Bolshevik storm the Winter Palace
October 15, 2007 7:03 PM   Subscribe

"St. Petersburg Apartment Rentals"?

Pepsi Red!
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:22 PM on October 15, 2007

I'll get my airbrush out! I think I spot a filthy Menshevik looking heroic.
Thanks, panoptican.
posted by Abiezer at 7:34 PM on October 15, 2007 [1 favorite]

Oh sweet Jesus...I'm going to St. Petersburg!
posted by KokuRyu at 8:13 PM on October 15, 2007

Well, since this is metafilter and all, I ought to snark and say that these images are readily available simply by searching 'russian revolution' on google images...
posted by boubelium at 8:13 PM on October 15, 2007

I have a press friend with a Harvard MA in Russian. HE WAS EXPELLED FROM RUSSIA FOR DRUNKENNESS ! He was caught in Red Square trying to raise Lenin from the dead, they were not amused, but then Russians are not know for their humor.
posted by Rancid Badger at 8:18 PM on October 15, 2007

I fear I must then withdraw the favourite. I thought I was coming back later to look at more pics of grainy mobs storming palaces, not ladies of questionable morals and hairstyling preferences!
posted by Abiezer at 8:20 PM on October 15, 2007

then Russians are not know for their humor.

Exactly. Just like Americans are known around the world for their cosmopolitanism and appreciation of other cultures.
posted by nasreddin at 9:05 PM on October 15, 2007

I have been to Russia, have you nasreddin?
posted by Rancid Badger at 9:09 PM on October 15, 2007

Alert! Alert! Rancid Badger on a hiding to nothing! I believe nasreddin is Russian, oh fetid one of the hedgerows.
posted by Abiezer at 9:13 PM on October 15, 2007

HAAhAhA very good! I still laughting, that's great!
posted by Rancid Badger at 9:18 PM on October 15, 2007

I was curious as to what happened to the various members of the Politburo.

With the help of wikipedia and Radio Free Europe, I can confirm that it's a rough gig being a revolutionary. Leaving aside Lenin & Stalin:
Sverdlovv - died during the 1918 Spanish influenza epidemic.
Bubnov - arrested during the Great Purge, died 1940.
Dzerzhinsky - founded the Cheka, died of a heart attack in 1926.
Shaumian - Executed by British firing squad, 1918.
Uritsky - Assassinated 1918, occasioning the Red Terror.
Muranov - Died of old age, 1959.
Krestinsky, Bukharin, Rykov - Executed during the Great Purge, 1938.
Miliutin - Great Purge, 1938.
Kollontai - Died of old age, 1952.
Serveev - Died in an experimental monorail crash, 1921.
Sokolnikov - Jailed during the Great Purge, murdered by the NKVD, 1939.
Nogin - died during surgery for a stomach ulcer, 1924.
Berzin - Killed in 1941.
Kamenev, Zinoviev - Executed in the Great Purge, 1936.
Trotsky - Assassinated in Mexico, 1940.
Smilga - Executed during the Great Purge, 1937.

I should note that the site originally posted seems to have been ripped off wholesale from here.
posted by zamboni at 9:19 PM on October 15, 2007

Oh, how I miss the sunsets of Zembla, and the good King Charles Xavier.
posted by nasreddin at 9:24 PM on October 15, 2007 [4 favorites]

Mikhail Bakunin 'founding father' of anarchism escaped Siberia exile by traveling to Asia then spending the rest of his life in Switzerland. His Non Political Political Theory seems to sum up the present situation.
posted by Rancid Badger at 9:35 PM on October 15, 2007

Thanks Zamboni
posted by Rancid Badger at 10:02 PM on October 15, 2007

Serveev - Died in an experimental monorail crash, 1921.


Alert! Alert! Rancid Badger on a hiding to nothing!

which reminds me of the time that somebody puffed themselves up & wrote something along the lines of "well, excuse me, mr languagehat, but i've done a diploma in linguistics, so am well qualified to tell you you're wrong..."

a favourite for whoever can find that for me!
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:12 PM on October 15, 2007

Maybe an admin could change the post link to the U. of Wisconsin site zamboni links to? It's the exact same page, without the ads, and it seems a shame to give some sleazy SPb rental site the hits for ripping them off. That said, though, it's not an impressive collection of pictures (as boubelium points out), and the captions are untrustworthy. In number 5, Alexander Kerensky is not "(center, white)," he's the guy in the very front, in a dashing gray coat, sticking his hand Napoleonically between the buttons. I'm not entirely sure they've correctly identified Lev Kamenev in the first one; compare Google images and decide for yourself.

Russians are not know for their humor

You may have "been to Russia," but you obviously haven't gotten to know any Russians or read any Russian literature. Try Gogol, Goncharov (Oblomov), Ilf and Petrov (Twelve Chairs), Zoshchenko, Kharms, or Venedikt Erofeev sometime. True, their humor tends to be infused with bitterness and awareness of the fucked-up nature of life, so if Art Buchwald is your ideal of humor, you may not appreciate it.
posted by languagehat at 7:18 AM on October 16, 2007 [3 favorites]

Petrograd, 4 July 1917. Street demonstration on Nevsky Prospekt just after troops of the Provisional Government have opened fire with machine guns.

This label on the third one is accurate but doesn't really give any sense of what was one of the most dramatic and least understood moments of that whole revolutionary year. I'll give a summary in case anybody's interested.

The February Revolution (the only actual revolution of 1917—the "October Revolution" was a cout d'état, a simple seizure of power by the Bolsheviks) started out with tremendous popular support but quickly bogged down once it became apparent that the people's hopes were not going to be fulfilled. What the people wanted, in the familiar boiled-down-to-a-slogan formulation, was bread, land, and peace. The whole revolution had been touched off by the disappearance of bread from many Petrograd stores—in a sense that was just a glitch, because there was plenty of food, it was just not getting into the city because of Russia's typically inefficient transport and storage system, but of course people spending all day in lines in the freezing Petrograd winter and not getting anything weren't about to put it in perspective. Land had always been an explosive issue, and the fuse had been lit when the serfs were freed (without the land they considered theirs) in 1861; the peasants (at least 80% of Russia's population) were convinced the tsar had meant to give them land but the ukase was being hidden by greedy landowners, and they were sure their service in the war would mean that the land would at long last be divided up and they could finally not have to worry about going hungry the next year. And the war had been going on for over two years, the initial patriotic enthusiasm had long since dissipated, and people were fed up with the disruption of life and the loss of so many young men at the front. They saw no reason why Russia should fight for France and England; they were sick of the war and wanted peace ASAP.

Tragically, the Provisional Government that took over after February was afraid of power and refused to exercise it, deferring all important decisions to be made by the future Constituent Assembly, which could only be convened after the war, and the leftist parties that might have tried to satisfy the popular demands were also afraid of power and preferred to criticize the government from the sidelines. Furthermore, being good bourgeois internationalists the members of the government believed Russia had pledged its honor to continue the war and insisted on doing so. They ordered a new offensive in June; after brief successes it turned into a rout: 400,000 troops were lost and at least half that number deserted, and millions of square miles of territory were abandoned to the Germans.

At this point the government decided it had to do something about the quarter-million idle, seething, resentful troops garrisoned in the capital and more and more infiltrated by Bolshevik agitators. One of the conditions set by the Soviet for allowing the Provisional Government to take power in February had been that no garrison troops would be sent to the front, but on June 20 the First Machine Gun Regiment was ordered to send 500 machine guns with their crews to the front. They threatened to overthrow the government; the Bolshevik Military Organization supported them, but the Central Committee urged restraint—Lenin said "One false move on our part can wreck everything... if we were now to seize power, it is naive to think that we would be able to hold it... Even in the Soviets of both capitals, not to speak of the others, we are an insignificant minority... Events should not be anticipated. Time is on our side."

But Lenin was not in full control; on June 29 he left for a vacation in Finland, and the Military Organization went ahead with plans for an uprising. On July 3 a Provsional Revolutionary Committee was elected (with a Bolshevik, A.I. Semashko, at its head), which assumed leadership and sent a huge column of troops into the streets, failing, however, to give it any plans or strategic objectives; although the troops went to the Tauride Palace and demanded "All power to the Soviets!" they didn't take any action (they could easily have seized the Soviet leaders) and eventually dispersed.

That night the Bolshevik Central Committee met (without Lenin) and decided the time was ripe to come out in favor of the uprising; the front page of Pravda, which had been due to carry an article by Kamenev and Zinoviev urging restraint, appeared with a huge blank space instead, and leaflets were distributed calling for a "new power" based on the Soviet. A messenger was sent off to bring Lenin back.

The next morning 20,000 armed sailors from Kronstadt Naval Base disembarked and set off for Bolshevik HQ; they were strongly radicalized (many were Bolsheviks or anarchists) and had been spoiling for a fight since February. Standing below Lenin's balcony (in the mansion the Bolsheviks had taken over from the famous ballerina Kshesinskaya, who'd fled the country) they demanded he talk to them; he was reluctant, and eventually (in Orlando Figes' words) "gave an ambiguous speech, lasting no more than a few seconds, in which he expressed his confidence in the coming of Soviet power but left the sailors without orders on how to bring it about. He did not even make it clear if he wanted the crowd to continue the demonstration and, according to those who were with him at the time, did not even know himself." I'll let Figes tell the story of the photograph:
Confused and disappointed by the lack of a clear call for the insurrection to begin, the Kronstadters marched off towards the Tauride Palace, where thousands of armed workers and soldiers were already assembling. On the Nevsky Prospekt they merged with another vast crowd of workers from the Putilov plant, perhaps 20,000 in all. Middle-class Petrograders strolling along the Prospekt looked on in horror at their massed grey ranks. Suddenly, as the column turned into the Liteiny, shots were fired by the Cossacks and cadets from the roof-tops and the upper windows of the buildings, causing the marchers to scatter in panic. Some of the marchers fired back, shooting without aim in all directions, since they did not know where the snipers were hidden. Dozens of their comrades were killed or wounded by their own stray bullets. The rest abandoned their rifles and flags and started to break down the doors and windows of the houses. When the shooting stopped, the leaders of the demonstration tried to restore order by reforming ranks and marching off to an up-beat tune from the military bands. But the equilibrium of the crowd had been upset and, as they marched through the affluent residential streets approaching the Tauride Palace, their columns broke down into a riotous mob, firing wildly into the windows, beating up well-dressed passers-by and looting shops and houses. By 4 p.m. hundreds of people had been wounded or killed; dead horses lay here and there; and the streets were littered with rifles, hats, umbrellas and banners.
Both the Soviet and the government (which had taken refuge in the General Staff building) were completely defenseless. Figes says:
The strategic points of the city—the arsenals, the telephone exchange, the supply depots and the railway stations—were all undefended. With a single order from Lenin, the insurgents could easily have taken them as the first step towards the seizure of power.

But that order did not come, and the crowd in front of the Tauride Palace, not quite sure of what it should do, soon lost all its organization. The hand of God, in the form of the weather, also contributed to the collapse of the uprising. At 5 p.m. the storm clouds finally broke and there was a torrential rainstorm.
Most of the crowd dispersed; the more radical ones stayed, fired at the Palace, called for the socialist ministers to come out and explain why they weren't taking power (when Chernov came out to calm them down, one worker shouted "Take power, you son of a bitch, when it's handed to you!"), but Trotsky with his magical oratory eventually talked them down and the whole thing fizzled out. The next day the Bolshevik leaders were charged with treason and Lenin went into hiding, not to emerge until October.

Sorry about the excessively long comment, but I figure anybody who's reading this thread is interested in this stuff!
posted by languagehat at 8:22 AM on October 16, 2007 [7 favorites]

Oops: for "cout d'état" read coup d'état. I proofread that mess twice!
posted by languagehat at 8:27 AM on October 16, 2007

in a sense that was just a glitch, because there was plenty of food, it was just not getting into the city because of Russia's typically inefficient transport and storage system,

Russians have a proverb: "In Russia, there are always two problems: fools and roads." (duraki i dorogi)

Excellent comment, languagehat. For the classic cinematic version of this, see Eisenstein's October.
posted by nasreddin at 10:34 AM on October 16, 2007

Thanks, nasreddin! It was worth writing that comment for my own sake, because it clarified my understanding of the July Days, but I'm glad somebody actually read it.
posted by languagehat at 12:43 PM on October 16, 2007

Try Gogol, Goncharov (Oblomov), Ilf and Petrov (Twelve Chairs), Zoshchenko, Kharms, or Venedikt Erofeev sometime. True, their humor tends to be infused with bitterness and awareness of the fucked-up nature of life

Bulgakov is also a master of dark humour, and The Faculty of Useless Knowledge by Nameskayepsmerightnowski is another bleakly satirical view of Soviet Russia.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:54 PM on October 16, 2007

Oh, sure, but my test for "funny" (if trying to dispute someone who claims Russians aren't) is "does it make me laugh out loud?" Wry smiles don't make the cutoff. Now that I think about it, I'd add Sergei Dovlatov, but I don't know if he's available in English.

Your Nameskayepsmerightnowski is Yuri Dombrovsky, who falls into the large category of "authors I have but haven't read yet."
posted by languagehat at 3:39 PM on October 16, 2007

Dobrolyubov always makes me laugh out loud. Not because of anything he wrote, I just think his name sounds hilarious on the tongue, especially in a comic Russian accent.

I also think that The Master & Margarita is chock-full of laugh-out-loud moments, right from the very first scene with the streetcar by Patriarch's Ponds, but your troika may have varying horses.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:21 PM on October 16, 2007

UbuRoivas I repeated a lot of the same stuff that you put out but I just to tired to rewrite The Sergei Dovlatov is in translation and I have the Amazon link here. Your political remarks in your upcoming election I read with interest. I liked your comments on drugs and the Green party. What a great thing to have as a force in the elections and policy making! I am envious. Thanks for the comments languagehat and the authors as well. I think I should have been clearer on the humor I was trying to address. I did not say Russians were without humor but rather "they are not noted for their humor”. I offer an apology for assuming that it was obvious that it was not an absolute term. Some of the best laughs I ever had were with Russians. Russians having been suppressed by their government seemingly forever, with the Communist just a recent brief installment. The resulting literature is deep, dark, and wicked sarcastic (chyony yumor ). By necessity humor is an “in the club” joke. Making light about President Vladimir Putin could result in sever problems.

Sen. Lugar has Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) working on decommission nuclear, biological, and chemical weapon stockpiles, as agreed by the Soviet Union under disarmament treaties. Sen. Lugar is a stand up guy and working on the program was just awesome. Most of the work was watching and doing inventories.

Even better was that we occasionally stayed with Leonid Kaminsky a children author/ artist. A really great guy was famous kinda like a Russian Dr Seuss, and better IMO. Leonid had survived the 900 day Siege of Leningrad & still had a wicked wit. Meeting him for the first time he asked if I minded talking to a Jew, wow, was that a high voltage jolt. When I went looking for a link on him today I couldn’t find a thing, maybe a .ru but my language skills are very poor, it’s not like they were ever really any good. This guy was a huge success in Russia, kids were bonkers over it. Sad to say not one book in translation. Even in the Library of Congress, zip. He had a series “Lessons in laughter” that he performed and was a TV staple (although I never saw the TV end of it). What is hard to understand is this huge country with a rich cultural history and yet very little has come to the West. We really miss out on a genius who turned out outstanding writing and illustrations (like Seuss his own) translated; humm there is a thought. My visit was work with at the manufacture facilities at Arzamas (s or z) or Mayak. Both sites were great views looking into woebegone nuke nihilism. There was a scientist at Arzamas who had silk screened T-shirts with something to the effect that “I am a bomb, if you see me running, shoot me.” That shirt’s sarcasm is about as dry as you will ever find. Then you are in the final circle, ground level staring into the Freddy Krueger playground at Mayak. Here are miles of train cars filled with high grade waste ore. Terror is palpable, gleaning the cube to see the true evil, Biological Weapons. Viral androids engineered to give you a low grade flu infection that quickly goes away leaving you with a biological Lou Gehrig disease. Demylation of nerves killing you slowly as time erases the connection to the “flu” you once had.

As erudite languagehat reminded me humor or lack off is never absolute but lies on a continuum. I assumed and for that I offer an apology. Underlying the above clambake is my misunderstood point, that humor is scarce in Russia. Even macabre humor is a stretch while holding a plutonium pit against a backdrop of people mowed over, dying like trees in some pyroclastic deluge; rare cancers and strange diseases stalking those with little hope. So it is easy to get into the mood reading Anna Akhmatova. Russian literature is really outstanding. IMO the arts in Russia were explementary. One of the costs of the “new” Russian capitalism was the loss of funding for the Arts. Under the Soviet system you could attend a great art school and know that after graduation you would still be able to eat and stay warm by working in your art. This net was cut loose with the importation of capitalism. I dunno it seems to me that a nations soul is in the art that flows out of it, that is what is left after the wars; desert! Sergei Dovlatov and his book “The Suitcase” is a rocking good read and captures the essence of contemporary Russian humor. Buchwald I have never read and have not the faintest idea as to what he writes about. It seems as if you didn’t like him so I probably take my cue from you and pass.
------ Russian folk tales,poetry,history & I hope I wasn't too
boring but I do not think anybody will still be interested so it is nice to put my thought in some kind of organization. Oh ya this was a neat site on SovLit maybe someone has already linked it. I am just to tired to check. Does anyone else think that it sucks that you will never be able to read all those good books you have on your to read list?
posted by Rancid Badger at 1:37 AM on October 17, 2007

Rancid Badger: no offence, but have you taken your medication today?
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:59 AM on October 17, 2007

That's great. My mania is coming through? It's 6:30am here and I have been up all night. I have a good book list and it's really fun to talk to people that read and Think, although it can be intimidating at times.
Happy,Happy, Joy, Joy. I keep laughing,that was great! Maybe Lithium for table salt.Thanks still laughing!
posted by Rancid Badger at 3:51 AM on October 17, 2007

RB: Thanks for the tip about Kaminsky; I'd love to read him, and I envy your getting to hang out with him. Sorry to have misunderstood your comment, but at least it got us into a good discussion of Russian humor! I certainly agree that Russians are "known" more for Dostoevskian angst than belly laughs, but I try to counter such preconceptions when I get the chance. And yeah, the to-read list gets more and more depressing the older you get—but I've finally gotten to Proust, so there's always hope!

Now get some sleep, ya big lug.
posted by languagehat at 5:47 AM on October 17, 2007

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