The BackShop Journal

A Web Magazine of Arts, Culture and Orthodox Christian Spirituality

The Aftermath of the Centenary: The Debates Abate, but the Crime Remains

During the last few weeks before the centenary of the Soviet Revolution, especially during the last few days, one could feel a tension building. A century after this world-changing event, everyone wanted to give a personal assessment of the revolution, to weigh its pros and cons. And all those impassioned assessments varied greatly.

The Socialists still view  the October Revolution as a positive development in history, conservatives and Christians see it as unfortunate, some even as a satanic retribution for the overly rebellious sentiments. Fifty-five years after the exposure of the Soviet horrors and almost 30 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, numerous Marxist members of the Western academic community still find the communist utopia the best recipe for the kingdom on earth.

The revolution today may seem to many like a predictable consequence of all the circumstances in the Russian society during the epoch, but the fact is that, upon hearing the news, very few people believed that Bolsheviks would stay in power for more than a few days. "The Bolshevik adventure is a soap bubble just about to burst," Petersburg newspapers wrote on the morning after the coup.

I don't pretend to be able to overturn numerous myths related to this event and its significance for the subsequent three quarters of the century and more, but I would like to point out a few things related to the belief in the inevitability of the October Revolution and its place in Russian and world history.

1. In early 1917, there were very few intellectuals who supported the tsar. Even most conservative politicians, philosophers and artists believed that the time for change is ripe and long overdue. Western, politically progressive ideas have permeated the minds of the Russian intelligentsia to such an extent, the only difference between those who expressed their opinion in Duma or various publications was the extent of "democracy" that should be implemented in the country. Franz Joseph of the Habsburg Empire was the Russian Emperor's only European equivalent, and his throne had been shaking for a long time as well.

2. Alexander Blok introduces Christ at the end of his long poem "The Twelve" about twelve revolutionaries, and Andrei Bely likens the Revolution to the Resurrection of Christ. How could these masters of the word compare those two incompatible things? First and foremost, artists don't strive in a stalemate. In the years leading to 1917, Russian poets and intellectuals extended their yearning for a spiritual renewal to the social and political sphere. Christ was still their epitome for spiritual realm, and the October Revolution represented the explosion of novelty and radical reversal worthy of true artistic inspiration. Even Marxists-turned idealists, like Nikolai Berdiaev, keep longing and desiring a renewal that would be both internal and external. Even though he considered himself a Christian philosopher, Berdiaev was not much more than a rational New Age prophet, as Seraphim Rose brilliantly characterised him in his Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future.

3. The reigning opinion about the necessity of change was so powerful, even the tsar succumbed to it. If Nicholas II had not been convinced that everyone was against him, he would have never abdicated. The lie told to him by his Chief of Staff, General Mikhail Alexeev, that even his army wanted him to step down was the last straw that convinced the emperor to give in to the wishes of the people. Wars are never popular, but the exhaustion from the conflict no one expected to last so long and to be so costly was perfectly used by the Socialist propagandists.

4. During the summer of 1917, dissatisfaction about the Provisional Government with Alexander Kerensky at its head rapidly and irreversibly grew in the Russian society. All those who strutted with red flags in March now started longing for the return of the Tsarist regime, which, in spite of all its shortcomings, was patriotic, stable and predictable, the book History of Russia (Ed. A. Zubov) states. The years of the Imperial Duma was the time of economic progress, a growth of civil and political liberties. Now everything was quickly moving towards destruction and death. In Tobolsk, where he was at the time, the Russian tsar regretted his decision to leave the throne. He now realised that his abdication brought neither peace nor victory in war to Russia as he thought it might (p. 431).

5. The Germans paid Lenin over nine tons of gold to attempt an overthrow in Russia. Lenin wondered how Social Democrats from other countries supported their governments when the war broke out. He had no qualms about receiving money from the war-time enemy and using it against the government of his own country. Two days after the coup, he received 15 million golden Deutschmarks. In the UK, the German hopes rested on Sir Roger Casement, in France on Roger Caillaux, in Russia on Lenin. Casement was shot as a traitor; Caillaux was imprisoned. Only Lenin justified the huge sums spent on him.

Just like it started, in blood and violence, so it continued and ended. Bolsheviks bragged about the small number of victims in the October coup. The naked, raped and mutilated bodies of the woman from the Worker's battalion who participated in the defence of the Winter palace that were fished out of the Neva the morning tell a different story. They testify to the utmost savagery and debauchery of the enraged masses used by Lenin to grab the power in the country. In the next four years, over 10,000 people perished in the Civil War and the infamous Red Terror.

Many still say that the intentions of the revolutionaries were good, but the execution inappropriate. The intentions to create a Godless utopia can never be good nor well meaning. Those who believed in it may have been misled, but the leaders were delusional to say the least, and, better yet, just plain vile. Antichrist of Apostle John's Revelation has not appeared yet, but Lenin is one of his most praiseworthy heralds.

Svetozar Postic

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