A. F. Kerensky

The Catastrophe


Source: The Catastrophe
Published: 1927
Transcriber: Jonas Holmgren
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2008). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit "Marxists Internet Archive" as your source.


AT last, July first! The general air is that of Passion Week: solemn, prayerful, sorrowful. We move towards the observation point, situated on a hill of a chain of elevations running along the line of our positions. The heavy artillery roars incessantly. Over our heads the monstrous shells scream pitifully on their way to the enemy trenches.

Our artillerists are confused: many of the guns sent us by the Allies have failed to withstand two days' work. Apparently our Allies have acted according to the old Russian saying: "Take, oh, God, what is of no use to us."

We are now at the observation point. From here we see the field of battle as clearly as if it were on the palm of our hand. But for the present all is emptiness.

There is no one to be seen.

The artillery roars on.

With growing impatience we look at our watches.

Finally, sudden, complete silence. A suggestion of fear!

Are the troops attacking?

The troops are attacking!

There, before the first enemy line, are some barely visible, running dots. They increase! The battle is developing furiously. Almost in the very center appear our English armored cars. The German artillery begins to pound them. Ours is now silent.

Especially difficult is the situation on the left flank of the enemy. There, our troops must capture a slope, dubbed, for its shape, the "flatiron."

Through our field glasses we see clearly how the little black figures of our men slip down over it and how at a certain spot the German artillery begins to strike them. A thud. Dense smoke and debris. In place of the little figures—a shell hole. From below, the figures climb again. But why is our artillery silent? Above our heads enemy shells begin to whistle gently. We must stop our hurried breakfast in the shade of some old oak trees and move into the dugout of the observation point, proceeding further along a line of connecting trenches and not, any longer, along the direct line of the wood.

On the first day of the battle we captured 10,000 prisoners and several cannon, but failed to break through the line towards Brjezany. Indecisive also were the battles on our right flank, where the eleventh army was in action. Guns, prisoners, but not a step forward!

There where last year Brusiloff attacked the Austrian Slavs were now only German and Hungarian divisions, with an admixture of Turks.

But on the left flank, where the eighth army was in action, our troops in a few days achieved a brilliant success. After breaking through the Austrian Front at Kalusch, the troops of General Korniloff and General Tcheremisoff broke through deep into the enemy lines, capturing, on July tenth, the old city of Galitch.

The success at Kalusch was facilitated by the fact that on this part of the front there were many Slavs in the enemy's ranks. In addition, our command had succeeded in obtaining, a few days before the battle, all the necessary information concerning the disposition of the enemy troops and the plans of the enemy's command.

The offensive of the Russian troops occurred exactly four months after the outbreak of the Revolution, midway between March and November.

The operations begun by us in Galicia were later extended to the Western Front commanded by General Deniken and to the Northern Front. Very soon they lost their offensive character and became purely defensive actions. The failures of the Russian armies thereupon became one of the sharpest and most poisonous weapons in the struggle against the Provisional Government conducted by the leaders of the Korniloff military conspiracy, which matured in September. But this utilization for political purposes of the restoration of the fighting capacity of the Russian army cannot, looked at objectively, belittle its historical significance.

At the very height of the venomous campaign waged against the Provisional Government under the camouflage of diplomatic flirtation by the official ruling circles of England and France, the staff of our commander-in-chief forwarded to the Allied staffs, under date of October second or third, the following report, which, by the way, was suppressed by the Allied authorities:

"More than six and a half months have passed since the beginning of our Revolution, but our armies continue to hold, as before, the forces of the enemy. Moreover, these forces have not decreased during that period, but on the contrary have increased in number. On the day of the resumption of the offensive by our troops in Galicia, July first, the number of enemy divisions on the Russo-German Front was equal to that on March twelfth [i.e., the last day of the monarchy— A.K.]. And at the height of the battles in Eastern Galicia and Bukowina the forces of the enemy increased by nine and a half infantry divisions. This increase consisted entirely of Germans, while the number of Austrians and Turks was reduced. The enemy's artillery had been increased during that period by 640 guns of various calibers. The Caucasus front is not taken into consideration in this report."

Thus, after the first moments of military weakening, Russia after the Revolution continued to hold the enemy on her front, in numbers at least equal to the pre-revolutionary period. Thanks to the psychological influence exerted by the Russian Revolution on the populations of the Central Empires, to which I have already referred, Ludendorff was compelled to concentrate purely German divisions on the Russian Front in numbers yet unprecedented during the entire period of the War.

The strategic task on the Russian Front in the year 1917 was carried out in full: the liquidation of the War through German victory, pending the entrance of the United States into active operations, became impossible.

This fundamental consequence of the restoration of the fighting capacity of the Russian army did not in any way depend on the measure of success of the Russian operations, in the narrow, technical sense of the word. For this reason, with the moment of the revival of the army's activity, the front ceased to be the point of concentration in the internal policy of the government.

Our attention was now transferred to the interior of the country, where, by utilizing the psychological effect of the army's resurrection, it was necessary to stimulate with all the power available the convalescence of a national consciousness and the strengthening of the new state born of the Revolution.


With the beginning of the summer, the Provisional Government, through the ministers of the Left, began building a strong dam against the anarcho-Bolshevist stream.

As I have already said, the Provisional Government was quite alone during the first two months of the Revolution in its struggle for the restoration of governmental authority, for the proponents of a "strong government" in the Duma had no influence whatever on the masses. They merely sought to supply wise guidance, while the leaders of the Soviet, playing the role of a loyal opposition, succeeded only in undermining the authority of the government.

But now, with the participation of these leaders in the government, the struggle for the establishment of real authority, for the restoration of national political discipline was launched within the Soviets, within the ranks of the revolutionary democracy themselves. Having assumed ministerial portfolios the opponents of yesterday, who had carried no responsibility in their opposition, found themselves under the blows of the most irresponsible demagogy on the Left.

From the point of view of anarchy and the negation of all normal processes of government, all the parties of the Left represented in the Provisional Government were taking a clearly "counter-revolutionary" position. To expose the "reactionary" or counter-revolutionary crimes of the Soviet ministers, to accuse them of "conspiracy with the capitalists" against the proletariat and of "treason to the Revolution" became now the chief task of the Bolsheviki in their propaganda and press. Lenin felt clearly that the chief obstacles in the struggle of the Bolsheviki for power were not the liberal parties, which had lost all foundation of influence, but the socialist and democratic parties, particularly the socialist parties, which controlled almost all the political power but which accepted the War as a tragic but unavoidable struggle.


Did Lenin believe sincerely that the leaders of the Russian democracy, with many of whom he had worked shoulder to shoulder for many years against Czarism, were really "betraying" the people, their own past and all the traditions of the Russian liberation movement in general?

Of course, not!

In his very first speech before the Petrograd Soviet, on the evening of April seventeenth, immediately after his arrival from Switzerland, Lenin, in summoning the soldiers to fraternization and the workers to seizure of the factories, admitted that with the fall of the monarchy Russia had become "the freest" country in the world and that no one in Russia would dare to threaten the interests of the Russian working classes.[1*] More than that: already at that moment Lenin understood very well that no socialist experiments were possible in Russia, an agricultural country, with a weak industry almost entirely ruined by the War. The leaders of the Russian Revolution were aiming to consolidate and to strengthen political democracy on the basis of comprehensive social reforms. This task could not be opposed by Lenin in so far as the question at issue concerned Russia alone, because up to the War he had been himself a supporter of democracy.

But the fate of Russia was the least consideration of Lenin and his friends in 1917. With the stubborn blindness of a sick fanatic, viewing the World War through the narrow window of a remote corner of Switzerland, Lenin had as early as 1915 reached the utterly groundless conclusion that the European War would end in a social revolution in the industrial, capitalist countries of Western Europe considered ripe for socialism.

As Lenin saw it, the coming of this world social revolution was to be stimulated by the speediest possible transformation of the "exterior war of peoples" into an "internal war of classes." And in order to facilitate this transformation, said Lenin, it was incumbent upon all "true" revolutionists in all belligerent countries "to promote the defeat of their own fatherlands." As the first step in this task, Lenin argued, it was necessary to strive for the defeat of the "Czarist monarchy," the "most barbarous and most reactionary of all governments."

Thus, the promotion of the defeat of his own country, Russia, became for Lenin and his closest associates not shameful treason and disgusting crime but a kind of revolutionary duty, a policy dictated by his "socialist conscience." Russia must be smashed as the chief foundation of European reaction, and his backward agricultural country, as Lenin himself described it, must become the base of operations of the "vanguard of the proletarian world revolution," pending the social revolution which was to develop at any moment in the industrial countries of the West.

On leaving Switzerland early in April, 1917, for Russia via Germany, in a train readily placed at his disposal by Ludendorff and Chancellor Von Bethmann-Hollweg, Lenin, in his parting declaration to his Swiss socialist friends, wrote that Russia was for him only the springboard for social revolution in Western Europe. Already then, in the spring of 1917, the half-mad fanatic saw clearly the German workers closing their ranks for the "final conflict" against capitalism. In November, 1917, Lenin and Zinovieff expected that within six months the Revolution would be under way in the West.

Such was the substance of the "revolutionary" program which matured in Lenin's brain. One must point out that nowhere in Europe, except in Russia, is it possible to find such a type of political leader, one so utterly devoid of any feeling of country. Under Czarism the people were accustomed to regard the state itself as hostile. The monopoly on all outer expressions of patriotism arrogated to itself by absolutism perverted in the people the very feeling of patriotism. To be sure, national consciousness did exist in Russia and consciously or unconsciously it permeated the entire being of the overwhelming majority of Russians. But the deadly oppression of the old regime, destroying the country not only materially but also spiritually, brought forth here and there a disease extremely dangerous to the very existence of the nation: the atrophy of the sense of nationhood, of the sense of patriotism.

Lenin was the most extreme expression of that spiritual ulcer of injured patriotism which for decades had been poisoning the national consciousness of the Russian intelligentsia. There is hardly a person among cultured Russians who has not, at one period or another of his life, suffered more or less acutely from this disease of spiritual or, rather, intellectual estrangement from his country. In this sense alone are Lenin and his friends unquestionably the product of the Russian past, of Russian history.


Lenin's treason to Russia, committed in the very heat of the War, is an historically unquestionable and undeniable fact.

Of course, Lenin was no common agent of Germany, in the ordinary sense of the word. He did not regard the bourgeois motherland as his own and felt himself bound by no obligations toward it. The general defeatist theory invented by him and his desire for the defeat of the Czarist monarchy in particular prepared him psychologically for the practical realization of his theory by the resort to methods which, in the common language of bourgeois politics, are considered betrayal and treason.

One must admit that the very monstrosity of Lenin's crime rendered it so improbable to the consciousness of the average human being that to this very day many people cannot accept it as true. Yet it is a fact, confirmed by the frank admissions of Hindenburg, Ludendorff and General Hoffman, chief of German operations on the Russian Front, and by the expose of Edward Bernstein, noted leader of the German Social-Democratic party. I will not cite here all the data from the writings of the three aforementioned German generals. It is sufficient to quote the following few words from Ludendorff's memoirs:

"In sending Lenin to Russia our government took upon itself a very great responsibility. This journey was justified from the military point of view: it was necessary that Russia should collapse."

So far as I was concerned, it was not necessary for me to await the German admissions, made later, after the War. The Provisional Government, in the summer of 1917, had established clearly the betrayal of Russia by Lenin and his lieutenants. The situation was as follows:

Like all belligerent countries, with the exception of Russia, which was quite backward in her method's of promoting the dissolution of the enemy's morale, Germany, even before the Revolution, recruited spies among her Russian prisoners, transporting them to the Russian frontiers, where they appeared in the role of war "heroes" who had "fled" from their captivity. The number of such spies greatly increased in the first weeks of the Revolution, for during that period the Finnish frontier was left virtually unguarded, the entire Russian machinery of military intelligence being destroyed. One of these volunteer spies came directly to me. He explained that he had accepted the espionage offer with the idea of discovering the ways and means whereby the traitors who had come to Russia were communicating with their German chiefs. He outlined to me the entire technique of this communication. The man's revelations were of no particular value, however, and offered no opportunity for the study and exposure of the German espionage apparatus at work in Russia.

But information obtained from another informant produced facts of very great value and established conclusively the relations of the Bolsheviki with the German staff and the ways and means employed in maintaining the contact.

In April there came to General Alexeyeff at General Headquarters a Ukrainian officer named Yermolenko, who had "fled" from a war prisoner's camp in Germany, after having fictitiously accepted the role of a German agent. The task meted out to him on his return to Russia consisted in propaganda in the rear in behalf of Ukrainian separatism. He was supplied with full information concerning ways and means of communication with the German authorities, the banks through which the necessary funds were being transferred, and also with the names of several other important agents, among whom were a number of Ukrainian separatists and Lenin.[2*]

On my visit to General Headquarters in May, shortly after my appointment as Minister of War, General Alexeyeff and General Denikin, his chief-of-staff, presented to me a report and a special memorandum which contained the exact lines of communication connecting the Russian traitors with their highly placed German friends.

The Provisional Government was thereupon confronted with the difficult task of exploring the lines indicated by Yermolenko, shadowing the agents connecting Lenin with Ludendorff and seizing them in the act, with all possible incriminating material. The least possible publicity, of course, would have compelled the German staff to change the means of communication, while under the conditions of absolute freedom of press then prevailing in Russia, excluding virtually even the application of military censorship, Yermolenko's expose would have become public property had the slightest information concerning the matter penetrated even into the most reserved and most responsible political circles. Even within the Provisional Government it was necessary to confine the very grave information to a limited number of ministers and officials.

General Alexeyeff and I decided to confide the task of following up Yermolenko's information concerning the activities of the Ukrainian separatists to a special agency, under the direct supervision of General Headquarters, while the Provisional Government took upon itself the task of investigating the connection of Lenin with the German staff. Only two ministers, in addition to myself and Prince Lvoff, knew of this—Minister of Foreign Affairs Terestchenko and Minister of Communications Nekrassoff. Within this circle the execution of the task was placed upon Terestchenko, while the rest of us tried, as far as possible, not to interfere in the details of the work. The task was extremely difficult, complex and long, but the results were most deadly for Lenin. The means of Lenin's communication with Germany were clearly determined, as well as the identity of the persons (Fuerstenberg-Ganetsky in Sweden and Kozlowsky and Mme. Sumenson in Petrograd) through whom money transfers were made and the names of the banks in question (the Diskonto Gesellschaft in Berlin, the Nya Bank in Stockholm and the Siberian Bank in Petrograd).

On his arrest, during the Bolshevist uprising in July, Kozlowsky did not deny receiving large sums from abroad, when confronted with the incriminating documents. In defense this man, who at one time had enjoyed a decent reputation as a member of the Polish Socialist party, declared brazenly that together with Ganetsky and Mme. Sumenson he had been carrying on a contraband trade during the War, importing into Russia articles of women's apparel.

On July eighteenth or nineteenth, exactly at the time of the Bolshevist uprising, Ganetsky was to arrive in Petrograd, across Finland. The Bolshevist-German agent from Stockholm, with documents on his person constituting decisive evidence of Lenin's connection with the German staff, was to have been arrested by the Russian authorities on the Russo-Swedish border. The documents were fully known to us. How it happened that Ganetsky was not arrested and why the two months' work of the Provisional Government (in the main that of Terestchenko), in connection with the investigation of the Bolshevist activities, ended in failure: will be told later. At this point, fully conscious of my responsibility before history, I can only repeat the words of the district attorney of Petrograd, in the report made public by him immediately after the July uprising and edited by me:

Whatever may have been the motives of Lenin and his closest associates, they formed within the Bolshevist Party in the spring of 1917 an organization which, in order to give aid to the nations at war with Russia in their belligerent acts against her, entered into an agreement with the agents of the aforementioned nations to promote disorganization of the Russian army and of the country, for which purpose, with the financial means obtained from these nations, it organize'd propaganda among the population and in the army.


From this it will be seen that the struggle against the Bolsheviki was for the Provisional Government but a part of the military struggle against Germany. And, had Lenin not had the backing of the entire material and technical power of the German propaganda machine and espionage service, he never would have succeeded in destroying Russia.

In saying this I do not wish to place the responsibility for Russia's destruction on Germany. The recent European War not only introduced in all the belligerent countries the use of poison gases and the practice of all possible measures for the physical annihilation of the enemy, that war also introduced, on a scale never known before and as a regular means of warfare, the resort to the poison gases of propaganda and bribery for the moral disintegration of the enemy's rear. The data concerning this service already made public in England and Germany show, first, that everywhere the moral laws of man's social life were abolished in the promotion of the spiritual poisoning and disintegration of the enemy, and, second, that the German propaganda service differed in no wise from that of the Allies in this respect.

Both in Russia and abroad the Provisional Government is criticized because of the admission of Lenin into Russia after his journey across Germany and the failure to arrest him on the frontier. It should be remembered, however, that Lenin's agreement with Ludendorff was not contingent upon the route of his journey from Switzerland to Russia. At first Lenin sought permission to come to Russia through France and England. The permission to cross Germany was granted to him by Ludendorff during the War, before the Revolution. In this respect Lenin's journey across Germany was, indeed, the first warning to those who immediately perceived its implications. Moreover, how could we have kept Lenin out of Russia when at that time (April 15-16, 1917) the Russian customs and frontier guard service had not yet been restored? At the meeting of the Provisional Government at which the question of the admittance of political emigrants coming through Germany was discussed, Premier Lvoff and War Minister Gutchkoff declared categorically that they did not have at hand the technical means of preventing their crossing of the frontier.

But even had the Provisional Government possessed these means it could not, in all probability, have used them, for the right of returning to Russia for all political emigrants, regardless of their political opinions, was at that time the clear and determined wish of the entire country.

Now, after many years, it is difficult to believe that even the Rietch, the chief newspaper of the Constitutional-Democratic party, welcomed the appearance of Lenin in Petrograd despite his journey across Germany. As the liberal-democratic mouthpiece expressed it, "Such a generally recognized socialist leader [i.e., Lenin] must be in the arena of the struggle, and his arrival in Russia, regardless of what we may think of his views, must be welcomed."

So far as the Bolsheviki themselves were concerned, they could no longer halt their advance along the path of destruction even had the air of Russia awakened in Lenin, Zinovieff and the others some feeling of honor and conscience. Every one of their steps was controlled by Ludendorff's representatives and the unlimited material means for their propaganda of "social revolution" would have been taken away from the Bolsheviki by the German staff at the first inclination on the part of the Central Committee of their party to abandon its defeatist program. Thus, speaking quite objectively, there could be no peace or agreement between the Bolsheviki and the forces of the Russian democracy. Open war between them was inevitable, as was the struggle between Russia and Germany at the front. And, indeed, the assumption of the offensive by the Russian troops against Germany was accompanied by the offensive of the Bolshevist staff against revolutionary Russia in the rear of the Russian army.

On July fifteenth, on my brief return to Petrograd from the front, to attend to some urgent business, it was already evident that very serious and decisive developments were impending. During the two months of my uninterrupted travels over the front the political atmosphere in Petrograd had changed completely. The first coalition government itself was experiencing a crisis at the end of the second month of its existence. Three Constitutional-Democratic ministers resigned. The ostensible reason for their resignation was the alleged unjustified concessions granted by the Provisional Government to the Ukrainians. The actual reason, however, was the excessive dependence of the Provisional Government on the will of the Soviets and the alleged consequent violation of the principle of coalition, of the equality of the bourgeois and socialist elements in the government, with the resultant reflection on the authority of the Provisional Government. This was how the Central Committee of the Constitutional-Democratic party formulated the question.

The unfounded dissatisfaction of the Cadet ministers was of no particular significance and, under calmer and more normal conditions, the crisis would in all probability have been adjusted quickly and without trouble.

The crisis was not in itself important but the departure of the bourgeois ministers gave the Bolsheviki a convenient excuse for a new mutiny, under the slogan: "All power to the Soviets!"

On July sixteenth came grave news from Korniloff's army; the eighth army had been compelled to evacuate Kalusch under increasing pressure from the enemy. On the Western Front of General Denikin, whose army was now to take the offensive, the situation was likewise serious. It was absolutely imperative that I leave for the front and my departure had been set for the same day, July sixteenth.

Immediately, before my departure from the capital, motor lorries filled with unidentified armed men appeared in the streets of Petrograd. Some of these motor lorries were canvassing the barracks, calling upon the soldiers to join in the armed uprising already under way. Others scurried about the city looking for me. One of these bands broke through the gate of Premier Lvoff's office, on the ground floor of the Ministry of the Interior, almost immediately after I had left the place. And my train had hardly left for the front when another motor lorry rushed up to the station. The armed band carried a red flag with the inscription: "The first bullet for Kerensky."

On July seventeenth, while inspecting our front line positions in the company of General Denikin and representatives of the army committee, disquieting telegrams began to pour in upon me. The uprising in Petrograd was spreading. Some regiments were joining it openly. Others, of the better type, like the Preobrajensk, Somenovsk and Izmailovsk regiments, had proclaimed themselves "neutral" in the fight of the Bolsheviki against the Provisional Government. The government meetings were transferred to the building of the district military staff. The Tauride Palace, seat of the All-Russian Executive Committee of the Congress of Soviets and of the Executive Committee of the Petrograd Soviet, was surrounded by mutinous soldiers and red guards. These "class conscious proletarians" sought to lynch some of the leaders (Tseretelli, Chernoff and others) of the majority of the Soviets, which had refused to help in the transfer of all political power into the hands of the Soviets.

The tremendous significance of the enlistment in the Provisional Government of representatives of the socialist parties and the Soviet became particularly clear in these critical moments, for the socialist ministers and the leaders of the Soviet majority in general at the Tauride Palace were the ones who bore the main burden of the pressure of the soldiery and the proletarian riff-raff incited and infuriated by the Bolsheviki.

It was precisely in these critical hours of July seventeenth, that the process begun early in May reached its completion: between the Bolsheviki and the Russian democracy occurred the final, decisive break. The overwhelming majority of the Russian democracy emphatically repudiated the slogan, "All power to the Soviets!" This luring slogan became now only the tactical mask of the Bolsheviki in their fight for the dictatorship of their party.

The difficult and uncertain situation around the Tauride Palace was resolved by the appearance on the scene of government troops rushed to relieve the Soviet majority. On their way to the palace the government's Cossacks were suddenly fired upon, seven of them being killed and thirty wounded. These were the only victims of the government's "repressions." The mutinous mobs surrounding the Soviet dispersed at the first shot fired into the air by the government troops.

It is not difficult to imagine the effect produced at the front by the uprising in the capital. In reply to the telegrams pouring in upon me from Petrograd I demanded the immediate application of severest measures for suppression of the mutiny. I insisted upon the immediate arrest of all the Bolshevist leaders. But nothing came of my telegrams. I then decided to hasten back to Petrograd for a few days. En route, near Polotzk, my train barely escaped being wrecked, when it collided with a locomotive sent by some one in a direction towards my speeding train. Our engineer managed to reduce the speed of the train in time so that only the forward platform of my car was demolished.

At Polotzk I was met by Terestchenko, who came into my car and reported in detail the events in Petrograd on the last day of the Bolshevist uprising (July eighteenth). There was one development in all this, however, which, despite the positive, wholesome effect it had on the troops, was to both of us a real catastrophe.

Late in the evening, July seventeenth, Minister of Justice Pereverzeff released to the press that part of the material collected by the Provisional Government concerning the treason of Lenin, Zinovieff and other Bolsheviki which had already been placed in the hands of the prosecuting officials. On July eighteenth, this material was widely published in the newspapers, after being distributed during the night, in leaflet form, among the Guards regiments. The expose produced a shattering impression on the troops. The hesitant regiments immediately dropped their hesitation and came to the support of the government, while those supporting the Bolsheviki lost all their "revolutionary" ardor and energy. On July eighteenth, the uprising was quickly suppressed and Lenin's own citadel, the Ksheshinsky Palace, was occupied by government troops.

But we of the Provisional Government lost forever the possibility of establishing Lenin's treason in final form, supported by documentary evidence. For Fuerstenberg-Ganetsky, then approaching the Finnish frontier, where he was to have been arrested on his way to Petrograd, turned back to Stockholm. With him went back also the decisively incriminating document which we knew he had on his person. Immediately upon Pereverzeff's release to the press of the confidential data in his possession, on the eve of my return from the front, Lenin himself and Zinovieff likewise managed to escape from Petrograd into Finland.

In defense of the action of the Minister of Justice it can only be said that he did not know of the preparations for Ganetsky's arrest, which was to have sealed the fate of the Bolsheviki. But, even under the circumstances, the release for publication of material of such tremendous importance without the consent of the Provisional Government was quite unpardonable. After a very spirited conversation on this matter, Minister of Justice Pereverzeff was compelled to resign from the government. It is quite certain that all the later events of the summer of 1917 and Russian history, in general, would have taken quite a different course if Terestchenko had been able to conclude his difficult task of exposing Lenin and if, in consequence, it had been proved in court, by all the rules of evidence, that Lenin was committing the monstrous crime of treason.

At six o'clock in the evening, July nineteenth, I arrived from the front at Czarskoselsky railway station in Petrograd. Into my service car came my assistant at the War Ministry, General Polovtzoff, commander of the Petrograd military district and other officials. On receiving General Polovtzoff's report I immediately requested his resignation because of the confusion exhibited by him during the uprising and his failure to obey my demands for extreme measures against the traitors. (Urgent measures had finally been taken by Assistant War Minister Jakubovitch.)

From the station we went directly to the Staff Headquarters of the Petrograd military district, where the Provisional Government was in session, surrounded by bivouacs. On the way we were greeted with joyous cheers by multitudes of people.

We arrived at the staff building. The order for the arrest of the leaders of the uprising had not yet been given. Without going upstairs into the room where Prince Lvoff and other members of the government were, I immediately ordered the staff officers in authority to prepare a list of the Bolsheviki subject to arrest, to submit it to me for approval and to begin at once the search for and imprisonment of the leaders of the traitorous mutiny.

Then Terestchenko and I went upstairs to see Prince Lvoff. The publication in the press of the partial material concerning the treason of the Bolsheviki had created in the leading socialist circles of the Soviet quite a different impression than that provoked among the troops on the critical night of July sixteenth.

The absence, in the published material, of conclusive documentary proof of Lenin's treason and the publication of the data in newspapers hostile not only to the Bolsheviki but to the Soviets as well to the surprise of the socialist ministers who had had no knowledge as yet of the nature of the material and the extreme patriotic wrath aroused by the revelations among the population had greatly excited the Soviet leaders. This excitation was accentuated by the physical excesses committed by soldiers and officers against the Bolshevist traitors first to be taken into custody (such as Kozlowsky), and the appearance in the streets of volunteer bands of officers and military cadets in search of Bolsheviki. All this put the Soviet leaders on guard. In these militant excesses of injured patriotism they saw distant visions of some advancing "counterrevolution." An acute fit of fear seized the Soviet circles, which soon took on the form of a veritable panic.

The Bolsheviki themselves, in the Tauride Palace, naturally kept strict silence. But certain persons from the Left wing of the Social-Democratic and Socialist-Revolutionist parties, close to the Bolsheviki, immediately set up a tumultuous cry of "slander," saying that the "misled but honest" fighters were being slandered by counter-revolutionists hiding behind the Provisional Government and the district military staff. In consequence, the All-Russian Executive Committee of the Congress of Soviets passed a resolution declaring that the arrest of the Bolshevist leaders would be premature, pending investigation of the facts made public in the press. In other words, the Soviet leaders decided to prevent, if possible, the arrest of Lenin and his lieutenants. For this purpose a delegation had been dispatched to fhe government at Staff Headquarters. And, indeed, upon my entering Prince Lvoff's office, I found in the room a number of prominent members of the All-Russian Executive Committee of Soviets and of the Executive Committee of the Congress of Peasants, who were "maintaining contact" with the government in an effort to, prevent the arrests in question.

I said nothing concerning the order I had just given below, knowing that, in view of the attitude of staff officers, the necessary arrests would be made as quickly as possible. The rest did not interest me then and I was ready to assume all the consequences of my move. In the event of an open conflict between the government and the Soviet representatives on the question of the arrests, we would have had the support not only of the army at the front but also of the entire revolutionary garrison in the capital itself. Of this there could be no doubt.

During our conversation I managed to inform Prince Lvoff quickly of the preparations for the arrests and, of course, received his full approval. Among those ordered arrested as traitors were Lenin, Zinovieff, Kozlowsky, Mme. Sumenson, Fuerstenberg-Ganetsky, the German citizen Helfandt (Parvus), Alexandra Kollontay and the military leaders of the uprising, Lieutenant Ilyin (Raskonlinkoff), Roschal and Sub-Lieutenant Semashko. All these persons were arrested, with the exception of Lenin and Zinovieff, who, as I have already said, had fled into hiding after the publication of the incriminating material, and of Parvus and Ganetsky, who were outside of Russia. In a few days Trotsky and Lunacharsky were also arrested.

At midnight I received the first telegram from the Southwestern Front telling of the break by the Germans through our line at Zlotcheff, in the direction of Tarnopol. With the telegram in my hands I returned to the room where the Provisional Government was meeting. The representatives of the Soviet were also present. Controlling myself with difficulty I read aloud the entire telegram and turning to the Soviet delegates, I asked them: "I trust that now you will no longer object to the arrests?"

There was no reply.

But the silence was more eloquent than any possible answer. All of them now realized quite clearly the connection between the blow at the front and the attempt at an explosion in the interior of the country.

Several days later, on my inspection of our front lines at Molodchno, on the eve of the offensive of General Denikin's army, occurred the following unsavory incident. Passing a line of trenches we noticed a small group of soldiers, huddled together in a corner, busily engaged in reading something. On observing our approach the soldier who had in his hands some kind of a leaflet hastily sought to hide it. One of my adjutants managed, however, to spring forward in time and seize the mysterious leaflet. It was a copy of the Tovaristch,[3*] dated two weeks before the Bolshevist uprising in Petrograd, but which the paper in our hands reported as an already accomplished fact. Of course, the article reporting the uprising contained no details but told how the proletariat and garrison of Petrograd, indignant at the "unnecessary blood-shedding" by Kerensky and Brusiloff at the front, had risen against the Provisional Government, and of the enthusiasm and sympathy which the uprising had provoked in Moscow and other Russian cities.

Running somewhat ahead in my narrative I may say here that the same thing happened at the beginning of November. From Stockholm we received copies of proclamations telling of the Bolshevist uprising in Petrograd about ten days before it had actually begun.




[1*]At the beginning of November, on the very eve of the Bolshevist coup d'état, Lenin repeated in the Pravda his statement of April seventeenth.

[2*] Because of lack of space I have excluded from this book the story of the separatist movement in the Ukraine and the struggle of the Provisional Government against it, as well as the general question of national minorities and other basic problems of the Revolution, as they appeared in 1917.—A. K.

[3*] TovaristchComrade—was one of the publications issued by the German command on the Russian Front for distribution in the Russian trenches. It was printed in Vilna, occupied by the Germans in 1915.


Last updated on: 2.17.2008