Σάββατο, 7 Νοεμβρίου 2015

The Funeral...

Victory!
Workers and Soldiers outside the winter Palace, the day after the battle.
Petrograd, 8.11.1917
...Mountains of dirt and rock were piled high near the base of the wall. Climbing these we looked down into two massive pits, ten or fifteen feet deep and fifty yards long, where hundreds of soldiers and workers were digging in the light of huge fires.
A young student spoke to us in German. “The Brotherhood Grave,” he explained. “Tomorrow we shall bury here five hundred proletarians who died for the Revolution.”
He took us down into the pit. In frantic haste swung the picks and shovels, and the earth-mountains grew. No one spoke. Overhead the night was thick with stars, and the ancient Imperial Kremlin wall towered up immeasurably.
“Here in this holy place,” said the student, “holiest of all Russia, we shall bury our most holy. Here where are the tombs of the Tsars, our Tsar -the People- shall sleep….” His arm was in a sling, from a bullet-wound gained in the fighting. He looked at it. “You foreigners look down on us Russians because so long we tolerated a medieval monarchy,” said he. “But we saw that the Tsar was not the only tyrant in the world; capitalism was worse, and in all the countries of the world capitalism was Emperor…. Russian revolutionary tactics are best….”

"Fighting by a Police Station" Drawing by Ν. Samokish
 From series "Events of the February Revolution" ,1917
 "July in Petrograd. Machine Gunners Call on the Workers of the Pulitov Plant
to Support Their Protest Against th Provisional Government"
P. Shillingovsky, 1935
...Already through the Iberian Gate a human river was flowing, and the vast Red Square was spotted with people, thousands of them. I remarked that as the throng passed the Iberian Chapel, where always before the passerby had crossed himself, they did not seem to notice it….

We forced our way through the dense mass packed near the Kremlin wall, and stood upon one of the dirt-mountains. Already several men were there, among them Muranov, the soldier who had been elected Commandant of Moscow, a tall, simple-looking, bearded man with a gentle face.

Through all the streets to the Red Square the torrents of people poured, thousands upon thousands of them, all with the look of the poor and the toiling. A military band came marching up, playing the Internationale, and spontaneously the song caught and spread like wind-ripples on a sea, slow and solemn. From the top of the Kremlin wall gigantic banners unrolled to the ground; red, with great letters in gold and in white, saying, “Martyrs of the Beginning of World Social Revolution,” and “Long Live the Brotherhood of Workers of the World.”

Revolutionary forces occupy the Kremlin, November 1917.
Painting of I. Mashkov. 
A bitter wind swept the Square, lifting the banners. Now from the far quarters of the city the workers of the different factories were arriving, with their dead. They could be seen coming through the Gate, the blare of their banners, and the dull red -like blood- of the coffins they carried. These were rude boxes, made of unplanned wood and daubed with crimson, borne high on the shoulders of rough men who marched with tears streaming down their faces, and followed by women who sobbed and screamed, or walked stiffly, with white, dead faces. Some of the coffins were open, the lid carried behind them; others were covered with gilded or silvered cloth, or had a soldier’s hat nailed on the top. There were many wreaths of hideous artificial flowers….

Through an irregular lane that opened and closed again the procession slowly moved toward us. Now through the Gate was flowing an endless stream of banners, all shades of red, with silver and gold lettering, knots of crepe hanging from the top and some Anarchist flags, black with white letters. The band was playing the Revolutionary Funeral March, and against the immense singing of the mass of people, standing uncovered, the paraders sang hoarsely, choked with sobs….

Between the factory-workers came companies of soldiers with their coffins, too, and squadrons of cavalry, riding at salute, and artillery batteries, the cannon wound with red and black forever, it seemed. Their banners said, “Long live the Third International!” or “We Want an Honest, General, Democratic Peace!”

The issue of the Izvestia of October 27, 1917 (9.11.1917)
carrying the text of the Decree on Peace
Slowly the marchers came with their coffins to the entrance of the grave, and the bearers clambered up with their burdens and went down into the pit. Many of them were women -squat, strong proletarian women. Behind the dead came other women- women young and broken, or old, wrinkled women making noises like hurt animals, who tried to follow their sons and husbands into the Brotherhood Grave, and shrieked when compassionate hands restrained them. The poor love each other so!

All the long day the funeral procession passed, coming in by the Iberian Gate and leaving the Square by way of the Nikolskaya, a river of red banners, bearing words of hope and brotherhood and stupendous prophecies, against a back-ground of fifty thousand people, under the eyes of the world’s workers and their descendants forever….

One by one the five hundred coffins were laid in the pits. Dusk fell, and still the banners came drooping and fluttering, the band played the Funeral March, and the huge assemblage chanted. In the leafless branches of the trees above the grave the wreaths were hung, like strange, multi-coloured blossoms. Two hundred men began to shovel in the dirt. It rained dully down upon the coffins with a thudding sound, audible beneath the singing….



The lights came out. The last banners passed, and the last moaning women, looking back with awful intensity as they went. Slowly from the great Square ebbed the proletarian tide….

I suddenly realized that the devout Russian people no longer needed priests to pray them into heaven. On earth they were building a kingdom more bright than any heaven had to offer, and for which it was a glory to die….

John Reed, 
Moscow 16.11.1917

K.Yuon, "A New Planet"
To the 98 years of the Great October...

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