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From Communism to Anti-Communism

Andre Liebich
Svetlana Yakimovich

From the Revolution to the Comintern

Zinoviev’s Speech, May Day, Petrograd, 1918

Andre Liebich

Texte intégral

The sign reads in Russian: “1 мая 1918 г. Речь Предс. Сов. Комиссаров Птргр. Труд. Коммуны Г.Зиновьева на Марсовомъ поле”  - [“1 May 1918. The speech of the Chairman of the Commissars’ Council of the Petrograd Labour Commune G.Zinoviev on the Field of Mars”]. Black and white photograph; 8 x 11.5 cm.

1Grigorii Zinoviev had been one of Lenin’s closest associates from a very early date. They fell out over the question of an armed insurrection in 1917, advocated by Lenin but opposed by Zinoviev (and Lev Kamenev). However, Zinoviev soon regained his prominent position in the Party. He was re-elected to the Central Committee at the Seventh Party Congress in March 1918 and was soon Party Chief in Petrograd. It is in this capacity that he is addressing the masses on the first May Day after the October Revolution, if the caption inscribed directly on the photo is to be believed.

2Zinoviev is described by Victor Serge, at one time an ardent revolutionary but eventually a stern critic of Bolshevism, as endowed with “an unruly shock of hair, a somewhat flabby, clean shaven face, a careless appearance, a low voice which can become strident when he wants to be sure of being heard.” In fact, here, as well as in the other photo of Souvarine’s collection where Zinoviev is depicted at the Nikolaevskii Station, his appearance appears quite dapper.

3The date of 1 May is plausible as Zinoviev himself is standing without hat or gloves whereas the woman and child next to him are bundled up in winter clothes, suggesting that it is a cold spring day. One is surprised by the presence of the woman and child but no explanation is given. Zinoviev appears to be speaking from a motor vehicle, which suggests that this is just one stop in his circuit of that day. The Field of Mars where this speech is taking place had been a military parade ground in tsarist days. It became the burial place of victims of the February Revolution and, later, of those who fell in the wake of the Bolshevik seizure of power or who died in the course of the Civil War, yet to unleash its strength after the event that this photo identifies.


Robert V. Daniels, The Conscience of the Revolution: Communist Opposition in Soviet Russia, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1960.

Victor Serge, From Lenin to Stalin, New York: Monad Press, 1973 (quotation p. 42).


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