A Communist's Tale
|This is a little something that was written for an essay competition. Results aren't out yet, but I'd love to know what you think of it. Please read, rate, and review. Thanks!
Crisis: Danger and Opportunity
Russian Revolution: Fall of the Monarchy
A Communist’s Tale
It was a cold January morning of year 1905. For twenty-four year old Kaminski, it meant leaving the house for his weekly trip to the old Russian church, mostly as penance. His breath rose from his nostrils and mouth in steaming clouds, his arms wrapped around his body for additional warmth as well as a feeling of security. The church loomed in the distance, late winter snow covering its tall spires and stained-glass ceiling. The service would begin at nine o’clock in the morning, after the heavy wooden doors shut out the chilly winds. The pastor would open with a prayer, preach, collect tithes, and end the service with a chorale sung by the famed choir of St. Petersburg. Out of habit, he greeted the usher, and marveled at the expanse of the stained-glass ceiling, the light filtering into the sanctuary in hues of greens, reds, blues and yellows. And, once again, he thanked his God for this haven in this time of crisis.
The pastor began his speech with a chant-like prayer. The voices of the masses rose as they invoked the name of their God in prayer. Lord, prithee, hear the cry of a pitiful man, he prayed silently. May I be cleansed of my sins by Your grace. There was a short respite in the prayer as the pastor called for silence. Baskets were handed out, into which Kaminski placed a few coins. The pastor watched from behind the altar with a look of satisfaction, before beginning his message. As the fates had it, Kaminski found himself being lulled to sleep by the gentle words of his pastor.
“Even in these times,” the pastor said, “the faithful find time to be with their God. And we are faithful to our Lord. God will reward us.” From the back rows someone snickered, a little too loudly for comfort. The pastor chose to ignore the impudent individual, although he shot a glare into the audience before continuing. “The war with Japan is almost upon our heads, yet we still seek solace in this sanctuary.”
“Now, let us pray,” came a mocking voice, as the pastor closed the service. “What can we possibly achieve by staying here, and praying, when the rest of Russia is at war, with the workers underpaid and the peasants treated like dirt?” There was a ripple of soft murmuring. The speaker stood, an older man with eyes that seemed to bore into the soul. “We must do something! We shall seek out Tsar Nicholas, and present to him our requests in hope that he will honor them.” Scattered cheering followed these words, and the hall emptied out quickly. Kaminski was the last to leave, glancing at his sputtering pastor with sympathy.
Kaminski later learned that the man leading them was a priest himself. According to the Russian who whispered in his ear, he had heard of the German writer Karl Marx, and believed that communism could help Russia. As such, the man continued to whisper, he had decided that Russia’s peasant population was too inactive when it came to wages and other necessities. As they marched the priest shouted out encouragement to those whom he now deemed ‘his people’, and they responded with enthusiasm as they speculated the result of the march to the Tsar’s Winter Palace. More food, more money, more houses, less fighting. As they went, more hapless peasants joined in their effort, and the crowd began to grow.
Pictures of the Tsar and his family were raised high above the heads of the people, like banners flapping in the wintry air. The Winter Palace neared with every step, and Kaminski could feel dread growing inside him. The priest at the head began banging on the iron-wrought gates of the Palace. “Tsar Nicholas! We seek an audience!” The marchers joined in the pounding, calling, “Tsar Nicholas! Hear us, grant us an audience!” The soldiers behind the gates had no idea what to make of it all. They looked at each other, confusion written clearly across their faces, worrying that the iron-wrought gate would not hold. One of them finally snapped, pulling the trigger on his rifle. Others followed suit, and pandemonium broke loose.
Hundreds died on Bloody Sunday.
“It is now that we must exert our authority and overthrow the Tsar. We must end the monarchy before more are killed.”
It was February of 1917. Kaminski tugged uncomfortably at his uniform. After seeing what the Tsar’s militia had done to those peasants, all those twelve years ago, he had joined Vladimir Lenin, leader of the Bolsheviks, in his cause to create a communist Russia. And now, with Russia in chaos, the workers on strike and the peasants rioting, seemed like the perfect time to rid Russia of the monarchy. Out on the streets, even the soldiers were turning against the Tsar, who seemed to care naught for the welfare of his nation.
Gunfire in the streets – he could hear it. It brought him back to the march on Winter Palace, that fateful Sunday many of his countrymen, his brethren, had died. He drew in a shuddering breath. “Down with the Tsar,” the people shouted. “Down with Tsar Nicholas! Away with him!” He joined the crowd milling outside, shouting with them, and demanding the end of the monarchy.
Soldiers marched towards them, confused, bewildered. The peasants watched fearlessly on, standing their ground the way they had twelve years ago. “Arrest the protesters!” One of the generals bellowed, aiming his pistol at the crowd. There was a gunshot as he pulled the trigger, and the crowd scattered briefly.
“They’ve done nothing! Why shoot them? They’re harmless as it is,” one of the soldiers said, and the general turned on him. There was a fleeting silence as the peasants turned to regard their enemy.
“I say shoot, you shoot, man!”
“I will shoot, but I’ll be aiming at something else, that’s for sure.” The soldier bravely broke ranks, and stood with the peasants, who looked slightly bewildered. “I’m tired of this. The Tsar doesn’t care for these people!”
“Fool!” The general sputtered as the peasants cheered. More troopers moved to the side of the protesters. “Fools, all of you!” He raised his gun, and a shot rang out. Rifles went off in the direction of their one-time general from the troopers. The general fell dead, blood blossoming on his uniform. If the soldiers were with them, then the Tsar could not stop them, Kaminski told himself. He was Bolshevik now, nothing could change that.
“Kaminski! Listen!” A Bolshevik soldier rushed to his side, excitement on his face. “The Tsar has abdicated the throne in favor of his brother. Lenin has predicted that Michael will turn down the offer, and then Russia will be ours!” Kaminski could feel his heartbeat quicken; if Michael did turn it down, then all his hopes and dreams for Russia would become a reality. Lenin would take over where the Tsar left off, and would do what the Tsar could not.
“Has Lenin been informed? This is important news! The Bolsheviks will make history in Russia,” Kaminski whispered urgently. There was more gunfire, and several of the soldiers trying to stop the opposition fell dead. No one could stop them now. Not the Duma, which Nicholas had set up to pacify the peasant folk, not the army, least of all the Tsar himself. The idea of his part in this revolution made him shudder. In years to come, they would learn about the famous Bolsheviks, he contemplated, a faint smile hovering above his lips. The Bolsheviks who have put their heart into this nation, who will make this nation strong and mighty.
“Nicholas’ brother has turned down the throne!” Someone cried loudly, and the protesters quietened a little to listen, even though there were still some murmurings to be heard. Kaminski held his breath. Did they do it? “The monarchy is at its end!” There was a roar of celebration that greeted that statement, and Kaminski smiled. They did it! Russia would be a better place for the people now.
He congratulated himself silently as one of the Bolsheviks called for silence. “We shall rebuild Russia, but not by ourselves. Not by the Bolsheviks alone, not by the nobles alone, not by the working class alone, but by all of us, together!”
That February marked a turning point in Russia’s history, and in Kaminski’s life. For once, Kaminski felt that he had made a difference in the lives of those poor, homely peasants. And again, he smiled. Joining the Bolsheviks was the right choice for him. They had cleverly seized an opportunity amidst a crisis, and in spite of the danger, made a difference.
The Provisional Government would be next.