10/3/1917 As Petrograd slides towards revolution, the Tsar orders a crackdown

Petrograd is now in a ferment. The factories have closed as their striking workers join the demonstrations. 200,000 or more people are out on the streets. Red flags and revolutionary banners are starting to appear. Cries of opposition to the war and the Tsar dominate the streets.

The police struggle desperately to maintain some semblance of order. Soldiers are out on the streets now but they are proving unreliable, showing no enthusiasm of their task of supporting the civil power.

A shocking incident occurs on Liteiny Bridge, where marchers are trying to cross into the city centre. The police commander charges into the crowd, attempting to disperse them with his whip. But then he is pulled from his horse and beaten with lumps of wood before being shot with his own revolver. Cossacks stationed nearby decline to intervene.

Elsewhere there are incidents of cossacks attacking the police to defend the demonstrators. But workers’ blood is still being shed, as the police and some loyal army units fire into the crowds. Nevertheless the sense is hard to escape that Petrograd is spiralling out of the regime’s control.

In their reports to the Tsar at army headquarters his officials have been downplaying the seriousness of the situation. Now he begins to realise the scale of the unrest gripping his capital. He sends a telegram to Khabalov, commander of the Petrograd garrison. He is to use all force at his disposal to “put down the disorders by tomorrow”.

image source:

Crowds on Znamensky Square in front of statue of Tsar Alexander III (Wikipedia)

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