Kronstadt Uprisings of 1905 and 1906

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Kronstadt Uprisings of 1905 and 1906

 

revolutionary uprisings of the sailors and soldiers of Kronstadt during the Revolution of 1905–07 in Russia.

Uprising of 1905. In the summer of 1905 revolutionary ferment grew stronger in the Kronstadt garrison, which had been reinforced by a large number of reservists, many of whom were revolutionary-minded workers. In addition, more than 2,000 “unreliable” sailors and soldiers from other garrisons had been transferred to Kronstadt. Spontaneous activity began in September 1905. Reacting to the publication of the Manifesto of Oct. 17, 1905, sailors, soldiers, and workers held an antigovernment demonstration on October 18 in response to an appeal by the Kronstadt Committee of the RSDLP. On October 23 thousands of people met in Kronstadt to hear a speech by the Bolshevik I. F. Dubrovinskii, who had been sent to Kronstadt by the Central Committee of the RSDLP. The resolution adopted at the meeting made demands for the improvement of the legal and material condition of servicemen, as well as general political demands for a democratic republic, universal suffrage, and the abolition of the social estates.

The demonstrations continued on October 24 and October 25. The uprising itself began spontaneously. On the morning of October 26 soldiers of the 2nd Fortress Infantry Battalion presented their demands to the officers and subsequently organized a demonstration. By evening 52 soldiers had been arrested. The sailors and soldiers attempted to free them. During a clash with a convoy one sailor was killed and several wounded. When this news spread through the garrison, sailors of the 4th and 7th ship’s crews and the mine and artillery training detachments rebelled. Before the day was over, the rebels had been joined by the sailors of 12 of the 20 ships’ crews, as well as by the soldiers of the fortress artillery.

A total of about 3,000 sailors and 1,500 soldiers (25 percent of the sailors and 20 percent of the soldiers stationed in the city) took part in the uprising. Although the active sailor participants did not succeed in winning over the majority of military units, by the evening of October 26, Kronstadt was, in effect, in the hands of the rebels. However, they lacked a centralized organization, and the Bolsheviks, who were numerically weak, did not succeed in establishing revolutionary discipline. This was exploited by the police and the Black Hundreds. Led by the priest Johann of Kronstadt, they organized hooligans and criminals for raids on liquor storehouses, shops, and residences. They were joined by unstable elements among the rebels. The attempts of the politically conscious sailors and soldiers to prevent these raids and organize resistance to troops loyal to the government were not successful. Most of the rebels dispersed to their crews and barracks. On the morning of October 28 warships with specially selected crews approached Kronstadt. The city was declared under martial law, and the sailors and soldiers were disarmed. As many as 4,000 sailors and about 800 soldiers were arrested and threatened with field court-martials and Severo punishment.

The workers of St. Petersburg rose up in defense of the revolutionary sailors. Meetings held in the capital beginning on October 29 demanded the release of those who had been arrested. On November 1 the St. Petersburg Soviet of Workers’ Deputies resolved to call a general strike to show solidarity with the Kronstadt rebels. The strike of November 2–3 affected the majority of the capital’s industries and railroad junctions. On November 5 the government was forced to publish a proclamation to the effect that the participants in the uprising would be judged not by a field court-martial but by an ordinary military court. In December 1905 the court sentenced ten sailors to hard labor and 67 persons to prison terms of various lengths and acquitted 84 others. However, the revolutionary movement in the navy was not extinguished.

Uprising of 1906. The Kronstadt Uprising of 1906 occurred at almost the same time as the Sveaborg Uprising. The Kronstadt party organization was created in the spring of 1906. In May D. Z. Manuil’skii went to the city on behalf of the St. Petersburg Military Organization. The Kronstadt Bolsheviks, who were under the direct leadership of the St. Petersburg Committee and who were in contact with the military organizations of Finland and the Baltic region, reestablished a Kronstadt military organization with hundreds of members and prepared for an armed uprising.

On July 18 the news of the uprising in Sveaborg, which had broken out ahead of the designated time, reached Kronstadt. The SR’s (Socialist Revolutionaries), who were active in Kronstadt, advocated an immediate uprising. Because the preparations for the uprising had not yet been completed, the Bolsheviks opposed this point of view. However, when it became clear that it was impossible to hold back the masses, the Bolsheviks, acting on instructions from the St. Petersburg Committee, took command of the sailors’ and soldiers’ uprising, striving to give it an organized character.

The uprising began at about midnight on July 19. Arming themselves, the sailors of the 1st and 2nd naval divisions (about 6,000 men) arrested their officers. About 400 workers joined the rebels. The arsenal was captured, but the rebels found few weapons there. They did not meet with further success: the attempt to seize the post and telegraph offices failed. Elements of the 94th Enisei Infantry and of the life guards of the Finland regiments dispersed the poorly armed detachments of sailors and workers with rifle and machine-gun fire.

Soldiers from the mine and engineering companies (more than 1,000 men) began their uprising successfully, capturing the Litke fortification and subsequently occupying Fort Konstantin by means of a daring raid by locomotive. But they did not succeed in controlling the fort’s artillery, which had been put out of working order by the officers and some of the soldiers from the fort’s garrison. Thus, the mine layers were unable to give any aid to the rebels in Kronstadt. Fort Konstantin was surrounded by government troops, and after being bombarded, it surrendered.

By the morning of July 20 the uprising had been defeated. The government began to take reprisals. By 5:00 A.M. on July 20, seven mine layers captured in Fort Konstantin had been shot under the sentence of a field court-martial. That same day there were mass arrests of participants in the uprising. (More than 3,000 people were arrested, including 80 civilians.) Under sentences of field courts-martial, 36 people were shot, 130 banished to hard labor, and 1,251 sentenced to prison terms of various lengths. As V. I. Lenin wrote, with the Kronstadt uprisings “there began a series of mutinies in the navy and the army” (Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 30, p. 316). The uprisings played an important role in providing combat experience to revolutionary soldiers and sailors for the impending struggle to overthrow the autocracy.

REFERENCES

Lenin, V. I. “Pared burei.” Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 13.
Lenin, V. I. “Doklad o revoliutsii 1905 g.” Ibid., vol. 30.
Vysshii pod”em revoliutsii 1905–1907: Vooruzhennye vosstaniia, noiabr’dekabr’ 1905 g.: Dokumenty i materialy, part 1. Moscow, 1955.
Vtoroiperiod revoliutsii. Part 2: “Mai—sentiabr’ 1906 g.,” book 1. Moscow, 1961.
Revoliutsionnoe dvizhenie v armii v gody pervoi russkoi revoliutsii. [Collection of articles.] Moscow, 1955.
Korablev, lu. I. Revoliutsionnye vosstaniia na Baltike v 1905–1906 gg. Leningrad, 1956.

S. N. SEMANOV

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.