‘The Cradle of the Revolution’ by G. Zinoviev from Soviet Russia (New York). Vol. 2 No. 13 March 27, 1920.

“New elections to the Petrograd soviet at the Putilov factory, after the report by Comrade Glebov-Putilovskii, July 1920”

Chair of the Petrograd Soviet Gregory Zinoviev writes on the on the preeminent role played by that extraordinary city in the history of Russia’s revolutionary upheavals on the Third Anniversary of the February Revolution in 1920.

‘The Cradle of the Revolution’ by G. Zinoviev from Soviet Russia (New York). Vol. 2 No. 13 March 27, 1920.

In Petrograd the banner of insurrection was first raised, both in 1905 and again in March and November 1917. In all three revolutions the first place is due to Petrograd.

Nowhere in Russia was the pulse of the proletarian struggle so strong as in Petrograd. I remember my first impression on returning to Petrograd in the Spring of 1917 after eight years of exile. I felt as if I had just fallen into a boiling cauldron, situated in the very center of the class struggle. All around me the proletarian was raging; passions ran high and I felt the hour approach when the class struggle would blaze up in its sharpest form – as a civil war.

Through all these periods Petrograd has stood at the head of all Russia; it has always had a lead of several months. And it has happened to – that the Petrograd of the proletariat, has had to retard its steps in order that the more sluggish reserves should have time to catch up with it. This was the case both before and after the November Revolution. Tell me a single city in all of Russia, yes, in all the world that has suffered so much, has borne so many trials as did Red Petrograd in the years of 1917–1919. Famine, three evacuations, thrice repeated onslaughts by the butchers of the revolution, assassinations of the leaders of the workers (Volodarsky, Uritsky), conspiracies of social revolutionists both of the right and left variety, the treason at Krasnya-Gorka – so many misfortunes that is impossible even to begin to enumerate them!

And yet, in spite of all, Petrograd held out even on that last occasion when the city was threatened by Yudenich; and on the second anniversary of the proletarian revolution Petrograd stands stronger than ever before. Death, hunger, misfortunes, all those things have merely hardened the heroic proletarian spirit of the people of Petrograd.

Protest at the Winter Palace during the February, 1917.

Petrogad has a Providence of its own. For 25 years great masses of workers have been gathering in this city. Here they have been boiled in the cauldron of the workshop, they have steeled their spirit and proclaimed themselves as the advance guard of the workers’ Russia.

But, on the other hand, it was in Petrograd also that for many, many decades there was trained a bureaucracy, there were gathered whole camps of bourgeois and semi-bourgeois persons. Nowhere in the world was there such a gathering of old bureaucratic elements to be found. Nowhere were there so much of the cream of the bourgeoisie, the landed proprietors, and the plutocracy. And of these bourgeois bureaucratic elements there still remained occasional traces even after the two year period of the proletarian revolution. The iron mill of the revolution has done exceedingly good work.

March 23, 1917, Funeral of the victims of the revolution, corner of Nevsky and Sadovaya in Petrograd.

In general we may say that the proletarian revolution has been victorious and that the proletarian spirit hovers over this suffering city, which is imposing even in spite of its suffering.

The proletarian genius has carried off its great moral victory. The harder, the more gloomy were the times through which Petrograd was obliged to live, the greater was the moral energy displayed by the Petrograd proletariat. As if they had sprung up from nowhere, new forces constantly appeared, and the workers of Petrograd emerged victorious from all their accumulated difficulties and misfortunes. Petrograd is a remarkable city. It is really a city that stands high on the hill. Like a beacon, Petrograd sheds its light over all the thinking workers and peasants of Russia.

Take a walk through the streets and market places of Petrograd and you can really see that every stone is a piece of Russian revolutionary history.

Just look here at the courtyard of the Winter Palace where the events of the Bloody Sunday took place in January, 1905. And then – the Winter Palace itself, against which tens of thousands of Petrograd’s noblest proletarians advanced to the attack in November, 1917. Look also at the Tauride Palace and now the Uritsky Palace – formerly the seat of the Black Hundred Duma, from which the Constituent Assembly of melancholy memory was cast out. Here it was also that on July 8, 1917, the first Bolshevik majority was formed among the Workers’ Delegates to the Soviet Congress. And here, behind the Narva Custom House, is the building in which the Communist Party of Russia in August 1917 held its six semi-legal meetings. Here are the junkers’ schools (in Russia the word junker means young military cadet, and not as in Germany an agrarian reactionary), from which as a base, the young cadets, in hiding, attempted to assassinate the revolution. And behold, here at last is Smolny Institute, the worlds most important headquarters staff of the proletarian revolution. And it seems as if in its great hall still can be clearly heard the echo of the historical speeches that once were held there …

Petrograd demonstration June 18, 1917. Banners read: “All Power to the People – Peace to the Whole World – All Land to the People” and “Down with the minister-capitalists”

How many times have our enemies not “conquered” Red Petrograd! A score of times the Engllish and French wireless stations announced for the world that the Finnish butchers had already conquered Petrograd. A score of times the world’s greatest geniuses within the bourgeoisie, elaborated the most brilliant plans to occupy Petrograd. Twice the enemy’s hordes had approached to within 30 versts of Petrograd and each time there emerged from the gigantic struggle against these great masses of enemies, the indomitable, proud, red sons of Petrograd, who had devoted the last energy of their muscles to secure the victory.

Two hundred and eighty thousand workers have left Petrograd within the year following the November revolution. Where did they go? The overwhelming majority went to the numerous fronts. Thousands and thousands of warriors, Petrograd’s workers have lowered their heads in defiance on the various fronts in the struggle for Communism. Tens of thousands of other Petrograd workers have travelled out to the provinces. They are there carrying out a great cultural and educational labor. Among the chairmen of the average committees. Among the leaders of the executive committees of the communes you will most often find a worker from Petrograd. It is he who has brought light to the provinces, he who became the leader of the remote Russian towns buried in their snow drifts, towns that are to be wakened to a new life; and it is to these that Petrograd owes the affection with which all Soviet Russia looks to it. We may say without exaggeration Petrograd is the beloved bride of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Russia.

Revolutionary soldiers with a barricade on Liteinyi Prospect during the February Revolution.

For two years the cars loaded with grain have not ceased their journeys to Petrograd. Grain has been gathered by the teaspoon in far off Siberia along the Volga and in Central Russia. To the children of the workers of Petrograd gifts have been sent from all the other regions of Russia; often the senders of these gifts are surrendering their last few crumbs. The word: “For the workers of Petrograd” works like a charm. Whenever a man of the first rank among the Petrograd workers appears anywhere in the country – on the front, on the railway line, anywhere a question that has any importance for Soviet Russia must be disposed of, an energy is immediately imparted into the proceedings.

Surrounded on all sides by enemies, the hungry and harassed Petrograd with one hand waves aside all onslaughts, while with the other it continues its labor of constructing the new life of the country. It was Petrograd which was the first city which set up a gigantic mechanism for social provisioning, which now already serves 1,000,000 persons. The dinner portions which are distributed are poor and dreadfully small, but it will not always be thus. To have achieved a daily distribution of one million dinners is already a fine piece of practical socialism. It was Petrograd which first enrolled women in masses of administrative life. The heroic struggle of the Petrograd workers has profoundly stirred up the broadest sections of the female proletariat. Tens of thousands of proletarian women are struggling consciously in our ranks. Tens of hundreds of excellent administrators have already been drawn from the lowest ranks of the working women of Petrograd. There is not a branch of the life of the state in which the Petrograd women have not taken part. It was Petrograd that first armed nearly a thousand women and placed them as militia for the protection of the great city.

Two Russian soldiers with red flags on their bayonets during the revolution in Petrograd, March 1917.

It was Petrograd that first assigned hundreds and hundreds of working women to the hospitals to take care of the wounded soldiers, and that appointed them to control the most important institutions of social welfare, etc.

It was against our city of insurrection that our enemies therefore directed their most savage attacks. Korniloff led his troops against Petrograd; Kerensky gathered his divisions to conquer Petrograd. In September 1917, the social traitors were already shouting through the mouth of their leader, the sadly notorious A. Potresov, in wild and vehement articles that “and end must be put to Petrograd.”

The revolutionary workers of Petrograd frustrated this infernal plan of their enemy.

In an English newspaper I recently read an article in which it was stated that Petrograd “was to a certain extent a fetish for the Bolsheviki.” The conquest of Petrograd would, the article said, decapitate the Bolsheviki.

This English bourgeois paper was not entirely wrong. Of course Petrograd is not exactly a “fetish” for us; of course the revolutionary proletarians have not and cannot have any fetishes. But Red Petrograd, the great producer of insurrection, the first city of the proletarian revolution, cradle of the third international, is truly the most precious city for us.

Petrograd in 1917.

And Petrograd is by no means a “relic” for us as was written some time ago by one of the less far sighted adherents of the Soviet power. We defend Petrograd and we must defend it, not only as a historical monument to the revolution, as a city to which we owe much for what is has done in the past. No, Petrograd even now remains the flaming heart of Soviet Russia. Petrograd is still the inexhaustible fountain for the most skilled representatives of the proletarian advance guard; Petrograd at this moment is the center of the proletarian struggle. Petrograd is still supplying Soviet Russian with the most able leaders for [unintelligible]. Even now, in the poorest period of its industrial life Petrograd must still be considered as the most important furnisher to the Red Army.

Petrograd approaches the second anniversary of the Proletarian Revolution in a particularly difficult position. But the Petrograd proletarian has not yet lost, and will not lose his brisk spirit. The wild gusts of storm have not cast us down, nor will the cold autumn extinguish our courage – that is what the workers – men and women – of Petrograd say to themselves.

Zinoviev as Chairman of the Petrograd Soviet, speaks on May Day, 1918.

On the Southern Front the situation is grave (this danger has now been past for three months). What must we do? Let us be the first to rush forward there where the danger is greatest; let us be the first to rush forward and with our breasts defend the dictatorship of the proletariat and thus carry with us and lead on in our advance the workers of the other cities and admonish the whole Russia of the peasants and workers to wage these hard fights with us and press them to a brilliant victory.

There are no better proletarians than the workers of Petrograd! There is no finer city than Red Petrograd! I know scores of worn out proletarians who literally are in love with Petrograd, and several to whom a separation from Petrograd would be as hard as a separation from one’s beloved. These old proletarian men and their young brothers in arms have a secret dream; once we have come out victorious from the civil war, we will move back the capital of Russia to Petrograd.

Let us hope that when we celebrate the third anniversary of the workers’ revolution that this dream may become a reality.

Petrograd Soviet in session.

Soviet Russia began in the summer of 1919, published by the Bureau of Information of Soviet Russia and replaced The Weekly Bulletin of the Bureau of Information of Soviet Russia. In lieu of an Embassy the Russian Soviet Government Bureau was the official voice of the Soviets in the US. Soviet Russia was published as the official organ of the RSGB until February 1922 when Soviet Russia became to the official organ of The Friends of Soviet Russia, becoming Soviet Russia Pictorial in 1923. There is no better US-published source for information on the Soviet state at this time, and includes official statements, articles by prominent Bolsheviks, data on the Soviet economy, weekly reports on the wars for survival the Soviets were engaged in, as well as efforts to in the US to lift the blockade and begin trade with the emerging Soviet Union.

PDF of full issue: (large file): https://www.marxists.org/history/usa/pubs/srp/v1v2-soviet-russia-Jan-June-1920.pdf

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