“You have not dined? Here we have had our dinner. You shall go to the Officers’ Club, where there are some who speak your language….”
He led me across the court-yard to the door of another building. An aristocratic-looking youth, with the shoulder straps of a Lieutenant, was entering. The Chairman presented me, and shaking hands, went back.
“I am Stepan Georgevitch Morovsky, at your service,” said the Lieutenant, in perfect French. From the ornate entrance hall a ceremonial staircase led upward, lighted by glittering lustres. On the second floor billiard-rooms, card-rooms, a library opened from the hall. We entered the dining-room, at a long table in the centre of which sat about twenty officers in full uniform, wearing their gold- and silver-handled swords, the ribbons and crosses of Imperial decorations. All rose politely as I entered, and made a place for me beside the Colonel, a large, impressive man with a grizzled beard. Orderlies were deftly serving dinner. The atmosphere was that of any officers’ mess in Europe. Where was the Revolution?
“You are not Bolsheviki?” I asked Morovsky.
A smile went around the table, but I caught one or two glancing furtively at the orderly.
“No,” answered my friend. “There is only one Bolshevik officer in this regiment. He is in Petrograd to-night. The Colonel is a Menshevik. Captain Kherlov there is a Cadet. I myself am a Socialist Revolutionary of the right wing…. I should say that most of the officers in the Army are not Bolsheviki, but like me they believe in democracy; they believe that they must follow the soldier-masses….”
Dinner over, maps were brought, and the Colonel spread them out on the table. The rest crowded around to see.
“Here,” said the Colonel, pointing to pencil marks, “were our positions this morning. Vladimir Kyrilovitch, where is your company?”
Captain Kherlov pointed. “According to orders, we occupied the position along this road. Karsavin relieved me at five o’clock.”
Just then the door of the room opened, and there entered the Chairman of the Regimental Committee, with another soldier. They joined the group behind the Colonel, peering at the map.
“Good,” said the Colonel. “Now the Cossacks have fallen back ten kilometres in our sector. I do not think it is necessary to take up advanced positions. Gentlemen, for to-night you will hold the present line, strengthening the positions by——”
“If you please,” interrupted the Chairman of the Regimental Committee. “The orders are to advance with all speed, and prepare to engage the Cossacks north of Gatchina in the morning. A crushing defeat is necessary. Kindly make the proper dispositions.”
There was a short silence. The Colonel again turned to the map. “Very well,” he said, in a different voice. “Stepan Georgevitch, you will please——” Rapidly tracing lines with a blue pencil, he gave his orders, while a sergeant made shorthand notes. The sergeant then withdrew, and ten minutes later returned with the orders typewritten, and one carbon copy. The Chairman of the Committee studied the map with a copy of the orders before him.
“All right,” he said, rising. Folding the carbon copy, he put it in his pocket. Then he signed the other, stamped it with a round seal taken from his pocket, and presented it to the Colonel….
Here was the Revolution!4. Events At Tsarskoye Selo On the evening that Kerensky’s troops retreated from Tsarskoye Selo, some priests organised a religious procession through the streets of the town, making speeches to the citizens in which they asked the people to support the rightful authority, the Provisional Government. When the Cossacks had retreated, and the first Red Guards entered the town, witnesses reported that the priests had incited the people against the Soviets, and had said prayers at the grave of Rasputin, which lies behind the Imperial Palace. One of the priests, Father Ivan Kutchurov, was arrested and shot by the infuriated Red Guards….
Just as the Red Guards entered the town the electric lights were shut off, plunging the streets in complete darkness. The director of the electric light plant, Lubovitch, was arrested by the Soviet troops and asked why he had shut off the lights. He was found some time later in the room where he had been imprisoned with a revolver in his hand and a bullet hole in his temple.
The Petrograd anti-Bolshevik papers came out next day with headlines, “Plekhanov’s temperature 39 degrees!” Plekhanov lived at Tsarskoye Selo, where he was lying ill in bed. Red Guards arrived at the house and searched it for arms, questioning the old man.
“What class of society do you belong to?” they asked him.
“I am a revolutionist,” answered Plekhanov, “who for forty years has devoted his life to the struggle for liberty!”
“Anyway,” said a workman, “you have now sold yourself to the bourgeoisie!”
The workers no longer knew Plekhanov, pioneer of the Russian Social Democracy!
I returned to the Soviet palace in Tsarskoye in the Regimental Staff automobile. Still the crowds of workers, soldiers and sailors pouring in and out, still the choking press of trucks, armoured cars, cannon before the door, and the shouting, the laughter of unwonted victory. Half a dozen Red Guards forced their way through, a priest in the middle. This was Father Ivan, they said, who had blessed the Cossacks when they entered the town. I heard afterward that he was shot….4
Dybenko was just coming out, giving rapid orders right and left. In his hand he carried the big revolver. An automobile stood with racing engine at the kerb. Alone, he climbed in the rear seat, and was off—off to Gatchina, to conquer Kerensky.
Toward nightfall he arrived at the outskirts of the town, and went on afoot. What Dybenko told the Cossacks nobody knows, but the fact is that General Krasnov and his staff and several thousand Cossacks surrendered, and advised Kerensky to do the same.55. Appeal Of The Soviet Government “The detachments at Gatchina, deceived by Kerensky, have laid down their arms and decided to arrest Kerensky. That chief of the counter-revolutionary campaign has fled. The Army, by an enormous majority, has pronounced in favour of the second All-Russian Congress of Soviets, and of the Government which it has created. Scores of delegates from the Front have hastened to Petrograd to assure the Soviet Government of the Army’s fidelity. No twisting of the facts, no calumny against the revolutionary workers, soldiers, and peasants, has been able to defeat the People. The Workers’ and Soldiers’ Revolution is victorious….
“The Tsay-ee-kah appeals to the troops which march under the flag of the counter-revolution, and invites them immediately to lay down their arms—to shed no longer the blood of their brothers in the interests of a handful of land-owners and capitalists. The Workers’, Soldiers’ and Peasants’ Revolution curses those who remain even for a moment under the flag of the People’s enemies….
“Cossacks! Come over to the rank of the victorious People! Railwaymen, postmen, telegraphers—all, all support the new Government of the People!”
As for Kerensky—I reprint here the deposition made by General Krasnov on the morning of November 14th:
“Gatchina, November 14, 1917. To-day, about three o’clock (A. M.), I was summoned by the Supreme Commander (Kerensky). He was very agitated, and very nervous.
“General,” he said to me, you have betrayed me. Your Cossacks declare categorically that they will arrest me and deliver me to the sailors.”
“Yes,” “I answered, there is talk of it, and I know that you have no sympathy anywhere.”
“But the officers say the same thing.”
“Yes, most of all it is the officers who are discontented with you.”
“What shall I do? I ought to commit suicide!”
“If you are an honorable man, you will go immediately to Petrograd with a white flag, you will present yourself to the Military Revolutionary Committee, and enter into negotiations as Chief of the Provisional Government.”
“All right. I will do that, General.”
“I will give you a guard and ask that a sailor go with you.”
“No, no, not a sailor. Do you know whether it is true that Dybenko is here?”
“I don’t know who Dybenko is.”
“He is my enemy.
“There is nothing to do. If you play for high stakes you must know how to take a chance.”
“Yes. I’ll leave to-night!”
“Why? That would be a flight. Leave calmly and openly, so that every one can see that you are not running away.”
“Very well. But you must give me a guard on which I can count.”
“I went out and called the Cossack Russkov, of the Tenth Regiment of the Don, and ordered him to pick out ten Cossacks to accompany the Supreme Commander. Half an hour later the Cossacks came to tell me that Kerensky was not in his quarters, that he had run away.
“I gave the alarm and ordered that he be searched for, supposing that he could not have left Gatchina, but he could not be found….”
And so Kerensky fled, alone, “disguised in the uniform of a sailor,” and by that act lost whatever popularity he had retained among the Russian masses….
I went back to Petrograd riding on the front seat of an auto truck, driven by a workman and filled with Red Guards. We had no kerosene, so our lights were not burning. The road was crowded with the proletarian army going home, and new reserves pouring out to take their places. Immense trucks like ours, columns of artillery, wagons, loomed up in the night, without lights, as we were. We hurtled furiously on, wrenched right and left to avoid collisions that seemed inevitable, scraping wheels, followed by the epithets of pedestrians.
Across the horizon spread the glittering lights of the capital, immeasurably more splendid by night than by day, like a dike of jewels heaped on the barren plain.
The old workman who drove held the wheel in one hand, while with the other he swept the far-gleaming capital in an exultant gesture.
“Mine!” he cried, his face all alight. “All mine now! My Petrograd!”