War on the Eastern Front is Over.
Lenin and Trotsky Announce End to Hostilities.
Special to The Great War Project.
(5 November) The Russian provisional government is collapsing.
And, reports historian Martin Gilbert, “it was too late to restore the disintegrating situation. Nothing could counter the great swell of anti-war opinion.”
On this day a century ago, “it was learned in Petrograd, the Russian capital, that Russian troops on the Baltic Front had thrown down their arms and begun to fraternize with their German enemies.
The provisional government in Petrograd orders the 155,000 strong Petrograd garrison to go to the front, reports Gilbert. They refuse, under pressure from the Bolshevik military committee.
The following day, soldiers loyal to the government of liberal Alexander Kerensky are ordered to enter the city. On November 6th, they refuse. At the same time, reports historian Gilbert, “the Bolsheviks occupied the principal buildings in the capital, the railway stations, the bridges over the River Neva, the state bank, and most importantly, the telephone exchange.”
The second revolution, the Bolshevik revolution, is at hand.
On November 7nd a century ago, more than 18,000 Bolsheviks “surrounded the Provisional Government ministers in the Winter Palace, defended by a mere 1,000 soldiers.” More than 9,000 revolutionary sailors enter the city. Then 4,000 anti-Kerensky soldiers.
More fire power, loyal to the Bolsheviks, enters Petrograd and takes up key strategic positions. Warships take up positions and announce their support for the Bolshevik revolution.
The cruiser Aurora, anchored in the city and controlled by the Bolsheviks, announces it will open fire on the Winter Palace. It fires off blank charges. The city is shaken. The Bolsheviks “overrun the Palace,” reports Gilbert. “scattering its defenders.”
Vladimir Lenin is elected chairman of people’s commissars, putting him in charge of the Russian capital.
Leon Trotsky is named Commissar of Foreign Affairs.
“It could not possibly last,” announces the daughter of the British ambassador, an observer of these extraordinary events. “It could not possibly last. Petrograd itself might perhaps be forced to submit to such a rule for a short time, but that the whole of Russia be governed by such men was not credible.”
Hardly so. She couldn’t be more wrong, observes historian Gilbert. “The six-month old Provisional Government had been swept away as assuredly as the Tsar had been swept away before it. In Moscow Red Guards occupy the Kremlin.
The Americans help Kerensky avoid capture. He flees Petrograd in an American Embassy car, intending to rally forces loyal to the provisional government. He sends a message to the American Ambassador, beseeching him not to recognize the Bolshevik government.
On November 2nd a century ago, the new government announces a Decree of Peace. Lenin reads it to a delirious crowd.
In the following days four million copies of the Decree are made and sent to the front.
Calling for an end to all hostilities.
Reports Gilbert, “The war-making power of Russia, hitherto the eastern arm of the Allies, was broken.”