Vulpes Libris

A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.

A hundred years on: Trotsky on 1917

One hundred years ago today, by the old Gregorian calendar that was then still in force, the October Revolution took place. The event is simply too big and complex to summarise well. So, by way of a marker, here is one snippet from the later testimony of a front-line participant: Lev Trotsky. This is an extract from chapter 28 of his 1930 autobiography My Life, written in the first phase of his exile from the Soviet Union. My copy is the 2006 reprint by Vagrius (Moscow), and the translation is my own.


Trotsky arrives in Petrograd, May 4 1917. Image via Marxist Internet Archive.

Towards midnight on the 24th, the members of the Revolutionary Committee dispersed around the various districts. I was left alone. Later, Kamenev arrived. He was against the uprising. Yet he came to spend this decisive night with me, and the two of us remained together in the small corner room on the third floor, which was something like a captain’s bridge on this crucial night of revolution. There was a telephone kiosk in the big, empty room next door. People called constantly, about major and minor things. The ringing phone only made the nervous silence even more acute. It was easy to imagine empty night-time Petersburg, faintly lit, permeated by the autumn maritime winds. Bourgeois and bureaucrat shivered in their beds, trying to guess what was happening out on the mysterious, dangerous streets. The workers’ districts slept the tense sleep of the army bivouac.

For more about Trotsky, his disputed legacy and his authorial style, why not check out the posts from VL’s 2010 Trotsky Week here?

One comment on “A hundred years on: Trotsky on 1917

  1. Pingback: A hundred years on: Trotsky on 1917 — Vulpes Libris | Art History blog

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  • (The header image is from Aesop's Fables, illustrated by Francis Barlow (1666), and appears courtesy of the Digital and Multimedia Center at the Michigan State University Libraries.)
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