(1875-1933)-Academician and leading Soviet
cultural figure. At seventeen years of age, joined the Social-Democratic
organisation and subsequently contributed to the Bolshevik newspaper
Vperyod (Forward) and Proletary (Proletarian) under Lenin's guidance.
After the victory of the October Russian
Revolution, for many years he held the post of People's Commissar
for Education of the RSFSR.
Lunacharsky was an outstanding speaker and journalist, a historian
of Russian and the West-European literatures and the author of several
dramatic works and brilliant critiques of Soviet literature. Lenin
had a very high opinion of Lunacharsky, saying of him: "An
uncommonly richly endowed nature. I have a. weakness for him...
I'm very fond of him, you see; he's an excellent comrade!"
1 Smolny-the building in Leningrad. In 1917 it was the headquarters
of the Great October Socialist Revolution; from there, Lenin directed
the October armed uprising.
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SMOLNY ON THE NIGHT OF THE STORM
Smolny was brightly lit from top to bottom. Crowds of excited people
were hurrying back and forth along its many corridors. There was great
animation everywhere, but the most impetuous human stream, a real flood
of impassioned people, was the one that made its way towards the end of
the corridor on the top floor, where, in the most remote back room of
all, the Military Revolutionary Committee was in session. The girls in
the outer room, worn out though they were, struggled heroically to deal
with the unbelievable crush of people who came for explanations and instructions
or with all sorts of requests and complaints. Once you got caught up in
this human maelstrom you found yourself surrounded by faces flushed with
excitement and hands outstretched to receive some order or some mandate.
Instructions were given and appointments made there on the spot, all of
them of the utmost importance; they were rapidly dictated to typists whose
machines never ceased their clatter, were signed in pencil on an official's
knee, and in a few minutes some young comrade, happy to have been entrusted
with a task, would be racing through the night in a car driven at breakneck
speed. In the room right at the back, several comrades sat at a table
constantly telegraphing in all directions, flashing orders like electric
currents to the insurgent towns of Russia.
I still recall in wonder the amazing amount of work done there and consider
the activities of the Military Revolutionary Committee at the time of
the October Revolution to be one of those manifestations of human energy
that demonstrate the inexhaus-tible reserves stored up in the heart of
a revolutionary, and what that heart is capable of when aroused by the
thunderous voice of the Revolution.
The Second Congress of Soviets opened in the White Hall
of the Smolny Institute that evening.
The deputies were in a triumphant, festive mood. There was tremendous
excitement, but not the slightest sign of panic although fighting was
going on round the Winter Palace and at times news of a most alarming
nature was brought in.
When I say there was no panic I am referring to the Bolsheviks and the
overwhelming majority of the Congress that was on their side. The malicious,
confused, nervous Right "socialist" elements, on the contrary,
were seized with panic.
When the session at last began, the mood of the Congress became quite
clear. The speeches of the Bolsheviks were received with tremendous enthusiasm.
The dashing young sailors who came to tell the truth about the fighting
then going on around the Winter Palace were listened to in admiration.
What a never-ending storm of applause greeted the long-awaited news that
the Soviets had, at last, captured the Winter Palace, and that the capitalist
Ministers had been arrested! In the meantime a Menshevik, Lieutenant Kuchin,
a man who at that time played an important part in the army organisation,
got up on the rostrum and threatened to bring soldiers from his front
to Petrograd immediately. He read out resolutions against Soviet power
from the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and so on up to the 12th Army (including a Special
Army) and ended with a direct threat to Petrograd that had dared risk
"such an adventure".
His words did not frighten anyone. Nor was anyone frightened by the announcement
that the whole sea of peasants would turn against us and swallow us up.
Lenin was in his element; he was happy, he worked without let-up, and
in some far comer he wrote those decrees of the new government that were,
as we know now, to become the most famous pages in the history of our
Let me add to these few scanty lines my reminiscences of the way the first
Council of People's Commissars was formed. It took place in a little room
in Smolny, where the chairs were hidden under the hats and coats thrown
on to them, and everybody crowded round a badly lit table. We were then
choosing the leaders of regenerated Russia. It seemed to me that the selection
was often too casual and I was afraid that the people chosen, whom I knew
well and who did not seem to me to have the training for the various jobs,
were not up to the gigantic tasks ahead. Lenin waved me aside with a gesture
of annoyance but at the same time smiled.
"That's for the time being," he said, "then we'll see.
We need people of responsibility for all posts; if they prove unsuitable
we'll change them."
How right he was! Some, of course, were replaced, others retained their
posts. And how many there were who, though they began timidly, later proved
fully capable of their assignments! Some people, of course (even some
of those who had taken part in the insurrection and had not been mere
onlookers), grew dizzy in face of the tremendous prospects and of difficulties
that seemed insurmountable. With amazing mental composure Lenin studied
the way tasks had to be done and took them in hand in the same way as
an experienced pilot takes over the wheel of a giant ocean liner.
To see the photos and other information about Lenin
and Lunacharsky, and Russian revolution
go to the Lenin Museum