Kronstadt and Petrograd in 1917: the memoirs of Fyodor Raskolnikov

By June 1917 Kronstadt had been firmly mastered by our Party. True, we did not have a majority even in the Soviet there, but the actual influence of the Bolsheviks was, in essentials, unlimited.

The May conflict with the Provisional Government had been outlived without any damage to our Party’s dignity. On the contrary, indeed, our successful struggle against Prince Lvov’s Government, behind which stood the Menshevik-and-SR-dominated Petrograd Soviet, had won us the sympathy of the majority of the non-Party Kronstadters.

As a result of the crisis to which was attached that famous name of ‘The Republic of Kronstadt’, the Cadet Pepelyayev was removed from the post of Government Commissar and replaced by the colourless teacher Parchevsky, who was chosen by us and whom the Kronstadt Soviet at once got under its thumb. In this way the moral and political influence of the Kronstadt Soviet was transformed into real power as the actual master of the situation. From that moment on, that is, long before the October Revolution, all power in Kronstadt was de facto in the hands of the local Soviet – in other words, was held by our Party, which actually guided the Soviet’s current activity. The favourable ‘internal’ situation obliged us to concern ourselves more seriously with ‘external policy’. In particular, we were obliged to pay attention to the Baltic Active Fleet, which constituted essentially a single entity with Kronstadt. Bolshevik sailors came to see us again and again from Reval and Helsingfors, to keep up communication, and they all complained about the oppressive dominance of the SRs in those bases.

Our political enemies strove with all their might to cause antagonism between Bolshevik Kronstadt and the Active Fleet, which at that time had still not emerged from under the influence of ‘compromiser’ sentiments.

The big incident with the Provisional Government, greatly inflated and presented to a credulous public as signifying the formation of an ‘independent Republic of Kronstadt’, added more fuel to the fire. There was no Menshevik or SR agitator or journalist who did not try to make political capital out of it. In the Baltic Fleet the compromiser phrasemongers did not spare their tongues, shouting in all directions about the ‘separatism’ of the Kronstadt Bolsheviks and the Kronstadt Republic, which was supposed to have broken away from the rest of Russia. This injurious lie was spread around by every means among the crews on ship and shore alike with the obvious aim of creating hostility towards us.

We decided to hamstring this slanderous activity of the social-compromisers and inform sailor masses of the Baltic Fleet of the true position at Kronstadt and also at the same time, in the process of acquainting them with the platform of the Kronstadt Soviet, to use this question as the starting point for an extension of our Party’s influence in Helsingfors, Abo and Reval.

With this in view, the Bolshevik fraction in the Kronstadt Soviet adopted, at the morning session of June 6, [1] a proposal by me to send a special delegation to all the principal bases of the Baltic Fleet.

During the interval between the meeting of the fraction and that of the Soviet plenum I telephoned the editorial office of Pravda and getting connected to llyich, told him that the fraction was putting me forward as a candidate for an agitational tour which was likely to last about ten days. I asked for his permission to be absent from Kronstadt for that period. llyich replied that if l guaranteed that the work would not suffer from my absence and if the other comrades undertook to look after my share of responsibility for it, he would have no objection.

Comrade Lenin’s approval pleased me, because the tour seemed both very important and very attractive. The Kronstadt Soviet endorsed the idea of sending a delegation and unanimously approved the personnel for it as nominated by the fractions.

The delegation was to consist of nine persons, of whom three were Bolsheviks, three SRs, two non-party and one Menshevik. However, the non-party men offered their places to the SRs and Mensheviks. This meant that the following were chosen as members of the delegation: for the Menshevik-Internationalists the workers Alnichenkov and Shchukin, from the steamship works; for the SR-Internationalists (in other words ‘Left-SRs’) the paramedic volunteer Baranov, the worker Pyshkin, the worker Leshchov and the diver Izmailov; for the Bolsheviks, the sailors Kolbin and Semyonov and me.

Comrade Roshal also felt a strong desire to go on this tempting tour, but the fraction considered it absolutely necessary that one of us two must stay at home. There was nothing to be done: Semyon had to submit.

I handed over my Party responsibilities to him, and for the running of the paper Golos Pravdy I urgently fetched from Petersburg my brother A.F. llyin-Zhenevsky, who had just arrived there from Helsingfors, where he had obtained some experience as a journalist, editing Volna (The Wave), the organ of the Helsingfors Committee.

We assembled quickly and left Kronstadt next day, June 7. That same evening the Finland-line passenger train took us out of Petrograd. We decided to make our first stop at Vyborg. At midnight we stepped from the train, clutching our travelling bags, on to the platform of Vyborg station and made our way through the deserted, dead-seeming streets of the ancient town [2] in order to find shelter till the morning. After protracted and fruitless visiting of all sorts of hotels we became convinced that there were no vacancies to be found anywhere. Our last call at some shabby boarding-house deprived us of all desire to stay at any institution of that sort. We were given a choice of two rooms at the inordinate price of 20 or 12 marks for the night. Such a sum was beyond the means of us all, even if we were to pool our funds.

After an unsuccessful attempt to lie down and rest on the benches in one of the boulevards and by now feeling weak from lack of sleep, we called, in a state of exhaustion, at the first artillery depot we came to, and there the soldier comrades cordially gave us refuge among the numerous empty bunks. It was a rather dirty place to spend the night, but it was in any case the best they could offer. Worn out by our restless night, we fell asleep without noticing it on the hard wooden planks. When morning came I went to the local Party committee. To my indescribable joy I met there an old comrade whom I had known in Petrograd in the days of illegality, I.A. Akulov. Ivan greeted me very heartily and we embraced and kissed like old friends. I also met there Comrade Melnichansky, who had returned not long before from emigration in America. Akulov and Melnichansky were the most outstanding Leaders of our organisations in Vyborg in that difficult period of the ‘Kerenskiad’.

From the Party committee I proceeded, picking up on the way the rest of my comrades, from the hospitable barracks, to the premises of the Vyborg Soviet. What struck me there was the quiet that reigned. Despite the fact that it was already 10am., there was not a soul in the Soviet building. This seemed to us extremely odd, used as we were to the situation in our Kronstadt Soviet, where life was on the boil from early morning, with the Executive Committee members up to their necks in work and everywhere people preoccupied with their duties bustling around – and now, suddenly, this glaring contrast. Instead of a ferment of activity, deathly hush, and instead of workers busy at their tasks, absolutely nobody about.

We needed to see some member of the Presidium, but a great deal of time had to be lost in waiting before, at last, the deputy chairman of the Vyborg Soviet, the SR Fyodorov, showed himself. He was an elderly, corpulent, dark-haired man, with a broad black beard and wearing the uniform of an ensign in the army. From my first sight of him he seemed very familiar. I began to recall where and under what circumstances I had had occasion to meet him before, and great was my astonishment when as I studied his features I suddenly recognised in them the responsible editor of the pogromist anti-Semitic paper Zemshchina (The Populace). I remembered that in 1911-12 I had encountered this gentleman quite frequently at the printing works of the ‘Associated Press’ company, in lvanovskaya Street. This printing works, which belonged to Berezin, was a huge capitalistically-managed enterprise where a whole number of journals and newspapers were printed, including our Bolshevik Zvezda (The Star) and the notorious Black-Hundred Zemshchina.

“Zvezda and Zemshchina are rocked in the same cradle,” was sometimes said jokingly by our proof-reader and responsible editor (later a member of the editorial staff of Pravda), S.S. Danilov (also known as Demyanov, Dimitri Yanov, Cheslav Gursky, etc.).

Fyodorov was then the responsible editor of Zemshchina, saw to the making up of this pogrom-sheet, received reports of events during the night and checked late-arriving articles. He established ‘diplomatic’ relations with us, that is, he sometimes came to the threshold of our room and asked for a light from one or other of our comrades who smoked. Despite this acquaintanceship, we looked on him as a Black Hundredist and treated him with squeamishness. He had frequently contributed articles to Zemshchina on current topics, signing the with his full name: now he had the incredible cynicism to put that same signature to articles in the Vyborg Soldiers’ Herald which he was editing. This paper, under such an editor, was fact, of course, not a ‘soldiers’ herald’ at all, but an unbridled counter-revolutionary sheet. In the crude, vulgar style of Zemshchina, alien to every literary quality, a most disgraceful campaign was waged in it against Comrade Lenin and all the Bolsheviks and Zimmerwaldites.

This former pogromist and monarchist had succeeded as well in getting trusted that, at the regional congress of Soviets Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, he had wormed himself under the flag of the SR Party, into the position of deputy chairman of congress. He had managed this by means of deception, assiduously concealing his dark past and inspiring approval by his ability to talk fluently, amusing the audience with all sorts of jokes and facetious remarks.

I did not fail, of course, to pass on this information to Comrade Akulov. He at once convened an emergency meeting of the Executive Committee, at which we exposed Fyodorov’s murky background. My communication produced the effect of an exploding bomb. At first they were unwilling to believe it. Then gradually doubt began to spread, and eventually this was followed by general indignation. Especially furious at the way a filthy intriguer had penetrated the Presidium of the Soviet was the Menshevik Dimant, by profession an army medical officer.

Unfortunately, Fyodorov was not present at this meeting. It would have been interesting to observe his embarrassment when the mask he had artfully assumed was torn off. The decision taken was to submit the question of Fyodorov to the strictest investigation. The Bolsheviks applauded triumphantly. Akulov walked about as happy as if it was his name day. He was already visualising how this scandalous incident would be exploited by our Party, and rubbing his hands with satisfaction. But then fear crept into his heart, fear that I might have made a mistake. “But tell me, Fedya, are you sure it really is him?” Comrade Akulov asked me. “You know, he had a lot of influence here.”

Of course I was absolutely sure. As I learnt later, Fyodorov admitted that he had worked on Zemshchina, but tried to justify himself by saying that he had performed merely technical functions. This was of course a lie, because no one is ever made responsible editor who does not enjoy the political confidence of the editorial board. The very nature of the work always goes beyond mere technical functions. This is not the sort of work that a typesetter or a maker-up does. The members of the Vyborg Executive Committee thanked me warmly for exposing Fyodorov. When after that we gave them a report on the events at Kronstadt, it made a good impression on them. “May God grant that something like that happens here!” exclaimed Dimant, sincerely moved by the report.

At that time the Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies of the town of Vyborg consisted of 163 persons, of whom 62 were SRs, 21 Bolsheviks, 17 Mensheviks, and the rest non-party.

The Executive Committee had 16 members, of whom eight were SRs, four Mensheviks, two Bolsheviks and two non-party. There were some internationalists among the SRs, but the overwhelming majority both of the SRs and of the Mensheviks consisted of frantic defencists.

The Soviet was made up predominantly of soldiers, with workers numbering only eleven or twelve. This was due to the fact that the majority of the workers in Vyborg were Finns who at that time manifested a high degree of absenteeism where the local Soviet was concerned. The small number of Russian workers in Vyborg elected Bolsheviks and SRs. The Russian working women unfortunately showed little interest in the Soviet.

This Soviet had developed out of the garrison soldiers’ committee, which came into being during the night of March 3-4 and consisted at first of three men. The committee was soon strengthened by delegates from army units. Eventually, on March 8, elections were held on a proper basis. Units numbering between 50 and 100 men were represented by one delegate, those with more than 100 by two delegates, and so on. Every subsequent 50 men had the right to elect one deputy. I went from the Soviet straight to one of the regiments, where Comrade Melnichansky was holding a meeting. The news that the Vyborg Soviet had been headed by a former pogromist and anti-Semite, if not a member of the Union of the Russian People, angered the soldiers very much. Many of them leapt to their feet. Clenched fists flashed in the air. Cries were heard for an immediate lynching.

Comrade Melnichansky and I managed with difficulty to calm the audience by saying that vigorous measures had already been taken against Fyodorov. Apparently, it was this very regiment that had elected him to the Soviet and so what we encountered was the justified feeling of bitter anger on the part of the soldier masses, against the deputy who had deceived them, deliberately hiding the black secret of his past. Comrades Melnichansky and Akulov were pleased with the results of the brief visit of the Kronstadt delegation, and especially with the elimination of Fyodorov from the field of battle, as a political opponent. They foresaw that this exposure of one of the leaders of the Vyborg SRs would discredit the SR organisation as a whole in the eyes of the masses. By and large, our delegation managed to speak to all the army units that were stationed at Vyborg at that time.

We were received with enthusiasm everywhere. The masses were considerably further to the Left than their compromiser Soviet and the soldiers listened to our reports with fervent interest. It was clear that they knew about Kronstadt only through rumours.

The 1st Vyborg Regiment passed the following resolution: “We, soldiers of the 1st Vyborg Infantry Regiment, having assembled at a meeting on June 8 and heard the report of the representatives of the Kronstadt Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, declare that we consider the decision of the Kronstadt Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies to be correct, and so we express confidence in Kronstadt and promise to support it in all revolutionary actions taken to defend the working masses; we send it our warm greeting; and we call upon the bourgeois press to cease its filthy slandering of Kronstadt.”

At the 2nd Vyborg Infantry Regiment Ensign Baryshnikov, deeply moved, thanked us for our visit, and added: “But we didn’t know what the real truth was about Kronstadt. Only now do we see that the Kronstadters are making fast what we have gained, that the Kronstadters stand behind the people.’ The next stop on our journey after Vyborg was Helsingfors. The chairman of the Vyborg Executive Committee, Ensign Yelizarov, arranged on his own initiative for us to be given a special second-class carriage. The leaders of the Vyborg Bolsheviks saw us off at the station. We left Vyborg on the evening of June 8 and arrived at Helsingfors early next morning.

From the train we walked straight to the Mariinsky Palace where the Helsingfors Soviet was now established. It was my first visit to the capital of Finland and it struck me as being a completely European city. Without any trouble we found on the Esplanade the big building of the Mariinsky Palace. The sentry at the entrance was unwilling to let us in without special passes, but the magic word ‘delegation’ opened the door for us.

We were at once received in his office by the deputy chairman of the Helsingfors Soviet, the sailor A.F. Sakman, [3] who later joined the Communists but was at this time not yet in our ranks.

After a short conversation in which we merely exchanged information, we took our leave of him.

In one of the rooms of the Mariinsky Palace I came upon L.N. Stark, who was at that time editor of our paper Volna.

Comrade Stark was interested in the episode of the exposure of Fyodorov, and at once asked me to write a note about it for the next issue of Volna: this I did and it appeared the following day. From the Palace we walked to the very end of Mariinskaya Street, where the Helsingfors Party Committee had its premises at that time. In the first room we entered, a rather large one which served as both dining-room and sleeping quarters, we found great disorder. On the dining-table in the middle of the room lay the remains, not yet cleared away, of the previous night’s supper. As it was early in the morning we caught some of the comrades still in bed. I greeted M. Roshal where he lay, and was introduced to Comrade Volynsky, who was also involved in work on Volna at this time. In the next room, which was smaller, V.A. Antonov-Ovseyenko was sitting at a desk and writing. He had returned from abroad not long before and was working in the Helsingfors organisation. He played a leading part in the production of Volna and being, unlike Stark, not only a Party writer but also an orator he spoke at meetings both on the ships and in Senate Square.

The comrades we had caught in bed immediately got dressed and we were soon sitting in a friendly group on the benches beside the long table, drinking tea. Our comradely talk proceeded at a brisk pace and within about an hour we had put our comrades in the picture about the state of affairs at Kronstadt and had learnt, in outline, what the political situation was in Helsingfors.

Generally speaking, SR domination prevailed there, being felt even on the ships. Only Respublika and Petropavlovsk had the reputation of being citadels of Bolshevism. On Respublika Bolshevism reigned absolutely, to the extent that the whole ship’s committee was entirely under the influence of our Party comrades, whereas on Petropavlovsk, alongside the Bolshevik tendency, which had gained the support of the majority, an Anarchist spirit was also markedly evident. Most backward of all was the Destroyer Division, in which political work was carried on very feebly and the not very numerous personnel were under the strong, even perhaps exclusive, influence of their officers.

These SR-minded vessels were represented in the Helsingfors Soviet mostly by SRs who had joined that party in March. The Right-SRs had at that time a majority both in the Soviet and in its Executive Committee. But the chairmanship of the Executive Committee was still held by S.A. Garin (Garfield), who had been elected to this post in the first days of the February-March revolution and who worked under our Party’s flag. By profession he was a writer, the author of a play, Moryaki (The Sailors), which had caused a sensation in its time and he had been mobilised from the reserve when the war came as an Admiralty Ensign. At this time he held a good anti-defencist position.

After visiting the Party Committee we called on ‘Tsentrobalt’. [4] This had its headquarters on a ship moored by the sea wall. Here we met the member on duty, Comrade Vanyushin, who at once led us to a large cabin on the top deck, where a session of Tsentrobalt was actually taking place. When we entered, Comrade P.E. Dybenko rose to welcome us and firmly shook our hands. His whole appearance, starting with his big body, the very picture of health, and ending with his characterful, expressive face, compelled attention. He was broad-shouldered and very tall. In complete proportion with his heroic build, he possessed massive arms and legs, which looked as though they had been cast from iron. The impression he made was strengthened by his large head, his swarthy face with big, deep-cut features, his thick and wavy raven hair, and his curly beard and moustaches. His gleaming dark eyes burned with energy and enthusiasm, showing exceptional strength of will. His open Russian face had nothing Ukrainian in it, except that sometimes one noticed that sly, mocking expression of the eyes which is characteristic of some Ukrainian peasants.

We introduced ourselves, and Comrade Dybenko promised, in the name of Tsentrobalt, to give us all the help we needed. We then went on to a meeting of the regional committee of the Soviets of Finland, because our task was not confined to agitation among the masses – we had also to win over the local Soviets.

It was especially important for us to gain the sympathy of the major regional Soviets which were based on real armed strength and were situated geographically close to Petrograd. Our eyes were not closed to the fact that Kronstadt’s active enemies were not only the Provisional Government but also the Menshevik-SR defencist Petrograd Soviet which supported the coalition in power. In view of this, we had to find backing in the provincial Soviets, to secure moral and political support among them and to show all worker-and-peasant Russia that in its fight against the strangling of the revolution Kronstadt was not alone.

We knew that the personnel of these provincial Soviets, and likewise of their Executive Committees, consisted not only of double-dyed political intriguers from the parties hostile to us, but also of honest non-party people who had not yet managed to get their bearings amid the countless mass of political platforms with which they had been swamped since the February Revolution, and of persons who had accidentally attached themselves at the very beginning of the revolution to one or another of the non-Bolshevik parties.

We endeavoured to emancipate all these elements from the yoke of Menshevik-SR influence. We knew that members of the local soviets in the provinces with whom we had made contact possessed only one-sided information about Kronstadt. We wanted to let them hear the other side, to learn the views of the Kronstadt revolutionaries and understand the argument which had guided the Kronstadt Soviet in its recent conflict with the Provisional Government.

At the meeting of the regional committee we at once felt that we were not among friends. The overwhelming majority of the Helsingfors Executive Committee consisted of representative of parties hostile to us. There spoke against us with particular fervour an Ensign named Kuznetsov, who belonged to the SRs and a bearded sailor, getting on in years, who was also of that party. In reply to him one of the Left-SRs from Kronstadt vigorously took up arms. He exclaimed, with spirit: “Comrades what sort of SRs are these? They are March SRs. They are no SRs but ignorant fellows.” It was amusing to observe, from the side, how fiercely the Left-SRs took it out of their own party comrades. However, while waging a war of words, they nevertheless in practice remained members of one and the same party, took part in common conferences, and stubbornly declined to break that link. This meeting brought us absolutely no gains. After a hot battle, the regional committee passed a resolution to hold another meeting where a final decision would be taken. In spite of the fact that individual members of the committee openly showed some interest and even tried to study the documents we had brought with us, it was obvious that the committee as a whole was only trying to gain time, to protract and postpone its final decision, and possibly even to avoid taking any decision at all. The members of the committee really were in an awkward, equivocal position. On the one hand, it was not convenient for them to declare against the Kronstadters, knowing as they did that the immense majority of the ships’ crews were on our side: an open attack on us would, given these conditions, prove to be all too real a symptom of the remoteness of the regional committee from the masses whose interests it was supposed to representrepresent. On the other hand, though, from party considerations, the Menshevik-SR committee could not cease being itself and suddenly, for no apparent reason, render us support by recognising the correctness of our policy. Consequently, the committee sought to drag out all this business for as long as possible.

After the meeting, in the Soviet’s canteen, which was right there in the Mariinsky Palace, I met the Chairman of the Helsingfors Soviet, S.A. Garin, who had not been present at the committee meeting. When I told him about all the vicissitudes of the meeting which had just concluded, I asked him for his opinion. He expressed the view that the ‘marsh’ would in all probability reject us and in any case would not declare in our favour.

So as not to lose precious time, we spent that evening in an agitational tour of the ships. Again, as at Vyborg, we split into two groups, one going to the infantry regiment – the 509th Gzhatsky and the 428th Lodeinopolsky – while the other, led by me, went to the battleships.

To begin with we visited the first subdivision of the battleships, which included Petropavlovsk, Gangut, Poltava and Sevastopol. A steam launch quickly carried us to the deck of one of these ironclad giants, on whose broad stern was painted, in the Old-Slavonic script the name Sevastopol. This vessel had been regarded until recently as one of the most backward. It was Sevastopol that had passed the notorious resolution for all-round support for ‘war to the end’ and full confidence in the Provisional Government. “There are very few Bolsheviks among us,” we were told, not without a malicious smile and with unconcealed pleasure, by a Sevastopol Lieutenant who accompanied us in the launch to his ship. Naturally, it was not without some perturbation that we went aboard Sevastopol. “How will this defencist-minded crew receive us?” was the thought in everyone’s mind.

Here, on the deck, under the open sky and beneath the grimly-protruding muzzles of 12-inch guns, we held our first improvised meeting, with all the officers of the wardroom plainly showing their disapproval. From the very first words of our report, the sailors’ unanimous attention and clearly expressed sympathy showed us that we had an audience of friends. We and the crowd of 1,500 men, the crew of this battleship were linked by strong bonds of mutual understanding and undivided like-mindedness. We exposed the bourgeois slander which had poured floods of filth upon revolutionary Kronstadt because of its burning enthusiasm for the ideas of Bolshevism. With fraternal sympathy, with glowing eyes and with mouth half-open in intense concentration, the sailors of Helsingfors listened to every word spoken by their comrades from Kronstadt. We felt that our speeches were dispersing their doubt and, as it were, removing from their eyes the futile scale formed by the lies of Menshevik-SR demagogy and the calumnies of the yellow press. The officers, who stood out among the sailors’ blouses in their snow-white jackets, paid close attention to what we said.

This attention grew still stronger when we spoke about the fate of the officers who had been arrested at Kronstadt. But their faces showed that they did not believe what we were saying about the mild prison regime, whereas the sailors were quite satisfied by the explanations we gave.

At that time there was scarcely a single sailor in the Baltic Fleet who was not interested in the affairs of Kronstadt. Consequently, our improvised meeting on Sevastopol attracted almost the entire crew. Meetings had not yet palled in those days, and so were marked by exceptionally large attendances.

While we had chosen as the immediate subject of our speeches a review of the events at Kronstadt, we linked these events very closely with the overall political situation, and criticised severely the entire activity of the Provisional Government and of the parties that supported it. In this way we made real Bolshevik propaganda and to our great satisfaction this was unquestionably successful. The Bolshevik slogan which ran through our reports met with enthusiastic approval from Sevastopol’s crew. It was strange and incomprehensible how could a ship where the feeling was so splendid have passed, not long before, a resolution that had delighted all the bourgeois? After we had spoken a member of the regional committee, a sailor named Antonov, addressed the crew to say that they ought to give a clear and definite answer to the questions: “What was their attitude to the Provisional Government? Would they follow the example of the Kronstadters in refusing confidence to the Provisional Government, or would they keep to the standpoint of their recently adopted resolution?”

The social-chauvinist Antonov failed miserably. The only response his speech got was some feeble applause from a small handful of his henchmen.

After Antonov another sailor spoke and on behalf of all the crew thanked us for our visit and asked us to tell the Kronstadters that the crew of Sevastopol was marching with them and would always be ready to support them. To loud and prolonged cheering the delegation from Kronstadt put off from the dreadnought in a light launch.

The comrades who had visited the army units had also encountered unusual sympathy. In one infantry regiment, after the Kronstadters had made their report, the regimental commander, Captain Frank, famous for kissing Kerensky and presenting him with crosses and medals, said that there was only one thing he disliked about the proceedings at Kronstadt, namely, that we sent to the front everyone who was caught drunk.

“After all, is the front a dump, a cesspit,” the zealous Captain exclaimed, with feeling, “that you should send the dregs of society there, as a punishment?”

A Kronstadt delegate who spoke after him hastened to explain that drunkards were sent to the front not as a punishment but in order that “heroes of the rear” might feel on their own skins all the harshness of life in the trenches and get it into their heads that this was no time for indulgence in excesses.

This explanation was received enthusiastically by the mass of the soldiers. Captain Frank became the object of sharp cries and even direct threats. Many soldiers demanded that he be arrested. Our Kronstadters had to speak in the captain’s defence, asking that he be left at liberty and Captain Frank was not arrested.

Next day the entire delegation made a tour of the remaining battleships. Everywhere we met with a joyful reception. The majority of the crews, wholly sympathetic to Kronstadt, expressed readiness to support it in all revolutionary actions and saw us off with even greater enthusiasm. An entire crew, covering the top deck, cheered us for a long time, waving their caps.

On Poltava, as our launch was about to leave, we were asked to wait a few minutes, and when we eventually put off, a band struck up. The comrades on Poltava had specially rounded up the ship’s band to play as we left. The heartiest reception was given us on Petropavlovsk. Among other things, it was here that intense hatred between the officers and the crew was particularly noticeable.

On Petropavlovsk we encountered a delegate from the front, a certain Second Lieutenant. We let him speak first, as we wanted to put ourselves in the most favourable position, expecting as we did a ‘patriotic’ speech from him such as was usual at that time, and getting ready for a sharp polemic with him. To our surprise, however, this Second Lieutenant turned out to be a Bolshevik. He spoke no less sharply than we did against the war, harshly criticised the Provisional Government, and vigorously demanded that power be handed over to the Soviets. At the end of the meeting the sailors, delighted to meet officers who were Bolsheviks, such as they evidently had not had the pleasure of meeting on their own vessel, made speeches of welcome and even carried shoulder-high their co-thinkers from the commanding personnel.

We liked the Second Lieutenant so much that we took him with us when we visited Respublilka (the former Pavel I). Already in the first days of the February Revolution Respublilka had won a firm reputation throughout the Baltic Fleet and even beyond, as a floating citadel of Bolshevism, a steadfast bulwark of our Party.

Naturally, we at once felt at home there. After mounting to the bridge, which had been transformed into a tribune for speakers, we first of all emphasised that it was with particular pleasure that we had come aboard this ship, since Respublika had more than once delighted us with the splendid, firm resolutions adopted by her crew. As we discovered, our Party group on Respublika had grown to an unusually large size – six hundred men.

From there we proceeded to the battleship Andrei Pervozvanny. When we arrived they had just received a wireless message from the First All-Russia Congress of Soviets which was then being held, aimed exclusively against the Bolsheviks. This somewhat damped the ardour of the crew where we were concerned. But Comrade Kolbin then spoke about this appeal “to all”, dissipated the bad impression it had created and restored the general morale.

The next stage in our journey was to be the battleship Slava. It has only just returned from action off Oesel Island. [5] Without losing a moment we took our seats in a steam launch and in a few minutes made fast to the armoured side of Slava. As a general rule we went first to the ship’s committee in order to tell them we were going to call a general meeting. On this ship, however, the procedure was somewhat strange. We were told to apply for permission for our meeting to the captain of the ship, whose name was Antonov. This delicate diplomatic function was entrusted by the Kronstadt comrades to me.

When I entered the captain’s cabin I found him sitting there – an officer of middling height, with greyish hair, who wore a St Vladimir’s Cross, 4th class, on the left breast of his jacket. “What can I do for you?” Antonov asked, suspiciously.

“We want to hold a meeting here,” I answered. “But what do you want to talk about?” the captain muttered in a discontented tone and as though fully on the alert for something. Such a question was highly improper. Nevertheless I replied: “We want to convey to the sailors of this ship what our comrades at Kronstadt, whom we represent, have instructed us to convey.”

Then I briefly enumerated our main political theses. The Captain remained for a short time sunk in thought, as though hesitating whether to permit or to forbid our meeting.

Eventually, faced with our resolute attitude, he realised without much delay that he was quite helpless, appreciating that regardless of whether or not he gave permission, we should hold our general meeting in one way or another and report to everything we had been instructed to report.

“All right, hold your meeting,” he said, reluctantly. “But Bolsheviks can’t get anywhere with our crew.”

Despite the absence of many of our comrades, who were on shore, a fairly large crowd assembled on the deck where religious services were held. The crew of Slava listened with close attention to what we said, and when we had finished the showered us with a mass of written questions. We replied in detail, carefully explaining how the Kronstadters viewed this problem and that.

Everything went well until, at last, I came to the matter of fraternisation, which was then a burning question for the sailors and soldiers. Speaking out decisively against the offensive then being prepared, I counterposed to this the practice of fraternisation at the front and began to defend and justify this slogan.

But my call for fraternisation was not to someone’s liking, “We’ve just come back from Tserel,” [6] shouted one of the sailor hysterically. “Every day the German aeroplanes rained down bombs on us, and you talk about fraternisation! You should be in the trenches! See how you can fraternise there!”

I had to cool down somewhat the passion of this sailor, whose nerves had obviously been shattered by his experiences in action. But the sailors themselves immediately made him shut up and turning to me with a request to go on with my concluding speech, they added reassuringly: “Don’t pay any attention, comrade, he’s a provocateur among us.”

In general the mood of this ship was quite favourable, but nevertheless it considerably lagged behind other ships where speeches had been greeted with much greater sympathy and enthusiasm.

It was clear that during their isolated stationing off Tserel the ship’s crew had been well worked upon by the reactionary officers, led by Antonov himself. On this same battleship Slava, just before our delegation left it, an incident occurred. As we were saying goodbye to our sailor comrades and to the officers who stood nearby, I came upon one young officer who refused to offer me his hand.

“Why didn’t you give me your hand?” I asked.

“On account of your views,” the officer answered defiantly. “But, pardon me, I am a representative of a certain political party and I honestly and sincerely expressed the views which I profess. Tell me why I should deserve to be treated with such contempt that you refuse to shake hands with me?”

“I didn’t intend to insult you,” muttered the young officer, embarrassed. “I acted as my feelings prompted me.”

“But if your feelings had prompted you to hit me in the face,” I replied, “then regardless of your intentions, that would have been an insult.”

“If you consider yourself insulted, I apologise,” the officer whispered, now quite confused.

I advised him to behave more carefully next time, and asked his name, which turned out to be Sub-Lieutenant Denyer. At once I went to see the ship’s committee and told the member on duty that, while a guest on the battleship Slava I had been subjected to insult and considered that in my person the whole delegation, which shared my views, had been insulted. The committee member reacted very sympathetically to my statement, made a note of what happened and remarked about Sub-Lieutenant Denyer: “You have to realise what sort of fellow he is. He has only been one week on the ship.” I named as witnesses the sailor Baranov and a Sub-Lieutenant name Shimkevich. The comrade from the ship’s committee promise to let me know the outcome of this affair.

Generally speaking, we were given an exceptionally good reception by the mass of the sailors on the dreadnoughts and other battleships. Conquest of the big ships, winning the sympathy of their crews for Kronstadt, was politically very important. The point was that the entire Baltic Fleet followed carefully the line adopted by the two battleship subdivision and shared their political sympathies and antipathies, aligning themselves to a significant degree with the attitude of the battleships. Consequently, when we had finished our tour of the battleships, the major part of the Kronstadt delegation’s task could be considered as completed. What now remained was to work on the sailor masses who were scattered among the other vessels. Our next targets were the cruisers Diana and Rossiya.

Here also, just as on the big ships, not only did we meet with no objections but on the contrary all our explanations were received with unfeigned enthusiasm.

As our arrival on Rossiya coincided with the dinner hour we were invited to table. When I found myself in the wardroom surrounded by the ship’s officers, it became clearer to me than ever that the majority of naval officers regarded us – and especially me, being a naval officer myself, formally a member of their caste – with the deepest, most irreconcilable organic hatred. Outwardly the expression of these feelings was fairly restrained, being masked by a cold correctness. Fear of reprisals by the sailors, the sailors’ terror, kept firmly in check for the time being the seething political passions of the reactionary section of the officers.

Contrary to what we had expected, the Helsingfors Executive Committee greeted us with extraordinary warmth and adopted the following resolution of sympathy with us:

The Helsingfors Executive Committee, having heard the report of the representatives of the Kronstadt Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, resolves as follows:

1. We accept the report by the Kronstadt comrades as fully covering the subject and enabling us to judge the events with sufficient completeness and clarity.

2. We consider the hounding of revolutionary Kronstadt being carried on by the bourgeois press, with the support of certain organs calling themselves ‘socialist’, to be deeply disgraceful and unacceptable, and serving the interests of the counter-revolution.

3. We find that revolutionary Kronstadt has in its tactics steadfastly followed the line of genuine democratism, the truly revolutionary line.

4. We recognise that in expressing its attitude to the Provisional Government, the Kronstadt Soviet of Workers and Soldiers Deputies was exercising a right possessed by every organ of revolutionary democracy.

5. While declaring its lack of confidence in the Provisional Government, the Kronstadt Soviet continues to recognise the Provisional Government as a central authority, and so we regard all charges against Kronstadt of ‘secession’ and ‘disorganisation’ as being absolutely unfounded.

6. The Kronstadt Soviet’s demand that all officials be elected, including the Commissar of the Provisional Government, we consider as being correct and in accordance with the fundamental slogans of democracy.

7. We find, on the basis of the foregoing, that the resolution adopted concerning Kronstadt by the Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies is profoundly mistaken and based on an obvious misunderstanding, and we therefore consider it necessary that this resolution be reviewed.

8. We recognise Kronstadt as the vanguard of Russian Revolutionary democracy and consider it necessary to support it.

According to our information, the Helsingfors Executive Committee numbered 65 men. Comrade Sakman said the Bolsheviks made up about half. But that was incorrect. Our comrades were a minority in this committee.

The fact that an Executive Committee which was alien to us being mainly composed of compromisers, passed a resolution in our favour must be attributed to pure chance. Many members of the Executive Committee evidently voted ‘through misunderstanding’. This circumstance may serve as an eloquent illustration of the political thoughtlessness of the strata which after the February Revolution adhered to social-defencism.

Besides addressing the Executive Committee we were given the opportunity to address a plenary session of the Helsingfors Soviet as well. The members of the Soviet listened attentively our report: there was no debate and no resolution was adopted.

The Helsingfors Soviet of deputies from the army, the fleet and the workers numbered 535 altogether, of whom the Bolshevik fraction constituted 125 or 130.

One day during our visit to Helsingfors the local Party committee organised a big meeting in Senate Square. The place played the same role in Helsingfors as our own famous Anchor Square in Kronstadt. The meeting was extremely crowded. The entire square was filled with Finnish and Russian workers, sailors and soldiers. The members of the Kronstadt delegation were asked to speak first.

We all spoke, paying on this occasion more attention to an analysis of the current situation than to a review of the events Kronstadt. After the Kronstadters had finished, local comrades spoke.

Comrade V.A. Antonov-Oseyenko spoke briefly. Comrade Berg, an old sailor who was an engine-room artificer, a Lett by nationality, and who belonged to the Anarchists, shook Senate Square with his booming bass voice. In moments of passion the sound of that voice of his reached as far as the ships lying in the roadstead of Helsingfors harbour. Sailors on watch, whose duty had obliged them to remain on board ship, thought with regret that the routine of the watch had kept them from attending the meeting and, scratching their heads, said to each other with pride: “How our trumpet of Jericho is roaring on the Square today!” On account of his exceptionally loud voice, Comrade Berg was affectionately known as ‘the trumpet of Jericho’. He was an ideal comrade. Unpretentious, unusually straightforward and frank, extraordinarily honest, he belonged to the category of those political workers engendered by the revolution, who though calling themselves Anarchists, were actually in no way different from Bolsheviks. And Comrade Berg was able to prove his devotion to the proletariat.

In the days of the October Revolution, in the early phase of Soviet power, in the most anxious months of its convulsive struggle for existence, Comrade Berg, constantly risking his life, was ready at any moment to sacrifice himself for the triumph of workers’ and peasants’ rule. Unfortunately he ended his life prematurely by shooting himself in a Moscow hospital in the spring of 1918. [7]

Besides Comrades Antonov-Ovseyenko and Berg, other speakers at this meeting were the Helsingfors Left-SRs Ustinov and Proshyan. It cannot be said that they had no success. This they owed to a considerable extent to the content of their speeches, which included not one word of polemic with the Bolsheviks but were, on the contrary, full of expressions of support for the Bolshevik theses. After them the Kronstadters spoke again, delivering, so to speak, the concluding- addresses of the meeting. In all our speeches the centre of gravity lay in our analysis of the current situation, but, nevertheless, we devoted sufficient attention to our own affairs at Kronstadt.

The meeting went on for several hours. After it had finished, all those present, following a proposal by Comrade Berg, went to the brotherhood grave. We formed an orderly procession and marched along singing revolutionary songs. The Finnish bourgeois whom we passed on our way gazed with amazement at this unexpected demonstration and were obliged to take off their hats when we sang the funeral hymn ‘You fell victim.’ We held a civil funeral service at the grave. [8]

In accordance with the programme previously decided on, after Helsingfors we were to go to Abo. [9] The Kronstadt delegation were accompanied in their railway carriage by the Helsingfors Party worker Comrade Sheinman, who was going as far as Hangö on Party business.

We left Helsingfors at 8p.m. and reached Abo at 2a.m. We went straight from the station to the local Soviet. We arrived during a meeting of the Executive Committee, but had to wait a very long time before being received, as a French military mission was with the Executive Committee. Eventually the foreign visitors left and we could be received. The chairman of the Abo Executive Committee, Cornet Podgursky, greeted us in an outwardly quite welcoming manner, and invited us to take seats at a table around which were sitting about ten members of the local Executive Committee. At our request we were called on to speak straight away.

After we had made our report, Cornet Podgursky told us that they would take their decision at once, while we were out of the room.

After some time we were asked to come in again and Podgursky told us that they had put off their resolution on Kronstadt till later. Then, assuming a serious, businesslike air, he solemnly declared that the Abo Executive Committee had discussed our statement that we intended to hold a meeting and had decided that all manner of meetings might be held in a free country, with the exception of obviously provocative ones.

Since, however, we were an official delegation, no suspicion of provocation could arise and we should be allowed to hold our meeting without any hindrance whatsoever.

This solemnly pretentious statement amazed us all. We were frankly startled to hear that the Executive Committee had engaged in a study of the question whether the Kronstadt delegation might hold a meeting. And were quite stunned when we heard their detailed, childishly naive motivation. As we were to learn later, the Abo Executive Committee very often wracked its brains over such trifles, and this was not the first time they had excelled themselves by adopting a resolution with a very verbose motivation concerning an extremely simple matter. Later, we were told that someone had even spoken against permission being given for our meeting.

The Chairman then proceeded to tell us the Executive Committee’s decision regarding the telegrams we had handed to the committee member on duty, asking him to have them despatched. Instead of sending them off forthwith, the member on duty had shown them to the Executive Committee, which had eagerly applied itself to discussing them and adopting a decision about them.

“The content of your telegrams,” the Cornet-Chairman went on, in the same profoundly thoughtful style, “the content of your telegrams is a matter for your own conscience. The Abo Executive Committee has no objection to their despatch.”

At this point our bewilderment became quite boundless. We at once spoke up, saying that we certainly had not intended to submit our telegrams for preliminary censorship by the Executive, Committee, but had simply handed them to the member on duty with a request that he send them off.

“In that case there has been a misunderstanding here,” said the Chairman, in that same imperturbably grave manner of his.

Altogether the people at Abo were evidently not used to political life, and what we saw and heard at the meeting of the Executive Committee made us think of children playing at politics. We learnt while we were there that of the 26 members of the Abo Executive Committee only four or five were Bolsheviks. The Abo Soviet numbered 149 delegates, of whom about 40 were Bolsheviks. The chairman of the Soviet was an ensign from among the warrant-officers of the fleet, named Nevsky, who commanded the fleet sub-depot at Abo.

From the premises of the Executive Committee we went straight to the barracks of the fleet sub-depot and asked the local committee to convene within a few minutes a general meeting of the sub-depot personnel. It was 7p.m. We went out into the yard, and there, in the open air, we held a general meeting of the garrison, which was attended by a considerable number of sailors and soldiers.

The gunboat Bohr was at sea, unfortunately. This was one of the most Bolshevik of the vessels, with a Party group numbering 150. Besides the Kronstadters, two local Party workers spoke – Comrades Sherstobitov and Nevsky. Comrade Sherstobitov, who was short, stocky and thickset, with a serious air, morose and always preoccupied, was in practice the principal leader of the Party there. His speeches were extremely businesslike, and he was at the same time no mean orator. Comrade Nevsky, who was an Ensign, was considerably superior to Sherstobitov in natural gifts.

The meeting began in an unfriendly atmosphere, but by the end it had become very well disposed towards the Bolsheviks. It was clear that Comrade Sherstobitov had done a lot of work here and had prepared the sailors well politically.

We had not planned to stay very long at Abo, which was not a place of great importance, and so on June 13(26) early in the morning, we returned to Helsingfors. Our arrival in Helsingfors coincided with the first congress of the sailors of the Baltic Fleet. At this congress undivided hegemony was wielded by two naval officers: Commander Ladyzhensky and Captain Muravyov, a specialist in wireless telegraphy. At the session to which I dropped in Ladyzhensky was in the chair, while Muravyov gave the report and participated vigorously in the discussion. Our Party sailors headed by Comrade Dybenko, who took part in the work of the congress, did not consider it very important, and, indeed, this congress played no role in the history of the fleet.

The next stage in our journey was Reval.

During our entire, quite lengthy stay in Helsingfors we had absolutely no contact with the commanding personnel. Rear-Admiral Verderevsky, the fleet commander, sat in his flagship Krechel, fussing over the mass of official papers which, from long habit, the industrious staff of the Baltic Command prepared and submitted to him in unlimited quantity. Verderevsky tactfully avoided complications in his dealings with Tsentrobalt and commanded the fleet only in so far and to the extent that he was not prevented by Tsentrobalt from doing so. In short, at that time Tsentrobalt was everything and the Fleet Commander was nothing. Comrade Dybenko once said to those around him: “After all, if need be, we’ll fire a couple of shells at Krechel and nothing will be left of him.” Verderevsky probably appreciated this possibility and feared like fire any conflict with Tsentrobalt. As a result, he possessed no influence whatsoever in the Fleet. We, the newly-arrived delegates, felt that we were masters on the ships of the Baltic Fleet to a very much greater extent than Fleet Commander Admiral Verderevsky. Our practical dealings were with Tsentrobalt alone.

We also applied to Tsentrobalt to arrange for us to go to Reval, and they allowed us to make the trip on the destroyer Inzhener-mekhanik Zverev, which was going to Reval the very next day. This destroyer belonged to the Seventh Division and was based at Reval. They warned us in advance that we might find ourselves up against a lot of misunderstanding.

At about 7a.m. next day we went aboard the destroyer, but departure was postponed until 11. The crew of the destroyer received us very amicably, entering into conversation at once and offering us tea. Our fellows relaxed and settled down, some below in the crew’s quarters and others on the top deck, which was covered with coal-dust.

The Kronstadters and the sailors talked together about politics. My comrades succeeded at once in finding a common language with the aboriginal inhabitants of Zverev, and nothing, it seemed, foreshadowed a storm. I went on shore to attend to some matters, but when I returned, towards 11a.m., I met near the landing-stage the members of the Kronstadt delegation, who had left the destroyer and were downcast, upset and very angry.

It turned out that at about 10 o’clock the flag-officer, Sub-Lieutenant Sevastyanov, had come aboard the destroyer. When he learnt that there was a delegation from Kronstadt on this vessel, he started to go from one destroyer to another, stirring up the sailors everywhere against the Kronstadters. Then, going up to one of our comrades, he asked him: “These are all delegates from Kronstadt?” Receiving an affirmative answer he then shouted in a loud voice: “Get out of here, you scoundrels!” They explained to him, in a reasonable way, that the Kronstadt delegation had been given a pass to board the destroyer by the Central Committee of the Baltic Fleet. “I don’t take any account of those swine,” the Sub-lieutenant shouted, beside himself. “I recognise only one thing, my own physical strength.” This over-excited officer then ran up to one of our comrades and seizing him by the collar, threw him off the deck of the vessel, cursing the while and repeating again and again: “I don’t want anything to do with swine like these.”

Sevastyanov removed from the destroyer, besides the Kronstadters, two members of Tsentrobalt, Galkin and Kryuchkov, who had some mission to fulfil among the sailors at Reval. When he was expelling them from the destroyer, Sub-lieutenant Sevastyanov had the insolence to utter this threat: “Clear off, clear off, or we’ll fasten fire-bars to your feet and throw you overboard.”

There could of course be no-question of our returning to this Black Hundred vessel. We therefore went without delay to the supply-ship Viola where Tsentrobalt was in session, and informed them of the disgraceful doings which had just occurred on the destroyer. The members of Tsentrobalt reacted with extreme indignation to this unprecedented event. They resolved to suspend the departure of the destroyer and to summon immediately to Viola the destroyer’s commander and Sub-Lieutenant Sevastyanov. They duly presented themselves with a downcast and guilty air. Comrade Dybenko, who always had a ready tongue, came down on them with all the fury of his easily-aroused nature. Those officers sat before him like schoolboys who had just been given a beating for getting unsatisfactory marks. Sub-Lieutenant Sevastyanov admitted everything.

When Comrade Dybenko asked Sevastyanov to whom, as he understood it, power belonged on a ship, he replied: “It’s written down in the regulations: first to the commander, then to the senior officer, then to the orderly officer.” He said nothing about the ship’s committees or about the Central Committee of the Baltic Fleet, the supreme organ of authority in the service administration, which actually stood higher at that time than the Fleet Commander. Explaining his conduct, Sub-Lieutenant Sevastyanov added: “I acted in accordance with the old laws; I didn’t know about the new ones.”

This evidence clearly revealed that in the person of Sub-Lieutenant Sevastyanov we were dealing with a definite Black Hundredite, who based himself on the Tsarist regulations and the laws of the old, overthrown regime. He cynically revealed his unwillingness to reckon with the new order. There was no trace of republican psychology in him. In everything he said one sensed contempt for the revolution and the institutions created by it.

The Central Committee of the Baltic Fleet, having perceived that this was a criminal affair, arranged for Sevastyanov’s case to be handed over to an investigating commission formed in association with Tsentrobalt. The commission intended to arrest the criminal Sub-Lieutenant, but the crew of the destroyer asked that he be left at liberty, because he was the divisional navigator and as flag-officer had secret documents in his charge. Since it was difficult to replace Sub-Lieutenant Sevastyanov at once, the commission left him at liberty after obtaining his signed promise to report to Helsingfors as soon as Tsentrobalt should summon him. When we arrived back in Kronstadt we learnt that Sevastyanov had been arrested in Reval a few days later.

This unpleasant incident, which made us deeply angry, held up our departure for a whole day. It was only on the following day, June 15(28) that at last we left Helsingfors. They had found us places on a passenger steamship. There I accidentally encountered someone I had known at the modern secondary school I attended, a man named Vladimir Andreyev. He had just been promoted to Sub-Lieutenant for the duration and wore a naval officer’s uniform. Several other Sub-Lieutenants were travelling with him. From their attitude I formed the impression that these young sailors who had only recently been made officers were not yet filled with the caste spirit and, unlike the old regular officers, looked on the Bolsheviks in an extraordinarily tolerant way. These were already young officers of the revolutionary promotion.

We soon reached Reval. In an antediluvian horse-drawn tram we made our way through the town’s narrow old streets to Ekaterinental, [10] where the local soviet was then housed. Here we were met by the member of the Executive Committee on duty, a sailor named Radzishevsky whose party affiliation was to the Anarchists.

The Reval Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies numbered at that time 311 delegates, of whom 57 were Bolsheviks: when voting was by secret ballot, the number of deputies in favour of the Bolsheviks’ resolutions roe to 70. In addition, there were about 90 SRs and 11 Anarchists in the Soviet. The Executive Committee, which had 20 members, was divided party-wise as follows: two Bolsheviks, two Anarchists, two Mensheviks and the rest either SRs or non-party. The chairman of the Executive Committee was an SR, Sherstnev, who was oddly described to us by Radzishevsky as “a sympathiser with the Bolsheviks”.

After a quick meal in the sailors’ (formerly the officers’) mess, we went to a meeting of representatives of the garrison, which was held under the chairmanship of Sub-Lieutenant A.A. Sinitsyn. At this meeting we were surprised to see a rather large number of naval officers, who cast hateful glances at us. Here we gave a report of a purely informative character. We got no resolutions out of them.

That same day, quite unexpectedly, I was enabled to address a meeting of Estonian workers. Some Estonian Party comrades we met dragged us along to a circus where several hundred Estonian workers were seated on the benches of the amphitheatre. As many of them were ignorant of Russian, I had to speak through an interpreter. The Estonians’ attitude was extremely good. Throughout the meeting their Bolshevik sympathies were shown openly and, so to speak, boiled over. Of all my impressions of Reval that visit to the meeting of Estonian workers has left the most agreeable memory.

Next day we all went to the cruiser Bayan. There I met a comrade who had graduated with me from the cadet class, Sub-Lieutenant Nellis. He invited me to his cabin and told me that the sailors of this ship were extremely hostile to the Bolsheviks and had even talked of throwing us overboard. The meeting was held on the top deck under the guns. Here we really felt an enormous difference from the mood in Helsingfors. Whereas there the sailors had understood us easily and given us fraternal ovations, here they received us with icy coolness. Relations between speakers and audience were strained all the time, and when one of us referred in a sharp way to the Provisional Government and expressed himself in passing against the war, the majority of Bayan’s crew did not like it. Angry shouts and hostile cries began to ring out and we had to be extricated by Comrade Baranov, who was able by his natural gift for making jokes and coming out with funny remarks to put the audience in merry mood and thereby to disperse the lowering clouds. As a result of this meeting we managed all the same to modify the sailors’ attitude a little, make them listen to what we had to say and appreciate to some extent that we were sincere.

From Bayan we moved to the minesweepers, which lay in great numbers by the wall of Reval harbour. Here, however, the attitude was quite different. The harmful influence of the counter-revolutionary elements was felt here to a markedly smaller degree. On these vessels the commander was often a mere naval ensign who did not belong to the closed corporation of naval officers and was therefore more tolerantly disposed towards political ideas that were alien to that body. The crews of the minesweepers listened with great interest to our speeches, displayed full solidarity with us and thanked us endlessly for coming to see them. “Thank you, comrades, for visiting us. Speakers come so rarely,” they shouted as we returned along the gangplank to the shore. Besides Bayan and the minesweepers we also visited the training ship Pyotr Veliky. We were received no less joyfully and hospitably by the naval air detachment stationed not far from Reval. The airmen drove us there and back in their car.

Reval was the last point on our tour around the shores of the Gulf of Finland. With this the Kronstadt delegation could regard its agitational mission as having been completed.


1. Here the author gives, in brackets, the ‘new-style’ (post-February 1918) date as well as the date under the old calendar in use at the time.

2. As compared with Petrograd, created by Peter the Great as the beginning off the 18th century, Vyborg was indeed ‘ancient’: the castle dates from 1293.

3. He died of typhus in Petrograd in 1920.

4. ‘Tsentrobalt’ was the Central Committee of the Baltic Fleet, elected by the sailors.

5. Oesel Island (in Estonian, Saaremaa) stands between the Bal tic Sea and the Gulf of Riga. The Germans were at this time striving, by combined military and naval action, to capture Riga and overrun Russia's Baltic provinces.

6. Tserel (in Estonian, Saare) is at the southern tip of Oesel. Heavy batteries commanded from there the lnbe Strait, the main entry into the Gulf of Riga.

7. A curious mistake for Raskolnikov to have made. E. A. Berg (born 1892) was killed in September 1918 in Transcaspia, as one of the ‘26 Commissars’, along with Polukhin.

8. ‘Brotherhood graves’ were the mass graves of those killed in the revolution. 'You fell victim' were the first words of the song known as the revolutionary funeral march.

9. Abo is now known by its Finnish name, Turku, and Hangö is called Hanko.

10. Ekaterinental is an 18th century palace standing in a park by the sea, on the outskirts of Reval (Tallinn).