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From Communism to Anti-Communism

 | 
Andre Liebich
, 
Svetlana Yakimovich

From the Revolution to the Comintern

Demonstration in Moscow [1918 or 1919?]

Joseph C. Bradley

Texte intégral

The middle banner reads “Proletarians of all countries” and refers to an “All-Russian Union” though its shortened form renders it difficult to make out. The banner which is mostly hidden could be that of a union of firefighters, “domovykh pozharnykh”. The back of the document reads (in English): “Moscow”. Black and white photograph; 18 x 24 cm.

1The photo depicts a demonstration in Red Square with the Kremlin wall and towers on the left. The History Museum, now the State Historical Museum and, before the Revolution, the Alexander III Historical Museum, is visible in the back, St Basil’s Cathedral would be behind and to the right of the photographer. GUM, the Glavnyi universal’nyi magazin or Main Universal Store, a major shopping mall, known at the time of the photo and through the 1920s as the Upper Trading Rows or Verkhnye torgovye riady, would be across the square to the right. The tower on the left, the Nikol’skaya bashnya was damaged during the Revolution and was under reconstruction when the photo was taken. There would appear to be a star atop it.

2The photo is undated but evidence suggests a demonstration in autumn 1918 or 1919, commemoration of the first or second anniversary of the October Revolution. Evidence for this is given by the fact that the banners already have the new orthography introduced by the Bolsheviks in 1918, although the orthographic reform had been initiated in tsarist times. The demonstrators are comfortably dressed in winter clothes which would eliminate a Mayday celebration.

3Moscow and Saint Petersburg had long been, and still remain, to a certain extent, rival capitals. Peter the Great moved the capital to Saint Petersburg, his window on the West, in 1712. Lenin moved the capital back to Moscow in March 1918, at a time when Petrograd (as it had been renamed during the First World War) was exposed to enemy armies. Though Lenin’s move may have been dictated by strategic consideration, it was seen as symbolic as well. Moscow represented an old and authentic Russia, that of the unwesternized masses who had reacted eagerly to the Bolshevik Decree on Land, adopted by the All-Union Soviet of Workers, Soldiers’ and Peasants’ Deputies in the immediate aftermath of the Revolution, ordering the confiscation of landed estates and their distribution among the peasants. Although St. Petersburg or Petrograd was the nerve center of the October Revolution and was closer in heart and spirit to Lenin himself, it was perceived by many as an alien outpost, more “European” than “Russian.”

Bibliographie

James Von Geldern, Bolshevik Festivals, 1917–1920. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992.

Richard Stites, Revolutionary Dreams: Utopian Visions and Experimental Life in the Russian Revolution.  Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989.

I. V. Got’e, Time of Troubles: The Diary of Iurii Vladimirovich Got’e, Moscow, July 8, 1917 to July 23, 1922, trans. and ed. Terence Emmons. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988.

Table des illustrations

Légende The middle banner reads “Proletarians of all countries” and refers to an “All-Russian Union” though its shortened form renders it difficult to make out. The banner which is mostly hidden could be that of a union of firefighters, “domovykh pozharnykh”. The back of the document reads (in English): “Moscow”. Black and white photograph; 18 x 24 cm.
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