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From Communism to Anti-Communism

Andre Liebich
Svetlana Yakimovich

From the Revolution to the Comintern

Entering Smolny, Comintern Congress, Petrograd, 19 July 1920

Lars Lih

Texte intégral

The back of the document reads in Russian and French: “У смольного” – “Smolny”. The banner reads in French: “Salut fraternel au II Congrès de la III Internationale” - [“Fraternal greetings to the II Congress of the Third International”]. Black and white photograph; 11 x 16 cm.

1The delegates approach the entrance to the Smolny building hastening up its steps with a crowd of onlookers to their left. This moment is akin to the religious service, toute proportion gardée, that preceded important meetings in the bourgeois world. Smolny, a school for young ladies of the nobility in tsarist times, was a revolutionary shrine as it had been the meeting place of the Second Congress of Soviets that established the new Soviet government in October 1917. The delegates must have been aware of the historic significance of the building and they would have entered it reverentially. Lenin himself was in place inside to greet the delegates before they proceeded to the formal opening of the Congress in the Tauride Palace.

2The delegates are variously attired, including sailor suits, peasant and military garb. For the most part, however, they are dressed in sober business suits. One assumes that these are the delegates from the bourgeois countries. They are greeted by what seems to be a children’s choir, conducted by the man in the white suit with his back to us. At the top of the steps to meet the delegates is a group, mainly of women, presumably charged with greeting them and ushering them to their assigned places.

3Right above the entrance is a poster that announces its fraternal greetings to the Second Congress. Above this poster we see the iconic sickle, although the hammer and sickle had not yet become the central symbol of Soviet Russia. On top, the sickle is coupled with grain stalks: a remarkably agricultural symbol for the proletarian congress. At the left is a poster with “S R” arranged in two vertical columns: Soviet Russia (the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or СССР in Cyrillic, was not proclaimed until the end of 1922).


Kevin J. Callahan, Demonstration Culture: European Socialism and the Second International, Leicester: Troubadour Publishing, 2010.

John Riddell, ed., Workers of the World and Oppressed People, Unite! Proceedings and Documents of the Second Congress of the Communist International, [vol. 2, The Communist International in Lenin’s Time], New York: Pathfinder, 1991.

Alfred Rosmer, Moscow under Lenin, Introduction by Tamara Deutscher, New York: Monthly Review Press, 1973 [1st French edition, 1951].


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