Russia in Upheaval When War Broke Out The rumblings of Revolution became audible in 1913, when an epidemic of strikes broke out in Petrograd (Saint Petersburg), Moscow and other industrial centers.
A Congress of Workingmen, meeting at Kiev, in October, passed a resolution censuring the Government. To placate the people, Czar Nicholas removed the abnoxious Premier Stolypin and appointed Goremykin in his stead. Assurances were given that Goremykin would be more amenable to suggestions from the Duma. The Duma, however, continued hostile to the general policy of the Government and friendly to the people. On May 1, 1914, just three months before the outbreak of the World War, 130,000 Petrograd (Saint Petersburg) workers went on strike. The turbulence grew during June and July and the Government attempted to suppress it by force. Cossack troops were ordered to disperse the crowds. The workers, from behind barricades thrown up in the city streets, resisted the soldiery. Again and again the Cossacks charged the workmen, but they failed to disperse them. Russia was on the brink of civil war when the greater conflict suddenly broke out in Serbia and Belgium.
Tide of Patriotism Sweeps Russia
In the twinkling of an eye, the Russian people forgot their grievances against the Czar's government on that August day when Germany declared war on "Little Mother Russia." A tide of patriotism swept the empire. Peasant and proletarian, royalty and bourgeoisie, all joined hands in defense of the Fatherland. Even the Socialists, with the exception of the extreme radical wing, rallied to the cause of the Slav as against the hated Teuton. Thousands of revolutionists who had fled from Russia returned to offer their services to the Czar, suppressing for the moment their animosity toward autocracy at home in the face of the greater danger which threatened the cause of liberty throughout Europe. Though outwardly the Russians were acting as one, still under the surface there were dark forces at work plotting the betrayal of Russia.
The German Czarina, and Her Plotters
At the head of this cheque of pro-Germans was the Czarina, herself a full-blooded German. Associated with the Czarina, there was a group of Russian noblemen, all of German origin and descendants of those courtiers and officials who had come to Russia many years before in the entourage of the German brides of several Czars. Apart from their inherited love for German autocracy, they feared also that Germany's over throw by the democracy of Europe would be followed by the destruction of Russia's autocracy. Rather than see the whole fabric of royalty and aristocracy disappear, they secretly plotted to betray Russia into Emperor William's hands.
Minister of War a Traitor
These royal plotters were efficiently aided by the Russian Minister of War, Sukhomlinoff. Through his connivance the traitors managed to withhold military supplies, and especially ammunition, from the armies in the field. This lack of ammunition and rifles was the true cause of the reverses sustained by all the Russian Armies in the opening months of the War. A wave of indignation swept through Russia when it became known that Russian soldiers, lacking rifles, had been ordered to charge and take German and Austrian batteries with their bare hands, and that many Russian regiments had been supplied with defective shells. Sukhomlinoff was arrested, found guilty of "neglect of duty" and deposed from office.
Czar Dismisses the Duma
The progressive groups in the Duma then united in a demand for the more efficient conduct of the War. They also asked that a general amnesty be extended to all political prisoners. Finally they prayed the Czar to appoint a Cabinet more in sympathy with democratic ideas. Premier Goremykin, a pronounced reactionary, not only refused to discuss the program of the progressives, he even induced the Czar to sign a decree, in September, 1915, dissolving the Duma. The Czar promised, however, to convene the Duma on November 14, 1915.
Russian People in Rebellion
The Russian people, infuriated at the new proof of treachery on the part of the Government leaders, and still further incensed at the Czar's refusal to appoint a new ministry, fell into a rebellious mood. Strikes were ordered in many cities. The Government attempted to throttle the strikers by martial law, but the day had passed when such autocratic methods could prevail in Russia. The people clamored for a reorganization of the Army Staff and for recognition in the Government. No heed being paid to their petitions, and the delinquency of the Government having been proved, the people decided to take over the management of affairs themselves. War committees were formed in many industrial towns to handle the food supplies and take care of the wounded. The Government, in alarm, made certain "concessions." Premier Goremykin was deposed and Boris Sturmer, a German Jew by descent, was appointed his successor.
Premier Stunner's Treachery
Sturmer represented that powerful faction of the Russian nobility which was ever anxious to conciliate Germany. He inspired those articles appearing in a section of the Russian press, which openly criticized Russia's allies and demanded a separate peace arrangement with the Kaiser. It was alleged that he sent his agents into Switzerland to confer with German representatives on the question of separate peace terms. After forbidding the revolutionary societies in Russia to hold meetings of protest, Sturmer installed the police in charge of the radical headquarters. Next he caused the removal of M. Sazonoff, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, who had gained the complete confidence of the Allies, himself taking over the portfolio.
The plot thickened when the notorious Alexander D. Protopopoff was appointed as Minister of the Interior. He it was who sought to provoke the radicals to launch a premature uprising, in order to give the Government a pretext for making a separate peace with Germany. Police agents, disguised as laborers, were sent into the industrial plants to incite the workingmen to revolt. The factories and munition shops, too, were placarded with appeals calling upon the workingmen to inaugurate strikes and organize demonstrations.
Sturmer Compelled to Resign
Socialists were urged to rise against their masters and unite with their German "brothers" in founding an "ideal co-operative commonwealth." This appeal was promptly denounced as bogus by the true Socialist leaders. Sturmer's disrepute grew by reason of his mishandling of the food supply. Large stores of provisions were permitted to spoil in the warehouses while the poor residents of the cities were on the verge of starvation. The infamous Sturmer even permitted a group of conscienceless "profiteers" to control the food supplies, sharing with them the huge profits extorted from the people. Denounced in the Duma by Professor Paul Miliukov, Premier Sturmer was compelled to resign. Miliukov not only challenged Sturmer's political acts, he proved that Sturmer had accepted bribes from the food speculators and had offered for gold to shield certain Jewish usurers then under indictment. Sturmer took steps to dissolve the Duma, but when on his way to the front to secure the Czar's signature, he was given his dismissal.
Protopopoff’s Black Acts
Alexander Trepov, who succeeded Sturmer as Premier, retained Protopopoff as Minister of the Interior. Protopopoff publicly villified the leaders of the revolutionary forces and even plotted the assassination of Professor Miliukov. Being in control of the police, he recruited members of the notorious Black Hundred, training them in machine- gun practice against the day when he might bring to pass his premature "uprising" of the masses.
Rasputin, the Magnetic Healer
There was living in the palace at Petrograd (Saint Petersburg) at this time a peasant named Gregory Novikh, who had achieved some celebrity as a magnetic healer and mystic. He had, it seems, restored the young heir Alexis to health after the child had been pronounced beyond hope of recovery by the court physicians. In gratitude for the service, the Czarina had retained him at court in a semi-medical capacity. Novikh at once became the target for slander in the most venemous court circle of Europe, outside Vienna. The epithet "Rasputin," meaning a ne'er-do-well, was fastened upon him. He was described as an illiterate, bibulous monk, of licentious habits, although he never was a monk.
He was said to exert a sinister occult influence over the Czarina, who was a patroness of the occult societies and a firm believer in spiritism. He was accused of having administered a drug to the Czarevitch before curing him, although this could not possibly have been the case, since the illness of the Czar's son and heir had antedated by weeks the arrival of the healer in Petrograd (Saint Petersburg). He was said to have used his extraordinary magnetic powers in gaining an ascendancy over the women of the court for various illicit purposes, but the slander was not sustained by a scintilla of evidence. He was accused of being the tool, first of one and then another leading statesman of Russia, including Count Witte. He was accused of influencing the Czar's official acts, through the ascendancy he had gained over the Czarina. Finally, this "illiterate monk," of "unclean habits" and "lowly origin" was pictured as the "real ruler of Russia" and a "secret agent of Germany."
But inasmuch as these libels and slanders were unconfirmed, and are known to have been set in motion by the actual pro-German conspirators in Russia, including the unspeakable court clicque and the Jewish Bolshevists, who started the counter Revolution, with German gold in their pockets, the truth concerning "Rasputin" still awaits the sober scrutiny of impartial historians. In rebuttal of the many libels uttered against Gregory Novikh, it is simple justice to say that persons high in authority in the court of Petrograd (Saint Petersburg) have denied emphatically that "Rasputin" exercised any political sway whatever over the Imperial family ; that Czar Nicholas did not know him even by sight, and that the "credulous" Czarina's interest in him was such as she might have bestowed upon any magnetic healer or physician.
Furthermore, it is agreed both by friend and foe of the slandered mystic that up until the outbreak of the World War, "Rasputin" absolutely refrained from participation in political or state affairs. Yet his powerful enemies succeeded in having him expelled from court on a trumped up charge, and it was only when the heir to the throne and the Czarina both were taken deathly ill that he was summoned back to cure them, which he did. If the truth concerning Rasputin's expulsion from the Russian court should ever come to light, it will make perfectly clear the reason why the Czar's wife and heir were both suddenly stricken with a mysterious illness some weeks after Rasputin's enemies had banished him. The Nihilist accusers of "Rasputin," both male and female, and those numberless knaves among the "aristocracy" of Petrograd (Saint Petersburg) were known to be adepts in the subtle arts of poisoning and violent assassination. They were, moreover, freethinkers and atheists who had a contempt for all things sacred and therefore for men like Rasputin, who professed the Christian faith.
Assassination of Rasputin
On the night of December 29, 1915, Prince Yusupov, whose wife was a cousin of the Czar, invited Rasputin to dine with him at his palace, bringing him there in his own car. Vladimir Purishkevitch, a notorious leader of the Black Hundred and at that time sitting in the Duma as a "radical," acted as chauffeur. In a car trailing that of the Prince sat two former Ministers of the Interior, Grand Duke Dimitri Pavlovitch and A. M. Khvostov. This cowardly quartet, upon arrival at the Prince's house, treacherously shot Rasputin in the back, killing him and afterward sinking his body through a hole cut in the ice of the Neva River. All these criminals went unwhipped of justice for their dastardly crime. The Czar, then at his headquarters with the Army, hurried home. The body of the murdered mystic was recovered from the river and given Christian burial, the Czar and Protopopoff being among the pallbearers.
Conspirators Removed from Office
Trepov, who had exulted over the murder of Rasputin, was removed from office, as were the Ministers of War and Marine. It was said their successors were pro-German and "reactionary" in their sentiments. Protopopoff now began to close the police net around the extreme Socialist agitators, soon to become notorious under the name of "Bolsheviks." His enemies accused him of arresting labor leaders who were agitating against strikes while leaving unmolested his own hirelings, who were preaching strikes and revolution.
Many towns in Russia were now facing actual famine. In response to the clamor of the people, the Duma was convened on February 27, 1917, to consider the economic situation. Instead of suggesting measures of relief, however, the Minister of Agriculture contented himself with assuring the Duma that "all was well." Professor Miliukov accused the Government of deliberately disorganizing the supply of food and war materials. The bureaucracy, he declared, was waging war against the people in order to maintain itself in power. He warned the treacherous reactionaries that the patience of the people was nearly exhausted and that unless relief should speedily come, the people would take their fate in their own control.
Alexander Kerensky, the lawyer-Socialist, whose mother was a Jewess, also warned the Government that an upheaval was imminent. "Its lightning already illumines the horizon," he shouted. That day 300,000 workingmen went on strike in Petrograd (Saint Petersburg). Their leaders issued an appeal exhorting them to return to work, but they refused. Enormous crowds filled the streets day by day.
On March 8, 1917, mobs surrounded and looted some of the bakers' shops. Groups of Cossacks fraternized with the strikers. Two strikers were arrested, but the Cossacks at once freed them from the police. On March 9, 1917, the street railways ceased running on account of a strike of the workmen. The streets were choked with excited people, clamoring for food, while soldiers patrolled the thoroughfares and squads of police mounted machine-guns on the housetops, covering the street corners. Clearly an outbreak was imminent.
Czar Dissolves the Duma
In this emergency, President Rodzianko, President of the Duma, telegraphed to the Czar this message:
"Situation serious. Anarchy reigns in Capital. Government is paralyzed. Transport food and fuel supplies are utterly disorganized. General discontent is growing. Disorderly firing is going on in the streets. Various companies of soldiers are shooting at each other. It is absolutely necessary to invest someone who enjoys the confidence of the people, with power to form a new Government. No time must be lost and delay may be fatal. I pray to God that, in this hour, responsibility may not fall on the wearer of the Crown."
Duma Ignores the Czar's Order
Acting by authority of the Czar, the Prime Minister, Prince Golitzin, prorogued the Duma on March 10th On the following day, the members of the Duma unanimously voted to ignore the decrees of the Czar. President Rodzianko thereupon declared the Duma the sole constitutional authority of Russia.
Red Sunday in Petrograd (Saint Petersburg)
Sunday, March 11, 1917, saw the Petrograd (Saint Petersburg) populace burning with revolutionary zeal. Hundreds of Socialist orators harangued the hungry crowds, reminding them of the bloody War at the front and the corruption and tyranny of their rulers. At 3 o'clock that afternoon, the police from the roofs of buildings trained their machine guns on the crowds below. A volley was fired, killing or wounding 100 citizens, including women and children. The Pavlovsky Guards were ordered to fire on the crowds. Instead, they fired over the heads of the people. Returning to their barracks the Guards decided to disobey their officers and side with the people. Meanwhile the Duma had sent telegrams to the Czar asking him to appoint a new Cabinet to cope with the situation, but those telegrams were withheld from the Czar and went unanswered.
Soldiers Join the Revolution
Monday, March 12, 1917, found the Petrograd (Saint Petersburg) populace in an ugly mood. The Sunday massacre by the police had inflamed them as never before. Members of the Duma, too, were indignant at the attempt of the Government to dissolve the Parliament in such a crisis. Minister Protopopoff still hoped by force to suppress the rising revolt. The Guards having refused to fire upon the crowds, he resorted to a stratagem. Knowing that the police would do his bidding, he caused them to be disguised as soldiers, in order to deceive the people, and then despatch them to the mill districts, where they shot down the workingmen and women in cold blood.
When the trick was discovered, the soldiers and workmen together fell upon the police and a wholesale slaughter followed. Like wildfire the spirit of Revolution spread among the troops stationed around the Duma building and in the Vyborg district. Many soldiers left the ranks to join their relatives among the strikers. The Lithuanian Guards spitted their officers on their bayonets, while the Volhynian Regiment mutinied and went over to the people en masse. All the other regiments in Petrograd (Saint Petersburg), including the Cossacks, a total of 25,000 troops—followed suit.
Arsenal Seized, Jails Emptied
Headed by a regiment of mutinous troops, a column of revolutionists, marching to the Arsenal, dispersed the police, killed the commandant, General Matusov, and confiscated all the rifles, small arms, machine-guns and ammunition. Next the Artillery Depot was captured. Fully armed, the revolutionists then toured the city in automobiles, seeking out the police whom they killed without mercy. The Fortress of St. Peter and St. Paul, where so many patriots had been imprisoned and tortured, was seized and all political prisoners were liberated. The jails, too, were emptied. Then the headquarters of the secret police was stormed, its defenders were butchered in cold blood and the building was burned to the ground.
A Constitutional Democracy Announced
At the height of the uprising a delegation, representing the revolutionary bodies, entered the Duma, the spokesman demanding:
"We have risen and helped the people overturn the autocracy. Down with Czarism! Where do you stand?"
In reply, President Rodzianko explained that the Duma stood for a Constitutional Democracy. This policy seemed to satisfy the soldiers and they at once acknowledged the authority of the Duma. A committee of twelve, representing all parties in the Duma, was then appointed to co-operate with the revolutionary leaders in the maintenance of order. The name of the Soldiers' Council was changed to the Council of Workingmen's and Soldiers' Deputies and an election was called for that evening.
Order was restored that evening in Petrograd (Saint Petersburg) by the revolutionists themselves. Committees representing the Duma and the radicals met in joint session and agreed upon a program. The next morning two proclamations were issued—one, warning the populace to avoid committing excesses; the other proclaiming a new Government in Russia, based upon universal suffrage. A special appeal was made to army officers to support the Government. In response to this appeal, many officers and citizens offered their allegiance.
Meanwhile, the crowds assembled in the public squares were addressed by Alexander Kerensky, a brilliant young lawyer representing the moderate Socialists, and Paul Miliukov, a former professor in the University of Chicago, who spoke for the liberal middle class. Both appealed to the citizens to stand shoulder to shoulder in supporting the Revolution. Even the Grand Duke Cyril harangued the crowd from the balcony of his house, declaring himself a revolutionist.
Czar's Wife Placed Under Guard
On the same day, the Imperial Guards in the Czar's Palace revolted, and after slaying their officers, empowered a committee to arrest the Czarina whom they found nursing her children, sick with the measles. "I'm only a poor Sister of Charity," she cried ; "do not hurt me or my children." A guard was placed over the royal personages, while the remainder of the Imperial troops placed themselves at the disposal of the Duma. The former Premier, Boris von Sturmer, and the venerable Metropolitan of Petrograd (Saint Petersburg), Bishop Pitirin, were arrested. Protopopoff surrendered to the Duma, while the radicals were engaged in a hunt for him.
Army, Navy and People Accept Revolution
The Duma, meanwhile, had sent telegrams to the commanders of the Army on all the fronts, to the admirals of the Navy and to all the cities and towns throughout the provinces, asking their allegiance to the new Government. Without exception, they agreed to accept the Revolution. Local councils were organized to co-operate with the Provisional Government in Petrograd (Saint Petersburg). The French and English Governments, at once established diplomatic relations with the Committee of Safety of the Duma. Meanwhile, all the members of the police force had either been killed, imprisoned or sent to hospitals for injuries. The duties of the police were taken over by the local military, acting under the orders of Professor Miliukov.
A New Ministry Formed
On March 15, 1917, the Duma Committee of Safety and the Council of Workingmen's and Soldiers' Deputies, meeting in joint session, agreed upon a new Ministry, as follows : Prime Minister, Prince George Lvov, a royal radical ; Minister of Foreign Affairs, Professor Paul Miliukov; Minister of War and Marine, M. A. I. Gutchkov; Minister of Justice, Alexander Kerensky, lawyer and Socialist; Minister of Agriculture, Andrei Shingarev. At this meeting it was agreed that the Czar should be deposed and his brother, Grand Duke Michael, proclaimed as Regent It was voted to hold a popular election for a Constituent Assembly at an early date and to leave the framing of a Constitution in the hands of this Assembly.
Czar Nicholas Abdicates His Throne
Czar Nicholas, who had remained at the general headquarters of General Alexeieff during the Revolution, received an urgent message from his wife on March 14, 1917, summoning him to Petrograd (Saint Petersburg). Accompanied by General Isabel and his suite, he took the train for Petrograd (Saint Petersburg). While en route to the Capital, he was informed by General Voyeykov that General Ivanoft was advancing on Petrograd (Saint Petersburg) with a column of soldiers to restore order. General Tsabel, having overheard this conversation, thereupon exhibited a telegram authorizing him to bring the Czar's train direct to the city instead of to Tsarskoe Seloe.
The Czar consented, saying that he would go willingly to his estate in Livadia and spend the balance of his days among his flowers.As the train was approaching Petrograd (Saint Petersburg), another message was received, stating that the garrison at Tsarskoe Seloe also had revolted. The Czar, in alarm, ordered a change of direction, saying he preferred going to Moscow, hoping there to find a loyal garrison. His hopes were ill founded, for presently yet another telegram was received announcing the revolt of the Moscow garrison.
So the royal train was shuttled back and forth, all day long, without a certain destination. General Ivanoff finally joined the party and urged the Czar to return to the Army. The train was accordingly ordered to proceed to Pskov, the headquarters of General Russky. Upon its arrival there, the Czar was informed that two deputies, representing the Provisional Government, were on the way to demand his abdication. The deputies, Gutchkov and Shulgin, met the Czar on March 15, 1917, and received his abdication in favor of his brother, the Grand Duke Michael. Plain Nicholas Romanoff, no longer "Czar of all the Russias," then went to the Army headquarters at Moghiliev to bid his staff farewell, but was treated boorishly by all his former lackeys in uniform.
Grand Duke Michael Also Abdicates
The Regency of Grand Duke Michael displeased the revolutionists; only complete destruction of the monarchical form of government would satisfy them. Yielding to the Socialist will, Grand Duke Michael, on March 16, 1917, after reigning for 24 hours, voluntarily resigned the Regency, urging all citizens of Russia to obey the Provisional Government until such time as a Constituent Assembly, elected by universal suffrage, should be chosen to enforce the will of the nation. Thus the monarchy came to an end and the Government of Russia was at last in the hands of the Socialists.
Former Czar Nicholas a Prisoner
General Alexeieff, on March 17, 1917, notified the Government that the soldiers at Moghiliev were annoyed by the presence of Czar Nicholas and suggesting his removal from headquarters. Acting upon this hint, four deputies took the Czar prisoner, transferring him to his former palace at Tsarskoe Seloe. The Czarina and her children, all sick with the measles, were subsequently arrested and confined to a suite of rooms in the palace; all the telephone connections were cut and most of the servants were dismissed. A battalion of soldiers mounted guard over the Palace, all the doors except three being locked and barred.
100,000 Political Prisoners and Exiles Freed
Meantime, the Provisional Government was functioning at Petrograd (Saint Petersburg). Among the notable acts of the Government were; the liberation of 100,000 political prisoners who had been banished to Siberia by order of the Czar; the invitation extended to all exiled patriots to return to Russia, and the promise of independence to Poland. The return of these prisoners and exiles was made the occasion for tremendous rejoicing. Other acts of justice decreed by the Duma were: The complete emancipation of the Jews; the restoration of the Finnish Constitution; equal suffrage of women with men ; the abolishing of the death penalty; the establishment of religious liberty and the confiscation of the landed possessions of the Czar. The grand dukes and other members of the Imperial family already had given up their estates and pledged their allegiance to the new order.
The Army Reorganized
Minister of War Kerensky had persuaded the Provisional Government to continue the War against Germany and Austria, and to reject all overtures looking to a separate peace. The Army was reorganized. Grand Duke Nicholas was demoted from his command and the other grand dukes were ordered to remain in Petrograd (Saint Petersburg). General Alexeieff was made Commander-in- Chief of the reorganized Army ; General Russky was given command of the Northern Army; General Brusiloff was put in charge of the Southern Army group ; General Lechitsky was given command of the Central Army group, and General Korniloff was placed in charge of the defensive Army of Petrograd (Saint Petersburg).
The Church Property Confiscated
The Russian Orthodox Church, a state institution, was overturned. The hierarchy were expelled, several of the bishops and priests being put to death, while radicals were advanced to the vacant ecclesiastical offices. The vast landed estates of the church were confiscated and even the abolition of all religion was proposed.
Pro-German Socialists in Control
The Socialist Republic of Russia was not permitted to develop along constitutional lines. Almost from the beginning of the Revolution, the Socialists had gradually usurped control of affairs, the ultra-radical Socialists being especially determined to span in a single step the gulf that lies between primitive culture on the one hand and an informed Utopia on the other. An eight-hour working day was established throughout the Socialist Republic, even the peasants forming a Council of the Peasants' Deputies, modeled after the Council of Workmen and Soldiers. This would have proved commendable if, at the same time, the suddenly freed serfs had not demanded impossible wages, five and even ten times the amount of the normal wage. In some cases these extreme wages were paid, followed by the inevitable increase in the cost of all commodities. Soon the demand for manufactured products ceased, because of the prohibitive costs, and manufactories were closed down, throwing many thousands out of employment.
Lenin, the German Agent, Appears
Lenin, the evil genius of the Russian Revolution, first appeared on the scene in April, 1917, together with 30 pro-German cronies, of the ultra-Socialist type. Born in Central Russia, in 1870, he was educated in Petrograd (Saint Petersburg) University, where he first became interested in social problems. With his brother, he was arrested in 1887 for complicity in a plot to wreck the train of Czar Alexander III. The brother was hanged, but Lenin was released for lack of evidence. He became a leader among the workingmen, preaching Socialistic doctrines and writing many books on Socialistic themes which had a wide acceptance. Because of his radical utterances, Lenin was frequently obliged to leave Russia, traveling in Switzerland, Germany, Austria and Italy.
It was afterward proved that Lenin had received millions of dollars in German gold as a bribe for betraying Russia into negotiating a separate peace with Germany. Lenin did advocate a separate and immediate peace with Germany, urging the Russian socialists not to take up arms against their "brother Germans" when both were "slaves under the same cruel masters, the capitalists of the World." Instead of fighting each against the other, he said, workingmen of all nationalities should unite and attack the capitalists simultaneously. Though Lenin was even then suspected of treachery to Russia, still he was unmolested, since he had but little influence in the government and because it was believed he could never rise to the direction of affairs in Russia.
Separate Peace with Germany Defeated
The first clash between the moderates and the extremists had occurred when Professor Miliukov, as Minister of Foreign Affairs, announced that the occupation of Constantinople and the Dardanelles was essential to the economic prosperity of Russia. The radical Socialists, who followed Lenin's policy, protested that the occupation of one nation's territory by the people of another nation was contrary to the ideals of Socialism. Their views prevailed the Government putting itself on record in opposition to all indemnities and the desire to conquer any' foreign territorials, at the same time declaring the inherent right of all lesser nationalities to determine their separate destinies.
Lenin took advantage of the situation thus created to press his appeal for a separate peace with Germany. The Provisional Government, however, checked this move by declaring that if the German and Austrian Socialists were truly in sympathy with the Russian ideals of democracy and wished to make a just peace with Russia, it was their duty first to overturn their own autocratic governments, as the Russians had overturned theirs. Then, and only then, could the German people expect to make peace with the Russian people. This reasonable demand that the German proletariat should dethrone the Kaiser, did not at all suit Lenin's purpose, for was he not the Kaiser's paid agent. So the matter was dropped for the present.
Another clash occurred on May 1, 1917, when the Provisional Government sent a joint note to the Allies, assuring them that it would maintain a strict regard for its engagement with the Allies of Russia. Lenin stirred a section of the radicals to revolt against this allegiance and due to his urging serious anti-government demonstrations occurred in Petrograd (Saint Petersburg) on May 3d and 4th. Socialist soldiers and workingmen gathered in front of the Government headquarters, carrying banners inscribed, "Down with Miliukov!" "Down with the Provisional Government." A vote of confidence in the Government was carried the next day by the slim majority of 35 in a total vote of 2500. Still the protests continued, and on May 16, 1917, Miliukov resigned.
Kerensky as Minister of War
A New Coalition Government was formed, with Prince Lvov as Premier, Terestchenko as Foreign Minister and Alexander Kerensky as Minister of War. A new declaration of policy was drawn up, assuring a continuance of war with Germany and the calling of a Constituent Assembly. Kerensky then started on a tour of the battle front to restore military discipline. It seems that the Socialist soldiers, though slavishly obedient to the will of their own soap-box orators, still had refused to obey their old commanders, deeming all military authority autocratic. They could do this without fear of military punishment, the death penalty having been abolished. Naturally the generals at the front resigned their commissions, but they consented to serve again after Kerensky had promised to restore the death penalty for insubordination in the Army.
A Republic Set Up in Kronstadt
On June 1, 1917, the Workmen's and Soldiers' Council of Deputies of Kronstadt, site of the Naval Arsenal and headquarters of the Russian Fleet, declared that seaport an "In dependent Republic." A young anarchist, by the name of Anatole Lamanov, was made President. He issued a proclamation, calling on all other communities in Russia to declare their independence and unite later in a loose confederation.
The Council in Petrograd (Saint Petersburg) at once denounced the Kronstadt movement, sending two deputies to that city to dissuade Lamanov from continuing his plan further. The abortive "Republic" quickly faded from the public view.
The American Commissioners Arrive
From America, early in June, two commissions had arrived to assist the new Russian Republic in getting under way. One commission, headed by Elihu Root, a former Secretary of State, and comprising eminent men of every shade of political opinion, was received by the Council of Ministers in the Marinsky Palace on June 15, 1915. Mr. Root, in an eloquent address, assured the Russian Republic of the sympathy of America. Stressing the point that the triumph of German arms would mean the death of liberty throughout the world, he urged the Russians not only to continue the battle for freedom, but to repel any advances made by Germany toward the attainment of a fictitious peace.
Another American commission, composed of expert engineers and traffic managers, meanwhile had been making a thorough study of Russia's transportation problems, and found everything in order except that there was a lack of locomotives and rolling stock. Later, at Moscow, Elihu Root addressed representatives of the Zemstvos and the local Council of the Workmen and Soldiers. The Council adopted a resolution, thanking President Wilson for sending the Commissions to Russia. Mr. Root, upon his return to America, expressed his confidence in the stability of the Russian Republic.
Kerensky Becomes Prime Minister
Important changes in the Cabinet presently occurred. Five members of the Provisional Government, who had dissented from the proposal to set up a new Ukrainian Republic, resigned on July 15, 1917, holding that if the Ukrainians were granted permission to set up a separate republic, other minor nationalities might do the same, and the disintegration of Russia would follow. Five days later, Prince Lvov resigned as Premier, having differed with his associates on the question of proclaiming the Russian Republic before the Constituent Assembly had been elected by vote of the people. Alexander F. Kerensky, who had been acting as Minister of War, succeeded Lvov as Premier. He was granted plenary powers in suppressing all disorders, and in restoring discipline in the Army. The Provisional Government was renamed the "Government of National Safety" and it was accorded the fullest measure of support.
Death Penalty Restored
As the Army had deteriorated through the lack of discipline, following the abolition of the death penalty for desertion, treachery and mutiny, Premier Kerensky announced that the death penalty would be re-established both in civil life and in the Army. The effect of this policy was magical, the morale of the Army being restored in a marked degree. Fraternization between Russian and German Socialists was forbidden and a vigorous resumption of the Russian offensives was planned. General Alexeieff resigned as Commander-in- Chief of the Army and was succeeded by General Brusiloff, whose fidelity to the Allied cause was beyond suspicion. A War Cabinet was then formed, comprising the leaders of the Russian Army and Navy technical experts.
In mid-July 1917, armed revolutionaries under the leadership of Lenin came out in huge numbers to the streets of Petrograd. The masses were divided into two groups, led by Trotsky and Stalin. They seized Petrograd and formed the new revolutionary authority, the Council of People's Commissars. The entire power of the organization was concentrated into the hands of Lenin. He formed a five-member Politburo that included Stalin and Trotsky. During this time, only Stalin and Trotsky were granted the permission to see Lenin without any prior appointment Lenin also appointed Stalin as People's Commissar for Nationalities' Affairs. His task was to win over the people non-Russian origins and persuade them to support Lenin.
Although Stalin was very much a secondary figure during the October Revolution, he did gain Lenin’s attention as a useful ally, and following the October coup, Lenin gave him a position in the government as commissar of nationalities. As Stalin was a member of an ethnic minority—he was from the central Asian region of Georgia, not Russia proper—Lenin felt he would be an effective ambassador of sorts to the many ethnic minorities within the former Russian Empire.