Final Phase of the Struggle That Brought the Bolsheviki Into Power.
A. F. KERENSKYOctober11922
Kerensky’s Last Stand
Final Phase of the Struggle That Brought the Bolsheviki Into Power.
A. F. KERENSKY
THE details of the last act in the struggle of the Provisional Russian Government with the Bolsheviki in October 1917 are told by Kerensky himself in the Sovremennyia Zapiski, a Russian paper, printed in Paris.
It appears from this that the fall of Kerensky’s government was due to the action of the monarchist reactionary party in Russia who stood aside and allowed the Bolsheviki to get the upper hand anticipating that it would afterwards be a simple matter to overcome the Bolsheviki. How far they miscalculated subsequent events have proved. We quote part of Kerensky's story from a translation in the Living Age : —
“There was an indubitable connection between the Bolshevist uprising and the attempt of the reactionaries to depose the Revolutionary Government.
“After General Kornilov’s attempt to overthrow the existing Government by an armed revolt,—an attempt that proved equally unhappy for the plotters and for the State,—the men who supported military reaction decided not to assist the authorities if they came into conflict with the Bolsheviki. They planned to let the Bolsheviki get the upper hand, and then quickly to suppress them. The military and civil strategists responsible for this plan believed firmly that the Bolsheviki were not a serious danger, and that in three or four weeks the sensible people of the country would deal sternly with the unruly mob they represented and set up ‘a strong Government.’ Unhappily they were only too successful in the first part of their plan, of letting the Bolsheviki overthrow the Provisional Government; but they failed utterly in the second part, of crushing the Bolsheviki after the latter seized power.
“About October 20 the Bolsheviki began to put into effect their plan of an armed uprising to overthrow the Provisional Government for the sake of ‘peace, bread, and an immediate election of a Constituent Assembly.’.... I ordered troops from the front to Petrograd, the first detachments of which should have reached the capital on October 24. At the same time, I directed Colonel Polkovnikov, commander of the troops in the Petrograd district, to work out a plan for suppressing the uprising. . . Each morning he reported to me and stated that he had ‘sufficient’ troops to crush it when it occurred.
“The members of the Governmet learned too late that Polkovnikov and part of his staff were playing a double game, and belonged to that group of army officers who planned to overthrow the Provisional Government by means of the Bolsheviki. I felt that Colonel Polkovnikov behaved strangely and ambiguously .... It was quite clear to me that his reports for the last ten or twelve days regarding the morale of the troops and their readiness to fight the Bolsheviki were without foundation....
“There remained only one thing for me to do—to meet as soon as possible the reinforcements at Gatchina and to push on with them to Petrograd despite all difficulties. I decided to break through the guard the Bolsheviki had drawn up and to meet in person the oncoming reinforcements.
“We reached Gatchina without any mishap and hastened to the commander of the palace... Here we learned to our consternation that there were no reinforcements and that nobody had heard of them. We decided to dash on to Luga, and if need be to Pskov.
“It is hardly worth while to describe our mad rush as far as Pskov in search of the vanished reinforcements.... In Pskov we learned that, the Bolshevist WarRevolutionary Committee was already in control there, and had received from Petrograd an order for my arrest. In addition, we learned something worse: namely, that General Cheremisov, Commander-in-Chief, was making overtures to the Revolutionary Committee, and that he would not send troops to Petrograd, holding such an expedition to be useless, even harmful.
“Late at night we arrived at Ostrov. . .
A march upon Petrograd was ordered. We did not know then that the Government, to the assistance of which we were hastening, was already in the hands of the Bolsheviki, and that the Ministers themselves were imprisoned in the fortress of Peter and Paul.. . .
“On the twenty-seventh we neared Gatchina, which was already officially in the hands of the Bolsheviki. . and we decided to attack their superior forces at once. . . We had complete success, with no losses. The Bolshevist troops fled, leaving behind their ammunition.....
“From Gatchina we attacked TsarskoeSelo.
“I returned to Gatchina, hoping to find fresh troops there; but instead of troops I found telegrams, informing us of approaching reinforcements. About fifty trains filled with troops from various points were moving toward Gatchina. But they were too late, for the battle between our troops and the Bolsheviki troops was already in progress at Pulkovo. It ended in our favor, but we were unable to pursue the defeated enemy. General Krasnov ordered a retreat to Gatchina. Perhaps from a military point of view this step was correct, at least reasonable. But under the constantly shifting and wavering political conditions of that period, it caused the disintegration of the Government forces—it was the beginning of the
“The night of October 1 was at hand. There was no news from Petrograd. The long, obscure, gloomy halls of the Paul Palace were crowded with agitated, malignant men. In that atmosphere, poisoned by fear, monstrous, impossible rumours multiplied. Everywhere one heard whispers: if the Cossacks surrender Kerensky they will be left free to go back to their native Don country. At dawn, having destroyed all my papers and letters that I could not leave in strange hands, I lay down upon the bed and slumbered. A single hope remained: would reinforcements come?
“About ten o’clock in the morning I was awakened. Cossack delegates sent to negotiate with the Bolshevist sailors had returned with the latter’s demand that they surrender Kerensky unconditionally—and the Cossacks were ready to accept....
“What now? It was impossible to leave the palace.
“Time was passing. We waited. Below haggling was going on. Suddenly a pale and agitated soldier hurried to us with the news that the deal was closed. The Cossacks had bought their freedom—the right to go home with their arms—and for only a single life! The enemies of yesterday’s battle had in a friendly way elected a mixed commission to arrest me and turn me over to the Bolsheviki. Any minute the sailors and Cossacks might break.
“The agreement between the sailors and Cossacks, it seemed, had sealed my fate. But—a true miracle happened!
“I left the palace ten minutes before the traitors broke into my rooms. One minute before I left I did not know that I could go. Dressed absurdly, I passed under the noses of my enemies and the traitors. I was still unconcernedly walking the streets of Gatchina while the search for me was in progress; I walked with those who saved me, whom I never knew before, whom I saw now for the first time in my life. During those few minutes these people showed incomparable bravery, devotion, and self-sacrifice. When I was speeding away from Gatchina in a car, toward it were rushing trains with reinforcements for us. What jokes fate plays!
“This brilliantly concluded the first move of the cleverly conceived strategy of the ‘patriotic’ reactionary element. The Provisional Government was overthrown by the Bolsheviki and its hated head disposed of. It remained for them to fulfill the second part—to settle with the Bolsheviki and to set up a sound, national, and above all a ‘strong’ Government. This was to take three weeks: but these three weeks proved to be eternal!’’
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