(1875-1953)-one of the most distinguished figures
in the Communist Party and an active participant in the February
and October Revolutions of 1917. He knew Lenin well and worked with
him for many years. From the first days of October until 1920, Bonch-Bruevich
was administration manager at the Council of People's Commissars.
He subsequently became editor-in-chief of the Life and Knowledge
Publishing House and organiser and director of the State Museum
of Literature. He wrote many works on the history of the revolutionary
movement in Russia, literature and ethno-graphy.
To see the photos and other information go to the
HOW VLADIMIR ILYICH WROTE THE DECREE ON LAND
After the Winter Palace had been taken by the Bolshevik revolutionary
troops, Vladimir Ilyich, who had been extremely disturbed at the dilatoriness
of our military leaders, was finally able to breathe more freely. He removed
his unsophisticated disguise and, with his long-standing political friends,
turned up for the session of the Petrograd Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers'
Deputies at which the climax of events was being awaited.
It was not so much thunder as something greater, something truly shattering-it
was a whirlwind of human feelings that swept through the hall when Vladimir
Ilyich went up on to the stage. The session opened. Again there were greetings,
cheers, shouts of joy... The historic session was a tumultuous and fiery
Finally, when all business matters had been dealt with, we set off late
at night to spend the night at my apartment. We had supper, and after
the meal I tried to make everything available so that Vladimir Ilyich
could get some rest since, although he was excited, he was obviously overtired.
I had some difficulty in persuading him to sleep in my bed in a small
separate room where a desk, paper, ink and library were also at his disposal.
I lay down in the next room on the settee and decided to stay awake until
I was completely satisfied that Vladimir Ilyich was asleep. For greater
security, I fastened all the chains, hooks and locks on the entrance door
and loaded the revolvers, thinking that, after all, someone might burst
in to arrest or kill Vladimir Ilyich. After all, it was only our first
night of victory, and anything was to be expected. Just in case, I wrote
down there and then on a piece of paper all the telephone numbers I knew
of comrades, the Smolny, and the district workers' committees and trade
unions so as not to forget them in the heat of the moment.
Vladimir Ilyich had already switched off the light in his room. I listened-was
he asleep? Not a sound. I began dozing, and just when I was about to drop
off, the light suddenly shone in Vladimir Ilyich's room. I heard him as
he got out of bed almost without making a sound, opened the door into
my room and, having assured himself that I was "asleep" (I wasn't
anything of the kind of course), lightly, so as not to wake anyone, tiptoed
over to the desk, sat down at it, arranged some papers on it, opened the
inkwell and immersed himself in work.
He wrote, crossed out, read, copied out extracts, wrote some more and
finally began copying out in fair. The late Petrograd autumn morning was
already grey when Vladimir Ilyich put out the light, got back into bed
and went to sleep.
In the morning, when it was time to get up, I warned all the household
that we must be as quiet as possible, since Vladimir Ilyich had been working
all night and must be very tired. Suddenly, when no one was expecting
him, he came out of his room fully dressed, energetic, fresh, brisk, cheerful
"Congratulations on the first day of the Socialist Revolution,"
he said, and there was no sign of fatigue on his face. It was as if he
had just had a wonderful night's sleep, although in fact he couldn't have
had more than two or three hours at the most after that appalling, twenty-hour
working day. When all had assembled to drink tea and Nadezhda Konstantinovna,
who had also stayed the night at our place, came into the room, Vladimir
Ilyich took out of his pocket some sheets of paper covered with his neat
handwriting and read out to us his famous Decree on Land.
"All we have to do now is announce it, publish as many copies as
possible and circulate them. Let them try to take it back again after
that! Believe me, no power would be in a condition to take this decree
away from the peasants and return the land to the landowners. It's a most
important gain of our October Revolu-tion. The agrarian revolution is
going to be accomplished and confirmed this very day."
When someone said to him that there would still be many local land disorders
of all kinds and much opposition, he promptly replied that it wasn't important,
it would all be sorted out just so long as they understood the fundamentals
and fully absorbed them. He proceeded to explain in detail that this decree
would be particularly acceptable to the peasants because it was based
on the demands which they themselves had put in their instructions to
their deputies and which had been reflected in the general instructions
to the Congress of Soviets.
"And they were all SRs. Now they'll say that we're
borrowing from them," commented someone.
Vladimir Ilyich smiled.
"Let them say it. The peasants will clearly understand that we'll
always support all their just demands. We must get close to the peasants,
to their life, to their wants. And if some fools should laugh at uslet
them. We've never intended to let the SRs have the monopoly over the peasants.
We're the main government party, and the peasant question is a most important
one after the dictatorship of the proletariat."
The Decree on Land had to be announced at the Congress that evening. It
was decided to have it typed out immediately and sent to the newspapers
so that it would be published the following day. It was then that Vladimir
Ilyich had the idea of publishing a decree on the compulsory printing
of all government announce-ments in all the newspapers.
It was decided to print immediately at least 50,000 copies of the Decree
on Land as a separate booklet and to distribute it first and foremost
among all the soldiers returning to the villages, for it was through them
that the decree would most quickly reach the masses. This was magnificently
carried out in a matter of days.
We soon set off for the Smolny on foot and then boarded a tram. Vladimir
Ilyich beamed when he saw the perfect order on the streets. He waited
impatiently for evening. After the adoption by the Second All-Russia Congress
of the Decree on Peace, he read out the Decree on Land with particular
clarity. It was unanimously adopted with enthusiasm by the Congress.
As soon as the Decree had been passed, I had it distributed by messenger
to all the Petrograd editorial offices and to other cities by post and
telegraph. Our papers ran off the preliminary proofs and in the morning
it was being read by millions of people. All the working populace greeted
it with delight. The bourgeoisie, however, hissed and barked in their
papers. But who took any notice of them at the time?
Vladimir Ilyich was triumphant.
"This alone," he said, "will be a landmark in our history
for many, many years to come."
The era of the most rich revolutionary creation had begun brilliantly.
Vladimir Ilyich's interest in the Decree on Land lasted a long time; he
was always enquiring how many copies of it, apart from the newspaper printings,
had been distributed among the soldiers and peasants. It was reprinted
many times as a pamphlet and a great number were sent free of charge not
only to the gubernia and uyezd towns, but to all the volosts in Russia.
The Decree became universally known and it may well be that no law has
been published in this country as widely as this one on the land, one
of the most fundamental in our new, socialist legislation, to which Vladimir
Ilyich devoted so much strength and energy and to which he attributed
such tremendous importance.
THE SOVIET STATE EMBLEM
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Designing a state emblem for our Soviet land was a 1ask of vital importance,
since its inner meaning had to be fundamentally different from everything
implied by the emblems 'of the capitalist countries.
A water-colour of the emblem was sent to the administrative offices of
the Council of People's Commissars. It was circular, with the same symbols
as now, but there was an unsheathed sword in the middle. The sword covered
the whole emblem, so to speak. The hilt went into the bundle of sheaves
below and the tapering point extended as far as the sunbeams filling the
entire upper part of the general decoration.
Vladimir Ilyich was in his study talking to Sverdlov, Dzerzhinsky and
several other comrades when the design was put down on the desk before
"What's that, the emblem?.. It would be interesting to have a look!"
and he studied the water colour intently, bending over the desk. All of
us round Vladimir Ilyich scrutinised the proposed emblem, which had been
submitted by an artist from the Goznak Press art studio.
Visually it was a good design: against a red background, the rays of the
rising sun framed with a semicircle of wheat-sheaves, in which a hammer
and sickle were clearly visible, and the whole was dominated, as if to
put everybody on the alert, by the damascus steel sword crossing the emblem
from the bottom upwards.
"Interesting!.." said Vladimir Ilyich. "The idea's there,
but why the sword?" And he looked at us all.
"We're fighting, we're at war and we're going to continue fighting
until we've consolidated the dictatorship of the proletariat and until
we've driven the whiteguard troops and the interventionists out of the
country; but this doesn't mean that war, the war machine and military
force are going to predominate in our country. We don't need conquests.
The policy of conquest is totally alien to us; we don't attack, we defend
ourselves against internal and external enemies; our war is a defensive
war and the sword is not our symbol. We must keep a firm hold of it to
defend our proletarian state as long as we have enemies, as long as we're
attacked, as long as we're threatened; but that doesn't mean that it will
always be so...
"Socialism will triumph in all countries - there is no doubt of that.
The brotherhood of the peoples will be proclaimed and accomplished all
over the world, and the sword is not needed by us, it is not our symbol..."
repeated Vladimir Ilyich.
"We must remove the sword from the emblem of our socialist state..."
he continued, and with a well-sharpened pencil he deleted it with a proof-reader's
sign, repeating it in the right margin.
"Otherwise,.the emblem's fine. Let's approve the design, then we'll
have another look at it and discuss it m the Council of People's Commissars
but this must all be done without delay..."
And he signed the water-colour.
I returned it to the artist from Goznak - he was on the premises-and asked
him to redesign the emblem.
When a second drawing was submitted - without the sword this time-we decided
to show it to Andreyev, the sculptor. He found it necessary to make some
technical changes: he redrew the emblem, thickened the sheaves of corn,
intensified the sunbeams and made everything more three dimensional, as
it were, and more expressive.
The state emblem of the USSR was approved early in 1918.
The S.Rs (Socialist Revolutionaries)-
a petty-bourgeois party in Russia that emerged in 1902. Their agrarian
programme envisaged the abolition of private ownership of the land and
its transfer to the communes and the establishment of equalitarian land
tenure. Lenin commented that the demand for equalitarian land tenure,
without being socialist, was of a historically progressive nature, since
it was aimed against reactionary land-ownership. The Bolshevik Party
exposed the attempts by the S.R.S to camouflage themselves as socialists,
fought a determined struggle with them for influence over the peasantry
and disclosed the danger to the working class movement of their tactics
of individual terrorism. At the same time, in the struggle against tsarism,
the Bolsheviks entered into a temporary agreement with the S.R.S. After
the 1917 October Revolution, the S.RS. formally recognised Soviet power
and came to terms with the Bolsheviks, but they soon adopted a course
of struggle with Soviet power.
To see the photos and other information about Lenin
and Russian revolution go to
the Lenin Museum