11/3/1917 Crackdown in Petrograd

For the last few days Petrograd has been gripped by a general strike and increasingly large demonstrations. The police have been unable to contain the situation. Now the Tsar has had enough. General Khabalov, the commander of the city’s garrison, has been ordered to use all necessary force to bring the disorders to an end.

Soldiers and armed policemen are stationed throughout the city centre. Machine gun posts are set up, with guards posted at major intersections and key public buildings. It is Sunday, so the demonstrators do not march on the city centre until the early afternoon. Then the killing starts, with army units firing into the crowds on the Nevsky Prospect. But after the initial shock, the demonstrators fight back, throwing rocks and blocks of ice at the soldiers.

In a later incident dozens of people are shot at Znamenskaya Square, including some soldiers who had joined the demonstrators. Generally though the crackdown is less effective than it might have been. The demonstrators are uncowed by the gunfire. And many of the soldiers are reluctant to shoot their civilian compatriots. Some soldiers desert, joining the demonstrators. One whole regiment mutinies but is soon disarmed, the ringleaders sent off to the Peter and Paul Fortress to await their fate.

As night falls the demonstrators head home, determined to return to the streets tomorrow. The soldiers also return to their barracks and talk over the day’s events. They are shaken at being ordered to shoot at civilians. Some talk of refusing any further criminal orders from their officers.

image source:

Russian working people arise (WW2 Weapons: The World Wars 1914-18 and 1939-45)

Central Petrograd (The Russian Revolution of 1917: Bread, Peace, Land)

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