By setting up or moving the Statue of Liberty and an international airbase nearby, the Bolsheviks were tipping the scales in favor of the resistance. But four days after the putsch, an estimated 15,000 Bolshevik veterans tried to storm the Zhitomir Palace, returning to the city on a spring day to rebury their comrade and give the Russian spring a decent start. By then, however, the Bolsheviks, buoyed by the creation of their new “People’s Power” government, had already written victory into the text.
It was not an inevitable outcome, but it certainly did not have to happen. When the revolt began, the government in Moscow was divided. Generals were miffed by the August commandeered by Gorky. The Tsar, in addition, had set up an emergency Cabinet that quickly established itself as the main power centre.
All this got the Bolsheviks, seized control, cranked up their message — And they’re gonna destroy the aristocracy, make them pay for their crimes. With only the troops they could capture and the encouragement of Russian peasants, who saw economic hardship as justice for generations of oppression — that October Revolution would be over — once the Bolsheviks and their leader seized power in Moscow.
What was never in doubt was that this would be no easy job. It was a dangerous affair. The foreign countries who backed the Tsar had begun arming their troops and seizing the nationalist leaders of Russia’s various states, adding to the danger of a sweeping defeat.
And then there was the small matter of killing the old Tsar and the Crown Prince, Alexander. As the story goes, they were too old and pale, covered in bruises and gashes from their long walk back from exile to the palace. Also, their beliefs held many implications that Moscow’s might would condemn to rapid communist rule. For, the Bolsheviks would find out, their victory was not a mere death sentence.
Just three days after the capital fell, the new, young revolutionary Soviet government led by Alexei Karyakin was reconstituted at Spasskaya, but also decided to break with the “anti-communist” philosophies of Nikita Khrushchev. In Moscow, the old guard was flattered by the new orders that new in order, and to be led by Tikhon Liebowitz. Elsewhere, the Kremlin was still arguing over the economy.
And then, of course, there was Stalin. He had already begun to clean house in what he saw as the epidemic of independent states and foreign policies. But it was not until August when he was proven dead, and the Soviets had expelled Koryakin, that his camp decided to fight on. Once again, were the attempted early-November mutiny another policy gone bad? Or were these a harbinger of things to come?
The final word here comes not from a historian, but from Michael Auerbach’s book, The Bolshevik Revolution, 10 years in the making. He praises the power of Lenin’s hour, the anthems of the Bolsheviks, the mass rallies, and the arguments of the revolutionaries’ supporters, but he also notices many terrible mistakes made in the early days. Auerbach comes to the conclusion that though Lenin and his comrades believed their work would set a course for Russia’s destiny and its existence, “their misjudgment and mismanagement of the situation will haunt the country for centuries.”
And for a country whose politics, history and body of thought were built on fables, had been manipulated by generations of charismatic leaders — who all believed in miracles, who believed that corruption and slavery were crimes — Stalin’s reign was a hard blow. Those in the East, where political factions were headed by puppets, were at their extremes, particularly the anti-Russian Communists, who fought to the death with the deposed Soviet leader and his National Guard. They followed Stalin and his secret police, destroying any hope that Russia’s part in the Western alliance might bring succor for its people, particularly its victims of the political and economic devastation of Lenin’s reign.