary powers be sent there to restore calm in the capital. The emperor ordered the allocation of one infantry brigade and a cavalry brigade from the Northern and Western fronts, appointing N. I. Ivanova as the head of the adjutant general. Nicholas II ordered him to head at the head of the St. George battalion (guarding the headquarters) to Tsarskoye Selo to ensure the safety of the imperial family, and then, as the new commander of the Petrograd military district, take command of the troops that are supposed to be redeployed for him from the front. When the remnants of the units of the Moscow garrison loyal to the government capitulated, preparations began for a military operation against Petrograd. The total number of forces allocated to participate in the "punitive expedition" reached 40-50 thousand soldiers. Under the most favorable circumstances, the strike force near Petrograd could have been assembled by March 3. It is difficult to predict how events would develop, decide Nikolai to fight. However, apparently, units from the front line had good chances in the fight against the rebel troops (deprived of experienced commanders), who in the conditions of the uprising became an armed crowd rather than a well-organized and disciplined force. True, much blood could not be avoided.
In Petrograd, State Duma Chairman Rodzianko began to convince Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich, younger brother of Nicholas II, to assume the dictatorial powers within Petrograd, dispatch the government and ask the tsar to bestow the responsible ministry. In 20.00, the idea was supported by the Prime Minister of the tsarist government, Prince Golitsyn. At first, Mikhail Alexandrovich refused, but in the end at night he sent the Tsar a telegram stating: “For immediate reassurance of the movement that accepted large dimensions, it is necessary to dismiss the entire council of ministers and entrust the formation of a new ministry to Prince Lvov as a person respected in wide circles”.
00: 55 received a telegram from General Khabalov, commander of the Petrograd Military District: “Please report to His Imperial Majesty that I could not fulfill the command to restore order in the capital. Most of the units, one after the other, reversed their duty, refusing to fight against the rebels. Other units fraternized with the rebels and turned their weapons against the troops loyal to His Majesty. Those who remained faithful to duty fought all day against the rebels, suffering heavy losses. By evening, the rebels seized most of the capital. Small parts of different regiments, strapped at the Winter Palace under the command of General Zankevich, will continue to take the oath, with which I will continue the struggle. ”
The revolt of a huge capital garrison (an entire army), supported by the workers and the liberal public, became a serious challenge for the tsarist regime. but the situation was not hopeless. The Supreme Commander Nicholas II was still in possession of the multimillion armed forces. The generals, until Nicholas abdicated the throne, generally complied with the established order. And the country in this situation took the side of the winner. Obviously, if a man with the character of Napoleon were in Nicholas's place, the autocracy would have a chance to survive, introducing a real martial law, and cruelly suppressing the February liberals and revolutionaries.
To be continued ...