Everyone knows when was the October Revolution. In November. But when whas the February Revolution, which preceded it? Naturally in March. Namely on March 8, Women’s Day.
Demonstration of the female workers of the Putilov Plant in Petrograd (today St. Petersburg) on 8 March 1917 (according to the Julian calendar, 22 February). The banners read: “Feed the children of the defenders of the motherland!” “Increase payments to the soldiers’ families – defenders of freedom and world peace!”
Women’s Day was first held on 8 March exactly a century ago, in 1914. Although female workers all over America and Europe had celebrated it since 1908 on one of the first Sundays of March, increasingly linking it to the claim of women’s voting rights, this fell on 8 March for the first time in 1914, on the eve of World War I. And for the second time in 1917, on the eve of the revolution.
In that Sunday nearly fifty thousand female workers – the place of the men called up was largely occupied by women in most factories – took to the streets, demanding bread, and the end of the war. The protests continued the next day, and on the third day all the Petrograd plant workers went on strike. The Duma vainly sought help from the Tsar on the front, he did not perceive the danger, and furiously dissolved the Duma. The troops ordered to defend the capital were increasingly sympathetic to the protesters. On 13 March, recalling the practice of the revolution of 1905, workers’ and soldiers’ councils were formed. At the request of the Duma representatives, the Tsar resigned, and a provisional government was established. And ten day laters Germany, to further destabilize the situation in Russia, sent home from their Swiss exile, with German passport and at German state cost, Lenin and his companions, who in the April theses announced the continuation of the revolution until the final victory of communism.
The following fifty-four photos, documenting the first, hectic days of the February Revolution, were only recently published on the internet. The originals are preserved in the Russian State Museum of Political History, and according to the reticent data, they come from Ion Dicescu’s collection.
Ion Dicescu, in his Russian name Ivan Osipovich Dik (1893-1938) was born the son of a house-painter in Bucharest. At the age of 18 he entered the Social Democratic Party, and he became a journalist of the party’s newspaper. In 1916, when Romania entered WWI, he fought in Transylvania. He was wounded during the retreat, and he was treated in one of the Romanian field hospitals established in the allied Russia. At the beginning of 1917 he was taken to St. Petersburg, where he got in contact with the Bolshevik Party. In April he joined the party, and became a journalist of the Pravda. From the October Revolution he fought as a member of the Red Guards. In 1924, together with other Romanian communists in exile, he made a formal proposal for establishing the Soviet Socialist Republic of Moldova, which at that time was only a narrow strip – roughly today’s Transnistrian Republic – as a preparation of the reannexation of the Romanian Bessarabia. In 1938, he was executed on charges of spying.
The photos preserved in the so-called Dicescu collection were probably taken not by Dicescu himself. Their excellent compositions speak of first-rate press photographers, of which – as we will write about it – there were more than one in St. Petersburg at the beginning of the century. The captions written on the pictures might suggest that they are editorial duplicates of press photos made or sold to the Pravda. It would be worth checking out, whether they were published in the Pravda or other dailies. It is certain that after the October Revolution some of them were published in postcard format. But about this we will write more in a subsequent post.
“23 March. The funeral of the victims of the revolution. Funeral procession on the Nevsky Prospect.” The banner reads: “You fell prey to the fatal fight”, the opening verse of the workers’ funeral march. On its various versions see our earlier post.