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From Communism to Anti-Communism

Andre Liebich
Svetlana Yakimovich

From the Revolution to the Comintern

May Day Celebration, Petrograd, Field of Mars, 1917

Andrea Panaccione

Texte intégral

The back of the document reads (in Russian and French): “1-е Мая 1917 год” – “1er mai 1917” – [“May 1st 1917”]. Black and white photograph; 17 x 23 cm.

1On 9 May 1917, according to the Julian calendar then in use in Russia, the Petrograd Soviet announced its decision to make the date for the celebration of May Day coincide with that of 1 May in the West. Until then, Russian workers had celebrated the proletarian feast of May Day according to the old style calendar. Only in the western territories of the empire and in Poland did workers take to the streets on the same day as their foreign comrades, that is on what was in Russia, 18 April. The tsarist government and the Orthodox clergy had preserved the Julian calendar seeing in it the symbol of Russia’s detachment from Europe and European thinking. Thanks to the overthrow of the tsarist regime, for Russia 1 May 1917 also meant the first free and open celebration of that day, the end of the heroic but clandestine maevki (May assemblies) held beyond urban borders, in the woods or in suburban parks, an end to the hesitant and contentious marches toward city centers, often at the price of harsh repressions.

2The coincidence between the celebrations in Russia and in Europe highlighted May Day’s international character. On 1 May 1917, the rallying cries echoing in many manifestations all around the world concerned Russia, with the masses worn out by three years of war expressing hopes raised by the Appeal to the Peoples of the World for a peace without annexations and indemnities based on popular self-determination. Despite their divisions, European socialists looked towards revolutionary Russia. Some were in Petrograd, notably Albert Thomas, an experienced reformist and Minister of Armaments and Weapon Production in the French union sacrée government, who had come to support continuation of the war but who still experienced some subversive thrills on this day. In later Soviet tradition, and in historiography as well, this 1 May 1917, the one closest to the spirit of that day, would be, if not removed, then downsized to that of a transitional moment towards the proletariat’s conquest of power, systematically underlining its popular – rather than class- character and the lack of clear answers to the country’s dramatic situation, given the still minority role of the Bolsheviks compared to other socialist trends.


Andrea Panaccione, Un giorno perché. Cent’anni di storia internazionale del 1° maggio, Roma: Ediesse, 1990.

Andrea Panaccione, “Sul 1° maggio in Urss fino alla seconda guerra mondiale”, A. Panaccione, ed. Il 1°maggio tra passato e futuro, Manduria: Lacaita, 1992, pp. 157–179.

James Von Geldern, Bolshevik Festivals, 1917–1920, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993.

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Légende The back of the document reads (in Russian and French): “1-е Мая 1917 год” – “1er mai 1917” – [“May 1st 1917”]. Black and white photograph; 17 x 23 cm.
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