(1869-1939)-an active participant in the revolutionary movement in
Russia and a member of the Communist Party from 1898. In 1894 met
Lenin, with whom she linked her destiny for life. N. Krupskaya was
one of the leading figures of the October Re-volution, a member of
the Vyborg District Committee of the RSDLP during the armed uprising
in Petrograd. After the establishment of Soviet power, was a prominent
state and public figure, one of the founders of the Soviet system
of public education and an honorary member of the USSR Academy of
Sciences. Krupskaya was the author of many works on Lenin and the
Party, and also on problems of public education and of the com-munist
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Joseph Stalin VIDEO
The Smolny Institute was brightly lit and the whole place was seething.
Red Guards, factory representatives, and soldiers came from all parts
for instructions. Typewriters rattled, telephones rang, our girls were
bent over piles of telegrams and the Revolutionary Military Committee
was in constant session on the second floor. On the square in front of
the institute armoured cars had their engines running, a three-inch gun
stood there and stacks of firewood had been made ready in case it should
become necessary to build barricades. At the entrance there were cannon
and machine-guns and sentries stood guard at the doors.
At 10 o'clock on the morning of November 7 (October 25) a message from
the Revolutionary Military Committee of the Petrograd Soviet addressed
"To the Citizens of Russia!" was sent to the press; the message
"The Provisional Government has been deposed. State power has passed
into the hands of the organ of the Petrograd Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers'
Deputies-the Revolutionary Military Committee, which heads the Petrograd
proletariat and the garrison.
"The cause for which the people have fought, namely,
immediate offer of a democratic peace, the abolition of landed proprietorship,
workers' control over production, and the establishment of Soviet power-this
cause has been secured.
"Long live the revolution of workers, soldiers and peasants!"
Although it was obvious that the revolution was victorious, all the morning
of the 25th the Revolutionary Military Committee continued working feverishly,
occupying one government build-ing after another, organising their defence,
At 2.30 p.m. the meeting of the Petrograd Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers'
Deputies opened. With thunderous applause the Soviet greeted the news
that the Provisional Government no longer existed, that some ministers
had been, and the others would be, arrested, that the pre-Parliament had
been dissolved and that the railway stations, post office, telegraph office
and the State Bank had been occupied. The storming of the Winter Palace
was continuing. The palace had not yet been captured but its fate was
already sealed, and the soldiers were displaying unusual heroism; the
revolution had been bloodless.
Lenin's appearance at the meeting of the Soviet was greeted with an ovation.
When he spoke, he did not use any high-flown words about the victory that
had been gained. That was typical of Ilyich. He spoke of other things,
of the tasks confronting Soviet power that had to be tackled immediately.
He said that a new page in the history of Russia had been opened. The
Soviet Government would carry on its work without the participation of
the bourgeoisie. A decree would be issued on the abolition of the private
ownership of land. Real workers' control of production would be established.
The struggle for socialism would develop apace. The old state machinery
would be smashed, a new power, the power of Soviet organisations, would
be established. We had the strength of the mass organisation which could
conquer all. The immediate task was to conclude peace. For this purpose
capital must be defeated. The world proletariat, already showing signs
of revolutionary ferment, would help us conclude peace.
...On November 8 (October 26) the congress session opened at 9 p.m. I
was present at that session and remember how Ilyich made his speech on
the reasons for the Decree on Land, how calmly he spoke. The audience
listened with rapt attention. While he was reading the Decree on Land
I noticed the expression on the face of one of the delegates sitting near
me. He was a man of the peasant type, well on in years. His face seemed
to become transparent, as though it were made of wax, so great was his
excitement, and his eyes shone.
The death penalty, introduced at the front by Kerensky, was abolished,
the decrees on peace, land and workers' control were adopted and the Bolshevik
list for the Council of People's Commissars was approved: Vladimir Ulyanov
(Lenin) - Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars; A. I. Rykov
- People's Commissar for Internal Affairs; V. P. Milyutin
- Agriculture; A. G. Shiyapnikov - Labour; Army and Navy Affairs - a committee
consisting of V. A. Ovseyenko (Antonov), N. V. Krylenko and P. Y. Dybenko;
V. P. Nogin - Commerce and Industry; A. V. Lunacharsky - Education; I.
I. Skvortsov (Stepanov) - Finance; L. D. Bronstein (Trotsky) - Foreign
Affairs; G. I. Oppokov (Lomov) - Justice; I. A. Teodorovich - Food Supplies;
N. P. Avilov (Glebov) - Posts and Telegraphs; J.
V. Jugashvili (Stalin) - Chairman for Affairs of the Nationalities.
The post of Commissar for the Railways was left vacant.
Comrade Eino Rahja recalls that he was sitting in a corner and listening
when the list of the first People's Commissars was being discussed by
the Bolshevik group of delegates. When someone of those proposed as People's
Commissars began to refuse, saying that he had no experience at that sort
of work, Vladimir Ilyich burst out laughing: "And do you think for
a moment any of us have that sort of experience?" Nobody had any
experience, of course. But Vladimir Ilyich saw in his mind's eye a People's
Commissar, a new type of minister, the organiser and leader of one or
another branch of state activity, who was closely connected with the masses.
All the time Vladimir Ilyich gave a great amount of thought to new forms
of administration. He was thinking of how to organise state machinery
which would be free of red tape, which would be able to rely on the masses
and organise them to help it in its work, and which would in the course
of its work produce a new type of civil servant. In the decision of the
Second Congress of Soviets on the formation of Workers' and Peasants'
Government this is expressed in the following words: "The management
of individual branches of state activity is entrusted to commissions whose
members shall ensure the fulfilment of the programme announced by the
Congress, and shall work in close contact with mass organisations of men
and women workers, sailors, soldiers, peasants and office employees. Governmental
authority is vested in a collegium of the chairmen of those commissions,
i.e., the Council of People's Commissars."3
I remember the talks I had with Ilyich on this subject in those weeks
when he lived at Fofanova's. At that time I was working very enthusiastically
in the Vyborg District and was eagerly studying the revolutionary creative
urge of the masses, the way in which life was being radically reorganised.
When I met Ilyich I would tell him of life in the district. I remember
I once told him about a very original session of a People's Court at which
I had been present. Such court sessions had been held during the revolution
of 1905, for example, in Sormovo. Comrade Chugurin, a worker whom I knew
from the days of the Party School at Longjumeau, near Paris, and with
whom I was working in the Vyborg District municipality, came from Sormovo.
He suggested that we begin to organise these courts in the Vyborg District.
The first session was held in the House of the People. The room was packed
with people, some stood on benches and others on the window-sills. I do
not now remember all the details; they were not criminal cases but mostly
domestic problems. Two suspicious characters who had attempted to arrest
Chugurin were on trial. A tall, swarthy care-taker was "tried"
for beating his adolescent son, making him work and refusing to allow
him to study. Many of the working men and women present spoke up sharply
against the "accused", who at first began wiping the perspiration
from his brow, then the tears rolled down his cheeks as he promised not
to ill-treat his son again. It was not a court of justice but one of public
control over the behaviour of citizens, it was proletarian ethics in the
making. Vladimir Ilyich was very interested in this "trial"
and asked for all the details.
Most of my talks with him, however, were about new forms of cultural work.
I was in charge of the Department of Public Education. In summer the children's
schools were closed and I was engaged mostly in political educational
activities. The five years' experience I had gained at the Sunday evening
school in the Nevskaya Zastava District in the 90's was of great help
to me. Times had changed, of course, and it was now possible to carry
on the work on broader lines.
Every week we held a conference with representatives of something like
forty factories and discussed together what had to be done and how various
activities were to be conducted. And, of course, everything we decided
upon was immediately carried out. We decided, for example, to put an end
to illiteracy, and each of the factory representatives made lists of all
illiterates at his own factory, found premises for schools, brought pressure
to bear on the factory management and raised funds. A superintendent from
amongst the workers was appointed to each school for illiterates, and
he saw to it that everything necessary was provided - blackboards, chalk,
ABC books; others were appointed to ensure that instruction was given
correctly and to hear what the workers had to say about the schools. We
gave instructions to the superintendents and heard their reports. We held
meetings of representatives of the soldiers' wives, discussed with them
the state of affairs in the children's homes, organised their control
of the homes, instructed them and explained the situation. We used to
call meetings of the librarians of the district and, together with them
and the workers, discussed what form of work should be conducted in the
libraries. The workers showed great initiative and quite a large body
of helpers was grouped around the Department of Public Education. Ilyich
said then that the work of our state apparatus and our future ministers
should be organised in the same way: there should be commissions of working
men and women who knew the living and working conditions of the people,
and what was troubling them most at any given moment. Vladimir Ilyich
thought I had the knack of drawing people into the work of state administration
and often spoke to me on the subject; he often scolded what he called
"accursed" bureaucracy. When it became necessary later on to
give greater responsibility to the People's Commissars and department
heads who frequently delegated responsibility to committees and commissions,
the question of one-man manage-ment arose. Ilyich made me a member of
the Commission of the Council of People's Commissars appointed to examine
this ques-tion and told me to make sure that the initiative and activity
of the commissions were in no way suppressed by one-man management, that
the ties with the masses were not weakened;
one-man management must, he said, be combined with ability to work with
the masses. Ilyich strove to make use of everybody's experience in building
up a state of a new type. Soviet power, at the head of which Ilyich then
stood, was faced with the problem of creating a type of state machinery
such as the world had never before seen, one which relied on the masses
and which would remake the entire social fabric in a new, socialist way,
and reshape all human relations.
First of all, however, it was necessary to defend Soviet power against
the enemy's attempts to overthrow it by force, and to undermine it from
within. We had to strengthen our ranks.
November 9 to 15 were crucial days during which the very existence of
Soviet power was at stake.
Ilyich, who had made a careful study of the experience of the Paris Commune,
the first proletarian state in the world, noted that the leniency with
which the working masses and workers' government treated their known enemies
had disastrous conse-quences for the Paris Commune. That is why when speaking
of the struggle against the enemy Ilyich, fearing that the masses and
he himself would show unnecessary leniency, always "put it on thick",
so to speak.
In the early days of the revolution there were many instances of this
unnecessary leniency: Kerensky was allowed to get away, so, too, were
a number of ministers; the cadets who had defended the Winter Palace were
released simply on their word of honour;
General Krasnov who had commanded the troops of Kerensky was kept only
under house arrest. I happened to overhear the conversation between Comrade
Krylenko and General Krasnov who had been brought to Petrograd under arrest.
The two of them entered the room, in the Smolny, where I was sitting on
a heap of greatcoats waiting for somebody, sat down at the small table
standing in the middle of the room and quietly began to talk. I remember
how surprised I was at the peaceful nature of their conversation. On November
17 (4), speaking at the session of the Central Executive Committee, Ilyich
said: "Krasnov was given soft treatment. He was only placed under
house arrest. We are against civil war. But if it nevertheless goes on
what are we to do?"
Kerensky who was released in Pskov organised the attack on Petrograd;
the cadets who were released on their word of honour started a revolt
on November 11, and Krasnov who escaped from house arrest fled to the
Don where, with the assistance of the German Government, he formed a whiteguard
army nearly a hundred thousand strong.
Weary of the imperialist slaughter the people wanted a blood-less revolution,
but their enemies forced them to take up arms. Ilyich who was thinking
mainly about the socialist reorganisation of the entire social system
had to give first thought to the defence of the revolution.
On November 9 Kerensky captured Gatchina. Comrade Podvoisky
in his article "Lenin-Organiser of the Victorious Octo-ber Uprising"
(Krasnaya Gazeta, November 6, 1927), gives a vivid description of the
colossal work carried out by Lenin during the defence of Petrograd. He
describes how Lenin arrived at military district headquarters and demanded
a report on the situation. Comrade Antonov-Ovseyenko7
there and then explained the general plan of operations, showing on a
map the position of our forces and the probable position and number of
enemy troops. "Comrade Lenin closely examined the map. With the acuteness
of the profound strategist and observant general he demanded to know why
some point was not being guarded, why some particular step was being suggested
and not another, why Kronstadt, the Vyborg District, or Helsingfors were
not asked for reinforcements, etc. After an exchange of opinion we saw
that we had, indeed, made a number of blunders, had not displayed the
necessary activity at the critical moment in organising forces and resources
for the defence of Petrograd." In the evening of the 9th Ilyich got
in direct touch with Helsingfors over the wire asking them to send two
destroyers and the battleship Respublika to defend the approaches to Petrograd.
Ilyich also went to the Putilov Works together with Comrade Antonov-Ovseyenko
to see whether the needed armoured train was being built fast enough.
While there he talked things over with the workers. It was decided to
transfer headquarters to the Smolny. Thenceforth Lenin closely began to
follow its work, began to help mobilise the masses. Comrade Podvoisky
writes that he was able particularly to appreciate Lenin's work at the
conference of representatives of workers' organisations, district Soviets,
factory committees, trade unions and military units, convened by Lenin.
"Here I saw Lenin's strongest point. He had a special ability to
concentrate our forces and resources to the extreme limit in time of need.
We had acted without any plan. As a result our actions were not coordinated
and this led to irresolution and lack of initiative among the masses.
They did not feel the iron will and the iron plan where, as in a machine,
everything was perfectly fitted and worked smoothly in its proper place.
Lenin hammered one single idea into everybody's head-everything must be
con-centrated on defence. Out of this basic idea he evolved a plan which
could be understood by all, a plan in which there was a place for everyone,
for his factory and for his fighting unit.
"Everyone at the conference had a clear conception of his own plan
of future work and saw what contribution he could make towards the defence
of the Republic. Because of this each one became fully aware that the
fate of the dictatorship of the prole-tariat depended on him from that
"Lenin strove constantly to get the people to understand that the
leaders could not do everything for them, that they them-selves, with
their own hands, would have to build a new life and defend their own state;
in this he proved himself to be a real people's leader, able to show the
people the way forward and induce them to take the first step forward
fully conscious of their aim, instead of following blindly behind the
Comrade Podvoisky is absolutely right. Ilyich was always able to rouse
the masses to activity, to point out to them their concrete aims.
Rising in defence of their city, the workers of Petrograd, both young
and old, left for the front to head off Kerensky's army. The Cossacks
and other units called up from the provinces least of all wanted to fight.
The workers of Petrograd carried on vigorous agitation among them and
convinced them to lay down arms. Kerensky's army disintegrated, the Cossacks
and soldiers simply deserted, taking their guns and rifles with them.
Still, many of the Petrograd citizens lost their lives in the defence
of the city. Among them was Vera Slutskaya, one of the leading Party functionaries
in the Vasilyevsky Ostrov District. On her way to the front on a lorry
she was hit by a shell. Also many of our people in the Vyborg District
lost their lives. We buried them there, the whole district turning out
for the funeral.
On November 11 (October 29), when Kerensky was still on the offensive,
the cadets who had been released from the Winter Palace after pledging
their word of honour staged a revolt. I was living with Vladimir Ilyich's
family at the time on the Petrograd Side. The fighting started early in
the morning near the Pavlovsky Officers' Training School which was not
far from our house. On learning of the revolt the Red Guard units and
workers of the Vyborg District hastened to the scene of action. Guns opened
fire. Our whole house shook, frightening us to death. As I stepped out
of the house our neighbour's maid came running towards me crying: "What
are they doing?! I just saw a cadet bayoneted like an insect." On
the way I encountered a fresh detachment of Vyborg Red Guards who were
bringing up another gun. The revolt was speedily crushed.
That day Ilyich addressed a meeting of regimental representa-tives of
the Petrograd garrison. "Kerensky's bid is just as pathetic a gamble
But the situation is a difficult one. Vigorous efforts must be made to
get some order into the food situation, and put, an end to the misery
at the fronts. We cannot wait, nor can we tolerate Kerensky's mutiny a
single day. If the Kornilovites launch another offensive, they will get
what the mutinous officer cadets got today. The cadets have only them-selves
to blame. We took power almost without bloodshed. If there were any losses
they were on our side... The government set up by the will of the workers',
soldiers' and peasants' deputies will not tolerate any nonsense from the
On November 14 the Kerensky revolt was crushed. Gatchina was recaptured.
Kerensky fled the country. Petrograd emerged victorious. But the Civil
Kerensky, Alexander Fyodorovich (1881-1970)-headed
the bourgeois Provisional Government in Russia in 1917. After the overthrow
of the Provisional Government in October that year, he fled from the
capital to the front and headed a mutiny in Novem-ber against Soviet
Gatchinaa town 45 kilometres from Petrograd.
Podvoisky, Nikolai Ilyich - an old member of
the Bolshevik Party. During the October Revolution he was the Chairman
of the Revolutionary. Mili-tary Committee in Petrograd.
Antonov-Ovseyenko, Vladimir Alexandrovich - a
member of the Party since 1917. During the October days he di-rected
the operations to capture the Winter Palace. He was a member of the
leading committee of the People's Commissariat for the Army and Navy
Lenin was referring to the counter-revolutionary plot,
engineered in August 1917 by General Kornilov to suppress the
revolution, destroy the Bolshevik Party and the Soviets and to establish
a military dictatorship. To carry out this coup d'etat Komilov dispatched
a cavalry corps against Petrograd. The Bolsheviks, relying on the Soviets,
called the workers and soldiers to armed struggle and foiled the Komilov
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Krupskaya and Russian
revolution go to the Lenin