Historical story

October revolution. The worst organized coup in history

The October Revolution became a model for successive generations of rebels. Attempts have been made to repeat it in various parts of the globe. According to some, however, her organization left much to be desired. So why was it successful?

"Claude Anet, an official French journalist in St. Petersburg, was genuinely surprised that these absurd Russians made a revolution quite different from what he read about in his old books," wrote Lev Trotsky in The History of the October Revolution. The Bolshevik leader emphasized that on the morning of October 25 (November 7, according to the Gregorian calendar) of 1917, just after his party took power, there was peace and order in the city.

This revolution was considered by many to be exemplary ... But is it right?

The phones worked, and the Seine journalist was free to leave the house and walk around town.

Many historians, both supporters and opponents of communism, described the coup d'état by the leader of the Bolshevik party, Lenin and his companions, as exceptionally well, even professionally prepared. And carried out - as the interested parties themselves would probably have put it - according to the rules of art. After all, Trotsky himself assured that "rising is an art and, like any art, it has its own rules".

One of the Bolshevik leaders, Lev Trotsky, author of The History of the October Revolution, contributed to perpetuating the belief that the October Revolution was perfectly organized and carried out.

This myth of an "impeccably organized" revolution does not convince everyone, however. One of the doubters is Victor Sebestyen, author of Lenin. The Dictator " who claims that the Bolsheviks "almost screwed up their revolution." And he adds:"They could have lost easily if at certain key moments they met with slightly stronger resistance." Did the legendary proletarian uprising of the 20th century really triumph more by luck than by strategy?

"There would be no revolution ..."

The first defeat of the Bolsheviks was undoubtedly the fact that their conspiracy, as Sebestyen points out, "was the worst-kept secret in history." Although Lenin repeatedly argued in his writings that revolutionary activity should be carried out in the conspiracy by a small group of professionals, something went wrong with his own uprising. British historian says:

Everyone in Petrograd has heard that the Bolsheviks were preparing a coup. It had been discussed in the press for the ten days preceding it. The main right-wing newspaper "Riecz" ("Speech") even disclosed the date, 25 October [November 7 - ed. A.W.], and the left-wing "Novaya Żizń" ("New Life"), led by the writer Maxim Gorky, warned the Bolsheviks against the use of violence and "further bloodshed in Russia".

The Reds, who prepared for an armed appearance, were lucky that rumors of their plans were not taken quite seriously. If this happened, and the politicians of the Provisional Government ordered mobilization and brought more troops into the city, maybe the rebellion would be nipped in the bud?

As if that were not enough, in the first hours of the October Revolution her leader was almost arrested. In the evening of October 24 (November 6), Lenin decided to move from his shelter in the working-class district of St. Petersburg to the Smolny Institute. It was the seat of the Petrograd Council of Workers 'and Soldiers' Delegates.

The seat of the Petrograd Council of Workers 'and Soldiers' Delegates was located at the Smolny Institute.

The future dictator wanted to watch over the course of events closely, but he was close to not getting there at all. The victory of the proletariat hung in the balance when two young officers not far from their destination asked him for documents. He only escaped them thanks to an ingenious colleague who started to ... pretend to be drunk . What could have happened if at that moment the head of the Bolsheviks was detained? As Sebestyen comments in the book " Lenin. Dictator ":

Marxists should not believe in luck, chance or coincidence, but rather explain their lives with broader historical forces. But the second most influential Bolshevik leader in 1917, Lev Trotsky, simply stated that if Lenin had been arrested, shot or not in Petrograd, there would be no October Revolution.

There is no such number

The incident on the way to Smolny, however, did not exhaust the limit of troubles and misunderstandings that took place that fateful night. First of all, it was not possible to establish for a long time whether the Russian revolution had even started. He was most likely to blame for the extremely imprecise schedule of the uprising. As a result, even the governor of St. Petersburg, sending delegations to the parties to the conflict asking for news, could not figure out whether his city was already in danger or not yet.

The organizers of the revolution themselves knew little more. The lack of military experience and adequate officer cadre took revenge on them. One of the main commanders of the insurgent forces was ... a lieutenant of the tsarist army, demobilized after poisoning with combat gas.

His plan to take control of the telephone system and to inform the coup leaders of the coup in Smolny about the course of the action via a special number turned out to be good only in theory. In practice, it failed, and the planned "always free" number 148-11 was either down or busy. As a result, the fighters had to send messengers.

The Red Guard troops, faithful to the Bolsheviks, joined the fight.

The worst thing, however, was that not all the forces favoring the Bolsheviks managed to arrive in St. Petersburg in time. The sailors of the Kronstadt fleet, valuable support for the cause of the revolution, have arrived ... a day too late.

The Great Improvisation

There are many indications that a large part of the night did not go according to the scheduled plan. How much "professional" revolutionaries were unprepared for victory is evidenced by a conversation between them after sunrise on October 25 (November 7).

Convinced that they had managed to take over the city, they began to wonder ... what should the members of the new government be called . "If only not ministers!" Lenin said. Ultimately, the Council of People's Commissars was chosen because the term "smells awfully revolutionary"!

After the first, decisive night, the Winter Palace was still unconquered. But it was only a matter of hours to seize him.

How did it happen that, despite so many blunders, St.Petersburg was conquered practically in one night? Victor Sebestyen in the book “Lenin. The Dictator " suggests a possible explanation:

They won because the other side, the Provisional Government and its supporters - a coalition of center-right, liberals and moderate socialists - was even more incompetent and divided, and did not take the Bolsheviks seriously until then. the moment it was too late. But the main reason for their victory was that most people didn't care which side wins. In fact, few realized that something important was happening until it was over.

The coup occurred while the city was asleep. at 2:10 a.m. on the night of November 7, the Bolsheviks captured the Winter Palace. At this stage, no one had any idea what the new government entailed. Also for the Bolsheviks it was only the beginning of the seizure of power and the struggle for supremacy in the empire. In the following years, they repeatedly emphasized after Lenin that "you cannot remain faithful to the revolution without treating the uprising as art." But maybe they meant the art of improvisation?