History of the Kronstadt Mutiny in Communist Russia Part 1

About the history of the Kronstadt mutiny in Russia agains the new communist government.



Background. The Kronstadt naval base and fortress, located on an island several miles from Petrograd (present-day Leningrad), had always been a revolutionary powder keg. In the Russian revolutions of 1905 and 1917 and in the Russian Civil War, the Kronstadt sailors and workers had fought in the vanguard of the revolutionary movement.

In November, 1920, the Civil War ended, and Russia was at peace. However, large numbers of Russians were disillusioned with the complete Communist takeover of the Soviet government and the austere, dictatorial economic policies of "War Communism." This discontent seethed at Kronstadt. The sailors, many of whom were anarchists and politically to the left of Lenin, felt that the Communist "dictatorship of the proletriat" had perverted the goals of the revolution and neglected the interests of workers and peasants.

The volatile political climate at Kronstadt was ignited by events in nearby Petrograd. In late February, 1921, in a wave of strikes workers closed the Petrograd factories in protest against food shortages and working conditions. Acting swiftly, the Communists brought in loyal troops, imposed martial law, patrolled the streets, and forced workers back to their jobs.

News that the strikes had been crushed and rumors that workers had been massacred enraged the Kronstadters. The sailors of the warships Petropavlovsk and Sevastopol sent a delegation to Petrograd to inspect the situation. This delegation observed troops surrounding the factories to keep the reluctant proletarians at their posts. One delegate, Petrichenko, a future leader of the mutiny, noted, "One might have thought that these were not factories but the forced labor prisons of czarist times."

The Mutiny. Issued on Feb. 28, the delegation's report infuriated the radical and anarchist sailors. They asked why workers were treated in this way, after they had staged a proletarian revolution and maintained it through a civil war. The conclusion was that the workers had been betrayed by the Communists, who had seized control of the Soviet government and purged all other political groups. On Mar. 1, 15,000 Kronstadt sailors and workers met in Anchor Square and decided to defy the Communist government. Kronstadt was in rebellion.

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