Selections from the excellent book “Voices of Revolution” by Mark D. Steinberg, Translated by Marian Schwartz; Yale University Press, 2001
Edited by IWPCHI
We present these selections from the massive outpouring of appeals, declarations, poems, essays and songs written by Russian people from all walks of life in response to the long-awaited overthrow of the hated Tzarist regime. These are representative of the political level of the Russian working class, peasantry and soldiery in the days immediately after the February revolution. – IWPCHI
Historical period: March, 1917
[The following poem was written by Mikhail Serafimovich, a private in the Reserve Cavalry]
I most humbly ask the gentlemen editors if you might not find a way to put the verse copied out below in your newspaper.
“Long live free Russia.”
The joyous cry floods my soul—-
“Long live our freedom,”
The red flag stills my heart.
A leaden weight has fallen,
The world dreams a shining dream…
I’m young again, my body drunk,
My soul replete with feelings.
With feelings as vast and endless
As drops in the cup of the sea.
The Russian National Hymn
(to the tune of “How Glorious Is Our Lord in Zion”)
Blessed is the Father of all
The God of Gods inscrutable!
Who creates from nothing, from mortal life,
Joyous souls immutable.
Blessed too are all the nations
And every living creature,
Wondrous nature’s emanations,
And matter inanimate of feature.
Blessed is our Holy Rus—-
Our family of nations, tribes,
Our homeland with its bounds unloosed,
Its freedom and its law prescribed.
Blessed is the new republic
Of our cherished nation’s power,
With a leader now elected
By this huge dear land of ours.
“To the Fallen Freedom Fighters” by metalworker Demian Semyonov
To the Fallen Freedom Fighters
Memory eternal to all who have fought.
For freedom through great tribulation!
The blood they sacrificed has bought
This sacred freedom for our nation.
Much they suffered, their needs subdued,
Awaiting the dawn with freedom’s hope …
For naught their pleas and howls flew
To the ear of the tyrant, to the Tsar’s own throne
Our pleas for bread they would not abide,
and instead of bread sent bayonets, lead!
In sacrifice too many comrades died …
But they tore the crown from the despot’s head.
In our hour of trial, you did not despair,
You sallied forth with naked chest…
May the earth be a bed as soft as air!
Please put the attached poem in the newspaper.
At your service
[Note: The Tzarist government, in its dying days, attempted to excuse its own vast incompetence and inability to provide the soldiers at the front with even basic supplies, from boots to bullets, by blaming the shortages on the long-suffering armament factory workers who had gone on strike for higher wages
in order to feed themselves and their families. By doing this they tried to get the soldiers to attack the rebellious workers instead of the government that was actually responsible for the shortages. The workers in the factories vigorously denounced this attempt and sought successfully to appeal directly to the soldiers themselves in explaining what was really going on. – IWPCHI]
“Appeal to soldiers from the workers of the A. M. Ouf machine, metal and engineering factories, Petrograd (28-29 March, 1917)”
“We, the workers of the Ouf factory, in a gathering of eight hundred people, loudly protest the disgraceful and insolent agitation aimed at us, the workers, by dark and ignorant persons. We declare that we and the soldiers have common interests; there are no enemies among us, for we are all the working class. This lie is coming not from our camp, for it is bubbling up in an underhanded way, from underground, fearful of just retribution.
Comrade soldiers! The slander that is coming out of our enemies’ camp must be stopped immediately. We must declare that workers and soldiers are one and that we will not allow our enemies to sow enmity between us. […] We declare that our comrade soldiers and we workers shall henceforth fight for our interests— the interests of the working people. And to our enemies, who are attempting to divide us, we loudly declare, “No! Stand back! For you are our enslavers, for you are living off our labor, you are breathing through us, and it’s you who depend on us, not we on you.”
In their speeches in response, the soldiers’ representatives assured the workers that the army does not believe the foul slander of the bourgeois press and that the soldiers know the secret purpose of this slander— to make the workers and the soldiers quarrel […]