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From Communism to Anti-Communism

Andre Liebich
Svetlana Yakimovich

From the Revolution to the Comintern

Uritsky Square, Petrograd [1919]

Jean-François Fayet

Texte intégral

The back of the document reads (in Russian and French): “Площадь Урицкого” – “Place Ouritzky”. Black and white photograph; 10.5 x 15.5 cm.

1The photo may refer to a meeting held during the Second Congress of the Comintern on 19 July 1920. We are assuming it more likely depicts a rally on 1 May International Workers’ Day, 1919.

2The rally is held on Uritsky Square, formerly Palace Square. The square was renamed in honor of Moise Uritsky, People’s Commissar for Internal Affairs of the Petrograd region assassinated by a Socialist Revolutionary and it kept this name until 1944 when it reverted to its previous name. The photo is taken from one of the stoops of the Hermitage, already a museum since 1852 and today housing the largest collection of paintings in the world. In the background, on the right, one sees the Eastern façade of the Admiralty building, the historic heart of the city built by Peter I. Above the trees of the Alexander Garden one can make out the dome of the cathedral of St. Isaac the Dalmatian, named after Peter the Great’s patron saint, which rises above the trees. In this garden or park, renamed Workers’ Garden, a number of strollers were killed during the First Russian Revolution, on Red Sunday in January 1905. The crowd is turning its back to the Alexander Column, designed (like St. Isaac’s cathedral) by the French architect, Auguste de Montferrand, and erected by him and the Swiss architect, Antonio Adamini, in 1834.

3Traditionally, Palace Square was used for military parades in tsarist times. It was no less used for the ceremonies of the new régime. All demonstrations and commemorative parades passed through Uritsky Square which also provided a decor for the mass displays or mass actions organized in connection with the commemorations of October. These included the famous “Taking of the Winter Palace” of Nikolai Evreinov and Yuri Annenkov which involved the participation of several thousand people.

4The crowd in a visibly festive mood listened to the speakers. Whether before or after having circled the square, the crowd proceeded via Khalturin Street, to the Field of Mars housing the tombs and the monument to the victims of the Revolution.

5The cult of the dead was characteristic of Soviet commemorative practices in the era of the Civil War. The Mayday celebration characteristically ended with a popular ball and other festivities in the evening.


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

Georges Haupt and Jean-Jacques Marie, Makers of the Russian Revolution: Biographies of Bolshevik Leaders, London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1974.

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Légende The back of the document reads (in Russian and French): “Площадь Урицкого” – “Place Ouritzky”. Black and white photograph; 10.5 x 15.5 cm.
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