Extract from the Archives, March 16, 1917: The History of the Russian Revolution | Russia

Petrograd, Tuesday
The first duty of a British correspondent in these days of national upheaval is to assure our compatriots that “Russia is well” as a friend, ally and fighter. The fiery trials she endures will only harden her heart and arms.

I have been day and night in the streets for three days; I have seen long lines of starving men, women and children at bakeries, seen indiscriminate firing with rifles and machine guns, seen civil war in the main arteries: but I have not heard a one word against war.

The lack of food, the lack of organization and the neglect of the most basic precautions are generally attributed to German influences. The word “provocation” was on the lips. These influences the Russians are determined to exterminate.

The murder of Rasputin was the game that ignited a vast pile of patriotic resolve. Russia deserves well from its allies. She would give herself a chance.

The fire spread rapidly and ran from class to class, from caste to caste, from civilians to troops. It smoldered in Petrograd on Saturday, ignited on Sunday and turned into a fire yesterday. This morning, I learned that his objective had been achieved.

All the Petrograd regiments declared themselves for the Duma and the people, and the naval barracks were opened to allow sailors to make common cause with others.

A weak Shootout
I live next to the English Church behind the English Quay. Until the early hours of the morning, bombs, guns and the crackle of machine guns and rifles could be heard from Vassily Ostrov, which is on the other side of the Neva. These were the culminating salvos of the national awakening.

Due to the interruption of the tram service and the lack of droshkies, it would have been difficult to personally attend the successive events. Commander Locker-Lampson, however, put his automobile at my disposal on Saturday, and I drove slowly along Nevsky Prospekt through crowds numbering in the tens of thousands, mingled with cavalry, Cossacks, and infantry patrols at fixed bayonet. The automobile was driven by a soldier and was frequently stopped, but my explanation that I and my companion were British invariably evoked cheers and best wishes.

The order was suddenly given to use rifles and machine guns. There were only a certain number of live rounds in the machine gun belts, but the crowd was so dense that many fell. As for the skirmishers, either a large number of blank cartridges were used or the shot was intentionally bad.

The garden in front of Kazan Cathedral was crowded when a large force of Cossacks arrived. All knelt down, and the Cossacks did not fire.

The guards regiments arrive
Several police officers, including a senior official, were shot dead. The resentment of the people was mainly directed against the police, because it was realized that a considerable part of the troops had already refused to fire. On Sunday, part of the police sent to help the soldiers fired on the population, to the great indignation of the soldiers.

Sunday was a repeat of Saturday on a larger scale in various parts of the city.

On Sunday evening, a secret Duma meeting was called for Monday. The majority of the members had reached the Tauride Palace on foot.

Early in the morning, several regiments of the Guard declared themselves for the people, and some officers were killed. The Litovsky regiment refused to fire, and the Volynskys, Pavlovskys, Preobrazhenskys, Simeonoffskys, Keksholmskys and other guards, a total of 25,000 men, joined their comrades with their guns.

The arsenal, headquarters of the artillery, is taken and the commander killed.

Colonel Knox, the British military attache, who was at the armory at the time, was escorted to the British Embassy by a guard.

The fortress of St. Peter and St. Paul was also penetrated and the prison was opened. The fortress is now the headquarters of the revolutionary forces. There are thousands of soldiers in the streets leading to the Duma, fraternizing with the people.

revenge on the police
Tuesday evening

All military and naval forces in Petrograd have now declared themselves on the side of the people, and troops from Kronstadt have arrived and joined their comrades, but so far they are not accompanied by many of their officers. The streets are now perfectly safe, although people with weak nerves are sometimes surprised by exuberant gunfire in the air.

There was a massive demolition and burning of police stations in revenge for police officers in soldier uniforms having machine guns on the roofs of buildings such as the Imperial Marie Theater and the Astoria Hotel, in addition to police stations and private homes, from where they also dropped grenades on the population.

Machine gun fire was opened on the naval brigade from the roof of the Astoria Hotel, which since the war has been turned into a hotel for officers, including British officers and other foreigners. The navy men responded with a fierce firefight, broke into the hotel, arrested most of the Russian officers there, numbering about 200, and took them to the Duma. Foreigners in the hotel were treated with the utmost courtesy and transferred elsewhere.

A little mercy was given to the police, who are believed to be responsible for most civilian casualties. These, so far as can be judged at present, amount to a few hundred, the great majority being wounded. A military police is being organized.

happy thanksgiving
A walk through the principal streets between eleven o’clock and one o’clock showed that there was the greatest animation everywhere. There were incessant outbursts of cheers. Sailors and Sisters of Mercy were especially popular. The sisters clapped back and threw kisses. It was a beautiful early spring day, which seemed to reflect the political hour and the mood of the people. A feeling of the deepest thanksgiving for what has been accomplished with so little blood fills all patriotic hearts.

Without a big change, it was doubtful that Russia would have been able to finish its share. She is determined to win with a determination which the Germans will soon realize, and which they will remember and regret for many years to come. With a mighty effort, Russia severed its ties.

This is an edited excerpt, click to read more