Saturday, April 19, 2008
On Storming the Winter Palace
Between 1825 and 1917, there were numerous attempted revolts and uprisings in the shadow of the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg. The rebels were routinely shot down by the Tsar's guards, or cut to pieces by the Cossacks. The Romanov Autocracy endured through them all, except the February Revolution of 1917, when the Provisional Government, first under Lvov then under Kerensky, abruptly terminated the Autocracy and shut the Romanovs up in the Alexander Palace at Tsarskoe Selo ("Tsar's Village") outside of what was then known as Petrograd.
Came October 25 (or on our calendar, November 8), 1917, there was another revolt, this time by Lenin's and Trotsky's Bolsheviks, and the Winter Palace was once more under seige. Shortly, the Provisionals withdrew; the Soviet Union soon emerged under the Dictatorship of the Proletariat. The rest, as they say, is History.
"Storming the Winter Palace" became an iconic image in the Soviet Union in part due to Sergei Eisenstein's brilliant movie, "Октябрь" or "Ten Days that Shook the World" (1927).
The Winter Palace itself was the center of Russian rebellion for generations before the overthrow of the Romanov dynasty. It was not just the Tsar's in-town residence, it was the seat of the Russian Imperial Court, the government as it were, and the Winter Palace compound, begun by Peter the Great, came to symbolize everything good and everything malign in Tsarist Russia.
There was plenty of both.
By 1917, most of what the Winter Palace symbolized was malign. The Autocracy was rotten, corrupt, decadent and brittle, it was under immense strain due to Russian losses in World War I and privations on the home front, and its overthrow proved surprisingly easy when the time came.
For reasons that few can really understand, the Cheney/Busheviks have set themselves up a little autocracy of their own in our own Petrograd, Washington DC, and they have their own version of the Imperial Court within which their courtiers flit and sing praises.
In fact, our entire government has become the creature of this Autocracy, to the point where it has become a self-perpetuating institution divorced from The People, despite the illusion of periodic elections.
The image of Storming the Winter Palace starts taking on at least symbolic meaning under the circumstances.
Just recall the Romanov Autocracy endured about 300 years -- opposed from within and without for all that time -- and despite being one of the most repressive regimes on earth at the time of its fall, the Autocracy collapsed with barely a push when the revolution finally came.
Will our own Autocracy last as long? Or is it already as brittle and rotten as the Romanovs became?