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From Communism to Anti-Communism

 | 
Andre Liebich
, 
Svetlana Yakimovich

From the Revolution to the Comintern

Demonstration of the War Veterans, Petrograd, April 1917

Andre Liebich

Texte intégral

The back of the document reads (in Russian and French): “Манифестацiя увечных войнов. Июль [sic] 1917” – “Manifestation des invalides. Juillet 1917” – [“Manifestation of mutilated warriors. July [sic] 1917”]. Black and white photograph; 17 x 23 cm.

1The photograph shows a demonstration that has been described by Leon Trotsky in the following terms:

2“On 17 April [1917] there took place in Petrograd the patriotic nightmare of the war invalids. An enormous number of wounded from the hospitals of the capital, legless, armless, bandaged, advanced upon the Tauride Palace. Those who could not walk were carried in automobile trucks. The banners read: ‘War to the end’. That was a demonstration of despair from the human stumps of the imperialist war (...)”.

3The demonstration took place in a context of increasing war-weariness and impatience with the Provisional Government’s failure to put an end to the war. Russian military losses were lower than those of some other countries and civilians had not yet felt all the privations that they were to encounter later. However, in Petrograd and other cities, material conditions were worsening by the day, as bread rations were being cut and inflation soared. Nothing could bring home as vividly the horrors of war as this demonstration by its living victims. Presumably, the slogan cited by Trotsky – “War to the end” – was intended to be ironic.

4The demonstration followed the dramatic ceremonial burial several weeks earlier of the casualties of the February Revolution whose red coffins were carried to the Field of Mars by workers and soldiers amid a crowd estimated by Trotsky to number at least 800,000. The demonstration also took place on the eve of celebrations of May Day (18 April in the Julian calendar still in force in Russia), a feast day that, this year, brought together the most diverse social forces, formerly (and later) opposed to each other. It was also on 18 April that Foreign Minister Pavel Miliukov sent a Note to Russia’s Entente allies, primarily France and Great Britain, reassuring them of Russia’s intention to continue the war against the Central Powers. The Note provoked indignation in Russia, skillfully manipulated by revolutionary forces, within days obliging Miliukov to resign and thus ending the first, liberal-bourgeois, phase of the Revolution.

5The Tauride Palace which is given as the destination of the march was still the seat of the Provisional Government as well as of the Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies. The two bodies coexisted uneasily under the same roof until the Provisional Government moved out to a corner of the Winter Palace.

Bibliographie

Leon Trotsky, The History of the Russian Revolution, vol. 1 The Overthrow of Czarism, translated by Max Eastman, London: Gollancz, 1932. (Quotation p. 349).

Rex Wade, The Russian Revolution, 1917, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

Table des illustrations

Légende The back of the document reads (in Russian and French): “Манифестацiя увечных войнов. Июль [sic] 1917” – “Manifestation des invalides. Juillet 1917” – [“Manifestation of mutilated warriors. July [sic] 1917”]. Black and white photograph; 17 x 23 cm.
URL http://books.openedition.org/iheid/docannexe/image/6466/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 189k

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