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From Communism to Anti-Communism

Andre Liebich
Svetlana Yakimovich

From the Revolution to the Comintern

Ploshchad' Vosstaniya [May Day 1920?]

Andre Liebich

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The back of the document reads in Russian and French: “Площадь Возстания” – “Place de la Révolte” – [“Revolt Square”]. Black and white photograph; 11 x 15.5 cm.

1This photo depicts a group, mostly of men, many in military or quasi-military attire, but also a few children and one woman in the background on the Ploshchad’ Vosstaniya or Uprising Square. They appear to be relaxing after having participated in a procession or demonstration; a man with a balalaika, a popular Russian variant of the lute, is standing amidst the group. Their spring clothing would suggest that this was a 1 May celebration, as evidenced also by the flags and decorative festooning around the square, although another photograph (May Day Celebration, Petrograd, [Nevsky prospekt?]), allegedly representing the same event, has demonstrators wearing winter coats and, even in the case of Grigorii Zinoviev, a fur hat.

2Insurrection Square was named after the bloody confrontation that had taken place there early in 1917. Previously, it had been named Znamenskaya Ploshchad’ after the church of the Sign which stood from the turn of the 19th century until 1940. The Square was a sacred lieu de mémoire for the young Soviet régime, though the Square was encumbered by the equestrian statue of Alexander III which stood there and which was covered on this and other occasions – one of the solutions, along with topographical renaming, adopted by the new authorities to deal with Petrograd’s imperial past.

3The statue of recent Soviet vintage shows two women, one holding a hammer, in triumphant pose. At their feet lies a victim, presumably one of the victims of the 1917 insurrection after whom the Square has been named. It is possible, though unlikely, that the man at their feet is a member of the defeated oppressors’ class. Not only does his skeletal body differ from the obesity characteristic in Soviet iconography of the oppressors but such a representation would be too reminiscent of the St. George-slaying-the-dragon motif much favored in tsarist times. It is not clear what the second woman is pouring onto the victim. The sculptor also appears to be unknown.

4A photo of a May Day 1921 demonstration involving a huge crowd at the same spot shows the same statue but even more elaborate decoration. This would suggest that the 1920 date for this photo is probably accurate.


I.M. Bibikova, N.I. Levchenko, Agitatsionno-massovoe iskusstvo. Oformlenie prazdnestv. 1917-1932: Tablitsy, Moscow: Iskusstvo, 1984.

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Légende The back of the document reads in Russian and French: “Площадь Возстания” – “Place de la Révolte” – [“Revolt Square”]. Black and white photograph; 11 x 15.5 cm.
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